Being a trailblazer

Last time I talked about a recent phone conversation that has been a big spark for thinking about this transition time I’ve been in.  The same discussion ignited a lengthy examination of my role in being one of the spiritual trailblazers who’ve been moving ahead of the curve.

It’s not how I would usually think of myself.  And even writing about this makes me realize there’s still a big issue to explore about wanting to always be humble and not take credit for anything “big”.  But I started seeing at least 10 or 12 years ago that some of my thinking about a lot of spiritual things and especially the application of spiritual principles in the world, was not in the same place as other people I knew or other people in general on a similar path.

At first, since I tend to be an outsider, I assumed I was just out of step — as usual.  But then one of the many quite psychic body-workers/healers with whom I’ve worked, commented on me being ahead of the curve on this.  Then, a little over two years ago I wrote about an amazing healing experience with Oshunnike, who made an even more pointed observation while she worked (and I was completely out of it and hadn’t said anything) that I am way out there ahead of where most people are in what I understand and the work I’ve been trying to do and it’s going to be hard for me for a while — and lonely.  She literally pulled this observation out of the air — 🙂 seemingly — as I’d not mentioned anything about this.  Two years ago and it’s still hard…

On the one hand it felt SO good to have this confirmation of feelings I’d barely acknowledged or allowed myself to note and on the other it was hard to accept the idea of me as a trailblazer.  But her words and that thought stayed with me and I’ve realized the truth of it more and more.  My reaction to the U.S. election last year and the aftermath have been bringing increasing clarity to how radically different my understanding is from the way most people see it or react to it.

I’m so grateful that I have friends who “get it” and I’ve been hoping to reach out more toward those who do.  Thus my gratitude is so enormous for having this great conversation show up — with a friend I rarely get to talk with at length — and for the wave of realizations it has brought.  Just having someone talking to me about it made me feel weepy.

Again, one of the things it has me contemplating is how I seem to have gathered a community here in the blogging world of people who get it — and I’m coming to understand it’s possibly the main reason I was drawn to do this.  So again, I’m interested to hear from you all about this trailblazer thing — your experience of being ahead of the curve on understanding how the world works and how far outside the mainstream understanding it is.

I’m wondering if there is some way we can support one another more than by just reading and commenting?  I’m sensing those of us in the advance troops could use some assistance in holding an energy space together, to join our energies in the forward movement to a new age.

What do you all think?

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Dungeon Prompts: Needing Some Inspiration

This week’s Dungeon Prompt:

When you’re feeling down or just need a push forward with your day, where do you look for inspiration?  What drives you, or keeps you smiling?  Or when you’re really down, what keeps you alive, and getting out of bed each morning?  You don’t have to write about a major presence or source of inspiration in your life, but can just tell us about one of the little things that elevate you in some way.

One of the best things about 30+ years of yoga and meditation, as well as a lot of emotional processing thrown in along the way, is that I rarely feel “really down” or depressed.  I DO however struggle with frustration over the long trek with physical ill-health as well as the normal ups and downs of life and have days when I really need to shift.

I have a whole toolkit of cures for what ails me emotionally and/or spiritually, with variations to suit different circumstances:

  1. I start every morning with waking up and aligning my chakras by visualizing the energy spinning in each one from root to crown as soon as I wake up.  It helps me start the day in balance and with more energy.  Then I mentally list a few “gratitudes”.  Some days that’s enough to set the tone all day.
  2. If I’m feeling logy because of the muscles interfering with sleep, I do either the 8 Key Breaths or Flying Crane Chi Gung or the 5 Tibetan Rites or a combination.  They not only balance energy and align the chakras, but open and build the flow of energy so I’m more energized as well as calm and in balance.
  3. If I’m feeling uneasy or anxious, I like to do Yoga Nidra or a series of chants.  My current favorite roster of chants is to say the lovingkindness chant for 10 minutes, then sing the Gayatri Mantra and Om Shanti.  After I practice Yoga Nidra or chanting I feel balanced, calmed and my heart is open and full.  Can’t be open-hearted and anxious at the same time.
  4. When my writing is feeling stuck, I do writing practices a la Natalie Goldberg. Get out a notebook and a pen, pick a topic (usually out of her suggested exercises in Writing Down the Bones or Wild Mind, set timer for 10-20 minutes and let fly.  It doesn’t work if I type, gotta sit down and write by hand.
  5. One of my almost daily practices is to spend some time sitting on our sun porch either with a laptop or a notebook, enjoying the sunniness and looking out into the garden as I work. It gives me a lift every time.
  6. In nice weather one of the best mood-boosters I have is to just go for a short walk someplace that inspires me.  Fortunately there’s a very nice park right behind the houses across the street, so it’s easy.  I also love going to Ashland, Henry Clay’s estate, to walk around on the grounds.  When I’m in Marin there’s a 1-1/2 mile walk in a loop around the hills where I house sit (and used to live) that puts me in a place of joy every time I walk it.
  7. For 2 or 3 years now I’ve been doing a daily e-mail check-in with a long-time (40+ years!) friend.  Each day we say (1) how we’re feeling, (2) what we intend to do that day, (3) three things we’re grateful for, and (4) anything that brought joy.  It really helps to stay mindful, keeps a focus on all the good that’s happening and most especially it is so helpful to have someone  with whom to check in about it all every day.  And I’m very grateful the internet allows us to do this in spite of 400 miles between 🙂

