They Come Bearing Gifts

Think you have a soul mate?  

I've got plenty.  I would argue that you do too, and if we're lucky- one for every one of our flaws, hangups and samskaras.  Dismiss any sense of romanticism about the words soul mate.  No story-making here, soul mates can be people, friend or foe.  They can be predicaments, good and bad.  They can be practices like yoga and meditation.

With soul mates in such abundance, let's realize that like all other things around us, their presence is impermanent.  Invariably they come bearing gifts.  These gifts are not necessarily what we expect, or even think we want.  They don't come in a cute box with a bow or ribbon.  The gift is always the same.  A mirror.

The gift of soul mates is that they point us towards, and sometimes move us towards our destination, a higher realization of the Self.  They introduce us to something new, and sometimes (re)introduce us to something very old.  In one way or another, push or pull, nudge or bludgeon, soul mates extend an invitation for us to eventually move towards our heart center.  

See, soul mates, in whatever form, provide us with an opportunity to see ourselves, but with a depth no mirror can capture.  They prompt us to question, and perhaps grapple with our afflicted minds.  They remind us of our light and at times push us into our dark side.  Soul mates put us directly in touch with the things that matter most, but aren't often spoken of in that regard.  Things like: kindness, purpose, humility, compassion, and love.  This is a gift.  On the flip side, soul mates introduce us to our egos.  They point out our habits and maladaptive coping mechanisms.  They make us feel crazy at times, and often prompt us to act crazily.   This too is a gift. 

We are all on a journey.  We take an infinite number or routes to arrive at the same place.   Let us journey with a constant effort towards gratitude and grace.   The receiving of these gifts, the seeing of ourselves, has everything to do with our ability to do so.    

We attempt Grace when we open up to the flow of life in this moment, willing to forgive ourselves and others, and try to see beyond conjured up stories.  Willing to bring full acceptance to what IS right now, we have the capacity to allow the Divine within to be drawn out from our center. In this way, we experience expanded self-awareness.  

We simply take a look in the mirror.  

Grateful for any inkling of clarity, we not only recognize the mind games and tricks that leave us feeling shitty, but we also come to realize that there's much benefit to our connection with the people around us, the circumstances that perplex, and the life dilemmas may frustrate.  We come to realize that the struggle is universal .  The desire for a life of contentment is universal.  

Recognize that you are already a gift-- a mirror for a multitude of others.  

Calm After the Fog

Clarity sometimes starts like a cloud, or better yet a dense fog.

Feels that way.

Forced to experience the realness of now.  Feeling Truth without vision.

The effect, disorienting and bewildering.

Heavy and blinding.  

Leaving the attentive no choice but to turn within and allow all that which has shown itself, felt but unseen to remain.

To remain separate from the privilege of heart tugging

To remain only long enough for the lucky to avoid being consumed and the wise to remember.

The fog remains just until Truth is felt and recognized on a deeper level.

Truth is, I am already ok.

Redefining Regret

Regret - The contemplative practice of recognizing personal growth to the extent that past words or deeds are recognized as misaligned with one's current state of being.

 This is my attempt at defining, or redefining regret.  I do this in recognition that wisdom is here for the taking, for all of us. I do this as an exercise of  introspection, matched with a willingness to be real about whatever occurs to me, even when it's uncomfortable.  I believe  that the very discomfort which comes from recognizing the senseless nature of old school regret is the truest indication I'm onto something worthwhile. 

 As the evolved species, it seems funny that regret is one of the biggest things that connects us to one another.  #Funnynotfunny.  It's like mindful consideration gone awry.    Experiencing regret is something we all have in common.  It's something that, in one way or another, informs us.  However, many times, we come into faulty thinking as a way to try to come to terms with the negative feelings associated more so with craving and aversion than regret itself, and as a result, we miss the actual message.  

