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A common theme these days among those I mentor is worry about the future. At this moment in time on the planet and with the arrival of the corona virus last year, many are feeling  ungrounded, unstable, fearful, and uncertain about the future. Thoughts come up such as “Will I ever be able to manifest that soul mate for whom I long so deeply?”; and, “will I be stuck in this rut of a job forever or will I ever able to realize my dreams…?”; and lurking in the background is “will this pandemic ever end so that can we can get back to normal?!”

The truth is there is never a good reason to worry about the future, as we are actively creating it by the choices we make moment to moment. As spiritual teacher Ram Dass has famously advised Be Here Now! When we are able to quiet the mind with its ruminations about the past or anxiety about the future, we enter a portal of timelessness. It is the entrance into our soul’s wisdom and the guidance that serves its evolution and highest dharma. But thought forms about the past or about the future create a veil blocking this intuitive knowledge from reaching us, often breeding anxiety or even depression.

In a recent Leslie Jamison article in The Atlantic magazine about men in prison who create art, researcher Nicole R. Fleetwood talks about the lesson that abstract artist Jared Owen learned while incarcerated.

“To fixate on the past or to focus on the time remaining on his sentence was to succumb to rage and depression. Such thoughts would make him angry about the years spent away from his two sons, both very young when he went away.”

But through his art Owen was able to hone a practice of staying present and tap into his creative impulse, which was both therapeutic and inspirational; and through his pain he discovered that when the mind is quiet and our intention is in simply being present with what is, each moment and deed is aligned with our soul purpose. In his case creating beautiful abstract art. As we practice this new mode of being we begin to perceive spirit’s invisible hand at work behind the scenes as wonderful life-enhancing synchronicities become commonplace. In time an unshakable faith in the support of the invisible realms allows the soul’s wisdom to direct our life through inspiration, intuition and direct knowing. We enter the realm of the miraculous, where time stops and the inevitability of our evolution becomes manifest. We are at peace and at one with the Creator.

Early 20th century mystic and poet Edward Carpenter eloquently describes this place in this poem. May you find your way Here…

The Central Calm

Drawing back for a moment from Time, and its superficial claims and conclusions,
Realising for a moment the artistic nature of the utterance of the Universe:

That all is for expression, and that for this end commencement and finale, first evolved and latest evolved, are equally important;

That Progress is a word which may be applied to any world-movement or individual career in the same sense as it may be applied to the performance of a musical work,
Which progresses to its final chord, yet the conclusion of the whole is not in the final chord, but in that which runs beneath and inspires the entire web–in that which from first to last the whole complex succession of chords and phrases indicates:

Realising this–

Realising–thus for a moment withdrawn–that there is no need to hurry, no need to dash against the bars;
But that Time itself rushing on with amazing swiftness in its vast and endless round, with suns and systems, ages and geologic epochs, races and tribes of beings, mineral, vegetable, animal, and ethereal, circle beyond circle, infallibly fulfills and gives utterance to the glorious whole:

Like one in the calm that is the centre of a cyclone–guarded by the very tornado around–
Undisturbed, yet having access equally to every side,
I drink of the deep well of rest and joy,
And sit with all the gods in Paradise.

As we see in the news everyday, this is a world divided. What I mean by this is that it is polarized, and not just politically, but this world is dual by its very nature. It is a world of positive and negative. In fact, subatomically, the positive and negative forces within atoms give rise to all form in this world. And form includes not only the physical and the physical body, but the mental and the emotional bodies, as well.

So we have positive thoughts and negative ones; we have positive emotions and negative emotions. And very naturally we reach for the positive states while pushing away the negative. Why would we not?! Aah, but there is a profound spiritual truth that says:

Everything in time shall turn into its opposite.

In our limited ego-mind we teeter-totter between the positive and negative, spending some amount of time in one state before inevitably flipping to the other. With this constant flip-flopping, no wonder we often feel off balance and confused! We have no stable place to ground our awareness.

There is a way through, though. We each have access to a higher viewing platform, so to speak. This point of view rests outside of the dual nature of the mind and emotions. Called the neutral witness or the neutral observer, it is able to view the transitory nature of duality with detachment. Jesus said “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be filled with Light.” In other words, beyond the two eyes of negative and positive is this third channel of awareness – the single eye – our neutral observer. The positives and negatives of life will still happen, but the neutral observer rests outside of the action and just watches. This observer avoids assigning a value to one experience over the other, remains detached, and instead chooses neutrality. Then something amazing happens. Our inner world of swirling mind and emotions comes into balance and a doorway is opened into an expanded consciousness, one of peace, light and Presence. Instead of flip-flopping between the positive and negative, we begin to ground on that which rests between the opposites of the world – our true, divine nature.

