The other morning while doing my yoga set, my mind found an interesting perspective. (Thank you, yoga.) For the past few weeks I have been doing a specific yoga set, a Kriya in Kundalini Yoga parlance, called the Pituitary Gland Series. It’s a series of about 10 different poses or asanas. When I first begin to practice a Kriya I will usually read the text and follow the guidelines, checking back to make sure I am doing everything correctly. That usually happens for 1-3 days and then once I’ve memorized the asanas I usually put the book aside so that I can really be present during practice, helping my executive mind to quiet down while I am in my practice.
Although I’ve memorized the asanas by this point, I often forget or confuse a few of the little details, things like where to focus the eyes, or what kind of breath to do, or what body locks to end with. These things may change from asana to asana during the Kriya so it can be a lot to remember. I don’t worry that I am forgetting a few of the details, as I am content with focusing my attention on the key arm, hand and body positions for each asana. Once I feel good about my progress then I go back and reread the text to begin adding some of tiny yet important details that I left out during my first pass. Arch head back, asana 1, resting palms up asana 2, long deep breathing, asana 5, and so on. I can fine tune now that I’ve been practicing the body positions for awhile. In other words, I need to lay the foundation first before I can work on the finer points. So how does this all relate to my newfound perspective?
For the past few months, I’ve been reading a book called “The Untethered Soul” by Michael Singer. I find myself constantly losing my place in the book. (This isn’t a normal thing for me.) I am often laying it facedown to hold my place, only to quickly grab it, closing the book and losing my place over and over again. Each time, I begin again thinking the words are new, they seem unfamiliar and interesting, but as I move along, it all starts to come back to me, and I realize I’ve been here before. I take it as a karmic lesson, a gentle nudge from the Universe that I should read this part again, and I do.
The other night when opening up the book to where I swore I had been last reading, I realized that this was likely the third time I’d started this particular chapter. This was getting ridiculous. My partner was already beginning to think something was wrong with me with the amount of time that I’d been spending on this rather short book. But I sighed internally, humbled myself, and thought, “Well, if this is where I am supposed to begin reading again, I will.
The chapter was titled “Removing Your Inner Thorn.” It was all about those mostly unnoticed things we do in order to avoid the pain of a particular experience, thereby never really opening ourselves up, being true to ourselves, and living life to its fullest. From my limited perspective, there are two major difficulties with removing these “thorns:” 1) we are almost always oblivious to them because we don’t want to see them, and 2) our minds are telling us stories all the time making us believe that the thorns are a part of us and accepting them as reality. According to Singer, the way to really rid yourself of these thorns is to pay attention to your consciousness and to separate you from your thoughts, to treat them as objects, “to notice who is noticing.” It’s a mindfulness practice at its core with an awareness that the thoughts that come up are not you, they are just thoughts. It’s not about blocking the thoughts or running away from them, it’s sitting with them as a witness, being curious, and allowing them to flow.
These words really struck a chord with me. “If you sit within the Self, you will experience the strength of your inner being even when your heart feels weak. This is the essence of the path. This is the essence of a spiritual life. Once you learn that it’s okay to feel inner disturbances, and that they can no longer disturb your seat of consciousness, you will be free. You will begin to be sustained by the inner energy flow that comes from behind you. When you have tasted the ecstasy of the inner flow, you can walk in this world and the world will never touch you. That’s how you become a free being–you transcend.”
When I read this chapter, for the third time, I finally got it. Something had happened from the time I last read it until now that helped me to truly understand what was being said on the pages. I could actually feel the difference in my body. It was like the pieces came together in a different way, the right way. My method for truly learning a Kriya was showing me how this plays out in life. I needed to learn the foundations before I could perfect the finer points. This is pretty obvious, when it comes to learning, from an educational perspective. We have to finish first grade before we can move on to second grade, arithmetic before algebra. It all makes sense when it comes to those kinds of lessons, but when it comes to those more meaningful life lessons, it’s harder to see it and to believe it. There’s no life manual with step-by-step how-to’s. We don’t actually know what the foundational work is, so we need to remain open to it always.
We all do it, checking off the box or advancing to the next level, whatever that looks like. I think this is really holding us back.
I’ve caught myself in various situations saying to myself that I don’t need to do something because I’ve already been there and done it. I’ve already learned that lesson. I’ve already read that book or taken that class or gone through therapy–the list goes on. What I am realizing now is that it’s not that simple. I most likely did learn something. I am sure I did grow in some important way, but what I am seeing now is that it’s very possible that what I learned may only have been a piece of the puzzle, foundational wisdom setting the stage for deeper levels of understanding and growth.
I’m sure I am not alone in thinking that I don’t have to go back and restudy something. We all do it, checking off the box or advancing to the next level, whatever that looks like. I think this is really holding us back. We’re missing the joy in going back to kindergarten and getting our hands wet with finger paint. Or being curious about World History now that we’ve actually lived through some of it. We’re missing opportunities to revisit nuggets of wisdom from a different perspective allowing us to go deeper into who we are so that we can see ourselves and live life to its fullest.
As Michael Singer says, “The spiritual journey is one of constant transformation.” If you look at the same flower two days in a row, there’s a good chance you’re going to notice something different from one day to the next. Don’t let yourself miss the opportunity of that experience. Remain open and always be a student of life.