When I was a kid, my siblings and I used to swim competitively each summer. From the day school let out in June until Labor Day, we pretty much lived at the pool. I loved being in the water, spending the days with my girlfriends gabbing about clothes and boys, but I dreaded practice, and even worse the swim meets, because the focus was always about competition. I much preferred diving and synchronized swimming, where my goals were either self-mastery or collaborating with others to create a thing of beauty.
For this same reason, I have never been particularly fond of board games, especially those where the purpose is to win by bringing about the downfall of the other players. I’d have to say my two least favorite are Monopoly, and Risk. I would willing play Shoots and Ladders, where winning the game was only based on the roll of the dice, not on my strategizing another player’s demise.
The board game Risk was invented by a French man, and was originally called The Conquest of the World. In it, players control armies and attempt to capture territories from other players. The goal is to occupy every territory on the board and in so doing to eliminate all other players. Only a roll of the dice determines a battle’s outcome. Isn’t it interesting that we make games out of gambling with other people’s lives?
The games have evolved and many are now played on consoles and computers, but world domination is still a popular theme. Today we see shows on TV like Survivor and Project Runway that pit one person or team against another. Alliances are drawn, betrayals occur, and it’s all in the name of entertainment. Why are we so conditioned to take pleasure in another’s downfall?
When I was beginning to contemplate the direction of this reflection, I was guided to a copy of Success Magazine on the coffee table in the reception area at CNY Healing Arts. On the cover was an image of entrepreneur and best selling author Jim Collins hanging by one arm from a sheer rock face, flanked by the bold title "When To Risk It All."
Certainly in the world of business and finance there is a lot of discussion of risk. Corporate types are always focused on risk factors, cost risk analysis, risk management, risk aversion, all of which are attempts to mitigate or reduce uncertainty and potential loss. Those in business and finance are not the only ones looking for a guaranteed payoff. This is very often the underlying factor in many of the decisions we make on a daily basis. Many of us are only willing to take action when we are sure the outcome will be to our liking. We are only willing to give when we are sure we will get something in return. We are only willing to love when we are sure we will be loved back.
Not only the game, but the word “risk,” derives from the French. The root is risque, which means, “run into danger.” Millions of dollars a year is are spent on researching risk from every angle. Mountains of books have been written on the subject all focusing on preparing, with statistical calculation, for the probability of something going “wrong,” and the effect of uncertainty on our decision making processes and our ability to move toward an objective. This, according to Jim Collins, is called “productive paranoia,” which seems to me to be an oxymoron.
To hedge one’s bets is a figure of speech, which means to reduce or mitigate risk, that is, the likelihood of meeting danger. This refers to fencing something in; you guessed it, with a hedgerow, a fortification of dense shrubs that would, ostensibly, prevent loss by escape or by some foreign entity getting in. It all comes down to protection; it all comes down to fear.
According to Marianne Williamson, noted authority on “A Course in Miracles,” any defense is an attack. She says, “We end up attacking, because we think we need to defend.” This, it would appear, is the foundation of the pre-emptive strike, a surprise attack launched in order to keep the enemy from doing it to us first.
Defense is always a reaction based in fear. When operating from fear base, we contract, we close ourselves in and off from life. In the game Risk, the winning strategy always centers on amassing armies and fortifying one’s position.
We do this with our gated communities, fences for our yards, and alarm systems for our homes, meant to keep everything out so we can feel safe inside. We unwittingly do this when we wall ourselves inside our belief structures, and behavior patterns, based in dualistic thinking, to protect ourselves and keep others at bay. In so doing, we only succeed in erecting our own self-made prisons.
Instead of calculating ways to avoid something going wrong, we must come to understand that the universe is benevolent and expect that everything is going right, in divine, right order. W. H. Murray, speaks to risk in this way, when he writes:
"The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur that never otherwise would have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, which no one could have dreamed would have come their way."
Albert Einstein put it more succinctly when he said, "nothing happens until something moves."
When we are living bound up in fear; we aren’t truly living, we are coping. We aren’t thriving; we are surviving. Fear leads to stagnation, and stagnation leads to decay, which leads to death. So at the root of all fear is the fear of death, whether of the physical body or the ego. But it is only when we die to the ego; that is, the illusion that we are separate from God, that we truly achieve eternal life. For it is in remembering that we are God that we come to the awareness that we cannot die, because God is eternal. The physical body does run its course, but Consciousness, the Life Force, continues without end. Death is the grand illusion.
One morning several years ago, as I walked into the garage, I noticed someone had been in my car. I can’t say they broke in, because I rarely lock my car. They had just invited themselves in for a look around. They had riffled through the glove box, the console and the ashtray. All total, I’d say they made off with about two bucks in change. All I kept thinking was, “they must have needed the money more than I.”
This incident brought to mind Jean Val Jean in Les Miserables, who steals some silver candlesticks from the parish rectory, after the priest who sees he is in need takes him in. When he is caught, the priest tells the authorities that he gave the candlesticks to him freely. I wondered if perhaps Victor Hugo knew the Zen parable about The Thief Who Became a Disciple. It goes like this:
One evening, as Shichiri Kojun was reciting sutras, a thief with a sharp sword entered, demanding either his money or his life. Shichiri told him: "Do not disturb me. You can find the money in that drawer." Then he resumed his recitation. A little while afterwards he stopped and called: "Don't take it all. I need some to pay taxes with tomorrow." The intruder gathered up most of the money and started to leave. "Thank a person when you receive a gift," Shichiri added. The man thanked him and made off.
A few days afterward, the fellow was caught and confessed, among others, the offense against Shichiri. When Shichiri was called as a witness he said: "This man is no thief, at least as far as I am concerned. I gave him the money and he thanked me for it." After he had finished his prison term, the man went to Shichiri and became his disciple.
I suppose you might say I took a risk leaving my car open, that I should have known better. As I drove to work that day, I considered if I would do anything different as a result. The answer was no. Wasn’t it Master Jesus who taught, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. "Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. "Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it
back.…” I think the greater risk would have been closing down my heart.
Just the day before this incident, I read about a former NFL Player named Brian Holloway, whose house was broken into while he was in Florida. It became the site of a party that some 300 high school and college kids attended. The police finally came and broke it up, but not before they did about $20,000.00 worth of damage.
The posts and tweets the kids put out on social media are helping the authorities track down the planners and the perpetrators. Now, Brian Holloway could have made any number of choices as to how he wanted to deal with these kids. The first thing he did was set up a website and here are a few of the suggestions he posted:
(1) Could it be possible to turn this moment into a movement where the 300 students, with a new commitment to a bigger future actually become ambassadors to reach 3000 or maybe 30,000 other students? That would save a lot of lives.
(2) Would it be possible to have a group of parents and community members join with these students and the DARE program and MADD program to send another urgent message about the dangers of drinking, drugs, crime and violence? That would probably save lives.
(3) Suppose these students came together and created a voice of accountability and reconciliation that spread across the county with all the power and speed of social media? It’s happened before? That would definitely save lives.
(4) Suppose it was possible for the parents and students involved to determine the best consequences for what did occur? That could save the lives of their children and more. Like, why do I need to press charges? They can handle this. Right? Or am I totally off my rocker, or totally soft on what did happen?
...Maybe I’m Wrong, But I Believe In These Kids.
I believe that they can be turned around. I believe that this event that was marked with spray paint on our home – can be turned into a declaration of change, transformation and new beginnings.
Anyway, see if any of these thoughts spark bigger and better ideas, their future is at stake. There’s so much more possible for their lives -- if they can make this turn.
Lives can change and future can be built. And with all this effort, energy and work, if we were only able to save one life – would that be worth it?
Of course it would.
Help Me Save 300
I read also that a number of parents of these kids are considering suing Holloway, because they feel he is ruining their kids’ future and their chances of getting into college. When I told my 14 year-old son Coe about this, he said they ruined their own chances by the choices they made. Yes, they took a risk, and now they will be held accountable for their actions.
