“At this age, everything is changing. Day by day we don’t notice, but just look back over the past year and you will realize everything has. People you thought were going to be there forever aren’t, and people you never imagined you’d be speaking to are now some of your closest friends. Life makes little sense, and the more we grow the less sense it will make. So make the most of it now, before it all changes once again, because in the near, all of this is only going to be memories.”—Anonymous (via bonus)
“If we take care of others, work for their happiness, we are automatically taking care of ourselves. Trying to make others happy is the best way of loving ourselves. Similarly, if we harm others, we harm ourselves…Things we do that bring happiness to others have a beneficial effect on our own minds.”—Lama Zopa, Virtue & Reality (via yoga9vipassana)
I am- forever working at, studying and experimenting with ways to bring more of what I want and less of want I don’t want. And through this investigation I hope to enable others to do the same. As a yoga instructor I manage to share only crumbs of this knowledge when I teach yoga asana. And much of what is learned is through felt experience with a simple life teaching to complement what students are doing in their physical practice.
I personally learn a great deal from intellectual knowledge that is delivered directly through the mind and the minds comprehension of a thought or idea. It is through my mind that I often can adjust and examine things that are not working. Of course there is a wonderful system of support that can be provided through bodily and more subtle energy shifts or the sub conscious mind- especially when the mind is stuck in old and stubborn pathways.
Having said that I believe completely that everyone must find there own way, and that what works for one is not a ubiquitous solution for all.
There are many great people who have managed to sum up and succinctly lay out steps, a path, a way to follow. At different times we may resonate with one teaching more than another. I currently am complimenting my yoga studies of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras with the teaching of a tantric lineage passed down through Rod Stryker http://www.parayoga.com/.
He teaches ancient techniques from a modern day understanding and with practical application. He speaks of and directly to the soul and encourages others through practices to clear away thoughts tapping directly into their soul to find answers that we all thrive on discovering.
According to tantric tradition, we will never truly be happy unless we are fulfilling our dharma. Dharma translates to duty. Rod’s speaks of a dharma that refers to the purpose of your soul. This is something that is imprinted into your DNA at the time of birth. It is your birth right, which is why unless you are fulfilling it you will always feel something is amiss.
According to Rod Stryker, who’s technique has worked and provided much insight into the subject of fulfillment; the way to discover your soul’s purpose comes from quieting the mind and listening to the place of intuition, creativity and sublime peace that is inside of you.
It is in that place of rest and effortlessness that you can come upon deep wisdom and begin to understand the things that you really want. The deepest part of yourself, the part of you that is not constantly fluctuating. Rather the place that is unwaveringly clear.
We all have a deep longing for our soul’s desire to be met. And this is your deepest dharma or purpose.
Lets not kid ourselves- life is an adventure and a battlefield, a windy undulating roller coaster at times. We advance along, sometimes uphill where we meet the current of gravity that seems to be pull us against our intended direction, armed with a helmet to protect us against the onslaught of turbulence as we rattle along. Sometimes with the wind behind us effortlessly gliding in a racer back tank and sun against our cheek.
We stand, and the world swirls around us, numerous unknowns lie ahead. We walk along and find things are not working out the way we had planned or anticipated. We find ourselves stuck, fearful of the future, burdened by the past, inhibited by what went wrong, constantly trying to protect ourselves. And in the process we push away, re-create, tell stories, fulfill our own self deprecating patterns. This is the battlefield. And whether you are a wealthy privledged CEO, or a poverty stricken slum dweller we are all prone to the same woes. One could argue the worlds wealthy suffer more from depression and anxiety than the those who were born into begging for food.
The battlefield exists in the world around us, and equally it is exists within us. We battle with ourselves despite the weather, our bank account balance, our relationship status, our career. We are really good at creating problems and stress out of the stories we tell. And this creates an external expression of chaos and resistance in what we see. Our rose coloured glasses can turn grey very quickly, and we create the battlefield for others to be our enemies.
