“You can travel around the world 1000 times and not know yourself. A monk can go into a room, close the door, and see the universe.”– A quote Mahan Rishi said in class that someone else said. I couldn’t find the original quote, so, Mahan Rishi it is!
As a Kundalini yoga teacher-in-training, I have had the absolute privilege of studying with some of the most intuitive and intellectual individuals I have ever met. One of these was a kind, Soulful man named Dr. Mahan Rishi. What he had to say, and the way he said it, really influenced me. So, here is a post about what came up for me from that experience…
Living on the Surface: Stress, the leading cause of Disease and Death
In the fast moving world of today, there is a prevailing paradigm of “busy” which creates and perpetuates a false sense of urgency. Though this begins at the beginning of life (half the babies born in this part of the world today are forced out of the womb on someone else’s time) and once they get here, they are bombarded with “hurry ups”. Hurry up and get ready, hurry up and catch the bus, hurry up and eat, hurry up so you’re not late, hurry up and move along, hurry up and get to work, hurry up and finish the never-ending tasks, hurry up and be responsible, hurry up and beat the traffic, hurry up and eat in the car, hurry up and get to that important thing in that important place, like, yesterday. Or else.
We literally wake up to crisis, aka alarm, and we create a critical situation out of everything that unfolds thereafter.
Our existence seems to revolve around society’s made-up schedules, and we, likely unconsciously, commit to the mantra of “busy” to feel important, worthy, significant, like a contributing member of (our clearly dysfunctional) society. What life is, right at this very moment, is not good enough. We are constantly on the search for more, and we are hoping that by working hard and fully committing to society’s values we will, someday in the future, be rewarded for our hard work. In the meantime, our lives are passing us by as we are mindlessly existing in hopes of a better un-knowable future (aka denial of what is).
Is it any wonder that this future-oriented mindset creates so much stress? I believe not. When we are focused on some non-existent future out there in the ethers, we are living in our heads, disconnected from the moment, disconnected from ourSelves. Where, in this mantra of “busy”, do we take time and space and energy for life? For just being? For ourSelves?
But, no pain no gain, right?
This type of mindset perpetuates our survival mechanisms thereby flooding our body with biochemical reactions that continuously signal “go” (until, of course, we become significantly ill and have to stop and take a moment for ourselves). Instead of living in the natural state of relaxed, we are constantly on the go, constantly stressed out. This means our nervous system never gets a chance to relax, which means that none of the body functions in place to sustain us work as they are intended to, which means that we do not live full, present lives. Stress has evolved as a temporary survival mechanism to keep us from dying while getting chased by a wild animal. It is designed to signal to us to “go”, allowing us to run away, to fight, or to freeze when confronted with life-or-death type of danger. It is meant to last a few minutes, and then we are meant to wholly relax.
It is my observation about our modern civilizations that few people have the capacity, tools, or self-love to get themselves out of survival mode and into relaxation mode. If I said that in the height of civilization the reason why this is the case is because fearful people are easier to control, would that make sense to you?
In the words of one of my absolute favourite authors, “a compliant society is a fearful society. A fearful society, is a selfish society. A selfish society, is a profitable society.” -Deb Ozarko
From where I stand, the underlying emotion behind busy and survival is fear. Fear that the world is unsafe, fear that resources are scarce, fear that we are missing out, fear that we will get left behind, fear that we are not important, fear that we are not enough….
So how do we deal with our fears? We try hard to silence them by escaping in any way that we can, we pretend they’re not there, we blindly hope for a better future despite all the evidence (in our gut) to the contrary. We attempt to escape our reality by imprisoning ourselves in a variety of ways — with our cell-phones, staying up late to avoid tomorrow, sleeping in late to avoid facing the day, hyper-activating and hyper-stimulating our nervous system through video games, doping, shopping, drinking, smoking, shopping, fucking, vacationing, shopping, moving, binging, eating, shopping, puking, upgrading, self-obsessing, selfies, shopping, reproducing, …forever keeping up with the Kardashians.
We are a society addicted to narcissism, technology, stories…in other words…escaping.
