18 Spiritual Teachings that Blew My Mind Wide Open.

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After a long spiritual journey and much research, I’ve learned these 18 teachings that have made a major difference in bettering my life and bringing me to higher consciousness. I hope they do the same for you.

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.

See also: Happy Interdependence Day

5. Faith is all about 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 worrying.

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’s timely pearls of wisdom 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!

Bonus: Reggie Ray explains that meditation is the most important thing he’s done with his life:

 

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

Tree

~

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: Tareck Raffoul with permission; Flickr Commons 

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Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle Margaret is a heart-centered writer, teacher and creator of Yoga Freedom. Her home base since 2012 has been Lake Atitlán in the Guatemalan highlands where she lives with her husband, daughter and fur family. Michelle has published this column on elephant journal for over 8 years and has also written a few inspiring books. She incorporates yoga, dharma, hatha, yin, mindfulness, chakras, chanting and more into her teachings and personal practice. Join Michelle on Retreat at Lake Atitlan!

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mcewan.allison Dec 7, 2018 8:27am

Thank you , loved them all . I’m struggling with life at the moment and soul searching. This was tonic. Namaste

anonymous Mar 4, 2016 10:08am

I love this. It’s going on my daily things to read. For now. I’m taking ‘Don’t get on the train’ and “Make your mind as vast as the sky’ for practice. Thank you for writing this.

anonymous Feb 3, 2016 11:42pm

Hi Michelle what a wonderful post……many great ideas! I have found meditating and mindfulness have changed my life. I am much less reactive in emotional situations……..most of the time! lol Thanks for sharing!

anonymous Jan 12, 2016 9:22am

Absolutely love this. It came at the right time, in the right place…of course! Blessings and light to you for further opening my mind……and hopefully those of Some close to me. X

anonymous Jan 1, 2016 12:40am

Nice list, though I would modify #12. Feeling mildly hungry, tired or annoyed is not suffering. There is far too much actual suffering in the world due to war, famine and cruelty to minimize it by comparing it to seeing a boring movie. “Annoyance” or “discomfort” might be more accurate.

anonymous Dec 18, 2015 5:41am

Wonderful list! They all resonate with me. Faith is letting go, but more importantly, letting IN. Love that one. And don’t get on the train… a daily challenge, but once you see the train and understand that getting on or not getting on is a choice, things do change. Thank you.

anonymous Jul 17, 2015 11:40am

Awesome read!!! Everything hit the nail in the head!! Every teaching, and even the paragraphs before the teachings hit home for me!! I read this yesterday and I had an awesome day. So I read it again today. Thank you!!!

anonymous Jul 4, 2015 12:21pm

Im fighting to recover in addiction and having such such such troubles understanding my higher power. I can feel it physically ache me, when you fight against yourself. I needed to read number 5. For that, thank you for presenting it clearly.

anonymous Apr 15, 2015 9:24pm

These were also my dearly beloved guideposts, with one exception: Don't hop on the train. Love that and it feels like a beneficial practice. Thank you.

anonymous Apr 13, 2015 8:36pm

Michelle, while I think you “learned” 18 enlightening lessons in life and you were able to list the teachings of others in your blog- you have missed the point in many! Yoga means Union and we ALL want the same thing- we are ALL one. For you to begin your blog by proudly bragging that you abandoned the Catholic religion at age 10 and discovered yoga and Buddhism by 12 just sounds ignorant and irresponsible for you to preach. If you in fact understood yoga and Buddhism you wouldn’t have made this statement. All 18 of your findings can also be found in the Catholic faith and any true yogi gets that without abandoning any faith- that’s why it’s called faith. Your blog just seems very hypocritical to me and you end it by saying when you “find yourself being small minded….” Well….look inside. I hope you are able to open your mind and heart a bit more because while I think you’ve skimmed the surface of things you don’t truly understand what it all means. Almost sounds like a psuedo yogi or poser but I truly hope you can find a way back to your roots and still practice yoga and kindness because guess what, Catholics do!

Namaste!

anonymous Apr 13, 2015 8:29pm

Michelle, while I think you “learned” 18 enlightening lessons in life and you were able to list the teachings of others in your blog- you have missed the point in many! Yoga means Union and we ALL want the same thing- we are ALL one. For you to begin your blog by proudly bragging that you abandoned the Catholic religion at age 10 and discovered yoga and Buddhism by 12 just sounds ignorant and irresponsible for you to preach. If you in fact understood yoga and Buddhism you wouldn’t have made this statement. All 18 of your findings can also be found in the Catholic faith and any true yogi gets that without abandoning any faith- that’s why it’s called faith. Your blog just seems very hypocritical to me and you end it by saying when you “find yourself being small minded….” Well….look inside. I hope you are able to open your mind and heart a bit more because while I think you’ve skimmed the surface of things you don’t truly understand what yoga means.

