Spiritual Bypassing Is Bullsh*t Escapism – How Not To

spiritual bypassing jemima house

When I was young, I heard people say that life was painful and there’s just no getting away from it. I never believed them.

I thought they just hadn’t figured it out yet or were too lazy to overcome their cynicism.

Although I keep more than a sliver of naiveté and prefer to look through love-coloured lenses – now I am older, I know that life includes pain. I understand that it takes courage and bravery to keep inviting connections with an open heart when there are no guarantees. I understand it is a challenge on all fronts to be honest about the soft animal creatures we all are and how much we get it wrong and hurt ourselves and others. I understand the patience it takes to look beneath occurrences that might offend or upset and ascertain their origins as rooted in humanity rather than malice. I understand the work required to tirelessly be present with the self in a way that illuminates all of our aspects and does not deny the shadow that scares us so. I have learned that there is no peace and little health when the mind is separated from the body or seen as superior and that the effects of ignoring the body’s natural response to pain results in an accumulation of toxic residue that colours the mind and diseases the body.

Humans understand themselves and the world by assigning meaning to what they perceive with the goal being to enable enjoyable survival and minimise pain. Relating to things and people in a way that prevents us from killing ourselves is necessarily a priority, satisfying our animal needs for connection, comfort and pleasure is too. We adhere to the laws of nature (gravity for one) and of the land (legalities) to smooth our passage and create more ease. We behave in specific ways to ensure our needs get met. As we have evolved rapidly beyond the direct hand to mouth experience of survival, we have access to privileges of all kinds, giving us more time for thinking about meaning in general, specifically human behaviour (as very few live out their days completely alone) and spirituality.


We are autonomous but we do not live in isolation. Human interactions are mutable and complex. Matters of the soul/human spirit cannot be separated from our human condition although they are often misguidedly seen as superior to it. Every aspect of us is an expression of the spirit or life-force within us. Like the weather, some aspects are clement and conducive to harmony and others are violently disruptive to life as we know it. The fact remains that being housed in a 3D body, in this 3D world is the only way we currently have of interpreting the manifestations of the spirit in all its fluctuating glory.

These fluctuations show up as inconsistencies in behaviour and emotion.  All living creatures conform to homeostasis (the avoidance of extremes that would threaten life) of some degree to allow life to continue, which means fluctuations and changes are often met with suspicion if not downright fear. You only need look to the natural world to see that the purpose of life is expansion – to beget life, to evolve, to grow. Balancing the requirement to survive (and thrive) safely, with an unbridled, joyful, creative expression of living fully becomes a constant question to be held up to the light and inspected. It is easy to see how the inclination for safety and comfort and avoidance of pain might lead us towards stagnation and smallness and away from opportunity.

Detailed observation reveals a common trap that prevents expansion and leads to a dulling of feeling and a vastly reduced capacity for connection – the deluded and divisive tendency towards what is now widely known as ‘spiritual bypassing’.

Spiritual Bypassing

First coined by John Welwood in 1984, it involves diluting or dismissing emotional responses to others’ or one’s own humanity using concepts, philosophies and platitudes in order to retain a perceived modicum of control and avoid honest self-reflection or responsibility. Rooted, usually, in legitimate intentions for peace and a desire to escape any looming threat to our carefully constructed identity, this phenomena proclaims that love and light or destiny trump all – without discernment – like a safe, comforting blanket to hide beneath. Either refusing to call out toxic behaviour or excusing one’s own, without shining awareness on such discomforts as they arise, creates a false veneer of unity within and without, that prevents development and reinforces separateness. How so?


Ignoring the impact and consequence of flawed human behaviour does not make it disappear.

