THE THIRD WAY – LETTING LOVE LEAD

Are you familiar with the concept of CONFIRMATION BIAS? It is a new term to me, but one that has popped open a perception I had never considered into our individual and collective subconscious behavior. I first heard the term from a political pundit on television, during a discussion about fake news. Here is the definition from Wikipedia:

Confirmation bias, also called confirmatory bias or myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs.  

This is a REAL phenomenon, and not one that is just happening to “other people.” We are each extremely vulnerable to confirmation bias, especially given the plethora of information, both truthful and not, inflammatory and not, that is instantaneously available and pre-sorted via our search-engine “likes” and preferences.  Check your Facebook feed as a way to test your susceptibility. How much have you inadvertently filtered your feed’s algorithm so that the bulk of what you see is stuff with which you already agree? And if there are posts that slip through (let’s say there are some antagonistic political posts there because you haven’t yet unfollowed dear, old, misguided Aunt Betsy)…do you read them? If you do read them, (what is dear, old, misguided Aunt Betsy up to now?) are you already in oppositional stance, with blood pressure rising, before you’ve digested the first paragraph?

Fake news (and our willingness to buy into it and/or share it because it got our dander up and we want to pass that along) is a blatant example of confirmation bias that is pushing the “us and them” divide in America to its breaking point. And maybe that is a good thing. We are being made aware, and awareness….mindfulness…is ALWAYS a good thing, right?

I lead several spiritual writing groups each year called WRITING THROUGH THE HEART, in which we delicately dissect and then express in writing what is going on deep inside of us. During the election cycle, often what we discussed was the painful place in which we found ourselves as a country and in the world. The “us and them” divide has never felt so cavernous and impossible to bridge.  Not only do we feel a million miles apart in our opinions about how things are and how things should be, we are hair-triggered emotionally to become volatile the minute the subject comes up. Every single day our buttons are pushed so often that we don’t even realize the buttons are getting stuck in hot mode.

But when the heart is open and vulnerable, we are able to see that we need a THIRD WAY. This is the phrase that arose in one of our groups. A THIRD WAY is the non-dualistic, us-and-them-paradigm-busting position in which a brand new, creative point of view can be born; one that doesn’t belittle or negate “the other,” nor lock into the egoic position that “our way is the right way.” Both sides must disarm, drop our positions, and start over. No winners. No losers. It is an extremely vulnerable place, but one in which I believe miracles can occur.

Letting love lead – letting love supercede opinion – (from my admitted cognitive bias) is the guide-map to this Third Way. If we truly love Aunt Betsy, for example, then we must face and dismantle our confirmation bias that she is misguided, and really hear her, really respect her. This will take time, lots of it, because both Aunt Betsy and ourselves will inevitably fumble about, trying to get to the bottom of our hearts – out from under our slippery, subconscious biases, and free from our righteous, egoic positions.

Letting love lead can feel impossible and no doubt Pollyannaish (I’ve certainly been accused of this more than once)…and maybe it is. Maybe it is the Impossible Dream. All I know is I want to participate in more of this kind of discourse. I am done with the face-offs of pundits in angry debate, determined to “win” at any cost. I don’t believe any of them anymore, even the ones with which I “agree.”  Don’t we need to drop our righteousness altogether? Our pride is not just going before our fall, it is leading us straight to it.

I want a new way, a Third Way.

Taking A Lesson From the Past: The Peace Principle

 

 

freedom-riders

This famous 1963 photo of the Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in by Freedom Riders in Jackson, Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement was taken by my cousin-in-law, Fred Blackwell. The photo is hanging in galleries all over the world as emblematic of the essence of peaceful protest. You can look at this picture and be disgusted by the abusive, bullying mob, and it can inflame you. But you can also look at the young people at the counter sitting non-reactively, but resolutely, for the cause of desegregation, and be awed.

M.J. O’Brien, in his book We Shall Not Be Moved, credits this photo as being one of the pivotal moments in the Civil Rights Movement, when the rest of the world (and certainly the Washington powers-that-be) became emotionally captured, in a single snapshot, by the sheer humanity of it all. The courageous vulnerability, so beautifully illustrated in the photo, triggered an empathetic admiration that moved people, giving fire to the cause, and ultimately helping it to succeed.

I read somewhere that the Freedom Riders went through a kind of training, in which they prepared for just this sort of incident. They staged and rehearsed experiences of abuse – calling each other names, dumping food and other, more disgusting substances on each other, blowing cigarette smoke into each other’s faces, even slapping and pushing each other – so that, when the time came, they could keep their retaliatory desires in check. They were committed to peace just as doggedly as they were committed to change…and they practiced, practiced, practiced.

They were committed to peace just as doggedly as they  were committed to change…and they practiced, practiced, practiced.

In these current days of upheaval, I feel the need to keep those brave souls of the photo in mind. Our sit-ins may now be primarily on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other social media, but the commitment to peace, which requires courageous vulnerability, is our best bet for invoking an empathetic army of peaceful warriors – away from our current divisiveness and back toward a unified nation, and ultimately a unified world.

For me, that means practice, practice, practice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Touchable Ones are the Healed Ones

the-touchable-onesThis post is to highlight the work of Franciscan Priest Richard Rohr, who inspires me so much. His teachings function as a bridge for me between the Christian religion I was raised in and the broader, deeper spirituality I now embrace. His interpretation of Christian scripture moves way beyond what can feel like dogma to the timeless and timely profundity of Jesus’ teachings.  I want to share a blog piece of his with you verbatim, (below), with my brief comments about it.

I had an “aha” moment this morning, during my meditation and journaling time, when this paradox came alive: Surrendering mental control and/or understanding of an outcome (in this case, I was praying for a specific healing), while simultaneously fanning the flames of desire for healing is…vulnerable!

Vulnerability is the buzz word in spiritual circles lately. So much so, that it has already lost some of its vulnerability! And yet, I am experiencing a big dose of its depths as I realize what it means to LET GO. I think I had some hidden belief that letting go of the “how” somehow meant letting go of the wanting, too.

But the wanting without needing to understand the how, is what makes us vulnerable. And in our vulnerability we are touchable! By Grace. By the Miraculous. By God.

Here is Friar Richard’s blog piece. He says it so much better! If you like his work, you can follow him here.

Did you ever imagine that what we call “vulnerability” might just be the key to ongoing growth? In my experience, healthily vulnerable people use every occasion to expand, change, and grow. Yet it is a risky position to live undefended, in a kind of constant openness to the other—because it means others could sometimes actually wound us. Indeed, vulnera comes from the Latin for “to wound.” But only if we take this risk do we also allow the opposite possibility: the other might also gift us, free us, and even love us.

If and when we can live an honestly vulnerable life—the life we see mirrored in a God who is described as three persons perfectly handing themselves over, emptying themselves out, and then fully receiving what has been handed over—there will always be a centrifugal force flowing through, out, and beyond us. Then our spiritual life simply becomes “the imitation of God” (see Ephesians 5:1), as impossible as this sounds to our ordinary ears.

This, then, seems to be the work of the Spirit: to keep you vulnerable to life and love itself and to resist all that destroys the Life Flow. Notice that the major metaphors for the Spirit are always dynamic, energetic, and moving: elusive wind, descending dove, falling fire, and flowing water. Spirit-led people never stop growing and changing and recognizing the new moment of opportunity. How strange to think that so much of religion became worship of the status quo and a neurotic fear of failure. It does make sense, though, when we consider that the ego hates and fears change and failure.

What, then, is the path to holiness? It’s the same as the path to wholeness. And we are never “there” yet. We are always just in the river. Don’t try to push the river or make the river happen; it is already happening, and you cannot stop it. All you can do is recognize it, enjoy it, and ever more fully allow it to carry you.

As John O’Donohue put it:

I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding. [1]

This is the great surprise, and for some a disappointment: this divine Flow has very little to do with you. The Flow doesn’t have to do with you being perfect, right, belonging to the right group, or even understanding the Flow. Jesus never has any such checklist test before he heals someone. He just says, as it were, “Are you going to ask for or allow yourself to be touched? If so, let’s go!”

The touchable ones are the healed ones; it’s pretty much that simple. There’s no doctrinal or moral test whatsoever. Jesus doesn’t check if the people he heals are Jewish, gay, baptized, or in their first marriage. There’s only the one question, which he asks in various ways:

Do you want to be healed?

If the answer is a vulnerable, trusting one, the Flow always happens, and the person is always healed, usually on several levels. That is the real New Testament message, much more than miraculous medical cures.

Isn’t that great?  Have a blessed day, everyone. <3

The Reverie of Lack

Sorry

I love it when a turn of phrase flips my thinking on its ear. The Reverie of Lack does that for me. It is from Lynne Twist, in her book The Soul of Money. Here is the passage:

“For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is, “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is, “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of…We don’t have enough exercise. We don’t have enough work. We don’t have enough profits. We don’t have enough power. We don’t have enough wilderness. We don’t have enough weekends. Of course, we don’t have enough money – ever.

We’re not thin enough, we’re not smart enough, we’re not pretty enough or fit enough or educated or successful enough, or rich enough – ever. Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night our minds race with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to the reverie of lack…What begins as a simple expression of the hurried life, or even the challenged life, grows into the great justification for an unfulfilled life.”

I am guilty of this and have always been. I could be ashamed of admitting it, but I’ve come to learn that I am far from alone in this mindset,….that indeed we are all being programmed daily to believe in our lack, else what would commerce have to sell us? We NEED the new phone, car, shampoo, teeth whitener, food, drink, drug, diet, lottery ticket, injury attorney…to be happier, to be okay, to be competitive, to be desirable. Our lack is being drilled into us daily, so of course we are in a state of hypnosis or reverie. To the degree that we refuse to admit it and wrestle with it, is the degree to which the reverie has taken hold!

Power of Scarcity

And now, in this nasty political season, and in this righteously-commentative media chapter of our technological evolution, our LACK is all we hear about, not to mention the darkness of TV programming. We like to believe this is being thrust down our throats, but we hold the remotes, people! We watch because it is a match to something deep in our psyches that is starving.

I am something of a one-trick-pony in the topics I write about here, I realize. I write about waking up, and waking up more, and waking up more.  It is hard work and daily practice to wake up to our perceptions, to see the hypnosis into which we keep falling.

Several years ago, I wrote a poem about my own struggle with the hypnotic mindset of lack. Here it is:

THIRSTY IN A WATERFALL

Teeth clenched tight,
armpits leaking resentment,
I slog the dark rapids,
flawless, opiate.

The machinery has invested
all the way up to my throat:
a gas pump, a pipeline,
a shrewd refinery.

Faint in the downpour
I hear jubilance, joy;
the tinkling existence
of an alternate world,

and I finally go rabid,
mad hatter, bell tower,
a writhing wildling,
an implosion of spew.

Surely this must be hell,
the utter dark night,
walking in water
and thirsting to death.

So ultimately, this blog post is about gratitude – the practice of gratitude. We talk about it a lot, of course. We have talked about it so much that, like many profound ideas, it has lost its profundity. We say, “yeah, yeah,” and slough it off. You might be feeling that inwardly right this moment. I can feel it in myself. But what I know from past experience, and what I need to re-engage in a fierce way these days of dark hypnosis, is that gratitude practice is a reverie-buster, a hypnosis awakener. And it must be a practice, something we deliberately do every day, to create new neural pathways, a new way of thinking.

Here’s another passage from The Soul of Money:

“We each have the choice in any setting to step back and let go of the mind-set of scarcity. Once we let go of scarcity, we discover the surprising truth of sufficiency. By sufficiency, I don’t mean a quantity of anything. Sufficiency isn’t two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance. It isn’t a measure of barely enough or more than enough. Sufficiency isn’t an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough.

Sufficiency resides inside of each of us, and we can call it forward. It is a consciousness, an attention, an intentional choosing of the way we think about our circumstances.”

So today, this holiday weekend, I choose again to wake myself up from the dark, apocalyptic marathon. It feels like a crowbar is necessary sometimes to pry the lid off that trance, but we can do this!

I will leave you with this last thought from my friend Mimi Peak, who is a world-class Life Coach of Anthony Robbins’ inner circle. She said to me recently:

“People begin to decline when they no longer have a compelling future.”

I think that is just so profoundly true.  And here’s the thing: a compelling future can not be imagined from the dark reverie of lack.

Much love, everyone. I wish you joy this weekend, and as many moments of gratitude as you can touch.

 

The World is Too Much With Us

Wordsworth said it. I need not say more. Sometimes its just time to be quiet.

Just Say No

MiasmaWhen a word shows up on a billboard in a dream, it makes a pretty strong impression that you are supposed to pay attention. Last night this happened to me, and the word on the billboard was miasma.

In the dream, I said the word aloud as I read it from the billboard, and a dialogue began.

ME: Miasma?

VOICE: Miasma. You are in one. The whole world is in one.

ME: Well, I know the word. Its like a negative hypnosis, right?

VOICE: Yes, and more. Look it up when you wake up.

