“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt, This is My Story
You have to sign a waiver if you are going to have surgery.
You have to sign a waiver if you want to bungee jump or sky dive or get a tattoo.
You have to consent (in this country) to be married.
There are all sorts of potentially life-threatening/changing decisions we enter into that require our signature should we die/be permanently maimed/change our mind later and are mad. We sign off and say we understand the risks associated with our choice.
What if we went into emotional situations and relationships with the same mindset.
“Am I okay with the risks of this?”
I read a LOT of intents. Many of them are about reclaiming oneself from fear or doubt, blame or anger. The thing I want to drive home is that you can give or take permission from the things that drive you to those places as well.
Maybe it’s a friendship.
Or a work setting.
Maybe it’s a choice you keep making.
Don’t give permission for yourself to be torn down.
Don’t give permission to keep yourself in a negative space where you can’t trust your own decisions or worthiness.
Maybe that’s real dramatic or would require a lot of change. But what is more worth it? Is tearing down more okay than building up?
My hope is that somewhere, somehow you give yourself the permission to be amazing, to stop making excuses or to stop living under the cloud you’ve fought so long against. My hope is that you don’t waste another second feeling like you’ve handed over power to people and things that aren’t making you a better human.
Let me encourage you that you’re not alone in this.
Everyday people on Intent.com are sharing intentions of reclaiming their lives, in big and small ways. Don’t feel like you have to wait for permission to do the same.
“Dream and give yourself permission to envision a You that you choose to be.”
I have been with my boyfriend for nearly 5 years. I am 23 and he’s is 30. I am from a religious family so my mum and dad won’t allow me to live with him without being married. He lives quite a few miles away from me and works a lot so I only see him once a week and being away from him is breaking my heart. After five years I want him with me every day and not just to see him 1 day a week for a few hours. I feel as though all I have done for 5 years is miss him. Do you think he will ever propose? He has been married before and maybe that is putting him off. I don’t know where I stand, please help.
Oh, babe. We have a lot going on here and I think we need to break it down step by step to see what we can come up with.
The first thing that pops out at me is that you’re 23, stop talking about marriage. You especially shouldn’t be talking about it when you approach it as a method to see your boyfriend more often. That’s not what it’s about. Marriage is a serious commitment – it is promising to spend the rest of your life with someone. That means when things aren’t fun, when they aren’t paying attention to you, for better and for worse. Real marriage is about accepting that making a life together is hard work, and that you’re willing to commit to sticking it out together. It’s not a quick fix for missing someone. It’s a life-long, very serious, situation. If your boyfriend has already been married and it ended then he probably knows this better than anyone and his hesitation may be because he knows you two aren’t ready for that level of commitment.
Speaking of your boyfriend, let’s talk about him for a moment. Actually, no. Let’s talk about you, and your feelings for him. I agree that a few hours a week isn’t enough to maintain a serious relationship – especially after five years. How well do you two really know each other? How do you build something solid and lasting on mere glimpses of time? That is a conversation you need to have with him instead of asking when is he going to propose or if he wants to get married. You need to ask what do we need to do to make this really work? Your words and emotions are serious but the level of the relationship seems casual and I think it would behoove you to make sure that you are both on the same page before you continue on writing the rest of the novel.
Now here’s the tough part, but I think if you are able to take advantage of this last piece of advice you’ll find that the rest of it gets easier. It seems the deepest root of your troubles comes from the rules of your parents. While I think you may be too young to be thinking about marriage (at least in your current situation) you are old enough to be making your own decisions. I have no doubts that your parents want the best for you as only they know how – however, they can’t live your life for you. You are old enough to be making your own decisions about how you want to live your life. The hard part of that is finding a way to make your parents accept that, or having the strength to move on by yourself even if they don’t. What I think you need Anonymous is to start thinking about moving out on your own instead of with your boyfriend. You need to learn to stand on your own two feet – that’s what your 20s are for! To figure out who you really are as a person by making your own decisions and your own mistakes. With your own place you not only get the chance to figure out for yourself what you believe but it should allow you more time to see your boyfriend. You two can get to know each other on a serious level, figure out how you work as a couple that has to function with the rest of the world and whether it really does work.
Don’t sell yourself short of this opportunity to grow into your own skin by moving from your parents to your boyfriend. You need time to grow, lovely. Unburden yourself from those shackles. It’s a tough world out there and you have to dig deep to find the strength to choose and hold on to your own happiness. I’m afraid if you keep sitting around waiting for your parents or your boyfriend to hand it to you that you’re going to miss out on the wonderful things you deserve.
