In this podcast episode, Tantra and Yoga teacher Uriel Yariv shares with us about how to become more emotionally wise, and how to consciously heal emotions in a healthy and wholesome way, as well as about his own experience with healing emotions.
Listen to learn more about what emotions are, about what we think we ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ do with emotions, and about how through awareness of emotions, a process of alchemy starts to take place.
To find out more about emotional healing through the ancient spiritual practices of as Yoga, Tantra, Mystical Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism, in combination with modern psychology, join our ‘Wisdom of Emotions’ workshop on 22nd-23rd April 2023.
When we are ill, we have one wish – to be whole again, to be healed. There is often a sense that we should not be ill in the first place and that as soon as the symptoms appear we need to get rid of them, by all possible means.
But what if we approached our symptoms with a degree of positivity, as signals and messages from deep within us that will help us not only to heal but also to progress along our spiritual path?
Deciphering those messages is an essential starting point, as teachers Kate Wallwork and Nikos Frangi told student Vivienne Rush in this podcast, outlining some of the tools and techniques in Tantra and Yoga that can facilitate spiritual healing.
Attendees to the workshop when you listen to the podcast, please note any questions you would like to take along to the Spiritual Healing workshop in London on Saturday 25th March.
To many, the word massage summons up experiences of being pummelled or kneaded like dough. Immediately banish this image from your mind! Tantric Massage is completely different. It is a path to self knowledge. It is an unimaginably sublime experience in which we travel through layers of our being to reach the hidden treasures of one’s own self and that of the other. Here teacher Ben Carver describes to student Vivienne Rush the myriad delights of Tantric Massage.
Tantric massage is a spiritual practice in its own right. Like a river with many streams flowing into it, there are many aspects to the practice of tantric massage. To both give and receive tantric massage is a beautiful and heartfelt step on the spiritual path, bringing an intense yet safe awakening of the erotic energies that are brimming with life, so that body, mind and soul overflow with love, and the joy of renewal and rejuvenation.
To connect with the energies, first the awareness must be trained, so that with practice a relaxed awareness can be maintained even in the most intense experiences and energies. This enables a much deeper connection to yourself, allowing a much freer, more intimate connection with your partner, full of complete openness and joy.
The warm, tender and flowing strokes of the hands of your partner can lead you into relaxation, pleasure and a deeper than usual connection with the senses. It is no longer possible for the mind to be dominated by destructive emotions or repetitive thoughts, that send you back and forth between past and future; the sensual experience of the tantric massage anchors you firmly in the present, and as one sensation overlaps another, you are submerged in a sea of profound pleasure. In this way, the tender and conscious touch of your partner also reveals another surprise, as your senses mysteriously open and become direct channels to the soul.
In this state of deep self-connection, tantric massage cuts the chains of fear, the shackles of shame and inhibition, any constrictions in the heart. Some may have choked their very life force without realising it – with hunched bodies, we can create a defensive shell around ourselves. In tantric massage, the blocks can be released and as the source energy floods through your being, you are filled with euphoria.
On top of this euphoria an additional nuance of experience is created from the play of polarity, when each man and woman feels the intensity of their masculinity and femininity magnifying, as they selflessly adore each other. As each offers the other the gift of blissful eroticism, they both connect to the soul once again. Sometimes we are so hidden, so deeply asleep – like the fable of the sleeping beauty. The conscious touch of tantric massage stirs us from our slumber, so that both sleeping beauty and the prince have their senses and even their subtle perceptions awakened, each becoming a channel for godly grace. When they touch, they unite in sublime fusion; so in this way, tantric massage can take us on the journey to the centre of our being, heart and soul.
Sexual practices are probably what has made Tantra most known in the West. However, in reality, Tantric practices of intimacy are erotic rather than sexual. Eroticism is the experience of our sensual self, without the component of the instinctual behaviour that drives us to procreate – which is what defines a sexual act. If we do not engage in sex for the purpose of procreation, it is done to experience pleasure and to express feelings for the other. Sex is driven by instincts, so while it is pleasurable, it is a superficial pleasure and not fulfilling beyond that brief moment. What we are really longing for is the erotic experience.
To obtain deeply fulfilling pleasure and profound connection, we need to discover eros.
Eros is an expression of physical love and elevated passion, where the other is not an object for satisfaction, but a beloved being with whom we merge – and at the same time, eros is a revelation of our own innermost being.
At first glance, sex and eros might appear to be the same, and we might think that eros is just a nicer term for sex. But, like sugar and honey, both taste sweet but have very different effects on health and well-being, just as sex and eros affect us in radically different ways.
