In life, there are times when things are fine, average - we go through the days without any hiccups or incidents, or big surprises or wild adventures. Each day has it's own rhythm and flow, smoothly transitioning through our regular schedules, meeting the small challenges without any hesitation or issue, simply to move along to the next part of the day. Breakfast is made, work is done, we eat dinner and are simply done, ready for bed and the next day that comes.
Then there are those days when we are met with large, or subtle, surprises that seem to brighten our day - we win a scratch-off lottery ticket, or find $20 on the ground. Maybe a friend or family member calls to tell us about a recent marriage proposal or future baby on the way. We feel lighter, chipper, and the everything throughout the day has a brighter hue to its edges. The birds sing songs, the sun shines bright and the world is seemingly will never lose its joy.
But, then, the clouds roll in. The sky becomes dark and grey, the world feels cold and lonely, everything has been cast over by a sense of gloom and melancholy. Someone shared bad news with us, or we fear losing our jobs or a loved one. Maybe we feel lost and hopeless, as if our homes were to be swept out from underneath us. The radiant joy of yesterday has been shattered by today's miseries.
It doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to be subject to the gut wrenching roller coaster ride of life. Constant, radiant peace and happiness can be ours - it's our birthright - and is accessible at anytime, regardless the type of day we may seemingly be having. Just like the Earth is constantly in the path of the warming, life-supporting light of the Sun, we are always embraced by the radiant purity of our essence of Being - which is supreme peace and happiness.
From the perspective of someone on Earth - the sunny days turn into dark nights, seasons come and go, and the weather patterns shift between calm and pleasant, to chaotic and stormy. Similarly, from the perspective of the person, we have good days, bad days, or just plain ol' days. Friends and lovers light us and lift us into a lofty, happy place. They can also smash us, put us down, or trample our hearts into the ground.
Clear away the clouds of the delusional life by establishing yourself in direct connection with the true essence of your Being. We foolishly allow ourselves to be swayed by the changing winds of life, being thrown here and there. Sometimes the winds are gentle and easy, other times violent and damaging. Why allow yourself to be swayed either way, to possibly become damaged or broken during a heavy storm? You can anchor and root yourself into the deepest bedrock of life by re-establishing a direct connection to your true spiritual essence. No more will the winds sway you, no more will the clouds block the warmth and joyous light of life. It may seem and feel that way through the external body and eyes - but your inner feeling and vision will always see and know the bright joyous essence of Truth.
Practice clearing away the clouds by establishing yourself into a regular meditation practice that is appropriate for you. Use your intellect and discernment to remove erroneous ideas about who and what you are. Don't allow the ebb and flow of the tides of life to erode your emotional and spiritual stability.
Affirm with conviction:
"The radiant purity of my true essence of being constantly illumens my mind and consciousness, heals my body, and continuously provides a steady flow of fortunate events to which I am receptive."
Finding success shouldn't be something hard, nor should success be limited to those "lucky" types of people. Rather, success should, and can be, a regular occurrence for all of us.
However, more often than naught, our seeming lack of success boils down to how we perceive the world around us. If we could only just make that subtle shift perhaps we would then begin to see how successful our lives really have been, are, and can be.
Actually, making that shift doesn't need to be hard - all we have to do is begin to search for the true essence of our being. What I mean by that is: searching to know who we really are. Rather than identifying with self-imposed limiting characteristics and descriptions, we should seek our true Self - that which does not change.
As you make this shift into understanding your personal truth, you will naturally come into more success. How quick you progress depends on how dedicated and pointed your focus is.
Now, rather than leave you simply with the task of Self-inquiry, let me also point out that there will be setbacks, detours, delays etc. We will encounter various obstacles on our journey to success and those are:
Lack of progress
and, Distracted Attention.
Doubt: Remember why you chose your goal in the first place. Look to others who have overcome difficulty. Have faith for your inner strength.
Negligence: Learn how to do tasks properly. Read other resources, as for help from people with knowledge. Put into place correct actions and behaviors.
Confusion: Learn from others who have had success. Read from reliable sources while trying to learn how they came to their conclusions.
Failure to make Progress: Write a schedule or plan of action that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and can be set to a timeline. Addictions / Attachments: Surround yourself with people who don't support bad habits or addictions. Change your environment to reflect more ideal circumstances.
Misperceptions: Practice discernment by questioning and seeking to know, rather than blindly accepting.
