In light of the ancient idea that others are mirrors of ourselves, can we take the vastly more empowered and mature view that Trump is a signal to Americans and humanity at large that we must do our own inner work? If we can accept Trump as a reflection of all that is dysfunctional within We the People, and stop blaming the electoral process, other voters, institutions, and even other countries for this outcome, we have an unparalleled opportunity for deep, meaningful change as individuals and as a nation.
There was something on social media this week about opening a new gym called Resignations, whose marketing plan is to have gym equipment from January to March, after which the place turns into a bar. I mean, right?
I completely support people who want to make real, lasting, healthy changes in their lives. And January 1 is a great time to start! Yet as most of us know, the motivation often fades and we find ourselves back in our usual, unhealthy, sleepy ruts.
Why do we do this? One reason: the seductive tractor beam of the familiar.
Let me ask you this: How many people do you know, including yourself, who say they want to be happy? Like, everyone, yes?
Now let me ask you this: How many people, including yourself, don't take the necessary steps to be happy? How many rarely set aside time for meditation, making their own food, exercise, good sleep, screen-free breaks, playing, and being in nature? Most, right? Sometimes this is called self-sabotage.
Humans are creatures of habit. If we grew up miserable and unloved, we're going to make damn sure to recreate that scenario in our adult lives. If we were brought up in poverty and lack, ditto. If our parents fought and there was a lot of emotional drama in the house, we're going to seek that out in our own relationships.
Are we doomed forever to repeat the negative patterns of our past and pass them on to our own children? Yes! Unless we notice them and see them for what they are: little programs running in the background that keep us running in the ways that are familiar to us.
Thus, I'd like to propose some debugging procedures for those of us willing to make real, positive change in our lives this year. Here's a short list of my personal favorite techniques:
- Identify your old patterns and habits. Next time you find yourself in the same damn argument, take a moment to step back and wonder why. What part of you is really enjoying that exchange? (Spoiler alert: Three letters, starts with E ends with O. You're welcome.)
- Realize that you are not your thoughts. As soon as you notice negative self-talk or that you're judging others, ask the question, "Who is having these thoughts?" (Hint: It's not the true You!)
- Consider the idea that you are never the victim. You only put yourself in that position. Why would you do that ? Because it's...[wait for it]...familiar! This one is scary, because it means you're completely in charge of your own daily experience. And that's the truth, if you choose to accept it.
- Begin responding, stop reacting. Feel like a raw nerve walking around that anyone can poke, fondle, grab, or tickle? It really sucks. Center yourself and commit to choosing if, when, and how you will respond to others' input. Be in charge of yourself and your energy.
- Be "selfish"! Do your own work and quit trying to fix others. Their stuff is absolutely none of your business. In fact, if you think they need fixing, you have a lot of your own work to do! Many of us "helper" types loooove trying to teach others how to live/think/act "right." It feeds the Ego by making us feel powerful, and keeps us distracted from doing our own inner work. Double whammy of wasted time and energy. (Pro tip: If you'll notice, most people don't ask for or really want your advice.)
- Do what you want. Wait, what?? Yes, this is the most radical of them all. With love in your heart and a smile in your voice, feel free to inform bosses, family, and friends, "I do what I want!" This is not only good for a laugh (usually), but lets others know that you're no longer going to engage in the oozing life-suck of people-pleasing.
- Make most things something you want to do, or don't do them. Refer to 6. If you can flip the switch from victimhood (see 3) to the beginnings of self-mastery, you can go from sheer drudgery to depression shattering in a red-hot instant. Real life example: "Dammit, I have to put this money in the bank and get groceries before I go home," becomes, "Yes! I have money to put in the bank! And I can buy food! And I have a house to put it in!"
Well, there you have it: my quick and dirty list to blast out of whatever hole you might find yourself in as this less-than-stellar year limps to a close. If you're tempted to counter my list with a "Yeah, but [insert political team win/loss here or other example of why you don't want your power]," please re-read 1-7 as needed. When you laugh, you'll know you've got it!
Do you find these ideas interesting or inspiring? Then please share and pass it on! I offer one-on-one sessions if you want to explore these concepts in detail and get personal instruction on applying these and other transformations to your own deal. If you're local to the California Central Coast, come try out one of my unique, monthly yoga-based events!
Here's to you. [clink] And may 2017 bring personal growth and true, human maturity on a level that reaches global proportions!
My friends, I'd like to say a few words today on the shootings and other atrocities that are happening at a furious pace in both the US and around the world.
What's causing this (latest) volcanic eruption of hate?
The answer, plain and simple, is that as a species we are terrified. We always have been (wars, etc.), but right now evolution is happening at breakneck speed--and it's demanding that we acknowledge some survival-level issues. If we continue to ignore these warnings, devolution (a descent to a lower state) can settle in.
What we call "hate crimes" are actually the manifestation of deep fear. At the base of all fear is a raging desire to survive. Underneath that is usually a thick, sucking layer of self-loathing.
Even further down past the self-hatred is the unbridled Ego, creating a shifting, treacherous foundation for the whole human house of cards. The great illusion of that shaky foundation is now being brought to our attention powerfully, if we dare to witness it. Some might even say we're collectively being smacked in the head repeatedly by a cosmic two-by-four.
Here's how we got to this point, which even has a name: "The Human Condition." The untrained Ego needs to inflate itself to generate a (false) feeling of safety, security, separateness, and self-importance. It fights like a screaming banshee against anything and everything it perceives as threatening (like a spiritual challenge, different-colored skin, or people who behave "wrong"). Above all, the Ego wants to keep the miserable status quo, which is why most of us are chronically exhausted, sick, and unhappy. The Ego wages a mighty battle with Life--all day, everyday.
This all-out battle cuts us off from realizing (or even remembering) our vast potential as Human Beings. So the cycle of misery continues, and hatred rules the land.
What can we do? It seems hopeless.
But it's not! (Unless you want it to be, and many do.)
[Note to skeptics: The following are the most practical, radical solutions to the problem at hand. Putting even more people in jail, outlawing guns except for the military/police, and passing new fear-based laws will only perpetuate this nightmare, as we have seen. Thank you for your critical thinking skills! Please proceed.]