Were these kids treating life as a game? Perhaps, in their impaired state, their actions became like those in a video game, without any actual consequences. They occupied someone else’s territory and then destroyed it, all in the name of entertainment.
They might have made different choices had they grown up playing my favorite game Chutes and Ladders, or Snakes and Ladders, as it is also known. The historic version of the game, known as Moksha Patam, or The Ladder to Salvation, was popular in ancient India and represented a life journey complicated by virtues (ladders) and vices (snakes).
Moksha Patam was associated with traditional Indian philosophy contrasting karma (destiny) and kama (desire). The game was also used as a tool for teaching the effects of our actions. The ladders represented virtues such as generosity, faith, and humility, while the snakes represented vices such as lust, anger, murder, and theft. The moral lesson in the game was that we can attain salvation (Moksha) through making positive choices, whereas by acting in ways that harm ourselves or others, we will inherit rebirth. There are fewer ladders than snakes, as a reminder that a path toward salvation is much more difficult to tread than a path forged in misdeeds.
Now, whether in a board game or the “game of life,” when we are considering such things as calculated risk or gambling on our future, it must mean we feel we have something at stake. This term, again, derives from the notion of cordoning off land with markers, to stake a claim of land or territory. This then implies we have something to claim, and therefore something to lose.
Brian Holloway isn’t concerned about recouping the loss of his property; he is concerned about recouping the loss of these 300 souls. His focus is not on pressing charges, but on making substantive change in the direction these kids lives are heading. He is not looking for retaliation; he is looking for reconciliation. Instead of perpetuating the cycle through retribution, he is moving beyond the limitations of what conventional wisdom would have him do, and he is behaving with generosity, faith and humility to save 300 lives. Whether he knows it our not, he is offering these kids an opportunity to balance their karma. He is giving them ample space for atonement, or at-one-ment, and in so doing they can realign with the Source of their being. He is an inspiration.
So, what do we have to lose, really? What is it we truly own? What is it we value? How do we determine what is of value, what something is worth? Ownership is an illusion, and worth is an arbitrary designation. The only things of any lasting value are those we have no fear of losing. And the only thing we really have to lose is our mind, the ego mind, the aspect of ourselves that keeps us bound in fear by maintaining the illusion we are separate from All That Is.
Some might say Brian Holloway has lost his mind, because he is unwilling to press charges and seek prosecution. When we believe our foundation is the material, the physical stuff of our bodies and our possessions, and our sense of security is tied to the maintenance of those forms and structures, we will forever live in fear of having them taken away.
We can lock up our homes and lock up our cars, but if someone really wants to get in they will find a way. We can erect walls at our borders, around our hearts, and shut down our minds to keep out what we deem a threat to our way of life. We can make every attempt at protecting ourselves and our families from the world, but what do we gain? Certainly not peace of mind; for it is never come by through external means.
If we are so afraid of losing what we have, we will miss every opportunity to discover who we are. We will only truly know the vastness of our being by opening our hearts, and expanding beyond the self-imposed limitations of the conscious mind.
At this time of great contrast, let us consider ways in which we can, through our thoughts, words and actions, bring about harmony in our lives. In every moment we get to choose how we are going to be. Will our actions be rooted in love or based in fear? Will they move us closer to Source or keep us trapped in the material realm, imprisioned in fear? Will they keep us bound to the wheel of birth and death, or release us to merge again with the Light?
I will leave you with this final quote from Marianne Williamson from her book A Return to Love:
"When we surrender to God, we surrender to something bigger than ourselves -- to a universe that knows what it's doing. When we stop trying to control events, they fall into a natural order, an order that works. When at rest, a power much greater than our own takes over, and it does a much better job than we could have done. We learn to trust that the power that holds galaxies together can handle the circumstances of our relatively little lives."
I set out one chilly grey Thursday in mid-July to travel to an old stomping ground. I was headed to Sugarbush, VT for a reunion of sorts. My entire family would be there, save my children, who were in Edinburgh Scotland with their Dad, step-mom and stepbrother.
My journey there took a circuitous path, which is my way. I developed an affinity for traveling the scenic route from my father, who never drives the same way twice. The backcountry roads took me through towns like Graphite, Riparius, Sodom, and Hague.
I was met with a brief but intense downpour that cleared the heaviness from the air, as I rounded Loon Lake. I continued along the eastern flank of Lake Champlain, just as the clouds began to break. The sun escorted me into The Green Mountain State, kissed the tops of the trees then dipped beneath the horizon at my back. The sky, vivid cobalt, was still light, though the sun had receded. The rest of the drive, it remained masked by the peaks that grew up around me.
As I approached the final leg of my trip, I came to a proverbial fork in the road. Either I could take the Appalachian Gap, which is a well-maintained two-lane highway through the mountains; a way I have traveled often, or I could brave the Lincoln Gap, which I had never driven before.
While I pondered my options, I was reminded how often we face these junctures in the journey of our lives. We are continually being presented with choices. Each holds its appeal. The one is tried and true, comfortable, and safe. The other offers potential risk, and may conjure fear, because it is an unknown quantity.
I decided to take the road less traveled, in part because it shaves a good chunk of time off the drive. But I was also feeling rather adventuresome, and the desire for a different experience. Invoking the spirit of my dad, this day I would try a new route.
Now the Lincoln Gap has the illustrious distinction of being a pass that is closed from November through April, because of the treacherous nature of the road conditions during the winter months. It begins, benignly enough, as a charming country road, dotted with quaint New England farmhouses.
The route lulls one into a false sense of security, in a gentle assent. The road starts out paved then turns gradually into a dizzyingly serpentine gravel obstacle course that snakes its way through the mountain pass.
I thought fondly of my old Subaru, once I transitioned to “off road” conditions. My little Toyota held on for dear life as we made our way through hairpin turns and switchbacks. The 4 Wheel Drive vehicles parked alongside the road snickered as we passed. My Corolla, valiantly huffing and puffing like the Little Engine That Could, inched her way to the top.
The metaphor for life was becoming ever more apparent. While I traced my way through the Gap, past experiences flashed before me in dramatic detail. How many times had I found myself heading in a direction that seemed harmless at the onset, only to realize at some moment further down the pike that I was venturing into territory that was seemingly way beyond my abilities or know how.
When I reached the summit, my mind was temporarily distracted from the climb. The vista held me in awe, as I overlooked a pristine lake, framed by tall white pines, etched into the side of the mountain. I was tempted to pull off to take in the full grandeur of the view, but thought better of it, as my family awaited my arrival.
So, I set off down the other face, somewhat reluctantly, wishing I could remain to watch the day undress herself for night, just as a few faint stars began to dot the curtain of sky stretched out before me.
I was quickly jolted back to reality, as the gravel surface rapidly transformed into a pitted, potholed washboard, with a grade that was dauntingly steep. There were no run-off ramps on this road to stop me should my brakes decide to fail.
It was like I had gotten to the top of a ski trail, having innocently followed the blue squares toward the intermediate slope, only to find myself careening down a black diamond mogul field.
I was startled to see bikers breezing past me with only clingy tanks and shorts, and feather weight helmets to shield their fragile forms, in the event that they, well… I banished the thought…
I marveled at their fearlessness. How totally vulnerable they were, yet so free. Every sinew in their bodies working to reach the top, like Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay summiting Everest. Then in seeming free fall they race down at speeds that boggled the mind. I honored their determination, courage and faith, aspiring to know that sense of power and liberation in my own endeavors.
The dizzying decent was at once terrifying and exhilarating. I hugged the shoulder closely, as the road was narrow, and cars climbing in the opposite direction sped around corners quickly, catching me off guard. My well-worn tires had difficulty making traction, and occasionally I could feel my grip slipping.
At times, I daringly let up on the brake to enjoy the thrill of the speed, until a gravel skid brought me back to my senses, loudly declaring my cockiness had found me way out of my element, and dangerously close to peril. I slowed to a much more reasonable pace, deciding it was infinitely more desirable to get to my destination in one piece. I rolled into the drive on Norwegian Way, just about dinnertime, unscathed, yet invigorated by the experience.
