We are all subject to doubt and indecision from time to time. Especially during COVID, it’s easy to begin to wallow in worry and start down that dark rabbit hole. And perhaps it is the rabbit hole that will lead us to peace but not the dark hole of worry, rather the rabbit hole that takes us deep inside, into the only real place of solace.
A Different Rabbit Hole
Instead of trying to fix things, I simply looked at them. Maybe what I was fixing was my need to fix things. It took a while but I found some peace there in my heart. And in a moment of clarity, my mind recalled that all these temporary and illusorily (but still important) decisions and responsibilities about our current circumstances will be made clear the more I cultivate and understand that peace, that inner self. I realized that I didn’t need to make a decision or actions about those things now. That what I could to do is grow my relationship with what I call the True Self, the part that isn’t defined by all of these temporary details of those momentarily important decisions. I felt that perhaps whatever my decisions, actions, or endeavors I faced, when made based from a grounded place of inner-peace, will be the product of something trusted and sure. Also, when I looked at my decisions or problems from that place of real clarity, I could see how I was reacting to fears and worries instead of looking at these questions with objectivity where I could move forward with power and conviction. With that sure knowledge of seeing things as they are, I had the courage to step out to those precarious edges of potential, pushed by a power of my own grounded knowledge of Self.
And then suddenly there was no more searching because I’d momentarily found the source-it was right here all along. I’ve also discovered that when I’ve made a decision based on this knowledge of Self, it doesn’t exempt me from problems or struggles further down the road but at least I know that the difficulty I will encounter is necessary turbulence for the path I’ve chosen. It is the Tapas, the medicine, the heat necessary for transformation, that will continue to lead me down my path of self-discovery, the path that feels the most right to me because ultimately it is the product of my True Self.
And as I go that True Self whispers like Gandalf in my ear, “Speak your truth, act with honesty and integrity, and always listen.”
The Clash wails questions
Weighed down by indecision.
All things grow from Self.
This week let’s practice our relationship with that inner Self by listening to our bodies and breath.
The “There Is” Practice
Here’s a simple mindfulness practice you may enjoy which I call the “There Is” Practice
This mindfulness practice is excellent as a prep for Yoga Nidra as well as a beautiful independent meditation practice. It will help you to practice learning to witness the world just as it is without any judgments about it. Start by sitting comfortably with a cushion on the floor (a chair or couch works nice, too). Set a timer and start with a 10-minute practice. Increase the time as you like.
Close your eyes, and acknowledge all the things you are currently experiencing with the phrase “There Is” in your mind. In your mind, you might say, “There is the sound of traffic. There is apprehension. There is a 20-pound cat sitting in my lap and licking my big toe.” Anything you sense, feel, think, do, point to it with the phrase, “There Is . . . .”
2 guidelines: First, nothing is good or bad. It just is. Next, avoid the personal pronouns I, me, or my from what you perceive. Instead of “I feel happy,” it’s “There is happiness.” Erasing personal pronouns changes our understanding of what is as something that is more than what is only in relationship to ourselves. We change our relationship from an object where things happen to us into the subject of what experiencing everything.
I wish I knew the beauty of leaves falling. To whom are we beautiful when we go?
Excerpt from “Three In Transition” by David Ignatow
And to whom are we beautiful as we go? This poem seems to point to the fact that even in our failing, there is a part of creation and therefore a part of ourselves that can grant a magnificence to any loss. Such a beautiful concept. Such a bittersweet truth. And perhaps this is why Autumn is so colorful: it is the opulent funeral procession of the death of so much. It is the rush of fireworks before the quiet stillness of winter.
Many of the Hindu icons tell stories. The Dancing Shiva is a story-telling icon depicting Shiva, the creator of the universe, and illustrates the five acts of Shiva.
The concept is the same whether you call the creator, Shiva, God, the Universe, or anything else. In this statue, these 5 acts are depicted by his many arms, one of which is celebrating creation, another that is sustaining his creation, another is allowing death, and another that is not only inviting things back to life, but to live again with a higher consciousness than before.
This statue reminds us that our job is to allow Shiva to lead in this dance of life, to follow along as we are slowly refined into greater beings. It reminds us that death is a part of life and with a broader perspective, we can, to some degree, appreciate it as a necessary part of the cycle.
Mary Oliver writes about learning to accept death and loss in her poem, Maker of All Things, Even Healings. I love the title of the poem because it suggests that the healing, the bringing back to life for a fuller measure of life as in the Dancing Shiva, comes only after accepting death which she does so humbly.
under the pines
moves through the darkness
with a mouthful of teeth
and a reputation for death
which it deserves.
In the spicy
villages of the mice
he is famous,
in the grass
is like an earthquake,
on the path
is a message so absolute
that the mouse, hearing it,
as small as he can
as he sits silent
or, trembling, goes on
hunting among the grasses
for the ripe seeds.
Maker of All Things,
including the fear that makes
all of us, sometime or other,
flee for the sake
of our small and precious lives,
let me abide in your shadow–
let me hold on
to the edge of your robe
as you determine
what you must let be lost
and what will be saved.
As we celebrate the panoply of fall colors this fall, may we, too, remember the beauty of leaves falling, the beauty and magnificence of this amazing dance in which we are all twirling, living and dying. May you see your journey through many cycles of death and rebirth as beautiful as the panoply of changing leaves.
There’s a brilliant lyric from Leonard Cohen’s Anthem that goes like this:
Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
I love this for so many reasons but mostly I love how it suggests that you’re not SUPPOSED to be perfect, that it’s by your imperfections that you reveal your own greatness. Somehow through the process of working with you problems—your imperfections, your cracks—is how you arrive at illumination. There’s no better way to practice to acknowledge our flaws than with a yoga and mindfulness practice. Consider, these practices aren’t as much as finding our illumination in the immediate but rather they are there to help us get comfortable and work with our limitations, our weaknesses. Once we can get cool with that, then the illumination part just takes care of itself.
The Grain of Sand and the Pearl
Like the grain of sand that makes becomes the oyster so too is the illness, the imperfection, or the improbable life-circumstances that beset us and therefore makes us perfect. Truthfully, it is not our problems that make us perfect but the practice we must develop to problem-solve around them that does.Choose a problem, any problem, and whether or not that problem ever resolves, in working toward overcoming (or sometimes simply yielding to it) you will be put on a path of understanding and mastery that will illuminate all your gifts, that will enlarge your soul, and will teach you more about the Universe and yourself than any other thing. An easy life free of problems does not ask you to give birth to that immense but perhaps latent power within you, the being of light within.
You know how people roll around with a decal of their alma mater plastered on the window of their car? The university decal I want for the back of my ride is one that says I attended Knocks University, The School of Hard Knocks. Its actually quite true that those things that have taught me the most have been my struggles and challenges.
