FEATURE - May 2015 - Santa Fe
By Suzanne Kessler
Be Here Now– those seminal three words uttered by Bhagavan Das to his initiate Ram Dass still apply as a powerful directive for living a spiritual life. Is this familiar to you? Attending a weekend yoga or meditation retreat and experiencing the blissful high of deep clarity, everything smells better and tastes better, the clean diet makes you feel light and energized, life is fantastic ... only to come crashing back to reality at the first signs of stress. It is, of course, the mundane affairs of life that test us and cause us to waver. It is relatively effortless to feel connected to spirit while meditating, doing yoga, or singing in satsang.
Early in my meditation practice, I experienced this chasm. I’d soar high above my physical body in blissful reverie. This resonance, however, was short lived, as I plummeted to earth an hour later in traffic, hurling F-bombs at careless drivers while my blood boiled.
The discrepancy between my two selves was blatant and alarming. Why couldn’t I maintain my state of bliss?
The Great Work of Life is this very practice: mindfulness amid chaos, stress, and discord.
The quest to live a spiritual life can be shored up by a holistic inventory of one’s lifestyle. There is no question that when we are eating poorly, participating in addictive behaviors, or not getting adequate sleep, it is far more challenging to cultivate a sanguine disposition.
In these instances, taking stock and beginning to make changes will support your intention for a more centered life.
Additionally, developing a regular meditation practice builds a solid foundation for being connected to whatever it is that you call God.
Don Miguel Ruiz provides a practical spiritual primer with his book, The Four Agreements. They are as follows:
1. Be Impeccable With Your Word.
2. Don't Take Anything Personally.
3. Don't Make Assumptions.
4. Always Do Your Best.
When discussing the Four Agreements over the years, I’ve found that people tend to struggle the most with number two and number three. These agreements are usually tethered to long-formed dynamics at work in our psyches. Through my studies and practice, I’ve found some ways to unwind emotional triggers that you might find useful.
The initiating, and most crucial, step is to become self-aware even when we are triggered. Let’s say you just meditated and are out in your day when something occurs that derails you.
Someone cuts you off in traffic while flipping you the bird
A salesperson gives you poor customer service while being rude
A loved one becomes angry and says hurtful things
As a result, you find yourself feeling heightened emotionally, your body feels tense, and you no longer are feeling connected to self or spirit.
This is the point of interception.
If, in that moment, you can say to yourself, “I feel off” or “I feel disconnected”, then you are demonstrating self-awareness by witnessing what is happening. It might seem simple, but when an emotional dynamic starts running, this can prove challenging. The act of naming where you are at immediately gains altitude over the situation, as opposed to being myopically immersed.
The next step is to gain clarity by identifying what happened:
“That person cut me off in traffic, which really enrages me because they put me in danger of having an accident.”
“I really hated how that salesperson treated me, their rudeness was offensive and unkind.”
“I feel so hurt that my partner would speak to me in that way, why am I even in this relationship?”
It is our response to the stimuli that causes our emotions to flare. By owning our response, we can begin to elevate our consciousness to the response we would like to be having.
Furthermore, if we apply a spiritual directive to our response then the energy starts to move: “I want to not take people’s behavior personally and I do not want to make assumptions about what their behavior means.”
Which leads to:
“I have no idea why that person cut me off, but it had nothing to do with me. For all I know they were rushing to the emergency room with a loved one in the car. I don’t need to make it about me. I am so happy an accident didn’t happen and that I am fine.”
“That salesperson seemed so unhappy, and unhappy people often lash out at others. His/her rudeness is an indication of how disconnected they feel, and has nothing to do with me. I’d like to be extra kind to people like that, clearly they are hurting.”
“I don’t know what is going on with my partner, but I do want to take care of myself and not be available to be spoken to in that way. I don’t have to take their outburst personally, however, it gives me something to think about as we go forward. I will communicate my understanding of what I will and won’t participate with in relationship.”
Now we’ve gained altitude, we are lifted out of the triggering dynamic and are back to being centered.
This process of getting triggered, noticing the heightened state of emotion, lifting out by intercepting the dynamic with our applied awareness, gaining clarity, and re-centering is a powerful tool of applying our spirituality throughout the day as we encounter stimuli that otherwise would heave us about.
There is never a moment when we are not spiritual, it is our essence. We just sometimes forget who we really are. I find these techniques help me get back into balance.
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Suzanne Kessler has had a meditative practice for over 30 years. She attended the University of Santa Monica for Spiritual Psychology before moving to Santa Fe.
She is the owner of Santa Fe Skin where she practices as a Licensed Esthetician. You can contact Suzanne at email@example.com or by calling