Shortly after we were married we went to India and spent our honeymoon in a yoga ashram and a Buddhist monastery. We also had a private meeting with the Dalai Lama at his residence in McLeod Ganj, in the foothills of the Himalayas.
As Ed recalls:
After some thirty minutes of talking with him I was feeling so moved by this gentle and loving man that I didn’t want to leave! I was completely in love with this delightful being. He was so ordinary, sitting between us and holding our hands. Finally, I said to him, ‘I don’t want to leave! I just want to stay here with you!’ I knew he would understand my sincerity and would say yes, how wonderful, I can see you are ready for the teachings. But, instead, he just smiled and said, ‘If we were together all the time we would quarrel!’
So relax, if the Dalai Lama can quarrel, so can we! Inevitably there are going to be times when relationships are not easy, when differences collide, when egos clash, when my needs seem more important than yours, or when your needs are not being met. For relationships create untold problems. Sitting in solitary bliss with our hearts wide open and love pouring out of us towards all beings is relatively easy, but as soon as we come in direct contact with another person everything changes. Our ability to stay open and loving, our selflessness and generosity, all this and more is immediately confronted by someone else’s own wants and needs, by their capacity to accept and love or not.
Relationships are not just an integral part of being alive, they are also the most vital and challenging teacher we can ever have. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche said, “If you can make friends with one person, you can make friends with the world.”
Difficulties in relationships show us the many ways our ego-selves try to be right, which can be a cause for either conflict or laughter. Once we were sharing some of our marriage issues with our meditation teacher, and he looked at us quite puzzled. “Why not just laugh?” he suggested. And he was right. Laughter really is the best medicine. When we see the absurdity of two ego’s knocking heads and trying to outwit each other it is very amusing. So often a disagreement is about seeing the same thing in two different ways: one sees a white ceiling, the other sees a flat ceiling, but it’s the same ceiling!
Sometimes, it can be healthy to have a good quarrel, if we can then just let it go and come back to loving. There are bound to be times of flow and times of discord but we don’t need to hold on to either. Difficulties arise because we cling to our own opinion as being the right one, and it’s this holding on, with the ensuing shame, blame and hostile silences, that causes so many problems.
In fact, those people we have a difficult time with are really our teachers. For without an adversary—or those who trigger strong reactions such as annoyance and anger—we would not have the stimulus to develop loving kindness and compassion. So we can actually thank our exasperating relationships for the chance to practice patience. What a gift!
We are not alone here, each one of us—both directly and indirectly—affect each other; everyone and everything is dependent on everything else. As Mother Theresa reminds us: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.”
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See our award-winning book: BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Edgar Mitchell, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Byrone Katie, Jane Fonda, Marianne Williamson, and many others.
Our 3 meditation CD’s: Metta—Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi–Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra–Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at:www.EdandDebShapiro.com
On World Humanitarian Day, I think of all the remarkable people who risk their lives to save the lives of others. I celebrate their contributions, and mourn the violence, imprisonment, suffering and loss of life many of them have had to endure while trying to make the world a better place for all of us. I think of their family and friends who love and admire them so greatly, they tirelessly support them, fight for them, defend their human rights, and often suffer grave consequences to their own health and lives in doing so.
I think especially of family and friends of Dr. Tarek Loubani and Prof. John Greyson, arrested by Egyptian authorities on Friday, August 16, 2013. They are experiencing a horror, far too similar to the horror I experienced almost exactly four years ago, when my precious friends Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer, and Sarah Shourd, were captured by the Iranian regime. Dr. Loubani is an emergency room physician in London, ON, and John Greyson, an associate professor at York University and director of York’s graduate program in film, in Toronto, ON. Both have long-standing admirable records of global humanitarian work.
I have worked with Dr. Loubani, and Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care to advocate for health care for refugees in Canada, collaborating in a National Day of Action just two months ago. Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care released the following statement:
“Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care is deeply concerned by news that one of its members, prominent London, Ontario emergency physician Dr. Tarek Loubani has been arrested in Egypt. Dr. Loubani was in Egypt providing volunteer health services and was arrested along with a colleague, York University Professor John Greyson. Egyptian authorities should be aware of Dr. Loubani’s extensive work providing medical treatment to people in need in the Middle East. He is also well respected in Canada for assisting refugees — including refugees from the Middle East — in securing public health care in this country.”
