Creating bridges with dialogue

Part of one of this week’s assignments in the Harmony and Co-Humanity class I’m taking was to watch this video.  Meghan grew up in a right wing church that basically operated as a hate group, and did a complete 180 turn.

Her story is moving and her advice on bridging divides with considered dialogue are worth watching.  Only 15 minutes:

When I grow up?

Twilight, Ashland walled garden

I’ve not meant to be so sporadic about posting.  Lots of yanking around the eyes and sleepless nights contribute to lack of brain power for writing.  But I’m also realizing I’ve been in a time of gestation about writing and what I am or am not meant to do with it.

It’s part of an ongoing inner shift and debate I’ve been exploring for some years (including in previous posts).  When I first started on this spiritual journey I was sure writing novels was my path.  A great deal of my early work centered on removing blocks, rediscovering childhood creativity and generally trying to awaken my inner writer.

One novel and several novel attempts later I began to question whether fiction is even my genre.  And when my guidance nudged me to blog, I wondered if this was my path.  Eventually I came to treasure the community of friends I’ve made through blogging but to question whether my writing here serves any purpose as a life path.

And of course there’s the general questioning as I’ve released and transformed and shifted my way from neurotic, negative Nancy (my real first name) to level and lighter Leigh (my more-beloved middle name).  I’ve let go of so much in the last 25 or so years, I’m sometimes not sure who I am and less sure of what I’m here to do.

Eventually, as the regular crowd here knows, I decided a big piece of my purpose is this long, convoluted journey of healing on every level.  The yanking lately is showing me clearly the muscles in my face have just about finished unwinding (as always with the caveat these last pieces are the very tightest so slow going…) and a new chapter is dawning.

I’m still very unclear as to what the new chapter is or looks like but lately more and more signs and portents have been pointing a way.  Next post I’ll explore this more, but let’s just say I’m sensing strongly that coming back to blogging about peace is the next direction.  Or I’m heading back to an old direction? 🙂

Blessed healing journey

Sunset2 Dec 3 2017

A couple of friends recently commented on my ability to tune into patterns opening in my body.  It’s always nice to hear, but initially I didn’t give it much thought.  Last night, however, I was reflecting on this long healing process in light of their thoughts and noticed how I’ve mostly considered it and written about it as torture.  Now, I often look for the up side and I’ve written posts indicating some positive thoughts, but over all I must admit the general misery and discomfort of unwinding muscles and sleepless nights for the most part fill my focus.

Suddenly I could see more blessing in it.  Not only that the process has forced me to pay more attention to my body than I ever would have given it.  Not only that I have been able to mark progress on many fronts even while many people don’t quite believe healing in this form is happening.  But also a blessing because I seem to be on a very unusual path in this whole unwinding/healing muscle thing and I’m seeing that I’m in the privileged position of being a path finder.

When I first began complaining of fatigue and issues with my muscles, western medicine was swearing up one side and down the other that neither chronic fatigue nor fibromyalgia existed so their diagnosis was that I should see a shrink.  Period.  Alternative practitioners began providing answers and naming the two major issues they found [fyi: when western medicine acknowledged fibromyalgia they also defined it so my symptoms didn’t seem to fit although alternative therapists have often felt my muscles and said I have it…].

According to my first serious therapeutic massage specialist every muscle in my body was wound up like a steel cord, all the muscles in every muscle group were glued together and the groups were also glued to my bones.  Eventually, after many of the larger and surface muscles were in much better shape and most unstuck from the bones, another practitioner saw and helped me realize the underlying intertwining and complex patterns remaining in the smaller and connective muscles.

I’ve been at it for three decades. Some practitioners have been dismissive of what has gone before because they felt it should have all been resolved quickly – and then they failed to resolve it.  I had to accept a long time ago that my muscles were in trouble at a level that was way beyond most practitioners and too complicated to resolve speedily.

