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The Truth is Somewhere In Between

There is a meditative inquiry process I learned from my Integrative Restoration/iRest training that I find very potent.  It involves the alternation between polarities to create a new felt sense of something in between.

To keep this from being too intellectual I invite you to try a basic example of it here:

Feel your body contacting something solid right now…really feel it…describe it simply

Feel the parts of the body that don’t touch something solid…really feel it…describe it simply

Go back and forth, feeling one and then the other…distinctly…as fully as possible.

Now feel them both simultaneously…both together…as fully as possible.

What is that like? Can you describe it?

What most people report is that they don’t quite know.  The experience cannot be thought about so concretely.  The process actually arrests analysis. I almost feel it as a neurological release.

When we feel into it with interest, it often feels good.  Like something new and different.  As a well cited Rumi quote goes: Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing there is a field.  I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about….

This practice and quote are glimpses of a non-dual state.  A “place” that we long for on some level, and yet don’t trust as real.  A taste of it is liberating, and yet hard to sustain.  With exploration and practice it is an important element of healing the body, mind, and spirit.


I have a lot of tools in my bag when I work with people individually.  Depending on what people come to me for:  Yoga, Meditation, Mindfulness, Stress Reduction, Grief, Astrology, Spiritual Direction, I use the tools I think are relative to them and will work well for them at present. In reality I mainly rely on deep listening and deep faith. Faith that everything is part of the whole.  Even and especially when it is hard and heartbreaking.

The polarity exercise came up recently as I was hearing someone who is struggling, physically and emotionally, express a string of negative thoughts about what is happening to them.  When we did an inquiry exploring the negative thoughts and their opposites, she offered the insight “the truth is somewhere in between.”  We could both feel the power of her statement, and how it could help her navigate, but also the pull of the negative thinking and the struggle to be OK with not being OK right now.

There is a lot to explain there, and it won’t all come through clearly in words, but I will say simply that with all my tools and training, what is often most important when we are deeply struggling is letting ourselves feel our feelings through, finding safe ways to do that.  Giving ourselves time, it takes longer than we think it should.  And, being kind to ourselves as we grope.  It’s OK not to be OK right now.  It’s OK to not know what to do yet.  There may be nothing that can be done. The difficulty and vulnerability are its own teaching, its own worth and wisdom. We are learning to be in between.


The last part of this contemplation of the truth is somewhere in between takes me back to some teachings from the Yoga and Buddhist traditions as well as a few people I hold in my heart at this time.

In Yoga Philosophy, as expressed in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there is the basic premise that wholeness, our spiritual origin, or the light of consciousness is always there.  It is the churning of the mind- our sensing, thinking, and selfing brain, that obscures the fuller reality of Oneness.   We confuse our own personal perception with the truth, again and again and again.

The path of Yoga is said to be simply, the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind, so the true light of consciousness can shine through.  While this sounds anti-intellectual, it is really about understanding consciousness and requires great amounts of viveka khyati, discriminative awareness, a high meta- cognition faculty.

To keep it simple, Yoga reminds us that our brain and perception are problematic. Even correct perception will ultimately be a stumbling block.  Yoga challenges us to hold to the oneness, rather than be caught in polarity.  To use our Rumi quote, to lie in that grass.  Again, to learn to be in between.

The Buddhist perspective, has a different take on ultimate reality.  Not as oneness or something constant to attune with; but as flux, change, impermanence.    It is our grasping and effort to control the uncontrollable that causes suffering.  Freedom from suffering is about loosening our grip. Like viveka kyhati of yoga- sati, mindfulness, is one of the important skills that helps us see what is actually happening in the body/mind and make choices that are freeing.  We are learning to be with life on life’s terms.

I won’t expound on Buddhism more, as I don’t want to do it an injustice.  What I will share are a few of the ways I felt it was conveyed to me that point again to the non-dual state. Both come from the Buddhist teacher I have been with most, Michelle McDonald.  She loves to refer to and quote from Nisargadatta Maharaj.  He was a modern Indian saint from the Vedic Tradition. Not a Buddhist, but considered by those of his time as a fully awake and realized person.  He did not teach theory, he only taught direct perception.  How to see through the duality to the deeper foundation of being.  His quote that I have rested in most is, “Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. And between the two my life flows.” Once again, the invitation to acknowledge both /and.

The last story I will tell, related to all this is the response Michelle gave to someone’s question regarding the personal agenda of waking up; the paradox of seeking freedom when we are also told to let go of wanting, to be present now.  The younger teacher responded “Yes, that is the paradox, we learn how to bare it.”  Michelle in her maturity said, “No, it is only a paradox if you are in your head about it.  It is resolved when you stay close to the present moment, the direct experience of life unfolding.”

As closure I offer, you one more Michelle quote about the power and potential of true presence, which for me is the abode of the non-dual, in-between.  “The truth is we don’t know what is going to happen next…each moment is newborn or life isn’t alive.  Aliveness requires the birth and death of every moment. “

Blessings to my friend Katya who is currently living into dying.  And to my friend Nathan who slipped away too soon.

