Against the Grain

      I am frustrated at being judged for not conforming to societal norms. We live in a world where children are told that they are one in a million, but then grow up and try so desperately to be like everyone else and accepted. Why is it considered taboo to be different? During the rare occasions in which it is celebrated, why is it considered trendy like we all fit into some hipster-hippie, rebellious, counter-culture stereotype? How come we can’t just celebrate the fact that we are all different, tolerate those differences, and love ourselves? I’m frustrated that I’m considered bitchy for not caring–for not being comfortable with conformity and for not caring about acceptance. 

     Here is where that third eye comes in: by writing this, I clearly care; otherwise, I would not feel frustrated. Every single person needs acceptance. It is human nature. I have found acceptance where it matters: in the few friends and family who accept me for who I am and who respect my journey. I guess I am more frustrated that this is something that affects so many people. We are in the midst of a social and spiritual revolution. People are changing. Those of us who are awakening are being criticized and judged. All we want is what everyone else wants: to be happy. Why is it wrong that we want to achieve that happiness through living as our truest form? 

     Food for thought. Questions without answers. The best that we can do is stay true, love, and keep evolving. 

Namaste. 

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Sanskrit in the Mountains

   Last year, I was invited to a place called Yogaville. Hidden in the mountains of Virginia, this retreat proved to be just what I needed. Not only did it provide me with a relaxing weekend, it completely changed my life. I have craved that place since I left it. The spirit, positive energy, and genuine beauty of the people and the ashram were nothing short of inspirational.

    Before that visit, I had never experienced chanting. I remember walking into the room terrified, because I knew that my first guided meditation session would include chanting. I survived it with little embarrassment, and found it to be very relaxing. Fast-forward to the Saturday night ceremony and I was absolutely, 100% terrified. I went from being a stay at home mom and isolated student, to sitting in a room full of strangers chanting Sanskrit. I had a choice to make: I could allow my embarrassment to ruin the experience for me, or I could dive in and and learn as much as possible. I chose the latter. I thought about our human nature and how we are so easily embarrassed-an emotion that forces us to miss out on many of life’s greatest moments. So, I chose adventure. 

      I fumbled my way through the words and appreciated the music being played. I watched the other attendees swaying back and forth, eyes closed, lost in verse. I envied them. I wanted to feel free. 

      Something amazing happened and halfway through the ceremony, I felt it. I felt the energy rush over me like a wave of peace. I felt connected to the words that I previously feared, and I was completely devoted to the ceremony. When it was over, I felt relaxed, collected, energized, and awake to the world around me. I wanted to stay in that world forever. 

     Sanskrit is a beautiful language that is intimidating at first glance. Fortunately, there are many websites and videos that offer assistance with understanding and pronouncing the verses. There is something magical hidden within those words. Once you learn how and the words slide off of your tongue, you are hooked. It is also open to any religion, and is not limited to practicing Hindus. There are unrelated chants that can be used by anyone. Buddhists use chanting, and that is a philosophy that does not praise any god or idol. So, don’t feel like you are betraying your current belief system by practicing a chant.

       I am working on an at-home practice, and will be visiting another ashram within the next couple of months. I hope that this story brought hope to someone who has been afraid to try chanting, for fear of being embarrassed or doing it incorrectly. Free yourself. As long as you are practicing and are reciting them from a place of truth, you will feel the calming and restoring effects of the chant. 

Om Namah Shivaya.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.

                 (More on that later)
Namaste. 

Broken Record Player

     Imagine you are listening to your favorite album on a record player. The music is playing as you go about your business of tidying up the house and taking care of the kids (insert personal responsibilities). All of a sudden, the record skips JUST as the needle hits the few seconds of a song that you really dislike. You try to go about your business and wait for it to continue with the great song that was playing, but it just keeps repeating the same annoying line. Each time, the lyrics jab at you harder than during the previous loop. 

That is the baseline of an intrusive thought. 

     Some of us get them stronger than others, and they always vary in degree. Sometimes they are short and irritating, and sometimes they are persistent and brutal. It isn’t even confined to our own thoughts. We can have this recurring thought pattern in response to someone else’s feelings. It is very common for us to overreact to things. That is actually a simple thing to understand, we just usually don’t make the connection. By the time we lash out, we have been tortured by this thought so much, that we can’t take it anymore. We need it out and resolved. We just need it gone. The frustration bursts out of us and lands on pretty much anyone. Afterward, we get to be tortured by the thoughts resulting from our regret and self-loathing. It is a damaging cycle that is incredibly difficult to end and even harder to prevent.

     Conflicts that lasted for two minutes can torture the mind for hours or days. Insignificant moments to someone else, can feel significant to us because our brain locked on to it at some point and is having a difficult time letting it go. Trust me, this is far more annoying for us than those who have to witness or unwillingly participate. 

     Those of us who recognize that the record player is broken, work very hard to make it work. We get up over and over again to reset the needle. We try humming something upbeat to distract our minds. At our weakest moments, we swear off the whole record altogether because it would be easier to not listen to it at all, than for it to periodically or semi-constantly torture us. We survive those moments and hit play for another go ’round.

     In the end, we can do nothing about it. Our record player is broken and it is the only one that we have. I will continue to work hard toward my peace by resetting the needle, apologizing to unwilling guests as necessary, and learning about myself in order to improve. But I know that this is me, and in order to be truly happy and at peace, I have to love myself for who I am, exactly as I am. I have to recognize that everyone has flaws and mine are no worse than someone else’s. I have to forgive myself when I screw up. I have to fight my brain every single day to make sure I am in control and thinking on the wavelength that I want. I have to see my strength and perseverance. I have to love myself and all of these things about me. That is what I’m working on every single time the record starts playing. 

     Everyone has their issues to deal with. It is a much more enjoyable life if we learn to understand and appreciate others. It is even more wonderful if we learn to understand and appreciate ourselves. Love yourself. Be kind to one another.

Namaste.