Take time for yourself
In the pendulum of life
Find Your Middle Ground
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“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”
Our quiet inner voice will not take us off course. It may also feel a little strange…
The voice that comes from the center of our being is filled with a knowing that is beyond the analytical mind. Yet, we often don’t hear it or allow ourselves to let go and trust it.
That is why it is so important to slow down and step away from the constant bombardment of the world around us.
When we settle our mind and Find our Middle Ground, we tune into this whisper of the heart and soul. We touch our very essence and what we love and yearn for.
If there is a direction or a question you are seeking an answer to, rather than thinking more about it, take time to step away and listen to your heart.
Its part of our human nature to become annoyed and angry when we feel threatened or things don’t go our way. Irritation and frustration seem to go hand in hand with the fast paced demands of life today.
We humans also have a “fight or flight” response when we feel threatened. It helped our ancestors survive when facing sabre toothed tigers. Nowadays, we can have the same response when someone cuts us off on the road, a colleague takes credit for a piece of our work, or we feel we are being treated unfairly…
Whether the threat is real, or in our imagination, the mind and body reacts in exactly the same way. Our brains and bodies are flooded in a chemical bath. There is a rush of adrenaline and cortisol into the blood stream, blood is sent to the extremities and the heart, digestion is put on hold, muscles tense. We are ready to bounce or run!
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness” ~ Viktor Frankl
“You can’t stop the waves but your can learn to surf” ~ Jon Kabat Zinn.
Here are 6 tools you can use to calm the body and mind’s response to center yourself:
1. Breathe. At the first moment you realize you are experiencing annoyance or anger, bring awareness to your breath. Take several full breaths focusing on the exhale to release that tension and energy. Then slow it down. Making the inhale and exhale long and even.
This will help invoke the body’s relaxation response and give you time to access your higher brain for making a decision on how to proceed.
2. Calm Body and Mind. Try these calming techniques for body and mind.
Take a moment and reflect on what would work for you…
3. Release the Tension Our body also needs to release the tension that is part of the fight or flight response. Animals naturally shake off this tension after conflict, but we humans have lost that natural ability to release it. Moving your body is important. Get out of your head and into your body to deal with the physical response.
Take a moment and consider what would release tension for you…
4. Reflect. With blood now accessing your higher brain you can reflect on what has just happened.
Where is the emotion coming from? Is there a history behind it?
Explain it to yourself. “I’m annoyed right now because ….” This reflection may be enough to detach yourself from the emotional reaction. Don’t be quick to judge, based on your own reaction. You don’t know what the other person might be struggling with, or what is going on in their life. If you are cut off in the car, it may be that that person really does have an family emergency.
5. Switch Perspectives. Be an observer of the situation. Imagine you are an observer and play back what just happened. Let go of judgment or getting caught up in your side of the story.
Be the narrator of the scene that just occurred. Notice when emotions come up and try to step back into the observer role again. Keeping a detached distance will allow you to find your center and balance.
Try to see the other person’s point of view. Don’t be quick to judge, based on your reaction. You don’t know what they might be struggling with or what is going on in their life. If you are cut off in the car, it may be that that person really does have an family emergency.
6. Have a Mantra or Axiom. Choose a go-to phrase that means something to you that will help you maintain this observer mindset:
Here are some examples:
Take time and reflect on what would work for you…
Having a set of tools to use in the heat of the moment is really helpful, but will only help at that moment. Research has shown that having a the regular practice of meditation helps us to step back and access this observer mindset so that we find our balance more and more easily. With practice over time, we will not react so strongly as we accept all our emotions as our teachers and friends.
This week has been such a fruitful and fulfilling one as I step up into my Fall yoga teaching schedule and prepare for a new series of the Yoga Teacher Mentor Program beginning on Sunday. I also had a visit from an old University friend from Scotland who now lives in Australia. There was a lot of fun catching up to do 😃
In other words, life is terrific, but I have not found time to read many of your posts or visit your blogs.
I really look forward to catching up after this weekend.
Thank you for your understanding. I am so grateful to be a part of this creative, talented and loving community.
Anna Quindlen’s words came back to me today. I hope you enjoy this lovely reminder. 💛
“Life is made up of moments. Small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of grey cement.
It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen.
We have to teach ourselves how to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.”
Anna Quindlen “A Short Guide to a Happy Life”
Whenever we create space for ourselves and pause in order to simply be, we find the pieces that make life meaningful.
If you would seek your true self:
Begin with simplicity,
Overcome your desire for false adornments,
And embrace the nature of the uncarved block.