This is why one of my teachers, Judeth Lasater, says, “My gurus all share my last name,” meaning that while close relationships are sometimes hard, they are the things that will teach us most poignantly about our True Nature and place us on the path to our own understanding. I love this quote by Judeth Lasater because it suggests that you don’t need to run off to India to find some of your life’s most valuable lessons. Your greatest teachers could be at this moment ditching school to smoke pot with their friends. It’s simply by being in conversation with those things that seem like a challenges that we find ourselves growing toward our most illuminated being. Just take a breath. Your teenager might agree.
The Heat of Transformation
Yoga and meditation are excellent ways that expose our weaknesses. For me, it shows me exactly where my limitations are and in the very same breath helps me understand where I can go. It’s incredible how once you can allow what is to be, growth is almost always the very next step. We celebrate and even embrace the natural process of our own growth through our challenges as we bask in the heat of our own transformation through our yoga postures and meditation practice. Knowing and celebrating that we are all imperfect allows us to practice yoga and meditation without any end in mind other than simply practicing. The same way that we are not perfect, none of our poses can be perfect. Or better said, we and the poses we express are all perfect in their imperfections, the well-earned pearls of our textured existence.
I invite you to celebrate your own divine nature through your imperfections and see how the light gets in.
This guided meditation by Deepak Chopra will help you find a state of deep peace for your body and mind.
Appreciating Underlying Form
Sometimes, a subject like yoga or meditation is so dense, it’s hard to know where to start and really how to appreciate it. However, once you begin to learn a little about the underlying principles and form of the subject, that subject can come alive in new and exciting ways. You learn to see all the beauty in it. Similarly, practicing yoga and meditation helps you to understand a little of your own underlying form so that you can appreciate your life with deeper appreciation.
Learning to Appreciate Underlying Form
I love jazz. I love Jazz because it is a language. It speaks to a culture, a sophisticated musical discipline, and a style. For the longest time, I wanted to like jazz music but didn’t. Not much of it, anyway. I liked Kenny G.
The first time I heard John Coltrane, all I heard was chaotic lines of complex notes hurled out the tail end of a tenor saxophone. But now, when I hear John Coltrane, I’m so taken by the music that I can’t keep up a conversation with anyone else because of the conversation I’m having with the music. So, what’s changed?
In part, I believe it was because I started to learn to play the sax. I’d always wanted to play the sax (to sound like Kenny G). When I was a kid, my dad asked his uncle Lester, a professional sax player, what it would take to help me appreciate playing the sax. Lester told my dad to start me on the piano, move to the clarinet, and then to the sax. That way I would have the rudiments, the underlying principles of music and woodwind instruments to spring me forward as I started to play the sax.
I never really met Lester. There exists a sun-bleached photo of me and my entire family posing for the camera on his back porch but this was before dawn of my consciousness—I was about three and don’t remember it at all. Well, Lester died. And nobody remembers exactly how, nobody remembers doing it, but somehow his horns showed up on my doorstep with my name on them. I was 13. I’d been playing the clarinet for 2 years and I was itching to start the sax. Problem was, I didn’t have one. Not until that day when Lester’s horns, (yep, he gave me not one but TWO saxophones, an alto and a tenor AND a clarinet) showed up thanks to a mystery and the US postal service. I scarcely remember a more exciting or more reverent day of my life than when I received those horns. They are the saxes I still play today more than 30 years later. That day, I remember feeling like something very important had just happened to my life.
That summer, I started to blow through the horns and figured out how to finger the notes and make a decent sound before I started working with a sax teacher. Lester was right and the clarinet and piano had paid off. As I continued to learn to play the sax, I began to learn to play jazz. The more I began to understand the underlying form and direction of jazz, the more I could appreciate what was happening when I heard jazz. And with just a little bit of experience of playing jazz, I grew and entirely new appreciation for jazz, I could hear it completely differently. I developed a thick listening for jazz. I understand the instruments expressing emotions and experiences. I learned to hear intervals between notes, feel chord changes come and go and understand and appreciate the inherent tension and release of jazz. More than that heady stuff though, I can sit back and feel the groove and swing of it, I can feel the flavor and texture of it. I can appreciate the personalities behind the music. For me, when you’re invited to see the bigger picture, I can savor the individual parts better.
This is often what happens when we begin to understand and appreciate the underlying form of almost anything be it jazz or yoga. A yoga asana is beautiful on the outside but understanding the underlying form—the mechanics of muscles, bones and even subtleties like energy and intention—makes the posture understandable, enjoyable and enlightening. Yoga is about understanding oneself deeper. Any deeper look inward, even just at anatomy, fulfills the ends of yoga.
The underlying form expresses itself clearly in the outerlying form in our yoga postures: slumped shoulders might manifest for the depressed or burdened or shy, broad shoulders for the confident, open hearted, and gregarious. As a teacher, I can’t read your mind, can’t feel your soul, but I can see how your consciousness produces the product of a very engaged outer form. So in that sense, I often know whether your mind is present by how your poses look. The outerlying form reflects the under.
Of course the underlying and outer lying forms are inseparable. You can’t have the pose without the energy or thought or emotion behind it, you can’t have jazz without its history and culture, you can’t have the blues, without feeling blue. Appreciating our being is learning to have a “thick listening” for all parts of our being. Establishing a “thick listening” for our lives helps us engage in life on a richer and deeper level. By understanding the underlying form, we might acquire a taste for more complex things like deeper poses, meditation, Coltrane or dark chocolate. And soon we might begin to understand a little about the underlying form of all things and learn to see that with increased flavor and appreciation.
So maybe, years later, because I’ve learned a little about the underlying form of jazz, for my buck I’d choose John Coltrane over Kenny G, though I still understand Kenny G’s technical proficiency and his beautifully clear and distinct sound.
I invite you to practice thick listening for your life this week. Focus on understanding yourself by looking at your underlying form both in practical, anatomical ways as well as conscious, meditative ways.
Until then, if you’re interested click here to hear John Coltrane play Blue Trane, in my opinion one of the best sax solos in all of jazz.
Join NOW Over 10 MILLION Meditating For Peace and Healing All with Covid-19
Important Editor’s Note: The Ekam World Peace Festival has concluded. It was beautiful, powerful, uplifting, transformative and so much more. I highly recommend that you watch all of the replays HERE. If you have time for only one, make sure that you watch the replay of Day 7 in its entirety (the one at 6pm IST). It includes an incredibly powerful limitless field meditation for peace on Earth and an absolutely brilliant conversation with Gregg Braden, which you can watch here:
“The universe does not exist ‘out there,’ independent of us. We are inescapably involved in bringing about that which appears to be happening. We are not only observers. We are participators. In some strange sense, this is a participatory universe.” – John Archibald Wheeler, theoretical physicist
Beginning today, Ekam is hosting the 3rd annual Ekam World Peace Festival. Last year – they had over 3 million participate in the Peace Meditations.