The biggest thing for me is realizing that if something feels “off” then energy is in some way out of balance.  The main focus for me is thus maintaining alignment and balance in my chakras, my energy, my body.  When it’s all open and aligned, it’s just about impossible to feel down (which is not to say that it alleviates personal grief or shock but it does help to keep those things from overwhelming life).

Most of the time I try to rotate among a number of these practices enough to hold a place of equilibrium without having to stop and do one of them to get back on track.  But getting off track is pretty easy; as long as I can stay tuned in enough to realize I need to do something and then to “feel” which practice would serve, being “really down” is an infrequent to nonexistent feeling for me.

Dungeon Prompts: Mission Statement

I’m running behind on everything blog lately so I’m just getting to last week’s Dungeon Prompt and will try to do better with the one that went up today…

If the journey of your life could be boiled down to a particular mission, what would it be?  What has been the primary focus or purpose of your particular birth?  You may believe that all of life is on a big picture path, but I’m asking about your particular journey.  Is there any lesson or goal that has defined the majority of your life?  What is your life’s mission?

Lately this is a good question.  As my long healing journey has progressed I’ve felt less and less sure that any notion I’ve had about my life’s purpose reflects why I’m really here.  That’s a work in progress.

In my youth and early adulthood, I would have unequivocally told you “music”.  My elementary school dreams involved Broadway or being in the newest movie musicals.  Around the time my interest moved more into jazz and rock I realized my beloved Hollywood musicals were pretty much over, so maturing tastes dovetailed with facing reality.  Through those years I also wrote short stories and poetry and pondered a secondary career possibility as a writer.

In my twenties I tried to revive the music love and was lead singer for a band for a short time, but it didn’t work out and I was slowly realizing my many years of studying classical voice left me with a voice that didn’t really fit the style of music I wanted to do.  More important, I could see I didn’t have the kind of “push” it takes to make a big music career.  Scrap that mission.

Having become radicalized in college I put a lot of thought into having a career that would make some kind of difference.  I wound up in law school, which I hated, and then in a short-lived career as an attorney fighting against nuclear power plants.  My writing skills landed me the job of writing all the motions and briefs for my office.  I liked winning those cases and the feeling of having helped to do something good but loathed being a lawyer.  My zeal to be a public interest attorney of any sort died; end of that mission.

In the meantime I’d taken up yoga and meditation, earned a teaching certificate for yoga and regularly spent weekends taking classes on various spiritual topics.  I started putting together a whole toolkit of quick, easy-to-use techniques for reducing tension and using them every day to keep the angst in check.  When I decided I couldn’t take the law I decided to teach stress management.

Around the same time the health issues I’d been fighting for some time turned out to be chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia and I reached the point where continuing on a normal work path became impossible.  The next decade-and-a-half was spent juggling between trying to heal, continuing my spiritual and personal growth journey and trying to work as much as my ill health would allow.  I tried stress management, mediation, working as a proofreader and editor for a small publishing company, working part-time for the Institute of Noetic Sciences, wrote a novel, and more.

Throughout these years I kept seeking a career path that felt right for me but none of the hats I wore seemed to be a perfect fit and the health issues interfered increasingly with keeping any kind of regular work schedule. I wound up teaching yoga classes and for myself re-working Robert Masters’ Psychophysical Method into specific sets combining his certain of his triggers of release with yoga.  It made major inroads on the fibromyalgia issues. When I realized the power of this movement work I taught more classes using that than straight yoga classes but have never felt it’s my calling to teach movement.  So no mission statement for that except that I’d like to make it available through recordings so others can be helped by it without me having to be the cheerleader.

Eventually some years back I realized the healing had to come first.  That having the energy and the wherewithal to develop any career had to come first.  Eventually as I’ve worked through not only the physical side but also emotional, ancestral, and past life issues related to the tight muscles I realized that for now this healing journey IS my purpose.  And, since I know we are all one, each a part of the whole, I believe my healing helps others heal too.  So I’ve thought of healing as a mission.

I feel very drawn to work for peace and it has informed much of my blogging.  I designed workshops on the “Journey to Peace” but never managed to market them well enough to draw students in numbers  Put on the back burner while I’ve worked hard to complete the muscle issues, the draw is there but not a sense of “how”.

In these turbulent times my sense of wanting to be peace, to be a voice of peace, to impact world peace in some way has only grown.  I’m drawn toward creating a career path that brings the many things I’ve learned over the years together in service of peace.

