Practice Locally, Love Globally: Survival Guide For Liquid Times

liquid times

On staying sane in times of change. Part III (part I , part II )

When we go through transformative experiences such as an important trip, moving to another country, starting a new career path, becoming a parent, falling in/out of love, – we stop being “somebody”, the one we were before. We enter into a new dimension of ourselves which is unknown and more expansive than the previous one. This expansion is experienced in many levels at the same time (you became a parent and your house is not the same anymore, the empty room is now the room of the baby, you discover your impressive nurturing and loving capacity, and your patience, and how good is your partner in supporting – or not etc.) and comes with this new “identity” of yours.

When it comes about spiritual practice, the expansion beyond one’s known identity is also present, and one finds that deep meditation experiences are always described with the same words: “softness”, “lightness”, “indescribable peace”, “emptiness”, “centered”, “expanded” among experienced meditators. It´s like if everyone gets to the same headspace. As if profound experiences don´t differ much from one person to another. But how come that two different individuals have almost the same inner experience while going deep into meditation? One can say that, framing it in a structural perspective, the “somebody” – the one who meditates – becomes “nobody” – the one who experiences all the possibilities within without identification – and because is nobody, is everyone at the same time. 

Transformation – or change – is present at the level of our mundane life and at the level of our spiritual life too. Many spiritual doctrines teach about how one can become enlightened (a transformational process aiming at “seeing” or “knowing” things as they are) or knowing your true self (Atman), a saint (those of us “who are more perfectly transformed in the image of Christ” defines the “Lumen Gentium” No 50), how to stay closer to God or “to act according to the Light of the Creator” as Kabbalists explain, and so on. And none of these processes occur without experiencing a deep transformation within.

Whether you are moving into another country, experiencing a significant loss, falling in love, in the path of sanctity or spiritual realization, you are changing. Purists may raise a brow at this point since I´m comparing becoming a parent or traveling with the path of spiritual realization, but to me, they differ by visibility (how material or visible is the process of transformation) and calling (distinctions between what is profane and holy are, usually, the place where problems arise, and they are most of the times culturally biased – I´m not trying to say that divinity is not sacred, I´m pointing out toward a certain carefulness that is needed on this matter, especially in a globalized world). The “somebody”, the one who is aware of itself to the point of selfishness, when becomes a parent, is a “nobody”. The entire attention goes to the baby – it can´t be another way! – and all that happens around it.  The spiritual seeker, the “somebody” who seeks inner peace, wisdom or God, becomes a “nobody” in a profound meditation experience, in the Holy Communion or during the Praying time.

Our consciousness and reality are one and the same (check out my previous posts). By understanding all the aspects of our life as different dimensions of one single thing, by bringing up a core, center or unifying space within in which the “somebody” can surrender and become a “nobody”, we won´t feel lost or lacking the point of reference – a feeling that occurs very often when we experience change and transformation, especially in this “liquid modernity” as Bauman named it. On the contrary, we will embrace change, no matter how uncomfortable this change might be, because that´s the foundation of our human experience, that is what all of us (no matter our differences) experience in life. This understanding brings not only wisdom but also a greater compassion toward all living beings. And at the end of the day that counts because we are all having our own doses of fear, uncertainty, loss, gain, judgment, realization, and satisfaction, and we deserve some little peace in between.

Credits for the image @ajaychahal29

I Won´t Lose My Grasping – Note From Consciousness

Awareness of a cat

On staying sane in times of change. Part II.

(part I here)

If there is one thing in which different philosophies, worldviews, spiritual systems, and cosmologies coincide regarding reality is that change is the only certainty in this world. Impermanence – name it in eastern philosophies, change – in other places. However you understand this, it seems that change permeates all our experience in this world. The body, mood, and thoughts change daily, sometimes per minute and even seconds. We change jobs, partners, friends, house, country, and pets. Our body decays, we get old. The nature of reality is that of change.

This understanding is important so we may learn to internally zoom out of things that, at the end of the day, will change. Wink at equanimity here. The attachment to things that change is, ultimately, the source of our suffering in life. Letting go, again. This time it´s not only about our past experiences but also about the future. Of course, it´s never about our future plans or past experiences, but emotions, attachments or “desires out of control”, and judgements about them. Once you release these burdens, you can plan your future more effectively and realistically – we may acknowledge the fact that our plans do not come to a fruition because, many times, we expect either too much or too little about ourselves or about the circumstance. As per your past experiences, you will be able to learn from them and get wisdom out of them for yourself and others. Once you get insights or wisdom, being of service to others follows.

“Cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words, and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inward to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will manifest.” Dogen

If the nature of reality is that of change, what about our own nature? How different are we from reality? We may accept that we don´t differ much from it. We are real, actually. And if so, if we are real, what is left of ourselves when things change? What do we lose or gain about ourselves in this changing game? The question about our deepest identity, the “self” that remains when things change, can be addressed by a more subtle approach. And just to point towards a direction, we can consider that our consciousness – meaning here how we process/understand information delivered by our perception and the response to that awareness – and reality are one and the same. In other words, reality is conscious and consciousness is real. (Physics has something to say about this. You can check out this article and read about how material is the reality, in case you think that it is only and strictly a matter).

The nature of both, reality and consciousness, is one and the same. Our consciousness changes along with our reality, and vice versa. If we think in the so-called spiritual practices, or practices that connect us with ourselves at the consciousness level as meditation does (we thus know what is going on), we realize that they are highly practical: ritualistic and down to earth (quietly enter to the room, sit down, adjust your body, feel comfortable, close your eyes, gently bring your attention at one single point, two fingers-width above the navel, and keep it there… how ethereal is that?). And there is no other way in which can be so since we engage with reality when we are in tune with it, so we go with it, we flow with it, and allow the process of change take place.

This process of change is not only very visible and positive while meditating regularly or maintaining a spiritual practice, but due to other circumstances too – although the experience of change is rougher, I would say.  And so you find yourself one day holding a baby, your baby, for the very first time in your life and one of the things that cross your mind is “how much I love this small body and how fragile it is!”. This temporary thought creates an important feeling within yourself and suddenly you understand, beyond words, that her/his fragility is your fragility too, that you are now responsible of that small body, and that this new understanding brings about transformation, something changes in you and you are not the same anymore. In a way, you are becoming more real.

To be continued…

Credits for the image @sakshi101889

Who Are You When Things Change?

On staying sane in times of change. Part I.

Although we live our lives with a considerable degree of certainty regarding of who we are and the roles we play in our family and society, there are moments in which our own self seems foreign to us. We either feel that we have kind of lost ourselves, forgotten about ourselves or that we simply don´t know where it came from – some part of ourselves that arose in a given circumstance. These moments are, many times, a side effect of transformative experiences such as a significant loss or a painful end, the starting of a new career path, falling in/out of love, or becoming a parent. They deserve our careful attention. 

As we experience such changes in life, we need to re-frame our identities since these circumstances seem to demand something that we haven´t discovered yet or haven’t developed from ourselves (an impressive nurturing capacity, an unexpected resilience, a dormant creativity). We transition from A to B. During this process many things change, sometimes quickly, sometimes gradually, but the first thing that we need to do is to let go of the conditioning of our past experiences in order to flourish again in a new form, a form more appropriate to the present circumstance. 

This letting go is never about the past experience itself – let´s say that you had a boss who made you feel incompetent too often and you changed your job. You don´t let go of the skills you developed at that particular job, nor the colleagues you met or the experience acquired, but the negative aftermaths of the circumstance in yourself. The emotions (frustration, anger, regrets etc.), thoughts and judgements about it (I loved it, I disliked it etc.) is the stuff that, after a while, you will need to let go. And after a while because when the letting go phase takes place, we need to exercise some patience with ourselves and take some time out to process the whole thing.  It´s all about time during this phase.

 “Only understand where you are now, and you rediscover your power to make changes.” I Ching

The letting go phase is needed as much as a certain sense of stability since feelings of uncertainty are very present in the times of change. During this transitional time directing our attention towards what is really going on without prejudices (past experiences) is the source of sanity and the knowledge that allows us to make better decisions, to exercise our personal power, to bring out our skills and manage ourselves in a good way. It´s the knowledge that gives us some foundation and options, that makes us free. 

In order to “see” what is in there for us, what reality brings just in front of our eyes, we need a certain inner quality that is known as “equanimity”. In this context equanimity is the capacity that we have to bear the vision without fooling ourselves, to see what forces are working in the here and now, what are our available resources with clear lenses, without judgement or bias. Although a natural quality of inner balance, there are some exercises such as meditation that enhances it and develop it further and wider according to several scientific studies. And it makes sense because, after all, moments of introspection are not only delightful, but also and mostly, revealing. 

