Presence, Patience, Simplicity

Mindfulness. It’s become such a buzz word, much like “yoga”. And yet, the practice is popular and now mainstream precisely because it offers simple methods for cultivating greater awareness of the present moment.

In other words, mindfulness empowers us to more fully live our lives by fully embodying our experience from moment to moment. Not escaping into illusion or delusion, addiction or habit-patterns, mindless scrolling or empty gossip.

Mindfulness, heartfulness, pure consciousness, heart-centered awareness. Semantics. Yet words can help. Concepts can be of assistance. Eventually the words, techniques, concepts, ideas, opinions, memories and plans for the unknown future fade away. There is just this One Love.

Yet alongside this miraculous beauty is a dark shadow side, a seedy, shady, sad, sick side. We must bring light to this shadow and deal with all the -isms our society has created, all the borders and security measures and rules and regulations and political correctness and the racism, sexism, patriotism, narcissism, consumerism, capitalism, careless shortsightedness and destruction of Mother Earth.

Mindfulness, you see, is not all lollipops and rainbows. It encompasses all, everything that arises and passes away. With practice, we learn to see things on a continuum, within a vast spectrum. We expand our consciousness and raise our vibration. We tune in more and more with the One Love of All That Is. We serve others, giving of ourselves for the betterment of beings less fortunate, less lucky to have been born into wealth or at least not into poverty.

Present-moment-awareness is gorgeous and simple. There are many anchors that can bring us back right here and now when the mind wanders. Of course, there are also times when it is good and helpful to contemplate and reflect on the past or plan and set goals for the short and long-term future. Most of our days, however, are ideally spent focusing on the present, being kind to ourselves and others, cultivating compassion, peace, balance and wisdom.

By paying attention to whatever is occurring in the present moment, we can connect with a sense of gratitude for the gift of breath and life, a sense of wonder for what this day or experience is here to teach us, and a sense of open-minded curiosity for what adventures await us next.

Centering, Circles and Spirals

When we can connect with our inner selves and quiet our minds, this enables us to connect with the loved ones and community members around us. Peace (and conflict) begin internally. Peace is a practice that requires patience, slowing down, deep listening and compassion. When we feel peaceful, happy and content, we are the richest people in the world.

I feel blessed to have encountered the formal practices of hatha yoga, meditation and mindfulness relatively early in life and to have had the time, energy and motivation to implement them into my daily life, as both formal and informal practices. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that yoga, meditation and mindfulness have literally saved my life by enabling me to connect with my inner silence, my voice, my breath and body and my Spirit-ed soul.

Last summer, I read Self Design: Unfolding Our Infinite Wisdom Within by Brett Cameron. Major paradigm shift. It is the story of a new way of learning, one prompted by the learner. It has much to do with mandalas and spirals of development. Its core message is common sense yet revolutionary.

This summer, I am rereading it and thinking practically about how I’m going to implement many Self-Design inspired ideas and concepts in my non-classroom in our new non-school starting in less than two weeks. I like to think of it as a learning experiment. As we embark on this new adventure, I hold space for wonder, openness and curiosity and continually ask the question, what is an enlightening education?

I wonder what is going to happen this year? I wonder what we are going to learn? Of course, there is nothing that we ‘have to’ learn, nothing we ‘have to’ do. I wonder what we are going to create this year on our journey of lifelong discovery. ~Brett Cameron

Currently, I am also reading another amazing book called Sacred Ego: Making Peace with Ourselves and Our World which quite magically and perfectly landed in my lap recently, thank to the author reaching out and offering me a free copy! Her name is Jalaja Bonheim and I have a feeling we are destined to meet someday. I’m feeling the subtle process of another significant paradigm shift even as I read. Stay tuned for a complete review of her wonderful book in the next month or two.

Who is in your inner circle? How do you get centered and connect to a sense of inner peace and silence within? What do you wonder about? What are you passionate about? What would you like to be learning?

Enlightenment is Always Available & Attainable

“No one else has the answer.
No other place will be better.
And it has already turned out.
At the center of your being you have the answer;
you know who you are and you know what you want.
There is no need to run outside for better seeing.
Nor to peer from a window.
Rather abide at the center of your being;
For the more you leave it, the less you learn.”
~ Lao-tzu

Enlightenment is more than a word, more than a challenging concept to be understood. In fact, there’s really no way to explain it through words or diagrams, but I’ll try to point at it through the primary tool I have available right now: the English language.

[First, a disclaimer: I am by no means a fully enlightened being! I have, however, experienced brief glimpses of illumination at various points on the path.]

“Enlightenment,” also known as samadhi or nirvana, is perhaps best translated for our purposes here as Self-realization. Self-realization is not a linear, religious or 12-step program. It is a process that is alive, ever in flux and different for everyone. It is a matter of uncovering and remembering our true nature, also known as Buddha nature, highest Self, pure being or ultimate consciousness, rather than “attaining” anything special that resides outside of us.

