Early Memories of Mom and Dad

It’s “e” day on ABC Wednesday and “m” day on AlphabeThursday and that for me brings to mind my late teacher, Ellen Margron. I’ve been thinking lately about the part of her version of Fischer Hoffman that affected me hugely and has continued to be a useful tool.

We spent a long time using a sixteen page list of negative beliefs and admonitions to identify everything we could possibly come up with (including beliefs and admonitions not on the list) that our mothers believed and then that our fathers believed. And that’s on every subject you can imagine: sex, money, jobs, success, failure, body image, fatness, thinness, femininity, masculinity, spousal roles, health, wealth, siblings, family, inheritance, culture, society, politics, legacy, etc.

A crucial piece of the teaching was that we should not confront our parents with anything because these lists are perceptions of our parents and don’t necessarily have anything to do with our actual parents. The lists in their entirety give you a map of a huge percentage of your beliefs and admonitions. A few experiences of siblings making lists about their parents helped me realize how true the perception piece is because they’ll often have lists that are completely contradictory as to what each parent believed. They each filtered experience and things their parents said through their own personality and understood the same things differently.

I particularly liked this one because it was somehow easier to identify the beliefs when I thought of them as belonging to Mom or emanating from Dad. It was also startling to see what I really believed. Another part of the work helped to release a lot of those beliefs. But I came away knowing that any time one of my parents is driving me crazy with an attitude or belief that I need to take a look to see where it shows up in me. That list is generally jumbled up and a given belief may only show up in a certain circumstance and not in others or may appear in several contexts only if particular conditions are present.

I highly recommend that you work on your own lists of mother’s beliefs and father’s beliefs in order to discover great insights about what you believe. And then remember that it really is just what you believe and doesn’t necessarily have any reality for the parent to whom you attribute it. Thanks Ellen!

Journeying Back to Oneness–Where Peace Lives?

On Waking Spirals, Gary Rosenberg’s posts recently have been exploring questions about how to balance spirituality and compassionate action, positive thinking and knowing what’s wrong so that you can help. This is territory to which I return often in my journey. I keep coming back to the same answers for myself – I don’t claim to have the answers for anyone else.  I’ve appreciated that his posts are causing me to think it through again.

I was a hippie a long time ago—well really I still am in many ways—and became politicized and radicalized by the Viet Nam War. Over the next couple of decades I marched for solar power and against apartheid, spent my short-lived legal career as an anti-nuke lawyer, volunteered at environmental organizations; well, you get the picture. Activism and me, bff’s.

Before I even started exploring spirituality I started observing that often my activist friends seemed to be very good at working on behalf of the faceless masses but weren’t all that nice to the people in front of them. And then, as I listened to conversations in which they mapped out the best solutions for people in far away places I marveled that they felt they knew what these people needed without ever asking them. They seemed startled that I even questioned it and the attitude seemed to be “of course we know the right thing to do.”

Soon I was meditating and searching and I drifted away from the activist scene. But wars and violence and injustice kept on happening and I began to struggle with how to fit my new spiritual viewpoint with the liberal/left, let’s get in there and fix it attitude that automatically arose. For quite a while I convinced myself that the righteous sense of righting wrongs went hand in hand with being spiritual—of course you’d fight for the downtrodden, etc.

But as I wound my way into Buddhism and vipassana I became more uneasy about how that balance could work. In the lead-up to the Iraq War several things came together to really change my view. One was the degree of vitriol in the many e-mails I received from various groups to which I belonged that purportedly aspired to peace. Words of battle, fury at anyone who disagreed, they felt like they breathed hatred and bitterness into my being as I read them. I questioned how all that anger could help. I questioned how I could imagine that I know from my human vantage point exactly what is right and what is wrong. And, even assuming that I know how God would define what’s right, how can I presume to define solutions for others?

My intuition started nudging me to the lovingkindness chant*. I’ve written a longer post about this elsewhere but to make it short, several weeks of chanting for President Bush and Sadam Hussein, et al., shifted me into a different space. I could feel their hearts and sense our connection. Suddenly the idea of the web of all life meant much more to me.

Around the same time, I read David Hawkins’ Power vs. Force. His theories about the scale of energy that exists among humans and the power of those who have achieved high levels of energy being able to balance thousands or tens of thousands of others (depending on the level of energy) helped me to see the web, or oneness, in the light of what space each of us holds within it.

If you clear yourself of anger and bitterness and raise your vibrational level to 500 or more** you can hold a space of peace strong enough to be a counterbalance to as many as a million people (again depending on how high the level). So enough people who even get to 540 (his level of “joy”) could tip the balance of the whole world to a higher energy. And if there are too many people living in anger and recrimination and battles and struggles relative to those who counterbalance, then the world descends into more chaos and hatred.

