Why are we here? What is beyond the stars? Where does the universe end? Do we really matter in the big scheme of things? And how on earth are we going to find the answers to these monumental questions?
But it’s not just the big Q’s that have eluded us, it’s also the seemingly trivial ones – why do I feel like this or why are we having these arguments when we love each other dearly? Or even, why am I eating lard when I know my body would prefer asparagus?
The meaning of life is something us humans have been asking since time began.
We are inquisitive beings who have long been searching outside ourselves in an attempt to figure out the answers. But what if the answers actually lay in relatively easy reach despite whatever the turmoil or drama we are entwined in?
The last Life is Medicine for 2017 was all about Connecting With Life; a ‘how to’ in understanding the greater meaning to life in the context of our own experience in it.
Dr Rachel Mascord, “my scientist friend” - as introduced by our MC Neil Gamble - led the discussion by jumping straight into the deep end where she put the spotlight on the magnificence of everything on offer – not just in the universe at large, or even our own planet but also the microscopic cosmos of our own bodies. One might think it impossible to link these three vast topics so easily within three hours, but not so for Rachel who connected them so eloquently and seamlessly. She did a superb job of reminding us that from the stars in the sky, right down to the connective tissue in our bodies there is an incredible amount of order to all of life and in this, “there is great beauty in that”.
Rachel started the day by reminding us about the grandness and exquisite beauty of the universe.
“[The stars] show us that there is something grand . . . something more.” Rachel Mascord
This is something most of us are aware of in snippets of our life, oftentimes when we need a break from it so to speak, in order to gain some kind of perspective. What Rachel brought to this equation was that the magnificence of our own body is equally as grand and exquisite when we put it under a microscope - literally.
“Cells are constantly making [connective tissue] fibres . . . our body is constantly responding and remodelling and rebuilding itself and you don’t have to think about it – you don’t have to tell them what to do . . . they are doing it for you and with you in response to how you are living”. Rachel Mascord
“Even if you have a disease in your bone, let’s say osteoporosis or arthritis, there is still an order in that because the bone isn’t acting independently, it’s responding to something and it’s telling us something is out of balance.” Rachel Mascord
Rachel showed us an image of the lining of the intestinal tract – an example of absolute order where individual cells are all lined up in a row – some bigger, some smaller, all with different roles. As Rachel pointed out ‘no one’s trying to win’. “Every cell performs in harmony more often than it doesn’t despite how we treat ourselves. They do a very good job of just doing what they are here to do – a very good lesson for all of us in purpose.”
“There is a beauty that defies any words that we could come up with,” observes Rachel about our awe-inspiring universe and then adds: “and then inside of us there’s this incredible harmony, this beauty, this body that’s always bringing itself back into order; it’s always seeking to come to a point of healing.” Rachel Mascord
Say we acknowledge or even deeply appreciate the magnificence of our micro (the divine order of our body) and the macro (the divine order of the universe), what of the chaos that reigns in the world – the wars, the disasters, the shootings, the corruption amongst those in power, or even the intense frustration that can arise when someone cuts you off in traffic on the way home from work? It feels to be the complete opposite to the intelligence of our highly cooperative cells, does it not? It appears that in our everyday we are bombarded by images that are saying we must fight for our place in the world.
How can we make sense of this when, as Rachel pointed out “we have a body seeking order and harmony that works on a level we can’t even imagine.” The contrast is quite absurd when you consider that every single person is made up of cells doing a marvellous job of living harmoniously together.
It is important to look at this contrast – this odd divergence from the beauty we are made up of – and face the failing manmade systems we have created. “Otherwise we end up getting beaten up by life.” as Rachel pointed out.
“Life is coming at us at every angle . . . There is no point going ‘I’m just going to look at the stars and everything will be fine’ ” . . . We’ve got to have our feet on the ground because these feet have to walk through life, they’ve got to take us from situation to situation and our body is in this world.” Rachel Mascord
How do we do this? How do we bring two seemingly opposite worlds together so that everything in our life is approached in the same awe and wonder that the stars offer us when we look humbly towards them?