This year it is even bigger. They will collectively have over 10 million meditators from over 100 countries join to meditate for world peace. You are invited to participate from Aug 9th to Aug 15th and contribute to peace in the world and healing all people with Covid-19. Two separate meditations are held: one for peace, one for healing.
World Peace is much more than conflict resolution. Peace is a state of consciousness that humanity as a whole has to enter in order to create a better world. This would be our next evolutionary leap. Without a peaceful consciousness, every form of advancement would eventually lead us to greater separation, division and conflict. A peaceful human being is a gift to his/her family, a powerful force for good in the world.
More than a hundred thousand people have been nurturing a state of peace through meditation to prepare themselves to participate in this festival. Ekam’s intention is to nurture the peace quotient in human consciousness by engaging over 10 million people from India and various parts of the world through meditation.
This online meditation event is for 7 days, 68 mins each day starting from August 9th to August 15th.
☮️ Day 1 would be a collective journey in wisdom and meditation for the ending of wars in the world and to enhance harmony between nations.
☮️ Day 2 would be a collective journey in wisdom and meditation for ending of violence towards children and within young people and to nurture joy in their hearts.
☮️ Day 3 would a collective journey in wisdom and meditation for ending religious and racial divide and to nurture amity between them.
☮️ Day 4 would be a collective journey in wisdom and meditation for ending violence towards nature and animals and to nurture a sense of oneness with all life.
☮️ Day 5 would be a collective journey in wisdom and meditation for ending domestic violence and to nurture love and connection in families.
☮️ Day 6 would be a collective journey in wisdom and meditation for ending economic insufficiency and to nurture dignity towards all people.
☮️ Day 7 would be for a collective awakening in human consciousness towards peace for a better today and tomorrow.
Oneness in consciousness as the ground from which solutions for all world problems can emerge.
We invite you to join the meditation in our breathing room app. This is a free event and we suggest you join as a family and share it with your friends.
These meditations are streamed 2 times a day at 10.00 am IST (12:30 am ET, 9:30 pm PT) and 06.00 pm IST (8:30 am ET, 5:30 am PT). Click the links below to know time at your location:
One of the results of the global shift in consciousness we are going through is that many of us are now aware of our thoughts. The human brain is hardware for the mind. It provides us with the ability to use the mind in all its variety of forms. It is a phenomenal wonder but it has little animation of its own. When we die, the brain dies too, in just a short while. Just as with our other organs, the brain cannot function without the rest of the body. The mind is something else. It electrifies our existence through our senses and our brain. Every perception happens through the mind. It shimmers and twinkles like a spiders web on a dewy morning and provides us with a network of connectedness that we are able to make sense of things within. Without mind, we are mundane. Whether it is individual or collective is highly debatable but certainly we use our individual brains in combination with our senses to interpret, translate and utilize the mind within our environment. Everything we have built around us is a result of mind in its most basic form of thought. We can all think and many of us cannot stop. We are born with everything we need to develop the faculty of thought and without it we would not be able to care for ourselves, which is the purest and true purpose for thinking. Thought is self-serving and can be used in the most dignifying ways, but it can also destroy lives, even our own. “For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.” Bhagavad-Gita.
The constant narration in our heads that we feed by giving it our attention can be considered untrained awareness. If we choose to, we can develop our faculty of thought into its higher form that we call awareness, by acute and persistent observation of our own thought processes in a disassociated manner. We have all experienced the perspicacity of our own awareness for example… When the sound of a twig snapping close-by breaks the silence of darkness and jolts us into a perfect state of presence that is both penetrative and diamond-like – this is us in awareness. Attention is the key, it is very, very valuable. Our energy flows towards and into, whatever our attention is on and this becomes our contribution to the world. If we give our attention to engines, we will become a great engine expert. If we give our attention to our kids, we will be a great parent. If we make our inner world the object of our attention, self-awareness is the result and if we pay all our attention to our fake identity or “brand”, we will become a great big ego! Attention breeds awareness which we experience when we are rapt by someone or something and we “forget ourselves” for a while. Because it is the false ego that we are actually “forgetting”, when we pay attention and move into awareness, we are really remembering our true self. Just as a cloth covers a table, thoughts conceal our awareness. No matter how beautiful a table might be, as soon as we cover it, our attention shifts to the cloth and the table is essentially lost to us and yet without the table, there would be no cloth. Similarly when we read, we focus on the words and are largely unaware of the platform they are written on. There is actually much more white space than words on a page, much more “nothing” than something, but we hardly notice this because our attention is on the meaning of the words. As with the table and the cloth, without the white space, the words couldn’t exist and yet however we alter the words and whatever we say, the white space remains. It is the same with thoughts and awareness.
While one of the advantages of developing our awareness is the quietening of normal thought, it can be difficult without a solid foundation, and a connection and “handle” on our emotions. On a higher level the physical body, emotions and mind are not really separate but for development, it can be useful to address them in this order.
Some good nutrition and catharsis may be necessary before one is able to begin observing thoughts without getting wrapped up in them and if you’ve tried and been disheartened or frustrated in the past, this is quite normal and understandable. This is how the popular phrase, “I tried meditation and it wasn’t for me” was born. If this is you, kick all meditation cushions under the table, switch up the loud music and try dancing around like a mad witch! Go to your bedroom and kill the nearest pillow with your bare hands and then go swimming, get under the water (to avoid being institutionalized) and scream like an absolute nutcase. No-one can hear you, so let it all out. Alternatively, you may instinctively know that you need to divert your attention towards improving your diet or exercising. All of these things will help you prepare the way for observing your thoughts and every now and then, grab a cushion, sit down in front of your altar and try a new meditation practice and see if it is for you.
If you fancy a quick shot of your own awareness, try throwing yourself into an icy lake! Used worldwide by many cultures and communities as a purifying ritual, it is not without foundation. Using the physical body as the device, the icy water forces our attention onto the body and shocks the natural thinking processes into silence, revealing our awareness for a few moments, which revitalizes and refreshes the mind of anyone crazy enough to jump in. Plunge pools, the oceans, swimming pools, cold showers are all everyday replacements we can use to gain the same or similar effects. It has been almost 30 years since I have not finished a bath or shower with a cold shower. Along with a good diet and meditation practice, cold water is one of the most important tools we can use daily to keep us in awareness. Rather than it being something we achieve or gain, an increase in awareness is really a byproduct of us beginning to use the mind as a tool rather than allowing it to be our disquiet or angry ruler. Awareness is present, where all the real gifts of life are and the more we observe our thoughts and recognize our awareness, the more we prepare ourselves for living totally in the magnificence of the present moment. “Mind is an illusion, albeit a persistent one” Albert Einstein
Here are ten practical and useful tips we can use to help increase awareness:
1. Avoid processed food:
Choosing to eat processed foods can lead to all sorts of mental and physical problems and generally, these concoctions cost us more energy to digest and assimilate than we obtain from them in nutrient value. A diet of processed food is really like slow suicide. Attempting to stay present and in awareness or trying to practice meditation while living on a diet of processed food is like trying to concentrate with toothache. It’s possible, but very difficult. It is much easier to eat fresh organic food.
