philosophy

philosophy2013/01/30

Love & Meditation – from YOGINI magazine vol.34

The following is a recent essay article I wrote for Japanese YOGINI magazine vol. 34.
I have been writing a regular column for the magazine as well as being their cover model for the past 9 years. I always thought that I should translate my essays into English one day…, but this is actually the first time I got around to it!
Writing in Japanese is very different from English, and translating it back to English was a challenge. I’m afraid it doesn’t read as smoothly as if I had written it in English to begin with… but this is for my friend Pop, Neil, and his host-mom Hazel, whom I have never met. I am so grateful for your company, for all the fun, and of course, the inspiration.

*For the Japanese original text, please see Yogini vol. 34.

……………………

 I flew to Bangkok to teach at the annual Yoga Festival there for the first time. I taught two workshops over that weekend and had a great time, but it was also my lucky treat to get to spend the rest of my time in Bangkok engaged in rich conversation with my good friend Pop-Areeya, a Thai model and star, who is also a fellow yoga practitioner. She was born and raised in the US, and as I grew up going to International school in Tokyo, we have a lot in common. She became my “Thai sister”almost as soon as we met, and on this trip, we reconnected after not having seen each other for almost five years. The weekend became one big long talk-marathon, during which we caught up with each other’s lives, discussing work, personal life, family, sickness, new relationships, and our future.  

 We spent two whole days in each other’s company, skipping from café to café, restaurant to bars, and ending up in my hotel room, where we chatted in the big king sized bed, right up until the very moment of “goodnight.”

 Yet the main theme of all our talking was simple.

 L・O・V・E

 There’s pretty much no way to say that word without it tickling a soft spot somewhere deep inside the chest. If I were to sum up all of our conversations in one word, that would be it. Whether we talked about our families, about our partners, or about ourselves, it all boiled down to one thing- love. Had we recorded our conversations, we would’ve been able to come up with a book! Two women in their thirties, on a path of self-discovery– finding, losing, and searching for love on that grand and divine path we call Life.

 Love is an eternal theme for us all. People are born of love, and as such, I think, there is not a human life that does not long for true love. For women especially, love is not only a great all encompassing idea, but something we need to feel close to us at all times–spiritually, emotionally, and physically. The woman’s body is governed by hormones, and it takes no scientist to know for a fact how a woman who knows love GLOWS from within. How can you know that, and NOT seek it?

 In that sense, I too, am one ordinary girl. As a person, and as a woman, the question “What is true love?” is something that always lives deep inside my heart, opening doors to all kinds of mysteries, wonders, struggles, and the undeniable possibility of enlightening growth.

 During my stay in Bangkok, Pop introduced me to her friend, a young Thai man who spent his teenage years home-staying in Australia. It is from this man that I heard a story, from which I gained tremendous encouragement and inspiration.

 Like any teenager, he told me, he would come home every night to his host-parents’ house in terrible shape. Disturbed, wound up, and sometimes even coming home from fights. And, like any teenager, he did not hold back. Still, his host-mother would be there for him in an unmoving manner– and it was her presence itself, he said, that made a profound influence on him.

 “She just remained calm and unaltered by my mess… even though I know, that she too is human, and I’m sure she had her emotions, too. She just never denied me, never retaliated. Her heart was enormous in its capacity, and she was always there to just accept me in any way that I was. Her presence itself was none other than Love itself.”

 Such a simple thing… but it was when I heard him tell this story that something inside me clicked, and I made the connection between Love and Meditation.

 In meditation, we repeatedly practice mindful observation. Observation of all that is–inside and outside, as a phenomenon, and nothing else. It is something like residing in a conscious state, where you are watching and being aware of everything that is going on- all the thoughts, emotions, ideas, and everything in between- BEFORE your mind begins to draw opinions or conclusions about them. Before you begin to react to all these impending triggers.