Distractions: Remain focused, yet be relaxed when attention waivers. It's ok to rest and relax. Take a moment to recoup and then double-up efforts to achieve your goal!
enjoy this free download.
Please enjoy this free download - a handout prepared for a 2017 wellness retreat at the Elohee Retreat Center in north Georgia in collaboration with Heart Center Therapy.
what tone do you resonate?
A good friend of mine is a CPA and has been consulting with businesses for a number of years. He and I actually worked together briefly. Our work was to cultivate deeper conscious awareness of business organization. While working together (and since I've know him) we have always talked about the tone that the top players of businesses have and how that tone will resonate throughout their business venture - this could be any type of business, small or large.
We came to the conclusion that, consciously or not, the tone which business leaders set (Investors, C-Suite teams, or Boards of Directors) would be the tone that vibrated throughout the rest of the business. If you are an avid reader of business literature - or have a fascination for leadership - you will know that people who hold top or key roles tend to send out a silent radiance of influence. Take Virgin for example. Richard Branson is known worldwide for the success of his Virgin companies. On a personal level, Mr. Branson has truly embraced the "do what you love" principle. If you have peer into his organization, no matter which offshoot company, you will find an inner corporate culture of "we want you to love working here".
what are you expressing?
Life is all about expression. We are driven to express - heck, we are all born for the innate expression of two people who came together to express great passion! Many of us know that deep drive for procreation and the power that can have on us.
Unfortunately, though, our parents and society tend to pressure us to express ourselves as they would like, rather than how we may want to. This could be going to a private school, or playing certain sports like our parents, or having high-school and college teachers urge us to take up careers similar to theirs. Along the way, we end up losing our own rhythm and drive - succumbing to external pressures. These external pressures can have negative impacts.
In subtle ways, we learn to take shortcuts, be lazy, or become passive to the life around us. Stuck in the drudgery of life and trying to meet the demands of others. We should learn to overcome these bad influences, revisit what makes us happy, and start living the resonance of our souls.
simple practice. Write.
Start by simply setting aside some time to write. Get a piece of paper and write about what you did as a kid. What did you like to do? What types of toys did you play with and what were the imaginations around those play times? Try to also highlight instances when you felt discouraged to do those things.
Try to go through, if you can, your whole life until right now. Look through your list/ writings and take note. What are you pushing aside that you would like to do more of? What are some of the reasons why? Make a list of those. Typically, time and money are big issues for people.
It's ok if you need to put the writing down for while. It's also ok if you have a hard time. The whole idea is to just start writing. Soon, you will feel the desire to begin expressing yourself more naturally, the way you want to. You will want to live your life in small, subtle differences, or make bigger changes.
Writing gives us access to a deeper level of ourselves. We become more aware of potential blocks that are inhibiting growth - heck, we may even get stuck after a few words. And you know what? That is 100% ok.
finding our tone.
After a while, let what you wrote settle in. Think about it. You will slowly be able to sense what you need, what you want. Slowly let your soul's tone grow.
Now, as that tone grows, you may notice old tendencies that are holding you back. Slowly work to break those. They aren't serving you, so why should you hold on to them? In yoga, we talk about "letting go" - I typically talk about this in savasana, corpse pose. Let go of tension, let go of bad habits. Let go of dysfunctional relationships. At some point, we will die and nature will require that we let go. Don't be found dead, grasping a bottle of poison - because that is essentially what we do. We hold on to things that are slowly poisoning us. Toxic thoughts, old emotions, relationships, work arrangements. Let it all go and allow your soul to sing.
Humans are unique among all the animals in that we create meaning within society and ourselves. Think about it – just listen to your thoughts. Everyday you are creating meaning between yourself and the external. Our lives are full of symbolic gestures that resonate with the emotions we feel. No other animal species, as far as we know, creates a world of meaning through symbols. These symbols come in many forms – the gifts we give represent the love and care we feel towards those who hold special meaning to us. Our clothes represent ideas of expression congruent with our attitudes – business suits, Prada shoes and dresses, Levi’s jeans and leather boots. We build churches and places of worship to honor the angelic and divine nature of our existence. We have museums that give us looks into the past; art galleries to peer into present forms of expression; we have schools that invoke creativity for the future. Our lives are full of meaning – it is the human inclination to create meaning.
