Joy… hmmm… what is it?

Another action shot from Christmas Day up Moel...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about joy and fun.  And whether I feel them much… or ever…  I realize sometimes I’m not even sure what joy is or how to have fun any more.  Or maybe I’ve changed so much my definitions have just changed.

I do have this one precious memory of a joy-filled moment I relive when I want to move into a joyful place.  And that’s one of the nice things about any emotion:  you can choose to go there or move out of there or to change to a different one any time you want.

This particular moment was in Marin.  My friends had asked me to house sit through two sessions of their workshops and the couple of weeks in between — seven whole weeks in my favorite place, taking care of the kitties I’d helped raise, in the place where I’d had my little apartment.

Early in the trip I went for my favorite walk on a glorious day.  After crossing through the county park that abuts the house, I came out on a little country road that curves around the hill; for a while shortly after you exit the park you’re walking under trees on a section with no houses.

I stepped into that private space, so happy to be walking there and with nearly seven weeks left to revel in being there and I started jumping around in circles with my hands in the air.  That I can identify as joy.

The thing is, the way I used to run to clubs to hear music, go to parties, hang out with crowds and noise, etc.  now seems more like a pantomime of fun.  I love music, so there was some joy in hearing great bands.  But the rest was fodder for a restless and unhappy spirit and I’m quite sure a lot of the time I mistook over-excitement and over-stimulation for joy.  Also defined fun by some perception of what was “cool” among my peers.

When I look around these days, I see huge numbers of people who are pursuing the same — to me — illusory forms of joy and fun.  In fact these forms seem really amped up now.  Restaurants are bigger and noisier than any I remember, crowds at music events are bigger and louder.  Sporting venues hold more people, turn the sound up louder.  I have to use sound reducing earplugs to halfway tolerate a movie theater.  And I find all of it energy depleting, enervating, and somewhat depressing.

Thirty years plus in on meditating, yoga, practices, releasing, soul searching, etc. many of my moments of deepest satisfaction are very quiet.  Gazing at a sunset, a deep conversation over dinner with a couple of close friends, feeding people something I’ve cooked and watching their faces light up…  None of that puts me in quite the same space I held on the day I danced around in the middle of a Corte Madera mountain road.  So are such moments joy?

I was very interested to read Louise’s recent post at Dare Boldly and note her thoughts about sunsets and walks in the park and being with friends as joy-bringing activities.  It’s bringing me a whole new perspective on what joy maybe really is.

Those activities for me bring serenity, a sense of balance, a warm feeling in my heart.  I love to be in that kind of space but I can’t decide whether it’s joy I’m feeling or something softer yet deeply satisfying.

I find myself wondering if I’m still being seduced by some culturally implanted idea that joy should equate with something exciting.  Does it have to be as big as the moment of happiness so intense it had me jumping around in the street?   [btw, hard to express how unlike me that was and how much it says for the absolute joy I felt in the moment]

I’m just contemplating, not in a place where I have any sense of an answer.  And maybe joy and it’s bigness or smallness is in the eye of the beholder.  Or maybe it has big moments and small moments…  I imagine I’ll be revisiting this question for some time to come.

For me one of the joys 🙂 and drawbacks of the spiritual journey is becoming someone new.  Of looking at an emotional tone differently and trying to decide where the current version of me stands…  seeing how much my view/feeling has changed compared to various points in the past. Most of the time being new is great and sometimes not so easy…

Do I need that haircut?…Deciding what really has to happen

English: Durant-Dort Carriage Co Factory, Flint MI

English: Durant-Dort Carriage Co Factory, Flint MI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re getting ready to head out on our annual trip to my home town in Michigan.  After a history of loading the week before vacation with all kinds of miscellaneous tasks I decided MUST happen before leaving, I’ve been slowly learning to evaluate what really relates to the trip.

This time the decision to go was kind of last minute.  We started to make this trip last June and a series of health issues for my mother have kept us postponing until, instead of going at a new time as we’d hoped, we’re going just a couple of weeks later than our usual time.  At the end of last week she finally had resolved the main issues and I realized if we don’t go this week we really can’t.

Getting a long-overdue haircut was one of the things on my fairly short list of trip prep stuff for the week.  But sleepless nights and headaches and various small things going awry added up to having trouble fitting it in.  And the thing is I’ve been wearing my hair pulled into a clip for some years now, so having my hair cut to a certain length or style doesn’t make the difference it made when I had a more precisely cut “do”.  So, as the days went on I shrugged and quietly lobbed “must get haircut” off the list.

The whole process of consciously addressing my habit of overdoing during the week before travel followed years of health issues causing me to stop and evaluate what really had to be done and what was dispensable in general.  Took a while to realize it was also a big issue before taking a trip.  Working on the travel aspect  has me thinking about busy-ness in general and how I see people handling their long lists.  It often feels to me as if it’s become fashionable to have an overloaded schedule and many people seem to feel there’s something wrong with them if their schedule isn’t totally loaded.

In the midst of the frantically filled schedules I see lots of the same issues I’ve had about deciding what really has to be done.  I remember a friend in a state of high anxiety giving me a list of Christmas must-dos — most with made-up deadlines — and explaining how frantic she felt.

The next item up for her was some outdoor decorating scheme.  I understood that all of this felt like “have-tos” for her but I didn’t understand why they HAD to be done.  I finally asked whether anyone would die or be maimed if she just didn’t decorate the yard.  She looked shocked and admitted no one would.  But I could tell that, even though my question caused her to think about it, she didn’t want to let go of being frantic.

I see people all the time being frantic about lists, driving themselves crazy over stuff that, to me, shouldn’t be considered big stuff.  To me, if nobody’s going to die or be maimed or permanently emotionally traumatized from the doing or not doing of it, it’s small stuff.