“York University is extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of John Greyson, an associate professor at York University and director of York’s graduate program in film, as well as Tarek Loubani, an emergency room doctor from London, Ontario, who have been detained in Cairo, Egypt.”
According to the Facebook group launched by family and friends, “Tarek and John were in Cairo on their way to Gaza, where Tarek was to participate in a medical collaboration that has been established between the University of Western Ontario and the Emergency Department of Al Shifa Hospital (Gaza’s largest hospital), and where John, a professor at York University’s Department of Film, intended to conduct preparatory work for a film project.”
Justin Podur, a close friend and colleague of Dr. Loubani and Prof Greyson, elaborates that Dr. Loubani was traveling to Gaza as part of a group of Canadian doctors “to train physicians there in advanced cardiac and trauma life support.” Prof. Greyson joined him to “explore the possibility of a film project about the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza.”
On World Humanitarian Days 2010 and 2011, I fought to build global support for the freedom of humanitarians Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer, and Sarah Shourd, held hostage by the Iranian regime for 2 years and 2 months. As WHD 2013 approached, I was preoccupied with the fourth anniversary of the day Josh, Shane, and Sarah were captured. Though I was not always conscious of it, my body, mind, and spirit felt the anniversary approaching. My trauma symptoms increased, I felt a sense of foreboding…my body remembered what I went through four years ago, and each annual anniversary of their captivity.
Now, I am experiencing a déjà vu I would prefer not to. I am compelled to campaign to prevent Dr. Loubani and Prof. Greyson, and all their loved ones, from experiencing the unnecessarily protracted and painful detention we did. I call on Egyptian authorities to free them and enable them to continue their critical humanitarian work. I call on the Canadian government to ensure that happens without further delay. And I call on you to keep up the global call for their freedom.
Please sign this petition, and join this Facebook Group to stay informed of progress, calls for action, and a Facebook Page and website coming soon. Every action you take makes a difference to their spirits, the ability of their loved ones to keep fighting, and ultimately to their freedom. I know from experience.
Note: A website has just been launched for the latest news and calls for action. Please share it far and wide.
One way I love to connect to my inner child is on the yoga mat. It is precisely this reason that I love to practice and teach arm balances. When you first get an arm balance, there is a rush of that familiar, perhaps long since dormant energy of — Look at me! Look at me! Look at what I can do! It is the energy of a child. It is packed with frivolity and joy and pride, yes, pride!
We are taught at an early age, especially those of us living in The Bible Belt, that pride is a bad thing. That we are not deserving of pride.
I am here to say — Bah!
Yes, you are.
The mere fact that you are celebrating your mobility, not taking it for granted but rather indulging in it, savoring it, playing with your edges and boundaries, thereby increasing your strength and your flexibility, is something to be proud of! You are not a couch potato! This is a big deal. Yea you!
Not to mention, entering a yoga studio for the first time can be intimidating, to say the very least. Many studios morph into clubs and cliques. It takes courage to walk in the doors and let yourself be seen trying something new. Often times we go our entire lives never trying something new for fear of looking silly. This is not your inner child. This is your institutionalized child who is worried about how they look more so than how they feel. Your inner child knows not of caring about appearance. Your deepest inner child craves wanton abandon and fearless living. Getting your butt on the mat, trying something new, sweating and making new friends is exactly what your inner child is craving. Add in an arm balance or the building blocks thereof and your inner child is in heaven.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve introduced to arm balances. It’s a large number. Subsequently, I can’t begin to estimate how many eyes I’ve seen light up and fist pumps I’ve seen in the air.
It’s good stuff.
And I myself enjoy it too. When I accomplish something new on the mat, it is exhilarating and I enjoy the endorphin high for days. I invite you to give it a go. Let your inner child free in a yoga studio. Listen to your instructor. Flirt with your edge. Be playful and mindful and see what happens. You just might end up sublimely happy. And you’re worth that, aren’t you?
“Somewhere over the rainbow
And the dreams that you dreamed of
Dreams really do come true.”
