How To Practice Being Yourself

NatureIt is easy to believe a spiritual practice will help you feel better. But from my experience, spiritual practice necessarily cannot concern how you feel.

Today I remember that sometimes I will not feel like engaging in the sadhana which is set before me. Yet, each day I do it. Sometimes I am sleepy, sometimes I feel listless. I experience the practice with those feelings. Some days I am motivated, some days peaceful, and I experience the practice with those feelings too.

A spiritual practice gives clarity to the inner world of emotion through its consistency among the fluctuating and fleeting nature of feelings. It shows up emotions for what they truly are: not you. Anything changing cannot be you, rather you are here experiencing change. Doing the same spiritual practice each day gently lays the ephemeral at the feet of the unchanging consciousness that you are, lets you gaze upon it, and do with it what you will.


Note To Self

Tao of Pooh

When I find myself waiting for the present moment to be a certain way I think of all of the wisdom teachers throughout history in their infinite peace and joy.  I remember that the moment in which they experienced the profundity of existence in such magnitude is the exact same moment I am experiencing right now.  They are all pointing us toward the present, which regardless of form is the birthplace of all enlightenment, if only you let it be.


The Meaning of Spirituality


When studying poetry in college I often heard, and posed, the question, “what does this mean?”  

One of the more commonly frustrating aspects of poetry is that, as a reader, it is natural to want to know the meaning of a poem when the meaning can be fluid and not obvious.  This begs the question, what is the meaning of poetry altogether?

It was only through the act of writing poetry that I began to truly understand the answer to that question.  More intelligent and creative poets are able to articulate their answers exquisitely, and while I cannot yet satisfactorily answer that question through prose I nonetheless have the understanding, the essential first illuminating step that precedes a verbal explanation.

What does this have to do with spirituality?  Like poetry, spirituality can seem elusive, vague, and unsatisfyingly fluid in its meaning.  But just as the act of writing a poem can help a person understand the meaning of poetry better than any cerebral exercise, the practice of spirituality is the basis for gaining a real understanding of the meaning of that word.  In the following video Eckhart Tolle beautifully articulates where the true meaning of spirituality can be found:


Guest Post: Why Greg Spero Doesn’t Fear Dying

photo by peter speroI was a little girl with many fears.  I wouldn’t go on escalators, or boats, and retreated to the basement every time the wind blew.  As I grew up I went about the business of letting go of these fears one by one, but at the root of each issue I knew I was afraid of dying.  That fear too can be shed, just like a childhood fear of natural disasters.

Let Yourself Learn’s first guest author, Greg Spero, offers a shifted perspective on death and existence:

Why I Don’t Fear Dying

By Greg Spero

I killed an ant this morning. I wondered if he suffered.
Did he stay alive for a few seconds after I crushed his body?
Did he twitch and realize that he was leaving his consciousness?
Did he briefly mourn over how he failed in his mission to bring food to the queen?
How long did this take?
A second?
A millisecond?
Did it take a billion years?
Or a billion times that?

Let’s call that timeframe an eon.

Where did the ant’s particles go?
Maybe the earth ran into the sun and the molecules exploded in bursts of energy.
Where did that energy go?
What planet did it hit?
Did a piece of the ant become a the energy in a new life form?
Did a piece of the energy from the molecule of that ant become me, eons later?

Well, of course it did. After all, what was that piece of energy doing before it was the molecule of the ant?

A billion rays of light from a billion stars from a billion destroyed planets from a billion ants went into each molecule that made up the ant I killed. And the energy from that ant will, and has already, become that which will spread infinitely throughout the universe for the rest of time, which will go on for eons times eons times eons, further than we can comprehend.

Many people have a fear of dying. But I don’t. Because I will never die, and neither will you. That ant was not living. Nor was he dying. He was simply existing. He was not himself, nor was he something else. He was simply the universe, incarnate in a form that we think we recognize as an individual piece, when in reality, our recognition spans a limited moment in an infinite cycle of energy.

The ant I killed is a human, in another time.
The ant I killed is me, in another time.
The ant I killed is everything, in another time.
And so is everything else.
So are you.
So am I.

We are lucky to be conscious in this moment, observing the reality around us, and existing, enjoying, emoting, loving, hating, feeling, lusting, living in the brief time between what we recognize as the existence and nonexistence of our consciousness. Yet, birth and death have nothing to do with existence and nonexistence.

Birth and death are a brief passing place that we recognize because outside of those boundaries we can’t interact with our immediate surroundings in the way to which we are accustomed in this life.

What happened with the ant’s body could very well happen with something deeper than the body; an energy that exists that we can’t pinpoint, from which some draw the idea of God, and some draw the idea of Buddha nature. Another energy, other than what we see physically, that will also be recycled infinitely throughout existence.

Or maybe that energy is the same as the energy that makes up the molecules of the ant I killed.

Maybe it’s all the same.

