Tag Archives: exploration

Never Done Learning

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I think I’ve found the answer
but then I’m left with more questions,
always more.
Depending on my mind state,
this is good news or terrible.
Questions are open doors
leading to new worlds,
and I do love exploring—
but sometimes
I just want to feel safe.
Sometimes
I just want to be held
in a safe little world
I understand.
How then to make peace
with the questions
and love them
like treasure chests
as we crack them open
to reveal the jewels inside?
How to use this currency
to travel to faraway places
and expand even more?
One thing is for sure:
I’m learning every day
that I’ll never be done learning.

Knowing the Inner World

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In this century, human knowledge is extremely expanded and developed but this is mainly knowledge of the external world…We spend a large amount of the best human brain power looking outside–too much, and it seems we do not spend adequate effort to look within, to think inwardly…Perhaps now that the Western sciences have reached down into the atom and out into the cosmos finally to realize the extreme vulnerability of all life and value, it is becoming credible, even obvious, that the Inner Science is of supreme importance.  Certainly physics designed the bombs, biology the germ warfare, chemistry the nerve gas and so on, but it will be the unhealthy emotions of individuals that will trigger these horrors.  These emotions can only be controlled, reshaped, and rechanneled, by technologies developed from successful Inner Science.

The Dalai Lama

What would this world look like if all people had the tools and the motivation to skillfully navigate their inner landscape?  How many of the ills that plague us as a society would simply cease to exist if we understood that our thoughts, words, and actions are but reflections of the infinite creative power that we carry within us?  And what would happen if we choose to mindfully channel this creative power to live in harmony with the natural world while getting our needs met with elegance and ease?  You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

My sincere wish as yoga teacher is to help individuals return to awareness of their infinite nature so that they might align their thoughts, words and deeds with a greater purpose and act for the benefit and the enlightenment of all beings.  This might seem like a lofty goal, especially when we’re nearly constantly being inundated with messages that the world is going to hell in  handbasket…but I have seen first hand how just a moment of deep, rhythmic, mindful breathing can bring about great and nearly instantaneous transformation, and so I have great hope.  If just a moment of mindful breathing can effect such wonderful change, imagine what many such moments could do!

Do you have a regular practice that takes you inwards?  If you don’t, are you interested in cultivating such a practice?  Let me reassure you right away that I completely understand how hard it is to commit to a regular practice, given the many demands that are placed upon our time and energy every day.  Let me also reassure you that I will not judge you for not having a practice, not continuing a practice, or simply not wanting to engage in a practice in the first place–I’m just wanting to share a little of the possibilities that exist out there, should you have any interest at all in exploring them.

First of all, a practice of going inwards doesn’t have to take a specific form.  I recommend exploring lots of different methods and paying attention to which ones resonate with you.  Just as we all have different bodies and must sometimes try on many different outfits before finding one that fits us just right, so do we all have different inner worlds, and there is no one proscribed way of going inwards that will work for every person out there.

Secondly, an exploration of the inner world doesn’t have to involve a huge commitment of time.  I ask my students if they have five minutes a day that they can take for themselves.  I also say, “If you believe that you are so busy that you can’t take five minutes for your health and well-being, you might want to take a good look at your priorities.”

It can be as simple as sitting down and paying attention to your breathing for five minutes.  When do you know that you’re ready to add more time to your practice?  Add more time when you begin to see that more time would be of benefit.  Add more time when you begin to notice that you are really wanting to show up for your practice.

Of course the mind that is stuck in the realm of the familiar will be fighting tooth and nail for you to never go inwards.  It will get grumpy, it will tell you stories about how tired you are, it will be pessimistic, it will be judgmental.  When the neurotic mind is telling you to stop practicing, this is a good sign that you’re finally getting somewhere.  It is sensing that its time is coming to a close, and not wanting to give up its position of power, it will try every trick in the book to keep you exactly where you are right now.

To establish a practice that carries you through the vacillations of life involves discipline, at least at the outset.  This doesn’t mean that you’re browbeating yourself into doing something that you think you should be doing–it means that you see the value in this work you’re doing, and you show up for it even when your tired, or feeling resistance, or feeling sick, or feeling doubtful.

The purpose of this practice of going inwards is so incredibly simple–to know who you are beyond the world that is always changing.  The environment around us is always changing, so the input from our senses is always changing.  Clearly our bodies and minds are always changing.  If we identify with that which is always changing, we will necessarily feel ill at ease, as if we live in a world of chaos, never able to know deep and abiding peace.  But when we go inwards beyond the body-mind identification, we touch upon a timeless, nameless, formless, unbounded expanse of awareness, and we remember that this is the source of peace.  This is the source of joy.  This is who we really are.