Sexual energy is overpowering, bringing a loss of control, and it often leads to over-indulgence or obsession, or to forced avoidance, emotional rollercoasters, painful attachments, and experiences that either fall short of expectations or that bring outright regret.
In contrast, erotic energy brings an out of this world feeling of pleasure that is deeply satisfying and leaves a feeling of profound happiness and fulfilment – the experience that most are longing for when approaching intimacy.
The shame and inhibition many experience around their sexuality, aside from any past experience of abuse, is related to the instinctual nature of sex, and the loss of control that comes with it. In the grip of instinctual sexual energy, we trust neither ourselves nor the other. When the intimate experience is one of pure eros, there is no shame or inhibition, and the possibility for profound intimacy and oceanic pleasure is born. This then makes the erotic interaction a deeply fulfilling, healing and awakening practice that, rather than being controlled by it, allows us to harness the immense power of our creative potential.
Amorous Erotic Continence
The creative potential is an immense force that gives the power to create new life, but it can also be used to nourish life in other ways; to awaken latent potential, to support health, regeneration and longevity, to sustain and expand spiritual experiences of higher states of consciousness, and to create new ideas, inspirations, inventions and genius-like solutions.
We tend to take the gift of this potential for granted, until it runs out. Tantra teaches methods for harnessing this power, and how to use it consciously, not only for greater fulfilment in intimate experiences, but for an overall upgrade of our life and being.
This practice is called amorous erotic continence. It involves learning to increase and expand pleasure, to experience multiple orgasms without wasting any of the creative potential through ejaculation for men, and through explosive orgasms for women. By separating the orgasm from the ejaculation, men can learn to be multi-orgasmic, and women will be able to fully embrace their natural ability to experience multiple orgasms, as well as to intensify and deepen their experience of orgasm, resulting in a profound fulfilment and revealing a new dimension of eroticism.
Through the practice of amorous erotic continence, we become able to experience a much greater intensity of pleasure. Not only is it possible to experience more than one orgasm, but the intensity of the experience is greatly increased. The ejaculation or explosive orgasm occurs when the threshold of the intensity of pleasure that can be held in the awareness is reached. With practice, this threshold can be raised and the level of pleasure that can be experienced by both lovers becomes greater and greater, leading to truly overwhelming and expansive states of orgasm beyond anything that has been lived before.
Furthermore, the two lovers can become able to prolong the experience of the orgasm, which then becomes a genuine gate to spiritual experiences, that can be passed through into higher parts of the being, and into the creation itself.
Through the process of inner alchemy, the lovers can also transform their sexual potential, that is in the form of sexual fluids, into energy. The resulting energy can then be sublimated into more refined forms of energy such as affectionate, emotional, mental, and spiritual energies.
The lovers remain completely capable of procreation, and ejaculation is only used when the couple want to conceive. In any other situation, ejaculation is considered an unnecessary loss of energy that over time only has negative depleting effects, and leads to a diminishing of erotic interest in the erotic partner.
Orgasm with ejaculation is known to deplete the vital resources of the body. High-performance athletes, for example, are advised to refrain from ejaculating before important competitions – as are those preparing for high intellectual performance. On learning to separate orgasm from ejaculation, abstinence is no longer needed. Instead of depleting energy, intimacy can charge the battery of the being, and help in preparing for life and its most demanding situations. Our intimate life becomes not only a source of immense indescribable pleasure, but it also becomes an engine for the transformation for the better of our entire being and existence.
Effects of Erotic Amorous Continence
Effects observed by those who have successfully practised amorous erotic continence for longer periods of time:
The intimate experience becomes more fulfilling and complete
Prolonged orgasms without a loss of energy cancel the effects of negative emotions
Stress and anxiety are diminished and eventually replaced by a state of inner peace and relaxation
A deepening of love and increased happiness in relationships
Increased erotic appetite amplifies or restores the attraction between lovers.
Works as a powerful aphrodisiac
Increased creativity and intelligence
Improved quality of sleep and a reduced need for sleep
Alleviates and even cures ailments or physiological disorders
The body becomes more harmonious
Increased sensuality and wellbeing
Charisma and magnetism is awakened or amplified
Increased self-confidence and optimism
Increased ability to be empathic
Brings more energy and even a surplus to fulfil life goals and aspirations
Natural contraceptive with no negative side effects
These are just some of the many miraculous effects that can be observed from the practice of amorous erotic continence, along with a general increased awareness of ourselves and new perspectives on the experiences of life.
The Erotic Revolution
Though intimacy based on pure eros and amorous erotic continence is an ancient knowledge and practice, it has been a well-kept secret. Because it requires commitment and practice to achieve mastery in this art of love, it is not for those who look for a quick and easy pleasure.
