Haiku – beyond fear

forest hiking trees

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~

I will meet you there.

Beyond fear. In the Stillness.

Find your Middle Ground

~

Find your Middle Ground is about stepping away from stressful days and anxious minds, and taking time to pause.

When we are mindful of the present moment and simply allow it to be, we open a door to our natural state of being – accepting, loving, peaceful, kind and content. There is room for fear here. Most of us are so distracted and moving so fast that we get caught up in the world of “doing” or worrying about what we should be doing next.
Too much doing and thinking disconnects us from our sense of “being”and who we really are.

I write about finding this place of connection, contentment and peace in the highs and lows of life. I call it our Middle Ground.

Namaste

 

Val’s Word for 2020

two birds in a tree

I wasn’t planning on choosing a word for this year, but one has been showing up in my thoughts and dreams. As always, it is what is behind and beyond the word itself that makes it impactful – how we bring the word into our lives.

Let me explain a little more.

In December I was at Kripalu for a training and retreat. It was a wonderful educational and enlightening experience taught by Yoganand Michael Carroll. We stepped lightly into the history of yoga and then took a deep dive into yoga philosophy and renunciate nivritti practices.

Throughout this intensive and powerful experience I felt a reassuring and familiar presence. I have noticed this awareness growing over the past few years, and have come to call it the Witness or Presence.

I shared the Vedic parable of the two birds in an earlier post, which describes how there are essentially two parts of ourselves. There is the doer, the part that is active in the world and has a sense of my family, my work, my children and so on. This is also called the I-maker or ego. The other part is a conscious witness within us, at a deeper level.

I believe that we can touch this deeper part of ourselves when we are still and turn our attention inwards. When we Find our Middle Ground.

Now I see that being still is a way to get to know it, but we can experience this deeper level of being in the world and can bring it into our every day.

When you have integrated the witness into your being, there is no need to wait to go to yoga or to sit and meditate. It is always present, and is always there to give you wisdom and guidance. This is the knowing, higher part of yourself who sees through the stories and the everyday actions and distractions of the doer.

This higher discriminating intellect, in the Samkhya tradition (before the time of Buddha), is called Buddhi.*

Whenever we notice the doer getting caught up in reacting to the world and being distracted by senses, desires and fears, we can call on Buddhi.

Buddhi doesn’t judge and make us wrong, it simply guides us into a higher state of being and brings clarity and balance. It brings us closer to the state of consciousness or divine.

So, how does this affect us?

As humans we are all doers. And as doers we have to protect our things and our selves, we need to feel safe and we have minds that make up stories to make sense of what happens to us and to make things right. We have our senses and feelings that constantly pull at us.

donuts and bagel display

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So….. As I think about what to choose for dessert, or begin to open a new bag of cookies, or sit back on the sofa with a glass of wine and turn on the tv, I will ask: What would Buddhi do? 

As I find myself avoiding taking the next step towards something important and making up stories about why I can’t do that right now, I will ask: What is Buddhi’s insight here?

When I notice that I feel anxious and fearful about the unknown future or am drawn into regrets of the past, I will ask: What would Buddhi tell me?

When I notice myself judging others and being critical, I will say: I need you now Buddhi!



* Buddhi Definition from Yogapedia:

Buddhi is a Sanskrit term derived from the root, budh, which means “to know” or “to be awake.” Therefore, buddhi refers to intellect, wisdom and the power of the mind to understand, analyze, discriminate and decide.

 

 

 

The Mystery of Your Presence

silhouette of man standing near body of water

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“The mystery of your presence can never be reduced to your role, actions, ego, or image.

You are an eternal essence; this is the ancient reason why you are here.

To begin to get a glimpse of this essence is to come into harmony with your destiny and with the providence that always minds your days and ways.

This process of self-discovery is not easy; it may involve suffering, doubt, dismay.

But we must not shrink from the fullness of our being in attempting to reduce the pain”. *

 

Let us not shrink from the fullness of our being as we delve into the mystery and embrace our destiny.

This journey takes courage and a lightness of soul.

Namaste

 

 

 

*O’Donohue, John. Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom (pp. 107-108). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Val’s Yoga Story

This is a re-post about what brought me to yoga. If you haven’t heard this story, you may be surprised!

People come to yoga for many reasons. In my experience, some people are wanting to be more flexible and strong in their bodies, while others are looking to calm their minds and find an inner connection with themselves.  Yoga practice brings together mind body and spirit … and allows each individual to grow, heal and strengthen in their own way.

My story about how I came to yoga is a bit different, and I wanted to share it with you…

When I began my training to become a coach in 2002, we did a lot of self exploration about our strengths, values and needs, and what makes each of us unique.  I also had a mentor coach to support me in my skill building and growth. It was a time for getting real and personal transformation!

One day we did a class on Integrity. We looked at what it meant to us and how we could bring that to our coaching.

As I sat back in the chair with my headphones on, I reached for a cigarette and lit up.

quit smokingI felt such a wave of guilt and disappointment in myself for being a smoker.

How could I coach others to be their best while I was feeling so uncomfortable about being a smoker. I realized I was out of integrity.

I was also scared about giving up my habit. Cigarettes had been a friend and a support for me for so many years. Could I really go it alone? What if I failed miserably (again) and couldn’t give them up? Wasn’t it better to be healthy in other parts of my life to balance out the toxicity of smoking? I was trying to do a deal with myself and it wasn’t working…. That icky feeling in my gut was still there.

I was out of integrity and I had to do something if I wanted to face myself and my potential clients. So I told my mentor coach and set a date – March 27th 2002. We put together a coaching plan with the steps that I would take. Each step was something that I felt I could do. … and I did.

