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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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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Follow those thoughts, and step on it!

In yoga, we often talk about non-attachment, particularly when it comes to our thoughts. But, sometimes it’s great to do some investigative reporting.

As is customary, I am reading several books at once.  One of them is Buddhist Bootcamp, by Timber Hawkeye.  As is also customary, I often highlight or capture in a journal those statements or quotes that I find compelling and transformative.

I find it refreshing that he suggests we f0llow our thoughts out of curiosity.

“Habitually contemplate whether your thoughts stem from love or from fear. If your thoughts originate in love, then follow them. If they originate from a place of fear, then dig deep to find the root of your fear.  Only then will you be able to finally let go, so fear no longer limits your possibilities.”

It’s quite fascinating when you follow your thoughts, judgements and emotional responses like a curious cat.  You may find that what you think may be a root cause for a preconception or fear, isn’t at all.

I’ve been trying to take Timber’s challenge a step further, and I pass that onto you.  Rather than stopping at finding out the source of your fear, continue your journey and see if you can find the source below the source.  See if you can illuminate the darkness with compassion.

For example, if you find yourself glowering at someone who’s annoying you, dig deep to find out what that feeling is really about.  Have the courage to look into how you may possess those qualities, accept them and find a wellspring of compassion.

It’s there.  I promise.

(Photo: Flickr / Dominique LaTour)

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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Don’t bury your head in the dirt

dog yard statueIt’s only natural to want to shy away from conflict or avoid facing issues that cause emotional discomfort. However, facing your fears head on first thing in the morning may be exactly what you need to do to break the cycle of suffering.

In addition to my daily yoga (asana) and meditation practice, I recently added a ‘wake-up’ meditation and body scan. Several months ago, after I’d started my regular morning practice, I noticed that I still had some bouts of anxiety during the day that I couldn’t figure out. So, I began to practice awareness as soon as I awoke, and found that it was just the ticket for quelling anxious feelings I didn’t even realize I was harboring.

Stress and anxiety are both natural states, and part of being human, but there is a simple remedy to ensure you start your day in as relaxed a state as possible — by greeting you with gratitude.

Too often, we jump out of bed, head straight for the shower, turn on the television, or down a cup of coffee. Our body is in fight or flight mode and it hasn’t even had a chance to acclimate. No wonder, there’s so much tension in western society. Tomorrow morning, try something different. Set your alarm for about five minutes earlier than usual to allow yourself time to feel what it’s like to wake up, instead of feeling like you’re under attack.

Before you even open your eyes, just softly bring your awareness back to your environment. Gently wiggle your fingers and toes. Reach your arms overhead for a nice stretch, and rub your hands together vigorously to make some heat before cupping them over your eyes. Then, just lie there and notice. Notice if you have any tension anywhere in the body. Notice if you feel dis-ease as soon as you come into the world, and welcome whatever sensations you experience. Say thank you to any physical or emotional feelings good or bad. This different type of awareness, one of gratitude, can quickly dissolve feelings of angst. Treat your morning wake up as gently as you would a long, restorative savasana, and you’ll eventually arise with calm.

Just yesterday, I was talking about this new practice to my mentor from teacher training, and she even suggested bringing your hand to that place on the body in which you’re feeling turbulence, and saying, “thank you.” I love this concept of truly connecting with the self through touch, presence and thankfulness.

In Buddhism, there are four central teachings known as the four noble truths. One of these is dukkha or suffering. The belief is that humans share a bond of suffering, and that living a life of dharma protects us from suffering. And, embracing suffering for the teacher that it is, with gratitude, is the first step toward peace.

We can’t all be boddhisattvas on day one, but when we begin to notice that we are experiencing dukkha at the hand of our own thoughts, and welcome all that is, we begin to live a life of presence — a life without suffering. So, don’t bury your head in the dirt to avoid pain, face it, embrace it and leave it.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi