When our body, mind, and spirit are in balance, we experience good health. But sometimes we get caught up in life’s parade of change and movement, and things get out of balance. Just as there are seasons in nature, our bodies go through times of cleansing and times of activity. Illness is one way our bodies restore the balance they seek, as it cleanses the buildup of unwanted manifestations of negative energy in our system. When we are not feeling our best, we can go beyond addressing the physical symptoms to listen to our bodies as they tell us the changes needed to restore balance.
Our bodies give us signals, but if we don’t listen when they tell us that they are tired or stressed, then the imbalance increases and a stronger message is required, one that is generally expressed by illness or dis-ease. The first step to regaining equilibrium involves slowing down, eating healthy food, getting more rest, and taking soothing remedies. Once we have nurtured ourselves with these things, we can begin examine our illness for the message. A heavy head may be a sign that we have been thinking negatively, harboring anger, resentment, or guilt. A sore throat may be telling us we have been speaking without integrity-gossip, insults, twisting the truth, or even speaking ill of ourselves, all of which can knock us off balance. A sore throat and swollen glands can also mean you are cleansing and processing some powerful emotions at present. Stomach problems could mean that we are having trouble accepting or “digesting” something. Only you have the knowledge of your thoughts and choices that will allow you to decipher the messages from your body. All it takes is time and attention.
When we take the time to listen to our bodies we can learn how to restore our balance and improve our lives. By honoring the messages of our bodies, we can turn a time of illness into a constructive time of restoration, healing, and revitalization.
After making it through a mid-life crisis, an insightful man once commented, “I’ve spent my whole life trying to be someone who I’m not. Now I’m ready to focus on accepting and enjoying who I am.” So many people are trying to be someone they are not: trying to be richer, to be better looking, to feel better, to gain status, or just to be liked by others. So many people are not happy with who they are.
Deep down we are all worthy beings. The sweet innocence of babies and young children is a clear example of this. Yet for most of us, the shining essence with which we came into this life became obscured over the years as our family and others were unable to give us the kind of unconditional love and support we so craved. As children, when we were repeatedly told that we were not good enough or were punished just for being who we are, thick layers of confusion and doubt developed, clouding our divine essence. Layers of fear and insecurity were woven into our personalities as we learned to survive in a world where others often cared about us only if we made them happy, or when we proved ourselves to be someone we were really not.
By the time we are grown, most of us have developed a protective persona to hide these layers of fear and insecurity from others, and at times even from ourselves. Though we might outwardly appear happy or content, on the inside most of us to varying degrees feel unhappy with who we are, wishing we were somebody we are not. We feel the heavy burden of the fears, wounds, and insecurities which have built up. We long ago lost touch with that beautiful, shining core still inside of us, buried under unseen layers of fear, anger, guilt, shame, confusion, insecurity, inadequacy, and more.
Yet that shining essence is still there. It has always been there. Most of us have had peak experiences at some point in our lives where that deeper essence broke through; times where we felt deeply satisfied about our lives, or where we were reminded of who we really are. No matter how much you may have forgotten, no matter how thick those layers may be, your shining core is and has always been there.
You can choose to invite that beautiful inner essence to shine through the clouds and to shine again in your life. By doing your best to accept and understand all of who you are – both your deep shining essence and the layers of dark clouds within – you can open more fully to life, and enjoy the gift of who you are.
When fears, dark thoughts, difficult emotions, or selfish desires arise, first choose to accept that they are there, that they are a part of you. Once you’ve recognized and accepted them, work towards understanding these dark clouds and where they came from. And don’t forget to ask for divine guidance and for what’s best for all as you explore and transform these dark and hidden places. By choosing acceptance and understanding of all parts of yourself, the clouds gradually begin to shift and disperse. Pathways to your divine core begin to open, thus allowing your radiant inner essence to shine through.
