Tag Archives: consciousness

Nothing Really Matters

ImageIt’s been a while since I’ve posted, I know, but trust me, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking…of searching…of examining…of reading and studying…and it’ll never be over, which is why I decided to sit down this evening and get some thoughts out to you all…

I’ve got a question to ask you: how many of you believe that you are alive, on this earth, in this minute, where you are geographically, for a reason? How many of you really feel that? That you have a higher, loftier purpose than what you find yourself doing daily?

I have always felt that my life was meant to be lived for a reason, but for many, many years I couldn’t figure out what that reason was, so I simply took opportunities that came to me and assumed that life would bring me where I was meant to go. I was, however, very conscious of my need to stop and check myself before embarking on any avenue that would require a wholehearted investment, because despite not being able to pin down what my mission was, I have always known when something would be a distraction, a waste of time. I left centers of higher education over and over when I felt my studies were wasting my time, and as I instruct people in my “Examined Life” workshop to do, through the process of elimination I repeatedly managed to identify what I didn’t want in my life. And it was through this elimination that I finally figured it out.

My awareness of consciousness (and its subtle layers) has been with me for as long as I can remember, even back when I had no name for it, no parameters within which to define it. And ironically, when meditated and reflected on, it is nameless and undefinable. Over the past week I have been reading a translation of the Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Easwaran, and in all honesty, I haven’t gotten past the introduction…not because it’s difficult or painful to read, quite the contrary, actually. I keep re-reading his words that set the tone for the layers of consciousness that permeate the Gita, and every time I read them, a different phrase or concept rises up to meet me, which I end up reflecting on for a few days. At this rate, I’ll have finished reading the book by 2013, but all kidding aside, he mentions something which succinctly sums up my beliefs and reasons for carrying out my mission of helping people realize their own selves and missions. He brings up the concept of brahmavidya, which translates to “the supreme science” – supreme because it is the science of consciousness, which underlies and informs all other studies and aspects of life.

In discussing the origins of brahmavidya, Eknath tells us that the ancient Hindu sages, through their introspective studies of consciousness, came to three conclusions that have since been backed up by more modern-day scientists: 1) there is an infinite, changeless reality beneath the world of change; 2) this same reality lies at the core of every human personality; 3) the purpose of life is to discover this reality experientially. What does this all mean? Let me give you my take on it: the lives we live spent managing our jobs, relationships, health, passions, hobbies, etc… all fall into the world of change. These things happen, then they’re done. We feel one way, the feeling passes. We work on one project, it ends. Many of us have lived our lives to date confident in the belief that this world is the sum total of our efforts and happiness lies in said efforts and their results. Others have played this game and “won”, only to discover that the satisfaction they were led to believe would be gained from all their hard work remained elusive. The world of change is very real, don’t get me wrong. But there is way more to our existence than what we can perceive using our senses. The sages identified that under the world of change lies another realm, one in which resides a changeless source of energy from which every single thing in existence stems….which leads us to their second point: we stem from that source. We carry that changeless, nameless energy within us and our personalities develop from there. Lastly, they tell us that the meaning of life, the reason we are here on earth is to experience this connection we have to that which is changeless. To understand it, to connect to it, and to remember it so that it alters our perception of the world of change, allowing us to see that everything comes from one source and that we have way more in common with each other than we understand.

Grasping these concepts can be incredibly alienating, giving many the reason they need to not explore further into their own lives and the perception they have of the world around them. It is, however, these concepts exactly which have always been with me, albeit under guises that were harder to explain and justify. It is these very concepts that I try to bring with me to every class I teach, every workshop I give, every lecture I prepare. I believe that as soon as we realize that the jobs we work at and the relationships we partake in and the roles we overload ourselves with are ever-changing and temporary, we find ourselves receiving that much-needed nudge into a place of clarity, where any illusion about why we’re here is dispelled, and we understand exactly the depths of meaning that each and every one of us embodies. We are provided with a clearer framework within which we can stop wasting time and identify the gifts we have been carrying around with us for our entire lives so that we can finally share them with the rest of the world.