I believe that everything is energy and that in spite of all our evidence that we exist as separate beings, the reality of us is that we are all one. We are all part of the same web of energy that is all life. Because of that I believe that the most important work anyone can do to create peace and justice is to do everything possible to raise their own vibration, to learn to be peace. So for me, that’s the journey. Find my way back to seeing that any thought that separates the world into a “me” and a “them” is an illusion because we are ONE.  I like action like Buddhist’s who sit and meditate in the midst of protest.  But I haven’t really figured out if there’s more that works for me.  I’m not peace yet, so I figure that’s my work for now.

*The version I use: “may I be filled with lovingkindness, may I be well, may I be peaceful and at ease, may I be happy”.  I often make it an affirmation “I am filled…”

** I accept that his theory is true, I’m more skeptical as to whether his precise scale will someday be proven correct. But I do believe there is a scale of energy.

This post is for Jenny Matlock’s AlphabeThursday, which is “J” and for ABC Wednesday, which is “B”.  Tenuously connected, I know.  But they are in the title…

Beliefs: Unconscious and Conscious

When people talk about the law of attraction or say that you create your own reality, they’re really talking about an energy space—the vibrational level and pattern of energy—but most of the discussion among modern teachers is about thoughts or beliefs and how they impact your reality or what you attract. I think it’s more about the energy, which I’ve covered in another post, but I also think it’s important to know that what you believe unconsciously is often more in control than what you consciously believe.

A lot of people struggle with the idea of choosing a given reality when it’s something like a child with a terminal disease or a tornado destroying a house because they assume it’s conscious thought that creates reality. It can, if you become very adept at focusing on and holding a thought or vision, but a lot of reality is created either by higher consciousness at a level beyond our ordinary understanding or, more often, created by the beliefs and emotions from early childhood that ego holds outside ordinary awareness and uses to rule the show.

In the Hawaiian Huna system, we have three levels of consciousness which kahuna Serge King calls ku, lono, and kane (kah nay) [there are longer Hawaiian words—ku is unihipili—but I like his short, easy names]. Ku is the subconscious, which operates a lot like ego in the psychological structure but contains some other elements. Lono is the conscious mind and should control ku but often the unconscious has taken over running the show so lono needs to become mindful enough to reassert its role. Kane is the higher self or consciousness. Ideally practice leads to the three levels being restored to unity so they all operate together and lono is equally aware of ku and kane.

The hang up place for many on the journey is the unconscious. Exploration of what lies beneath generally involves looking at your dark, hidden places, buried memories you’d prefer to leave interred, etc. I came to the shadow dance reluctantly and slowly but after the Fischer Hoffman work led me to delve and even wallow in the deep dark places I came to embrace the work. I think it’s the dance of freedom.

This post if for ABC Wednesay, which is “U” and for AlphabeThursday, which is “C”.

Sway with me–flowing as you age

During my California trip two friends of mine—who are considerably older than I am—had falls. One received the advice that she needs to build her core muscles or she’ll keep losing her balance and falling. All those present for the conversation later were older and for all of them this was a revelation. I was a little surprised until I realized that I’ve been building an inner sense of physical balance since I started taking tai chi in 1977 and I think I’ve assumed that most other people know it too. While I agree with the doctor that strong core muscles are important I think aging well with physical agility and balance requires more than just a strong core.

In tai chi we talked a lot about moving from your center, or sea of chi. One of the main reasons a lot of dancers really like tai chi and chi gung is that the flowing movements build a strong chi and help you move from your center, which is key in dancing. After a few years of studying tai chi I injured my knee in a car accident and all the bent knee work caused me to drop the practice. I made my way to yoga eventually, where I began to learn a lot about the importance of having flexibility as well as strength in your muscles. When I added Robert Masters’ Psychophysical Method and reorganized his work to create my trigger of release sets, I began to really understand how crucial it is to have fluidity in your joints and your movements.

I internalized so much as my body learned all these things over 35 years that although it informs a lot of advice I give to students and the way I perceive people’s exercise needs, I haven’t consciously formulated and expressed my thoughts until now. In order to move through the world with physical ease and balance, to minimize the likelihood of falling and to fall well (lightly with minimum to no injury), you need to be centered and flexible and fluid as well as strong. I’ll be 60 soon and I’m stronger, more fluid, more flexible and more centered/balanced than I was in my 20’s. I’m old enough to be seeing how well that is serving me now and, even more, how well it is going to serve me as I grow older.