If you truly want to help, here's what to do now:
- Talk to your Ego, which you can think of as your "small self." Identify it, name it, look at it, and know that it is not you. When you're upset in any way, your Ego has been threatened and is fighting back, trying to take all of you with it. Recognize that. Tell it, as you would a frightened child, "Hey, I see you're worried about something. You know what, though? This isn't a real threat. Let's save that energy for important things and get back to our work."
- Stop focusing on the illusory "problems." Pointing out and agonizing over what's wrong multiplies the "wrong" things and makes them stronger.
- Stop feeding your Ego by getting down and dirty with the latest "news." Like feeling terrible, "catching up on the news" is an addiction. Your Ego loooooves when you feel scared and weak.
- Don't spend time with people who see themselves as victims of whatever is currently happening in their lives and/or the world at large.
- Change your thinking so you're seeing the Big Picture more often, creating a sense of space, clarity, and mobility in your life.
- Do and say things that feel happy and loving. Your emotions are your compass that will guide you from where you are now to where you want to be.
- Begin falling in love with yourself. It's how the world heals! You are the ignition switch.
- Accept your power as a Human Being and quit trying to give it away to "authorities" that say they'll keep you safe. They're lying. Besides, ultimately they can't do that.
To conclude: Hating hate is like an eyeball trying to look at itself. It's a closed feedback loop that cancels growth, movement, understanding, and--ultimately--vision itself.
If you want to help, don't be that eyeball. Work on yourself instead of spending so much time telling others, in great detail, how they're doing it wrong, and how, if they followed your logical instructions, they could make you really happy. (Talk about setting yourself up for misery! Yeesh.)
Meanwhile, let me remind you of something you already know in your bones: All is well, despite appearances to the contrary. Undoubtedly, the Universe is unfolding as it should.
Please, my fellow Humans! Breathe, relax, do your own work, and practice compassion for all those who have forgotten who they are. We can only go as fast as the slowest among us.
Thanks for reading,
During those dark nights that we all endure, remember this: you are not your thoughts. You are not your body. Understanding this can give tremendous perspective, like an eagle's-eye view, allowing you to become the observer of your own experience.
When you crave the beauty and peace of order and simplicity, begin to watch yourself: compassionately, non-judgmentally observe your immediate physical and mental experience. Taking this step back, away from the hot mess of your unexamined, "normal" daily life, gives you a chance to gain a degree of peace and clarity. It opens the way to a vision of the true nature of things.
You might say something like this to yourself, as though objectively describing someone else:
"I'm feeling really anxious. My heart rate is going up! The thoughts in my mind feel jumbled, panicky, and confused. It feels like there are small flying things under my breastbone." Take the time to watch, look, and listen.
This is a powerful way to re-order yourself--to witness your own experience from a calmer, remote location. This is known as Big Mind, to name one of the more popular explanations of this perception-widening technique.
Accessing Big Mind (or God, or whatever you want to call it) takes discipline. It takes a desire to emerge from the hard chrysalis of your little self and step into your winged, free True Self. It takes a warrior, a Human Being.
In training here with us tonight, you are initiating this process of expansion. Every time you meditate, feed yourself well, empty that expensive, ancient storage unit, turn off the TV, clear a pile of stuff off the counter, or compassionately disengage from yet another endless, circular argument, you are coming back to Yourself.
You are coming home. And learning one of the most advanced lessons of human mastery--being at home in Yourself.
So encourage your innate desire for order and simplicity. Amid the glorious chaos of Life, it will take you far.
Recently a Human Being Training student asked the question: "What does self-love look like?" And here's the short answer to that wonderful inquiry: Self-love looks like doing only what you want. Only what makes your mind-heart-body thrilled (and sometimes a little scared).
This is where people get confused, because this idea sounds very selfish. I got thrown out of a famous commune a few years back because I suggested that the participants would do better to follow their own paths to self-realization (doing what they felt inspired to do), versus following the community party line, as it were. The outraged and angry response from the leadership was, "Amanda, what would happen if we all did what we wanted?!?" To which I sassily replied, "I don't know, but I think we'd be having a much better time!" Which, of course, didn't help at all. ;) But it's true.
The reason I tell you this story is because people in general (including those who consider themselves enlightened) are aghast at the idea of doing what they want. It would mean accepting their absolute power over themselves as the creators of their own lives, along with the tremendous responsibility that comes with this ultimate, inherent freedom. 99% of people want no part of that. They want to be told what to do by their religions, their governments, their parents, their schools, their friends, their local law enforcement--they automatically perceive any voice of authority outside of themselves to be more powerful than their own (if they even acknowledge that they have power).
Now, along with this information, I have to explain what "doing what you want" looks like. Two main things:
1. It's not something that happens from a big Eff You kind of attitude, although this can get you started. It's more like this: "Hey, I'm going to do what I want, and I hope you do also, because I want nothing but the best for you." True doing-what-you-want comes from a very loving place. You can't help anyone if you're a total wreck of exhaustion, resentment, and bitterness. We all know sad-sack martyrs. How much are they really contributing to the world?
2. It can often take the form of a major shift in attitude. So, as a CalPoly students said the other night, "I went from saying, 'Damn, I have to do my homework," to "I WANT to do my homework so I do well in X class so I can become the best X in the world, which is my overarching goal." Or my personal favorite, "Wha. I have to stop at Trader Joe's on the way home," becomes "I GET TO stop at TJ's on the way home so I can buy good food with the money I awesomely have, and carry it home in my MINI Cooper car that I love. I'm so effing lucky."
I hope this helps. And I hope you can see now that while this is a very powerful self-love practice, it's also perhaps the least-selfish thing you can do. Those who don't understand yet will call you selfish, invariably. But as you learn to take your power back through this practice of being in charge of your own happiness, you'll teach the others around you to as well. Or at least give them a glimpse that something different and wonderful is possible. And that's really what the world needs most right now.
One of my favorite lines from the music I've been listening to lately is "Come down from your cross, we could use the wood." :)
I think martyrdom and socially conditioned "self-sacrifice" are among the most damaging and selfish ideas out there.
But don't take my word for it! Try it out yourself, and please let me know how it goes.
