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October 28, 2009
In a few days, our son, Issa will turn 3 months old. It seems like I have been through a several lifetimes worth of experiences since he was born. There have been so many full and intense moments, the kinds of moments that require your full and undivided attention, the kinds of moments that take your breath away.
When you put all of your attention and focus into a singular task or moment, there is something very special that happens. What happens is that the greater truth of life begins to reveal itself more completely to you.
Most of us are so used to walking around projecting our limited beliefs and thoughts onto the world around us. Everything, including our own selves is colored by our ideas and assumptions that we have about them. This habit and tendency is so pervasive and deep-seated that we are not even aware of the fact that we are doing it.
As a result, we only see the world as we believe it to be and not as it actually is. We are constantly acting and reacting to a world that is mostly a product of our mental projections. So much of the suffering that we endure and the suffering that we cause others is a result of this fundamental flaw in our relationship to both the world and with our own selves.
What any significant spiritual practice and discipline seeks to do is to reveal this blindness in perception to us in such a way that we can begin to undo this fundamental flaw in the way that we interact with reality. The only real way that we can begin to correct this basic mistake is to learn how to "see" the world around our selves and us in an entirely new way.
In order to "see" more accurately, it is crucial to begin to have a greater understanding of how the mind and perception work. Most people mistakenly believe that there is an unchanging external reality that is perceived entirely through the physical senses. Most people believe that this one reality is perceived the same by everyone everywhere in basically the same way.
What most people either cannot understand or accept is that the very fabric of what you "see" is very powerfully shaped by your mind, your beliefs and assumptions about the world. The difficulty of understanding this basic phenomenon is also part of the dynamic of the mind itself. The mind, by its very nature, works to simplify your experience, so that you can focus on basic tasks and not be overwhelmed by too much stimuli.
However, if there is no examination of how the mind shapes one's experience of the world and the self, then one naturally will become blind to certain very important aspects of the creative and spiritual potential of life.
When a person relies entirely on one's physical senses without any deep self-reflection, then life will quickly feel quite shallow and limited in creativity and emotional depth.
Deep self-reflection in any capacity is powerful because it naturally frees one's perception from the overactive influence of the mind and its habitual beliefs. When you are able to create any amount of distance between your beliefs and that part of reality that you are applying your beliefs to then the potential power of each moment is often released in varying degrees.
Again, this is not so easy for most people, as there is not a sufficient amount of self-reflection to even notice the difference between one's beliefs and that part of reality that those beliefs are being projected onto. Thus, most people actually believe unconsciously that there is no difference between what they believe and what is actually real. Thus, what happens is that what many people call life is not actual life at all, but a representation of life that is made up of a collection of thoughts in their minds.
This is why many people on this earth today feel so lonely even when they are surrounded by thousands of other people. This is why so many people feel destitute on so many levels when there is such an abundance of resources all around them, both materially and spiritually.
The great gift of my recent experiences with Issa is that his presence has drawn my attention and focus so completely into certain moments that my mind has inadvertently quieted down. When the mind has become still in this way, the actual reality of each moment has become much more full and real.
The truth and reality of each moment is that it is rich and full with potential and power that are beyond normal imagination. It quite literally is beyond the mind's normal capacity of comprehension. When any of us is able to step outside of the mind's limited and habitual patterns, then we can begin to stand in the presence of each moment's true luminescence and power.
Every single moment is full with great creative potential and deeply transformational and healing spiritual power. It is funny how, in our spiritual ignorance, we constantly are chasing after the superficial allure of certain concepts and ideas. Who among us has not thought, "Oh, if I only had more money or possessions or fame or knowledge?"
Anything of any true power or value lives only in the moment that is right in front of us. This truth is so simple and so powerful that it eludes most people on the earth today.
So, the next time you feel wanting or lacking in any way, stop right there and take a few, deep conscious breaths. Allow the mind to quiet just a little and look deeply into the precise moment that you are standing in. Even if your awareness is able to penetrate that present moment only a little bit, you will nonetheless taste a hint of the great power and potential of your own soul.
In these moments lies the true promise of your own spiritual destiny. All you are looking for and more is hidden in each present moment. Nothing else in the entire world is needed than just your own self and the bright, shining moment right in front of you.
Those moments that pass us by countless times each day only appear ordinary and empty. Know that this is the farthest thing from the truth. Do not take these simple, everyday moments for granted. Just slowing down and looking a little more deeply into these moments and into your own self can and will change your life forever.
Great and simple spiritual truths that even a child (and sometimes only a child) can understand.
October 13, 2009
Like most other people, there are aspects of my own experience of myself that I do not like. These particular personal tendencies are cloaked in feelings of shame or distaste. Most of these tendencies have been with me since I was very young and I have struggled with them with great intensity over the years.