Introducing this apparently new approach to pleasure, love and intimacy could become a genuine revolution in how we live our lives, not only in romantic relationships, but in the overall quality of the experience of life. Erotic Amorous continence invites a slowing down and a deepening, fully savouring what each moment has to offer.
Amorous erotic continence allows us to tap into our incredible potential and gives a renewed appetite for life. It transforms the way we interact with each other, and greatly increases happiness and fulfilment.
Fear, loneliness, depression, feelings of separation, frustration, and anxiety all lie at the root of many of the problems in the modern world. Sex seems to be only a momentary relief from or even an amplifier of these problems. The erotic experience on the other hand, becomes an antidote to and the beginning of a solution to all of the above.
As we transform our relationship with our creative potential, the immense force we hold within, our entire life transforms for the better. We can contribute to the world with more love, kindness, creativity, new perspectives, happiness, optimism and joy. When we make love in this way, not only will our experiences in the bedroom become sacred and sublime, but our whole life experience will be bathed in beauty and the light of awareness
The practice of amorous erotic continence is central to a Tantric practice, both as an immense energetic support for all our spiritual achievements, a refinement of our entire being and as an expression of a more conscious way of approaching intimacy and sensual experiences.
A Tantric practice integrates all aspects of life in a holistic approach that makes every moment valuable from the perspective of spiritual awakening. We aim to embrace everything in the light of awareness, making sacred that which before was considered profane.
Instead of seeing sensuality and erotic desires as an obstacle to spirituality, with the deep understanding of eros and the practises of erotic amorous continence, they are transfigured as a manifestation of life force, and are carefully directed towards the manifestation of a sacred eroticism.
A Tantric saying goes, “The way a man is in the bedroom is the way he lives his life”. This is also valid for a woman. The way we are in our intimate relationships is reflected in the way we are intimate with life, and with every moment of our existence. When the bedroom is a place of sacred eroticism, life becomes heaven on earth.
Yama and Niyama are referred to in the well-known spiritual text of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in which the 8 steps of the Yoga system are listed.
The Yamas and Niyamas constitute the first two steps. The eight steps are listed as such:
Yama (controlling oneself/restraints)
Niyama (moral observances/positive duties)
Asana (bodily postures)
Pranayama (control of the breath)
Pratyahara (retraction of the senses from the external world)
Dharana (mental concentration)
Dhyana (Deep meditation)
Samadhi (state of spiritual ecstasy)
It becomes obvious that yoga is more than the bodily postures that it is famous for, as indeed postures (asana) constitute only one of the steps listed in the Yoga Sutras. The path of Yoga – meaning to yoke, to unite – connects the individual to the universal.
This connection leads to an increased sense of wellbeing and wholeness. As well as enjoying your individuality in a new light and understanding, you can enjoy the sense of interconnectedness with other beings and with the source of all being. In yoga we aim to simultaneously enjoy the game of life while at the same time maintaining an awareness of, and an increasing communion with, its sacred source. When followed to perfection the steps of yoga can take us to samadhi, divine ecstasy, and complete self-realisation.
The yamas and niyamas offer guidance on the most beneficial integration of the individual in the macrocosmic whole – both in terms of inner attitudes that should be cultivated, as well as certain outer guidelines for our interactions with the world at large. These in turn create the foundation of our further development and the first steps on our journey to the highest realisations.
Broadly speaking, we can say that Yamas and Niyamas are ethical and moral guidelines that help us build a harmonious life. They can be seen as being at the very foundation of any yoga practice, yet often they are ignored – or at least not recognised as the essential aspects of the yogic practice that they are.
In the following we will briefly present each yama and niyama, though each in turn deserve in-depth study. In our courses the yamas and niyamas are studied in greater detail.
The 5 Yamas or ‘restraints’ focus on our relationship with others and generally the outer world:
Ahimsa (non-violence) – refraining from violence in action, speech and thought – becoming aware of and countering the ego’s tendency to strike out in anger when it feels threatened or under pressure. Learning to react in a different way, our ego relaxes and a new sense of individuality can emerge.
Satya (truthfulness) – the restraint of not lying or deceiving others. Satya implies always being honest with yourself and others. When we are in the habit of being dishonest, we cannot realise the Ultimate Truth. Often the one we lie to the most is ourselves. Any process of genuine transformation can only begin from where and who we are in this moment and we need the courage to be honest with ourselves about what that is.
Asteya (non – stealing) – refraining from taking anything that does not belong to us, including that which arises in our mind. This does not only refer to physical objects but also other achievements. We should be attentive of the desire to take what belongs to someone else and rather take it as an inspiration to become able to have that for ourselves.