2. Turn off the television:
Our brains work within particular frequencies and can be affected by other transmissions. All electrical devices affect us and while our eyes are on the potentially harmful effects of 5G technology right now, television still remains the worst culprit. It is not called programming by accident. Watching TV slows the mind down to about the same rate as a practiced mediator in just a few minutes. The difference is the input
and the results of course, are opposite.
3. Don’t drink tap water:
Unless we are fortunate enough to have our own water source in the mountains, it is almost impossible to obtain the kind of structured, nutrient-dense water that directly aids our awareness. Of the remaining options, tap water comes bottom of the list and it barely resembles the original, untainted fluid. If you’re unfortunate enough to be in an area where fluoride is one of the added ingredients in your tap water, bear in mind a Harvard study which showed the consumption of fluoride is linked to the lowering of IQ
levels of a population by between 15-20 points. To move into and remain in awareness, a clear and capable mind is essential.
4. Listen carefully:
We are taught to talk, walk, read, eat and go to sleep but when it comes to listening our teachers usually shouted at us or threw the board rubber at us. We spend a high percentage of our time listening to others
and generally, we are not very good at it. Listening is a golden opportunity to consciously put ourselves aside and be in awareness by focusing intently without “phasing out” or mentally preparing our input for the conversations sake.
5. Get into the body:
It is much easier to practice awareness of the body than the emotions or thought. When we are tired of over-thinking and need a break, exercising like running, swimming, dancing, walking or stretching gets us out of the head and into the body for a while.
6. Cease needlessly chattering:
Blah blah blah!! Drop the story! Everyone has a story, but day to day “idle chatter” about past events, future dreams or gossip scatters the mind, dissipates its penetrative qualities and strengthens identification with the false self or ego.
7. Immerse yourself in cold water:
Go on – throw yourself in the icy lake! For a gentler version, while in the shower, try running hot water down the spine for 30 seconds, followed by cold for 30 seconds and repeat this two more times, finishing off with a warm shower. If you wish to simply clear or refresh the mind, try cold water on the back of the neck for 30 seconds.
8. Snap the band:
To train the brain out of involuntary over-thinking, try wearing an elastic band around the wrist, making sure it is not too tight and whenever you catch yourself too much in the head, pull and snap the band. You can then use the little sting to allow your attention to move into the body, away from your thoughts and into the present moment, into awareness. A gentle but definite self-tap or slap on the forehead head
also does the trick.
9. Memory triggers:
The present, where awareness is, is most commonly forgotten to thought. It is very helpful to place memory triggers within our daily routine to remind ourselves that we are lost in thought. Standing in queues, going to the bathroom and washing up are good examples of times when a memory trigger can help us replace thought with attention, either onto the breath, one of our energy centers or onto the job in hand.
Meditation is the ultimate tool for increasing awareness but it has its time and place. As Osho explained to us meditation begins where psychotherapy ends. Before we can comfortably observe our own thoughts we must be detached enough from our ideas of who we think we are. This sometimes requires some physical detoxification and nutrition, catharsis and/or psychotherapy before we can begin. Meditation is sitting quietly, everything else is practice. Remember this simple truth as you seek out practices that resonate with you. Meditation practice is a de-construction process. Whatever we seek is already here. Any ideas and beliefs you have of yourself must be suspended and replaced with an inner curiosity and openness, because it is in this willing state that realizations occur which dissolve painful perceptions and reveal fresh ones. It is this process that gives us the feeling of spiritual development and should be encouraged. Meditation practice is an adventure so do not expect results, always be implacably honest with yourself and be wary of listening to advice from others unless they are a true master, who are rare. Most important of all, whenever approaching your inner world, tread lightly and keep your sense of humor, despondency or seriousness are of no help internally.
Kashi’s commitment to the health of the human family has been unwavering for the last 20 years. He has helped many individuals adjust their diet and lifestyle encouraging them to live a truly radiant and happy life. He writes monthly for Natural Life Foundation where he shares thought provoking and helpful articles to inspire change from within.
Natural Life Foundation began in 2015 as a portal for sharing ancient natural wisdom and modern health-giving science and technology. The project has birthed a lifestyle and plant-based dietary guide book ‘Wellness Warriors’ due to be launched this summer and we are continually working on new revolutionary products as well as keeping you supplied with practical and philosophical blogs, inspirational poetry and quote books, and deliciously healthy recipes. Whenever possible Kashi is offering wellness consultations (via the telephone) to provide you with tools and support to help you start or maintain your personal journey to wellness, joy and abundance. If you would like to arrange a call or request more information please contact email@example.com
The Beginner’s Mind | Eric Schoff
By Eric Shoff
We’ve all heard of beginner’s luck: a newbie’s seemingly supernatural ability to excel in a new endeavor. In the meditation community, there is an idea called beginners mind. The concept is very similar and can be harnessed by both new and experienced meditators to enhance their practice. In this article, I will attempt to uncover some of the mystery of this phenomenon and apply it to meditation practice in a practical manner.
The meditation I will be referring to in this article is Buddhist Samadhi. The goal is a still, bright, poised mind free of thought. The aim is to quiet the mind into deep states of stillness through acceptance, kindness, and letting go.
As experienced meditators, we have rich libraries of experiences and instruction. Ultimately, any idea that these experiences belong to us will hinder our ability to let go and slip into deep meditation. We form an identity based on past meditation experiences. This identity is a very large, huge, massive, immense, incredibly daunting obstacle. In short, it’s called our ego.
The ego always seeks to control. To meditate we must go in the opposite direction. Since a new meditator has not had time to build an identity around their meditation practice he or she can more easily let go and “fall” into deep Samadhi.
The reason a beginner’s mindset is so potent has to do with their lack of knowledge, and thus the lack of control. Since beginners generally don’t know what they’re doing, they tend to be more fluid and able to go with the flow without questioning and thinking about it too much. Basically, they don’t know what to do and thus let go and do nothing. By doing nothing, I mean they are with their current experience without judging or trying to change it. They are mindful and aware of their body and mind, but not controlling. The mind loves this lack of judgment and begins to grow brighter and more content. Happiness and clarity soon follow.
We don’t need to be a beginner to experience this advantage. We just need to let go. Let go of all the cherished teachings we have been told. Just for this sitting. They will be there for you afterward. Let go of all the memories of beautiful (and not so beautiful) meditation experiences you’ve had.
Imagine being a beginner. Imagination is extremely powerful for developing a state of mind. In this case, we develop a state of mind of a curious student. Be mindful of whatever thoughts or sensations in the body you may be having, but willing to just watch them and notice what happens. Forfeit your plan for how the meditation should go. Forfeit expectations. Be humble enough to just watch.
