Finding What’s Real: A New View for Our Times

My dharma talk before yoga class last week reiterated one of the tenets of Kripalu yoga philosophy which is about “the sacredness of the moment.” Of course, we hear about living in the present moment from many different spiritual traditions because it is the most profound way to live. In fact, it is the only way to really live because the present moment is the only thing that is real.

However, another adage to layer on top of the realization of the present moment as sacred is “there is absolutely nothing wrong with this moment.” Not only is this present moment sacred but “there is absolutely nothing wrong with this moment.” I wrote it twice just to make sure you heard it, and I’d like you to notice how many reactions you have to that statement. Particularly on the day after an election when you will be hearing and feeling all kinds of things about how imperfect everything is and how bad things are, let this spiritual truth seep into your being and see if you can sit with the idea without rejecting it for a bit.

When you allow for the possibility that “there is absolutely nothing wrong with this moment,” you might stop reacting to the unpleasant in your life long enough for it to be felt, processed, and incorporated into a conscious response to your world and the people in it. When we spend time rejecting “what is” and rejecting others, we don’t have the energy or the ability to see how to navigate the stormy waters that we live in. Get on a boat and hang on. Feel the ups and downs of human life and get some sea legs. When we face our adversity without turning away, we begin to sense the feeling of resilience that comes from surviving and even thriving through difficult times.

If you have a reaction to this statement, it might be that you are caught in what Buddhism called the Eight Worldly Winds–praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, and fame and disrepute. We will all be affected by these basic experiences, but the key is an awareness of when it’s happening. When we unconsciously and compulsively seek the former and try to avoid the latter, we are caught in the wheel of suffering and the boat is in troubled water. When we are aware that we are caught in these experiences, we can allow for the associated feelings and thoughts to arise, exist, and pass away. Soon, you will find yourself on calmer water.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with this moment” is not saying that we don’t have things we don’t like or that for this to be true we need to have lives of perfect bliss. It does mean that we are seeing beneath the ebb and flow of our ordinary, messy, often challenging lives into a greater spiritual understanding of what’s real. What is real? Well, my understanding and interpretation of what is “real” has been collected over many years and through the study of several spiritual traditions. Here are some qualities that I’ve come up with that help anchor my boat when it’s on rocky seas:

  1. What’s real is constant. It cannot be changed by circumstances, illness, environmental catastrophes, or even election results. At the beginning of A Course in Miracles (one of the traditions that I’ve studied), it says “nothing real can be threatened, nothing unreal exists, therein lies the peace of God.” You can replace “God” with any other name that resonates with you. Personally, I like “Love.”
  • What’s real is in everything and everyone.
  • What’s real cannot necessarily be seen by the naked eye but can be felt and experienced.
  • What’s real is accessible to all of us. It is not available to one political party or country or culture.
  • What’s real is available to you at any moment you choose to see through a different lens than the one you are given by this world of suffering.
  • Finally, what I boil it all down to is that the only thing that is real is the energy of love. I feel it as an energy and it gets sent as energy, as loving action, as nonjudgmental awareness. You know it when you feel it and it knows you in return.

As we move into our lives which are filled with reasons to be divisive and polarized, think about the energy that you are putting into the fire. Is it the fire of hatred or is it the fire of love? I believe one will burn us all up together and one has the capacity for healing.

Absolutely every thought and action you put into the world has an effect. Think about what you want to increase and do that. You won’t be perfect at it. Neither am I, by a long shot. But I think about it a lot and practice loving awareness of myself and others as best I can. Practice anything and you get better at it. Ask yourself, “What am I practicing?” If it’s not what you want more of, do something else.

“Nothing’s wrong” allows for the fullness of life. It makes me think of the Rumi poem called “A Great Wagon.”

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.

Let’s meet on this field where we put down our labels and judgments and see how intimately we are all connected. Perhaps here we can begin to sense the truth and sacredness of what’s real.