Monday, September 19, 2011

Anchors Within!

The tattoo spanning the upper middle part of my back is an anchor. Inscribed on said anchor is the first part of this Sanskrit quote: "As the Mind, so the Man./ Bondage or Liberation are in your own Mind."
My life is grounded in this philosophy. It is the essence of Raja Yoga, the royal yoga of the mind, from which all yogic forms were derived. The second Yoga Sutra states that "the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga." Plainly spoken, the entire goal of yoga is to control the mind. If we have control over our mind we cannot be bound by anything outside of ourselves. It means becoming unfailingly neutral: being able to perceive the happenings of the world without allowing our experiences to create ripples in the pond or making decisions about how things are. It means approaching every moment with curiosity instead of judgement: "Oh hello! What is this? How interesting!"

This is not meant to be an exposition on the Sutras, though. Ten months ago I pulled up my anchor and set sail. It wasn't until I had given up my independent adult identity defined by job and apartment that I realized how heavily I had come to rely on it for stabilization and security. I could wander far, knowing that I had a key that fit a lock on a door behind which my private life quietly hummed. Pots and pans, books and photographs, a bathmat...all arranged just so. Since trading it all in for some gypsy bells, my answer to the question, "Where do you live?" has become "Everywhere!" And then I laugh.

Behind the laughter is ten months worth of not-always-but-mostly arduous aimless wandering. Don't get me wrong- the first two weeks of being totally untethered were exhilarating. Maybe some people would've enjoyed it for longer; I am not one of those people. Besides my friends, you know what I always loved most about summer camp? The consistent, predictable daily schedule. Outside of normal structure and with my identity being de- and reconstructed, I was lost. Every day I would beg the universe to tell me what to do with my life. Every day (for a while...) I pulled Osho cards looking for guidance, and almost every card I pulled told me that I would find the truth within. And so every day I meditated with great discipline, visualizing everything I could manifest that would help me feel secure again, seeking and grasping desperately...and totally missing the point.

Being someone else's anchor is a heavy weight and when it became apparent that no one was going to rise to the occasion (rightfully so...), I began making choices to restabilize my life and give it some structure. I filled my empty days with teaching, learning and all kinds of creativity. Becoming self-contained and driven reminds me of the tortoise, which reminds me of an Osho card that I'm particularly fond of, Slowing Down:
The Knight of Rainbows is a reminder that, just like this tortoise, we carry our home with us wherever we go. There is no need to hurry, no need to seek shelter elsewhere. Even as we move into the depths of the emotional waters, we can remain self-contained and free from attachments. 

As imperceptible as it may be to me after the struggles of the last year, it would seem that I have chosen this for myself. Outside of extreme circumstances, we do what we want all the time, and apparently what I wanted (and needed) was to embrace what I had been avoiding for so long: the ability to be my own anchor, my own source of stability and security. And so I set about to create a situation in which I had no structure and would have to fill in the blanks.

There is a little child part of myself that is determined to wait miserably for as long as it takes for a "grown up" to provide this. My message to her is that she will be waiting miserably forever because there is nothing and no one outside of ourselves that can provide what we really need: internal, abiding, consistent stability and security. Sometimes it's nice to receive outside support from friends or one's spiritual practice, but ultimately, as our only real life long partners, we have to learn to provide this for ourselves. And because I am a very capable, care taking grown up, I can confidently assure my little self that I am the one she's been waiting for.

The Osho cards are right: the truth is within. Everything is within: all the answers, all the love, all the reassurance, all the stability. There are no knights in shining armor. I am empowering myself to create and recreate my life, imbuing every day with purpose and meaning, with grace and gratitude. It's a matter of deciding that there is something worth living for and determining what that is.

Sometimes I still wake up foggy without consciousness of how precious that waking breath is. Sometimes I forget my passions and look for them in other people and places. It's a whole practice in and of itself to stay internally anchored, to stay hungry, driven and dedicated to one's own beautiful vision without continuous approval and support from others. Nevertheless, it is important work that helps us to ultimately see our vision through to fruition. Therefore, begin every search within. You may be surprised how many questions you are already capable of answering and how much you already contain. You are the one you've been waiting for.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
-Albert Camus

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