I also see a lot of folks who add to their sense of having no time by exaggerating their thoughts about how long things will take.  Sometimes its purely a mental exaggeration and sometimes they add a list of steps to it that don’t really need to be part of it (like thinking up things to do before I leave on vacation).  I remember sitting with two friends, trying to arrange a time in the next two weeks to meet for planning an event.

One of them went on about how she didn’t know how she could meet for an hour because she had some furniture arriving which would mean needing to move some other furniture.  My other friend and I looked at one another, puzzled, and later we wondered how many times she planned on moving every piece if it was going to fill an entire two weeks…  The sad thing was she was really wound up about it

Before life led me in a new direction, I stayed too busy and lived with great anxiety about trivial tasks.  I didn’t know how to set priorities by importance and tended to treat little things as if they carried life and death import.  Over the years I’ve been cutting back, most people have been speeding up and making their lists longer.

It’s strange to me that it’s become such a fashion to be anxious and frantic and over-scheduled.  I don’t think people look all that good when anxious or racing frantically around, so I find it an odd trend.  But I do get that if you never sit down you never have a quiet moment to feel the stuff you don’t want to look at.

I feel like so many people would be more relaxed if they learned how to lob the seriously unimportant stuff, to de-prioritize less important stuff, and/or get a realistic sense of what needs doing and how long it will take to do it.  Personally I highly advise working on a more relaxing lifestyle before you run yourself down so much a health issue forces you to do it.

And the health and relaxation that come from facing the shadows after you sit still for a minute …  WOW!   I’m just sayin’…

Meanwhile, I’m almost packed, the house sitter’s room is ready and off we go…

An exercise to get into the view from the heart

English: Motivational speaker Tony Robbins at ...

Tony Robbins at a Twitter conference in 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve had a few Super Soul Sunday episodes stacking up on my DVR, waiting for moments when I felt I could really sit and pay attention.  [I sort of watch a lot of TV but usually with laptop in lap while catching up on e-mails, reading and writing blog posts, etc….  so not really seeing much of it]

Today’s viewing was the last one I had, an interview with Tony Robbins from a few weeks back.  Though I’ve been aware of him for many years and vaguely familiar with his work, I’ve not read any of his books nor previously watched any of his videos so this was my first real encounter.

At about 21 minutes in on my recording he did a very short little meditation exercise centered around focusing on an issue in your life, moving into a heart space and then reexamining the issue with the energy of heart.  I thought it had some powerful possibilities.  The whole interview was really good and the “short” at the end was wonderful, so you might want to see the whole thing if you can find it.*

An excerpt with this exercise is available at the moment on the OWN site:

The exercise here was an abbreviated version of his technique so it may not reflect the impact of doing the full version.  I was definitely taken by it.  But I found the questions he asked us to consider about gratitude –supposedly to move me into heart– moved me into my head as I reached for memories that seemed to fit.

In spite of that I felt a shift in attitude.  The problem I used is fairly big so I’d like to do it again and for a longer time.  And I came up with a couple of other ways I’d like to try it.

The first piece, putting your hands over your heart, is a good use of “energy flows where attention goes”, so at first I moved naturally into heart energy because the placement of my hands took me there.  I think I might have done better on the next step with just breathing in and out of my heart with my hands held there, bringing extra attention and energy to that level.

In another meditation I regularly do there’s a moment where you’re asked to recall a moment of great happiness.  I always recall a visit back to Marin during which, while out on a walk, I hit a beautiful stretch I love and felt so delighted to be there that I danced around with my arms in the air.  Recalling the moment puts me in a magical place.  I’m also going to try doing the exercise using the happy memory and see how it goes.

So, the three possible variations:

  1.  His method:
  • place your hands over your heart and leave them there throughout
  • think of an issue or problem
  • list three things for which you’re grateful
  • come back to the issue and see how it feels or what answers you have from the heart space

2.  Using energy:

  • place your hands over your heart and leave them there throughout
  • think of an issue or problem
  • inhale and exhale from your heart at least six breaths (or until you feel you’ve moved into the energy of heart)
  • review the issue again and see if your feelings or ideas about it have changed

3.  Happy memory

  • place your hands over your heart and leave them there
  • think of an issue or problem
  • inhale and exhale from your heart two or three times
  • focus on the happiest moment you can think of and really let yourself feel it
  • come back to the issue and see how it feels or whether you have a different view

I think there’s some potential here for powerfully moving through stuck places in a pretty simple exercise, so I’ll be working with this one!

*OWN has gotten to be pretty cagey about making full episodes available after airing.  This one is not on the OWN youtube page although there are excerpts.  As of today (Sept. 20, 2016) it’s available through On Demand.  It is NOT available on the OWN app.

Me and the Sun Porch

Okay, I’ve been all serious, deep thinking and heavily pontificating lately so I figured it was time for something a little lighter.  I’ve also been realizing a place where my blog always feels lacking to me is on the kind of personal stuff some of my favorite bloggers regularly post.

Not that I don’t reveal some deeply personal things here, but when I think of some of my faves such as Ra over at Rarasaur, Louise at Dare Boldly, or Liz at be love live I see these unfolding stories of lives being lived, events chronicled, etc. as well as their own lovely brands of deep spiritual thinking about all of it.

The thing is, in the years I’ve been blogging I’ve also not really been having a life in that sense.  A lot has happened but it’s all about healing on various levels and the toll it has all taken on my body has kept me mostly at home.