We are approaching Winter Solstice, the low point of sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere. The time of year and the election/transition predicament have me reflecting on an important myth in the yoga tradition.

It is called the Churning of the Ocean of Milk and tells the tale of a search for immortality. In order to find it, opposite beings must work & churn together; half on one side and half on the other. Alas, once it is found there is another struggle for which half shall imbibe it.

In the story, the light beings/Devas are the one half deemed to receive it. The dark forces/Asuras are tricked out of it; although, they receive much bounty along the way and would likewise have tricked the Devas themselves. Some of the dark forces get the nectar and are made immortal nonetheless- they continue to show their power in the form of eclipses, regularly blotting out light from the Sun and Moon. They also show their power in the form of wars and plagues in general; delusion, greed, and hatred in particular.

I image you are thinking, this sounds pretty familiar…

This myth, like many of its kind, points to the incessant struggle between light and dark forces. The supremacy of light, but also the relevance of shadow and darkness as well. In the full story, they were needed to churn the ocean and helped bring many gifts and splendors to the world. For instance, the last figure to arise from the Ocean with the chalice of nectar was Dhanvantri, a celestial physician and giver of medicine. And lest we think the Devas are perfect, there are plenty of stories of their follies and foibles.

What is useful about myth is the potential to see life from a non-logical, right brain perspective. They are links between our personal and collective dramas and a deeper understanding of life and humanity. The renowned mythology scholar Joseph Campbell called myths ”pubic dreams” and dreams “private myths”.

I invite you to gently consider what is useful about this story as you live into the rest of this strange, sad, and significant year? How do dream your private myth?

The outer light is waning at this time of year- the inner light is always available. Here’s my dream:

I shine my light for the benefit of all, without exception. We work together to create a better world for all beings.

Five Facets of a Mindful Person

One early analytical model of what it means to be a mindful person was developed by Ruth Baer PhD at the University of Kentucky. This model is significant in that indicates the most important factors and provides a way to measure mindful traits and how they might correlate to physical and mental outcomes. The analysis yielded five particular facets: acting with awareness, describing, non-reactivity to inner experience, non-judging of inner experience, and observing. Using this template, here are some key touchstones to orient you towards the cultivation of mindfulness on a regular basis.

1. Be aware of what you are doing.
This does not imply it is necessarily easy, pleasant, or interesting to pay attention; simply that you are showing up for the actual experience of living rather than going through the motions. Basic daily tasks can become mini- meditations: brushing your teeth, taking a shower, getting the mail, drinking water.

2. Find new ways to articulate your direct physical and emotional experiences.
We have lots of ways to talk about concepts and things, and often don’t know how to describe what we are sensing and feeling. There is great power in noticing what you notice and speaking from your present moment reality. Try it with simple things: How does a walk make your body feel? How does someone’s smile make you feel? How does it feel to be wrong or right about something? Or, to not know?

3. Recognize that you get stressed, triggered, reactive many times every day.
It may be related to past or future events on your mind; it may be situational or relational; it may be the state of world. Recognize that it is happening and work with the energy right now. These are your patterns and unconsciously influence how you will react and respond. Conscious breathing helps to harness the stress energy and shape the future.

4. Recognize that much of what you perceive is colored by your own judgments.
Judgements are unavoidable and limiting thoughts. It is helpful to remember that thoughts are just things, not fixed realities. They can and should evolve as we grow and learn. Play with catching some of your habitual judgmental thoughts, “Hello judgment!”

5. Awareness of Awareness.
The fifth facet has to do with the distinctly human ability to be aware of the mind itself, referred to as meta-cognition. This is where the formal practice of meditation is uniquely powerful as a way to be aware of sensations, emotions, thoughts, and not so reflexively driven by them. Meditation is linked to the phenomenon of brain integration, where the three levels of brain function coordinate in new ways.

Meditate in some way- it will help you live and lead with dignity.

Here are some reflections from my practice and hopefully some inspiration for yours:

This winter and spring I have been concentrating on getting stronger through hiking.  It has felt important as I enter into middle age to not just move more, but to be in nature and to be reminded that my body is a vehicle for connecting with the wilderness.

My asana practice is simple and sweet these days.  I don’t try and get much out of my body- rather I attend to it so it feels good and balanced.  This attitude has been distilled from years of practicing in ways that were not necessarily simple and sweet.

Even though I have always gravitated to gentle styles and found teachers who understood the meditative and spiritual dimension of yoga, I still pressured myself to do more and more.  I imagine I thought that was my duty as a professional yoga teacher.   It took some time to realize I was inflicting pain upon myself rather than resolving it, and that was serving no one!

This is really a lesson regarding the Mind.  I didn’t know I was being aggressive.  I didn’t know I was off track.  My teacher Rama always emphasized a will-less way of progressing and I loved the message.  It just took years to bear fruit and flowers. Perhaps there is much more to come.   Meanwhile, I am pain free, at ease, and in awe with the way my practice has evolved.

