Gifts #59 September 25, 2018
I was given a compliment the other day. It was offered sweetly and came as a lovely surprise to me. I of course, said thank you and put it aside, as my humility has taught me to do. Later, when I had some time to contemplate I brought it out.
Now what I was complimented on was really nothing of my doing. It was the gift of my parent’s co-mingling of genetics, like the shape of our eyes or the texture of hair. It was gift. We do enhance our gifts, an agile mind is made more so through disciplined study, so in that we have something to hold. But I wondered two things.
First, was this a way to enter more deeply the yogic teaching that we are not the agents of our actions? While simultaneously teaching that there is something for us to do? True this compliment had noting to do with my “actions” but how I receive the compliment, and what I do with it, does. So too does the understanding that each gift we are given, and there are so many that simply go unnoticed by us, a real treasure. When they are brought to awareness then what do we do? This leads me to my second thought.
Why are we so often willing to do one of two things with compliments: gently or firmly push them aside as simply not of our doing, and thus dismiss whatever part we have to play; or take it fully on as ours and as such, permit our ego a bit, or a lot, more air to hold us up.
How do we both accept gifts, in whatever form and also acknowledge that at root, we may have had not much to do with it at all? The answer rests in part, with worthiness, intention and subsequent action and of course, connection to the source those gifts arose from.
To accept a compliment fully, to allow it in requires a welcoming space; this speaks of the opening of awareness, as well as our true value. And what do we do with such attention? Do we permit it to just feed our ego, as nice and necessary as that sometimes is, or do we take it to heart? In taking it to heart then, we may examine it and determine its place; perhaps it is something we have cultivated, can further cultivate and nourish; to what use? Finally, what are the ways in which we may offer this; how might we act on this knowledge?
One of the gifts of deep meditation in the Śaiva Tantra tradition is the means, the path cleared for our talents and skills to be brought “on line” as it were. There is much to say about this subject which is spoken of in the third pada of the Yoga Sūtras. Suffice to say, which of us would not like our talent and skill brought to awareness or made more fully apparent? This is not something simply wished for, and there are pre-requisites, things that must be set in motion in order for it to occur. Again, why teachers, guides, are so important.
We look to the myth of Bhairava, the Pine Forest sage. Briefly this myth speaks of sages seated in the Pine Forest practicing and praying for the divine to show up. They have their ideas of what the divine looks like and so fail to recognize when he/she shows up as a beggar in rags, the very fierce form of S̄iva called Bhairava. In failing to recognize him they turn away and thus miss out on the very things they so fervently devotedly and sincerely wanted. A missed opportunity of a very great magnitude.
Where and how is the divine, for are not gifts and talents divine in nature, already showing itself to us in life and we are failing to notice? The discipline of study, feeding the mind, combined with that of meditation practice permits this pratibha, this recognition to occur. So too does our practice of consideration, of contemplation, of journaling.
Terrible things occur in life; challenges and sorrows of every sort. They often present themselves as tearing apart the life we have come to expect and in that we see and feel it as challenge, even disaster. With the weathering of the storm and the passing of time we may come to see it differently. We may look back and say, that crack was the beginning of restructuring my life in ways I never imagined possible. Of course we may feel that we could have come to this new place without that challenge, thank you very much, but we do begin to see challenge in a new, if not altogether benevolent, manner.
People often say things happen for a reason. I am not one of them. I do however feel in my heart, that we are driven to make reason with our mind for what has happened and then compelled to act on it in some manner, in order to bring meaning to the gift of life. Without meaning, life is indeed tragic. Who’s responsibility is it to bring meaning to each individual life?
These are the big questions asked by many traditions, including yoga, specifically, for me, Śaiva Tantra Yoga. Are the answers you hear assisting you in living your fullest life? Are you hearing any answers at all? Are you asking?
How do we bring our gifts to the world; increase our skill? Practice and study, theory to the degree necessary in order to feed the mind, is called for in order to fulfill the injunction stated in the Bhagava Gita that yoga is indeed skill in action.
Share your gifts. There is a sequence, an order: first experience is necessary, then a more full knowing can occur, naturally your light flows out into the world.
Choice Architecture September 18, 2018
There is a theory put forth by behavioral economics that choice is not something we make but rather based strongly on environmental conditions. It states that what we think of as choices made solely within us, by us are actually shaped, rather strongly, by our environment.
We then, the theory postulates, “make up stories” about why we made those particular decisions. And we are very very good at writing this dialogue, so much so we believe we are the sole author.
These architects are shaping our choices. That said, many behavioral scientists stress that there is no neutral choice architecture and that people maintain autonomy and freedom of choice despite manipulations of choice architecture.
The thoughtful design of choice architecture as a means to improve consumer decision-making by minimizing biases and errors that arise as the result of what is called “bounded rationality” is one of the aims of this model. Bounded rationality is the idea that when individuals make decisions, their rationality is limited by the malleability of the decision problem, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the time available to make the decision.