It has taken many types of body work, inventing my own exercise program (combining the Psychophysical Method with yoga), emotional release work, past life work, ancestral healing work and more to reach a point where I can see the light at the end of the tunnel pretty brightly.  The process has taken me deep within, led to multiple transformative experiences, taught me a huge amount about how we hold onto the past – not only our own but our past life and ancestral pasts as well – and changed the trajectory of my life dramatically and overall I would say for the better.

After a few decades of being told by one practitioner after another  they’ve never seen this, that, or the other thing as bad as my… psoas, neck, hip, whatever, I know most people don’t have physical issues of the same magnitude.  I also know from learning to move and to observe how others move, that millions of people walk around with tight muscle patterns interfering with their movement, their ability to process emotions, their capacity to feel energy, etc.  And I feel as though talking about my journey and process might help some of those people to open some channels and pathways for their own lives to receive more healing.  In fact, I hear every now and then from someone who says it has helped them take better care; what a great feeling.

As I survey this history, I feel this glow of blessing.  For once, instead of viewing it only as a burden I have unfairly had to bear, I can see the Universe entrusted me with an unusual but important journey and what a gift it is that I have been able to explore all these nuances and share my experience.  Which is not to say I won’t be back whining about my uncomfortable muscles or being kept up all night 😊  But more than ever I also feel gratitude for being sent on this journey of healing.

A little catch up, a little FYI …

Robin 2017

Robin in our back yard 2017

Muscles in my face are still going nuts and when they’re not I can’t seem to stop sleeping (possibly something to do with thousand of hours of sleep deprivation — and yup, I figured that out with all kinds of math formulas … not 🙂 ) so I have posts floating in the recesses of my mind but haven’t been able to sit down and focus enough to write them.

I’ve still been trying to keep up the regular chanting practice (lovingkindness chant + Gayatri Mantra + Om Shanti Shanti) yet also work my way through the practices in Life Loves You.  Also weaving some of the kundalini yoga sets I used to do regularly back into my practice schedule along with the yoga/Robert Masters/exercise bike routines I’ve been doing and trying to hit the Eight Key Breaths, and Five Tibetan Rites as well.

Sometimes I feel like I know so many practices and exercises that I could get up in the morning and start doing them and just keep going all day long if I wanted to hit everything faithfully…  So many different ones serve different purposes in energy or muscles or feeling tones.  Right now I’m just juggling in a “go-with-the-flow” kind of thing, seeing what feels right each day during the time set aside.

Wanted to also mention a couple of new things I’ve run into that I think would be of interest to some of the regulars around here.  Belinda Witzenhausen has started a blog hop thingy devoted to promoting stories of love and positivity.  You can sign up on a linky page to participate and the first posts are to go up on March 31.

I’ve also signed up for a class offered through Daily OM called Release Yourself from Family Karma.  As you know, I’ve been working on clearing ancestral issues for some time now and this class looks like a good opportunity to identify and clear some remaining issues.  And they nicely allow you to choose your payment  on a sliding scale of $10.00, $25.00 or $40.00 (the default seems to be $25 but if you click on that it opens up to a menu with the three options).

And my time to chant is calling now…  Peace, out…

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Part 3 Peace Begins with You: Mental Body

What the Bleep Do We Know!?

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

Mental attitude has a huge impact on your life and what you draw into your life.  If you want to be an emissary of peace your thoughts need to be peaceful.  Most of us have a lot of negative tapes playing in our heads, beliefs and ideas planted in early childhood and running on endless loops in the background.  This piece of the series explores some of the things you can do to “change your mind”.

It is tough to break this down into separate parts because all our “parts” are so integrated, but I do think there are practices for each aspect of being and it helps to work on all levels.  Still, it’s been a struggle to separate this piece.

The mental body winds up ruled much of the time by unconscious issues and beliefs held in the emotional body, for instance, so it helps to dig into what lies beneath.  But that’s for the emotional body piece…

When I began this journey affirmations, visualizations and general positive thinking were front and center in the New Age movement and many of us thought we’d spout affirmations for a few months and our lives would be forever changed.  The choice to move in that direction probably did change our lives but we found it takes more and longer for most people.