The conversation was much longer than this, but by the time I woke, it had already evaporated, like dreams do. I did remember to look up miasma, however. Here are some of the definitions:

mi-as-ma: a highly unpleasant or unhealthy smell or vapor; a vaporous exhalation formerly believed to cause disease;  an unwholesome or oppressive atmosphere; a contagious power that has an independent life of its own; a heavy cloud of something unpleasant or unhealthy; an influence or atmosphere that tends to deplete or corrupt.

Doesn’t it seem as though miasma is what we are experiencing every time we turn on the TV? I can feel it drop down like a dark, heavy cloud of negative energy, the minute the news comes on. Under that cloud, the view looks pretty bleak. The world at large is a mess. The world of politics is nauseating. And perfectly good people, people who don’t even realize they are doing it, are spewing venom and hopelessness!

We are caught in a web of negative energy that we must proactively dispel.

And that doesn’t mean putting a paper bag over our heads. It does mean refusing to be hypnotized by the rhetoric of fear and fury, though. And it does mean, snapping ourselves out of it when we catch ourselves pulled into the fog.

This morning, I drove out to the beach in an act of defiance against miasma. Making the stand to seek out beauty, to seek out joy – that, in and of itself, begins to break miasma’s hold. I was in a great mood before I even got to the ocean.

And I made a little video. I posted the raw footage on Facebook this morning from the beach, so you might have already seen it. But when I came home, I edited a couple of clips together and added some graphics and music to give it a little more zing.  Here it is! I hope you enjoy!

Learning to Smile Inside

Smiling Inside

Some of the most profound lessons in life are the simplest, and thus, the most often overlooked. We humans like to make things complicated, don’t we?

Quite a while back I read this quote from the very wise yet humble Vietnamese teacher Thich Nhat Hanh:

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile,
but sometimes your smile
can be the source of your joy.”

Smiling inside is a profound form of nourishment available in an instant, and completely free, but it seems so trite on the surface that we toss the concept away without giving it the chance to do its magic. I’m learning, though, that there is nothing trite about it.

For the past several weeks I’ve been wrestling with what felt like a river of dark emotions, with anger at the top of the flow, but with feelings of sadness, fear, and doubt gurgling underneath. As a sensitive and passionate person, I feel all emotion, both delicious and detrimental, pretty intensely. So when emotional storms arise, as they inevitably do in all of us, I go for quite a ride. But I’m a spiritual student, too, and I recognize emotional storms as great opportunities to learn and grow.

One of the many lessons that negative emotions offer is the opportunity to increase our compassion, both for others and for ourselves. We learn the importance of not becoming impulsively reactive and striking out, and we learn the value of not burying or denying what we feel, as a way to escape it. We come to understand that striking out and denying DO provide temporary relief from the painful emotion, but at the cost of reinforcing aggression and unconsciousness within ourselves. So we are taught to lean in to compassion instead.

What is that saying, though? “The distance between the head and the heart is a million miles,” or something like that. And in this case, the distance between the intellectual understanding of compassion and the ability to actually experience it in the midst of a locust swarm of negative thinking and feeling….well… that distance can feel galaxies apart.

So, how do we span the chasm? How do we move our focus from the sharp, spiky pain and reactivity of fight/flight…to a higher vibration of kindness and patience? There are many esoteric teachings on this, and I’ve been working with lots of them of late, but the one I’ve been experiencing over the past few days is Thich Nhat Hanh’s simple lesson.

I’m practicing smiling inside. Seriously!

Remember that old adage that it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown? I don’t know whether or not it is true, but the idea of it popped into my head during a yoga class a few days ago. We were being guided into relaxation, but my clenched jaw just would not let go. Smiling, though, became a way through my resistance. It was an action I could take, as opposed to a ceasing of action, sort of like massaging a cramped leg instead of telling it to stop cramping!

So I began to smile inside…to bring a smile to life in my mouth and cheeks and eyes. Wow. In the eyes I really felt it. And then I focused on letting the smile lift up into my beleaguered mind, and then down into my neck and shoulders and chest and tender heart. I carried it into all my organs and down my legs into my feet. My breath and my focus became a smile. And the more I physically smiled, the more the emotion of it grew.

The sensation was very subtle but palpable: a tiny sweetness, a softening. I didn’t experience it as a “lesson,” though, of course, it was. It was a small friendliness, not a cosmic, earth-shattering, orgasmic transformation, like we addictively seek. It was a few drops of rain on dry ground. But I felt it. And I knew I could develop this. I could make smiling inside into a drip system that could be sustenance.

Thich Nhat Hanh talks about “mothering” our anger, the way a mother soothes a crying child. A wise mother does not hand the crying child a brick and tell her to hit someone with it. Nor does she say, “Stop your damn crying. You have nothing to cry about.” A wise mother smiles at her child, soothes her, and helps her come back to herself.

A smile inside is like that. It is kindness in action, a simple, humble, instantaneous, small but significant action. Give it a try. If you can’t muster it toward yourself yet, or toward the person you think has made you angry (that’s a bigger leap than I’m suggesting as a starter)…find ANYTHING that makes you smile, (like the image of this precious baby, above) and let it. Then notice the mini-shift, the contrast, in your body, mind and spirit.

And I’ll be right there with you, practicing, practicing!

Sending each of you blessings from my heart!

 

 

 

Self-Aware or Self-Conscious: Which Are You?

Self-Consciousness vs
Self-awareness vs. self-consciousness. This is one of those semantic paradoxes we wordsmiths enjoy dissecting.

Some time ago, I had the jolting revelation of my self-consciousness around someone I admire, someone who has genuine, extra-sensory perception, and thus could feel into me and know my inner thoughts, even those I was unaware of having. She wasn’t “spying” on me or anything. I had GIVEN her permission to do this, as I was seeking her guidance in understanding myself better. (I’ve mentioned Diana Lang here before in a post or two. She is a brilliant empath, intuitive, and spiritual counselor here in Los Angeles).

After years of working with Diana and learning so much, I suppose I was finally ready to see this particular veil. I had long been aware that being looked at from the inside out, even by someone with the most loving eyes, someone to whom you have given permission, can be, well…intimidating! But somehow, I had not realized (duh) that I was self-conscious because of it. Nor did Diana ever use the word self-conscious. She used the word “closed.” She said my heart was closed.

“My heart is not closed!” my ego would assert, irritated, and I balked at the notion, claiming to be simply self-aware, objective. But over time, I began to recognize, to actually feel my closed heart, though outwardly I was smiling and saying all the right things. My ego had thrown up a sleek, gracious, smooth-talking, invisible-to-the-naked-eye defense, which she, the wily woman that she is, recognized, but that I couldn’t see myself. She kept reiterating, “This is just data, Angie, not judgment. Let it teach you.”

And, wow, has it taught me.

In mindfulness study, self-awareness is what we practice. We are learning to observe ourselves, to become awake to how our minds work, how our perceptions filter reality and drive our actions, and how our perceptions are influenced by a multiplicity of inputs, most of which are occurring subconsciously.  Over time, we learn to recognize our defense systems, even the sheerest and most seamless of them, and we learn we have the choice to let them go. It may take a lifetime to do, but we learn we can.

Self-consciousness, on the other hand, is a consumptive kind of self-awareness, one that is negative and implosive in nature. We are not seeing our “data.” We are being overwhelmed by inner questioning, self-criticism and comparison, to the point that our hearts are too full of this spew to be available to others. Our best-intentioned, egoic impersonation of heart may keep reaching out, but the reaching will be shallow and conflicted.

Mindful availability is a new term for me, one I learned from an article written by Sue Monk Kidd in her book of devotions, Firstlight. It is a term I am now using in my writing groups, encouraging not only mindful and heart-filled writing, but mindful and heart-filled listening to others’ writing.  The idea is to REALLY listen, to practice surrendering our own internal chatter (mostly self-critical and hyper-sensitive) in order to free up bandwidth to deeply hear and encourage the delicate, budding, heart-song of another, then feed back to them something authentically appreciative about what they wrote.

Each week, as we move around the circle and read, self-consciousness begins to gently thaw, and our hungry-to-be-known hearts begin to warm up and come forward. This is the greatest gift we can ever give anyone, our willingness to receive their hungry  hearts. And it is the greatest gift we will ever receive from someone else. A two-way blessing.

All week long Bruce Springsteen’s lyric “Everybody’s Got a Hungry Heart” has been playing in the background of my mind. I think it was there, calling this post forward. Self-consciousness tells us to be ashamed of our hungry-heartedness. Compassionate self-awareness tells us hungry-heartedness is the essence of our divine humanity. We are hungry to know and be known, to love and be loved, and to experience the richness of life we know deep inside we were put here to have. Nothing wrong with that! Nothing to be embarrassed by! Nothing to be defensive about!

And right there in our shared hunger, we can feed each other. It’s vulnerable. It’s raw. It’s real. And it’s as good as it gets!

Let My Epitaph Read…

amazement

Ya know, sometimes what I want to share is what SOMEONE ELSE has written! That is the case here. Not only do I want to share Mary Oliver’s poem “When Death Comes,” but I want to share Sue Monk Kidd’s commentary on it, and an Emily Dickinson quote within the commentary! The only thing I personally have to add, and this will make sense at the end, is: “Me, too!”

Here is an excerpt of Mary Oliver’s poem (please read the whole thing sometime):

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

And here is s Sue Monk Kidd essay from her book Firstlight, reacting to Oliver’s poem:

“Recently on the eve of my birthday a woman said to me with a completely serious face, ‘When I turn fifty, I want to become notorious.’

‘Notorious for what?’ I asked.

This seemed to throw her. ‘Well, I’m not sure,’ she said. “I haven’t gotten that far along with the idea.’

Becoming notorious for the sake of becoming notorious was a peculiar idea to me. Besides that, had she consulted a dictionary for the meaning of notorious? I went home and looked it up. It said, ‘Notorious – widely but infamously known or talked about.’

I couldn’t see the appeal. But after my conversation with the woman, practically against my will, I began to entertain a thought: What would I want to be notorious for at fifty?

I was still secretly working on it when a group of women gathered to help me celebrate my birthday. For our evening’s entertainment I brought out my book of Mary Oliver’s poems and suggested we take turns reading. As bemused glances were exchanged, it occurred to me if I did ever become notorious, it would not be for bacchanalian parties.

I read last, choosing a poem with the cheery title ‘When Death Comes.’ I read along unsuspecting till I got to a line in which Oliver writes about coming to the end and wanting to say that she has spent her life married to amazement.

Suddenly something unexpected happened to me. My throat tightened. My eyes filled. I don’t mean sad tears, but the kind that leak from something brimming.

I looked at the faces around the room. They seemed beautiful and shining to me. I glanced at a common white lily in a vase and honestly, the sight nearly wiped me out. It was that impertinently gorgeous. Out of nowhere, plain and simple objects were rising up to show off their flame. The divine, unnameable spark. I couldn’t think what to name the feeling except amazement at life. It was as if something fell from my eyes and I saw everything just as it is.

One second I was going along in a jaded marriage with life (because let’s face it, the intimacy can fade after a while if you don’t work on the relationship) when it rode in and swept me off my feet. I learned to be in love with life again. And I didn’t even know the romance had slipped.

‘Life is a spell so exquisite that everything conspires to break it,’ wrote Emily Dickinson. Somehow I’d begun moving through life on automatic pilot, half-seeing, half-here, abducted by the dreaded small stuff. But the evening of my party, I realized all over again: we will have a true and blissful marriage to life only to the extent we are aware.

So. That’s how I resolved the question about what I wished to become notorious for at fifty. Let it be for nothing more than harboring a wild amazement at life. Let it be for choking up at poetry and the sight of human faces. For falling into easy rapture over lilies and all the other run-of-the-mill marvels that make up life. Let me become notorious for going around with my bridal veil tossed back and my mouth saying I do. Renewing my vows with life. Every day. A hundred times a day.”

Me, too, Mary and Sue and Emily!  Me, too! Me, too! Can I get an Amen?

Finally Flowing Again!

I felt the flow come in strong this afternoon and couldn’t resist making another little video. The subject is Prayer… and Silliness! They CAN go together, believe it or not!

Blessings, everyone!

Six Impossible Things

Impossible2Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”    – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

This is my new spiritual practice each morning: I am committing myself to write six seemingly impossible things to believe in. Silly? Maybe, but I think not. I think the White Queen was on to something. More than ever, it seems to me, we need to wake up to the potency of our imaginations and harness that creative force for good.

It takes concentrated practice to retrain our imaginations away from worry, from herd thinking, from the entropy of negativity. This is hardly new news, but everyday we need to remind ourselves…to wake ourselves up! As a hypnotherapist, I am particularly attuned to the level of hypnosis we are all in, daily. Years ago, I stopped putting people into trance and refocused my energy into waking them from trance, myself included!

We joke about this – the trance of Facebook, the internet, television…the news! But its really no joking matter anymore. I’m firmly convinced that the reason Zombies and Vampires are such a trendy subject is that we relate to them so much. Metaphorically, they are us!

I just got back from a trip to the deep south, and once again saw so clearly how there are cultural trances as well. We buy into the mindsets of those around us, because we are relational creatures. Returning to California and to my home, I could literally feel the shift of one “galaxy” to another. (California is a cultural trance as well, Californians!) One of the characteristics of hypnosis is that it is so obvious from the outside in, but from the inside out it feels like reality!

