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Embodied Enlightenment

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

Carl Jung

True enlightenment requires grounding and stability. Without these, we lose touch with our bodies, the material world, and the elements that make us successful humans.

The spiritual seeker often tries to detach from problems and people. He or she may resent the need to attend to practicalities and prefer to retire from the chaos of an ever-changing, ever-challenging world.

When obsession for enlightenment controls the personality, imbalance occurs.

The ego goes autonomous. The seeker loses touch with reality, which threatens their ability to survive, let alone create a good life.

What follows is a crisis – the sharp descent back to material existence, the thing the seeker most hoped to escape.

Now they must face the realities of life and the gorges of their abandoned darkness. The seeker needs to recognize that he or she cannot just live in the light all the time. They need to manage their darkness in order to find the light again. It is a hard road, but not an impossible one.

Eventually, there is the realization that authentic enlightenment comes from excavating the darkness.

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Why Mindfulness Is Not Enough

Mindfulness Is Not Enough
Many people come to us for therapy believing they cannot meditate. 

They have tried a few simple mindfulness and breath awareness techniques; however, they tell us they couldn’t meditate because they couldn’t stop thinking. They either feel bored looking at their thoughts, which they had hoped would stop, or they become nervous because they could not stop the anxious feelings, emotions, and memories that accompany these thoughts. 

It is a common misconception that you have to stop thinking to meditate. Rather the opposite is true. When you start off in meditation, the mind will be full of thoughts. This is a sign of success. The attainment of the thoughtless state, the state of Inner Silence, comes later on down the path.

The tragedy is, that because of this initial experience with pure mindfulness techniques, many people close the door on meditation and say that it is not for them. The real problem is that they have experienced only one technique, have not had access to theory, and are unaware that there are many other techniques that can give them a peaceful experience of meditation, even if they are thinking.

Mindfulness is one of the most popular forms of meditation. However, mindfulness, which is really the simple act of paying attention to the present moment and not being lost in thinking and rumination, is only a small part of meditation. It has gained popularity because it has been integrated into mental health programs where it is part of a larger approach to mental health. Mindfulness is not a standalone technique. It supports the clinical psychologists’ treatment of mental illness. 

For most people, and especially in a clinical setting, mindfulness needs to be combined with other techniques that enable you to reduce negative feelings attached to thoughts. You need to combine mindfulness with techniques that enable you to cultivate positive feelings so that you develop a positive sense of self-control. 

Much more is possible if you understand the theory behind meditation. This includes learning about the structure of the mind, and how to apply meditation to the thinking, feeling, and knowing aspects of the mind. 

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The Four Pillars of Health

The healthier you are, the better your chance to get through the coronavirus pandemic relatively unscathed. The latest research shows that people who are overweight, who have diabetes and other chronic diseases, or who smoke are more at risk of becoming seriously ill with this virus. However, there are things you can do right now to improve your health and reduce your risk.

There are four pillars of health that create a strong foundation for total wellbeing:

  1. A calm, peaceful mind and the cultivation of self-awareness.
  2. 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted, deep, restful sleep.
  3. Plenty of activity and exercise.
  4. A good diet, and appropriate fasting (especially if you are overweight).

All four pillars support each other. However, the most important is a calm, peaceful mind, which cultivates self-awareness.

Self-awareness is the most important thing you can have at this time. It is even more important than toilet paper.

There are two viruses in the world at present. One is the coronavirus. The other is psychic contagion… fear and panic.

It is because of psychic contagion that the development of self-awareness and a calm, peaceful mind is key to your health and survival. Self-awareness, which improves with deep rest and a healthy lifestyle, is critical. Self-awareness enables  you to:

  • Stop touching your face while you are potentially exposed to coronavirus.
  • Monitor your state of health and tune into your needs.
  • Know what to eat and how much exercise you need to improve your health.
  • And most importantly, self-awareness cultivates good mental health and prevents unnecessary anxiety, panic, and catastrophizing.

Every time you step outside the boundary of your front door, you are potentially exposed to coronavirus. Self-awareness enables you to move through the world outside of the relative safety of your home and remain safe and connected rather than disconnected out of fear, thereby becoming more vulnerable.

The cultivation of self-awareness and connection enables you to absorb information and process it so that you gain a sense of confidence that is grounded in reality. It is from this position that you can access your intuition and creativity to respond intelligently.

You will need a lot of self-awareness to adapt to the new world that is emerging in these next months.

