I have arrived, I am home
In the here, in the now.
I am solid, I am free.
In the ultimate, I dwell.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Lately, unrelated to my work, I’ve been coming across a lot of people who are feeling overwhelmed by social or personal circumstances, and trying to find a way forward.
As my teacher says: They way out is in.
We urgently need to come back home to ourselves; to stop running and find our inner peace. We need much less than we imagine, and certainly much less than we want, because what we’re really craving is our own wholeness. Coming home from our delusions is what it means to ‘rest in God’. It’s the meaning of the Biblical parable of the prodigal son: the son symbolises the distracted, wandering mind returning to its peaceful and loving home.
We might feel incomplete and unstimulated by life because we’re so focused on our thoughts and selfish needs. No wonder we’re so bored we grasp at any small diversion! Our undisciplined minds are repetitive and inwardly obsessed, absorbed in a self-centeredness that focuses on such a tiny fraction of who we truly are we instinctively crave more.
But instead of expanding our awareness to see how we are and inseparable part of the entirety of life within and around us, we buy environmentally toxic coffee pods for ‘convenience’, and fresh strawberries in January, and more and more frivolous clothes, and massive cars and houses without a thought for the consequences on other life forms. All of it to alleviate the dull self-loathing for just a little while.
Coming home to ourselves will also help us understand the true consequences of our choices and look at ways to heal our relationship with our great Mother Earth.
If we want to touch the ultimate, we have to look within our own body
and not outside. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Every morning I take my little dog out for a long walk through beautiful local parks, where we frequently come across solitary men drinking cans of beer or smoking a joint at a time when most others are having their breakfast. These aren’t homeless people, they’re like you and me – freshly bathed, well-dressed, and averting their gaze because they don’t want to be seen in this way. People living lives of quiet desperation, as Thoreau so poignantly wrote in Walden.
‘Good’ people do their self-medicating in the privacy of their own home. Justifications for those regular drinks – or tokes, or pills – are endless, and always socially acceptable in a sick society. A friend of mine was recently on a yoga holiday with an experienced teacher where alcohol was served to everyone at lunch and dinner, including the teacher. How deep do these delusions go? What are we doing to ourselves?!
The ways we try to fill and numb the aching void are killing us.
Aside from the social and psychological effects of regular drinking, alcohol spikes insulin, can contribute to weight gain and chronic inflammation, and is linked to bowel, breast, liver, mouth and throat, oesophagus and stomach cancers.
Endless junk food and overeating unnecessarily strip our planet of resources needed by other living beings so we can briefly stuff our anxieties down with food. Obesity is now linked to 12 different cancers: liver, ovary, prostate (advanced), stomach, mouth and throat, bowel, breast (post-menopause), gallbladder, kidney, oesophagus, pancreas and womb. None of this is inevitable.
Our lifestyle is deadly for most of life on Earth, including ourselves.
In a world where everything is commodified and commercialised, and even a centuries-old intimate practice such as yoga now comes with literally tons of merchandise that couldn’t even have been imagined 25 years ago, is marginalising oneself the only way to step away from the unconscious mainstream madness?
I never thought I would end up becoming marginal within the world of yoga, where the first 20 years of my practice had me feeling like I was peering in from the fringes at the rest of society, and the past ten years have had me wondering how I relate to this contemporary yoga beast at all.
What can we do? Where are we fooling ourselves about our true values?
Talk is cheap: it’s easy to feign concern about the wellbeing of others yet continue to consume in a way that destroys habitat and quality of life for untold numbers of living beings.
June 5th is World Environment Day. It’s as good a time as any to align our hopes for the future of our planet with our daily habits and choices. There are lots of places we can strive to contribute to a better home for all living beings.
We can take a look at how and what we consume.
For example, as yoga practitioners we can question the urge to buy into the endless ‘yoga merch’. Do the yoga practices instead! We don’t need special clothes for this – we already have more than enough.
We can reconsider our family and personal buying habits.
Do the kids get every new plastic gadget because they only cost a few Euros anyway? What if we sat down with our kids to explore the real cost of those plastic objects, considering the welfare of our planet and those who made them to provide fifteen minutes of fun? Is it necessary to get the latest version of phone, laptop, car…? When I was a teenager, the only way I would feel good about myself was to buy expensive clothes, but I continued to feel worse and worse as I bought more.
It’s the perfect example of my message here: focusing on surface appearances is a temporary and ultimately unsatisfactory solution to a problem that can only be resolved by dropping our outer attachments and finding the place inside ourselves that connects to everything and everyone else. At that point the mindless urge to consume dissipates, and we find we can be genuinely happy with less.
We can own objects, without them owning us.
And while we’re at it, we can question the need for toxic manicures and pedicures, not to mention the direct consequences they have on human health. Are your nails contributing to your manicurist’s illness? What is it doing to the earth to have billions of toxic, polished nails lasting a few days or weeks at a time?
Self care doesn’t have to cost anything, least of all to the environment. We can practice, model and teach how to take care of ourselves without consuming unnecessarily and causing harm.
We can examine what cleaning products we use around the house.
Are they supporting or destroying life? Are you and your family breathing in toxic chemicals masked by synthesised perfumes – endochrine disrupters – in the name of cleaning and freshening your home?
We can look deeply at the source of our livelihood.
Enriching our bottom line through depleting the Earth’s resources and encouraging consumption is against the yogic ethos and plain old common sense, precisely because it’s unsustainable.
We can ask ourselves: why are we doing what we’re doing?
Many of the things we do are for the sake of appearances, or because we think others have certain expectations of us. The stress from this is enormous, and ties into the way we mindlessly consume and self-medicate, as well as the unconscious self-loathing that is driving it.
By paying enough attention, staying true to our spiritual practice can help us get to the point of wanting to live our own lives, not someone else’s. This naturally motivates us to live in harmony with our surroundings as well – when we’re in a good place inside, we don’t need to disturb what’s on the outside.
If we feel lonely, it’s because we’re not in good company.
This applies whether you’re actually alone or surrounded by people. Learning to be alone with ourselves and enjoying our own company – without constantly striving for more, better, bigger – is perhaps the most fulfilling of any spiritual realisation. This requires living from our highest intuition and intention as much as we possibly can, and being discerning about who’s company we are keeping.
We came into this world alone and we’ll exit alone.
The quality of that final experience depends entirely on our ability to be at peace within ourselves, which depends on how we choose to experience our life and our world right now. Smile. Take a slow, easy breath, and come back home to yourself.
With much love and healing light,