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The following is something I felt compelled to write down immediately before giving a Human Being Training last weekend. I read it during Corpse Pose at the end of class. These are several dominant themes of my teachings, which are the same ancient ideas the masters have brought to us over the millennia, but in my own voice. Several people wanted me to make it available publicly, so here it is. Thank you for asking!
What I really want you to understand--like, even down into your bones themselves--is that there is no label, or name, or description for how magnificent you are.
The Ego likes little names and categories, because more than anything, it wants you to stay small and docile. Society and all forms of authority outside of you approve and reinforce this process at every opportunity, offering the illusion of safety as a powerful lure to obedience.
There's nothing wrong with the Ego. It's not evil, and you don't have to squash it. What will happen, though, is that as you allow yourself to grow and learn, the true, unlimited You will naturally begin to overshadow the Ego and put it in its proper place: as your servant. It's been your master until now. And that's all that's wrong with the world.
You have a choice of love or fear in every single moment. The Ego chooses fear every time. Your true, beautiful Self will always choose love. Sometimes making decisions from love is absolutely terrifying! But that kind of fear comes from knowing you're being called to play the Big Game.
So quit playing small!
It doesn't help anyone for you to cover up What You Are. In fact, it diminishes us all.
And as you allow your Real Self to emerge comes the opposite of Ego. There comes profound humility, because you realize that everyone, everywhere is also the same unknowable, indescribable vehicle for outright magnificence.
Let your power begin to come through you and overflow.
Use it freely, spread it generously.
You are without limit! Act accordingly.
Meanwhile, remember to rest when the body-vehicle needs rest. Take good care of your physical vessel--your spacesuit--so it can keep up with you. There is great power and beauty in skillful rest.
Who's ever experienced this mind-bending cycle, or some variation thereof? I'm raising my hand:
- New relationship Months/Weeks/Days 1-6: "Oh, my God! At last I've found my soul mate! This is it. S/he's perfect for me in every way! I totally want to marry/live with him/her. I can't stand to be away from him/her for even a minute!"
- Months/Weeks/Days 7-12: "Wow, this is still really great. I still see myself spending the rest of my life with him/her. It's probably good we didn't rush into something permanent, though. We just have a few little bugs to work out, and it's going to be awesome. He/she's awesome."
- Months/Weeks/Days 13-24: "[Sigh.] Man, I just really wish s/he wasn't such a ____ and always ____ and never _____. It was so good in the beginning. Maybe we just need some time apart? Bring back the magic or something."
- Months/Weeks/Days 25+: "Oh, my God! What a total fucking idiot! I can't believe s/he did _____ and then totally _____. I'm SO over this. I actually kind of hate him/her now. I don't know why this always happens! It's so frustrating and confusing. I'd rather just stay home and masturbate; it's easier." (Don't laugh--I heard a guy say this after one more horrible breakup.)
Yeah. So that happens, right? Many of us know couples who've been together for decades, but how many of them are really thriving in their relationships? Helping each other in the upward spiral of mutual growth and understanding that leads to becoming a Human Being?
Look, here's the thing: if you're not present in your life, your strong tendency will be attraction to a close copy of the parent who caused the most trauma to you as a child. (Note: There was emotional if not physical trauma during your childhood. It's at the root of all your anger, which you have whether you acknowledge it or not. Just being born into a largely unconscious world as a completely conscious being is traumatic.)
When one relationship blows up, if you still haven't figured it out, you'll take up with the same energetic replica again. And again. Until you understand. You might even swear off "relationships" and shift to a series of casual encounters with (wait for it) replicas of the trauma-causing parent. Until you figure out this lesson: no one but you can complete you. That hole in your heart can't be filled by anything other than love for yourself. Until then, you can't properly love anyone else anyway.
Sounds exhausting, right? This cycle is so common that we call it "normal." We've come up with brilliant aphorisms like:
"Relationships are really hard work."
"Marriage is all about sacrifice, duty, and compromise."
"Women/men suck you dry and then leave you anyway."
"No one ever gets what they want. Don't be such a dreamer! Life is hard and then you die."
"What would happen if we all did what we wanted?!? Don't be so selfish."
Each of these little phrases that we sprinkle into our daily conversations and blindly accept as truth only reinforce our practice of doing it all wrong. It's lazy thinking born of the terror of taking charge of ourselves--of seeing that each of us is already perfect, already whole.
I've been referring exclusively to romantic attachments until now, but these same principles apply to all of our relationships. Coworkers, friends, children, parents--anyone with whom we have more than a passing acquaintance.
And that's a shitty thing. Because our relationships are such a Way In. They are the very fastest way to burn through old stuff that's holding you back in a big way.
These are really, really old truths. One modern guy who explains them in a wonderfully easy and gentle way is Eckart Tolle. I especially love him among all of our current teachers. He's like a mischievous little garden gnome with a German accent. Here's a video of his ("Perfect Definition of Love") that I watched recently. It reminded me I've been wanting to write this post for a while, because I see good people (including myself) making this mistake over and over and suffering unnecessarily. And, because we're often unaware of the opportunity, we miss out on the powerful lessons we could be working through to become Human Beings.
Well, there you have it, my friends. So simple. At the heart of this lesson is the most important human adventure of all: the discovery that your relationship with yourself, your love for yourself, is the key to the peace that surpasses all understanding. It's not selfish. It's self-less to move toward this realization with everything you've got. It's only with this knowledge firmly in place as individuals that we can move forward as a species to become what we're meant to be.
Make it so.
Among all the talk these days about how awesome it is to feed your body better than the uber-unhelpful USDA Food Pyramid (aka the Standard American Diet, aka the well-named and now infamous SAD), there's virtually no discussion about the very real dangers of green drinks for the uninitiated and unprepared.
Believe me, I know of what I speak. Witness my divorce at the end of 2009 after 16 years of marriage and nine years of co-parenting.
Feeling overweight, sluggish, depressed, old, and generally crappy, I was just minding my own business when I began reading a few articles about nutrition in early 2009. One of them mentioned juicing green vegetables as a way to improve energy and libido, lose weight, and many other wonderful, miraculous things. All the usual promises of overnight cures, detoxification, new lease on life, etc. I took it all with a grain of salt, so to speak.