So…if you answered in the affirmative to my question at the beginning of this post, has what you’ve read here informed that belief of yours to any extent? Why are you here? And how long has it taken you to figure out? It’s time to pay attention to what really matters. Your time is now…

Chisel Away

As many of you who have taken class with me can attest, I hold a high regard for yoga’s teachings, for the opportunity of self-study with the hope of moving further and further away from what binds us to the physical and tangible and allows us to connect to a place of non-suffering, a place of heightened consciousness and connection to that which is unchanging. Basically, I fully believe in and endorse moving away from the daily events that we find ourselves constantly managing, reacting to, and trying to avoid, while keeping in the forefront of our minds that there’s something greater than all that, a higher energy source that is makes up everything we are. It’s through the connection to the energy that unites us all that I find inspiration to continue exploring not only myself, but all aspects of humanity as well…understanding that the more I learn about myself, the more I learn about humanity, and vice versa. Sometimes it’s way too easy to be completely oblivious to our own habits and behaviors, because we don’t see ourselves moving through our lives the same way we see others…we’re not (hopefully ;-)) holding a mirror up to ourselves to watch our every move and gesticulation, but we can always depend on others to give us more insight into ourselves. The more we know about ourselves, the more we can stand back to a place of equanimity and look at what we need to do to make ourselves be truly seen and heard as we are, as our true selves are. It may sound ridiculously easy, but it has proven to be incredibly tough for many people.

I’m constantly trying to inspire new ways to look at our existence to my students and readers, incorporating the Yoga Sutras and other texts, as well as the insight I have as a result of my experiences…and I’m constantly talking about the impermanence of our energy, of trying to re-connect to the source of that energy and let go of the dramas that are constantly stirred up by our jobs, our relationships, our politics, etc…I firmly believe that when we can identify and relegate most of what we do and live as being temporary, it will allow us to live our lives with more perspective and be able to let what really doesn’t matter pass us by with little or no fallout. I try to ask questions that will provoke thought for those listening to me, in the hope that people will take as much time as they can for some self-study…and in keeping with that ultimate goal, something crossed my mind earlier today that I thought was worth sharing.

I have been defining yoga for years as a tool that allows us to be the clearest version of ourselves, a tool which allows that version to shine through the years of defense mechanisms and masks that we have slapped on in the hopes of being socially accepted and acceptable. Analyzing this led me back to something I once heard about Michelangelo…I remember hearing that when he wanted to sculpt anything, a man, an animal, whatever, he simply started removing the excess marble or other type of rock until his subject was visible. Just like that, like unearthing something that was submerged underground and simply brushing off the dirt. And so bringing it back to ourselves, maybe that’s a different angle from which to approach making ourselves visible…really visible…blindingly visible, maybe for the first time in decades…what do you need to chisel away, what do you need to remove so that you can be truly seen as you truly are to the world around you? We often believe that we have to assume other roles or personae in the aim of being respected and acknowledged, but the contrary is actually true. What make us shine is when we stand out from the crowd and inspire others to feel empowered to do the same. It’s not about being anyone else except yourself.

Living a life in yoga brings many things to mind, one of which is the subject of reincarnation. I’m not sure how many of us believe in reincarnation, and I’m not sure how many of believe we only get one life. But I know that  many of us live as if we have unlimited lifetimes ahead of us, affording us the time to coast through life with little regard for our well-being and that of the people and world around us. So I have a(nother) question to throw out to you all: what if we only get one life? What if this is it? If this is the only one we’re offered, and time is a non-renewable resource, what do you need to shed to be able to come closer to the surface of your truest, clearest self? I’ve heard it said that we spend the first half of our lives learning, and the second half unlearning what took years to learn so that we can come back to our natural state of being. What do you need to unlearn? Do you need to shed anything? Think about what you’ve done to make the “right” impressions…and then think about what might need to be undone. You have the chisel and you know the subject. Now it’s time to let us know. Let us see. And step up into the light so we can see you. We’re waiting.

Learn more about YIOM, follow the bloggers participating, and catch up with our twitter feeds at http://theveganasana.com/YIOM.

