Lately it’s been this and that…

Refugee Forum

Refugee Forum

I will get back to the series I’ve been writing on “Peace Begins With You”.  But I’ve been kind of scattered and distracted lately…  not the best mode for putting together a coherent series…  I gather a lot of this is going around 🙂  But stuff is happening so I thought I’d put up one of my this and that type posts.

Vow to Love

I signed up for Karen Chrappa’s Vow to Love on line class and after the first video I’m excited to be participating.  Moved by current events, she’s calling us to a space of love through a series of guided meditations.  I found the first one powerful and am looking forward to watching the second, which I’ve not gotten to yet.  By following this link  you can still sign up.

Practice Change-up

A couple of weeks ago I suddenly felt drawn to do the long yoga nidra for the first time in quite a while.  Since it takes 45 minutes I thought I’d skip chanting practice.  Surprisingly after a long absence I stayed mindfully right with it and found myself in the lovely state of feeling one with spirit and detached from personality this practice induces for me.  I also felt a longing to sing the Gayatri when I finished.  So I sang the 9 minute chant.  I’d never done the chant after yoga nidra and I was blown away by how powerful the chant became when preceded by the meditation.

I felt so pulled back to the yoga nidra that I’ve done the short version several times since, sometimes with and sometimes without chanting after.  It was fun to see I’ve shifted enough that the short version, which I used to find far less satisfying than the long, now has quite a powerful impact on me.

I love changing it up with practices.  I love seeing how my experience of them changes as I change.  I love doing experiments with putting one thing after another and then switching that up to see how the order of doing impacts the energy and feeling of them.  Do you find the order in which you do practices changes the experience?

Shakin’ it up in this old red state

Lexington is actually a blue city in a red state, so while much of the country assumes we’re all right wing Christians down here, we actually have quite the community of liberal democrats — I think every friend I have here was for Bernie…

Last Saturday I went to a well-attended talk on Muslim Interfaith Dialog at which a charismatic local doctor of Iraqi heritage explained the Islam faith and talked about many of the false perceptions that have been propagated through the media.  I’d looked into this over the years so much of it wasn’t news to me, but I was very excited to be in a room full of people all open to listening and supporting.

Then last night I headed off to a forum on Refugees held at the enormous Christ Church Cathedral downtown.*  It was SRO, the speakers were excellent and the crowd was full of energy and enthusiasm for ending the ban.  I was moved by so much of it, but possibly the most moving thing to me was listening to our Chief of Police state his welcome to all who come to Lexington seeking refuge.

I’ve been wondering where the departments, forces, etc. with guns who ultimately enforce –or choose not to enforce — the law are standing on what’s going on.  To be honest I wouldn’t have predicted the police would side with the refugees and immigrants.  He was so absolute in his statement of support I was teary-eyed.

Right now I’m showing up for lots of things like this.  Sunday I have to choose between the first meeting of “Indivisible” here and a rally for refugees being held at the same time and across the street from one another…  I’m still fired up about being “for” instead of against and discovering I’m “for” a lot of stuff — just haven’t decided where to focus my energy.

As well as exploring my options about where I can help, the main thing I’m looking at is midterm elections in 2018 and how we get from here to a democratic or social democratic congress…  So far I haven’t bumped into a group to join for that…


*An ironic little side note:  my uncle’s wife’s father (all three long dead…) used to be organ-master for this Episcopal church, which led my dad (a child when this much-older brother got married) and some other family members to attend for some years.  I used to walk by on my way downtown from Grandma’s house with my best friend.  But last night was the first time I ever set foot in the church.

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Levels of opening

Three monks chanting in Lhasa, 1993

Three monks chanting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been over a month now that I’ve been regularly chanting.  First time in quite a while I’ve had a regular chanting or meditation practice.  I’ve done a bunch of those 21 day meditations in recent years and I’ve done a couple of 40 day practices, but it’s been years since such a practice has stuck.

A lot has changed in my body since the days when meditation was a daily practice.  In fact, some of the change is due to the movement practices I’ve done to balance energy and open flow instead of meditating.

