“With personal practice you engage in daily activity adjunctive to classes and/or studies with a teacher. The type of practice that will increase your well-being, liberation and empowerment is one in which you train yourself to be more aware and to consciously search your life through body, mind, breath and feeling – to investigate yourself separate from what is happening in your external world, and to separate your true experience from your internal conditioning. This is a practice you do in every mood and circumstance. It provides stability because even in the worse scenario you are showing yourself you can still search inside yourself for deeper understanding and resourcing.” – Elijah Nisenboim
YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOURSELF: DEVELOPING CONCENTRATION
“It is not how well you excel at the practice that matters – it’s your relationship to doing it that is most important. You are learning to explore, to make mistakes and love yourself in the process. There is no learning without love and there is no practice without process. Practicing simply with the goal of doing something better is not a process.” – Elijah Nisenboim
Let go of the goal of doing it better and instead focus on learning to concentrate. Cultivate the inner quietude that makes real concentration possible. The best technique for learning to concentrate is to awaken a loving interest for the object of concentration and to use this love for one-pointed attention. In a practice, YOU are the object of concentration and the practice is an act of caring for YOU. Your quality of attention / degree or ability to focus is the directly related to how much fulfillment you get out of your experiences and your life.
BE WILLING TO BE WITH THE PAIN OF YOUR LIFE:
Very often students want to quit a practice or avoid a practice because they don’t like the feelings that it brings up. They think that they can avoid those feelings if they simply don’t do that practice. A good and transformative practice will likely bring up feelings that are very hard to be with. A practice is a mirror of you to yourself. Those feelings are your feelings and they are not caused by the practice. Slowing down and stopping the rat race of strategy to try to get away from feelings we don’t like to feel, puts us in touch with our feelings. The idea is to not quit practicing because we don’t like what we feel. To really transform we must be willing to be with the pain of our lives. This means looking in the mirror whether we like what we see or not and then being accountable and responsible with what we see and feel.
When students feel rage in their practice, this is because they feel rage in their life… if they feel bored in their practice, this is because they are bored in their life… or they feel not good enough… something about them will never amount to anything.. too old, don’t practice enough, too far gone, compared to the other students they are too far behind…don’t learn fast enough, pain… tired… this is because the student is critical of themselves rather than focused on creativity and possible solutions in their life… because they are ashamed of their ability to learn and the vulnerability of not being good at things in their life… the practice isn’t doing this to you it is showing you yourself and the parts of yourself that you don’t have a relationship with and have yet to heal.
“The first question is, not where will I get, but how do I walk? In the unraveling of human life, we see that each step opens up new possibilities… Unconscious trauma energy is destiny. Unconscious energy has no choice. Unconscious energy is destiny, like an unconscious energy runs me, because I am not aware of it so I will make decisions or do things or be addicted to something that is not in my control. So we say, in the mystical understanding, that unconscious energy is destiny, there is no free choice. Choice comes through consciousness. Consciousness allows new possibilities to come in. So in our understanding, the past is not what happened yesterday, the past is what stayed of what happened yesterday. When people go to exams at universities or they need to make a serious business decision and they say they are afraid, the fear has nothing to do with the exam, the fear has something to do with the past. And the fear might reduce my capacity to make decisions or take action in this moment because my past overshadows my present moment. That means that the past is only what is left, and what affects my present moment through bodily sensations and thoughts that have nothing to do with this moment and the future is not what happens tomorrow the future is a download of higher consciousness that changes my today. The update of myself today. Past has a cycle to repeat itself until it is conscious.” – Thomas Huebl
The mind only sees problems. It is under the illusion that getting rid of or fixing problems will lead to a time when there are no problems, but that isn’t real. There will always be more. Adjusting the outside world.. our bank accounts, our public image, our partner, our looks doesn’t lead to inner stability or freedom. The change comes from acceptance, a willingness to feel, and to grow and learn.
We can all be scared of our feelings… which is basically being scared of ourselves… scared of our anger, scared of our shame, scared of our inadequacy, scared of being scared, scared of what we don’t know… and we need to create a relationship with these feelings and be willing to feel them to increase our well-being, our sense of empowerment, and liberation. Most importantly, we need to let go of our preferences so that we are not a prisoner of having to have life go the way we want it to, at the expense of what may be best for our growth. This willingness opens the door of potential and possibility, it is a gateway into getting out of our own way, going beyond our conditioning and beginning to see what we are truly capable of.
