Healing and growing through service

“The underlying sense of uneasiness that we have now is actually a good thing: it is the expression of our sensitivity. Those who go through life without feeling ill at ease are unconscious. The uneasy feeling caused by our awareness holds tremendous potential for transformation. It is a treasure of energy that we can grasp with both hands and use to build something better. Indifference doesn’t lead anywhere.”

~ Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche

Dear students and friends in yoga,

What a remarkable time we are living in!

Information of all kinds seeps in through every crack, even if we try to avoid it. Mental toxins are as disruptive to our well-being as physical ones, and need to be purified and purged regularly to maintain a healthy balance. So much of what we are regularly exposed to can be disturbing and unsettling, and I find myself in an ongoing inner battle to balance my aspiration for peace and contentment with the sense that I should remain informed about my world, and help to inform and reach out to others.

As Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche points out above, if we stay focused on our own small dramas and needs, we miss out on the opportunity to grow and transform throughout this brief life.

At university (many moons ago!) I studied International Relations, and I am still drawn to know what is happening in the world around me, while at the same time being inspired by spiritual life and the healing arts. Thich Nhat Hanh and other karma yogis like him emphasise an engaged and active spiritual practice – Karma Yoga is spiritual practice through our actions, what Thây calls “engaged Buddhism”, and what on an everyday level could be called “seva“, meaning service to community. Sitting on your cushion, stretching out on your mat, or focusing the mind on spiritual texts brings greater benefits if brought to life through our engagement with and service to others.

Because these are often very conflicting energies, at times I struggle to find the right tone (aiming for less shrill and more inspirational!) because my emotions can obscure my best intentions, and I sometimes have to work at finding the best way to translate my hopes into something practical for others.

Engaging consciously with the natural cycles of our world and universe is a constant support in my spiritual practice, helping me develop more self-awareness and find my way forward in the outer world as well. As the upcoming new moon cycle is a great time to examine what has gone well – and what hasn’t – so far this year, I wanted to share some of the ideas I’m working with as we lead up to the partial solar eclipse this Sunday morning.

Eclipses have their own cycles, much larger than the monthly lunar rhythms, and they occur in clusters roughly 18 years apart known as Saros cycles. To understand something deeper about what you might be feeling in this current period, it’s worth looking back to September 1997 (don’t worry too much about this if you were not yet in your teens back then!) and try to get a feeling for what was happening in your inner and outer life at the time. In my case, it was my last month of working for the European Commission, and triggered a period of intense change which led me to decide ultimately how I wanted to work and to what purpose. Now I find myself at that crossroads again, albeit with a less dramatic twist (or so it seems at this point!).

So there is a cycle ending here with this weekend’s solar eclipse, as well as new energy coming in to explore new paths and possibilities, supported by the full moon lunar eclipse at the end of the month. As this eclipse (like the one back in 1997) is in Virgo, the sign of healing and service, and as Jupiter is in Virgo for the next year, much of our attention will be on these important areas of life. To allow this new energy to flow and support us, we can ask ourselves the following questions:

What has worked for me and supported me in my outer life, my health, and in my spiritual practice over the past few months/year?
What didn’t work for me, or support me (habits, people, beliefs)? Write down your answers using good, old-fashioned pen and paper! Let it flow and don’t be too timid/polite/politically correct ;P

It’s likely you will find several things to include in both categories, but for the second part of the exercise, just choose the most compelling obstacles and write them down again, possibly re-wording them so you can make them clearer.

After each one, you can write the following affirmation (or something similar using your own words and native language):

“I now let this go into the light of my highest Self. I release (this obstacle) with gratitude for all it has taught me, as I now see that it has served its purpose in my life.”

This affirmation can be used as a source of contemplation over the next lunar cycle, helping you to release old patterns and let go of what is getting in the way of your inner and outer growth. As you free yourself up from what is keeping you stuck in old (18-year-old?) patterns, you can open up to new ways of being of service to the world around you (not in servitude!) with the knowledge that, in our highest expression, we have all come here to help each other in a way that is unique and vital to this moment in time.

With much love and light,