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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Meditating with Wayne

I recently took the companion book to Wayne Dyer’s film The Shift off the shelf and finally started reading it.  Which led me to remember I have his recording with two versions of his Getting in the Gap meditation (one around 15 minutes, one about 26).  I instantly felt drawn to do it again and enjoyed it so much I’ve been doing it every day for several days.

I’ve always liked the shorter version as a lead-in to other meditations.  His meditation does a nice job of getting my mind quiet and focused.  I can feel great if I stop with Getting in the Gap but I’ve been feeling like I want to start singing some of the Deva Primal chants again, so each day after I “get in the gap”, I’ve been choosing a chant to sing.

With the meditation completed first, I notice as I sing my focus on the chant is much stronger from the opening “Om” and less interrupted by my busy mind.  The combo leaves me feeling so at peace.

In several ways the guided practice causes you to be mindful, either focused on a word or focused on empty space or singing the sound “ah”, which in all traditions is part of the sound of the word for God, thus deepening your connection to the Universal Source.

I’ve long thought this little meditation is a great opener for anyone who wants a way in to meditating or who wants an easy way back after a hiatus.  Or it’s just a nice meditation practice to do regularly.

I’m not sure whether any of the versions on YouTube are exactly like mine but I’m sure the basic meditation is the same.  This one follows the script of the long one and adds the bonus of visuals if you want to do it open-eyed:

 

J2P Monday: Peace and Politics

English: Peace Symbol at a school in Germany. ...

Symbol at a school in Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

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.

 

PART 2: PRACTICES AND CREATING NEW GROOVES

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.

BACK TO MINDFULNESS

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.

THE CALM AND BALANCED GROOVE

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.

BYPASSING THE MIND

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…).

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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.

Part 1: Practices and Creating New Grooves

chi gung-ish

I’ve had a few conversations going lately about doing or not doing practices and they’ve had me thinking about why I feel so strongly about regularly doing spiritual practices of some sort.  This is one of those posts that became long and complex as I worked on it so I’m dividing it into parts.  Today I’m exploring the general benefits of doing practices and in Part 2 I’ll discuss how they help in creating new patterns, new neural nets, etc.

As mentioned in older posts, I’ve practiced yoga pretty steadily since 1986.  Though the type of yoga and the specific asanas have changed periodically it’s the one practice I’ve kept steadily in my life.  But I’ve also been faithful in cycles of varying length (weeks to years) to guided meditations, vipassana meditation, the Eight Key Breaths, the Five Tibetan Rites, Flying Crane Chi Gung, metta practice (the lovingkindness chant), singing chants, pranayama and more.

You’ll note most of that list involves ancient practices.  I particularly appreciate the legacy of old traditions because they were so adept at creating practices that balance, open, deepen, clear, etc.  Most of them operate on more than one level and have powerful impacts.

MINDFULNESS

Because of the current popularity of vipassana-style meditation, I think “mindfulness” is often associated solely with those sitting meditations in which you work on emptying your mind.  But I think most ancient practices can become tools for greater ability to focus the mind in the moment.

I also think most of the ancients brilliantly offered breathing exercises, moving exercises, meditations, spoken chants, and singing chants in order to allow people of different temperaments and propensities to choose the practice(s) best suited to them.

Some examples of how I think you can become more mindful:

  1. Any moving practice I’ve done, whether Flying Crane or Korean Zen walking meditation or Tai Chi walking meditation, etc.involved careful attention to each movement and had a particular pattern to the breath. It’s a challenge to focus your mind enough to be aware only of the movement and the breaths in each moment but the attempt to hold that focus helps to train your mind to stay quiet.
  2. Chants, whether spoken or sung, require keeping your mind from wandering away from the words of the chant. When I keep bringing my awareness to only the chant, my mind slowly clears and becomes deeply attuned and focused.
  3. Guided meditations require you to follow the instructions. If you work on paying attention and staying with the relaxation or the visions or the feelings you’re being told to move through, you focus your mind.  I make it a point when I do a guided meditation, to keep releasing thoughts and bringing my attention back to hearing and following the instructions without letting my mind wander.

 

ENERGY

I’ve never met any practice that hasn’t affected my energy in some way.  Many of them are specifically designed to balance chakras or energy.  Many are designed to open energy pathways (nadis).  Often they raise vital force energy (prana, chi).

