Five years ago, Steve and I made what we felt was a huge shift in our lives. We quit our solid 9 to 5 jobs and decided to re-create ourselves. We now do massage, teach yoga, meditation and offer spiritual counseling sessions. Through these avenues, we open ourselves to service to others on a daily basis.
It sounds like the life I always wanted and it is. So why do I still wake up questioning myself and wondering if I am doing enough with my life? If you’re hoping for an answer to these questions in this article, you can stop reading now because I don’t know. But I am asking these questions daily and watching the process of my mind and spirit.
I meditate every day because I know it is shifting something inside me. I am calmer, less fear based and more present in my moments. Instead of thinking that meditation has let me down in finding my true center and sense of inner peace, I am realizing it is helping me see there are more layers around my heart that can be peeled back to discover my true essence.
The hard truth is: I can’t think my way out of this. Believe me I’ve tried. I come up with plans – such as… I will get up earlier, do more yoga, organize my practices like pranayama, chanting mantra, exercise, my diet……….
It is all good stuff and leads to a healthier me on many levels but what about the expectations I have? Expectations, or perhaps I should call them attachments. Am expecting some results from my actions? To expect to get something for your efforts sounds reasonable, right? You put in your time and effort and you get results.
How do we measure results from our spiritual practices? Can they be measured in the same way we measure our weight after working out for a period of time.
My solid answer here is: Maybe.
I know how I feel inside when I stay committed to certain practices in my life. For me sitting quietly every day and some form of daily movement do have effects. I find myself to be more resilient as I walk around in the outside world- the world where I interact with other beings.
How do I judge or measure something like this? I’ve noticed on the rare day when I don’t sit quietly or get enough movement; my judgement mind rears its head more quickly. If I’m driving, I have less patience in traffic and then realize I give my power over to someone who may have cut me off when in reality they don’t even know I exist.
The result is I feel pretty icky as I go through my day in contrast to the days I take the time to do what I need to prepare myself to engage outside of myself.
These results are hard to measure unless you take the time to know the difference between a reactive life and one where you are a conscious observer participating in whatever comes your way. And why not participate in where you are right now? It is the only moment you really have.
Recently I read something that said freedom comes from not wishing away the experience you are in – but being present in it. I find this to be true. We find ourselves saying, “I can’t wait until this day or event is over”. Instead of being there and having an experience, we are somewhere else in our head. That experience ‘in your head’ only exist there – in your frontal lobe, meanwhile your life moves on without you. We find ourselves saying, “Wow where has this year gone?” “Time is flying!”
Many of us say that time speeds up as we mature. Does it? Or do we just spend more time in our thoughts than in the real world around us? When you see something beautiful, say a flower, as you look at it, do you open yourself to the experience of the flower – its color, fragrance, the whole package as it presents itself right then? Or instead of really seeing this flower, do you think about other flowers? “It’s beautiful….what kind of flower is this?… I love roses…. What about Grandma’s roses? I have seen fuller roses even though this one is beautiful.” And our minds take us elsewhere! Children can be more in the present moment because they don’t have accumulated experiences to reference from the past and therefore get in the way. There is no grounds for judgment. They are just there in the presence of the flower or what ever it is that has captivated them. Our ego is on a journey of self preservation so it clings to the past to keep itself relevant, therefore it judges constantly. It fears us letting go of the known and moving into the unknown, or having experiences with out thought because it fears we will not need it or it will wither away.
Can we cultivate experiences without thought? Wow, right? Do we always have to “think” about what is happening. Think about! (Pun fully intended) When our experiences are all in our mind, we judge, we categorize, we put things into boxes for convenience sake.
Getting out of the mind takes practice. Through practice we learn to focus on what is in front of our eyes and not on the thoughts in our head.
I know I am a thinker. But, through practice, I have started to stop, take a deep breath and allow myself to open up to a beautiful flower or a star filled night sky or Steve’s exquisite blue eyes without any internal dialogue about it.
The difference (between thinking and experiencing) is I feel less separation from what I am perceiving and I actually feel more connected to it. Have you ever felt the connection to a night sky- to a scene of overwhelming beauty – a moment an ecstasy with a lover when there is no you or them but just the connection? I am looking for more of that connection in my everyday life. Something inside me yearns for more connection which will help soothe the angst about thoughts like, “What am I doing with my life”. I know when I feel more connected I feel better about what I am doing in my life. I have less anxiety about what to do next and I open my awareness to what I am doing in this present moment. If the present is not something I want in the long run, than I can make changes for future days. The openness in the moment helps me to flow with the change rather than agonizing over it.
I truly can’t think my way out of the bigger questions of the meaning of life. I need to experience the moment and use my discernment to understand my motives.
Big things happen when we open our heart and use it as a barometer for our life.
The mind is a mighty useful tool in the journey of life but so is our heart and soul.
I know for me that when I try to do everything from only the mind, I feel constriction and separation. When I move from the heart I can expand into fullness.
We think a lot. We assume the mind is in control because that is where it seems reason, logic and discernment live. Do they? Without our heart and spirit, life can seem empty and brittle. Trying to always think our way out or through life can keep us stuck in a head trip. Try navigating a day, an hour or even ten minutes with your heart. In any situation see if you can stop the judgement of whatever it is you are doing and just be in it. You get cut off in traffic. OK, you got cut off. Let it end there. The clerk at the grocery didn’t greet you or was less than personable as you checked out. Ok. Move on! Don’t take it with you and relive it by telling others about it.
These steps, in less challenging situations help you to build up your resilience to do the same when you face some larger challenges. I have stated to ask myself in many situations, “Will my adrenaline rush truly affect this situation or will its only effect be on me and my health?” Most of the time it is the latter.
If you, like me, find yourself bombarded by thoughts, move your awareness from your head and into your heart and realize that YOU are in control or you can be. Take a few deep breaths. Let your shoulders move down away from your ears. Allow the muscles of your face to relax. Release your jaw and release the gripping you may feel in your brain. Pull your shoulders back and expand your chest. Give your heart some room to expand inside you and invite it to be part of your daily experience. The mind and heart are both necessary for our human experience. They both add to its richness. Where the heart leads, the mind follows and beauty increases in our daily experiences. Enjoy every moment. Follow our heart.