I was fortunate that the troubles with my muscles and my health started when I was young so that I was pushed to do all this work. Unfortunately most young people (and yes, I know there are many exceptions—still not the rule) aren’t suffering the effects of stiff muscles or poor balance or pain so they don’t see the value of practices like yoga or the triggers work. If they’re interested in exercise at all they’re usually following the peculiarly American prescription for exercise that’s hard and fast—and will most likely lead to painfully knotted muscles, stiff joints and poor balance as they grow older.

I never gave the core muscles piece a lot of thought. I’ve always worked on abs (literally since I was about 14) and my yoga practice includes a lot of strength postures. The Five Tibetan Rites actually do a nice job of working the core muscles. So I feel like my core muscles are in good shape but I haven’t assigned as much importance to that as I have to having a strong center and ability to stretch and move fluidly, so I’ll have to contemplate the core muscles and how they fit. My theory at the moment is that a strong sea of chi is more important but since it hasn’t become measurable or of scientific interest, the focus of the medical community is on the core muscles; I also think most of the practices that build chi also work on the core muscles but I don’t think the reverse is true – exercises that purely build the core muscles often don’t build and center chi.

I do know that if you want to have a healthy old age the earlier you start working on creating a balance between strength and flexibility in your muscles and keeping your joints fluid and your sea of chi holding strong, the more easily you can flow into being a senior without losing your mobility or suffering a lot of needless falls. The work is up to you. You can’t take a pill or get a shot for this.

C’mon. Dance with me. Sway with me. Let your body flow. Your spirit can’t really flow if your body is stiff and out of balance. Take care of it. Sway with me…  

This post is for ABC Wednesday, which is “S”.

Ritual

Ritual used to bore me. I couldn’t see the point, had no comprehension of why it might be important. As I came to understand mindfulness and focusing energy, I started to realize that in spiritual matters ritual serves the purpose of bringing your attention to the sacred goal of what you’re doing.

I think too often the ritual becomes so routinized that it loses feeling and meaning and becomes boring and that’s how a lot of ritual seemed to me. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the stole or robe that must be worn and/or the way the altar must be set up and/or the kind of flowers that must be placed in a certain spot that people forget that all those things were just there to serve as reminders of the sacred; they aren’t the sacred thing itself. All too often the need for the exact stuff and the precise order of events eventually trumps the meaning of the rite.

I’ve learned to remind myself that the precise steps and the things like altar objects or the clothes don’t matter as much as my ability to bring my mind into the deeper meaning of the ceremony. When I cast a circle I use the stones I collected for my medicine wheel when studying with a Hopi teacher. I don’t put the stones down in the order of the wheel and the wheel isn’t exactly the same thing as the circle created in Wiccan ritual but the laying down of the circle for me is the act of creating a sacred space in which to meditate or say an affirmation or the words of a spell. As long as I allow the circle to focus my mind on the sacred purpose, to me the exact composition of the circle doesn’t matter.

Sometimes on the way to that understanding I think it serves a purpose to follow a ritual as it has been laid down, especially because your belief and focus on its power is often greater when you follow what you’ve been taught by a master. But ultimately once you’ve learned how to move your mind into sacred space I think you can create your own ritual and allow what you’ve designed help you to focus.

This is for ABC Wednesday, which is “R” this time.

Quiet moments in my favorite Yard

I’ve been told a number of times in the last few years that I need to spend more time outside. Since living in the great California climate I’m a big baby about what kind of weather I’ll go out in (and I’ve never been your camping, hiking, outdoor sports type). In Kentucky about 98% of the time it’s too hot, too cold, too rainy, too muggy, too snowy… Recently when a practitioner told me that I should just go out and lie in the grass the temperature was hovering in the 50’s and it was raining a lot, so I just thought, “Yeah, that’s gonna happen.” And it didn’t.

Here in beautiful Marin the weather has been warmer than normal almost every day. So I’ve grabbed a blanket and stretched out on the lawn several times. The first day I literally felt my body sucking in energy from the earth for about 20 solid minutes. Somehow, in spite of the advice, I hadn’t taken it in that I actually NEEDED to take in some earth energy as part of the outdoor Rx.

I haven’t been as aware of drawing energy in the succeeding times but dozing and reading and listening and looking have all felt better for doing them outside.

As you can see, the setting is lovely. You can’t hear the accompanying trilling birds nor feel the softness of the breeze, but you can see that it’s tranquil. I’ve had the good fortune to be out at times when cars down to the dead end here were rare and no one was mowing or hammering anything (not always easy to do around here). Just quiet. Communing with nature. In my favorite yard…

I discovered that outdoor time isn’t just a nice pastime but something I need on many levels.  Ask me if I”m gonna grab a blanket and loll in the grass in Kentucky when it’s 50 or 95 or muggy or the grass is wet…  I don’t think so!