I am not a behavioral scientist nor a policy maker, though clearly I understand the need for these disciplines, among others, to put forth a premise that seeks to assist individuals in finding a satisfactory solution rather than an optimal one. Who among us has not stood on the cereal isle and faced “choice overload?” But I disagree with my perceived understanding that we must somehow settle for satisfactory as optimal may not ever present itself. Of course this may be a matter of semantics, I acknowledge that. Still optimal arises in reference to choice availability; not only to what is being presented but to what we are present to as well as our skill at response. Both can be refined, deepened and expanded.
I bristle at the notion that I must be manipulated for my own good. Of course there are those who think this because well, I just don’t know any better, especially about policy making, and those that simply want me to buy their products. Either way, my sense of self is greatly insulted.
What shapes decisions at the deepest level is the question the theory of meditation asks? Not only what shapes our decisions but our very thoughts?
Because we don’t know our own mind as it were, we have a difficult time resisting these outside forces. We can of course restrict and shape our external environment to some extent but not always.
We can do something about our inner environment. Always. This too is a choice. One that will have an impact on all subsequent choices.
The karma mala grips us tight with the false supposition that we are the sole agents of all our actions. But we are not. We can see this on the surface when we speak of those who shape our environment and give subtle psychological cues that effect our response to stimuli. These are very powerful because they go deep. To what we might say is unconscious. Leading then to what may be described as unconscious choice that we convince ourselves was made consciously.
Becoming more conscious then is not just a choice made, though it is that, it is also the opportunity to know who we are and in that knowing, to have some real effect as to what takes shape on the surface.
Going deep in meditation is a profound gift that has an impact on those subtle spaces where thoughts are formed and coalesced in two ways:
It clears debris, the clutter that prevents us from seeing what choice might be present; thus we are less at the mercy of habitual patterns of response.
And in doing so, space is created that permits an increase of light to see more expansively; to allow options to enter, combinations of options, that might otherwise not be seen.
We are not the sole agent, there is a powerful full force we seek to align with; one that fuels our every thought word and deed. Of course there is something for us to do, we must act.
Are we acting from the most expanded highest perspective we can? Are you taking full advantage?
Yoga refines the entire body-mind structure on absolutely every level. Asana, movement to bring strength and flexibility to the mind-body; pranayama to move the breath more deeply and freely and most potently meditation, that permits awareness to go deep behind the structures of what we think of as our cognitive self. In doing so, we render that space of mind and ego ever clear.
Don’t be what Daniel Kahneman terms a “lazy thinker” associating your immediate thought, feeling, reaction to a plausible dialogue; if so you will never get to a level of critical thinking of a clearer, deeper sort. This has ramifications for every single choice we make including personal and political.
Whose choice is it anyway?
Good Luck! September 11, 2018
Luck, as defined by Seneca is preparedness meeting opportunity. Many people of genius live by this. It seems to say we make our own luck, we prepare our mind and body with study and practice, and open our senses to become ever more keen, perceptive to what is being presented.
Sounds logical and intuitive, increase expertise and open awareness. If we know what it is we want, then we set about to gain the skills necessary, to open avenues of possible favorable intersection; to network. But what if we don’t know exactly what it is we truly desire? How much more so then are we at the mercy of the condition of that body-mind, of those senses. How do we better prepare?
We may understand preparation, but we don’t understand, or fully so, the nature of expanding opportunity. It often is a very quiet thing. It rarely comes in announcing itself with a drum roll or lightening bolt. How do we open, expand our perspective to take in more and to be ever more curious?
We do our best to clear away obstacles and to clean house as it were. Still life is messy, sometimes glorious so and at other times, more sticky than celebratory.
So which is it? Does god/dess help those who help themselves? Or is it thy will be done?
Do we live by ‘If it’s to be it’s up to me’ or ‘the universe will supply.’ As in most things, its both.
It is the skillful dance of surrender and participation. There is indeed a force that runs through the universe and we seek to open to it, align with it and ride it’s power but that requires more then shutting our eyes and praying for its arising in our awareness. It demands our willing cooperation which first requires a path, a method, a plan.
Just as we know that we must study and practice to gain skill and mastery in anything, so too must we apply this same knowledge and experience to the realm of preparedness and opportunity. At the heart of this is the call to know ourselves more fully and in that knowing bring the best of what we are, what we have to meet and enhance life.
We effect on the surface what we are able; we act as best we can given the present set of circumstances and the skill set available. And we understand the need to increase and deepen both. After all, any action we take is dependent upon the source we draw from.
Many traditions tell us we are not the agent of action; that there is something stronger, brighter, fuller, behind the scene. To rest into this. Lovely. In the next breath we are enjoined to seize the day. Yes! How do we access that something brighter and fuller? Yoga tells us this is our truest nature. And more, how do we then bring that more, that fullness, that wholeness out? How do we utilize our talents and skills to the best advantage? How can we better seize opportunity?
There is so much more to meditation then some restful quiet time that lowers anxiety and slows things down in a busy world. As amazing as that is, there is so much more.