The first pillar – Develop a calm, peaceful mind and self-awareness

The development of a calm, peaceful mind and self-awareness is the most challenging of the four pillars. It is much easier to modify your diet or start doing some exercise than to deal with your mind, yet your mind influences all the other pillars.

It is relatively easy to create physical health, but the mind is a much bigger fish to fry. This is because much of it is unconscious. You are only aware of a small fraction of your mind, your conscious mind, which is like a wave arising out of the ocean of the unconscious mind, which is the realm of your psyche and spirit.

Your psyche is an autonomous force, outside of your control. You need to be able to dive into the psyche via meditation to form a healthy relationship with this bigger part of you. The way to do this is by regular meditation practice.

From the point of view of the ego, the psyche is chaotic, because the forces and impulses contained within it do not conform to social norms. You can see your psyche reflected in the strange world of your dreams. There is a constant tension between your ego and your psyche, and this tension needs to be managed if you are to remain healthy, both physically and mentally.

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Ego, Shadow, Self – Which Is In Control?

Ego Shadow And Self

Most of our actions are unconscious. We simply react in real-time.

Modern neuroscience tells us we are consciously aware of about 5% of our thoughts. Most of our behaviors and emotions are reactions to the 95 percent of brain activity that occurs beneath our awareness.

At the root of our automatic, knee-jerk reactions to life is a lack of self-knowledge. Modern wisdom says you should just be yourself: very appealing because no effort is required. Older wisdom says you should cultivate the self because a consciously directed life is much more likely to satisfy and bring meaning.

According to Eastern and Western psychology, we have an ego/persona, a shadow, and a self. The simplest way to understand them is:

Ego is your identity, while the persona is the mask you wear to survive and thrive – your social personality.

Shadow is the aspect you hide so that you can integrate and find acceptance.

Self is your true inner nature, who you are, and who you always will be. It actually includes the ego and the shadow.

In many cases, identity and relationship issues, and mental health problems stem from these three parts of ourselves working independently (often in opposition) rather than in harmony with each other.

Psychological education and inner-reflection methods such as meditation create healthy, harmonious selves.

Where to begin?

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The One Thing You Can Do To Bring Yoga Into Every Situation

Did you know that you can engage in a yoga posture and a meditative state in almost any situation; while taking a meeting, shopping, working out, or socializing?

Here, we define a yoga posture as any position that enables deeper awareness, embodiment, and connection.

This practice needs no yoga props or special conditions. It only takes a decision to perform, and a skill, which can be learned and cultivated.

In today’s world, the majority of people are stuck in states of contraction (tension) caused by stress, strain, overthinking and overwhelm.

Unchecked contracted states eventuate in illness.

Contraction diminishes your life-force by cutting you off from parts of yourself.

  • Physical contraction cuts one part of the body off from another.
  • Psychological contraction cuts off self-awareness which creates anxiety.
  • Emotional contraction cuts off feeling and connection with others.
  • Spiritual contraction cuts you off from cosmic energies, which causes alienation.

Your feeling states, contracted or relaxed, also create a powerful impression which others can sense, for better or for worse.

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Why Your Shadow Makes You Say And Do Things That Are Not ‘You’

We all do it.

Things are humming along nicely, then — from out of the blue — something triggers us.

We lose our filter. Honest feelings rise and pop.

We say or do something that surprises or shocks us, and everyone within earshot.

Someone gets hurt, and we feel lousy.

When this happens to you, you probably spend the rest of the day scrambling to fix the mess. “I’m sorry.” “I wasn’t thinking.” “I’m under a lot of pressure.” “I just wasn’t myself.”

You beat yourself up, vow to get a handle on yourself and never to let loose again. You don’t want to be like that, ever.

The fallout of your sudden outburst can be a hiccup or a hurricane.

A sarcastic comment, a disgruntled rant, and a punch in the face will each elicit a different response. As will a teary outburst, a jealous accusation, and a racial slur.

Those caught in your line of fire may easily forgive you, never speak to you again, or see you in court.

If you weren’t yourself, who were you at that moment?

Where did the other you come from?

That other you is another part of you. It’s the unwanted you — the part you keep hidden, most of the time.

You keep this part of yourself hidden because you find it unattractive, unacceptable, or abhorrent. It’s not how you want your family, friends, and co-workers to see you.

The unwanted you corrupts your self-image and is a blight on your ego.

The psychological term for the unwanted you is the shadow.

Your shadow is the refuge for all the traits, behaviors, feelings and impulses that your ego rejects.

How Your Shadow Is Created

“Everything that is, casts a shadow.”
― Neil Gaiman, American Gods

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