And yet, whether because I'm the classic "Go big or go home" type or something in me recognized green juices as something I really, really needed, I dove in head first. Within a few days, I was breaking cheap Target blenders, clogging the disposal with mounds of fibrous mush, and generally making a mess. Within a week I was jamming as much green stuff as I could into the blender, hitting the puree button, and looking away with eyes squinched while the machine thrashed around and the lights dimmed.
I wiped up green splats from the expensive, newly laid kitchen tiles and found creative things to do with the mountains of post-strain cellulose masses. I even tried to eat the left-over fiber, but found that it was a very slow, unpleasant process. I needed about three more stomachs to pull it off, and that wasn't going to happen. Eventually I started a nice compost pile.
In any event, within a couple of weeks, I started to notice some changes. Not especially in how my body felt or looked, but in how I was thinking. In how I was experiencing.
It felt like the power was coming on. The best analogy I can think of is an old barn-find V8 being turned over for the first time in years. There was a lot of dark smoke, mysterious rumblings, steamy sounds, many backfires.
And a large, terrified part of me went, "Uh-oh."
People around me started to say the same thing, basically. There was agitation, tremendous restlessness, ideas and actions that came in fits and starts, doctor and therapy bills, and all manner of seeming chaos. Except it wasn't chaos. It was a broken system re-establishing itself to good working order.
I experienced a rapidly mounting sense of disorientation and dissatisfaction with the status quo. I didn't quit with the green drinks, but I hadn't linked these two things yet. (I wouldn't have stopped anyway. I'd already gone too far.) I experimented and refined. I quit eating sugar and bread. Nature took its course.
By the end of the year I was no longer married to the father of my magnificent son. This shocked me as much as everyone else, I think. At points, it felt like something was making me, almost against my will, push harder and harder against the limits I'd been given by society, my conditioning, my own beliefs. It felt like my responsibility, for myself and my son, to experience and feel everything I could to make up for lost time.
Had I suddenly transformed from a cheerful suburban Stepford wife into a rebellious, high-energy, take-no-prisoners bad-ass because I drank green juice? No, of course not. I'd been very unhappy with the marriage (and my life) for years. But the nutrition cleared my mind to see that fact, the knowledge that I was capable of much, much more, and the courage to do something about it.
Although the title of this piece is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I shit you not. Beware the power of good nutrition. Be prepared. Have a spiritual practice in place and compassionate friends nearby. I recommend reading this about relationships asap.
Start slowly and build over time. Or not. You do what you want, of course. Just know that depending where you're starting from, change will come. In fact, I wish more folks would dial in their nutrition before turning to ayahuasca, acid, marijuana, mushrooms, or what-have-you for spiritual journeying. Start with real food, the original medicine. See where you get to, and maybe then go exploring with other substances if you still feel the need. I believe we vastly underestimate the power of real food to bring about massive personal and planetary consciousness transformation.
Quick aside: I could make a good argument that the drugs, potions, and implants featured in many Truth-filled films, such as Lucy, Limitless, and Phenomenon, are representations of what can happen when we nourish our bodies properly. In contrast, refer to Idiocracy to see the very real harm and limitation we experience from "food" that's processed, manufactured, and packaged by the American Factory Farm Feedlot Corp., Ltd. As always, the Truth is everywhere for those willing and able to see it. Yes, I'm aware of the "scientists" who want to debunk the "10 percent myth." Myth or not, I'm pretty damn certain we don't remember how to use our full capacity. Scaredy-cats are always arguing for their perceived limitations. I think the debunkers are so busy now because they're terrified by the building swell of positive energy. Could it be that the 10% theory is a direct correlation to the percent of time the average person is actually present in their own life? More presence = more power. But I digress.
As Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."
It's really very simple. If you want to fast-track exploration of your Human Being-ness, you're going to need excellent nutrition. Just know what you're getting yourself into and be prepared for the ride.
Also know that you'll be the pebble in the pond of your world. So act responsibly.
You got this!
All my heart,
PS: Here's a real warning about drinking too much green juice made with cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, cabbage, parsley, etc.), particularly if you have thyroid issues. Everything in moderation, including moderation, right?
PPS: In recent years, I've come to adore HealthForce's Vitamineral Green. Yes, it's expensive. But it has many things I can't procure myself, none of the stuff I don't want (soy, cheap whey protein, and other toxic fillers), and I got tired of breaking blenders.
A number of years back, I was honored to have my mom come to one of my yoga classes while she was visiting from Back East. I was a freshly minted instructor at the time, but the seeds of how I would teach were sprouting.
In other words, I was keeping my students happily occupied with poses while I riffed on a spiritual topic or (hopefully) helpful life hack idea.
So on this one summer evening, I was going off on something. I forget the theme. Everyone was resting in Downdog or child's pose, enjoying the fresh breeze coming though the windows. And then, as I paused, I hear my mother's muffled voice say, "Amanda, are you listening to yourself?"
At the time, I was like, "Uh, thanks, Mom. Geez."
And yet, as the years have rolled by and my understanding has deepened in fits and starts, I'll often hear the echo of my mom's voice after I've said something while teaching. It's become part of an internal mechanism that triggers a distinct, "Wait, what'd I just say?" kind of pause. Apparently, I teach what I need to learn. Maybe it's stuff we all need to learn right now. I'm just glad you guys seem to find it useful, too.
My highest form of service as an aspiring Human Being is to allow Solid Information to come through me as clearly as possible without getting in the way. When I really let it rip, sometimes I'm in a bit of a daze when I come back to myself. Sometimes I don't remember what my mouth said, but I'm trying to pay closer attention.
It was like that after our last class of the year at CalPoly, whose theme was "Ground and Center." This has become spiritual shorthand for the practice of breathing properly, coming to present, and setting aside all the distractions of society and daily life.
I wasn't sure where that theme had come from, but there it was on the white board, written in my own hand: "Ground & Center."
And let me tell you something: my mom was right. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Anyone else feeling like Dorothy when she sees the Wicked Witch of the West fly by the window? Disorientation, confusion, fear, gripping--all the classic egoic reactions as new Information comes in from wherever it comes from.
Learning is fucking hard. Remembering how to be a real, live, genuine, fully participating Human Being is even harder. Especially when the "gifts" we encounter feel like squalls that toss our little boats so the sea and sky blur into each other.
