So here I was, 18 years old in the early '90s and on a pilgrimage throughout the world. With $2,500 in my pocket, I decided to spend $300 on a one-way ticket to Spain.
I landed in Spain in a puddle of terrified tears with a boldly courageous heart -- I could not even figure out how get on the bus (or even know what bus to get on at the airport), how the currency in Spain worked, or even how to use the payphone. I was such a fish out of water and all I had, ALL I HAD, was my faith and my inner knowing that I would be okay. That and the blind reliance on the kindness of strangers.
My only form of navigation was a torn out map of the world from a Lonely Planet guidebook that I kept in my backpack. As soon as I got an impulse that it was time to move on from one location to another, be it a day, week, month, or even year later -- I would wait until I got the inner prompt to move on. And it always came.
Bartyzel, Sylwia. "Unsplash | Maps." Unsplash. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2015.
Then I'd take out the picture of the world, close my eyes and point to a new continent. I'd open my eyes and check in with myself to see if it resonated.
Laos? Really? I heard the food wasn't very good. Okay, here goes.
London? Oh good, I love tea and scones. Here I come.
From here, I would usually get a one-way ticket to my next adventure, be it by plane, train or automobile, along with relevant government docs. Once, I tried to get to Israel from Egypt, but couldn't get in because I had a stamp from Jordan. Okay -- change of plans -- right there at the border. I just rolled with it. Anyone that knows me now knows I don't roll as easily as I used to in those days.
So one day I was hitchhiking around the magical green landscape of Devon in England and I was picked up by a man named Christopher Titmus. Unbeknownst to me, he was a well-known Buddhist scholar, monk and meditation teacher.
Since I was on an epic journey, he asked me if I wanted to come back to the monastery that he had founded, named The Gaia House, to join in on some of the meditation practices and stay as a work study guest.
I said yes. I chopped veggies in the kitchen and sat in on his mindfulness teachings. I still am amazed at the fearless trust I had with an absolute willingness to say yes to wild new experiences every day.
I certainly have become far more routine as I'm entering my fourth decade, and miss some of that fresh blind faith in areas of my current life. I felt very held and guided by life, and those years were key for my development of inner attunement and a trust in our friendly universe, as Byron Katie calls it.
Regardless, he gave me a great gift. The portion of time that I spent at his monastery learning about insight meditation and mindfulness practices was one of my first introductions to questioning the contents of my mind.
I had been so identified to believe that my thoughts were real. I had been so conditioned to think that if I was thinking or feeling it, there must be substance to it, and I needed to obey these thoughts.
This led me into a rich world of exploring mindfulness and the wisdom found within the Theravadin Buddhism traditions. The practice of compassion. The practice of equanimity and objectivity. The practice of questioning thoughts. The practice of listening beyond thoughts into the presence of infinite aliveness.
By questioning the contents of my mind, I began to distinguish my false self from my true self -- by direct experience.
I began to make contact with the one who is thinking. Observing the canvas in which thoughts would arise. I call it big sky mind.
I began to experience more of the essential nature that flows through you and me, which is boundless in its infinite peace and quiet. I discovered that this peace is always available just below the surface and chatter of the mind.
Vu, Juskteez. "Unsplash | Galaxy." Unsplash. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2015.
Not to say I don't get lost in thought, often. But I know how to come back home to what is true. I know how to restore myself to my Right Mind, to my Divine Mind. The place where I can hear the wisdom of my own soul.
By questioning our identified mind, we set ourselves free. By questioning our thoughts, we have more space to see clearly.
We begin to taste our eternal loveliness. It's no longer a nebulous spiritual ideal, in my experience. It actually becomes a living reality of seeing life through the tranquil eyes of the observer.
This one of the first foundational pillars that I introduce to my private coaching clients.
Authenticity. Who are you?
We start with identifying your True Self (loving essence) from your False Self (ego) and apply this awareness to your life in practical ways.
I find that by distinguishing who you think you are from who you TRULY are is the first step to freedom.
Just now, I invite you to take a deep breath. Notice what is present just now, in your mind. Without trying to change anything. Mentally label it "thinking." Breathe in, breathe out. Watching the clouds of thought pass by as your body is simply here, simply breathing.
Notice if you can feel into the softness of your lungs expanding with each breath, relaxing your belly and allowing yourself to enjoy what it feels like to be home inside of you.
I love conversation, so please feel free to comment below, and share with people close to you. Together, we can work to find our true selves, and this all begins with openness.