Sometimes we can get so caught up with living life that, as silly as it might seem, we lose awareness of the meaning in our lives. For example, when I graduated high school, the summer before college seemed full of thoughts about the future, the vastness of possibilities that the next phase of life would offer – I was thinking about the perceived symbolism of college. 2 years after entering I was stuck in the semester-to-semester grind of classes, homework, study, research and work – barely able to think about what lay beyond post-college. Then came graduation, followed by the rush of thoughts about a career, advancement, fulfilling some dream. Lo and behold, 2 years after college and I was stuck again in the weekly grind of work, save, spend – work, save, spend – work, save, spend…
Before I knew it, I was old and close to death, looking back at my life wondering where the value, the meaning, of my life went. Had I really lived? Did I fulfill my deepest dreams? What were my deepest dreams, anyway? Not really good thoughts to be having 15 feet away from Death, who happened to come over this morning for tea. However, fortunately – no – I am not old. Nor am I close to death (although I am sure he is a good person) – but I imagine some people might come to thoughts about the value or meaning of their lives as they await Death’s knock at the door.
In all reality, it is quite possible that we live without even thinking about IF life had it’s meaning at all. Ask yourself: “Does your life have meaning, value?” You might respond, “Yes” generally. If asked to elaborate…perhaps now your mind begins to draw blanks, or you think of very obvious things that all people find meaningful, or valuable – “Of course, I have my family of 2.5 kids, dog, 2 cars, 4 bedroom 3 bath house in the suburbs and dysfunctional extended family and friends. Sure my life has meaning because I created all those things and they are valuable to me.”
But who’s definition of meaning, or value, are we living by? DO you really like your 5am alarm, 2.5hr round-trip commute, almost-to-the-corner / window-cubicle with $65k salary for a family of 4, barely saving against the mortgage and credit card debts lifestyle? Sure, you love your family and, for them, you wouldn’t change a thing! That is great and 100% O.K.; if that is the life you find fulfilling. This is the key to creating meaning within our lives: fulfillment; satisfied and content with how life is being expressed.
So the question changes and we now we ask a deeper question. For example: Mr. Black can have a family and find every aspect about that meaningful because spouse and child are endowed with compassion and admiration within the family unit, often times inseparable. Mr. Black find family life fulfilling. He knows that his efforts are to support the healthy growth of spouse and child. But does that mean Ms. White, who is single, working for a company in a remote, freelance capacity who can socialize as needed, find solace during quiet times, and enjoy the freedom of travel at a whim's desire need to define their value of life based on that of Mr. Black? Absolutely not. However, the underlying tone of societal values and conditionings may weigh and tug at the subconscious mind of Ms. White, disallowing a true enjoyment of her lifestyle.
I do not mean to make light and superficial the very deep discussions on personal liberties, sense of freedom, or manners of expression that resonate in our hearts and souls. This is merely an attempt to provoke introspection into one's belief systems, as we may be very well living a facade life of which the outer appearance was built by others - a bleak and disappointing wall - that covers a brilliant and vibrant gem.
Who knows for sure, what one might uncover, as they attempt to verify what, exactly, lay beneath the mosaic wall of socialization and culturalization? Perhaps we will find that the outer is the same as the inner, or there is a modest difference between the two. Maybe some will find a stark contrast. Nevertheless, liberation comes from true knowing and true knowing can only come from earnest questioning and introspection.
So, as confirmed by the philosophers of age, the only true way to create lasting meaning in life - to feel real value - is to uncover the truth of our being. It is when we know this truth that we will be able to confidently express and live as our souls want us to. No more pangs or heavy hearts. No more confused decisions, rather vibrant living according to our own standard.
"but I can't touch my toes"....said no yogi ever
While there are a plethora of resources that explain thoroughly how yoga is not a physical practice, many people still assume that to "do yoga" one must be endowed with miraculous flexibility. Fortunately, within this post we will discover 4 different types of "yoga" that people can practice without having to worry about their flexibility.
#1 karma yoga - doing your best and live without expectations
We've all heard the word "karma" or the English adige "what goes around, comes around." Usually we see something, or hear something, bad and remark "they're creating bad karma".... What does that mean, really? Are we bound to the bad things we do or say?
No. Not really.
Karma, or the root karman in Sanskrit, really means to "act" or "to do" (according to the encyclopedia britannica). All of our actions, be it physical, mental or emotional are just that: actions. As we learned in science classes, all actions have causes and effects. So instead of thinking about karma as this esoteric force that punishes or rewards certain behaviors, we can instead look at our actions in a more practical, scientific way.