So a lot of my contemplation lately as I move through what I’m devoutly hoping is the final stretch of this portion of my healing journey (I’ve come to believe the journey of healing, growing, expanding never ends), is wondering what the next phase will be.  Right now I still don’t know and, as I’ve mentioned, I don’t want to plot and plan before I’m able to do it from the vantage point of the healed version of me.  Transformation is constantly in process and my sense of self and what I want changes with it…

In the meantime, a lot of this contemplating is happening on my sun porch (remember,, the lighter note of the post 🙂 ) and I took a few shots one day to show my view when I’m hanging out there.  And since I keep mentioning my new hang out, thought I’d share:

Breaking patterns, changing tapes…

A friend of mine recently asked me to suggest some practices or therapies that help to break patterns.  As soon as I gave it some serious thought I realized my answer is complex and I’ve been letting it percolate ever since.  Ultimately it seemed like some good info to organize into a post…

There have been a few distinct phases to my long spiritual and healing  journey.  The one most relevant to this question began in the early “aughts”.  I’d been “on the path” since 1985, when I began with some quite New Age material, including a lot of stuff about affirmations.  I soon thought of myself as having become a positive person.

I moved on to go through Nine Gates Mystery School, study Huna, add various practices to my regular yoga routine and complete the Fisher Hoffman Process.  Still thinking I’d become all positive …

Somewhere in the realm of 2006 a friend gently recommended The Secret after listening to me bitch for a couple of hours about substitute teaching.  For the first time I totally got how much negative thinking ran in my brain all the time.  It finally sank in that half an hour a day of affirming and visualizing can’t possibly overcome 23-1/2 hours of negative tapes running.

Later What the Bleep helped me understand how those tapes create neural nets and begin to deprive your peptide receptors of the ability to accept anything positive or good for you.   Once I began seeing these things I started working away at how to bust through it, change neural nets, heal peptide receptors, and, most importantly, CHANGE MY MIND.

Tending to throw multiple possible solutions at these kinds of issues, I pursued several paths.  In hindsight I can see I addressed it on several levels, physical, mental, and energetic.  Over the years I’ve found it helps to heal more than one level.  Some think healing one automatically spills over into healing them all but I have not found that to be true for me.  I find it works better to heal on various levels and they start working together.


The physical healing path for me has been ongoing now for thirty+ years and sometimes I have to look back to realize aspects of it tied in to more than just sorting out my muscles.  During this time I began getting Bodypatterning* treatments and also played around with Robert Masters’ Psychophysical Method combined with yoga until I created the work I’m now calling Flowing Body, Flowing Life.

The Bodypatterning and the Flowing Body work both help to bust up patterns held in muscles — which often means they both help you to release emotional issues held in those same patterns.  Some of the changes created by this intense period of releasing muscle patterns had a profound impact on changing what was happening with my thoughts.  Everyone I worked with who combined getting Bodypattening with doing my movement work created big releases and shifts.

CranioSacral work also created big pattern shifts and was responsible for setting off the unwinding process in my head.  I’ve gone back occasionally for more of that work.  Synchronistically, I met Kreig, the Bodypatterning fellow, through the school/massage center founded by the CranioSacral therapist–Judy– I saw so when Judy moved away I was able to move into the new modality which finally busted up many long-held patterns .

Yoga, if practiced mindfully and with attention to how it’s feeling, can also be a vehicle for release.  People tend to pull out of postures as soon as they start to tap into a pattern with attached emotions.  If you consciously note the desire to pull out but keep holding the posture, you will often come to a release.

These are just the techniques that worked best for me.  If you have a therapy or a movement practice that breaks up patterns for you, I’d say choose the one that already works for you.


For me, getting old tapes to stop playing has been a long process and one I wouldn’t call easy.  A variety of things can bring change.  Some big changes arrived during and upon completion of the Fisher Hoffman Process work, which involved a lengthy examination of parents’ beliefs and admonitions, seeing how you’ve incorporated all of them and a LOT of release work.  Really helped change some habits of thinking.

I’ve found affirmations quite helpful, but only when I changed the way I worked with them.  Once I saw the ongoing negative patterns in my thinking I set up a “watcher” to try to stay mindful of when I ran the tapes and which ones showed up most often.

I then developed affirmations which were basically positive turnarounds of the negative tapes.  Every time I caught myself re-running a negative tape, I would stop and repeat the turnaround statement several times.

It helped a lot in two major ways: (1) staying conscious of the patterns seemed to decrease their frequency and (2) the regular repetition of the turnarounds helped to create new, more positive, patterns.  And I think new neural nets…

I’ve long believed subliminal recordings can reach the unconscious and influence change.  I bought a selection of Dick Sutphen’s affirmation recordings and began playing them often; sometimes on a repeating loop all night long.  Then I put together a long list of them on Spotify and have been playing it very softly all day most days.  It’s slow and subtle but over time it has led to far more positive thought patterns.


Having learned a lot of practices like Flying Crane Chi Gung and the Eight Key Breaths, I knew how much can shift when energy is stronger and/or more balanced and/or flowing more freely.  Considering the benefits of various practices, I chose the Flying Crane, Key Breaths and the Five Tibetan Rites and began to practice 1-3 of them daily.  I wrote about it long ago here, with more explanations of the practices.

As noted in a recent post, I find changing energy lets you bypass the mind and create a shift without mental interference.  I just chose three practices I particularly love because they seemed to fit some specific goals I had at the time — many other practices that work with energy could give you similar benefits.

These practices, done while also receiving Bodypatterning, clearly enhanced the therapy as well as helping to move my energy into new and healthier patterns.