One of the blessings of the long-term sorting out of my muscles and their steely impersonation of body armor has been that as they open, I experience many things about practices differently and learn nuances I’m not sure I’d have noted without the change.

Since my appointment with Hanna, the muscles have been unwinding and the usual sleep deprivation and headaches have ensued, which has led to missing days of chanting here and there and occasionally two in a row.  I’ve changed the chants since I first started, beginning each time with the lovingkindness chant and then singing the Gayatri Mantra and Om Shanti Om.

The Gayatri, among other important impacts, opens the heart.  Om Shanti Om is chanted for peace and I find it opens my heart.  The lovingkindness chant also brings me into a big heart space.  Chanting these every day helped immeasurably to calm my distress in the wake of the election.  At first, if I missed a day I went right back to feeling panicky, then as soon as I chanted again, calm returned.

After a couple of weeks the peace settled in and I could miss a day without any big change.  When sleep deprivation, headaches and missing days of chanting hit all at once, I noted that I could hold the peace through one missed day but a second tipped me back into unease and anxiety.  I’ve also been learning anxiety is often a side effect of sleep deprivation for me, not as intense as the “oh no that thing can’t be president” panic, but noticeable.  And it too is soothed away by chanting.

While I chant I feel so much more energy moving through me than I’ve ever felt from the same practices before.  Channels and pathways opened as the muscles released and in so many areas I can now feel energy flowing through.  I feel the power of the chanting more than ever.  I feel it changing me.

Between the chanting and the releases Hanna helped to achieve it’s been a time of realizations and movement forward.  After a long time of receiving “wait” messages, I’ve heard the time to wait is ending.

In the meantime I love the slow awakening of feeling and the subtle ways in which my practices change as I grow.  I’m ever more aware of how much tight muscles stop the flow and reduce how much I feel when I do yoga or meditate or chant or …  All the hard work…  so worth it!

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Still Chanting: the ups and downs…

English: Peace, Love and Increase

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m a little tired and out of sorts so thought I’d just give a short update on my progress with lovingkindness chants, etc.  Sometimes it feels to me as if lots of people expect practices to serve as magic wands that will sweep you into a permanent state of peace or bliss.

I find it a bit more up and down and back and forth.  For me practices are a way to generally hold a calmer space but also the tools for pulling myself back to being calm and centered when life’s bumpy road knocks me to other states of being.  Doing practices doesn’t take the bumps out of that road or stop me from having varying moods.

Over all I’ve calmed down quite a bit since I started my lovingkindness practice (metta).  I’ve also changed it up.  When I began I was doing 10 minutes for me, 10 minutes for Trump and 10 minutes for America.  Soon I switched out the last 10 minutes of metta for singing the Gayatri Mantra and/or Om Shanti.  Just felt pulled to be doing singing chants too, so I chose two that are used for peace.

I’ve also been working on Deepak and Oprah’s latest 21 day meditation since before the election (I’m behind…).  And “just happens” to be the perfect topic for this quest for finding peace in these troubling times.  Which of all these practices get done on a given day is variable.

I’m very up and down though.  There’s so much angry stuff being spewed, I find myself pulled into the anger.  The extreme anxiety and upset stomach initially subsided for maybe half a day each time I chanted but for the first days came back.  That has leveled out now and I’m back to spending my days calm with only short moments of losing my center.

My emotions still shift.  I’ve cried while chanting or felt waves of nausea.  For the first time ever I burst into tears while singing the Gayatri (this chant previously has just opened my heart, not touched into deep issues) and for a few minutes couldn’t stop.  The other day Mark Bialczak asked readers to comment on their wishes for Trump.  The first and only thought that jumped into my head:  “fatal heart attack”…

Apparently I’m going to be chanting for a long, long time…  Because that’s not who I want to be and I’m going to chant until I find the connection.

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J2P Finding love instead of hate

English: White peace dove in the air with wing...

