In the midst of this holiday season, the last thing you probably need from me is another technique to squeeze into your daily practice of self-care, assuming it’s still in place (anyone needs a tune-up? ;). Don’t get me wrong I love techniques, have used them, teach them and still use them to achieve specific physical/mental/emotional states. But a technique-heavy approach to self-care, to meditation, to living (!) can easily get us lost in “outcome consciousness”, so focused on reaching a specific state (say, peaceful, energetic or clear-minded), a state usually seen as “better”, that we dismiss the value of our present experience (for example lethargic, sad, confused), itself viewed as subpar.
So we get busy (anxious?) using our tools and techniques to escape this undesirable present for a future we imagine will be better. Of course that future never arrives, or rather when it does it’s experienced as the present…a present we’ve wired ourselves to escape. See the insanity of the situation? Nothing like this to create an effortful, fragmented, ever-discontented life experience, all the while nurturing a dualistic mindset, with some states of being perceived as inferior, others as superior.
What if there was another way to live? To feel more continuity, more cohesion, more flow?
What if you could do without, or at least with less techniques? What if all you needed to access this heightened life experience was this moment…and this one…and this one..? Yes that’s right, all the moments that make up your life. Which you already have obviously.
So what’s the catch? Well, the catch is not-a-technique 😉 That’s right, let’s call it an un-technique. A nonpractice. A way of entering the moments that make up your existence, and to weave them all together into the most unique tapestry of sounds, sensations, scents, tastes and sights. Your life.
I was introduced to meditation by my yoga teacher at 19. For a couple years, I scrupulously followed his teachings and didn’t look elsewhere.
Then as was to be expected I suppose, my curiosity (and doubt too) re-surfaced and I began exploring outside of his teachings. A vast world opened up, full of different methods and techniques. With each new one I came across, inevitably the same feeling arose in me. Perhaps this is it? Perhaps this is THE technique, the “better” one, the one that puts an end to all the others? Watching my breath seemed too simple, something more intricate would likely yield deeper peace, greater well-being. Maybe I needed to “align my chakras”, “cool my heart”, “detox my liver” with fancier breathing, visualization or cleansing techniques? Then surely that would be it. I’d be enlightened.
Fast forward 20 years later, I am not enlightened. But maybe I am, on second thought 🙂 What I mean by that is I do know another technique is not what it takes to feel more peace, more joy, more flow !
As we journey through life and seek to alleviate our suffering, we naturally come upon teachers and their respective techniques. Ways to feel better, in body, mind or soul, abound. It’s easy to get stuck in confusion and overwhelm on our way to feeling better. Forever searching for the next best technique.
Overwhelm and confusion is what I bathed in, on and off for many years, as a meditator. Yet there is one meditation “not-a-technique” I’ve come back to consistently. Probably out of cheer exhaustion from searching, fruitlessly, for the magic technique that would solve all my problems. It turns out this ultra-simple “not-a-technique” seamlessly translates into all areas of my life.
I’ll let Daniel Odier, author of Desire – The Tantric Path to Awakening, explain for me:
To keep oneself sharp, lively and quick, spontaneous, and alert to the instant when things arise is considered the maha (great) yoga by the tantrikas (those who practice tantra) because the success of this small miracle of presence dispenses with all expedients, all techniques, all spiritual practices, all the specific yogas. It is supreme nonpractice, since in the lightning flash of the moment all becoming and all progression on the spiritual path are annihilated.
Odier goes on to say that this path, “is neither negation nor transcendence”. We are not denying anything nor rising above anything. No, we’re diving right in and embracing all of it. “It” being our humanness. So there you have it, the essence of this nonpractice consists in being present to the totality of our human experience.
It’s the ultimate non-technique. Deceptively simple, refreshing and conducive to a heightened experience of life.
Simple as we know doesn’t obviously mean easy. In fact, to arrive at simple one often needs to let go of a lot. In order to experience the totality of our human experience we need to welcome it. Makes sense, right? But are you really welcoming all of you? Us humans tend to deny, bypass and overall not want to feel what doesn’t feel good.
Do you believe that pretty, healthy, happy are better than crappy, confused or sad? If that belief is lurking in your subconscious, naturally you’ll always want to escape the latter for the former. But isn’t feeling sad, or obsessed, anxious, raging, lustful, bored, jealous, insecure…part of our human experience? What if you found happy through crappy?
What if feeling your insecurities all the way led to genuine confidence? What if deeply felt sadness broke into the sweetest peace? What if it was precisely our so-called shadowy self, our “fucked-up”, not-so-pretty human ways that had the key to our most enlightened self? When you’ve tried enough techniques, and got enough so-so results, this “embracing the totality of your human experience” nonpractice becomes very appealing.
“It is precisely because we resist the darkness in ourselves that we miss the depths of the loveliness, beauty, brilliance, creativity, and joy that lie at our core.” Thomas Moore – Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals.
Through and through. No denying, no bypassing, but rather through-ing 🙂
A gateway for integration…
Physical pain, mental suffering…
The highest of the highs, the lowest of the lows…
The sun, the rain, the wind…all the colors of the rainbow…
The whole spectrum of human emotions…
Our brightest light, our darkest shadow…
Finding unity in duality…
Here and now…
To life I bow.
Wishing you the smoothest of holidays.
And Happy through-ing 🙂