Namaste!

anonymous Feb 22, 2015 10:00pm

Somehow you failed to notice that Jesus was preaching Buddhism.
Some people who did notice it have postulated that Jesus traveled the Silk Road into Tibet and studied there before returning to Jerusalem. Or, that he picked up Buddhism when it expanded via the Greek Empire from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE.
Obviously the subject is controversial so efforts to confirm that Jesus traveled to Tibet, where records exist of somebody named “Issa” have met with huge opposition.
But the evidence is in the teachings of Jesus, recorded in the synoptic gospels.

anonymous Feb 21, 2015 9:22pm

Beautiful article thank you…..a reminder of some of the teachings that have brought me to where I am today.
I will share this with you…..a quote that I constantly bring myself back to as I reminder about how life should be lived (and sorry, I don’t know the author!):
“Yoga is the conscious creative response to whatever the present moment requires”

anonymous Feb 21, 2015 10:18am

#16…. Don't get on the train. Blew….my….mind. Outstanding description of where the mind (if left to its own devices) can take you. Good or bad. Wow!

anonymous Feb 20, 2015 7:41am

Truly beautiful and inspiring. Thank you!

anonymous Feb 2, 2015 9:48am

I want and need to connect once again with this part of my life. I miss being in touch.

anonymous Jan 31, 2015 7:59pm

There is no path ‘to’ Truth – there is only the path ‘of’ Trurh. A path is made by walking it. Blessed Be ~ James

anonymous Jan 30, 2015 9:22pm

“Hold on loosely, but don’t let go

if you cling too tightly, you’re gonna lose control.” .38 Special

🙂

anonymous Nov 23, 2014 5:04pm

I am a senior and though have a pretty healthy state of being at this time after years of researching spiritually, ad infinitum it has been coming to me recently, how distant my nieces are from me. I often took care of them when they were younger and loved them like my own, but now I rarely hear from them. My life was always pretty short on love, real dad didnt connect much,mom was always pretty much in the background when I had an abusive step dad, my child as an infant was murdered by babysitters friend, and have always had a few friends, but now all have moved to be closer to family. Just wondering if you can advise me on what the object is spiritually of having little manifested love in life and what one should do in finding a place of harmony about it. Thanks much

    anonymous Apr 17, 2015 4:32am

    YOU reach out to those in your family & those who need YOUR love, whether near or far & YOU WILL RECEIVE it back 100 fold. Focus on what you want & ACTIVELY move toward it. Be a grandparent to an abandoned baby, volunteer for a pet rescue or a veterans hospital. Connect somewhere where you are needed. Don't focus on what you don't want. The mind can't move to a negative if you are dieting it to a positive. And oh yeah, listen to uplifting music that moves your soul ( & your body too, if possible!)!!

anonymous Sep 3, 2014 12:29pm

Thank you! A few of these made me go "Ah ha! That's why I feel/do/think this sometimes!" Sometimes it's the slightest twist in how something is presented to turn that lightbulb on, thank you!

anonymous Sep 3, 2014 12:09am

Born a catholic, you will always be catholic……how sad you reject something before you understand faith.

    anonymous Dec 18, 2015 10:13pm

    Sometimes in life one has to do what they have to do..do what makes them happy…

anonymous Sep 2, 2014 5:24pm

So concise. Loved every word of this. My whole life I have been adopting these thoughts and practices …in the last four years I’ve made it my duty to believe them with all my heart and my life has changed so much. Thank you for instilling in me, these truths, all over again!!

anonymous Sep 2, 2014 10:19am

Movement is another tool to keep the focus on the NOW, as well as shifting repetitious, clingy thoughts, they have to surrender! A great article and appreciated by many, thank you for the sharing of it?

anonymous Aug 24, 2014 9:54am

I really appreciate these insights and resonate with all of them. I have two mantras that I would like to share: “I am not this body, I am not this mind” and “I am that I am.”

anonymous Aug 22, 2014 6:25am

Thanks for sharing Michelle. I really enjoyed your post, a lot of which resonates with me. I am going to adopt your expression "Don't Get on the Train" and remind myself over and over again.

anonymous Aug 8, 2014 4:58pm

Love this post, as I love your other posts also.
I would like to copy this one and put it up where my family can read it, if it's OK with you to copy.
Thanks for you insight and for sharing it with us.
Namaste 🙂

    anonymous Aug 21, 2014 8:32pm

    Thank you, Stella! Of course, sure. I'm flattered.

anonymous Jul 22, 2014 6:33am

Michelle, I love reading you!

    anonymous Aug 3, 2014 12:47pm

    Thank you so much! That makes my day, Kathryn.

