I am preparing to lead my first in-person retreat since the Before Times. The focus of our time away is around the practice of vichara, or self-inquiry. It’s a combination of unwinding the story of your past and keys to unfolding the life you want. I always hesitate to call it a retreat, because that word conjures up lazy days of rest, exotic locations, and a vacation from work of all kinds. It is decidedly not that. Training is also not the right word, as that implies I’ll be imparting information that can be learned and studied. I suppose what I am preparing to do is guide a vigil, an inner journey, a pilgrimage of sorts where the destination is the Self.
I am so ready, and I’m very, very excited to share this material again. It’s been about four years since I last offered it, and it’s some of the most important, hardest, rewarding and potentially life-changing work I’ve ever done. At its core, it is Jñāna yoga, or Jñāna mārga: the path of knowledge, of self-realization. It is an intensive and ongoing excavation of Who am I? which continues until the I dissolves into the all. So, just that. No big deal.
As I’ve been reviewing and revising my notes, I keep turning over the three agreements with which we begin. They are necessary for getting through the work, and I feel like they are also excellent reminders in this moment in time. If you’ve been following along the past year, I keep going on about- and continue to return to- using this unprecedented time to get clear, sharpen your discernment and make changes toward the life you really want to have. We’ve all been individually and collective given the option for a do-over, or at least a good system reset. Evolution, forward movement, perhaps even survival is counting on us taking advantage of the opportunity.
The piece that is highlighted right now is this: You are responsible for the life you have. Where you are right now is not a result of your life circumstances, it is a result of your reaction to those circumstances. And the sooner you stop explaining, blaming and ruminating and actually take responsibility for it, the closer you are to having the life you want. In a time when accountability seems to be at an all time low, this is not easy work, and many of the role models who exemplify this truth seem to be the exception rather than the rule. It would be amazing to turn that around.
What would happen if you started paying attention when you are teetering at the precipice of the rabbit hole of victimhood? Notice when your automatic reaction is to blame the world, your boss, your parents, your partner, your dosha, the stars, your neighbors, your limitations, your age, your bad luck. Pause. Take a deep breath, reach in and pull faith to the surface: it has all happened and is happening for you, not to you. What if your life is proceeding exactly how it is supposed to be in order for you to grow and become who you were meant to be? This is inclusive of the challenges. All of them. Sometimes they bear the precious gift of knowing that we can survive anything. Sometimes they hold the potential to light a fire within to not only change ourselves, but change our world for the better.
This can be hard to swallow in the darkest seasons and when tragedy strikes. The teaching on the inexplicable and the incomprehensible is two-fold. First is the idea that the soul does not suffer, and it was the soul that chose to take form and have this human experience. Second is the notion that the soul so desires the experience of embodiment, it will gladly step into any option available— perhaps precisely because the soul does not suffer. Whether or not you can get on board with that idea, it’s interesting to consider what part of you suffers? The ego, the personality, the physical body? All of those are the changeable, ephemeral, and not the eternal, changeless Self. As is so often the case, it’s helpful to take note: with what are you identifying?
I encourage you to try this; to take responsibility for the life you have, the situation you are in right now. Notice when you are giving away your power to forces outside your control and grab the reins and course correct. You are shaping your self, your life, and inevitably our world with every choice you make and don’t make. What possibilities open to you when you claim your life as your own, not as the result of a series of doings or misdoings of others?