Knowing that we are not our bodies means that we can greet the inevitable changes of the aging process with dignity and grace.  Knowing that we are not our minds means that we can be in the presence of someone who disagrees with our point of view and we can still feel compassion, affection, kindness, and good will for that person, because they aren’t attacking US, they are simply talking about thoughts.

Being familiar with the inner world means that we can navigate the challenges of our daily lives remembering that this is all impermanent, and therefore worthy of being enjoyed, because it will all be gone sooner or later. Can you see the gift in living life this way?  Every moment is a chance to savor what we have.  Every moment a flower is blooming, a sun is rising, a heart is beating.  Every moment a flower is fading, a sun is setting, a heart is breaking–and all of it, ALL OF IT is a gift.

So how about it friends?  Why wait?  You can begin now, today, this practice of knowing your inner world–no less rich, no less vast, no less important and deserving of your time as the outer world.  You can begin now, in this moment, your journey back home to your infinite self.  Right now, in this moment, you can taste the eternity in you that exists beyond your body, your mind, the external world.

Just sit for a moment.  Set a timer for five minutes.  Close your eyes. Start breathing.  Whatever happens–bodily sensations, sounds, smells, temperature fluctuations…whatever happens–thoughts, memories, regrets, hopes, fears…whatever happens, just keep breathing.  The awareness that keeps calling you back to the breath knows what it is doing.  So trust it, and let it call you back home.  Come home and rest in the deep sea of peace that is your true self.  Discover that your inner world is the most marvelous gift you could give to yourself, and the most precious offering you could make to the world around you.

And then when the timer rings, jump up and dance, because you’re alive!  And then if you have one more minute to spare after dancing, tell me all about your journey, because I’d love to hear about it!

 

Where to Draw the Line?

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Where to Draw the Line?

Can someone tell me please,
where to draw the line between
self-indulgence and self-preservation?

As a mother and wife I am often called
to put the needs of others
before my own

And I am grateful for my little ones
and my husband,
don’t get me wrong…

But somehow, somewhere along the line
of  ancestors, we all sort of decided
that parenting needed to involve resentment
and marriage, alienation
and daily life, suffering…

What the what?

I have spent a lot of time unraveling
these lies from the fabric of my soul
and I refuse to believe the story
that I can’t be happy, truly happy
every day.

And I’m not talking about some kind
of artificial, blind happiness
that disregards the suffering of others,
even the suffering of self…

By “happy, truly happy”
I mean that every single day,
I look for the good in my husband,
my kids, this life, the people around me
I search for something to be really grateful for
I find a way to create something, even if it’s small
I connect with another human being,
even if it’s a smile shared in passing with someone I don’t know…

Searching for these things
I find reasons to be happy
and I remember my worth
and my purpose

I work hard to meet the needs of those around me
as well as my own,
to strike a balance between filling the roles
of mother, wife, teacher
and giving time to the intrepid explorer of my inner realms

And really, I think I give enough…
really, truly, I think I give enough…

Yet, sometimes those who are closest to me
become resentful somehow
(I think unconsciously)
when I spend
my time doing things that please me

As if there were some unwritten contract
authored by the shades of unhappy ancestors
that states,
“Above all, you shall not be happy,
above all, you shall not have a self,
above all, you must replicate our misery,
above all, you must shrink and hide
and be lonely in this cave of sorrow.”

Again, what the what?
I certainly did not sign off on that!

I choose to stand up and write
and sing
and breathe
and dance
and laugh
and sew
and eat
and nap (for god’s sake is that so wrong?)

I choose to meditate
and work at a fulfilling job
I choose to sit at this keyboard
typing these words,
because they help me to understand
the underlying order amid the
swirls of chaos
that life with two young children,
marriage with one husband
can create.

I think I have it pretty dialed in,
thank you very much

But, just for the sake of understanding,
to help shed a little light on
this dilemma of taking time for myself
when I could instead be folding laundry
or planning dinner–

When I get a sour face upon the announcement
that I will take time to write,
when I’m met with an argument
as I go upstairs to meditate

Can someone please tell me
where to draw the line between
self-indulgence and self-preservation?

 

Artwork and poem by Michael Leunig

Artwork by Michael Leunig

 

There I Go Trying Too Hard Again

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It doesn’t take much
and the self-doubt creeps in again
Yesterday I attended a yoga practice for myself
a very rare occurrence as I teach ten times per week
and the studio owner
who is also the head teacher
who is also my favorite teacher
was there
practicing  on her mat right beside me
the loudest voice in my head was the one saying
you’re not good enough
and you haven’t been practicing
and it shows
and you look foolish

what is up with that?
why is it so easy to doubt?
Yes, there was a sense of relief
to be freed of the duties of wife and mother and teacher,
for just a while freed of all demands others place on me
but the demands in my own head now had a chance
to yell louder, louder than my own children
could ever yell.
Distracting to the point that I almost couldn’t enjoy my practice.
Almost.
I managed to enjoy it anyway.