We are incredibly disconnected from our circadian rhythms, we are medicated, our hormones are out of wack, we work tirelessly in jobs we loathe, we live sedentary lifestyles that allow for no space or movement or flow (and therefore life), we contradict our own values daily, we consistently dismiss the messages of the Self (the gut, the instinct, the Truth), we eat large meals with animal flesh that ferment in our guts and cause acidity and inflammation in our individual homes (the body), we are loaded with toxic chemicals, we perceive ourselves as chronically ill and deprived, we other and blame, we ruthlessly judge, we blindly procreate even in the brink of extinction, we self-obsess and yet know not what self-love means.
Because we do not know ourselves, we live in fear. Because we live in fear, we do not search for our Truth. Because we do not search for our Truth, we are irritable. Because we are irritable, we are easily distracted. Because we are distracted, we are compliant. Because we are compliant, we are discontent. Because we are discontent, we are disconnected. Because we are disconnected, we are disillusioned. Because we are disillusioned, we are apathetic. Because we are apathetic, the biosphere is collapsing.
Still, we keep busy.
Ah, the Butterfly
The playful, elegant, colourful butterflies who are essential to sustaining life on the planet through pollination did not always come in that form. At one point in their lives, they were caterpillars–worms, crawling surfaces instead of gracefully flying, eating anything in site instead of pollinating. In between these two phases, though, the caterpillar must rest, allow every cell in its body to die and transform, then the beautiful butterfly emerges.
In our current culture, unlike so many others preceding us, human beings are expected to transition from childhood into adulthood without ceremony but simply because they turned a certain chronological age. Truth be told, a child does not know how to be an adult just as an adult does not know how to be a child. Our teenagers struggle to grow up in our culture because the adults parenting them are really un-ceremonial teenagers trapped in adult bodies pretending to know what they are doing, pretending to know what they are saying, and pretending to know who and what they are. Pretending, because noone showed them how to
how to grow out of childhood traumas and into the Self, either. Hence, the process of transformation, for most of us anyways, feels fucking daunting.
In effect, most of us are trapped in that in-between phase where we are not quite children and we are not quite adults and yet we simply do not know how to gracefully transition.
In the paradigm of the world that I operate from, I know that we co-create our reality. Nothing happens to us without us choosing it. More often than not the choice is culturally conditioned, unconscious and perpetuated by trauma, but it is a choice nonetheless. From where I stand, the victim mentality is just that — a mentality. We always have a choice.
It is also true that like ants, we are programmed to feed the social machine. The difference with human beings, however, is that we have awareness and consciousness and we can consciously chose a different path for ourselves.
The never-dying signal from the Self (the Source, the Spirit, the Love, the Oneness, the Truth, the Intuition, the Essential Nature, God…call it what you will) is always available to us. That voice that knows the Truth that resides in our very own bodies, in our own life experience, is only there to guide us. Will our intellects chose to listen to it?…That is the question.
Every piece of literature I have come across in the last few years says, in no uncertain terms, that in order to move past our childhood wounds and transition into self-sufficient adults, we must feel whatever comes up and allow it to move through us, undisturbed. We must sit with our wounds, validate the Truth of their existence, allow the energy they carry to move, BREATHE through the experience and create space… then we can gracefully transition into becoming a little more US than before, and our life flows. Then repeat anytime anything comes up…
I hear you. Trauma fucking sucks. Dealing with our shit is exhausting. It is even worse when we’ve stuffed the pain so deep in our tissues that we are manifesting dis-ease of all kinds — constipation, cancer, diabetes, cysts, chronic pain, IBS, heart attacks, hyperthyroidism, chronic bronchitis, depression, anxiety, migraines…..
At this point, our house (aka body) has gotten so unmanageable and dirty, that it inevitably is difficult to clean house. Often you don’t know what to start with, because everywhere you look, shit is engrained in the cracks, has started to ferment and mould and you are left feeling so helpless that you would rather just live in the chaos because, at the very least, you are now used to the smell.
