"Yogis - not just the modern ones - have long dreamt of devoting themselves to living in a rarified world, free of problems. For ages their inclinations have led them to seek refuge from the complications of life: politics, tribalism, crying children, responsibility, orthodoxy, money, relationships, lost socks... "If only I could rest where the bells of conflict never ring."
But here's the thing... while yoga may help you connect to the world beyond matter and division, wisdom says that the only way to know if you really own - and have integrated - your experience of the sacred is to play in the mud. Get dirty. Throw yourself into the tenderness of being human. Admit your fragility. Engage the creative struggle. Never stop learning. Challenge your limits. Seek those opportunities where there's a good chance your still-unresolved-ego will get singed by the flame of your own criticism and other's disappointment. Yes, only when you know how to find rest, while running away from nothing, will you learn if you stand for anything real, anything that endures. Only then will you know if you have become a master of yourself. In other words, live for this: I am READY. I stand firm and tall. I am open and soft and ready for the truth. Bring it on. Bring it all on." ~ Yogarupa Rod Stryker
Have you ever experienced a moment of pure bliss in which you realize just how blessed you are to be alive? Maybe during savasana or meditation. Maybe while watching the sunset, staring into the vast night sky, holding the hand of a loved one, cuddling a puppy or listening to music that melts your worries away. How incredible would it be to develop the capacity to sustain this peace, this spaciousness, this bliss as you engage with the rest of the world? What if traffic, politics, current affairs, money, friends, family, health and work lost their ability to knock you off your center? How might your life transform if these and other stressors passed right through you with little to no negative impact? In Sanskrit there is a word for this sustainable peace... Santati. It translates, more or less, to continuity.
Why does this transcendent peace dissipate? Why doesn't it last? Very simply, because life is subject to constant and inevitable change. It is full of uncertainty, which can lead to doubt, disappointment and fear. This begs the question, then, how can I sustain the elation of experiencing myself as peaceful and whole? How can I establish a continuity of thriving? This is the critical question at the heart of the Tantric Tradition and practice.
Tantra suggests that the lack of continuity we experience is less about life, itself, and more about the way we perceive it. "Tantra teaches us that life is a gift and that you are part of a sacred, infinite fabric that encompasses all of existence in its intricate weave." - Rod Stryker. ALL of existence. That's a hard pill to swallow when we are confronted, every day, with hateful rhetoric, violence, intolerance, famine and fear. It's easy to get caught in the downward spiral of all this negativity. It requires courage, tenacity and audacity to remain hopeful in today's world. And it requires a highly developed sense of clarity and discernment to see the sacred in what appears to be profane. I wish I could tell you I've mastered it, but I've still a long way to go. I have, however, moved tangibly in this direction, so I know it's possible.
Tantra teaches that when we feel hopeless, discouraged, disillusioned or anything on the vast spectrum of apathy to fear, we are failing to see clearly. Instead, we are experiencing our own false understandings and the projections we place on the world. "The practice of increasing continuity, sustaining peace, requires reweaving the fabric of our deepest beliefs and perceptions." - Rod Stryker. One way to accomplish this is through a practice of deep contemplation - specifically - contemplating Tantra's world view that life, every aspect of it, is a gift.
Contemplation is different than meditation. In meditation we seek to dissolve the individuated self and merge with the object of our concentration (whether that be light, love, joy, the Divine...) In contemplation we rewire our fundamental beliefs. The first step is to enter into a state of yoga (union) wherein you no longer identify with the ever changing external world. You become established in timeless peace, wisdom and compassion where you can rest identified with that which is permanent and ever present (your heart, your soul). From this place of deep peace we are able to make meaningful adjustments to our world view.
The second step is to slowly, but surely, heal the the fabric of our consciousness by recalibrating the way we perceive ourselves and the world. Experience yourself as light - pure, radiant, peaceful, powerful. Know that your natural state is one of joy beyond the reach of sorrow, pain, anger, fear, shame.
Remember that the core essence of who and what you truly are is nothing less than unlimited, undiluted, unconditional love. Life is a gift by which we are given opportunity after opportunity to find our way home to ourselves, to our innately sacred Self. When we remember who we are, the whole world transforms. When we experience the light in ourselves we begin to see it in everyone and everything else. Yes, EVERYone and EVERYthing. Confusion and illusion will slip back in, as long as we live, which is why we practice every day, grounding ourselves in the ability to create how we experience the world. It can be as simple as reminding ourselves of our power to choose. Choose to trust your inner guide. Choose to align yourself with the truth of who you are. Choose to lead with love in every possible way.