Wake Up CallSo here’s another wake up call, people! You’ve probably had two or three others already this morning! Count yourself up and out of hypnosis! 1-2-3-4-5. Eyes open, wide awake!

And once awake, get creative! Get your imagination in gear! Don’t worry about how to do the impossible just yet. First, decide to do it! The how will then present itself, one step at a time. That is the magic of our spiritually creative inheritance.

NOTHING is impossible! Now let’s get busy!

Cowabunga, Baby: Getting Back on the Board

CowabungaHi, everyone. It has been weeks since I wrote or shot a video.  Because I started the year out with this big burst of FLOW energy, you might wonder what the heck happened. Did I fall off the wave? Absolutely! Did I get back on the board? Absolutely! Did I wipe out again? Absolutely!

That’s the energy of the world these days…extreme rides, crash-and-burns, recoveries. Even the most excellent energy “surfers” (of which I’m not yet one) come off the board. That’s how they know they are going for it! And if the waves are large enough (as they certainly have been) the tumble is as spectacular as the ride.

And here is another fun fact about FLOW: it can’t exist without its less popular twin, EBB.  Even if you are not plummeting in a news-worthy nose-dive, there still comes a time when the high-ride ends. Until the next one.

This is all obvious stuff I’m telling you, but in the metaphoric sense, we tend to think we have done something wrong if we are falling or ebbingAnd in truth, we might be spending too much time watching from the safe and sunny sand. Or conversely, we might be somewhat addicted to the adrenaline of wrestling with sharks. Those are worthy questions to ask, but we also need to remind ourselves that there are phases in flow. Energy, by its very nature, moves.

I am finishing a huge, six-week kitchen renovation, and it has been a wild ride, let me tell you, with multiple highs and lows. From budgeting and design deliberations… to ripping out and building back. From household chaos, noise, dust, fumes and family stress…to delicious, delightful transformation. From power-brokering with contractor and crew…to finding balance and acceptance with my own, often overwrought, perfectionistic vision and the real-world of compromise and letting go. But I built something. I built something beautiful.

Today, it’s gray and moody here in sunny, southern California. Rain is in the forecast. And there’s no one in the house but me for a couple more hours. Writing weather! So here I am, paddling out, getting back on the writing board.  It’s not a big one, but I’m in the water!!!

Gnarly, dude!

 

WRITING FROM THE HEART WORKSHOP

Hello, my friends.  There are TWO last minute openings in a writing group I facilitate at a San Fernando Valley Family Resource Center called Friends of the Family.  Because this is a charitable organization,  the course is offered FREE,  and it is a powerful, if I do say so myself! The first group was so well received, it has continued on privately beyond the 7-week offering.

This new class begins THIS TUESDAY, February 2, from 12 – 1:30pm, so if you are interested, let me know asap!  Here is the information:

Flyer Art 2
WRITING FROM THE HEART
– This is an introductory, 7-week writing group designed to help you get in touch with your intuition and creativity in a playful, supportive, non-judgmental atmosphere. Operating from the principle that everyone is creative by birthright, we will explore one of our primary creative processes – self-expression through language.

Working with our imaginations, dreams, memories, imagery, sounds and other sensory stimuli, we will play with words as a form of personal archaeology – coming to discover within ourselves a treasure trove we might not have known was there. We will learn how to listen to the voice of the heart, and how to encourage the heart’s expression in others, developing greater self-love, self-trust and personal empowerment in the process.

There will be both discussion and lots of writing exercises, as well as opportunity to share your work with the group, if you so desire.

FACILITATOR
Angela Hite is a writer, producer, hypnotherapist, spiritual blogger, and businesswoman. A published poet, she is currently editing a book of poetry for 2016 release and writing a novel. You can follow her blog at www.angelahite.com.

 

 

Meditation on My Desk

Angie's Desk 2I have finally gotten my poetry mind cranked up again. It has been asleep for a few months. Here is my first attempt of the new year. Blessings!

MEDITATION ON MY DESK

Water bottle, half full,
sitting warm for a week,
water for profit in industrial plastic.

There’s a micro-angst-gnat in this one impression,
chomping down on my brain,
one of thousands in the dark.

Reading glasses splayed,
bent, scratched, and chewed.
Need new ones, stronger ones, alas. Alas.

My cell phone, all smudged,
its black face beckoning,
“Wake me up, wake me up! Run away, run away!”

Stacks of mail, pulsing tedium,
these time-suckers, tree-robbers,
solicitors, thieves!

Dust on the keyboard, dust on the monitor,
another gnat-chastisement. Wow.
I can nosedive dark!

What a huge lesson, in this simple observing!
I will stop right now.
I’ll aright this ship.

Laura’s peace candle, alight and full of her,
touching my mind with her beautiful face.
Oh, Laura, thank you, for injecting the love!

A gift, a book, this one from Jamie,
another sweet sister
walking me home.

I am so lucky. So very lucky!
Let that be front burner!
Let that eat the gnats!

I smile and bow, a micro-healing,
and the phone lights up,
and off I go.

© Copyright Angela Hite, 2016

Vlog #4 – Getting “Should” Out of Your Vocabulary

I’m not sure what has happened to me. It’s like an extrovert has crawled into my head and made a nest there. If you had told me a year ago, I would be making videos of myself and posting them on youtube, then blogging about it, I would say you were out of your mind! But here I am with Vlog #4, and I haven’t died from it yet. I actually get a kick out of the whole process.

One of the gifts of getting older (if we can embrace it) is getting one’s priorities sorted out. The freedom I have felt in the process of surrendering self-consciousness is really worth every drop of potential embarrassment that putting myself on screen could generate. And I’ve come to see that self-consciousness is just as much an ego-trip as being full of one’s self! Its just the miserable end of that spectrum! So I’m seeking and finding the Middle Way, on this subject of self-exposure, as in so many other ways in my life.

This video #4 is about getting around RESISTANCE. The method I’m experimenting with here has to do with cutting the word “should” from my vocabulary! That may sound too simplistic to be effective, but I’ve been doing this for several weeks now, and I have to say there is something to it.  “Should” is a FLOW-STOPPER! It has both desire and aversion all wrapped up in one word! The minute I say I should do anything, the chances of actually doing that thing drop to almost 0. The resistance slips in under the radar and stops me dead cold.

But by replacing “should” with “want” I have discovered that resistance has to make itself known, and it has to stand alone.  I WANT to be brave enough to make these videos!  I WANT to BE the change, not just wish for it, with regard to overcoming ageism and perfectionism and engaging a healthy ego in service to my creative spirit! I WANT these things, despite my resistance, which shows up in so many mean whispers in the ear, all basically boiling down to, “Who do you think you are?”

But as I say in the video…when we replace “I should” with “I want, despite my resistance,” we align ourselves with the “want,” and our oppositional alter-ego is moved to the other side of the room! We may still give in to it, but a habitual neuropathway is nevertheless being broken, and we stand a much better fighting chance in our next encounter. So that is my practice… in making these videos, in getting more exercise, in cutting back the carbs, in leaning in to vulnerability. I’m wanting these things, despite my resistance, and I’m thrilled to report that I’m actually having some victories over that sneaky, life-sucking voice! 😉

So next time you find yourself saying, “I should….” try replacing it with “I want,” and see if you can move resistance farther and farther away from your ear. Give it a try and get back to me!

Blessings, ya’ll.

Vlog 3 – Gratitude

Here is my third vlog, y’all.  Its’ raining in LA, and I’m feeling gratitude! I’m also dealing with some clogged drains, some window leaks, and  cold! But that’s life, isn’t it?  We get a sprinkling of the “good” and a sprinkling of the “bad.” But where do we put our focus?  I’m choosing gratitude today!

Blessings!

Vlog 2 – Letting Go of Perfectionism

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone.

I don’t usually post twice in one week, but since I posted my first video blog earlier in the week, I felt like I needed to do another one right away, so that it wouldn’t become an anomaly. Get back on the horse, in other words.  (The horse didn’t really throw me, but it was a scary ride. Thrilling but scary!)

Here’s my next one, still on the subject of FLOW!

Blessings!

 

My First Vlog

Check me out!  I’m getting braver! Today I was “told” by my intuition to make a video of myself about today’s spiritual practice (I’m usually behind the camera).  And to my own surprise, I said yes!

INTUITION is the topic for my writing group’s next six-week series, and it fits beautifully with my “soul word” for 2016, FLOW. (Each year at a beautiful winter Solstice ceremony here in Los Angeles, led by my friend and mentor, Diana Lang, we invite a word or idea to rise up in our awareness, which then becomes a spiritual theme for the year ahead. My word was flow, and I’m amazed at all that has already flowed my way since receiving it.)

FLOW does ask one to be adventurous, though! So here I go!

Blessings!

 

Bless This Mess

Snowman Candle

This photo is my inspiration and offering to you for today, Christmas Eve, 2015. The holiday season has been quite the challenge for me this year, as I hear it has been for so many.  During my meditation and reflection time this morning, I kept hearing the phrase…

“Bless This Mess.”

And so I blessed my messy house, blessed my messy mind, blessed my messy Christmas, blessed this messy world. And as I searched for an image to convey that desire – to love with all I’ve got, right where I am, to be as much of a LIGHT as I can muster….this little snowman candle caught my eye.

So I offer it to you, too! Let’s strike a match and SHINE together. When the mind is lit up, a smile is inevitable!

Love, love, love, love, love! ♥

 

 

 

 

 

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Christmas Nostalgia OneI’ve scratched my head for the last week, trying to find a topic I could write with genuine emotion on the subject of the holidays, and I’ve arrived at the feeling of nostalgia. Yesterday, despite my growing rebellion against commerce-driven, faux cheer, I joined the hustle and bustle of shopping and ended up in several antique stores, where, oh, wow, the nostalgia wafted from every pore!

Christmas Nostalgia SixAs I walked around covertly making photos with my iPhone, I really went down the rabbit hole of Christmas Past. I could practically feel the Silent Night, Holy Night seeping into my hungry heart, and I came home so grateful that I got a taste of that childlike tenderness again. My eyes fill up a little right now as I write about it.

 

Christmas Nostalgia TwoIn one of the shops I had an encounter with this beautiful and battered statue of Mary. Her eyes went right into me. I suppose I had fallen into a kind of hypnosis, what with all the artifacts of times gone by, and soft carols on the sound system, but I found myself completely caught in her gaze.  It was as if she were speaking with me through her eyes and marred face…encouraging me to yestouch with fondness those sweet, early memories, but more importantly, to use the nostalgia as an emotional stepping stone to embrace with my whole heart the precious now, dings, bruises, mileage and all…not to go numb and count the days till 2016, which I have to admit, has been my urge.

So I’m practicing…as I write this piece, and as I move forward through the remainder of the holidays…taking time to breathe all the way down, past and through the voices of resistance, chaos and habitual overwhelm to that holy place inside where magic and wonder are still alive and well.

I wish this for you too, during these last days of 2015…that you have a moment or two of reverence, of awe. Hug someone and feel them hug you back. Listen to sweet music and let it pour over you like rain. Walk outside in the dead of night and look  up at the majesty of the sky. As challenging as it may sometimes seem to experience, LOVE is right here, in THIS moment, in the most basic of things, ever available if we give it our attention.

Blessings.

Woman’s Work

Women Hold the World

A couple of weeks ago, my writing group worked with this ancient proverb as a jumpstarter:

When sleeping women wake, mountains move.

The pieces written that day by my fellow female writers were so beautiful. We felt ourselves as community – our vulnerabilities and strengths, our challenges with identity, value, and process in a patriarchal paradigm, our natural inclinations toward connection and cooperation, but also our secret insecurities, jealousies, anger, and competitiveness…the whole kit and caboodle of being a waking woman. We are indeed women waking! And I do believe mountains are on the move.

One of the things I felt that day and have been letting percolate ever since, is a new respect for the feminine power of understatement in this bombast-oriented world. Mountains can move one inch at a time, and there is something about that notion that needs more appreciation. We are a world of bombs and f-bombs, and those certainly grab our attention, but we are also a world of helping hands behind the scenes, humble hands, so many of which are female. One of our writers reminded us of another famous quote by Mao Zedong:

Women hold up half the sky.

I struggle, as does every woman I know, with making my mark on the world. Our societal norms demand extraordinariness from us to even justify our existence. Being called ordinary is an insult. So our average, daily lives, in which we have to make a living, make food, do laundry, pay bills, attend to family needs, etc., are subconsciously evaluated, at the end of the day, as being less than our potential. But most of those women holding up the sky would not qualify as extraordinary. And yet they are holding up the sky!

So I am writing this piece in praise of old-fashioned woman’s work. Not to diminish in any way our modern woman’s rights and liberties, for which I am deeply grateful, I also bow to the moms, the volunteers, the helpers. They are moving mountains an inch at a time, (which, if you think about it, is much less disruptive than the earthquake variety of movement), even though it won’t make the news or the best-seller list.

Women are waking, mountains are moving, and the sky is being held, in a quiet, understated, even ordinary way. That is worth noting and celebrating.

 

 

A New Shade of Holiday Blue

Holiday Blue

Can you feel it? This new shade of blue creeping in?

