18 Spiritual Teachings that Blew my Mind Wide Open.

Via on Jul 5, 2014

cloud vast sky

I have been a grateful sojourner on the winding spiritual path for as long I can remember.

After rejecting the Catholic Church around age 10, I stumbled upon the love of my life—yoga-—at the critical age of 12-going-on-13.

I started reading New Age self-help books in college and met the Buddha in the San Francisco Bay area at 23.

Each stage along the way has been illuminating and necessary to move to a higher level of consciousness. I am thrilled to continue learning and practicing throughout this lifetime, at least.

At certain points in the past, I have wished for epiphanies, signals and sudden enlightenment. Of course, life doesn’t work that way. What we seek eludes us. Letting go allows newness to enter.

So, although I would like to gift you with these 18 teachings that have altered my mind and improved my life, they may not resonate with you. The most important teaching of all is that we are each where we need to be when we need to be there, learning the lessons that we need to learn.

1) Everything I need is already within me.

Authentic power comes from finding balance within; it is not imposed from external authorities.

2) I can (and do) create my life through creative visualization (to a certain extent).

Using the common sense techniques Shakti Gawain outlines in her books, I was able to realize my dream of living in California and becoming a full-time yoga instructor 11 years ago. I do not, however, subscribe to the “Secret.”  Reality is reality, and people and objects are not mere pawns in our manifestations.

3) All things must pass.

My first bout of depression in my early 20s was the worst, because I seriously believed it would never end. I thought, Okay, this terrible, listless, sad, anxious state is adulthood. This is what it means to grow up. Of course, I turned out to be wrong. The depression lifted (and came back and lifted again, over and over).

My dear friend Liz has a tattoo that reminds her, “This too shall pass.” Depression will pass, but so will joyous times. Our beloved pets and friends and family will pass, and so will we. Rather than hiding from this morbid truth, I now embrace it and live my life more fully because of it.

4. Beliefs separate.

Since absorbing this fundamental teaching via J. Krishnamurti, I have strived to let go of beliefs and labels. I am not a Catholic Buddhist liberal American yogini. I am a human. You are a human. Now we can relate.

5. Faith is letting go.

Faith is not holding on to a dogma, a promise, a future in heaven. Faith is letting go and letting in the ever-unfolding experience of life as it flows presently.

6. All meditation is good meditation.

And another thing: it is perfectly fine to meditate for 30 seconds. If I meditate for half a minute, then take a little break (because, damn, that was tough!), then start again—that is A-OK. Some days it may be 30 minutes, others 30 seconds. The key, I’ve found, is to pause regularly throughout the day. In this way, I integrate meditation into my life and not just as a part of my formal practice on the cushion.

7. Metta.

Learning the metta meditation technique at a spiritual conference in Palo Alto in 2004 was transformative. Metta is loving kindness. The basic technique is to send good wishes to ourselves, our loved ones, strangers, enemies and ultimately every sentient being without exception. I have introduced it to countless yoga students over the years. Metta is powerful and can be used in formal meditation as well as on-the-spot.

8. Each morning, I am born again. What I do today is what matters most.

Thanks, Buddha!

The past brought me here, but it is over. The future is totally uncertain. I aspire to concentrate as much of my attention and effort on the present moment, the current situation and the living relationships I cultivate with myself and others.

Shout out, also, to Eckhart Tolle and The Flaming Lips. Living in the moment, cliché as it has become to say, is truly liberating. The more I practice, the better I get.

9. Equanimity.

Attending two 10-day silent Vipassana retreats two summers in a row effectively branded the concept of equanimity in my mind. Balance of mind. Not allowing it to be swayed by every little (or big) feeling of pleasure and pain. Like all these lessons, it is a process that continues to unfold.

10. No self.

The separate “I” that I seem to be is merely an illusion, a fiction, a well-told story. Letting it go is a moment-to-moment practice, an utterly liberating one.

11. Suffering is the result of clinging.

Yesterday, we took a bus to Cali, Colombia. We were told it would take five hours. After eight hours had passed, I was hungry, tired, annoyed with the horrendous movies being shown in rapid succession on the bus and tearfully frustrated. I was clinging to my expectation that the trip would be five hours long. My young daughter, on the other hand, was just fine. She had no expectations. Whenever I cling, I suffer. So I strive not to cling.

12. Worry is useless.

I used to be a worry wart—even as a kid. At some point, I read that worrying is planning for a negative future. That blew my mind open in the best of ways. So I stopped.

13. Friendship is the highest form of love.

This teaching came from Osho. When I read that sentence, it stopped me in my tracks. It rang so true. Though at the time I struggled with romantic love, I have typically flourished in friendships. True friendship is founded on trust and respect. The best marriages are founded on genuine friendship.

14. Difficult people are the best teachers.

(Much gratitude to Pema for this one!)

15. Therefore, be grateful to everyone and everything.

Gratitude can be cultivated through appreciation of the lovely people—as well as the pain-in-the-ass people—and the unique details of our daily lives.

