Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Space to Grow

     Sometimes the toughest thing to do is to let go of the need to control every aspect of our lives and to trust the process of living, especially when we don't know what that process will entail.  The human tendency is to be restless with what is, which explains why it is sometimes so very difficult to be able to just sit and do nothing, to remain the observer, the experiencer, with mindfulness - to meditate.  We LOVE to put labels of description on everything, "That was a great party!"  "That vacation was awesome." "Dinner was delicious." but as my teacher Doug Keller explains so perfectly in his book Heart of the Yogi, once we define the 'experience' we have already moved out of experiencing. To be in the moment, with what is in all of its' pretty and ugly parts, is what experiencing is.  I truly believe that when we wholeheartedly embrace the subtleties in the spaces between those labels we craftily assign we begin to truly live.  
     Most of you have probably read "The Power of Now", but if you haven't I can't recommend it enough.  Tolle teaches us that for pain to exist it has to have a past and a future.  While physical pain in the moment can often be a very real thing, the pain he is getting at is the mental and emotional pain we allow to have a life in the present moment.  We take on the identities of the bad things that have happened to us in the past, giving ourselves labels, not unlike the labels we ascribe to our experiences.  We wear the badges of our illnesses, the beliefs we were raised with, the breakups and divorces -  the physical and emotional injuries.  By the same token we should spend much less time worrying about potential pain in the future. I mean seriously, what is future pain anyway? It's a myth, that's what it is. We can't have pain in the present moment over something that doesn't even exist yet. Observe your thoughts the next time you start to worry about something, an undesired outcome, and see if you can let go, to simply sit with the sensations you are feeling about that unlikely reality you are unnecessarily stressing over.  When we make the decision to not allow unmanifested pain to exist it loses its' power to be.  It's certainly not an easy task to assimilate the teachings of Tolle into our lives, to disallow those things the power to exist in the moment, but it's in doing so that we find the peace that is always available. In fact it's the only way we can ever find that stillness. 
     While at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas last month I was fortunate to hear a talk by a brilliant individual, Dr. Richard Moss. He spoke about how being there amidst all of the positive energy helped us to exist on a higher frequency, say 1500 (to assign an arbitrary numerical value to it), and that when we jumped on the boat and returned to the 'real world' that was operating at say, between 200-300, it would be painfully obvious to us how so many people exist unconsciously. Even our 'stuff' begins to lose its' value as we realize how little we need in order to be truly happy.  So we begin to downsize, to declutter, to simplify, but somewhere in that process we feel the need to get back on the boat to the ashram, to recharge our frequency battery. This cycle continues until we realize the only lasting recharge available to us has existed within us all along, so we start to tear off chunks of the boat that is taking us there and throw them into the furnace. We realize we don't need the boat anymore - we can fuel our own fire.  So instead of worrying about arbitrary questions such as "Does he care about me or not?", it's better to have the mindset of "Screw it, throw it all in the fire."  Hell, he may not even care about himself, so what good does it serve to eat yourself up with those questions?  I greatly paraphrased his talk, but seriously, anything by Richard Moss should be on your reading or listening list. 
     Almost two years ago I left the United Arab Emirates and headed off to Costa Rica to enter yoga teacher training. The two places could not possibly be more different from each other, but each was and is beautiful in their own right.  I experienced tremendous personal breakthroughs in my life during that period that would have never happened had I not taken the leap to venture off 7,000 miles away, to remain in the "safety" of my life before that time. Between you and me what I had was a lot of financial debt and a lack of peace in my life. After venturing back to the states to set up 'camp' in Norfolk I wasn't quite sure exactly what I was going to do with myself, which was a very new experience for me having lived within the confines of the structure of a 20 year career in the military.  It has served to be quite a liberating experience as I've been able to develop meaningful relationships in community that, unlike being stationed somewhere in the military, truly feels like a home.  I've heard a lot of people speak ill this town for many different reasons, and while all of them are not unfounded, it always leaves me questioning what they are doing to make it a better place to live. That's a subject for another blog, but I love living here

     While in Costa Rica I saw many beautiful things, one of them was this little plant sprouting out of a very large boulder along a stream located at Piedra Colorada, a sacred little spot along the coast outside the village of Montezuma.  This little guy kinda sums up the spirit of this post - sitting with what is, with what you have to work with, and make the absolute damn best of the situation.  It also reminds me of some very wise words from Pema Chodron in her book The Places That Scare You.  "At the beginning joy is just a feeling that our own situation is workable. We stop looking for a more suitable place to be. We've discovered that the continual search for something better does not work out. This doesn't mean that there are suddenly flowers growing where before there were only rocks. It means we have confidence that something will grow here."
     Trust the process, give yourself space to grow.