How Pain can be your greatest teacher

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Have you ever been broken? So much that you felt empty, barren, void? Left without life, left without reason to live, even for a moment, or for a longer time? Have you ever been so sad that you felt the subtle, yet immensely heavy veil of sadness overtake every cell of your body as a physical feeling? Have you ever felt so wrecked that you could not recall any other feeling or state of being alive, other than that misery? Have you ever wept so deeply, so much, that you were drained of tears, breath, memory, life, and any kind of human feeling? Entering a phase of stillness of everything around you, utter quiet, where even taking a breath seems unnecessary and redundant? Have you ever felt so depressed that you felt every sheath of your being mangled and desolate? And have your ever felt certain that feeling was there to stay? There was no rush, no reason to worry. That was the feeling that you would be in from now on. And you didn’t care if that was what was going to happen. You even felt safe, almost invincible.

Have you ever lost yourself completely in such a moment of melancholy? Have you ever lost track of time, thoughts, stress when you were in such a state? Have you ever experienced time dilation, or even time stopping, when you were feeling so emotionally weary? Have you ever experienced calmness, after all feelings have peeked and then suddenly dropped and gone? And now, do you recall ever having felt that way in your ‘normal state’ of life? That absolute state of tranquility after the storm, the detachment from any things you might have perceived as ‘problems’ earlier, the meditative-like state of total sorrow, the feeling of freedom from any attachments.

And have you ever felt a surge of inspiration flushing your spirit after a long struggle? A drive to create, to write, to dwell in something that nourishes you, that channels your emotions and transmutes them into something beautiful? A sudden awakening of your creative self? And perhaps you felt a sudden feeling of awe for that unexpected state you found yourself in, a bizarre kind of life out of death, a miracle resurrection, a rising of the Phoenix through its ashes.

And now, know, that you can have all that, not only in a state of downright wretchedness, desperation and gloom. You can have it all, any time you want. Not because it will happen to you. But because you will choose to make it happen. You will be the creator of that state. And if it has happened to you, you are fully capable of recreating it at will. With the perk of having lived through a sneak-peek of how that state feels like, you know what you will be aiming towards. You just need one magic component, your adamant Will. Your Will, paired with your own deep wisdom for your self, self-discipline and courage. And that is what makes you the best teacher and healer for yourself. You know yourself better than anybody else, the traps you can fall into, your weaknesses, your strengths. And by keeping this image of that end-state calmness in mind, suddenly the journey will not feel as difficult. With that knowledge, you will discipline yourself as you tread that path, through tests and obstacles, to your liberation, to glory.

Pain can be our greatest guide. It can take us in states we haven’t experienced ourselves in before. And it can reveal to us sides of us that we may never have known. A hidden potential. A hidden desire. A Higher Self, struggling to crawl out of our visceral existence. The worst thing that happens to you, can be the best thing that happens to you. It takes open eyes, an open mind and an open heart. Know that you can wield the coin of any circumstance you find yourself in; if you find yourself on the negative side, learn from it, and then turn it around to the positive side; if you’re on the positive side, keep it and nurture it. Use everything that life is giving you. Feel what you need to feel, and then, with your mind and your heart together, rise above it all and turn ‘what happens to you’, into ‘what happens for you’. And all you need to do is remember that state of bliss you once reached, stillness, strength that got birthed from sensitivity, and refabricate it.

Your life is your art. As Buddha put it, “what you think, you become”. Gain from your Pain, physical, mental or emotional, receive him as a blessing. And you will discover pain is not your enemy, he can be your friend, your ally. And if you don’t let your pain be your teacher, then your pain will be in vain. And it will come again and again. Not because he wants to, but because you let him. And that is the real tragedy.

Becoming your freest self with Stoic Attitudes. A Meditation

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What we mean by the term “stoic” today is a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining. And that has its origins in Stoicism, or Stoic philosophy, that began in Ancient Greece around 301 BC and continued to flourish in the Greek and Roman world until the 3rd century AD.