All actions result in karma. Maintaining the illusion of peace while denying any felt experience creates residue in the body and the heart-mind. This residue not only affects the physical body but forms filters in our consciousness through which we view and affect any subsequent experiences, clouding our discernment and adding to the ‘samskaras’ or grooves that prevent clear awareness. Hasty declarations of so-called higher wisdom, given before the human processing has run its natural course, are merely a temporary coping mechanism designed to keep us where we feel safe and unchallenged, reducing the capacity for positive change and increasing the probability of incongruent, disconnected relating with ourselves and others. In the refusal to acknowledge or be with our own pain and discomfort, we limit the ability to see and be present with it in others and consequently we refuse to link the impact of our actions with the effects they have on other people. Not looking at the impact of our choices or behaviours on others may make it far easier to not take responsibility for them though it makes it far harder to enjoy good mutual connection. Unresolved trauma proliferates. To the extent that we reduce our awareness of any aspect of self, we become less adept at remaining in connection. What is denied in self becomes denied in other, replaced with judgement and fear. The desire to be heard, seen and felt and thus connected is great in humans and cannot be substituted, though addiction and violence to subtle and varying degrees will often take its place. The inability to connect gracefully with others means we carry huge potential for unwittingly becoming an instrument of their pain and at the same time remaining wilfully blind to this. Counter to the righteous intention for peace, connection and positive influence, we become walking disasters of unintegrated and mismanaged reactions, ready to fire off harmful responses that perpetuate suffering. The intention is a pipe dream prevented from actualising by our own refusal to see clearly and act according to what is being presented to us.

Spiritual bypassing is a convenient tactic for abnegating all personal responsibility and anaesthetising pain – a convoluted trick to absolve us from the consequence of our here and now experience of living. (You can see the appeal…) Furthermore, when insisting on wilful blindness to our own faults, we usually also dismiss the potential of our own greatness. If love, light and destiny run the show why do we bother to get out of bed in the morning? Because we are here to participate! The dimming of our own light results in dissatisfied frustration, depression and graceless derision of others that do well. We play small to stay safe. Without the integrated heart-mind and body that is based in good awareness and processing and that allows energy to flow freely we are much more likely to get stuck with expression whether that be sexually, emotionally or creatively. It takes courage to do this work both in terms of fully inhabiting your potential and deeply connecting with others.

If the ultimate intention is harmony, enjoyment, thriving and positive action that unites rather than divides, how are we best to make room for all the varying perspectives and levels of competency we will encounter in our close relationships and communities? How do we use universal principles, not as escapism but to support living well and fully NOW ?


Soham: I am that. Not to be mistaken for the ‘everyone is a mirror’ misnomer. ‘I am that’ implies that we can be that, we can have been that in the past or may still be that in the future. It implies that there is no separation. It speaks of the divine spirit in each of us and of the perfectly imperfect human manifestation. It is not another ‘spiritual’ stick to beat oneself with, assuming that every instance of idiotic or hurtful behaviour in another actually represents a piece of ourselves we have overlooked. Sure, we can check our personal integrity using this – it can be useful – but its real value lies in the potential of its meaning. A little like ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ – this tenet encourages temperance in our dealings with others. Our perception of other’s depends very much on the clarity with which we are able to observe ourselves. Pausing for clarity (as it is rarely found in the midst of reactivity) before responding not only reduces any negative charge we may add to a dynamic but provides necessary space to look behind the words or behaviour and welcome the glimmer of spirit along with the messy, fucked up human it resides in and in doing so – welcome ourselves. All of ourselves. Kindness results and kindness is one of the best environments for humans to flourish in.


There are no absolutes. Our black can easily be someone else’s white. Communicating with care and precision becomes an essential foundation to defining and maintaining the kind of personal boundaries that act as a container for our growth not an inhibitor to it. It is a wise and kind action therefore to know oneself, accept oneself and communicate often the parameters that constitute healthy relating. This way, we provide full opportunity to ourselves to receive in alignment with who we are and full transparency for others. Because conscious, awake humans are constantly evolving and choosing – our preferences and boundaries have proclivity for change too. Close, clear awareness on our own processes and current limitations together with authentic communication minimises the risk of becoming a confusing and potentially damaging force upon others. To the extent that we are willing to assume full responsibility for our communication and how it lands with the other, we are not only stating clearly who we are and how we wish to be met/treated but also giving others the option to choose and adjust correspondingly in line with their values. Our clarity gives them clarity, promoting agency, confidence and a smooth easiness which is far from the blaming, inflammatory, disingenuous space of manipulation and co-dependence that can only flourish in disconnection.