Brachmacharya (continence or abstinence) – the restraint in sensual cravings and desires of a sexual nature. We often waste a lot of resources on the unconscious indulgence in the senses, or the wasteful use of our creative sexual power. Traditionally this has led to the indication of sexual abstinence for those serious about their spiritual practice and evolution. In our school we teach the alternative; a way of harnessing the immense creative potential present in our desires, through what is called amorous erotic continence. More about that can be found in the pillar Eros and Amorous Erotic Continence.
Aparigraha – (non-grasping) – means to let go of the exhausting need to grasp everything for ourselves and to avoid accumulating physical objects. It also means letting go of our tendency to grasp tightly to ideas or thoughts that we think define us, and to open ourselves up to new ideas and perspectives.
Allthough the yamas are called restraints we realise that Ahimsa (non-violence) actually means acting, speaking, and thinking based on love and kindness; Asteya (non-stealing) means generosity and the appreciation of the achievements of others; Aparigraha (non-grasping) means detachment and expansion, selflessness; Satya (truthfulness) means the pursuit of the Ultimate Truth, beauty, and goodness; Brachmacharya means harnessing and consciously using all our energies for their highest purpose.
The 5 Niyamas or positive duties refer to our relationship with ourselves, our inner world and the highest reality:
Saucha (purification) – Many mystical paths (those paths in which the practitioner aims to come into a felt connection with the divine) emphasise the need for purification of our entire being. The analogy that is sometimes given is that of the lamp: Deep within us, there is an inner light of joy, goodness, peace, and harmony – the spark of divinity within each of us. However, as we go through life (especially if we aren’t conscious of the need for purification practices) this becomes covered with layers of ‘dust’ until this light is dimmed or even no longer visible to ourselves or others. Yoga’s emphasis on purification practices is to clean the ‘dust’ at the various levels of our being (physical, energetic, emotional, mental). Our courses offer purification techniques for body, mind and emotions.
Santosha (contentment) – actively helps in cultivating a sense of contentment and well-being to counter the ego’s tendency to feel a sense of lack which in turn leads to grasping, accumulation and theft. The state of contentment is cultivated no matter what the external circumstances might be and leads to inner peace and a profound sense of wellbeing.
Tapas (ardent effort) – is related to action, to practice. Through yoga practice, (postures, breathing exercises, meditation, visualisation, nutrition, purification, etc.) we develop ourselves; we strengthen ourselves, and we awaken to new experiences and the lived truth of new perspectives. Tapas comes from the root word Tap – which means ‘to burn’. Tapas means to awaken the inner fire, the inner will power, to apply ourselves with dedication to the practice we have chosen, recognising that the more we put in, the more we get out. Setting a practice, and applying ourselves to this with determination and enthusiasm, burns the present limits so that we can grow and expand beyond them. Through ardent practice we can experience states of consciousness way beyond the ordinary experiences that are within the natural capacities of the human being, but rarely accessed by the majority.
Svadhyaya (Self-study) – Yoga is a Gnostic path, a path of salvation through knowledge that brings a deep understanding yourself and your relationship to the whole. Studying the wisdom of those who have reached spiritual illumination in the form of spiritual texts, (texts which include the essence of wisdom of different authentic spiritual traditions), can help us in our own quest for this knowledge. Then, through the deep and attentive study of ourselves we can discover the universal truths that are contained in these spiritual texts and also expressed by other seekers.
Ishvarapranidhana (devotion, surrender) – means devotion to the sacred, to the divine. It refers to an awakening sense of the sacredness of life; feeling ourselves in relationship with the mystery and magic of existence. It speaks to a desire to find something worthy of devotion.
Someone once said that we all worship something – that might be money, celebrity, success, etc. So, better find something truly nourishing that gives us a healthy perspective of ourselves and our place in the world. Placing ourselves in a relationship of feeling humbleness, great love and surrender towards something greater than us (such as the attitude shown by those who faithfully prostrate or pray to God/the Supreme Absolute/a Godly entity) can induce a state of liberty, of freedom, and of safety, being in the hands of something greater than us.Ishvarapranidhana relates to aspiration; aspiration to be in right relationship to something, and aspiration to become a better person with that understanding and through that surrender.
It is not by chance that the yamas and niyamas are placed at the very beginning of our spiritual journey. Embodying the wish to be the best human being we can be, and to integrate ourselves into a greater harmony, they express the awakening of our consciousness and our aspiration to discover more of our inner world and potentials.
