This isn’t the post I had scheduled for this weekend. I generally plan my posts several weeks in advance and schedule them out. This one started in my head this morning and continued to grow, so here it is. Raw and uncensored.
Today marks the day that would have been my 22nd wedding anniversary. When I married Brian, I expected to live and grow with him until a very old age. I got married for all the right reasons; I was 32 and had been dating him for 4 years – not too young, didn’t rush into it. I wasn’t pregnant, broke or desperate. I had plenty of married friends, but plenty of single ones too, so I didn’t feel any pressure to get married.
If I had been able to look into a crystal ball and see my life today, my response would have been, “Wow, WTF happened?” I certainly didn’t expect to get divorced. I didn’t expect Brian to die. I didn’t expect to raise our daughter by myself. In Wisconsin (of all places!).
I’m seeing friends who’ve been married for 20 years watch their kids graduate and go off to college, and prepare for empty-nesting and their next phase of life together. And I realize that I’ll never have that. Even if I were to meet my soulmate tomorrow (I use the term “soulmate” loosely; I have many soulmates, both male and female and am grateful for all of them!), I will not have the experience of growing from young to old with someone, or to raise children with someone. I missed that boat. Sometimes that’s a hard pill to swallow.
Sometimes I’m amazed at how my life didn’t go the way I had expected it to; the way I thought it should have. Sometimes it bums me out. A lot.
And then I look around me and see how few people are living the life they thought they would when they were young. I have plenty of divorced friends. I have friends who are in shitty marriages – worse that being divorced, IMO. I have friends who have lost partners, who have lost children, who are struggling with addictions, who’ve been abused, raped, wrongly accused of crimes. Nobody expects any of that.
How do we detach from the ideal of what life should have been and be ok with what life is?
We can look for the good. Not the good in what happened, but the good that can come out of it. I have never been a believer in “everything happens for a reason,” but I am a believer that out of any bad, can come good. That we can learn and grow from all the ways we screw up our lives. If I hadn’t been through the experience I’ve been through, I wouldn’t be who I am today. We can all become stronger and more resilient, and possibly even happier, from our tragedies.
I can honestly say that I am happier today than when I was married to Brian. I tend to put him on a pedestal because he died. But the fact is, I divorced him for very good reasons. Today, I live a pretty contented life. I’m proud of the job I’m doing with my daughter. She’s growing into a kind, thoughtful, independent young woman. We have an incredibly close relationship that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I love my little house on the corner by the park. I love the fact that I don’t have to check with anyone on big decisions. I am the boss of me! When it comes time for me to empty-nest, I can do whatever I want. And I plan on living life to the fullest. Yes, I sometimes miss having a partner, but honestly, there’s no shortage of men in my life. I’ve dated a lot and it’s mostly entertaining. Most of the men I’ve met, though none have been serious romances, remain great friends who’s company I continue to enjoy. We all tend to grow up with the thought that the ultimate goal in life is to be one-half of a couple. I realized a few years back, that that may not be my dharma. I was that for a long time. While I am not opposed to the idea, should the right man come along, he would have to blow me away. Honestly, why would I settle for anything less?
I am happy with my life that I never expected or planned. I live near my family, I am have a ton of love in my life. I’ve done a pretty freaking good job at parenting by myself. So why lament that it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be?
Of course I wish that Brian hadn’t died. I wish my daughter had a father. I am often sad that her story will always be, “my dad died when I was 13.” But, that is only part of her story. She has so much more and will continue to have so much more. She will grow up to be who she is because of and in spite of her experiences.
I could get caught up in “what if’s” and “if only’s”. We all could. Is your life what you expected? If not, are you embracing the life you have, or wishing for the life that might have been? We can’t change the past, but we can embrace the present. We can’t know what the future will hold, but we can do our best to create the life we want. If we can keep loving and laughing, keep continually striving to be our best selves, enjoy life and treat others well, we can love our lives, even when they’ve turned out very differently than expected.
A wise yoga teacher once said, “It is better to do your dharma poorly, than to do somebody else’s well.” I’m living my dharma. Sometimes gracefully, other times like a train-wreck. But, it is mine.
