A Story of Spirituality
The Spiritual Path... So Far
In early 2014, I had come to realize that I had a growing sense of disconnection; although I wasn't sure as to from what, or why. In Aug 2014, I had attended a spiritual "meet-up" group session, where I was introduced to my first inspiration... Joseph Campbell's Power of Myth documentary. I was immediately drawn to his core philosophies of “following your bliss”, and “experiencing life (what it means to be alive), instead of questioning the meaning of life”... but the documentary did not cover "how" to achieve either. Seeking "the how" is how my spiritual journey of a thousand steps began. The path was not linear, it included a number of intertwined paths and switchbacks, which was all necessary for the total answer to come into view; the highlights being:
- Shamanic courses I took in March 2015 introduced me to Journeying. This was my first experience with a form of Meditation, revealed the concept of a higher Self, and widened my eyes to a larger field of experience.
- Mindfulness first entered my path Oct-2014 as an adjunct to a conversation I had with a co-worker about Stoicism... but it wasn't until Sep-2015 that I registered for an 8-week Palouse Mindfulness course. This course nurtured my first traditional Meditation practice and introduced me to Hotha Yoga. Unknown to me at the time was that Mindfulness was my introduction to Buddhism. Mindfulness helped lay the foundation for self-discovery, being present, recognizing patterns of reaction, and checking those assumptions/reactions for truth. The course also included meditations by Tara Brach.
- NVC (Nonviolent Communication) enters Oct-2015, during my 6th week in the Mindfulness course. I noticed in the course content change list that the NVC video used to be 3 hrs, but was replaced by one that was only 21 min. Curious about what might have been pruned, I started watching more YouTube videos of Marshall Rosenberg sharing NVC. I started learning that we all have the same core needs, and experience the same feelings when our needs are met or unmet.
- Nov 2015, I ordered some NVC books as well as Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance. Things to move forward with after the Mindfulness course was finished.
- Life takes a turn... self growth is put on pause... The Archives stagnate.
- Mar 2018, I dusted off Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance, and never put it down. In fact I read it twice; writing down everything that resonated the second time. I learned that Buddhism encompasses both Compassion and Mindfulness... the root of my previous course. Tara's writing was so perfect for me, she dove right into the heart of her messages, and basically guided me to what I was feeling disconnected from... myself... and lead me to uncover how I got there. This was my first introduction to the "Shared Human Experience".
- June 2018 brought my introduction to Science of Mind at CSL, and ushered in my introduction to Self... The divinity in all things, the power of intention, and our ability to manifest. It also helped to foster an appreciation for community, safe space, and the impermanence of things.
- Aug 2018 introduced me to Kundalini and Vinyasa Flow Yoga, as well as Pranayama (breathwork Meditation). In addition to a new studio and community, this became the space where I first experienced kundalini energy and activation of the third eye.
While individually each step taken was full of great experiences and growth, it wasn't until Dec 2018 when everything started to click together perfectly like a puzzle.
The Intertwined Epiphanies
Although I found NVC in 2015, I had shelved it (for three years) until the universe nudged that I was ready for it. I dusted NVC off in 2018 because I found it returning to my thoughts more and more as I continued experiencing life and my personal growth. It was the missing puzzle piece that made everything else I'd experienced in the prior 3 years finally click together.
Originally, Marshall Rosenburg's Nonviolent Communication (NVC) didn't quite mesh or feel natural, but it always resonated with me. Since its resurfacing, I have found it's the perfect puzzle piece to fill gaps (provide answers) and pull together many of my seemingly disjointed areas of personal expansion and growth.
A core tenant of "Science of Mind" is that our thoughts (and intentions) create our reality. If I suggest, "Don't think about puppies", you think about puppies. If we talk about a lemon, our mouths salivate. If you engage in negative self-thought, it impacts the way you feel negatively, and influences your overall experience of life. Thoughts are powerful things... Positive or negative, our thoughts (inner dialogue) breed more of the same experiences for us; sometimes as a chain reaction.
In Marshall Rosenberg's workshops, he loved to ask "(in this moment) What would make life wonderful?" But how does one who's thoughts that are dominated by negativity change course to explore positive experiences?
The "spoiler" NVC answer is to identify the unmet need behind the thought/feeling... and check-in to see if it's really true in this moment... but let's add another puzzle piece!
Buddhism calls this check-in a pause... we experience a moment where our initial thought/reaction is "negative", freeze our thinking/judgements, and name our experiences... identifying what we sense physically (tension, tightness, etc) and emotionally (feelings) happening within us underneath the surface... knowing that the chain of reactions we find there are perfectly normal... as outlined in the next puzzle piece.
(In an overly simplified way...) Normally the process would reveal that the moment contained a trigger for an unmet need... the trigger was informed by our minds quick comparison/association to a past experience where that same need was unmet (perhaps in a scarring way), back then we had a fear-based "flight or fight" response as this danger-experience was truly very real in that moment, our initial reaction in this moment was inspired by that same fear, but then we realize that the perceived danger is one that we are reliving through this thought-association, and isn't really true in this moment today... So we apply some self-compassion, thank our inner dialogue for warning us about the potential danger, reassure ourselves that we are safe, express gratitude, and chose our action (with this knowledge) over the initial reaction.
