A Personal Guide to Transformation: Experiencing Soul Death and Re-Birth
Swami Rama once made a point in a lecture about ahimsa and how to get to the essence of the practice of non-violence. To paraphrase, he explained that minimizing violence goes beyond our outward expressions (i.e. being vegetarian), and it's essential for us to remember not to kill our conscience (our constant connection to the divine), but to rediscover on a daily basis how to live in that connection.
This is not a success story or motivational manifesto - this is a reminder to listen to your needs and your gifts and allow yourself to open up to receiving bliss in it's staggering multiplicity of forms and experiences, to forgive yourself for your follies and to experience unconditional love.
To start on a sobering note, we're living in a challenging time where it's all too common to default to living an anonymous life persuaded by outside forces to make choices like automatons, to deny our connection to source energy - where the cultural norm is to be extraordinary in appearance and bravado, with the increasingly rarer exception of character and originality. Of course, we can use our circumstances as an opportunity to strengthen our sense of purpose and vision.
We have methods and support groups. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, this is what being human is about, it's our unique social skills that have allowed us to survive and thrive as a species. At the same time, we cannot be tricked into letting our social systems carry us along. We must charge our actions with life, that's what Swami Rama meant. We get out what we put in, that's the first law of thermodynamics.
Here's the problem, we're human and we make mistakes.
(Remember we're learning how to be divine. Yes, you're perfect as you are, and you can do better.)
To put the life-learning process bluntly, sometimes it's awful and we crash and burn in a flaming death of miserable failure of what could have been. Luckily, our trusty inner phoenix rises from the ashes and begins again, leaving us singed with memories that remind us to be better, stronger, more authentic versions of who we are becoming moment by moment. Sometimes our failures are more subtle, perhaps our hopes and dreams are sitting on a dusty shelf of our mind waiting to be remembered again or our willingness to explore is faced by the opposition of the comfort of our homes and routines which beckon us to conform to the known and secure. Maybe we failed in a relationship, work project or our health goals based on our (excess of) expectations or (lack of) planning, and it caught up.
When we're paying attention, we can begin to unwind the unnecessary suffering that we created for ourselves through all the little decisions that can show us what we really value and believe. Remember, it can be a fine line to draw between brooding on the past and turning pain into a noble learning experience that informs you on how to live a more fulfilling life that comes from your skills of cultivating inner joy.
Here's the good news, it's getting better all the time.
By examining our conscience here and now regardless of past memory and future expectation, we can continually refine and redefine how to live in our daily lives. This is our rebirth. Call it kaizen or self-realization, it's your unique way of listening to that little voice that can roar like a lion given the opportunity to be bold and undeniably awake to the power of your presence in any situation.
To ground our experiences into a fun daily practice, we can tread a fine line somewhere between perpetual optimism and realism by conducting experiments, measuring progress and tracking results. To defend the creative logic of experimentation as a cure for the rattling self-doubt that comes with the pain of failure (and a bolster for learning), let's look to the history of self-experimentation.
The Buddha asked his followers not to blindly follow his teaching, but to actually look within for a first-hand experience of infinite loving kindness. ("Less talking more being!" he probably would have exclaimed to jabbery monks to encourage them towards self-awareness, the personal experiment par excellence.) Another example, Rene Descartes (aka Mr. "I think, therefore I am") once had a dream where an angel came to him and proclaimed, "Conquest of nature is to be achieved through measure and number," then he went on to become a prominent figure in the Scientific Revolution. And let us remember that the ancient yogis didn't just happen upon methods for self-realization, they were early scientists observing and recording how the laws of nature apply to human consciousness in the laboratory of their bodies.
In your own experiments, perhaps the most important factor to set your self up for continual success (which you may discover comes as learning from failure), is your environment. As Voltaire observed, "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds." Make due with what's available and ask deep in your heart for the rest to come to you. The better notes you take (either written or mental), the richer your experience of life. If you want to get fit, go to the gym or a park, even for 5 minutes. If you want to eat well, toss the junk and only stock your house with yummy healthy food. If you want to get up early, make sure your bedroom is totally dark and inviting at night and you get in bed without your phone. If you want to be happy, rich, spiritual, adventurous, loving, musically-talented, etc, spend time with people that emulate that. You get a big motivational boost from your environment to actually use your willpower for goals that matter to you. Our surroundings can become constant reminders to be our own best friend, to enjoy life, to embrace challenge and ultimately the best version of ourselves.
Decide how you can be, make your demands and set sail for the untold greatness that awaits you!
About Peter Fettis
As a Registered Yoga Teacher and and Certified Personal Trainer, Peter practices optimizing human potential as a way of life. His latest book How to Eat Well and Love Yourself dives into the practical principles of mindfulness and plant-based nutrition to give you a taste of the abundant harvest from the mind's inner garden of awareness. Peter’s vision with FlowPrana is to make waves in the current culture by rallying the wider public to recognize their inner healing power using a proactive, gentle approach.