A blog about yoga, life, health and healing.
The famous philosopher, Renee Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am".
I guess he was saying that he exists because he has thoughts?
I'm pretty sure the famous yogi, Patanjali would have said otherwise. He might have said, "I think, therefore I forget who I am."
According to yoga philosophy, our thinking has the potential to cause us great confusion and suffering. Yogis compare our thoughts to waves in a rough sea. The turbulent salt water prevents us from seeing the stillness that lies at bottom of the ocean. Our turbulent minds prevent us from seeing the stillness that lies underneath our judgments, comparisons, stories, and incessant thinking.
Our thoughts cause us suffering when they are out of control. Just think of a time when you couldn't get a thought, worry, or story out of your head. A racing mind can interfere with your sleep or take you away from the present when you are awake.
The yogis believed that deep inside we actually have an inner awareness that is separate from the layer of our mind. This center is always peaceful, always aware, and always wise. This unchanging center is who we are.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the stories that race through our mind that we begin to think we actually are our thoughts. The stories that we tell ourselves and the labels that we give ourselves can run our lives. We start to think the voice in our head that is constantly talking, judging, and projecting is who we are. If we take a step back from our thoughts, we may realize that the awareness that lies underneath our turbulent mind is actually who we are.
If we can access this place, we will be free from the constantly changing nature of our bodies, minds, and experiences.
If you spend a moment, an hour, or a day just listening to all the conversation that takes place inside your own head, you will realize how fickle your mind can be. It jumps from one thought to another and then back again.
Michael Singer, author of, The Untethered Soul suggests that we, "Practice detaching from our physical, emotional, and mental experiences." He goes on to advise that we, "Notice who is experiencing the experience." He says, "You will then realize that the one who experiences the experience is separate and has a conscious awareness of what is happening to you in your physical, emotional, and mental body."
Taking some time every day to sit quietly in meditation or any other practice that helps you to quiet your mind will help you let go the constant chatter.
The great yogi, Rahamana Maharishi, said, "the way to attain inner freedom is to continuously and sincerely ask the question, "Who am I?"
Maybe a good place to start is to list who you are not.
You are not your mind. (sorry Descartes)
You are not your body.
You are not your emotions.
You are not your experiences.
Ask again, "Who am I ?" and then repeat the following...
"I am the one who sees. From back in here somewhere I look out and I am aware of the events, thoughts, and emotions that pass before me."
When you are established in who you are deep inside and live from that place, you will remain centered, steady, and present regardless of the changes that life brings.
The past couple of weeks have been very difficult for the community that I live in.
Two young men, (boys really) died as a result of a heroin overdose.
When a tragedy like this happens, people can go two different ways...
Either they open their hearts in support and feel sorrow and compassion for the families that were not able to save their child from drug addiction.
They close their hearts in fear and believe that they are immune to such a horrible tragedy because they are "good parents".
I saw both reactions over the past few days. My initial response was to get angry at those who chose to look at the tragedy as something that happens to someone else, more specifically to someone who "didn't parent well enough".
My heart was broken for the families who lost their children to this awful drug. My anger towards those who sat in judgement of those families consumed me for longer than I wanted it to.
Then I remembered that in Conversations with God, An Uncommon Dialogue, author Neale Donald Walsh says that there are only two emotions that underlie all thoughts, all words, and all actions. Everything we think, say, or do stems from these two basic emotions.
They are LOVE and FEAR.
With this in mind, I began to understand that those who chose to react with judgement were afraid. Afraid to see the truth in the reality that no one is immune from tragedy and that much of life is beyond our control. That no matter how hard we try to make things perfect and do the right things, we can still suffer terrible losses. In fact we WILL still suffer terrible losses.
This hard truth can be scary as hell, but we have a choice of how we will live with this truth.
We can choose to live our lives from a place of LOVE...... or we can choose to live our lives from a place of FEAR.
When we live from a fearful place, we can project our fear onto others by judging them, comparing our lives to theirs, or competing with them. We close our hearts and our eyes to the pain and fear that resides in us to avoid having to face the uncertainty of life.
When we choose to live from a loving place, we are empathetic, understanding, and accepting of others as well as ourselves. We open our hearts and our eyes despite the pain and fear that resides in us, and we face the uncertainty of life with faith and humility.
Becoming aware of the underlying fear in people helped me to let go of my anger towards those who judged the parents of the young men who died. I can honestly say that I feel sorry for them. They are missing out on so much by living in fear.
My hope for us all is that when, "fear knocks on the door, love will answer."
There is a story about a Zen master who takes his student to the edge of a pond and asks him how many fish he sees.
The student looks in the pond and says, "I see ten."
The master says, "Good, now how many ponds do you see?"
The student is a bit surprised by the obvious question, but he answers, "There is one pond master." The master says, "Count again."
The student looks at the single pond in front of him and is perplexed by the question. After some time and reflection, he finds the answer. "Master, there are ten ponds. Each fish has their own pond through which they see the world."
The Zen story teaches that we each have our own unique and sometimes limited perspective on the world as a result of our experiences, upbringing, teachers, etc. (our own pond). It is from this place that we interact with others.
In the Four Agreements, A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, the second agreement says,
"Don't take things personally; What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be a victim of needless suffering."
When you don't take things personally, if someone hurts you, judges you, or is unkind, you will know that it is because they are seeing you through their limited perspective which is directly affected by their state of happiness or unhappiness. ie... They are projecting what is going on inside of their hearts and minds onto you.
Understanding this can help you avoid taking to heart what others think and say about you, which can leave you feeling wounded and unhappy. We are all ultimately responsible only for what goes on in our own minds and hearts.
Not taking things personally doesn't mean that you will not react or take action when someone hurts you, but you will be clear and responsible for the actions that you take. Sometimes the best action to take is to speak up against those who have hurt you, other times the best action is to just walk away.
Being hurt by another is never easy, but if we attack the one who hurt us or close our hearts in fear, we are perpetuating the belief that what was said or done was about us. In reality it is always a direct reflection of the person who said it and had nothing to do with us at all.
Forgiving another for the pain they have caused and having compassion for their limitations will help us to heal our wounds more quickly and move on.
Being aware and mindful of our own personal "pond" is a constant practice that when attended to will bring us more happiness, peace, love, and joy.
All Abhyasa Ahimsa Aparigraha Asmita-Ego Attachment Baron Baptiste Beginner's Mind Bramacharya Carl Jung Clear Seeing Colorless Comfortable Discomfort Creating Spaciousness In Mind And Body Cultivate The Opposite Deepak Chopra Dharma Empty Your Cup Enthusiasm Equanimity Family Fight Or Flight Great Vows Inner-awareness Inner Critic John Kabbatzinnb2faff332d Listening Mirrors To Ourselves Monkey Hunting Non Stealing Patanjali Pause Pillar Pleasure And Pain Posseses Us Practice Pratipaksa Bhavana Pratyahara Present Moment Present Moment Awareness Respond Instead Of React Samadhi Samskara Santosha Satya Sauca Sensual Pleasures Shadow Side Spirituality Steadiness And Ease Sthira And Sukha Strength Sustained Attention Svadhyaya There You Are Thich Nat Hahn This Too Shall Pass True Self Uncertainty Universal Truth What We Possess Wherever You Go Wisdom Yoga Philosophy Yoga Sutra 1. 14 Yoga Sutra 1.33 Yoga Sutra 2.33 Yoga Sutra 2 37cfe9965fa2 Yoga Sutra 2. 46 Yoga Sutras