April 22, 2021 § 7 Comments
“I contain multitudes.” ~ Walt Whitman
“In your soul are infinitely precious things that can not be taken from you.”~ Oscar Wild
“We have to get back into the inner jeweled realm and make ourselves at home there.” ~ Terence McKenna
“The soul is your temple.” ~ Chanakya
During times when fear and uncertainty run high, as now, it is essential to be grounded and connected to our own energy, or we will go as crazy as the world.
Nobody teaches us in school how to connect with the wisdom of our soul. The idea of a soul at all is often viewed as an antiquated or purely religious concept. This erasure leaves us viewing ourselves as a blank slate mind to be filled with memorized facts. We may be informed about the world, but we are set up to miss out on our greatest resource of all: inner wisdom, essence vision.
Words are placeholders for realities far more complex than the limited signifiers used to represent them. Whether or not you subscribe to the idea of a soul or spirit that exists beyond the body, we are unarguably a point of specific consciousness containing a unique collection of experiences, feelings, talents, perspectives and affinities.
Our point of view is a feeling signature unlike any other person’s—an imprint of presence that is our deepest self beyond the personality, beyond fears and projections. A core truth of self.
This core essence knows more than our conscious minds. It is tapped into the wealth of subconscious creative connections, as well as innumerable possibilities within the imaginal planes of collective consciousness and universal inspiration. We construct our personality as a form of self-protection to interface with the world. (See, “Authenticity & The False Self.”) But deep-diving beyond this construct yields a wealth of inner richness.
Essence is innate. The constructed egoic personality often throttles the pure expressions and impulses of this essential nature, trying to play by the rules, gain approval and “get it right” by applying logic. But there is a deeper guidance system of resonance available to us, one which is infinitely expansive. Transcendent, even.
We are not told about this inner wealth, or taught to access it.
Yet anchoring our essence—and accessing its wisdom—has never been more important, both individually and collectively. Traumatic experiences and distressing, stressful circumstances—like a global pandemic, a rapidly changing environment and massive civil unrest, for instance—create dissociation. We might be partially present, going through the motions, but we are half dislodged and not fully embodied.
This deeply uncomfortable, sometimes excruciating, experience—seen as soul loss by indigenous and neo pagan traditions—manifests as anxiety, depression, brain fog, feelings of dread, listlessness and disconnection.
I’d like to share with you a time-tested personal practice I use to connect to my own essence. Using this exercise as a morning practice has been my lifeline through the past year of lockdown. I’ve shared this exercise with several friends who tried it and gave glowing reports of better days and increased well-being.
Try it as a three day challenge and let us know how it goes!
I’ve found it to be a game-changing tone setter for the day, giving a significant elevation of mood every time. Obviously some days more than others, but I’m always glad I did it.
As one friend put it: “Instead of waiting to see the day through someone else’s filter, you get to YOU deeply.”
Needed: a notebook & pen within reach. A way to listen to music & a timer.
1.Set the timer for 5-10 minutes. Close your eyes while sitting or lying down somewhere comfortable.
2. Listen to calming, uplifting music—I find ambient or instrumental is best to free the mind & support elevation. (Youtube & Spotify have a vast array of healing/meditation music & soundscape options.)
3. Direct your focus inward, resting your awareness in the space surrounding your heart. Placing your palm over the heart center can help stimulate sensation of presence within this area. Feel your chest rise and fall with your breathing. Relax into your inner being. Soften and sink inward.
4. Feel into your own essence. By which I mean: internally, on a feeling level, using your attention like a spotlight scanning inwardly, do your best to locate the purest center of your “you-ness” at its most innocent and pure. Then feel into it, lean into it, feed it with your attention. Deep-dive your interior like a vast ocean. And while you are swimming there ask yourself:
What does my essence feel like? If I was a color pallet, what colors feel most like me? Most like home? Does being underwater feel soothing? Feel into that.
