The temperature was a perfect 32º F, at 1:30 p.m., crystal blue sky and sunny. I had on my red and black ski shirt with one layer underneath and a single layer pant. Wearing my red headband and my new Smith sun glasses, I held my skate ski poles firmly in my hands in disbelief, skis on, standing in front of the lodge at my favorite place to ski, Notchview Reservation in Windsor, MA, ready to go. “Could I do it?” “Would I have to go slowly?” “Would I be in pain?” I was about to find out…
My heart thumped with the exuberance of a teenager. I was so excited to try out my new hip on skate skis. My smile broke ear to ear and off I went. A little timid at first, I was amazed – no pain. As I warmed up after a few minutes I began to dig in as I loved to do before my bone-on-bone hip a few years ago. Having skied since age five, my body knew exactly what to do. It was second nature. I gathered up speed and roared down the trail, down hills, up hills and around turns, whizzing by people, dominating the trail with authority and prowess! I am back! My hip is back!
After a quick 45 minute sprint, I returned to the lodge glowing more brightly than I can remember. I told everyone I saw, “I just skate skied for the first time with my new hip!” “Congratulations”, they exclaimed back to me. My joy was contagious. As I walked into the lodge a woman asked me how the skiing was. She told me I had the glow of great conditions. I said, “Yes. It’s glorious to be alive.”
I went out a second time with my classic skis (traditional x-country diagonal style) and again I felt wonderful. Although the hip extension action was more difficult for me. I was tired by the end of the loop and called it a day.
Upon reflection, I experienced a level of freedom I had not experienced in a long time. I savored the feeling and wanted it to last forever. I felt invincible, fulfilled, relieved, joyous, and full of love. I loved my life and I loved everyone in it. This experience of freedom is our birthright. In the Tantra, freedom is considered the essence of nature itself. Freedom is supremely free, infinite, without beginning or ending, vast, all encompassing. No one and nothing can control it because it is free. It has no limitation and no boundary. It is beyond time and beyond space as it is free from all identification.
This is the description of the Absolute, which, in the Tantra, is our highest self. If this is us, then why can’t we experience it at will? The answer I usually hear from the Tantric scholars is because we are veiled. Our consciousness is in partial darkness, not as a fault, but as a function of the nature of the universe itself. Without contrast we wouldn’t know ourselves. We can know day because there’s night. The universe expresses itself in five divine acts, Pancha Krtyas: Creation, Maintenance, Dissolution, Concealment, and Revelation. The universe is always playing a “hide and seek” game with us. When we establish ourselves in a lifestyle of dedicated practice and study, the veils begin to lift. When that happens, your heart opens where you get a glimpse of freedom.
If freedom is the essence of nature, then bliss is the essence of freedom. Bliss, joy, and happiness is what follows whenever you move from pain and suffering to less pain and suffering. When suffering is eased, even just a little, you get a glimpse of joy. If you’ve ever experienced back pain, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I used to get migraine headaches. In the middle of one of my migraines you really wouldn’t want to be around me. I would be miserable and wouldn’t smile. I would be grumpy, and I would say things I would sometimes regret. Occasionally the migraines lasted for 5 days. Ugh! But as soon as it lifted, I would smile again. I would have peace and feel joy again. Gratitude would flood back into my experience. It happened every single time.
The only thing between you and the Absolute is you! No one is stopping you or blocking you from experiencing your true nature. But it’s so rare to feel true joy. This is why I took time to savor my experience of gratitude for my new hip. Joy is usually only a fleeting moment. But through consistent regular practice of meditation, yoga, breathing, right livelihood, right relationship, you have more and more moments of joy that last longer. Just be sure you don’t get attached. However, living a life of suffering is not what the universe intended for you. In fact, I hold as one of the deepest purposes of my practice to experience bliss more and more on a daily basis. This is what meditation is really for. During the practice, if you can settle and find some silence, you tap into the bliss, which is your Absolute self. Doing this every day starts to open up a pathway in the brain that initiates a kind of “positive craving”. That is, a craving for what’s really good for you. Like craving a delicious wholesome and healthy meal. The best part is there are no negative side effects!
This Spring, may you discover the freedom and bliss that is already within you. May you savor moments of joy and receive the growing brightness of the sun as it moves towards its apex, filling your days with confidence and hope for a bright future. Join me for an inspirational and blissful workshop, teacher training or in Costa Rica in January 2019!