We may understand the regularity of practice in its cumulative effect but without the support of theory as to what is happening, the mind is at a loss, a disadvantage and we risk missing opportunity. This is why teachers, study and community is necessary. Without it there is no recognition.
Without recognition there is no opportunity.
Ganapty is that power of the whole in the yogic pantheon often referred to as the remover of obstacles. It is more precise to say that he, not as a deity but as a value of consciousness, stands in relationship to obstacles. Of course we wish to invoke what will clear our path both in life and in our application of living that life.
We want to clear away the debris, limit the noise that stops us from connecting to our light. We want to learn how to ride that light outward and then apply it with precision and accuracy. And never forget, as refinement of the body-mind takes place it both increases the knowing and availability of the light as well as changes the very place, the vessel, particularly the mind that receives, and the senses that take in absolutely everything. This refinement is the alchemic transformation that is the hallmark of the non-dual Śaiva Tantra tradition.
It takes both surrender and increased expertise. As the Bhagavad Gita says: Yoga is skill in action. There is something for you to do. Refine your body-mind, your senses. Trust in your self, your highest ever evolving self. Bring “luck” to your life in the sweetest, deepest way possible. Meditate.
Respect Rest # 56 September 03, 2018
Today is Labor Day in the USA. The day when we collectively rest our working selves and honor the many roles we take in life. It’s got me thinking about resting. I mean truly deeply resting. It is so sweet and yet so hard for us humans to truly rest unless of course we are unconscious, as in sleep, or compelled as in a designated day off, or illness or some other forced circumstance. Not surprising as we live in a society that prizes doing.
Deep rest is really a dynamic alive circumstance yet I tend to treat it solely as an obligatory reset button necessary to fuel my “real life” instead of the sweet companion it is. I am a mover, a dancer, an engager and I love to feel my heart pumping, my blood surging, my brain firing! I live to collaborate with everyone I come into contact with. The gifts of relationship are just too wonderful to sit alone by myself.
And yes we understand that rest is necessary for the support of all that firing, after all the human body-mind is designed to create. But it’s time I give rest its rightful R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Rest isn’t checking out; in fact it’s really checking in. Attuning, aligning with what we need to be our best and there are many many ways to do so. While sitting down and reading a good book by the ocean or watching an entertaining movie or speaking with a dear friend offers rest from our moving, working life or life as we most ordinarily think of it, and offers amazing necessary benefits, it is not the active rest I am examining. Nor is day dreaming, as lovely as it can be to let the mind wander, rest in the deepest sense because well, the mind is still active.
When I stop and sit with myself, by myself I find that my brain doesn’t seem to get the message. She, the me of my intellect, simply will not quiet as there is too much calling to it. And besides, it feels like a waste of precious time while I am awake.
There are untold benefits in reposing deeply within. I want to rest with myself, by myself and remain aware of the collaboration while not engaging. In other words, I long to rest and be aware that that is what I am doing; not do something that is called rest because it is not what I usually do; or numbing myself to whatever reality is presenting and in that, not so much rest, as check out.
Rest as a pure experience is the most refreshing, rejuvenating practice there is. It supports and nourishes absolutely everything else we do in life. And it takes, in a word, just that, practice. We feel what a good night’s sleep does for our mental, physical and emotional capacity. Hopefully we give it the respect it deserves. Meditation does this on a deeper, subtler level and it is powerful.
Of course to sit with self means to confront the messiness of our inner territory; the often agitated or conversely stupefied quality of the mind. That’s hard. That’s why there is something to learn, a method and knowledge to be had to support that practice. Distancing ourselves from this necessary confrontation with distraction, even if it is a wanted one, only serves to postpone the inevitable and increase its power. Ignoring it will do nothing to assist in its change. And, ultimately that’s what we are after isn’t it? True deep lasting change. A change that can never be enacted solely from the surface. We must go deep and in that depth rest.
In dynamic rest we increase the body’s natural power to heal. In doing so daily we choose to intelligently collaborate with the power that animates, supports and sustains life. We ride that increasing wave of power that rids the body-mind of agitation and stupor thereby, spontaneously expanding the light of our own individual consciousness. The fullness of that light pours itself into the many roles we inhabit increasing our capacity to enact, to enjoy and to be steady.
We become efficacious and joyful, not hypnotized and held captive; we are steady, rooted in our light, not removed from reality.
“I will rest when I am dead” is the proud refrain of a doer, a mover, a shaker; a so called ‘disrupter’ of the old model. Life is short there is no time to waste. True that. So let’s intelligently apply our time. Let’s get clear on exactly what it is we want to do. Let’s apply the most potent power and juice to the effort. Let’s get plugged in to the cosmic generator as it were!
Rest your social persona(s) deeply in the silent source of your creative force then emerge firing on ALL cylinders. Powerfully hit your target each and every time. I am realizing, I who love collaboration, that the most important collaborator I have is right under my nose resting in my own heart. I’m taking advantage of resting in her embrace today and every day so that I can do more, be more fully alive.
Live fully. Respect rest, meditate.