I did some storytelling at the yoga festival of the TU Delft in July 2019. The narrative is about finding yourself, your life purpose, and about expressing yourself as you truly are. To my knowledge, this is were true fulfilment comes from.
You yogi’s! Welcome to this festival. It is nice to feel the vibes, the energy! Although I would not consider this as crowded, I can see that we are here with a hard core/ true aficionados (fanatics), and that is what I think is important. People who joined this day share an intrinsic interest in yoga and spirituality perhaps.
My name is Nicolai, together with some others I have founded OHM – the yoga association of Delft. Today I will guide you through a story on the spiritual path. The story of the seeker – and finder perhaps. I tried to make it not too specific, so its applicable to all of you, regardless of your belief structures, opinions or even religion. With this story, I try to address the human essence inside of you.
I recently read in the newspaper that 1 out of 7 students suffer from anxiety or symptoms of depression. I also read that the number of suicides was higher than ever. A lot of the time I cycle here at campus you see those billboards with ‘burnout prevention’ or help for stress related issues in general. How come? It seems like we literally have everything. We are here at the most prestigious university of the Netherlands, which is ranked number 58 of the world. Also, the chances are high that we have educated and responsible parents who have given us some more guidance in childhood and teenage years. We’ve got the newest technology, which allows us to see anyone around the world within a few clicks, we’ve got almost unlimited access to knowledge, thanks to one of my best friends google. And even if you don’t have the money, with a pair of VR glasses you can enjoy some peak experiences in your living room or even on the toilet. The feeling of being safe and secure when you walk on the streets after sunset is nearly unviolated in Holland. WIFI, our number one survival need is omnipresent, and even when it doesn’t rain, I got a very reliable high-data cloud at my disposal. Lastly; We know what the famine means, however, who has really been hungry for more than 24 hours during his life? We have everything.
But still there is something missing. Still we feel unfulfilled. Still there is a void inside of us.
We suffer the fear of missing out. We feel lonely, even if there is only one minute of spare time in our weekly agenda. And the thing is that we are not alone; we got projects, groups, like for every type of interest – even if it’s are very rare fetish – there are groups to share your story. Since we almost have endless opportunities, we are expected to be successful. When looking at your Facebook newsfeed, it looks like everyone is always on a constant high by having super-holidays somewhere on the other side of the world (SO to get the record straight; I don’t believe that the earth is flat). Caused by graduation, career upgrades, achievement here, achievement there. It’s hard to not feel miserable after you have clicked on the blue icon with an innocent white F inside. It feels like you are the only one not accelerating. It is a huge challenge to be just normal these days.
I think the main problem is that we lost touch with who we truly are. We lost connection to our inner voice, which I call ‘intuition’ or simply ‘gut feeling’. According to Marlies, “Internalising your frame of reference is the biggest shift you can make in life.” I am deeply convinced that every piece of knowledge, every answer, every type of intelligence, every form of guidance, is already inside you. Everything you need to be fulfilled is even closer than one arm’s length; it is here [wijzen naar lichaam]. You just need to find ways to access that intuitive intelligence. Osho – Guru Bhagwan (from ‘The wild wild west’ on Netflix) said: “Truth is not something to be discovered outside, it is something to be realised within.” I know – it is not easy. It can be scary to look inside. What will I meet inside? Ghosts? Horrifying black holes of even which light cannot escape from? Bad intentions? Rubbish? Suppressed memories? Childhood trauma’s? I think we have all accumulated some emotional baggage throughout the past. This baggage is holding us back subconsciously. This baggage forms a block on expressing ourselves as we truly are. When I was young I had a dog, here name was ‘Tatu’. When I fed her, Tatu barked with a happy face. Ears up, tongue out. When somebody knocked the door, she barked out loud and ran to the door out of curiosity with the speed of light. She didn’t think, how am I supposed to react? What is normal or socially expectable? Animals express themselves as they are. People do not. People don’t bark.