Discovering how much you don't know is both a humbling and thrilling experience (refer to photo for clarification.) Simultaneously, you experience the horizons of yourself expand into infinity, and then there's the "oh, wow" realization in which everything you do know suddenly looks like a lumpy little dust pile at your feet. It take massive guts even to experience this phenomenon fully. And, not coincidentally, it takes massive guts to be a real Human Being.
So, my dear friends, until we meet again, practice your breathing, feel the inside of your left foot as often as you remember, jump up and down as fast as you can for a minute 2-3x a week, and be kind to yourselves and others. (Not "nice." Check this out.) Also, those of you who are on the planet to teach: Are you listening to yourself? (Thanks, Mom.)
All my heart,
After a weekend of chasing stratosphere-bound super cells and exploring the mysterious canyons of Lake Nacimiento's furthest reaches in the intrepid Mathilda, I find myself here, on my living room floor, with very few thoughts in my head.
I like reaching the point where I'm so pleasantly, thoroughly tired that I can contentedly stare at the evening sunlit trees for, oh, I guess until it's dark. With as much energy as I have, sometimes it takes a lot for me to gain access to this strangely beautiful, peaceful perspective.
I feel deliciously empty. Pure. Streamlined. Like only the Essence of me remains inside this spacesuit body. No bullshit, no masks, no labels of my own or others burdening me, no anxiety about the future or regret about the past. Just existing in one indescribably delicious moment that seems to extend in all directions infinitely.
And then..... here comes a thought like this, before I can stop it:
Hey, you're SO TOTALLY experiencing the present moment right now!!! Yay you! Atta girl! BTW, not to interrupt, but what have you decided on for dinner? Also--just real quick--have you gained a few pounds? I mean, don't get me wrong, you still look great (I mean the Big 5-0 is right around the corner, yes?), but I was just wondering about that new little extra there around your middle. SO not a big deal, just thought you might want to keep an eye on it....blahblahblahblah, etc.
Oh, hello, little ego. Dammit. Whuh, whuuuuuunh.
Sigh. Well, at least I felt it for a little bit, I remind myself. Practice, relax, practice, relax. Try not to grip the beauty, just let it float lightly in your hand, and then BE your hand....
And that's what we talked about on Wednesday night. The theme was "Reveal Your True Self." We talked about how very fucking BIG each of us is in reality. Like summer monsoonal thunderstorms, we bloom suddenly with outrageous power, shake things up, rain life-giving energy on everything around us, maybe blast a little town with our 90 mph downdrafts, and then fade and dissipate back into the ether as the evening sun sets. Destruction and creation, surrender and effort, Yin and Yang.
Some of you really resonated with something I occasionally put out there toward the end of my Human Being Trainings. I think it was during Savasana (Corpse Pose) this week. We were looking at this idea of revealing our true selves, peeling back the layers covering it, and how powerful and magnificent this Self is in each of us. I said something like, "You are what you've been looking for."
If you've ever looked for a guru, the perfect teacher who knows you inside and out, someone who can answer all your deepest, darkest questions, look no further. Tag, you're it.
You know that old saying, "When the student is ready, the master appears"? Well, get ready, my friend. You've already got all the answers. Ask your questions, and--here's the part people miss--listen for the answer! [Insert favorite avatar here] is not outside of you. He/She/It dwells in you, because you are He/She/It. You are and always will be inseparable. The only thing you can do to weaken (you can never sever) that connection is to turn your face away from the Truth of Who You Really Are.
There you have it.
In parting, I'd like to leave you with this little poem by Rumi, who delights me endlessly with his love poems to God, i.e., himself:
Late, by myself, in the boat of myself,
no light and no land anywhere,
cloudcover thick. I try to stay
just above the surface,
yet I'm already under
and living with the ocean.
From Essential Rumi, by Coleman Barks
All my heart,
PS: Thanks to Trevor's students who came out for Human Being Training on Thursday night! It was great playing around with you. Here's your reggae-flavored playlist. :)
Things to Practice with Your Spacesuit This Week
1. We started off this week laying down flat with some movements designed to expand both our spines and our minds--to remind us how to take up space and not be scared of our inherent Bigness, our power. Society, with all of its fear-based rules and expectations, is like gravity. To avoid being crushed by it (or an untrained ego), we must often expand not only our bodies, but our minds as well.
3. Come-to-the-Present trick o' the week: Pranayama (breathing exercise) called the Four-Part Breath. Breathe in for the count of five, hold for five, breathe out for five, hold for five. Change the number as you see fit. Rest if your breath gets panicky and resume when ready. Great for stress relief! Definitely don't do when driving. Seriously.
3. Party trick o' the week: Rocking from Halasana (Plow Pose) up to Double Toe-Hold Pose (balanced on butt, legs wide and first two fingers holding toes, lift heart).
Whenever I notice my ego getting all smug and self-satisfied, I remind myself to empty my cup.
Imagine your mind is a cup, a container. Once it's full, there's no more room for more.
If you find yourself believing you know something for sure, you have no space for any new ideas, new information, or new inspiration. You're an "expert." So sad for you. But good times for your ego!
In spiritual terms, if you believe you know anything at all for sure, you're doing yourself a big disservice. You're done learning and growing. Even sadder. Ego says, "Fuck yeah! I'm totally superior to all you poor, ignorant idiots because I know all about the One Way to Do It Right! We're Number One! (Witness all major religions.)
I ask you to entertain the possibility that you don't know jack shit.
Get comfortable with this idea.
The more you think you know, the less you really do. And the more your understanding deepens of how Life, the Universe, and Everything works, the more humble you're likely to get, because the horizon of Stuff You Still Don't Know continually recedes into the distance.
All my favorite "experts" say I have no idea pretty often. I respect that very much. Despite pieces of paper proving that they know things (i.e., Ph.Ds, medical school diplomas, or other such expensive certificates), they still have room for a, "Hmm. What an interesting question. I really don't know. What are your thoughts?"
Long story short: cultivate Beginner's Mind. It combines the innocent, wide-open wonder of childhood with the discernment and critical thinking of significant life experience. This powerful combination keeps you grounded and not all woo-woo up in your head.