anonymous Jul 20, 2014 1:33pm

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!!!

    anonymous Jul 21, 2014 11:06am

    Hooray! I love it when that happens. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Namaste, Michelle

anonymous Jul 20, 2014 11:43am

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

    anonymous Jul 21, 2014 11:06am

    Yay! Thank you for your sweet comment, Anne. Namaste, Michelle

anonymous Jul 17, 2014 2:13pm

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!

    anonymous Jul 21, 2014 11:05am

    Thanks, Kat! Yes, there were lots of lessons we needed to learn in Guate, huh? Hugs, Michelle

anonymous Jul 11, 2014 6:33pm

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.

    anonymous Jul 12, 2014 9:03am

    Thank you for reading & commenting, Amy.

anonymous Jul 10, 2014 5:03pm

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

    anonymous Jul 11, 2014 6:54am

    Karen, Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Namaste, Michelle

anonymous Jul 9, 2014 8:08am

Thank you for such an enlightening article. Beautiful advice!

    anonymous Jul 11, 2014 6:54am

    Sarah, Thanks for reading and commenting! Namaste, Michelle

anonymous Jul 8, 2014 6:37pm

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.

    anonymous Jul 11, 2014 6:53am

    Maegan, Thank you for these gems! Namaste, Michelle

anonymous Jul 8, 2014 2:44pm

"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.

    anonymous Jul 11, 2014 6:53am

    Lisa, Thanks for reading and commenting! You're right — we have to balance letting go and holding on. Being and doing! Namaste, Michelle

anonymous Jul 8, 2014 12:45pm

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.

    anonymous Jul 11, 2014 6:52am

    Thanks for reading and commenting! Namaste, Michelle

anonymous Jul 8, 2014 12:30pm

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!

    anonymous Jul 11, 2014 6:52am

    Kim, Thanks for reading and commenting! I wish you the best on your path. Namaste, Michelle

anonymous Jul 8, 2014 6:21am

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

    anonymous Jul 11, 2014 6:51am

    Tascha, Thanks for reading and commenting! Namaste, Michelle

anonymous Jul 7, 2014 12:34pm

Such an amazing, wonderful post! Thank you, thank you 🙂

    anonymous Jul 11, 2014 6:51am

    Kendra, Thanks for reading and commenting! Namaste, Michelle

anonymous Jul 7, 2014 10:58am

This is a fantastic reference. Thank you.

anonymous Jul 6, 2014 7:45am

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.

Jocelyne Abdel Messih Aug 26, 2018 8:33am

Every single one resonated with me. Thank you for writing and sharing this list. I would add one about nature, especially trees, and how much it can teach us about stillness. Also recommend Michael Singer’s book The untethered soul.

Rosemary E. Reehling Aug 19, 2018 5:27pm

Love the train station way of thinking...excellent!

Alesia Ballinger Jul 11, 2017 8:42pm

I am totally into your writs and wonderful information. I have found very helpful healing artical when I can read them.My apologies for Im not able to even afford you yet. I really have enjoyed your beneficial shares. Thank you. I am inlet working 1/4 time. I will live to subscribe when a am able to afford you site.

Max Zahariadis Jul 9, 2017 9:16am

Beautiful. Thank you for helping surface what's best in each of us. Blessings.

Russ Golder May 18, 2017 7:01pm

What do you mean that you met "the Buddha" in the San Francisco Bay area at the age of 23? The Buddha died many many years before you were even born!

David Gardiner Apr 27, 2017 8:12am

I'm sorry for you. I walked the same path. It's straight back to Jesus Christ. Waste of time. You could have had a family. Except also I am a witch.

Carolina Castro Apr 25, 2017 7:57pm

Love it!! Thank you very much

Loki Looki Feb 14, 2017 4:40am

", 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" Well said, This is basic spirituality, that which aims to expand the person rather than limiting to ideas and identities

Karin Carver Nov 6, 2016 1:34am

Lovely article. Thank you so much!

Carol Bryant High Sep 23, 2016 1:14pm

Thanks so much for speaking from your heart and sharing with us, this is excellent!

Elvin Cheo Jul 12, 2016 12:42am

Thansk for sharing, i also readed a blog before this..sharing here too - http://www.internetbeasts.com/abundant-mind-review/

Brittany Lawson Jun 14, 2016 9:39pm

This was a perfect read to go along with a sunny day in my hammock. Thank you it brought me peace.

Colleen Mulrooney Jun 7, 2016 12:45am

Loved this - some of these really resonated, especially the one about worrying.

Liat Hanoch May 10, 2016 6:40pm

Thank you so much! Very inspiring post!

Laisvis Lingvevicius Apr 21, 2016 11:20pm

Great reference :)