Interdependence – a natural state

If we are to remain focussed on being a force for good wherever possible, while honouring the realisation that life unfolds in ways that we cannot fathom or control, then it is essential to take care of our awareness, to polish it, to look curiously and honestly at the things we would rather gloss over and ignore. To be fully informed about our own tendencies and reactivity in order to more ably access our equilibrium. This equilibrium is the answer to being present, engaged and feeling secure as we embrace a life of unknown potential. It is the bridge between differences and the balm to mitigate drama and hurt. Acknowledging the social nature of humans and how we affect each other is a key component in even wanting to take this approach to living in the first place. Until we admit that we need other humans, that we have an effect on each other and that our choices and actions define that effect – we are dangerously arrogant in our perspective. Though we may benefit short term by imagining we can never be at fault, our actions then have no context other than of our own making and without context, they also have very little meaning. When we see the lines of cause and effect between ourselves and other humans, rather than being self-referencing automatons, both accepting and offering support becomes instinctually pleasing and mutually beneficial for growth and expansion.

Staying in clear awareness is a practice. It is only ever a snapshot. You don’t do the work, reach wisdom then stop. It is a constant process. Good knowledge of the human self is only ever temporarily realised because we are always changing. Although our true nature is ever-present and ever-the-same and it is without doubt essential to tap into this as often as possible – the point is – we are spiritual AND we are having a human experience. The human part is messy, chaotic, unruly, changeable and diverse and the point of any spiritual practice is not to change that but to be at peace with it, to do our best to respond with equanimity, to minimise negative impacts on ourselves and others, to create harmony and bring our creative urges to fruition to breathe and exist in the world.

As we expand in line with the nature of the life-force that informs our existence, it is natural to have more compassion not less. More connection. More creativity. More patience and understanding with the difficult path of the human. It is hard to be present with pain and it is just as hard to be present with heart-breaking beauty but we were not meant to hold onto it. We are the conduits, the channels through which life wants to flow, wants to express its wonder and wants to play with its own creations in the form of us and our fellow humans. Keep your channel clear, use your emotions to expand and feel more, to open up possibilities for newness, depth and intimate connection. This affirmative signal invites life to love you without reserve. If only you will have the courage to say yes.




Yoga off the mat

yoga off the mat

Until a few years ago, I always used a yoga mat to practice. The more travelling I do and the more outdoor practice I do, the less I like the feel of a synthetic layer between me and the ground (not to mention the lugging around of a heavy roll) and the more I enjoy the texture and simplicity of connecting directly with grass, sand, rock, wood or even concrete as the foundation for my movement.

It’s taken me many years (more than twenty) to develop enough understanding, alignment, bravery and strength for this to be possible. The benefits of this simpler and more natural process have been huge for me.

Firstly, the constant reminder that yoga is like breathing: always there, always accessible, infinitely changing but constant, wherever I find myself. Relinquishing the accoutrements that so often describe a western yogi has freed the spirit of my practice and helped me drop other beliefs and attitudes that I thought I needed and helped expand my capabilities both physically and mentally. However you view the stereotypical coconut-water-swigging, lycra-clad, mat-toting yoga girl, it cannot be denied that yogis come in all forms – like the Buddha – and the more quickly we recognise all of them, from wild and worldly through to quiet and clean-living and all in between, the less we contribute to the contrived view that we must achieve a certain status, appearance or measure in order to qualify as a worthy human being.

The purpose of yoga as described in the Vedas all those thousands of years ago, is the alleviation of suffering which is innate in the human condition. Purposeful awareness of mind and body along with intention allows the divine spirit, consciousness, to express itself through us as clearly as possible in whatever way it wants to – the ultimate freedom. The scope of this expression is as limitless as the universe itself and as such, defies judgement or comparison, in much the same way as you cannot compare a waterfall with a tree or a star with a kitten. We are each unique beings, home to every polarity that exists. Loving all of it/us/them/everyone is a direct (and by no means easy) path to self-acceptance, compassion and empathy.

One of the main pillars of my own practice and a principle I espouse passionately is that when we feel good, we do good. There is no merit in martyrdom and in fact, the only way to power sustainable efforts of good is by prioritising and supporting our own health of mind body and inner spirit. When we act from this place of fullness, our contributions are far-reaching and goodness ripples outwards in ever-increasing circles.

Lara Senegupta, the Founder of Cork Yogis has collaborated with Destiny – a charity in India that rescues young girls and women from forced prostitution. Every mat and mat bag purchased provides education for these women so they can support themselves. She is a yogi and she’s just 25 years old.

Cork Yogis sent me a mat to try in exchange for writing a few words about it and as I’ve said, I’m a fairly hard sell as I’ve tried PVC, TPE and rubber mats, none of which I prefer to carpet or grass but I was intrigued by the natural fibre and definitely wanted to support their mission, so I did.