Maybe the infinite expansion of time before and after this moment allows for every piece of energy in the universe to exist as every incarnation of every possible thing and being in all the universe, including what we see, our family, friends, the bed on which I sit, the other ants scattered about the outside of my house, the solar system, and the universe. Maybe my consciousness is actually just a small piece of the universe as it infinitely reincarnates in every possible formation and has infinitely reincarnated in every possible formation for all of time.

The ant I killed is not a self. It is the universe.
And so am I.
And so are you.
I don’t worry about dying. Because I am not alive. I simply am, and will be for the rest of time.


The One Where I Admit I Know Nothing

Photo by Peter SperoWhere do your actions arise from?  I notice that a great majority of my actions are first thoughts.  Sometimes the actions occur so rapidly that I haven’t yet voiced the thoughts in my mind.  Sometimes I assume I’m acting from present moment awareness, when in reality I am reacting to a thought.  This raises the question, what actions would arise if unprovoked by thoughts and assumptions?

There are many things I know in my mind.  I know that the present moment is the only place of true power.  I know I only exist right now and will only ever experience this singular now.  But just as my actions often arise from thoughts, these truths during periods of my life become only thoughts in my head.

When these spiritual truths are mere thoughts for me I lack all understanding of them; I don’t know what it truly is to live from a place of presence, to act unprovoked by thought, to live free from fear.  My mind becomes extremely preoccupied with past and future, and that causes stress and anxiety.  Sometimes I’m so afraid I can’t do anything at all.

So what?

By Peter SperoI could say that this is where the universe comes in to provide a sign of its reigning presence in my existence and that grace will descend and enable me to let go of all the fear and identification that I grip onto as if my life depended on it.  I often speak and learn from comfort.  But as “fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys,” as Dickens puts it, I feel it is helpful to express the state of my consciousness in a moment such as this where it seems to burn dimly, when my consciousness lies in the glaring gap between my beliefs and my state of being.

Spiritual truths, when they are just thoughts in your head, cannot change your life experience.  Spiritual truths are to be tried, tested, explored, turned upside down, and contended with.

Do you already know that the now is where all peace and joy reside?  That won’t mean anything to you until you make an honest effort to test the theory.  I can look back at occasions of true presence in my life and know that I had real, miraculous, and deep experiences of peace and oneness with the universe.  Yet even now as I look back they are but thoughts in my head.  Helpful pointers maybe, but bearing no weight on my current state of consciousness lest I practice that which brought me there in the first place.  Lest I practice presence.

Photo by Peter SperoI occasionally find that I keep myself distracted from the moment because of the underlying fear within that I would encounter in such a moment of stillness.  Yet I know that I do not want fear, and that the facing of it is the only way it will dissipate.  There is no way around it.  I can only go through.

What do you avoid facing in the stillness of the present moment?  What will happen to you if you face it?

Even if it seems unpleasant or unbearable, you will not die.  You won’t go anywhere.  But that which you had been avoiding through thoughts, emotions, past and future stories, habits, addictions, and to-do lists, will inevitably disappear in the light of your presence.  Your true self will always remain.

There is a catch: this concept will remain a mere concept, void of any real meaning, until it is tried, tested, and experienced.


What is better than happiness?


What is happiness?  Why does it seem so elusive?  I think the fleetingness of the goal called “happiness” is due to happiness being attached to outer circumstance.  Things and experiences cause the high-energy feeling of happiness.  Since life often doesn’t go according to plan, and happiness is dependent on a favorable experience, happiness disappears when a less than desirable situation arises.

There is good news for the feeling of happiness though.  Happiness is an outer reflection of a powerful state of being.  States of being cannot be dissolved, they are unalterably present, but can be obscured and covered up by layers of identification with thoughts and feelings.  The state of being which happiness pales in comparison to is joy.  As Tolle and many other teachers maintain, states of peace and joy, which are our natural states of being, are always available within, regardless of situation.

When I received this week’s “Weekly Words of Wisdom,” I felt like Swami Satchidananda was offering permission to be happy.  Allowing yourself to enjoy a situation helps to uncover the state of joy within.  When Swami Satchidananda talks about joy and happiness it is clear that regardless of terms, and even though he talks about Yoga practice in particular, that the truth towards which he points is the key to a higher state of consciousness available in all of life’s situations.  Experiencing life from the state of joy is a profound spiritual lesson:

“You forgot to be like children. You may think that spirituality means to be serious, morose; that you can’t smile or laugh. That’s not spirituality. Your spirit should [be] filled with happiness, joy, dancing, singing, and dancing. Don’t be gloomy. That’s not the kind of spirituality we want in the name of Yoga. You should always be exuding happiness and joy—a positive spirit. Work itself should be a play. The Yoga practices should be playful and uplifting. There’s nothing overly serious about it all. God created the world as a playground. Allow the joy to come out. What is serious in this? We all come, gather together, live for awhile, and when the time comes, say goodbye and go. Within that period, can’t we be happy? God bless you. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.” Swami Satchidananda


When The Going Gets Tough

HeartSometimes the days when you feel the least connected can be the most fruitful.  Part of the practice of being present is staying present even when you’re feeling out of sync.  There are days when I notice the voice in my head getting frustrated with the smallest things.  When I experience a day where a stranger sitting too close to me on the bus gets to me, I find it is a good opportunity to explore where the negative energy is coming from.