Four years ago, on July 31, 2009, my precious friends Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer, and Sarah Shourd were captured by the Iranian regime, while on a hiking vacation in Iraqi Kurdistan. Three years ago, I felt the weight of their year held hostage, while centrally coordinating and promoting 40 events worldwide marking that challenging milestone. Two months after that, Sarah was freed. Two years ago, I awaited news of the final trial session for Josh and Shane, while centrally coordinating global events to mark an even more challenging to bear two years of imprisonment. A few weeks later, they were sentenced to eight years in Evin prison, Iran. Two months later, Josh and Shane were freed. One year ago, I wrote about the continued injustices the Iranian regime imposes on Masoud Shafi, the lawyer who fought at such great risk for Josh, Shane, and Sarah.
It’s hard to describe how intense the weight of that anniversary feels when it is loaded with so many traumatic associations. As I experienced during the prolonged ordeal, words are “woefully inadequate to describe my feelings.” My body, mind, and spirit, however, have been feeling this day approaching for some time. Often without me being fully conscious of it. A book on trauma, aptly titled, “The Body Remembers,” asserts “people who have been traumatized hold an implicit memory of traumatic events in their brains and bodies.” My body remembers.
It’s even harder to describe how miraculous it felt to hear the news of the birth of Josh and Jenny’s son, Isaiah Azad Fattal, in the midst of all that intensity. Right when I was thinking about how I could transform the anniversary into a positive one. Josh and Isaiah heard my request. Much like I felt Josh could hear me, when the Iranian regime imposed walls between us for more than two years. As I was longing to hear how he was after Isaiah’s birth, he heard me again. He sent me a message sharing how he felt, and asking me if I was “okay with posting” Isaiah’s birth announcement on our Free the Hikers Facebook page. Josh, Shane, Sarah, and I seek consensus from each other before posting on the page. We decided on that process together when they wanted to honor the immense time and energy I put into building the community on the page, and I wanted them to fully have their voices back. I’m still honored every time Josh, Shane, and Sarah ask me if I support what they want to post. Of course I was far more than “okay with posting” Isaiah’s birth announcement!I was especially grateful that Josh asked me to post it on his behalf.
It felt unbelievably thrilling and fulfilling to post it. That page represented so many things to me, and the Free the Hikers family, during the campaign. Integrated with our website, community blog, Twitter, and YouTube page, it was the “place where we could meet Josh, Shane, and Sarah across the abyss between us, and hold them close.” It was the place we mobilized others to join us on our journey to FREEDOM. It was the place where we sought support to keep our hope afloat. Every time I posted on the page, multiple times a day, for more than two years, I felt Josh, Shane, and Sarah with me. And we noticed every response, in the form of likes, comments, and shares, even when there were 32 000 supporters there. We felt our supporters, including many of you reading this, with us every step of the way.
I remember our interactions and your multitude of actions, and carry them with me on my journey forward. I remember approaching Gotham, knowing he would understand, because he too had experienced a precious friend unjustly detained abroad – Laura Ling, who was freed from North Korea just days after Josh, Shane, and Sarah were captured. I was right – he responded promptly and compassionately. That time, and many other times when I asked him for support. As did Mallika, and Deepak, and those who work closely with them.Laura Ling, Euna Lee (detained with her), and Laura’s sister Lisa, who had campaigned tirelessly for their freedom, reached out to offer us support, almost right after Laura and Euna were freed. Even while consumed by our own crisis, I was astounded by that. Later in our campaign, I remember Laura reaching out at just the right time to let me know that when she was imprisoned, she could feel the vigils people held for them.Giving me just the push I needed to keep going. And today, when I was feeling drained from the intensity of the past week, and the four years leading up to it, Gotham shared his blog post expressing his joy at the news of Isaiah’s birth. That gave me just the push I needed to complete mine.
Every gesture of support affects me profoundly. As I explained to a twitter supporter at the dawn of the four year anniversary, “Humanity in the face of inhumanity takes on extra special significance.”So, I am especially happy that Josh wanted to share Isaiah’s birth with you. Your support is what made it possible for Josh and Jenny to give birth to a beautiful boy with the middle name Azad, Farsi for FREE. You sharing this joyous part of our journey with us means the world to me. Thank you. May Isaiah Azad Fattal embody the transformation of violence into peace for all of us.
“I hear babies cry and I watch them grow,
They’ll learn much more
Than we’ll know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world”
~ ‘Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World,’ by Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole
Quick rewind: About four years ago, Laura’s son Josh and his friends Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd were taken into custody by Iranian border guards and accused of illegally crossing into Iran while hiking along the border. Over the subsequent two years, the three Americans became part of a high stakes international drama that resulted in their being charged with illegal entry and Josh and Shane convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years of imprisonment. Sarah was released after 14 months on ‘humanitarian grounds’ while Shane and Josh’s terrifying ordeal lasted another year and finally came to an end in September of 2011 when they too were released after paying substantial fines.
