“I wonder if a BIG goal of living is to more and more not know where “I” stop and “God” begins? To increasingly find indistinguishable where “I” end and “you” begin? The older and hopefully wiser I get, the more I sense this is True.”
– A thought I had while running the other day.
People are the juice of life. What I mean by that is the older, and hopefully wiser, I grow, the more I value relationships, community, caring for each other, kindness, and love that freely gives life to one another. Along those lines, I find myself blessed to have several groups of INCREDIBLE friends. One of these is a group of guys who gather together every Tuesday for Beer and Bible.
In Beer and Bible the homebrewed beer is fantastic, the conversation is incredible, and the people are the best. A few weeks ago we were talking about prayer. More specifically, we discussed the importance and power of not only “talking” in prayer, but also quieting our minds and listening. Our general consensus was calming our minds and minimizing our thoughts is powerful stuff … but also super hard … and difficult to make time for.
That night, hopefully in a humble and kind way, I shared a bit of my yoga journey and the mind-blowing gifts it’s given me. The essence of what I said goes something like this: I hear ya, it IS hard to tame our minds and make time to get quiet. When I started practicing yoga nearly seven years ago I did so to get more flexible and support my now ex-wife who had just become a teacher. I thought yoga would certainly make me more bendy and hopefully stronger … and no more … period … end of story.
That said, as I practiced yoga more and more, and time passed I began to realize the most precious gift, the most marvelous medicine of yoga wasn’t external, it was internal; it was (and is) a sense of peace, calm, joy, bliss, and love within me that blows my mind. As I shared with the Beer and Bible fellows, this blessing comes most poignantly at the end of the yoga practice, while we lie peacefully in savasana and when we sit in meditation. For me, this isn’t a nonstop experience of peace and bliss, though. Instead, some days it’s 15-30 seconds, others it’s a minute or two, and others it’s longer. YET, these brief encounters with What/Who I’d personally name God fill most of the rest of my life with a bliss, peace, and love so BIG and amazing I struggle to find words for it … which I kind of think is the point.
(I think often the same thing can be said about beauty in nature. We have no words to describe when we experience scenery like I captured above, better than “WOW”.)
In my mind, an important thing I tried to convey to my friends that night is we can’t expect to go from A to Z overnight. People don’t change from eating whatever they want to being clean-eating vegans at the snap of a finger. Likewise, we can’t expect to go from practicing no meditation, contemplation, yoga, or other mindfulness practices to 15 minutes or an hour instantaneously. Instead, we go from zero to one mindful breath where we pause to listen to the Divine, to two mindful breaths and so on.
In these moments of mental quiet and calm I don’t think our Creator is the only being we encounter though. I believe we also meet our True Self. You discover the “you” beyond doings, possessions, statuses, and so on. Our egos and the messages of society create a false self that many of us never get beyond, but we all have a True Self. This is the “you” in the image of the Divine, the “you” filled with joy, the “you” saturated with peace, the “you” rich with love. One could say the True Self is crowned with glory as is written in the Psalms:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honor. (Psalm 8.3-5, NRSV)
Have you ever heard of the temptations of Christ? Before Jesus started healing people, spreading love, and preaching the Good News of God’s blissful reign, He went into the wilderness and was tempted by the devil. You can read it for yourself in Mathew 4.1-11. The brilliant thing I’d like to draw your attention to is these are temptations common to us all. They are the lure to identify ourselves, relate our worth, and name our love based on what we own, what we do, and/or what others say/think about us. THIS is the false self.
Another way to talk about this is the ego. Our ego is important, it gets us out of bed, it gets stuff done, it pushes us to be the best version of ourselves possible, and so on. Think of your life as a car, the problem comes when we let the ego drive our lives … that is the false self. The ego needs to be in the vehicle … NOT as the driver, but in the backseat. The ego is ALL about what we do, what we own, and what other’s think/say about us … and while there is value in these things, they do NOT define who you and I truly are. YOU, my friend, are an infinitely worthy, loved child, made in the image of and filled with Divine Light and Love … and when we do mindfulness practices (like yoga, meditation, and contemplation) to quiet our thoughts and minds, we experience this truth.