This post is going to be controversial. So, I am going to start by giving you my intent. My intent is to incite thought. I am not attempting to change anyone’s opinion, nor, as you will find, do I have a particularly strong opinion one way or another on some of the topics I’ll be discussing.
I think that we can all agree that drugs can be good and drugs can be bad. Drugs can save your life or kill you. We’re talking about drugs a lot more these days than we have in the past. From opioid addiction to legalization of cannabis to the debate over vaccinations, there is so much to know and so much information and misinformation.
We have such ingrained beliefs about certain subjects, that we can’t see them for what they are – beliefs. Let’s use dairy milk as an example to express how strongly we hold our beliefs. I know that more and more people are not drinking dairy milk for a variety of reasons, but I’m sure at sometime in your life you drank it or at least there are people in your life that drink it. It is universally accepted as something that humans consume. Let’s just accept that for the point of this exercise. OK, so, now, lets say I hand you a glass of dog milk. Or rat milk. Or even human milk (probably the best milk for us, if we’re going to drink milk at all!) Do you want to drink any of those? Or does the thought repulse you? Why? Because it’s culturally ingrained. There’s nothing more or less gross about dog milk than cow’s. It’s just a belief. We have similarly ingrained beliefs about drugs.
I’m going to start with vaccinations, because this seems to be the most heated debate lately. I’ll start by saying that I am neither pro nor anti vax. My daughter got all of her childhood vaccinations. With the resurgence of measles, I think it’s probably a really good idea to have had a measles shot. We don’t get flu shots. I haven’t had the flu since I was 22 (I’m 54) and my 15-year-old has never had the flu. I have also opted to not have her get the hpv vaccination. I’m not arguing that you should do what I did, or justify my choices. I’m simply encouraging everyone to do the research and make informed choices. Don’t accept or decline all vaccinations, just because. Do your research. I know people on both sides of the debate, who I respect. They’ve done their homework. They’ve come to differing conclusions. As long as the pharmaceutical industry is a for-profit industry, I know that their number one priority is their bottom line. Not my health. So, I will continue to be skeptical. I’d recommend researching and talking to your doctor about every vaccine that comes along.
Now let’s talk illegal drugs. My daughter came home last week and told me that they are learning about recreational drugs in health class. They had learned about LSD that day. That it is highly addictive, that people who take it more than a handful of times go insane, that people who take it never make anything of their lives and many die from it. The problem with this lesson is IT IS NOT TRUE. Now, before you unsubscribe because you think I am advocating teens taking LSD, I am not. But, I am also not advocating telling them falsehoods to scare them from drugs. And what I find particularly disturbing is that I’m sure the teachers who teach this, believe it is true.
The fact is, LSD was researched extensively in the 1950s and found to have many positive applications for treating anxiety, depression and addiction. It was legally distributed by the Sandoz company until it was made illegal and classified as a Schedule 1 drug in 1962. LSD is also anti-addictive, meaning that after someone takes it, they don’t have the desire to take it again, for a long time. Another fact is, there has never been a death attributed to LSD. Not one. Ever. Compare that to legal opioids, that kill almost 17,000 people every year, and destroys the lives of many, many more.
It wasn’t until the 1960s, when Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey and their ilk started telling kids to
“Turn on, Tune in, Drop out,”
that the establishment community got freaked out and took it off the market and demonized it. If you’re interested in reading more on the subject, Michael Pollan
, well-known author to foodies for his books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food
, and Cooked
, among others, recently deviated from his usual subject and wrote a comprehensive book on psychedelics called How to Change Your Mind. There has been a resurgence of the study of psychedelics for psychiatric use, since the 1990s. But, don’t expect to be able to go to your doctor and get a prescription for acid anytime soon!
After tackling those two heavy subjects, bringing up marijuana seems a little anti-climactic. I will say that since I lived in Colorado when it became one of the first two states in the country to legalize it, I got a front row seat to its effects. I can’t say that I saw any negatives. It brought a bunch of revenue into the state, the taxes collected helped local communities. It brought in more tourism, for sure. The dispensary in my tiny town of 250 people, had visitors from all 50 states in its first year. For people who needed it medically, but lived in states where it wasn’t available, it became easier to come to a state and obtain it recreationally, rather than to try to get it medically, across state lines.