Again on the lazy track, this piece is doubling for ABC Wednesday (Q) and AlphabeThursday (Y). 

Opening to sight: the shaman, the witch and the ancestors

640px-witches3b_five_silhouetted_figures-_wellcome_v0048920

Around ten years ago I started going to a chiropractor who’d also spent some years studying with a Peruvian shaman so he added a whole lot of other healing modes and insights. The first time I saw him he went into an intuitive reading mode at one point and eventually said, “You have a major issue in the maternal line that goes back seven generations.” He felt that it was a big factor in my health problems.

He suggested a shamanic journey to look into it but I didn’t have the spare cash so I decided to use some of the tools I knew. In meditation I asked to be taken back to the ancestor in the maternal line who’d created the issue he saw. I had to really go deep to get there but eventually I came to a witch who was burned at the stake and that our line of women had “the sight”. And then I came to her daughter, who was so distraught by her mother’s fate that she shut down the sight not only for herself but for all who came after.

568px-punishment_of_witches

Of course I don’t have proof – and so far my research on family history hasn’t gotten that many generations back on my mother’s line, but a whole lot of things made sense. It explained some memories about my mother, my aunt and my grandmother, who all seem(ed) to “know” things periodically.

I realized that even though books and teachings about Wicca had come up fairly often, it was the only tradition I’d encountered that I’d also completely ignored. And though I began on a very New Age path I pretty much avoided anything about developing psychic senses or reading auras, opening the third eye, etc. I didn’t overtly feel fear or aversion, I just wasn’t interested. When I understood the history of my line, all that side-stepping of info and training on all those subjects made sense.*

The pineal gland, in spiritual terms, is associated with the third eye, which is traditionally the “eye” that sees beyond our dimension, the psychic connection. Since realizing one of the biggest factors in my health issues is the sphenoid tilted into the pineal gland so that it’s malfunctioning, I see how the ancestral story has woven itself into my body. I could draw out a few more connections to health but you get the idea.

Now I realize this particular story requires a leap of faith about whether I tracked back to “the truth” but regardless of whether you can take that leap, it’s a good example of the way certain issues weave themselves into your story on many levels and affect many aspects of your life.** Do you think you might have any hidden history or memories that explain your current circumstances?

This post is for ABC Wednesday.

* The story of what I’ve done with this info will be another post one day.

** It also seemed like a natural companion to the last post.

Living Life to the Fullest

The exhortation “live life to the fullest” seems to pop up all the time. I scratch my head and wonder what that means, really. It’s a little like my lack of interest in bucket lists (previous post) because a lot of times people seem to mean adding up lists of things they’ve done and places they’ve been and days that are crammed with perpetual motion. My life has been so circumscribed by the chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia issues that if the criterion for living fully has to do with how full you’ve kept your calendar, how many times you’ve bungee jumped or how many pins you can put on a map to show where you’ve been, then my life for the last couple of decades hasn’t been lived much.

Yet I’ve been here, breathing and showing other occasional signs of life and in spite of pain and exhaustion I’ve actually liked my life and appreciated it more than ever before. So I’ve been asking myself, “what IS a full life?” And I realize my answer is just very different from the lists and accomplishments that mean “full” to a lot of people. It’s very different from anything I contemplated when I was 25 and packing my days and looking forward to more of the same.

To find my way out of the illness I had to look inward where—besides learning a lot about myself and my past—I came to understand that I have a divine nature of which I was previously unaware. The journey to understanding and releasing the past and then to connection with my higher self has been absorbing and amazing. I’ve learned to feel fullness and lightness just sitting in silence and letting myself sense the presence of spirit.

I’ve become a bit of a gardener (grumbling and not very good at it – really more a bit than a gardener). I’ve planted perennial herbs here and there in the yard. When I’m out weeding (grrr…) I stop here and there to rub my fingers on lavender or sage or mint and take a moment to savor the heady scent. I’ve become more of a cook (not so grumbly and pretty good) and I’ve learned to take the time to create tastes and smells to savor. I take the time to pay attention to as many of the small miracles of every day life as I can remember to notice (mindfulness again is key).

Since the months leading up to the war in Iraq I’ve been increasingly bent on releasing any remaining anger, raising my energy vibration and filling with love and compassion. I’d say at the rate I’m going I can “fill” the rest of my life with becoming peaceful within so that I can radiate lovingkindness out.

This post is for ABC Wednesday and this week it is “L”.