As I shared with my friends at Beer and Bible, while I’ve experienced this over and over it has nothing to do with anything I do. Instead, it’s about simply BEING. I think it’s only when we slow down and take time to just BE, that we meet our True Selves. In these moments we encounter a peace that passes understanding, a bliss that defies description, and a love that knows no bounds. Having tasted this precious gift myself, I’m passionate about helping others discover it for themselves … hence this blog! 🙂
So, how does one do this? How can you and I increasingly tune into our True Selves? First, I’d say it takes time and is a process. We don’t go from A to Z in one step; instead, we go to B … then C … then D … and so on. The big question here, IMHO, is what’s the NEXT right thing for YOU? What’s a doable step you can take today … then next week … then next month … then next year? And so on.
We’re all uniquely wired AND we all go through different seasons in life, meaning what works for me might not work for you, and what resonates with you today might not vibe with you next year. My point is, there’s a zillion mindfulness practices out there and I think they all lead to this same beautiful and amazing result, the uncovering of your True Self … AND an encounter with the Divine.
That being said let me throw a few practical tips out there for us all. I’ll start by saying there’s something powerful about doing something everyday, or nearly everyday, for 3-4 weeks, as this period of time rewires our brains and turns practices into habits. So, I’d recommend trying to pick something(s) doable you can try out for that long. Whatever you do, if you couple it with mindful, deep, full breathing … WOW, over time you’re going to experience all sorts of goodness … trust me! With that in mind, here are a few ideas:
– Yoga – While I think going to a studio will give you the biggest bang for the buck, there’s a LOT of online videos you can use at home. Only 15 minutes a day will have AMAZING effects!
– Gratitude journal – take 5 minutes at night to reflect on the day and write about three things you’re grateful for.
– Meditation – take 1-15 minutes to simply be and quiet the mind. I recommend using a podcast or app for this, but it’s free and super helpful to just breathe a mantra that speaks to where you are in life. For instance, one could inhale “I am” and exhale “loved”, or “worthy”, or “peace”, or “joyful”, and so on.
– Contemplation – take 1-15 minutes to simply be and quiet the mind by contemplating some aspect of God, nature, scripture, etc.
– Meditative Walking – step and breath in time with a mantra that speaks to where you are in life.
– Contemplative Walking – notice, like REALLY notice the nature and people and such around you.
– Praying the hours – set an alarm on your phone for 9, 12, and 3. When it goes off, stop for a minute or two and take a few really deep breaths in time with a short prayer.
Hopefully that gives you some ideas to get started from. I think mindfulness can be practiced anywhere and everywhere. It’s simply slowing the breath down, noticing your thoughts and remembering you HAVE thoughts but you are NOT your thoughts, and taking time to really see and hear what’s going on around you. When we do this we both come into touch with our True Selves and God, and the affect is AMAZING on you, me, and everyone we come into contact with.
Truly, truly I think our money, our possessions, our achievements, and what other people think about us do have their place and are good in their own way … AND they do NOT define us. You and I are something infinitely more precious, imperishable, and beautiful than those passing things, and the more we come into contact with this, our True Selves, the more amazing life gets in any circumstance. Honestly, the people I’ve met who are in tune with their stable, secure, and real selves are calm, joyful, and loving even in the midst of adversity, conflict, and trauma. They are bright sources of light and love in the midst of darkness. They are able to be non-anxious, calming presences when everyone else is freaking out. The awesome thing is, though, we can ALL be like these saints! Each of our True Selves is full of Divine bliss, peace, and love, we simply have to take time to BE and tune into it! What do you think? What’s your experience?
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Grace and peace,