While I’ve always had some degree of success with visualizing and/or affirming something and creating that reality, this has really been one of the toughest aspects of the journey for me — the “simple” act of changing my mind.  Oh, I thought I’d done it.  Become Miss Positivity.  I was 20 years down the road before I really “got” how many negative tapes looped through my head all day every day.

If you spend 10 or 20 minutes a day purposefully repeating some positive affirmations/statements and then the other 23 hours and 40 minutes running negative tapes, guess which wins?  When negative issues and beliefs are running the show from the unconscious, I think affirmations are kind of like dripping water onto a mountain and waiting for erosion to take it down…

By the time I realized how negative my thinking really was, I’d done a LOT of emotional release work.  Once I began concentrating on positive thinking I could see how much more impact it had than before all that clearing.

Some of the things I’ve used:

  1. I set up a “mindful” watcher to pay attention and alert me to negative tapes and their patterns.  When I realize a given tape is running a lot, I write a positive turnaround/affirmation and every time I catch the negative thought, I instantly repeat the turnaround multiple times.
  2. I created a long playlist of Dick Sutphen’s affirmations on Spotify and generally if I’m on the computer, it’s playing very softly in the background; soft enough to be almost subliminal rather than heard.  Sometimes 8, 10, 12 hours a day, affirmations about just about every subject you can imagine, speaking positive thoughts to my subconscious.
  3. Over the years I’ve put together a small collection of movies like Louise Hay’s Heal Your Life, What the Bleep, and The Secret and I try to watch one or another of those fairly often.
  4. YouTube has some good affirmations videos and I have a collection of affirmations recordings, so I often go to sleep with affirmations playing on my tablet.
  5. I love the Lovingkindness Chant and I say it as an affirmation.  I generally chant it for 10 minutes a day but I also just repeat it to myself off and on and I often go to sleep and/or wake up and say it to myself.   To me the chant covers every major area of life and in a way that invites the Universe to fulfill it in whatever way is best — that for me is the perfect affirmation:  I am filled with lovingkindness, I am well, I am peaceful and at ease, I am happy.  If you chant it enough to make all those things true for you, what more could you want?
  6. I re-read some of my old favorite books on metaphysics like Jack Kornfield’s Path with Heart or Shakti Gawain’s Living in the Light or I find a new one to love like Elizabeth Lesser’s Marrow.  Books that support my ever-more-positive world view.
  7. I hang around as much as I can with people who believe in positive thinking, to attend events that involve ceremony or chanting or a talk on “New Age/New Thought” ideas, and to stay away from negative thinking.   I’ve unfriended a person or two from Facebook and hidden others from my wall.
  8. I have a regular practice of singing Sanskrit chants.  These chants are basically affirmations and I like singing them in a language I don’t know.  I think our souls know all the ancient languages and singing in an unfamiliar language helps you to take in the message on other levels and to bypass your brain and its tendency to question and criticize.  The ancients designed them well to align chakras, open heart, impact the nadis (energy channels), etc. so they heal on many levels.

If anything inside you is clinging to some other belief, repeating affirmations may bring it to the surface.  I’ve been chanting regularly ever since the election and I’m both feeling positive effects and changes and suffering frequent bouts of major crabbiness — which tells me I’m bringing some anger issues to the surface.

I still have some negative thinking to work on, but by and large several years of concerted effort have shifted a lot of old negative patterns into positive patterns — and it’s clearly favorably impacting my health issues.

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The view from both sides of some practices

Chapman Dr, Corte Madera

Chapman Dr, Corte Madera

 

As I mentioned in the last post, my practices have been a little hit and miss lately as I wade through another round of unwinding and not sleeping.  The on and off of it is giving me a chance to observe the doing and not doing and the way I feel about both.