The following day offered yet another adventure that highlighted the contrast between playing it safe and leaping empty handed into the void, and how difficult it can be to make the choice.
Saturday morning, after a breakfast of yogurt, fresh fruit, granola, and decaffeinated green tea, we set out for the nearby village of Waitsfield, where we would collect our gear for a leisurely float down the Mad River.
A friendly young man, who gave us the requisite safety drill, delivered us to the launch point, then off we went down to the bank, inner tubes in hand. There was a large boulder, the kind only a glacier could deposit, to the right of a small waterfall that we had to go over to move into the flow of the river.
The water was clear, cold, and the pace brisk, as I was drawn toward the falls by the current. Though I was one of the first to venture in, I was the last to go over the falls, as I spent some time taking in the scene around me.
I drifted, in my bright blue tube gently in the direction of the falls, and then plunged a couple of feet over smooth, water worn limestone, my vessel hugging the rock face, the water unwilling to spit me back into the flow of the river.
For a time, I was unaware of my predicament, as the sun was warm on my body, and I enjoyed the refreshing spray that cooled my skin. I gazed up and noted the stunning contrast between azure sky and emerald pines, not a cloud to be seen.
Then it finally dawned on me; I was stuck. I was caught in an undertow of sorts that kept pulling me back toward the rocks from which I was unable to extricate myself. My inner tube, unlike the others, was designed with a plastic mesh screen across the bottom, so I was taking on far too much water. Were my vessel not buoyant, I would have sunk.
As I bobbed up and down, the water rushing into my tube, I realized the predicament I had found myself in was a gift, a mini- wake-up call from the Universe, to bring my attention to a personal matter I had refused to see clearly.
At the time, I was involved in a relationship that was fulfilling in many ways; yet, somewhere within I knew it was not what I really wanted. It had ceased to serve my greater good, and it was time to move on. Still, in that moment, my first reaction was denial. “No, this can’t possibly be what I’m supposed to be learning here.” I dismissed it entirely, flouting the clear cosmic message being offered.
My ego was screaming, “How could the Universe possibly know what is best for me!?” Had I been honest with myself, I couldn’t deny the signs had been there for quite some time. I just hadn’t wanted to read the writing on the wall.
When we are stuck, whether it is in a relationship that no longer serves us, a job that is unfulfilling, an addiction that is sucking our soul, or some other limiting pattern of thought or behavior, we have ceased to be in the “flow of the Universe.” Like a leaf spinning incessantly in an eddy, hung up behind a rock, we feel incapable of dislodging ourselves, in order to move back into the current.
This “current” of which I speak is the present, the now, the experience of living. We become entrenched, debilitated by fear, or mired in the stories we have fabricated about ourselves, the way it is, or the way it has always been. We feel unable to move into the present, powerless to embrace fully what is waiting for us in the river of life, even though we know instinctively it is far better than where we presently find ourselves.
Often, we remain in a place long after it is useful to us, because we can’t see any other option, or the alternative will force us to alter our current ways of thinking and being. The thought of change can be rather unnerving.
When our belief structures are what have supported us for so long, we might see the change as a threat to our very survival; we struggle and resist the forward momentum, and eventually become paralyzed. As Ralph Blum says in The Book Of Runes, “Self-change is never coerced, - we are always free to resist… Still, he encourages us to “remain mindful that the new life is always greater than the old.”
Though we may wish for change, we often feel powerless to alter our circumstance. It seems as though “the world” is against us, our spouse is unreasonable, our boss is disrespectful, our resources are dwindling, and there is nowhere to go and nothing to do. We are stuck, and it…well…it’s very unpleasant.
Though we may be trapped, eventually we become aware that the river has continued to progress along without us. Everyone else seems to have moved ahead, traveling on down stream. This realization can further cement us, as we get fixed in a mode of anger or self-pity, which only perpetuates our experience.
So here, again, we are faced with a choice. Do we remain in our present circumstances, clinging to the status quo, bemoaning our retched state, or do we pick ourselves up and move, braving the unknown? Appalachian Gap or Lincoln? Do we stick to the path that is familiar, or take the risk, like the Tarot’s Fool, and step off the cliff, letting go of the known and moving into the unknown.
The chick must step out of the nest in order to fly. We can take the leap of our own volition, but often we need a little push. Sometimes it takes a gust of wind, or an unforeseen force that catches us by surprise and propels us into the void.
Recall now an experience when you were in the proverbial “zone”, when you were flying. Remember a time when everything seemed to flow perfectly, when you were in harmony with the forces of the Universe. In these exquisite moments, life is vital and vibrant. We feel inspired and ecstatic.
The word inspire, from the Latin inspirare, translates as both breath and spirit. It means, literally, to be filled with the breath of Spirit, and the word ecstatic, derived from the Latin ex-stasis, means to move out of stasis or to stand outside oneself.
These are truly transcendent moments, when we find ourselves lifted out of our ordinary circumstances to a level of awareness that places us in the current. This is what the teachings of Abraham-Hicks refer to as “The Vortex,” where everything is happening in Divine Right Order.
When we are stuck, however, we feel out of sync with existence, like we are trying to paddle up stream. We may even discover the same pattern is manifesting in multiple areas of our lives at the same time. Our job is unfulfilling, our relationship has ceased to grow, we can’t shed those last ten pounds, our bathroom sink is clogged, and the CD player in our car is jammed. The sense of stagnation can permeate our whole experience, and the feeling can be quite uncomfortable.
Liberating ourselves from this place can create great upheaval in our lives. It may mean emotionally disentangling, and physically removing ourselves from a toxic relationship, a destructive habit, or a dysfunctional situation, but more often than not, it means simply expanding our consciousness, altering our perception, taking responsibility for our own reality.
What we are called upon to do is rewrite our story, but first we must acknowledge that we are the authors of our own lives. We must recognize that we hold the pen, and we can reshape the tale we are telling to reflect how we truly want our lives to be, rather than how we are experiencing them, presently, or how, in our estimation, they have always been.
Meanwhile, back at Mad River, a shout roused me from my reverie. I glanced over my shoulder, to notice the rest of my crew had already floated several hundred yards down stream. If I was ever going to get out of the clutches of the whirlpool, I was going to have to take action. I started pushing against the rocks with my hands, no luck. I rolled to my stomach and kicked off with my feet to no avail. This stressing and striving was getting me nowhere.
No help in sight, I saw no other alternative. I was going to have to take the plunge. I rolled into the icy water, planted my feet firmly on the pebbly bottom, and forcibly pulled my raft back into the rushing river, and in due time I was reunited with my party back in the flow of the experience.
So how do we do this in our own lives? How do we extract ourselves from deep-seated ways of thinking and being, when we may have no clue what to do? We simply begin. We may start small, but we begin, nonetheless.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but the first thing we must do is to be still. But you say, I’m stuck, how much more still can I possibly be? Yet, when we are stuck we can behave similarly to a caged animal. We pace incessantly in our restlessness, or hurl ourselves against that which binds us. We may, like an animal caught in a trap, gnaw at ourselves, trying to break free, only to do even greater harm.
It might seem that bold immediate action is the only way out. Yet, it is important to take the time to feel our emotions fully, the pain, anger, and frustration. It is essential that we sit with them long enough to move deeper, beneath the surface, to the root of that which we struggle against. When we sit long enough, we discover, inevitably, that what we thought we were fighting is merely a mirror of ourselves.
If we can be with the discomfort, we soon discover what has gotten under our skin is the recognition that we have outgrown our current circumstances and our Higher Self is calling to us to move out of this stasis into a new, more beneficial, way of being. The negative emotions we are feeling are signals that we are out of alignment with our true nature, and reinforcing that which we don’t want.
At these times we need to shift our point of focus from being stuck toward where we ultimately want to be. Most often we need to make this transition incrementally. If the leap from where we are to where we desire to be is too great, we must build bridges to span the divide.