First, we must allow ourselves the space to understand the process we go through that disconnects us from the magnificence of the universe in our every day. To do this Rachel led us through a series of workshop activities that asked us to look at our coping mechanisms for handling the tensions from life.
Some examples offered by the group for how we ease the tension:
- Needing a glass of wine at the end of the day
- Getting incredibly angry
- Avoiding someone in particular
- Withdrawing from life i.e. through hobbies
- Intensely looking forward and planning in detail what’s for dinner – absolute focus on food rather than what’s at hand
- Going to the ocean or nature to calm down
- Drawing and painting to relax
- Getting really busy to the point of overwhelm where we can’t feel / or are not aware of what’s going on around us
- Staying in bed all day and telling ourselves “we need to rest” when that’s not actually needed
- Eating – lots!
- Electronic distraction – getting sucked into Facebook’s news “feed’’
- Be disappointed in all the world i.e. withdraw my care
“Start [by looking at] the tactic, to getting a handle on ourselves and starting to understand who we are to then take us to point of asking how do we nurture who we truly are?
If we try and make the jump, it’s too big a jump to look at the beauty of the night sky when life around you is turning to something unpleasant.” Rachel Mascord
Essentially, we need to look at the process of how we got to where we are – a very long way from feeling the wonderment and beauty of the stars all of the time!
“Our being is a very delicate thing but there is nothing out there that confirms it . . . your delicacy, your sacredness, your preciousness, that’s everything. That’s your greatest asset; your essence is everything.” Rachel Mascord
Rachel and the audience explored what our ‘being’ is and what happens when we use the above coping mechanisms to hide it. What happens is we put layers of protection on via our coping mechanisms and behaviours because we feel we cannot deal with what lays before us. Essentially this layer of protection is like wearing a suit of armour around our heart, making it difficult for us to connect with ourselves, connect with others and connect to the wisdom of the universe.
Our coping mechanisms for dealing with the tensions we feel – in other words, what we go to, to ease inner disharmony, fall into four classifications:
What is HARDNESS?
- Can be seen obvious in some people, like a bulldog, ‘don’t come near me’, a tough exterior
- Can be insidious – i.e. can look like someone being ‘nice’. Our eyes are seeing the smile and they seem very nice, they can be really accommodating etc. but there’s an impenetrable brick wall there and they’re not letting you in
- There can be a real subtlety in hardness, we imagine we keep the world out when we are hard but we can’t
- Connective tissue is impacted a lot by hardness as our bodies are constantly responding and receiving information so it starts to toughen when we use hardness to ‘keep the horrors at bay’
- The price we pay for hardness is that we stop people seeing and feeling our beauty
- It has a quality of ‘mushy’
- An example might be when you’ve had a rough day and you get the tub of ice-cream out with the chocolate sauce and the saddest chick flick around
- You feel ‘doughy’, ‘soft’ and ‘limp’. It turns us into a mushy thing
- It’s very effective at helping us not feel the world so that things don’t quite get through and affect us in the same way
- Being overly emotional with someone and being ruled by our emotions
- Being sympathetic – the over emotional state stops us feeling the truth of what’s going on
- You’re like a spinning top – you’re out of your body, you don’t have time, so you think life can’t impact you
- Like being at the supermarket checkout and someone is pushing the trolley into you, as if they are trying to get you out the way
- We feed raciness with caffeine and sugar which races our physiology. Even if you want to settle, your body is going 140km/hour so it’s hard to put the brakes on
- The to do list fuels raciness, there’s no completion – you’ve got every ball in the air
- You come with the energy of push and drive that says ‘you have every solution under the sun’ and ‘why haven’t you done it’
- Women do raciness really well because they give into the belief of having to juggle life and multi-task being there for everyone
- Anything you do that puts you into a fog, like a shutdown in the body
- A giving up attitude, like the teenager who won’t get out of bed until midday
- Talking to someone who’s not present, disconnecting and being aloof
- A ‘talk to the hand’ attitude – not wanting to engage with you or any aspect of life
- Not paying attention to the details of life, letting things pass you by
As Rachel wisely pointed out we need to “use these meanings to bring understanding to people”, rather than point the finger at others or even beat ourselves up for disconnecting.