I’ve intentionally left out links to any drug research, because there’s just so much, on both sides of every argument. Any link I could add, would take you to an article with an opinion, and as I said in the beginning of my post, I am not arguing one side or the other. I am only arguing that we think and question. Always question. Question what you read, what you are told and even what you believe. Question your doctors, teachers, political & religious leaders. Never accept anything “just because.” And never say that to your kids!
How do you fill your cup? What fills your soul? We all need to take time to fill ourselves up.
There are so many ways we can do this. Standing on top of a mountain seeing views for miles, listening to the ocean waves crashing, holding a child’s hand, lying in the arms of a lover until your heartbeats synchronize, sitting in church or temple and feeling the glory of God, camping in the desert or the woods and taking in the wonder of nature, taking a break from the day-to-day and spending time with people you adore.
It’s not so much how we do it, but that we take the time to do it.
What fills my cup might drain yours and vice versa. We all need to figure out what fills us up.
I spent last week filling my cup with music and great friends in an amazing city. I danced, I sang, I ate a million oysters, I strolled the French Quarter, I drank a Sazerac
(or three), I had beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe DuMonde.
I stood on the bank of the Mississippi River and marveled at it’s beauty, I wandered a couple of Voodoo
As a single mom without another parent to share the responsibility, I don’t get breaks from parenting. I am blessed to have an incredibly easy, loving kid. And, I love to get away occasionally for an all-adult, weekend. I get to do this once or twice a year. These weekends pretty much always involve people I love to spend time with. Sometimes they are decadent concert weekends. Sometimes they are quiet, spiritual, contemplative yoga and meditation weekends. Both recharge me and top off my cup.
It took me a while to realize that self-care doesn’t have to equate to austerity. While some of my yoga/Ayurveda/health coach friends might look askance at my wild weekend in New Orleans, I know that I am being my authentic self (see my last post)
and loving my life. I am an Enneagram
type 7. A pleasure-seeker, a hedonist. No wonder I never felt quite right following a traditional Ayurvedic lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong – I love Ayurveda. And I love the fact that it’s not dogmatic and gives me a lot of wiggle room. I’ve had some Ayurvedic teachers who were more dogmatic than Ayurveda itself. Every time I heard the term, “non-negotiable,” from one of them, I immediately started looking for ways to negotiate.
If I come away from a weekend of Sex & Drugs & Rock and Roll (figuratively, of course!), feeling insanely happy and full of memories that last a lifetime, I feel no guilt about the fact that I ate dinner at 10 pm, day-drank and didn’t meditate. I’m home and I’m back to my healthy habits. One of the great things about living a life with healthy, Ayurvedic habits, is they stay with you, even when you go off. I had no concerns that I’d come back and continue to overindulge and stay up late or blow off my exercise routine. My good habits are well-enough ingrained in me, that I can go off, with little ill-effect and come right back to them.
Now for my Don’t Try This at Home, Kids lecture.
I’ve been working on health, Ayurveda, yoga and putting good habits in place for years. So, I can go off the proverbial wagon without losing everything I’ve worked towards. If you are new to trying to become the healthiest, happiest version of yourself, you might need to be stricter with things in the beginning. But the way I look at it, is the goal is not to give up things that are “bad for you,” forever, but to be grounded enough in your healthy habits that you can have the freedom to do whatever you want. On occasion.
It’s also important to find things to fill your cup, that are aligned with your habits. Yoga, meditation, being in nature, skiing – all fill my cup, in a much healthier fashion. And, as I mentioned earlier, what fills my cup may not fill yours. Maybe you love crafting. For me, just the thought of walking into Joanne’s makes me queasy. Maybe you are dying to go to Disney World; I’d rather put a sharp stick in my eye.
In my Whole Life Coaching
program, we delve into all of these things. First we focus on physical health and getting healthy habits ingrained. We work on organizing our time, space, and finances. Then we move on to the really juicy stuff. What’s makes your heart sing? What fills your cup? How can you shape your life into exactly what you want it to be? I’ll show you how you can make the time to make your life work for you, instead of you working your life away. Email email@example.com for more information.