Follow what feels “warmer, warmer, warmer…” like that game we used to play as kids. Move towards what feels good. Allow yourself to dissolve slowly and pleasurably into the core of your own inner space, like trust falling into your own arms. This, in here, is your safe place. Your regeneration chamber. Your temple. A home base just for you. A source of infinite nourishment to drink from.
Be playful. Be gentle. Have fun.
As one friend said of the exercise, “I found it very playful. An invitation to really savor the joy that I often shove down.”
What images, colors, places, activities or symbols conjure a deep, abiding sense of home and truth for you?
Does the sound of the wind in the trees give you an extra lift of excitement, reminding you of running free as a child, when you could still hear the secrets whispered between leaves? Feel into that energy.
Perhaps you have a favorite memory that conjures a feeling of home for you. Color combinations that give you a little spark of joy.
Does the way sunlight looks on water make you feel a special charge? Expand that sparkly visual in your mind’s eye—dive deep into the feeling of that liquid light.
Maybe you can access the feeling without needing to conjure images or words. Sink into that cozy sensation that feels like home.
With loving awareness, nurture the feeling the touchstone inspires inside you. Allow yourself to drift pleasurably inside the feeling.
What brings you alive? The answers will be the same things that bring you home to yourself.
What we love is part of who we are.
What are your touchstones of personal essence? This meditation will help you discover them, at which point they become a vital resource—instant access to anchored essence which increases well-being, flow state, confidence, clear thinking and creative connections.
Images and symbols, like words, are portals to the energies they represent. Make notes in your notebook when you find a touchstone that elevates your feeling state.
Once you have discovered your inner touchstones of essence, you can use them as a shortcut to access the feeling-state they inspire.
Remember, this isn’t shadow work. We aren’t going down the dark interior rabbit holes here. This is an exercise for nourishment, uplift and re-connection with the truest parts of being.
You are consciously creating a bubble of heavenly frequencies within and around yourself. Watering your inner garden, showing your truest, deepest, purest, most innocent and powerful self interest and love. Focus on joyful, uplifting sensations.
(This is not to advocate for spiritual bypassing. Facing fears, uncomfortable truths and healing inner wounds is an important part of coming home to yourself. For more on shadow work, “Navigating The Dark Night of the Soul,” and to work with wounded inner aspects, see “Soul-Retrieval.” That being said, in these dark times I truly think we need the fortification of going straight to the spirit for nourishment, vision, uplift, empowerment and regeneration.)
Essence Meditation is about elevating your inner atmosphere to connect with your most exalted aspects. Your multidimensional self.
5. Anchor essence. Once you’ve located the “warmer, warmer” feeling enough to evoke it, even slightly, at will—once you have fed your experience of your essence with your attention, grow it. Expand the sensation outward from your inner being to fill your body. Then keep expanding it to surround and encompass you like a loving atmosphere.
If you saw colors, visualize them around you. If you saw stars, surround yourself with starlight. Expand your inner world to form a protective energetic cocoon of your own essence around you. This is also a good strategy for creating energetic boundaries.
6. Soul Dictation.
When your timer goes off, open your notebook, raise your pen and ask your soul, your essence—this inner magical mystery you’ve just spent the last five or ten minutes communing with—“What do you have to tell me?”
Write down whatever comes. Even if it seems simple or obvious. Silly, cheesy, gibberish. Disjointed. Doesn’t matter. Withhold judgement. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with yourself. This is a process of getting comfortable with allowing a vaster, more intuitive, multidimensional aspect of self to speak—and be heard.
Just free-associate and write down whatever you hear internally as you listen for that true voice, whatever comes up. If you want, ask a question. Words, impressions, downloads will start to come. And the messages might surprise you.
Sometimes they feel very ordinary or generic while you’re scribing, but then you’ll read them later and they’ll suddenly light up. Profound truths are often simple. In the moment, it may seem like nothing. But later, it might be exactly what you need to hear. Just play, trust, explore. Sometimes I purposely let myself write messily so I can trick myself into thinking less and listening more. The idea is to get out of the way so you can hear the still, small voice.