At first glance they seem simple ideas and are often overlooked. Even advanced yoga practitioners, who either have not been introduced to them or may have only heard about them, may realise that they do not actively think of these principles. They are easy to ignore, but it bears fruit to revisit them again and again, to gain deeper insight. If ignored we will face problems later on our path, lacking the firm foundation to support higher states of consciousness and the experience of divine ecstasy, Samadhi.
In the yoga and tantra courses Yamas and Niyamas are each thoroughly presented and one can go deep into them as a genuine part of the yogic and tantric practice.
For millennia there have been many different religions, beliefs, spiritual paths and methods used for discovering, understanding and reaching the creator of this universe. Any attempt of the mind to describe something that exist beyond the field of our sensory perceptions and usual thinking proves to be a difficult undertaking. Religion, philosophy and science alike tried and continue to try to solve this mystery, or sometimes to disprove it altogether. In our modern world Divine creation versus random evolution is a debate fiercer than ever.
In the past, God was ascribed many names, powers, functions, descriptions and epithets, according to epoch, culture and intellectual and technological advancements.
Some say that reciting the names of God, or deeply understanding his characteristics will gradually take one to paradise. Could this in itself be a path, a way of finding God, as efficient as meditation, introspection, devotion, sacrifice and others?
In Christianity God is defined as an enumeration of his attributes, amongst which three are the most important; omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent. As such these attributes are called incommunicable, they only belong to God. God manifests absolute compassion, infinite intelligence, and always loves and takes care of the created.
In Islam God is also defined as omniscient, omnipotent and completely infinite yet beyond any anthropomorphic form, as it transcends gender and any shape. God is timeless, eternal, infinite; it represents the beginning, the cause of everything and also the end, it is the “ancient” One, there is no before or after.
We find various gods and goddesses in other traditions, for example in Hinduism there are hypostasies or descriptions of Shiva, the supreme consciousness, as well as various goddesses which are his manifesting powers. In his aspect of Brahman, the Creator, he is transcendent, unmanifested and immanent, while in his manifested form he is the Good Shepherd, the Cosmic Dancer, the united universal Man & Woman, as well as many other hypostasies.
The word “attribute” comes from the Latin “atributum” which is a derivate of the verb “atribuere”, translated as “to attribute”. An attribute is an essential characteristic or a distinctive trait of something in particular: a human being, an object, a phenomenon or even God.
We can distinguish between non-essential attributes, e.g. skin colour or physical shape in the case of a person, and essential attributes which designate one or more traits without which the phenomenon, object, person, or a divine being cannot exist or cannot even be known or thought about, e.g. self-awareness or cognition for a human being.
The Godly Attributes are those characteristics or traits, manifested as endless and enigmatic energies, which belong to the Godly Being, or God. Amongst such attributes we can mention Love, Kindness, Eternity, Compassion, Forgiveness, Omnipotence, Justice, and many more; without them God cannot be felt, understood, or even conceptualised.
The unique revelation in our school is that the Godly Attributes are and will be in eternity free, endless and beneficial subtle energies, which never change. Because we, all people, were created by the Almighty in his likeness, and because we can also recognize God by means of his Godly Attributes, we can infer that these Godly Attributes are accessible and can be known and felt directly and intuitively inside our own being.
For this to happen, we need to create favourable and adequate conditions which will trigger a process of resonance, a subtle energetic connection, with a specific Attribute.
Harnessing this subtle sublime energy inside ourselves will lead to the appearance of a very specific and distinct inner state which will allow us to feel, to know and to fully participate in the objective and mysterious reality of that Godly Attribute. As long as this process of resonance, that maintains this subtle connection, is kept in optimal conditions, we continue to have access to this divine reality. This is not necessarily a form of meditation, but rather an ability to feel and become that energy, to manifest it at will, to stay tuned in to it for as long as we are capable of.
Any process of resonance contains in it a dual transmission: the first is quantitative – the more we resonate with a process, an emotion or a state, the more energy of the same type we attract in our being; the second is informational – there is knowledge, wisdom and information contained in that specific energy or frequency, in the same way a radio transmission contains information. Resonating with godly attributes will allow a gradual accumulation of knowledge and sometimes revelations and divine information will be rapidly downloaded into our consciousness.
Consequently, the outstanding result of this practice, of directly knowing and feeling the specific subtle energy of a godly attribute, is directly discovering God, feeling Him inside our being. Each attribute opens a gate to one of God”s infinite realities.
The Godly Attribute of Love is an easy and accessible example for all of us. We constantly feel and manifest love in various ways and for various reasons. Knowing or not, the Godly Attribute of Love is behind all these manifestations of love, and we can say that we get closer to its divine nature when our love becomes most sacred, refined, unconditional and full of abnegation. It has inspired many sages, saints, and advanced spiritual practitioners to state that God is Love, and Love is the expression of God which manifest as an intense, endless, refined, and pure subtle energy.