If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’ve also done a lot of work on ancestral patterns and visited a couple of healers who also helped in that arena.  Some of those posts:

I do NOT consider any of the information in this post to be any kind of definitive list.  I don’t believe in definitive lists.  I believe that whatever you believe will work, will work.  The specifics here are just to give you an idea of the kinds of practices I used.  Can’t say I’ve finished the process but enormous transformation has taken place since I began this pattern breaking process.  Anyone can do it.

* Developed by a fellow here in Lexington, it’s the most amazing body work I’ve had — and I’ve experienced at least a dozen varieties.  He now has a school, called Full Circle Massage School, so I’m in hopes practitioners will be fanning across the country and the globe, making it possible to get treatments wherever you are.

Peeling more layers


Eyemuscles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last couple of weeks have involved a lot of unwinding, not sleeping and headaches…  and a lot of reflection about this long long process.  [Pretty much every muscle you see up there has been wound up in knots and intertwined and/or glued to just about every other muscle in my face they could possibly touch]

Both body work practitioners and meditation “guides” have told me there were dangers (blindness or stroke) in opening the muscles too fast so I’ve tried to be grateful but really by and large I’ve been frustrated and impatient.  I’ve repeatedly asked the Universe and Ku to just finish the healing and let me be free.  I’ve said affirmations and done visualizations (and no, I’m not looking for suggestions for some other technique to try).  I’ve done practices and spent fortunes on body work and healers.  It all helps but the process is still maddeningly slow.

When I feel the degree of tugging on the left optic nerve and realize the depth to which it has been entwined in other muscles it IS nerve wracking and I can sense the danger if something pulled too hard or too suddenly.  It helps me understand the need for a slow unfolding but doesn’t stop me wishing it would hurry up.

I also keep feeling different stages of energy returning, with growing comprehension of how much energy tight muscles commandeer.  Long ago, when I finished the Fisher Hoffman process, most of the major muscles in my body (not head) finally started letting go.  The next year or two brought great progress in body work and I experienced a great boost of energy first from releasing the emotional material and then from opening muscles so energy could flow more freely.  It turned out the chronic fatigue arose from the muscle issues.

Now I’m experiencing an amazing process wherein the unfolding around my eyes is opening up energy pathways through my whole body.  It’s amazing to realize how much of my prana has been sidetracked into holding all these tight muscles in my face and how much tight muscles interfere with the flow of energy.

And the more I feel it the more I want to shout out to the many folks I see everywhere I go whose muscles are visibly tight:  heal your muscles and get your energy back!  Haven’t decided how to present this mission of healing but I can see it’s part of the reason for this long drawn-out process.

My impression, based both on my own experience and what I’ve observed, is that most people don’t realize how fatiguing it is to have tight muscles.  How detrimental to your health.  Until I finally got the right diagnosis, I had no idea tight muscles could squeeze organs and glands.  For me, it was every organ and every gland being squeezed until they could barely function.

For now all I can think of is to tell you to take care of your muscles.  If you have knots and painful places, do what you have to to heal them.  Your health and vitality depend on it.


A kinder view of ego

Microsoft clipart MP900399589

Microsoft clipart MP900399589

I’ve been reading Wayne Dyer’s companion book to “The Shift” movie in dribs and drabs and, while I’m enjoying it, I’ve also been noticing how much of the discussion is about ego. And he talks about ego as if it’s something to be eradicated.  His view is one I’ve seen in many places.  In Huna, I encountered a rather different idea about ego and I like it much better.

Huna considers us to have three levels of being.  Serge King calls them ku (unconscious), lono (conscious/mind) and kane (higher consciousness).*  Ku’s characteristics are very close to those of ego as described by many sources.  It adds a little more omniscience and is known for controlling the physical, but otherwise quite similar.

In this philosophy ku is considered to be the level that looks out for you and tries to make sense of the world and create a set of rules for life.  Ku always wants to move in the direction of what’s best for you or what will feel the best.  However, ku develops its basic view of the world based on your early life when your caretakers control life and death over you.

Whatever they do that threatens or frightens, whatever negative beliefs and admonitions they hold, ku takes all of that in, develops your belief system based on those experiences, and then runs your life by that system.  But ku’s main function is always to choose the path of greater happiness.

So if you talk to ku and work with him/her, you can change the original set of beliefs and get ku to work with you on creating a new reality.  Show ku your vision of happiness if you released an issue or got the job or … and ask ku to remember its mission to move you toward the greater happiness.

Explain to ku with kindness how grateful you are for the service she/he has always tried to offer and ask ku to take on new beliefs that will serve adult you better.  I love this way of acknowledging a level of myself that’s always going to be part of me and, instead of treating it like a demon needing an exorcism, to work with my unconscious to create a new belief system.

I mentioned recently that I’m seeing a lot of the thinking of Judeo-Christian institutions permeating New Age/New Thought thinking and this tendency to characterize ego as evil is an example. When I read these discussions in which ego is spoken of as if it’s some outside agent of the devil, I feel as if I’ve wandered into the church’s world of black and white and good and evil.

I think ego is just part of you, doing the best it can to keep you safe.  And more than willing to listen to you and work with you on changing course.  If you can save your infected toe or your weak heart you’d do it without a blink.  Why would you be willing to try to stomp out your ego?  It’s part of you.

*The typical words used in Huna are longer, but King likes to keep things short and simple and I like his easy-to-remember names.  The concepts are exactly the same as in any other discussion of the three levels.  (i.e. a rose by any other name…)

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



What the Bleep Do We Know!?

What the Bleep Do We Know!? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday I wrote some general benefits of regularly performing sacred practices.  Now I want to talk about how those benefits help you to create new patterns.

Ten years ago, when I bought What the Bleep:  Down the Rabbit Hole, I watched it over and over.  And I especially played certain sections about the science multiple times.  One of the pieces that had a huge impact was the stuff about how we create neural nets, the patterns of thinking and habits of doing that become the fabric of our lives.