The cork mat

It’s heavy. Not really built for travelling but the way it effortlessly rolls out and completely flattens itself to the ground with its beautifully curved edges is a joy to behold. I’ve just returned from a retreat in Ibiza where I taught each day on thistle-infested, stony, course grass and had to use my travel mat for fear of ending up a human pin-cushion. Sadly and a little painfully, said thistles poked right through the thin mat at several points (instigating dramatic shrieks) and the wind also flipped the corners of the mat until it was almost in half at times. Had I used the Cork Yogis mat I’ve no doubt its weight and thickness would have prevented these amusing and irritating distractions.

The surface is dry and warm, similar to those retro cork tiles that used to stylishly grace bathroom floors years ago. This is lovely. I often practice with little clothing on and there’s something rather jarring about laying a hot back or front on a cold, sticky mat. As for sweaty skin on unvacuumed carpet…I will say no more. The cork absorbs any moisture beautifully and somehow makes hands and feet grip even more firmly the more dampness is involved.  For this reason, Cork Yogis supply a water spray with the mat. Spray where the hands and feet want to go and you’ll be firmly rooted with no slipping.

I’d liken the loveliness of asana practice on this mat to that of being on a sun-warmed lawn, springy, comforting and firm. It’s as cushioned as some of the super-thick mats I’ve tried but without the squishiness that sees fingers and toes sink and slip.

All the pleasing aesthetics aside, I’m taken with Lara’s mission – her yoga if you like – of positive connection across cultures and the strange butterfly effect that has been cleverly created here. Western privilege plus awareness alchemised into life-changing aid empowering women in Yoga’s country of origin. The practice of yoga brings freedom on every level. This functional structure of business meets charity is no exception.

Creating positive transformation is an integral reason for and product of any spiritual practice and while it is often most directly experienced by the practitioner themselves and their immediate circle, it is rarer to be aware of exactly how our self development activities are having a beneficial impact on humans far across the world. In the same way, the work you devote yourself to can become your practice. Both paths – all paths – when walked with awareness and intention, allow us to see the divine spirit in every one of us, our humanness just a shell that seems to differentiate one from another when we are instead, different parts of the same one.

yoga off the mat


to dream impossible things

to dream impossible things

To stay in this flow of speaking truthfully, confidently, passionately, feeling powerful, laughing, not caring, unattached and full of possibility.

To feel brave, to do things I’ve never done, to dream impossible things, to go where desire leads, to be wide open to incredible goodness from all angles, from places and people I could never have imagined.

To know that my response is a form of love, it touches others, just my being this – touches others, I am kind and I am free. Yes.

Fuelled by practice, strong, directing my resources I venture out into open water, I sail the bigger seas.


Express Yourself

Express Yourself
The time for commentary has drawn to a close.
Expression must be recorded in order that it enter reality and not ferment in the musty recesses of mind, only to turn vinegary and sharp, unaired and hidden. It is different to the presentation of a collection of past happenings. Expression is the "es muss sein"* of now. Being witnessed is its heartbeat for without the audience, expression is lifeless. Expression is the rush of blood to the face, the breathless laughter, the unleashed sob - it is unedited. Expression is naked. Expression will not be organized into flowing sentences of choice words that are painstakingly structured to create an exact representation of the feeling, the thought, the sensation - in hope of birthing a better understanding than the one that currently torments. No. Expression is blunt and choiceless, it is not the means to a manufactured end. It is the coursing river, the bloody knee, the strike of palm on cheek, the slam of the door, the sound of your voice before it reaches my ear and the imperceptible impulse that triggers my synapse to fire in response to your inflection. It is the taste of living not the menu. It is the theatre in progress not tomorrow morning's review. It is a conversation not a meticulously prepared retort. It is unready. Expression is an unfolding that is unprepared.
Instances and happenings that are loud enough, starkly contrasting and thickly outlined enough against the scenery of daily existence, demand to be countered. A mathematical equation that requires balancing. Life jutting out its chin at you and beckoning insolently with four fingers of one hand - come on then, show me what you've got. Is this a fight? Is it a dance? Insolence invites irreverence, neurotic panic will be transformed by adopting the attitude of willful cheek in place of fear. It is a dance, this expression is a dance - a ferocious, rough tango, full of fierce lust and hot breath, of go-away-don't-leave-me, of rage and love, of perfection and fucked-up-ness, of intelligent beauty, of cell-drenching energy, of not-nearly-ready, of too-much-too-late, of pleading and bullying and eventually, of surrender. It is the question you must answer because your life depends on it. Expression. The fullness that will not be contained. The sweet overwhelm. The exhalation. The orgasm. The beginning.