How to practice Karma Yoga:
Let's keep it simple: Always strive to do your best with the knowledge and tools at your disposal. Once you have completed your task, drop any expectation for the outcome.
If what you've done could be better, simply learn from the experience. Use your newfound knowledge to be wisely applied to future tasks/situations.
#2 love yoga - living for the one you love
The yoga of love isn't referring to the Kama Sutra. While it might be fun to connect with your romantic partner with different sex positions, the yoga of love is far from that. Traditionally called bhakti yoga, this practice is for those people who tend to be loving and devotional. Think of Mother Teresa, for example, she was devoted to pursuing her love of Christ and, through that love, helped many people in Calcutta India.
It is through devotion, or love, that we become inspired to perform deeds that adhere to this deep sense of love.
How to practice Bhakti Yoga:
Think of someone that you love dearly, could be a relative or friend, or even a role model. If you happen to be religious, perhaps you choose an icon of your faith that inspires love. Holding onto that image, that sense of deep love as you perform your daily actions, ask: Am I honoring and respecting this image of love through my actions? Would this person, or image, appreciate this type of action, thought?
In the devotional tradition, especially among Hare Krishna devotees, they tend to view all aspects of the world as a manifestation of Krishna, or God. Food is God, so we should prepare healthy, vibrant foods. Our home is God, so we should treat it with cleanliness and respect. Our bodies are God, so we should keep it fit, healthy, clean etc.
#3 thought yoga - the philosophical approach
Who are we? Where did we come from? What is the purpose of life? - These are the questions of the philosopher, the thought yogi, typically known as jnana yoga. This type of yoga is reserved for those who really like to think about things and have an intellectual understanding of any and everything in life. If you tend to question things, always trying to mentally "understand" what and why, then perhaps this is your approach.
How to practice Jnana Yoga:
Putting aside the external world, the Jnana yogi begins to question the origin of the mind. "Who am I" is the question of choice, as recommended by the Indian sage Ramana Maharshi. He is quoted as follow:
"The degree of freedom from unwanted thoughts and the degree of concentration on a single thought are the measures to gauge spiritual progress."
So, to fully understand ourselves and the external world, we must, in turn, focus our attention inward, fixated on the singular thought "Who am I?"
#4 scientist yoga - the royal form of yoga.
I was saving the best for last, after all, who doesn't want to be royal? Actually, the scientific royal path of yoga, known as raja yoga, is probably the hardest way to be a yogi. This type of yoga typically combines all three prior AND takes into consideration the instructions found in the text called Yoga Sutras by the sage Patanjali. After all, royalty demands more than just posh living, so what does it mean to be a royal scientist yogi?
How to practice Raja Yoga:
First and foremost, there are 8 steps within the scientific process of raja yoga. Just as you would follow certain rules in a laboratory to avoid ruining an experiment, so does the yogi. These steps are meant to reduce negative consequences in the yogi's life.
The first and second step relate to rules, or guidelines, to help the scientist yogi achieve success in their practice by creating a neutral, moral and ethical laboratory.
(steps 1 and 2)
Harmlessness (non-violence), Truthfulness, Non-stealing, Conservation of vital energies, Non-avarice (absence of greed), Purity, Contentment of mind, Desire to learn and apply knowledge, Passion to success, and finally, Surrendering to the process of experimentation.
In the third step we focus on the physical body. Many of us (I, too, was once to blame) do not take adequate care of ourselves. Here, we focus on holistic living, which includes a balanced life of nutritious foods, rest/exercise, and supportive relationships. In learning to listen to our bodies and provide it with the appropriate things, we begin to cultivate a radiance of health that allows us to continue on with our experiment of life.
Having created a sterile environment that is morally/ ethically supportive, healthy, we begin to turn our attention inwards to understand the subtle energies of life. We sit and start with the breath to investigate the dynamic relationship it has with our being and existence.
As this process of inward attention flows, we ask ourselves to focus on a singular thought, like the Jnana yogi, this could be a concept, but for the purpose of simplicity, let's keep the original question "who am I?" as the focus. By settling our mind on this idea, we slowly turn off our outward focus and, instead, remain internally aware. This sustained focus results in concentration, in turn meditation, and finally the goal of "yoga", or direct-sustained intuitive awareness of the essence of our being.
By living right, practicing daily, the Raja yogi slowly (or quickly) uncovers the truth of his/her existence, arriving at the solution to the hypothesis.
Conclusion: you don't have to be flexible to practice yoga.