When faced with a decision, weigh all options. Ask the self to back down from judgments, of self and other, so that only the facts are laid before you. Ask the mind to stop its usual chatter, its usual condemnations, the usual things it tells you, so that you may sit in the silence of your knowing self. Present the options, the pros and cons, of your decision to your knowing self and then sit in the silence and wait. Important decisions deserve patience, so take the time to allow the silence of the knowing self to work through them, to embrace all that is, to sit and mull through all that is presented so that unadulterated clarity may be achieved.
Sit in the silence of the knowing self for as long as it takes for the right decision to rise to the surface and make itself known. It may not be the decision you’d automatically make. However, if the silence of the knowing self is allowed to do its work properly, it will clearly be the right one. The challenge then will be to act on it. For the betterment of all involved, proceed with kindness, knowing that a decision can impact many lives simultaneously. As you carry out the decision of your knowing self, stay connected to your knowing self and you will be provided with the compassion to act gracefully.
Deep work on the self is inevitably accompanied by equally deep encounters with anxiety. Heightened anxiety states not only shut down our ability to explore and process our self-discoveries, but often become a major preoccupation, taking most of our energy and attention to manage.
Inherent in our body are physical movements that regulate our anxious states. When we dream our eyes move rapidly back and forth as we put to rest disturbing experiences from our days. This is an unconscious, built-in body movement that regulates our anxiety every day. Without this body processing function, our lives would be overrun by the anxiety of one long run-on sentence without the punctuation of completion and rejuvenation that our daily dreams provide us with.
The Shamans of Ancient Mexico discovered, in their dreaming, the Magical Pass of Recapitulation. This pass also involves a back and forth movement, similar to the rapid eye movement of dreaming, though not just of the eyes, but of the entire head. This movement is accompanied by an inhalation and an exhalation as the head sweeps from side to side. Those shamans discovered that those movements could be consciously performed to put troubled life experiences to rest, whereby reducing anxiety through release of energetic attachment to the past.
Francine Shapiro inadvertently discovered the same bilateral mechanism inherent in the body in what has come to be known as EMDR. In EMDR, like in shamanic recapitulation, anxiety is reduced through bilateral movement that enables processing and putting traumatic experiences to rest.
The ancient Hindus discovered many body poses and breathing techniques to master the central nervous system, which manifests anxiety. They came to call these body practices yoga. One such breathing technique is called Nadhi Sadhana or alternate nostril breathing.
In this pranayama exercise, using our right hand, we close off the right nostril with our thumb while breathing in through the left nostril. When the inhalation is complete, we close off the left nostril with the ring finger, in effect gently pinching the nose closed for a brief pause, before lifting the thumb and exhaling through the right nostril. At the completion of the exhalation we inhale through the right nostril, close it off with the thumb, pause for a moment with pinched nose before lifting the ring finger and exhaling through the left nostril. This back and forth breathing practice counts as one complete breath. The sequence is repeated, going back and forth through alternate nostrils.
Jan and I practice this breathing at least twice each day for a total of at least twelve complete breaths. Our personal finding is a significant reduction in anxiety, resulting in a calming of the central nervous system that lasts throughout the day. This yoga breathing activates the inborn automatic bilateral movement of dreaming in a conscious way, offering a high level regulation of anxiety.
We do not recommend this breathing to accompany the processing of memories or trauma, as the recapitulation breath takes care of that. However, it is highly effective, if practiced regularly, to reduce the overall tension and levels of stress in the body. And for that we recommend it.
The body is our temple. Though itself mortal, it houses all that we are and all that we will become beyond our mortal lives. The body as temple houses physical movements that we can consciously access and exercise that greatly support our spiritual journeys, and that prepare us for our ultimate life without a body.
Enter the temple of the body self with reverence for its movement wisdom. This is not a mental process, but a physical doing. Do it, and see what happens!
If one is to be satisfied with life, effort must be applied. Intent must be set. Awareness must be maintained. Reminders that one is on a path of change must be constant, made an important part of each day. If one it to live a satisfied life, a life that at the end will have both advanced one and been full of life, love, and experience, then one must live each day with that in mind. A satisfied life will naturally unfold as one opens up to and lives a rich inner life to complement and understand the meaning of life upon that earth. To live a satisfied life is to seek always a path of heart, a path of kindness, and a path of inner exploration. All of these things, as one begins to know the self on ever-deepening levels, will bring a satisfied life.