This doesn't mean that you shouldn't pursue information and knowledge that you feel will expand your ability to be effective in the world. Quite the opposite! Research anything and everything that appeals to you. Go as deep as you want. And then remember: a master lets it all go to make room for more. The cup is emptied (or allowed to overflow continually, if you like) to make room for more.
I don't know if the phrases "empty your cup" and "my cup runneth over with blessings" have anything to do with each other in the annals of scripture. But regardless, I leave you with this blessing: May your empty cup runneth over.
All my heart,
PS: Everyone has something to teach you. If your cup is full and your mind is closed to a person or a situation, you'll miss out on what could be very useful information for you as a Human Being. Good intel comes from very unlikely sources sometimes.
Things to Practice with Your Spacesuit This Week
1. We started off this week with some animal-inspired movements: bear crawl, inch worm, gorilla, and crab. Many of you said how good it felt to move in an unprescribed, organic fashion reminiscent of our primate ancestry. Some of you said it was uncomfortable.
3. Come-to-the-Present trick o' the week: Observe the inside of your left foot. We also toyed around during shavasana with relaxing often overlooked stuff, like your brain, your hair, your bones, your heart, and your skin.
It was one of those weeks when even as I walked into a packed room in Studio 2, I had no idea what I was going to do or say. I was trusting, as always, that the Info would come to me, but I was feeling a little "Uh, anytime time now...."
As I raised the marker to the white board where I write my theme every week, I found myself praying: "Mother, flow through me." It helps tune me back into the Universe and myself (same thing).
There I was, in front of almost 40 people, completely blank. But as my pen hovered over the board, the phrase "Wild Dance of No Hope" popped into my head. I wrote it down.
I have a poster at my house that features a poem by Jennifer Welwood in which the last few lines go like this:
This poem's had a big influence on me, with its references to death and the power of transforming fear into life force. It encourages us to make the most of our time between now and then.
To me, the wild dance involves releasing all expectations of what my life is supposed to look like, what I'm supposed to be doing, and how others around me are supposed to be behaving to make me "happy."
According to conventional society--the rules of which are based on fear--being alone for any significant amount of time is really, really dangerous and bad. In that silence, you might start to suspect that you've been missing your whole precious life while distracted by all the smoke and mirrors. You might feel inspired to make some radical changes, including no longer caring what society says you have to do, or how you have to be.
You might even start doing what you want.
The first song in my weekly playlist was The The's "True Happiness This Way Lies." It's about the ego's little tricks and how we continually look outside ourselves--to our relationships, and buying huge amounts of stuff, and having the perfect job or car or house--to make us feel "complete."
This is why most relationships (with people and things) end in bitterness and disappointment. After the initial infatuation, we realize that once again, this person or object isn't going to fill our gaping heart-holes either, so we go looking for a new filler, and the cycle repeats indefinitely until we awaken from the Great Illusion.
As Welwood reminds us in her poem, "Everything that can be lost will be lost." So through relationship with others, we have all these opportunities to practice. If you approach every interaction with the understanding that you are already a complete, fully functional, independently owned and operated Human Being, if you can drop all your expectations of life and others and relax about where your adventure is taking you, you can rock the Wild Dance of No Hope. Let it help you shed all the old beliefs, labels, and stories that are holding you back.
Until next week, Human Beings, dance like a fool! Oh, and many thanks to a bunch of you who have asked if I'm teaching this summer. You've inspired me to take my show on the road. I've chosen Budo Ryu in SLO, where I train Muay Thai and jiujitsu, to host two summer sessions. I'll let you know the dates asap.
All my heart,
Things to Practice with Your Spacesuit This Week
1. Repeated from last week, because this concept is so important: V-e-r-y....s-l-o-w yoga pushups, with elbows in and a good plank going on (aka chaturanga). 10 seconds down, 10 seconds up. I can do 2 so far. Remember, slowness is a path to mastery and tremendous strength.
Note: This is the first in an ongoing series of articles documenting the extraordinary evolution of my now two-year-old, weekly Human Being Training program at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA. I'm deeply grateful for the 35+ humans who participate in these yoga-based, music-driven adventures, since although I'm the titular instructor, the synergy we create together is what makes possible some truly jaw-dropping alchemy.
The energy of the community this week was crackling, edgy. It reminded me of the feeling I had recently during an autocross race when the back end of my car broke loose on a diabolically uneven, extra-long sweeping turn. The 360 that followed was epic, but disorienting. I was borrowing a magnificent, AWD turbo and forgot that the one thing to do with an all-wheel-drive car when its back end slips is to Floor It. And so we did in class what I failed to do on the race course. It was a sweaty, glorious mess.
I often have a theme of the week for Human Being Training (although I let the details fill themselves in as the class unfolds) and give a short talk on it before we get moving. This week, fueled by this life-altering Eckart Tolle video I've been studying, we explored the metaphorical concept of Inner Space: The Final Frontier. (I'm a total Star Trek dork, so this is how the Info presented itself to me.)
As always (OK, as often as I remember), I was practicing relaxing, setting down my ego, and letting the Information come through me as accurately as possible.
I try to listen to what my mouth says during Human Being Training, because when I let the Energy speak through me, it's generally pretty useful in the sense of providing instruction on how to become a Real Human Being. (This is how I think of folks like Jesus, Buddha, The Dalai Lama, Allah, Krishna, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, Yoda, Your Favorite Avatar Here, etc.) And above all else, I'm passionately keyed in to removing as many layers of my Not-Self as I can in this particular lifetime. (Side note: I just saw the new Mad Max: Fury Road movie today--they call Real Human Beings "shiny" or "chrome." Cool.)
The excellent thing is that each of us is already Shiny. And most of us forget this surprising fact as we tool around in our little daily worlds, lost in a wilderness of jibber-jabbering, meaningless, constricting thoughts fueled by our raging egos and untrained but powerful five senses.
Most of us have forgotten that the Brain Mind is the servant of the Heart Mind and the Gut Mind, not the fucking boss of us. (Guess where your terrified, tyrannical, torturing ego lives? Mmm-hmm.) And most of us have also forgotten that each of our senses is a big red button in our spacesuit bodies, which are tools for exploring Time/Space. When you use them correctly, you can play the Game. When you don't know how your spacesuit works, you don't know there is a Game, and how much crazy-ass fun it is.
