“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” ~ Rumi
Take another look at this picture, which is the reflection and which is ‘real’?
What do you ‘see’?
If we take another look, what initially appeared the right way up, is in fact flipped.
When the air and the surface of the water are so still we see the reflection so clearly we might question which side is real. Both are 'real', it is how we perceive what we are seeing that poses the question, yet beneath what we 'see' on the surface of one half of this image is a whole other story!
To see 'beneath' the surface we have to really focus our vision, concentrate, open our minds to see beyond the reflection, to witness all that goes on beneath what is immediately seen.
'Beneath' is more life, but a completely different environment to what we are familiar with - no less real and no less a part of this world than we are. The more we expand our vision, the more complex the view becomes.
All of us will ‘see’ differently because what we see around us is only what we individually perceive through our senses, which vary individually and are changing all the time. From being born to becoming elderly our senses' ability to 'perceive' changes and the way we ‘process’ what we see, hear, taste, feel, smell changes too; depending on our experiences, our upbringing and our conditioning.
We can become ‘fixed’ in the way we process this sensory information, so that when we see something quickly without really 'seeing', we automatically process the information based on previous ideas/experiences.
For example if ten different people of different ages and backgrounds were to see and hear a dog running towards them barking, some of those ten people would experience joy, others would experience fear, some may see the lead and the owner others may see only the dog running towards them. Some may see it as threatening others will see it as being excited….all based on previous experience or conditioning.
How we see ourselves is much the same, based on our previous experiences or other's comments, we tell a story to ourselves with words and feelings. This can be confusing because who we think we are also changes.
The truth is we are different on different days, with different people in different situations. It’s all in flux as we interact with others (who also individually experience this flux) and the world around us - which too is in a state of constant change.
Everything and everyone is constantly flowing, changing and interacting, so why do we feel the need to define ourselves so narrowly and then constantly try to fit in that little box we've created.
I sat down for meditation recently and posed the questions - Who am I? What am I? It seemed easy to start with, the familiar labels started to flow from pen to paper. However as I let the thoughts and my pen flow it became more complex, I found myself contradicting my initial thoughts, writing that actually when I’m doing 'such and such' or when I’m with 'so and so' then I’m actually this way or that way. I discovered I am very different things with different people and I am different depending on what I’m doing. How or who I am depends on what and who I’m interacting with, but it also depends on what emotions I’m experiencing below the surface - which may have nothing to do with who I’m with or what I’m doing!
I am Sophia, Sophie, Soph, Mum, Sweetheart, Mrs Howard,
I am wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, colleague, neighbour, teacher, student, customer, stranger,
I am introvert ....and extrovert,
I am fearful ...and brave,
Nervous and confident,
Quiet & loud,
Selfish and selfless,
Busy and lazy,
Kind and mean,
Calm and impatient,
Critical and supportive,
I am distracted and focused,
I am whole and I am broken,
I am enough and not enough,
I used to be and I will be,
I am ALL of these things and yet NONE of these things define me.
I recently took a walk to my local park, it's familiar yet I always notice something different - I experience and process it differently each time. I find being in nature, whether it’s a walk or just taking my yoga mat into the garden, I can better gather my thoughts and make more sense of what I’m feeling or experiencing. Having walked around for sometime, noticing the flowers, the insects and the feel of the earth or lush green beneath my bare feet, I decided to climb the hill and sit for a while before making my way back home. As I got to the top, settled down to sit and breathe it all in, I was met with a much expanded view; not just of the park but far off into the distance, beyond fields and trees, the railway line and town. I had moved my perspective from the tiniest details of insects on petals to a much expanded view of the area in which I live. Gazing out to the horizon reminding myself how much is beyond my vision (like the world beneath the surface of the water) I appreciate how VAST it all is. I got a sense of knowing that I am a small part of that vastness but also a moment of knowing that I have all of that vastness ‘within’ me, like the ocean in a drop. It was a 'woah' moment and one that totally flipped my perspective. A light bulb moment, a realisation that I don’t need to 'sweat the small stuff', a knowing that I have a vast space within me for compassion and acceptance of all life and all that life presents to me….I felt like I floated home.
However, after a few days this vastness felt a little overwhelming, too huge. So I returned to my practice, I sat and breathed it all in, this time in my small garden sit spot. I dialled it back, brought my awareness back to me sitting on my mat in this little space, back to the small simple details of feeling the breath moving in and out. The focus moved back to me, my experience of ‘I’ became bigger, my awareness of everything else became smaller. In that moment I realised I can hold the vastness of it all and I can let the vastness of it all hold me. I can be both at different times but am never separate from it all.
I recognised the wholeness, the non-duality of everything. Full of love, surrounded by love, my roots felt deep, my mind felt clear and I felt as if the sound of birdsong was in my heart as well as around me.
We are all of it, we are part of it and ‘it’ is always changing.
How we experience life depends on our perspective, which version of reality we choose to focus on in that moment, how much of the bigger picture we choose to see.
We think we know so much, most of us have fairly concrete beliefs about ourselves, others and the world we're in. We feel more secure in knowing who we are if we are firmly grounded in our thinking and beliefs. Our mind is incredibly complex and powerful, it can be a tool at our disposal or we can identify with it and define ourselves by it. Like a computer the mind makes 'shortcut keys' to be more efficient. It's quicker to process our sensory information based on what we already know and believe, quicker is better after all as we're so busy and have so much to do!
This does mean however that we move through life never knowing whether we are experiencing the original or the reflection and never considering what is beneath it all.
What we experience in our lives is really only reflecting back to us what is within us. We don't take the time to explore this concept because most of us don't even 'see' the connection and lets not forget how uncomfortable it is to admit that the things we don't like in others is a reflection of that aspect within ourselves.
What is reflecting back to you in your life right now?...... are you willing to refine your perception to go beneath the surface of the reflection to see the whole story?
This month there is no online practice, just the outdoor classes...... which more and more feels the most natural way to practice, I am beginning to wonder how I will ever adjust to teaching back in doors again!
We will be working with the sacred element of water in our physical practice, observing where our attention and perception flows on and off the mat.
In our physical practice this means using the breath to move in,out and back in again with each asana, staying in postures longer to move beyond the superficial experience. Seeing and feeling the shapes of the body from different angles. We use our physical practice to see what the body reflects back to us about our mental and emotional selves..
Witnessing what we present to the world, what the world reflects back to us and delving deep beneath the surface with the intention to bring it back to our centre, to our sense of wholeness.
Bringing all of our being into harmony with a vast sense of love and compassion for ourselves and the world we are part of.
So Hum, So Hum, So Hum
"The translation of So Hum is “I Am That.” Many Vedic scholars have interpreted the “That” in the mantra to represent the Universe, and it is now widely understood that the So Hum mantra symbolizes the fact that we are all connected to the universal energy that is constantly supporting and nourishing us in the ways we need and desire. It falls into the same concept as “oneness,” or “I am one with the Universe and all of creation.” Melissa Eisler
As I reflect on the writing process this month, I can see that I struggled to pull this one together at one point. I had become seperate from the process, distracted with the surface reflection. I had started looking outside of my own experiences for inspiration rather than diving deep. I knew roughly what I wanted to explore but found myself looking online for inspiration. As I look back through my doodling notes, which I do in the process of finding what it is I want to share each month, there was nothing to thread it together. So I came back to looking beneath the surface, I delved instead into my meditation journal which I write in daily and suddenly it all made sense.
Streams of thoughts and words flowed like rivers returning to the ocean, whole again.
"The light in me honours to the light in you."