The news that an overload of negative patterns can shift your peptide receptors so you can no longer take in positive thoughts, foods, etc.  resonated deeply for me.  And, of course, the idea that you can change those patterns was something I’d been working on since I started off in 1985 with the “you create your reality with your thoughts” philosophy (for more recent converts/younger people, think Law of Attraction).

Most of what I worked with on the creating reality front was mental.  Although my therapist also taught me a number of meditations in which I could release or change something, the process was by and large mental.  And I believe changing your mind is a crucial part of the process.

But it’s not the only way you can make changes.  And, over the course of 30 years of performing various practices, I’ve come to believe that practices can make a huge difference in changing patterns.


As noted in Part 1, most spiritual practices, if done with focus and attention, can help train you to keep your mind more quiet and focused in the moment.  If you want to change your thinking, it’s just about impossible to do if you can’t stay mindful enough to realize when you’re running negative tapes or falling into old patterns.

Although I’ve met a few people over the years who seemed to be able to encounter Wayne Dyer or Louise Hay, flip a switch and suddenly be positive all the time, for most of us it requires a lot of work to even notice all the negative tapes playing in the background.  And without mindfulness training of some sort, I don’t see how you can stay present enough to turn around those negative thoughts.

The critical editor in your mind, who constantly criticizes, complains, and points out the bad in everything, tends to run rampant and keeps a flood of those kinds of thoughts racing around.  That becomes a groove; a set of neural nets that only notice and only run unhappy thoughts.

Practices that train the mind to be more quiet over time start creating a new groove in which the mind becomes more comfortable without the constant chatter and it slowly becomes easier to stay aware of your thinking and change its direction.


When I do a yoga set or the Five Tibetan Rites or “sit vipassana” I always notice that the state of balance and calm these practices induce lasts for hours afterwards.  Over the years, these hours of calm have created a new pattern of serenity that carries into pretty much all areas of my life.  And I doubt you’ve ever known anyone who was any more tense, anxious, and neurotic than I used to be 🙂

Combined with the greater mindfulness the practices have also created, I can much more readily notice when anything has thrown me off balance and almost immediately call back the calm.

A big component of Feldenkrais’ and Robert Masters’ (student of Feldenkrais who created the Psychophysical Method I use in my teaching) work is the idea that if you notice how your body normally is held and then do something to release it and purposefully note the change, you will eventually create a stronger pull to the one that feels better.  I think of it as making a new neural net or pattern.

I think the calm, balance and serenity of these practices affect you the same way.  When your mind starts contrasting the anxiety or tension before you practice with the peacefulness afterward, it moves toward the pattern that feels better and begins to hold it more often and more strongly.

I also find after I’ve done the Eight Key Breaths or chanted the Lovingkindness chant, for instance, the negative tapes and thoughts just don’t have a foothold for a while.  My mind is more positive when I feel that centered and balanced.  I’ve noted it’s a great time to say or listen to affirmations as my whole being is more receptive from that calm space.


I tried for a long time to make these changes mainly through mental processes.  I wanted to “think away” the negative thoughts.  I’ve known a LOT of people over the years who want to accomplish the spiritual journey only by working on the mental side.

Over time I’ve learned there are too many levels to us to work just on the mind.  I’ve also found that the ego more easily controls, blocks and redirects mental efforts.

Most of the practices I’ve ever encountered work much more on the spiritual, physical and sometimes emotional levels.  Movement practices often open key areas of the body so both blood and prana flow more readily everywhere.  Sometimes they stretch muscles enough to release emotions and issues held within.

Even more important, they build energy and help to bring it into balance.  When the energy is flowing freely and is balanced, it can shift you more profoundly than just changing your thoughts.

I’ve found it’s often easier to shift if I bypass my mind with practices than if I try to force my mind to change.  About 8 years ago I went back to faithful practice of the Eight Key Breaths, the Five Tibetan Rites and Flying Crane Chi Gung.  As I wrote a while back, I felt I needed to approach my remaining physical and emotional issues and blocks with energy.

I generally always have several types of practices and some body work going at the same time, so it’s hard to credit one particular thing, but the fact that I’ve finally been pushing through the hold-out muscles and issues can be credited in large part, I feel, to doing those practices.  While I’ve also had AMAZING body work and I also credit the great therapists I’ve seen, I’m not sure their work would have worked as well without the energy practices opening and moving and shifting as much as they did (still do…).


As you can see, I really love doing various practices and I absolutely believe those practices have been a major component in the many, many ways in which my life has changed.  In the final part of this series I’ll explore how many of us sabotage ourselves by not practicing and some of the reasons why.

J2P Monday: A reorganizing body

English: yoga posture forward bend I took this...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The farther I move toward wellness, the more I am convinced that a healthy, open flowing body is just as important to becoming peace as having a mind that thinks peaceful thoughts or being a person who meditates, etc.  So I wanted to come back to J2P Monday with a post about opening the body.

Long ago I posted about muscles and their interconnections.  In that one I explored the way a muscle pulled out of alignment and/or tightened up in one area can wind up impacting muscles all over your body if it’s not healed.  Currently I’m experiencing the opposite impact of interconnectedness:  when muscles start unwinding in one place, muscles in other places start being released as well.

I began practicing yoga in 1985, several years before I began getting regular body work.  I knew my muscles needed some stretching but I didn’t yet know every single muscle was knotted up like steel, all the muscle groups were glued together, some muscle groups were glued to bones and knotted patterns were layered and crisscrossing one another.  By then so many years of twisted muscles added up to numbness.  I really had no idea how bad it was.