English: White peace dove. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s reached a point in all the fallout following the election when I’m having trouble deciding whether I’m more perturbed by the bigoted, racist, misogynists who voted for Trump or the supposedly spiritual and kinder Democrats I know who are spewing hatred just as steadily.

I’ll admit, right up front, in spite of years of trying to be a person who holds only a space of lovingkindness, I considered Trump one of the most disgusting and despicable people on the planet YEARS before he decided to run for President, so this election has challenged me right in the center of the divide between who I want to be and who I too often still am.

But I truly believe there’s no such thing as righteous hatred.  There’s either loving or hating.  Vicious attacks on those who hold different viewpoints are just vicious and hateful regardless of how sincerely you believe your viewpoint is right and the other is wrong.  And hate just begets more hate.  If hating isn’t okay, then there’s no group or individual it’s okay to hate.  Hating haters just makes you a hater too.

I believe in one web of all life.  The web pulsates to whatever we all feed into it.  If there are more people feeding hate than love, then wars and torture and discrimination and crimes against humanity expand and grow stronger.  When enough people hold compassion and love in their hearts, the web can finally hold love strongly enough for it to rule.

I also believe thoughts of hatred have energy and power and go out into the world.  If you send hate to the President-elect, an energy of hatred permeates his life and his being.  How do you imagine that translates into decision- and policy-making?  Is more bigotry, racism, and misogyny what you want to fuel?  Do you want to see how much bigger his tantrums can be when millions are sending the energy of hate to surround him every minute of every day?

I propose love is the answer.  I propose sending healing and love.  I propose finding forgiveness in our hearts and holding a space of peace and compassion no matter what.  I propose we fill the web with so much love the whole world is bathed in it and changed by it.

SOME HEALING SUGGESTIONS

  • If you know how to do long distance Reiki, send Reiki
  • Use this Huna healing technique.  Sit comfortably and close your eyes.  Take a few deep breaths and center.  Visualize a screen and see Trump or the KKK or whatever political figure or appointee you think needs healing (or whichever one(s) your heart needs to heal about) on the screen.  Use your inner awareness to see where healing is needed and direct healing to that place.  You might see energy moving there, you might see one color and feel a need to change it to another, you might hear a sound and change it, you might feel a vibration and the need to shift it, you might breathe into it.  If you do any kind of healing with your hands, you might imagine directing that energy.  Your inner voice will know what to do, just follow it.  Continue until you feel you have done all you can.  Repeat this exercise as necessary.
  • Check out my post from a few days ago and use the lovingkindness chant to heal your heart and send love.
  • Discover in yourself the source of every bit of fear and anger you feel and use the ho’oponopono prayer to heal it.  To do this, name each fear or incident or origin of anger and say:  I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you

Note:  I’ve written often about using ho’oponopono, including many examples of examining an issue to find the components to heal.  Click the Journey2Peace tab above and meander through the posts.

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J2P: Women’s Issues and Healing

Suffragette (women's rights movement) Emmeline...

Suffragette (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the arenas in which I have been really disturbed by Trump and the voters of America is the subject of women and women’s rights.

I feel like he’s made it quite clear he thinks it’s perfectly all right for men to grope and molest and sexually harass women any time they want.  And that makes me feel anyone who voted for him was basically saying they favor that.

I know young women today are for some reason turned off to the women’s movement and that bugs me (which I’ve discussed here) but I don’t think they get how bad it was or how recently.

HOW IT WAS

You see I am old enough that when I had my first jobs, there were no sexual harassment laws.  It was perfectly acceptable for a man to follow you into a supply closet or an alcove and grab your butt or your breast.  And they did it often and casually.  In those days if a woman spoke up about it, the man didn’t get fired, SHE did.  It’s because of feminists that we are protected by sexual harassment laws.

I was date raped in college.  In those days you didn’t dare tell anyone because the assumption was that you were a slut, it was somehow your fault and you would be shamed — not him.  It was because of feminists that rape started being handled with sensitivity to victims.