{Live your fucking art.}

*From The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

The dance

the dance

The dance we do with other people, the relating we take part in, has potential to be the most elegant and beautiful rendition of yoga in real life that exists; away from the solitary practice and into real-time, sixth-sensing, intuitively listening and responding.

Despite and in some cases because of, the fetters of self-doubt and unclaimed, long-abandoned emotional baggage still collecting dust in the psychic lockers, we bump gently and then roughly into each other, tripping into interactions that are rich in untidy communication, scribbly, sour, sweet and deep – the raw, the silky, the gentle, the humorous. Intensity calls us to be immersed in nowness. There is magic and power here. Shhhh to the thinking mind that constantly demands explanation, plans, excuses, delivers commentary, rhetoric – shhh. Quiet and feel.

Holding space for two beings, for a shared experience, true interaction – is dependent on trust. The intensity of sensation we trigger in each other relies on it. Internal gates are opened, flaws exposed, electrical circuits made live with charge – and the clarity – such clarity – if you can only stand the glare.

The interplay of two shows us where we get stuck: who stumbles, who falters, who is forceful and pushes too hard, who is rough and who retreats, who turns away and who is weak. We are witnessed at every step, twirling madly into dizziness – not only our own consciousness being illuminated but the sense of being observed and felt. The fear of being judged looms. As we are seen, we also see. As we feel we are also felt. To remember this…would that we could, but the realisation slips from our grasp like sand through an hourglass. Impossible to catch.

Can we stay?  Be here, without distraction, free – all the while present to the other and flowing towards and away from in time? As we do, so they do too. The dance. Flow.

Can we hold our balance, our centre and really meet the other? Can we be met, still, steady, equanimous?  Too soft and yielding and we are pushed around arbitrarily – lost, uneasy; too hard and resistant and we are banished from the exchange altogether, remaining alone, singular, with only the faintest sense of other at the periphery. Unchanged.

What is the meaning of our exchange without love, without prospect of loss? Where is the preciousness without these things? To open hearts, to summon courage to be changed, to understand and be understood. The rhythm of our steps, the echo of our movement, the exhilaration of such aliveness.  Why would we ever deny the exquisite vitality of earnest connection – this intimacy? What colourless world do we wish upon ourselves when we refuse to engage willingly and fully?

There are some things that cannot be done only halfway.

Don’t wait. Say it.

The beauty of two beings in flow – a visual metaphor.


Forgetting and Remembering Again

Forgetting and Remembering AgainI am young and I am old all at once.

Driving my small, sporty, old car through single track country lanes, the sunshine pours over my legs, hands and chest through the glass. I feel my eyeballs get hot, my tongue begins to feel thick, the dry surface of my lips puffs up and then tears begin to unravel in a disorganized, watery trail down my warm face like raindrops scuttling down a window pane.

I am driving.

It is easy, it is fast and I love it.

My head feels numb and blank, a sphere full of air and I cannot ascertain the thought or even a word, that prompted this. I am only aware of a mild ache in my lower, right belly and the spreading heat from my shoulder blades as I sit back in my seat. I keep my attention on sensation.

My arms feel strong and solid, stretched towards the wheel, my shoulders broad and capable, I am compact and small but heavy as I sit, my legs broad, bottom planted. I breathe in the Spring air that would feel like summer were it not for the faintest of chills that catches the back of my throat as I breathe in through the wide open window.

There are moments of breath and driving. There are moments that are only crying. Not knowing why is strange and disconcerting and time passes with the long road, the trees and the view. Entranced.

I park. I struggle to gather my things off the passenger seat; folders, diary, bag, leftover cake, water bottle – I stop and say out loud to no-one “Well, this is metaphorical.” Clarity peeks in as I attempt to manage and carry large amounts on my own without dropping anything. A question. What do I need? What do I need? No answer.

