Last week, we practiced inhabiting our bodies more fully. We are discovering that presence and breath—our essential mindfulness tools—also help us explore sensuality and sexuality. We are widening our perspective of what intimacy means and how to achieve it. We are becoming aware of the baggage we carry around sexuality and are working with God to help us clear space in this vital area of our lives.
With each week and each new practice, we come closer to living the authentic and passionate life we long for. Our challenges discourage us less and less. Our gratitude for the journey increases more and more. Each day, we discover more about who we are and who God is, in both painful and inspiring ways. What more could we ask for from life? No matter our past, we can know that today, we are truly living.
As our session nears its close, let’s take time to acknowledge and appreciate the spaciousness our mindfulness journey has brought into our life. What felt tight and narrow at the start has expanded with each passing week. Our growing flexibility has materialized both on our mats and in our minds. We might find that as our bodies become more supple, so do our hearts; our breath, the vehicle for the expanding mobility of both.
This week, let’s note a few qualities that can be trusted as hallmarks of our progress: tolerance, humility, and gratitude. More tolerance means that we have a greater capacity to allow exactly what is. As we broaden our definitions of success and widen our perspective on the right way of doing things, we become less afraid of who we are and find more compassion for others. We become more aware when the demands we make of life, ourselves, or others are unreasonable, and we can mindfully choose to let go. We are finding that life does not have to be perfect or ideal to be happy, fulfilling, and deeply meaningful.
How does this growing tolerance come about? The way all good things do: by grounding into our body, connecting to God, and living in the present moment. As we find this place of spaciousness, we can sense that there truly is room for the entirety of our human experience. We don’t need to hide or reject what we have previously judged as ugly parts of who we are or where we have been. We are witnessing a miraculous paradigm shift. Things we once thought of as bad are transforming before our very eyes into something good: vehicles for our growth and awakening. We, like the poet Rumi, begin to see that our wounds are where the Light enters.
As we begin to sense the evolutionary nature of this process, we start to safely mistrust our strong opinions and question our strictly defined identities. This open-mindedness is a marker of our growing humility. The tight grip we often hold around our mental constructs helps us mindfully recognize that our need to be right or better-than is often tied to ego in one way or another. As we sense this, we can practice relaxing each day into an open and curious heart, relying on the feeling of love and peace at our center. We can learn to trust this compass to guide us moment-by-moment toward our next right step. We are learning to surrender the need to see the end, letting just this step be enough.
As our tolerance and humility grow, our gratitude skyrockets, perhaps because it is no longer clouded by our grasping, judgment, or discontent. As we let go of our desperate quest for perfection, we can awaken to the mysterious wonder of simply being alive. We are becoming better acquainted with our human limitations and embracing them as part of a shared humanity that connects us to others. We are becoming familiar with the sweeping relief of Grace and surrender. We are growing more aware that our peace and ability infinitely expand the moment we turn to a Higher Power. We can see the miracle of where we are now compared to where we were.
Our lives may not look so different on the outside. But on the inside, we are being rearranged entirely. Where there was clutter and chaos, now there is space. We have upgraded the lenses through which we experience life. We recognize this miraculous unfolding inside us as Grace: a gift we have been freely given, that which we could not do for ourselves. We are becoming as open and endless as the sky, always one conscious breath away from transcendence: one conscious breath away from God.
Mindfulness Practice: Keep On Keeping On
In Week 17, we add two new mindfulness practices to our toolkit: daily check-in and spot-check. These bring the spirit of accountability that we have explored in broad ways through earlier weeks back to the present moment. Daily check-in can be thought of as regular maintenance for our soul: like brushing our teeth. We might include this practice as part of our bedtime routine, with our partner, in our journal, or with our Higher Power. A formal daily check-in can invite accountability, connection, and intimacy—with ourselves, with God, and with a safe person if we choose to share. One easy method is the Vowel Check-in. The following version has been adapted from Brené Brown’s, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.
A: Do I need to be accountable for any coping strategies, self-defeating behaviors, or egoic patterns? If so, how did they show up, and what do I need to process?
E: Was I able to exercise today?
I: Was I able to do something nourishing for myself today? (self-care)
O: Was I able to do something helpful or supportive for others today? (generosity)
U: Are there any unmet needs or unresolved emotions that I need to address or express?
Y: What was my Yay for today? What can I be grateful for?
This daily check-in calls attention to the ongoing nature of our journey. Whether this is our first session with Lifehouse Body & Soul or our fiftieth, we will find that the gifts of this program are not things that we merely attain and set neatly on a shelf to admire. Rather, these gifts appear in the present moment and can fade just as quickly. They directly result from the time and intent we invest in our practice. Because we never achieve a point of arrival, daily check-ins can continually orient us on our ever-evolving journey as humble practitioners. They help us to keep on keeping on.
For many of us, the ideas presented in this Course have required a mental shift. We are learning to embrace the idea of evolution, not to be afraid to adjust our way of seeing things to reflect our growing understanding and life experience. The work we do here is far different from systematically checking off boxes, adopting fixed views, attaining goals, and moving on. We are reaching beyond knowing solely with our logical mind or reciting clever quotes that somebody else said. Although we may once have been conditioned consumers, we are discovering that journeying inward requires a different mindset. We have to experience, internalize, and integrate new concepts for ourselves to make them True for us.