Once, upon leaving a fund raising event at a church, a young drunk guy who happened by ran up to me as I walked alone to my car and grabbed my breast.  I got away from him and flagged down a cop.  When the police came to interview me later, the male cop in the duo thought it was hysterically funny that I thought anything was wrong about being assaulted on the street.

When I was heading off to college all of us girls were being told we could be nurses or teachers and of course we’d only do that for a few years till we got married and had families.  We were among the first women who gained the freedom to work at every kind of job and to choose whether we wanted to marry or not.  We broke down doors and opened career paths women had never been able to choose before.  Feminists did that.

Our mothers were by and large married to men who not only didn’t want them to work but thought of them as lesser beings whose opinions didn’t matter.  Not long before, in my grandmother’s generation, women who brought property to a marriage had no control over it once the knot was tied–my grandfather even had the gall to leave her fortune in a trust when he died so she still had no power over it.

My generation of women were the first whose husbands “let them work” and opened the way for the many modern marriages in which husbands support their wives’ careers and work with them on finding equal footing in the marriage.  Women now can have their own credit cards and property.  Feminists brought these changes about.

Donald Trump’s commentary about women says to me he’d like to see a return to the way things were when I was young.  You know, when it was acceptable to grope women any time any place, when women were assumed to have caused their own rapes, when women weren’t thought to be capable of holding their own in the work force and husbands controlled the money.

When I look at the election votes, to me it seems nearly 60 million Americans are saying they think it would be fine to take us back to that.  I don’t see how anyone could vote for him without on some level consenting to returning women to the dark ages.

WHAT I CAN HEAL

As you can see, I’m pretty pissed off… at Trump, at those who voted for him and at younger generations who think feminism is irrelevant to them.  And that’s alternating with being teary and upset at the idea of going back to being humiliated and objectified as the younger version of me was.  And I know if I’m ticked at other people or sad about other people, there are issues at play that are mine.

There are things to heal in me.  Because everything I see in the world reflects what is in me.  And what’s in me I can choose to explore and heal.

In this situation I find myself asking:

  • How have I let the Divine Feminine in me down?
  • How am I failing to stand strong in my own being?
  • What have I still not healed from past sexual harassment and assault?
  • What’s the real source of fearing/attracting harassment and assault?
  • Is there something I want to have recognized or recognize within myself about my place in the women’s movement?
  • How do I not honor my femininity?

As I explore there may be more.  Sometimes it helps to name it.  Sometimes it can just be healed…

THE HEALING

You know I like to use ho’oponopono, which I’ve discussed in many posts, starting here.  But healing can happen in many ways.  You might do Reiki on yourself, you might see a therapist, you might go to a healer or forge a new path…  It doesn’t really matter which way you choose, just heal.

For me, I see a number of ho’oponopono prayers here:

  • For every way in which I fail to honor the feminine in me, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you
  • If I am suppressing my own strength or power, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you
  • If I still hold on to wounds or resentments about past harassment or assaults, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you
  • For anything in me that magnetizes abusers/abuse, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you
  • If I am upset with others because I crave recognition, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you
  • For any way in which I fail to honor my femininity, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you

No one else has the power to make me angry or hurt me unless I grant that power.  Whatever I see out there arises from what is in me and I can heal myself.

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J2P Peace Begins with Me

I admit it, I was stunned when I checked in on the election results late in the returns and realized Trump was going to win.  My stomach clenched, I had trouble sleeping, I spent much of the day in a state of dazed denial.

There are a number of aspects of this I’ll be working through and I’m sure I’ll post along the way.  But today for me was just a process of pulling back from the clenching and upset and getting my center back.

After thoroughly loving Elizabeth Lesser’s latest book, Marrow, I’m now reading and loving her earlier book, Broken Open.  In one of those moments the Universe synchronizes so well, I picked it up to read for a while after climbing into bed last night and I opened to a section in which she talked about a day when she was terribly upset about environmental issues.  The upset led to learning she can see an issue, be upset by it, and choose to die to it.  Perfect.

