Far too many days of my life were spent trapped in a self-made prison. Over the course of my childhood, I constructed an invisible cell in an attempt to find safety and to create some sense of lovability. Its convoluted promise of belonging and connection kept me clinging to my prison for a false guarantee of enoughness. But the more I gripped the prison bars of conditioned misbeliefs and habits, the less connected and loveable I felt.
Feeling small and powerless, I eventually forgot there was more to myself than the limited expression of my conditioned self, an accumulation of learned ideas, behaviors, and patterns that influence my ego identity. Although I longed to feel free and expansive, I didn’t know that I could transform in a way that would dissolve the barriers of my self-imposed confinement.
Desperate to find my way out, I started to map out the darkest and most desolate corners of my mind. My mentor suggested that every time I had a thought that was built of self-loathing, judgment, insecurities, and so on, I was to write it down. I was unsure how tracking my painful thoughts would help to free myself from these thoughts, but I trusted my mentor and I did as she instructed. About halfway through the day, I touched a place of empowerment that surprised me. If my thoughts were causing my suffering, I reasoned, then I could actively choose different thoughts and change my emotional state.
Over the course of the next few days, I sat in meditation for several hours a day, greeting my mental and emotional pain with awareness and curiosity. At the time, I was a yoga instructor and an undergrad in psychology, and my mom had introduced me to transcendental meditation at the age of six. Although I was practiced in mindfulness meditation, I had never used it to explore my own pain. As I created more internal space around my pain, seemingly out of nowhere, a glimmer of light appeared deep within. My eyes were closed, and down in my belly the light grew brighter and brighter. I wept with joy, comforted by this deep remembering of the core of my being. Without any effort, the bars of my cage seemed to dissolve into nothingness and I felt free and infinite. I was exhilarated by the felt sense of my True Self, the part of me that is untouched by the experiences I’ve had in this life and my spontaneous expression of being alive.
I thought I had finally discovered how to be free of the prison of my conditioned self, but I soon learned that living and loving from the True Self is not a fixed state of being. It’s been over 23 years since I awoke to the light of my True Self, and I realize now that momentarily accessing a state of awake awareness is not the same as embodying awake awareness as a developmental stage.
As a psychotherapist and professor of transpersonal counseling, I believe that the practice of embodying awake awareness begins with self-love and self-compassion. The moment we bring awareness to any part of us that is hurting, that is oppressive, or is otherwise perpetuating the illusion of separateness, we begin to differentiate from our conditioned self. At will, we can shift into the essence of our True Self through loving awareness. The more able we are to welcome all of the layers of our human experience with awareness, the more choice we have around how we want to move and express ourselves in the world. Ultimately, the things we do and say matter less than the place inside from which we act and speak.
When our choices and movements come from the habitual expression of our conditioned self, our True Self stays silenced and hidden. The learned thoughts, habits, and actions that comprise the conditioned self are in large part adaptive strategies that were intended to secure our safety. We were wise to try to find ways to create stability and balance in the field we existed within. However, once the conditioned patterns became part of our personality, the strategies were no longer adaptive. Instead, they prevented us from being truly present with life.
All humans are biologically wired to seek safety, love, and acceptance. When we perceive a compromise in these needs, our strategies emerge as a way to ensure that we get those needs met. On an unconscious level, in childhood we were looking to our caregivers as “God” as we unknowingly built barriers around our most authentic Self to try to get our needs met by them.
When we are out of alignment with our Self, we see the people around us as separate others and rely on our adaptive strategies to try to earn their love, find approval, and create safety. Essentially, we are looking at them as “God” or we are playing “God” as we try to control them.
When we bring awake awareness to our triggers, we begin to create a secure attachment with our True Self, giving ourselves the thing we’ve always longed for. Reconnecting with the Source of love, safety, and belonging that always exists within us, we can see the people in our lives as divine beings, where we are all whole and interconnected.
Staying open and curious to our own emerging sense of self, we allow life to express itself through us in a way that is aligned with the truth of who we are. When our thoughts, feelings, and actions are congruent with life force energy, we are better able to use our sensitivities to attune to the sacred essence of those around us. When we notice manipulation, defenses, or projections, emerging within ourselves, we can regulate our nervous system in such a way that we do not follow the impulse of those strategies. In practicing this, we create an internal environment where the expression of life moves through us undistorted, and we are fully present with the world around us. This is what it means to be ‘in alignment.’
When I realized that my conditioned patterns were predictable, I could begin to unlearn what the world had taught me about myself. The theme of my adaptive strategies were consistent, making it easier to spot them when they entered my mind. I continue to be in the practice of claiming my own shadow, looking courageously at my own blindspots and unconscious motives. I am rigorously honest with myself about where my sense of safety was seated, and I regulate my nervous system when I feel unsafe. I continually cultivate a secure attachment with my Self as Source, offering my inner young one the attention, love, and safety she had always longed for. As I emerge in my alignment with the Source of life, I remember that the world around me is a holographic expression of my inner world. Seeing the people and events around me as a sacred reflection, I discover over and over again that I am a sovereign being who is a conscious co-creator of life.
I believe that transformation happens in the real-time moments of life when we choose to do the different, truer thing. While meditation and psychotherapy are wonderful places to cultivate awareness, the deep repair that we feel in our whole system when we actively create a new way to be with ourselves and the world is where true change emerges. To be in alignment with life requires us to release the illusion of separateness and move in a way that our thoughts, feelings, and actions are congruent with the truth of who we are. In each moment, we can begin again.
Align is a book that will guide you back to yourself and into connection with others.
There is a fundamental core within each of us where our true nature resides. Our learned patterns of relating to ourselves and the world cause us to get pulled off our center, coming out of alignment with our True Self. While these conditioned patterns were at one time useful, continuing to live from them prevents us from experiencing the ease and beauty of our own true nature.
In this remarkable exploration of the human condition, Harmony Kwiker provides a clear and comprehensive map to rediscovering how to live and love from the True Self, including how to come back to wholeness by accessing your subtle energy body, how to embody your alignment in all of your relationships and how to explore sexual intimacy in a sacred way.
Align is available from wherever books are sold.