Josh, Shane, and Sarah’s arrest was of course covered by the media, but as weeks stretched to months, and months eventually to years, their plight threatened to fade from public consciousness except for the efforts of Laura and an army of social media users she recruited and mobilized to keep her son and his friends’ struggle for freedom in the news. Mallika and I – and the Intent community on which we blogged – joined the effort as well and over the course of months worth of correspondence with Laura, formed a friendship and strong bond with her and her family. They inspired us with their relentless determination to use the power of information and technology to demand justice and the safe return of their loved ones. When Josh and Shane finally returned home bringing their long ordeal to a happy end, our entire family felt an emotional relief and pride for playing some tiny part in their safe redemption.
Which brings me back to yesterday and the email from Laura with the attached picture (which Laura and Josh approved our placing here) announcing the happy and healthy birth of Isaiah Azad Fattal to Josh and Jenny Fattal. Azad means “freedom” in Farsi, which to my mind is the most appropriate moniker baby Isaiah could possibly have.
The great Indian Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore once said that “every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.” I’ve looked at baby Isaiah’s picture several times today and smiled because to me too, his bright eyes are a reminder of the potential we yet have to remedy the world’s ills – in Iran, in the US, and everywhere else where human rights are abused, silence, or limited. So to Josh and Jenny and the entire Fattal Family – thank you from all the Chopras and the Intent family for the gift you have given all of us in your little miracle Isaiah. We feel pride and joy in seeing his precious being and know the world will be a better place simply because of his existence.
Please share your congratulations and warm thoughts with the family in the comments below!
There is something magical about the experience of “falling in love.” Psychologically it is their feeling function that gets activated when two lovers first meet. Emotions burst forth and sparks fly that ignite a passion and an unmistakable bliss. When you are with that person, you are “in heaven,” so to speak. And when you are away from them, you are longing for the next encounter. As the song says, “Suddenly life has new meaning to me,” and they are transported into the realms of the Gods (the archetypes). In our Western culture, our movies provide us plenty of examples of this experience — so much so that we all yearn for it.
We mistakenly call this love, and many find themselves searching for their other half, their “soul mate.” We believe that this is what will complete us and that this magic is what we feel to truly value another person. As you will see when you understand the nature of the “Anima” and “Animus,” this is only the beginning of an encounter with our unconscious.
It’s interesting that the word “soul” also means psyche. In the psychology of Dr. Carl G. Jung, he explains this phenomenon of projecting our Anima and Animus (the contrasexual soul images in our unconscious) onto each other. The psyche seeks wholeness, and a union of our inner opposites is what Jung called the process of individuation. When projection occurs, this process has begun as these contrasexual images are now out in the open. We will learn a lot about ourselves by the people we either extremely love or hate.
Often we will fall in love and get involved in some very unsuitable, destructive and soul-destroying relationships, but these, too, are showing us aspects of our shadow. In order to grow and be a whole person, we need to become aware of what is really happening. When someone is “into us”, we need to ask ourselves, “Is it love or is it just projection?” Two people won’t know until time gives them a chance to see who each other actually is — and this requires self-honesty and self-disclosure.
There is no other way to see these parts of us, so it’s inevitable that they will be projected. The intoxication and the intensity of the experience are clues that we are into a projection. Ordinary human beings do not evoke the instant passion that “love at first sight” evokes.
The Anima and Animus
A woman carries an image of her male counterpart that Jung called the “Animus.” This unconscious inner male is her God (soul) image that gets projected onto a man in the outer world. As inner and outer create a mirroring effect, she will know a lot about what shape her inner partner is in by the person upon whom the projection lands. The clue to knowing a projection has occurred is the feeling of intense fascination or obsession with a man whom she will feel is her ideal mate.
A man faces a similar dilemma. When a man projects his perfect God (soul) image onto a woman, she becomes the carrier of his “Anima.” His Anima acts as a muse to bridge the gap between his inner and outer worlds. She animates him from within.
When this happens to both people at the same time, we call this “falling in love.” They definitely fall. They fall into their own unconscious image as each projects part of himself or herself onto the other person evoking a feeling of fantasy and Eros. The erotic and sexual nature of the encounter is psychologically symbolic. It is each one wanting to merge with or penetrate into themselves.