I don’t care if you like me.
I’d like you to like me. I’d prefer you to like me. I enjoy being liked, and loved, as much as anyone. But, in the end, it is more important to me to to live and speak my truth, than to be liked. And that means not everyone will like me. And I can’t care about that.
Years ago, when my daughter was in Brownies, I made the audacious (you’d think blasphemous, from the reaction I got!) suggestion that an organization such as the Girl Scouts, that prides itself on empowering young women, should not be having girls selling crappy junk food for its fundraiser.
I need to add a disclaimer here. I am not against cookies per se. I do even occasionally buy Girl Scout cookies, because I want to support the girl scouts that I know and this is currently the only way to do so. My thought was that an organization as large and powerful as Girl Scouts shouldn’t be pushing young kids to sell crap. It shouldn’t be the institutionalized directive. How great would it be if their fundraiser was also something that taught the importance of health and wellness? In this age of rampant childhood obesity, why would such a group continue to do this?
I got all excited and fired up. I went to the other moms with the brilliant idea that we, as a troop, take a stand. That we come up with our own fundraiser, that truly empowered girls. We would have the girls understand how important health is. We’d let the Girl Scouts
organization know what we’re doing and why. We’d be starting a paradigm shift – a revolution! Maybe there would even be a movie made about us, like Erin Brokovitch!
Guess how that went over.
They looked at me like I had just suggested we put swastikas on the Brownie uniforms. One, who I don’t think disagreed with me completely, said that we were just one small group and there’s no way we could make a difference. To which I responded with my favorite quote from the amazing Margaret Meade.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
She was unimpressed. The Cookie Mom (yes, that’s a thing) actually yelled at me, told me I should take my kid out of Girl Scouts, a few other choice words, and finished it up by telling me that I was a rotten yoga teacher. Needless to say, Stella didn’t continue with Girl Scouts (her choice). She learned an important lesson in standing up for what’s right. I was proud of her and she was proud of me.
I got myself into a similar situation this past week. I somehow ended up in a Facebook group that was supposedly a support group for women going through menopause. I’ve always been bothered when women denigrate themselves, even in jokes. Memes with women inadvertently putting themselves down are all over Facebook. You know the kind, “I used to be hot, now I’m hot flashes,” jokes about needing alcohol to deal with children/partners, jokes about weight gain, stretch pants etc., blah blah blah. I always gently call out my friends who post these things, asking them to consider why they participate in this kind of negative self-talk. You see, our brains don’t know the difference between joking and not. We internalize the negative.
It’s not news that humor can be great and it can be hurtful. These days, racist jokes are unacceptable. Most people agree that sexist jokes, when delivered by men, are not cool. So, why do we jokingly allow our sisters to do it to themselves? My theory is that over millennia of patriarchy, women are so used to being put down, that we don’t even realize we are doing it to ourselves.
So, I brought this up in the menopause group, after somebody posted an awful cartoon of a fat, sweaty old lady with saggy boobs and a caption that read something like, “why must we be punished with menopause?” I’m sure you can guess where this is going. I was told to “Get a fucking sense of humor,” to “Get over myself,” to go away and that I was a drama queen. Funny, that I was suggesting that we build each other up, rather than tear ourselves down and for that, I got attacked.
I have heard some people say (mostly men), that that’s just how women are. They’re catty, they tear each other down to make themselves feel better. To that I call BULLSHIT. The women I hang out with, both in person and online support me and hold me up every single day. They are badass Goddesses and I could not live without them. They are are supportive, awesome and funny AF.
I think I’m fortunate, in that standing up for myself comes pretty naturally to me. I’m fiery, I’m opinionated, and I don’t back down from arguments. (My Pitta personality. Always have to throw in a smidge of Ayurveda!) I’ve been told I’m a know-it-all, that I can be too forceful and that I’m argumentative. I have softened some. Deliberately. I have worked hard at being able to listen to opinions that differ from mine, without immediately interjecting. I’ve worked on taking constructive criticism. I understand that I can’t just be a train wreck of forcing my beliefs on everyone all the time. And when I do argue, I do my best to do it respectfully. I don’t always succeed. I’m still working on it.
