What follows is an attempt to summarize the words of wisdom that I have been posting on www.2020yoga.com since September of this year. I will do my best to weave together as many wisdom lessons from those posts so that you can experience them in a fresh way. Throughout this writing, I have added hyperlinks so you can reference the older blog entries for more details.
Where should we start? Let me begin by making the first point that it all starts with you. I learned this the hard way. Years ago I had crabby back pain that would not go away. I thought he or she would fix me. I paid thousands of dollars to massage therapists or acupuncturists in the hopes that someone would be God-like and make manifest my wish to be free of this debilitating issue. This was a blurry and unfocused way to see. Who else would ever be more responsible for my pain than me? Perfecting my lens on life started with a deep level of personal responsibility. So, I want you to self-reflect and ask yourself, how consciously responsible are you for your physical, mental and spiritual well being? But here's a little caveat, if you answer with your ego, it will likely give you the benefit of the doubt, and you might not see any need for change. If you answer with your witness, the observer, the unchanging side of you, the one who watches without the coloring of the ego, it will shine a perspective which is closer to pure truth.
Years ago, I made this shift in seeing and that is when the healing began to accelerate. My choices towards this goal became more conscious and intentional. I created a resolve (or sankalpa) that "I live pain-free." I began to dedicate more time to my inner life and asked the self-reflection questions:
"what am I not seeing?"
"what patterns of thinking are holding me back?"
At this turning point, I gathered a sense of controlled urgency around my desire to live a more abundant life. I heard the calling that this body/mind is too precious. I wanted to do all I could to not only heal it but to thrive in it.
The point is... YOU must live with intentional action if you are going to live to your highest potential. Action connected to intention takes awareness and awareness takes practice.
Self-reflect for a moment, how intentional are you currently living? Are you aware of how your thoughts, both negative and positive, and how they are becoming your reality? The truth is, what you focus on is what you become, so ask yourself, what is drawing your attention and is THAT your current reality?
The yoga I found in the midst of my back pain is called ParaYoga created by Rod Stryker. Its roots are in the deeper traditions of yoga where its aim is not to stretch the body or master a pose but to uncover the purpose of your life and root out the aspects of yourself that no longer serves the higher purpose. How can this be done both effectively and efficiently? By mindfully agitating the body and mind (i know, that seems odd right?) so we can wake it up to the part of the self that you have yet to connect with fully. That is what happens when you simply put yourself in a yoga posture, and you focus on creating a smooth and circular breath. It's easier said than done. In yoga, we call this work "tapas," and this technique becomes a way to move you towards intentional discomfort in your practice so you can bare the raw reality of the body and mind and then learn to make peace with it. (I'm skipping a few steps in there just to keep things moving along.)
The point is...if you want to grow, you have to go someplace you have never been in your body and mind to discover something new.
This process often begins on a physical level and connecting more richly to your body. That is where I began with my back pain. Getting a Ph.D. in your nervous system and breathing would be a game changer. Understanding how you can consciously relax (corpse pose) would dramatically improve your life. Knowing how the mind works through contemplative practices and meditation would give your life a whole new spin. As I dove deeper into my physical pain, I learned that it wasn't deep enough and to heal it, I needed to confront this pain from every angle - body, mind, and spirit. As I was getting my teaching certification in ParaYoga with Rod Stryker, I was simultaneously healing my body and mind. ParaYoga and its many varied disciplines were exposing me to the vastness of yoga's healing potential.
The point is...yoga is not just something you do (like mastering a pose or stretching the hamstrings) but a state you reach and sustain.
The most significant truth we all have to face in our journey of inner awakening, is how sensitive we are willing to become to the body-mind, and then, how often we will honor that truth and do what we know is right? Because, on a deeper level, we all know the answers to live to our fullest potential. The yoga I practice today, and the yoga that finally healed my ten year battle with back pain, made me slow down, grow the witness, see more of the mind, helped still the mind, and guided me to take right actions that were in alignment with my purpose on earth.
The point is...ask yourself if what you are practicing now (and it doesn't have to be yoga) is getting you closer to your purpose and living a life of freedom and fulfillment?
But here IS another point...what changed my life the MOST was the choice to consistently go inward (daily practice) and make time to understand how to connect to this gift of the body and mind. To be honest, the road for everyone is so curvy, bumpy and unpredictable; I can't give you the "Fast and Easy 5 Step Guide to Heal Your Pain." (Believe me, I have tried and so many others have as well!) We are all so uniquely different, so the best advice I can give is "do what works for you." But there is another caveat to that advice: what feels good doesn't mean it IS good. So to balance this advice out, you need to have a set of teacher's eyes who will confirm the truth of your gut but also ask you to go deeper by gently waking you up and shaping a new reality or new lens on life to see more clearly.
Ok, so here is THE FINAL POINT. This whole process may well start with you, but it does not end with you. It ends with something a lot greater than the you that you think you know. (you might need to read that sentence again. :)
To see clearly, 20/20, (pain-free seeing, which is possible for all) you have to see a different you than the one you know now, a new you with all your untapped potential. This new you is free of physical or mental pain, has a wide and accessible lens on life, is open and receptive, focused and intentional, awake and vibrantly pulsing with the inner knowing that in the end IT'S NOT ABOUT ME, but about the whole of something greater than yourself. That WHOLE is the entire universal consciousness that had manifested over billions of years by the Divine, the consciousness that pulsed before you were here and will pulse after you are gone. You are just a temporary visitor. The more you can live fully in that truth, the more you will do all you can to be fully present to it all. That is where joy can blossom and live authentically inside you.
Final thought here for 2017...
Each day, awake to the awareness that you are here, that life exists and that today, you can, will and must contribute a verse. The question is, what will your verse be?
Please, take a few moments now to share you end of the year reflections below.