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Living With Reality

Tooshar Exploring the Bog

“It is what it is!” I hear that phrase a lot, or its spiritual variant “Embrace reality.” ‘It is what it is!’ is usually accompanied by a shrug of resignation, like there’s no choice but to accept what can’t be changed.

As I write this, my dog, Tooshar, is curled up on the rug gnawing on a rawhide bone, a picture of relaxed contentment. She’s eight, or middle aged in doggie terms and last year her life changed completely. She moved from Dublin, Ireland to California, USA with no choice in the matter. In Dublin she raced every day around a local park chasing birds she knew she’d never catch. Here, in California, her evening walk is a sedate ramble around an urban block, securely leashed. In Dublin, on weekends, she ranged freely through the mountains, leaping exultantly across undulations of turf and heather and bog cotton, navigating by smell. Here she gets to sniff her way along feral cat tracks in the few city parks that permit dogs.

I feel sorry for her and how her life has been diminished by forces outside her control, namely me. She, on the other hand, is relaxed, content and perfectly at peace exploring the greatly reduced yet equally fascinating corners of her shrunken world. She accepts what is without the shrug of resignation. In other words, she truly accepts – no second guessing, no martyrdom, no wishful gazing upon what might or should or could be. And it has eliminated the kind of suffering most humans seem to go through when confronted by circumstances they can’t change. She has no place in her doggie awareness for how things should be. She’s busy living with how they actually are.

Some questions beg to be answered here:  Should we always accept reality?  Are there some situations we should fight against?  Or is there a greater spiritual reality that transcends all of this?

 

Voluntary Vulnerability

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We hide from the pain we know instinctively comes with vulnerability.  Being vulnerable  means being open to life. Being open to life means we take on a degree of risk. You never truly know what’s coming next and there’s a chance it will be painful.  But close up, hide, guard yourself against vulnerability and there is no ‘next’.

Vulnerability means we’re unprotected – the soft spot, the underbelly is exposed. But there is a way to stay open and not be annihilated: Identify that soft spot. Study it, weigh it, measure it, sketch its contours. Get to know it and through awareness transform it.

If the soft spot is, for example, fear of being alone, we will cling to others, often when it’s not good for us. Neediness is not attractive, so we can find ourselves alone anyway.

But if we get to know our fear of aloneness, if we dive into it, either by ourselves or with the help of a friend, group or therapist, we can get to the root of that fear.  There is nothing inherently wrong with being alone.  Periods of solitude can be wonderfully nurturing and enjoyable times of deep connection with self.  When that connection with self is made, trust grows and fear diminishes in proportion to our level of trust in life.

We still face potential rejection.  Nobody is liked by everyone they meet.  And the rejection may still hurt a little.  But it won’t hurt so badly that we are driven into a half-life in order to protect ourselves from it. And the spiritual paradox:  not being needy is attractive. The less we need people, the more we attract them into our lives.

 

The Spiritual Mind

The spiritual, or in the Christian tradition, the contemplative mind is a way of seeing and processing life.  Mind, in this context, is far greater than the cognitive function of thinking and problem solving.  It’s more like the Hermetic principle that “The All is Mind”.  The contemplative mind is an element of the universal .  So what are the elements of the contemplative mind? 

For me there are five:

  • Awareness
  • Living in the Moment
  • Trust and Openness
  • Embracing everything without judgment, including what is painful
  • Non-Dualism

These elements all work together.  Sometimes we’re more in one than the other – we can be aware, for example, but not trust so easily.  That’s ok because in the spirit of non-dualism, that doesn’t matter.  What is, is.  I’ll be dipping into all of them over the next few months, but although they work together, the fundamental skill is Awareness.

Awareness is spiritual literacy and my favorite proponent of awareness is Anthony de Mello.  De Mello’s book is not for the faint-hearted.  His take on awareness is uncompromising.  It demands a level of honesty that cuts through our most cherished values and beliefs and leaves us standing spiritually naked before ourselves.

Too much to jump into all at once?  Maybe we could start dabbling a little for starters.   

Any thought on awareness, what it means, how it works in your life?

What is Breathwork? (Part 2 of more)

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If you live primarily in your mind, getting beyond it can be a tough job.  When it comes to getting beyond mind, Breathwork can be your best friend.

So what is Breathwork?  It’s using your breathing to access the world inside each of us, the fascinating, jumbled, wonderful world of contradictions, the good and the bad and the in between, the mind, the soul, the body the spirit that make up all of us. 

We breathe all day, every day.  We do it without thinking much about it – until we get asthma or emphysema or a lungful of unwanted smoke.    But breathing is the only bodily function that everyone can immediately bring under conscious control. 

Breathwork takes that free and natural bodily function and consciously controls it, molds it into patterns that are designed to open up our awareness to the spiritual nature of ourselves and our world.

There are many forms of breathwork.  It’s an integral part of yoga.  Awareness of breathing is essential to most forms of meditation and breathing itself is the central focus of some  meditation practices. 

The form of Breathwork I’m talking about is consciously controlled breathing and it’s more vigorous than traditional meditation.  In Breathwork, the breather alters their breathing pattern noticeably for 45 minutes to over an hour and the results can be spectacular.  We travel far beyond the mind while taking the mid with us on the journey.

Have you experience of breathwork in any form? 

Everyone has something to teach.   Share your wisdom – make a comment.