I can be upset by this and choose to die to it.  Put in those terms it doesn’t resonate for me quite the way I gather it does for her, but it was a starting place — and I try always to take note when the Universe plops an answer right into my lap.  So I fell uneasily asleep telling myself I was dying to this issue.  To me it means letting it go, accepting “what is” and moving on to a new space where my heart has expanded and includes more in its love.

I absolutely believe if I’m seeing problems “out there” or “in them” that throw me into fear or anger or any strong reaction, I know I’m looking at something in me.  And if it’s in me I can heal it.  But today I knew before I could get to the healing I needed to just settle down and find a way back to calm and some ability to be compassionate.

I decided it’s time for the lovingkindness chant.  But first I rode my exercise bike.  I knew I needed to work off some of the extra angst and exercise always help take tension down a few notches.  I also like the bike for the regular motion and rhythm because it helps to bring me back to circulating stuck energy and regular breaths.

Quieted down enough after my ride to feel I could sit and focus, I moved on to the chant–the version I use is from Jack Kornfield’s Path With Heart.  First 10 minutes for myself:

  • I am filled with lovingkindness
  • I am well
  • I am peaceful and at ease
  • I am happy

Like many practices, if something in me stands in the way of the energy of the chant, it tends to rise up.  Sometimes it might be incidents that unfold over a few days or weeks, bringing me face to face with whatever needs healing, but this time I immediately felt the disbelief and discontent pushing back against the chant.  After a few minutes I wept and chanted, chanted and wept.  And then the peace moved in and my heart started warming as I continued repeating those words I love.

Next up I chanted 10 minutes for Trump.  I began it as an affirmation, the way I said it for myself.  Something in me instantly began to fight and I started crying again.  I realized I needed to chant it to the more prayerful form in which it is usually spoken:

  • May Trump be filled with lovingkindness
  • May  he be well
  • May he be peaceful and at ease
  • May he be happy

The change shifted it for me — I could say it as a prayer for him but I couldn’t say it as if it already were true.  With the shift I settled in and moved deeper.  I could feel my heart expand and I realized saying the chant for someone, while it may or may not also help that person, is something to do for your own peace, to clear your own heart.

I finished with 10 minutes of chanting for America.

  • May America be filled with lovingkindness
  • May she be well
  • May she be peaceful and at ease
  • May she be happy

I’m still a little dazed and uneasy but I’m also in a more peaceful place.  Back in 2002, in the lead up to the Iraq war, it took a little over a week of daily chanting for Bush before I broke through into a place of feeling the oneness.  I figure it will take time again.

So I plan to chant every day.  Because the only person whose peacefulness I can control or change is me.  Peace begins with me.  It also begins with you.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with each of us.

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Part 4: Practices and Creating New Grooves

My final piece for this series (though not by a long shot the last thoughts I’ll post about doing practices 🙂 ) is a reflection on doing or not doing practices as a form of self-sabotage.

As I mentioned in the last post, I don’t feel you have to have a super strict formal practice but at the same time I’ve often noted in myself and others that sporadic practice or refusal to practice at all can be a way of sabotaging progress.  On the other side, sometimes when you’ve processed a lot of material or made some big changes, there’s a kind of plateau period during which you need time to integrate what you’ve already done.

I’m always seeing fine lines in this journey between one side and another and this is one of those places.  In Part 3 I discussed the importance of learning how you react when you’re resisting something that could help you versus recognizing something’s just not for you.  It’s equally important, I feel, to learn the difference between when you are sabotaging yourself by refusing to do practices and when it’s sabotage to make yourself do it when your inner voice is telling you “no” and to recognize how you sabotage.

Some years back I realized I’d long carried out a really subtle form of sabotage:  I’d meditate or do the Tibetan Rites regularly for a few weeks … and then .. I’d just …  drift … … away from it.  For a while it would cross my mind to do it and then every night I’d find myself in bed without having done it.  And then a couple of months would go by when it never even crossed my mind.  Eventually I’d come back and pick it up again and then go through the same process.

