Yoga, meditation, dreamwork, Active Imagination and Voice Dialogue, are all powerful tools for self knowledge and transformation, but like all of life’s endeavours, balance is required.
“Row row row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily merrily merrily, life is but a dream…,”
How often have you had a dream, woken up, then wanted to go back to sleep to finish the dream ? The same can be true in a Voice Dialogue or Active Imagination session. One discovers a voice or energy, and begins to identify with it, or become attached to it, but then it’s time to come back to the Aware Ego position. In both cases we are discovering an alternate world, a life different from the familiar territory of the conscious world of the habitual surface level thinking mind. Whether we are attached to the outcome of the story of our conscious world or the world below the surface, our appetite for finishing the story will never be satisfied because the story has no end. Life itself has no end, no beginning. Only the bodies or forms that it generates, sustains and destroys have a beginning and an end. Life goes on. All we can do is make the most of it – live fully.
Don’t just go with the flow
The stream of life never stops flowing. To live fully is to not just go with the flow, but to row, gently, consciously cooperate with the flow, row your boat down the stream. To live fully is to be fully present, and presence requires us to let go, moment by moment, knowing that life is like a river that appears to be there in front of us but is never the same water that just flowed past us. Why “gently row”? Conscious living requires a balance of effort and surrender. We need to be gentle with ourselves and each other as we navigate the mysterious river of life.
Sometimes we are like birds grounded by a wound. At such times the bird can be picked up and nourished, but it should not be held too tightly, and when it is ready to fly, let it go. To hold one another, or an experience, or even our identity too tightly is to stifle the free flow of life.
Living fully requires us to pay attention not only to what is happening in our waking hours and outer lives but also to the inner life of our dreams and imagination, and to integrate that information into our daily lives. Here, the same attitude of “gentle rowing” applies. Sometimes the message is not forthcoming, not clear, or not acceptable to the one receiving it, or the dream or image does not even appear! Here too, we need to be gentle and patient. We cannot control the great river of life or demand that life manifests our projections or expectations. It is with open hands that we can most fully appreciate the gift of life. We open our hands not in sleepy passivity but with the awareness of a spiritual warrior.
Letting go requires awareness. In yoga this awareness manifests in active receptivity and receptive activity. Each asana in Hatha yoga demands our full attention to balance ha and tha, sun and moon, the effort of building the structure of the pose with the surrender of listening to our body-mind’s response to that effort, which in turn informs and supports our effort. The essence of asana is described in the second sutra of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as steadiness and ease. The effort becomes effortless when we transcend the dualistic attitude of performance and allow ourselves to be absorbed in the limitlessness of becoming one with the posture, or posture flow. Beyond the mat, one can apply this gentle discipline to how one lives one’s life. Often there is a lag time between doing and being – a time for action and doing and a time for letting go and allowing the results to manifest as they will.
Willful commitment in our quest for self mastery needs to be tempered with patience and acceptance. A big AHA! moment, a juicy experience, or how happy we feel is not a reliable indicator of our being on the right track or “ how we are doing.” The attitude of the spiritual warrior can be summed up in the two words of the great Tibetan yogi saint Milarepa’s personal mantra: hasten slowly. His main practice was meditation. One of the Tibetan words for this practice is gompa which means to cultivate. In meditation we cultivate attention. The seed or potential for attention and awareness is in each one of us but requires patient cultivation to flourish. Just as a farmer provides the conditions for the germination and growth of the plant but cannot force the plant to grow faster or produce its fruit before it is ready, we need to persevere with patience – enthusiastic patience! - and trust the process.