As one friend who tried this exercise to great success related: “It’s a doorway to your own sacred heart.”
Going within for answers is a radical act in a society that conditions us to look for the truth from authority figures outside ourselves.
Ask your essence questions you don’t know the answer to…and watch an answer come.
*Please share your experiences in the comments if you try this exercise. I’d love to hear any thoughts you care to share, regardless. I love it when the comments becomes a shared pooling of notes.
February 8, 2012 § 27 Comments
“To offer the leadership and vision, our times require as individuals, professionals, change agents in any domain, and even as spiritual leaders, wisdom dictates we move beyond unconscious polarization – not just intellectually, but in the very words we speak and the actions we take.” ~ Ragini Elizabeth Michaels
“[T]he thinker without the paradox is like the lover without passion” ~ Soren Kierkegaard
“To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind.” ~ Jianzhi Sengcan
If one extreme presents itself, such as a predator, it’s logical to put as much space between you and that danger as possible—to go the opposite direction. It makes sense to label the saber tooth tiger “unsafe” and the cave where he can’t reach you “safe.” In situations so basic, locations which are “somewhat safe” are ineffective to ponder.
But we no longer live in an age where this kind of thinking serves us. In fact, the cognitive distortion brought on by viewing a complex world through the reductive lens of “this or that,” “all or nothing,” “either/or,” can harm relationships, diminish well-being and limit our overall understanding of the world. In viewing a multi-faceted situation through a binary lens we are bound to miss essential details.
In the modern era the ability to perceive nuance, ambiguity and paradox is considered the height of cognitive vitality. Finding balance between seemingly contradictory elements is believed by many to be the road to inner peace.
Language itself promotes dualistic thinking. ‘Difficult’ and ‘easy’ define each other. What would ‘calm’ mean without ‘anxious?’ ‘Up’ makes ‘down’ distinguishable.
Even the simplest, most everyday question — “How are you?” — pressures us to pick a side. Are you feeling good? Bad? Which is it?
Yet, our lives at all times contain both pleasant and uncomfortable aspects.
Middle-ground responses provoke an interpretation veering towards the negative. For instance responding with a shrug, “I’m okay,” or the unlikely but far more accurate, “I’m both good and bad,” will be read as unspecific and inspire detail pressing. The most honest answer (“I am”) would be considered highly uninformative.
“While we speak to the unity and harmony of the whole as our desired goal,” writes Ragini Elizabeth Michaels in her article “Managing a Paradoxical Life,” “our language itself too often reveals an unconscious choice of one pole of a polar pair as more important, or more right, than the other – spiritual over material, peace over conflict, trust over doubt, unity over diversity, harmony over discord.”
A false dilemma (also called a false dichotomy or black-and-white thinking) is a type of logical fallacy that involves a situation in which only two alternatives are considered, when in fact there are additional options. (“It wasn’t medicine that cured Mrs. X, so it must be a miracle.”)
Marked by a logical leap and the oversimplification of a more complex matter, a false dichotomy may be presented intentionally, in order to manipulate a perspective (“You’re either with us, or you’re against us,”) or unintentionally, due to an assumption (“He wouldn’t do that if he loved me.”)
Social systems reinforce this kind of polarized thinking. For example, if you want to identify with a political party of any influence in the United States you have two choices: either you can identify as belonging to a party that is pro-peace, pro-gay, pro-tax, pro-regulation, pro-choice and anti-gun, or pro-military, anti-gay, anti-tax, pro-free market, pro-life and pro-gun.
What if you are pro-gay, pro-free market, anti-tax, pro-life, pro-peace and pro-gun? Too bad. Pick a side or your vote yields no power. Cultural splitting such as this encourages people to think in unnecessarily polarized terms.
In structuralism (the sociological study of cultural context) dividing the world into two opposing categories, known as binary opposition, is seen as a fundamental organizer of human philosophy, culture, and language (for example, we need the idea of “evil” in order to conceive of the concept of “good.”)
