Tag Archives: enlightenment

From Darkness To Light

The only thing, the ONLY thing that we are not encouraged to do by those who have influence and what we loosely refer to as “power”, is take care of each other. With all the resources available to us, with instant, affordable communication options at our fingertips, we are, collectively, more divided than ever.

This moment in time will be looked back on as a dark age because of this one basic fact. The solution? Take care of each other. Be respectful. Honour the humanity in everyone, not just those who have the same skin tone as you, who speak the same language as you, who pray to the same god as you, who believe the same things that you do. Honour everyone. Especially when the buffoons elected to office seem poised to strip already-marginalized communities of whatever rights they have.

Be brave. Be courageous. Be part of the inevitable enlightenment that is coming, the enlightenment that will be the result of us taking care of each other. All of us.

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If You Read One Blog Post, Make It This One

More shootings. More terrorist attacks. More opinions being slung into the collective consciousness. More judgement. More blame. More division. More “I am me and you are you and I have nothing to do with you.”

Let’s just get to the fucking point, shall we? I say it incessantly in classes, workshops, lectures and retreats, but I’ll just keep on saying it until it’s understood: this moment in time will be looked back on by historians as a dark age. Why? Because even with all the channels we have of technology, of communication, of interaction and of being able to follow each other’s every breath, move, meal and vacation, one thing, ONE THING, continues to evade us.

We don’t take care of each other. We allow fear to supersede trust, we work from the default that our differences are stronger and allow those differences to motivate the pulling of a trigger, the launching of opinion into social media networks, the creation of a world where we’re divided and, essentially, killing each other.

I also constantly remind people to rise up and meet darkness with light. What that means in real terms is to somehow overcome the differences that keep us in the rigidity of “black” or “white”, “male” or “female”, “straight” or “gay”, “Christian” or “Jewish” or “Muslim”, “you” or “me.” Get over it. We are all trying to navigate our difficulties and successes, all at the same time on the same planet. All struggling. And just because the faces of those struggles looks different person to person, don’t ever doubt that the root causes are the same for us all.

Start making an effort to connect to what you’ve previously avoided or had an aversion to. Come together. Try exposure therapy. Try communicating face to face. Try.

There will be an age of enlightenment that will follow this dark age. Our work now is to not succumb to the darkness. None of this will end until we wake up and start looking after and caring for each other instead of killing each other.

Try.

The Phoenix From The Flame

I’ve been preparing for the workshop and lecture I’ll be giving later this year for the Luna Yoga Teacher Training on Hindu mythology and how it relates to the yoga postures, and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t passionately loving every second of my research. I’ve been going over the myths I’m already familiar with, as well as hearing some of the more obscure ones for the first time, and I keep having these moments of realization where I can really stand back from my life and see how the path I’m on is truly my dharma…it’s unreal, intense, and satisfying, all at the same time. As I finish with one myth, I put down my books and walk away from the computer, and sit down in silence to think about what I’ve read, and how it applies to my life and my approach to life. The approach that I have to yoga is 90% philosophical and 10% physical, and this is why: I believe that the asana practice is purifying for the body, absolutely. But I also believe that the practice allows for a shift in consciousness, one that opens up new windows of insight and belief systems that challenge who we find ourselves in this moment, how we got to this point, and where we see ourselves moving forward with the knowledge and insight that we have at our disposal. I believe that the mission for all of us in this life is to fully realize that the only thing that matters is to re-connect to the higher energy that is the source of every single thing in existence around us, and within us. Everything else is secondary. How we come to that realization is really up to each of us to figure out, but I can attest to the fact that yoga absolutely opens up gateways to the soul, gateways that can shed a bright, refreshing light into the annals of our consciousness to allow us to see with new eyes.