We begin by changing our thoughts. We move from negative ones that keep us focused on our present state of dissatisfaction to increasingly more pleasant ones. As we begin to shift what the Abraham-Hicks teachings call our “Point of Focus” to the positive aspects of our situation, or to what it is we really desire, we begin to raise our level of vibration, and in keeping with the Law of Attraction, we always draw to us those things of equal vibration.
Our feelings, what these teachings call the “Internal Guidance System,” are the indicators of our current point of attraction. When we are feeling good about something, we are aligned with what we want, and attracting more of the same, but when we are feeling bad (and most likely talking about it…)we are still attracting, but, it in this case, exactly what we do not want.
A very effective tool for making the transition from negative thoughts to positive, or from feeling bad to feeling good is to cultivate what some call an “attitude of gratitude.” We can begin this process by working with a gratitude journal or a “Book of Positive Aspects,” in which we write the positive elements regarding all of the things in our lives we wish to change, and, accordingly for which we need to cultivate improved feelings.
You might think, “There is nothing positive, what so ever, about my current situation.” Take a moment and think again. If we can approach our experience from a place of gratitude for that which is positive, we soon begin to change our perception. We discover that our circumstance is an exact reflection of our dominant thoughts about it. And we have the power to change the situation, simply by changing our habitual thoughts about it.
Next we state our intentions. We need to express specifically what it is we desire: a more satisfying job, a more fulfilling relationship, a healthier lifestyle, whatever it is, we must be clear about what we want, in tune with our intention. When we are aligned with our intent, it becomes our point of attraction and we draw to us things, people, experiences that resonate at the same frequency. Like attracts like.
The next and most difficult thing we must do is to release our attachment to having it now. For this inevitably sends us back into focusing on our lack, of not having what we want. If we can remain centered in the present, knowing that the intended change is in process, our thoughts will remain positive and we will manifest the desired outcome that much sooner.
Finally, we must accept what is given us. Be careful what you wish for, as you may just get it, is not just a trite saying, it is Universal Law. Our thoughts have power, and are the seeds of all creation. Fortunately, we can always change our minds, and adjust our desires accordingly, as we evolve. Therefore, we must operate consciously, from a place of greater awareness, from a plane of higher vibration, in order to create the lives we truly want to be living.
Should we find ourselves stuck, or at a place where our desires have shifted, and we feel compelled to move, we need only remember that we are sole authors of our experience. We can be, as Gandhi says, “the change we wish to see in the world,” simply by turning to a bright, clean, new page and rewriting the story of our lives.
While at a local bookstore with my daughter, I was perusing the Spirituality section when I noticed a man crouched down in front of the stacks looking intently at the volumes. I excused myself as I walked past him, searching for a title a friend had suggested. Then I heard him say, “Are we crazy to be lookin’ at this stuff?” I turned to him and said, “No, this is right where you need to be,” which then turned into about a 45 minute conversation.
He told me he had, for some time, been receiving messages and having extraordinary visions in meditation, as well as hearing voices in his active life. He was a bit freaked out by it all, and had recently sought guidance from a psychic, who told him he was a Light Worker. He didn’t really know what that meant, so he came to the bookstore to get more clarity.
As we spoke, he made it very evident this was all very new to him. He was a “regular guy,” a contractor from South Florida, who didn’t understand why he was the recipient of these messages. What did he know about any of this? There was an underlying energy of discomfort within him that came through during our conversation. He expressed he didn’t feel worthy of what he was experiencing, especially because others who he deemed more so were not experiencing anything nearly as profound.
He was also feeling rather alone, as hardly anyone he knew was into "this stuff." He didn’t really have anyone to talk to about it. His initial comment to me was very telling. He was really concerned that those closest to him would think he was “crazy,” if he opened up to any of them about his experiences.
Very often, when we embark consciously on our spiritual journey, it feels like we are walking into the wilderness, away from everything that feels familiar. When we begin to walk the “straight and narrow” pathway, we may need to make a complete departure from our old ways of being. People with whom we once felt so comfortable now feel more like strangers, as they may be nowhere near the path, while some may be actively resistant to any such exploration. Those who used to walk closely beside us may begin to fall away. It is important to let them.
As we consciously strengthen our connection to the Source of our Being, we begin to notice our priorities shift, as well. We are likely to discover those things that used to give us pleasure may now seem empty, or simply drain our energy. Clinging to the outmoded patterns will only hinder our ability to fully embrace our transformation.
Consider what is required, when one decides to enter a 12-Step program for addiction. Among the first things he or she must do is to detach from those people and places that served as enablers to the addiction. When we decide to wake up, to become conscious creators of our own experience, we must release everything that no longer serves our intention. We may choose to actively distance ourselves from those who are unsupportive, or they may just stop calling or coming around. As we raise our vibration, and move in the direction of the Light, the true essence of our being, those people, places, and experiences that no longer resonate at the same frequency will feel discordant.
It may feel like we will have nothing left, if we completely let go of these familiar ways, which can be very frightening. What is falling away is only our ego attachment to the illusion (maya) of what we have accepted as "reality." It is, however, only ever the ego that stands in the way of our remembering who we really are, remembering we are fundamentally perfect and complete expressions of the Divine, an integral part of the One.
This fellow seeker and kindred spirit shared that when the messages began, the more he tuned in the more they increased, and the more vivid was his experience. You see, as he was able to let go and surrender, the less of "him" was in the way. The obstruction to the flow of Life Force Energy from Source was diminishing. In his meditation, he had unwittingly reached a state of receptivity, which allowed him to become a conduit. He didn’t “do” anything, he simply opened, and the Cosmic Flow was able to pour through.
The truth is, the flow of Divine Grace is always streaming to us and through us. For some it may be a trickle and for others a deluge. The volume has nothing to do with Source and everything to do with how willing and able we are to receive it.
One Friday morning, while waiting to teach a Yoga class on the beach at a lovely lake in a student’s neighborhood, I noticed something interesting. The leaves on a single branch of a nearby tree were turned over, with their backs, or undersides, facing up. It caught my eye, because their pale surfaces were in such stark contrast to the rich, deep green of the rest. They looked like a crowd of people all hunched over, depressed, and folding in on themselves.
I thought it very curious, so I moved to take a closer look. I touched the leaves, which still retained a level of suppleness, but they were very limp and some had begun to show signs of drying up and falling off entirely. I traced the slim limb back to its source on a thicker branch above. It was then I saw the limb was all but severed. There remained a connection, but it was very tenuous.
With the flow of sap so diminished through the broken branch, the leaves were starving. On those limbs, where the connection was sound, the leaves were vital and thriving. The same thing occurs with us, when the connection with Source Energy, for whatever reason, has been weakened.
The detachment of that single branch had not compromised the overall health of the tree, even though it was home to many leaves, but it certainly affected the integrity of the system as a whole. We might experience this when we have a head cold. It feels like our nose and sinuses are in mutiny, but the discomfort is relatively localized, and the rest of the body is able to function, though, most likely, not optimally.
When we are not fully aligned with All That Is, we can certainly function, but we are only operating at a fraction of our potential. When we are hanging out on a limb that is nearly severed from Source, caught in the illusion we are separate from the Whole, we do not receive the full complement of our Divine Inheritance.
When we are in a state of “disconnection,” and I use that term loosely, because it is impossible to be completely disconnected from Source, I am not implying we are "broken." At our essence, we are perfect, and, at that level, there is nothing that requires "fixing." It is, however, possible for that connection to become blocked. When we are feeling out of balance physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, this is an indication the flow of the Divine Life Force is obstructed from moving freely though us.
The flow of Infinite Light and Love is like the sap in a tree, it is our life’s breath, the spark that ignites and fuels our very existence. When we believe we must “make it on our own,” that we are the source from which everything flows, we isolate ourselves from the very Essence of our Being.
In this state of misalignment, we can become wrapped up in simple daily survival, all of our thoughts and actions become about meeting or serving our own needs. Dhanurdhara Swami teaches that "Love doesn't flow to or from a person who does things only for themselves." This isn’t because they don’t deserve it. It is not a moral judgment.