Once the mind brightens up and becomes still, nature takes over. You won’t wonder what to do next as you’ll be having a fantastic time. The happiness will keep the mind still and the stillness will keep the mind happy…and the upward spiral will continue. My intention is to get you to this point.
Good meditation, like all spiritual truths, levels the playing field for all. Beginners and professionals alike are ultimately brought back to the same level when the ego vanishes. Unity.
As the great teacher, Ajahn Chah of the Buddhist Theravada forest tradition taught: ‘We meditate to let go of things, not gain them.’
“When you’re an absolute beginner
It’s a panoramic view
From her majesty Mount Zion
And the kingdom is for you”
– M. Ward
The Messiah is Here – Parts 5b and 6
By Karma Singh | Harmony Energy Consultants
Editor’s comment: Karma Singh’s ongoing Messiah series continues with these two videos, which are meant to empower you in general and in particular during these difficult times.
Here is part 5b:
And here is part 6:
Robert O’Leary, JD BARA, has had an abiding interest in alternative health products & modalities since the early 1970’s & he has seen how they have made people go from lacking health to vibrant health. He became an attorney, singer-songwriter, martial artist & father along the way and brings that experience to his practice as a BioAcoustic Soundhealth Practitioner, under the tutelage of the award-winning founder of BioAcoustic Biology, Sharry Edwards, whose Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has now been serving clients for 30 years with a non-invasive & safe integrative modality that supports the body’s ability to self-heal using the power of the human voice. Robert brings this modality to serve clients in Greater Springfield, Massachusetts and New England (USA) & “virtually” the world. He can also be reached at romayasoundhealthandbeauty@gmail.
Stress: Looking At The Bull
I’ve opened and closed businesses, yoga studios . It’s stressful. So much to do, so many things that could possible go wrong. People often assume that because I teach yoga I never get stressed. I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth.
I’ve co-taught Yoga for Anxiety courses in tandem with a licensed clinical therapist. I taught not from the place of “I never get stressed and here’s why . . .”, but because rather, “sometimes I freak out too and sometimes I use the tools yoga has taught me to help me manage stress.” Don’t get me wrong, I don’t pretend to always have the answer for stress. Despite my experience with meditation, breathing techniques, and stress-relieving yoga poses, sometimes I still find myself self-medicating with Ben and Jerry’s.
Stress Coping Techniques
Here’s what I do when I get stressed. First, I take a bunch of sighs out my mouth, mostly when I’m driving or alone and can really let it fly. I try to make it as dramatic as possible. I think this helps. I’ll try to relax my jaw and notice whether my stress lessens even by just a couple of sighs. Sometimes I’ll sigh for 5 minutes or so. Next, I’ll practice ujjayi breath, whisper breath. A lot of you know this but it’s the breathing you use during yoga practice where you breathe in and out of your nostrils and put a little whisper in the back of your throat, elongating your breaths. It really helps. I’ve read something about this form of breathing activating your parasympathetic nervous system, the opposite of your flight or flight nervous response. Try it.
I will also do something physically active, like go to a yoga class, put on my running shoes and hit a trail, or even just take a 10 minute walk around the block, even if I don’t have the time to do so. It’s incredible how my perception changes when I get outside or at least get moving for a bit. Wallace Stevens once wrote, “Sometimes the truth depends upon a walk around the lake.” Yoga explores the relationship between mind and body. If my body can relax, maybe my mind can follow. Putting some endorphins in my body and some oxygen in my brain is a great way to make me feel good and clear my mind.
Next, I’ll actually look the bull straight into the eyes and see it for what it is. I’ll try a meditation technique where I try to adopt the role as the observer rather than the one who is oppressed by stress.
Looking At The Bull
Once, I felt like I was feeling a lot of stress and caught myself trying to avoid it or pretend it wasn’t there. I had a few minutes to meditate and instead of mentally escaping it, I decided to look at it straight on. I closed my eyes and noticed how my body felt in response to the stress. I observed the images in my mind and emotions in my heart and thoughts in my brain, everything associated with this stress and tried to just observe it rather than fix it. As I looked inside, this feeling inside me felt like a cold, jagged, metal plate along my chest. It felt sharp and protruding. The more I looked at it, the more I realized that what I was feeling was more like a plate of armor than oppressive stress. It felt less like worry and more like my assertive warrior/hunter part of myself who is on full-alert with all my senses alert, my tomahawks drawn and all my focus and faculties ready to take on this adventure I’ve chosen which is to open this new yoga studio. Suddenly I noticed this feeling as more of a protection for my heart rather than an enemy to my heart. After my meditation, I still felt this same energy in my chest but with the added feeling of gratitude for what I was feeling. I need that protection now. Through my meditation, my observation, I was able to see this feeling for what it was instead of trying to avoid it and worry about the monster I felt was breathing down my neck.
I can assure you that I’ll be using these techniques repeatedly in my life. I also know that if I can organized my to-do list around priority I can get everything done in a way that leaves me still smiling. We are in stressful times, maybe you can use some of these techniques if you find yourself freaking out about anything. Try to do some breathing techniques, go to a yoga class online, or try to meditate. I realize, too that the only thing yoga class does not incorporate is the Ben and Jerry’s therapy.
Have you ever noticed that when you wake up feeling energized, the whole day suddenly, no matter the plans, becomes better? And if you, on the other hand, wake up feeling sleepy and grumpy, the next twenty-four hours are likely to annoy you regardless of the day’s schedule?
Your mood can have a substantial impact on your day and life at large. With this in mind, it is easy to understand why it would be best to smile and feel joyful all the time. Unfortunately, no matter how ideal the vision, it is impossible.
We all have those days occasionally when we are just not feeling our best. Interestingly enough, sometimes people experience bad moods for no reason. They are simply not feeling themselves on a particular day.
Most of the time, in such situations, people tend to blame themselves for the bad mood and try to enhance it by wondering why they feel bad-tempered or sad. That is the worst of all things to do when in such a mood. What happens is they create a vicious cycle of trying to escape the temporary grumpiness by focusing on the temporary grumpiness and creating more of it.
That advice should be treated both as a general rule and a quick fix, depending on the foods.
Food is like a fuel to your brain. Eating healthy products rich in vitamins, microelements, and antioxidants will nourish your body and stimulate your mind to work correctly. As a consequence, your mood will be affected positively. On the other hand, some studies suggest that diets high in refined sugars can worsen the effects of mental disorders, such as depression.
If you want to enhance your brain’s functioning and improve your mood, it is essential to establish a balanced, nutritious, and tasty diet. Meal plans full of fruits, vegetables, seafood, and unprocessed grains should be of your particular interest. Don’t get discouraged if that sounds ‘too healthy.’ All of these products can be found in the delicious Mediterranean diet. If Italians spend thousands of hours relishing the food, why wouldn’t you?
