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Mindset Training Week 19: Renewal

September 15, 2022 by

In the center of a circular rock formation stood a tepee of smoldering birch wood, dark grey smoke rising into cumulus clouds. My eyes followed their ascension into an infinite sky.

I stood bare foot with my hands outstretched, offering my Self. The 14 days of silence in Costa Rica was coming to an end with another sweat lodge ceremony in a few moments. I approached the second sweat lodge differently than the first. I came prepared with an intention that served my healing and continued growth.

Arriving early I took a private moment at a nearby stream. The voices of howler monkeys beckoned me from the trees above. Without hesitation, I walked into the cool water and submerged myself fully, saying a prayer. “Cleanse my mind, cleanse my body, and cleanse my spirit.”

I paused to reflect on what arose for me over the past two weeks. It brought me to the source of many of my insecurities, the gender of my body. What does it mean to be born a woman? More than once during the retreat I found my inner anger rising because the only voice I heard for two weeks was male. There were women there, but all were participating in the silence and appeared to have subservient roles. Everyone, in fact, seemed to serve Jaya, the leader of the retreat and the community.

My first encounter with Jaya was after the first sweat lodge ceremony the day I arrived. I was standing in a group of other sweaty meditators when a three-wheeler pulled up, and a brown-skinned man with hair hanging around his bearded face jumped out. He looked like someone you’d see gyrating at an outdoor music festival. He smiled charmingly and asked if anyone wanted a ride back to camp. Everyone froze, so I volunteered. I climbed onto the seat, slid in close, and gripped him around the waist while the others stared at me mouths agape. I made small talk on the way, asking his name. He chuckled in a way that hinted that I should know who he was. I treated him no differently than I would any other person. As he dropped me off, he grinned endearingly at me. The others were shocked that I treated him with such nonchalance. “Don’t you know who that was? That was Jaya, our guru!” “Oh?” I replied. I found their reaction strange. He seemed like just a dude to me.

A true guru is the highest teacher, a leader. Someone who is enlightened and has mastered completely their sense desires of humanness. They are devoted to guiding souls on their individual journeys to find God. A guru does not lead people back to himself like followers of a cult. That is a false guru. A true leader humbly illuminates the greatness in others, not themselves.

Once the silence commenced the next day, Jaya was the solitary audible voice, arising in me my anger toward authoritarian male dominance and the invisible walls that tried to keep me small.

Each night of the two-week retreat he held a devotional, usually consisting of a spiritual message and meditation. One night when I arrived, Jaya was sitting opposite me on a large chair on risers that made him look much larger than everyone else. Dressed in all white, he was poised motionless with his eyes closed. Opening his eyes, he began to speak with a slow, hypnotic drawl. His “followers” were seated around him on the floor, hanging onto every word he said. He’d asked everyone to write him letters with questions to answer. Each night, he read the letters aloud and answered questions. Occasionally, a woman would come up and whisper something in his ear, he would respond, and she would flutter away. After the questions were answered, Jaya became DJ Guruji, playing spiritual dance music while everyone swayed fanatically around him. Most nights I would get up and dance along. When in Rome, I thought. This particular night, I sat observing the production. Something about it did not sit right with me.

Seeing him reigning over the room like some sort of savior triggered me to a panic. When that night’s devotional ended, I rushed back to my casita. What have I gotten myself into? I was afraid I was being indoctrinated into a cult. I had not researched the place other than a cursory internet search for silent retreats in Costa Rica.

I paused and asked myself if I was safe. I calmed myself by turning on a female spiritual teacher’s podcast, and letting the peace of her voice wash over me. Instead of leaving, I committed to stay and explore the feelings Jaya arose in me. I asked myself What is here? Why did he trigger me so intensely? I concluded I did not foresee any harm coming to me if I stayed. The truth was, no one was grooming me to join any drug-induced spiritual orgy. My self-inquiry brought me to the reason I was there: To finally shed the skin of insecurity that had been gripping me for my lifetime.

In the Mormon church, only men hold the priesthood and the spiritual superiority. Only men are the leaders of their families. As my mother had assumed, the role of women is to give birth. To be obedient to men. To sacrifice everything for their families, even themselves. And to be beautiful—to land a husband, or to keep your husband, beauty was essential for a woman’s survival. It was not until I was far removed that I could see the effects of this culture on my spirit. Dominated by men in my family and my religion, then by my partners, I was always looking for someone or something to control me. If you’re not attractive, the untrue stories told me, no one will like you. No one will marry you. If you’re not married, you have no value. I continually gave my power away. I wanted to be me and feel good in my own skin. I wanted to be a powerful woman.

After my self-baptism under the eye of the howler monkeys, I rose to join the group of silent meditators outside the sweat lodge. A sacred fire burning at the entry heated the rocks, known as the grandfathers, to symbolize ancestor spirits who heal and bless each spiritual seeker. An ancient Mesoamerican ceremony of penance and purification.