Chanting practices often use words that specifically affect one or more specific chakras and some chanting practices have you actually focus on moving energy from one chakra to another as you chant.   The impact ignites the chakras on which you’re focused and generally raises your general energy level.

Many movement practices open joints and key places to help energy flow more freely.  In Flying Crane, you not only open major joints but you continually build energy at the sea of chi (center) and move it through your body and from heaven down to earth and earth up to heaven.

Open, balanced, flowing energy is a key component to living in the bigness of your Divine Self, so I see such practices as crucial – no matter which one(s) you choose, just choose one or more.

PHYSICAL BALANCE

In part because of the way these practices move energy through your body and in part because of the way some of these practices have you move your body and use your muscles, your body winds up in a lovely place of balance – or at least more balance than what you started with.

I find the build up of energy causes the increased flow to push up against knotted places, sometimes enough to open some knot or create a slightly greater passageway so many of them also help to open my body.

CREATING NEW GROOVES

The most important thing for me about the ongoing effect of doing practices is that they’ve helped me to create new grooves, patterns, mindsets.  Part 2 is going to go into more depth about how practices help you transform.

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The bumpy road to bliss

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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.

 

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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…)

 

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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.

Marin reflections: the up side 1

I realized this week that if you only read the few posts I made in Marin and since I got home (starting here), it sounds as if I had a bad vacation.  In fact, I had a lovely time and several things contributed.  I’ve struggled to write this as all one post and finally decided it will instead consist of two or more parts.

This first piece fits the Journey2Peace series and I think also Ra’s latest B4Peace challenge (scroll way down to reach challenge), which, in short is to write about a habit which doesn’t cultivate peace and what you do to step aside and work on peace instead.

I’ve had travel anxiety since childhood.  Mostly about flying.  My mother and I used to fly to Kentucky for a longer summer visit than my father could manage and as soon as I was old enough to hear about a plane crash, I was afraid.  My parents both tended toward stress and anxiety around travel, so any form of travel tended to be permeated with tension and unease.

In recent years, as air travel has become an increasingly troublesome process, from the long distances to airports to the need to arrive so early to the tedious and often annoying security process…   For me travel has become so fraught with difficulty and anxiety that I often question whether I really want to do it any more.

When I noticed this constant anxiety several years back, I started creating and repeating affirmations ahead of time along the lines of “whenever I travel my journey goes smoothly and easily.”  Oddly, it didn’t stop me from being anxious, but it DID quite clearly create much smoother sailing through airports and plane rides, etc.

As I prepared for the house sit in Marin from which I’ve just returned, I felt more anxious than usual.  As I considered this, I added to my list of “travel dislikes” that it seemed to me airline and airport personnel have become increasingly rude and unfriendly and part of what I dread is being snapped at all day long.  So I created another affirmation or two about kind and helpful people on my journeys.

I set off for the airport more anxious than usual– literally shaking from head to toe — but experienced an easy journey.  Including that all the security people here in Lexington — usually a cranky bunch who work hard at making it worse to get through security here than most airports I ever go through) — were smiling and lovely (possibly taken over by happy face aliens???).

Even the one who insisted on squeezing my clipped-back hair was quite gentle and apologetic.  [Someday I want someone to tell me what you could possibly hide in your hair or a silk neck scarf that couldn’t be picked up by those machines you pass through that can read your underwear???]

In spite of affirmations the return trip didn’t go so well and I spent an unscheduled night in the Chicago area and wound up switched to another airline.  Unlike American, which I usually fly, United had no one around to help me with the boarding pass phase of things and I bumbled my way through without really knowing what I was doing.

They didn’t have security streamlined as well as most of my recent flights, so it took nearly 40 minutes in line just to get up to the person who looks at your boarding pass and passport.  Who informed me the pile of print-out stuff I handed her didn’t include a boarding pass.

When I stammered, “do you mean I have to go back out and go through this line again?”, another security person stepped up and said, “no, I’ll take you.”  She walked me back to the front, got the pass, and walked me back to the head of the line, chatting amiably all the way.  Bless her kindly heart!

Even the guy in Lexington who made me come back to the airport to pick up my own delayed luggage was quite friendly.

Normally all these issues, from security through cancelled flights and bags not delivered would have left me foaming at the mouth, possibly stomping around, and locked in melodrama.  Years of meditation, emotional release work and spiritual practices have calmed that down.

And for once, what I remember the most is the good stuff.  The acts of kindness outweigh the problems in my memory of my journey.