We are coming to trust our God-connection through our own experience: instead of just reading road signs, we are actually following them to their destination. We can begin to see the vast difference. In Daily Practice, we have learned to use the entirety of our being: mind, body, and spirit. Instead of just knowing about the Divine—clinging to concepts, listing attributes, quoting scripture, or relying on authority figures—we are coming to know the Divine. We are feeling the aliveness in our fingertips and our toes, breathing space to break down walls around our heart, allowing emotions to release from our hips, sensing the Divine connection between us and all living things, and experiencing the unspeakable peace that fills us when we make conscious contact with a Beloved Higher Power. We have observed how this kind of knowing materializes through our practice and has real, tangible results in our hearts and minds. Conversely, this kind of knowing can also feel far away when we lose touch with our spiritual home: the present moment, the God of our understanding.
As we begin to value a new embodied way of knowing, it can still be helpful to take note of both our victories and our setbacks. Neither defines our success nor our worth, but they can help us mark our progress and see more clearly in each situation. In this spirit, our second new mindfulness practice invites us to spot-check ourselves throughout each day. A spot-check focuses particularly on the qualities that represent the essence of our ongoing practice: tolerance, gratitude, and humility.
During a spot-check, we can ask ourselves:
Is my heart open right now?
Is there lightness, gratitude, and ease in what I am doing?
Do I need to admit where I am wrong?
When we pause to spot-check, we strengthen our mindfulness muscle, and we can become more attuned to the subtle shifts that inform us that we have lost our center. Spot-checking keeps us in close contact with our emotions, our self-defeating behaviors, and our unconscious reactivity. When we lose our sense of openness and ease, we often find that we have begun to grasp for our sense of Self in something outside ourselves. Just this awareness can be the gentle correction that brings us back to center.
Additionally, when we make it a practice to promptly admit our mistakes without fanfare or self-deprecation, we may actually sense our ego getting smaller—a welcome reduction that comes about in few other ways. Although our Coursework has helped us recognize the different ways our ego operates, we are under no delusion that awareness will cure us of our human condition. We might imagine our ego like a giant magnet, always waiting in the wings, subtly drawing us back to old patterns, especially when we are depleted, overwhelmed, or threatened. The best we can hope for in this life is to lose ourselves less often.
So, let’s take every opportunity to step away from our need to be right, protect ourselves, or impress others, and spot-check, promptly admitting our mistakes with compassion and clarity. When we have trouble sorting out a particularly sticky narrative or situation, it usually helps us to Reach Out, Reach In, and Reach Up. These practices can continually support us on our journey. And, when we cause harm to ourselves or others, we can use these tools to promptly admit our mistakes and make amends quickly—without excuses or unhealthy shame.
We can safely expect that when one mountain is climbed, life will be waiting to challenge us—again and again. We will never figure it all out or be totally self-sufficient. We may need to repeatedly surrender the idea that we have finally “made it.” No matter how much we grow or gain, we will always need a Higher Power. This ever-present dependence is a tremendous and intentional gift: it keeps us in close contact with the Divine and invites an abundance of tender mercies into our lives. We never outgrow our need for Grace.
As we near the end of our Course, let’s remind ourselves that this Grace, and all the wisdom we will ever need, can be found so simply at our center. Let’s not overlook this readily available resource. It can be strangely scary to deeply acknowledge that nothing can add to or take away from the wholeness of who we already are, that nothing out there can teach us better than the Light that already lives right here. Understanding these truths puts all the responsibility for our happiness and life choices squarely on our shoulders.
We might pause to consider: “Is it hard for me to stay grounded in presence and trust myself and my Higher Power?”
Let’s wonder why it sometimes feels easier to believe that the answer is somewhere else: if we can just find the right person or podcast, belong to the right organization, or acquire the right title, then we will be safe; then we will be right; then we will be enough. Can we sense the grasping and neediness, the fearful ego, that drives this mindset? Perhaps it is time to consider the idea that life was never meant to be a safe harbor. Maybe there is no retiring from our responsibility to navigate each moment with integrity, compassion, and authenticity. And let’s mindfully notice that when our mind swims with too many narratives, too many to-do lists, too many well-intentioned mantras or motivational speeches, there is no space for a Higher way. Our cup is too full.
Our empty-cup center is the best place to discover our unique path towards our greatest potential, one step at a time—and this center is always one surrender and one conscious breath away. There may be a million pathways to the Divine, but each inevitably leads us back to this whole and holy place. Our practice of finding God at our center, over and over, remains our most valuable self-improvement strategy. As we reflect on the many ways that our journey has shown us this Truth, we can more easily shift our mindset from arrival to practice. We can recognize we are engaged in a lifelong, moment-by-moment process of aligning back to center. Here is where we feel safe, heard, and held. Here is where our next right step surfaces. Here is where we come to know God. Here is where unobstructed Love leads the way.