It takes courage to accept and work to understand our fears and weaknesses. It takes even more courage to allow others to see the clouds, to see us as we really are. Yet by allowing ourselves to be seen – by doing our best to be fully ourselves in all our strengths and weaknesses – our relationships can grow richer, deeper, and more meaningful. This may be awkward at first. It may be challenging, as some people are unable or unwilling to accept certain parts of who we are. Some may even reject us or ask us not to be our real selves with them. Yet as those around us see us becoming more real and honest with them, they may also be inspired to be more real and honest with us. Thus, instead of continually avoiding or denying those clouds or dark layers in both ourselves and others, we open to a deeper, more authentic way of living and relating with others.
As these hidden parts of us are accepted and understood, they become increasingly lighter. Life gradually becomes fuller and freer as we no longer have to expend so much energy in supporting a mask or persona. Like that insightful middle-aged man, we are more able to accept and enjoy who we are right now, with all our strengths and weaknesses. As you develop greater acceptance and understanding of yourself, you will notice that others, too, have many layers clouding their divine essence. In trying to survive in this world, they too have lost touch with who they really are. There is darkness and light, good and bad in all of us. As you work to accept and understand yourself, it is most important that you choose also to give this gift to those around you.
Mindfulness or being mindful is being aware of your present moment. You are not judging, reflecting or thinking. You are simply observing the moment in which you find yourself. Moments are like a breath. Each breath is replaced by the next breath. You’re there with no other purpose than being awake and aware of that moment. As John Kabit Zinn says reflecting on a Japanese mindfulness puzzle: “Wherever you go, there you are.”
Becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings and sensations may not sound like an obviously helpful thing to do, however learning to do this in a way that suspends judgment and self criticism can have surprising results. Many people report finding inner strengths and resources that help them make wise decisions about their health and life in general.
Most of us frequently find ourselves being ‘swept away’ by the current of thoughts and feelings, worries, pressures, responsibilities and just wanting things to be different from how they are right now. This can be particularly powerful when we are faced with pain, difficulties and illness that defy all our attempts to find a solution or to feel better. Feeling stuck in this way can be draining. Mindfulness can help us to work directly with the struggle we sometimes have in relating to life’s experience and in doing so can dramatically improve the quality of our life.
The two main approaches that have been developed in recent years are Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) both of which are usually taught over eight sessions.
ENTERING THE SILENCE
Entering the Silence – cultivating personal times of no thought – is the practice at the heart of the Native American Tlish Diyan life philosophy. By performing this daily ritual we release what we don’t need – what no longer resonates to the energy of love – and replace it with the unconditional nurturance that we can receive from the universe.
When you are “empty,” Spirit can express itself with wisdom; it can heal the body with our own medicine power – our energetic perspective of life – and help us resonate with the universe as an integral part of All That Is. If you are, or are not, familiar with Vipassana, you will find this meditation that takes you to a place of emptiness a powerful tool for transformation.
While many meditations focus on the breath as a point of departure, this meditation focuses on a specific part of the body (see below). While sitting with the place in the body in mind is only one part of the complex Tlish Diyan (or Quero Apache Snake Clan) meditation, just doing this alone is powerful. Just sit quietly, undisturbed, focus on this spot on the body, and enter the silence. The directional flow of the energy of the universe in the human body is depicted by two entwined snakes following the poles along the spine. These two complementary aspects of energy come together in the human body at a point in the lower belly, roughly two inches below the navel and deep in the body’s interior, a point translated to mean “all energy together.”
It is here, at the energetic and gravitational center of the body, that this energy can be transmuted into spiritual energy, literally creating physical heat. Raising this energy in the human body in such a way that if flows through a subtle system of nerves up the spinal column has the effect of opening energy centers on its path, balancing human magnetics with the planetary magnetic flows, and finally arousing innate wisdom or cosmic consciousness.
Adapted from Prayers and Meditations of the Quero Apache, by Maria Yraceburu Inner Traditions, 2004