Up To You

I believe that there are messengers on earth, people whose mission it is to inspire and direct others towards truth and peace, using perception and certainty as building blocks as tools of inspiration. I believe that after 35 years of trying to find my way, I came to a place where I had no choice but to step up and understand that my future was possibly rooted in that role of messenger, and 3 years later, I am certain that I have stepped into my life’s mission. It is absolutely and totally due to this path of mine that I can clearly see the infinite possibilities that exist for each and every one of us, and this is why I feel so determined to convey those possibilities to everyone within reading and/or hearing distance. What reinforces my belief that I’m on the right path is the (sometimes) overwhelming number of people I counsel, encouraging them to lift their gaze up so they can see the endless options that are available to them, options that once chosen, could lead to a better, stronger, more meaningful existence. What comes so naturally to me apparently doesn’t for everyone else, and so I feel that obligation to guide people towards their own truths with that much more conviction.

All the topics I bring up, all the substance that makes up the body of blog posts that I’ve written and the mini-lectures I’ve given at the beginning of my yoga classes, all lead me back to one main point that I wanted to address in this post…one that serves as the foundation for all the insight I have to share: all that we need to do in our lives is decide what we believe in, and then believe. That’s it. Call it a shift in consciousness, call it a change in perception, call it what you want. But it really is that easy.

I first was taught about the power to change my approach to life by my first yoga teacher, Joan Ruvinsky, who has always brought a non-dual approach to the practice, and to life in general. Non-duality speaks to the unity in all things, and in doing so, allows us to accept that divinity is not something we work towards, but rather, something that already exists within us, and all around us. That everything is already connected. All we have to do it see it, or, believe it. And so, in keeping with that understanding, let’s bring it back to the concept of messengers. Messengers don’t necessarily don’t have to be in the form of the luminescent angel guiding us through the dark. Messengers can come in the form of the person standing in front of you in the checkout line at the grocery store. Angels can be in the form of the person practicing next to you in yoga class. Who’s to say that the capacity to be angelic isn’t the missing link between having angels remain in the realm of the other-worldly and having them exist in a very real and tangible way? All the things that we have accepted as being one way because that’s the commonly believed assumption have to be re-examined. Because there are messengers and angels among us. All we have to do is see them. And believe.

Bringing it back to yoga, I hear a lot of talk about enlightenment…students asking how they know they’re getting closer to enlightenment through their yoga and meditation practices. To all of them who have asked me, and to all of you who have the same or a similar query, I have this to say: who’s to say that enlightenment isn’t already right in front of us, asking only that we allow for the shift in consciousness necessary to lift the veil of illusion from our hearts, allowing the beautiful and the sacred to step into our immediate range of vision? Perhaps enlightenment exists in the ability to stop spending time and energy pursuing the abstract, and let our gaze focus on the perfection that exists right now, in this second. Which isn’t to say that we don’t do our best to stay in the present moment as often as we can in the hopes of staying as close to that state of truth as possible, but we allow ourselves to breathe and let go of that dangling carrot. Because we choose to believe. It all comes back to the non-dual concept. We are not separate from all of it…from enlightenment, from truth, from light, from each other. The connection already exists, we just have to allow ourselves to unlearn what has failed to serve us up to now and adopt a different approach to seeing the world through eyes focused on peace and the permanence of all that is.

If we understand that we all stem from the same source, that the most obvious thread of our commonality is our existence, then it’s only a question of time before we allow the dividing walls of hatred, misogyny, sexism, homophobia, government, religion, media, racism, and, above all, the concept of the divine being separate from us, to fall away. All we need is to believe. I do now, after years of trying every other avenue led me back to my starting point. I believe. Do you? If so, what’s your take on it all? What truths do you lay your faith in?

Plugging In

This week I have the honour of teaching 2 classes at the Palais des Congrès (Montreal’s main convention centre) for federal workers in the public sector from across Canada who are coming to our unusually temperate city (for this time of the year).  Getting everyone off to the best start possible as they trek through the 2-day convention is already something to look forward to, but what I’m really excited about is the theme of the event, which is connecting to community, something absolutely essential for these federal employees who deal with the public day in and day out.