Kobayashi Maru is a training simulation for Starfleet cadets, an unwinnable scenario designed to test your character. You can’t win, so the goal is to lose in a way that’s honorable. It is a Star Trek thing that turns systemic bias into a game. You are going to die. The win is in proving your character every time you are tested. It is about dealing with stressors that you can’t control so the win is in shifting your focus from changing the outside world to changing the inside world. It is about your relationship with yourself. It involves recognizing that the effort, the discomfort, the frustration, the unanticipated obstacles, and even the repeated failure have value — not because they are steps toward a worthwhile goal, but because you see the difficulties as opportunities for personal growth. The hard part is not in acknowledging the difficulty, but in acknowledging that the difficulties are the opportunities.
So often, in our culture, if something is difficult, if it requires effort, it brings up shame, like there must be something wrong with us if we have to work for it, so we leave in search of something easy. That’s an example of using our conditioning / the opinions of the “outside world” to control our destiny. Who is this too difficult for? Whose opinion is shaping our choices? Is it ours? Who is this too much effort for? You?
When something feels uncomfortable, it’s likely that you are doing something that creates more progress than if it were easy, strength is the body’s response to doing something effortful. The familiar is comfortable and the unfamiliar is uncomfortable. Do we use seeking comfort to make our choices? Is it limiting us? Is that pattern conscious or unconscious? Can we develop enough curiosity to see if the discomfort is worth it to us? Not to the outside world, but to us?
The process of learning the pose IS the pose. If we can remember that life is difficult and making it through it will be the most difficult thing we have ever done… that we are trying to do something where we will inevitably fail and be rejected repeatedly before we make it through, then we can shift our focus from the outside world to the inside world and take back our relationship to winning. Re-define it for us. AND while we are at it, re-define failing too. We rarely end up where we intended to be, but often end up where we needed to be. There are endless examples of people not achieving their specific goals but achieving something important, something world-changing, along their path to failure… and I think this has to do with our relationship to uncertainty, mystery, and the unknown. What are we doing in all that darkness? Do we fill it with our nightmare? Overlaying our past failures, rejections, abandonments, onto the present moment or the imagined future? Or, do we find a way to open up to that dark matter and feel into the present moment with all possibilities contained in it?
RELEASING TERROR FROM THE SYSTEM: A SUFI LOOK
“We might find that, in the midst of such upheaval, there is a dark place we may go that is like dark matter in physics. Dark matter is the basic ingredient from which creation can take place. in this place we can create… But most often we create our own nightmare. We create our continual dream and it perpetuates our false self and our alienation. We can either create this dream, which is the mess we usually make or we can release our attachments and wait for divine guidance. It is possible for us to find a way to wait in this dark place and receive grace and guidance.
Then creation happens in the way of evolution rather than the direction of self-serving. This space is the place where true dreams can arise, and the dreams here are really visions. They are full of inspiration and guidance. Then the creation that flows from them will be meaningful. It will be evolutionary and have a feeling of salvation. Salvation is different than enlightenment or revelation. Salvation comes through grace, not hard work. For grace to happen you have to reach that place that feels like the greatest sigh of relief. Even though in one sense you may be broken, you know yourself as unbreakable even in the midst of suffering.
You release and wait on the divine to come touch you. In this place one might say, “Humanity could not break me, even though my relationship with the world disconnected me from the divine. Yet I am broken because I disconnected from the divine.” When you reach that state of deep surrender, a certain yearning and longing happens.
When you reach that state there is nowhere to go. There is nothing but patience, calmness and this potential of the dream. The dream in this domain is not like the dream we have in our conceptual mind. The dream that arises from that potent and calm state becomes reality. There the dream is the creative imagination or pure creative aspect. The decent of this dream so that we may receive it is the result of surrender.
As you approach such a condition of soul, a huge amount of terror begins to be released from the system. It is a congestion that has to do with anger and revenge. Upheavals of anger are maneuvers to avoid the deep, dark place of abandonment. Anger gives us continuity. Revenge gives us something too. But this place takes away everything. It is a place of woundedness in your relationship with the divine. It brings up the ultimate revenge of the ego toward God. “You forsake me? Then I forsake you.”