Occasionally the thoughts in my head give rise to negative emotions.  But more often than not, I first experience a low-level of unhappiness or discomfort emotionally that ends up giving rise to negative thinking.  Watching yourself, when you are reactive or irritated, builds the power of your presence even more powerfully than when you are watching yourself have a positive experience.  Spiritual growth happens in these uncomfortable moments.

The mind will often try to solve discomfort and in turn create more discord.  Noticing this as it happens is a crash course in awareness.  The strength of your own presence creates powerful roots of awareness during seasons of discontent.  This means that no matter what outer and inner circumstances you witness throughout your life, you will have the anchor of your own presence guiding you and working all situations for your good.  This doesn’t make negative energy any more comfortable, but it gives it meaning through the valuable lessons gleaned from it.

Eckhart Tolle provides an amazing free online resource for spiritual awakening and learning about presence.  You can sign up for this free online “UnCourse,” as he calls it, here:  https://www.eckharttolle.com/uncourse/register/.  Whether you are experiencing times of joy, or discord, the opportunity for a more awakened consciousness is always readily available.


Don’t Go There…

A lot of things get to me.  If you’ve read past posts on this blog you’ll know a handful of those things.  Did someone say bugs?  Being “rubbed the wrong way” is a common human experience.  Someone says or does something that really gets you angry, or brings up past pain.  Then there are the smaller annoyances that easily damper our mood.  A few examples spring to mind: traffic, cleaning up after people, being ignored.  

One of the most prominent downers for me is tone of voice.  When someone speaks to me in, what I perceive to be, a negative tone of voice I easily feel hurt or offended.  Michael Singer, author of The Seat of the Soul, calls these our “thorns.”  What, if any, is the purpose of these thorns?  How do you get rid of them?  

The first step comes from realizing that, no matter how truly disturbing the situation is, being disturbed is in no way helpful to you.  Feeling disturbed doesn’t change situations.  Solutions arise when you feel free and spacious within, when your energy is high and can find like pathways to match its own positive frequency.  This doesn’t mean ignoring your feelings.  On the contrary, it means relaxing and allowing yourself to feel the negative energy fully, letting it pass through your awareness until it dissipates.  What are your thorns? This conversation between Michael Singer and Oprah is infinitely helpful in learning what to do about our thorns:


Are you giving away what you don’t have?

GiftsYesterday I cited the old adage, “The more you give, the more you get.”  While this is true, it requires a disclaimer: you can only give what you have.  In concrete terms, this means that if you are giving away heaps of money on a credit card, money that you don’t actually possess, then you will not end up receiving.  Instead, that which you borrowed will end up being taken from you one way or another.  Part of the accumulation of financial debt is simply giving what you do not have.

This principle also operates in relationships.  If you are always trying to help others, give them advice and a shoulder to cry on, but never ask for assistance yourself, you are giving away what you don’t have.  I love the way Brené Brown put it when talking to Oprah about giving and receiving help: if you give help freely, but consider yourself a person that doesn’t ask for help, then every time you are giving help to someone you are judging them.  You are saying, “It is okay for you to ask for help, but not me.  I’m not the kind of person that does that.”  To give genuinely, you must first possess.

This also comes up in love relationships.  I’ve heard many times that you must first love yourself before you love others.  But what does that actually mean?  To figure that out I look at the way I treat myself.  When I forgive myself for making mistakes, have compassion for my shortcomings, comfort myself in times of grief, and let myself laugh and be joyful every single day, I can see that I am truly loving myself.  It is a lot easier to refrain from criticizing your partner for gaining a couple pounds, than it is yourself.  That is where the practice of loving yourself comes in.  The more compassion you can exercise on yourself, the more genuinely your compassion will be experienced by others.

Yesterday at the grocery store my thoughts attempted to gain my attention by worrying about the price of my groceries.  Worry is a common pattern for the mind.  But going into the grocery store I knew I had enough money in my bank account to buy groceries.  I knew that I wasn’t borrowing money from the credit card company that I didn’t already have at my disposal.  Of course, that doesn’t matter to the mind, which attempts to use any situation to place itself firmly at the center of your attention, often through negative reactions. So I allowed myself to enjoy the exchange of giving and receiving.

The first step in giving is to check your bank account.  How much love do you have in your bank account?  How much gratitude?  How much forgiveness?  Your funds will only be depleted if you are giving what you don’t have.  Start with yourself.  Practice gratitude and self-forgiveness.  If it is physical money that is an issue for you in the exchange of energy, create some savings; pay yourself before you pay everyone else.  Whether physical or spiritual, you can only give what you already have.  And once you have, and start becoming part of the exchange, there is no end to the growth of giving and receiving you can experience.