Friday, December 28, 2012

Embarrassment As Teacher (and exploration of Gunas)

Written for Healing Springs Journal's Feb/March 2013 issue:

The Role of Embarrassment As Teacher
and exploring the Gunas to understand energy and experiences in spiritual growth

by Laura Harrison

It hurts to be embarrassed by our actions. It burns our hearts to make mistakes, it is a complete and almost unbearable form of vulnerability, belly exposed and everyone can see our fallibility. Most people stop there, dwell, form hardened scars, and carry a heavy collection of regrets. But this is not where consciousness is asking us to stop, that is not the intended usage of such experiences. Instead, we stop, and feel that pain, and sit with it, recognizing it, and openly observe. Pieces settle into place. We can journal, talk to friends, practice meditation, energy healing, or yoga asanas. We can connect with animals or nature, walking and hiking, or sitting peacefully. We can think, and we can more importantly cultivate spaciousness... the spaces between the thoughts, and the pieces fall into place, insight arises, and the pain has become an agent for our spiritual development.

The regular and unconscious response to pain and discomfort is to avoid it. We tense against it, we close.. this is resistance. We learn in the path of mindfulness to instead open wider, to offer NO resisitance as we observe all phenomena, all experiences equally without judgment or favoring. What happens when we cease to resist the pain, is that we feel it more accutely and intensely, but it leaves us more open, more free, and more conscious. We can learn from the pain- the sting of embarrassment teaches us not to repeat the same mistakes, like the memory of a burned hand teaches us not to touch a hot pan, or the memory of food poisoning provides a visceral reminder to be more cautious of what we eat.

The evolution of consciousness that we are all undertaking as embodied souls requires this trial-and-error process. As we raise our awareness, as our energy changes, that which used to serve us no longer does. Old habits that were real and important and part of us before, are no longer connected to who we are. These ghosts need to be released. This requires a humbling sense of openess and flexibility of mind, and it can be hard to imagine that those who know us can adapt as our personality evolves with us. However, people connect, disconnect, and sometimes reconnect as their energies are harmonious or disharmonious. Fear of loneliness cannot prevent our evolution, because when one person leaves, another will come. We are here to live our truth, no matter what the cost. And furthermore, if we do not live our truth, we will suffer deep inside, and that suffering will grow like a disease and eventually cause so much ugliness and hurt that we will begin to take it out on others. It never does us or others justice to maintain falseness.  

Spirtiual Puberty

This process of uncomfortable yet delightful evolution is almost like puberty.. with all the awkwardness and embarrassment, confusion, agonizing discomfort, getting lost, figuring, exploring and blossoming into deeper and deeper levels of confidence, strength, and more palpable connections to inner rightness and truth. Just like puberty, the changes are happening, if we wish them to or not. It makes it harder if we fight reality, and since that would be futile, it only makes sense to open wider and wider to the painful but beautiful lessons we earn.

Everything happens in natural cycles; seasons of light and dark, birth and death and rebirth. Life in the physical is filled with nested spirals of evolution; microcosms tucked majestically into macrocosms. Linear paths are typically human in invention, everything else spirals around and around. Forgetting and remembering are part of the journey. Loneliness and rediscovery of interconnection are part of the path as well. As are mistakes and forgiveness

In yoga philosophy, the Gunas are used as a handy way of discussing different qualities in energy. Our cycles of evolution can be seen and understood more with the help of these ideas. Don't worry about grasping the idea and labelling things.. let it help you to articulate what you already feel in your experiences.

The Gunas

There are three gunas. All three are present in all of us, but certain energies, people, or actions can have a strong dominance of one guna in particular. Remember that these labels are to help you articulate and process what you feel, so maybe meditate on an example of each and feel the differences in the qualities of energy.

Tamas is the guna of stillness, of lethargy, of delusion, darkness and depression. It is present in aparent solidness and stagnation. It is part of the "darkness" of negativity, the delusion that we are seperate and the objectifiying other beings and taking advantage of them out of fear or greed. Depression and being overweight are states of excess tamas as heaviness. Tamas is also present in sleep and consistancy, so it is not all negative.

Rajas is excited movement. It is nervous energy, anxiety, scattered or flighty minds. It is like too much caffeine or hyperactivity. It is the inability to sit still, the need to be in constant motion or stimulation. It is chaotic and can be draining because it is unguided. It is abundant, unfocused energy.

Sattva is extreme energy, but where rajas is also extreme energy, rajas is out of balance, and sattva is in balance, focusing that energy into one flow, like a laser. Sattva is considered the higher and lighter state of energy and it is the goal to cultivate an abundance of sattva versus rajas or tamas, according to Vedic philosophy. It is great peace, great love, the ability to accept what is in each moment without fear or resistance.

 The trick is that we can demonize all the other states of being. We can demonize the pain of embarrassment. We can demonize ourselves for learning slowly over many painful experiences, but it doesn't make sense to kill the messenger, to hate the process, the journey. Life IS a journey, your everyday life is your spiritual path. Vacation isn't the only time to be free and accept the flow. Its here and now. In the painful AND blissful experiences of life alike, we are evolving, growing, and becoming free of all the chains we've allowed to bind us.  In every moment we are living our life, choosing how to write our story. And it takes patience, acceptance, and experiences of all kinds to hone the spirit in its interface with the physical.

Without the movement of rajas, we can never transcend tamas. We learn to process the massively intense amount of spiritual energy that is present in each moment, and at first we are distracted and scattered and thrown back and forth between tamas and rajas. Then we learn to ride the ship, to yield and move with the flow in grace, and we touch sattvic states. Eventually, we rarely taste tamas, and we learn faster and faster to cultivate our rajas into sattva. We become balanced and whole again, our essential state, our Self, shines brighter then ever before. We meet our Self.

The recent universal shift in energy was from rajas to sattva I believe, that is how I am experiencing it.. so instead of being bombarded by rajas, we are becoming surronded by sattva.

Our journey is individual, but we all go through it, it is universal as well. Don't hold too tightly to anything, let it all flow through you and your experience, and as it does. Drop the judgement. Drop the false sense of control. Drop all the ideas of saving face, or what your face really is. Who you are is a constantly refreshed river, always new. Open wide and let pain and pleasure, highs and lows teach you, they burn off all that is no longer serving your journey and fll you with fresh love and light. Balance dilligence and receptivity, and you will learn the dance. Let the experience be your guide.

Laura Harrison is the founder of the Natural Yoga Method, and the director of Enlighten Yoga in Amsterdam, NY. She is a yoga instructor, life coach, vegan/raw chef, mom, nature lover, artist, and poet. For more information see or or call her at 518-866-3621.

1 comment:

  1. I read this piece in "Healing Springs" and was quite touched by it. Just wanted to let you're an amazing writer!