The message is quite simple.  Recognize growth and expansion, for and within yourself.  Recognize growth in awareness, openness and willingness as they relate to situations, behaviors and decisions, and then come back to the NOW. 

 Here's my idea.  Regret is simply the uprising of wisdom.  This wisdom usually points to one of two things: 1) personal growth or 2) fear. 

Any version of regret, that isn't simply a recognition of personal growth, is at its foundation, fear.  In the case of a so-called bad choice,  the fear is that I would somehow otherwise find myself better off, perhaps more whole than I am now.   Feeding into this fear is like reading and  believing in what I know is actually fiction.  I am improving with this.  However, I sometimes fall into the trap, pretending that I know the unknown and unknowable.  This is how I tend to stand on the side of fear.  Choices I make are best for me when I can start with a sense of where I'm at right now, not as much where I'll end up as a result.   Truth is, I don't really even know what "a better place" looks like.  

  To routinely participate in the magical thinking of "I wish I could go back and change that", or "If only I had done this..." I run the risk of forming a habit that perpetually denies what is right now  and all that had to come together for right now to exist as it is.  This is the fast track to the creation of personal suffering.  To fully accept this moment as it is NOW would mean that I must also fully accept all the events and occurrences of the past, as they are what led me to this version of NOW.  

Regret, in the way I've defined it, is simply a recognition of personal growth.  It comes in basically two ways.  

1) I consider the decisions I've made in the past and realize that I've grown enough in my personal power and awareness since then that I would make a different choice now.  I'm not wishing or wanting.  I see the opportunities, situations, and the playing out of the choices made as having been teachers, something to grow against. It feels grown up to look back on past decisions and recognize that the person I am today would not make the same decisions that a younger, less wise version of me made.   

2) I consider the decisions I've made in the past and realize that I have not grown in my personal power and awareness since then to make a different choice now.  I'm not wishing or wanting, just humbly accepting.  

There is an opportunity to see how awareness has actually grown here. For anytime I bring mindful attention to a past question, decision or situation, I am asking for wisdom to present itself from within.  Even if I recognize I would make the same poor decision over again, there is likely enough personal growth that I at least seek to avoid situations that would force that decision.  

This one feels a little tougher, like there are more opportunities to get hooked into stories of failure.  It is important that I remember compassion, recalling again that wisdom is here for the taking, and that perhaps the wisest, kindest thing I can do for myself is to simply acknowledge where I am now.  

I move through my days with a longish list of ways I see myself differently, now as opposed to anytime in the past.  I have found a measure of peace in that.

There is something else to consider.  Chew on this, and let me know what you think.  Is the determination of a good choice or bad choice strictly contingent upon outcome?   Is it then impossible to know what a good decision is until after experiencing the outcome?  Is there a situation in your life that In theory you would never choose (again), but at the same time realize that it has completely enriched your life?  And what then do we come to realize about control?  Or karma for that matter?


Nobility in Ostrich

In the living of life, there will unavoidably be difficult times.  This goes without saying.  It also goes without saying that not only are experiences individual, they are at the same time universal.  When it feels like the best idea is to bury your head in the sand, it is certainly hard to imagine a sense of personal nobility, but this may very well be the best time to look towards that part of yourself that is virtuous and good.  And even better, look to see beyond the labels of virtuous and good.

Life and death situations are not the only opportunity to relate to feelings of wanting to withdraw. When anxiety and stress lead to feelings of "I just want to escape", know that there's a choice at hand.  As humans, we're not going to literally stick our heads in the sand.  What we are more willing to do however, is to socially isolate ourselves.  Perhaps, what is more detrimental to our ability to connect with the noble Self, is our willingness to numb out.    Keep it simple and recognize choice.  A really smart friend of mine sometimes suggests personal gratification in living through difficult stuff in lieu of numbing out.   