Holiday Blues are nothing new to many of us…those who have lost a significant other, those who are far from home, or those who just get caught in the web of commercial promise and are robbed of the joy by perfectionistic stress.

But there’s a new blue in town – the blue of precariousness, of global brink too huge to handle -shoved down in our psyche, because hey, what can we do? But shove as we may, the holidays ask something else of us – comfort and joy. And that leap might be…um…well… challenging. Sorrow over the mess of this world, frustration about our seeming helplessness, anxiety about where and when the next shoe will drop, are enormous seas of emotion floating under the surface of our political rage, which spews and crusts like lava on top.

And none of this might be conscious, as we sit at the table, fiddling with our forks. We might just know we feel bad, and then feel bad for feeling bad.

I wrote a poem recently called In the Twilight of An Epoch, and it is that blue, that twilight blue, that I’m trying to get at, here. Whether you think we are in the “end of days” or just at the end of an era, there is a collective grief we are wrestling with.

But it helps to name the blue, to look it straight in the eye. And honestly, we could use this “brinkness” to bring us more into the now, more deeply into this precious moment. We could go below our anger, down into the fear and sorrow and guilt (yes, we can feel guilt about our comparative abundance).

By letting ourselves actually touch that sea of pain, instead of using all our energy to hold it back, we might find a new surge of vitality to participate in hope – to feed a needy family, to volunteer in a soup kitchen, to give to charity, donate blood, write a letter to a soldier…a survivor…a congressman.

We are all in this together. That is becoming a stronger message than ever before, and it is the hidden beauty of the brink. This twilight blue can wake us up to the rich spectrum of love that is right here in front of us. In the end, nothing else really matters.

Blessings, everyone.

Hate is a Two-Way Poison

Oh, my, there is so much hate in our world! It is top of mind, of course, because of the shock of last week’s Paris terrorist attacks. But hate is boiling in so many people these days, on so many fronts, that we almost take it for granted…as if hate is normal…as if hate is just fine.

Those of us who are devoted to love as the only force of true change are often accused of being foolish, trite, lofty, or childish. We are considered Pollyannas spouting from ivory towers.

Many years ago, I had a profound dream, one in which an angel came to me and took me on an agonizing but illuminating  field trip.  He carried me to the scene of a violent rape in progress.  I heard, saw, and even smelled the graphic horror playing out in front of me, and I began to feel hate swell up in my chest. I wanted to kill the attacker!  I wanted to tear him limb from limb! But I couldn’t move. I could only witness. I  asked the angel, furiously, “Why did you bring me here?”

The angel waved his hand in the air in front of me, and suddenly I could see a new dimension – a thick, brown, vibrational ooze coming off the attacker and slithering across the ground toward me. It was as if I were a magnet drawing the rapist’s degenerate energy my way.

The angel spoke:  “This is what is meant by deliver us from evil,” he said. “Hate is a virulent infection. Love is both the inoculation and the antidote. Do what must be done to stop evil, to bring justice, to protect the innocent, but do so with love, else you, yourself, will become contaminated.”

I have never forgotten the message of this dream. It is far from Pollyannish to hold on to a sense of love in the face of hate’s potent pull, to allow anger its natural place, without hatred. There is nothing simplistic, trite or childish about it. As a matter of fact, it might just be THE HARDEST THING on the planet to do, requiring warrior-like resolve and a refinement of consciousness that can only be accomplished through a lifetime of prayer, meditation, and forgiveness.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies. Do good to those that persecute you.” It was a shocking idea then, and it still is today… and so seemingly impossible that few of us even try.

I am a long way from victorious on this subject, and I may never be. But I believe, with all my heart, that this is the mandate required to save the world, nevertheless; that the “loftiness” of love must be brought down to earth…in our hearts, in our minds, in our words, in our actions…both proactively, and responsively, in times like these.

 

To Get Where You Want to Go, You Must First Know Where You Are

Triangle of Awareness

What am I thinking? What emotions are present? What’s going on in my body? These are our most fundamental questions, and yet, how often do we actually stop and consider them?

In Mindfulness Practice this is called The Triangle of Awareness, and its simplicity belies its potency. Most of us recognize in theory the differences between a physical sensation in the body, a thought, and an emotion...

I have a headache…I’m thinking about my job review…I’m worried.

But in actuality it can be quite challenging to separate thoughts, emotions, and sensations, because they interweave and feed upon each other.  Which came first, the headache, the anxiety, or the thoughts about that upcoming review? And what about the compounding thoughts, the compounding emotions?

I’m embarrassed that I’m anxious; I’m too experienced to still feel this childish fear; I really don’t like my boss; I feel guilty that I don’t like him; but he doesn’t care about me; he’s not going to give me a raise; maybe I should quit; my neck hurts now, too; my whole body is a knot.

Plus, the sad truth is that we have been socially conditioned to override our self-looking, our self-knowing, as if we are being narcissistic in doing so.

I don’t have time for this! The review is in two hours, I’ve got to get my bullet points together! 

Yet how we are, physically, emotionally, and mentally will radically inform our actions in that job review and every other aspect of our lives. Doesn’t it make sense to start each day by taking the time  to look?

In Triangle of Awareness Practice, the goal is not only seeing, but sending kindness into our beleaguered minds and bodies, right where we are.

I’m angry and scared! My head is killing me, and I’m worried to death! There it is. That is the truth. I won’t pretend it isn’t true, and I won’t berate myself, tell myself to buck up. I will instead be gentle, be tender, be soothing. I will breathe and invite my body to let go as much as it can, forgive it for what tension it cannot yet release. I will embrace my messy humanity. I will remind myself that thoughts are fleeting, that I, the witness of my perceptions, have the power to choose different ones, that I’m learning how to do this, that I’m becoming more awake, more powerful, more likely to become my highest self, with every  practice session. And I will invite another emotion, the greatest emotion, LOVE, to be present in the midst of all these unpleasant feelings, like a giant lamp lighting up a dark room. 

This is a practice, not a pill. It won’t necessarily flow freely at first. It may be hard to even recognize what we’re feeling, thinking, or sensing, and when we do, it may feel as though the information brought to consciousness makes things worse, initially. We are all well-versed in the temporary benefits of denial and distraction, so the POWER OF NOW can also feel a little like the PAIN OF NOW. But I promise you, there is VALUE here. There is movement, fluidity, the pathway to where you want to go.

Blessings, dear friends.

 

 

Listen

Listen 2Remember the movie Contact, in which Jodi Foster’s character, Dr. Ellie Arroway, through fierce faith and will, makes contact with an alien species…and in the end, must simply bow to the mystery of it all? That film is chock full of spiritual metaphors, but the one that keeps reoccurring to me is the giant desert satellite array where she spends literally years simply listening… waiting

I recently watched an Oprah interview with Sufi mystic Llewellen Vaughan-Lee, in which he said something I found profound…

“The masculine side of love is, ‘I love you.’
The feminine side of love is, ‘I’m waiting for you. I’m longing for you.”

This is an aspect of the Divine Feminine I had not fully understood or appreciated until I heard Vaughan-Lee’s remark. In our patriarchal paradigm of value, based upon action-taking and busy-ness (business), is it any wonder we are so challenged in even recognizing, much less devoting serious energy and time to deep listening? To waiting?  To the tedious process of fine-tuning through all the chatter and static?

Far from a passive experience, there is great EFFORT involved in turning one’s full array of focus toward the sacred ethers of inner space and then staying there. There is a WILL to the process of surrender, a courage, a vulnerability that is so very hard to embrace or even describe, and yet …therein, as they say, lies the Mystery. Contact.

Blessings, all!

 

Lifting Up: I Just Know I Can Fly

Several years ago, I experienced a cluster of dreams, in which I was being schooled in the art of flying by illuminated beings. Angels? Aliens? Subconscious archetypes? Something I ate for dinner? I don’t know, but they were nice.

They showed me how to establish and have expectation around an intention, how to create a particular emotional state (lightness of being, of course), how to practice altering the downward thrust of gravity in my body (“as consciousness rises and becomes less dense, so does your body”), and then how to attune my hands’ sensitivity to the recognition of gravitational energy, so they could push against gravity the way magnets can repel each other. None of this was actually spoken by these beings. They simply conveyed the two-word thought:  “Lift up,” which went through my brain-filter in all it’s dense and detailed language and image processing.

In these dreams I also witnessed flight happening all around me. There were hundreds of us in the outdoor school, lifting a few feet off the ground, then gliding back down, then a few feet more, then back down. The more I saw,  the more I believed in the possibility.

As my sensitization to the feeling of gravity grew, my first awareness was that of my hands dragging through air, as if it had become the consistency of water. I could feel the weight and pulse of it, the texture of it. Of course, the air hadn’t changed.  My consciousness  had.

Pushing AirOver time (and through several dreams), I began to notice a shift from dragging through air to pushing it, the way magnets’ matching poles propel away from each other. And from there, I began to lift and direct myself into the sky, being filled with enthusiasm, then gripped by fear and doubt, which tumbled me back to earth. Eventually, I could sustain the joy long enough to hover around the tops of trees.

I would wake from these dreams and feel the experience so strongly in my body, that I would literally get out of bed in the middle of the night with the belief I could do this! I could “lift up!” Alas, I could not.

These nocturnal “lessons” all happened several years ago and then stopped, until the eve of my birthday this year. In this newest dream, I was no longer in school, and I’d forgotten I could fly. But due to an emergency in which I really needed to get some altitude (I’d lost my daughter at a theme park), I had the sudden recollection of my skill set and launched myself far above the treetops to scan the ground, like a hawk in search of dinner. I found my daughter and woke up, exhilarated.

We could have a field day with dream interpretation here, but the analysis, though compelling, was far less captivating to me than the actual physical sensation. I always woke up absolutely certain that physical flight as human beings is possible, because I had done it! I knew the sensation, like I knew the feeling of tossing a ball, climbing stairs, or swimming in a pool.

So, here is where my story shifts from dreamland to my backyard.  And no, I did not fly in my backyard.

On my birthday morning,  I was sitting on the patio with coffee and journal, writing about my flying dream, talking with Holy Spirit (my name for the Mystery) and asking (don’t laugh), “Is it indeed possible for humans to fly… for me to fly? We hear about yogis who can levitate. Am I, perhaps, being trained through dream work to do something my conscious mind wouldn’t necessarily be open to?”

I pondered and wrote, feeling sheepish, but nevertheless giving some effort to mentally lifting my butt from the seat cushions! After a very short amount of time, though, it became clear to me that no, I’m not yet schooled enough to lift these dense hips and thighs! But perhaps I could lift the leaf resting on a chair across from me? Ha! So I concentrated on the leaf, and within a couple of minutes the wind began to blow like crazy, and leaves began to fall from a nearby tree all over the patio. That one leaf on the chair, though, sat perfectly still.

It was pretty funny, as if Holy Spirit was teasing me, saying, “Seriously, honey.  We have a LOT more work to do, but I hear you, and I love you for trying!” My heart became so light I couldn’t stop giggling and feeling a true sense of connection with the wind, the trees, the falling leaves.  I was playing with Life, and Life was playing back! It was a perfect birthday present. This old girl still had some young girl in her!

I then heard inside my head, “Turn on your video recorder.” I immediately picked up my phone, zeroed in on that still-dead-still-leaf on the chair across from me, and waited. After fifteen seconds or so, the leaf bobbled. Just once…a little birthday bow.

Laugh, if you will, but I’m on to something.  I just know it!  😉

If you have flying dreams, too, please share! What a fun conversation (and maybe a classroom experience) we could have!

Blessings, everyone!

That Kiss

Moonlight through windowI go through these phases from time to time, where I feel as though something is pulling at my consciousness, whispering, “The veils are dropping, my dear. Just around this next bend; you are almost there.” Do you? Maybe its just me, but I think not. It’s just hard to put language to, that’s all. And its vulnerable.  And we have a love/hate relationship with vulnerability, even though we are collectively learning to lean in to it more and more…the stirring of the Divine Feminine. Rumi knew this place well. He expressed it so beautifully:

There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives,
the touch of Spirit on the body.

Seawater begs the pearl
to break its shell.

And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild Darling!

At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come
and press its face into mine.
Breathe into me.

Close the language-door,
and open the love-window.

The moon won’t use the door,
only the window.

-Rumi

In The Twilight Of An Epoch

Twilight Sky 3

Who knows the future?
Who knows, indeed.
Not even the angels,
we’ve always been told.

But I feel the stab
of our collective grief,
held at bay, held at bay,
swathed in cotton, held at bay,

for goodness’ sake,
for sanity’s sake,
for fear of drowning,
the end of the world.

This grief
of our twilight
is a rising sea.

We bob up for moments,
we students of Love.
But we are students, alas,
still learning to swim.

So Jesus, we call you,
and Buddha, too. And Allah
and Krishna and Tara and Kali,
not to burst through the clouds
to sweep us away,
but into our hearts
to sweep us clean.

Ground us in acceptance,
in full frontal knowing.
Dissolve our timidity into
Love’s massive courage.

Lift us, oh Wise Ones, into
Beings of Light,
our own hedge of protection
round this beautiful planet.

— Angela Hite —

Now.