Equanimity can also be understood as neutrality, but never as indifference. Remaining indifferent is a form of escapism, a form of denial of the reality. But here reality is what we get and search for; it is our source of empowerment and sanity in moments of change and transition, not something to get rid of or escape from. Equanimity refers, then, to a certain inner attitude that enables us to deal with whatever is going on without feeling out of place, or worse, out of ourselves. And it is the safest passage to blend with reality.

More on reality, spirituality and all that happens in between coming soon.

5 Powerful Ways Meditation Can Change Your Life

Show of hands – don’t you think our difficult experiences always cause us to deeply ponder how we got there? Those experiences may not have been the most favourable circumstances to begin a meditation in the first place – but it is true that the moment we sit down and genuinely think about what has happened is crucial in helping us move forward, overcome pain, and ultimately find inner peace.

By definition, meditation is “bringing your mind to a calm and peaceful state”. However, meditation is what you make of it and sometimes you need to let yourself rage in emotions before going straight into peacefulness. This goes to show that meditation isn’t strictly limited to calming the mind, but it is a mental outlet that aids in handling uncomfortable emotions, thinking through difficult situations without pressure from outside sources, and overall finding the answers to questions that make life so hard.

In retrospect, the idea of simple thoughts profoundly affecting our lives and actions may seem a bit far-fetched. But truthfully, our actions are a direct result of our thoughts. We are dictated by what we feel and believe in, and we should care to make sure they all come from a good place. Additionally, the complete self-awareness in ourselves and the world around us contributes to our lives in only the most positive ways. Here are five of the many ways meditation can change your life.

 1. You develop a transparent and honest relationship with yourself

Developing self-awareness is one of the most difficult things we can do as human beings. That’s because facing inadequacies head-on and focusing on the present moment may not exactly elicit the fondest of feelings. We are all prone to insecurities and doubts and that is completely okay (and expected). With meditation, you are able to be honest with yourself in a way that you aren’t with others. You have no one’s opinion to rely on but your own. Don’t be frightened by that fact, you’re a lot smarter than you give yourself credit for.

A transparent and honest relationship with yourself enables you to learn and recognize what you deserve and should not tolerate in life. Honesty is powerful because you learn to see yourself and things for what they actually are, causing you to think twice before making a decision, make you choose the right people as friends, and acknowledge everything for what it truly is – just to name a few circumstances. Consequently, you come to understand that the world is a lot more painful, but also more rewarding at the same time.

2. Episodes of anxiety and stress become less severe and intimidating

How often do we go into a panic mode during difficult moments, allowing our bodies to completely surrender to negative emotions? More so than we all like to admit, that’s for sure. With meditation, you can analyze your mind and realize that any trigger of stress or anxiety is temporary and you will get through it. Additionally, you can equip yourself with mental tools to combat these sources of anxiety! You learn that allowing your emotions get the best of you is going to happen sometimes, but being hard on yourself isn’t necessary anymore. Stress is a part of life, just like happiness.

3. Thinking rationally will come naturally over time

You find yourself making more concise, logical, and reasonable decisions. You can roll with the punches of your emotions, knowing that they shouldn’t completely dictate a choice. Not to say that emotions are a concerning element when making a decision – in fact, they might be the last deciding factor in making one. They are only toxic if you let them be, meaning you allow the wild nature of emotions to lead you into expressing an outburst that may actually hurt you and possibly others.

For example, you can scream everything you find wrong about your relationship with your significant other or friend in a violent moment of anger. You may mean everything you say, but does that make things better or damage the relationship? Making a sound choice requires both the equal balance of logic and emotion – therefore, making you understand the best possible choice can be both logical and not regretted.

4. You liberate yourself with emotional freedom

 How many of us are actually afraid of our emotions? It is common to prevent ourselves from feeling everything we actually feel, because we sometimes deem those emotions as useless, embarrassing, or a waste of time. Emotions should never be perceived in an inferior way. We’re human beings and will be prone to emotions no matter how much we try to avoid them. Neglecting emotions would only be detrimental and bottling up what you actually need to express will only make a person feel worse. By meditating on emotions, you can come to acknowledge and appreciate where they come from without judgement and strategize how to handle them.

5. The practices and philosophies of meditation translate into your everyday actions and thoughts

The connection between meditation and your everyday life is a prominent one. The ability to wake up and be grateful for the day, drive to work without raging at a person for not using their turn-signal, and shrugging off an embarrassing moment is self-empowering. In a deeper and personal perspective, meditation can also help one ease the symptoms of a chronic condition, such as mental illness or cardiovascular disease, and overcome addiction. We all co-exist with different lives that include situations and events specific to only our uniqueness of existence.

