the heart is not what i thought

After publishing my post on the heart I didn’t know what to blog about next. Everything I attempted to write seemed conceptual and slightly pretentious – ironically, coming from my head and not my heart!

My mind has been my albatross, but for the most part it’s felt more comfortable than my heart or body. The torture of the mind is strangely safe, familiar. At least I know what to expect, and its endless analyses make me feel like I’m in control of my experience. Shifting the power to my heart is venturing into unknown territory. It’s a blank, open space in which the rules are totally different. (And I can’t know the rules in advance.)

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Of course living from the heart is about love. But so many of our ideas about love are bound up in the emotions. Most of the time, I don’t walk around in an emotionally loving state. I get highly triggered on a daily basis. And for a long time, I felt bad about this. But at some point I accepted that I just wasn’t capable of more. So I started to take the pressure off myself in situations where I felt upset. Spirit, I can’t feel loving right now, so help me be neutral. Neutrality is the best I can do.

It’s like I thought being neutral would take me into a more ‘loving’ state, i.e., it was step two of three. Trigger – neutrality – love. But through my yoga and meditation practice these past few months, I’m wondering if neutrality is the loving state. Perhaps the heart, at its very essence, is less emotional than I thought.

A neutral heart-space is the gateway for spirit. Divine love can enter more easily when we’re not jammed up with habitual thoughts and emotions (especially self-judgment or self-blame). We have more room to be the vessel for service and healing. We are purer channels of consciousness when our minds don’t hijack the process with ideas of how love ‘should’ look and feel. Neutrality allows higher truth to flow through, and the heart is the portal.

Neutrality can be very uncomfortable. Emotions want to rush in and fill the space, because being ‘empty’ can feel almost cruel, like we’re robotic or don’t care. We’d rather have a negative emotion than no emotion at all! But neutrality is not boring or apathetic or lacking feeling, as I long thought. It’s not suppression or avoidance. Neutrality is the willingness to fully feel all our feelings and let them work through our body and psyche, so that we become more clarified. From there we can access more refined states of compassion and empathy.

Emotions don’t disappear…they are beautiful. But the intense waves subside.

I think we need to be as clear, neutral, and calm as possible these days, in this volatile world. There’s a bigger picture at play – the shadow of humanity is being unearthed, and it’s easy to get swept up in the highly charged fears and emotions. Playing into the collective drama of separation only feeds the perpetual game of duality.

I don’t want to dissociate from the game, but I try to remember my limited human perspective. Staying neutral, while seeing our own shadow reflected around us, is perhaps the most loving thing we can do for ourselves and the planet.

a selection of awakening experiences part II

I write these words the day before the February full moon, also my 40th birthday. For weeks I was looking forward to participating in Barbara Franken’s awakening challenge – I picked a pretty auspicious day for reflection – but now that the moment is here, I feel blocked. There’s so much to say about awakening, yet it all feels like concept. How to write about the ineffable?

Touching Her Potential, Hans Walor

Touching Her Potential, Hans Walor

I moved away from my current city last summer, only to return a few weeks ago. I’m living in the same apartment building as before the move, and this week I’ll likely return to my former place of employment. My favourite cashiers are still at the Whole Foods down the block, giving me extra stamps for my coffee. I hear the familiar sounds of birds chirping outside my window, and a siren in the downtown background.

It’s like I never left.

Back in August, I couldn’t wait to get out of the city. I was so tired of honking horns, screaming sirens and noisy neighbours. I was on edge all the time, and desperately wanted to be somewhere quieter, more removed. I needed to hear my own heart and voice, and I just couldn’t do it where I was.

And the move was good for me. I started my Kundalini Yoga teacher training program, met some wonderful new people, learned valuable work and life lessons, and, two weeks before moving back, ‘randomly’ reconnected with a soul mate for some much-needed healing and completion.

But overall, I didn’t really find the peace I was searching for. In perfect universal order, all the sounds I’d resisted followed me to my new place. I got it – changing the externals wasn’t going to change much. It was time to come ‘home’.

Knowing What She Wants, Hans Walor

Knowing What She Wants, Hans Walor

Since last October, when I began my teacher training, I’ve gone from sporadic meditation to a daily practice of yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or mantra chanting. Specifically, for the past two weeks I’ve been doing a meditation designed to calm the heart.

As I become more attuned to my body’s signals and sensations, I can feel the bracing of my heart. For many years I’ve held my breath, hypervigilant, steeling myself from any potential hurt or shock coming my way. Lying in savasana, deep relaxation, I’m aware of how difficult it’s been for my system to just…relax.

Throughout my spiritual journey, I heard the words ‘listen to your heart’, ’trust your heart’, and ‘open your heart’ so many times that they lost meaning for me. I was frustrated. I didn’t know how to hear my heart. I didn’t know how to access that soft, still place that knows, I’m okay wherever I am. The voice that knows me better than anyone.