Quiet MindThis morning, as I sat on my porch, coffee in hand, full of body aches and scattered ponderings, I opened one of my go-to books to settle me into meditation, and this poem was what I landed on:

Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.

This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
until now.

Until now.

-David Whyte

I looked out at the mountains and ever-changing sky display. I felt the cool, crisp air on my bare arms and noticed goosebumps arising. I listened to the chatter of songbirds and crows, the cars on the road, the plane overhead. I felt the burn of black coffee and the ungluing of my eyes. For a split second, it all came together, my beautiful, messy life. And I felt David Whyte’s poem down to my toes. I awoke. So really, what else is there to say?

Just this: I wish this for you, too. I send this to you now!

Riding the Waves of Flow

PerfectionismThe perfectionist fixes one line of a poem over and over – until no lines are right. The perfectionist redraws the chin line on a portrait until the paper tears. The perfectionist writes so many versions of Scene One that she never gets to the rest of the play. The perfectionist writes, paints, creates with one eye on her audience. Instead of enjoying the process, the perfectionist is constantly grading the results. The perfectionist has married the logic side of the brain. The critic reigns supreme in the perfectionist’s creative household.

-Julia Cameron, The Artists Way

Well, hell. That is me. No wonder writing, which I love with all my heart, can feel like such a chore! I’ve killed many a poem this way.

Yes, yes, I have known I am a perfectionist for a long time, and have worked for years to let it go. The fact that I put up a website at all is evidence that I have made some progress on that score! But the practice is ongoing, and something about those lines above cracked the shell a little bit more.

Maybe it’s the times. Maybe it is this constriction we have all been feeling, with pockets of relief that are so counter to the squeeze we feel we could fly. It’s a high/low time, that’s for sure.

For those of us who want to give Light, be Light, we’ve been coming up hard against the rocks in the river. At least that’s what’s happening in my circle. Is it happening to you? Are you feeling slammed in the fast current?

The message I’m getting this morning is to just let it go! Just be! Just write! Just ride! Just live! We can’t direct this thing, as much as our controlling selves want to. We can do our best to stay in the raft. And if we end up in the water, we can crawl back on board. And if we end up with a bump on the head from the tumble, we can let it scramble our brains a little. We need our brains scrambled.

So that’s it. That’s the message for today. Can you feel the shift in my tone? I’m giving it a try. Wide open. You might even find a typo here. Lord, help me.

Urgent? Or Important?

Urgency
“The Principle of Priority states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first.” – Stephen Pressfield

When I first read that quote I could feel a little bit of stress drain from my shoulder blades. Can you? As the world speeds up, and as our minds and bodies try to keep up, there is a growing urgency in the air, causing all kinds of reactivity in us and around us. Can you feel that, too?

I’ve written about this sensation before, calling it pressure, and it certainly is that. It’s also a free floating anxiety, a non-specific urgency…like the clock is ticking and the time is now. Now! But for what? What is the urgency? What is the pressure? If we don’t know what the urgency is about, how can we distinguish it from what is important?

Obviously on the social, political, economic, and environmental fronts, the clock IS ticking, and the clock feels like a time-bomb. The pulsing question so many of us are feeling, while the Talking Heads continue to rant back and forth is: what can we do? How do we keep our heads up, our hearts open, our optimism in place? What is our personal role in this brink? The energy is so thick lately, it seems hard to even place one foot in front of the other, to accomplish the most mundane things like emptying the dishwasher or getting bills paid on time. Overwhelm is the current lay of the land.

I do know what is important, though. And so do you. I wish there was a new word for it, a word that conveys the vast, penetrative feeling of positive possibility, the ever-fresh, alive, magical solution; a word that isn’t overused and misused so much that it has lost its potency…but the truth is the only word we have to describe the force within us that can drain away our reactivity… our radioactivity, our overwhelm…and diffuse the ticking bomb…is LOVE.

LOVE IS WHAT IS IMPORTANT. We know it. But we are in such a hurry, skittering across the volatile surface of life, that the depth and breadth and richness and calm within the experience of Love is dismissed or pushed aside, because we are in the trance of urgency. And we know that, too.

So let’s just take a minute to breathe, right here, right now. LOVE IS ALL WE NEED. From the surface hypnosis, it sounds like trite, Pollyannish pablum, I know. I’ve felt that feeling many times myself. But when the force of Love comes alive, and we get a glimpse through Love’s eyes, everything is possible. Nothing is impossible. Answers arrive. Magic appears. Energy is released. We just can’t hold it yet, that’s all. We lose our vision over and over again. Maybe that is the urgency we seekers feel. The urgency to stay plugged in.

So this is my prayer for us all today.  May we relax as best we can into the new rhythm of this consciousness evolution. May we trust the unfolding. May we allow ourselves to be rewired in love. May we remember what is important… and do that first.

 

The Open-Heart Payoff

Rain flyingIt is raining in Los Angeles today. It rained a good part of the night. The relief in the air is so palpable that I feel almost light enough to fly. This is the payoff of an open-heart.

We’ve been talking about open-heartedness a lot lately, and how much courage it takes to live that way. How Fierce Love means being willing to have your heart pierced again and again. And that is true.

But the flip-side of that courage and ferocity, is the ability to feel unadulterated, childlike abandon when JOY is the emotion coursing through your veins. And that is what today is like in LA for the open-hearted. It’s like Christmas morning for a three-year old. It’s like pancakes with pure maple syrup. It’s like Mommy and Daddy wrapping you in a warm, snuggly towel on the beach after playing in the ocean. It’s like that first kiss, the one that lights you up from head to toe.

I hope you are feeling all that this morning. And if you aren’t, love yourself right where you are! Feel what YOU feel! That is the gateway! Remember that post that was making its way around Facebook…the one that said truly accepting and forgiving your non-peace would transmute it into peace? Same thing!

Brené Brown talks about the vulnerability (that word again!) of joy, the counter-intuitive truth of how we hold ourselves back from joy because of unconscious guilt, unworthiness, and the knee-jerk fear that something bad will follow if we let ourselves be this wide open. I feel that tug to contain myself even as I write this! (Here is the link to a Brené Brown conversation with Oprah on that very thing, if you haven’t seen it or want a refresher).

But this morning my heart isDiamond Heart pulsing like a beacon…and I am sending you what I’m feeling. I know it is contagious, so let it pass through you (you might find yourself giggling!) and then let it flow on to your friends and loved ones. There is more than enough to go around. As a matter of fact, the more you send, the more you get. Today, right this minute, we can participate in a MASS healing!

Blessings, blessings, blessings, my friends!

 

Pressure!

The word “pressure” has been bubbling around in my thoughts for the last few weeks. Have you ever had that happen? A concept will invade your psyche and then show up everywhere, light bulbs popping right and left?

It feels to me as if pressure is the descriptor for the times, as if the world is ramping up exponentially, and we’re all feeling it in our bodies and psyches. Not all pressure is a bad thing, of course. It takes a certain amount of force to propel us through our resistance, and that is exactly what so many of us are doing…forging ahead through layers and layers of emotional muck we didn’t even know we had. Great things, magical things, are happening as a result, too.

But unexamined pressure creates anger, and this is what I want to talk about. I suppose this isn’t really new news, although something about that combination of words – pressure creates anger – literally leapt off the page at me when I recently read The Mindbody Prescription, Dr. John Sarno’s bestseller from many years ago. Anger is an emotion I, like many, struggle to consciously experience, because I’m so afraid of it. I don’t want to experience it, so I push it away. According to Sarno, anger that’s pushed away builds to become suppressed rage. And suppressed rage becomes physical illness…from back, neck and shoulder pain, to inflammation of all kinds, as well as digestive disorders, anxiety and depression. Pretty much any illness can be traced back, from Sarno’s perspective, to the unacknowledged pressure of being human…pressure placed upon us from without and from within.

Pressures from without seem more enormous than ever before. Worldwide economic, ecological, societal and political pressures are being pounded into our consciousness on a 24-hour news cycle, not to mention our own overwhelming personal challenges. How do we possibly examine all that? And then, of course, there are the subconscious, anger-inducing pressures from within: worry, self-criticism, guilt, fear, perfectionism, blame, and all kinds of stressful, negative thinking.

Early Sunday morning I got up and drove to the beach, with an aching back, a sore jaw from clenching my teeth during my sleep, and a mind overrun with thoughts, but determined to do something good for myself. As I made my way through the breathtaking, dawn-lit vistas of Malibu Canyon, the now iconic image of that little Syrian boy lying face down dead on another beach on the other side of the world flooded my psyche… and broke me in two. The juxtaposition of the agony and the ecstasy of this world, and the huge question of my responsibility to it, became so overwhelming in my heart that I just cried my eyes out all the way to the ocean. I can still feel it as I write this…the emotional surge that rises up in my throat, and the knee-jerk, intellectual tamping down of that feeling with all kinds of thinking instead – political thinking, blaming thinking, numbing thinking, even big-picture-wisdom thinking. That day, though, thinking of every stripe was washed out by the tidal wave of feeling that needed to happen.

I wonder if that is what we all need right now? Maybe what is trying to happen, what the pressure is all about is that our hearts are under pressure to break wide open, and we are scared to death to let them.

The Big SqueezeOne of my favorite Pema Chodron teachings is called The Big Squeeze: that realization on the spiritual path of the large gap between our spiritual ideals and the far less than ideal reality of our daily lives. It’s breakdown time, examination time, transmutation time. We look at ourselves, not with finger-pointing or throwing in the towel, but with great curiosity and compassion. We feel ourselves, including all the previously hidden parts, both ugly and beautiful. Who am I really? Not who I project myself to be, nor who I am striving to be, but who am I, right this minute? Am I worthy, just as I am? Can I stand in this squeeze, fall down and get up again, each time a little more fully awake and in love with this rich and raw human experience? Can I give over to the forging?

“It’s the rub between those two things – the squeeze between reality and vision – that causes us to grow up, to wake up to be 100 percent decent, alive, and compassionate. The big squeeze is one of the most productive places on the spiritual path and in particular on this journey of awakening the heart.” Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty.

Blessings, my friends. We are in this together. Let us hold each other tight.

 

 

Fierce Love

Fierce LoveLast week, at a meditation led by my friend and spiritual mentor Diana Lang, she talked with those of us gathered at her home about her favorite subject and ours – Love. Diana is an Energy-Sensitive, among her many gifts, and she could feel the shielding most of us had up that evening…subtle self-consciousness and/or judgments in one form or another. When we’re in a state of judgment (whether it is toward others or toward ourselves) we’re not aligned with Love; but as communal human beings we’re habituated to unconsciously evaluate ourselves along a comparative continuum (better than/less than those around us). Those judgments block the heart, and thus, the flow of Love.

So Diana talked to us about Love, fierce Love, which I would like to talk about, too. Fierce Love is the force that lights the universe, that keeps this world on axis, that can move mountains, that can move us! And God knows, we need that force now more than ever. But Fierce Love operates through an open heart, which means a vulnerable one, one that can get hurt again and again. Fierce Love is fired through the heart that is willing to stand exposed in the face of all that can come at it, all that will come at it. This was the heart of Jesus, and the heart he instructed us to have. It was also the heart of the Buddha, of Gandhi, of Martin Luther King. It is the heart of the Mother.

There’s an old country song entitled Love or Something Like It. We live a whole lot of our lives in the Something Like It category, because we love, but we cling to our judgments, and we protect our hearts. This is human nature. But our human evolution is now a spiritual one, an evolution of consciousness, and the force, the pulse of Love is calling us to become more courageously vulnerable, to be fierce in our commitment to first and foremost know that kind of Love, to receive that kind of Love.

Another wonderful song from a few decades ago is I Wanna Know What Love Is, sung with great passion by Lou Gramm and the band Foreigner. We’ve heard it a million times, maybe to the point that it feels corny, but I have it on my music playlist, and I listen to it as a prayer:

I wanna know what Love is!
I want you to show me!
I wanna feel what Love is!
I know you can show me!

Our egos are so clever in their defensive trickery. But we’re learning more and more to feel our way past the ego. When I start feeling a dryness in my heart, and I doubt my capacity to move even a molehill, much less a mountain, then I know I’m not in Love, not all the way in. There is more. There is always more to surrender.

So this is my prayer for myself and for you, too.  May we know what Love is!  May we open to its fierce flow so that we lead our lives chest out, wide open, expecting, witnessing, and wielding miracles! May we recognize and reject all the self-abusive, non-Love whispers of too old, too young, too tired, too unqualified, too cool, too whatever that block the channel. May the strength and the humility of Love comingle to deepen and enrich our understanding and expression. May we take in stride the pain of an open heart and grow in courage to keep it open anyway.  May we forgive everyone for everything, most especially ourselves.

Blessings, my friends.

Riding the Phoenix

PhoenixThe Phoenix symbol has been on my mind for the past couple of weeks. Several years ago, I had a vision, while working with a wonderful healer, of a great guardian angel who appeared like the Phoenix – a fierce and beautiful bird-woman, who stretched her bright wings out over my prone body. Her majestic presence in my imagination on that day helped me rise above a smallness I was wrestling with, and I have never forgotten her. She spoke not a word, but her being exuded a regal strength and a tender recognition of the fires we humans go through…of the fire I was in that particular day. Together, we burned something up, an old and decrepit wound.