“You’ve got to understand underneath the bulldog everyone has that being”. Rachel Mascord
In addition to bringing incredible understanding to ourselves and others Rachel provided some great pointers for renouncing our ‘go to’ coping mechanisms.
- Step 1 - Learn to connect with yourself, learn who you are, learn your value and learn there is something inside worth connecting to
- Step 2 - Take that connection to your relationships – start to be loving and transparent with your partner, start to let them see who you are, start to let them deeply in
- Step 3 - Take the connection of your most intimate relationships out into the wider world – whatever your job – you have the potential to touch people every day with the warmth of your eyes
At this point Rachel introduced Deanne Voysey, a Sydney practitioner of The Yoga of Stillness, otherwise known as Esoteric Yoga.
“Rachel has brought in the wonderment of life around us but also the wonderment of life within us . . . the millions of trillions of processes that go on in our body all of the time without us even having to know what is going on . . . like it or not it is always going on.”
Through this workshop we had also focused in on some of the behaviours that take us away from this wonderment, however, as Deanne suggested it is entirely possible for the being inside us to be settled.
“We can take a short cut into that being, that being that is settled is through the body. One of the reasons we can do that is that our body is made up of the particles that are made up of the same intelligence as the stars in the sky and the beautiful nature around us.” Deanne Voysey
Through The Yoga of Stillness “we can access our deepest surrender . . . we access our multi-dimensionality . . . what we call wisdom,” Deanne added.
Therefore it is through the wisdom of the body that we understand our unwanted behaviours.
“The place of stillness in life brings us to a place where we can cut through our raciness.” Deanne Voysey.
Indeed, it can cut through all our patterns that contribute to us disconnecting from ourselves and life.
“When we cut through raciness it brings us to a space to connect us to our particles and brings us to see what is going on in life – to read what is going on. When there’s a presence or a stillness it’s easier for us to see what’s coming at us.” Deanne Voysey
Deanne took the group through a session of Esoteric Yoga to help us translate some of the theory into practice. This gave us an opportunity to feel the great strength in surrendering to the stillness that resides within, but also the splendour of vulnerability and deep self-acceptance a connection with one self can bring.
“The [stillness and wisdom] we connect to is innate – no one can give it to you. There’s no magic pill, no guru, no one you can sit at the feet of to get what is already inside you. It’s all there.” Rachel Mascord
“There’s something inside of us that is equal and beyond equal – greater than everything life can throw at us but man is that hard to believe when we’re in the thick of it . . . We have to know we can live it and walk it despite life.” Rachel Mascord
But how? . . . is the obvious next question.
We look at the ‘go to’s’, we look at the armour we’re wearing, and we allow ourselves to feel that despite everything “we have a sense of it,” as Rachel put it.
“If we become open to the fact we have a suit of armour and we want to get to know what makes it up you’ve got the tools you need from every presentation we’ve had to date . . . We can start to understand there is something so infinitely precious and marvellous in this being, that you have to put a lot of effort from stopping it being this innate wonder.” Rachel Mascord
“What if there’s a possibility that there is something exceptional inside? The reason [your being] responds to nature, the reason it responds to the stars . . . is that it’s already there – nothing can give it to you . . . Life is not about fixing you up . . . There is something inside that is precious, that is sacred, that is beyond a beauty that anything or anyone can obtain other than through connection to self.” Rachel Mascord
Yes, as Rachel adds: “We’ve put a suit of armour on the most precious, divine thing in this universe.”
