“It is time for you to awaken from destructive thinking.”
You were born as ‘I am’.
But right after birth, parents give their children a name. ‘I am’ becomes Jane or John. And this is the birth of an identity. Karma of previous lives will bundle together with the karma of the parents kneading the personality into an ideal human that reflects the social, cultural environment. Physical, psychological and emotional patterns will turn the soul into a human being. In reality, the soul isn’t changing at all. The identity merely veils it. Unfortunately, this veil exists of more than 50.000 thoughts per day, giving the soul an invisible existence.
Thus, identity is, on the one hand, a waterfall of thoughts created by the past, repeating itself every morning after the dreamless sleep. On the other hand, it’s an internalized mixture of patterns that control your thought, your speech and actions. In Yogic terms, this is called Samskara. The traits of who you are as a human being.
For example: in yoga therapy, we reset negative patterns such as pelvic instability, bulging of the upper back, flat feet, etcetera by working on the body, we also work on deeper energetic levels, mental issues and emotional blockages.
Purity of thought
Why am I telling you all this? Well, because of the tremendous amount of negative thoughts you keep generating, especially about your self-image. These are not only thoughts; they have become core beliefs. You really believe not being good enough, or pretty enough, or strong enough,… And this has developed itself into a person with a low or negative view on itself and the world. As a school teacher, every time I introduce a new subject, the first thing students answer is: “I can’t do this”, “I don’t know it”. They are so convinced of their weak limitations; they just turned into sleepy dolls.
It has been four years now since I started teaching yoga class for people with burn-out, depression, chronic pain, panic attacks, and so on. They keep coming from everywhere, and I can tell they are more and more younger and lost. They are undergoing the burden of embarrassment, guilt and total lack of confidence.
And what is all causing this? Indeed, your own identity. Now, I am not saying we live in a world of joy. As I explained in the previous blog, our society contains lots of shallow and insane structures. This is one of the first things awakened people experience. All I am saying is that your mind creates the perception of yourself and the life you live.
The way out
In April 2007, I wrote farewell letters to my daughters. My life quality had become so unbearable and the psychic suffering so painful I could not live one day longer. That morning, when I was thinking about how to put an end to my life, a silent voice kept generating a memory from long ago.
A man, I had met once told me: “why don’t you try Yoga”? At that time, I was full of prejudices. I saw hippy-like people, sitting down on the floor, smoking weed and being too lazy to go to work :-).
Yet, I did go to yoga. By bike, because my spine couldn’t hold the body anymore. Little did I know a tumour was growing in my uterus. My heart was extremely ill, and I was addicted to, drinking away all pain.
It was impossible to follow the yoga class. I had landed in a Vinyasa level 1 course. The only thing to do was sit on the mat and watch the other people doing weird stuff. But in the end, the teacher gave pranayama, and for the first time in a long time, I felt some peace.
After Savasana, he made us sit in Sukasana and started reading a short story about a young Turkish man. This man was standing on the upper stairs of a big ancient building, looking over the big central marketplace.
He had his fingers entangled around the first stone column of the building; shouting: “help me, help me from this column”.
A wise older man with a white bird and walking stick came over to see what was going on. The young man shouted again: “Please help me, save me from this column”.
The elderly smiled and replied: “But young man, it is not the column that holds you tied. It is you who are holding on to the column”.
Instantly a deep insight arose from my belly. Trough the diaphragm, came into expression in the heart and finally reached my mind that suddenly and fully experienced reality: my depression, my self-image, my will to die; it was all made up in the ego identity. The Hall of the Yogastudio had become enormous and filled with an immaterial essence that went right through me. Looking down, I saw my body still sitting in Sukasana. I don’t know how long this out of body experience lasted but finally from that moment on I could start the spiritual healing process.
Love is in the air
At that time, I did not understand what was going on. It took me many years to internalize the wisdom needed to experience the identity separate from the soul. No, there are no two people inside of you. The identity appears in the Tao, just as your soul does.
Now, if you feel depressed, anxious or suffer from a negative self-image, would you like to see your life changed, do you want to awaken? Then it helps if you purify your thoughts. In yoga class, I teach yogi’s zero-tolerance.
Listen! Read this carefully: stop paying attention to any negative thought that arises. They come by the thousands every day, but you will not give your alertness to them. Don’t fight them, don’t ask them to go away. Consider them from now on as not important; like sounds that appear wich have no value to you. Remember the previous blog about nocebo. Non-belief based on your identity’s past is negative contemplation. The ego wants to stay as it is. It does not know anything else. It isn’t very comforting for him or her if you try to change for the better. It could even produce fear, which is a tricky business.