The first big surprise came after about two years of yoga.  I’d hit 5’5-3/4″ around age 15 and stayed there.  In 1987, at 34, I started dating a fellow who claimed to be 5’5-3/4″.  Since I was clearly taller I said that couldn’t be.  So we measured ourselves.  I’d stretched to 5’7-1/4″!  At that point I figured I’d just about finished healing my muscles.  HA!!  I’d mostly just stretched the glued-together muscles enough to be taller.

A couple years later I began regular deep tissue massage treatments from a woman who specialized in tough cases (doctors sent people to her when they gave up)–and eventually named me one of the top 3 toughest she’d ever encountered.  As she worked, I’d periodically realize I’d lost my sense of balance in the standing yoga postures (all of which require some degree of balancing to hold them steady and without falling over).

Twenty-six years later I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had to recalibrate all those postures to suit changes caused by big releases in my muscles.  One area opens and many things start moving in the body.  Suddenly the combination of muscles I use to balance and how I hold them no longer keeps me steady.  Each time it happens I have to re-learn those postures and my sense of balance in them.  Kind of a nice metaphor for how spiritual growth requires regularly re-tuning your life.

English: This is a corrected version of an ima...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many practitioners over the years noted my tilted sphenoid.  The sphenoid is a bone more or less in the middle of your head, behind your eyes.  Most of the muscles you use to chew are attached to it, so if it’s tilted it’s pulling all of those muscles out of alignment.  Those muscles connect into your jaw and from there into muscles that go down into both sides of your neck and then through various interconnections all the way to your feet.  If it stays tilted (and craniosacral practitioners treat a LOT of people for tilted sphenoids) it eventually impacts down both sides of your body from head to toe.

For me that tilt was just one of a number of crisscrossing patterns in my head and a number of them connect(ed) to other places throughout my body.  My sphenoid is now more or less straightened and that system of muscles is sorting itself out.  A few knots in my head open and an hour or two later something snaps open in my shoulder or stomach, hips, groin, knees, ankles, feet…  Many bones have been held out of alignment.  So as these muscles open there are shifts occurring as every muscle and bone in my body adjusts to each new release.

One thing I see ever more clearly is how the healing of my physical issues has been central to my journey of spiritual and personal growth.  All my blocks and issues were written on my body and only by healing it can I open the energy flow and connect with my divine self.

Not only have I re-calibrated my balance as my muscles released but the way I experience energy and how it flows from practices like The Eight Key Breaths and The Five Tibetan Rites keeps changing as well.  When I began this journey I could sense an overall calm and a kind of general uplifting of energy from affirmation, meditation, practices, etc. but nothing more refined.  As my muscles open, I continually feel more nuances.  Sometimes it’s an awareness of energy flowing in many places where I’ve never felt it before and sometimes it’s an awareness that a particular chant or practice ignites one specific chakra or builds energy in one part of my body more than others — and sometimes that changes the next time a bunch of muscles open.

The more I feel these many nuances, blessings, and benefits of healed muscles and a body that’s open to allowing the flow of prana (vital force energy) to move freely through it, the more I feel this aspect of the journey is much more crucial than it’s often given credit for being.


The bumpy road to bliss


I’ve been working on a post about some of the muscle changes that arise as you heal old patterns and I will post that one soon, but as I’ve worked on it, I’ve been reflecting on the larger issue of many varieties of growing pains that arise on any journey of healing, whether physical, emotional or spiritual.

Most of the time if a practice or a modality or an herbal remedy is working, there’s some not-so-pleasant spell of pain or intense emotion or stuff coming out of you before the blessed relief.  If you’re doing your job of leaving behind your old self in order to merge with Self, you’re going to look at the deep dark corners of your soul, cry, yell…  feel like crap.  If you’re healing physical issues — actually healing, not masking symptoms with medicine — the stuff that works is going to give you a headache or make your nose run, or give YOU the runs or leave some muscle(s) sore…

I’ve encountered many people over 30 years as a student, an assistant, and a teacher who somehow imagine a spiritual journey involves nirvana all the time.  If anything hurts or causes crying or leads their body to release something, they’re stunned and convinced this practice or healing method is bad.  At the first headache or tear drop they’re gone, gone, gone.

One of my earliest experiences came at the first week-long workshop I attended.  The teachers emphasized we really needed to drink a lot of water because we’d be moving a lot of energy and releasing toxins.  I’d never been much of a water drinker, my eating habits were poor and, although I’d not realized at that time, my digestive system was, shall we say, sluggish.

I obeyed the water-drinking suggestion and man did my intestinal tract do some major clearing.  Somehow I completely understood that this was a good thing– both literally and figuratively, getting rid of “old shit”– and, besides all the consciousness raising benefits, my health got a boost too.

In many varieties of body work I have learned over and over how numb muscles are when they’re tightly knotted — and when you open them up and let those numbed-out nerve endings out in the world again, IT HURTS.  The opened muscles are often in pain for days or a week.  I’m always so focused on the relief I feel from the release, I don’t mind that sore muscle at all.

I’ve cried a river of tears, I’ve pounded and screamed, I’ve looked into the dark places of my childhood that I’d buried out of sight.  And I do it all for the healing, for the sweet release into freedom and the ever growing ability to live in a state of equilibrium.

To be honest, I didn’t set off on this path in search of bliss or even higher consciousness.  I started out just trying to be happier and able to get past a lot of hang-ups that held me back.  I did it by going to a therapist who worked with meditation, past life work, affirmations, etc. and I came to embrace the spiritual aspects of my journey but never with a goal of permanent bliss.

