>>>Why are we looking out instead of in??<<<
I took a dive. I wanted to connect to that inner voice and I wasn’t sure how to hear her. So I dove in – private meditation classes, Reiki attunement, sugar cleanse, crystals and ‘habit free’. And it worked...to a degree. While today, as I write this, I feel less than enlightened, I can also look back to a month where most days I felt both calm and energized, relaxed and less reactive; and most significantly, I had more empathy for both myself and others.
So why am I no longer on cloud 9? I would like to tell myself that it is unsustainable – that crystal clear mind and calm sense of self – but I think, in reality, I got cocky. I was loving the *high* of clean living but I started slipping from my practices. I opened my diet to dark chocolate and soon one post-meal square became half a bar; I missed morning meditation; indulged in social cocktails. None of these behaviors are intrinsically bad, but as I said, I got cocky. I didn’t take a day without chocolate; I didn’t appreciate my late nights and plan quiet, early to bed evenings. Instead I kept loving the high vibrational frequency of my mind, feeling invincible, ignoring my new afternoon coffee requirement and difficulty dragging myself out of bed in the mornings. After one week of discounting the body and I crashed into days of headaches, congested sinuses and overall exhaustion. I’m just recovering and feel that my month of ‘high vibbing’ was perhaps a mirage.
As I sit contemplating how to reinstate the deeper connection with inner self I am reminded of a lesson that served me over the past month – grounding. The first meditation technique that one learns in Intuitive Meditation (of course I chose to do intuitive training!) is to ground down into the core of the earth. To feel dynamically connected to this source, fuelling your energy and releasing your blockages. I found that before seeing challenging patients, giving presentations or having emotionally charged discussions, I would ground my energy downwards into my belly, my legs towards the core of the earth. This simple technique alone would really calm my mind and clarify my intentions.
The process of grounding helped me recognize how often my energy is whirling away in my upper body and head. When I grounded my energy, my mind became clearer and I felt more relaxed. When I skipped this practice, I would notice more tightness in my chest and racing of my heart when confronting challenges, and cyclical thoughts with no end.
This chatter of thought was a new recognition as well. We are all familiar with that voice in our heads. Sometimes it is our stream of consciousness, the first person approach, thinking or day-dreaming away. Other times it can converse with us – “where did I put that?” “Where did you last have it?” “I think I last saw it in the coffee shop…” I honestly did not notice the chatter of my mind until Sam Harris, in his book Waking Up, pointed out the ceaseless nature of this voice; and I learnt that our mind can have up to 70,000 thoughts per day. As I sat in deeper, longer meditations (assisted by my grounding techniques), I recognized more space in between these thoughts, as well as the hum of my inner being that existed beyond them. In the day-to-day reality, the biggest shift this afforded me was a huge decrease in what I have termed ‘future thinking’.
I am a natural planner. As a child I had clear concepts of what I wanted my adult life to look like. As a young traveller I spent countless hours analyzing how my spiritual quest across India would best be mapped out. Little did I realize that India slapping me around the country with little regard for my plans would be a lesson that I would only recognize almost 10 years later. As a medical student and resident, I would relax and ‘zone out’ by making lists of social plans and personal goals that I would then try to map into my busy schedule. My father’s recent cancer diagnosis gave me the first jolt towards recognizing that our sense of narrative control is greatly flawed. The past month of intuitive practice has clarified this for me. It has made me realize that I was using future thinking to escape my now; I was not overly attached to the future plans I was dreaming, I just wasn’t finding satisfaction in the moment, I was craving more than to just be. What Sam Harris pointed out to me, is that craving or wanting is really fleeting, and being comfortable in the present can be much more fulfilling if you can disconnect from the monologue.
“The reality of your life is always now. And to realize this, we will see, is liberating…But we spend most of our lives forgetting this truth- overlooking it, fleeing it, repudiating it. And the horror is that we succeed. We manage to avoid being happy while struggling to become happy, fulfilling one desire after the next, banishing our fears, grasping at pleasure, recoiling form pain – and thinking, interminably, about how best to keep the whole works up and running. As a consequence, we spend our lives being far less content than we might otherwise be. We often fail to appreciate what we have until we have lost it. We crave experiences, objects, relationships, only to grow bored with them. And yet the craving persists.” SH, Waking Up
For me, future thinking creates unnecessary anxiety. It puts me in planning mode and makes me feel compelled to make decisions or commitments far in advance. This was setting me up for further disconnection from the moment. I would have plans and obligations out of alignment with my momentary priorities because I had planned so far ahead of time.
As I begin to look at my next year ahead, starting in July after the completion of my fellowship, the thoughts start cycling. I feel anxious not knowing my future plans. During my month of intuitive introspection I came to realize that I want to take a few months to further my holistic and integrative side. I have always envisioned myself as a healer. Becoming a physician has given me important skills and a stable career, but I know my path is not complete. I am still lacking knowledge into how to heal the spirit, which I am recognizing as central to ones health more and more. While I am in between jobs I have felt drawn to take this time to focus on developing the healer within. However, this leaves me in a quandary – I am used to having a path, a plan, the next step set. Now I am off course, with no guide. My future thinking brain has been WHIRLING away, thinking, thinking, thinking, of next steps and future plans. Intuitively, I know that I have to be patient. I have to wait for the right opportunity offering itself to me. But when sick, and tired, with a layer of congestion separating me from the world, my mind wont stop, craving a plan, something it could think about and anchor a narrative.
Obviously, to succeed in this world and to fulfill goals and dreams, some planning and future thinking has to be done. I am contemplating the balance of what is necessary and superfluous. Being open to the message of my next chapter is a moment-to-moment challenge right now, but I am excited as it feels like a beginning of not only a new career path but a new phase of life. One where I can experience myself and my mind with more truth and clarity.
“What contemplatives throughout history have discovered is that there is an alternative to being continuously spellbound by the conversation we are having with ourselves; there is an alternative to simply identifying with the next thought that pops into consciousness. And glimpsing this alternative dispels he conventional illusion of the self” SH, Waking up