Some years ago I realized I often sabotaged my progress by not doing my practices.  I’d start one up or get back to an old friend and do it faithfully for a few days or a week or two and then I’d start “forgetting” (helped along by often feeling too crappy to do anything).  More and more days would pass between practices until I’d finally realize I couldn’t remember the last time I meditated or performed a round of chi gung.

Once it sank in I asked myself some deep questions about why I sabotaged myself.  Then I set up a “watcher” to help me keep track of consistency and give me a nudge so I could put myself back on track.  Ever since I’ve been much better.  Not that I don’t miss days and even occasionally several in a row, but I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping track and at pushing myself to get back to it if I’ve let it go

It’s rare now for an entire week to go by without at least one session of whatever practice or set of practices I’m doing and most weeks I manage at least three or four days.  The great weeks I get in six (I always allow for a day off as I feel even the good stuff needs a break).  But I still have spells when it’s less rather than more.

There’s a kind of push pull at work here.  At the moment it’s the chanting and some movement practices that feel so good they constantly pull me back on track.  But both things raise energy, open stuck places, and thereby set the stage for more unwinding.  Any time I practice 6-7 days a week during a week or two when I’m sleeping well and feeling good, the practices inevitably help to set off another round of unwinding.

While I want the unwinding to finish so you’d think I’d welcome each round, I’m pretty miserable when it goes crazy, especially from the lack of sleep it creates.  I’m regularly confronting the up and the down side of regular practice.  It works.  And in this case that’s both great and not so great…  I haven’t quite decided how many skips at this point arise from an unconscious dread of the down side…

A deep spiritual journey often has these up and down moments.  Sometimes the same practice contains elements of both the up and the down.  Sometimes a practice leads you into painful places or opens something that hurts for a while before it gets better.  I harp on this one a bit, but I run into so many people who don’t know this spiritual road curves into shadows and down into valleys of dark nights as well as giving you peace and balance and higher consciousness, an occasional reminder seems good 🙂

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I DO have a bucket list…

leighs-bucket-list

Bucket lists seem to have become a big priority in this country; I’m hazy about whether it started with the movie or whether the movie arose from a growing preoccupation…  Since it keeps coming up, I find myself periodically wondering whether I have one.  At one point I wrote a post about not wanting one.

Pretty much all the bucket lists I’ve encountered are long to-do lists of activities.  Whether it’s a catalog of places to visit or exploits or career accomplishments they’re all about external pursuits.  Underlying the lists is an obsession with living a life that’s packed with doing and the corollary notion that your life won’t have value (or you’ll have regrets when you die) unless you’ve done as much as possible.  At least that’s my take.

Looking at these lists reminds how definitively I “march to my own drum”.  Because I pretty much don’t want to do any of that stuff and I can’t imagine lying on my death bed feeling sad because I never saw St. Emilion or jumped off a bridge while attached to a cord.  I would like to see St. Emilion but I don’t feel the value of my life will be determined by whether I have or haven’t.  Now the bungee cord thing…  that would go on a growing list of things I don’t EVER want to do before I die 🙂

Another blogger (so sorry, I’ve lost track of which) recently posted about Myers Briggs.  I decided to finally look into it.  My initial guess was INFP (introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving) and then I took several different tests, each of which confirmed it.  We’re somewhere from 1-4% of the population (different sources give different %), which kind of fits with my sense of being out of step.

