Yoga teaches that life happens for us, and it is good in nature. This teaching can be seen around us and within us: when trees and flowers search for the light in order to grow; or when we hurt ourselves and our body immediately organizes itself to heal the wound. In other words, yoga says that life is in nature abundance-filled and auspicious, and thus pure, unmotivated Joy is our birth right.
I like this teaching because it is empowering and invites us to shift our perspective on challenges from fatalistic to constructive. Naturally, when life becomes challenging, opening to this pure goodness can be hard. According to the yogic philosophy, we “forget” our inherent goodness, and thus the goal of the practice is to remember and re-experience this truth. The act of forgetting is part of “the game” and it actually is what eventually leads us to the act of remembering again: “the bliss of self-revelation” or “Sva Prakasha”.
In psychology, closing off to “life’s goodness,” so to speak, is known as the concept of nourishment barriers. Human evolution has been depending on our ability to stay alert to danger in order to survive and reproduce. Yet such alertness has left us today with a “natural” tendency to focus on the challenging/negative rather than the nourishing/positive elements. It is then easy to understand that opening to abundance in all of its forms in our lives is difficult to most of us!
A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor to facilitate a phenomenal yoga retreat in Sweden. Yoga retreats are so special. Going on retreat implies leaving one’s everyday behind for a few days to immerse oneself in the joys and benefits of yoga practice. It takes courage, because you (as participant or teacher) never know what will happen. When I plan a retreat, I never know whether the retreat will have enough participants, how the group dynamics will be, how my plans will be received, etc. This time, I had been in touch with Mindfulness Manor, a uniquely beautiful property – a historic, imposing mansion niched in acres of woodlands and overlooking a large lake. I knew I had to open to abundance in order to fully prepare myself to facilitate a retreat in such a special place. My experience is that a “positive attitude” to abundance was not enough. I had to be honest and face my fears around lack, scarcity, rejection, unworthiness etc. and other psycho-spritual blocks to facilitating an event unfolding in a way beyond what I could imagine. I clearly had to work on my capacity to open to abundance.
I taught the retreat based on the Ashaya Yoga method and the Five Elements (“Pancha Maha Bhutas”: Space, Earth, Water, Fire, Air). Inspired by the Pancha Maha Bhutas, Ashaya, Nondual Tantrik philosophy, and my own experience, I designed a simple framework about “opening to abundance” and applied it to the facilitation of the retreat. Here comes an overview of the framework “The Five Components of Abundance” paired with each element:
- Space: Receptivity – Ability to receive and connect to something greater
- Earth: Stability – Building safety and Commitment to our Deeper Values
- Water: Loving Awareness – Awareness and Acceptance of our Nourishment barriers
- Fire: Heart-felt Desires – Turning blocks into Strengths and Expressing Deep Wishes
- Air: Steps into Abundance – Envisioning one’s Direction and Taking concrete Actions to an Expanded Experience of Abundance
1. Space/Receptivity: No matter how hard I work and prepare, in the end the retreat is not up to me alone. This is the same with the rest of my life – my partner, my work, my housing situation etc. If I want to be able to experience that life is good in itself, I need to allow myself to receive first and cultivate my ability to let go of control – beacuse ultimately I am not fully in control anyway! My yoga and meditation practice helps me tap into my connection with something greater on an everyday basis. The universe/Grace/Nature etc. (call it your favorite name!) are also working for me. If this retreat serves my and the greater awakening, it will happen. If not, I need to be able to let go.
2. Earth/Stability: Surrender needs to be counterbalanced by clarity about values. I am still partially responsible for my life. Before taking action, I need to investigate about my values, what truly matters to me. And how can I maintain/create safety or stability for myself? I am so much of a better teacher, if I center myself first. I can give much more, if I remember to give myself first. If I want to build financial wealth for example, I need to work on my ability to maintain a budget, and not spend every single krone I earn. I also need to be clear about my values, what I am ready to do and what I am not. Stability will allow the experience of abundance (because ultimately, abundance is already here. What we can work on is our openness to the experience/feeling of abundance!) to last. Commitment to my values also helps develop self-awareness, necessary to work with possible blocks.
One month before the retreat, the number of participants was low and I was afraid I had to cancel the retreat. I don’t like canceling; I did not want to disappoint or be disappointed. Then, I reminded myself that who signs up, in the end, is not up to me. I decided to surrender to Grace and trust that if the retreat does not happen, it is for my greatest good (step 1). I also had to negotiate agreements with the hosts and be clear about what felt right to me, my boundaries and values, price, setting etc. (step 2).
3. Water/Loving Awareness: While co-planning the retreat with the hosts, I got to face my self-limiting stories and blocks (step 3). Generally, I am a “pleaser” type – I want to avoid conflicts and make everyone happy, so I can feel worthy. Luckily for me, my hosts knew what their values were. I asked for what I wanted, but the hosts were not always in for the same. If small conflicts arose, I forced myself to remember they were parst of the journey; and instead of stopping in front of a barrier, I tried to give it space and awareness and send love to the fearful/unworthy/… part of me instead of pushing it away. As my teacher Todd Norian puts it, every act is either an expression of love or a call for love.
4. Fire/Heart-felt Desires: The other part of dealing with nourishment barriers is to feel into deeper desires (step 4). Deeper, not superficial desires can be touched by starting with immediate desires. I used to be completely blank when I was asked “what do you want?”. As the tantrik philosophy says, we co-create our life with Grace. Grace only decides for part of it, so to speak. We have to decide for the other part! If we don’t, someone else or something else (social norms etc.) will decide for us, and we feel trapped, resentful, and victimized. The problem is not that we want too much, but actually that we don’t desire deeply enough. Eventually, if we feel deeply enough into our desires and wants, and not just act on the first immediate desire for a cup of coffee, a new car, check emails, etc. we will touch our deeper longing for wholeness. So, I am asking you: “What do you want?”, and “how will you feel, if you get it?”; “what will it bring you?”
5. Air/Steps into Abundance: In continuation of the fourth component, our ability to respond to what life presents to us, our response-ability is our own (Step 5). When the time is right, we need to move on and take a courageous step, “the first step, the step you don’t want to take” (from David Whyte, Start close in). Yoga talks about Svadharma: each person’s unique purpose in life. You are not a mistake, there is only one like you. Yet life is only meaningful according to the meaning you give it! Air is about connecting thoughts and dreams with actions, about fertility. So… “What is your life vision? And what is the next courageous step, the first step stone towards it?” Maybe it is to be with discomfort and wait. Maybe it is to make the move you’ve been thinking of and postponing for years. Most likely, you will know what the next step is, because when feel into it, a mix of excitement and edgy/scary sensation will emerge!
My hope is that this simple framework can help you move forward with a life of abundance experiences and a path where you share your unique gifts with the world.
Let me know hos that goes!
Blessings of abundance,
Cedric | HeartWise Yoga
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