“But how do I get there,” you ask? “How do I find my neutral observer?” The initial step is to make it conscious – to acknowledge its existence and to open to it. We already very naturally observe the personality in action with its judgments, likes and dislikes, but now we add the intention to be neutral in the face of the ups and downs of life, rather than react to them.

When I mentor others and they come me in pain or feel stuck in their lives some way, it is this witnessing presence that I hold for them. We could say that they have lost the neutral observer by identifying with the transitory thoughts or emotions that are passing through them. In our sessions together we process and find our way back to the neutrality of this witnessing presence, anxiety is relieved and new ways of coping and perceiving are instituted.

Over time we build the strength of the neutral observer, reactivity is lessened, and we begin to discover the treasure that is beyond even the positive – an equanimity with all of life and the pure joy of Being.

This question came up the other day: “If only I could be more patient with myself and others, I wouldn’t get so stressed all the time. Is there anything I can do?” 

Having patience, waiting… why can it be so challenging sometimes? Our lack of control over a situation and the accompanying feeling of powerlessness? Our activated nervous system and inevitable restlessness? Why do we so easily become impatient? Whatever our subjective experience, impatience is always about our relationship to time. We resist the unease of our present moment experience and desire to be in the future when our inner tension is resolved. We want that slow driver ahead of us in traffic to move along, already! We want that co-worker to complete their assignment so that the stalled project you’ve been working on together can proceed, pronto! The thoughts we’re having about the unresolved situation dominate our awareness and we feel restless.

So we could say impatience begins in the mind with the thoughts that the mind generates about what it feels should be. We become attached to some imaginary future moment when the world meets our expectations. Or if it doesn’t, at least we’re we’re no longer left in the dark! And in this we become a prisoner of psychological time, feeling trapped and stressed.

time-sand

But what if, next time, you were to choose to detach from this endless thought-stream? For this is where our power regarding impatience lies. Finding patience is synonymous with finding inner peace. And this inner piece comes from a quiet mind. It’s not so hard to do. The next time you notice yourself being impatient, simply take your attention away from your thoughts and to your breath. Focus on breathing deeply and rhythmically in and out for a moment or two. You’ll notice that the mind naturally quiets down, and an activated nervous system begins to settle. By slowly tracking your inbreath and outbreath with your attention, an experience of inner stillness will soon begin to take hold. The future holds no sway here, for you are becoming present.

It is in this still present moment awareness that, rather than resisting or desperately needing resolution to your predicament, you find acceptance for what is. And it is in this acceptance that you find your elusive patience waiting for you all along!

The ground of being, awareness, presence – all names pointing to who we are beyond thought, time and space. In meditation we stop thought and this, our true nature, is revealed. In activity this ground of being or presence silently holds space, changeless and eternal and the substratum of all existence. Resting here, beyond thought, in meditation or not becomes a powerful place to direct our attention because it is our awakened state. The other day this question came up about presence:

“Isn’t presence like some sort of cheap escapism? I mean, I was having some restrospective thoughts, and sure I was feeling a little miserable, but then I felt better when going into presence, and yes, I feel OK now, but that doesn’t mean my problems aren’t still there, they are not going anywhere, I’m just basically ignoring them to experience this moment, I could very well be using this time to think about solutions, and try to punish myself into making some changes that could help me compensate for those regrets that won’t let me be happy. Also I’m sure once I stepped out of presence and start thinking again, reality is going to kick in, and it is going to remind me that I can’t change the past, and that the future looks tough, then I will feel miserable again until I find something else to distracts me. I don’t see how presence is going to solve anything, it only gives me a break, that’s all.”

Here is my response:

Ah, but presence is so much more than a break from our thinking minds – more than simply a moment of peace. Presence is an expansive field of awareness with infinite depth. As we spend more and more time here this Presence grows in us. We merge with it and become it, and we begin to know it intimately as our own true nature.

It’s not that presence itself solves our problems, but out of it can arise an intuitive sense, or even a direct knowing, of a way forward that is beyond what the lower polarized mind might tell us. By detaching from what Buddhists call the “monkey mind”, we begin to enjoy the peace, and also the heightened perception, that goes along with it. Our lives begin to change in expansive ways, and the practice of presence becomes our joy.

