If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.
― William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how a fixed mind can hold our lives hostage. I define a fixed mind as one which is settled so firmly upon an idea that nothing new can be allowed inside. This kind of thinking closes us up, as Blake says. It automatically creates “sides” and “dualism.” When we are certain of the way things are, then we cannot experience anything new. We shut ourselves off from beginnings and fresh starts, and we become captive to fear and separation.
Dualistic thinking is highly controlled and permits only limited seeing. It protects the status quo and allows the ego to feel like it’s in control. This way of filtering reality is the opposite of pure presence.
― Richard Rohr, The Naked Now
This “pure presence” that Father Richard Rohr speaks of is where I want to live. Yoga and meditation can lead us to “pure presence.” In these practices, we release our normal ways of thinking and open our minds.
This is also why I adore travel. It is nearly impossible to travel the world and maintain a fixed mind. When you walk in new places, you cannot help but see differently. Your routine and normal way of doing and being in the world is always challenged when you travel, especially to different countries. Sometimes this frustrates us, but really we are being frustrated by the way our mind is fixed on the way things are “supposed to be.” When I travel, I try to remain open to whatever comes. In remaining open, I know I will have the opportunity to see the world in its infinity.
Even the simplest details can open your mind to a new way.
Perhaps you have eaten pasta your whole life with a fork and knife. Then on your first day in Italy, you are served a plate of pasta with a fork and spoon. You look around and see others in the restaurant are twirling their forkfuls of pasta in the scoop of the spoon. Maybe you have never seen this before. You try it and find that it works.
If there is more than one right way to eat pasta, could there also be more than one right way to wash your clothes, to garden, to worship, to practice yoga?
New experiences can lead to our “perceptions” being “cleansed,” so we can see things as they really are, which is “Infinite.”
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make any sense.
Yes, dearheart, let’s meet there in Rumi’s field. That’s where Loving Kindness lives.
When a friend is hurting, sometimes it can be hard to know what to do.
Does she want us to come over?
Would she rather be left alone?
What about flowers? Or food?
Is it more appropriate to call first or just show up?
Or should I just send a card?
Has someone written a guide for what to do that covers all these different circumstances?
I need to know what to do when there’s a death and what to do when there’s an illness.
And what to do when there is an unexpected death as opposed to one that has been coming for a long time.
If you have worked through the above train of thought when someone you know was in need, you are not alone. I feel you. My whole life, whenever I have had a friend who was going through a traumatic event or even a minor heartache, I have struggled to know what to do.Until this year…
when I had my accident.
My own traumatic event, though I know it pales in comparison to what many have experienced before me, has brought into clear focus the answer about what to do when someone is hurting.
And it’s exceptionally simple.
Here it is:
That’s it. Anything you do will be appreciated. Literally anything.
When we are crushed by the weight of the world, it’s amazing how the smallest act can lift that burden. Even if it’s just for a little while.
I have already written about how being injured has taught me to receive, something that was hard to learn. But what I didn’t mention is that my time off my feet has also taught me how to be generous.
Experiencing the generosity of others has been a great source of inspiration to me.
Every note, every email, every letter, every card, every package, every food offering and every heartfelt message via social media has served to buoy me through this season. Every single one. I appreciated each sweet reminder that someone else was hoping for my healing and recovery.
So here’s what I know now about helping others in need. Whatever I do will be just right. I don’t have to overthink it. I just need to do something.
Whatever small way I participate in the generosity of the universe will make the world a brighter place for someone. No generous act goes to waste.
Every gesture matters. Every kind word, card, gift or message adds Loving Kindness to the world.
Thank you, dearhearts, for bringing so much Loving Kindness to my world this year.
We don’t have to DO yoga, we can let yoga carry us.
What is your first thought when you hear the word yoga?
Go ahead and say it out loud, or write it down. I’ll wait.
Ooh, I should do yoga.
I should really get back to yoga.
I should try and make it to a yoga class this week.
Or maybe it was:
I love yoga!
I used to do yoga.
I need some new yoga pants.
Notice especially if the sentence you wrote or the thought you had carries the words “should” or “ought” or any sense of yoga as a task.
Sometimes I think the familiarity of yoga as an exercise choice in our body-obsessed world can keep us from the mystic beauty of what yoga truly is.
