The Meaning of Life

Recently, I was helping someone with a bit of “technology” and trying to get across the idea that we can now “ask the internet” pretty much anything. In the particular case with this person, it was about finding the address of a retreat center that we knew the name of. I suggested that simply typing the name in the address bar of a browser would produce the address. To further illustrate that one could ask anything this way, I typed, “What is the meaning of life?” into my browser.

What appeared was this wonderful 4-minute video that put the question into a very helpful perspective.

The main point is that we find meaning in our lives through 3 activities:

  1. Communication

  2. Understanding

  3. Service

I hope you’ll take a look and see how these three might apply in your life.

>>Click Here to View the Meaning of Life

Kindness and Authenticity

In my own breathwork practice, I have noticed that the experience is different when breathing in a group of people compared to breathing by myself. Not that one is “better” or more important than the other – just different. I’ve come up with various explanations for this difference, e.g. something to do with “energy in the room”. But recently, I came upon a reading that shed some light on this question, at least for me. This reading helped me to see why I am drawn to certain circles of people, as well as what I hope to create in breath circles that I lead. It has to do with the connection between kindness and authenticity. 

The great and fierce mystic William Blake said, There is no greater act than putting another before you. This speaks to a selfless giving that seems to be at the base of meaningful love. Yet having struggled for a lifetime with letting the needs of others define me, I've come to understand that without the healthiest form of self-love—without honoring the essence of life that this thing called “self” carries--putting another before you can result in damaging self-sacrifice and endless codependence.  

I have in many ways over many years suppressed my own needs and insights in an effort not to disappoint others, even when no one asked me to. This is not unique to me. Somehow, in the course of learning to be good, we have all been asked to wrestle with a false dilemma: being kind to ourselves or being kind to others. In truth, though, being kind to ourselves is a prerequisite to being kind to others. 

Honoring ourselves is, in fact, the only lasting way to release a truly selfless kindness to others. So, the real and lasting practice for each of us is to remove what obstructs us so that we can be who we are, holding nothing back. If we can work toward this kind of authenticity, then the living kindness—the water of compassion—will naturally flow. We do not need discipline to be kind, just an open heart.  

When we bare our inwardness fully, exposing our strengths and frailties alike, we discover a kinship in all living things, and from this kinship a kindness moves through us and between us. The mystery is that being authentic is the only thing that reveals to us our kinship with life.  

In this way, we can unfold the opposite of Blake's truth and say, there is no greater act than putting yourself before another. Not before another as in coming first, but rather as in opening yourself before another, exposing your essence before another. Only in being this authentic can real kinship be known and real kindness released.  

It is why we are moved, even if we won't admit it, when strangers let down and show themselves. It is why we stop to help the wounded and the real. When we put ourselves fully before another, it makes love possible. 

From Mark Nepo’s, “Book of Awakening”, excerpts from January 26 and January 27.

 

"Circles of Trust"

In my own breathwork practice as a path to greater well-being, I have come to realize the importance of the support of a community - a circle of others breathing.  

In his book, “A Hidden Wholeness”, Parker Palmer speaks of the importance of community in what he calls, “Circles of Trust”.

"Gathering in circles is an ancient practice being revived in our time. We have dialogue circles to improve communication, conflict resolution circles to negotiate crises, therapeutic circles to explore our emotions, problem-solving circles to puzzle out hard questions, team-building circles to cheerlead for a common cause, and collaborative learning circles to deepen our education. All of them have worthy purposes, but none of them has the singular intent of a circle of trust: to make it safe for the soul to show up and offer us its guidance.

"The circles of trust I have experienced are a rare form of community-one that supports rather than supplants the individual quest for integrity-that is rooted in two basic beliefs.

  • First, we all have an inner teacher whose guidance is more reliable than anything we can get from a doctrine, ideology, collective belief system, institution, or leader. 

  • Second, we all need other people to invite, amplify, and help us discern the inner teacher's voice for at least three reasons:

  1. The journey toward inner truth is too taxing to be made solo: lacking support, the solitary traveler soon becomes weary or fearful and is likely to quit the road. 