You should know that the content of the mind is of no importance to you. You need to find out how it works. So don’t get stuck in the story, don’t go along with the drama. Figure out how your mind is controlling you. It works like Facebook. Everything is white or black, likes and dislikes. It does everything to push away what it doesn’t like with idea killers. And it attracts what it does like even if it’s not right for you. Remember that next time you need a drink, a smoke, a piece of chocolate,…Why would you do that to your body?
Try zero tolerance! I am not saying this is easy. It is something that you train. This way, you develop mastery over the mind. The purity of thought is an ancient practice. In more scientific lingo you could say that you’re reprogramming your subconscious space from negative patterns.
In more spiritual lingo knowledge about the Kleshas (hate, attachment, egoism, fear and ignorance) or Yama & Niyama will explain a lot about the functioning and purifying of the mind. I mean, the whole yoga system’s goal is to purify the mind. That way macro cosmos and microcosmos merge as one.
The more you purify, the more you heal, and the more love enters your life. So what do you choose: low self-esteem or love?
You can train during meditative moments. For example, when you wake up in the morning, preferably before sunrise. Or when you are having a break; go and rest on a bench and observe all negative thoughts that arise and then give them no longer your attention. You no longer want to be negative. Start with a few minutes and then build up your practice.
If the mind is going wild, like a monkey jumping from branch to branch and you can’t put your body at ease, then come first laying on the ground on your belly.
- Fold your elbows and put your hands horizontal on each other.
- Now, rest your forehead on your hands (you can put a small blanket on your hands too).
- Wait for it! The body needs some breaths to adapt to the pose.
- Make your face soft, no expression in the face. Let the cheeks and chin drop. Maybe even your lips touch the floor (or mat, or grass)
- and accentuate the natural curve of the neck.
- Then lengthen the skin of the belly up to the nose; scroll the feet away from the nose. Lengthen the front of your body.
- Let the gravity pull you down; let the earth push you up. Just stay laying down on the belly in between both forces
- Now, feel the breathing of your body; it will breathe in places you never imagined. The loins, the waist, along the left and right side of the spine, the back of the ribcage,….
- Stay there for at least five minutes. Don’t move; keep still. Don’t miss the moment where the energy starts coming into balance. Feel how your body breaths on its own.
I even use this technique for acute panic attacks. Afterwards, people are always at ease and smiling.
The Bhagavad Gita
Many years ago, I learned a really simple technique from a great yoga master in India. In Hindi, it is called Namaskaram. Yes, original it means the bowing down to someone (like in Namasté). But as a yogic tool, it means practising ‘gratitude’. How is it possible that something so simple can be part of a significant spiritual plan. Let me explain!
Six years ago, during the umpteenth spiritual struggle, I got up from the bed and went outside. Barefoot I walked over the soil in the garden holding still at the branches of a beautiful weeping tree. Keeping in mind the story of Arjuna in The song divine (Bhagavad Gita) I new the struggle is just the expression of the path leading me towards the light.
‘If you are killed, you gain heaven: triumph and you gain the earth. therefore stand up Arjuna: steady your mind to fight.
now hear the wisdom of Yoga Armed with this understanding, you will shatter your karmic bonds. (translation of the BG by Stephen Mitchell)
So I closed my wet and irritated eyes from the salty tears, I brought my hands to Anjali mudra, bowed down and started feeling al the people and situations I was grateful for. After some minutes, I could feel the temperature of my heart rising and felt a big, warm, glow. Bright green energy emerged, filling my whole consciousness with love. Anahata had opened up. In practising gratitude, you reach out to your soul. Every moment of your life spent in harmony with your soul is a victory. It puts the ego-mind checkmate.
(I love the word checkmate! I once heard it during satsang, but I can’t remember who it was).
Now try it! Don’t listen to the judgments in your head. Release the burden of negative thinking.
- Sit in Virasana (hero pose)- pelvic between the ankles and a block (or some books) underneath the sitting bones. Wait for it; the asana will help you calm down.
- Put the back of your hands on the thighs, leaving space for the lateral sides of the ribcage and armpits.
- Lift the skin of the belly and the sternum but keep the shoulders relaxed.
- Shoulderblades go into the upper back en push the sitting bones into the block. This way, you made a loop with the torso encouraging the diaphragm breathing.
- Relax all three bandhas: mula bandha (deep in the pelvic floor), uddiyana bandha (between chest and belly) and the jalandhar bandha (in the throat and oral cavity).
- Don’t hang forward or backwards with your head; keep it straight above the spine.
- The three centres of gravity (oral cavity, heart and below the navel) are one straight vertical line.
- Bring the hands in Anjali mudra and bring the chin in and down (bowing)
- Now; think and feel everything you are grateful for. Take your time.
- Do it every morning for 21 days and see what happens.
I promised some more Yokewritings about Santosh, but I feel this is a good ending for today’s blog.
Coming up: the practice of Santosh, one out of the five Niyamas, and Ahimsa, one out of the five Yamas. Facts, training, experiences and examples.