One aspect of the asana practice that has always fascinated me is the final posture we take before closing out the class: savasana, deep relaxation, corpse pose. When I first started practicing in 1999, savasana was the lifeboat at the end of the long swim through what was then my practice. Whatever happened during class, I knew I could collapse at the end and recharge through the act of doing nothing. At that time, I remained conscious of the fact that my thoughts kept whirling, my eyes would continue moving around, and all I could do was stand in judgement of myself, staying critical of the fact that I couldn’t let go. That changed after a while. I then found myself hearing a voice telling me to connect to the sky, which became my mantra and which enabled me to visualize a beam of light emanating from my third eye and beaming upwards, and it was through this connection to a higher energy that I found myself completely letting go and finding that I had indeed drifted off to some other place during my savasana, a place where I was still conscious, but not of, or in, the body. And now, recently, 12 years later, I have had another revelatory awakening from my savasana: this posture of letting go, where we allow the body to absorb the physical practice we’ve just treated ourselves to, has taken on a new role, one where I set my intention as I lay down to put to sleep that which does not serve me and which identifies with the ego, so that I can rise up at the end of the relaxation period re-born and re-focused. Ever since the adoption of this new approach to savasana, I feel like I have been speeding closer and closer to a new place of spirituality and connection to all that is. Call it re-birth, call it a step closer to a state of enlightenment, whatever. All I know is that yoga has once again offered me a tool where I can be responsible and accountable for shedding off the attributes, events and conversations that have only served to weigh me down and distract me from my focus towards truth, so that I can rise up again after my repose with renewed focus, strength and determination. Focus on my soul and tapping into what it already knows, strength to be unwavering in my journey, and determination to pass on what I myself am living and learning, understanding that if I don’t share these insights, then I’m truly missing the point. And so I hope that you reading this will try out this approach..to savasana, or to any process that you find yourself undertaking that has both a beginning and an end. Allow yourselves to infuse whatever it is you do with the knowledge that you have the power to let go of what doesn’t serve you, and to come out the other side of it with a new sense of clarity and understanding. The tools are already there…we just have to pick them up and use them.

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

Would vs do

I came across a link to a video today through Rhetta, (a friend of mine with whom I spent last year in teacher training), a video of a brain scientist, Jill Bolte Taylor, giving a lecture recounting her experience of having a stroke, and analyzing the gradual deterioration of her motor skills and perception throughout the ordeal. The words that come out of this woman’s mouth, the insight and inspiration that she conveys about humanity, and the decisions we make about who we want to be and what we see in our immediate surroundings that we classify as our reality are all life changing. The fact that a neuroanatomist can explain enlightenment and connecting to energy, channelling energy, in such succinct terms is refreshing and reassuring. I’m including the transcript of her lecture as well as a link to the video…enjoy it, and pay particular attention to her closing paragraph…Enjoy it 🙂

Stroke Of Insight – Jill Bolte Taylor – TRANSCRIPT

I grew up to study the brain because I have a brother who has been diagnosed with a brain disorder, schizophrenia. And as a sister and as a scientist, I wanted to understand, why is it that I can take my dreams, I can connect them to my reality, and I can make my dreams come true — what is it about my brother’s brain and his schizophrenia that he cannot connect his dreams to a common, shared reality, so they instead become delusions?

So I dedicated my career to research into the severe mental illnesses. And I moved from my home state of Indiana to Boston where I was working in the lab of Dr. Francine Benes, in the Harvard Department of Psychiatry. And in the lab, we were asking the question, What are the biological differences between the brains of individuals who would be diagnosed as normal control, as compared to the brains of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective, or bipolar disorder?

So we were essentially mapping the microcircuitry of the brain, which cells are communicating with which cells, with which chemicals, and then with what quantities of those chemicals. So there was a lot of meaning in my life because I was performing this kind of research during the day. But then in the evenings and on the weekends I traveled as an advocate for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

But on the morning of December 10 1996 I woke up to discover that I had a brain disorder of my own. A blood vessel exploded in the left half of my brain. And in the course of four hours I watched my brain completely deteriorate in its ability to process all information. On the morning of the hemorrhage I could not walk, talk, read, write or recall any of my life. I essentially became an infant in a woman’s body.

If you’ve ever seen a human brain, it’s obvious that the two hemispheres are completely separate from one another. And I have brought for you a real human brain. [Thanks.] So, this is a real human brain. This is the front of the brain, the back of the brain with a spinal cord hanging down, and this is how it would be positioned inside of my head. And when you look at the brain, it’s obvious that the two cerebral cortices are completely separate from one another. For those of you who understand computers, our right hemisphere functions like a parallel processor. While our left hemisphere functions like a serial processor. The two hemispheres do communicate with one another through the corpus collosum, which is made up of some 300 million axonal fibers. But other than that, the two hemispheres are completely separate. Because they process information differently, each hemisphere thinks about different things, they care about different things, and dare I say, they have very different personalities. [Excuse me. Thank you. It’s been a joy.]

