Presence = Inspiration = Flow

I’ve sworn off goals, and have even sworn off that thing that people do now instead of goals–choosing a word to guide their year. Today I’m changing my mind on that because a word recently grabbed my heart. A word that is tossed around but doesn’t get the respect or ponderance that it deserves.

Inspiration.

Everyone has felt inspired at some point in their lives but just today I realized that inspiration is the definition of being in the flow. That place where everything else melts away and you are in the moment. The place where, whatever you’re doing, you feel like you could do it forever, where everything feels right in your world, in your being.

Just thinking about times when I’ve felt inspired I can feel the sense of liveliness that I experienced. Maybe it’s walking around an art show and seeing work that touches me, or sparks an idea. Seeing rich colors or textures. Being on a hike, away from everything where the air is clear and there’s no buzzing cells towers or wifi interfering with my brain waves.

Think of a time when you felt inspired. You know what I’m talking about. But then we come home, plop ourselves in our chairs or in front of the TV and the inspiration flees. Or, you get home and sit down to create and you go blank. What just happened? You left the present moment and became unaware. Unconscious. Maybe you started thinking about everything you have to do, or things in the past. You let yourself become distracted.

To be inspired, you must be in the present moment. It sounds so simple but it is easier said than done. And for most of us it sounds so … whatever. It has taken me years to grasp what that means. You have to be ready for it. Sometimes it comes in a flash, other times, not so much. It is where I want to live and, if you ever try it for a while, you’ll understand why. I envy people who seem to be able to live in that place. I have to remember that I can live there too…I just have to train myself to get back to that child-like place until it is natural for me again.

So, my word, my mantra: Inspiration. Being fully present in the moment, seeking inspiration in everything. Everything. A flower, the mess on my desk, the kids hanging off my back, the floor that is peeling in the studio and costing me another $1,000. To be with it and open to it. Let it be what it is and soak it in. Those things may not spark a great work of art, but being fully conscious with them keeps the heart open, and when your heart is open, that is when creativity flows.

The second you bring yourself out of it (and it is NOT easy to stay in that place, but gets easier the more you train your brain to return to it) you can feel it. You can feel the difference between being in the flow and the dull, deadened feeling when it passes. I have to remind myself that I can always come back to it, and that is the beauty of presence. It is always there. It is all that is there.

Inspiration. Think about it. Be with it. Give it the reverence it deserves.

The Yoga Sutras should keep me busy for a while.

This post is a little bit of Morning Pages, so expect it to be a little all over the place. Just getting the thoughts out in order to get on with my day.

I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and it can drive me a little crazy.

For a good while there I didn’t feel that way and it’s a good sign that my depression is being held at bay when my brain starts churning. I feel most alive when I’m learning something new, or have something to look forward to learning. But it confuses me too. If you haven’t noticed, I have a tendency to analyze everything. Another side of my brain being active again.

Having had 14 years of life with gifted children makes me wonder if this is part of my own brain chemistry. It’s not about smarts…it’s about the rapid activity of the brain. Always churning and seeking more input.

It’s funny to me…when I’m depressed I want energy and motivation, I want my brain to get back to working again. Then when it shifts, I want to quiet my mind. I don’t want the drive to go away. No, no, no. I like this feeling. I hesitate to compare it to someone starting a manic phase because I don’t experience that and I can’t pretend to understand that state of mind, and I know that it’s just as dangerous to the person as the depressed state, maybe moreso. But the rush of brain activity after months of dullness is invigorating. I also know that it can go ‘poof’ by tomorrow.

But anyway, the prompting of this post came from the suggestion during my Yoga Nidra training to read the Yoga Sutras. I’ve mostly shied away from the text thinking it would be too esoteric for me to understand on my own. My husband has these types of books and understands them. Interestingly, on the day that I asked him if he had a copy he laughed, opened a package from Amazon that was sitting on the counter, and handed it to me.

