Keeping Both Feet On The Earth - Nov 25 2017
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Keeping Both Feet On The Earth
I've noticed in my own life two kinds of distinct phases. The first is high sensational. Lots of activity, direction, involvement. Time is used fully. The senses are on alert, and with so much to do the mind needs to be active, discriminative. During these times the calling for intentionality around my self-care, around my spiritual practices is clear and strong within me. I find myself faced with the choice to consciously use my time, to shape it for maximal growth and efficiency. I often realize that without my conscious shaping of my time and energy, I would be at the mercy of the wild waves of chance, sometimes feeling good sometimes feeling bad – all according to what is happening around me in the moment.
During these high sensation periods there is no lack of content; inner or outer. These periods usually involve a multitude of interactions and relationships on various levels. Life development is productive and yet triggers also tend to be high, passions intense and thus there is great need for the skill of knowing how to turn inwards to oneself, to replenish, to reflect and process. During these phases I tend to write more poetry, channel more songs, I tend to go through many realizations, deeply and quickly. I integrate a lot, often turning towards parts of myself I have never fully met before. Activations are occurring. These phases are not necessarily easy or fun or anything for that matter, but it's amazing growth if I take it that way.
Then there are periods where nothing in particular is going on. No or a few clients, no travels, no particular purpose that defines my time and space in any particular way. There is an abundance of openness, undefined and unstructured.
I call these low sensation periods. It is not a time of living in a monastery or ashram, it is even blanker than that, less intentional than that. It is just undefined time. For me it is often a week or two at a time living in a home, not traveling, not doing a lot work. Sometimes in a town I am unfamiliar with, sometimes remote and far away from many people. For you it may be a weekend at home alone, or a day off from work. Or even just an hour after a busy day of activity. During these periods nothing particular on the outside motivates us, nothing calls us or demands our attention and so we are left entirely with our own will to mold and structure the life experience we wish to create for ourselves. Perhaps we will just sleep late and binge watch movies. Perhaps we will create a unique rhythm that helps us focus on some of our personal creative practices. Perhaps we will write cards to loved ones. Or perhaps we will scroll through Facebook all day.
These two phases of life experience can also be understood in very mundane day to day expressions of our lives. There is the elation of being in a beautiful relationship with the person that makes us feel so amazing. The elation and activation that comes with a powerful workout or intense spiritual practice. The sense of accomplishment and importance we might feel when our work is recognized and praised. The spike in energy and positivity that comes with coffee, cacao or one's daily intake of caffeine. These experiences are all at a contrast to what happens when they aren’t there. No great love, no peak experience, deep insights, no recognition, no caffeine. Just this moment not defined by any particularly strong experience.
We can all relate to these two kinds of experiences in our lives. And most of us can also identify with the strong emotional polarity that often comes from one to the next. How common is it to return from the inspiring, life changing retreat and fall into depression? How often is great elation in love followed by sadness and grief in it's loss? Confusion and doubt for the spiritual seeker after a powerful spiritual experience? Crash and burn after high caffeine intake?
Have you heard of the NBD movement? It's the No Big Deal movement. I see people using it all the time. I love you, no big deal. I am turned on, no big deal. I am ecstatic and full of energy, no big deal. I love this concept of no big deal – it keeps one grounded and simple even during moments of high sensation. It suggests that high sensation experiences are unglamorous, common, nothing to write home about. That they are really just no big deal.
I recall several years ago, when I first began working with plant medicine teachers, I used to have very powerful intellectual and psychic experiences. Feeling energy opening up on the inside, my third eye pulsating, incredible insights and memories, seeing my life and the nature of my unique karmic path and relationships more clearly. During these medicine ceremonies I noticed that with so much energy focused in my higher chakras the rest of my body was actually losing energy; that I was depleting my reserves. I would feel cold and tired during these ceremonies and afterward I would inevitably go through a few day period of intense integration. Depression, loss of energy, low self-esteem and confusion. It was such a stark contrast from the peak experiences I would have while working with the medicine.
At some point during a ceremony I had an important realization. While the energy was pulsating in my third eye and great insight and clarity was opening within me I began affirming to myself, “this is normal” and in that sense I didn’t give any of it any special attention. I didn't metaphorically get up from my seat to greet it. I allowed all to be as it was and consciously brought my attention to my body. I kept myself warm with more layers and began experimenting with movement and breath. I remained balanced and present to my body. I let go of the grasping of and fascination with any particular experience. I relinquished any value I had otherwise placed on powerful energetic peak experiences and chose instead to stay grounded.
Staying grounded, centered in the middle I find is the highest path. It is the highest because it is the lowest. It is the safest and most stable, and thus all growth is possible from this fertile and accessible place. It affirms there is nothing to really figure out, nothing to achieve and thus all of life remains open and fluid. The realizations found on stable ground are stable realizations; ones we can integrate and use right away in our day to day living.
Lao Tzu said, “What does it mean that success is as dangerous as failure? Whether you go up the ladder or down it, your position is shaky. When you stand with your two feet on the ground, you will always keep your balance.”
I take this as an important teaching about the nature of human identity. We so easily get caught by extremes, allowing ourselves to be defined by the ephemeral context of our lives in the moment. This inevitably leads to instability and shaky grounds for any identity structure.
Spiritual awakening is no big deal. Falling in love is no big deal. Deactivating your Facebook account for a month (try it) is no big deal. Everything is essentially no big deal. With all this no big deal going on, what's left? What is important to us? This is exactly the point of this teaching. When we cease valuing particular experiences in life over others all of our energy returns to live now. I find that living in balance offers the greatest wisdom and teachings, far more than any peak experiences. These teachings are humble, quiet, unflashy and most of all they are lasting. They do not come and go. They are rooted and in time become permanent.
The moment we become identified with any particular experience in life we lose energy in our concern for gain or loss. On a soul level there is never gain or loss. Lifetimes come and go, but our essence, what we actually are before and after this human form, is never destroyed. Staying centered in what doesn't come or go we become more simple, more content and penetrate beyond the side roads. Life becomes more and more essential, more and more relevant to our natural path. Awakening shows up as the most obvious and intuitive thing; it's what our life looks like when we are not bound by the striving for any particular experience. What's left is what we are. Life reveals itself as very interesting just as it is, sustainably interesting.