In conclusion, meditation helps us see life, our emotions, and difficult experiences as allies and opportunities to develop maturity and compassion, rather than enemies and infuriating things we naturally have assumed them all to be in the past.

Confort ¿para qué te quiero?

Puede que a muchos nos atraigan las aventuras, sin embargo, pocos se dan cuenta que embarcarse en una aventura no es solo una oportunidad para vivir la vida al máximo, descubrir un universo entero cada vez y disfrutar de todo tipo de experiencias. También significa tener que sacrificar muchas cosas, o esencialmente una que las comprende todas. Es, probablemente, el sacrificio más difícil al que tenemos que hacer frente: salir de la zona de confort.

El diccionario define confort como un estado de bienestar o comodidad material. Yo sin embargo, añadiría, que el estado de confort también es un lugar de bienestar, calma y tranquilidad mental. El confort es ese jardín del edén sin interrupciones donde la belleza de vivir es perenne. Sin embargo, si reflexionamos sobre nuestra propia existencia personal, nos daremos cuenta que o bien por iniciativa propia o bien por vicisitudes de la vida, la zona de confort es en realidad un equilibrio difícil de mantener. Y es que si algo caracteriza a la vida es el constante cambio, que vapulea, agita y desorienta nuestra comodidad.

Los cambios, tan intrínsecos de la vida y a la vez tan difíciles. Los cambios de humor que hacen de nuestro estado mental una constante montaña rusa, los cambios de tiempo que nos obligan a adaptarnos, los cambios políticos que siempre conllevan novedades en nuestra forma de vida… desde las alteraciones más nimias hasta los variaciones irreversibles como la muerte, los cambios son hechos a los que tenemos que hacer frente constantemente a lo largo de nuestra existencia.

Y, algunos de nosotros los fomentamos.

No hay nada como aceptarse a uno mismo, empezando por observarse, siguiendo por conocerse, y acabando por abrazar todo lo que uno ve en sí mismo. Aún me cuesta comprender por qué, pero de alguna manera una de las características que me define es que soy una persona que se pone constantemente fuera de la zona de confort. No es fácil, me ha supuesto varias calamidades, infinitos de quebraderos de cabeza sin solución que preveo seguirán llenando mi mente y muchos momentos de ruptura emocional y física. No obstante, ponerme en tales tesituras cada poco tiempo me ayuda a recordar que siempre se pueden aprender cosas nuevas y que estar en cierta situación de vulnerabilidad propia del desconfort nos ayuda a estar alerta para absorber más y mejor si cabe todas las lecciones que nos quedan por vivir.

Cambio, cambio, cambio, rastreémoslo y adoptémoslo, porque la vida es demasiado corta y demasiado larga como para vivirla de forma monótona y abandonada a la versatilidad que la suerte, el destino, las coincidencias o Dios diseñen por nosotros.

 

Begin Your Journey of Change in Tirana, Albania

Imagine waking up with yoga, participating in workshops about health and benefits, listening to motivational talks from inspiring speakers, conversing with Thai Buddhist monks and refreshing your mind in relaxing meditation sessions. Are you excited? Join these and other activities in the SEE Peace Summit in Tirana, Albania taking place from December 15 to 18 at the Hotel Continental, and begin your journey of a change. Continue reading “Begin Your Journey of Change in Tirana, Albania”

“Out of this world” into my life.

In the early 90’s, when I was a kid, there was a TV show called “Out of this world”. It was a young teenager named Evie who finds out that her father is from a different planet and because of that she has superpowers. Well, actually, just one. An amazing one! Evie is able to stop time. She touches the tips of her index fingers and everything around her freezes. She could then ignore her mom’s scolding, get some extra time to check her history book before answering her teacher or even give herself an extra minute gazing at her crush passing by in the hall. Continue reading ““Out of this world” into my life.”

YOU ARE BETTER THAN YOU THINK

The 21st Century is the fastest and very competitive. Millions of people get through yet billions stuck. The minority who wins believes in YES and the majority who always lose sit in NO. This is simultaneously happening to make the world go round. You cannot sit in the comfort zone while everything change is so fast. We moved from analog to digital, typewriter to the computer and so many changes over decades. Continue reading “YOU ARE BETTER THAN YOU THINK”