And now this blog…
I told myself
I promised myself
I convinced myself
that I wouldn’t pay any mind to stats
how many followers, how many likes,
how many comments, how many visits
I believed that I could manage
to make this blogging experience
an easygoing side project
a way to explore myself creatively
a way to be free creatively
without the usual pressure I put on myself
to be good, to perform, to be successful.
I told myself that I could even remain
somewhat anonymous
and indifferent to the opinions of others.
I lied.

I do care, and now I see myself trying.
There I go trying too hard again,
because some voice within
a very old voice
a scared voice
from some ancestor centuries ago
that never quite had his/her needs met
that voice is saying,
try harder, you need to make this work
your life depends on it.
you need to be loved, appreciated,
wanted, celebrated
you need to be venerated
your virtues extolled
you need to be worshipped
or else this is all meaningless
and you are worth nothing.

What?
Why is this voice so all or nothing?
Why can’t I be mediocre?
Please, let me be mediocre,
because I certainly can’t be perfect,
the standards are way too high.
And I can’t be a total failure either,
because here I sit, still wondering,
exploring, having not given up
in spite of all of the fear.

I want to not try so hard.
I want to rest, and relax,
accept, be at peace.
I want to celebrate what I am able to do
acknowledge where I have room for improvement,
and do some work there, without shame or guilt,
incubate these young creative impulses and then
let them be born
like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis
or a baby bird from an egg,
flying when the time is right,
wings floating in space,
effortless and free.

About Myself: Lies, Truth, an Exploration

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Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was to construct a ten line poem, in which each line was a lie.  Hmmm.  I have been striving to be honest in thought, word, and deed for some time now; this seems like a basic quality of someone who wants to be a decent human being.  I have told many people that I couldn’t lie even if I wanted to, because I can’t keep a straight face and it would be so obvious that I would instantly give myself away.  I started to have trouble with this prompt, trouble because I couldn’t think of any lies besides the self-effacing ones I tell myself daily. And then I thought, “Okay. There has to be a poem in there somewhere.”

Lies I Tell Myself

You, Lorien, will never be good enough.
In fact, you are a miserable failure.
People don’t like you, because you aren’t likeable.
You will never attain the happiness you seek.
The efforts you are making lead nowhere.
You will always feel sad.
You will never be free.
You should give up.
You will never realize your highest potential.
You aren’t worth much.

Believe me. I am telling you the truth.

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On the other side of these self-denigrating lies, there is the truth of the glory that is in me. Recognizing this glory is far more of a stretch for me than rattling off all the hateful things my inner critic recites in the course of one day.  But in the world of duality, if there are lies, then there must be truths, positivity that is no less possible than the all too familiar negativity.  Positivity is a practice, and can become as rooted in my consciousness as the negativity that has hounded me for decades.  We can initiate the transformation of negative thoughts by entertaining the idea that the opposite is equally as viable.  Let us turn these lies around, then, and explore the diametric opposite of each one:

Truths About Myself

You, Lorien, are certainly good enough.
In fact, you are a great success.
People love you, because you are loveable.
You will undoubtedly attain the happiness you seek.
The efforts you are making will take you places.
You will feel happy.
You are always and forevermore free.
You should persevere.
You will realize your highest potential.
You are of great worth.

Believe me. I am telling you the truth.

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Exploration about Lies and Truths

Why is it so much easier to believe the negative things about myself?

Why do my faults seem so much more apparent than my qualities?
What is success, and what is failure?
What is loving and being loved?
What is happiness and sadness?
Where do I really want my efforts to take me?
What is freedom?
What is perseverance?
What is my highest potential?
Who decides worthiness and unworthiness?

Who or what should I believe?  What is truth?

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Afterword

It has slowly dawned on me that words will not suffice here.
Feelings cannot be contained, just as the wind cannot be contained.
All that matters is the asking of the questions,
and then cultivating a mind ready to live its way into the answers.
Patience now, as I sit with all of this.
Patience, as I recognize that I don’t know too much after all.
Relief, as I recognize that I don’t have to know anything,
that life is the greatest of teachers,
and I can embrace this process of living and learning
with humor, with detachment, with faith,
resting in the certainty that if I fall,
I can get up and try, try again.