Confrontations are easier to be walked around than to be faced. As I said before, it can be frightening to meet your shadows, people don’t talk about their shadow sides comfortably. Also, it’s challenging to express you as the true you. First you got to know who that is – know theyself – and then you act accordingly: be theyself. I believe that that is where your path starts, whether you call it a spiritual path or not. I am talking about the journey inwards. The journey towards the real you. Is it you I am talking to, or are you wearing a mask? If you are wearing a mask, are you surprised that you are unfulfilled? Are you surprised that no one touches upon your core feelings? Are you surprised that you are misunderstood? If you don’t express yourself as you are, people don’t know you. If you are playing a role, of course you will feel lonely, since nobody talks to the real you. Why do we only open up after a few drinks or after taking drugs? Why don’t we express ourselves just right now? Why don’t we articulate our desires, our fears, our dreams, our vulnerabilities? People connect by expressing vulnerabilities. If someone expresses his/her insecurities/sensitivities, I can only see that as powerful.
If you don’t know your identity and what your calling, your mission, your passion is, than that’s your spiritual path [dat laten zien]. Those are the words of Oprah Winfrey. Again; its not easy, it takes time, it takes courage. By the way, courage comes from the French word: ‘le coeur’, which means the heart. Do you now understand the context? Some writers describe the courageous journey of following the heart as ‘the hero’s journey’.
Follow your excitement
A short breathing exercise. Grab the hand of the person next to you. Breath trough the nose. Deep breaths, all the way trough the belly. You should know that by now. Keep the eyes closed. Turn of your thoughts, open your mind.
I got a question for you. It’s a thought experiment. I am talking to you, not a role, not a mask, but you. The most sincere version of you. So I don’t want an auto-pilot answer. Lets say, you are given 3000 euro’s each month as a present from the national government. You are subsidised/sponsored. You don’t have to work; it’s a gift. With this money, you can easily cover all your monthly costs, and there is enough money left to do whatever you like. What would you do? Which activity appeals most to you? By the way, in this thought experiment, you cannot fail, so, whatever profession you would chose, there is no pressure of achieving success. What would you do all day? Enough money, you cannot fail, what would you do. Think about it for a moment. Is it a musician, a sportsman, painter, singer, writer, pornstar? Dream on for a while.
Keep the eyes closed. What do you feel like when thinking of this? First emotional reaction. Don’t think, just feel. Be honest, don’t fool me. Open eyes. How did that feel. Did it make you more childlike? More unrestricted? Imaginary? Be honest, is it a long time ago that you felt that?
I am sure you have met people on this earth which you would describe as: ‘truly in their element or in their energy’. Garry Zukav – a spiritual teacher from the states calls this state: ‘authentic power’; he defines that as: “When the energy of the personality fully comes to serve the energy of the soul.’’ People in this state of authentic power are very charismatic, powerful, intense, passionate, and when you would connected them to the electricity grid, you can provide 100 families for one year with their energy. These people do what they are designed for. These people fulfil their mission in life. I am talking about types like Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, the Iceman, Arnold Schwarzeneggers etc. The true guru’s or superhero’s in their field. I have always been fascinated by these people and questioned how I can become such a person. After analysing many of them by meeting some of them in person – of which I am very grateful to have had those opportunities – or from books or movies, there is only one conclusion: Everybody can do that, you just have to follow your excitement. They all say exactly the same; you got to take the first step, be dedicated, and the path will unfold. Your real life starts when you start following your heart. Oprah Winfrey: the biggest adventure you can take is the life of your dreams. Robert Boustany – the founder of pralaya yoga – has put it simple: “Don’t miss your life.”