As time goes on, it is inevitable that projections are going to fall off. They actually have to so that we can see who the other person actually is and relate to a real person instead of a God or Goddess (a symbiotic extension of oneself). When relationships reach this stage of familiarity, many people addicted to this kind of high start looking outside their primary marriage or partnership. Many relationships end and the alchemical process begins all over again with someone else. Some go on to marry the person with whom they feel they are “in love with,” and later become disillusioned when they realize that they have married a person who is not who they thought they were.
On the other hand, if they are both committed to their relationship, growing and becoming conscious, when the projections dissolve, there is an opportunity that arrives for both people. They can now discover and embrace their missing halves. This is not an easy task as it takes work and often involves a painful encounter with the Self. In Mysterium Coniunctionis, Jung says that an experience with the Self is always a defeat for the ego but that the death of the ego (the Self as you knew it) allows one to be reborn into one’s own wholeness as projections are taken back.
In taking back our projections, we can now see and accept our partners for who they are — not what we wanted them to be; not what we wish they would change into; not for what they can give us; but who they are. The love that can now grow between them is profound because it is REAL. Real love, unlike projection, is a willingness to see and support another person to be their own unique, separate self. This will untangle us from seeking in them the perfect parent-mirror image of ourselves, for as long as we are still seeking to be completed by another person, we will not allow them their own autonomy.
As love between them grows and expands to the entire cosmos, this kind of love gives each partner their freedom — the greatest gift of all. As the duet by Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion professes, LOVE will be the gift you give yourself.
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Rebeca Eigen, an astrologer for 25+ years and author of The Shadow Dance & the Astrological 7th House Workbook, specializes in relationships. Using your time, date, and place of birth, she uses the astrological birth chart to evoke the symbolic and help you become more aware of your total Self. Her study of the Shadow using Astrological tools has given her an invaluable awareness of the unconscious and the role it plays in the relationships that we attract into our lives. For more information, visit her Web site: www.shadowdance.com.
I saw a student out in public today. It always throws me for a moment when I see someone outside the studio, seeing them in “real life.” In our quick chat it came up that she’s been disenchanted with yoga lately. This is someone who has been known to say yoga is her religion, which of course I completely understand. Deep in the most internal cell in the marrow on my bones, I understand. But I could see it on her face, the confusion, frustration, and even a hint of sorrow.
Part of this practice is one of self-discovery. Last year, maybe longer, I was going through a phase where I thought “this sucks…all this uncovering, unshielding, digging into truth, who wants to face this junk.” I really thought I was better off living in my naivety and blinded to the truth of who I am and how I want to live. It was painful to feel my fear about breaking through the shields I used to fight through life from behind.
This practice puts you in the spotlight. You can prance and dance around the stage but the light chases you. It shadows you until you either slink back into the darkness, hoping nobody will notice, or decide to embrace the message. Step into the light, it coaxes you.
It is at these crossroads in the practice that we decide for ourselves how the rest of life devoted to our own truth will play out. When I think of all the times (yes, there have been several in the last 15+ years) I have fallen out of love with yoga, I look at each one as fondly as a relationship that didn’t work out, and that I am better and stronger to have lived through. Each time I come through, I leave something about the practice behind that was making my spirit heavy. It could be anything from elements of a style of yoga that didn’t feed me, a teacher, my own internal dialog to a pose that challenges me or simply the frequency in which I practice. Just like I don’t live anyone else’s dogma, I don’t live anyone else’s yoga.
When I can leave something behind, oh the beautiful truth that is ushered in is always worth the wait. My breakthrough, your breakthrough, could be to viscerally feel that there is so much more to this practice than what we do on the mat. Sure, on paper, in words, we know. But to feel the beauty that this practice is so much more than a handstand, so much more than a downward facing dog, so much more than savasana…that is a gift in itself, to feel without moving. Because in all truth, there might be a day when we can’t move, and stillness is all we have. Stillness, and our practice.
This is also when the practice becomes yours. Not mine, not your mentor’s, not the yogi’s next to you…yours. This is when you start to see that just like there is no one religion for all of us, there is no one yoga for all of us. The only yoga that is for all of us is the one in which we breathe, move and create a vibration that inspires people to move closer to truth. Everything else is for you to define.
