Integrating the practice, disarming the ego.
I’m still buzzing from my last retreat in Bali…that's us in the picture, at the top of a volcano watching the sun rise after a big hike, on top of the world - literally. It was truly the best week of Yoga and deep immersion I’ve ever had. It's been more than a month, and I’m still experiencing the ripple effects of that deep, undisturbed connection every day. This doesn't mean that everything is always perfect & happy, it just means that I am effortlessly able to remain in my most authentic power - my Yogini self - in the face of every day challenges.
This hasn’t always been my experience...there have been times after deep immersion, that the ‘spiritual high’ I’m on comes crash landing down back at home. And, I know for sure I’m not alone with experiencing this. When we commit to leaving our routines and comforts behind to spend time on reflection, self knowledge and expansion, we are away from all of our normal distractions. Because the ego loves the familiar, when we 'retreat' from regular life we are given a new, clean lense from which to see the ego in operation. This new clarity & space is a gift - a huge opportunity for spiritual work - and so, often the transformations and evolutions happen so rapidly that it can be more than a bit of a shock to come home, back to the reality you left, almost as though you never did. Over the years of moving between deep immersion and 'regular life', I've come to see the integration & transition as the most challenging (and also rewarding) work.
In microcosm, we can look at our Yoga or meditation practice in the same light, except, instead of a whole week of deep immersion in consciousness, it’s an hour or two…shorter and perhaps less intense, but filled with the same challenge & opportunity for enquiry.
How long after the end of the Yoga class are you still behaving like a Yogi?
The ego is so unbelievably powerful; the more consciousness we cultivate the more tricks it seems to learn. It's job is to protect us and keep us safe, but it doesn't rest when it could, or should; our egos are always seeking to protect us from our own vulnerability - and control & measure our awakening hearts. And, because we are always distracting ourselves from 'the big work' with the busyness of our lives, we need some very real tools to push through the layers of protection, distraction and denial, tools that work to yolk deep consciousness, or spirituality, to actual life.
So how do we do it? In the quest for cultivating a Spiritual Life rather than a Spiritual Practice what are the tools for integration?
I've been writing a lot about this, and I’ll definitely share more, but for now I want to talk about the simple, powerful practice that is radical gratitude and forgiveness.
This practice asks us to really break through the boundaries & resistance that hold us back from experiencing our days from the anchor of the heart - from the potential of true bliss - and to surrender to the flow of life as it moves through us, with awareness, dissolving the power of the ego along with a whole lot of potential time wasted.
When you can catch yourself, right in those very real, overwhelming moments - when you are experiencing frustration, resentment, entitlement, hurt, blame or shame (the list goes on, and on!) - getting all caught up in your mind, in the stories, just ask; “what is it here that is asking for forgiveness?”, and, “what could I possibly be grateful for in this situation?” The answers are often anything but easy, of course, but the practice in itself is simple. What makes it ‘radical’ is that it stops you right when you are in the thick of the ego's performance - these moments are so crucial because, these are the times that we actually build the walls around the heart as we unconsciously seek to hide & protect ourselves.
If we can bring focus to forgiveness & gratitude in the heat of the ego’s action, then we are truly practicing letting the heart lead. The more you can catch yourself in those places, the less power the ego holds over you, and new space is naturally cultivated for a new & different question;
“what is awakening within me now?”.
Bypassing the ego’s performance doesn’t mean that we don’t get to feel all the feelings (on the contrary, we can feel them more fully, more quickly, perhaps more intensely), but we move through them with an open trust that there is something bigger at play, that our hearts are always awakening & expanding towards. Something exquisitely beautiful that doesn't require the protection that is constantly being offered.
Every challenge we encounter (the very small & the enormously big) is an opportunity to test that higher or more conscious part of ourselves in the heat of action, the part of you that rises from shavasana and says "Namaskar" to allbeings, is being called forward beyond the mat, and this, for me anyway, is always the real practice.
(it's still me, Jessie, but I'm finally embracing my Yogini name - let the awkward transition begin!)
ps. So happy to be starting a regular Gertrude st class next week - hope you can join me for lunchtime Yoga on a Monday sometime soon!
pps. I'm delighted to be offering two very different, very special, week long Bali Retreats/Immersions over Winter. Check them out here. You can read some beautiful reflections from some participants of my last Retreat here.