BURN YOUR BOATS

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In October, I was lucky enough to spend an evening with my beloved teacher and friend Marianne Williamson when she spoke at the Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge.

She shared many important things that night that landed in my heart but two things in particular deeply struck me. The first comment was about Commitment and it triggered a memory that took me back to a day about 20 years ago in Santa Barbara, CA – when I was helping Marianne pack for her book tour. She turned to me and said, “You know Karen, life is not going to take you seriously, until you start to take life seriously.”

And at the time, I remember getting pissed off. I was like, “What do you mean? I’m serious! I feel things and think things.” But I had totally missed her point. It took me about 5 more years to GET what she was trying to teach me. That I had to stop screwing around with trivial matters and focus my mind and attention on the work that I’m here to do. I was being called to start showing up for what A Course In Miracles (ACIM) calls my “individualized curriculum”. 

1) At her talk, Marianne said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Terrorists don’t wake up in the morning and go, ‘Well, maybeI’ll bomb something today.’ No, they are unwavering and fierce in their conviction and commitment to Hate. Our job is to be as equally and fiercely committed to the power of LOVE – becauseMiracles arise from conviction.”

I remembered that ACIM teaches, Prayer is the medium of miracles. It is a means of communication of the created with the Creator. Through prayer love is received, and through miracles love is expressed.” So, it’s comforting to know that one of the ways we can all step up our Love game and stand more fully in our conviction is through daily prayer.

2) The other thing Marianne said that made me almost jump out of my seat with a shout of “AMEN, SISTER! PREACH!” – was in response to someone in the audience asking her if she would be willing to be the leader of a new grassroots “Nonviolence Committee” that they were trying to create. Marianne first commended them for taking inspired action – but then she politely declined their offer and said that she didn’t want to be the head (or leader) of anything. She explained:

“The age of the soloist is over. This is the age of the choir. Looking back at what history has shown us with Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, JFK and Bobby Kennedy – we know that they can kill the soloist. But when enough people come together in Love – you can’t kill the whole choir.” ~ MW

She went on to say (and she did not say it without reverence for her own life) that she was at an age now where, “It’s a scarier thought that I might not do what I came here to do, than that they might kill me if I try to do it.”

And BAM!! – once again my heart was set on fire by the luminous spark of my kick-ass mentor! I wanted to high five everyone around me, like “Yes! Yes! Yes!” because that’s exactly how I’ve been feeling lately. I’d rather be unpopular, alone or even killed – rather than stand around helpless like some sort of silent, terrorized “sheeple”.

It’s just my opinion (and honestly – take it or leave it) but I think it’s high time for folks to stop messing around and DO THE WORK. To once and for all – get right with themselves, forgive their past, and get crystal clear about who they are, what they stand for and what they’re committed to.

No more pussy footing around, no more “Well, maybe I’ll do my meditation/prayer/yoga practice today if I feel like it”, no more dumbing down your message, or trying to make it (whatever your “it” is – your writing, music, art, teaching, etc.) palatable to everyone. No more fear about upsetting people or “turning them off” with your spiritual “hippie” talk (Ha!) and your belief in the power of God, Divine Love and prayer.

The time to commit to your individualized curriculum is now. It’s time to throw your hat in the ring and let the consequences of your Love conviction and Self expression be what they may. At least you’ll be able to say – I did my best. I stood for something. You can go to the end of your days peacefully knowing that you looked your life (and your Self) square in the eyes and said, “I’m All In.”

Which got me to thinking about the Greeks, the Vikings and the Spanish Conquistadors. OK, just stay with me here… Now these guys took their passion and “commitment” to a whole new level. These suckers did not fool around. They’re the crazy dudes that lived by the hard-core philosophy of: BURN YOUR BOATS.

You see, when these warriors set off to conquer a new land, they did not have an ounce of defeat in mind. Their vision had laser like clarity and their spirit was so determined – that upon landing on the shore of a new country, they would boldly and immediately set their own boats on fire. They had no Plan B. There was no room for turning back, no option for retreat. They were courageously and unflinchingly committed to victory that losing wasn’t even a possible choice – because in that particular situation – to lose was to die.

Now I’m not suggesting that you walk around your life setting everything on fire – but you know, sometimes there just might be a few well worn bridges – to people, to victimized ways of thinking, to worn out old habits, to a list of grievances – that could benefit from some burning. So do yourself a favor – strike a metaphorical match and let that shit go.

The fire that I would rather you stoke is an internal one, that in Yoga we call: Tapas. Sometimes it’s translated as heat, fire, friction, or discipline. And that’s what we could all use a bit more of – a little burning off of our fear, laziness, and self-sabotaging  excuses. We have to go against the grain of habitual patterns that often keep us stuck, playing small and caught up in the illusion of separation. We have to be willing to jump in and smolder in the kiln of Divine Love.

The truth is, you can’t do Yoga half-assed. (I mean, you can, but really why bother?) In Yoga, we’re asked to be devoted to our daily practice and to the God of our understanding. In order to do this, we need desire, discipline, dedication and determination. We have to want to move beyond just the physical asana practice, so we can discover the exponential yogic roots that support and surround us. We have to take a big breath, sit down, get quiet, flex our spiritual muscles and then dig in and dig deep.

Like my meditation teacher Eknath Easwaran teaches about choosing a mantram to repeat – to help soothe and calm our loud, crazy minds – he cautions, that once you pick a mantra that resonates with you – DO NOT CHANGE IT. Do not flip flop back and forth. “If you do, you’ll be like a person digging shallow holes in many places; you will never go deep enough to find water.”

The miraculous thing about Yoga is that it doesn’t demand that you burn all your boats at once. It does however ask you to eventually stop messing around and light the damn kindling already. Ha! What I mean by this is – let’s say for example that you’re a “yogi” that still likes to eat animals and their by products, or you drink a lot of alcohol or wine, or smoke a bunch of cigarettes or weed or engage in promiscuous sex. Some of the great teachers of Yoga, like Paramahansa Yogananda – have said that by all means you can still continue to do those things – HOWEVER, you shouldn’t be surprised that when you do finally get serious about your Yoga and you commit to living the foundational principles (Yamas & Niyamas) and practicing all 8 limbs of Yoga as taught byPatanjali in“The Yoga Sutras” – that the desire to do these things will naturally fall away.

I can only say from my own experience, that that’s exactly what happened to me. I slowly realized that I was trying to “wake up” to my true nature and all those other things did was put me back to sleep. When I got tired of goofing around with the other stuff and finally got serious about my own life – well, as predicted – life got serious about me. (That Marianne is such a smarty-pants!)
I’d like to add that getting “serious” doesn’t mean that you become a tight ass dullard and can’t have any fun! As I always tell my students – you can devote yourself to Love and God and still have a total blast.

So as we head into 2016, with a brand new, clean slate of a year on the horizon, I’m curious to know – What do you want to get serious about in your own life? What do you want to create and commit to? How do you want to show up and stand in your conviction? Think about it and if you feel moved to share – please let me know.

I’ll leave you with this:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” ~ WH Murray (Scottish Mountaineer & Writer)

I hope you all know how much I believe in you! Wishing you all a glorious and blessed Holiday season.

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