consciousness

Older But Not Necessarily Wiser

QuailIt would be nice if becoming another year older meant you actually became another year wiser.  But I have not always found this to be the case.  As I approach my birthday I’ve noticed that I can look back at my younger self and learn from an understanding that I had once gained but later lost.  On a smaller scale, there are some days when I really feel in tune with the rhythm of life, and others when I am lost in the darkness of my own ignorance.

How is it that wisdom and understanding come and go so easily?  They are measured by the degree to which you are present.

When you choose to be the witness of your thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions, environment, you inhabit the space where all knowledge and inspiration reside.  When you are strung along by habitual thought patterns, you step out of the flow of life.

In the moment you become aware of your breathing, of the beating of your heart, you are wiser than anyone could ever aspire to be.  May we all meet there together.

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consciousness

What The Trees Are Telling You

TreesDuring a storm a tree sees its branches whipped about by wind. Leaves fall off. Rain drenches its limbs. The sky turns dark, but the trees don’t go inside. They stand there bending, breaking, bearing the brunt of the weather. Yet not all of the tree is touched, not every part lives outside.

Inside, underground, spread the tree’s roots. And while storms rage all around it, the roots remain unscathed. The roots’ only experience of the storm is the nourishment that makes its way in.

Weather the storms of life like the trees. Bear witness to the force of the outer circumstances that shake you to your core. Feel their immensity. But remain inside. Be the roots; for part of you too remains untouched. And watch, as all the rain that pours on you becomes life-giving nourishment to your soul.

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Inspiration

Advice I Give Myself

SoulYou are on the right track.

You may not want to hear that, especially if you’re experiencing disappointment, regret, or pain in any form.  But learning from your life situation, however it presents itself, is made exponentially easier when you don’t waste time playing mind games with it.

Those mind games can be wishing life were different, thinking about all of the things you could have done differently, and wondering why other people have it so good.  These are all ways in which the thinking mind distracts you from the task at hand, which is to accept your life situation as if you had chosen it so that you can get down to the business of inner growth.  Because in the end, you’d be learning the same lessons no matter how the outer circumstances of life were presented.

Most importantly, remember that we are all classmates.  We all go to the same school, we’re on the same team.  It may be hard to watch others around you trying and failing, and bumping into you in the hallways.  But we’re all learning.  So no matter where your life situation takes you, arm yourself with compassion for yourself and everyone else.

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Peace

When It’s Time To Stop Talking

HowardCan you recall a moment in your life when you were at a loss for words?

For many of us, that is a rare occurrence. Yet, the power of silence in the thick of a busy and loud life experience has the possibility to achieve more towards your goals than even the most well chosen turns of phrase.

I often try to cope with the instability of life through logical thinking or comforting sentiments.  But the unpleasantness I am trying to withdraw from dissolves more quickly, and of its own accord, when I allow the experience to run its course.

There isn’t always a need to explain things away.  All things inevitably fall away on their own.

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Inspiration

How To Stop Time

TimelessWhat would you choose to do right now if you could stop time?  If the succession of time had a DVR and you could simply press the pause button, do you know how you would fill in the gap?

Now that the holidays are over, my family has returned to their various corners of the world, and I’m navigating life on my own again post-surgery, time has begun to feel like a thief robbing me of moments I wish I could get back.

Since racing against the clock is an invitation for disappointment and constant discontent, how can you find a way out?  Is there a way to stop time?

The ticking of the clock, of course, cannot stop.  But when time feels too fast, it isn’t clock time you’re fighting with, it is psychological time.  Thoughts of missing the past, and anxious thoughts about the future make time an undefeatable enemy.  The actual present moment that you are experiencing will never run away from you; it is the one constant in a life full of variables.

Instead of worrying about a future deadline, work when you work, and rest when you rest.  The end game will be the same either way.  This doesn’t seem as simple as it sounds to a mind running in circles trying to solve the “problem” of time. The mind will continue to spin its tales, but without your belief in them, the stories lose their power.

Stop time by bringing yourself back to the faithful now.  In the words of Eckhart Tolle, “Don’t let a mad world tell you that success is anything other than a successful present moment.”