To boost the effect more and improve the mood, consider supplementation. If you don’t know the best additions to your regular diet, you might want to read some opinions on The Supplement Reviewsor Labdoor.com.
Studies have shown that even if forced and fake, a smile can lead to an almost immediate flood of endorphins in your brain.
Endorphins are hormones sensitive to the body’s opiate receptors. They cause pain and stress relief and boost the feeling of pleasure, which results in a better mood in the short-term and a general sense of well-being in the long-term.
The endorphins released are triggered by the muscles’ movements in your face, especially those around your lips. It means that smiling, even fake, stimulates the brain to act as if you were genuinely happy.
Meditation is nothing more than detaching yourself from the surrounding world and letting go. It works well as a relaxing technique, it makes you focus on breathing and is easy to do anywhere, anytime.
Some say that as little as three minutes of meditation a day in a quiet and peaceful place can profoundly change your state of mind. When it comes to meditation, both short and long-term benefits are numerous.
Short-term meditation effects include:
Anxiety attacks control
Long-term effects include:
Improved blood pressure
Help in staying on track with the established goals
It is only natural that people experience bad days from time to time. Sometimes it is even healthy to feel grumpy and moody. For humans to function well, the negative emotions are as important as the positive ones, so don’t beat yourself up and try to accept your feelings.
However, if the bad mood stays for too long or happens for no reason, there are some quick ways to fix it. They include more than just meditation, smiling, and a proper diet. You can also exercise, listen to uplifting music, or go outside and get a little sun.
Remedies for Busyness
Are you busy? I’m busy. It seems like we’re all busy. And when your schedule is busy your mind is busy processing and planning and negotiating it all to make sure it gets done. And that is precisely the trapping of busyness: you get so harried, so scattered, that you can’t really focus on anything very well. Your nervous system gets shorted out, your energy reserves get depleted, and you never have enough time and you end up increasingly more and more tired.
I don’t think we’re alone. In fact, around 200 AD the yoga scholar Patanjali wrote an entire yoga sutra on the topic. It’s the primary source for all the philosophy most of us yogis study. Right at the beginning of this ancient text he states very clearly that the entire purpose for doing yoga is to stop the mind from all its busyness. And that was 1800 years ago before kids’ soccer practice, the 9-5, and the 27 zoom meetings we have in a day.
How To Chill The Mind: Body, Mind, Spirit
But chilling out in the mind is easier said than done, right? It’s like when I get worked up about something, am really upset, and someone comes up to me and gratuitously offers that smidgen of infallible advice, “Hey, chill out.” Rarely, has advice ever found purchase with me. I imagine myself stopping mid-freakout, relaxing all my tension, and just as that stupid smile of contented relief begins to spread across my face, I say, “Thanks! Why didn’t I think of that?” No! I need to work through it. I gotta talk it out and maybe use some of that energy in some yoga poses or something.
Well, the same goes with busyness. It doesn’t work to simply say, stop being so busy all the time. There needs to be a processing, an accounting for the busyness and then maybe we can find some practical and lasting method of stopping the madness. Yoga teaches that body, mind, and spirit are all connected so one way to stop the busyness is to incorporate your body and some breath into your daily routine..
After a while of running around with your head cut off, if you’re like me, you’ll take a moment from the craziness and ask if there is a better way of being. Ironically, part of the processes of reducing busyness is getting completely exhausted, completely fed up with busyness, to realize it’s not you and to begin the mindful process of escaping the madness. Maybe, if you’re like me, you could take a good honest look at why you make your schedule so busy. Maybe another question to ask is, “What are those things in life that mean the most to me?” and begin to organize your time and energy toward that stuff first.
I suppose this is what yoga does for us. Yoga gives us the opportunity to first pause for reflection and for focus then give us something to DO. It is one of the most practical ways I know of learning to practice being in a place where everything is simplified down to that which makes the most sense, body and breath.
Simplify: What Matters The Most
Maybe with this simplified perspective, we can take a look at those things on our schedule that don’t really serve us and commit to spend some time, meditating, doing some yoga, or catching up on those things that really matter to you.
But what about all the stuff we gotta do for our kids, taking them to this practice, this playdate, this kids’ activities? With a little mindfulness and creativity, you’ll find a solution for that too. After all, what are we teaching them with all of our busyness?
If doing yoga is going to be one more thing that busies your schedule, I might suggest taking the pressure off of yourself and simplify it with only a few minutes of your favorite poses. You don’t have to do 90 minutes of yoga to be effective.
If you find yourself encumbered with busyness, I invite you take a good look at what most matters to you in your life and organize your life based on what means the most to you. Use some poses to approach your mind through the avenue of your body.
As of 2019, an estimated 200 million to 500 million people meditate regularly around the globe. Considering its many psychological and physical benefits, this is good news. There is a large body of evidence demonstrating the mind-body connection is real, and that your mind has a direct impact on your physical health
Brain imaging has revealed meditation alters your brain in a number of beneficial ways, such as increasing gray matter volume in brain regions involved in the regulation of emotions, memory, learning and self-referential processes
Meditation has also been shown to alter the expression of 2,209 different genes. Examples of genetic effects include the down-regulation of genes involved in inflammation and stress
Clinically, mindfulness-based meditation practice has been demonstrated in randomized trials to improve depressive symptoms in women with fibromyalgia and to have lasting anti-anxiety effects after only eight weeks of group practice
Studies suggest meditation can help a wide range of health problems, including cardiac arrhythmias, bronchial asthma, cold sores, cough, ulcers, diabetes, constipation, infertility, high blood pressure, psoriasis, pain and much more
According to the featured BBC Documentary “The Power of Meditation,”1,2 originally aired in 2008, more than 10 million Westerners practice daily meditation. More recent statistics3 suggest people are turning to meditation in droves, with the number of practitioners tripling since 2012. As of 2019, an estimated 200 million to 500 million people meditate regularly around the globe.
Considering its many psychological and physical benefits, this is good news, especially in light of the pandemic we are all going through. There is a large body of evidence demonstrating the mind-body connection is real, and that your mind has a direct impact on your physical health.
Meditation Changes Your Brain and Body for the Better
For example, brain imaging has revealed meditation alters your brain in a number of beneficial ways — such as increasing gray matter volume in brain regions involved in the regulation of emotions, memory, learning and self-referential processes4 — and studies show meditative practices even alter your genetic expression.5,6,7,8
Indeed, one study9 found meditation practice altered the expression of no less than 2,209 different genes. Examples of genetic effects include the down-regulation of genes involved in inflammation and stress.10,11
According to a study in PLOS ONE,12 many of these genetic changes — such as reduced oxidative stress and increased antioxidant production and telomerase stability — are the result of activating the body’s relaxation response. The relaxation response also influences your energy metabolism, which can have bodywide benefits. As explained by the authors:13
“Upregulating ATP synthase — with its central role in mitochondrial energy mechanics, oxidative phosphorylation and cell aging — RR [the relaxation response] may act to buffer against cellular overactivation with overexpenditure of mitochondrial energy that results in excess reactive oxygen species production.
