Let your soul shine. It’s better than sunshine….It’s better than moonshine. Damn sure better than rain. –Allman Brothers
I just came back from a weekend intensive at the Kripalu Center (located in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts). This place was remote, and a bit of a hike (it was about a 5 hour drive). It was also stunningly beautiful–located on a hill with a lake and mountain view directly in its front yard. While this center is now one that embodies a philosophy of teaching the principles of yoga, I also know that it had once been a Jesuit seminary (in addition to a less noble history). Nonetheless, by the time I had walked up the sidewalk, I could already feel the residual prayers and contemplation that had been imprinted by the priests who had studied and prayed here. (It reminded me of how it feels to pray in an empty church. There’s a sacred energy left behind by the intention to receive grace through prayer. As someone who was raised in a Catholic tradition, I still value my ability to center myself in an empty church– and I appreciate the vibes that remain from people’s good prayers.) Very cool place.
I was so looking forward to spending some time in quiet reflection…. I generally like to go on retreats like this at least once a year, since I find being in a true classroom setting helps me integrate material I study on my own in a more grounded way. This time I came to study the idea of understanding the role of a “modern mystic” in today’s world. Living in a global, technologically advanced society has shifted many of our ideals associated with mysticism. How do we conduct our search for meaning in our lives and the way “the Gods” have mapped out our purpose? I would venture to say that most of us on this path do not have the opportunity to spend months in an Ashram (despite the inticing protrayal played out in “Eat Pray Love”). It becomes a much more pragmatic, daily practice that is sprinkled in between carpool, laundry, and/or a chaotic day at the office.
And so what is a mystic? A mystic is simply someone who searches for the greater meaning of their life’s purpose, through the lens of the soul. This requires being able to look at the situations and circumstances of one’s own life through an objective and symbolic perspective. Doing so allows an acceptance of those things that have been fated to us — (the restrictions our lives have inherently), as well as our destined potential (that which we can proactively co-create within the parameters of what’s available to us.)
Finding value in ourselves by virtue of the fact that we simply are here is oftentimes beyond our realm of imagination. Becoming more aware of ourselves through the lens of our souls gives us a more compassionate view of ourselves, our lives, and our processes of moving into greater empowerment and change. It can be a struggle. Our society, our culture, our family upbringing, and our religious traditions have conditioned us to believe that we need to get everything right, be perfect (or at least give the appearance of perfection) to be accepted as having worth and esteem. It’s no wonder that self-esteem is so hard to come by in an authentic sense – we often predicate our esteem on external factors that are transient. This is what Buddha would call true “illusion”.
I want to add that over the weekend, during a guided meditation which helped us “meet” the parts of ourselves that essentially get in our own way, my perfectionist showed up. Yep, that’s right! And the wisdom that was relayed by this archetype was that it was the “gentle guardian of my personal accountability, not my harshest critic”. I needed to be reminded of this. Having perfectionist tendencies (gone rogue) is not a new storyline for me. In fact, my mother told me a story about this years ago. She said that when I was in kindergarten, if I came home with papers in my backpack that were “less than excellent”, they would already be a crumbled up ball, ready to be thrown away by the time I got home. Seriously. Having had my recent experience in my mediation has been a lesson in compassion for myself and those who are caught up in this kind of self-sabotage. Having compassion and generosity toward ourselves, especially when we’re struggling, is truly one of the most healing demonstations of healthy self-regard (esteem), we can embody. It brings us closer to our soul’s wisdom and grace. It allows us to reveal to ourselves and others who we really are.
In the spirit of encouraging all of us to allow the true nature of ourselves to be revealed, I’d like to offer a few ideas that have helped me move forward during times in my life when I have been stuck. Btw, I’ve noticed that this usually is a sign that we need to release something within us, a situation, a pattern, a relationship (you decide!) before we can gain traction on what’s waiting to be created next.
We all get into holding patterns, or find ourselves spinning our wheels…or we may even find ourselves hijacked by someone else’s “vortex of crazy” (as I affectionately call it). No matter. The point is, we know that we need to move on from whatever is holding us back. I’ve found these techniques to work well for me:
- Spend time in quiet reflection. Ask yourself:
- “What needs to be revealed that I’m not aware of yet?”
- “What needs to be released at this time?”
- ” What am I gaining by not moving forward? (What’s my payoff for staying stuck?”)
- “What am I afraid of gaining by empowering myself? Is it true?
- “What are my loyalties to staying stuck? (Am I afraid of leaving people/situations behind?)
- Journal the answers to these questions. Ask for guidance and write down any and all thoughts, revelations and/or inspirations that direct toward a solution.
- Create a releasement ritual:
- Decide what needs to be let go (whether an old belief system, unhealthy relationship dynamic, person etc).
- Write a “closure letter”. Own your own part of the dynamic, send gratitude and blessings for what you’ve learned.
- Say goodbye.
- Burn, bury, rip up, (whatever creates closure–I happen to like to safely burn the letter when done)
- Partake in a self-care gesture. Do something loving for yourself. (Spa, quiet time, watch a funny movie — whatever works uniquely for you)
I find that rituals are so important to the psyche in creating and sealing intention in present time. All the senses are involved in actively sending a clear message to yourself and the universe that you mean business! This is why the many religious traditions are so infused with rituals. Rituals are powerful to the degree that they symbolically animate passages of time and development. Simply put, they move energy – and they work.
Happy trails on the mystical path!