~ Lao Tzu
The uncarved block is a metaphor representing potential and what is possible. It is also a caution against self-imposed limits.
May we be like the uncarved block at all times, being the material ready to be shaped and used as needed.
Braun Jr., John; Tzu, Lao; von Bargen, Julian; Warkentin, David (2012-12-02). Tao Te Ching (Kindle Locations 317-321). . Kindle Edition.
Breathe well and you will find your Middle Ground.
I love to breathe! Its what attracted me to yoga and keeps me passionate about how yoga and mindfulness can transform us.
Without breathing fully, our yoga practice becomes simply a workout. Rather than calming the mind and soothing the body it can have the opposite affect. Yoga is the practice of connecting movement to our breath and moving the prana, or life energy through the body. In this practice we release tension and blocks from our body – and our mind – and come to a natural state of balance and peace.
The content here is to help bring awareness to how you breathe. Its the foundation for mindful breathing to alleviate stress, reduce anxiety and to live a full and healthy life.
STEP ONE – OBSERVING
Take a few moments to prepare yourself. Sit comfortably. Relax.
Begin by simply observing your breath. Get your own natural baseline.
Place one hand on your belly and the other above your heart.
Notice the rise and fall as you breathe in and out.
Let the wave of breath flow down to below your navel.
Feel that long slow wave of breath.
Now placing both hands just below the navel. Breathe as if your breath can reach your palms.
Notice how this fills the whole body with breath.
Let your belly expand as your lungs fill with air.
Soften your body so it can open to receive the air
Let the sensation of the breath move like waves. Find your own natural rhythm and pace.
Bring attention to your belly. Imagine as you inhale, your belly is like a balloon. With each inhale it fills up with air. Use your diaphragm to expand the belly outwards creating space for the air coming in.
On the exhale allow your belly to come back towards the spine.
This is yoga breathing.
Notice – without any judgment – if this is easy for you or somewhat difficult. Breathing fully using the diaphragm takes practice.
STEP TWO – EQUAL LENGTH
Lightly bring equal length to your inhales and exhales. Silently count in your mind to ensure they are equal length.
Imagine waves coming to the shore ebbing and flowing.
Moving on to the next step in a natural smooth way
STEP THREE – SLOW IT DOWN
See if you can slow down and expand the length of both inhales and exhales. Making the waves longer let them flow more slowly.
Find the length that is expansive and opening. If you sense any struggle you have gone too far.
Don’t try, just step into this new space, accepting that what is good enough for your body is good enough for you.
In your mind count a number that feels long and strong for each exhale and inhale.
Let yourself be in the space at the end of the exhale without grasping on the intake.
STEP FOUR – EXPAND THE EXHALE
When you are ready you might want to expand your exhale making it longer than your inhale. See if you can make it twice as long.
As you release the tension in your body, allow the tension of your mind to also release with each long exhale.
Let the waves of breath flow through you.
Let the prana and life force flow through your entire body.
Come back to your natural breath and notice how you feel after this experience of mindful expansive breathing.
You can always come back to your breath to bring you to this place of centeredness and peace… Find your Middle Ground through your own breath.
I heard an audio recording of Adyashanti some time ago and transcribed parts of his message that really resonated with me. Alas, I didn’t make a note of the actual source of the recording. But I hope you enjoy these notes and insights.
When I first heard these words, it was a real AHA moment. It opened up a whole new way of looking at awakening. Reading them again, after some time, I notice that my attitude is one of curiosity and appreciation for the wisdom that others share in their own journey.
“There are different qualities to awakening, and not everyone awakens to the same thing.
Its rare that someone wakens to the whole of reality all at once. We usually get a piece of it.
Of course, any piece of the whole feels like the whole. Every aspect feels complete. That sense that “this is it” what ever it is. It can lead to certain misunderstandings.
The deception is that each aspect feels like the whole. So you might get attached to the part of the whole.
Like getting a hold of the foot of an elephant. You think its the elephant, but its just the foot.
There are 3 qualities of awakening:
1. Mind awakening. Realization of space and sense that I am a conscious space of awareness or spirit. Moving from a little human being running into my body and then bump into the experience is being conscious space. “I am” is space and open awareness. There is no becoming or beginning or end, better or worse to it. It can feel like a weight falling away. If you go deep enough you lose the ability to find reality in the mind. reality is beyond the mind. We lose our intellectual world.
This requires intellectual vulnerability – being able to let go of your beliefs and how you see yourself.