The regular practice with the Godly Attributes will gradually reveal in our lives the mysterious presence of God, not only as a detached, above-all Being, but also as a caring and loving parent, who is constantly involved in every minute detail of its creation.
Being a direct and un-mediated process, this spiritual experience becomes a proof of the existence of God, freeing us from the endless philosophical and intellectual debates.
In time we will be able to resonate with more attributes, to keep them alive in our consciousness and to radiate them in our lives more and more.
It takes courage to assume responsibility in life. As children, parents usually take the weight of our actions and behaviour, but at some moment in our life, usually post teens, as part of a harmonious process of maturation, we must take on this responsibility. However, in today’s modern society ‘taking responsibility’ seems to have become confused, even lost as we encounter a culture of blame, complaints, hypersensitivity, and even in some cases leading to a kind of grown-up infantility, as we run away from assuming adulthood.
In ancient cultures and traditions, the transition into adulthood was marked by an initiatory process. Boys, for example, were sent into the forest to fend for themselves in an initiatory rite of passage, or girls were accepted into the Red Tent when they were ready to begin the process of womanhood. These moments are marked less clearly in modern society, and this transition is not given the same importance. Likewise, the process of maturation which occurs when we assume responsibility for ourselves is not given as much emphasis these days.
This is ironic because many dearly want to be someone, to be seen, to be accepted, and yet they don’t accept responsibility for themselves. The responsibility that comes through assuming life’s lessons and maturing is largely being ignored.
In the same way, modern society speaks a great deal about freedom and yet the type of freedom that is encouraged is not freedom in its truest sense. We speak about freedom to do what we want, dress as we want, act as we want, but do we truly understand what freedom is? Do we understand that freedom is the choice we make to liberate ourselves from our enchaining patterns and ideas, to make the changes in ourselves so we can become wise and masterful beings?
Freedom is something many believe they want, but underneath this, freedom is something many are quietly fearful of. Why is this? How many times have we wished not to have to carry a burden or deal with an issue in life? But then, can we say that we have looked with a magnifying glass at the core of the problem and tried to understand the issue at its roots? To be ‘free’ we must liberate ourselves from the chains that keep us stuck where we are, from past experiences that chain us to emotional patterns, mindsets, and repetitive behaviours. This means we need to take responsibility for our lives, our experiences and even our thoughts. This is something many are scared to take on.
It is harder to look at ourselves and to take each event or the feedback we receive from a situation as a moment of reflection, and ultimately, transformation. It can be really hard to go within and really ask ourselves, ‘Why?’ And so, we develop a subconscious avoidance of meeting the situation deeply. We can literally run away from ourselves and often point the finger in the other direction.
The statement, ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’ seems to have aged and maybe retired in our modern society. Fewer people these days seem to take on the challenges like warriors and heroines did, and see each moment as a chance to overcome limitations and to grow.
In Yoga and Tantra, we speak about the Yamas and Niyamas. The morals and ethics of the spiritual path, which form the very backbone of a spiritual existence. Morality does not need to be a boring subject, it is imbued with great wisdom, and is the shining light of a good, vertical and honest life. The Yamas are Satya (truthfulness), Ahimsa (non-violence), Aparigraha (non-possessiveness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacarya (perfect control of energies).
The Niyamas are Santosha (contentment), Saucha (purification), Tapas (austerity), Svadyaya (self-knowledge) and Iswarapranidhana (continuous aspiration for God). By applying these in our actions, speech and even thoughts, we see how our life starts to be shaped into a meaningful one, and we seek to do the best we can in the world.
Here we can see how the Latin phrase ‘Mea Culpa’, meaning ‘my fault’ or ‘my mistake’, originating from prayers of confession, is firmly placed within living a righteous life. When we take responsibility for our existence, we see how, through the choices that we make, we can start to shape our existence into something admirable – through the conscious application of the Yamas and Niyamas for example.
When we truly forgive someone, we say, ‘mea culpa’, because we acknowledge that there is a lesson for us in the situation and each person has some part to play. When we forgive, being a ‘victim’ no longer exists, as we are empowered and freed to take a higher perspective that unchains us from the event or person in question. Thus, we create space for a new way of being.
In today’s modern society, is true responsibility encouraged? For example, how easily do people put aside their own values and truths for someone else’s without fully considering the whole picture? We are very willing to embrace so many alternatives, options, perspectives, and yet it can be the hardest thing to look at ourselves and go deep within.