Yes, in one sense yoga is a discipline that we do. This is a very small piece of what yoga is, yet we tend to make it the whole.
In a deeper sense, yoga is a practice that carries us.
If we let it.
Yoga is the act of everything being connected. The union of our body, mind and soul.
If we always think of yoga as a one-hour exercise class that we ought to fit into our schedule, we are missing the way yoga can befriend us throughout our whole day. (And our whole life!)
Yoga is the three deep breaths you take in the morning before you get out of bed.
Yoga is greeting the day with sun salutations.
Yoga is a meditation session, whether it’s five minutes or an hour.
Yoga is looking your co-workers in the eyes for a minute longer than natural.
Yoga is noticing the way the air smells when you step outside.
Yoga is stopping to read aloud to a child.
Yoga is tree pose at your desk in the middle of the day to calm your mind before a meeting.
Yoga is observing your body and your emotions.
Yoga is drinking your afternoon tea with all five of your senses.
Yoga is calm curiosity about the people standing in line with you at the store.
Yoga is ending the day a moon salutation.
Yoga is writing out gratitude.
Yoga is savasana.
Yoga is peace of mind before you close your eyes.
Whether you have practiced yoga for a long time or for just a few days, your yoga practice is present with you. It is bringing you the gift of the present moment at any time you tune in to it.
Yes, yoga is moving your body and I’ll be the first to say how I love the way the physical practice makes me feel, but ultimately I am seeking the peace of mind that yoga brings me. I would rather master peace and Loving Kindness than a specific physical pose. The ongoing journey to peace is my yoga practice. And it is with me always.
So, now let me ask you a different question?
Where do you see your yoga practice? Where is it already with you, showing up throughout your day?
Dearheart, leave a comment and tell me. Show me how yoga is carrying you.
Happy New Year dearheart,
Even though the winter solstice is a month behind us now and the days are getting longer again (bit by bit), we are in the deep of winter. The walking paths are covered in snow and the birds have vanished from my windows
After Christmas, there is a sparseness to the landscape that I enjoy, especially as I hibernate inside by the fire, but perhaps we sometimes internalize that sparse sensation to an extreme. We can feel that there is not enough. Not enough time. Not enough energy. Not enough sleep. Not enough daylight.
Or sometimes we can create sparseness (and starvation) after what we perceive as the “too much-ness” of the holidays. In practicing Loving Kindness, there is no punishing ourselves. There is no condemnation for not having exercised enough or for eating too much.
So often I hear people (women especially) beginning the year with statements like, “This is the year I should really get control of my life.” or “This year I ought to be more faithful to exercise and eat right.”
Instead of terms like “should” or “ought to,” Loving Kindness frames our thinking with questions like:
What do I want more of this year?
What brings me joy?
What would feel like love to me this year?
What would make life wonderful this year?
If you ask yourself these questions with love, you might find the answers bring the kind of wellness into your life that you crave AND that is good for your body and soul.
15 minutes of yoga can feel like a breath of life. An hour of reading with your favorite blanket, just for pleasure, can open your mind and heart afresh. Savoring a hot cup of your favorite tea can be as satisfying as a decadent meal.
Sometimes when I suggest to people to live life with more Loving Kindness, they think I am proposing we all just sit about on clouds painting smiles on our faces. But as I’ve said before, Loving Kindness is not “pie in the sky” thinking. To gaze upon yourself with Loving Kindness can be very hard. When you are used to listening to your inner critic, it can be quite challenging to pause that voice and replace it with pure love. It takes time and effort tap into what feels like love when we are accustomed to lists of do’s and don’ts.
It takes enormous courage to love. Loving Kindness is a bold and brave choice.
Take some time with a pen and paper and the questions above to see where Loving Kindness will lead you.
Maybe Loving Kindness looks like taking care of your beautiful self in a new way this year.
Is this the year you book a standing appointment for a weekly massage instead of waiting until you can hardly move to call and schedule one? Maybe you want to learn to make something new. Maybe you want to reboot a hobby from years past. Let your heart dream about what you really want.
Focusing on what brings us true pleasure each day coats these sparse winter days with rich beauty.
The trees may be bare, but there is no need for our lives to be.
When you wake up tomorrow, pause and ask yourself, What would feel like love today?
The answer may surprise you.
Wishing you Loving Kindness and JOY in 2019!