Realization of Self

Well I didn’t need to come to India again to be reminded what was already within me. Haven’t I already heard the spiritual message – you already are what you seek? For whatever divine reason, here I am. I was meant to be here with these other seekers at exactly this time and place, to explore my inner world and challenge my beliefs and thinking…yet again. We were reminded over and over again, that we are so much more than just the “person” we think we are.

So often in our lives we question our purpose, our worth, our happiness. We bitch about the most minor of things and freak out if someone gets our coffee order wrong. We take things so personally and feel we are hard done by. Though we may say we are blessed and tell ourselves we have so much to be grateful for, there often seems to be an underlying dissatisfaction with the “way things are”; a wishing for something different. We might not even notice it but in our thoughts, speech and actions we perpetuate the discord with long drawn out stories, overthinking, grudges, and hurts; with longing and wanting something more. I didn’t realize how this was building in me; how could I feel unhappy when everything seemed to be going so well in my life? Probably because I was giving energy to the stories by re-hashing them over and over in my mind!

Nothing like travelling in a developing country to put things in perspective. I quickly went from “woe is me” to feeling very humbled. From the brick makers to the tile makers to the barefoot rickshaw drivers to the weavers to the tea pickers, I saw REAL work unfolding in front of me, with determination, commitment, and long hours. When you’re making bricks, one after the other under the hot sun, you likely have no time to even think about what someone said to you in anger two weeks ago, or how you missed out on something last year, or worry about what will happen tomorrow. All you can do is be fully present in the moment and pay attention.

I have a bigger appreciation for what we take for granted…just to name a few things: clean water, shoes, dental care, two cars in a garage, food, a toilet…My perceived problems seemed so insignificant in comparison; so “western” and even ridiculous at times.

So with this more humbled attitude, I vowed I would show more appreciation to all who provided service. My smiles and genuine gratitude were met with the same from the taxi drivers to the food servers to the woman selling her wares in the street. I asked their names and about their families and they were so happy to share a small part of themselves. Don’t we all want connection, heart to heart, no matter what station in life?

During my yoga retreat, we were invited to take a so-called “direct” route to understanding of the Higher Self, through the applied wisdom of Advaita Vedanta. Guided by the teachings or “pointings” from such ancient masters as Adi Shankara and Ramana Maharshi, and modern guides such as Mooji, Eckart Tolle and Deepak Chopra, we learned that our human tendency is to relate to our reality from the perspective of “person” through the beliefs, ideas, and conditioning we have gathered throughout our lives. Our self-awareness is driven by this illusion that we are who we believe ourselves to be based on things like status, education, appearance, material things, who we associate with, where we live, what has happened to us…the list goes on and on. These beliefs are so deeply engrained in us and colour our views of self and others.

During the retreat, rather than trying to analyze our mental states, or re-hash the stories, or even focus on self-help and improvement techniques, we were asked to just DROP IT ALL and rest in the “I Am”. We asked our minds to let go of the beliefs, the thoughts, the concepts and theories and ideas of our identities as we knew them – just for a short time…so we could see what it was like to be free of those bindings. We let go of all thinking about ourselves as “persons” and we simply rested in “presence”. We practiced bearing witness to what was unfolding in front of us without reaction; remaining neutral and just emptying the mind of all labels; observing and accepting without judgment.

It takes practice and patience in a gentle compassionate way not to engage the ego mind. This is not about zoning out…It is about being fully present. At first, so much resistance came up in me with irritation, frustration, impatience, and “ya…but…” thoughts. I questioned the method, doubted the theory, and somehow felt “I” knew better. The ego mind reared its head and tried to convince me that it couldn’t be this simple. I journaled like crazy and chanted and forward-bended and tried so hard to understand. Striving…seeking…endless effort.

But then one day, I gave up; I surrendered. I wrote in my journal, “I AM SO DONE WITH THIS GAME!” It was taking so much effort and energy trying to achieve BEING- ness that I realized resistance is futile. I couldn’t blame it on anything or anyone other than my own mind – clearly I was the master of my own misery.

One of my teachers reminded me, “Beneath all the anger, jealousy, fear, questioning, doubt, and broken heartedness, is RADIANCE and that is your natural state – your Being-ness. Just be silent and be aware without trying so hard. Just BE.” Okay…I’m willing…I will let it go; not just saying it but REALLY letting it all go.

Gradually the clouds in my head cleared and I was able to rest in the spaciousness of Presence. I felt it. I understood it. Somewhere deep in my Being I tapped into Self. No judgment, critical thinking, or evaluation…just Being. And from that place all my concerns and ruminations melted; past was gone and future wasn’t even a thought. All that was there was PRESENCE (call it God, Spirit, Oneness, or whatever) and a great freedom from all the bullshit I had concocted in my mind. This was not just a one-time experience; it is feeling of transformation and realization. But don’t take my word for it…you have to discover it for yourself.

As I spend my final days in India near the Arabian Sea, I am in awe of life as it presents itself moment to moment. We are exactly where we need to be right at this time with open arms and loving hearts. With my trusty travel partner, Debb, we have experienced authentic yoga in its birthplace, communed with nature and its bugs and birds, and witnessed both the beauty and hardship of life unfolding in front of us. I’ve been ant-bitten and wind-swept, dehydrated and dirty, stomach-crampy and cranky…but I’ve also been elated, peaceful, content and free. Just ebbing and flowing with what IS.

I am still getting nudges from the ego mind and will continue to work on dismissing its influence, but it’s getting easier to auto-shift back into Presence. From the place of the Higher Self we see others in a similar light, looking past their own mistaken identities and understanding we are all the same at the core. As the wisdom traditions suggest, we are ONE. From this perspective it is much easier to forgive and move on. From this perspective we can still do all our work in the world and live with others from a more open place.

I am more ready than ever to embrace life…MY life…and all those people and energies and happenings in it, with gratitude, salutations, blessings, acceptance, and love…not needing anything more or anything less. Blissed or pissed, I’m coming home, my Loves, to shine my light and to see the light in you. See you soon.