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

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on

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.




Tao Wisdom – Vision


© Publicdomainphotos – ID 89902173 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Words worth pausing with today.

The person who uses only the vision of his eyes is conditioned purely by what he sees. But it’s the intuition of the spirit that perceives reality. The wise have known for a long time that what we know through our eyes isn’t equal to the intuition of our spirit. Yet most people rely only on what they see, and lose themselves in external things only. Isn’t that sad?*

~ Chuang Tzu

*Forstater, Mark. The Tao: The Living Wisdom Series (Kindle Locations 494-497). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Mark Forstater, in his exploration of the Chuang Tzu’s writings continues:

“Our culture isn’t comfortable with deep subjective experience, in which artistic, religious and mystical feelings are found. We’re often wary of exploring this interior life, because we’re afraid of what may be lurking there: fears and insecurities, repressed feelings of sexuality or anger. This is because the subjective life is home to the unconscious, that powerful, dark and hidden side of our mind, which is also the source of our creativity.

Often scientists and others who are more comfortable with objective knowledge forget that creativity not only generates artistic and mystical feelings but also includes their own scientific creativity, as the career of Albert Einstein makes very clear. Einstein’s important discoveries were all made first in his mind, through subjective unconscious reflection. Only later did he go to the trouble of testing them ‘objectively’. We have lived in a materialistic, scientific culture for so long that objective knowledge is king, and the subjective is denigrated and considered suspect and unreliable.” *

* Forstater, Mark. The Tao: The Living Wisdom Series (Kindle Locations 477-485). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.