And I have to say, even though my affirmations don’t seem — so far — to have ended the anxiety I feel, they have changed so much about the experience of travel; every trip has seemed to flow far more smoothly than my usual unhappy experiences.  My reactions to it all have changed so greatly as well, I’m beginning to “expect” good stuff to happen.

I think the practices, releasing and affirmations can all shift your experience of anything you tend to be anxious about, so I recommend working on both the exercises that calm your “self” in general and also on writing affirmations about smooth sailing in circumstances about which you  worry.

And the turn around in Marin

SF Skyline 2016

The technological drama has, in fact, turned around, but I thought I’d first mention a couple of the aspects of my visit that have been quite fine all along.

(1) As I head through the county park that’s the last leg of my favorite walk, the above photo is one of the views I get to see (helped along here by zooming).  I worked pretty hard in Kentucky for about two months prior to this trip, getting back to walking.  There are such steep climbs here, if I haven’t already gotten my “walking legs” in pretty good shape, it takes most of my visit to work up to my favorite, 1-1/2 mile, walk.

There are a couple of shorter walks I also take which have the advantage of being entirely on pavement.  So today, for instance, when it’s been pouring like crazy and the county park segment will be a mud trail, I’ll probably take one of the other routes if it clears enough to walk.  The thing is, it’s so beautiful here, every walk in this neighborhood is stunning with breathtaking vistas, lovely scents wafting through the air, and a feeling of being in nature even while on streets lined with houses (many of which you can’t actually see from the road…).

(2) My friends here were just about all made at deep, spiritual workshops and our connections stem from sharing soul-baring experiences, so we relate at such deep levels, it feeds my soul to spend time with them and I’ve had such lovely visits with dear, dear friends.

***

Back on the weird series of internet/computer problems:

The day after getting wifi access from the neighbor, my hosts were able to get to a place with cell reception and turned the service back on.  Two days later I finally took a look at my laptop again and noticed the “on” light shining.  Hmm.  So I opened it up and tried one more time to start it.  This time, instead of coming on for a few seconds and shutting off before loading the OS, it announced that it needed to diagnose and fix itself.  Something like 45 minutes later and it had found and fixed a few things and voila, laptop back!

Meanwhile, Thursday evening my new friend/neighbor decided she wanted to do something for Cinqo de Mayo and came over to invite me along.  By the time we got to her restaurant pick, Celia’s in San Rafael there was a long wait, no place to sit and it was LOUD.  So she had the brilliant idea of going to the bowling alley across the street for a drink.

I had one of the best regular old Margaritas (i.e. not some top shelf version) I’ve had in years, in a quiet bar, where we chatted with the lovely young woman bartender and then meandered back to the restaurant where we were just in time to be the next ones seated.  The Mariachi Band came to our area almost immediately, played for about 10 minutes and stopped.  For me, just about the right amount of time to have Mariachi playing deafeningly close…  By the time our dinner came the place was beginning to wind down so it actually became quiet enough to speak to one another.  Kind of perfect.  And we noted, the evening would not have happened were it not for the internet snafu that led me to request wifi when she asked if I needed anything…

So the problems all resolved one by one and, besides lessons learned, benefits arose from the trauma and drama.  The nice thing for me as all this unfolded was observing myself staying, for the most part, calm.  Did I feel angry when I realized the internet was gone and wouldn’t be turned on for a few days?  Yes.  Did I cry for a few seconds when my laptop wouldn’t work?  Yes.

But years ago I’d have been caught up in the angst of those events and lived in the drama for days or weeks.  I’d have carped incessantly to anyone with whom I spoke and called for 5 or 10 more people to enroll them in the angst train ride.  This time I noted what was happening, started asking what the lesson was, settled into finding alternative things to do and mostly told people the story with a laugh as a funny example of the Universe handing out a lesson.

Even more fun is how easily it all became sorted when I just stayed calm and assumed all would be well…

A new perspective on purpose

Kentucky River by Hall's 0

In the flow… Kentucky River by Leigh

Some days ago, Nadine Marie put up a post on Aligning with Truth about purpose in which she explored new ways of thinking about it.  I’ve been thinking about purpose and how it relates to me, and whether I know what mine is, etc. for a while so this was timely and I’ve been pondering ever since.  As I pondered, some things came together for me.

The process of healing in recent years has kept me living pretty far outside the norm and a life that doesn’t look much like most people of my age expect.  So much change has been moving through I’ve let go of many thoughts I had about what my purpose may be or even what I most wanted to do.

