How to experience peace in one step

Practice letting go of your suffering everyday.

Easier said than done right? Maybe. Maybe not. In Buddhism, one of the Four Noble Truths is to acknowledge that we suffer. And the path to enlightenment is to find the source of that suffering, acknowledge it and let it go.

Let go or be dragged

I recently did a ‘Neti Neti’ meditation with David Wagner. Neti Neti in sanskrit means ‘not this, not this.’ The focus of the meditation was on all of the things we aren’t. We are not our stuff, our thoughts, even our bodies. We are the ones who dwell within.

In thinking about how to separate my ‘Self’ from my stuff (material & otherwise), I always come back to rediscovering myself as the watcher.

It’s easy to get caught up in mind activity, especially when it’s turbulent. But, I’m truly in touch with myself, when I’m the one watching the turbulence. That is to say that rather than trying to stop the chaotic thoughts, take a back seat and watch.

When you notice that you’re anxious or your shoulder hurts, for example, YOU or your ‘SELF’ is the one who sees it. You are NOT the hurt shoulder, you are the one who notices.

Seems a little too obscure? Try this beautiful practice from Thich Nhat Hanh in ‘The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching.” When you’re feeling pain such as fear or anger, imagine it as a baby. You are the holder of the suffering. You can give it the presence it requires by acknowledging it, not shoving it away. And then you can put it down – sated.

If you’re meditating and your mind wanders, observe (without judgement) that you are meditating and your mind is wandering.  YOU are the one observing.

And here’s the tricky part, acknowledge that everything is temporary – pain,  happiness, hunger, satiety – all of it is transient.  So, you don’t have to cling to any of it.  And letting go of that clinging is another way of stopping the cycle of your own suffering.

Ready to stop suffering?  The path to peace IS the peace.

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‘No’ is a complete sentence

No

If you’re like me, you’re a people-pleaser.  You’d rather avoid disappointing someone, so you say yes to more than you should.  You’re afraid someone might think you’re not a good friend, employee, sister, aunt, yoga teacher, etc. if you say no.  The reality is, you can’t be everything to everyone.  And if you think you can. you’re probably not truly ‘being there’ for anyone, especially yourself.

A while ago, I had a conversation with a friend about a situation in which I felt guilty for saying no.  I decided to put myself first for once, and said no to substituting a yoga class. The person who asked gave me some “not-so-subtle” non-verbal cues to let me know of their disappointment.   I found myself trying to justify my decision, when in reality it was the other person’s issue, not mine.  They were upset that they’d be inconvenienced, and yet I somehow took on the responsibility and the guilt (my issue).  WRONG.

What my friend said to me when I told her the story was, “No, is a complete sentence.”  It was so simple, and it made me start to think about how many times I’ve felt incredibly guilty for saying no or putting myself first. How many times did I rehearse a conversation in my head or replay one to see how I could say no with the least amount of hurt feelings? There were a lot.

So, how do we walk the line of being charitable and giving of ourselves without depleting our energy? What I’ve found out is that the people in your life who really care about you, don’t love you because what you can do for them.  They just love you.  The art of saying no will also reveal who really is in it just for them.  Saying no recently led me to lose someone as a friend which tells me they weren’t really much of a friend at all.

In yoga, bramacharya is often — mistakenly — thought of as ‘chastity’ or a preservation of one’s sexual energy.  But it’s really about moderating all of our energetic resources; allocating them consciously.

Many of us need to learn to conserve our personal energy as much as we try to conserve the electricity in hour homes. When we do, our personal energetic battery has a chance to recharge.  Then we truly CAN be there for others in a deliberate, complete, loving way.  When you are at your most joyous and fulfilled, you will bring that light to everyone you meet.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Photo: Ecosalon

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Are we afraid to just be happy?

relaxed frog

There are so many ‘happiness solutions’ out there today – from books to seminars to pills – promising that joy is just a spend away. We all want happiness as if it’s something that we have to save up to buy or earn.

In fact, I had a conversation with a mentor recently about finding peace through sacrifice. She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind, “What?”

“I mean, there are so many people that need so much and I can help. I feel selfish if I’ve got some downtime and I’m not using it to help someone in need or contribute in some way,” I said, “I mean if I want to be a truly spiritual person, shouldn’t I always be looking at how I can be of service? Look at Buddha, Jesus, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, and everyone else who sacrifices themselves for others.”

She looked at me, and said, “We can’t all be Jesus.  And, I think that you doing things that bring you joy (whatever that is) brings joy to everyone around you.  And that joy ripples through everything you’re connected to.”

And there it was in my face. I realized that I was afraid to just do things that made me happy for fear that I was being less of a spiritual being.