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Life

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

PresenceAs December is coming to a close, I am writing to you in good health, as I now feel normal again over a month after surgery.  I could never have imagined the magnificence of simply feeling normal until now.  But while my body has a normal state to return to, my life situation has a completely different story.  Before surgery I was in the midst of searching for a new normal after my job of four years came to a close when its grant cycled out, and I was imagining new passions and opportunities that might emerge.  A seizure, concussion, myriad of medical tests, and brain surgery later, that new normal hasn’t yet found its way into my experience.

Have you ever experienced a transition that seems to be followed by still more change?  Have you seen uncertainty lead to greater uncertainty?  When life shows its true colors by unmasking the illusion of stability you are left with an important task.  That task is your reaction.

An easy go-to reaction is fear, but if you have had enough suffering you’ll bypass that one quite quickly.  Another reaction, which may not even seem like a reaction at first, is waiting. You can wait out the uncertainty.  You can wait to feel comfortable, at peace, joyful, and grateful until you have your new normal.  Of course waiting to be at peace until your outer situation looks a certain way is the ego’s best kept secret in how to never be at peace.

Without fear and waiting, how can you react to uncertainty and transition?  I have found that my favorite, most joy-filled, peaceful, hopeful reaction to such an outer situation is to allow myself to inhabit the present moment.

It feels a bit uncomfortable at first, and I always get the initial sensation that I have to distract myself with something.  But after I let myself be present through the discomfort it turns out that the present is a pristine, perfect place to be, that asks nothing of me but my awareness of it.  When I let myself place my attention on my sensory perceptions of the present, the mind, which is busy worrying and trying to fix various aspects of what it deems an unacceptable life situation, starts to lose steam.  Real life emerges.

While the future feels like it needs constant attention, life is always happening right now and no place else.  It isn’t waiting for you to notice it.  You could go your whole life unaware that you’re only living in your mind and missing the moment that living takes place.  But uncertainty will help you notice the living present if you let it.  Life is beckoning you through every situation you find yourself in.  This time let your life situation drive you home to the present moment.  You’ll be glad you came.

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Surgery

The Aftereffects of Brain Surgery

Post SurgeryThe lessons I’ve received since undergoing surgery a couple of weeks ago are just beginning to emerge into something I can write down. While I am still recovering and understanding the profundity of this new experience, there is one simple truth I woke up with, in my anesthesia haze, that still hasn’t left my mind: I am so grateful to be alive. I couldn’t have envisioned the physical pain I felt the first week after surgery, but it was made gentler by the simple satisfaction of still being here, still having the opportunity to experience living.

As I get better each day, life’s more ordinary cares and worries are emerging once again. Yet those too are put at bay by the knowledge that the most important goal has already been achieved; I’m here! Everything we strive for, worry about, and long for, are all luxuries that come with being alive. And I’m so grateful that you’re all here too, as we experience this life together.

Surgery has given me a nice new titanium plate in my skull, endless sweet well wishes from loved ones, and an extremely thankful heart. As Thanksgiving approaches I hope the satisfaction of living extends straight from my heart to yours. (And that you don’t need a craniotomy to get the message!)

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Surgery

A Beginner’s Guide To Dealing With Fear

In The DistanceFear, like any thought or emotion, cannot be picked up with the hands and thrown away.  But despite its intangibility, in these days leading up to my surgery I am learning things about fear I never knew before.

The undercurrent of fear that we all experience to some degree is more difficult to notice and release than big fear.  The little things I’m genuinely afraid of, like bugs, a lack of money, or my plans not working out, seem so normal that I can hardly imagine what it might feel like not to be afraid of them.  But this big event I’m experiencing, a major surgery, is so unknowable and uncontrollable that the fear of it cannot be brushed under the rug.  Big fear either forces surrender or causes excruciating suffering.

Another aspect of fear that I’ve been noticing is that it lessens with an increase of gratitude.  I’ve been realizing that I’m so grateful I can even have this healing surgery.  I’m grateful that I can go to a hospital and have people looking out for my health and caring for me.  I’m grateful beyond measure for the love and compassion I’ve been shown in the wake of this challenge.  The generosity of spirit that those around me have demonstrated has softened my heart towards humanity in a new and deeper way than ever before.  When given the opportunity to show compassion, each person can reveal an infinite wellspring from within their being, an insatiable desire to help.