2. Heart awakening. Waking on the level of heart is more difficult to explain than the mind. Its an experience of extraordinary intimacy with all of existence. A feeling of beauty, closeness and love within the heart of existence. The oneness of it all through the veil of things. The deepest intimately is oneness. Where we intuitively see sameness. Seeing the face of god in everything.
Waking in the level of heart is here and now rather than intellectually “there”. Meeting yourself here. The mind can’t make a rational argument for it.
It requires emotional vulnerability to become intimate. We have to give up a part of ourselves that is terrified that anybody will see it. To be tender and soft. Being able to let go of the emotional being that we think we are. To be able to open our heart we have to see through what’s closing our heart. The deepest intimacy is oneness.
3. Gut awakening. Waking the existential sense of self. Its a clench or grasping of self, terrified to let go. When it lets go there is no self. Its not the intellectual or emotional stuff, its the initial reaction of grasping. Its the thing in you that says no to death and no to life. There might be very good reason to say no to life.
These qualities of awakening don’t follow in any logical progression. Over time we tend to become more oriented to one of these realities.
You can also awaken in any of these ways and go to sleep again. You can wake up in one and be asleep in the others. You might even want to go back to asleep to be with everyone you knew and the world you knew.
Spiritual awakening is based on a shift in our deepest identity. You thought it was one thing, and the reality is different. This is different from a spiritual experience which comes and then goes and your identity remains the same.
The danger is that each one of them feels absolutely complete.
But if there isn’t completeness without all the other aspects, you can become a spiritual shipwreck.
If you are connected to deeper mind and space, there is clarity and freedom. Your ego can use your space mind to hide from your emotions. The ego will use their intellectual ability to outthink any different thoughts about reality. The wakening of mind brings intellectual freedom and clarity but after a while is like a desert without feeling. The world is a manageable duality. They are spaciousness and dismiss having to deal with the otherness of life. But the disconnect will become more acute.
Awakening of the heart brings a sense of Oneness and love, yet may be still asleep at the level of the mind. Everything is light and love, but you may do some stupid things. The ego attaches itself to the image of being pure love and light.
This feeling of total completion and awakening is like a spiritual honeymoon.
Like in marriage the spiritual honeymoon doesn’t tell you much about love and what it means to be together. There is a transition that can be easy or difficult. The agreement of how things are,has shifted and we don’t have a manual on how to live this way.
Something finds its way in our experience to find a new balance in life.”
I love this wisdom from David Whyte, posted by Dr Bill Wooten. There is much talk about living in the present moment and in the Now. These words gave me goosebumps:
“Maturity is not a static arrived platform, where life is viewed from a calm, untouched oasis of wisdom, but a living elemental frontier between what has happened, what is happening now and the consequences of that past and present; first imagined and then lived into the waiting future.”
“Maturity is the ability to live fully and equally in multiple contexts; most especially, the ability, despite our grief and losses, to courageously inhabit the past the present and the future all at once. The wisdom that comes from maturity is recognized through a disciplined refusal to choose between or isolate three powerful dynamics that form human identity: what has happened, what is happening now and what is about to occur.
Immaturity is shown by making false choices: living only in the past, or only in the present, or only in the future, or even, living only two out of the three.
Maturity is not a static arrived platform, where life is viewed from a calm, untouched oasis of wisdom, but a living elemental frontier between what has happened, what is happening now and the consequences of that past and present; first imagined and then lived into the waiting future.
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Can you simply relax and allow this moment to be? Can you let go of evaluation and judgment, and simply accept that this is what is happening?
Remember it is only our resistance to the present moment that causes us to feel any pain.
Acceptance creates the inner freedom and inner peace that we are all yearning for.
So take a deep breath… and then another.
Be easy on yourself and others.
Instead of wishing things to be different, focus on expressing the love that is within you.
Get out of your head and open your heart.
“Thinking is something you watch the mind do. You are just there, aware that you are aware. You are the indwelling being, the consciousness. Its not something you have to think about. You are it. You can watch the mind being neurotic and not get involved. This is all you have to do to unplug the disturbed mind.”
~ Michael A. Singer from The Untethered Soul
We are not the thinking mind, we are aware of the thinking mind.
When we embrace this discovery, everything begins to change.
Our beliefs and thoughts become clear and we can question them.
It is the key to detach from the beliefs that hold us back, keep us limited and safe.
This awareness leads to freedom, connection and infinite possibilities.
So go on, take time to unplug.
Soften… Let go…
Watch your thoughts like passing clouds.