I faced the rising smoke. My hands rose to the fire. “I offer up my insecurities, my mental tormentors, my addictions, my cruel inner critic. I offer up the old stories that take my power. Spirit, please, take these from me,” I pleaded. I gave back everything that was leaching my strength. I threw it all into the fire.

I was smudged with sage by a guardian of the fire, then entered the tent. We sat in a circle five rows deep, around the fire glowing with the grandfather stones. All the men were shirtless wearing swim shorts, yet all the women had been encouraged to wear long floral muumuus. I, instead, wore a black bikini. I crouched in a sweaty ball with the other women while we sang and celebrated, breaking our silence, giving back all that had arisen for us.

After the ceremony, we crawled out one by one and entered the cool stream. I sat down on the riverbed and let the refreshing water flow over me. I felt peace. Jaya, the perceived symbol of my mental oppression, was downstream from me. As I lifted my head out of the water, our eyes met. My power met his power and we were equalized.

I felt different. I felt powerful. Not like a lightning bolt, a subtle shift. The crispness of the water flushed over my bare skin. Solar energy blessed my body. The smooth stones of the earth underneath me offered their strength. I floated in the cleansing river, its watery arms pooling around me, combing through my curls.

My long curly blonde hair had always been my identifier. I was complemented on it my entire life. Everywhere I would go, people would tell me how beautiful it was. I used it as a crutch, I used it to hide myself, and I used it to get validation that I was attractive to society.

I didn’t need it anymore to make me feel beautiful. I didn’t need to hide my face. And it just was not me anymore. Finding my power meant no longer being beautiful for anyone else but me.

As soon as I returned home to Seattle, I drove to the barber shop and told them to shave my head.

I was no longer a helpless woman floundering on her own. I was no longer the woman who didn’t have a husband or children who needed others to feel sorry for her. No. If people thought that of me that was their story, not mine. I saw my own beauty and worth. Wherever I went next in life, I would radiate my authentic beauty and worth.

HEART HEALING STEP 7B: SELF-COMPASSION

The shroud of fear and insecurity exerts an exponential gravitational pull. It robs you of mental energies that are better spent elsewhere. It’s the monster hiding under your bed. So how do you get rid of these shadows that keep you hiding under the covers? With steps outlined in the past two parts of this book. The persistence of retraining your mind to heal the heart is the courage to look under the bed and see that there is nothing there. The monsters are all in your mind. They don’t exist. You’re beautiful and perfect exactly as you are.

The second you feel limiting emotions lurking in the shadows, implement the heart healing steps to investigate the emotion and identify the story linked to the fear you’re holding. Once you identify the untruth to your fear-based story, you can rewrite it to see clearly what you really want. Clear limiting emotions with Unconditional Love, then proceed through the acceptance, intention, gratitude, action loop. Forgiveness is the next step. Forgive yourself, forgive others, receive forgiveness. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. Forgiveness allows you to let go.

The final step in the mind training and heart healing process is compassion. Even after you’ve completed the steps, grief may linger. Offer any lingering grief to God in meditation and ask what you should do. Digging deep into the past for healing may arise painful losses you’ve experienced in your life. Some deeply held griefs may always be there. Look at them with compassion and a conviction to fearlessly live your purpose. Use your most sorrowful memories as fuel to uncover joy. The process to transform grief into joy is highly individual. This is between you and your highest self or God. Ask and it will be shown to you.

When grief lingers, my normal course of action is to do things that make me feel happy. One morning, laden with a heavy heart after writing about grief, I got on my bike. Cycling brings me more joy than anything else. The sun reflected brilliance on the vibrant spring landscape: greens, pinks, and blues. I could hear the birds sing in the distance and feel cool air on my skin. A mystifying stream of energy entered and exited the body as I pedaled. I stood by the Puget Sound and listened to the waves undulating in and out with the tide. Further out, snowy peaks framed the horizon. I felt the vastness of infinite creation, and my own smallness—and my own power as a part of it. I felt the unconditional love of the universe, and it dissolved my grief.

The most important overarching step in the process of mind training and healing the heart is self-compassion, unconditional love for yourself. Sitting with grief, pain, and their uncomfortable baggage, without judgment, takes an enormous amount of bravery. A practice of self-compassion enables you to eliminate negative self-talk and look on yourself with the kindness of a mother’s love. Exactly as you are, imperfections and all. It’s how to see your wholeness. It strengthens relationships by minimizing your expectations from others. Self-compassion softens the resistance of a weaponized mind always on alert for mental intruders: a heart-healing process to evenness of mind.

Self-compassion is a bike ride. It’s going to bed early. It’s giving yourself recognition for overcoming obstacles. It’s validating Self instead of scrolling social media for likes. Self-compassion is crying when you feel sad. Self-compassion is not doing so much all the time.

Self-compassion is not feeling sorry for yourself. It’s not indulgent nor something to feel guilty about. Self-love is key in living a life free of resistance and limitations. It is the securing of your oxygen mask first, freeing you to live your best life while being a positive influence on everyone around you.