However as I’ve opened and grown I’ve realized that bliss is more about being able to hold a space of calm regardless of what comes.  And you get there by healing your physical, emotional and spiritual issues.  But what it isn’t is a state where you’re on some perpetual high and nothing bad ever happens.  What changes is how you react to both the good and the bad.  It’s the process through the pain, the vale of tears, the hidden memories that lets you take the world’s ups and downs with serenity.

But I’ve met a lot of people who are seeking some kind of everlasting high and shudder and shy at anything that causes pain or brings up emotions.  I always wonder how far they really get on their journey.  Because the way I see it, the journey toward a more blissful life …  it ain’t all blissful, baby.  Some of it is treacherous going, uncomfortable and unpleasant.  But on the other side… liberation.



The time between

Kentucky River by Hall's 4

As my head opens up and my ancestral issues fade, I’ve been noticing how much more I’m both hearing from and paying attention to my intuition and how much I’m changing as the muscles change.  But mostly I’m still at a place of waiting… and coming to understand the importance of transitions.

With much more frequency than previously I’m being tapped on the shoulder  about a wide array of things from Vitamin D’s relation to aching backs to, lately, a lot of messages about both waiting and going with the flow as change arrives.

For instance, I just finished Elizabeth Berg’s lovely novel Tapestry of Fortunes, which I chose just because I’d not read it yet (love her), and it turned out to be another fun message on the going-with-the-flow theme.  The novel kind of glossed over the transition phase but was a lovely meander through a woman’s decision to change everything and doing it by  saying yes to each new thing that comes along.

I’ve been saying for a while I just want to let this final stage of healing unfold and see where I am and which way things are flowing.  I don’t have a plan. There are a few projects I hope to undertake, but I’m getting big internal “wait” messages.  At this stage I’m curious whether I’ll even be interested in those projects when the unwinding muscles saga concludes.

As my head becomes more and more free I feel more free and… different.  Right now it’s more a sense of becoming than anything I can name, but I’m feeling new.

I’ve been struggling for a description of what’s happening emotionally as my face relaxes into healthy patterns.  For a long time I’ve felt those grooves didn’t just come from repressed emotions but that those patterns began overlaying certain feeling tones on me regardless of how I felt aside from the muscles.

As the patterns in my head let go, I’m experiencing less and less of those sensations of anger, anxiety, irritability, etc. mingling with my general feeling of calm and serenity.  With the combo of muscle releases and ancestral issues clearing, I’m finally seeing an impact from all the years of spiritual practices playing out naturally in every day life.  I’m experiencing all these nuances in part because I HAVE slowed down and honored this transition phase.

As this unfolds, I continue haphazardly with my try/do new small stuff project, which is adding (1) to the sense of unfurling new petals and (2) to the effort to move out of the cocoon in which I’ve been wrapped during the long difficult process with my muscles. The key for me is to choose new things as the thought arises or a possibility appears instead of making a plan.

The next book I chose after the Elizabeth Berg novel was The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. I didn’t know much about it but it turned out to be another novel about someone coming out of a rut and making big life changes.  🙂  I had to laugh when I got to this passage:

`Do you know there’s a halfway world between each ending and each new beginning?   It’s called the hurting time…  Don’t underestimate the transition … between farewell and new departure. …

Since then I have often thought about … the threshold  that you have to cross between farewell and new departure.  The Little Paris Bookshop (Crown Publishing, New York, 2015), p. 301.

I wouldn’t describe my experience as a “hurting time” so much, though I did go through a grieving period earlier in the year.  But the sense that there’s a transition phase which needs to be honored fits beautifully not only with all the “wait” messages I keep getting but also with my own sense of being in a place “between”.

While the muscles continue unwinding I’m still having trouble sleeping enough and with being tired from the constant reorganizing of my body.  The “wait” message often includes a side note about completing the healing and then resting.  Part of me feels the societal pressure to be out there doing.  But by and large the waiting feels right for the transition time.

As I become acquainted with aspects of myself whom I’ve never met, I feel not just content to allow the transition to unfold but also determined to let the new me be revealed and find out what she wants to do.  Any plan I might make now feels as if it would impose old me on new me.  I seriously don’t want to re-bind myself in the shackles that have confined most of my life.

During my journey I’ve mostly ignored these transition moments and just kept pushing.  I’ve noticed many spiritual journeys wind up being so goal-oriented in this hurry-up world that seekers frequently skip sitting still for the transition moments.

As I sit quietly in this slow transit from past me to the next me, I’m feeling how important it is to stop the headlong motion and honor the transition.  To grieve what’s being left.  To integrate new lessons.  To allow the emerging new pattern time to gestate.

So here I am.  Just waiting…  (not even thinking Godot might show up…)



My undulating spine

An animated gif of a walk sequence.

Walking “wrong” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the things I’m most appreciating lately about the changes in my body is the return of my undulating spine.

I figured out some years ago as I released lots of patterns with the Flowing Body work I created,  our spines are naturally meant to undulate as we walk.  When everything is released and I’m mindfully letting it flow, my hips are moving, my lumbar is moving, my upper back is moving and my shoulders are doing full rotations as I walk.

Yep.  Everything is moving.  Separately.  Unlike the guy up above who’s walking the way most of us (in the U.S. anyway–chime in if you think it happens in your country too) do, as if nothing in the entire spine from base to top can move on its own.

As I chatted with my students we realized that around age 12 or so (possibly younger now as children mature faster)

  1. girls get told that swinging hips are slutty
  2. boys get told that swinging hips are girly

and everybody starts walking stiffly.  Add in a lot of admiration for stiff military posture and you get people walking with backs that don’t move and hips that stay stiff and move as little as possible.