So here's the crux of what we learned this week: To create some space inside you, some deep peace and relief from the incessant, maddening barrage of the Monkey Mind (have you noticed all that internal noise?), to train your Brain Mind to do the will of the more intelligent Heart and Gut, you only need to watch your body breathe. Or feel the inside of your left foot or hand. In other words, feel the Life that you are. Observe that you are not the nerve impulses that create thoughts. You are what watches the thoughts arise.
Until next week, Human Beings, have fun and for God's sake don't take my word for any of this! I'm continually flabbergasted by the amount of stuff I don't know. Maybe, if you want, try some of these ideas for yourself and see what happens.
All my heart,
Things to Practice with Your Spacesuit This Week
1. V-e-r-y....s-l-o-w yoga pushups, with elbows in and a good plank going on (aka chaturanga). 10 seconds down, 10 seconds up. I can do 2 so far. Remember, slowness is a path to mastery and tremendous strength.
2. The hip mobility work we did. I found the exercises here. Love these guys.
3. As many frog leaps as you can do in 30 seconds. Do them like this!
4. Party trick o' the week: sit-throughs.
Note: All entries earlier than this one refer to Human Being Training's predecessor, Flash of White. I still like the articles, though, so I'm leaving them up. - AL
From the "news" (hope you're not still watching that!) to public schools to conventional medicine to government to corporate consumerism to law enforcement, there are many factors working to suppress the tidal wave of awakening humanity and make us feel very....frickin'....serious. Very threatened, small, and powerless.
One of the most powerful things we can do to expedite the process of our evolution—of becoming Real Human Beings—should we care to, is to have some eff'n fun. Many, many people are beginning to figure this out and have started spontaneously dancing in public, offering free hugs on the sidewalk, developing alternative economies and ways of living together, and generally having a great time.
They're looking where they want to go, not where they don't. Cisco's dad taught me that key concept years ago while we were mountain biking on single-track, right after I climbed back up a steep, thistle-grown hill.
And in that spirit, conspire with me—literally, "breathe with me"—to have fun now. If it's not a cartwheel, make it a somersault, or a frog leap, or a hug, or a heart-felt compliment.
Dare to come alive! Do the unexpected. Be your weird, wild, wonderful self. Do what you want! And in doing so, inspire and alight those around you with the warrior courage it takes to walk the Earth as a Real Human Being.
Let us know how it goes! And PS: By not watching the news, we're not burying our heads in the sand. Nope. Know what's happening (without the corporate spin), and then look where you do want to go! Choose where to send your energy, is all. :)
I guess my definition of "fun" is a little unusual.
My students have learned that when I say, "OK, so let's try something fun!" some serious shit is about to come down on them. There are usually moans and groans, and sometimes there are flops onto the floor as dread overwhelms.
Most of them, though, surprise themselves by rising to the occasion and finding that a good old-fashioned challenge is, yeah....fun. I love seeing the furrowed brows transform into smiles of discovery as they take on the challenge and win.
In this coddled, automated society, we've forgotten how glorious and gratifying it is to test ourselves, mentally and physically, against an opposing force—even if it's "just" our own bodyweight. And then how fabulous is it to watch ourselves quickly adapt, get stronger, and want to have even more fun?
So, here's Cisco's and my latest quick-workout video for you, which I call the Plank of Doom. Make sure not to commit the rookie errors of sticking your butt up or letting the hips sag. If that happens and you can't help it, just try to hold a good plank for 30-60 seconds until you get stronger.
You're awesome. Mwa!
People ask me all the time where I get the simple yet extremely effective workout exercises that Cisco and I show in our videos. I answer them in one word: Google!
Mainly I look up "body weight workouts" and "high-intensity interval training." There's a ton of awesome info and great ideas out there if you want them.
And we're happy to test out ideas and pass them on to you.
So this week the guys and I tried something I've been meaning to do ever since I heard of it a while ago: use furniture slides to build a unique and diabolically effective workout that you can do (wait for it....) anytime and anywhere! As long as you have carpet of any kind, you're good to go.
Let us know what you think of these ideas, how you modify, and if you invent something else. Be magnificent!
When was the last time you literally fought for your life? I mean, literally. Like if you didn't do something intelligent with your body—immediately—it would die or take major damage? I'm not talking about the pervasive, toxic adrenaline dumps that many of us endure multiple times on a daily basis. The wife yells, the boss is suddenly distant, the past-due bills pile up, the idiot in the beige Taurus crosses into your lane while texting, the kid breaks curfew. Again.
All of these unpleasantries provoke the much-maligned (but truly wondrous) flight-or-flight response, a torrent of chemical and hormonal reactions designed to move our bodies into a place of safety. The thing is, unless there's a lion a claw's-length away or you're running as fast as you can to catch something for dinner, your incredible body dumps its magical survival brew into the bloodstream and it stews there—all that power and potential swirling around with nowhere to go. This is bad.
Our amazing bodies live in a time way back when we still had to smash invading hordes over the head and somehow procure a bit of animal protein to survive. Sometimes simultaneously. The problem is, with rare exceptions, our bodies can't tell the difference between an angry husband and an apocalypse-level event. So it helpfully downloads, almost instantaneously, everything you need to blast through the Level-Red Crisis....and then you go sprawl on the couch to watch American Idol. And stew not only in all those powerful chemicals, but in the emotions that triggered them.
I've got an idea for you. I've got a better way.
Watch this video and change your life. Teach it to others and become the change you wish to see. Your time is now.
Last week, after dialing in (again) just what I'm doing here on God's green earth, I changed the official Flash of White tag line to "Time is short. Be magnificent." (Thanks to Robert Greene and his transformational and eminently practical book, Mastery, for the turbo boost.) My thinking on that: Why else are we here than to become the most spectacular manifestations possible of our limited-edition, one-time-only-ever selves? Whether you believe in reincarnation or not, there's never, ever, ever going to be another you just like you are right now. Talk about a precious resource!
Maybe, like me, you feel an increasing sense of urgency. I could chalk this up to a mid-life crisis, I suppose. But I don't think that's what's going on, because I'm seeing people of all ages in "the fight of their lives," as Ben Harper puts it in his "I Believe in a Better Way" anthem.
