Most of the time, most of us will face people that are not ourselves (okay, and even ourselves) with preconceptions. If it is a stranger: What are they wearing? How are they presenting themselves? What are their gestures, the look in their eyes, their voice and choice of words? If it is a friend, relative or lover: What situations do we know them in? What have we experienced in relation with them? We will try to fit these traits in a concept in combination with our associations and previous experiences.
While this is natural and happens subconsciously, it also limits our present and subsequent experience with the person we are facing. With someone close to us, the preconception might be: I know them so well, if I say this or do that, they will react like this or that. The issue with this is that people are evolving constantly, we are complex systems that are undergoing transformations in any moment. Having known someone for years is, therefor, no guarantee of knowing their response.
With a stranger, we might limit the possibilities of the interaction right away by choosing to only show them a specific part of ourselves.
We decide in our minds that our counterpart would only be able to handle so much of what we think or do – of who we really are, in a nutshell.
If we start meeting each other as if we would understand each other,
it might just happen that we indeed will.
I have been experimenting with that lately, and my experiences are startling. Turns out that, when I confront people with what is true to me, more often than not, I will be presented with a surprising amount of understanding. The trust I put in the other person by showing them my real self in that moment is received and comes back. I do not act as if they couldn’t handle it, and the respect I show them by leaving the choice to them if and how they want to handle it reflects back. People are more capable than you or they would know.
In addition to learning to be able to speak your true self, practicing this kind of trust and confrontation might open up unexpected new connections to you, quicker and deeper than you would have thought are possible. I have been getting quite some glimpses of it already.
One of my most redundant-sounding revelations shortly after my Kundalini experience was this: “I am everything I ever was and ever will be all at once!”
When I told a friend, he laughed at me. I still do think this was a valuable insight, though. I believe that we comprise our past, present and future. I recently heard of an analogy about a tree: What happened to the four year old tree will remain materialized in its trunk, the formation of its annual rings; it won’t ever go away. The tree will contain what it survived throughout all of its lifetime.
I think it is the same with us as humans. While the practice of being present in the Here & Now is a valid approach to therapy, self-healing and mindfulness techniques, it can only ever be a band-aid. Ultimately, we cannot deny the past. I think the past is not gone. Maybe also the future isn’t nonexistent. They might exist all at once forever, simultaneously.
This actually lines up with the block universe theory, a philosophical concept of time relating to physics. I recommend a little research about it if you’re intrigued.
So while we can gain a lot from living in the moment, being aware of the breath we are breathing and the step we are taking, I believe we have to accept that our past will always be a part of who we are. Especially when it comes to traumatic experiences, we might have to become even more accepting of our pain. In expecting and hoping to one day “overcome” the pain, fear and anger that is connected to our trauma, we might get to a point where we feel that, by now, we should be able to handle it. We think we worked through it, so we should be okay!
Maybe it is more helpful to see ourselves as the four year old tree that is still inside of us. We still comprise all the shocking and shattering things we once survived, and here’s what- I think we always will. Even if we go through it again and again, whether in the course of therapy or by ourselves, we can never expect the work to be done.
Healing is not a linear process, and it is one that by definition leaves traces.
If something made you incredibly sad and hurt once, it probably will do so for the rest of your life. And that is okay. It will define you less, yes. And it will have less influence.
Maybe we have to reassess what it means when we say: “It’s in the past,”.
Instead of: “I’m over it, it’s forgiven and forgotten”, it might just mean:
“The wound is always there and I am aware of it, but I grew many rings over the years on top of it that make it feel evermore smoother –
most of the time”.
I used to think there was nothing more dull than reality.
There were times when I preferred my dreams at night to my waking life.
My perception since then has changed drastically, and I owe it to a great extent to spiritual practice and the resulting broadening of my awareness.
If reality seems grey and unamusing to you, I would like you to ask yourself:
Am I really looking?
On the train, when the sun is flickering through the trees rushing by the window, it projects a spectacle onto the retina through your closed eyelids. Nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the view from the inside.
Looking through squinted eyes toward the sun, there are numerous rainbows on your eyelashes only you can see.
In every drop of dew, you can see a reflection of the world.
Every leaf, petal, twig, blade of grass, carries vein-like patterns, similar to your own skin.
The moment a snowflake lands on your skin, melting down its fractal formation with your warmth.