My point is, that we all sometimes have to take a stand. We need to stand up for what is right and just. In order to live an authentic life, we have to examine ourselves and our beliefs and behaviors. Sometimes our beliefs are self-limiting, sometimes we act out of our limiting beliefs. In my work as a coach, I push my clients out of their comfort zones and encourage them to change their self-limiting patterns. (Sometimes I do this in my personal relationships too, which goes over less well!) I encourage them to move out of their self-created status quo and step into their personal power. Their authentic selves. This doesn’t mean you’ve got to jump into an argument with everyone who has a differing opinion. We do have to pick our battles. But if we find that we’re constantly living in a way that is out of integrity with our true desires for our lives, it’s time to make some changes.
So, how did it end with the Facebook group? I left a Peace Out final message and left the group. I invited anyone who wanted to be part of a truly supportive group to private message me. And guess what happened. They started messaging me. They’ve joined my group. And I’m going to support the hell out of every single one of them.
I recently heard someone say, “I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.” I love that. I’m not either.
Disclaimer: This post contains nothing directly related to yoga, Ayurveda or health. But, if you’re willing to look under the surface, you’ll see that it’s about something that is part of my yoga. And maybe you’ll be prompted to look more deeply into what is your yoga. On & Off the Mat.
I’ve always had good taste in music (if I may be so bold as to make that proclamation.) The first three albums I ever bought (at the same time) were Some Girls by the Rolling Stones, 52nd Street by Billy Joel and Night Moves by Bob Seger. Ok, you might not think those are the the greatest albums ever, but for a 13-year-old in 1978, it was pretty damn progressive. Consider that most of my friends were listening to Sean Cassidy and the Partridge Family.
Music has always been a part of who I am. I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with it. I started subscribing to Rolling Stone in 8th grade. My album collection (yes, vinyl. I’m that old!) numbered in the hundreds by the time I got to high school. While my friends walls were plastered with posters of Andy Gibb and Donny Osmond, mine featured Mick & Keith and the boys, as well as Led Zeppelin, Neil Young and Jackson Browne. While my girlfriends were emulating Olivia Newton-John, I wanted to be a witch, like Stevie Nicks.
I was lucky enough to grow up less than an hour from New York City, so I had the opportunity to see some amazing concerts. My first was Rod Stewart, at Madison Square Garden. My uncle Jonny (my idol) and his third wife took me. I’ll never forget the person next to me passing me a joint and slyly taking a puff. My uncle never said a thing about it, so I assumed he didn’t see. (20+ years later, we talked about it. In his memory he had given me a lecture about drug use. I guess that what he wished he had done!) By the time I got to college, I had quite a list of shows under my belt – The Stones, the Kinks, Bruce Springsteen, the Police (3 times), the Cars, Devo, Pat Benetar (ok, it was the 80s people!), Joan Jett, John Cougar (not yet Mellencamp), Siouxie & the Banshees (in Scotland), Eric Clapton and more. I even got hit on by John Michael Stipe of REM, when they were the opening band for Siouxie at a dive bar in Bronxville. It was before cell phones and GPS, so it was easy to tell our parents that we were going to the movies and hop on a train to the City and catch a concert. (Sorry Mom!)
I spent my college years in Burlington, Vermont and got turned on to a few different types of music. Reggae was big there, as was the Grateful Dead. Oh, and did I mention that I went to college with and was in the same year as all the guys from Phish? They’d put their hand-drawn flyers on all our dorm doors inviting us to watch them play on weekends. And I remember seeing a little-known band called Widespread Panic open for Blues Traveler.
Music remained part of my life when I moved to Colorado. My first show at Red Rocks
(the best concert venue on
the planet, IMHO) was Reggae on the Rocks in 1993. I saw Merle Saunders at Turquoise Lake (literally, in the middle of the woods), at 12,000 feet, above Leadville.