Life is also an adventure and filled with awesome views, uplifiting interactions, heartfelt connection, rich and delightful experience that makes us beam with brilliance. This is the adventure. That it is both. It is both awe inspiring and sweet to taste, and can be gloomy and flavoured with bitterness.
The adventure is that we must advance along the path despite the arrows nearing towards us, picking ourselves up and brushing the dust off, getting back up, over and over again to continue on for more of the adventure. We never know when life could throw us a curve ball, but we also never know when life could hand us an effortless and generous serving of rare gems.
Sometimes we need to pick our selves up, dust ourselves off, stand up again, walk forward from all the little hurts, the disappointments, the unplanned detours, and refine ourselves with integrity to reveal the hidden gems that lie within our capacity.
Ya never know what could be around the next corner, it could be a valley or a peak. Life is an adventure afterall.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ December 13 Depression in Tulips ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
Happiness is a choice. It is based upon our mood, our point of view, our opinion of the facts of our life, not upon the facts of our life themselves.
A conversation I had recently:
A: Why can’t we just be happy?
B: It’s not meaningful if we don’t have to choose being happy.
A: Well, can’t we just move from happiness to more happiness?
B: Yes, of course. That’s what we’re all heading toward. But we learn the way of that by moving from despair to feeling good. That’s where we build the muscle.
A: How do you know we’re not supposed to be unhappy?
B: Said the ego.
B: We look at the world either through the eyes of the ego, or through the eyes of nature.
A: And you’re saying that being depressed is looking through the eyes of ego.
B: It’s not natural to be depressed. Imagine the headline: Plague of Depression Sweeps Tulips of Holland, and there are pictures of vast fields of tulips dying because there’s just no reason to go on. “Plant psychiatrist Alfred E. Newman says crop dusting with Lexapro the only hope.” Absurd, right?
To move from despair to happiness always requires, at some point, a choice: a choice to get up from the chair, to go to the store, to return a call, to write an email, to take a walk. If we cannot choose to be happy in a moment, at least we can choose to move, because that’s what happiness looks like: it’s on the move. When we find ourselves feeling better, on our way out of the field of despair, of depression, we will always be able to track back and see where the choice was made.
And these choices never are easy. We’re working against inertia. But it’s the fact they are not easy that makes them important, that builds the muscle that allows us to take it even further. To move in the direction of joy.
Today I will pick up the thousand pound phone and make that call. I will go to my cactus-keyed computer and write that email. I will insist on smiling one smile that is connected to my eyes, to my heart, to my gut and to another person.
"Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of life can contain your hearts. And stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of a temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow"Kahlil Gibran- The Prophet.
As I engage more actively in my life and hone in on what it is that makes me feel a sense of well-being and what it is that causes me strife. I realize that often times for me, and I venture to guess for many other humans- we are deeply affected by relationship with others. And as I explore this more fully in order to understand relationship dynamics, I also can see how the relationship we have with ourselves is then reflected in those with others. Simply put, if I am feeling crappy about myself, I am usually not the brightest and most optimistic person to be around, hence my relationships will be strained in some way. And it can become a bit of a cycle, where if my relationships are not positive then I am likely to feel crappy. So in essence- healthy relationship with others is inextricably linked with a healthy relationship with self.
As yoga practitioners, we embark on a path of self-inquiry, that is to see your patterns and habits, investigate your fears and limitations, and while it may not be a practical goal- in Classical Yoga that also means to inquire into the self to see the nature of ourselves which is liberated- our soul. Moving in that direction is all the same, the path to be more liberated from mental anxieties and uncertainty is the same path as the one to achieve the reflection of the soul.
And so we are partaking in a relationship with ourselves in an intimate and sometimes difficult way. And it is through this journey that we can develop a healthy self-relationship, as we begin to understand ourselves more fully. Where we can vulnerably acknowledge our unfruitful tendencies and see our behavior with a deeper understanding. This process will in turn foster healthy relationships with others as we begin to understand our selves we will then be able to make sense of others and their intricacies.