In meditation, we practice cultivating an ability to bring acceptance, space, mindful choice, and unconditional friendliness towards ourselves as a way to deal.  It is courageous to come into a seat, willing to confront the root cause of stress and anxiety.  It takes strength and a sense of humility to honestly sit with what is.  Simply put, we can use the practice to realize or actualize the space to align with our intentions.  Let us all recognize, even for just a moment, that it is a noble act to seek alignment with our innermost intentions.

In yoga, we seek out a realization of the energetic qualities of various postures, and not for nothing.  The relevant pose here is ostrich,  aka humble warrior.  The natural wisdom of the posture takes us away from the superficial view of burying our head in shame, or hiding out, and shows us that it takes inward recognition, mindful exertion, focus, and no small degree of humility to be in the posture.  I often cue yogis to tune in to what supports them in this pose.  Of course, it is THEM supporting them, but more than that, it's a cue to draw their awareness upon their underlying strength and inherent wisdom.  

This ostrich has a Buddha smile.  Can you see it??

This ostrich has a Buddha smile.  Can you see it??

I, at other times, suggest that yogis call to mind something greater than themselves in the midst of Ostrich Pose.   For when we bow down to something greater, it is in essence, a recognition of the small, mind-made sense of self for what it is.  This is the precursor to the noble act of lining up with your personal Truth(s).  

  In the living of life, especially during difficult times, let's try to remember to seek connection with that side of ourselves that feels like an acknowledgement of the real.  Our highest Self has no opportunity to express or reveal anything while numbing out.  So, we make the choice of presence in discomfort over escapism. We choose recognition of personal strengths and pursuit of connection with core intentions, knowing that there's nobility in that pursuit.  





Winter Solstice Invitation

What can I do to maintain?

Feel the inward ripple of energy and insight within as you ask yourself the question.  Then notice what rises.  For many of us, there is an opportunity to sense the underlying feelings of helplessness or somehow being out of control.

If you've ever reluctantly ridden a roller coaster, you may recall with great clarity that feeling which arose the moment you were strapped in, knowing that on one hand, there was no turning back, while on the other hand, there was a hopeful recognition that it would be over soon enough if you could just hang on, if you could just maintain.

Perhaps, asking yourself the question brings about more questioning.  "Maintain what? My health, my sanity?"  Maybe a measure of defensiveness gets awakened.  "Don't I  look like I have it together?", or even flat out denial. 

Regardless of the content, or lack thereof, we have just taken part of an essential activity that will pave the way for us to make our households, communities, workplaces and thereby the world a better place.

If we are to embrace our connection with nature, while staying dedicated to yoga and meditation, this time of year may  bring about a shift in the way we practice.   As we move from fall into winter, see what you can do to transition with grace and bring your practices along.  For many, this is a time when good habits, mindful intentions, and better judgments go by the wayside, no matter the cause.

This is a time of year when we may investigate Jnana Yoga.  Jnana, the yoga of knowledge, invites us to explore a world of expanded inward awareness.

Insight meditation, simply daily introspection, or even approaching your asana practice from a different angle are all ways in which we seek wisdom.  Not seeking shiny things, nor achievements;. nor gratification,  but Wisdom.

Let this be an invitation.  I invite you to dabble in Vipassana Meditation, on your own, or for local enthusiasts, Sunday mornings with me at Perennial Yoga & Meditation.  I invite you to go inward, even more than your norm.  Be willing to question, challenge, and discern.

Be willing to question your perceptions about that which matters from that which does not.  Be willing to challenge beliefs that you've held as truth (big or small), when they may be little more than opinion guised as "true for me".    I invite you to seek greater discernment regarding what is real and what is not, all the while keeping in mind the why. 

Why spend time and effort on introspection?  So that we become better and better able to see judgments, reactions and opinions for what they are.  Of equal importance, we begin to see these things as separate and not definitive of who we are.  When we notice small thinking with less and less reaction, we give rise to the sense of peace that is our natural state.  When we feel peaceful within, we more readily share that with those around us.

It's not rocket science, it's way more difficult.