Once I could see it I worked at being mindful. I’ve been much more able to stick with things and when I do drift, the spaces of not doing have become more like days instead of weeks or months.  It was a tough one to get hold of because something in my unconscious was very good at just keeping my mind shuttered enough to forget to do the practice(s).

Another way I used to sabotage myself — and one I’ve seen MANY people use — was trying to make everything a question of controlling my mind.  A lot of New Age/New Thought teachings encourage this idea that you can change everything by just changing your mind.  Up to a point, you can, but between unconscious issues and the efforts of ego to maintain the status quo, I think it takes an approach that touches more levels of being — emotional, physical, ancestral, etc.

When people want to keep the whole journey on a mental plane, they tend to refuse to meditate or take up the Eight Key Breaths or to sing chants or any other exercise.  As you know, I deeply believe the practices designed by many ancient traditions are excellent at penetrating into the shadows and helping you to let go of the darkness and raise your consciousness.  They tend to operate on levels of energy and higher consciousness so they bypass the stranglehold ego tends to have on mental processes.

For me it was especially evident when it came to emotional release work.  I was convinced I didn’t need it and I resisted all suggestions about doing something on that order.  Eventually I watched a lot of friends transform while doing the Fisher Hoffman process–as my late friend Ellen facilitated it, which is not what you get from the Hoffman Institute–and realized I needed to sign up.  Once I’d completed the work with her I felt so fond of the sweet freedom it brings, for years I kept going through the process every time I uncovered another issue.

Absolute refusal to do a practice or exercise is a major way to sabotage yourself.  I think on some level we always know when a practice is likely to open channels into the shadow and/or create a big change.  Even if the change is positive, your unconscious/ego may object and create resistance.  I try to check in and see whether fear of change or fear of “seeing” is behind the feeling that I absolutely don’t want to do something.

If it’s fear, I do it anyway, but sometimes I set a boundary that compromises between the “just do it” and the “no, no, no”.  Maybe, “I’ll just do it three times a week for 10 minutes.”  Or, I”m just going to do this today and I don’t have to do it again.  And then repeat the next day.  I have never been sorry I stepped beyond the fear and into the place where freedom lives.  Not once.

The other major way I sabotaged myself for a long time was failing to stop sometimes and allow the letting go and changing to become integrated.  I’ve mentioned it before — I’ve been in a hurry through most of this journey and definitely inclined to push the river.  There were many times I should have paused for a while but I’d just study with a new teacher or take up another practice.

I think my higher self/the Universe led me into this final and life-disturbing phase with my muscle issues to get me to finally stop for a while.  It was HARD for me to accept but as I’ve learned to sit back and quit pushing so hard, I’ve been able to see how crucial it is to allow the slow down/integration cycle to have its place in the transformational journey.*

Sometimes resistance is your higher self telling you to stop for a while, sometimes it’s your intuition telling you this practice isn’t for you.  Sometimes resistance arises from fear of change or fear of a better life.  And it’s your challenge to figure it out…

Which is where we circle back to mindfulness.  In order to be aware of how you sabotage and when you’re doing it, and in order to stay on track with doing practices, you have to spend enough time with your consciousness in the present moment to be aware of these things.  And few people are capable of creating a new “mindfulness” groove without practicing.

As I mentioned back in the first post in this series, I find that any practice, from chanting to movement (tai chi, Tibetan Rites, walking meditation…) to guided or silent meditation, can be a lesson in mindfulness if you focus on the practice and your breath and let any intruding thoughts drift away.  The practices will impact other issues and levels at the same time you’re learning to stay in the moment, so it’s a positive all around.

If you want to play piano, you practice.  If you want to learn French, you practice.  If you want to let go of whatever binds you and expand into the Divine Being you really are….   PRACTICE.  And if you’re sabotaging yourself by not practicing — or practicing too much — figure how to gently move yourself through the fear.  And then practice 🙂


*And it isn’t that I quit doing any practices, I just stuck mainly with the ones that ease my muscles and keep me balanced

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