Genesis, Hans Walor

Genesis, Hans Walor

With patience, practice, humility, commitment, and discipline, I am becoming stabilized in my own heart. This is my awakening. My breath is clearing the way. My heart was never closed to begin with. It has always been strong, open, pounding, wise, knowing, and loving – waiting for me. And now I get to live in that place.

The sirens don’t bother me so much anymore. The loud noises aren’t so jarring. Since participating in Barbara’s first challenge, I’ve learned and unlearned so much. I’m a different person than I was two years ago, six months ago, two weeks ago. Nothing has changed these past few months, yet everything has changed. My experience of awakening will surely change too. And it’s all perfect.

Thank you for this opportunity, Barbara. Next up is Sue at http://suedreamwalker.wordpress.com.

floating into nothingness

I’ve always known I have an active mind. But I never knew how screamingly, relentlessly active it was until a couple of weeks ago, when I spent 90 minutes alone in a sensory deprivation (isolation) tank.

It was quite serendipitous, really.  Last month I was on my way to a good friend’s place to begin a 4-week cat-sit, and I thought of an establishment that recently opened in my city – home to five such sensory deprivation tanks.  I’d like to try that someday, I thought.  The first thing I saw upon arriving at my friend’s place?  A voucher for a visit in one of these ‘float tanks’, as they’re also called.  She left it as a gift for me.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I’ve never considered myself claustrophobic.  Being enclosed in  complete darkness, floating in a pool of water (would I really float?) sounded either completely relaxing or mildly terrifying.  On the day of my visit, the guy on staff was very friendly and (not surprisingly) extremely chill.  He gave me and another newbie a tour of the space, and showed us to our respective rooms.  My tank was filled with epsom salts – 800 lbs! – dissolved in water, which felt pleasantly warm against my skin.

As I closed the tank door and began my session, anxiety quickly crept in.  I was relieved that I could indeed float with no effort on my part, but the profound blackness and quiet was totally foreign to me.  As the minutes wore on, my uneasiness grew.   I have to lie here for 90 minutes?!  Holy shit, I am claustrophobic!  I began to panic.  I felt a million miles away from everyone and everything.  The most irrational fear-based thoughts engulfed me.  Some too embarrassing to mention here.  I felt completely alone and small.  What if they forget about me?   

Fortunately, a part of me could also see myself experiencing all this.  In those moments, I remembered that this was my mind and ego turned on full tilt as they – probably for the first time ever – had nothing to distract them.  And they were not happy about this.  They tried to convince me I was bored.   They tried to attack me with all sorts of flimsy arguments and crazed rationalizations and justifications and projections about…anything.

How do people find this relaxing?!   This is the most stressful thing ever!

And yet, there was no way I was leaving that tank.  This is your mind.  This fear of nothingness, of separation, is the undercurrent of your everyday life and you are seeing all the ways in which your mind tries to distract you and numb you from this fear.  And I understood that no amount of affirming or reading or philosophizing or Abraham-Hicks’ing will work if I am running from this place.

For 90 minutes I would experience waves of anxiety, panic, deep breathing…and relief when the mind actually would stop.

I’m pretty sure my experience would’ve been a whole lot different if I meditated more in general.  Even in meditation, though, my surroundings seem a lot closer, more palpable.  I can just open my eyes and everything will still be there.  I can still hear everything around me.  (My meditations obviously aren’t that deep.)  In the tank, there is nothing.  No escape, short of exiting the tank.  So the insanity of my mind was felt all the more intensely.

When it was time to emerge, I felt like I’d been through the wringer. I was practically hyperventilating.  After showering and getting my things together, I left the room in a slight daze. “That was intense,” I told the chill staff guy, now folding towels.  “Isn’t it great?” he responded.  “I love watching people come out of the tanks.  They’re always so glowing.”

I looked in the mirror.  He was right; I was glowing.  I walked home, still buzzed, and had the deepest, most relaxing sleep that evening.

***

Now that I’ve had some distance from the float tank experience, I no longer view it as terrifying.  Because now I can more identify with the space that contained it – with the part of me that was witnessing my struggle.  I caught a glimpse of something I cannot ignore. I feel relieved.  Instead of being scared by the nothingness of it all, I’m intrigued by what that space, that void, holds.  Is it really ‘nothing’, or just unknown to me?  Maybe I don’t need to fill it with anything.  There is a peace and curiousity within me.

The really funny thing?  Chill staff guy had informed me that I could have another session on the house, as construction had been taking place next door and it might have interfered with my experience.  (If it did, I didn’t notice.)

Something is clearly drawing me back into that tank.  I wonder where I will be carried to next…