When I was younger, the war that I waged against my own weaknesses fueled much suffering and strife. I was constantly searching for new solutions that would allow me to divorce myself from these tendencies once and for all. My own feeling of self-esteem was almost wholly dependent on just how successfully I was able to forcefully control my own negative habits and tendencies.
Interestingly enough, the more that I fought with my own self, the stronger and more deeply embedded these tendencies became.
More recently, I have taken on a more reflective approach to these particular and perceived qualities in myself.
First, I have begun to realize more and more that all the suffering that I have endured in my life has had a primary role in my own spiritual evolution. It does not matter if that suffering is physical, mental, emotional or deeply psychic. Each time I have suffered in any significant way, the result has almost always been a greater level of awareness of my self. Each time I have suffered, the hunger for my own spiritual awakening has always deepened.
In that way, I no longer have a solely negative view of suffering in general. I now have quite a profound appreciation for suffering. Suffering is not just a problem to get rid of. Suffering actually serves a powerful function in this human life of ours. In more situations than not, suffering actually triggers the deeper opening of one's own consciousness.
After so many years of fighting forcefully with these perceived negative parts of myself and having little to no actual success of making any lasting changes, I began to seek to understand more deeply exactly what was going on with me.
I began to ask certain questions such as, "What exactly is it that I am fighting against?" and "What gives these perceived parts of myself their power and reality?"
Through this particular reflective process, I began to understand more about the nature of mind and ego. I began to understand more about the nature of identity and personality.
So much about who we think we are is shaped by our own ideas and opinions about the world and ourselves. This experience of our selves is not as a result of direct experience, but more often is a function of certain thoughts and tendencies that we have inherited from our parents or cultural surroundings. In other words, there is a difference between who we think we are and who we actually are.
Most of us when we try to find out who we are look first to our own thoughts and beliefs about what we think we are. Since many of us do not have the capacity for deep self-reflection, which is caused by over activity of the mind, we confuse our thoughts about life for life itself. We confuse our ideas about ourselves for the true nature of our own selves.
Who I actually am is more more expansive and complex than just my own thoughts about myself. And yet, I have spent most of life really believing that I am what I think about myself. I have spent most of my life judging myself based on what I thought about myself and about life itself. When I intensely identified with what I thought about myself, I simply became more entangled in those very thoughts. The more I waged war on my own perceived bad qualities, the more persistent and tenacious those particular perceived qualities became.
What I realized is that the more I obsessed about my own thoughts and judgments about myself, the more limited and helpless I felt. By identifying so strongly I with my own beliefs and opinions about myself, I actually was constructing the structure through which my own limited experience of myself gathered strength.
This limited experience of myself; I began to realize was what I now know as the phenomenon known as the ego. When we try to find ourselves by looking towards our own thoughts and judgments, we create a very short sighted and limited experience of own entire selves. When you are not able to see beliefs as beliefs or thoughts as thoughts, but as reality itself, you quite literally blind yourself to the spiritual dimension of life.
When we are blinded spiritually, we no longer have the capacity to access all those qualities that lead to genuine awareness, healing and freedom.
Real change does not occur through force or through judgment. The only real change that happens in this human life of ours happens through the agency of deep and radical acceptance and presence. Only when we can see ourselves clearly and with deep awareness can we move beyond all those elements of this life that limits us. When we obsess about own thoughts and beliefs about ourselves, we cannot see clearly and with any kind of deep awareness, as we are always looking through the filter of our own thoughts.
So now, I no longer try to change myself in any forceful manner. I am much more cognizant of the difference between the thoughts and judgments about myself and the actual present and direct experience of myself as I actually am.
The main thrust of my attention is much more directed at understanding myself at a deeper level and of gaining direct experience of myself as I am and not just of what I think I am. I am aware now, more than ever, that real change is never effected by force or criticism. I now know that if I can accept myself as I am and see myself with a kind of lucid clarity then real change will happen naturally and spontaneously.
Do I still have negative thoughts about myself? Yes, I do. The difference now is, is that I no longer automatically believe that those thoughts about myself is an accurate depiction of the way things really are. I no longer feel that I have to fight against myself to try to change what I perceive of as negative in myself.
Instead, there is a kind of deep curiosity that arises. I take the time to begin to look behind the thoughts that I have about myself. I seek to feel more deeply about the exact nature of my own experience of myself. I no longer believe that who I am is the entire result of what I think about myself. Who I am is much more about the deeper intelligence and awareness that experiences all that I am.
