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Today, I am inspired by the writings of John O’Donohue, who wrote,

Beauty dwells at the heart of life. If we can free ourselves from our robot-like habits of predictability, repetitions and function, we begin to walk differently on the earth. To bring consciousness of living into our everyday tasks is at the heart of living a soul existence.

I asked myself most days, “Laura Jane, is this learned or is this you?” I question if all my habits are ways to avoid living fearlessly. At the basis of my existence is human survival. I am in this body; and in this container, I am reminded that at some primal level of my existence, I am only a hunter and gatherer. I am food for the lion, and I must eat to live while alive.

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At this place is the food chain, I must be given the right to kill for food. Hunting, conquering and surviving is based on this human instinct. I will tell you there is no joy, nor happiness, nor peacefulness, when living in this state of mind. The truth: everything alive is dying and life is impermanent. Such a cheerful thought, one which we avoid discussing and accepting since this is the ego’s greatest fear.

I know my entire life is a series of actions running from this truth. My intention, or deepening desire, is to break open into a higher consciousness and move the mind of fear into thriving in love. I never take for granted how blessed I am to have the time, the energy, and the luxury to choose. In today’s world, most souls are just caught in the poverty of daily struggle for shelter, food, warmth and human kindness. It’s so difficult to be living in a world so rich and abundant, and yet so many are not able to share at the table. I am fully aware the gift to be able to sit and write these thoughts with the luxury of a full heart.

Another mass shooting this weekend. The cry of pain once again expressed through the rage of a gun. Once again the heart breaks for the victims, and then the voices rise up with the need to “defend”, as fear creates another justification for killing. The human instinct to fight back is wired into our nervous system. All throughout time, human beings have gathered into tribes of belonging in order to feel protected with a false sense of belonging to the same like-minded gang of support. Feeding anger is so easy. The challenge is shifting the habit of reaction (which only leads to justification for revenge) to thrive.  Thousands of years and humanity is still struggling with our primal fears. People building more war heads, more armor and more hatred as the reflex to cope with fear. 

 Do we really understand the word, love? Since the intellect is wired in our nervous system as fear, it takes great effort to move into something which has nothing to do with one’s instinct. Love has nothing to do with our intellect; it arises out of pure intelligence.  My teacher would say, our true intrinsic nature is love. The word itself is too small for the experience of being loved. Therefore to even write about it gives nothing to the essence of the experience.

The yoga tools of living the YAMAS and the NIYAMAS, the restraints and observances, offer a gateway into the path. Staying on it is a daily practice, and not without great desire to be really good at loving. This is my intention, and it brings me to my knees, because what I think is love is often my need to control, to manipulate and to push away what I don’t like for the pleasure of what I do like. I am always reminded that being really good at loving is messy, heartbreaking, and at times exhausting. It’s not glorious to be with a dying parent, navigating a divorce, leaving a home, letting go of a friendship, nor holding a space for differences in our divided world views. To disagree with others in my personal relationships does not give me permission to shame or reject anyone. Boundaries are not walls of separation, and sometimes offering acts of loving kindness might look unkind when we grow and change. Love arises from all directions allowing grace to move into the open space of the heart. 

The first Yama, Ahimsa,"thou shall not harm," is the gift of wisdom. When do I harm? When I am afraid. I am harmful in my thoughts and words when I use the habit of ego to tell me how unworthy I might be, or how I failed, or how I’m not ever good enough. A learned mind pushes me to move into false beliefs. I bite back when I’m tired, hungry and not feeling safe. When I am in my animal instinct for hunting, my tone can harm and my sarcastic wit can shame.

Satyam is to speak truth. Children learn to lie when they are afraid of being punished. We keep the habit when we continue to be afraid of speaking the truth. And not just outlaid but by keeping the inner lies to ourselves. They become the inner secrets of shame hidden in the deeper aspects of our learned personalities. To hide the truth is to become sneaky, often spinning the truth to avoid right action or change. How dangerous it is to learn to manipulate in order to hide our deeper fears of revealing the truth! 

Asteya means non-stealing. There is a motivation directing the little mind to take something that is not ours to have, and whether it be out of need or want, it stills arises from a fear of NOT having. Stealing from others whether it be someone’s dreams, hopes or creativity. It’s the patterns cultivated by envy, jealously or profound revenge. To steal is to create a world of distrust and dishonesty; and yet, we see everyday permission to cheat, lie, and steal to win the outcome.   

Brahmacarya, healthy boundaries—both inner and outer, is to live with the structure of inner integrity and use appropriate ways to express the values of self esteem with patience persistently. Reflect on how time might be spent in living a healthy lifestyle. Does procrastination or avoidance come into living? By seeking pleasure over choosing to take action in much needed tasks will only lead to suffering.  To make clear choices without being colored by habits of fear for taking the action or inaction is the highest good for all. 

Aparigarha, non-hoarding, is to clear out the mind of habits based on fear, doubt, and worry that prevents us living our best and most noble selves. To shine the inner light and not hold back on who we truly are. Our true self is not the basis of fear, but love, and wants to share this truth. We can look at greed, lust, and hoarding as a learned habit of the fear of not having. Lack, despair, and feeling of hopelessness over life’s hardships will prevent any letting go.  The mind will never trust an empty vessel that is shamed and made to feel guilty. To be able to receive the blessings of beauty in life, one must constantly clear out and clean the mind of false fear. The mind is tricky and will constantly be presented with the challenges to move beyond fear.  

Fear is wired into our nervous system and yet, to live free of this state is to embrace to tools of the Niyamas. The tools to move the mind into the heart.

Purify the mind and practice, “sauca.” Clear out the impurities of fear and replace with a daily commitment to bringing in Prana, the intelligence that rides on the breath. This intelligence is love! The vibration of the breath is the vehicle needed for life. Breathing is taken for granted and so we forget the value of learning deep exhales. Our bodies will not only survive, but our souls can now thrive. To feed and nourish our true selves, we must first clear out the old patterns of learned habits that keep me a prisoner to those false reactions. 

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Let’s practice the three tools of Tapas, Svadhaya, and Isvara-pranidhana. By making effort everyday to clear out our small thinking with observing the beauty in everyday life. Replacing our "robot like habits" with an deeper appreciation for the wonder of life in our daily tasks. Living the practice off our mats, everything takes on a greater purpose. No longer is the outcome our motivation. We are not linking to the fear but to the love of being alive. If we appreciate today, our bodies are breathing, our hearts are breaking open, and our thoughts are mindful of the moment. We are fully alert to what is being presented, the miracle of this life and living NOW. We might feel waves of sadness, grief, fatigue and joy at the same time.

I might have moments of doubt while writing this post, and yet Satosha is present as well. How blessed to be able to sit and share my deepest thoughts as I journey deeper inward and offer my heart. Love is not preaching, nor convincing, and my way is certainly not the only way to live. I have found that these tools are the best possible path for me to keep living fearlessly in beauty. I can be in grief today for the horrors of behaviors linked to fear and still choose to be the best expression of love. Today, I can appreciation the gift of these yoga tools by living them.  I accept being an on-going “work on progress” as I strive to be really good at loving today.