So last night I started to read it. As expected, just the forward had me doubting my ability to take it in. Lots of sanskrit words, which I’m starting to love being familiar with, but many many that I hadn’t come into contact with yet. How many impactful words can this line of study have? Many more than pranayama, asana, samahadi, etc. My brain may be active, but it’s not the greatest at memorization. I love the way that sanskrit words roll off the tongue, but in print they look like gibberish. Nonetheless, it started to speak to me. It felt right. So I pressed on, hoping that the more I expose myself to the material, the more it will start to sink in and stick.

Luckily I know the way the I learn, and it’s through immersion. The way to remember the material is to live it. I got more excited because as I read, and parts resonated with me, I had that feeling of, “where have you been my whole life?” The same feeling I have about the Tao the Ching. Homecoming.

Right now, it is the perfect text for me. The perfect route to follow. Deep, rich, methods for living and practicing. Those that can take a lifetime. Things that are so simple to the mind but not as simple to implement, but when achieved are life-changing.

This last weekend at my nidra training I was often surprised by how much I’ve studied and absorbed over the years. Some of it pretty woo-woo out there stuff, some of it deeper teachings. All of it in preparation for where I am today, which is, ready to get it. The reason that texts like this, or the Bhagavad Gita or Upanishads, seemed so hard is because I didn’t have the groundwork for understanding. I realized this weekend that now I do.

So, for now, that is my area of interest and interestingly, the depth of information in the text, while requiring my brainpower, is about detaching from the monkey mind. And so much more.

If you think meditation is hard…

If you think meditation is hard, you’re right, it is. Your brain is in training.

This weekend during my Yoga Nidra facilitator training a discussion came up about meditation that caused a lightbulb to go on in my head. There are many different ways to meditate and many different forms that people choose to fit them. Sitting meditation where you focus on one spot, or the breath, to “quiet the mind” is a myth. I use the quotation marks because that is how I used to think of it, and how many people think of it.

What I took away from the discussion is that sitting meditation of that type is very active. Your brain is active, and you continually notice your random thoughts and come back to your point of focus. You are not trying to stop or quiet your thoughts (the brain is meant to think), you are trying to come back from your thoughts, to stillness. Over time your thoughts will stop competing for your attention (your brain gets trained) and a by-product is that your mind gets quiet. Or at least more quiet.

It was said, in essence, that the best meditation practice is not one in which your mind is the most quiet for the longest time. The best meditation practice is how many times you come back to the focus point after noticing your thoughts creeping in.

Does it get easier? Yes, and no. What does “easier” mean to you? Probably that you get to that sense of peace and quiet more quickly, with less rogue thoughts interfering for the duration. Again, I point you to the paragraph above. It’s not about the peace and quiet although that is the end benefit. So, I’m not viewing it in terms of ease anymore. It is what it is. The more I “struggle” with it or against it (my thoughts) the more training my brain is getting. Just like at the gym. It’s not about the process of lifting the weights…it’s about what happens after the weights have been lifted and you’re out of the gym.

Today was one of those really thought-y days. I stopped meditating early because this blog post kept wanting to write itself in my head. The good news is, even if you’re having an overly think-y day in your practice, or “struggling,” you’re still getting the benefit of the training.

So struggle is also good. But big deal, you may say, how does that help me? I can’t speak for you but it put things into a different perspective that gave me “permission” to be ok not being perfect. It actually made me feel good about not being perfect. And good thing because perfection is never achieved…best to let go of that.

Also, the more you do it, the more your brain gets trained to do this for the short time you’re in your meditation, the more it overflows into your life outside of your practice. If you are training your brain in this way, to not hook on and go deeper into your thoughts, you will find the same happening during your day. You won’t get sucked into drama, you won’t be lured into an argument, you’ll notice that things that used to annoy you will glide right on by. Your brain has learned that thoughts can come, and thoughts can go…you don’t have to latch on to every single one.