As a result, I live day-to-day with a deepened sense of peace and order. The artificial sense of self that I carried with me for so many years that was almost a complete fabrication of my own mind and ego, no longer has any great power or place in my life. When I looked primarily to my own mind and ego for my sense of self, that form of self seemed always to be tense and tortured with very specific limits and a very strong sense of form. Now that I have more awareness and clarity that who I am is not inextricably linked to my thoughts and beliefs and that who I am in much deeper than the mind and ego, there is less an experience of being solid and limited. There naturally is a kind of spaciousness and lightness to each moment of the day. The anxiety and worry that seemed to fill so much of my time is rarely a preoccupation of mine.
It is funny how the suffering that I fought against so vociferously in the past has now gained such an honored place in my life and heart. Of course, I don't want to suffer in my life and do not want any other person to suffer in their life. At the same time, I am acutely aware of the great value of suffering to human spiritual life.
So, the next time you find yourself obsessing over your own perceived faults and darker elements, do not just blindly judge yourself and try to force yourself to change. This particular approach will, as you all will discover over time, does not lead to anything that is truly positive and good. Only through the agency of deep self-acceptance and love can you come to a place of real understanding and awareness.
If you are a serious spiritual seeker, there is no other way.
October 08, 2009
It has been a little over 2 months now since Issa emerged miraculously from his mother's womb. The energy of pure wonder that he has brought with him continues to blow my mind countless times during each day.
All the preconceived notions that I had before he was born have been all thrown by the wayside and it their place stands the dazzling luminescence of the present moment and the glories that are contained in the eternal now.
Whenever I speak about yoga, I often mention how important it is to continuously reflect deep within on the nature of the essential Self by inquiring, "Who am I, really?"
For most of us, the endless layers of beliefs, opinions and preferences embedded strongly in our minds act as a kind of impenetrable veil through which we interact with the world. These mental and emotional conditioned patterns either mildly or strongly interrupt our capacity to experience life purely and without prejudice.
Now, what happens when you are only able to perceive reality through thick mental filters is that you lose the ability to see clearly and to be present with much of the wonder, magic and massive amounts of kinetic energy (also called Shakti) that is intrinsic to all of life.
Spiritual ignorance is when you think you are experiencing life directly, when in fact; your experience is dominated by mental constructs that are mere fabrications of the mind and ego. And although these fabrications of the mind are mostly imaginary in nature, they also have tremendous power, as they are imbued with our very own consciousness.
The supreme blessing that being close to a child brings is that your attention is drawn so strongly into the present moment that the mental patterns that had previously clouded your perception of life are temporarily suspended. When these mental patterns are pierced in any significant way, there is a whole new capacity to experience the world much more directly.
Most of us, when we grow older, develop more and more preconceived notions about who we are, what we are capable of doing or not doing and just what constitutes good and bad, right and wrong. These preconceived ideas are constantly shaping our emotions, moods, behavior and in fact, the very way that our personal and spiritual power is expressed in the world. Depending on the tenacity of these conditioned mental and emotional patterns, many of us quite literally, "shut down" our heart and soul. Thus, we begin to live our lives with decreasing amounts of passion, joy and engagement.
Our yoga and spiritual practice is designed to break through these conditioned patterns so that we can once again have an experience of our selves and our lives that is more pure and direct.
Issa's presence in my day-to-day life has had a profound effect in this way. The purity and strength of his life force has deeply penetrated and interrupted many of my ideas that had about my life and myself. Since my attention is less entangled in my own mind and much more centered in the present moment, I have so many more moments of pure wonder and am seeing myself and the world around me with a whole new perspective. I am inquiring much more deeply and spontaneously about what it means to be human and the inherent power and possibilities of each moment of the day.
Somehow my reactions are less programmed. I am much more reflective with my choices, even the simple ones like what to do with my time moment to moment throughout the day. As a result, there is a greater access to the spiritual power that is inherent in each moment. I can see things and feel things that previously had been too subtle for me to pick up on.
This does not mean that there are still many moments when I notice the addictive and reactive elements of my own mind and ego. It is just that there is an opening and a clarity that I do not remember having.
As Issa grows older, it will be interesting to see just how this newfound perspective evolves and changes. We will just have to wait and see. For now, however, it is remarkable for me to see just how powerful the experiences are that in front of me right now. I truly never imagined just how the presence of this child would have had such a profound effect on my spiritual life.
Next time, you are close to a child, no matter if that child is your own or someone else's, see if you can allow the purity of the child's experience can bleed into your own. Bring your own attention as fully into the present moment as possible and allow your awareness to uncover the layers of preconceived ideas that you have about yourself and the world. What would the experience in front of you be like without any prejudices and preferences? What would the experience in front of you be like if you were to experience it as a child who has seen something for the very first time?
If you are like me, a whole new world will open up to you. You will begin to see life more in the fullness of its own essence. Life in its more original state, free from ideas and beliefs, is one that shines with a divine light that is ripe with the most amazing possibilities. You will begin to realize that the light that you see in front of you is none other than your very own Self.