Tidal Times – the Will to Be Real

awakening, spiritual journey blog

The other day, I went to the beach for a stroll, and the tide had pulled the water away from the shore. With its retreating journey, the water uncovered hundreds of black rocks and exposed them out of their dark bottom beds and directly under the bright sun. As I watched the stunning scenery, I thought of the process that the practices we do exerts on us.

As the yoga sutras of Patanjali quickly explain to us (sutra 1.2): “Yoga citta vrtti nirodha;” yoga is designed to cease the mind’s fluctuations. We experience these fluctuations throughout the day and could call them thoughts. What is typically challenging to us however, is when these become the worries, the regrets, and other type of recurrent “mind products” that cause our distress, our anxiety, our disarray, and sometimes, our more depressive state.

To put it simply, as many psychology and healing modality schools would agree, most of our recurrent thoughts and thought patterns find their roots in earlier, unresolved hurting or wounding experiences, perhaps traumas, and at the very least unmet needs. As such an experience takes place, our psyche first protects us by trying to repress it, forget it, deny it… and covers it up with some type of diversion—just as the water covers the ocean bottom.

When we engage in some sort of spiritual practice or inner work on ourselves, often the reward is almost immediate, as we quickly notice the benefits of calming our mind, slowing down our thoughts, and reconnecting to our body and breath—to the moment. At the same time, when the everyday mind activity quietens and the “covering waters of protection” pulls away from the sea-bottom rocks of our psyche, the practice starts to reveal to us unprocessed parts of our inner psychology. In other words, yoga, meditation, and similar practices—when done regularly and seriously—shifts our attention from the more superficial everyday concerns to the present moment. As a result, the typical distraction and diversion that the mind had previously resorted to start to crumble, which leads us slowly face-to-face with the underlying layers of our psyche’s more core organization—often based on the limiting beliefs that we integrated from past relational wounds and traumatic events.

Looking back at my own experience and that of prior clients and students, this revelation stage often associates with becoming more sensitive and emotional, but also more intuitive and attuned to our needs. As I see it, in our journey of healing and spiritual awakening, the revelation of our unconscious is the first step, and a big one.

Yet, just as the natural ebbs and flows and tidal movements of the ocean, if we do not work with what emerges up to the surface effectively, the water of our ego mind will come back and cover again the black ocean rocks. Specifically, the old patterns we became aware of continue to play out and keep organizing the ways in which we direct, act, and interact in our lives.

If knowing or understanding alone is not sufficient to change the deeper organization of our psyche and its drive of the reality of our lives, another step is needed. “Rome was not built up in one day,” as the saying goes. Sustaining a recurring practice to engage and come back to what is uncovered in the first place regularly enables us to proceed with deep changes. The ebbs and flows will continue to come and go, old patterns will leave and come back, but the difference is now that not only will you know there are rocks in the bottom, you would also have tried to move them around and clear the path before sea level rises again. Yogis focused for example on mantras (e.g. “hamsa” or “soham”) and the space between the breaths as a way to sweep the psychic debris at the bottom of their consciousness.

This being said, a regular solo practice is not sufficient. The spiritual and healing journey is a path of awakening, ultimately, to the fact that we are way more than what we usually think of in our little mind. Not only does support from our kula or community (your meditation or yoga studio or group, your friends and loved ones), some type of psycho-spiritual engagement often becomes necessary—at least if we desire evolve beyond these limiting patterns. Too often have we seen gurus and teachers of all sorts culminating in their fame and suddenly revealed in a sex or power abuse scandal. Whether we like it or not, shadows simply represent a part of our human psychological conditions and some work with them is just necessary if we are to limit how much these play out in our lives.

The yogis also knew this very well, thousands of years ago. In Sanskrit, psycho-spiritual limiting patterns such as core beliefs or wounds are called “samskaras,” while more deeply engrained inner schemes and blocks (perhaps lifetimes long) are called “vasanas.” While yogis do not directly discuss the benefits of psychotherapy in the ancient scriptures, as I understand them, they certainly name the value of cultivating a mind shift from restrictive “pollutants” (e.g., envy, condescendence, or righteousness) to the cultivating of virtues (including joy for another, compassion, or equanimity)—see yoga sutra of Patanjali 1.33 and onwards. Sages explained how the practice of meditation, in fact, transforms the deep organization of our psyche (by clearing samskaras and vasanas) and indeed stills the incessant “vrttis” or fluctuations of our mind directly caused by our deeper organization. By shifting our mind’s literal identification with our thoughts and emotions as they occur to the present moment chosen object of focus (e.g. our breath or a mantra), we strengthen what I call “our will to be real,” the sort of mind muscle that can recognize and remember who we truly are beyond the usual multiple identities we use each day, although we do not necessarily directly understand what is changing .

Practices do not have to limit to yoga or mindfulness, but surely involves a commitment to come back to it regularly, and especially when we’d rather avoid it. It can be walking in the woods twice a week, a hot bath or a cold shower, your 5-min (phone-free?) coffee sipping each morning, or a bi-weekly asana class. Not only do you work on your practice, but gradually we let the practice magically “work you” and remove or rearrange the superficial layers covering the mind’s true nature: pure awareness and intelligence.

The aim is not to create inner turmoil and psychological drama (although it might well be part of the process at times, as you most likely noticed!), but to become freer. Because, ultimately, the path of awakening including all the inner work, spiritual practices, and healing we engage onto is about liberation.

Liberation is the experience of the joy that lies in attending to the present moment and in fully stepping to the will to be real.   

I wish you a happy awakening journey and hope to walk besides you along the way.

I am honored to be let in already. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.