The Phoenix is appearing in my inner world again these days, and I feel her fire. Perhaps you feel her, too…the sweeping energy of cleansing, the pockets of hardwood, charred but still resisting, or maybe you are standing knee deep in wasteland, uncertain, even hopeless that rebirth will come. My own experience in the last couple of weeks has been one of malaise, a thick, mental fog, which I now imagine was the smoke from months of burning.

But I am getting glimpses of a gangly little bird, half-hatched, and I’m catching an occasional breath of fresh air. My Phoenix is on the rise, thank God.

In the myth, Phoenix lives for 500 years or more before descending. My own experience of her life and death cycle is much more often, like great waves, and yet I forget again and again that whichever phase I’m in – the burning, the rising, the soaring – is only a phase; that it will not last, and I’ve not failed somehow by experiencing the flux.

So if you can relate to this metaphor and your Phoenix is on fire, do your best, my friend, to surrender. Let the burning in. If you’re lying prostrate in ash but can see a wobbly hatchling, reach out and nourish, cherish this precious thing. And if your Phoenix is full and flying, if you are strong and supple and soaring above the clouds… enjoy, dear one, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy the ride!

 

Thymus Thumping…What?

Your ThymusOkay, in the spirit of sharing a new find, I have one for you today. I just discovered a sort of bizarre-sounding but quite effective energy-and-mood boosting technique called Thymus Thumping. I know it sounds a little cuckoo, but stay with me.

Several days ago, when I woke feeling tired and irritable from not having slept well, I checked my phone (yes, I do that sometimes before I even get out of bed, I guiltily admit), and there was an email from an energy healer whose website I follow. (Her name is Deborah King. You can check out her website here.

In her email, she talked about the thymus gland and how tapping it can open up the body’s energy. I had just prayed for a little help in that regard, so the information sort of leaped out at me. And being the researcher that I am, I googled and discovered a plethora of “thymus thumping” information from healers around the world!

The thymus, part of the endocrine system, is a small gland in the center of the chest between the heart and the throat.  If you touch your chest about an inch or so below the hollow of your throat you might be able to feel it.  I can feel mine. It’s a thin, raised pad about an inch wide. When we are babies it is much bigger, providing immune protection, but as we get older it shrinks away.  According to this information, by tapping or thumping it, we can stimulate it and even grow it back!

Thymus TapBehaviorial Kinesiologist Dr. John Diamond introduced the Thymus Thump way back in 1978 with his classic book, The Body Doesn’t Lie.  The original technique was to close your fist and thump on your chest, (think Tarzan) while exhaling “ha-ha-ha.” Deborah King and various kinesiologists suggest using your fingertips to firmly tap the chest. This is how I have been doing it. By stimulating the thymus, the immune system is strengthened, and energy is released. (The word thymus comes from the Greek thymos, which means “life force.”)

I’ve been doing this first thing each morning, and throughout the day when I need a little boost, and I have to say, I feel it! After three or four minutes of tapping my chest, I do feel better! Give it a try and let me know your experience.

And just for a laugh, here is that very funny scene from The Wolf of Wall Street, in which Matthew McConaughy does a little thymus thumping himself. (Apparently this was added to the movie when Leonardo DiCaprio saw McConaughy doing it as a warm-up for the scene. DiCaprio asked him what that was about, and McConaughy replied that he just always thumped his chest as a relaxing and focusing technique. (I guess he didn’t know there was a name for it!)

Blessings, y’all.

 

 

Longing, Belonging and Freedom

ListenIntuitives have been talking lately about the cleansing energy that has been blasting through our inner lives over the past weeks and months. Old stuff, ancient stuff is rising up and being blown about. The corners are being swept. That has certainly been true for me. I don’t have a handle on this newest revelation yet, so my writing about it may feel jumbled, unclear, but I am coming to you live from inner space, and here is what it looks like at the moment.

Crestview2I just returned home from a week-long trip down south, my birthplace. While there visiting with my family, I also looked at a piece of property that literally wept with nostalgia – thirteen acres of pasture, forest, private lake, barn (complete with a tractor and two horses), and a ramshackle house that was begging for love, my love…the kind of treasure completely out of reach here in California. This place got under my skin, as well as my husband’s and daughter’s…so much so that if the house hadn’t needed quite so much attention, we would be ranch owners right now.

So my visit was thrown into a tailspin of pondering. Could we relocate back to my Mississippi roots, after almost forty years in the liberal, urban sprawl of Los Angeles? Could we embrace the idyllic geography, spend the next and final years looking at the stars, listening to the crickets, catching fish and growing vegetables, feeling the deep belonging of brothers and cousins, nieces and nephews, and old high school friends who knew me when? Could our wide-world mindset find its place in the old-world leanings of the south? Could we survive the heat and humidity? 😉

Oh, how I struggle when I go back there! My mom is in her latter years, and it hurts to witness her decline, experience the tenderness between us, then say goodbye each visit. It hurts to connect with my brothers and their children, feel that potent pull of belonging, then depart. But then I arrive back at LAX…and there is something in the air that feels good. Really good. It smells like jet fuel, it looks like concrete and cars and palm trees, but it feels like freedom. I can breathe deeply here in the City of Angels.

I’ve been reading another John O’Donohue book. This one is called Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on our Yearning to Belong. The timing could not be more perfect. And the corners that are getting swept, the ancient stuff that is coming up for me to heal, is another piece of self-acceptance: accepting this throb in the center of my chest that pulses so intensely it hurts. This yearning heart, which often embarrasses me, is my life-force, my very best feature!

I’m also being asked to look at the continuum of belonging and freedom, and embrace the fluctuating position I find myself in along that continuum.  Pure belonging is impossible without the sacrifice of individuality, the gift of freedom. Pure freedom is a lonely, lonely place.  I had never thought about this before, about the dynamism of these twin calls in our lives, and our negotiation of those energies. Somehow, naming them helps me dance instead of wrestle between, even as the as-yet-unknown future unfurls.

Here is a lovely blessing by O’Donohue that I offer as prayer for myself and for you, as you, too, are blown about in your own winds of change:

May you listen to your longing to be free.
May the frames of your belonging be large enough for the dreams of your soul.
May you arise each day with a voice of blessing whispering in your heart that something good is going to happen to you.
May you find a harmony between your soul and your life.
May the mansion of your soul never become a haunted place.
May you know the eternal longing which lives at the heart of time.
May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.
May you never place walls between the light and yourself.
May your angel free you from the prisons of guilt, fear, disappointment, and despair.
May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world to gather you, mind you, and embrace you in belonging.

–John O’Donohue

 

Hello, Darkness

Real BeautyHello darkness my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted
In my brain still remains
Within the sound of silence
             – Paul Simon, The Sound of Silence

This song has been in my head for the last couple of days. I read that Paul Simon wrote these opening lines in his bathroom with the lights off. He liked the acoustics the tiled walls created, and he composed in the dark because it helped him to focus, to reach in and call up what was wanting to come out.

This verse feels like a metaphor for the times right now. Both inwardly and outwardly, the dark is presenting itself in strong force, and we are being called to engage with it.

Hello darkness my old friend…

Often we push aside our own darkness by focusing on it in others. Just as often, we sense our shadows but are so terrified of them, that we become obsessively active in the outer world to avoid them. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” But we can’t truly be the light if we remain terrified of the dark.

I’ve come to talk with you again…

Looking inward can bring us to our knees sometimes. The inner world is a dark space that we bring the light of our consciousness to. If we are feeling low in light (the world has a way of making us question just  how bright we are) then the inner terrain can feel dark indeed. But it is in those bleak spaces that our light can awaken.

Celtic priest and poet John O’Donohue says,

“In the neglected crevices and corners of your evaded solitude, you will find the treasure that you have always sought elsewhere.”

We evade that deep solitude (the kind that isn’t just removing ourselves from social interaction for awhile, but turning inward to the profound unknown) out of fear. So it takes great courage to go into the dark, for we don’t want to face what is waiting there. We find in those “crevices and corners” beastly buried fears, shames and wounds. This is hard to look at! But the more we train ourselves to look with light, those creatures morph right before our eyes. Frogs become princes. Demons become angels. And we discover the true treasure down there: our own divinity, our own light, our own beating heart of love.

Here is a poem I wrote several years ago, when the darkness pulled at me so strongly and taught me its beauty.

THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK
…and other such excuses
just won’t cut it today.Jellyfish
Today, there is a window into deeper worlds
cocooned in the fog,
and I don’t want to miss it
quibbling over trivia
or splashing about in shallow waters.
I don’t want to get snagged by duty right now.
 
I want to dive down,
be carried down,
down with the currents
into the black dark grappling
where creatures who’ve learned self-luminescence
will teach me, touch me,
call forth my brilliance.
 
In the dark I can see my light.
I can grow to own it.
I can practice sustaining it,
so that back up top where a different light shines
I can trust it.
I can beam it.
I can see it winking
in every eye.

Copyright © 2011 Angela Hite

Neon Consciousness, Candlelight Consciousness

Neon and CandleJohn O’Donohue, in his book Anam Cara, A Celtic Book of Wisdom, talks about the dangers of “neon vision,” which he describes as the harsh, analytical light we often apply to ourselves when we follow the call of our spiritual hunger. I have mistakenly done this for years. While the self-awareness gained through mindfulness has been extremely fruitful, and while I have developed a rather eagle-eye in the world of inner-looking, that eye has a fierceness to it that can leave my skin feeling raw! I know I am not alone in this. Self-compassion is a big lesson for almost every serious seeker I know.

O’Donohue offers up “candlelight consciousness” as the alternative light within which to seek. I truly love this metaphor! He says, “Candlelight perception is the most respectful and appropriate form of light with which to approach the inner world.” Can you feel this? The softness, the romance, the “beloved” within that phraseology?

This morning, as I sat on the patio with my journal and tea, a squirrel skittered down the overhanging branch of a tree a few feet away and began to chatter loudly, insistently. Eventually, I realized he was talking to me, so I walked over to the tree limb, and said, “Hello!” He looked me squarely in the eye and responded in squirrel language. I said “Hello,” again. He responded again. I asked, “How are you?” He said whatever it was that he said. (I don’t speak squirrel, but I felt like he said, “It is important that you pay attention to me!”) This went on for 2-3 minutes, until I pulled out my phone from my robe pocket to take a picture, and of course, then he scampered away.

I relate this a bit to “neon consciousness, candlelight consciousness.” When I just enjoyed the moment for what it was, we communicated. The minute I tried to capture and substantiate it with the photograph, turn it into something, it was if the doorway into that other dimension closed. I don’t know. I could be making great leaps here. 🙂

But I googled the Native-American symbolism for squirrel and though there was the obvious imagery about “gathering,” the thing that jumped out at me was the message of “play.” I definitely need more play in my life. That feels like candlelight consciousness, too, doesn’t it? It is time to soften up. Yes, do our gathering for the changes ahead, but don’t go nuts with it! Yes, keep being watchful, but do so in the warmly lit landscape of kindness, of enjoyment. We are on a grand adventure, not stuck in an endless curriculum.

I think this could become a mantra for me – “Candlelight consciousness.” What do you think?

Blessings!

Facebook Loving Awareness Challenge

I Am Loving AwarenessThe meditation practice I mentioned yesterday from Ram Dass, “I Am Loving Awareness” is really proving to be an effective and  gentle process of reconditioning my inner landscape. I wrote about the end-of-day exercise I tried, in which I scanned my body, mind and emotions through the lens of loving awareness, through the language of “I love you.” Mostly what I felt in that one practice was my own resistance…how much subtle, invisible-to-the-naked-eye, non-love actually existed as the backdrop of my thoughts.

But since then I have done this exercise many times –  five minutes here and there. I simply look at what is happening in the now of my life, both outwardly and inwardly, and I send love to it. I notice all my opinions and thoughts about whatever is happening, and I send love to those as well. There is something powerful in this! A palpable energy shift.

Then I tried it with Facebook. Wow, that is a practice, let me tell you! Try it yourself and you will see. Scroll through Facebook and bless every single post, whether you agree with it or not. Send love to every single person. Notice your emotions about each post and person. Notice your body’s response. Notice your judgments and opinions, both pro and con. Then become Loving Awareness about it all. Become a Loving God in those moments toward everyone, including yourself. Especially yourself! Can you separate opinion from judgment and emotion? Can you love and wish well those whose opinions you disagree with? Can you love yourself regardless of your success at this? And when you get caught up in a story or your opinion of a story and notice that you’re caught, can you just return to loving awareness right there and then? Laugh a little about it? Play with it? Keep it light?

I want to try this everyday for awhile and see what happens. I’ll report in. If you like this challenge, let me know your experience. I have the sense that it could be revolutionary!