But others (post-structuralists in particular) argue that such binary opposition is often value-laden and ethnocentric.
French philospher Jacques Derrida agrees that binary oppositions often mark “a violent hierarchy” where “one of the two terms governs the other.” In this way, binary language can be linked with oppression.
“Black and white thinking doesn’t just hurt ourselves, but also the relationships we try to build with other people,” notes psychology writer Steven Handel. “When we view the world in strict and over-simplistic terms, we are less likely to compromise and cooperate with others to meet common interests.
“We lose in black and white thinking because we are never going to be everything we want to be. We’re always going to be lacking something if we’re trying to measure ourselves on some black-and-white scale where x is good and y is not good. We’re never going to be able to be completely x. It doesn’t happen, because we’re human – we’re unfinished – and we’re not simple.”
“A black and white viewpoint often creates artificial ‘needs’ in our life that lead to disappointment and depression,” continues Handel, adding that the cognitive-based psychotherapist Albert Ellis called one example of this ‘musterbation.’ “This is our tendency to think that we must have something, or we must do something, or life must be a certain way – or it will be awful.
“Black and white thinking doesn’t open us up to the possibility that even if life doesn’t work out exactly the way we think it should, we can still find happiness.”
Ragini Elizabeth Michaels agrees: “We may think that by eradicating the pole we don’t want, we are creating a non-dual universe, or ‘fixing the problem.’ We may believe that the dilemma, or duality itself, with its conflicts and tensions, will then somehow disappear. Or worse yet, we may begin to perceive the spiritual as the solution to the problems of the material world – which, paradoxically, it is and it is not.
“In contrast, depolarizing the mind frees us to perceive war and peace, anger and compassion, freedom and responsibility, and even duality and non-duality, as partners, and to perceive the friction or tension between them as creativity in disguise. This shift in perception changes everything.”
German philosopher Hegel saw history as a merging of opposites, creating progress: one viewpoint (the Thesis) merges with another, seemingly polar, viewpoint (the Anti-Thesis,) creating a new entity altogether, the Synthesis. This process is known in philosophy as the Hagelian Dialectic. For Hegel, dialectic tension is inherently creative and capable of union.
Great thinkers have always embraced paradox — looking past black and white simplification into a world where seemingly contradictory forces can co-exist. Kierkegaard said:
“…one must not think ill of the paradox, for the paradox is the passion of thought, and the thinker without the paradox is like the lover without passion: a mediocre fellow. But the ultimate potentiation of every passion is always to will its own downfall, and so it is also the ultimate passion of the understanding to will the collision, although in one way or another the collision must become its downfall. This, then, is the ultimate paradox of thought: to want to discover something that thought itself cannot think.”
Ancient Eastern mystical philosophy contains the concept of yin yang (referred to in the West as “yin and yang”), which describes how seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, giving rise to each other in turn. Yin yang are not opposing forces but complementary opposites that interact within a greater whole.
Paradox is the heart and soul of Zen philosophy. As Lau-Tzu said, “If you want to become full, let yourself be empty…Look, and it can’t be seen. Listen, and it can’t be heard. Reach, and it can’t be grasped… seamless, unnamable, it returns to the realm of nothing. Form that includes all forms, image without an image, subtle, beyond all conception…You can’t understand it, but you can be it. The Tao is beyond is and is not…”
Next time you find yourself feeling anxious over some perceived reality, take note. Are you making a logical leap that if X is true, then so must Y? Are you boxing yourself or someone else into an all-or-nothing false dilemma, considering only two alternatives where there are many? Ignoring seemingly contradictory aspects in order to create the illusion of a more manageable whole? In the end, the dualistic worldview is not more manageable. It is more prone to distortion.
Am I saying to abandon discernment? On the contrary! By releasing preconceived dualistic notions we open ourselves to perceive a greater spectrum.