Being Empty

4466The cup needs to be half-full and an empty room is pitied.  Changing perceptions is about as easy as changing eating habits, but let’s look at what can be gained from an alteration in mindset. When we allow ourselves to become empty, it’s not that we provide a space for something else to come in; we provide the opportunity for the recognition of what is already there – the space of pure Awareness – which is where you meet yourSelf.

“Only when a human being becomes empty of ego does it become a vessel of the manifestation of the Supreme. When there is sufficient space made through the absence of the person, then the Divine cannot hide.”  ~ Mooji

 We are constantly made aware of the many negative connotations associated with the idea of emptiness. If there is a part of your life that is empty, then it is perceived that you are “lacking” in something or not doing something right.  That promotes guilt. So there’s that.  But, I would say the most negative connotation is the fear that comes with the sense of incompleteness and aloneness. A fear perpetrated by the mind while holding us hostage to the unreal. It’s a conspiracy really – a conspiracy of the mind. Society, an accomplice, makes every attempt to ensure that no part of our lives has any emptiness at all. We fill up our minds and days with external stimuli to the point that we are never devoid of a thought or an action.  We physically fill up spaces with things, even people, we feel will make us happy or “complete” us.  Thoughts, emotions, things and others define the personality, which is who we erroneously think we are.  So, we equate emptiness with non-identity, and that is the scariest idea of all.

Let me repeat that: …we equate emptiness with non-identity, and that is the scariest idea of all.

 “Let yourself be merged into that pure emptiness which is the presence of God and true source of all spiritual strivings.” ~ Mooji

 Spiritual practice is a type of feng shui for our lives. Cleaning out the clutter is an important step as the outer is a reflection of the inner. In yoga, the asanas and breath work help empty the body of stress and pain (physical, mental and emotional).  As a result, we create a space for the recognition of pure awareness, which is not empty at all but is really a space of completeness. Meditation also provides the opportunity to enter into the vast fullness of our true Selves.

When you empty yourself of all that comes with the personality, all the mental, emotional, and material baggage, you reveal what was hidden but all the while waiting for you to discover: your true Self.  Yes, live in the material world – let it give you what you need and enjoy, but remember that none of it defines You.

 “…  I slide like an empty boat pulled over the water.” ~ Rumi

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The Alchemy of Yoga

One day, while taking my yoga teacher training at White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara with Tracey Rich and Ganga White, Tracey had us take a block of time to do a creative practice where she gave no formal guidance or instruction.  She told us to let our bodies move guided only by our own intuition. I stood on my mat staring as if I was looking for something. My intuition perhaps? Well, I can tell you, I didn’t find it. I moved awkwardly trying really hard to figure out what posture my body felt like moving into.  My perception of that exercise was that I failed miserably. I attributed my failure to a lack of knowledge. A lack of not having enough asanas (postures) in my repertoire to access. It took years for me to realize that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I was using my mind the whole time. I was trying to think my way through the practice.

Yoga helps to establish the mind/body connection, but there is really more to it. Tracey was trying to get us to transcend thought  just like what we do in meditation. There is no thinking or analyzing at this level.  Intuition is a state of ‘knowing.’  It does not rely on information from books. And intuition does not originate in the mind in the way we normally see the mind (as the brain). Or maybe it does in some part of the right side, but it wasn’t in the part of the brain I was functioning in. The point is that we can’t ‘think’ and ‘intuit’ at the same time, no matter how good we are at multi-tasking.

In addition to this state of ‘knowing’, intuition is a ‘feeling.’  “I have a gut feeling about something,” means I know something without having any information that would logically lead me to what I feel.  So in this yoga exercise, I should have been ‘feeling’ what my body needed and how it wanted to move, instead of rummaging through my mental hatha yoga catalog trying to pick a posture.  Yes, I needed to have an academic knowledge of asana. But, as with any kind of knowledge, there comes a tipping point where true integration takes place.  That point where the depth of knowledge triggers a change or transition into the expanded awareness from which intuition shines through.  This profound change is alchemy. We literally become the practice.

I’ve gotten much better at allowing intuition guide my asana practice.  If you are used to popping in a DVD all the time when you do your yoga, try letting your intuition be your guide and feel the difference. Experiencing your practice as a moving meditation can be more purposeful and transformative than always following a set routine.

Open Up and Feel the Love

I’ve been subscribing to Yoga Journal for years and still get a thrill flutter when I open my mailbox to find the new issue waiting for me. I usually begin flipping through the magazine as I’m walking back to my apartment or car not being able to restrain myself.

In a recent issue, there was an article by Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame in which she relates the experience of her very first yoga class.  It’s a great read for those of you out there who do yoga. Remember your first yoga class? Well, for Gilbert, that first class began a love affair with yoga that continues to this day. I was particularly struck, though, by her revelation of how she burst into tears during that class. She was in the lying spinal twist when the instructor came over and opened up her body a bit more as she held the pose.  That prompted a flow of tears and emotion helping Gilbert to release, as she puts it, the “longing, prayer, and doubt” she had held inside but never openly acknowledged.

Crying during a yoga practice happens from time to time.  We don’t realize how much “stuff” we hold in our bodies. I remember when a woman started to cry during a class I taught. Afterward, she came up to me and during our conversation she told me that her son had died during that past year and she was finding the yoga was helping her to release some of her pain.

Sometimes, though, when a painful experience is too new, it might be best not to practice for a time.  Some years ago, there was an article in Yoga Journal describing an experience by Thom Birch (late husband of ashtanga teacher Beryl Bender Birch). He was in Mysore, India working on his ashtanga practice when he began to cry. Pattabhi Jois (the late ashtanga yoga master) came over and Thom mentioned to Jois that he had just found out his father had died.  Jois stopped his practice and told him, “No practice. Three days.”

The cathartic release of painful emotions from your body allows for a transformation of sorts. You create more space for something else to come in. Gilbert called the “something else” shakti. I like to call it love. Love for whatever you can finally let go of.  Love for whatever you feel is missing in your life. Love for who you are and where you are in this present moment of your life.  Love for whatever may wait for you in the future. Just LOVE.  So during your next practice, open up and feel the love that is all around you.  I promise you will carry it with you off the mat.

Here is the link to Elizabeth Gilbert’s article in Yoga Journal

www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/2999?utm_source=MyYogaJournal&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=MyYogaJournal