I have also noticed that no matter my fears, what is simply is, and what will be simply will be.  This doesn’t mean my mind won’t take me to the thoughts that are most potent for spawning more fear and subsequently more thoughts, but when that happens there is always surrender, there is always the “For This Practice” game, there is always gratitude, and when all else fails there is always one more chance for surrender.

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Life

A Seizure, Surgery, and Search for Peace

Story Of Your LifeTwo weeks ago I was walking down the sidewalk with my younger brother, and noticed I was having a strong experience of déjà vu.  The next moment I woke up in an ambulance with two handsome men enthusiastically declaring, “You had a seizure!”

The good news, as my brother told me, was that I came out of the seizure laughing. The hospital staff wasn’t even sure at first I had suffered a seizure; perhaps I merely passed out, because I was so very conversational after regaining consciousness.  But after several different tests, it turned out that I did have a seizure, and that it was probably caused by the 3.5cm benign tumor that has taken over a portion of the top left of my skull bone.  While quite a shock to discover, this “epidermoid,” as the doctors called it, could have been present since birth.  Even though it may have been pressing on my brain all this time, it has only just shown itself to be an issue.

Although you never hope to hear such news regarding your own body, there are many things I have to be grateful for in my situation.  The tumor is almost certainly benign, it is not in the brain itself but in the skull bone, and it is in an easily accessible area.  And come November 5th I will undergo surgery to have it removed.

So now what?  Where is the lesson in this?  While I do feel that my religious practices, spiritual study, meditation, Yoga, and the writing of each post here on Let Yourself Learn have been tremendous training for just such a life altering situation, I have been at a loss for insight.  I have experienced fear, confusion, mistrust of people’s advice, and even a small dose of self-pity.  Yet through all of those feelings I kept saying to myself, “I am on the cusp of acceptance, I am on the edge of peace.”

There is a deeper knowing that, even in a moment of fear, still faintly flickers as a beacon for the understanding and abundant miracles to come.  Sharing my situation with all of you helps to fan that flame.

In my last post I talked about the uncertainty in my life, the space being created, and what it was teaching me about living in the present.  With something like brain surgery looming in the future, the present moment becomes more obviously the only tolerable space to inhabit.  There is no more time for what-if scenarios; the suffering they create far outweighs the mild ego satisfaction of “knowing” the future.

Before this series of events took place I had planned to write about my acceptance into the Living Yoga Training program at the Satchidananda Ashram, where I was going to live the yogic lifestyle and be of service to their community for one month starting yesterday.  I thought I was finally going to get that push into present moment awareness I so longed for. Now sitting here, at my same old apartment in Chicago, I am learning what it means to be present in a way I never could have thought up.  It may not look like it now, but this is happening for me, it is part of the highest potential for my life journey, and I am right on the cusp of acceptance, right on the edge of peace.

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Life

Uncertainty or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Now

HutRecently life has felt like one big question mark.  Instead of providing answers, life is providing me with more and more uncertainty.  While Eckhart Tolle would describe such a circumstance as space being created for something new, it feels more like I’m venturing into the woods at night without a flashlight.

The space being created is easily filled with thoughts of worry, doubt, and “what if” scenarios.  I keep asking myself what I can do to make each situation turn out favorably for me.  But whatever I do will only be half of the equation, the other half is made up of howI do whatever it is I choose to do.  Am I acting out of conscious awareness or out of fear?  Am I making choices based on my worries or from a place of trust?

Of course if I waited to act in life until I wasn’t afraid I probably wouldn’t make it past my front door in the morning, but there is another way for action to be in alignment with positive energy.  We can do this by first recognizing fear for what it is, a pattern of thought in the mind that translates to emotion in the body, and back to thoughts again.  There is nothing wrong with this being in your sphere of attention as long as it is noticed and not completely bought into.  The more you buy into it, the more suffering you experience.

Once the fear based thought and emotion pattern is seen from the light of your awareness you can choose not to buy into it, and instead choose to know that in reality each step you take is exactly what you need to experience at this moment. You can decide to live in each moment as if you had chosen it.

Know deep within, beyond thought, that each decision is leading you towards the highest aspirations of your being.  In this way the energy behind your actions is that of consciousness itself, and all that fear stuff is just hanging out to enjoy the scenery.  The time for fruitful action is always now, could there be any other?

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