Do you remember when you were a child and were told by adults to "Play nice", "Share your toys", and "Say sorry"? Whether they used these exact expressions or similar ones, it's likely that the adults in your life were trying to teach you the basics of befriending others. The real question is, in addition to befriending others, how many of us were actually taught to befriend ourselves?
Ponder this: How do you live with yourself when you feel guilty? What do you say to yourself when you are sad? Where do you take yourself when you feel lonely? What's your relationship with yourself like when you're glad?
The implicit message that I believe most of us receive is that somehow we're supposed to naturally and automatically befriend ourselves. We're supposed to naturally and automatically know ourselves inside out. We're supposed to naturally and automatically tend to ourselves through thick and thin. We're supposed to naturally and automatically love ourselves unconditionally. Right?
In a way, I definitely agree with this implicit message. It is in our nature to know ourselves, tend to ourselves, and love ourselves fully. But more often than not, that nature of ours is veiled by cultural norms, family traditions, and healthy defense mechanisms that are meant to shield us from the hard edges of life. (Read the rest here)
Many of us have never felt safe in our lives. On the other hand, some of us have known safety since birth. Regardless of which group you fall into or where you find yourself on this continuum, acts of terror on a massive scale undoubtedly rattle you to your core. It's only natural. In the aftermath of such events, what we desperately need is to reconnect with or (re)construct a sense of safety. But not any ol' kind of safety will do.
Our culture, society, and economic market tend to heavily promote what I call an external, or dependent, sense of safety. "Get insurance and feel safe!" the ads tell us and then prompt us to purchase policies that cover everything from our medical and dental health, our cars and homes, to our computers and credit cards.
And there's essentially nothing wrong with buying insurance. It may prove quite useful not only in times when you really need it but also in turning the volume down on free-floating anxiety and fear. But what these insurance policies can't do for you is deal with the anxiety. They don't actually meet the anxiety. They don't actually tend to the root of fear. They don't actually help you construct and replenish a sense of safety. They can't.
There's no external object, policy, or plan of any kind that can adequately meet the underlining and most basic human need for safety. Because it's not external--it's internal.
I know how very hard it is for the mind to grasp this point. I myself have grappled with it for decades. Growing up in Israel amidst suicide bombings, bus explosions, and café/restaurant blasts, all I wanted was to reach out to something that would make me feel safe inside. Something or someone that will guarantee that I was always and completely safe.
So I searched and searched and searched and finally I found it. But it wasn't outside of me as I originally thought. Instead what I found was an internal sense of safety. It's a sense of safety that does not guarantee that everything will be alright. It's a sense of safety that does not guarantee that I will always be ok. It's a sense of safety that does not guarantee a thing other than my continual commitment to always be here for and with myself. (Read more)
Last week I wrote about joy and how it is an aspect of being, your birthright. But, for those of us who are currently facing major challenges and for the many among us who have suffered irreversible trauma (from getting lost in the mall to years of living in a war zone), real and lasting joy may seem absolutely impossible.
I know. I know because that's how my life was and that's how I used to think and feel.
Growing up in Israel under the constant threat of attack had wired my brain towards fear, uncertainty, and the agonizing and ceaseless "what if?". And that's exactly it, isn't it? It was precisely my brain that repeatedly produced the thought that joy was unattainable. In turn, this gave rise to feelings of sadness, depression, and hopelessness. The crucial question is then, how do you change a lifetime of thinking a certain way? Is rewiring the brain even doable?
The latest research on neuroplasticity (simply put, the brain's ability to keep changing throughout our lives) answers back with a resounding "yes!". Lisa Wimberger, author of Neurosculpting: A Whole-Brain Approach to Heal Trauma, Rewrite Limiting Beliefs, and Find Wholeness, unequivocally affirms that we can strengthen the thoughts that signal enjoyment and completely reframe our fear-based experiences. Now this is very good news.
What it means is that no matter what your life has been like and no matter which pathways have already formed in your brain, a vast potential for change is present. This means that healing is possible. Repair is possible. Rewiring the brain is possible. And joy? Joy is very possible, too.
Years ago, when I constantly felt lost and distraught, my heart somehow knew that joy was possible. Despite the thoughts in my head, my heart knew. And, it guided me.
Interestingly enough, my heart guided me to ancient methods that incorporate the very same techniques that brain researchers today are pointing out as key strategies for changing old habits, supporting new neurological connections, resolving trauma, and priming the body/mind for experiences of well-being, safe play, fun, and joy.
It will come as no surprise to many of you who have been down this path that the primary tool for repairing back to a sense of wholeness is the practice of awareness, i.e. self-inquiry, self-reflection, and meditation. (Read the rest here)
It's no surprise that Chinese medicine associates the emotion of joy with the season of summer. Fun in the sun, pool or beach time, vacations, and school-year endings, all of these tend to pulsate with a sense of expansiveness, freedom, thrill, and happiness.
The teachings on which Yoga Nidra is based (namely, non-duality and advaita vedanta) remind us of the truth about joy, a truth that is often hidden. Though in our culture joy and happiness are painted as a goal to reach, they are in fact an aspect of being and are never far away.
Actually, since joy is who you are, it is right here in your presence all the time. In those moments or days or even months when it seems like you are not experiencing joy, it is simply because joy is hidden or veiled. But rest assured, it is still here. An unlimited ocean of joy is always here, just for you.
In the practice of Yoga Nidra, we inquire within ourselves to (re)locate this ocean. We guide ourselves not only to experience joy but also to rest back into it and let joy nourish us fully.
This month I invite you to inquire: what is the feeling of joy like for you? where in your body does the feeling of joy resonate? what in your life points you back to the joy that you are? and, how can joy nourish you fully?
Please join me in June's class offerings and the ongoing invitation to relax into being joy.
May you rest into the joy that you are,
-- Shira Oz-Sinai
Please share your experience, insights, questions, and thoughts below, especially...
what is the feeling of joy like for you?
Shira Oz-Sinai is a spiritual teacher trained in iRest® Yoga Nidra meditation and Soul Lightening Acupressure®, two modalities that share the common principle of noticing what arises in awareness as the foundation to living life with ease and in deep and loving friendship with yourself. These are her musings.