I know, when I ask you to follow your dreams, many of you think: “Pffff, that is far away from what I am doing now.” So start out little. Start with a baby steps. Eckhart Tolle, the German enlightened writer of the book named “The Power of Now”, which I assume you to know, started his career by giving spiritual teaching in his small apartment in London. He started by having only a handful of students in his first classes. At a certain moment, he felt an urge to go to Canada. He could not rationalise that feeling, he just had an insight that he suddenly had to go. After moving house, he wrote The Power of Now in a relatively short period. Do you think that – when he started his career – he would think that he would become the influential spiritual teacher he is today? I don’t think so. Oprah Winfrey had a horrible youth; she was sexually abused multiple times, no money, strict father etc. However, she got the chance to kickstart her career at Nashville’s local television. After, she presented AM Chicago, which got extended with a half an hour as it got so popular. She followed her heart. A famous quote from her is: “Follow your instinct, that is where true wisdom manifests itself.’’ Last example, which is closer to home; Marlies, the yoga teacher, who has been teaching at TU Delft for like eight years or so, is now establishing her own Yoga studio. Also she started small; she once told me that she started having one or two students in her class and that that went on for a while.
I am not saying that everyone is destined for greatness or everyone should achieve high standards. No. I am saying: Follow your follow your excitement.’’ Commit yourself to the process rather than the result. Doing it with the right intentions is primary, the result is secondary. Emotion is the most powerful recourse a human possesses. If you truly believe in something, if you are deeply convinced that your vision or product can make a contribution, can you imagine how much emotional power and energy will propel you on your journey? If you devote yourself to your what you like doing most, destiny will unfold like it should. were focus goes, energy flows. Trust in that process, trust in the universe, but don’t forget to lock your bicycle.
“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become.” – Steve Jobs
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.” – Albert Einstein
I think we all have a sense of intuition. We all know if somethings feels right or wrong. I think the question is not whether this intuitive gift exists but whether we trust and acknowledge it as our primary guide in life. Again, this is long process; it doesn’t come like [click met vingers]. You can sharpen your sense of intuition by paying attention to the symbols, situations and people around you, and how they affect or relate to your emotional state. If you suppress the symbols and signs around you for too long, life can work against you. The symbols are already out there, but not everyone sees them. Just pay attention.
By the way, science has found that the subconscious mind has a capacity of 11.2 Million bits per second, while the conscious mind only allows for processing 60 bits per second. This means that the subconscious mind is 200.000 times stronger than the conscious mind. These scientists relate intuition and gut feeling to the subconscious mind. Therefore, from a rational perspective, having confidence in your gut feeling is a very good choice.
How to sharpen your intuitive gift? How to develop your gut feeling?
There exist many ways to consult your subconscious mind. By the way, your subconsciousness is directly related/connected to your body. Emotions can be observed in your stomach region. If you undergo a massage, in which the body lets go all the stress, you will feel a mental relief as well. If I make choices in life, I meditate for a while, I visualise the different options/ outcomes, and I observe how my body reacts accordingly. The body never lies is a commonly used phrase in spiritual circles. So, to employ the intelligence of the body to the fullest extent, connect with it and just feel. Don’t think. Don’t be up there [wijzen naar hoofd], but feel. Allow feelings to rise. Don’t judge the feelings, just observe. See what is going on in the temple. Yoga is a powerful tool to reconnect with the intelligence of the body.
Today we are here for the yoga wellness day. Seeing yoga just as a means of sharpening the direction of your path is underrated in my opinion. According to many, yoga allows for getting rid of the non-stop chatter in your head. The senses are sharpened and the mind gets silent. After a yoga session, one can prioritise by separating the main and side issues playing in one’s life, allowing for better choices. Psychologically, yoga can break through thought patterns. Some very rigid programmed auto-pilot reactions to your environment can now be acknowledged (your awareness is increased by becoming conscious of these patterns) and a choice is presented on whether to conform to these programmed sequences of thought, or whether to change something. Yoga allows for internal change.
Also, yoga has been proven very affective in stress reduction. As said before, the external pressure is high nowadays, and scheduling a moment for yourself in which you block the constant feed of new information by reconnecting to your foundation – the body – can be experienced as an oasis.
To close of this speech, yoga enhances health to a certain extent. In yogic traditions, it is called: “To maintain the body of golden.” Yoga improves postural balance, long and flexible muscles, and it enhances nutrition in terms of blood flow towards organs, the fascia, the brain, the skin and so on.
Rewire the body, rewire the mind, freeing your soul! Yoga is wonderful.