When I made this discovery, I’d been working on and off on the idea that maybe my bucket list is just different.  I can see how mine fits with being an INFP.  It’s a work in progress (even though I memorialized it on the picture above):

  1. Be Peace or as close as I can get in this lifetime
  2. Become ever more compassionate
  3. Radiate love
  4. Be generous
  5. Open my heart
  6. Allow the shifts of the world and those around me to move through me without affecting me
  7. Be unfailingly kind
  8. Develop ever higher consciousness
  9. Evolve to consciously living as a divine spirit in a physical body
  10. Heal this life and all effects of ancestral patterns and past lives
  11. Write a great book
  12. Write a great song
  13. Help others on their journeys
  14. Stay healthy
  15. Heal all anger

I suspect it’s a list for several lifetimes.  And most of the items will, by their nature, be works in progress rather than things I can check off the list.  I gather most people would feel antsy at the lack of stuff “to do” and scratch off…

But it’s my list and I like it.  And I feel so much less out of step now that I have one 🙂

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J2P Monday: Peace and politics

English: Peace, Love and Increase

English: Peace, Love and Increase (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I posted a challenge for this U.S. political season a while back–with practice possibilities for people everywhere.  As we grow closer to the election and the vitriol grows ever worse, I find myself struggling to hold a space of love and compassion and I see the angst rising everywhere.  Even though it’s a bit late to call this a Monday post (hey, I’m still up… 🙂 ), I wanted to copy that post in, edit a bit and challenge everyone to find the peace within:

Every political season (does it ever end now?) for some years has felt a little ornerier and more contentious than the last.  This time around I’m struggling to hold my space of peace in the face of the vitriol I run into every time I look at Facebook or turn on the TV.

Whatever your political persuasion, you do not contribute to peace by ridiculing, vilifying or angrily condemning the folks on the other side.  And I get it.  I struggle to keep hatred at bay when I contemplate Donald Trump.  But as I look at the countless ugly remarks, snotty commentaries and general malevolence toward him I wonder if anyone stops to think about how hatred and malevolence destroy peace.  Same thing in the other direction.  If you’re lobbing hate bombs at Hilary how can you possibly be holding a space of peace?

Every time I think those angry thoughts or see one of those snotty posts, if I direct those kinds of barbs and jokes at him, I have to ask myself how am I then any different than him?  When I behave as badly as he does, I am basically being him.  More crucially, when I aim those arrows, I am not staying conscious of the one true thing:  I AM HIM AND HE IS ME.

I really like Deepak Chopra’s analysis of Donald Trump as being the representative of the Shadow.  And his reminder that failure to face the shadow within us is always present when the Hitlers, Idi Amins, Joseph McCarthys and Trumps of the world step up and carry us into darkness.  For me the key point of this reminder is the knowledge to which I always return:  the only heart I can change is mine.

Anyone or anything I see outside of me and feel is bad or wrong or disturbing reflects something in me.  So if I’m not happy with Trump (or substitute whatever candidate you abhor), then what aspects of him are in me?  What am I not facing?

  • What do I fear so greatly in the world?  If I see him as coming from fear and working on creating fear, where is the fear in me that I’m not seeing?
  • How poor is my self-esteem if I see him as lacking it?
  • In what ways am I as hateful as I perceive him being?
  • How am I “dumb” to the realities of life going on around me?
  • How and when do I share fear instead of love?

Anything I can see in me I can heal.  As I’ve noted many times, I love using the Ho’opono pono prayer for healing.

  • For every way in which I allow fear to displace love and peace, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you
  • For every hateful thought I harbor for anyone, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you
  • For seeing anyone ever as “other”, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you
  • For any way in which I lack enough faith to know in all ways every day all is well, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you
  • If there is anything within me that blocks me from “being peace”, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you

CHALLENGE:

Yep, I haven’t issued a challenge for a long time, but here’s one I challenge you to do throughout this political season in the U.S. or, if you live in a place where no election is looming until you feel at peace with it:

  1. No matter who you favor and who you don’t among the candidates [if you’re not in an election cycle make it a politician you dislike], every time you catch yourself thinking with fear, animosity, or hatred about any candidate, stop and create a list of things that upset or disturb you about that candidate.
  2. Go deep within and ask yourself where within you does each thing on the list exist?  What are the fears that create the anger?  What’s going on with your faith?
  3. Do whatever healing practice you wish, whether it’s saying the ho’onopono pono prayer or doing Reiki or following a guided meditation for healing or???, about everything you discover within you.  And keep doing it until you can look at all the candidates and only feel peace.

