Just Give Up.

“There is nothing that you can do about life, nothing that you cannot do.” ~Alan Watts

These days, I find it incredibly challenging to stay away from the words of Alan Watts. I’ll find myself drifting from his wisdom only to be drawn right back. Most recently, I heard a clip of him talking about giving up, surrendering. It hit me in such a way that, despite a previous blog post on this same topic, I’ve decided to write another.

Our society is based strongly in polarities. Everything is separated into black and white, positive and negative, good and bad. These distinctions create a moral rubric for which we measure our successes and our failures. In these judgements we react emotionally. Often times this cycle is self-perpetuated in the sense that once it begins it continues to unfold. This emotional economy (if you will) is a system based on the fallacious concept of control.

We humans like the idea of control. It brings us security, comfort and degrees of happiness. It allows our lives a tolerability that would otherwise not exist. Control gives us a metric to measure the value of our lives. As mentioned previously, it is the leverage for which the system of the emotional economy is based upon. Without a sense of control, we would have nothing to claim as our own, stripping away our self-proclaimed ideas of value, leaving our emotions quite detached. Yet, this is not how life is.

Instead, control is key. Those who have it are set and those that do not are left out to dry. Being out of control is the height of societal stigmata. Those who are unable to control themselves, their finances or their future are cast out as psychotic, criminal or irresponsible. It would therefore stand that to willingly relinquish control would seem to be of the highest social treason.

However, this is the exact point Alan Watts is arguing against. In the song above, he talks about the moments in one’s life when control must be given up, when the pain of holding on is far too unbearable. These moments are usually extreme ones of life and death, inordinate amounts of stress or those spent in complete agony. He argues that in relinquishing the desire to control, the person is freed from the circumstance and experiences absolute effortlessness; a moment of enlightenment attained through surrender.

And dance we will.

These experiences do not have to be once in a life time moments. They are in fact a part of my daily life. Whenever I am under stress I realize it is because I am holding on to something that is not actually occurring. My expectation is not being fulfilled. I stub my toe on the bed and get angry because I did not want this to happen. I have lost control over my toe. This scenario can be played out in a million ways: traffic, school, work, yoga, meditation, cooking, eating, sports, singing, art.

Whenever we feel stress, it is because we are holding on to our personal idea of how the world should be.

To overcome this stress I simply give up. I let go of my expectations and let the reality of what’s happening occur without the friction I impose on it. Once I let the river flow in the direction it wants to go, I find that my life has become much easier. We are not in the business of building dams, we are in the pastime of sailing downstream. Riding the current is much more lucrative. It is pleasant. And although we feel that we have relinquished control, we have actually aligned with the highest form of control: that of the divine Self.

"Stop weaving and watch how the pattern improves." ~Rumi

Security, true happiness and bliss are all consequences of giving up our personal ideas of how things should be. Once we attune to the pattern that has existed for all eternity, we become enlightened.

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Wisdom of the Seasons

Growing up in California has its perks.  I was surrounded by a generally liberal culture, I ate an amazing year-round selection of locally grown produce and was never too far from the nearest coastline. The people were warm and so was the weather. Even in Northern California, the extent of winter was only a month or two of mild rain. The separation of the seasons was measured by gentle gradients of gray.  Change was subtle and calm, to the point of indifference. Everything lasted forever. Plants didn’t die; they shrunk, as if exhaling for the winter. I grew accustomed to a sense of false immortality, an ever-lasting eternal growth. This perpetual continuity kept me sheltered from on of life’s greatest blessings: its cycle.

In other less climate fortunate parts of the country, a temporal consciousness exists. This time-limited offer is measured in months rather than Californian years. Life is taken by the harsh snap of the wintertime cold. Death is observed and understood and, for some, it is even appreciated. The cold months pass with the steadiness of the tortoise, while onlookers peer into the future, calling for the warm rays of the sun. This terrestrial process incites value, gratitude and humility.

The power and strength of nature’s effortless pattern is a miracle to be marveled. Thoreau once said, “Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.” Nature is graced by intention. There is not a moment of aimless action, nor a second of accidental happening. In it lays the perfection of life.

"Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another." ~ Juvenal

One of the greatest blessings of nature—one I am experiencing at this moment—is the bloom of spring. After winter has released its meditative silence, the dance of life begins. Set to the ballad of the most celestial symphony, the motion of spring reminds us of the splendor of creation. In its ease of return, our discomforts are soothed. Life begins again.

Yet, even with the joys of birth, we are never released from the awareness of the cycle. The looming seasons will surely repeat their pattern, leaving the recently bloomed daffodil no more than a rotted carapace. This understanding is essential to living a purposeful life. This awareness of temporality intensifies gratitude and promotes being. Only in the present can I fully enjoy the daffodil, for if I venture into the future, the flower’s demise will taint my experience. It is by this constant patterning that nature inspires full awareness of the present, bringing us into a state of supreme bliss.

Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park

Currently, every corner of New York is filled with scenes of blooming life. Everywhere, people and nature alike are taking the first deep inhalations of the season, expanding their presence and enjoying the moment. Spring is a celebrated event that transforms the city. Grumpy New Yorkers become gazing naturalists. Fast-paced business types are suddenly found strolling the streets. Speeding cab drivers…well they still speed. But the world has changed and for an instant, we become attuned to the consciousness of the natural world. Through its effortless, patterned pace, we become aware of the gift of life.

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ~ Lao Tzu

The Night I Left My Body

As an avid Kundalini Yoga practitioner and teacher in training, part of our preparation consists of long weekends dedicated to nothing else but yoga.  From 4am sadhana to closing meditations, we as students participate in communal spiritual education.  Along with this learning comes deep exploration.  And so it was that tonight I explored the depths of the universe and left my body.

