Your Spirit is Unbreakable

Recently, a student told me her spirit was broken. I believed her at first, she had gone through a stressful breakup and seemed a bit down. But then it occurred to me that it was impossible for the spirit to ‘break’.

I remembered an ancient saying from India about the soul …..Vasangsi jirnani yatha vihaya … meaning, “Fire cannot burn it, water cannot drench it, wind cannot dry it, weapons cannot cleave it…” Na jayate mriyate va kadacin… which means, “The soul is never born and it never dies. It has no beginning, it has no end, no past, no present, no future.” Sounds unbreakable to me.

So how can one feel their spirit is broken? Perhaps it is when the qualities of the soul are masked by the effects of stress.

Stress is truly a psychophysiological response that impacts your nervous system, and if it isn’t released in some way, stress can build up and cause disease. And when a traumatic event happens, the stress builds up even more, weakening the immune system, inhibiting the body’s intelligence to heal or bring balance back, creates stress hormones that cause depression, and somehow keeps the qualities of who we are, our soul, from shining through. That could be when we feel as if our spirit has been broken. I think the effects of stress break our lines of communion or illumination from the soul. I know that sounds weird, but bear in mind, I am writing to you from Sedona.

Take a moment to turn your attention to the one who is reading this page. Keep reading, but notice where your attention is coming from. Do you feel a presence there? A sense of awareness?

You probably already know you are not your thoughts – you are not the conversation you are having in your mind like, “What am I going to have for dinner?” Or, “I really should call so and so.” You are not your body either. If you break a leg, are you broken? No.

“Everything in your life is constantly transforming – transforming within a presence that’s always there. That presence was there when you were a newborn baby, it was there when you were a child, it was there when you were an adolescent, just as it’s there right now. And it will be there when you are very old,” says Deepak Chopra.

This presence is often called pure awareness, spirit, consciousness, the field of intelligence, the inner self, or your soul. It calls your ever-changing body, with its myriad of thoughts and roles it plays, ‘home’. And perhaps it calling you to become more intimate with it. No one else can do that for you.

You can become more intimate with who you really are – commune with your soul – in a few different ways: through silent meditation practices, by spending time in nature (without your cell phone), and by practicing non-judgement (I don’t find that very easy).

The trick is to shift your reference point in your life away from the changeable, transitory experiences (like roles, environments, thoughts, bodies, breakups) to the awareness of this presence with its many qualities: bliss, spaciousness, flexibility, infinite possibilities, silence, and so much more.

How can we culture this relationship and become intimate with this presence? Of course, meditation is my choice. That, and spending time in nature. My daily practice of meditation reorients my awareness towards this presence, and keeps the awareness of it in the forefront of my experience – in almost every situation. It also releases stress and the impact of stress in my nervous system so that I can maintain a more wholesome outlook through life. No matter what, the spirit cannot break. So don’t worry.

What is Mindfulness Anyway?

Blue BuddhaWhat are you doing right now? You are probably sitting and reading this. But what else are you doing? Thinking? Eating? Listening to music? Spending time with your family?

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

I like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness. Kabat-Zinn, if you haven’t heard of him, is the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. He also wrote the books Wherever You Go, There You Are, and Coming to our Senses

Mindfulness is a term used to describe the practice of bringing one’s awareness back (i.e. from the past or the future or distraction of any kind) into the present moment.

Mindfulness can be practiced formally as a meditation, and it is also a practice that can be done at any time. It does not require sitting a certain way, or even focusing on the breath. It does require bringing your focus on whatever is happening in the present moment, and simply noticing the mind’s usual commentary. That being said, mindfulness meditation definitely helps one’s awareness to settle down, and eventually creates a silent backdrop behind activity – this makes it easier to practice present moment awareness.

Any activity done mindfully is a form of meditation. Mindfulness can be done in almost any situation. You can be mindful of the sensations in one’s feet while walking, or the feeling of warm soapy water on the hands while doing dishes. You can also become mindful of the mind’s judgement and continual commentary: “I wish I didn’t have to walk any further, I like the sound of the leaves rustling, I wish washing dishes wasn’t so boring and the soap wasn’t drying out my skin”, etc.

Let’s look at the practice of eating mindfully – when we sit down to eat we are purposefully aware of the process of eating. We’re deliberately noticing the way our body is positioned, the sensations in our body, and the mind and body’s responses to those sensations. You might notice the mind wandering, and when it does, you can purposefully bring your attention back to the eating. Mindfulness is a continual refocusing on the present moment.

When one eats without awareness, you may in theory know you are eating, but you might be thinking about many other things at the same time, and may also be watching TV, talking, or reading – or all of those. So a very small part of our awareness is absorbed with eating, and we may be only barely aware of the physical sensations and even less aware of our thoughts and emotions. We almost miss the experience. Have you ever eaten a meal and not remembered eating the whole thing? That is the opposite of mindfulness!

Why would someone want to practice mindfulness? Well, it is one of the meditation techniques practiced and proven to be effective in many research projects leading to:

  • Increased self-awareness, self-trust, and self- acceptance
  • Enhanced appreciation of life
  • Serenity in the face of difficulties
  • Lasting decreases in a variety of stress-related physical symptoms, including chronic pain
  • Significant decreases in anxiety and depression
  • Improved concentration and creativity
  • Improved immune system functioning
  • Decreased symptoms secondary to cancer
  • More accepting attitude toward life and its challenges
  • Now who wouldn’t want that?

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