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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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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Spirituality is bread bags on my feet

sled wipe out

I haven’t had much chance to embrace some of the winter weather traditions my mother passed onto us when my brother and I were kids, since it’s been in the mid-seventies here in Atlanta.  But, this time of year makes me nostalgic nonetheless, and for me simple memories are often what bring me serenity.  It may not be a Rumi poem, but my heart fills with love and joy and that’s the ultimate sankalpa or ‘purpose’, isn’t it?  When you hear some of the most spiritual leaders and teachers speak, they’ll often tell you that spirituality isn’t always a surreal, out-of-body experience.  Spirituality is often being at home with your human-ness and embracing the simplest experiences with love.

When we were little, my mom would prepare us for sled riding as if we were headed to base camp at Mt. Everest.  Among the 30 minute long ritual that had us feeling restricted and sweaty were wrapping our feet in Wonderbread bags before putting on our boots to keep our tootsies warm and dry.  At the time it seemed silly and unnecessary, but we were suited in enough winter armor that we could play for hours without getting frostbite or even chilled.

We would come home kick of our sopping boots and snow suits in the mudroom, and march upstairs with static cling hair and red cheeks where my mother would greet us with hot cocoa or soup. I actually get teary-eyed and my heart swells when I think about those days. So, for me, I catch glimpses of the divine through these memories. Pure, joyful bliss.

There are tons of unique family traditions we still practice today around the holidays like fondue on Christmas Eve, spending time together on boxing day, and playing board games like Scrabble and Scattergories after dessert on Christmas day. And even though we can all get on each other’s nerves (let’s face it, family time can be trying), we do love being together and celebrating the holidays in our ‘old-fashioned’ way. And, to me, THAT is spirituality incarnate.

As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo:Flickr)

The Power of Expectation

Acceptance.

We talk a lot about letting go of expectation in yoga.  Expectation of others, and expectations of ourselves.  But, part of being human is recognizing that we do have certain expectations that we can either let go or learn to shift.  But here’s a different perspective on the power of acceptance for what is vs. expectation from ourselves and in relationships from one of my favorite bloggers, Janis Cohen, LCSW.  Expectations are a part of all relationships, including the relationship you have with yourself.  They are the deal breakers.

You expect others to be a certain way and, if you are intuitive enough, you get what you expect by expecting the right things from the right people.

Read the full post, “The Power of Expectation” on The Human Experience blog.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Photo credit: Pinterest

Please return your seat to its upright soulful position

woman's soul in a treeAfter about a half a year of introspection mixed with a shift in intention after going through yoga teacher training, I recently decided to unplug and get away from my environment for a few days to just “sit with myself.”  As a nation of stimulus addicts, we’re often unaware of how promiscuous we are with our senses in an effort to avoid being with ourselves.   Televisions, computers, smartphones, iPads, DVRs have invaded our consciousness within the last decade with such vigor that it has become quite unsettling.

These technological means we use to ‘distract’ ourselves have created a cycle of addiction like caffeine, and we no longer know how to just ‘be.’  We aren’t comfortable in our own company alone.  In fact, when we do have everything turned off, we fill the void with an incessant inner monologue that can very quickly spin us up into a state of fear.

So, I got away from the electromagnetic storm of the city, and found myself in a remote town in the north Georgia mountains  with no telephone, no television, no stereo.  Just quiet and me.   Continue reading

The breath inside the breath

Are you looking for me?
I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is against yours.
you will not find me in the stupas,
not in Indian shrine rooms,
nor in synagogues,
nor in cathedrals:
not in masses,
nor kirtans,
not in legs winding around your own neck,
nor in eating nothing but vegetables.
When you really look for me,
you will see me instantly —
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.”
― Kabir

Namste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Photo credit: Pinterest