Our right hemisphere is all about this present moment. It’s all about right here right now. Our right hemisphere, it thinks in pictures and it learns kinesthetically through the movement of our bodies. Information in the form of energy streams in simultaneously through all of our sensory systems. And then it explodes into this enormous collage of what this present moment looks like. What this present moment smells like and tastes like, what it feels like and what it sounds like. I am an energy being connected to the energy all around me through the consciousness of my right hemisphere. We are energy beings connected to one another through the consciousness of our right hemispheres as one human family. And right here, right now, all we are brothers and sisters on this planet, here to make the world a better place. And in this moment we are perfect. We are whole. And we are beautiful.

My left hemisphere is a very different place. Our left hemisphere thinks linearly and methodically. Our left hemisphere is all about the past, and it’s all about the future. Our left hemisphere is designed to take that enormous collage of the present moment. And start picking details and more details and more details about those details. It then categorizes and organizes all that information. Associates it with everything in the past we’ve ever learned and projects into the future all of our possibilities. And our left hemisphere thinks in language. It’s that ongoing brain chatter that connects me and my internal world to my external world. It’s that little voice that says to me, “Hey, you gotta remember to pick up bananas on your way home, and eat ’em in the morning.” It’s that calculating intelligence that reminds me when I have to do my laundry. But perhaps most important, it’s that little voice that says to me, “I am. I am.” And as soon as my left hemisphere says to me “I am,” I become separate. I become a single solid individual separate from the energy flow around me and separate from you.

And this was the portion of my brain that I lost on the morning of my stroke.

On the morning of the stroke, I woke up to a pounding pain behind my left eye. And it was the kind of pain, caustic pain, that you get when you bite into ice cream. And it just gripped me and then it released me. Then it just gripped me and then released me. And it was very unusual for me to experience any kind of pain, so I thought OK, I’ll just start my normal routine. So I got up and I jumped onto my cardio glider, which is a full-body exercise machine. And I’m jamming away on this thing, and I’m realizing that my hands looked like primitive claws grasping onto the bar. I thought “that’s very peculiar” and I looked down at my body and I thought, “whoa, I’m a weird-looking thing.” And it was as though my consciousness had shifted away from my normal perception of reality, where I’m the person on the machine having the experience, to some esoteric space where I’m witnessing myself having this experience.

And it was all every peculiar and my headache was just getting worse, so I get off the machine, and I’m walking across my living room floor, and I realize that everything inside of my body has slowed way down. And every step is very rigid and very deliberate. There’s no fluidity to my pace, and there’s this constriction in my area of perceptions so I’m just focused on internal systems. And I’m standing in my bathroom getting ready to step into the shower and I could actually hear the dialog inside of my body. I heard a little voice saying, “OK, you muscles, you gotta contract, you muscles you relax.”

And I lost my balance and I’m propped up against the wall. And I look down at my arm and I realize that I can no longer define the boundaries of my body. I can’t define where I begin and where I end. Because the atoms and the molecules of my arm blended with the atoms and molecules of the wall. And all I could detect was this energy. Energy. And I’m asking myself, “What is wrong with me, what is going on?” And in that moment, my brain chatter, my left hemisphere brain chatter went totally silent. Just like someone took a remote control and pushed the mute button and — total silence.

And at first I was shocked to find myself inside of a silent mind. But then I was immediately captivated by the magnificence of energy around me. And because I could no longer identify the boundaries of my body, I felt enormous and expansive. I felt at one with all the energy that was, and it was beautiful there.

Then all of a sudden my left hemisphere comes back online and it says to me, “Hey! we got a problem, we got a problem, we gotta get some help.” So it’s like, OK, OK, I got a problem, but then I immediately drifted right back out into the consciousness, and I affectionately referred to this space as La La Land. But it was beautiful there. Imagine what it would be like to be totally disconnected from your brain chatter that connects you to the external world. So here I am in this space and any stress related to my, to my job, it was gone. And I felt lighter in my body. And imagine all of the relationships in the external world and the many stressors related to any of those, they were gone. I felt a sense of peacefulness. And imagine what it would feel like to lose 37 years of emotional baggage! I felt euphoria. Euphoria was beautiful — and then my left hemisphere comes online and it says “Hey! you’ve got to pay attention, we’ve got to get help,” and I’m thinking, “I got to get help, I gotta focus.” So I get out of the shower and I mechanically dress and I’m walking around my apartment, and I’m thinking, “I gotta get to work, I gotta get to work, can I drive? can I drive?”

