Exploring Freedom through the lens of a Personal Life Philosophy.
This weekend I am celebrating my birthday. 43 trips around the sun. Like the transitions between seasons, or the end and beginning of the year, I give times like this special significance by using them as reflection points. I spend the morning going through my planner; each month has a built-in page to summarize its greatest lessons, (“Passion Planner”). I take the opportunity to review the uppermost learnings and pause in gratitude for the people and events I am most thankful for, (even the challenges, for they tend to be the toughest and best teachers).
This year I read 2 books in particular that have struck me with insights that I resonate with. I posted on them last month: “Seven Thousand Ways to Listen” by Mark Nepo and “Grist for the Mill” by Ram Dass. In the second, Ram Dass uses the analogy of a, (old school) television that has a dial with 6 channels. Each channel is a different level of reality that we can find ourselves looking at life through. I really like this metaphor for exploring the perspective that I have at each of these levels and how as I grow older, have found more freedom as I grow my ability to shift between channels.
Channel 1 Physical:
I spent most of my 20’s and 30’s strongly attached to this channel. When I live focusing on the external world and the physical differences between myself and others, I get hung up in comparison, judgment, body image, men vs women, us vs them and good vs bad. Other polarities that reside here are race, culture, clothing, cars, homes, possessions, money as well as walking around “Seinfeld”-style assigning others as dateable or un-dateable. Although we might find security here, it’s a level of reality whose underlying motivation is to help us survive as a species. Think food, shelter and reproduction: necessary, but base level as far as our human potential goes.
Channel 2 Psychological/Personality:
I have always loved digging into what makes people tick. How our experience and environments form our childhood survival personalities. What our comfort zone emotions are. What coping or numbing methods we gravitate towards when challenge arises, and if/when we choose to upgrade the skills in those childhood toolboxes. When living in this reality, I’m scanning and analyzing myself and others based on mood, feelings, emotions, past traumas, thought patterns, beliefs and conditioning. This is the realm of the traditional therapist. Another helpful way to make meaning of our experience, especially given our ability as humans to be self-reflective, self-studying, and self-regulating: aka Self-Responsible. Though it still holds us as individual identities that are separate from each other and limited by one lifetime.
Channel 3 Astral/Mythic/Archetype:
Freedom from the limited view that this one short life is all we get begins here…
Meaning making. Filtering through the experience of life trying to sort it out. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why are we here? What is my purpose? What is the bigger picture? What are the energies at play in nature? In time? By nature humans are story tellers and meaning makers. We are born with a desire to connect to each other, to grow in community and have purpose. Channel 3 starts to pan out the lens on our perspective, moving us from individual identity to connection with something bigger. Our place in the Universe. It might be exploring your astrology sign, the stage of life you’re in by archetype, religion or other philosophic concepts that connect us to something bigger than our individual selves. Compassion and empathy grow when we can relate our experiences to each other and realize that all living things work together towards collective wellbeing and transformation. We all have a role in the Universal play of existence. Although if we are stuck in physical or mental pain, struggle and challenge, it is hard to have the energy to go beyond channel 1 and 2. Hence why Self Care is so important. When I started feeling good in my body, then in my mind, I free up energy to go inward…to start exploring my internal landscape.
Channel 4 Soul:
“Now we see another entity who is just like us, trapped inside the illusion of all these packages of individual differences.”
To look in another person’s eyes and recognize that there is another being in there looking back at you. I routinely bring this concept to mind as I meet people throughout the day. Can I look at the grocery store clerk, silently acknowledging that they are another of point of infinite energy that is being temporarily experienced in human form? Can I recognize that an immortal soul resides in there? Can I remember that fear is just the illusion that we are separate and that separateness is only temporary while we live in these human skin suits? Remember that we are here to help walk each other home? Simply to seek to see, hear, understand and grow in relationship with one another?
Channel 5 Two Mirrors:
“There is only one of us, not intellectual or metaphorical. We are one in the same.”
Relationships are our best teachers. We literally mirror to each other the work that we have to do in ourselves. When I get annoyed, angry, or frustrated “at” someone, noticing the discomfort has become my neon post-it note for an area that could use a little exploration and growth. I am a self-responsible human being. Nobody “makes” me angry. Anger might be my chosen emotion to the circumstance, but it becomes a choice between unconscious reaction or intentional response. Awareness = Choice. Choice = Freedom.
The idea that once we can recognize the soul in another we can connect to the infinite aspect of ourselves. We become a mirror in life. Simply reflecting the Allness of everything. To see that everything is the same divine energy. We are all swimming in the Universal Pool. Everything from rocks to trees, to insects, animals and humans are just different forms of the same formless energy in an endless cycle of experience, evolution and expansion. Interrelated and perfect. My teacher says, “Life is exquisitely perfect in the way it drives people in their evolution.” To trust in this is to have peace and freedom in mind, believing that I am in a continuous loop of experiment in human form, in the cycle of many births and deaths, for the sake of growth, experience, evolution and expansion into becoming Love and Light. Becoming more free each go round.
Channel 6 The television disappears:
“There is nobody looking at anything. The form returns to the formless.”
To me this is the purpose of meditation and contemplation of philosophy. Through surrender to the unknown, the unknowable, the wordless, to the idea of existence without a physical body and personality. To dip into the void beyond form. To glimpse moments of bliss and peace connecting to a place always accessible though rarely given time or space to explore. I take great comfort in experiencing the total silence of this space. You may have experienced it in moments, although fleeting, they are unforgettable. For me it’s usually in nature. Once fishing on a windless day…Not a ripple, not a bird singing or fly buzzing. It was a moment when it felt as if time froze and the world stood still. It was connection to a deep knowing that I was one cell in the greater organism of the universe. A PAUSE. This pause has shown up in my breath and movement practices too. Funny how the life force of the breath can teach us so much about the bigger picture. The pause between breaths is the invitation to connect to the formless. Each inhale like the first breath of birth, each exhale like the last breath in death. For many, contemplating death is fearful. However, when I can hold the principles of Channels 4 through 6 in mind, I resonate more with the idea that we are constantly expanding like the Universe itself. Driven by the endless desire to create, experience, transform and surrender. Channel 6 is a little more elusive, harder to find words to relate the experience, and more often found in gifts of presence. When we get lost in Being.
The greatest gift of being born human is the capacity to flow between the channels. To meet and relate to others on the same channel while inviting space to explore others if accepted. To me, the point and meaning of having a spiritual practice is simply to make intentional space to connect to ourselves internally, to connect to others from this place of recognizing our sameness and to the bigger picture remembering that there is no end game. Connecting to a place in us that is the Whole. Having a Life Philosophy that expands my perspective this wide is what has brought me the most comfort, peace and Freedom.
Lessons from 42…
- Yoga means Connection. Connection is Freedom. Everything in life is an opportunity for Connection. I am here to connect to myself, to others, to connect others to themselves and to each other.
- Whether in mind, breath, body or relationships, the difference between suffering and freedom is moving from a place of contraction towards expansion.
- Breath is my greatest teacher. Relationships are second. Nature third.
- Relationship is about showing up being Love vs needing something from the other: Love and Non-attachment are the same thing.
- I don’t need to have the answers, I simply need to hold safe space for others. That starts with the ability to self-regulate my nervous system from the “fight or flight” of survival mode to back to safety.
- Be awake and aware to life as it is. Expectation = Suffering
- Surrender. Trust. Stay open. Be Love…Even when your humanness hurts.
- Uniting mind and body through the combination of breath and movement is a very accessible practice to find more freedom.
- Like an ocean sponge, I am a meaning filter. Let the experience of the moment flow through me like the breath.