Part of my smoke free plan was to start doing yoga. My mentor said it would calm my mind so that I didn’t get as agitated during the change of habit and the physical withdrawal. I hadn’t ever considered yoga, but  I went along to a yoga studio near me……. and I found that it wasn’t as weird or woo woo as I had anticipated. The people were very friendly and made me feel welcome.

I discovered two things that day that would change my life … and my life span!

The first thing I discovered was that my body enjoyed being stretched. The poses felt a bit awkward, but there was a definite opening and flexing that felt good.

The second thing I discovered was how I loved to breathe! Smoking cigarettes had been a way, not only to get a nicotine fix, but also to take deep breaths. Smoking relaxed me. Each big inhale and exhale released the tension. I felt immediately calm as I took a big draw in and then exhaled out.

It was pretty amazing to me that in yoga I could have the same calming effects without poisoning myself.

Yoga became a part of my life and cigarettes became a part of my past.

Now I teach yoga to people at all stages of life and share my love of breathing, stretching, focusing, accepting and letting go.

There is no judgment in yoga, just acceptance of where you are and being your best to live life fully – and breathe fully.

If you have experienced something other than this, then please look for an other teacher.

Namaste

 

 

Call of Loneliness

woman in black cloak with fishing pole standing in beach

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These words made me pause and touched me deeply.

“Inside our loneliness is a longing to be released from the pain of separation and the confusion it entails. We’ve all been taught that there is something wrong or even dangerous about being lonely. But such an assumption is based on a misunderstanding of what loneliness is and how it relates to our life here.

Loneliness is a kind of wisdom, a recognition of something, an urge toward genuine transformation.

There is nothing to fear about loneliness. There’s no reason to run from it or to tighten down when it comes. If we allow ourselves the chance to attend to the loneliness, to be with it at a feeling level — physically — then the harsh overtones dissolve. What we called loneliness turns out to be something else entirely.

Each of us is longing for something. This longing runs deep. Sometimes it manifests as loneliness, sometimes as grief, anger, or something else. Whatever way it comes, we can be with it respectfully, openly, allowing it to exist. This so changes our relationship to it that we never need fear it or run from it again.

There are times when the body is calling for attentive care. There are times when the signal is there, but our response is self-hatred or dislike, and the body’s call gets ignored.
Loneliness is such a call. We need to turn to ourselves as a mother to a child and wait, without judgment.” *

Longing for something is not wrong.

Listen for its call.

We must tend to it with kindness and allow it show us the way.

Namaste

 

 

*The Prayer Of The Body

An Interview With Stephen R. Schwartz
by SY SAFRANSKY, editor and publisher of The Sun.

At Every Fork in the Road

photo of person holding umbrella

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The Path to Freedom

“What is the path to freedom here?

The answer is clear the moment

I ask. At every fork in the road,

there is a conditioned response

and one that is unpatterned, bold

and free. The old, known way is

more comfortable, but the other

path holds mystery and wonder.”

~ Danna Faulds, from her collection of writings and poems “Limitless”

 

I love this question. What is the path to freedom here?

So often we will ask “What’s the right way here?” or “What should I be doing now?” This alerts the mind to start to analyze what is “right”  – which is usually based on our old conditioning or brings up feelings of guilt and “shoulds” from the past. So often the answer is fear based, especially the fear of making a mistake.

Can you see that we have already created a cage around our response and limited our choice based on the old known way.

It isn’t about avoiding doing something wrong or pleasing someone else. It isn’t about being a good or a righteous person either. Or being safe and comfortable.

In my experience, the answer isn’t in the analytical mind at all, but is in the passion and inspiration that fills your heart and uplifts your soul.

Its about being aware, bold and free to approach the mystery of the unknown, and trust the inner voice that’s calling you.

One step at a time is all it takes.

This question will take you there.

 

Dealing with Ego on a Spiritual Path

When we are on a spiritual path, the idea of ego becomes something to overcome and get past. It feels contrary to how we want to be in the world.
Its the part of ourselves that we would rather hide or deny rather than show. So we battle with it or suppress it…. or disguise it.

ego in disguise

Here are some examples from my own experience of an ego in disguise:
~ We see ourselves as knowledgeable and evolved…. so we don’t want to be seen as not knowing or caught up in our self image.
~ We see ourselves as spiritual beings who give a lot to others…. so we don’t want to appear selfish and put ourselves first.
~ We see ourselves as good people in a world of danger and mistrust… because the world is a place where things are out of our control and other people can harm or take advantage of us.

Does this sound familiar to you? Can you see the ego at play here – in our thoughts about how we don’t want to be.
That’s our ego in disguise.
We are creating a “better” ego to overcome the inferior one from the past.

The irony is that in order for us to evolve past our ego we need to get intimate with it and acknowledge it. If we want to truly evolve into a new level of consciousness then this is the place that must be embraced.

silhouette of man standing near body of water

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When we look at the aspects of our ego, or our shadow side, and we feel resistance and discomfort … its a good thing.
Of course, this very human part of us doesn’t want to be looked at. Yet, when we accept is as a part of our experience, we begin to see it more clearly. We  feel it’s impact and see the power it has had over us for most of our lives … even now.

Being awake and conscious  and witnessing how our ego comes and goes is something that the most enlightened people are able to do.  It brings a smile and possibly a shrug. There is curiosity, compassion and detachment.

We cannot deny it just as the left needs the right, one side of a coin has to have the other, and  they cannot be separated from the other.

When we accept it and see it for what it is, it loses its power. We must embrace it in order for it to be no longer important as a driver in our lives.

If we continue to beat it up it will find ways to become more powerful in our thinking and stories about ourselves.

Be kind to your ego, so you can let it go and transform into your whole Being.