When we are so focused on ourselves, we are like an isolated cell or one of those leaves on the broken tree limb. In order for energy to flow efficiently, we must have a closed circuit. The Life Force, like the sap, cannot nourish if there is no clear conduit through which it may run. Similarly, the Love we are at our core has nowhere to flow, when our hands are clutching and grasping to get what’s ours. We must open our hands to serve, and spread our arms wide to embrace our brothers and sisters in need.
In the biblical sacred text we find:
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me….”…”Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25: 34-40
When we serve another, we are fundamentally serving God, as each and every being is a Divine Expression of the Creator. We can see God as the positive pole and we as the negative pole in an energetic circuit. When we are open and receptive, we receive the full force of Infinite Grace, and when we allow that to work through us in all of our thoughts, words, deeds and creations, in the service of others, we complete the circuit, and so it continues to flow with ease.
Fear is always the basis for any misalignment with Source. Fear is the bedfellow of the ego mind. It is a trap the ego sets for us, to keep us bound in our limited state of consciousness. That fear can take many forms. It may creep in as doubt, like when we feel we are undeserving of the flood of Grace flowing to us. We will very often self-sabotage, by attracting experience that reinforces the low regard we have of ourselves. “I’m not worthy… I’m too stupid… I’m unlovable… I’m a sinner.”
We are continually taking leaps of doubt, and where do they get us? The “what if’s” of our lives chain us to the merry-go-round of limited experience that doesn’t leave us feeling very merry. Why not try taking a leap of faith and see what happens? The faith we must have is in our Self, the Higher Self.
The Hanged or Suspended Man of the Tarot has done just that. He has surrendered the ego, all the beliefs and concepts that upheld the illusion of his separateness from the Whole that previously tied him to the material plane. Yet, he does still hang suspended above the abyss. We see he is tethered to the tree limb above by a pure white cord, so it would appear he is still bound. This rope, however, represents the spiraling Life Force Energy of the Universe, our unceasing connection to the Divine. The Suspended Man knows his foundation is Spirit not physical “reality.”
My friend in the bookstore was afraid of what people would think of him, should he share the messages he has been receiving. When we accept that God is the Source, in whom we live, move, and have our being, to the rest of the world it may appear we have lost our connection to reality. Truthfully, we are never more fully aligned with reality than when we choose to become a clear conduit for the flow of Love, Light and Life.
This fellow’s issue was not a lack of flow. He has opened up and is definitely receiving. But the longer he continues to hold in what is being transmitted, the sooner he will become overloaded and burn out, or that energy will seek release in a way he is less able to control. If the energy has nowhere to go, it will overwhelm the circuit where it is stuck, eventually overheat and ignite!
Many who are open channels and do not yet know how to ground or channel it effectively mistakenly think they are going crazy. These empaths may have no basis of understanding for what is happening with them, or they may live in an environment that is unsupportive of their open exploration of their new experience. It is not uncommon for people in this predicament to suppress the flood of Divine Grace. Many turn to alcohol or drugs, because it brings them some relief from the torrent of energy, images and messages they do not fully understand, though such behavior greatly inhibits the free flow of Source Energy.
While seeking understanding from books or psychics may provide some guidance, the most productive path to understanding is to turn within in meditation. All of our answers are, ultimately, found here anyway. A book or a seer will only shed light on what we already know at a deep subconscious level.
The root of my new friend’s confusion was what he experienced in meditation, not the meditation itself. He had waded into what seemed new territory for him. Though, really, he was simply returning home, opening back to Source and all that this alignment has to offer, by way of peace, wisdom, and understanding.
When we meditate we enter a receptive mode, once the idle chatter of the mind falls away. When in this state, all of our questions are answered. We must put forth our questions and then let them go. They may not be answered immediately or even in the way we expect. So, we must have the discipline to persevere and the patience to wait until the answers are revealed.
When we are feeling disconnected from Source, our meditation serves as a suture that threads its way into the gaps and realigns us more fully. Once aligned, we freely receive the grace of the Divine that pours unreservedly to us and through us to enrich our lives in infinite ways. Meditation is, just like our breath, a mainline to Source. Our breath provides nourishment for our physical body. Meditation allows us to receive nourishment for our heart, soul, and Higher Self.
"Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure-- pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." Luke 6:38
When we give of ourselves in service to others, without expectation of something in return, we complete the circuit between us and the Divine. When we open in meditation and give ourselves entirely to the experience, we go beyond the limitations of our ego mind, and the Divine Connection is again made functional.
In these days when technology is opening up pathways of communication and making it possible to effortlessly find the answers to our questions, we may think there is no need to turn within, especially because it requires the effort of discipline, and we are unlikely to experience instant gratification. It is important to remember the Internet can only offer answers to questions regarding the realm of the physical. When we seek answers of a spiritual nature, they can only be found by tapping into Spirit.
It is said life is all about making connections. Indeed. If we were not connected to the Source of All That Is, we would have no life. When we strengthen our connection with the Divine, through service and meditation, the return is a thousand fold.
Around that time, I happened to be struggling with discipline in my own meditation practice. As I sat one day, I asked my guru, Her Holiness, Sai Maa Lakshmi Devi, what I needed to do to become more consistent in my practice. Without pause, the answer came. “Practice. The discipline comes through the practice.” Ask and it is given. The answer, whatever the question, always comes, when we get quiet long enough to listen and hear what our inner guidance, our soul, is attempting to convey.
When we offer our focused intent to our meditation, the answer will be made clear. In that clarity, the “crazy” falls away, and we experience peace of mind. As we give so shall we receive. When we give our self fully to the Divine, we receive its Infinite Blessings.
Contact Katrin For Intuitive Spiritual & Life Guidance, Astrology, Tarot and Destiny Card Readings. email@example.com (315)289-3831
Yoga is a discipline that currently enjoys renewed awareness and interest. It has become rather ubiquitous. It is now quite mainstream, showing up in commercials and numerous television programs, even occasionally as the topic of controversy in the news. Studios have sprung up like mushrooms in a damp forest, and one can practice in a group class or with a virtual instructor via various apps, YouTube videos, and online classes.
In the West, most people view Yoga as an alternative to, or a complement for their regular fitness regimen. Although Yoga does offer extraordinary physical benefits such as increased strength, flexibility, stamina and balance, as well as enhanced cardiovascular and metabolic functioning, to name only a few, there are additional benefits of which many people may not be aware.
Traditionally, Yoga encompasses many disciplines, all of which are seen as paths toward greater awareness. These ultimately lead to liberation through our expanded consciousness. What we know of today as the asana, or physical postures seen in magazines and videos, are only one aspect of the Yoga practice, called Hatha Yoga. These postures were actually introduced as a means for the earliest yogis to sit in meditation for longer periods of time, in their efforts to reach these higher states of consciousness.
In Sanskrit, “ha” means sun and “tha” translates as moon. In this form of Yoga there is a bringing together of these two vital energies, present in the body and in all life forms, seen as the active or outward moving principle, and the passive or inwardly receptive principle. This is analogous to the Yang and Yin energies of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The word Yoga derives from the root “yug,” meaning to yoke. The implication is one of union, of joining two seemingly opposing things together. Not only are we unifying the active and passive energies in the body, but we are also bringing together and harnessing the mind and the body, through an awareness of the breath.
Let’s imagine that we are farmers with the intention of plowing our fields in springtime so we may plant seeds we will then harvest when they come to fruition in the fall. We also have two great oxen we use to plow our fields, but those mighty beasts are on opposite sides of the field and are highly uncooperative.
Unless we introduce the discipline of the yoke, not much plowing will get done. This sturdy wooden yoke will join them together, so we can steer them in the direction we want them to go. Then will finally be able to plow straight and uniform rows.