When I say "urgency," maybe that's not the right word. This is closer: I have the most peculiar, uncomfortable, and exhilarating sensation that I'm a waterfall being directed, via an intricate series of baffles, into a straight, narrow pipe. Are you also encountering the perception of time speeding up and the intensity of everyday life...intensifying?
Who or what is doing that and why? Maybe we are. Maybe Source is. Maybe we're working together on it. I really don't know.
What I do know is that every one of us who participates in the shift that's occurring is going to become a lean, beautifully efficient, and unlimited version of ourselves. In other words, a real human being!
And while it's tempting and very reasonable to get stressed during this refining process, something I'm beginning to realize is that the single most effective way to ride these waves of transformative energy (which can can look like job loss, illness, housing crises, death, relationship breakdowns, natural disasters, and financial distress), is to r-e-l-a-x. Get out of the "Why me?" mindset and ask "What is this for? How is this designed to help me become my best self? What can I do with this?"
Here's another approach: The other day I came across a website called GTMetrix that's helping me optimize Flash of White. You plug in your URL and it produces a list of all the elements that are keeping your site from loading quickly. I thought to myself, "Wow, I wish I had this for my life!" (And then I discovered I did when I came across Mastery.)
So what would GTMetrix say is holding you back from being all you can be, to quote the Marines? Make a list and "optimize" it all: relationships that are weakening you, storage units and excess stuff, fears of all varieties, negative people, addictions, limiting beliefs, energy drains, shoulds and would-if-I-coulds. Now is the moment to get light and fast.
Remember why you came here? It's back there in your childhood memories somewhere, and it's never too late.If you're unhappy, it's because you forgot why you're here. So let's do some digging and get on it!
Time is short. Be magnificent.
Ever despair that because of time and money concerns you'll never manage to work yoga into your life, despite knowing how good it is for your mind, body, and spirit? Well, despair no more!
In this video, I show you how to do Sun Salutations, one of the most effective strengthening, stretching, and stress-relieving yoga sequences, in the privacy of your home (or at the park or in your garage, etc.). It's wonderful and very helpful to go to a lovely yoga studio (like mBody, my home studio in San Luis Obispo, CA), but when you only have a few minutes or are short on dough, don't let that stop you from getting healthy and happy on your own!
One of my main reasons for getting up every day is because I LOVE empowering people (including myself) to do things that they believe they can't do. Now, in your case, that belief may be:
a) "I can't do yoga because I'm too old, stiff, klutzy, injured, overweight," etc.
b) "I can't do yoga because I have to spend many hours and dollars every week to learn how. And I ain't got either of those things."
c) All of the above.
Sometimes, all that's required to break down that "I can't" barrier is for someone to tell you, "Yes, you can," and then show you how. Others really like to argue for their limitations. If you're the first kind of person, I can help you. If you're the second kind, I wish you peace and release you!
So, Type Ones, here's what you do. Shift your focus from A and/or B above to this new belief: "I have 5-10 minutes to practice Sun Salutes on most days because I want to be strong, flexible, and relaxed. I'll enjoy a full-length yoga class with an experienced teacher when I can, and in the meantime, I practice on my own or with friends/family at home.
See? Easy breezy. Next, watch Cisco's and my video this week and give it a try! I'll show you two versions of the Sun Salute: one for regular folks and one for people with twingy backs or who are working on building strength. Have fun and send any questions that come up. Namaste!
Our children can be our greatest teachers. Many of us grown-ups suffer from a form of ageism in which we believe that unless someone's a certain age, they can't be wise, or thoughtful, or aware. The way I look at it, kids are much closer to Source Energy than I am, having just emerged into this plane of existence. I, on the other hand, have spent nearly five decades here and occasionally forget to squeegee my third eye. (Thanks, American hero Bill Hicks; and please note that I employ other methods from what he recommends—not that I object to his methodology :).
Anyway, Cisco blew me away a couple of weeks ago with his pure-hearted, spontaneous, and utterly direct response to a question I posed. So refreshingly original was his response that I had a real sqeegee moment, smacked upside the head by the idea that you can just say "No!" to something you don't want to do.
What if we all did this? What would that look like?
In talking this over, a friend commented, "Well, if John does something for me, I HAVE to do something back for him. It would be rude not to."
Isn't that a nutshell version of our conditioned thinking so much of the time? And, uh, raise your hand out there (moms, I see you!) if you have a wee bit of resentment simmering (boiling?) constantly in the background as you force yourself through yet another day of doing things that you imagine will "make" others happy—even as your own soul dries up like an autumn leaf.
My response, in a precious, brief space of bright awareness (remind me I said this later, please): "Well, what if John did something for you because he wanted to? Because it brought him joy to do it? What if his gift to you was its own reward? Would you still feel obligated to do something for him even though you didn't really want to? How does that help him or you?"
So next time someone asks you do something that doesn't "light you up," just say "No!' (Optional but almost always appreciated: give them a hug and tell them you love them.)
Cisco's expertly rendered "No!" á là YouTube star Smosh will crack you up, crack up your "No-ee," and generally remind everyone involved not to take everything so damned seriously.
Let's repeal the unspoken prohibition on "No!" that has caused more misery, misunderstandings, and general chaos than the colossal failed ban on alcohol in the US from 1920 to 1933 (or, I might add, the perennially stupid War on Drugs).
Let's resolve to remember that it's the ultimate responsibility of each and every human being to make themselves happy from within, and to quit looking to others' actions and behavior for it. Because guess what: as Cisco would put it, "that's an epic FAIL!" Every time.
We hope you like our video this week. Please tell us how your own "No!" practice is going! (Also, see below vid for a quick note.)
PS: Parents, lest I be misinterpreted, the Joy of No! technique applies neither to chores nor homework at our house. However, as a side note, I do believe strongly in providing incentives for children to do what you require of them on a daily basis, rather than demanding, criticizing, and bullying. (Do you like being treated that way?) With incentives, the chore- and homework-doer is empowered to achieve something that he or she wants (TV or game time, special event with family, sleepover, etc.) and thus has an active role in the outcome. Then the child has a chance to transform a "No!" moment into a "Yes!" one all by himself. Yea, sighs of relief for everyone. :)