We thus postulate that upregulation of the ATP synthase pathway may play an important role in translating the beneficial effects of the RR.”
Meditation Improves Wellness by Promoting Balance
Findings such as these prove you cannot separate your health from your emotional well-being, and if you want to prevent chronic illness, you’d be wise to incorporate this knowledge.
Clinically, mindfulness-based meditation practice has been demonstrated in randomized trials to improve depressive symptoms in women with fibromyalgia14 and to have lasting anti-anxiety effects after only eight weeks of group practice.15
In “The Power of Meditation,” professor Kathy Sykes begins her investigation of meditation by visiting a Buddhist monk in Nepal, who teaches her basic Buddhist meditation, which involves sitting comfortably, with your spine straight, concentrating on a single focal point, such as your breath.
When a thought arises, you simply refocus your attention on your breath. Over time, this kind of meditation fosters inner calm, happiness, relaxation, and emotional equanimity, although results can often be felt rather quickly. “Meditation is not just a hobby,” the monk says. “It’s something that is going to change the very way you experience every moment of your life.”
The Science of Meditation
I’ve already mentioned a number of studies demonstrating the benefits of meditation. “The Power of Meditation” cites16 additional evidence showing it can help a wide range of health problems, including cardiac arrhythmias, bronchial asthma, cold sores, cough, ulcers, diabetes, constipation, infertility, high blood pressure, psoriasis, pain and much more.
Research17 even suggests total medical costs for primary care could be drastically reduced simply by practicing meditation and other relaxation techniques.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers analyzed data from 4,452 people who received eight weeks of relaxation response training and 13,149 controls who did not meditate. The intervention group also worked on building resiliency using social support, cognitive skills training, and positive psychology. Results showed:
“At one year, total [health care] utilization for the intervention group decreased by 43%. Clinical encounters decreased by 41.9%, imaging by 50.3%, lab encounters by 43.5%, and procedures by 21.4% … The intervention group’s Emergency department (ED) visits decreased from 3.6 to 1.7/year and Hospital and Urgent care visits converged with the controls.
Subgroup analysis (identically matched initial utilization rates—Intervention group: high utilizing controls) showed the intervention group significantly reduced utilization relative to the control group by: 18.3% across all functional categories, 24.7% across all site categories and 25.3% across all clinical categories.
Conclusion: Mind body interventions such as 3RP [relaxation response resiliency program] have the potential to substantially reduce healthcare utilization at relatively low cost and thus can serve as key components in any population health and health care delivery system.”
The researchers estimate the average patient could save between $640 and $25,500 a year in health care costs by implementing this kind of relaxation response training.
Meditation Guidelines for Heart Disease
While the mind-body connection has long been ignored by conventional medicine, the American Heart Association in 2017 issued its first scientific statement and guidelines on seated meditation,18 suggestings it can be a valuable adjunctive intervention for cardiovascular disease. As noted in the AHA’s scientific statement:19
“Novel and inexpensive interventions that can contribute to the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease are of interest. Numerous studies have reported on the benefits of meditation.
Meditation instruction and practice is widely accessible and inexpensive and may thus be a potential attractive cost‐effective adjunct to more traditional medical therapies …
Neurophysiological and neuroanatomical studies demonstrate that meditation can have long-standing effects on the brain, which provide some biological plausibility for beneficial consequences on the physiological basal state and on cardiovascular risk …
Overall, studies of meditation suggest a possible benefit on cardiovascular risk … Given the low costs and low risks of this intervention, meditation may be considered as an adjunct to guideline‐directed cardiovascular risk reduction by those interested in this lifestyle modification …”
Vipassana (insight meditation; an “open-monitoring” technique that encourages a broader awareness of your environment or train of thought, allowing feelings you might normally suppress to rise to the surface)
Zazen (Zen meditation)
Metta (loving-kindness meditation)
Transcendental meditation (TM)
Relaxation response practice
“The Power of Meditation” interviews Dr. Robert Schneider, a medical doctor who conducts research on the health benefits of Transcendental Meditation.21 According to Schneider, there are several hundred studies showing TM “evokes a deep state of rest and an orderliness of the brain and nervous system, and this results in improved mental health, physical health and even improved social health.”
He goes on to discuss the scientifically demonstrated benefits of TM on cardiovascular diseases specifically. This includes lowering high blood pressure and reducing death rates from heart attacks and strokes.
Meditation Relaxes Yet Invigorates
In the 2014 Talks at Google video above, meditation expert Emily Fletcher22 explains the differences between two popular styles of meditation, directed attention (mindfulness) meditation and non-directed attention meditation (which she refers to as “self-induced transcendence” meditation), and explains how each meditation style affects your brain.
She also discusses the similarities between meditation and caffeine. Both have the effect of energizing you and boosting your productivity, but meditation accomplishes this without any adverse effects.
Caffeine stimulates neural activity in your brain that triggers the release of adrenaline, a stress chemical involved in the fight-or-flight state. Meditation, on the other hand, energizes you and makes you more productive without triggering an adrenaline rush.
The reason for this is because meditation de-excites your nervous system rather than exciting it further. This makes it more orderly, thereby making it easier for your system to release pent-up stress. It also makes you more productive. In fact, she notes that many are now starting to recognize meditation as a powerful productivity tool.
Contrary to popular belief, taking the time to meditate can actually help you gain more time through boosted productivity than what you put into it.23 According to Fletcher, meditating for just 20 minutes equates to taking a 1.5-hour nap, and provides your body with rest that is two to five times deeper than sleep. This is why even a short period of meditation each day can help you feel more refreshed and awake.
How Different Types of Meditation Affect Your Brain
So, just how do different types of meditation styles impact your brain? Here’s a summary of some of the neuroplastic changes induced by three popular sitting meditation practices:
•Transcendental meditation24 causes your brain to switch into primarily alpha frequency, corresponding to a relaxed yet aware state akin to daydreaming.
As the left and right hemisphere of your brain enter into coherence, endorphin production increases, inducing a sense of happiness and bliss. Over time, this kind of meditation expands your sense of self beyond bodily limitations, resulting in a more integrated personality.
•Mindful meditation25 and Samatha — focused attention techniques in which you concentrate on your breath or a single object, thought, mantra, sound, or visualization — activate the executive mode of your brain.
The idea behind mindfulness is to remain in the present moment by focusing your attention in the now. The brainwave frequency here typically responds to the gamma range.