Now lets look at this scenario as an analogy for our life. We are indeed the farmer, but in this case, we wish to plant the seeds of our desire and ultimately reap the harvest of our creation in the form of the experiences of our life. The two oxen represent our body and mind. When they are working at cross-purposes, it is very hard to achieve our intentions, but when they are operating in harmony, our life runs in a far more smooth and orderly fashion, and we can achieve our goals with greater ease.
So what then is the yoke, the key to manifesting our desires? Well, the tool that we all have at our disposal is the breath. That seems rather easy, you might say. All I need do is breathe?
Well, the body and the mind might not come together so willingly. The farmer must bring the oxen close enough to place the yoke around their prodigious necks. They are stubborn; they clearly have agendas of their own. The one tends to be like Ferdinand, indolent and loathe to do anything but lay around and smell the flowers, or he is gripped by his passions, pinning away for a cow in the other pasture, while the other is restless and high-strung, bucking and chaffing at anything that would restrain it. It requires perseverance and a tremendous force of will to light a spark in the one, and to quell the inner unrest of the other.
So the farmer must utilize another tool to coax the oxen into alignment. That tool is the ox goad, or, in the case of our efforts, concentration. When we can bring the mind and body into balance through the focused awareness of what is occurring in both, at any given moment, we may harness the power inherent in each and create a vital, harmonious, bountiful life, and continue on our path toward expanded consciousness.
So with Yoga, in order to achieve its greatest benefits, we must dedicate ourselves to the task. We call it a practice for just that reason. We don’t “do” Yoga, we practice it, just as we would a musical instrument or sport. A committed musician or athlete understands to become a master requires one very important thing - discipline. In this discipline of Yoga we fine-tune our instrument, the body, through a focused practice that is firmly anchored in the breath, which vitalizes the body and keeps the mind centered in the present moment.
Yoga provides us with a disciplined practice that allows us to concentrate our awareness fully in the body and with the breath, so we can train our consciousness to a single point of focus. The physical benefits like increased strength, greater flexibility and enhanced lung capacity are a bonus of the practice, like icing on the cake, as it were; they are not its main purpose. Though surely, when body and mind are in balance, we do function more optimally in all areas of our life.
We are all well acquainted with mirrors. Most of us in the western world utilize them on a daily basis. Using a mirror we must engage our sense of sight, which requires light be present. In Yoga, we are developing our sight as well, but this is an inner sight, what we call our intuition, which simply means inner knowledge or knowing. We begin to illuminate the inner landscape in the exploration of the body and the mind, through the physical postures and through focused breath awareness. Eventually, we don’t need these physical mirrors to reflect back to us how we appear to ourselves. In Yoga, we develop an internal awareness, one not contingent on anything external for our sense of self. But more importantly, we gradually discover the true nature of our mind, and we gain control of it, instead of it being in control of us. We are now driving the oxen….
An effect of Yoga is this ability to reflect our thoughts and actions back to us, as if in a mirror or a pool. We observe our thoughts, mind, consciousness and actions and begin to correct them, bringing us into a greater state of balance and equanimity.
The ancient Indian sage Patanjali, who created the first treatise or "handbook" for Yoga over 2500 years ago, said the practice of Yoga is: “Citta Vrtti Nirodha.” Citta means the mind or consciousness, vrtti can be seen as disturbances or fluctuations in the mind, and nirodha translates as “to restrain or subdue”.
If we visualize citta as a lake, its movements (vrtti) are the ripples and waves on the water. In the practice of Yoga, we attempt to still (nirodha) those ripples. When the water is calm, we can more clearly see our true reflection, our true essence. From this place of stillness arises our inspiration. When our mind is still, we can more readily tap into this limitless fountain of Creative Energy.
The practice of Yoga can be described as a process of unlearning. Over the course of our lives we create patterns of behavior and thought that begin to solidify in our bodies and minds (samskaras.) These patterns are what block us from tapping into the stillness. So the continuous flow of this Life Force Energy (prana) is restricted. Yoga clears the obstructions in our bodies and minds, and melts the crystallizations. It softens and releases the blockages that hinder us from tapping into the full power of our creative potential, and manifesting what we desire. Once there is a certain level of mastery, we can eventually move into higher states of awareness and consciousness.
Ultimately, Yoga is a journey of discovery. We are more concerned in this discipline with the process than we are with the product. When we are fully committed to the process, the product cannot help but be beneficial and inspired.
So are you ready to embark? You don’t need to pack anything for this journey, you are far better off coming empty handed, or rather empty minded. So drop your baggage and let’s begin…
Katrin, E-RYT, currently teaches Alignment Based Yoga and Restorative Yoga at CNY Healing Arts. She also offers private instruction and workshops.
I assume I was like most children; I couldn’t wait to become a grown-up. As a little girl, I viewed the adults in my life with a sense of awe and reverence. They seemed so wise, poised to supply an answer to my every question. It appeared they had figured everything out, effortlessly. I placed them firmly on meticulously crafted pedestals, convinced of their perfection and indomitability.
From that vantage point of innocence, my parents, as my main models, led lives that seemed so interesting, full, and even a bit glamorous. My father, a neurosurgeon, had a mysterious and fascinating career. I marveled that he spent his days “poking around” inside people’s heads. Work kept him away from home a lot, and he was often called out in the middle of the night to, in my mind, save the lives of the countless masses. He was my hero.
In addition to expertly caring for me, my two sisters, and brother, my mother had an active life as a Real Estate Agent, and a dedicated volunteer in a number of civic and charitable organizations, after having worked for many years as a labor and delivery nurse. She expertly ran our household and graciously planned and presided over the many parties and functions my parents hosted for friends and colleagues alike. I admired her confidence, grace and skill. She was an icon, a force to be reckoned with.
As the youngest of four, by three years, my siblings always got to do things before me. I had a bevy of older cousins, as well, who seemed so cool in their bell-bottoms, listening to rock and roll music, talking about things I didn’t understand. “You’re too young…” or “Not until you’re older…” were constant refrains ringing in my ears. I was often left out of activities in which the older ones got to partake. They were my idols, and I envied them their freedom and experience.
When I was 13, the sudden death of my best friend, Jackie, created a deep sense of loss. I was left with a void nothing could fill. The grownups in my life were helpless. There simply were no answers this time… none that could possibly ease my pain. The illusion of my safe, happy world had shattered.
My friend’s passing, and my inability to make sense of it, triggered in me a need to flee, but at that age I really had nowhere to go. “Hurry up and wait…” became the mantra of my
youth. There was a deep yearning I couldn’t satisfy, something gnawed at me like a dog worrying a grizzled bone. I couldn’t wait to be older, to be an adult. I firmly believed once I
reached that Shangri-La, all of the doors would open before me, and all the answers to life’s mysteries would be revealed.
Several months after Jackie died my hair began to turn white, a “shock” appeared, like a widows peak, centered at my forehead . I was horrified. I also got braces that year, on my
birthday, of all days, just as I was starting my freshman year in high school! I wanted to be anyone but who I was, and anywhere but where I was.
While in high school, I often lied about my age and the details of my life to people I met. I had a friend in college who nicknamed me “Turbo,” because I was always racing to get somewhere, convinced that right here wasn’t good enough. As the U2 song proclaims, I was “running to stand still…” and heading nowhere fast.
During my teens and twenties my life was directionless, and I desperately wanted to “belong,” though I didn’t know where. Uncomfortable in my skin, with little sense of who I truly was, I turned to destructive behaviors that, at the time, seemed to fill the void. I greatly lacked inner stability, which, had I any, might have grounded me sufficiently in one place long enough to figure out what it was I really wanted and needed to be a whole, happy, healthy human being.
As I passed the usual benchmarks that might otherwise have bestowed a feeling I had reached this hallowed place we call adulthood, any sense I had finally become a grown-up still eluded me. My lack of direction in college, and the time I spent focusing my energies on less than academic pursuits, in no way conferred that rite of passage.
Completing a course of graduate studies in Design and Technical Theatre provided me the mooring I needed, and as I began my career as a Costume Designer, I finally felt as though I had found my place in the world. The foundation was laid, but at 26, MFA in hand, I was far from feeling mature.