The keynote speaker for this event is slated to be Dr. Samantha Nutt, the founder and executive director of War Child, an incredible organization that is dedicated to providing humanitarian assistance to children in war-torn areas of the globe, and in doing so, providing the catalyst to allow people from all corners of the world to connect with each other towards this common, collaborative goal. Connecting to communities whose values and traditions differ from ours, extending a helping hand to those we’ve never met but with whom we are connected by the threads of humanity that bind us together, all by-products of the main mission to help children who find themselves surrounded by the tears or rips in humanity that war inevitably results in. A keynote speaker who bridges the distances and the differences between us and our fellow men, inspiring a group of people who are the face of our government for each and every person they interact with in the public sector. Inspiring them to connect with the communities they work in, to be so much more than the person behind the partition, on the other end of the telephone, or at the other end of the web-chat.

Connection is also an essential facet of yoga…connection to one’s self, connection to the teacher, and connection to the other practitioners with whom we are blessed to share the practice space and our energies. Without the ability to draw our attention inside through to the subtlest layers of consciousness, our ability to connect with others becomes jeopardized. That connection to the source provides the blueprint conducive to reaching out and sharing our realities with others, and being open and compassionate enough to incorporate what others are living into our realm of existence. Establishing those channels, allowing for the vital exchange of information and events, is what brings us together and reminds us that the connection we share is always present, but occasionally makes itself more apparent based on the events that shape our lives.

Whenever something happens on a global scale, we feel that connection without having to search for it. The recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile are perfect examples of this. Princess Diana’s shocking death, the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the 2004 tsunami in Asia…all the events that feel like tears or rips in the fabric of humanity, the vibration of our world changing in a heartbeat. Not all events, however, need to be traumatic to mark their passing on our collective journey…and despite my willingness to admit that sports are about as attractive to me as eating a bowl full of insects, I have to admit that watching the last 30 minutes of the Canada-U.S.A Olympic hockey match was a lesson in the unification of mankind for me. Initially drawn into the game by the insane media coverage, I was hooked within the first 10 seconds…I was logged onto Facebook, watching as update after update from the majority of my friends from all over the world scrolled down the index page…everyone cheering for Canada, the tension palpable, knowing everyone was on the edge of their seats (myself included, much to my surprise). The winning goal in overtime is what did it for me. Seeing the exact same exclamations of pride and congratulations exploding on the screen in front of me as horns started blaring outside in the streets, the overwhelming outpouring of love and unity, all of it left its mark on me, making me feel like I was plugged into the electrical current that was flowing straight across Canada and spilling over all around the globe. Any differences we may have had hours earlier before the game fell by the wayside as we all came together and celebrated, and it imprinted itself into my memory much in the same way the aforementioned events did. Growing up, I was surrounded by the adults in my life who remembered exactly where they were when JFK was assassinated, when Marilyn Monroe was found dead, when RFK was assassinated…and as I get older, I realize that the deaths of Diana, Michael Jackson, the horror of 9/11, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and countless other events that have changed the face of the world during my formative years have provided similar moments where time seems to have stopped for a millisecond, where the fabric of humanity is forever altered. The game tonight fell into that category, and the best part of the whole event is that there was no call for a collective outpouring of grief for a fallen icon, no wailing to the heavens for lives lost or communities shattered. Tonight’s game united more people than I could ever have imagined, and the beauty of that left me speechless (until I started typing, obviously!).

What I want to covey to everyone reading this is that the coming together that was demonstrated earlier tonight is something that needs not be relegated to the triumph of a sporting event or the tragedy of a natural disaster and the chaos that inevitably ensues. That connection exists 24/7…whether we choose to tap into it and to remind each other of its existence is up to us. Every second of every day holds the opportunity to do this, and every yoga class that we share is a reminder that we’re all in this together…uniting our breath and our intentions, consciously affiliating ourselves with each other…playing for the same team, an ever-growing swarm of awakened souls moving in the same direction, closer towards truth, light and love. We have the choice to live in the reality we want to see around us, it’s all a matter of flicking the proverbial switch we all have access to. This is the message I will bring to my classes at the convention centre this week…that connecting with each other is easier than we think, that it’s all a matter of intention and understanding that the current of connectivity is always flowing, that we have to visualize it as being something we just need to plug ourselves into. And like electricity itself, plugging in is all that’s needed…the results will be immediate and powerful, something we could easily get used to and have trouble living without…how nice would that be?