Perhaps easier said than done... but impossible to reach when our feelings and needs are not understood, and NVC helps here in spades... but let's add another puzzle piece!
Buddhism also reveals the "Shared human experience"... and I see how it can be blended with NVC. That the same met needs that inform my feeling happiness/love... and the same UNmet needs that inform my feeling suffering/fear... are truly universal to every man, woman, and child. It's what unites and bind us all if we all found a way to embrace this "vulnerability" as the normal experience that any one of us has had, is having, or will have. There is no reason for shame or judgement around this fundamental truth that is so core to us all.
I feel that what stands in the way are the stories, expectations, and societal norms that we cling to because doing so makes it feel like life has structure; that we are in control of anything other than ourselves. It becomes impossible to see the underlying feeling or need when we are desperately attached to the outcome we think the linear expectation (if I do A, I get B) will bring... and we often feel alone and isolated in our struggle. There may be thousands of ways to fill a need and feel good about it; however, linear thinking doesn't support this perception... but let's add another puzzle piece!
Engaging with strong/healthy community (family and friends) and expanding my circles was very important to my growth, as strengthened my belief in the fact that we are not alone in our experiences and feelings of met/unmet needs. If we are fortunate enough to find community that encourages a full embrace of vulnerabilities with compassion, those within will continually remind us that we are not alone in our "shared human experience", as we see that while their path/stories may be different than our own, that the same underlying feelings and needs that were either met or unmet resulted in similar experiences to our own... regardless if the path or circumstances was the same.
I think being able to get right down into feelings and needs is extremely important. It's far easier to support (or be supported) when those in our community can peel back the layers of our experience to see the root cause of our experience. There is no need to judge the path, nor is there anything to correct... only need to pick us up, dust us off, reconfirm our intentions, and allow us to continue our growth down any path we choose; hopefully organically without pre-set expectations, or if we do have a goal/desire/need in mind that we retain some flexibility in how it comes to you. As Science of Mind say... "this or something better". Limitless.
Also, when we see other positive choices/experiences people in the community are exploring/having, that's knowledge and choice we can choose to apply to our life if we are open to the influence. And why not? Choose to experience life!
Community also taught me the importance of authenticity; to not be afraid to stand alone in my beliefs. We are all at different stages of growth in our paths, which sometimes means we may need to agree to disagree at times when our intentions or actions are not aligned. Whether alone or within the crowd always remember... to remain true to your intentions, that self-compassion is a prerequisite to compassion for others, the impermanence of all things, everything comes and goes, this too shall pass, "this, or something better", that our control/power is in the actions/reactions we choose to make.
Sometimes we are the student, sometimes we are the master, sometimes we are both, sometimes we are neither... regardless of the label, remaining authentic gives others permission to do so as well. Lead by example, and be the change you want to see in your world!
Embracing the Lessons
The answer, which took almost 4 years to reach, was that I had become disconnected from Self. I'd found myself on Autopilot; living the life of societal norms and internal/external expectations, which was very unfulfilling. The solution became to live life with Intention... based on Acceptance, Patience, Presence, Compassion, and Love for all things in my life... starting first with Self.
Acceptance of fundamental truths like... Impermanence surrounds us... so experience as much life as you can with Presence, Gratitude and Love. Perhaps this should have been the message passed down from generation to generation... but you can't fault people for not knowing what they don't know, and passing down what they thought they understood. You may contemplate why they never though to question what they had been taught, or dared to peek beyond societal norms... and if you've thought of that question, isn't it really you who needs to answer it for yourself? Are you the one meant to experience life with grace and authenticity, or to disconnect from your true nature so you can be indoctrinated into the "societal" system? Ultimately, we are each responsible for our own choices.
Patience to release rigid expectations, and fully understand what is really under my control. Why limit what can come to me by a limited expectation? I can hold a desire with the belief and Intention of "This, or something better"... knowing that there are limitless possibilities beyond what I currently "think I know".
Presence to be fully engaged in and aware of the present moment. In this moment, life is lived... and each moment is precious. Every moment is a unique experience of life, even if you try to duplicate it... intentionally or not. Being engaged in the moment with Presence brings you awareness of whether you are living from your Intentions... or internal/external expectations.
Compassion to help us non-judgmentally and patiently remain present as our Intentions and desires unfold, even when life takes us down a path that seems to be in opposition. To forgive ourselves of learned patterns, and embrace the courage to press on. When our Intentions and desires change, such is life.
Love is the natural language and creative force in the universe. Although it was listed last, it provides the momentum for all other Intentions to be possible. Only from a space of Love can one truly experience and achieve Acceptance, Patience, Presence, and Compassion.
May you be the change you want to experience in your world!