Elizabeth Lesser on getting to the Marrow

Last week I caught up on a few recently-recorded Super Soul Sundays.  Loved all of them but the interview with Elizabeth Lesser particularly grabbed me.  So much so that I quickly checked the library catalog and put a hold on her latest book, Marrow.  [As has become the norm with OWN, I can’t seem to embed the video and if you’re interested you should follow this link to it soon because the program aired a couple of weeks ago and they yank them off quickly]

http://www.oprah.com/video_embed.html?article_id=65414

The book is a profound recounting of the  journey she took when her sister needed a bone marrow transplant and Elizabeth was the perfect match.  They embarked on healing their relationship in order to ensure the sharing of marrow would be as harmonious as possible; getting to the marrow on many levels.  I’m still reading and blown away by the constant stream of deep insights.

Listening to her and reading her I keep feeling like I’ve “met” a soul sister.  Her journey has led her to so many of the same conclusions and thoughts I’ve reached…

I felt a little connection from the get-go because she’s one of the founders of Omega Institute and my friend and teacher, Gay Luce, used to teach workshops there at least once a year.  I knew she was friends with at least one of the founders although I don’t think I knew the name.   While I was living at the little apartment she used to have at the side of her house, I’d flip through the Omega catalogs and see the amazing array of teachers who presented there.

Tenuous connection, but it was there for me.  And it’s been kind of fun reading the book because there’ve  been a number of places where I felt like she could have been talking about something Gay teaches.  Then I realized I think at some point they were both in the Bay Area, making their way through various teachers and a lot of the teachers at Omega have been people Gay knows.  So I suspect they’ve both drawn a lot of material from the same pool.  Gay studied a bit more with Buddhists and Ms. Lesser –based on her acknowledgements — at some point chose a Sufi path, but I catch some similar ideas.

It’s so cool to see how that works.  Through Gay I experienced a few teachers from the Bay Area and read books by or heard about others, all of whom I eventually realized had been in overlapping groups led by Claudio Naranjo in the 70’s.  I have a general impression there have been several periods in the New Age/New Thought movement when lots of teachers arose out of groups who studied with some of the same teachers.

I love the sense of deep spiritual thinking spinning out through a web of teachers who are inspired to create their own take on spiritual growth and who then inspire another round and then there’s another…

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…

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.

PHYSICAL

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.

MENTAL

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.

ENERGETIC

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.

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 3: Practices and Creating New Grooves

Today at Sarvodaya's Early Morning meditation

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seemed like I was never going to get back to this series, I know, but Olympics mania is over and I’m ready to get back to posts.

One Chair or Many and Going Deep

When it comes to doing practices, there’s a big divide among teachers about whether you need to “sit in the one chair” (i.e. pick one spiritual path and follow only its teachings) and those who feel it’s best to choose the practices you like and create your own path.  A similar disagreement exists about frequency of practice, how much you practice, etc., which I’ll discuss in the next section.

Since I’ve never found “one chair” I wanted to sit in, I’ve been like Goldilocks, moving from chair to chair.  I’ve slowly put together a spiritual path that’s eclectic and ever evolving …  and just seems to suit me.

I have stopped sometimes in one chair for one or several years so I have some understanding of the benefits of moving deeply into one set of practices.  But generally I still had other practices or teachers in play so I don’t know what it’s like to literally follow only one tradition.

My observation over the years is that growth depends on willingness to dig deep and face the shadow.  And you can avoid doing it whether you’re on one path or following many.  I’ve known just as many people who spent years skimming along the surface of one tradition as I’ve known people who’ve used flitting from one chair to another as a way to avoid the depths.

If you want to grow and transform on your spiritual path, my first piece of advice is:

Commit to exploring all the issues and emotions you’ve buried in the shadows.