A warrior seeks knowledge. The warrior knows that knowledge comes from being open and having experiences. The warrior knows that knowledge is to be gained by taking the inner path and the path of heart. The warrior knows that these two paths are really the same path, for they reveal the same things, that the only way a path of heart will unfold in the outer world is by the inner world becoming fully known and experienced. The two worlds are parallel and full of knowledge. This is what the warrior knows and thus the warrior’s search for knowledge is as much internal as external. A path of knowledge is a path of heart; a path of heart is a path of knowledge.
The recent weather situation in the Northeast, as we awaited the track that the “snowstorm of the century” would take, reminded me of how we expect the experts, in this case the meteorologists, to get it right and how quick we are to judge them for getting it wrong. I, for one, am always grateful for those experts. I know how rare it is to be able to predict nature with any certainty.
I spent almost a decade living in Louisiana where the specter of hurricanes is real and is taken very seriously. Many a time we packed up our belongings and hoped for the best. Each hurricane’s approach offered a lesson in detachment. What had meaning? In the end, we discovered that very little had value; only our lives and our children’s lives had meaning. In those moments, I understood the challenge that death brought, having to leave everything behind. Hurricane preparation itself presented us with the real truths of nature; death could come at anytime and you are not allowed to take anything with you.
One time we went to the campus of the university where my husband taught. We spent the last critical 24 hours before the hurricane was predicted to strike in the company of others, keeping our children occupied while the parents, most of them other faculty and staff, worriedly watched the news and wondered if we should all move up to the second floor for the night, just in case. We were 30 miles inland, but we knew that meant nothing.
It was a hot August day. Occasionally we’d all step outside, trying to gauge the situation, giving ourselves and our children the experience of what it felt like to be in the path of approaching annihilation. The wind, swirling from the north in a counterclockwise direction, was eerily balmy. The sky darkened, as the dry soil of Southwest Louisiana flew into hair, eyes, nose and mouth. None of us took it lightly.
We’d all heard of the devastation that the Louisiana coastal area had been through in the past, how most of the towns south of us had been totally wiped out in Hurricane Camille in 1969, causing catastrophic damage and major loss of life. Bodies of the dead had been found 50 miles away from where they’d lived, washed inland by the surging seas.
In Louisiana they don’t take hurricanes lightly. Every family, it seems, has a hurricane story. My daughter has been living in New Orleans for the past 3 years, and she says that each year as hurricane season approaches a certain tension arises. If a hurricane has not hit in a while people get suspicious, expect the “big one,” as happened in 2005. First Katrina hit New Orleans and then Rita hit Southwest Louisiana, our old hometown.
My daughter experienced Hurricane Isaac a few months after her move to New Orleans in 2012. She and her roommates hunkered down for three days while the winds howled, windows shattered, part of the roof blew off the house they were renting and the shed in the backyard blew away. She has stayed on, but her two friends couldn’t handle the tension that exists in a land so vulnerable; within 6 months they were back in New York.
We, in the Hudson Valley, fared well the other day. And just as that day in Louisiana when we waited in the tension of the impending storm, which struck 50 miles to the east of us, so too this winter storm, Juno, struck to the east of us as well. In both cases, other people did not fare so well. In both cases, lives were lost and people suffered. Compassion is naturally stirred, as naturally as fear of impending disaster is stirred.
Nature does as nature does. There is really no predicting it exactly. Many a hurricane has gone out to sea only to turn back inland and strike again. Living in Louisiana, I heard many such stories, how people were caught off guard, thinking they were safe. Nature is truly unpredictable. And so I respect nature and those who seek to warn us of its changing nature. Even if I am safe, if my loved ones are safe, there are others who are suffering. Lessons in compassion are easy to experience in the everyday events of being human on this planet we all share.
And so I shovel my snow, grateful that it is only about 8 inches deep. I send love and good thoughts to my brother, on the coast north of Boston, shoveling the 30 inches he got, and to another brother on Cape Cod, likewise digging out from the snowstorm of the century.
Be safe in nature; be compassionate in your own nature, Jan