If you woke up one day though and every cell in your body screams that you simply could not live in that space any longer, you might chose to start the clean up process. The details of how that would unfold is entirely up to you. As you begin the dumping-everything-in-one-giant-pile-on-the-floor process, it’s likely you will feel exhausted, and you might chose to take a breathing break and allow the energy within you to move. Maybe have a tea. Still, you know you have started the process of clean-up. At any point you can chose to leave the rest of the house as it is, and you know what that will forever bring up in you. And at any point you can start to pick up anything you want and deal with whatever presents until you create a bit more of comfortable space for yourself. Some days you might deal with the equivalent of putting away one small t-shirt, other days you’ll chose to clean the mould stuck in the very cracks behind some disturbingly old furniture you haven’t ever dared to move. Your role is to keep at it, to breathe through it, to trust the process. As you continue, the house might begin to look a little more like a house…and you might notice you feel a little lighter being in that space.
If you can grasp this concept at a physical household level, what is stopping you from grasping it within your own physical body & mind? According to Mahan Rishi “the body is the testing ground for the truth”, meaning it is the final frontier of energy moving, or stagnating. If we do not listen before it manifests in the physical, the body will surely let us know, because our bodies are designed to express! They constantly look for space, movement, and flow. This is why it is critical for us to invite in whatever comes up, and allow it to move without the interference of judgement or fear.
In the era of information, there is so much access to knowledge that we often find ourselves overwhelmed. There are a 1000 gurus at the tips of our fingers ready to teach us how to become enlightened in 15 easy minutes. Try this potion or sit through this 100th life-changing webinar. The irony of it all is that this is yet another distraction from facing the Self. Instead of sitting and breathing with ourSelves and allowing our bodies to do their magic, we distract ourselves from our experience and hope that someone else out there, some external expert, anyone, can fix our broken selves. In this way, we can take no responsibility for the life we have created and continue to sustain for ourselves.
How very fucking sad.
How very disillusioning.
How very disempowering.
How else might we chose to live our lives?
Just like the butterfly’s cells must all change so it becomes a butterfly, so too our cells must change. In fact, 98% of the cells in our body rejuvenate and change every 10 years. That means
we can have a vastly different body and mind space based on the choices we make today. What kind of life will you chose for yourself?
Conscious Awareness: Be Radical, Live Simply
There are a few simple things Mahan Rishi recommends we all do daily.
This first one is so simple, yet there are hundreds of thousands of sources of information describing how to do this one innate thing: Consciously Breathe.
Every day, we take 20,000 breaths. With every one of those breaths we can reinforce what the nervous system has already learned, to live in fight-or-flight, OR we can chose to re-wire the nervous system and teach it to relax. Conscious, deep breathing does just that– teaches our bodies to slow down and to increase our vital capacity. All we have to do is notice, and then engage. Mahan Rishi recommends we take 2,000 deep, belly breaths (abdomen, diaphragm, chest) daily.
Notice right now: Are you breathing? What is the quality of your breath? Describe it to yourself.
Know that the way you breathe is the way you metabolize energy, the way you live your life.
Will you chose to slow down, notice, and re-direct the vital life-force of breath?
Meditate. Whatever image popped in your mind about what that means, erase it. Meditation is the simple act of consciously breathing while quietly being present with ourselves in order to relax. What you add to it from there on is your own business.
The mind, just like the rest of the body, requires relaxation. If you are a normal person, and presumably you are, you have roughly 70,000 thoughts a day. Given that our thoughts impact our entire system, have you ever stopped to notice what you think about? How many of your thoughts are positive? Which of your thoughts are recurring? What are the beliefs you carry with you about yourself? Do you convince yourself you are “fat” “ugly” “unproductive” “broke” “perpetually unhappy” “isolated” “broke” “victim” “unable” “stupid” “depressed” “anxious” … and whatever judgements come from that…. OR do you chose to see yourself as beautiful, kind, generous, loving, caring, compassionate, engaged, communal, helpful, creative, respected, integrated, content, joyful… the universe itself? Allow the vibrational frequency of each of those thoughts to move through your body, and notice what you notice. Which vibration would you rather BE? The beauty of it all is that, as co-creator of your life, you can chose the vibration that feels light in your being at any given point.