As many could attest: it’s time to take that shiny deflective armour off!
If you use HARDNESS you are stopping TRANSPARENCY. You don’t let anyone see the mistakes you make, your vulnerability, your lack of perfection. The antidote for hardness is to be willing to be seen for all of you – the most disarming, enchanting and glorious thing you can offer another human being. You want people to feel safe with you so let them see all of you. When someone is truly open, you’re looking into the face of God, the face of the universe. Not aspiration, not wishing, not putting a face on – all of the flaws and all of the beauty.
DAMPNESS stops CONNECTION; Connection with self, connection with God or the universe, connection with others. It promotes a withdrawal that is self-indulgent and makes it all about the individual, the flavour of ‘victim’ or ‘poor me’, and sabotages your true care of others. The antidote for dampness is to surrender to a level of intimacy with another where there are no secrets and no guarding, open up to one person and you open up to everyone and all of life.
RACINESS stops you READING. If you are trying to do too much you’re not paying as much attention as you could be. If you’re ahead of yourself you’re not reading life. Life is showing you all the time what is needed and you are constantly receiving messages from the people dear to you and life itself. But if you’re too busy you’re missing all this communication. The antidote is to stop being too busy or “being done by life”. Stop being pushed and ticking boxes, start moving in your own rhythm.
DULLNESS stops AWARENESS. “You are a multi-dimensional being – you are not a brain on a stick,” as Rachel put it. You are infinitely more than that. When you look at the stars, you are looking at yourself. At an atomic level we are made of the same stuff as the stars. There is so much space – we are made up of more space than we are of stuff. “Through our physical body is the way we start to feel the space in our being.” The antidote for dullness therefore is to surrender to the fact that we are constantly aware to all that is in and around us and to consciously move in a way that allows access to the detail of this awareness, such as walking into work in a very tender and open-bodied way even though you know you’re entering a difficult or tense situation; you will become aware of a deeper level of what’s going on.
What if we can’t feel the stillness, the connection, the divine essence we hold within?
The answer is simple. It shows us the purpose of travelling through the process of unveiling our barriers to connection. “It’s all there, there’s just a bit more of the suit of armour to take off,” Rachel encouraged.
“Most of our energy goes into fighting our innate pull to be one . . . If you could allow yourself to let go in front of the bulldog what might happen then?” Rachel Mascord.
This is the “blueprint or plan for evolution,” as Rachel suggested.
“Evolution is not a random mutation. Evolution is not people turning hunchback because they’re sitting at the computer too much. Evolution is not genetics, it’s not an accident, it’s not a monkey falling out of a tree and thinking a suit would be a really great idea and a briefcase and a really high stress job and a heart attack at age 40. That’s not evolution. Evolution is consciousness, it’s alignment, it’s a will . . . It’s a mirror shining down to you, showing the truth of who you are and it’s there all the time – never is it not there. No matter how much intensity your life develops, no matter how crazy things are, no matter how bad it seems, no matter how much at the bottom of a deep pit you imagine you are . . . there is something inside of you that is grander than anything you can imagine and it is better than any technique and it is better than any solution and any strategy. That’s what living life as medicine and making life as medicine is truly about.” Rachel Mascord
“Everything is inside of you.” Rachel Mascord
“There’s nothing in these words that is greater than what is already inside of you, in each and every one of you and every person you meet with.” Rachel Mascord
And here marks the end of the absolutely sensational series of Life is Medicine for 2017. From Connection With Self to Connection With Others and the grand finale Connection With Life. If 2017 is anything to go by then 2018 is going to transport us to a whole new galaxy, one that is real, tangible and applicable to daily life and also carries with it the understanding of our grandness.
Congratulations to all the amazing volunteers who are exceptionally dedicated to so selflessly putting a never-ending tonne of love into delivering what is a truly transformative series. Life changing for so many, one can only end with: Bring on the next round!