Life, whether heaven or hell, all goes down in your mind.
Ever notice how affected you are by external conditions? There's a favourite topic of this country, the weather, but there are other things, endless things, like what the media reports as the news of the day, how we feel in the company of other people, what happens when we drink too much coffee, or don't get enough sleep. The list goes on and on of factors that reinforce the changes we feel throughout the day. Our minds have a way of holding on to those external factors that then become a fulcrum for how each of us sees the world, which in turn affects how we live.
If you open up any newspaper in the world today, the picture that is painted is that of urgency. All of a sudden, or so it seems, there are problems we collectively need to deal with. New problems. Immediate problems. Big problems.
What nobody seems to say is that none of the problems we face are actually new. People have fought about differences of opinion and power for as long as humans have walked this earth. As for climate change, well, it was reported as a problem as far back as 1799 when Alexander von Humbolt visited South America and noticed tree felling was changing the climate in Venezuela. And pandemics? Surely you have heard of the Black Death, but pandemics date back in history far further than that. What's new is that we can't stay in a state of collective avoidance for ever. Sooner or later we need to acknowledge the only change to see in the world comes from us, and that responsibility is in each of our hands.
As far back as we look, life on this planet has come with problems - challenges that each species has overcome, or led to its demise. What's more is that drama sells, and more than that, it brings us humans together. We are curious creatures and there is nothing like a good story with heros and villains to connect us and help us avoid having to look within. Unfortunately, these stories mostly leave us more confined to a small group who only see the world a we do living in fear, rather than helping us to be more open and expansive.
Stories serve a purpose beyond bringing people together - they help to form our perspective of the world that has kept us alive, and helped us, individually, to overcome and make sense of many things. But stories come with their limitations. They lock us into a belief system that often disconnects us from the truth of who we really are, and inform just about everything we do. I'm not talking about the Ultimate Truth, the rich ground that yoga philosphy covers that is otherwise known as Oneness, Loving Awareness, or Consciousness itself (which surely we are), but rather, our individual truths about how we became disconnected from this essential Self in the first place. That truth can be painful.
At some point, somewhere down the line, most of us arrive at point of feeling disconnected. This shows up as general dissatisfaction with life, a lack of 'knowing oneself', insecurity, indecisiveness, patterns that include people-pleasing or an inability to say no, or even addiction. Our culture goes so far to take this disconnect as 'normal' by tooting slogans like 'grin and bear it', 'keep calm and carry on', 'hold your tongue', and 'pull yourself up with your bootstraps', to name just a few. While these straplines might serve a purpose for a time (to get through war, for example), they can become painful, exhausting and down right hard, no longer serving their original intention. They can even lead to a life of suffering. Some of us then turn to yoga or other spiritual practice to learn a more peaceful and accepting exisence, but this can create another layer of avoidance if we're not careful, and that's known as spiritual bypassing. Instead of learning to look, we learn a new system of avoidance, that can even become a habit pattern or addiction in-and-of itself.
Before we can ever connect with the ultimate Truth that gurus and spiritual leaders speak of, we need to first reconnect with the self that is having experiences in this body, in this lifetime. The first step comes in finding safety and trust to inquire compassionately within - to ask ourselves where our beliefs come from and to trust our gut about how these beliefs make us feel. Then there is the learning to be present with the uncomfortable feelings that we've gone out of our way in the past to avoid. This takes honesty, self-compassion and radical self-care.
Radical self-care is about learning to become aware of what is happening in the present moment in your body, and beginning an internal dialogue that welcomes all the aspects of you, even the negative ones. It is about getting curious and welcoming feelings as they come and go but not identifying as those feelings. Rather than trying to elimitate the various voices that may arise, it is about learning to listen to them and understand where they are coming from. This will then give rise for a bigger opening for the essential Self to come forth, for that true and authentic voice to eventually take the helm and lead.
In your mind, in your mind One foot on Jacob's ladder And one foot in the fire And it all goes down in your mind