When I married the following year, I was petrified, as I walked down the isle with my father. Choking back tears, unsure I wasn’t making a huge mistake, I felt like a frightened little girl, not wanting to let go of her daddy’s hand, afraid to venture into the unknown.
The birth of my son brought me closer to my goal of "arriving." There came a level of responsibility, associated with being a parent, I had not previously known. Yet, in many ways, it felt awkward and foreign, at first a very uneasy fit. My Sagittarius ascendant was not prepared for relinquishing the "freedom" to which I had grown accustomed, and likely
significantly influenced my decision to wait until I was thirty four to have my first child.
Ensconced in a new home in Connecticut, caring for an infant, and commuting to New York City to pursue my Design career, had I arrived, finally? Quite the contrary; in many ways, I still felt as insecure as I did when I was twenty.
It wasn’t until six years later, now raising two young children, and working part-time teaching and designing at a local college, as my marriage was crumbling around me, that I began to catch the first glimpse of what it felt like to be a grown-up. The fabric of my life was unraveling. I was terrified, knowing, for the first time in my life, I would be called upon to support myself and my children, and I was completely unsure I had the wherewithal to do it. Yet, in the midst of all the chaos, I felt more alive and fully present than I ever had before.
My soul had been slowly dying in a marriage that had ceased to nourish or fulfill me, so I went in search of something that would. My husband and I separated and I moved into my own apartment. I took what little savings I had, and went back to school to become a Yoga Instructor. I crawled into my chrysalis, and two years later, having completed advanced yoga certification, I emerged transformed.
At the same time, I was also undergoing an intense course of therapy. These experiences, and the subsequent years spent in mediation to dissolve the marriage and create a parenting plan that put our children’s needs first, initiated a healing process. I was forced to plumb the depths of my pain, to wade through the muck and mire, and finally unearth the roots of my dis-ease. It was an arduous journey, but, ultimately, the most rewarding and enlightening work I have ever done. And the process continues still….
Now, at 52, still a work in progress, I am finally beginning to feel like an adult, like I am truly becoming a grown-up. So what does this really mean? I think the operative word here is “grown.” It means I have grown to understand and accept all my past experiences were essential to bring me to the place I am right now. It means I have finally grown comfortable in my skin, and there is nowhere else I would rather be. It means I have grown to truly love the life I am living and the person I am becoming.
As my intention is to live more fully in the moment, I know the present is no longer held hostage by the past, and the future will manifest as a reflection of the gratitude I have for all that has come before, and for all that continually blesses me.
I now recognize adulthood is not a final destination. Life is a continual process of becoming. Being a grown-up is an honor bestowed upon one who has come to the awareness that life is a path continually revealing itself, when we remain open to its gifts and lessons. This knowledge, ultimately, provides a sense of equanimity, a peace and grace that can only be found when we stop running and stand still in the presence of the raw beauty our whole, unadulterated life lays before us.
Balance. Everybody is seeking it, but where do we find it? We are continually encouraged to strive for balance in our lives, as though it were something we needed to catch, like an elusive prey, always ducking out of sight, just as we get within reach.
In the familiar child's game "Tag", if I'm the last person to say "Not it!", my aim is to immediately catch another, so I'm not 'it' any more.
What happens when we are it? Everyone else runs away. When we chase after them, they run faster, like maniacs, trying not to get caught. That's the nature of the game, right?
Well, imagine for a moment I were it, and, instead of setting off in chase, I just lay down on the ground. Fairly quickly you would notice I had stopped pursuing, and you would stop running. You might, from a safe distance, look at the others and shrug, saying, "What's up with her? Hey, are you all right?"
If I lie there, long and still enough, eventually you would come closer, warily at first, but you would come. One of you might be so concerned I was ill or injured you would bend down to check my vitals. And then, I'd nab you! Ha, you're IT! You might think that's cheating...or is it?
At one time or another, you may have set your sights on someone you wanted to date. You played it cool, dropping subtle hints here and there, waiting patiently to see if you had piqued the interest of your intended, allowing him or her to come to you.
Some of us, however, were not patient enough to use that strategy in the game of love, and we laid chase in hot pursuit of our heart's desire. I don't know about you, but whenever I employed that tactic, inevitably, my crush went running in the opposite direction.
So you see, when we run after or pursue something, the implication is it's something we lack. Inevitably, when we enter "chase mode," what ever it is we are after runs away. That is the nature of predator and prey. Whether in the game of tag or love, when we become the aggressor, our quarry, or our goal high-tails it for the hills.
In the game of life, if balance is our goal, it is not something we can pursue. We have to be a little "creative with the rules," a little bit cunning, even counter-intuitive. Instead of aggressively chasing after balance, we must do the opposite. We stop playing the game, give up the fight, and surrender, because truthfully balance is not something "out there" we must attain or achieve. It is, rather, something within. It's our natural state of being.
In order to experience balance in our lives, we must be willing to give up our need to succeed, to win at all costs, to 'have it all', and instead slow down and focus within. When we do, we realize the events, experiences and relationships that make up our external environment are always a reflection of what is happening within. The outer mirrors how close to or far from center we are in any moment. At center, we are fully aligned on the vertical axis of Spirit, with the Higher Self, our I AM PRESENCE.
Since everything is constantly in motion, balance is a very relative term. We continually adjust, correct, hone and fine-tune. Homeostasis, where we maintain a relatively stable and constant condition in the body, is only possible as a result of multiple systems continually regulating and adjusting to internal and external variables, such as temperature and moisture.
Balance is not stasis; quite the contrary, it is an ever-changing, fluid process of checking in, listening to what is, and adjusting accordingly to what we discover. We are not seeking or looking for balance; we are continually creating it, in relation to where we are in any given moment.
So what throws us out of balance? If it is our natural state, the only thing that can upset the delicate condition of equilibrium is action, in one form or another. This is karma. Within every action are the seeds of its effect. Action merely means setting energy into motion.
Though we may first imagine something like picking up a glass or writing an email, when we think of taking an action, it may be as subtle as a thought, or saying a few words. Every action begins as a thought. So every thought or word serves as a catalyst that sets change in motion, chains of events we might never have imagined.
You may say, "Well if I don't think, speak or act how can I achieve anything, or get anything done. If the shark stops swimming it dies, right!?" Action in and of itself will not knock us off-balance. It is, however, when that action manifests in the extreme, or we stray far from center, that we lose our equilibrium.
So what is extreme? When we find ourselves at one of the two ends, or at the farthest limit of anything, we are out on the extreme. We are either burning up, or freezing cold, ecstatic with joy, or in a dark pit of despair.
We don't have to be pushed all the way to the limit, teetering on the edge of the abyss in order to feel the effects of imbalance, although a moment of crisis like a physical illness, or an emotional breakdown are sure-fire ways to get our attention.
Though these conditions may seem to blind-side us out of nowhere, what actually happens is they gradually, imperceptibly creep up on us, until we detect one or more physical, mental, emotional or spiritual "symptoms", and we cannot live in denial any longer. And then we ask ourselves how did I get here?
The body and mind are very adaptable. We can grow accustomed to states that are dysfunctional, or detrimental to our greater wellbeing, particularly if we continually deny what we are feeling or experiencing. "I don't have enough time to tend to this right now. I've got too much to do to eat right, get enough sleep, move my body regularly, meditate, speak to my boss about my excessive work load! Who has time to have a meaningful conversation with their child, partner, or spouse!" There are myriad justifications for and distractions from the signs and signals our body, mind, and soul continually send us shouting "Wake up! The time for change is now."
The current economic engine, and the media that fuels it, encourage this constant state of activity couched as 'productivity". Our contemporary western culture glorifies a frenetic lifestyle, and often demonizes stillness as unproductive, or a sign of laziness. When we are overly consumed by our busyness, by the distractions of daily life, we likely neglect the crucial process of restoration essential to the greater wellbeing of body, mind and spirit.