We work so hard to achieve happiness, and yet, it’s always with us. Peace isn’t something that we have to earn by suffering, it’s there in spite of suffering.  We’re living longer and yet, don’t live much at all.

To quote George Carlin, “We’ve added years to life not life to years.”

Do you have to stop ‘giving back’? No.  But you can be of service in so many ways without sacrificing your own health and happiness.

No matter how someone approaches me or what they ask, I try to think to myself, “How can I be helpful?”

Sometimes that means I stop what I’m doing, and help carry something heavy for my neighbor, help a friend, or donate money or time.

And sometimes being helpful to others starts with being helpful to yourself first.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Wikimusiquita)

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What pain can teach us about not suffering

quote about surrender

In Buddhism, suffering refers to a dissatisfaction with what is, or conversely, an attachment to what isn’t. And, to release ourselves from suffering, we must recognize that life is impermanent, and relinquish attachment to a certain want or result.

In Christianity, the concept of faith plays out by relinquishing control to God.  Putting faith in the fact that God has a plan.

When it comes to physical pain, we often make matters worse by creating additional suffering. The Buddha compares being afflicted with bodily pain to being struck by an arrow. Adding mental pain (aversion, displeasure, depression, or self-pity) to physical pain is like being hit by a second arrow. The wise person stops with the first arrow.

There are tales of Buddhist monks with cancer or other chronic illness that are in pain and yet, they experience serene peace.

I tried to test this concept of ‘letting go’ on myself when I was sick recently.  There were moments when my head hurt really bad, or I was upset about being sick, or angry with my body and the hand ‘I’ve been dealt,” and I tried to melt into the emotion and sensation, become one with it instead of fight it.  However brief, the pain lessened as I gave up the struggle with what was actually happening physically.

It’s the emotional equivalent of unclenching your fists.  Try this: physically stiffen everything in your body, make fists, squish your face, hold your breath.  This is struggle.  Now, let go.  This is surrender.  Which one feels better, more at peace?

Surrender can take many forms: prayer, meditation, emotional release, expression, forgiveness, and acceptance. Sometimes just saying the words out loud, “I surrender,” can help.

All pain can teach us something, we just have to be willing to try and find the opportunity for faith and healing instead of firing another arrow at ourselves.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Photo: Pinterest

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Go ahead and ‘What if?’

What i

Most of us spend the majority of our time living in either the past or the future.  Neither of these states actually exist, nor can we control them.  This lack of control of something we CAN’T leads to a cycle of suffering marked by anxiety, guilt, fear, or self-judgement.

Phrases like ‘I should have’ or ‘I shouldn’t have’ indicate we’re reliving something that has passed and yet, we can’t let go. If you let the mind keep up this pace, you’ll end up shoulding all over yourself.

And, the ‘What ifs?’ can quite literally paralyze us from moving forward in life for fear that something bad will happen.

So, what happens when we answer ourselves with the opposite or confirm that the decision we have made is already done?  We find a little peace.

The next time you find yourself feeling guilty about something, find the ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ statement at the heart of the suffering, and simply answer ‘Oh well, I didn’t’ or ‘Oh well, I did,’ and sit with it.  No need for self-flagellation, just acknowledgement and taking responsibility.  Then let it go.

If you find yourself feeling worry or fear, find the ‘what if’ and throw in the opposite just for kicks.  ‘What if I ask her and she rejects me?’

‘What if she doesn’t?’

‘What if I fail?’

‘What if you succeed?’

‘What if I die alone?’

‘What if you don’t?’

I’m not suggesting that you get caught up in another future state wormhole in which you pontificate scenarios that don’t yet exist, but rather, offer up your ego both sides of the argument it’s making when it tries to take you down.

Living in the present takes effort and discipline.  Don’t let your mind run over you like a spoiled child.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: MrWallpaper)

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Emotions are like blood sugar

emotional sugar cubes

Since I was a kid, I’ve had to ‘watch’ my blood sugar. If I don’t eat regularly or try to maintain a healthy level, I can get quite cranky. In fact, an ex of mine used to joke that if I didn’t get fed when I was hungry, our whole relationship was on the rocks.

It’s well known that the key to maintaining a healthy weight and eating regimen is keeping blood sugar even.  If you don’t, it can drop.  If you eat the wrong foods, it can peak and send you crashing later. It’s the same thing with our emotions.

Emotions can peak and valley superficially depending on the story we attach to our feelings, and our ability to recognize when they’re ruling us.