But, then something happened. I got married, and my husband wasn’t into music or concerts. And I just kind of stopped going. It wasn’t that Brian didn’t want me to go or would have tried to stop me, but you know how it is when you’re married. You hang out with your spouse. And you make compromises. Sometimes without realizing it. So, for almost 20 years, music was back-burnered. I did drag him to see a few legends – The Stones a few times, The Who. Can you imagine having to be dragged to see the Rolling Stones?! He also had the TV on a lot, so I didn’t listen to much music at home either. I honestly didn’t even realize this was happening. My friends did. They invited me to go to Panic or the Dead or Phish every year. I didn’t go.
Then, a funny thing happened after my divorce. I started to embrace my musical self again. I started going to concerts and playing music in my kitchen and boogying while cooking and doing dishes. It was like meeting a part of myself that I had lost for two decades. I’d drop my daughter off at her Dad’s and head off to Red Rocks for a weekend of shows, and he’d say, “Aren’t you a little old for this?” Too old? Too old to feel my spirit soar? To old to dance until my legs hurt? To old to commune with people who feel the same as I do about music? Never.
What brought on this musical reflection? Next week, I am getting to check a huge box on my bucket list. New Orleans Jazz Fest.
So much great music in such an amazing city. My bucket might actually overflow! Such diverse music too. Jazz Fest is a bit of a misnomer, because there’s everything from jazz to blues, to rock, country, creole, reggae, disco (yes, Chaka Kahn will be there this year!) From huge stages to tiny bars, there will be music everywhere! And I’m going with a bestie from high school, who shared some of those great concerts with me back in the 80s, and another of my favorite peeps, who knows more about jazz than anyone I know and can croon the old standards like he’s freaking Frank Sinatra! (He needs to be plied with a lot of adult beverages to do that, but in NOLA, I don’t think that’ll be a problem!)
Well, if there is a yogic lesson in this post (I know, you expect one), it’s this – Do what makes your heart sing. If there is a part of you that is full of passion and brings you joy that has been buried in the busyness of adulthood, if you’ve suppressed some part of you because you think it’s not useful, or mature or doesn’t fit into your life as a grown up, unearth it. Live it. Live your bliss and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
If you’re one of my readers, I assume that you are interested in taking care of your body. Most of my blogs are related to health, in some way, shape or form. I’m sure you’ve probably also heard the overused phrase about taking care of our mind, body and spirit as well. But that’s not just new-agey mumbo-jumbo. According to Ayurveda, we are all made up of five bodies, called koshas. Kosha translates to sheath, because each body is sheathed within another. All of the bodies are interconnected, from the outside in and from the inside out. They all require care. If any are neglected, we cannot live a life of balance, ease and joy. Any one neglected kosha, blocks access in both directions.
Annamaya Kosha – The Physical Body
The outermost layer, the Annamaya Kosha, is the physical body as we know it. It is our muscles, bones and organs, as well as our appearance. Annamaya Kosha translates to Food Body, because it is sustained by food and requires nutrients. It is the grossest of the bodies. (Not gross as in disgusting, but gross as in solid or dense). We take care of our physical body by eating a healthy diet, exercising appropriately, staying hydrated, sleeping well etc. The physical body is the base. If it is unhealthy, it is very difficult to access and balance the inner bodies.
Pranamaya Kosha – The Energy Body
If you are a yogi, you’re probably familiar with the word prana. It means energy or life force. It is carried on the breath. The energetic body is more subtle than the physical body, but it can still be felt as a physical sensation. When energy is full and balanced, we feel good. We are awake, focused, active. Neither lethargic nor scattered. We connect to our energy body with our breath. How lovely and relaxing does a deep breath feel? To access our pranic body, we can simply move our body until we are conscious of our breath. Take a brisk walk or jog and breath deeply, do some sun salutations and sync breath with movement, get out in nature and breathe in mother nature’s fresh air. This body is so important that an entire limb of yoga is dedicated to it – pranayama, or breath control. We can’t see or grasp the energy body, but we can feel it, in ourselves and others.
Manomaya Kosha – The Mental/Emotional Body
By the time we hit mid-adulthood, we’ve all got emotional baggage. We’ve had trauma. We’ve lost loved ones, lost jobs, been hurt by people we trusted. Maybe we’ve been divorced or widowed. Many have had serious injury or illness. If we’ve lived for more than 4 or 5 decades, we’ve got baggage.