Back in the house I unload everything onto the kitchen side and floor, keys clatter, stone tiles – coldly comforting – are dependable under my bare feet. Upstairs, I climb, fully clothed, into the big, white bed and sink into squashy pillows, gathering the duvet around me. I lie in a ball, foetal, quiet, weary, capitulated. Minutes pass and I know this is not it. I am neither comforted nor appeased, just a bit cross. Sighing, throwing off the covers, I get up and go back downstairs. I fill a litre bottle with cold water and drink. Maybe I am dehydrated. Drinking while standing at the kitchen sink appears to send water directly from the mouth to leak out of my eyes. I give in to crying.

I open the drawer where I know I left a 3 month old packet of Marlboro Lights I bought in Spain when I was feeling sultry, Mediterranean and free. I light one and go sit outside on the stone steps, sun hot on the back of my neck, alternately drinking water, smoking and crying quietly. As a rare and bloody-minded gesture, I very occasionally smoke to make myself feel worse – a throwback from 20 years ago that I am au fait with by now. There’s a weird, inverse gratitude that arises from it when I realize I actually have the power to make matters worse, hence the conclusion is drawn that things could not be as bad as they previously appeared to be.

Thoughts start to surface. I sense that I am now at the bottom of a deep well and all I see are the walls around me while everything else is unsubstantial and flat. I finish the cigarette and the water and a shadowy, male part of me watches and nods as if to say “That’s enough now”. The second I notice this, I remember that I am almost an hour late for lunch with a very good friend and then it is as if a tap is turned on and lovely thoughts rush out, all tumbling one on top of the other, beginning with the idea that she is there for me even when I am not there for me. The influx and speed of good thoughts takes me by surprise and I am confused, then relieved.

I leave the house and walking in the hot sunshine soothes me enormously.

Later on, I am talking, laying on the grass and I see clearly the pile-up of thought traffic that resulted in today’s bodily equivalent of an emergency stop. I understand my need, know that I require more time, space, love and gentleness from myself to digest events, emotion, reaction. I feel the residue within me and I consciously let it go with every out breath, feeling it all again as it leaves – happy to be freed. I know this process, I am aware of the intelligence in making space for it, I know its efficacy and still I forget. Many, many times I forget.

Mind chatter becomes physical drama when left unchecked, that grows and silently solidifies until it overshadows the awareness of all that is good and already perfect (which really is everything if we’re in the business of accepting reality as it is). This solid mass of unspent energy must find a way to clear out out by force if no outlet is provided. Our beings are self-cleaning whether we like it or not, balance always wants to resume, the dance of yin and yang is eternal and there is only filling and emptying, in-flow, out-flow. Beginning and ending. Forgetting and Remembering.

Attempting to contain and control begets a sense of smallness, an overwhelming sense of being inconsequential in the face of that which we have no authority over. The mind seeks ways to placate the panic, seeks resolution by searching for more ways to regulate and dominate that which is outside of ourselves. Sooner or later the futility of this strategy becomes clear and maybe fear, self-doubt and paralysis surface before realization happens.

The real command we always have access to is the mastery of our own beings. To focus inwards, to be discerning about what we let linger in our headspace, to make choices that serve us well – this is what results in a strong, healthy and resilient psyche. From this place it is easier to see what is coming before it becomes charged with cortisol and adrenalin, before we invest energy into trying to outrun or fight ourselves. Though frustratingly frequent, this common misdirecting of resources is the long way round to surrender. It’s the kicking, crying, sweaty tantrum of a 1 year old five minutes before they fall peacefully to sleep, sometimes necessary, often not.

Daily practice provides the check-in that enables awareness which in turn brings clarity on what we require to be full, centred and at ease, in any given moment and conversely what we need to drop off and let go of for the same outcome. To observe the congestion of undigested information and emotion is to begin to discover where we get stuck. There is gold here in this mud. Piece by small, manageable piece we clear space in which to receive our experience with equanimity and grace. The practice alters our brain chemistry and physiology in a way that enhances our experience rather than detracts from it.

To begin is the only step we need remember. It does not matter how many times we forget. Always the beginning awaits us. Repetition of this becomes the practice. This is how we learn to remember.