According to Stoic philosophy, everything in life is interconnected, operating in a web of cause and effect, with “Logos” being the “rational” structure of the universe. Although we don’t have control over all the things/events affecting us, we can have control over how we approach things. Hence, the Stoics accept and deal with the world as it is, rather than imagining an ideal society, and they focused on pursuing self-development and improvement though four Cardinal Virtues:

1) Practical Wisdom; The ability to navigate complex situation is a logical, informed, calm manner.

2) Temperance; The exercise of self-control and moderation in all aspects of life.

3) Justice; Treating others with fairness, even when they are wrong.

4) Courage; Not only when extraordinary circumstances called for it, but facing daily challenges with clarity and integrity.

“Sometimes even to live is an act of Courage” – Seneca

While Stoicism focuses on personal improvement, it is not a self-centered philosophy, nor does it encourage passivity. The idea is that only those who have cultivated virtue and self-restraint in themselves, can bring positive change in the world and in others.

There are many common elements between Stoicism and Buddhism, Yoga and other ancient cultures. For example, one of the desired outcomes in Stoicism, “Ataraxia”, which means tranquility of mind, is the same with Nirvana in Buddhism, or Samadhi in Yoga.

In regards to the modern world, Stoicism continues to inspire and be the foundation of many things that we use in this day and age. Christian Theologians and Mystics built upon the Cardinal Virtues of Stoicism and continue to exist and be practiced today. Also, many therapy styles in psychology, such as REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy) and Victor Frankl’s Logotherapy, are based on Stoic philosophy. They, too, focus on harnessing our willpower to fill our lives with meaning, even in the bleakest situations, changing the self-defeating attitudes we form about our lives’ circumstances. And not to forget the modern prevalent self-help movement with books, podcasts, quotes, all stemming from the same ideas and practices originating in Stoicism.

“We suffer not from the events in our lives,
But from our judgements about them”. – Epictetus

So how can you benefit from Stoicism? Through meditation. By practicing meditating in the ways the Stoics did in the past, we can train our mind, and self, to become more happy, calm and resilient towards the challenges that will arise in our lives. Contrary to popular perception, philosophy wasn’t just pondering about life and being all theoretical. Many philosophic genres had daily practices, such as meditations, as was the case with Stoicism, with meditations in the beginning and the end of the day, as well as during the day.

The meditation techniques were many and very different to each other. There were meditations that helped one stay within their path of self-development, with practical ways of feeding the mind with the virtues and values, leading to one’s best self. The basic yet really strong Stoic Attitudes meditation really encourages self-transformation and helps one appreciate what they already have. A simple way to practice this at home is to keep the 4 Stoic Cardinal Virtues in mind (see above), assess your character’s strengths and weaknesses and contemplate on how they can be applied on your character and life. Then sit in meditation, visualizing how it would feel like to really live in accord with them; how would your life change for the better? You can also bring into your mind people, famous virtuous, wise people, or people you admire that you have in your life and imagine how they would perform in a challenging situation in your place.

Apart from the “practical” meditations, there were others that were directed more towards achieving the highest nature of man, recommended for those interested in the spiritual path. The most spiritual Stoic meditation was that of “Henosis”. Its elements were: Métis – Stillness of mind and body as one, Hesychía – Silence; withdrawal of focus from the external world and focusing on inward, on the divine, and finally Henósis- Union; Héna is the Greek word for “one”. Henosis is a practice of “one-pointed awareness” or single minded focus, leading up to what it literally meant, “unitary consciousness”, the equivalent of “Moksha” in Yoga.

Following the Stoic mindset can ultimately lead to liberation, becoming your highest, best self and freeing your mind, staying in tranquility and bliss. On that note, I am proud to announce I am now launching the Ancient Greek Meditation series, starting with the Stoic Attitudes Meditation described earlier. If you think you align with this mindset and can be benefitted from an ancient authentic technique, I’d love to host you (for more info, please visit my class schedule here).

 

Blog Coming Soon..

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Hello Everyone & Thank you for visiting my Blog! Here, you will find beautiful content about your daily Yoga Practice very soon, advice on how to live a balanced life in a holistic way, colors of thoughts around Life & Yoga. My Aim is to create & share content that has helped shed light to aspects of my life, and which can hopefully inspire and motivate everyone on their Own path for Growth, Self-Realization and Transformation, and Freedom. Namaste ~ Much Love, Elli.