16. Don’t get on the train.

There are 1,001 great metaphors for meditation. One that really resonated with me came from Matthieu Ricard. I imagine sitting at a train station, watching the trains arrive and depart. My pure awareness is the station and my thoughts, feelings, sensations, etc. are the trains. If I am not mindful, I will hop on a train and take it to who knows where. But the moment I realize I am on the train, I am magically off of it, back at the station, just watching without judgment, with compassion.

17. Breath is life.

As Buddhist teacher Gil Fronsdal says, if you’re aware of the breath, you’re aware of the present moment. Our breath is with us from the moment of birth until the moment of death. It is the one bodily function that we can consciously control. Deep breathing is calming. Awareness of breath is the most fundamental meditation technique—and one that I always return to no matter what.

18. Make your mind as vast as the sky.

When I read this line, also from Matthieu Ricard, my mind actually did feel like it blew wide open, in the best possible way. It felt spacious and vast and calm and just there. Now, when I am feeling small-minded and constricted in my thinking, I often remind myself to make my mind as vast as the sky and it inevitably helps.

May these teachings be of benefit!

What would you put on your list? Please share in the comments section if so inspired. Namaste.

~

Relephant:

11 Spiritual Books that Blew my Mind.

21 “Non-Spiritual” Things that make us Happy.

 

~

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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo credit: Flickr Commons

About Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle Margaret Fajkus ("fake-us") is a proponent of natural, lifelong learning through yoga, mindfulness, living, loving and letting go. An avid reader, writer and blogger, she's a longtime lover of words and languages, especially English and Spanish. Today, Michelle is a 34-year-old expat from Austin living at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala with her life partner, daughter and black cat. Michelle is the founder of Yoga Freedom. She learned yoga from a book at age 12 and found Buddha in California at 23. She's written over 250 posts about mindful living on elephant journal since 2010. Her writing also appears on Rebelle Society, Be You Media Group and her blog, Daily Life Practice. Read her memoir, chakra guide or (free!) beginners guide to mindfulness and yoga here, or come on down to Guatemala for a retreat! Connect with Michelle on Google+ or Facebook.

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28 Responses to “18 Spiritual Teachings that Blew my Mind Wide Open.”

  1. hajilina says:

    Be true to yourself as truth really does set you free. Free from misperception, free from feeling wronged, freedom from being a victim and therefore freedom to be who you are.

  2. Bay says:

    This is a fantastic reference. Thank you.

  3. Kendra says:

    Such an amazing, wonderful post! Thank you, thank you :)

  4. Tascha says:

    No. 8 was close to a quote by Finnish poet Anselm Hollo NOT the Buddha hehehe (it's not Buddhist at all :) )

    Such a beautiful article and inspiration :) An experience just to read it!!!

    Thank you

  5. Kim says:

    Thank you for this…I am in a bit of a life crisis?….your 18 spiritual teachings are truly helping me. I read them in the morning as I start my day….I'm finding my way out of a deep dark well!
    Again thank you!

  6. Yusuf says:

    I invite you to read Hazrat Khawaja Shamsuddin Azeemi's ( a spiritual scholar in Pakistan ) books ( available on site ). I hope you will receive much more truth.

  7. Lisa says:

    "worrying is planning for a negative future" I love that!

    I think there is some overlap on the faith is letting go and suffering is caused by clinging (suffering can be alleviated by letting go…).

    When I read the part about letting go, it made me uncomfortable, because we can't COMPLETELY let go. It's along the same lines as the Lord will provide and God helps those who help themselves. We do still have come control over our own lives. We can't all sit under the bodhi tree and wait for enlightenment. We do have our paths to follow.

  8. Maegan says:

    2 more for me:
    Acknowledging what is true right now and accepting it without judgement is the first step of change.
    Whatever is happening is right and good. It is an opportunity to learn the exact lesson I most need at this time.

  9. Sarah says:

    Thank you for such an enlightening article. Beautiful advice!

  10. Karen says:

    Great post; thanks for writing this! It is a beautiful piece.

  11. Amy E says:

    I find the majority of the 18 precepts helpful. I practice the majority of them that are founded in Christian values. I don't understand concepts like Metta. I believe that there should be a sense of "I" because that involves personal responsibility and conscience. I would add: "It is what it is", "Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself", and "Walk a mile in someone else's shoes." My favorite is #14…difficult people are definitely the best teachers! Been there many times.

  12. Kat Warman says:

    I love this! "The most important teaching of all is that we are each where we need to be when we need to be there, learning the lessons that we need to learn." Thank you!

  13. Anne says:

    So cool, to read this article and comments, of people experiencing the “ooh, I get it now” moment. Makes me extra excited about life, man. Good read! Thank you

  14. riverofopportunities125 says:

    This was just what I needed to read, right now. I especially love #12, "worrying is planning for a negative future." Thank you for this!!!

  15. Kathryn Vischjager says:

    Michelle, I love reading you!

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