In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, our original and true nature is described as prajnaparamita, the heart of perfect wisdom… the Mother of all Buddhas, ‘the one who shows the world as it is.’ According to Tara Brach, Buddhist teacher, therapist and author, “When we are in touch with our true nature, we are completely free of the trance. No longer afraid or contracted, we know our deepest essence as the pure, wakeful awareness that beholds, with love, all of creation.”

At some point in history, spirituality and schooling divorced. Education became all about acquiring knowledge. Wisdom and facts were transmitted from the superior and authoritative teacher to the lowly and ignorant student. Self-knowledge was mostly thrown out the window in favor of other types of knowledge deemed more important and more essential to churning out good citizens who would work and be productive in the existing society with its capitalist economic system.

Now, that is changing. Can you feel the shift? It’s slow but steady. Mindfulness and yoga in school is becoming mainstream. Several progressive education models have been established over the last few decades, and learners in those communities are taking back their innate right: the right to pursue Self-knowledge and to learn throughout life by understanding and pursuing their own interests, passions and strengths.

In a paper they wrote twenty years ago on the educational philosophy and practice of the great modern yogi, Maharishi, James D. Grant and Christopher H. Jones point out, “Maharishi explains that in the highest state of enlightenment, ‘the total creative intelligence of the Self is fully awake on all levels of life—intellect, mind, senses, body, behavior, environment, and to the individual’s relationship with the entire cosmic life.’” And furthermore, “with the knowledge of pure consciousness integrated into the educational system, the potential harvest is rich indeed—a new era for humankind, the dawning of Heaven on Earth.”

OK, so I realize that’s a pretty lofty, utopian ideal. But we can move in that direction. We can move toward more complete education and more conscious learning. Life is not a multiple-choice test. It is not a list of statements to be labeled True or False. It is complex, complicated, simple, confusing, sad and delightful at once.

In conclusion, please remember: everything you need is already within you. Abide in that truth. You are not lacking anything. You are life expressing itself in this precious gem that is the present moment.

“Happiness cannot be found through great effort and will power,
But is already there, in relaxation and letting-go.
Don’t strain yourself, there is nothing to do…
Only our search for happiness prevents us from seeing it…
Don’t believe the reality of good and bad experiences;
They are like rainbows.
Wanting to grasp the ungraspable,
you exhaust yourself in vain.
As soon as you relax this grasping,
space is there — open, inviting, and comfortable.
So, make use of it. All is yours already.
Don’t search any further…
Nothing to do.
Nothing to force,
Nothing to want,
–and everything happens by itself.” ~ Lama Gendun Rinpoche

Photo taken by Michelle Margaret Fajkus
Photo taken by Michelle Margaret Fajkus

8 Ways to Raise Our Individual & Collective Consciousness

I’m psyched about this year and the potential it holds. Here are eight suggestions on how to make 2015 our best year yet. May they be of benefit!

More mindfulness

Mindfulness is more than just a buzz word. It is both a practice and a mental state that involves paying attention to the present moment experience with compassion and openness, and it is something we can all cultivate more through our day-to-day lives and habits. Becoming more conscious of our words, feelings, thoughts, behavior, desires and dreams is a wonderful thing that offers amazing, truly life-changing benefits to the devoted practitioner. The great thing about mindfulness is that it can be accomplished through any activity: sitting meditation, yoga, walking, eating, talking, bowling, flying kites, you name it.

Less judgment

To each her own. We cannot change anyone but ourselves, we can only influence others. And the best way to influence others is through modeling. Judgment and criticism are part of our human nature, and that’s fine to a certain extent. But it’s no fun to be excessively judgmental and critical. Let it go. Let’s stop comparing, competing and ranking ourselves and instead strive to collaborate, cooperate and communicate better.

More movement

For me, that means yoga, walking, biking and swimming. For you, it might mean playing a sport, running, hiking mountains, climbing rocks. Whatever it is, do it! Move your body, free your mind, revitalize your spirit.

Less unhealthy consumption

I ate a lot of junk over my Christmas break in the United States; thank goodness it was only two weeks long. I drank soda, ate cake, Tex-Mex, chips and dips and all the things that I normally don’t consume. I watched lots of TV. I tried going shopping, but I couldn’t handle it. I’m not saying never go shopping or eat junk food or watch TV, just try doing so in moderation rather than excess.

More fruits and veggies

And nuts. Unprocessed foods. Things that come straight from the earth, from a plant, not a factory.

Less mindless words

This is a tough one. Gossip is no good. Nor speaking just to hear yourself talk. Words are powerful. Use them wisely and think of the effect they have on others.

More gratitude

What are you thankful for today? There is so much goodness in our lives and in the world. It’s essential to remember and express gratitude for people, things, places. The little things. The joys and sadnesses of life. The butterfly that lands on your hand. The tears of stress being released. Gratitude is the foundation of happiness.

More conscious learning

Learn about your own ways of learning. What do you want to learn? What books are you reading? What words are you writing? Who are you listening to? What are you absorbing? How can you learn more about consciousness, peacemaking, community building, and whatever other personal passions you have? How can you teach, mentor and influence others?

Please feel free to add your ideas and suggestions in the comments.