To go deeply into what a healthy relationship means, first we must define healthy:
It looks like the first use of this word was in 1545-55, so it’s been around a while. According to a few different dictionary sources: it is freedom from sickness and illness, possessing sound or vigorous mentality, appearance, attitude. Most of the definitions include the word health, assuming we already know what that word means. So if you look at the synonyms, there are: hearty, robust, nourishing, wholesome, conducive to wellbeing, attractive freshness (makes me laugh), purity. The antonym is simply: sick.
To me healthy pertains to body, mind, spirit, environment and relationship. The following are my definition of healthy in different areas.
Body: The bodies signal to indicate lack of health is manifested in symptoms of discomfort (headache, joint pain, fatigue, digestive upset, and sometimes don’t feel uncomfortable but can appear that way i.e. skin symptoms, tumors, cysts). When the body is healthy we are indeed without uncomfortable symptoms. We feel physically free of restriction and pain. Our digestion is efficient and regular, our energy is good, our body doesn’t signal us with alarm bells of pain. That being said, of course there are instances when the body is unwell and we don’t know it yet i.e cancer- but this too will eventually manifest itself in symptoms.
Mind: A healthy mind I like to expand beyond the allopathic paradigm. You may not need medication or to be sent to a mental facility as deemed by the medical community, however you may have unhealthy habits that restrict you from seeing things and experiencing life in an energetic, fulfilling, hearty, robust, resilient and nourishing way.
Spirit: A healthy spirit means that you have a healthy sense of who you are beyond your thinking head. And that you engage in practices to get in touch with the part of yourself that is without opinion, label, identity, aversion or attraction. When you are indeed quiet, you at peace with the part of yourself that resides deep inside yourself without the above mentioned, and when you can access this place, you are likely to be overcome with feelings of peace and contentment. In classical yoga this place is described as Purusha, consciousness, divine essence or the soul. And if that is something you don’t connect with- it is the place that feels quiet and restful inside of yourself.
Environment: To ignore our interaction with our surroundings that do not include other humans is to not include the whole picture. A healthy relationship with our environment includes many of the yama’s described in the 8 limb path of yoga. To be ahimsa: considerate, and non-harmful, asteya: non-stealing, to not take what does not belong to you, to practice aparigraha: non-greed- to not take more than what you need. We can think of this as not taking more resources than what is needed and to be mindful of what involved in getting things to you, and the social, economic and environmental implications of what we consume.
Relationship: And finally, healthy relationship does in fact mean there is equanimity of energy, fulfilling, hearty, and robust yes, nourishing also yes, and I think wholeness is an interesting one. As Kahlil Gibran so eloquently put: when joining together whether it be friendship, marriage, or relationship of any kind- may you be two wholes coming together, two pillars to hold up the temple, with spaces between you. “Love one another, but make not a bond of love, let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” So that one doesn’t complete the other, but instead there is a sharing of resources and equal give and take that feels balanced and nourishing from a place of I am already whole, and you make my life more joyous, and bright vs. I am half a person and you make me whole, and without you I am empty, and have no purpose.
And so as we partake in seeking a healthy self relationship our relationships with others will naturally and consequently become more fulfilling. This is also described in the Ethics and Observances in the 8 limb path of yoga. They directly influence each other, as we engage in the practices that cultivate a healthy dynamic with others (consideration, kindness, honesty, conservation of resources, energy, not taking what doesn’t belong to you) then we will in turn feel better about ourselves. And as we engage in practices with our selves (practicing gratitude and contentment, self-reflection, maintaining a clean space, and exercising our will towards a higher goal) we will culture rewarding and fulfilling relationships with others. As we do to the self, so we do to others. As we do to others so we do to ourselves. They are inextricably woven and inseparable.
The next time you feel inclined to act out negatively towards someone else consider not only how it will affect them, but also how in the end it will effect you. And if we desire healthy relationships around us, then the best thing we can do is to work on ourselves.