But it is in responsibility that we find the meaning that drives us through life. By taking responsibility to look deeply at ourselves, we put ourselves on the ‘highway’ of Transformation. Running from responsibility, blaming others will only take us further from a true self-knowledge, and the fulfilment of our unique path in life.
“The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?” – Pretty Woman (1990)
Have you ever noticed how the ‘bad stuff’ is easier to believe? And how when you are ‘too happy’ you start to look for what might go wrong? Have you noticed how we often think we are being realistic if we look at something in a negative way? It is said that a pessimist always calls himself a realist. This actually expresses a psychological truth – that the ‘bad stuff’ IS easier to believe, and even attracts our attention more than good feelings and experiences do. This is called negative bias.
Studies have shown that negative news is more likely to be perceived as truthful. And as negative information draws greater attention, it can also be seen as having greater validity. This might be why bad news seems to garner more attention, and we only need to look at news headlines over any given week to know that the latter is true. Drama and scandal make the most delicious gossip.
We all want to be happy, so why do we seem to look for the negative, and for reasons to feel bad? The explanation has a lot to do with evolution – or lack thereof, depending on the perspective! Keeping an eye out for possible dangers and threats was very useful for our cave dwelling ancestors, and was most likely a condition for survival. Focusing on the whereabouts of local predators or enemies was much more important for staying safe than looking at the beauty of the flowers or a rainbow.
Like the pain response, dwelling on negativity is a way of keeping us safe. And while we no longer need to be on constant high alert as our early ancestors needed to be to survive, negativity bias still has a starring role in the way our brains operate. Research has shown that negative bias can have a wide variety of effects on how people think, respond, and feel.
Negative emotions rouse the amygdala, the almond-shaped brain structure that psychologist Rick Hansen calls, “the alarm bell of your brain.” The amygdala uses about two-thirds of its neurons to look for bad news. Once it sounds the alarm, negative events and experiences are stored in the memory very quickly, in contrast to positive events and experiences, which usually need to be held in the awareness for twelve seconds or more before they are transferred from short-term memory buffers to long-term storage.
Not only do negative experiences imprint on our memory more easily, they also linger longer than positive ones. Generally, we are more likely to dwell on a negative comment or event than we are to take in a compliment or remember the details of a happy event. This negative bias can mean that you focus entirely on a negative aspect, even if the positive is equally or even predominantly present. You might spend a beautiful day with your family or your beloved, but in the end you remember the day mostly because of that one comment they made that bothered you.
Research also suggests that negative bias influences the motivation to complete a task. People have less motivation if the incentive is framed as a means to gain something, than when the same incentive will help them avoid losing something. This can play a role in our motivation to pursue a goal. You are more likely to dwell on what you might have to give up to achieve that goal, or simply feel pushed by a threat of loss in your daily activities, than focus on what you will gain if you keep working towards something, or be inspired by the positive effects that achieving that goal will bring.
To a large extent, emotions make up our life experience. Imagine your life without emotions – seeing a beautiful view or having interactions with the most important people in your life with no emotional response. Emotions transform our world from a series of objective conceptual facts into a living, breathing experience, bringing us joy, sadness, longing, anger, laughter, and love. Emotions bring meaning to our life experiences, and are an important part of what it is to be human. But emotions can of course also be difficult and tormenting, making life very challenging.
With the meaning and depth the emotions you experience bring to your life, they also shape the way you relate to different people and events. Negative bias influences your relationships and your decision making. In relationships, for instance, you will expect the worst of the other, and you will focus on their flaws and mistakes. When making decisions that are influenced by negativity bias we will tend to focus excessively on potential risks, even if the chances for a positive outcome is greater, and then we can lose many great opportunities for filling life with more happiness and abundance.
Considering the huge impact it can have on our quality of life, on our experiences and the choices we make, it is very important to become aware of negative bias and to counteract its effects. And the good news is we can do something to counteract this tendency, that otherwise gains extra power because of its unconscious nature. Thankfully, any habit can be broken, even if it implies a negative attitude or perspective.
How to counter negative bias
Bring awareness to the ways in which you allow negative bias to impact your life
Learn to let your attention linger on the positive aspects for longer, so that they transfer to ‘long-term storage’. This requires patience and repetition, as the physiological part of the rewiring takes about 45 days, so consistency is key.
Remember you have a choice. It’s important to realise how much agency you have in letting bad comments stick with you or not. Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Refuse to consent to feeling inferior!
Be attentive to how you talk to yourself. Our inner dialogue is often very negative. Speak to yourself with the same kindness you would afford a friend.
In your love relationships make an effort to notice and acknowledge the positive qualities and actions of your beloved, and really savour the beautiful moments.