It’s not about how much baggage you have, it’s how good a baggage handler you are.
We can use our traumas and experiences to grow our wisdom and become more skillful at life. Or we can do the opposite. When we do the opposite, we are attempting to protect ourselves, but what we are truly doing is limiting our potential. We put up walls to keep ourselves from being hurt, but the result is, we don’t truly live. We react with anger, when what we really feel is fear. We avoid people who push us out of our comfort zone. We feign independence when what we really want is love. We use alcohol, weed, social media, food etc., as distractions to avoid feeling our real feelings.
What’s wrong with doing that? Well, besides the obvious answer of we never live our lives fully, we cannot access our higher, innermost layers. You see, the five bodies build upon one another. We start with the Annamaya Kosha, the food body, because, we literally cannot live without food and physical health. Nor can we survive without the breath, or prana. We can survive without taking care of the Manomaya kosha, but our existence will be fraught with stress, drama and unhappiness.
How does one optimize the Manomaya Kosha? Have you ever wondered why you keep getting yourself into the same negative situations? Bad jobs, difficult personal relationships etc. If so, it’s time to look at your emotional body. The job of a yogi is to master our emotions so they don’t master us. Do you run away or lash out when confronted with difficult emotions (yours or someone else’s)? Next time that happens, try to just stay with the emotion. Don’t react, just feel it. Go back to the first two bodies. How does this emotion feel in your physical body? How does it feel energetically? What is it doing to your breath? As we become more skilled in feeling our emotions, we can begin to truly understand them, and respond appropriately, rather than reacting. Meditation is a great tool for strengthening this body, as is pratyahara, the practice of sense withdrawal. Simply taking time to step away from sensory stimulus for a little while each day, does wonders to balance our emotions.
Vijnanamaya Kosha – The Wisdom/Intuitive Body
As we work more and more with our mental/emotional body, we gain access to the Vijnanamaya Kosha. We might start to notice our thoughts coming from a deeper, subtler level of our being. We are connecting to our intuition, or inner wisdom. We all have the ability to access this body, but it does take some work to get there. We all have intuition, but we don’t always listen to it, or even recognize it. If we haven’t done the work on our mental/emotional body, we will not be able to access the intuitive and we will not cultivate wisdom.
We can all probably think of examples of when we ignored our intuition. Taking a job that looks good on paper, but you just have a feeling isn’t right for you, is an example of ignoring intuition. Any time you say to yourself, “I knew I should/shouldn’t have done that!” Is an example of ignoring your intuition.
A deeper meditation practice, spiritual study and a deep desire to know one’s self will strengthen this sheath. Noticing our gut feelings and honoring them, will grow our intuition.
Anandamaya Kosha – The Bliss Body
The Bliss body is most etheric aspect of the self. Every level of happiness, from full-blown ecstasy to simple contentment is connected to the Anandamaya Kosha. It is aligned with our soul’s desire, purpose, and living our dharma. The Bliss Body is related to enlightenment. But, getting there is not a goal that we can set and achieve. Only mystics, saints and sages are generally able to access this body on a regular basis. For the rest of us, it is a place that we pulse in and out of. We’ve all had glimpses of it. The feeling of being in love or holding our new baby. I’ve felt this feeling skiing; standing on top of a mountain and gazing at the utter beauty of nature. I’ve also felt it in music; dancing at an outdoor concert on a summer evening and getting totally enveloped by the sound. I don’t think it’s possible to give specific directions on how to access our bliss. But, I can certainly give you some ways to guarantee you’ll never get there. Hold grudges, carry resentments and anger, blame others for your woes, be dishonest with yourself and others, suppress your emotions.
The best advice I can give someone looking to access the Bliss Body, is to work on the other bodies. All of them. You can’t skip one. A healthy body and a closed heart will not bring you bliss. Intellectual knowledge without connection to spirit will not get you there. Spiritual devotion without physical health won’t cut it either.
The Koshas are all part of us. Just as we can’t ignore one arm and have a full life, neither can we ignore one of these bodies. If you’ve been neglecting one, or several, make a concerted effort to work with your neglected parts. I guarantee you’ll feel better. And you might just get some bliss.