Ancient practices are generally designed to open up those dark spaces as are some great modern body work and movement techniques.  It’s easy to tense up or change how you’re practicing so you close those avenues and stay on the surface.  If you stay aware, you can catch yourself resisting and choose to move through it, allowing the release to happen.

For instance, the movements I teach which trigger deep releases often release deep into places where people hold buried issues and memories.  When they start touching into something they don’t want to see, they often (1) make the movements smaller so they’re not going as deep into the muscles or (2) speed up, which automatically also makes the movement smaller and which makes the release less likely or (3) refuse to do the movement at all.  Every practice holds the possibility of surrendering to the opening it offers or finding a way to avoid the opening.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn is how to recognize (1) when I’m resisting and (2) when I’m recognizing something either isn’t going to make a difference or that it’s not the practice for me.  I’ve been fortunate in choosing alternative therapies/therapists or practices, as I’ve had a reliable “yes” meter.  If I feel a big “yes” when I encounter a new therapist or practice, it’s going to be a good match.  If I feel indifferent or a big “no” but do it anyway, it usually isn’t helpful or is a bad experience.

There are, however, moments with a good therapist or practice when I know I’m just resisting.  For me it shows up as a big knot in my stomach and feeling anxious.  It tells me there’s something there my ego or inner child has been holding back from my consciousness.  Since I now appreciate the freedom involved in opening those places, I relax or breathe into the therapy or movement or chant or…  and let the buried issue rise to the surface where I can release it.

It’s worth learning how your resistance shows up — you may have a knot in your stomach or it may show up elsewhere in your body or as a mental shut down or a big emotional sensation…  Just learn what your “nudge” is and then choose to gently keep moving through it.

Specifics of Practice

My personal experience of practicing has been that well-designed practices have an impact if you believe they will.  And it doesn’t matter if you follow every step of a prescribed list of “must dos” or do it every single day.  If you’re reasonably committed to doing a practice regularly and you do it as best you can, it will have an effect.

I’ve run into a lot of teachers over the years who insist you have to do the practice they’re touting in a very specific way and often add you must do it every day.  And they tell you it won’t do any good if you fail to follow all the rules.  I often wonder if they understand how many people are convinced not to even try because of such statements.

More and more in recent years I’ve been noticing how much Judeo-Christian religious thinking permeates New Age/New Thought spirituality–at least the U.S. version of it.  For me that includes strong views about good and evil, right and wrong and following all the “right” rules the “right way” in order to be “saved” or, in this case, “enlightened”.

I see the teachers who need everybody to meditate or chant in only a very precise way and who teach you that the practice will be useless or worthless if you fail to follow every rule as being caught in that religious institution-style view of black and white rules and a vengeful God who rewards and punishes based on rule-following.

Some teachers are very fussy about sitting in a precise position for meditation.  Most of those positions are pretty uncomfortable for me so I’ve modified them by either using a Nada Chair or by lying down.  I have amazing meditations and doing them has been central to transforming my life so I just roll my eyes when somebody tries to tell me I can only meditate sitting cross-legged with my hands in a certain mudra and a shawl around my shoulders, etc.

There are fussy versions of many practices, with similar admonitions about no impact if not done precisely so.  I hope no one ever lets such nonsense prevent them from practicing but I’ve known people who felt they might as well not bother at all because they couldn’t do it every day or didn’t want to have to follow every rule, etc.  I say,

do what you can without worries about being perfect and the practices will help you

Daily practice will obviously have a greater impact than sporadic practice (or no practice 🙂 ), but I’ve found over the years that skipping a day or two a week doesn’t make much difference and I’ve made progress on every other day–just not as much.  I even think sometimes letting yourself miss a practice can be just what you need.

The bottom line for me is:  the benefits of practices like meditation, tai chi, chanting, etc. are so great, choose one or more practices that suit you, do the basics of it/them to the best of your ability, and figure out a schedule you can commit to–even if you do something three times a week for 15 minutes, it can start to create new grooves.

See also Part 1 and Part 2 for more on practices.

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