In your daily activities focus on and empower positive reasons that inspire you in your actions.
Make an effort to be at least as interested in success stories and positive news as you are in negative ones.
In time, cultivating these attitudes will create a huge shift in how you perceive life and yourself. From a certain perspective it can be said that emotions are about evolution – biologically and spiritually. Emotions bring our attention to different situations or attitudes. But also profound emotions are said to connect us to our soul, being an expression of our soul, and thus they allow us to discover who we are on a deeper level. But we need to be more aware of our emotions to shift from biological bias to the deep free expression of our soul, to connect to a more authentic way of being.
Last Saturday (30th of April) saw the inaugural Pilgrimage of the Tara outdoor spirituality group. An initiative formed as part of the aspiration to grow and nurture our spiritual community, the outdoor spiritual group aims to merge the great outdoors with meaningful spiritual experiences. Saturday was the first event and he we have a review of the day from Alberto, a Tantra and Shaivism student who was also one of the organisers.
27 hearts on fire departed from Chartham at 10am, each heart carrying their own longing, their own intimate intention, their challenges and their offerings. We were led by our captain Andrew, who set the tone and shared the wisdom accumulated over years as an ardent pilgrim himself.
The sky was overcast but vigilant. As soon as the sky saw us consecrating the pilgrimage, He started to clear the clouds away. The group walked in mauna, silently tuning into the secret space of our hearts and the egregor of all those pilgrims who had walked the North Downs Way before us.
After our first stop, some maintained the inner and outer silence, while others used the opportunity to get to know one another.
The Sun was now shining in all its glory, and he stayed with us for the rest of the pilgrimage, warming our hearts and granting us the privilege of a tan by the end of the day!
Equipped with a compass and map, our Captain Andrew and his loyal Lalla walked at the front of the group, setting the pace and guiding us on our way to Canterbury. Kieran and Eabha walked in the middle of the group, and I was at the back, like a shepherd whose task is to make sure no sheep goes astray. But orchestrating a group of 27 people is not easy! Some enjoy walking fast and some slow.
And some like stopping and admiring every little thing along the way, even if that means separating from the group. They stop to worship every flower, independently of their size and colour, most of the trees, and even seemingly ordinary things that stop being ordinary in such a state of wonder. This special group of transfiguring wanderers was composed of Lia, Howard, Francesca, Jonathan and Cintia, and I was at the back.
As it was supposed to be, we found ourselves separated from the bulk of the group. I was told not to let that happen, but what could I do? How to tell someone to stop admiring a flower and keep up with the others?
Eventually, the group reunited and never split up again. It was time to have some lunch, restore some energies and enjoy the sun.
In a glorious speech, Kieran reminded us of the importance of the spiritual community, or Sangha, as one of the three main pillars of the spiritual path. Yoga practice goes beyond practising on the yoga mat. We are mirrors of one another and each one of us is an example of a unique spiritual practitioner. Sangha helps us overcome the challenges of the spiritual path and keeps the fire of our aspiration high.
We restarted our journey along the picturesque countryside of the Pilgrims Way that links Winchester to Canterbury.
It’s part of the pilgrims tradition to pause at every church encountered in the path, to connect inside again, withdraw in prayer and to remember the purpose of the walk, and so we did in St. Dunstan’s Church, who welcomed us as we entered Canterbury. The city of Canterbury was alive. We resisted the temptation to jump on a boat cruise around the city or to buy anything along the pedestrian shopping street, and made our way straight to the gothic Cathedral before 16:00.
Following the customs, we walked clockwise around the magnificent Cathedral before gathering again to meditate and crystallise the gifts that this pilgrimage offered to us.
The day ended with the evensong, an evening service of prayer and praise, sung by the Cathedral Choir, using the traditional language of the Book of Common Prayer.
“It is only a tiny rosebud, A flower of God’s design; But I cannot unfold the petals With these clumsy hands of mine.
The secret of unfolding flowers is not known to such as I. GOD opens this flower so sweetly, When in my hands they fade and die.
If I cannot unfold a rosebud, This flower of God’s design, Then how can I think I have wisdom To unfold this life of mine?
So I’ll trust in Him for His leading Each moment of every day. I will look to Him for His guidance Each step of the pilgrim way.
The pathway that lies before me, Only my Heavenly Father knows. I’ll trust Him to unfold the moments, Just as He unfolds the rose. 🌹”
Amazing day and experience. Lots of gratitude for organizing and holding the space for this spiritual journey! Have a great week ahead everyone’
Huge gratitude to organisers for such an amazing day
Fantastic day! Beautiful souls! Amazing experience! ❤️ Thank you Andrew for organisation and thank you everyone for your presence!