Some examples of meditations…
Breath meditation is helpful in allowing us to become more aware of our breath, of the state of our bodies. It allows us to gain better control of ourselves and our emotions. I make a point every single day to notice my breath, and chose, in that moment, to take a few deep, long, slow belly breaths. That’s when I also notice my whole physiology changing, calming, relaxing.
Meditation in absolute stillness allows us to go within and simply notice the internal state –our thoughts, our patterns, our reactions, our emotions, our breath, our bodies. This type of meditation is necessary to get to know our minds and what our subconscious carries. It gives us clearer access to our Truth, without the need for content. My aim is to sit quietly, even if only a few minutes daily, and observe the quality of my thoughts, breath, and emotions. I’ve been intending to do a one hour quiet meditation once a week for about 2 years now…have yet to do so, and I trust that it will happens only when I am fully ready. No fuss, just acceptance of what is, and trust of the process.
Given that time and space are illusions necessary for existence in the physical realm, visualization meditations helps us consciously dissolve ideas and images about the self and our reality to help us be that which our Self is. This is how I manifest so much of what unfolds — I see it as real, I set an intention, I trust the process, and let go of the outcome.
Mantra meditations help focus the mind and clear the subconscious of all that it carries with it. Mantras are extremely effective at raising our vibration and helping us connect to a deeper space. I love this type of meditation as I can do it anywhere, anytime, and it immediately uplifts my Spirit!
I also love a good guided meditation –some of the most profound meditation experiences I’ve had have been through guided meditations, including ho-o-pono-pono with Sheila and any of Louise’s guided reflections.
Then there are yoga nidra meditations, loving-kindness meditations, body scan or progressive relaxation meditations, zen meditations, transcendental meditations, binaural beats meditations, tantric meditations, partner meditations, kundalini meditations, walking meditations, moving meditations, vipassana meditations….and the list goes on and on. I have tried them all, and they are all readily available in your community. And I know, if you are really interested, you will find what works for you and you will practice daily. That’s the trick–commitment to a daily practice!
Our brains are malleable — this we know. What is required from the conscious mind, however, is discipline to prioritize meditation. When we meditate, we change the currents the brain emits (think alpha, beta, theta, and delta waves) and therefore we embody that vibration. Quite literally, we become bliss.
The benefits of meditation are endless, and there is significant amount of both experience and science to back this up. The reason why meditation works is because it helps us let go of the psychic load that drains our energy and creates a false separateness between self and reality, thereby effectively overwriting the conditioned patterning of our minds and nervous system.
And yet, none of this can be achieved unless we chose to prioritize ourselves.
Practice Kindness, in any and all capacities that you can. What choice can you make, in this very moment, that comes from a place of kindness for yourself? As my friend Louise says, Breathing is Good.
Remember, nothing happens overnight. It is important to be gentle, compassionate, and considerate with ourselves. It is important to take time to slow down, to move, to breathe, to dance, to paint, to swim, to sing, to read, to imagine, to let go, to engage, to create, to sleep early, to sleep well, to eat light, to chant, to relax, to nurture the Self, to just be. Create a life that you are grateful for. Commit to self-love, self-care, self-evolution. Bring mindfulness and breath to everything you do. See yourself as happy, whole, and essential to the world. Do something, everyday, for the greater good. Notice your tendencies. Mahan Rishi said, and I believe this to be true, “the first thing we see in the morning is god for us” …notice…what is that thing for you? Breathe. Take a moment, for yourself. Consult yourself–do you believe that you can align with your consciousness? If so, life gets a lot easier…it just naturally flows. Life is happening, anyways…it goes on, but the energy we give toward it is our choice–will you chose the culturally conditioned choice or the conscious choice? That is entirely up to you.
And remember, (and this is more for myself right now) when energy moves, ask yourself: Am I breathing? Are my shoulders relaxed? Is my attention at the base of my spine? And then gently allow whatever is moving through to pass along.
In the era of (mis)information, the wisdom I have gathered thus far is that I already have within me everything I require to be whole. What I chose to do with it, is entirely up to me. Right now, in this moment, I chose to breathe, let go, and trust the process.