By Tori Paige Koslow
There was a moment in my life where I became aware of the quality of my thoughts. Not necessarily the idea that I had the proper structural anatomy that allowed me to observe something and then have a reaction, but more so the recognition that the things that crossed my mind were separate from who I am, my soul, my purpose. I believe it was a culmination of the strong yoga teachers that I surrounded myself with who helped me shape my meditation practices, together with a collection of powerful books I was recommended to read, that led me to this realization.
I have always been turned on by philosophical thinking. I remember how it felt as a child to be surrounded by intellectuals discussing something of interest. While this newfound awareness seemed to be the climatic point of my spiritual enlightenment, I realized after a seemingly long period of focusing on self-growth, it was, rather, the tough beginning of a long journey and not in fact the climax. From this moment on, I knew that I had a much larger commitment to make: leading from a place of love & compassion whenever possible and holding myself accountable to being the best version of myself. This sometimes feels heavy, like a sudden load of responsibility has been dumped upon me. It can also be a true gift. In a way, I often feel like the lens I choose to see the world through differs greatly from those around me. Every opportunity seems like a teaching moment now.
I am constantly asking myself: What is my role here? How can I help improve the lives of others? How can I improve my own life? How can I avoid resorting to the old way of thinking which may seem easier, more comfortable and less effort?
Frank Ostaseski writes in his book The Five Invitations to “welcome everything and push away nothing.” In our day to day lives, we are constantly choosing to be accepting or not accepting of things. Ostaseski suggests that this choice is not necessary. We do not need to hold the responsibility of deciding what is okay and not okay. When we disagree with something we do not like or decide to label it as ‘bad,’ we create an opportunity to transform this disagreement as a negative expression or even worse, storing it mentally or symptomatically. As a scientist, I can’t help but draw similarities to the first law of thermodynamics which teaches us that energy is neither created nor destroyed, it simply changes form. It is this foundational knowledge that has led me to more mindful thinking.
How can I reshape the quality of my thoughts from negative to positive?
When I am actively working on shifting my mindset, I imagine a seesaw that is not connected to the Earth, but free to make a full 360-degree rotation. There are no sides to lean towards. Neither up or down. The simple belief that I have the power to change my mindset answers this question.
In one way, I grew up in a very privileged home surrounded by an abundance of positive memories, valuable lessons, and a variety of experiences meeting diverse people from cultures different from my own. I also suffered from immense sadness and frustration, unable to understand my role as the youngest child of three within a chaotic family dynamic that came with new challenges on a daily basis. In an effort to heal some of the emotional trauma that I experienced, I began reading No Bad Parts by Richard Schwartz. In his book, Schwartz describes how his model of psychotherapy, Internal Family Systems, helps to recognize parts of yourself as just that – parts, and not the whole. I gained an awareness of the subpersonalities that I had developed to fend against what I perceived as dangerous. Understanding these parts of who I am that protected me from outside influences enabled me to shift my perspective drastically. I learned to perform IFS therapy on myself, targeting the protectors that I developed as a child to become comfortable with letting my guard down. Slowly, I began to alter the lens I use to look back on my childhood. I worked through forgiving my parents and accepting them for who they are and as a result, I now feel a tremendous sense of freedom.
A wise teacher once told me ‘love is a small word with a large expectation.’ This statement was an immediate jolt to my system as I heard it around the same time that I was actively reflecting on the loving relationships in my life with the intention of separating love from attachment. Loving another and attaching to them is a part of the human condition. But what happens when this attachment draws out unwanted feelings of hatred, jealousy, and envy?
How do we move past the limited nature of the ego so that we can love unconditionally?
My fascination with doing self-work continued to deepen so I decided to dive head first into the world of transpersonal psychology, a field of knowledge concerned with humans reaching their fullest potential while recognizing transcendent states of consciousness. Transpersonal experiences are those in which we aim to extend our understanding of life beyond the mundane routine that we become so used to. Tapping into altered states of consciousness and transforming our emotions can help us gain perspective on our role in this body, and what may lie beyond. I began to actively practice the following: service & generosity, redirecting motivation, transforming emotions, loving ethically, developing concentration, refining awareness, and cultivating wisdom – each day choosing a theme as my intention and striving to focus all of my efforts towards improvement.
Through exploring these practices, I have come to understand many aspects of life and reshape my values and belief systems. While my only living grandparent was in and out of the hospital, I searched for resources that could help prepare myself for the process of grieving. I tried to understand coping skills and ways in which I was taught to view death but did not identify any of them as helpful at all. Rather, I found comfort in understanding that everything in this world is impermanent. Really, try and think of something that will last forever. Every moment is fleeting, every life is precious, and each moment is there until it is no longer. We are constantly in flux, trying to balance the parts of our lives that we believe should stay how they are and the things that we are okay with changing.
But what happens when we are not ready for change?
In physics, conductors are materials that allow electricity to flow freely – current is the free flow of electrons and resistance is a force that counteracts the flow of electrons. If resistance is too high, the conductor can overheat or corrode. Just as electricity needs a conductor to flow through, so do all of the wanted and unwanted experiences and moments of our lives. Our bodies are vessels, conductors of electricity with which we travel through life. If all experiences and moments can be acknowledged equally and processed, then they can flow freely through our vessel, avoiding any build up of energy in the form of heat. However, if we resist what we do not like, there will be a buildup of excess clutter that can cause our vessel to be overwhelmed and burnt out.
How does the perception of yourself encourage authenticity?
I am currently doing the constant work to find equilibrium on my seesaw. There is a delicate balance between experiencing the raw events in our lives coupled with the natural reactions that come with them and having the awareness to shift our perspective back to the middle. I find myself leaning towards a non-dualistic philosophy. Non-duality suggests that our True Self is our consciousness and that we already have all that we need, purely because we are conscious. I have adopted this belief system so that I can steer my intentions towards love, compassion, happiness, and peace. If I shift too much to either side, I risk one of two things: allowing my ego to take over the driving seat, losing touch with my True Self, or what some may suggest is worse, spiritually bypassing my life by complacently using my spiritual practices to avoid confronting uncomfortable situations. As I continue the work to find my own balance, I encourage others to do the same. While it may be difficult, the journey into finding your True Self is ultimately the most rewarding way to go through life.
A Miami Beach local, long-term student of yoga and strong proponent for tapping into your inner-child, Tori attempts to live life daily through a filter of love and compassion. Recently discovering how to integrate mindfulness into any topic, as a Middle School Science Teacher, she encounters plenty of opportunities to engage in thought-provoking conversations. Her passion for bringing happiness to others, and willingness to socialize with strangers, is what draws so many diverse people into her circle. Through her own journey of spiritual enlightenment, she has learned to heal a wide array of emotional trauma and grow a sincere appreciation for life.
She has a Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry & Photography from The University of Miami. Whenever she can, she enjoys taking part in community events, exercising on the boardwalk, snorkeling the coral reefs and enjoying a day at the park.
- Books read and lessons learned
- Welcome everything, push away nothing
- Hope vs. Expectation
- Approach of love & compassion
- Acceptance of Parents
- Love is a small word with a large expectation
Tori’s Recommended Books
Only Love Is Real by Brian Weiss
The Body Keeps The Score by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk
The Five Invitations by Frank Ostaseski
No Bad Parts by Richard Schwartz