Just as you deserve to be happy and free from suffering, so does everyone else. Unconditional Love is abundant and free. The more you give the more you receive.

TRAIN THE MIND AND HEAL THE HEART STEPS

Step 1: Deconstruct emotions.

Identify then investigate emotions and fears. Feel the emotion. Ask yourself questions about the emotion. What was the trigger? How did it show up? What was your initial reaction? What do you feel when you allow yourself to feel the emotion? Unravel the layers of emotion by noticing what is underneath the surface emotion.

Step 2: Identify limiting stories and their origin.

Continue the investigation process by asking yourself what narrative you are reacting to. What story are you believing about yourself and is it true? Rewrite untrue stories held in the subconscious into true statements that encourage your growth.

Step 3: Acknowledge loss and set a joyful resolve.

Grief is the underlying emotion of all intense feelings. Identify what was lost or what you wanted that you didn’t get. Give space and honor your grief. It can be as simple as acknowledging that something did not work out the way you thought it was going to. Then, set a joyful resolve for action that brings hope for your future.

Step 4: Unconditional Love.

Unconditional Love is ever present within you and you can use it to clear trapped emotions. Awaken unconditional love within every cell of your being through intention. Assume your meditation posture and focus upon the third eye point. Breathe. Transmute grief and any emotions no longer serving your with the finer vibrations of unconditional love. Sit in meditation for as long as needed repeating this phrase: “Through the power of unconditional love, clear [emotion].” Afterward, ask your intuition what to do with any lingering unresolved feelings and how to proceed forward.

Step 5: Mind training steps.

Once you have completed the heart healing steps, return to the present challenge that triggered the investigated emotions. Work through the four steps of training the mind from Part One.

  • Acceptance: I accept myself completely …
  • Statements of intention and liberation: What do I want? I am happy. I am free.
  • Gratitude: I’m grateful for … What is going right? What is not going wrong?
  • Action: What can I do?

Step 6: Forgive.

Forgiveness is letting go without needing anything in return. When forgiveness is difficult, resolve that you want to forgive to free your heart of pain. Healing will be incomplete without absolute forgiveness.

Step 7: Compassion.

Surround all steps with compassion. Be kind to yourself through this process and look for joy. At any point that it feels like too much, reset. What is a healthy activity you can do to connect to the love of the universe around you? Have compassion for others. Be kind. Let go of judging, blaming, and shaming. See that all human beings suffer and wish them peace.

MEDITATION PRACTICE

Through meditation, you become familiar with the brilliance of Love lying below the surface and begin to understand your infinite worth. Like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, the recognition of happiness as your birthright is how you awaken unconditional love within you, giving you the power to heal and transform any wound.

ON-CUSHION: 19 MINUTE MEDITATION

Meditate first thing in the morning and just before bed. Begin your meditation practice by repeating a statement of intention and liberation. Filter the truth of the words through your heart and mind. I deserve happiness. Happiness is the natural state of my being. When I am happy, I bring more joy to the world and the world brings more joy to me.

10-MINUTE EMOM + NINE MINUTES OF STILLNESS

  • Set timer for 19 minutes with 10 one-minute increment bells.
  • Sit with your spine in neutral, shoulders over hips, ears over shoulders.
  • Close the eyes and focus gently at the third eye point between the eyebrows.
  • As you breathe in, imagine a golden light entering your chest and exiting through the back of your heart.
  • As you breathe out, imagine the light entering the back of your head at the point where the skull meets the spine, then exiting through the third eye point.

Minute 0:00 to 10:00 (five rounds)

Even minutes

  • Circulate energy from the heart to the mind as you inhale and exhale.
  • Inhale: Silently repeat “Heart.”
  • Exhale: Silently repeat “Mind.”
  • Keep count of the ten bells by extending your thumb for minute 1, placing your thumb to each finger pad for minutes 2-5. Repeat for minutes 6-10.

Odd minutes

  • Retain breath.
  • Concentrate at the third eye point between the eyebrows.
  • Silently repeat “Love.”

Minute 10:00 to 19:00

  • Sit in silence for nine minutes.
  • Concentrate at the third eye point of intuition.
  • Circulate the breath.
  • Silently repeat “Om.”

Notice the feeling of self-love awakened from meditation. Affirm I am worthy of love.

OFF-CUSHION: MIND TRAINING & HEART HEALING STEPS

As emotions arise during your day, flow through the mind training and heart healing steps by asking yourself what lies under an initial limiting emotion, what you want in the situation, and what you can do that’s in your control. Ask “How can I be compassionate towards myself and others in my response?” If a situation does not go exactly right, skip the shame and blame and explore what you can do differently next time. It’s not a failure if it brings you growth. Thank every experience and every teacher. Notice where you’re spending mental energy that’s not serving you. Your energy is your power. Where are you giving your power away? As you practice the steps, you can identify power leaks, seal them up, and retain your inner strength.

Complete introspection questions and Chapter 19 exercise from your TMHH Workbook.

Train the Mind, Heal the Heart, Mindset Training Program.

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Photo Lincoln Brigham

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