The first sensation was that of a vacuum.  My entire existence was swiftly sucked out of my body.  A deep pressure was instantaneously released and I could feel the the soul-less cavity of my body, right under the sternum, give way to the deliverance of me.  Suddenly I found myself floating at unconceivable heights, an elevation indescribable by any modern system of mensuration. I had risen to the ethereal realm.

A few breathless moments passed before I realized there was no need to breathe.  I was able to choose whether I wanted to feel the sensation of breath or not.  I found it much more pleasant experiencing the existence up above.  I say up above because literally my vantage point came from great heights.  Although I could not visibly see my body, I understood where it was in relation to my existence.  I was simultaneously aware of both my body and myself.

There was no fear.  Only a great sensation of liberation and freedom.  I was soaring through endless space, yet I was also the space being soared through.  With this freedom came not one instant of apprehension of not coming back, not making the return flight home.  I felt an undeniable chord-like connection joining me to my body.  It was obvious that I was not leaving my body for the last time.

I was a kite effortlessly exploring the airs of the ethers.  And I was not alone.  The penetrating vibrations of the meditational gong – being played by one of our teachers – synchronically danced across the infinite horizon.  Cascading tiles of gold curved around me in endless helixes as they formed in accordance to the birthing sound currents.  The sound of the gong changed from exterior to inclusive.  There was no distinction between the gong and myself.  We were merged into completion and existed as one, yet were experiencing each other in a very tangible way.  As I watched the forming ripples physically manifest the sounds of the gong, I was also watching myself.

Unlike a drug-induced high, this feeling was solid.  It could not be ruined in any way.   There were moments of fleeting mental chatter that in any other transcendent situation – drug induced or otherwise – would have completely grounded my ascension.  Yet during this experience, the expressions of the ego were accepted and surpassed, as if carelessly blown in and out by the wind.  It was only after the disappearance of the deep vibrations of the gong that I felt the return to my body.

Slowly and without struggle, I came back to my body.  I entered somewhere between the heart center and the crown of my head.  I am still unsure of the details.  Frankly, I was too consumed by the experience of divinity.  I was not the least bit concerned with the details of returning to earth.

Once completely in my body, a previous intuitional feeling was concretely confirmed: something had changed.  Still the details escape me, but it was beyond any measure of doubt that during my vacuum-like extraction to the ethers, something aside from myself had left my body.   Inside my chest an immense feeling of weightlessness was observed.  My breath was much fuller and cleaner.  The clarity of this space was very apparent and is still even now.  Something else was extracted, something heavy and dense.  Something I am glad to be rid of.

When I finally came back to an existence resembling full consciousness, I was unsure of a lot.  My legs seemed to lag behind my intentions.  I had trouble collecting my belongings.  After I took a few frightful steps, I was in utter confusion as to where I was stepping.  Any attempt at conversation was baffled and I am positive the look on my face was priceless.  Picture space cadet meets modern day ’69 hippie.  It took me a glass of cold water, a walk around the block and a good 45 minutes to feel grounded enough to drive home.

Once I got my earth legs back and driving, I was in an awesome state of satisfaction.  Whatever happened to me felt amazing and left me with a lasting and exceptional calmness.  I am very excited for I still have much to experience.  I am hardly halfway through my teacher’s training and only at the beginning of my lifelong spiritual journey.   I am very thankful that tonight I could experience such profundity and bliss and I am very glad to write that tonight was the first night I left my body.

New Mexico and Enlightenment?

Food and love.  Two intensely simple words I discovered within myself during an intense meditation at a yoga retreat in Espanola, New Mexico.  After intention, practice, and a lot of listening, I understood what it was I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  Food and love.  This epiphany wasn’t accompanied by bright lights or sounding trumpets, but rather a very familiar and strong voice: my inner voice.  This is the voice that resides inside all of us.  The voice that is usually in an endless chatter, constantly making absolutely useless contributions to any sort of progress.

I was astonished.  Astonished not because I received an answer, but rather that I had accepted the answer I had already known.  I realized at that moment – and even now as I am typing this entry – that the answers to our lives’ largest questions have already been given, already been recorded. In many cases we are already achieving the answers without even the slightest inkling of their comprehension.  It had been I who was blocking myself from understanding what I wanted to do with my life.

This experience in New Mexico taught me that I already know everything there is to know.  I have access to every question I want answered.  Call it the collective consciousness, the unified field, heaven, bliss, enlightenment, the soul, Jesus, Mary, or Joseph.  Call it whatever you like.  Millions of names and references all address the same thing.  This thing resides inside everyone human being and everyone can access it.  It is not whether one knows something, but rather what one can realize.

If I have access to everything there is to know, why don’t I know everything?  My answer to this has come through meditations.  Repeated meditations that is.  The more I meditate, the more my mind can perceive.  I become more intuitive, more in sync with my surroundings.  I am calm and flowing.  Think of if this way, the balance in my life is always existent whether I am balanced or not, meditation just allows me to rediscover how to find it.  There are many other positive benefits from repeated spiritual practice (Understand that meditation is but one of the endless ways to attain increased awareness and consciousness), but all stem from increasing my capacity to access the inner pool of knowledge.  As I meditate more, I physically and mentally lose blocks that impede my relationship with the field of pure consciousness.  In other words, the more dedication and practice, the more I allow myself to receive information and the more knowledge I realize.

The information is there.  It always has been and always will be.  No new information can be created, it can only be discovered.