“The best way is to understand yourself and then you will understand everything. So when you try hard to make your own way, you will help others and you will be helped by others. Before you make your own way, you cannot help anyone, and no-one can help you. ” Shunyu Suzuki

Walking and breathing

Sunshine Yoga Blog walking and breathing

There is something rather symbolic about walking alone on a straight and deserted road with no end in sight. I took a 5 mile walk yesterday. I’m not entirely sure why, it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

In the early-ish morning quiet on a remote road with only the occasional car, all I could hear was birdsong, my footsteps and the steady rhythm of my breath as I put one foot in front of the other. The repetitive, simple sounds combined with the automatic motion of walking was hypnotic and trance-like; I began to hear myself.

When we give the mind space to settle and be quiet, nothing to figure out or organize, no complex functions to perform or puzzles to complete – it seems that information previously obscured to us begins to surface and with elegant clarity too. The simplicity of walking and breathing in silence becomes a meditation (from Latin: meditatus – to remedy). This is not the same as reflection or rumination either, where the mind wanders and ponders (although one may drop in and out of this) it is a total stillness of being at the deepest level. In this stillness, my consciousness was crystal clear,  where I had previously struggled and fought with conflicting thoughts, I sensed release. In that space, it became obvious that there was no requirement for struggle. Relief then peace.

Some of the more intense interactions, happenings and events that we find ourselves involved in, as either passive bystanders or active participants, deliver so much information to us that although it is absorbed at the time, it can only be assimilated afterwards. This is mainly due to the sturdy, standard installation filters that humans develop as a mechanism to accelerate their learning and reduce the risk of danger or death, but rather like overenthusiastic and somewhat dim-witted bouncers, these filters often lack finesse or discernment and so impede entry unnecessarily, leaving us none the wiser and prone to repeating unsatisfactory behaviours or experiences. BUT…

In quietness, the information we require floats easily to the top of our awareness to be fully digested. Our perceptions shift, our judgements soften and our confusion clears.

The state of dropping back into spacious solitude and peacefulness does not require external quietness either (or 5 mile walks) but can be accessed anywhere and anytime with practice. Whether walking, running, painting, gardening, driving or making love – the activity is irrelevant -when the inner state alters to one of complete receptivity and openness, we are in harmony with what is. Ease results.

This state of being is at the heart of fulfillment, contentment and flow, it is our true nature – where all the wonder of being alive originates, although it often gets lost underneath a long list of distractions.

Because we exist in a body that processes, comprehends and feels every joy and every trauma – is an indelible blueprint of everything that has ever happened to us – we require a (daily, in my opinion) physical practice to access this space of stillness where we begin to know our real selves. Thus our actions become more intuitive and less reactive, we experience more ease and less friction and begin to know Wu Wei (being effortlessly in alignment with what is) like stepping into the current of life rather than fighting to swim upstream.

“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”
Lao Tzu


Sunshine Yoga Blog QuietQuietThe quiet woke me up.

It was as if the world had stopped.


I laid still, lifted my eyelids, body static.


Only the rhythmic swish of my breath in and out of my nose.

Silence, like cling film wrapped tightly over my morning experience.

Light was pale grey through the slats of the bedroom blind. My body warm, naked, soft and heavy under the covers, filled with the residue of dreams and a flickering memory of you. Irregular, like a broken neon sign.

Eyelids resigned – closed.

My tiredness all used up, I listened – more acutely now – without the distraction of sight. Where were the birds? There are trees where I live and always birdsong, even at night sometimes, from rooftop to tree branch, a melodic, dotted line trail.

Where is the traffic? There are roads where I live too.

The thick, high pitched throb of too much quiet beat in my ears – is this my own blood? Is it my heart I hear translated in my head as a steady, rolling, whooshing noise? Like the sound of the sea from far away, individual waves not discernible as they crash to shore just the sensation of power and movement, I am.

My life, a sound. All else turned down so that finally, I hear it. I am.

I sense the soundless slowing down of everything outside of me, the slow motion, the stop. The world ending. I am not afraid.

Peaceful curiosity remains.

Impressions of something graceful moving slowly, like a glowing jellyfish in a darkened tank, amorphous, mesmerising, fluid, perfect.

I find myself situated equally in the awareness of my body and the consciousness of my whole being. Thought slowed to the treacly pace of a sleeping heartbeat and suddenly I sense the gaps, feel the spaces in between.

I realise I have been watching the positive shapes fill the emptiness all my life and only now do I see the delicate filigree of negative space.

Like an optical illusion once seen, it becomes obviously, stunningly clear.

I delight in the newness of it and wonder how I could have missed it for all this time.