This is also when you step away for a moment, and see your own self in all your unique glory. This is when you give gratitude to the group you are in for honoring you, carrying you when you needed it, and supporting you as you find your way. We are rooting for you. I am rooting for you. As my friend also with us on this path says…your soul is rooting for you.
Disenchanted friends, near or far, whether we know each other or not, stick with it. Know that in this place of struggle and confusion lives a gift. This is your chance to step into your own light and define what this practice looks like for you. It is quite an exciting time if we choose to see it as such.
All of us live with fear. Whenever fear takes over, we’re caught in what I call the trance of fear. As we tense in anticipation of what may go wrong, our heart and mind contract. We forget that there are people who care about us, and about our own ability to feel spacious and openhearted. Trapped in the trance, we can experience life through the filter of fear, and when we do, the emotion becomes the core of our identity, constricting our capacity to live fully.
This trance usually begins in childhood, when we experience fear in relating to our significant others. Perhaps as an infant our crying late at night may have frustrated our exhausted mother. When we saw her frowning face and heard her shrill tone, suddenly we felt unsafe with the person we most counted on for safety. Our arms and fists tightened, our throat contracted, our heartbeat raced.
This physical reaction of fear in response to disapproval may have happened repeatedly through our early years. We might have tried out something new—putting on our clothes all by ourselves and gotten them backwards. We might have poured a cup of grape juice—but spilled it on the living room carpet. Each time our mother’s disapproving look and tone of frustration were directed at us, we felt the same chain reaction of fear in our body.
While the bodies of young children are usually relaxed and flexible, if experiences of fear are continuous over the years, chronic tightening happens. Our shoulders may become permanently knotted and raised, our head thrust forward, our back hunched, our chest sunken.
Rather than a temporary reaction to danger, we develop a permanent suit of armor. We become, as Chogyam Trungpa puts it, “a bundle of tense muscles defending our existence.” We often don’t even recognize this armor because it feels like such a familiar part of who we are. But we can see it in others. And when we are meditating, we can feel it in ourselves—the tightness, the areas where we feel nothing.
This trance of fear not only creates habitual contraction in our body. Our mind too becomes trapped in rigid patterns. The one-pointedness that served us in responding to real threats becomes obsession. Our mind, making associations with past experiences, produces endless stories reminding us of what bad things might happen and strategizing how to avoid them.
Through I-ing and My-ing, the self takes center stage in these stories: Something terrible is about to happen to me; I am powerless; I am alone; I need to do something to save myself. Our mind urgently seeks to control the situation by finding the cause of the problem, and we either point the finger at others or at ourselves.
Feelings and stories of unworthiness and shame are perhaps the most binding element in the trance of fear. When we believe something is wrong with us, we’re convinced that we’re somehow in danger. Our shame fuels ongoing fear, and our fear fuels more shame. The very fact that we feel fear seems to prove that we are broken or incapable. When we’re trapped in trance, being fearful and bad seem to define who we are. The anxiety in our body, the stories, the ways we make excuses, withdraw or lash out—these become to us the self that is most real.
Whenever we’re in this trance, the rest of the world fades into the background. Like the lens on a camera, our attention narrows to focus exclusively on the foreground of our fearful stories and our efforts to feel more secure.
The key to transforming this trance is by becoming aware of it—mindful of all our strategies, stories, physical reactions and bodily sensations—and allowing ourselves to be present to all of it without added constriction and judgment. If we can stay honestly and courageously awake to our fear, it can enable us to recognize and fully experience whatever is arising in the present moment, and keep us from falling into the trance.
Especially with intense or traumatic fear, a full mindful presence is often not advised or even possible as a first step. Rather, we need to take some time to cultivate inner resources of safety, strength and loving connection. In time, these inner strengths will allow us to stay present when fear arises, and meet the experience with interest and care.
For all of us, whether traumatized or not, there is deep conditioning to reflexively pull away from contacting the rawness of fear. Yet this avoidance is exactly what solidifies trance. As we cultivate our willingness, mindfulness, and compassion, we can learn to face and transform our fear. We discover that we can awaken from the trance of fear even in the midst of the most challenging circumstances.
Whenever we can relate to fear rather than from fear, our sense of who we are begins to shift and enlarge. Instead of constructing a tense and embattled self, we can reconnect with our naturally spacious awareness. Instead of being trapped in and defined by our experiences, we can recognize them as a changing stream of thoughts and feelings. In these moments we have awakened from trance. We are inhabiting a wholeness of being that is peaceful and free.