Poet and mystic Edward Carpenter in his collection of poetry, Towards Democracy, beautifully describes the quiet power of this inner presence in his poem:

NOW IS THE ACCEPTED TIME

Amid all the turmoil and the care – the worry, the fever, the anxiety
The gloomy outlook, fears, forebodings,
The effort to keep up with the rush of supposed necessities, supposed duties,
The effort to catch the flying point of light, to reach the haven
of Peace – always in the future –
Amid all, glides the little word Now.

As when the winds of March with their long brooms sweep the dead leaves from the surface of the ground, and the Earth in virgin beauty with the growing grass once more appears;
So when all this debris of thought from the Past, of anxiety about the Morrow, is at last swept away,
Does the vast ever-Present beneath reveal its perfect rondure.

920x920

Photo: Rick Erbach

 

In a conversation last week during our Wednesday night meditation/support circle someone expressed her frustration with her meditation practice because sometimes an issue from her day pops into her awareness and her mind begins processing it. She asked, “Isn’t there a value to meditating “on” an issue that surfaces in the mind?”

I shared that there is an important distinction to be drawn between meditating into the silence by intentionally quieting the mind, and meditating “on” a problem seeking a resolution, which more accurately could be called contemplation. The best approach is to allow space for both, as they both have value, but to maintain them as distinct activities. Quieting the mind in silent meditation is the more powerful use of your time, as the Unified Field of Pure Awareness that we connect with can provide us with the answers we seek spontaneously – in or out of meditation. Universal Intelligence knows exactly how to “speak” to us to provide us with the answers we seek.

Read the rest of this entry »

Someone asked me recently: “When I get angry should I express it? Sometimes it makes a situation worse and we just get in a fight.”

When you feel anger rising in you it is best not to act from this anger. But, do pay attention to it as a vibratory field of energy. Some people are in the habit of suppressing anger and it gets tamped down into the cells of the body adding to a reservoir of suppressed anger that is dormant, but toxic. Eventually, it will get triggered by some external event and burst forth in an emotional explosion that will drain you and leave you feeling bad.

So, we witness that anger is present, and without engaging it with our minds, we simply allow it to be. Consciously we detach from any thoughts our mind wants to generate about it – that we have been wronged in some way – that we don’t deserve to be treated this way – that we will get our revenge etc. Any story we begin to tell about our anger only serves to justify the anger in our minds, which allows the anger to build. Then it becomes us. Then we become identified with the anger and it overtakes us, causing us to become reactive and say or do something that we will later regret. Anger, like any emotion, is just a frequency or vibration of energy in motion, and we have the power to allow it to pass through our awareness field. We bring the power of our Presence to bear witness to this wave of energy passing through, and we ride it out. In this way it will leave harmlessly.

In a situation with someone when your buttons get pushed and you feel anger come up, before you begin to identify with it, take some deep breathes and just allow the anger to be. Be completely present with it while detaching from your thoughts. Give yourself permission to excuse yourself from the situation momentarily if necessary. Then, when the anger has dissipated though the power of your witnessing presence, you can collect your thoughts and have your say from a more grounded and non-reactive place.

For a person with a reservoir of stored anger it is beneficial to release it in a therapeutic way. One exercise that does this very effectively without attracting a lot of negative attention (like screaming at the top of your lungs!) comes from Polarity Yoga developed by Dr. Randolph Stone, the creator of Polarity Therapy. Called the ‘Woodchopper’, it ignites the fire principle in the body, facilitating the venting of stored anger out of the cells. It is important not to create an object for your suppressed anger, but rather to maintain your neutral witnessing presence while doing this exercise. An explanation of how to do the Woodchopper is at the end of this post.

Remember, we are Pure Awareness. When you can allow the frequencies of existence, whether positive or negative, to pass through you, without pulling them towards you or pushing them away, you are free. Then you are completely available to enjoy the wonder and diversity of life, and, as my teacher says, “all that heavenly glory”.

Woodchopper

Note: The Woodchopper should not be attempted if you have back problems.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, keeping your knees soft. Clasp your hands above your head. Take a deep breath in through your nose arching your body backwards, and on your exhale, bring your hands down between your legs, hinging from the hips and dropping your head as if chopping wood. Let out a loud explosive “Ha” sound at the end of the stroke. Inhale and come up slowly and repeat as many times as necessary until the anger has cleared. The movement should be rhythmic and flowing. You may need to take a break and repeat the process before you feel complete. Please follow your own guidance on this and be careful not to strain or go too fast, as this can lead to dizziness.