In the U.S. (other places, your two cents about your country are welcome and encouraged) there’s a lot of pressure to have a purpose and a plan and there always seems to be an underlying assumptions that purpose must involve either some great act of charity or — more often — something to do with earning a living or having a career.

Since those things aren’t happening for me, I’ve struggled occasionally with feeling inadequate.  The pressure to have a life that suits the norm surrounds me and you might be amazed how frequently other people have made it clear that they consider me lazy or useless because they disapprove of anyone living a life that doesn’t meet their standards.

My health struggles have been going on long enough that I learned long ago to shrug off those opinions though I won’t say I don’t still have moments when their contempt or disapproval hurts my feelings.  For most of the early years of illness I struggled to keep up with the norm and juggled part-time jobs with many failed business attempts.

Finally, however, I realized that my energy vibration was so faint and weak  I could never succeed at jobs or businesses without getting healthy (need to match the vibration) … and also that I didn’t really have the stamina for even the part-time jobs or the attempts at self-employment/business.  Something like five years ago I realized my health had to become the priority.

I’d been going to alternative practitioners, practicing yoga and other healing modalities, doing emotional work, taking supplements, etc. for many years, always with small, steady amounts of progress but I finally got it that this had to be the focus.  Other than teaching some yoga (which for me is very healing) and writing a couple of books (which I can do on whatever schedule I’m up to), I’ve done nothing but work at healing, exploring my inner landscape for answers, etc.

Until recently I’ve tended to think of it as a time spent living outside the world and figured I’d get around to a new purpose and its implementation after becoming healthy again.  Recently, though, as I’ve worked with Hanna on finishing out some of the ancestral issues that have anchored my muscle issues, I’m looking at it all differently.  I’m particularly affected by realizing how much all of this ancestral healing is healing everyone in my extended family tree on some level.

Sparked by Nadine’s post, I’ve now moved to a new view of purpose.  These years of healing WERE/ARE MY PURPOSE!  Not necessarily the only one — as she notes, I think there can be more than one purpose in a lifetime — but a huge part of why I’m here on earth.  Healing myself.  Healing my ancestors.  Learning to be a voice of healing.

As I move toward the end of the healing journey, I’m still in limbo about what’s next and what I think my next purpose may be.  As I just posted on the Scribblings blog (including the above photo), I’m seeing myself as part of a flow and trying to stay out of the way and allow the current to take me to the next destination my higher self has determined.

Off the normal path, in solitude and quiet, I’ve been living a purpose that doesn’t look anything like expectations about purpose held by the mainstream in my country.  But I believe it’s a purpose that’s at least equally important to all that stuff  “out there”  considered to be the meaning of purpose.  I’m even at the point of questioning the usual idea of purpose and whether a lot of these plans made by minds instead of hearts or intuitions are really the raison d’etre for many of those who believe they’re living their purpose…

I’m even pondering many side trips people I’ve known have been led to make and wondering if purpose may often be more about what we learn and how we change from the challenges that blow up our plans than about the outer world and the careers and the normal stuff of “purpose”???  Are attributes like kindness and compassion and healing and nurturing possibly more central to “purpose” than most people think? I’m very interested to hear the thoughts of others…

Muscles: 4 Steps Forward, 2 Steps Back… Forever?

Helen yoga

Helen yoga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trying to post the last couple of weeks has been an interesting process.  In this time of transition I have SO many ideas swirling through my head, so many realizations arising; much of it is interconnected.  Right now I’m struggling to sort my way through it all and my mind doesn’t seem to have its usual organizational abilities to sort through it all and create posts.  Not to mention that much of it is still in process…

I will get back to J2P Monday again, but right now the one arena where I seem to have some coherent thoughts is about muscles.

Last time, I talked about how muscles intertwine, squeeze off energy and can take a long time unwinding.  This time the exploration moves to the up and down process of healing muscles.

You see, no matter how much body work you get or how many muscle-healing exercises you’re doing, life is still going on.  You sit with your head twisted to the side watching television and that’s twisting the muscles in your neck.  You hit your head on a cupboard door and tighten a bunch of muscles in your jaw, neck and shoulders.  Your boss goes on a rampage and you tighten your whole body.  If you have really tight muscles, the tight ones are pulling the healed pieces back into tightness.

