For Cameron. Thank you for being. Thank you for holding space for me to be.
I’m back in the good old US of A or what the Balinese admiringly refer to as America. Though the experiences of the last three months continue to live and breathe in me, some closing reflections feel appropriate. The first day on the farm in Widgee, Australia I burnt my leg and hand with a pot of boiling water. What started as an ominous Australia shaped blister faded into a heart shaped scar, a scar that has grown on me (pun intended) and now symbolizes the underlying intention of my journey.
Tattoos can be a beautiful form of self-expression. I, however, do not have any tattoos. This is partially because I could never settle on something I could live with forever but mostly due to my preference for mother nature’s tattoos – the birthmarks, freckles and scars that give a person character. I have a secret love affair with the flaws that define the skin’s perfection and tell a person’s story. Alas, the universe has given me a poignant mark to remember her by. And this patch of discolored skin says much more to me than “never pour boiling water into a glass pitcher”.
My travels in Australia and Bali were above all an opportunity to feel deep into myself. A period devoted to making room for all the complexity and wonder that I am. It was a time to open into the mystery and to get comfortable in the discomfort of the unknown. Above all it was about opening my heart to a deep sense of self-love and acceptance and watching the wings of unconditional love sprout and take flight in my life. The fact that my travels draw to a close with an advanced training course in Integrative Restoration (iRest) took this acknowledgment a step deeper.
iRest draws heavily on the Tantric teachings of Yoga Nidra. My teacher, Richard Miller, calls iRest the meditative heart of yoga. Through a genuine welcoming of the entire contents of consciousness iRest helps integrate the psyche and brings about a sense of harmony that restores recognition of our true nature as Pure Presence. It is a heart centered practice in its welcoming of everything just as it is without judgment or a need to change what we find. The desire to be other than we are or to be more of what we are not is a form of self-hatred stemming from a core belief that we are not enough. In iRest we are not trying to change anything, just as we are not trying to create anything new. Rather we are restoring an awareness of something that has always been there in the background.
iRest invites the background into the foreground and provides an opportunity for the first-hand knowing of the container in which everything - thoughts, emotions and sensations - arise. Some call this container Awareness others call it stillness, Consciousness or Pure Presence. When we practice iRest over a long period of time it teaches us how to be better human beings. This is not a moral statement with a rap sheet of do’s and don’ts. The emphasis here is on the word being. We are human beings and when we take a moment to step back from all our human doings being-ness shines forth. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine yourself in your favorite place with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Perhaps you are sitting in the afternoon sun, your favorite beverage in hand, gazing out into the horizon – just being. Enlightenment is that simple.
So many of us carry around the belief that enlightenment is something special, something that you have to spend a lifetime cultivating. This week I experienced the utter non-special-ness of it all. It’s been there all along but we generally don’t notice it. We are just too distracted by the content of consciousness, the striving and the trying to figure it out. A teacher once referred to these momentary glimpses of enlightenment as A-ha moments and that is exactly what they are. The trouble is often the contents of consciousness distracts and overwhelms us and so we can’t stay with it for more than a moment. We get caught in the push/pull of emotions and thoughts as we identify, react and act on them.
iRest helps us to learn how to surf the big waves – the Pipeline events of our lives. And just like anything else, we have to learn how to successfully negotiate the beginners break first. iRest assists in the cleansing of the body/mind so that attention is free to rest in Pure Presence. It supports residing in Pure Presence so the practice can continue in daily life as one uninterrupted iRest experience. When we begin to inquire into the essential qualities of Pure Presence we find love and a joy that is not dependent on anything – a joy that is here for its own sake. If we feel deeper we discover that we are that very love and joy itself. The totality of the practice is expressed in the realization of our non-dual nature. When we can fully meet, greet and welcome ourselves just as we are we start to realize that there is nothing to welcome because we are welcoming itself. When we set ourselves free to be exactly who we are wings of compassion extended from our heart to embrace not only ourselves but all beings everywhere. When there is only love, everyone and everything becomes an extension of ourselves. We see that we are not our body, our mind or our accomplishments but something greater. In reality we are being human not human beings is illumed. We are Pure Presence having the experience of being human. When I ponder this idea Richard voice echoes in my head, “This realization would mean the end of war. Not of conflict, but of war.” The war within and the war without.
It is no coincidence that I arrived at this weeks training with a heart shaped reminder of the love, perfection, divinity and wisdom that we all inherently are emblazoned on my leg. The spiritual heart isn’t a place but a portal. An opening into the mystery.