Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chapter 1: Human Nature

We are each unique beings. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said that: "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience." It is common understanding that we have a body, we have a mind and we have a soul. I would also add that we have a heart. Our heart has a special place in our body, as has our mind. And they are each important and serve a purpose; together they make us whole. Not one is more important.

 In our culture the mind has been deemed more important than the rest of us. You can see it in the way we reward financial careers that value the mind compared to careers that value the heart. We have made our mind captain of our ship. The problem with that is that our mind can't see very well. Our mind is obscured by past hurt and habits. It cannot open to new paradigms on its own. We need a leader within that supersedes  the mind. That's why we need meditation, otherwise we can't really bring in new ideas and challenge old habits.

A simple exercise will help you see that the mind is not that open. If you are cut off by someone driving dangerously, what is your reaction? Your reaction may actually be different depending the kind of day you are having. Let's say that, after giving you a chance to experience your immediate reaction, you are given new information that that person's child was involved in a terrible accident and the driver of that car was trying to get there as quickly as possible to be able to perhaps see the child one last time before s/he dies. Your reaction is likely to change, emotionally and in your thought process. What happened? New awareness came in that challenged the judgment you had about that person. Unless we allow new awareness to come in, the mind simply reacts with judgments. These judgments are not the truth, but we react as if they were. We need to seek the truth, the kind of awareness that allows us to be free of judgments. We can use scientific inquiry or meditation/intuition.

Our body is important in sending us signals, gut feelings, or other sensations, about our experiences. When I feel an emotion, if I trace back that emotion to my body's sensation, I'll have a more accurate awareness of what my truth is. For instance, I was helping someone crying over the phone. She was separating from her husband and had just had a phone conversation with him and she felt nostalgic about their history together. So I asked her where that feeling of nostalgia was in her body. It was in her chest. I asked her to feel it with total curiosity, and she did. She was quiet for a while. When she finally spoke, her voice had changed. She was no longer crying. She sounded at peace and happy. She said: "There's a party inside." My take on her experience is that her fear of living alone led her to dismiss the signal from her body, more precisely from her heart, that she was on the right track.

Our heart is our connection to a deeper truth, the truth of our passion and our love for life. We often have conflicts between the mind and the heart. Those are experiences where we need to give a chance to our heart to be heard and accepted. Otherwise, we probably repeat past hurt of being ignored or denied what we love.

In exploring our life, passion and purpose, we need to know who we are. Who are we really? If you tell me you are a black woman in your thirties, single mother of two kids, with a masters degree in business and administration, that tells me your circumstances and I have no idea who you are. By 'who you are,' I mean that in a given situation, you will act a certain way that helps make the world a better place in your own unique way, that would be your signature, so to speak. And that your ideal way of responding to a situation is not rehearsed in any way, not the same every time that situation comes up, because you are infinitely creative and you sense subtle differences that help you choose the most appropriate response from you every time. This is living from your essence. My teacher Yogi Bhajan used to say: "Be you and a million things will come to you." When we live from our essence, life flows.

Most of us are not 100% connected to our essence and that means we often feel we could have acted a different way from the way we did, perhaps a better way. Or we feel stuck. This very awareness gives us an indication of who we prefer to be, of how we want to see our self. I believe this gives us a glimpse into our essence. So it is a blessing that we made a mistake, or that we are not where we want to be, and to simply notice it.

This shows that we have two different kinds of purpose: One is to discover our essence and the second one is to live from it. When we get involved in addictive behavior, we may be seeking a better feeling, avoiding pain, but we have lost touch with the knowing that true bliss can only come from living from our essence. When we feel depressed, anxious or suffer a mental illness, we may be scared of facing some aspect of reality. Each of these states of being requires our attention, because in these states of being we are simply disconnected from our essence and all we need in order to heal is to engage in connecting with one's essence.

I invite you to comment on what you have done in your life to get to know your essence and/or comment on correcting your actions and reactions in life in order to be true to yourself.