For a long time I found that at every massage appointment the first half — at least — was spent getting out the kinks that settled back in between appointments.  Increasingly I tried to make sure to do yoga and/or soak in a hot bath before an appointment so I could work some of the kinks out on my own.

When I created my movement work, it was just for me and I practiced numerous times in between appointments, often achieving more releases.  Sometimes my practitioners said I came back in even better shape than I’d been in at the end of the last appointment.

At this point I generally make appointments at a time when I can spend at least an hour-and-a-half beforehand on doing the release movements and yoga and then soaking at least 20 minutes in a hot bath.  Very little time is wasted in my appointments on retrieving lost ground and the fact that I’m looser and in balance makes it easier to achieve some deep releases.

Even with these efforts, there were times when I fell or slept in an awkward position and lost some ground.  With TMJ, even though the muscles in my face and jaw were unwinding, I clenched in the night and tightened it back up.  Sometimes I had stellar spells when the movement seemed only forward.  But most of the time the process of healing my muscles moved more like four steps forward, two steps back.  Always getting better, but an up and down process…

The healing moved much more quickly when I developed the exercise sets that so deeply trigger releases in the muscles but still it has been kind of four steps forward, one step back.  Always up and down.

When I say I’m almost done, I’m referring to the patterns of muscles currently in my head.  There are still a few other places that haven’t let go.  And I’m always aware, body work and doing my exercises is a life-time commitment because as long as I’m alive my muscles will ever be subject to sitting “funny”, bumping into things, tension, etc.

There is no such thing as DONE with muscles.  If you want muscles that are relaxed, strong and healthy, it’s a lifetime commitment to taking care of them.  Even when you’ve solved any specific issues you may have, you still have to work at keeping them healthy.

Walking the path alone…

Muscle masséter. Vue latérale

Muscle masséter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I’ve previously mentioned, one of the things I appreciate about appointments with Hanna is her intuitive ability.  She receives information and images while she’s working, and because she knows I love that feedback, she tells me what she’s receiving.

Last Friday she picked up some information about how long and hard I’d worked to get to this place and that I wouldn’t have been able to do it had I had children.  I’ve known that for a long time but felt it on a deeper level when she said it.  And then instantly had the thought that it wouldn’t have happened had I been married either.

“I had to be alone to do this,” I said, and knew it was true on a profound level.

I’m not saying this would be true for everyone.  I’m sure there are plenty of wives and mothers who’ve made huge strides along a spiritual path and I’ve known some.  But I know my nature well enough to know that if a husband and/or children had been in the picture I would not have dug as deep, been as single-minded nor accomplished anything like as much.  More likely I would not have moved at all.

I’ve been running this moment of truth through my head periodically ever since, trying to take in the import.  Hanna mentioned thousands of family members now and in the future are, on some level, thanking me for what I’ve freed for my whole line.  On one hand I’m so happy to think the work I’ve done has helped others.  On the other I see-sawed a bit over how I feel about not having the husband and children I’d have loved to have.

At the age and stage when I’d have been having babies, I know I’d have turned out some more beings who were twisted up by both me and the ancestral baggage, so for a long time I’ve been kind of glad I never messed up some more kids.  And yet I’m occasionally a little sad nonetheless about not having any.

Although it’s been a lonely path in some ways, I’m pretty good at being alone; a friend once commented she didn’t think she knew anyone who could be as comfortable alone.  At this stage, I see this path of healing the ancestral lineages as a big part of the reason I’m here and I accept that being alone to do it was just part of the deal.

Right now I’m in the process of setting up the joint healing session to clear the last piece in my head.  I have no illusions about being issue-free at that point but the stuff going on in my head has been tough to take.  I’ve also been aware of it as the remaining piece that has most hung up my life from moving forward so for me this is an ending point.

At least the end of this particular piece of my long healing journey and pretty much–mostly– the end of the physical healing related to muscles.  Unlike spiritual growth, which I see as infinite, I do see muscles as finite and thus healing them as a process with an ending.  Not that muscles aren’t always impacted by daily life and constantly changing, but the tools I now regularly use to keep them healthy and aligned should help me maintain and/or restore balance as needed.

It didn’t take much time pondering to move from looking back to turning to the future, wondering what the new life unfolding will look like, optimistic it will be good and content to let it reveal itself in its own time…  And in the meantime there is the NOW when I am (1) happily feeling proud of what I’ve accomplished and the courage and tenacity it has taken to do it and (2) feeling the current measure of relief in what has opened and enjoying the increasing freedom in my head.