Even after I realized how we’re meant to walk and had released enough to be able to walk that way, I’d still stiffen up while taking a walk unless I kept mindfully paying attention to how I walked.  The stiff, motionless style of walking becomes so ingrained, it’s hard to overcome it.

When you walk that way, some muscles are overly tight in order to hold that stiffness.  Over time the tightness starts creating patterns in your muscles which can spread throughout your body.  Other muscles that are intended to be moving are not being used so they atrophy.  The tightness in some muscles and the under use of others together create an aching back.

I’ve talked with so many people who report they, as I did, often finish a walk with a terribly aching back.  It became something I dreaded about taking walks and contributed to why I’ve spent more time in recent years on an exercise bike and doing kundalini yoga.

Last year after my amazing healing session with Osunnike I noticed when I practiced the Flowing Body work for spine, even during the practice my spine already felt looser and moved much more than it usually did AFTER completing the release work and was much freer than ever before when I finished.

Since the latest big healing moment many things have been shifting.  For a while my back really bothered me and after resolving some contributing bedding issues I started realizing that all the opening in my head is releasing muscles all over my body.  As these muscles unfold for the first time in decades, they’re not used to exercise or … moving at all… and they protest.  Some of the back issues came from that.

I did quite a bit of the spine releases and some specific yoga work to help, which actually just pushed more opening faster and, for a while, added to the pain.  But now that area is all settled down and I’m realizing when I go for walks that I’m undulating pretty naturally.  I don’t have to make each walk an exercise in mindfulness about how I move because my back has released so well and everything is flowing so much that most of the time everything is moving as it’s supposed to move.

Right now I cherish to these moments when something shows me clearly how much has changed.  On the trip I saw how much more calm and centered I am.  The walks I’ve taken since I’ve been home (it’s getting HOT so they’re becoming few and far between 🙂 ) have reminded me how much my body has changed and is still changing.

Do all the parts of your hips and back that should be moving actually move when you walk?


Pushing the River

Kentucky River by Hall's 3.JPG

Kentucky River, L. Gaitskill 4/16

The week before I left for Marin, I had an appointment at which a big release in my head finally occurred.  Always pressing for this long process to be over, I hoped the release might lead to finishing the unwinding process before I left.

Didn’t happen.  So then I moved to hoping it would finish out there.  Didn’t happen.  Though the unwinding has been moving at quite a pace since the big hang-up piece released, it’s taking longer than I hoped.

it’s not that I don’t know better than to keep pushing.  Not that I’m unaware that when I keep looking ahead I’m not staying in the moment.  Patience and waiting have been major, ongoing lessons for me as I don’t do either naturally :-).  But I’ve found it especially hard to keep myself from looking beyond the pain and discomfort of all this muscle stuff… to  gaze hopefully into a future where my body is free and healthy.

I imagined that the unwinding would be done by the time I got to Marin and I’d spend my weeks there resting and meditating and contemplating my next steps.  Instead, lots of unwinding happened there, though for once it didn’t interfere with sleep and I got tons of rest.  Instead of mapping out the next phase, I slipped into relaxation, allowing the huge shift created before the trip to percolate through.

In spite of those hopes for “doneness” and planning, I quite naturally moved into being in the moment more than usual, enjoying the scenery, the quiet, reading and walking, etc.  Since I’ve been home the unwinding has gone amuck again and is back interfering with sleep.  And I’m frustrated again, wanting it to be over.

So much in my face is now open and so little is left…  but the remaining pieces are the deepest core and they’re SO tight.  I’m not sure how much longer — I just know every day I want it to be the last day.

While I struggle with patience, I’m also understanding all the “wait” messages I’ve been getting for some time.  Besides the inner message I’ve been receiving for a while, lately I’ve been drawing runes and tarot cards with “wait” messages.

And finally I’m settling into a place where — at least some of the time — I am prepared to just wait.  The inner wisdom is that while my body is reorganizing itself (more on that in another post) I need to just sit back and let it happen.  It takes a lot of energy to re-do a body.

But sometimes, I kinda want to push the river 🙂

BTW:  It’s Sunday, so I hope you’ve already found or still have set aside 10 or more minutes to pray or chant or meditate for/on peace.  See CPS page for more info.

Marin Reflections: the up side 2

The biggest reason I love to be back where I used to live is the hardest to describe.  Soul fulfillment.

Part of it is the land there.  Mount Tamalpais has always seemed magical to me and I feel its magic permeates the area.  I often feel I’m being healed just by driving or walking around and gazing at the shimmering hills.

And then there’s the house my apartment used to be in.  Gay, the owner, is the founder of Nine Gates Mystery School.  For the 30 or so years she’s lived there the property has been the scene of frequent ceremonies, meditations, offerings to the devas, a Bhajans group (Sai Baba chanting), etc.  That particular piece of property has a powerful energy thanks to the deeply reverent activities regularly taking place there.

Add the magic of the area and the beauty and power of the house and grounds and the recipe for me adds up to feeling my soul has been nurtured.

And then there are the friends.  Most of my friends in the area are fellow Nine Gates graduates but I know a few folks from other spiritual workshops and one dear friend dates back to junior high school.  While we can swirl through light topics like anyone, we also speak of deep and personal things.  We tell of our spiritual trials and lessons.  And I feel connected and nourished.

My best friends here in KY like to see me go off on these trips because they can see how healed I am when I return.  It’s not that I don’t love the land here or that I don’t have good friends, there’s just something about Marin…

Nothing about the trials and tribulations around the edges of this journey interfered in any way with drinking in the energy and enjoying every moment.  Not so many years ago I’d have allowed the small irritations to rule but I’ve moved into such a different space, nothing could stop me from drinking in the energy and beauty and loving it.