  2. The path is too deeply hidden to be traveled without company: finding our way involves clues that are subtle and sometimes misleading, requiring the kind of discernment that can happen only in dialogue. 

  3. The destination is too daunting to be achieved alone: we need community to find the courage to venture into the alien lands to which the inner teacher may call us."

 

What Does it Mean to be "Embodied"?

I remember first hearing the term "embodied" applied to people about 20 years ago. It sounded like a good thing to be, but I had no idea of what it actually meant. As my daily breath practice has continued over time, I am beginning to feel more embodied, that is, I have a felt sense of what the word "embodied" means...in the body. 

I recently came across a definition of embodiment that my mind can wrap its arms around. It's from a book, "In an Unspoken Voice", by Peter Levine:

"To be embodied means that we are guided by our instincts, while simultaneously having the opportunity to be self aware of that guidance. This self-awareness requires us to recognize and track our sensations and feelings. We unveil our instincts as they live within us, rather than being alienated from them or forcibly driven by them."

For a deeper dive into why being embodied is important...>>read more of the excerpt

"Being" vs. "Doing"

I remember first reading about the comparison of “being” vs. “doing” in Eckhart Tolle’s book, “A New Earth”. The book is about learning to be present. There’s a lot of discussion about noticing the ego in oneself and, in particular, noticing how the ego is all about “doing”. Tolle imagines a conversation with the ego about the subject: the ego says, “Being?? What do you do with it?”

Of course, there is a lot we must “do” in our lives, but with all the “doing” there is a tendency to become disconnected from “being”. Having a daily or regular practice of meditation, breathwork, or yoga is a way to bring more “being” into your life so that there is a better balance. The trick is to not make one’s daily practice just another thing to “do”, i.e. thinking you have to accomplish something with your practice. It’s a paradox. The more you can simply “be” with the experience of your practice, the more the “doing” parts of your life will become – over time - more centered.

I hope you’ll consider coming to one of our breathing circles. You don’t have to know anything and there’s always a mix of new people and returnees. We are a very welcoming group. The next one is tomorrow. To RSVP, click here. To see the full schedule, click here.

If breathwork is healing, what exactly is being healed?

Some people come to breathwork as a spiritual practice. Others come with an intention to improve their overall health by, say, by releasing stress. But in my experience, most people come to breathwork for healing. Back in 2005 at my first breath workshop. I wouldn't have said I had anything to be "healed". I was just curious about what the experience would be like, e.g. the "altered state" I had heard about.

Since that first breathwork experience in 2005, I have come to learn that what most people who experience healing in their breath sessions, are healing trauma. Each of us, simply by virtue of being human beings in this culture, will experience traumas great and small. Many times we are unaware of them.

The best book I know of about healing trauma is, "The Body Keeps the Score" by Bessel van der Kolk. In that book, I learned that there are two kinds of trauma: shock trauma and developmental trauma. Shock trauma is associated with a specific event such as an instance of abuse, an accident, or a natural disaster. Developmental trauma, on the other hand, typically occurs in the first three years of life due to chronic neglect and abuse - at a time when the brain is undergoing rapid development. Changes that occur in the brain due to developmental trauma have life-long implications.

If you don't already have an Audible.com subscription, I can send you the audiobook for free. Just contact me with with your email address.

For more information about Dr. van der Kolk's work on trauma visit: www.traumacenter.org

Neuroscientists have identified how exactly a deep breath changes your mind

From a recent article..."Breathing is traditionally thought of as an automatic process driven by the brainstem—the part of the brain controlling such life-sustaining functions as heartbeat and sleeping patterns. But new and unique research, involving recordings made directly from within the brains of humans undergoing neurosurgery, shows that breathing can also change your brain. Simply put, changes in breathing—for example, breathing at different paces or paying careful attention to the breaths—were shown to engage different parts of the brain. >>Full Article