Many, who have consciously embarked on the spiritual path, erroneously believe the most efficient path to enlightenment is through the subtle door of the mind, and if we ever expect to reach it, we must disassociate ourselves from the grosser, material form of the body.
The ancients knew this could not be farther from the truth, and embodied that knowledge in such physical practices as Yoga, and Qi Gong. They understood these forms were essential to the seeker's process of developing and honing awareness. They came to these disciplines daily to maintain optimal conditions in the physical body necessary to support them on their journey inward. They understood, practiced and taught, like the Master Jesus, "the body is a temple." It is the home of Spirit, the vehicle for the soul, not merely a bag of gristle and bones.
Yoga and Qi Gong share the concept that energy is the vital force that makes up and moves everything in the universe. The Yogis call it Prana; the Buddhists name it Qi. Hatha Yoga and Qi Gong allow us to develop, harness and direct this Life Force through movement and breathing practices, which are essential for balancing body, mind and spirit, and lay the foundations for advanced states of meditation that eventually lead to the transcendence of our material consciousness, when one merges with the All That Is, in the deepest states of Samadhi bliss, in "the peace that passeth all understanding."
Dr. Reginald A. Ray, a Professor of Buddhist Studies at Naropa University says, "My experience suggests that our problem is very simple. We are attempting to practice meditation and to follow a spiritual path in a disembodied state, and this is inevitably doomed to failure... the full benefits and fruition of meditation cannot be experienced or enjoyed when we are not grounded in our bodies... there is no other way to do so."
The image of the candle has been used for centuries to explain the nature of the symbiotic relationship of Yin and Yang. The solid, substantial, heavy wax is Yin, which we might envision representing the physical body, and the insubstantial, bright, hot, upward moving, flame, the Yang, symbolizes the mind.
When we bring the body and mind together in balance, through mindfulness practices, we create the forces of heat to burn off impurities in the body, and light to illuminate the mind, so we may fully merge with the Divine Essence of our being. The symbiotic nature of matter and energy, of body and mind, makes them inseparable, and equally essential for illumination.
The body is wholly as vital an aspect as the mind to our returning awareness that we are individual souls in the unified Consciousness of The One. BKS Iyengar, one of the first Yogis credited with introducing the physical practice of Hatha Yoga to the West says, "It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity." The Buddhist saint Saraha said, "In my wanderings, I have visited shrines and other places of pilgrimage, but I have not seen another shrine as blissful as my body." Dr. Ray goes on to say; "We need to realize that our body is not a beginning point, not a jumping off point to something else. Rather, the body is itself the pathway to realization, and, at its deepest level, the embodiment of enlightenment itself. To know the body is to meet the awakened state." This is aligned with a remark made by Trungpa Rinpoche: "There is no division between the spirituality of the mind and the spirituality of the body; they are both the same...."
The Yin Yang symbol is fairly ubiquitous. In the ancient, complex system of Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is symbolic of the ever-unfolding universal continuum. We may believe these two qualities are extreme opposites, like the body and the mind. Yet, within the dynamic dance of life, polarity is at the core of our universe. This multi-dimensional, electro-magnetic matrix is a symbiotic system; each constituent part exists in relation to and because of the other. That is why the symbol is structured as it is. The poles of this integrated whole are always characterized relative to one another. As with the tidal play of the moon, or the inhalation and exhalation of breath, our state of equilibrium is the result of these continuous, oscillating cycles flowing one into the other.
Yang means: "lighter than." It represents what is at the surface, rising, dispersed, external, and exposed. Its relationship to Yin, which means "darker than," is always relative. Yin describes what is at the core, sinking, condensed, internal, and hidden. According to this ancient wisdom tradition, balance or optimal health is about having easy access to both of these qualities. A balanced and free flow of movement in both mind and body provide the necessary conditions for the illumination of spirit.
Yin appears within Yang and vice versa, as represented by the smaller circle of the opposite color held within it. Yang flows into Yin, as Yin merges with Yang. Everything in the universe is energy in perpetual motion. Nature is cyclic, and all things contain their opposite. The effect is always present in the cause. Cause is inseparable from effect; contains and inevitably reveals the other in an eternal cycle of involution and evolution.
What we ingest into the mind will inevitably affect the body, just as what we take in as food affects the function of our physical form. If there is dis-ease in the mind, or emotional dysfunction, these will ultimately manifest as imbalance, in the form of physical symptoms in the body.
Most people are riding the "Tilt-O-Whirl" of life on the outer edge of the circle, going, going, going, and then crashing, only to get back on and do it again and again. The force at the outer edge is such that if we were not strapped in tightly, we would get thrown off into the bushes. To create a balanced existence we must come to the center, with one foot in Yin and one in Yang. We must remember the symbiotic nature of body and mind, and nurture each with equal attention.
The structure of our everyday lives requires we harmonize the inner processes of nurturing the Self, which are qualified as YIN, with the YANG, manifesting as our outer world pursuit. Intuition and the efficient and appropriate use of energy, the "wise sage", are YIN qualities, whereas YANG energy manifests as 'the warrior', who thrives on the thrill of the hunt, the struggle, and "victory of battle". However, if we are too conservative with our energy we become stagnant, and if we continually run, go, and do, we eventually crash and burn.
Those routine daily activities that keep us “on the go” throughout our day, considered YANG in nature, are powered by our internal engine, which is fueled with QI, the Vital Life Force Energy, stored in the dantian, encompassing the region of the intestines, the 'gut brain'. At days' end, when we return home, after exerting ourselves in the various tasks on our to-do list (YANG in nature), to "chill", "lay low", rest, and sleep, (YIN in nature), we have the opportunity to replenish the well of QI that fuels us for another day in the world. We can also create opportunity throughout the day to restore through meditation, deep, slow conscious breathing, or such practices as Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and Yoga.
When we chase after "success," or the "American Dream", when we over-indulge in food, work or sex, or over-do with our distraction of choice, we deplete this storehouse of essential vital energy. We could imagine the dantian is like our energetic savings account. We also have an energetic checking account, from which we continually draw to fuel our daily activities. At night when we sleep we have the opportunity to replenish the savings account. However, many of us do not get sufficient hours of sleep, or we sleep fitfully, perhaps waking during the night challenged to return to sleep. We may lie tossing, turning, planning and scheming, spinning on some encounter from earlier in the day, or micromanaging the next day's events. This is by no means restorative.
So if we are going all day, and then still going all night, we will soon be running on empty. Eventually the checking account runs dry, and we must tap into the energetic savings account. But if we have not been mindful to make regularly scheduled deposits, the bank repossess our car, forecloses on our home, and then we are left immobilized and at the mercy of the elements.
When we neglect our body and mind we experience blockage in the flow of our resources, Qi, Blood and Moisture, and we begin to experience the breakdown of organ systems, which manifest in physical, mental and emotional symptoms.
How can we focus on our spiritual practice when the body, mind and emotions are out of balance and screaming at us for restoration? We can quit the game, slow down, surrender, and stop solely directing our energies outward. We must make an effort to turn inward and realign. As we let go of the past, and cease projecting into the future, we will come into the present moment. As we still the mind, focusing our awareness in the body, within the rhythmic cycles of breath, we bring them into balance and open the space for a merging with soul.
Katrin Naumann, MFA, E-RYT, QGT, VH
Bring body, mind and spirit into balance with daily practice of Yoga and Qi Gong, for optimal health and wellbeing. Learn more about Yoga & Qi Gong Classes, by visiting Inner Balance Life Works at http://www.innerbalancelifeworks.com.
Katrin Naumann worked for 20 years as a Theatre Artist, both behind the scenes as a Costume and Scenic Designer, and on stage, film and TV, as an Actor. She has been a lifelong adventurer on the path of Self discovery, which has led to her current role as Director of Inner Balance Life Works. Her holistic healing practice focuses on offering pathways toward (R)evolutionary Self Transformation. Katrin serves the community as an Energy Healer, Intuitive Spiritual Guide, Qigong & Yoga Instructor, Author, Public Speaker, and Workshop Creatrix.