The old adage ‘this too shall pass’ is something we often bring to mind when something terrible has happened. But, an astute teacher once told me that we should exercise the same recognition of fleeting feelings of happiness.  Not in a doom in gloom kind of way, but rather noticing that feelings are transient.  It’s when we attach our story to those feelings that the out of control ’emotional blood sugar’ takes over.

Our minds have a fascinating way of taking us on a roller coaster ride, if we let them. The key is training your mind not to indulge in every pleasingly sugary experience or ride the hill of fear at the detriment of your peace.

Know what you feel, and that you feel, and that feelings are finite.  Know that you are bigger than your emotions and there is peace in riding them to the shore.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Pinterest)

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Let’s pretend life is a cassette tape

mixed tape

If you’re over the age of 25, you probably remember listening to music on cassette tapes and the awesomeness and tribulations that went with it.

Skipping forward wasn’t as easy as pressing an arrow, there was skill involved.  Go too far, and you missed the awesome intro of Danger Zone.  Stop short, and you’re playing a game of trying to find the exact end of the song.

The beauty was that we didn’t realize how life was pacing us vs. today, when we try to out-pace life.  You appreciated the next song and the anticipation WAS the journey.

So, just for today, see if you can bring awareness to the times you’re trying to ‘skip to the next song’ and allow yourself to wait it out.  I promise, the next moment is there – live in this one.

Namaste,

– Your Totally Awesome Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Mark Wisz)

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Be nice to the scary clown

cant sleep clown will eat me bart simpson

When I was little, I was horrified of clowns. Truthfully they still unsettle me a little bit.

I don’t know how or when it started, but when I think about it anything that falls into the “adult dressed as giant cartoon character” genre put me off.

The funny thing was I had this belief that if I had a clown, and took very good care of it, somehow I would be protected by the evil of all clowns.

So, I would go above and beyond the call of niceness to my clown doll even over other stuffed animals even though I was horrified by its unsettling smile. I would overcome my fear, by embracing it and trying to love it as a part of me.

As an adult I look back and laugh at the rationale of my five-year-old mind. And at the same time, I can find a thread of yogic wisdom in my childhood mentality.

As adults, we become conditioned by life to repel situations that make us uncomfortable or create anxiety. As a child I not only embraced the notion of letting go of aversion, I surmounted it by holding my single largest fear closest to me; looking it squarely in the creepy face each night.

And while my motivation was more self-serving at first, (to avoid the wrath of all clowns by befriending one) I had eventually desensitized myself to the physical sensation and reactions of my clown-based fear. And Clarabelle became nothing more than another doll.

We can do this as adults too.  We can look our fears right in the eye,  realize that it’s our mind telling us to be afraid, accept the object for what it is, and create space around that fear.  Not space like a buffer to protect us, but the space that allows us to realize our fear is separate from ourselves.

Replace your fear with curiosity.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Pinterest)

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Don’t get a grip, lose it

loosen your grip, let go

Buddhists believe that life means suffering, a suffering of our own doing as human beings. They also believe that attachment or desire is the source of our suffering, and we can put an end to it. In yoga, non-attachment is one of the Yoga Sutras on the path to Samadhi or pure consciousness. In Christianity it’s called faith.  Trust in God and you can let go.  And we know this.  Innately, we all know this, but it’s hard to let go isn’t it?

Attachment is desire, desire is expectation, expectation is non-presence, and living in non-presence creates suffering. Attachment doesn’t just mean physical holding, but the expectation of anything, which inevitably leads to either disappointment (suffering) or transient happiness (not joy).

The next time you find yourself anxious, angry or even amorous, see if you can find the attachment. Where is the ego driving the bus?  Can you   allow yourself to let go, just a little?  Make space for the next time you need to let go.

“Loosen your grasp a little, and remember: whatever you hold onto is already dead, because it is past. Die to every moment and you will discover the gate to unending life.” ~Deepak Chopra

Holding onto what ISN’T is like trying to bottle lightning. Lose your death grip on the reality your mind has created, and fall into the abliss.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Shiny  Starlight)

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Walk the plank of life with acceptance

walking the plank

It’s funny how life has a way of smacking you upside the head with messages if you’re awake to them.  I shared a quote on Google+ that I saw recently, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” ~Thomas Jefferson. But then someone responded to my post with this and I loved it even more, “When you reach the end of your rope, Let Go.” ~Buddhism.

Acceptance can be tricky.  Easy to say, often hard to do. The catch-22 is that the one thing that is hardest for us to accept, will set us free when we do. Some people struggle with accepting divorce, others with loss, and others have a hard time accepting that their life just didn’t turn out like they thought it would, and it’s the struggle itself that causes much our suffering. For me, it’s managing a chronic illness. Continue reading