 In our everyday lives, it has become normal for us to have opinions and reactions that are directly derived from our concepts and ideas of life- something like a safety net we have learned to knit up inside ourselves in an effort to make our existence more understandable for ourselves. What meditation teaches us is not that we shouldn’t have opinions, or shouldn’t react to these triggers, but rather, that it is possible to watch and to have these thoughts and emotions (opinions and reactions), without necessarily having them sweep over and take control. When left unchecked, in our ordinary day to day consciousness, the flow from “something happens” to→ “we have opinions and feelings about them”occurs automatically, without pause. However, with a little practice, through meditation we begin to recognize a small gap between this flow. As a result, you become able to distinguish between your primary state prior to opinions and reactions, and AFTER you embrace these opinions and reactions as your own.  

 What happens then, is an inevitable lesson in meditation. You begin to recognize that all these thoughts and emotions, no matter how REAL they may seem, are actually secondary. They are secondary to that quiet, peaceful, undisturbed state that exists prior to the moment you choose to embrace them as your own. Everything else that follows does not spring from this source, but comes from whatever beliefs and concepts that you have come to choose to endorse in your life.

 One can even call this quiet place “love.” Let’s be clear- this essence, the state BEFORE you engage your beliefs and concepts, remains unmoved and untouched. It is never wounded. It is always just there, like the quiet stillness that is the backdrop of all sound and dramatic music.

 For we who have become so accustomed to think and act from the secondary reactive state, to reside in this primary quietude requires training, and a re-education of our mental faculties. At the same time, the truth remains that at the end of the day, it is SO much more comfortable to be in this quiet, peaceful, powerful state of acceptance than to give in to all the noise that follows. For our own sakes.

 In meditation, we watch all phenomena by practicing mindfulness in the “here and now.” To keep our focus of attention in the present moment then, is synonymous to being able to distinguish and to understand that all other opinions and reactions that follow are secondary. When we watch with mindfulness, it is only natural that there are a whole myriad of things that seem to make no sense, that are beyond our understanding, beyond our scope. And then I hear myself ask the ultimate question: But isn’t love supposed to be based on understanding? Then, remembering my new friend’s host-mother, I thought to myself: just like a mother, no matter how much she loves her teenage son, cannot always understand just why he goes on day after day living and behaving the way that he does, sometimes it is necessary to accept that which we cannot understand. And so, I came to understand and to accept, that sometimes, to Love is “to understand that there are some things that you just can’t understand.”

 “My host-mother, when she came face-to-face with me in my teenage turbulence, never forced herself to try to come close to me, nor to try and explain her feelings to me. She just went on accepting me as I was, going without a bother. And she would to bake this REALLY good carrot cake that made everyone happy.”

 To her, there was no effort in knowing and accepting that he was his own person, and that she is her own person, and that both may co-exist in a problem-free state. This peacefulness was the most natural way to be, and furthermore, one might even say, when you are able to see reality as it is, PRIOR to choosing to see only from your own personal narrow set of beliefs, this was the ONLY way to be. Her  presence, my friend narrated with convincing certainty, “undoubtedly radiated Love”and “she deserved the Nobel Peace Prize just as much as any of the other proud souls who came to be known by the world as winners.”

 Oh and let’s not forget. On TOP of that, she bakes the BEST carrot cake EVER- how can that NOT make people happy?

 And then I remembered another phrase that I came across in my years of studying yoga and meditation in India:

“The fragrance of meditation is Love.”

 This love… that is about just BEING THERE, moment by moment. Without opinions, no criticizing, no flipping out. Not giving in to your personal fears, there is no need to protect or preserve the self– your ego, that is. That selfless state of peace. This woman, whom I have never met, on the other side of the earth, reminded me of the most important thing- that this simple Love, is none other than Presence itself. 

 It was a confirmation for me- THIS is the very reason why I meditate every day. Why do I put myself through all those crazy yoga poses? Yoga asana prepares the body and nervous system for meditation. The deeper meditation gets, no matter what you face in this world, you learn not to run, not to move, only to watch and to be with it all in that peaceful and essential primordial state. Personal fears and challenges come again and again until you really learn from them. And when you do, your understanding deepens, and it’s true, it’s Love that is always left.

 And so my new friend, gave me the best definition of Love yet-

“When you cut through all the bullsh*t, what remains is love.”


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