Long-term, this type of meditation tends to enlarge your hippocampus, which is where your memories are stored while shrinking the amygdala, the emotional center and the site of your fight-or-flight instinct. This is in part why mindfulness training tends to be helpful for depression and anxiety, as it helps improve the regulation of emotions.
•Self-induced transcendence (discussed by Fletcher in the video above) is a non-directed style of meditation in which you access the fourth state of consciousness that is different from waking, sleeping, and dreaming. Transcendence style meditation strengthens your corpus callosum, the bridge between your two brain hemispheres.
Your left brain is in charge of the past and the future, language, math, and critical thought, while your right brain is in charge of “right now,” intuition, inspiration, connectedness, creativity, and problem-solving.
By strengthening the connection between your right and left hemispheres, you gain access to more creative problem-solving and increase your productivity without adding stress.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression
Sykes also investigates the benefits of meditation on mental health, for which there is perhaps even more evidence. She visits a woman named Carol, who struggled with severe depression after the death of her husband.
Her psychiatrist suggested meditation, in which you focus on your breathing — similar to the Buddhist meditation described earlier. “It stopped me from living in my head with my thoughts,” Carol says, “and it’s given me a better picture of what it’s like to be alive, really.”
The program Carol enrolled in, called MBCT, which stands for mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, was developed by Professor Mark Williams, described as a leader in the field of clinical depression. MBCT is a mix of about 80% mindfulness meditation and 20% cognitive therapy, which is a widely used psychological technique.
As explained by Williams, mindfulness meditation teaches you to see your problems or thoughts clearly, without trying to change or fix anything. In other words, you learn to view your thoughts as “just thoughts,” be they positive, negative or neutral, rather than something with intrinsic meaning or something that you need to do anything about.
According to Sykes, four different trials have demonstrated that MBCT reduces the risk of recurrent depression by 50% in people who have had three or more depressive episodes.
Williams also points out that mindfulness meditation can really benefit everyone, as it helps us deal with expectations, judgments (of self and others), paralyzing self-analysis, and the feeling that we’re just not good enough.
“All of these things are just thoughts,” he says. “They will come up in meditation, and learning to recognize what they are — thoughts — and let them go, can be enormously empowering.”
Beginner’s Guide to Meditation
While it’s not unusual for the most experienced meditators to have spent decades, even a lifetime, perfecting the art of meditation, you can gain benefits just from meditating in your home for 20 minutes a day.
If you’d like to give meditation a try, there are many classes and group sessions available if you want a structured group setting and free guided meditation apps you can use on your own wherever you are.
UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center26 is a helpful resource where you can download free guided meditations in English and Spanish. The following suggestions can also help you get started:
•Set aside 20 to 30 minutes to meditate each day. Choose a quiet place where you can sit comfortably without being disturbed or interrupted. Simply close your eyes and focus on your breath. You don’t need to control your mind or breathe in any unnatural way. When thoughts arise — and they will — simply let them pass through without judgment and return your attention to the breath.
•As you meditate, you will notice thoughts, sensations, and sounds. The next step is to take note of the presence or “witness” that is doing the actual noticing. You’ll find that this presence cannot be pinned down to any particular place inside you. As you continue, simply abide in this presence and be the witness.
In the book, “The Untethered Soul, the Journey Beyond Yourself,”27 Michael Singer asserts that happiness and freedom are the results of cultivating “witness consciousness,” a state of willfully observing your mind, emotions and behaviors, rather than feeling that you actually are these things.
•The more you meditate, the easier it will become to quickly enter into a state of calm and relaxed yet focused awareness. It will also become easier to remain in meditation for longer periods of time. The after-effects will also last longer the more you meditate, allowing you to go through your day in a calmer more focused state.
Learning to Be
In yoga, and Yoga Nidra we practice self-witnessing as we breathe, move through poses, and meditate. Without this self-witness you can’t see you.
No amount of others seeing or perceiving you will supplement for a lack of knowing yourself. It’s the paradox of rock stars feeling so lonely. Like a friend told me recently, it’s as if in our quest to experience and really discover/remember who we are, we feel like being seen by others is synonymous to being. There must be something there to see, right? But being witnessed isn’t witnessing. Yoga philosophy suggests that who we are fundamentally is the ability to truly witness ourselves.
“Thanks, Mr. Oblique Yoga Philosophy Guy. That’s some awesome yoga thought but give me some real-life ways to relate that to getting up in the morning and facing another day of work and family and the every-day.”
How to Witness
Well, the easiest way to apply this is to just pay attention to your life. What does it feel like to sit in a warm shower and let the water flow over your skin? What do the blossoms smell like when you walk down the sidewalk? What does your breakfast taste like? What does it feel like when your boss walks by? Yoga practice is simply a condensed and refined way of paying close attention.
Besides yoga makes us feel great, helps us have a healthy body, calm mind, and open heart. Here’s the deal: once we start practicing this self-witnessing business in yoga, we won’t stop at Namaste. We’ll be feeling our hamstrings in practice one night, and wake up extremely aware of the way the shower feels or maybe start to see the deep feelings in your heart. These are the most real ways of just being. The deeper we pay attention, the more we notice what’s behind the surface, what’s animating the outer form, what’s sensing, what’s seeing. Eventually, with practice, we become more and more familiar with this Inner Self. What’s amazing is how this knowledge of our inner-self gives us amazing confidence to just be. We stop trying to produce the image of ourselves, and we just be ourselves.
Being Mark Twain
It reminds me of tales of Mark Twain. Often when he delivered lectures, like one would expect he would walk out on stage the crowd would applaud and then quiet down listening intently for what he would say. But what people didn’t expect is that often, Mark Twain wouldn’t start talking right away. He’d stand there in front of a packed auditorium and stare down the audience. Each second that passed wound the tension tighter and tighter. One man looking at thousands. He didn’t have to perform. He didn’t have to say anything. He was Mark-Freekin’-Twain! Finally, when the tension became almost unbearable, he would say but one word and have the entire audience in his hands. Now that’s presence!
Writers and poets, yogis and meditators all have one crucial thing in common: they’ve developed a keen attention to themselves and the world around them.
May you practice some of this self-witnessing in whatever form you love to be present. Maybe this is what John Lennon meant when he sang, “Let it be.”
For those interested in the concept of collective global consciousness or the relationship between science, indigenous prophecies, and galactic awakening, José Argüelles’ work is certainly required reading for the topic. The first Harmonic Convergence was 33 years ago on August 16, 1987. The event was organized by José and Lloydine Argüelles Argüelles and was based on the teachings of the ancient Mayan calendar with the goal of creating greater harmony and coherence within the global community.
Long before the internet, smartphones, and social media the Harmonic Convergence was the first globally synchronized event of this nature with people gathered across the planet at well-known sites ranging from Stonehenge and Mt. Shasta to Central Park. The Harmonic Convergence 2020 is rekindling this spirit of shared humanity, global unity, peace, and inspired collective action.