How the ocean’s waves are moving back and forth in an endless rhythm…
It’s not little things. These are the things the world is made of. They are there to be witnessed. To be felt. We are trained to take them for granted in order to be more efficient. But we can decide to notice and celebrate their existence.
If you allow these things to enter your awareness more often, you might be surprised by how exquisit the cold morning wind feels on your cheek.
And discover for yourself that there is nothing more psychedelic than reality.
I pierce a little hole into the perceived middle of the piece of paper.
Draw a circle, pierce another hole onto the circle’s outline and proceed with the same radius, punching a hole through the paper on each occurring intersection.
From there, it only gets easier.
With my pencil I start in the middle. One tiny element. Six in a row to complete the circle.
And a little more outward. Another tiny element. Easy. Nothing breathtaking. Just whatever random form comes to my mind. As I proceed, circle by circle, row by row, element by element, I get more and more oblivious of all around me.
An hour later, I blink. I completed the last element.
The outcome astonishes me – how can something as amazing come of repeatedly drawing slight variations of two to three basic forms, layered onto one another?
The principle of the mandala is utterly simple. It is repetition, basic geometry.
But who would argue the staggering beauty that lies in it?
Some things tend to stun us when we look at them in their entirety. We see them from the outside, completed, and they intimidate us.
We think: “I could never do this,”.
They seem so overwhelming to get done.
The mandala teaches me that, to every amazing outcome, there are countless tiny, unremarkable steps. And you do not focus on the outcome. On the completion. You are not focusing on the step you are about to take. You are focusing solely on the tiny step you are taking right now.
We’ve heard it all before. And once you’ve made a great number of tiny, simple steps, you can look back and see the bigger picture, to realize that you have in fact accomplished something quite impressive you never would have imagined.
Focusing on the outcome rather than the process instead might keep you from accomplishing things. Don’t expect anything. Go step by step and be present.
You might be surprised what evolves from it.
There is an analogy that came to my mind to give an idea about the importance of daily practice to people that find it extreme, dogmatic or simply cannot imagine to fit it in their lives. Can’t you experience just as much progress with practicing say, three times a week?
No. I do not think so.
Think of your Self as an ocean.
Think of one unity of practice– in my case, a set of exercises called a Kriya in the tradition of Kundalini Yoga followed by relaxation and meditation– as a wave.
Each new unity, when practiced in regularity, will expand its wave, eventually resulting in an interference pattern with all the previous ones.
Leaving out a unity for a day or two would shatter this pattern, and thus throw you back a few steps if not more.
Instead of practicing yoga every time I felt I needed it, I am now practicing daily, which results in me not even getting to a place of neediness anymore. Daily practice turned me to being in and of my power constantly and not dropping out of it ever.
Ok, let’s say for the most part.
Now, I am not one for dogmatism.
So I was questioning– am I getting too obsessive when it comes to daily practice?
Is it an issue to feel as though something would go heavily wrong if I miss out on practicing only one day?
Yoga has not only become my passion but my duty.
Yoga is a commitment to myself.
It is a commitment to not abandoning myself again.
To continuously taking care of my mind, body and soul, no matter
in what condition they might be.
A commitment to being there for myself, always.
To nourishing and to soothing myself.
A commitment to growth.
To following what I believe in.
What I am dependent on when I am dependent on Yoga practice, is essentially self-love.
And as they say…
Love yourself first, the rest will follow.
Malicious tongues might say, we all turn to spirituality out of despair.
This is in fact true for a great number of people, including myself.
Practicing spirituality for the sole purpose of feeling better about yourself seems like an egoistic motivation, doesn’t it?
But if we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, it turns out that bettering yourself results in bettering the world:
I would no longer walk this world in fear and anger.
If I was going to be a more conscious, peaceful,
loving and caring person, there would be one more conscious,
peaceful, loving and caring person walking this world.
And one less that is fearful and angry.
By taking care of yourself in a loving way, you are taking care of the people and, in fact, everything around you. We don’t even need to talk about interconnectedness here, it starts with things much more mundane: Every smile you exude is one more person being smiled at. And we all have experienced the power of an authentic smile from a stranger.
I’m warning you in advance.
A lot of my wordings may seem redundant.
For no other reason than this:
It often really is that simple.
We tend to overthink, ruminate and complicate things with rationalities.
It is easy to lose sight of what is right there when we are busy solving problems all day.
The way towards “illumination” has to do a lot with decluttering the mind, clearing the head from excess complication and recognizing simplicity. Seeing clearly.