Sending and Receiving Love

Sending LoveYesterday I read an article by Ram Dass entitled “I am Loving Awareness,” in which he talked about a meditation practice that can break the spell of ego’s perceptions. There are many such practices, but this one called to me.  I am going through a bit of a physical challenge (another bout of vertigo) and I have also felt a lot of stress lately (I am a world-class stresser), so as I went to bed last night feeling dizzy and trying to relax my tight muscles, I took his instructions to heart:

“I focus my attention in the middle of my chest, on the heart-mind.  I take a few deep breaths into my diaphragm to help me identify with it.  I breathe in love and breathe out love.  I watch all of the thoughts that create the stuff of my mind, and I love everything, love everything I can be aware of.  I just love, just love, just love…I am loving awareness… “

I closed my eyes, felt the slight tremor of dizziness and said, “I love you,” to my uncomfortable self. I paid attention to my breath and said “I love you” to my breath.  I felt my exhale hit bottom, which always feels abrupt when I pay attention to it…the space before breathing in again. I felt the urge to inhale quickly, the moment of brief panic that I sometimes feel when I pay attention to the spaces between breaths, and I sent love into that tiny panic. I felt my neck muscles, shoulder muscles and spine, and breathed love into them. I caught my mind skittering into thoughts, all kinds of thoughts, too many and too fleeting to name, and I sent love to the thoughts.

That was the most challenging part of the exercise for me. Catching my thoughts and actually blessing them, instead of trying to get rid of them, just loving my thoughts no matter how stressed they were, how quickly negative or judgmental they could turn. But I blessed my efforts at blessing my thoughts! I went to sleep in that mindset.

It may sound strange to say, “I love you,” to yourself, but I see that it is a wonderful practice.  It points up, first and foremost, just how much we DON’T love ourselves, because there is such an effort at first in being able to say it authentically. The idea of SENDING love to ourselves, though, gets us in touch with the One who is sending us love every moment of the day. And the idea of then RECEIVING our own love, gets us in touch with receiving God’s love.

In my spiritual community we have been working a lot with the vulnerability, the innocence of receiving. Can we receive our own unconditional love? Can we receive God’s unconditional love? Can we receive healing? Can we receive answers that are beyond our mental conceptions? Can we receive the beauty of this world?

Sending and receiving love. It is a huge, mind-blowing practice!

Blessings!

Kindness

Grief“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.” – Naomi Shihab Nye

Words can lose their depth sometimes by overuse, or simply by becoming too thrown about, too much a part of our daily lexicon. The word “kindness” can be like that.  But it is such a profound idea that the Dalai Lama uses it as the single word to define (not describe, but define) his religion.  We could spend a lifetime exploring its depths in that context.

I love this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. Notice how vivid the idea of “kindness” becomes in her expression.  It makes me weep!

KINDNESS
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Blessings!

Open Your Heart

Open Heart“The opening of your heart is the most precious gift you can give the world. It affects everyone, and in this way meditation is also service: it supports the whole of humanity and all of life. As you become more aware, more conscious, you blaze the trail for the rest of us to follow, and our paths become much easier because of the steps you have taken. Know this, in your unfolding, in your deepening: that your inner journey creates an easier way for all of us.” DIANA LANG, Opening to Meditation.

I am so appreciative of this instruction. I can often get way-laid by ego’s secret “unworthiness” message. I’m particularly vulnerable to it right now as I launch this website. “Who do I think I am, anyway?” ego blurts into my subconscious, making me trembly and weak. But when we open our hearts (a skill that can be developed), we discover that who we are is LOVE! That’s who we are! And God is LOVE! If we are LOVE and GOD is LOVE, well, that’s a pretty profound connection!  The ultimate identity.

So we return to LOVE, over and over and over again. Ego’s only power is that it stands in front of the gates of LOVE, constantly trying to take charge. And it succeeds quite often because of its mimicking capacity. We can easily get fooled into believing ego’s message of self-protection, but the litmus test is pretty straightforward.  Does the message feel like love? Way down in there, is there an inkling of something that says otherwise? Do we have the courage, and will we take the time to follow the trail down to that inkling?  Another of ego’s slippery whispers is how narcissistic it seems to spend so much time looking inward, right?

But when we can remember the above quote, that our open heart is the MOST PRECIOUS GIFT WE CAN GIVE THE WORLD, the time we spend looking inward becomes GOLDEN.

I needed this reminder today! How about you?

Blessings!

 

The Practice of JOY

Life's enjoyment

Life’s enjoyment

Today I want to talk about the practice of JOY. For weeks I have been teetering on some kind of brink in my meditation practice. I have written about this – the hard rock I have come up against inside that is angry, resentful, even hateful – a primal , dark place that I don’t have a rational explanation for, but its power has been my unwillingness to simply look at it because, “Hey, I’m a good person!  I don’t have hate!”

Now, I am being shown, not just theoretically but experientially, that we all have EVERYTHING in us. We have what Jung would call “shadow” selves, and those shadows have power because we don’t look at them, because they are hidden. In order to regain our wholeness, we must move the shadow into the light of our compassionate awareness. As I said, I’ve known this theoretically for thirty years or more, and have done this with other shadow selves (sorrow and fear are prime ones).  But hate?  Oh my goodness!  Hate was well hidden.

So I’m looking, and naming. Another tendency is to try to jack-hammer the rocks in our path. The teetering I have been doing is going back and forth between refusing to see/feel this hard rock and alternatively taking a jackhammer to it, attempting to violently blast it out of existence…neither of which has been working.

But today I am remembering the practice of JOY (and capitalizing it to call out its holy elevation beyond a mere emotion).  JOY is the river that will move the rock naturally. JOY is a practice and a challenge because we must shift gears to experience it, and there might be an initially uncomfortable, grinding quality in doing so, to allow JOY to touch us in those deep spaces. Why is that so? It may sound counter-intuitive, but the truth is  JOY is an even more vulnerable emotion than sorrow or fear, and certainly more vulnerable than anger or hate. If you haven’t heard vulnerability researcher Brené Brown talk about the subject of JOY, you can watch it here. She explains it so beautifully.

I have known this for years now, that JOY is medicine, that JOY is a practice… but I forget it all the time.  Today, I sat and looked at the dark, cool clouds that might very well drop some rain on our parched ground, and I let JOY grow inside as I appreciated the clouds just as they were. Then I clipped the dead flowers from my geraniums and let JOY grow as I saw the plants seem to smile at me in gratitude for helping them look their best. I wrapped a peach-colored shawl around my shoulders and felt its softness against my skin, and let its color touch my eyes and heart.  Simple things. Easy, available things, done intentionally, prayerfully, invitingly, receptively.

And guess what?  The rock moved a little!

 

Freedom of Thought

FreedomThroughout the holiday weekend, in the midst of preparations and celebrations, I pondered the subject of freedom, as we do on the 4th of July. We are blessed with so many liberties here in the United States, but there is one that is universal, no matter what country or political landscape we are in: our freedom of thought, to which we are often blind. We are free to think as we please, and our perception of the world (and thus our experience of the world) is the outcome of that thinking. Granted, the societies we live in try to influence our thinking in various ways and through various mediums, but ultimately it is up to us whether to believe all that input or not. This is what I think it means to spiritually grow up, or awaken. We learn to witness our own thoughts, and choose whether or not they are indeed true and valuable, or whether they are causing us unnecessary suffering and divisiveness. As we do this, through meditation, prayer and contemplation, we start to see the barrage of thought, the barrage of input upon our thought.

How many days have I spent lost in worry? How many hours have I spent held captive by blame turned inwardly or outwardly, held captive by anger, greed, small-mindedness, jealousy, self-righteousness, victimhood? These subtle but big-blanket thoughts are usually running underneath our consciousness, influencing our words and actions without our awareness. They appear less as actual thoughts and more like feeling-tones, inner landscapes. They are like tinted glasses we wear and forget we are wearing them.

We often think that meditation is all about having a peaceful experience, but I’ve learned that this is not true. We may be moving toward peace, but much of the meditative process is coming face to face with our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations, and then witnessing just how much these experiences are calling the shots in our life. This can be painful, but it is a cleansing pain, a liberating pain, if it is done with compassion.

Freedom of thought is our greatest gift and our greatest responsibility.  It is the work of our lifetime.

Here is an excerpt from Pema Chodron’s book The Places That Scare You, that illustrates the basic choice we make in our thinking each day:

“When I was about six years old I received the essential bodhichitta [open-heart] teaching from an old woman sitting in the sun. I was walking by her house one day feeling lonely, unloved, and mad, kicking anything I could find. Laughing, she said to me, ‘Little girl, don’t you go letting life harden your heart.’ Right there I received this pith instruction: we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.”

It takes courage and tenacity to look inward.  As human beings, we naturally resist what might hurt, and it can definitely hurt to see ourselves clearly. It can be quite challenging to let go of a thought, too, even though we know it is causing us harm.  Some, like greed, revenge, or even worry have an addictive quality, a magnetic quality. I can’t tell you how difficult I find it to let go of worry! It seems on the surface like a loving thing to do! But I know this isn’t true. Worry benefits no one and causes great harm.

As  you move into the second half of 2015 (I tend to think of July 4 as the dividing line), and as you catch yourself thinking thoughts that are not lifting you up, be kind with yourself, be forgiving. But right there, on the spot, to the best of your ability, liberate yourself. CHOOSE AGAIN! I promise to do this to the best of my ability, too. We are in this together!

Blessings.

Tigers Above, Tigers Below

“A woman is running from tigers. She runs and she runs, and the tigers are getting closer and closer. She comes to the edge of a cliff. She sees a vine there, so she climbs down and holds on to it. Then she looks down and sees that there are tigers below her as well. At the same time, she notices a little mouse gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries emerging from a nearby clump of grass. She looks up, she looks down, and she looks at the mouse. Then she picks a strawberry, pops it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.” – Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty.

The perfect strawberryThis is such a perfect example of a Zen teaching in its simplicity and its subtle potency. It is my meditation for today.

In all of our lives, there come pockets of time when we are experiencing tigers above and tigers below. I am in one right now. A series of revelations has brought me face to face with the hard, clinging nature of my ego, this fist of self-protection that has cramped into a knot and won’t seem to let go. I feel it in my mind, but I also feel it in my neck and chest and belly.

One of the many lessons I have learned in meditation is that emotions can have long life-spans if they are not allowed to be experienced.  I don’t even know what the rational circumstances are behind this fist of fear that has arisen and made itself known. I only know how primal and shameful and terrifying it feels. The meditative path instructs us to simply feel the feeling; drop the storyline and feel the feeling. So that is what I am attempting to do. No commentary, no analysis, no finger-pointing inwardly or outwardly, just experience the emotion. Most of the time when I have done this, the process moves rather quickly, but this particular fist is quite tenacious. I have faith that it will open, though, and I’m practicing the lessons I’ve been taught. I’m breathing with it,  and I’m offering myself as much  patience in this place as possible.

The challenge today is to seek and enjoy the strawberry, to be with the joy that is also available in the midst of all these raging tigers. This itself is a huge teaching, for instantly we experience just how strong the pull of problem-focus can be! When we are able to turn our attention from the tiger to the strawberry, however, we reconnect with a force within us that is far more potent than any challenge!  And we discover that right in front of us, in the very now of life, there is always something sweet to experience – a piece of fruit, a smile, our own continued pulse. When I think of this…as I write this to you…I find that I can breathe a little better.

If you, too, are experiencing tigers above and tigers below, take some comfort in knowing you are not alone! I am right there with you! One of the greatest gifts the tigers have to offer is an expanding compassion for others who are caught in a similar struggle. That compassion flows both ways. As I think about all those around the globe who might be suffering in this emotional way or in another form – as I offer my prayer that your pain be lifted, whatever it may be – my own challenges seem less isolating and more useful, more bearable. This is how we touch.

Blessings.

Why I Love Pema Chodron

Pema Chodron 2A friend suggested I write a post on what it is about Pema Chodron’s work that I love so much.  I have read all her books, and as you can see from the photo attached, I don’t just read them, I dig in!  I have learned from many wonderful teachers, but there is something about Pema’s communication style that cuts through my resistance. The question my friend asked was, “Why Pema?”Taking the Leap pages

My answer is a two-parter, I guess.  The first part is about Buddhism itself.  The second part is Pema’s personal style.

That old adage, “When the student is ready, the teacher will come,” is certainly true, in this case.  Though I am not a Buddhist, I became deeply immersed in the teachings of Buddhism through Pema’s eyes, and one of the first things I came to see was that through meditation and Buddhist teachings I was becoming more deeply attuned to the teachings of Jesus as well.

Love is ultimately the main message in Buddhism, as in Christianity.  The thing that makes Buddhism so valuable to me, though, is that it teaches HOW to love when love doesn’t simply bubble up, or when love is blocked by anger, judgment, fear, etc.  Buddhism is a methodology, a deep and detailed methodology on how to open ourselves to love.

The idea of practice came to life for me in studying Pema’s works.  We don’t just throw a switch and become better people.  As a child in a fundamentalist Christian culture, I was confused by this because I was taught that accepting Christ would change my heart on the spot.  But that wasn’t my experience.  I accepted Jesus, but my heart still held judgment, anger, fear, jealousy, deceit, sorrow, loneliness.

In Buddhism, though, detailed instructions are given as to how to practice changing our hearts, how to work with and accept our human characteristics, (both negative and positive aspects), without being slaves to them.  If I can recognize and accept my anger, for example, and if I develop the muscle to catch myself in a flare of anger BEFORE it has manifested into a reaction from me, then in that pause, I can choose what to do that is best for all concerned, rather than striking out in knee-jerk fashion.