And when that woundedness is released, what may be waiting is a vicious ring of terror. Fear and trembling. This is no ordinary fear. There is fear of annihilation, but there is also fear of losing reality. It all goes to the survival instinct which is located in the perineum, the lower center. “I’ve got to survive; I’ve got to find my way. I’ve got to know what is my destiny. I’ve got to go home.” All of those survival issues start to come up and the terror is that a tidal wave is going to erase everything so that you will never know your direction or your soul’s purpose.
It is a deep, seemingly irrational terror. “I am alone. Where have you taken me? Why have you forsaken me? Why have you thrown me into this?” We often avoid this dark place by daydreaming, by going to sleep, or by hypnotizing ourselves with our stories. We repeat our stories continuously. Or we engage in watching a lot of television, narcotization, and concern about conventional standards of what life is and what we should do, or about what offers apparent safety.
Ultimately the ring of terror is released, and the abyss, the deep, is waiting. In this deep place you find infinite patience and an infinite sigh of relief. Whenever the relative world comes to get you, you sigh, and the sighing releases the relative world from catching you. It releases the mind from gripping you, and you dip again into the abyss.
Each sigh takes you to the abyss, to the deep, to the dark, to the gentle. And there the Beloved is waiting. The tender love arises. “I am beyond my anger, I am beyond my hurt. I am beyond my pride, I am beyond my brokenness. I am waiting in this eternal peacefulness, and I know that in this infinite patience is the womb of creating. In this place, I can create or I can be created”
Each time you excavate the inner terrain, there is constant ebb and flow in both directions; the terror arises, but also the source flows with a sense of great tenderness and support. Back and forth you go. One day you discover your fear, another day you discover your attachment, and so on. You undo each one and rest deeper in grace. Ultimately you may have a station you can go into again and again and rest in, but that often takes years of work.” – Physicians of The Heart
This is a great practice for a person to start when there is a large amount of anger on the surface because it will begin the process of calming down. This is also a great practice for when you are on the verge of a major breakthrough or when you face the biggest disappointment of your life. Both of these occasions are experienced as a kind of spiritual bankruptcy.
As I have watched students and myself develop a practice of Foundation Training I have slowly begun to understand the emotional implications of this practice. Foundation Training is largely about developing a center and the ability to be in alignment with that. For most students, what emotionally comes up during practicing Foundation Training is everything that pulls them off of center.
To be centered and grounded means we develop a kind of strength that makes us consistent and dependable. We become consistent and dependable in our body, we show up for ourselves in a steady way that builds strength and builds us up instead of moving in ways that steadily break us down. This pays off in that we start to feel that we can trust our body, trust ourself, rely on ourselves! We are not taking a pill, giving into addictions, handing our power over to someone else who is supposed to save us, getting a surgery, or relying on technology to do the work for us. Instead we study ourselves and develop self knowledge that gives us the ability to keep on keeping on.
We begin to feel grounded in the world because we are grounded in ourselves and this gives us integrity as human beings. The power emotionally and physically that comes from this is reflective of an inner type of balancing.. We must get emotionally clear on all the ways we collapse, overly dramatize and get pulled away from center and as we steadily and consciously choose to align with center emotionally and physically, the muscles and the structure begin to become balanced and we feel balanced as a result.
This is partly about the ability to keep moving towards what we want even with success and failure. We are not pulled off center and swinging around like a pendulum with each success and failure, not distracted and chasing our pain around, whining about our shitty lot in life and abandoning ourselves in a search for a different experience, instead we are able to use the pain as a reminder to come back to or maintain center, to concentrate and aim for what we want to achieve. This is a type of endurance. I personally think endurance is one of the most emotionally challenging, transformational and beneficial qualities to work towards. It has immense payoff because we find ourselves blowing our own minds with what we are capable of and what we imagine is possible for ourselves. Endurance allows us to exist inside that space of surrender, it teaches us the ability to calm down and find comfort amidst great challenge. That opens us up to possibilities we wouldn’t have been able to open to. As the worst nightmares don’t come true, we release our greatest fears. We become able to handle more of what we truly are.