This brings me to the concept of Mind/Body that I am playing with lately.  In the new brain science we see more than ever that the mind and body are integral, not distinct.  The mind is the body, the body is the mind.  Awareness and sensitivity are keys to integration, thinking and dissecting are disturbances.  Yogis and Buddhas and Mystics of all stripes have essentially agreed upon this- now there is a modern wave of contemplative science and study that affirms and explains the phenomena of integration.

It is an exciting and exhilarating new way of conceiving of self and human potential.   What does your body tell you?  How does the thinking and judging mind distort the information?  How do we enter into the energy and information of the mind/body, learn from it directly?  How do we translate this integration of being into our lives and world? What might it mean for the future?

In regards to your practice, I hope you have the opportunity to move more and the wisdom to will-less from your body.  I wish you the enjoyment of nature and the opportunity to touch into wilderness.  I pray that your own mind/body journey flowers into good health and spiritual integration.  And that each of our practices aids to the healing of the world.

Blessings and Light, Natasha

For many years I ran a yoga, meditation, and mindfulness program for Miraval: Life in Balance, and was regularly asked by our sales and marketing team to speak with journalists about our programs and what we do.  Inevitably I was always asked for “tips”.

I can do tips of course and it is good way to get very clear, very quick.  In the beginning it was exciting to be asked and a fun challenge and I always felt pretty good about what I offered up.  It was nice to see my name in print as the expert or authority and to get comments from friends, family, and colleagues about the publicity.  I’m happy to say that my name and advice popping up in an article in Woman’s Day was a particularly thrilling experience for my mother-in-law.   Yet more and more I felt dissatisfied about what ended up in print.

It was never quite what I said or meant, not the right context, it seemed banal and superficial.  The idea here was of course to simply get mentioned, to get attention to your cause, but it never felt quite right seeing the tips end up next to tips for removing cellulite or losing your belly fat, or having the perfect bath.  It’s like seeing the woman on tv who teaches yoga to professional athletes and swears by Advil for the days she is too sore or sick but the game must go on. It’s simply not the right message about these subjects.  It’s static rather than substance.

I don’t mean to sound cynical, I have benefited from the mainstreaming of these practices.  I am sure we all have benefited from these casual tips at some point and that we all need a little something different to get information across our filters.  We all deserve a good bath after all!  I will indeed keep giving tips and receiving tips.

Rather than cynical, I am curious.  Can I find a way to get clear, quick, and still transmit meaning?  Can tips be experienced as ideas, reminders, sparks that energize the reader or listener rather than concepts we mistakenly impose upon ourselves?  In my mind one tip truly received could change our lives’, it’s that simple, yet not that easy!

Three Tips for Maximizing your Experience of Tips:

  • Your breath is more important than anything you are reading or hearing or doing.
  •  You are already whole and complete, no improvement necessary.
  •  Let life live through you. (poem fragment from “Hokusai Says”, by Roger Keys)

When I was in my early 20’s a friend and her mother recommended I see a psychic they thought highly of.  I had already finished my undergraduate degree in history, was practicing yoga, and working in the food service world to get by.  The main question was what would I DO with my life?  What would I be?  It was a pressing concern.

The psychic was serious, lived simply, a devotee of Siddha Yoga, an astrologer , a lesbian, her house had a certain smell- old, a bit musty, like an old book.   I liked her and trusted her for some reason right away.

What I remember most was that she said clearly that I would be a teacher.  I flinched.  I had never particularly enjoyed school and never saw myself as a teacher.  I had a Bachelors of Arts degree and everyone always asked, “What are you going to do, teach?”  “NO” was my immediate response.  I had nothing affirmative to offer next.

“You won’t teach normal things, academic things, not a school room teacher.” I still had no idea what she was talking about and remember feeling deeply disappointed that there wasn’t something else offered up as a more appealing possibility.  Teach?!

Then my yoga teacher, Priscilla, asked me to teach for her one day.  She was going away and wanted me to simply fill in for her.  I was surprised and honored and felt that if she thought I could do it, I could and simply would.  I remember mapping out how a class might unfold together at the table in “Delectables” restaurant and thinking “here we go”, but not knowing what that meant.

I was probably nervous and undoubtedly self-conscious, but I have no recollection of that.  Only that I did it and would continue doing it and then suddenly Priscilla was saying that a teacher training program would happen, her first in Tucson, and that it was me who was begging for it.  I was?

I won’t share the whole story right now, only that the psychic was right and the journey into that truth, its realization, is the essence of what I am doing here with Yoga at Heart.   It is about me and it is about you and it is about the world.  I say that not to be grand, quite the opposite.  Utter humility is what I hope to embody as a teacher and give birth to in my teaching.  It’s about the teaching, it’s about you, it’s about the flow of the life force.  These are not normal things after all, not academics, not a school room…

The word ‘education’ is derived from the Latin root ‘educare’. While education refers to collection of worldly facts, educare is to bring out from within. Education is for a living while educare is for life.

~ Sri Sathya Sai Baba