So that is what drew me to Buddhism…the detailed instructions that would, with a committed practice, move me toward the person that I wanted to be in my heart…and in my case, that was to be more like Jesus!  One of the things often said in Buddhist studies is not to take any of this information at face value.  Try it out.  See how it works for you.  I have done that.  And it has indeed worked for me.  I have grown from this work.

As to Pema’s personal style (for there are lots of wonderful Buddhist teachers)…I think it is because she not only teaches the undoing of shame through compassionate self-acceptance, but she exhibits it in her own personal examples.  She is a world-renowned nun, but she makes mistakes, even to this day, and instead of hiding them or downplaying them, she highlights them as examples of the teachings she offers.  I find this incredibly helpful.  She displays non-shame! Not only does it take the theoretical and bring it into practical, every-day experience, but it also creates a human link, a way for me to relax and breathe with my own faltering “becoming.”  If Pema Chodron still has to work with anger, or depression, or aging, or any other of ego’s illusions, maybe it is okay if I still have to work with them too! I don’t have to deny them.  I don’t have to bury them under a false smile.  Nor do I have to give in to the outward aggression that ego so often tries to trigger. I can simply be with myself, without judgment. I can breathe in and out.  I can learn.  I can witness emotions, thoughts, and physical challenges shift, change and dissolve. By simply being compassionately present with ourselves, we can learn to experience the fullness, the totality of our lives.

Comfortable with UncertaintyThere is much more I could say on this subject!  I love her humor, her light-heartedness, her practicality, her succinctness, her wisdom. But the blog-gods are shouting, “Wrap it up! Not another paragraph!” So I will close with simply expressing gratitude for Ani Pema and encouraging you to read one of her many wonderful books.  See if she speaks to your soul the way she does to me!   The first of her books I read was Comfortable with Uncertainty.  The title alone pulled me in!  Check it out!

Happy reading!

Father’s Day Poem

Daddys HandsMy father died when I was in my 20’s and he in his early 50’s. Way too young! So I have lived without him for a very long time.  He comes to me occasionally in dreams, though, and I am always amazed how full of life he remains there on that alternate plane. Here is a poem I wrote a few years back about a dream encounter that woke me in the middle of the night and made me weep with longing.

Happy Father’s Day to all Dads everywhere.  You are loved.

DADDY’S HANDS

Shooting stars in the night, Daddy’s hands
burst through my dreams,
waking me up, igniting my girlhood.
I can smell his skin, though fresh from the netherworld,
still flesh and full of memory: Pall Malls, perspiration,
Old Spice.
I can conjure his grin and that froggy voice calling me,
“Angeler.”

We used to meet more often. It’s been awhile.
As a rule there’s detachment in his face;
I’ll dream him at the mall, for instance,
in a brand new suit, in a brand new crowd,
everyone shiny, and he’ll pass by without seeing me.
I don’t take it personally. These are the veils,
I guess.
He can cross over;
he just can’t quite reach me.

Tonight, though, his hands make it through,
freckled and rough and smelling like the man I knew.
The nails are buffed (he always tried so hard),
but there’s no mistaking their earthly stuff,
the masculine brand of my own,
piercing the veils, tapping me awake, then
dissolving into stardust.
I sniff my own palms for connection,
place them on my face,

and a canopy of mourning flutters down and around.
Suspended in time,
I float in a gossamer bubble of goodbye,
having outlived him by years now,
forever his little girl.

©2008 Angela Hite. All Rights Reserved.

Choose Life!

Freedom of ChoiceThis morning I woke up with lower back pain.  I do quite often. This is one of the challenges of getting older…managing pain, and managing our attitude about life in the midst of pain. Mine is nothing compared to so many, but it is still mine, and it still asks something of me. As I lay there in that semi-conscious state before getting up and going, I heard this choice in my mind, “Life or Death?” Hearing that question helped me reach to my better self, who instantly said, “I choose life!”

So I sat up. I put my feet on the floor. And I came straight to the computer to get this simple point down. How many times during the day do we have that very choice to make, in one of its many subtle forms? Love or hate? Courage or fear? Forgiveness or punishment? Smile or smirk? Embrace or reject? Lift up or beat down?

Seriously, how many times a day are we given the ultimate privilege of choosing the emotional quality of our existence? Thousands, at least! AWAKENING is all about that – becoming conscious of those thousands of moments… and choosing life. It’s not rocket science. It’s not new news.  But in the midst of all the conflict the world throws at us each day – innocent loss of life, obnoxious political posturing, wars, environmental disasters, sickness, financial challenges, pain, loss –  it’s so easy to forget that we have this basic premise constantly being asked of us. Life or Death?  Do we live like zombies in a state of walking death long before the body gives out?  Or do we choose the more abundant (and more demanding) path, despite the circumstances of the moment?

What Does Resistance Look Like?

PIC BY MICK GALLAGHER / CATERS NEWS - (Pictured A Wild Burro in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area) Whats so funny? This mule clearly found something hilari-ASS when he got up close to one photographer. The wild burro - which bears a striking similarity to Donkey from the Shrek movies - was captured on camera by wildlife photographer Mick Gallagher - who spent months trying to get close to the group. And when one animal finally decided to pose for the camera, it seems he found something to smile about - with hilarious results. Mick, 42, who has been working as a professional photographer after he was made redundant from his marketing job during the economic downturn, has tried to build a bond with the animals, which roam in the Red Rock Conservation Area, Nevada. SEE CATERS COPY.

My resistance sometimes looks like this.

There is a great little book by Steven Pressfield called The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. I’m reading it again, because I have a lot of projects in the works, and I’m being pummeled by resistance. If we are going to do anything creatively, if we are going to move deeper along our spiritual path, we are going to have to come to terms in some way with resistence, that counter-force inside that seems hellbent on tripping us up when we are committed to moving forward. Pressfield’s book is chock-full of good advice on how to move past resistance in the world of writing, and the title is very clever, turning the title of the classic Sun Tzu work, The Art of War upside down.

But here’s the thing I’ve been wrestling with.  Is resistance some outside force that we must conquer, (as comedian Flip Wilson used to say, “The devil made me do it!”) or is it a natural part of our human nature, which, instead of battling, we’d be better off “tending and befriending?” (Now that women have been included in the previously male-oriented studies of stress responses, behaviorists have come to recognize, in addition to the well-established fight/flight/freeze response, another, healthier method of coping with stress the feminine way – tending and befriending.  Click here if you’d like to read more about this).

Personally, I don’t like being at war with myself.  It is exhausting!  And that “house divided will not stand” quote is true. Many a project of mine has been derailed by my war with resistance.  I’ve had victories, too, of course, but the notion of war, especially inside my own skin, is one I’d prefer to let go.

Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh recommends engaging our resistance (fear) like a loving mother engages a wayward child.  Correction must be made, obviously.  We can’t let the child call the shots, but perhaps the correction can be done with tenderness, with kindness, with respect. The tone of our interaction could be, “Ok, my darling, let’s take a look at this,” instead of, “I will kill you, you f’ing mule!” 🙂

Either way – whether we choose the warring or the tending paradigm regarding resistance, the first step is to get to know it.  What does it look like? What are its characteristics? What are its tactics? When does it strike?  What specifically does it whisper? How has it tripped me up in the past?

There may not be a more important “persona” we need to get to know!

 

Self-Kindness

MISTAKESThis is still one my all-time favorite passages:
” I had the same dream each night – that I had a child,
and even in the dream I saw that the child was my life;
and it was an idiot, and I ran away.
Until I thought, if I could kiss it…
perhaps I could rest.
And I bent to its broken face, and it was horrible…
but I kissed it.
I think one must finally take one’s life in one’s arms.” 
–  Arthur Miller, After the Fall

Our Prayers to the Bidens

Here is President Obama’s eulogy for Beau Biden.  The Biden family has our heartfelt prayers.

 

Just As I Am

Woman working in a coffee shop

As I wrote in my journal this morning, I found myself thinking about the old invitational Christian hymn of my childhood, “Just As I Am.”  For those of you unfamiliar with what an invitational hymn is, let me explain. At the end of the church service, the pastor offered an invitation to anyone in the congregation who might be “lost” to come forward and give themselves to God. This invitation was accompanied by the choir singing an “invitational” song, one that pulled at the heartstrings.  As a child, I loved those songs so much. After all these years and the widening of my spiritual horizons, the feeling tone of those songs is still deep within.

“Just as I am, I come” is such a powerful teaching.  Can you feel it?  It is a lesson beyond the confines of Christianity, and has at its core a humble stance of self-acceptance in all our marvelous and messy humanity.  Each morning, as I go through my surrender process into meditation, into the inner realm where creativity and connection abide, I am frequently tripped up by one of the many whispers of Resistance:  “You are not good enough.”  Resistance is quite clever and adaptable, but as I awaken more and more to its subtle language, I am able to respond with a counter-message.  I am good enough!  Just as I am!

And so are you.  Right in the cross-hairs of that spiritual decision between the Voice that says no, and the Voice that says yes, is the uncomfortable but glorious opportunity for transformation.

Here is a beautiful passage by Sufi poet  Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, that sums it up nicely:

“Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshiper,
lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have
broken your vows
a thousand times.
Come, yet again,
come, come.”

 – RUMI

The Fashion of Grace and Frankie

The Fashion of Grace and FrankieAre you watching Grace and Frankie on Netflix?  It took me a couple of episodes to sink into the story and embrace the characters, but I am hooked now.  And I’m having this epiphany.  It is so GOOD to watch people over 50 on television!  OMG!  They are me! Not in their situation, but in their wrinkles and aging joints while still having lots of life, lots of desire, lots of discovery.  It is just so wonderful to be represented!

I am particularly enjoying the wardrobe choices.  That may sound superficial, but I have to tell you, we “vintage women” don’t have a lot of representation in the fashion world. I don’t know a single woman over 50 who says shopping is a delight.  Age-appropriate and body-appropriate are questions we wrestle with, but hey, we still want to look good!  We still want to look like the sensual, passionate, colorful, unique women that we are!  Grace and Frankie are quite different from each other in persona, and this is represented in their clothing choices. But they are dressed with a flair and vibrancy that I definitely want to emulate.

I’m taking note!

The Magic Wand of Gratitude

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home,
a stranger into a friend.
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today,
and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

– MELODY BEATTIE

I must confess that Fear still has a way of tricking me into forgetting the Love that I know, I know, I know! I remember on the surface; my mental knowing stays intact. But Fear makes Love feel dry and shallow.  The deep, juicy well of Love that enlivens my knowing gets blocked by Fear’s magnetic, hypnotic negativity.

DumbledoreToday, though, the channel is clear again, made possible by the magic wand of gratitude.  And it truly is a magic wand! Simply pass it over your head two or three times, incant the words “I am grateful for…”  and fill in the blank with those things and people that you are so blessed to have in your life.  It may take some effort depending upon the strength of Fear’s hold, but hey, even with a magic wand, some effort is required!  Once you begin to feel even one or two hits of gratitude (and it is critical that you feel it, not just say the words), you will have Fear on the run.  And then you can literally feel the crust around your heart that you didn’t even know was there, begin to crumble.

So today, for gratitude itself, I want to shout out, “I’m so grateful! I can access the well!”

Happy spelling!

Compassion 101

Image of woman holding the worldPerhaps the most universal of spiritual concepts, across all religions, is compassion; yet so few of us practice compassion in its truest sense. From the Latin “cum” and “pati” the words come together, meaning “to suffer with.”

When we are genuinely compassionate toward someone, we become willing to suffer with the person who is suffering. This is a much more demanding action than sympathy or pity.  Compassion requires a subjective experience, whereby we commit ourselves to stepping into the skin of the other, seeing through their eyes, feeling what they feel, and walking the proverbial mile in their moccasins.  This is hard to do!  It requires:

  • The conscious decision to override our instincts of self-protection.
  • The willingness to temporarily suspend our own point of view for the sake of understanding and caring for the other.
  • The live, awkward transition from comfortable and familiar objectivity to uncomfortable, unfamiliar subjectivity and its inherent vulnerability.
  • The willingness to feel pain.

COMPASSION-2I am captivated and humbled by the four steps listed above, that came forward as I began to write. Theoretical compassion and experiential compassion are two different things.  Practicing compassion is a life-long unveiling and a subject that is so rich, countless books about it have been written, yet it still boils down to a day-by-day, moment-by-moment, one-on-one commitment to courageously engage in vulnerability and kindness.   Even the most committed of us  have their blind spots in this regard, perhaps the biggest toward our very own selves.  I know I do.

Free, Indeed

Free IndeedThe big spiritual lesson in these current times, I believe, is the recognition of our subjective consciousness and the practice of redirecting negative thinking. Problems in life do us in less frequently than we think. On the other hand, our thoughts about problems do us in all the time.  But here is the thing: our thoughts are 100% malleable. We have the power to choose what we think.

I know this is not news to most spiritual students.  We all know it. Yet the power of negative thinking is so insidious and pervasive, we need constant reminders to snap us awake.

“You shall be free indeed
when your days are not
without a care nor your nights
without a want and a grief,
but rather when these things
girdle your life and yet 
you rise above them
naked and unbound.”

– Kahlil Gibran