When I say “spiritual connection” I really mean knowing the truth of who and what you are, connecting with your true or authentic self. I think that it is the most important pillar of health because it is the foundation of feeling whole, “at home” wherever you are. Pretty much everyone has a false idea of who they are. Partly, they confuse what they “do” with who they “are”, confuse “doing” with “being.” But also, and more importantly, almost everyone is living in a subtle state of contraction, a chronic, self-protective flinch away from, well from everything, from his or her life. Some may recognize a feeling or belief that “life is dangerous, something terrible could happen at any moment, I must constantly work to accumulate the good stuff and avoid the bad stuff”. Or a belief that, “there is something I’m not doing that I should be doing”, or “something I’m doing that I shouldn’t be.” For many, there is just subtle feeling of unease, deep down under everything else. Even the most seemingly successful, those who seem to have it all, have this vague angst, deep down. Perhaps they are only aware of it late at night when insomnia strikes, or even never consciously aware of it. But it is there on a subconscious level. The reason is that misapprehension of who they are. “I am this particular, limited, tiny, individual human in the vast, threatening Universe…” How we came to be this way is a longer story, a sidetrack from what this posting is about so I will save my speculations on that for another time.
People will do most anything to avoid that feeling or if conscious of it, to try to make it go away or “fix” it somehow. Behind all the diagnoses of addiction, the bad habits, the overstimulation and lack of rest, the unhappy relationships that are filled with conflict and misunderstandings, behind all that is this mistaken identity. This has been written and talked about for millennia. But all the words and stories don’t really seem to help much. Look around. Look, really look, in the mirror. It is nearly impossible to make good, clear decisions and choices moment to moment if you do not have a base of accurate self-knowledge to work from.
The solution is really quite simple though of course, not necessarily easy.
If you have misinformation or a misunderstanding about something, the solution is to investigate it directly, just look at it. You can’t really look at your “self” because your “self” is what is doing the looking. Just as you can’t really see your own face, only it’s reflected image in the mirror or a photograph. But you can pretty much learn how you look on the surface in just that way. In the same way, if you turn your attention to how it feels to be you, right here, right now, you will learn a lot about who and what you really are.
There is well-entrenched habit pattern of believing the false self, the misunderstanding so consistent practice over time is necessary to learn the truth. But you can start right now
You can turn the beam of your attention from the words on your computer screen to the sensation of your breath going in and out of your body. It doesn’t matter where you feel that, just that you can and do feel the sensation. Just as you made that shift, move your attention to what it is like, right there, right now, to be you. Not the thought but the actual feeling, the sensation of being you, the part you refer to as “me”. Perhaps you will get a sense of presence, as in “being present”, as in “ here I am.” Those may not be your words to describe what you find, but however you describe it, it will be simple, very obvious, and almost always overlooked.
That sense of yourself is always present, no matter how else you feel and no matter what else you are doing, it is there. Repeat this little exercise as often as you think of it throughout your day. You can also sit quietly for some time, mornings and evenings are good and convenient, and do this sensing of yourself. If you take this on as an ongoing curiosity, “who am I?” and play with it over time, much can change for you.
This investigation is my deepest passion and I am delighted to answer whatever questions I can about it. There is much I don’t know but I have learned a lot over the years of playing with this so feel free to email me and make contact.
Geoffrey Levens, L.Ac., Health Coach
Here is an update after 1 year of practicing a new to me form of meditation
Meditation and addictive and unwanted behaviors we all engage in–
posted 09/20/2013 from Ecuador
We all have deep patterns in our nervous systems, software patterns, that strongly tend to reactivate in certain situations. These come from all sorts of places, pre natal, birth trauma, early childhood, later trauma, habits built up gradually from a little “hiccup” and also habits entrenched from a single overwhelming experience. The net result is the same. When one of those patterns get activated, we will almost certainly react to it in our own stereotypical way, repeating things we don’t like about ourselves and our behavior and also, simultaneously, deepening the pattern by practice/repetition.
We do that because when the pattern activates, deep down in our physiology we secret messenger molecules, hormones, neurotransmitters…(psychoneuroimmunology blah blah blah, mind and body are not two separate things, they are one thing looked at from different perspectives). Those in turn cause all sorts of activity on cellular and musculoskeletal levels which in turn generate sensations of various intensities. That concert of sensations, we either crave or hate, grab for more or try to push it away. The way we do that last part is the reflexive actiing out, the cravings, the compulsive eating, or gambling, or video game playing, or sex, or rage attack, or name it and claim it!
In my experience, the ONLY way to finally overcome these patterns is to train ourselves to tolerate increasingly strong sensations, both the ones we want more of and the ones we want less of, without reacting to them on any level. If we do that consistently enough, the pattern starts to extinguish, gets weaker, and finally vanishes. That leaves us free! We can respond to our environment, both inner and outer, in appropriate and creative ways instead of reacting reflexively in stereotypical patterns.
In over 45 years of experimenting and working on just this issue I have found a particular type of meditation to be the one thing that really works directly on this issue at the deepest level. Everything else I have tried, a number of other forms of meditation, cognitive psych, Jungian psych, behavioral psych, Reichian psych, various other mind/body modalities, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, crystals, psychic healers, I have made the rounds, absolutely nothing compares.
For me this has specifically been Vipasana meditation in the style taught by S.N. Goenka. I think maybe not for everyone; it is a very demanding and rigorous practice and at first not at all pleasant for most, though as time passes, it can get mighty fine in there 😉 Likely other modalities will work for other people but the bottom line of all this is building tolerance for any and all sensations without the compulsion to act, not reacting. Cravings will vanish, addictions will melt away, freedom will become more and more a reality…
If you examine your neuro-electrical-chemical responses to stimuli in a lab, you will find electrical impulses, adrenalin, serotonin, dopamine, cortisol, etc. If you close your eyes and look at the same thing by turning your attention inward, you will find subtle, body sensations. So in short you are not addicted to chocolate, or gambling, or bowling. You are addicted to the sensations exposure to those things generates in your body. And you don’t hate Bob or Sally; you hate the sensations exposure to them generates in your body.
Also, your body reacts with much the same responses to your thoughts; if you think of chocolate or Sally, you will either crave more immediately or really want none of that, depending on which on it is.
The body will have its reactions but if you train yourself to not react to them, you will be free of addictions regardless of whether or not those sensations are present.
Geoffrey Levens, L.Ac., Health Coach (now in Ecuador!)