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You have somewhere to go. But you’ve never been there before. So, how are you going to get there? You’ll get directions and follow them: go down this street, take a left, at the second traffic light, make a right, look for the second building on the left, enter door #2. Spiritual development is not different from this. We are given directions, road maps and techniques to follow. We follow them and find wholeness. But what if you are given two sets of roadmaps? At the same juncture, you might want to take both a right and a left. You cannot go in two directions at once. Splitting your energy makes it harder to reach your goal. You have to take one path and follow it with all your heart.
Any path will take you there. The macrocosm of the universe exists in microcosm within each one of us. What you do inside is reflected in what happens outside. The changes you experience in your heart and mind project outwards and rearrange your life. The life sequence you are in is carefully tailored to you, to create a change in your heart. It is not important which job you have, which Guru you have seen, or who your life partner is. What matters is, are you growing? Are you allowing yourself to change based on the experiences you are having? The view from the outside makes no difference. You could be a priest or a volunteer at a soup kitchen, and your inner dialogue might be the same. You could be a yoga teacher or a politician, your lessons might produce a similar outcome: a change of heart.
The first step in being present is to fully and unconditionally accept who you are. Take out who you are and start looking at it. Share the stories of your life, start uncovering what made you the way you are. And be present with it. Allow the presence of shame, joy, guilt, contentment… it is all there. What’s there is you. Being present is uncovering the essence. You are holding the essence of all life – in you, your teachers, your family, friends, in everyone you have met. You hold their gifts, their struggles and disappointments. The entire human experience is sitting inside you.
Giving full permission to yourself to be yourself is an all-important first step. When you give 100% to whatever it is you are doing, all your energy flows in the same direction. Your heart can’t be flowing in one direction and your mind in another. One pointed concentration is necessary. But you can’t just subdue your mind and follow your heart. Your mind has unlimited potential as a psychic, intellectual and analytical tool. Your heart forgives, loves, goes with the flow. Both heart and mind must be united. They must be in harmony and flow in the same direction.
Everyone has distractions. The mind is attracted by achievements and knowledge and possibilities. One way to be in harmony is to dedicate everything you do to your object of devotion – your chosen deity, teacher, or loved one. Dedicating your efforts to God and not worrying about the outcome is a core theme in yogic texts. It moves all your energy in one direction. “Though attracted by objects of desire and though he has not yet gained control over the mind, my devotee is not overpowered by them, being shielded by his devotion to me. Just as fire steadily grows from a small flame to a blazing fire and burns fuel to ashes, so does devotion to me blaze forth and consume all obstacles,” says Krishna in the Uddhava Gita.
Another way is loving kindness. Applying love and kindness to every thought that arises in the mind can help move your energy in a direction of love. If you have any doubt that your thoughts affect everything in and around you, you owe it to yourself to read Masaru Emoto’s book, “The Message from Water.” Emoto has documented how thoughts, words, ideas and music affect the molecular structure of water. Just putting a glass of water on the table and thinking “love” can change ordinary water molecules into beautiful crystal-like patterns. If you can send loving thoughts to a glass of water and change its molecular structure, just think of what your loving thoughts can do to your whole being. Your intention becomes everything. You can heal or hate in a single thought. Perhaps it is harder to release habitual thought patterns which have had years to settle and calcify in the body. And perhaps it is easier to forgive other people’s mistakes than forgive our own. But it can be done. For example, if you are practicing yoga and you remember a tragic incident, your mind will naturally split - beautiful poses and expansive breathing on one side, and tragic memories on the other. You will have two energies flowing in opposite directions. It is hard to be present in such a moment. Forgiveness is offered to the sorrow. Light is brought in on the inhale, letting go is given to the exhale. Accepting all that has brought you to this moment. Sitting in love. Offering love to the part of you most needing it. You can align with love; your body will respond and heal. Body mind and spirit are held together by the magnetism of one powerful thought of love. Being present in a loving way is a trademark of saints and sages.
I am comforted knowing that I have chosen difficult experiences to develop my strength as a person. But if I can’t forgive myself and allow unconditional love for all that I have become, I follow the example of the yogis and resort to total immersion in Presence. For me, Presence is the void, a loving memory of my teacher, an experience of a deity, or the Universe itself. It is an all-ness that I understand and feel comfortable in. Connecting to the breath and moving into meditative stillness allows me to be present for both myself and everything around me.
Still not connected? Try mudras and bound seated postures. You might not feel present simply because your attention is scattered. With so many activities in a day, you may find yourself pulled in divergent energies. Sealing the fingers together in gyan mudra will help you get present. Try it – in each hand, press your first finger and thumbtip together. You now have a sealed energy. You are no longer getting information from the outside world, nor are you extending energy towards it. The energy that would normally exchange between you and the world is sealed off. Don’t just sit there. Sit on your heel and seal off the base of the spine. Press all your fingertips and thumbtips together and make a ball of energy between your hands. Or join your wrists, make a lotus flower at your heart. Create an architecture that can hold Presence. And then give yourself full permission to be there. Be present for your own higher experience.
Wah! is a musician and spiritual seeker who travels the world singing and expanding sacred intention. You can reach her through www.wahmusic.com