And in that moment my right arm went totally paralyzed by my side. And I realized, “Oh my gosh! I’m having a stroke! I’m having a stroke!” And the next thing my brain says to me is, “Wow! This is so cool. This is so cool. How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out?”

And then it crosses my mind: “But I’m a very busy woman. I don’t have time for a stroke!” So I’m like, “OK, I can’t stop the stroke from happening so I’ll do this for a week or two, and then I’ll get back to my routine, OK.”

So I gotta call help, I gotta call work. I couldn’t remember the number at work, so I remembered, in my office I had a business card with my number on it. So I go in my business room, I pull out a 3-inch stack of business cards. And I’m looking at the card on top, and even though I could see clearly in my mind’s eye what my business card looked like, I couldn’t tell if this was my card or not, because all I could see were pixels. And the pixels of the words blended with the pixels of the background and the pixels of the symbols, and I just couldn’t tell. And I would wait for what I call a wave of clarity. And in that moment, I would be able to reattach to normal reality and I could tell, that’s not the card, that’s not the card, that’s not the card. It took me 45 minutes to get one inch down inside of that stack of cards.

In the meantime, for 45 minutes the hemorrhage is getting bigger in my left hemisphere. I do not understand numbers, I do not understand the telephone, but it’s the only plan I have. So I take the phone pad and I put it right here, I’d take the business card, I’d put it right here, and I’m matching the shape of the squiggles on the card to the shape of the squiggles on the phone pad. But then I would drift back out into La La Land, and not remember when I come back if I’d already dialed those numbers.

So I had to wield my paralyzed arm like a stump, and cover the numbers as I went along and pushed them, so that as I would come back to normal reality I’d be able to tell, yes, I’ve already dialed that number. Eventually the whole number gets dialed, and I’m listening to the phone, and my colleague picks up the phone and he says to me, “Whoo woo wooo woo woo.” [laughter] And I think to myself, “Oh my gosh, he sounds like a golden retriever!” And so I say to him, clear in my mind I say to him. “This is Jill! I need help!” And what comes out of my voice is, “Whoo woo wooo woo woo.” I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh, I sound like a golden retriever.” So I couldn’t know, I didn’t know that I couldn’t speak or understand language until I tried.

So he recognizes that I need help, and he gets me help. And a little while later, I am riding in an ambulance from one hospital across Boston to Mass General Hospital. And I curl up into a little fetal ball. And just like a balloon with the last bit of air just, just right out of the balloon I felt my energy lift and I felt my spirit surrender. And in that moment I knew that I was no longer the choreographer of my life. And either the doctors rescue my body and give me a second chance at life or this was perhaps my moment of transition.

When I awoke later that afternoon I was shocked to discover that I was still alive. When I felt my spirit surrender, I said goodbye to my life, and my mind is now suspended between two very opposite planes of reality. Stimulation coming in through my sensory systems felt like pure pain. Light burned my brain like wildfire and sounds were so loud and chaotic that I could not pick a voice out from the background noise and I just wanted to escape. Because I could not identify the position of my body in space, I felt enormous and expensive, like a genie just liberated from her bottle. And my spirit soared free like a great whale gliding through the sea of silent euphoria. Harmonic. I remember thinking there’s no way I would ever be able to squeeze the enormousness of myself back inside this tiny little body.

But I realized “But I’m still alive! I’m still alive and I have found Nirvana. And if I have found Nirvana and I’m still alive, then everyone who is alive can find Nirvana.” I picture a world filled with beautiful, peaceful, compassionate, loving people who knew that they could come to this space at any time. And that they could purposely choose to step to the right of their left hemispheres and find this peace. And then I realized what a tremendous gift this experience could be, what a stroke of insight this could be to how we live our lives. And it motivated my to recover.

Two and a half weeks after the hemorrhage, the surgeons went in and they removed a blood clot the size of a golf ball that was pushing on my language centers. Here I am with my mama, who’s a true angel in my life. It took me eight years to completely recover.

So who are we? We are the life force power of the universe, with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. And we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. Right here right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere where we are — I am — the life force power of the universe, and the life force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form. At one with all that is. Or I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere. where I become a single individual, a solid, separate from the flow, separate from you. I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, intellectual, neuroanatomist. These are the “we” inside of me.

Which would you choose? Which do you choose? And when? I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world and the more peaceful our planet will be. And I thought that was an idea worth spreading.

Video located here: http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html