Incorporating these five best neuroplasticity practices can open the doors to a more graceful, resilient, and lasting experience of change.
You feel special. Sometimes this feels like a curse. Like no one will understand you. Ever. Like you will always be an alien walking among regular humans, pretending to blend in. You have learned to live with this gulf, but what you really crave is community. You long to belong to the human family. To Mother Earth.
Participating in the human condition can be bewildering. It is just not always cozy and easy—rather, it’s humbling at best, downright humiliating when it is not flowing. It can seem so much simpler to ride solo, slaying your own dragons and singing the ballads you wrote about yourself. Collaboration can be tedious, and the prevailing masculine value system may have conditioned you to feel like you are giving away your power when you share it with others.
So what? Give it away. The time of the singular sage bestowing his unique wisdom is over. That was a method devised by the men in charge who sought to regulate wisdom. They taught us to suffer alone in the desert for forty years, collecting our insights in a secret box called “Esoteric Knowledge.” Then, we were supposed to dispense those insights stingily to those who proved themselves worthy by also suffering alone for the requisite forty years in the desert.
It turns out that the world is filled with special beings, grappling our way through the anxiety of solitary conundrums and tasting the occasional reprieve of connection. When you realize this, your body lets out its breath and relaxes. The curse lifts. You come in from the cold. You hold out your cup, and some other special being fills it with sweet, milky tea spiced with fragrant herbs. You drink.
Our way, the way of the feminine, is to find out what everyone is good at and praise them for it and get them to teach it to one another. Maybe you know something about the hidden meaning of the Hebrew letters, or how to build a sustainable home from recycled tires and rammed soil, or loving-kindness meditation. You, the one who knows the Islamic call to prayer, climb this minaret and call us all to prayer. You, the one who knows how to sit quietly at the bedside of the dying, show us the way to bear witness. You, the one who knows how to get us to wake up to the shadow of privilege, please wake us the #*#@ up. It will be chaotic, all this community building, but your cooperation will save the world.
Besides, it will be fun.
Diana Winston is is the director of mindfulness education at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center, a member of the Teachers Council at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and a pioneer in mindfulness education for children. With Sounds True, she has released The Little Book of Being: Practices and Guidance for Uncovering Your Natural Awareness. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Diana about “natural awareness”—an always-available, foundational flow state distinguishable from deliberate mindfulness practice. They share “glimpse practices” designed to open up perception and embodiment of natural awareness, commenting on how each can be practiced in day-to-day life. Diana and Tami discuss the value of going on retreat, the spectrum of different awareness practices, and common misconceptions about what it takes to become a mindfulness teacher. Finally, Diana explains why it’s important not to become a “bliss-ninny” as well as the difference between natural awareness and spacing out. (64 minutes)
Seth Godin is a bestselling author and popular blogger who is known for his writing on marketing, the spread of ideas, and mindful business strategies. With Sounds True, he released the audio program Leap First: Creating Work That Matters. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon and Seth discuss the concept of resistance and how it must be sought out in any effective pursuit of art. They also talk about the contemporary “connection economy” and how there is no guarantee that one can make a living through genuine self-expression—but also how one should do so anyway. Finally, they spoke on the necessity of taking leaps and Seth’s concept of living a life of faith. (62 minutes)
Tami’s Takeaway: Seth Godin looks at a picture every day that depicts a person triumphantly jumping off of a third story building onto a street below. The caption: “Leap into the Void.” Seth leaps every day and inspires others to do the same. He teaches us not to wait to be discovered—for someone to choose us to come forward. Instead, we take the leap and “pick ourselves,” engaging in the creative act of being vulnerable, making art, and expressing ourselves. And whether 10 people notice or 10 million, we have the deep satisfaction of living courageously and pouring out our creative souls in ways that matter.
For 40 days, I had the most soulful rest. And I did it in the comfort of my own home, with a full-time job, a family, and a social life.
Every day I awoke around 5:30 am and tiptoed to my Rest Cave (set up in a corner of our spare room). I laid on my back on an exercise mat (under my favorite blanket with a sleep mask) and plugged earbuds into my phone. Then I hit play on Karen Brody’s Daring to Rest yoga nidra meditation and let her soothing guidance lull me into a state of deep rest—or as Karen puts it, a return to myself. If you’re not familiar with yoga nidra, it’s a meditative practice for entering one of the deepest states of relaxation imaginable. And you do it lying down.
I’m not a morning person, but getting up to lie down (ironic, right?) was lovely. The stillness of the early morning quickly became my friend.
For the first 15 days, I listened to the Rest Meditation (20 minutes) to shed physical exhaustion, followed by 15 days of the Release Meditation (30 minutes) to let go of limiting beliefs. The last 10 days consist of the Rise Meditation (40 minutes), allowing life purpose exhaustion to lift, so that you can hone in on your true-hearted desires. Every five days I read a chapter in the book itself, Daring to Rest, for insight into what I was experiencing and supportive practices.
Gradually these aspects of my life began to shift—providing a depth of experience new to me, and oh so, beautiful.
While my life became deeper and rosier, it was not until I went cold turkey for a few weeks that I realized just how powerful this rest cleanse was. I’ve always been someone who can go the distance, then neglect the sustaining part, like training for a half-marathon but not running for months after the race. And it’s so easy to fall back into old habits.
So now I’m learning how to translate this cleanse into an ongoing practice, for which Daring to Rest offers sound insights. My Rest Cave is an essential element. It’s not only a dedicated space for yoga nidra, but one for self-care in general—to journal, to listen to music, to just be.
Karen ends every yoga nidra meditation with the words, “Be good to yourself.” And in that spirit, I invite you to download her free Rest Cave Guide to create your own. And once you do, I dare you to rest and see what happens!
Christine Day has been a member of Sounds True’s sales and marketing team for more than five years and loves diving into our books on a personal level to learn both theory and practice. She also works on Sounds True’s children’s books and enjoys doing storytimes at her son’s elementary school.
Van Jones is a New York Times bestselling author, public speaker, and host of The Van Jones Show on CNN. This special edition of Insights at the Edge re-broadcasts Van’s powerful session from Sounds True’s Waking Up in the World online event. In this in-depth interview, Tami Simon speaks with Van about the necessary meeting between spiritual practice and social activism. They discuss the currently fraught political climate and why it’s essential for everyone to break out of their respective bubbles to engage with people with diverse views. At the same time, Van emphasizes the need to combat rising hate and why we all need to stay true to what we value most in life. Finally, Tami and Van talk about the possibility of broad societal change and how spiritual people can catalyze that movement. (66 minutes)
Tami’s Takeaway: Van Jones challenges people who drive hybrid cars, eat lots of kale, listen to NPR, and go to yoga classes (people like me!) to break out of what he calls our “resistance bubble.” This means connecting with people who live dramatically different lives, in different socio-economic circumstances, and with radically different political views and affiliations. When we do, we stop polarizing and congratulating ourselves on our progressive ideals and start building coalitions that lift up everyone, especially the people in greatest need.