But this path has meant letting go of so much of who I used to be and led to so many questions about who I really am, what I really love and what I’m really here for that I have no sense of the mission statement for the next phase beyond “serve peace”.  In many ways I see this desire as a maturing and transforming of my earlier desire to do public interest work and how that desire was born of the hippie protests, etc. of college.

So much is changing in me as my body changes, I’m content to see what feels right when the healing process winds down.

Dungeon Prompts: Where the Wild Things Are

Flushing Park

This week’s Dungeon Prompt:

This week’s prompt is:  Where the Wild Things are.

Tell us all about one of the more wilder things you’ve done in your life that looks a little out of place when put up next to the rest of your life’s journey.  Or take it in another direction and tell us about your monsters, or demons.

For most of my life I’ve been pretty inhibited and very conscious of “good behavior” so I’m afraid there’s not much in the way of a wild story to tell. I would say my demons or monsters have largely been internal…  Well, there was that one boss but I think I’ll just let that story go 🙂

I think the most dramatic moment in the process of realizing how much I’ve stood in my own way came in 1990.  It was the year of my 20th high school reunion.  I didn’t go but one of the organizers collected updates from much of the class into a small “book” and we could buy a copy.  After getting mine I decided that I needed to visit, something I’d not done since my parents moved away in 1980.

In downtown Flushing MI

High school was a miserable time for me and I spent graduation day grinning with glee and giddy because I would soon get to leave.  I blamed the town and the school and a bunch of people in the school for my misery.  Over the years my anger and contempt never dimmed.

By 1990, though, I’d been meditating and exploring my psyche for 5 years and when I looked at the book full of the lives of my classmates I felt a shift begin.  So I booked a B&B in a nearby small town and took myself back to Flushing, MI.  I wandered familiar places.  Drove into Flint–having not been back since GM pulled out, a shocking view of decline.  And hour by hour I realized Flushing is a really lovely, really nice little town.

I breathed it in.  I cried.  I grieved for the good times I could have had if only I’d gotten out of my own way.  I remembered the kindnesses of the many nice kids with whom I went to school.  I acknowledged that some of the snotty, mean kids really were snotty and mean 🙂  And I didn’t have to take their mean remarks personally.

And I had good friends there, a couple of whom are still in my life.  As well as a larger group of girls who always invited me to the slumber parties and birthday parties.  I felt so miserable and “outside” I couldn’t perceive the degree to which I’d been included.  And I could see it was my own neurotic introversion that left me dateless and the wallflower who was never invited to a school dance.  Not one.

When I saw clearly how much I’d been the author of my own misery, I felt the whole history change.  My journey through my own roster of demons and monsters turned out to be in early stages at that point but I think that journey home opened a vista for me, revealing how much it changes everything when you change how you think and feel about it.

About 12 years ago I suggested a trip back to my home town to my mother, who was beginning to have trouble negotiating sight-seeing type trips.  She still had quite a number of good friends left in the area and I thought it would be a good idea to visit while we could still see them.

She reluctantly agreed and I led the way, feeling like this was mostly me doing it for her.  But we both had such a good time that we’ve been back every year since (till this one; Mom is not in such good shape to travel…).  The change in perspective I made so long ago served well to let me see and enjoy with new eyes.  And I treasure every visit we’ve made.

I’ve since worked at sorting through my long list of negative beliefs (still a work in progress) and beside my own childhood issues, discovered some demons bestowed upon me by ancestors and past lives.  Every moment of seeing and letting go opens a place of light and transforms my world.

In the meantime, the spiritual teachings I’ve followed have led me to believe there are never monsters “out there”.  Whatever I see that seems wrong or off in a situation or in someone else is there because of something in me.  So now I ask what I hold in me that creates a vision of monsters in the world.  And then I say the ho’oponopono prayer.

In search of the joy place

Somehow the subject of joy keeps bubbling up and lately it’s front and center in my thoughts. As I mentioned in a recent post, a friend and I have been doing daily “check-ins” for several years and recently added joy–a topic I’ve been exploring for a while.

It’s been quite a revelation to see what a difference it makes to consciously seek the joy moments in every day.  You see, things like joy, happiness, playfulness, etc. have been elusive for me.  While the spiritual path has brought great equanimity and a sense of peace and contentment I never had, I’m still working on letting in the happy.

Numerous practitioners over the years have told me I should play more and it always feels like they’ve just asked me to spontaneously speak Greek.  “Duh, I don’t know how.”  I was a pretty serious kid in a household in which horsing around, childish behavior (even from a child) and too much laughter were discouraged.  I folded in so thoroughly I lost the sense of how to relax and have fun.

It took a long time to realize I have some strong beliefs that say it’s not okay to be too happy and joy, well that’s just suspect, something to be wary of.  Add in a long journey through some weird and uncomfortable health/muscle issues and I’ve hit senior status with a seriously impaired joy button.

At the same time this daily joy check-in has been happening, I’ve been working on holding a peaceful space in the face of the chaos since the U.S. election.  Part of that became checking each day for posts and/or news items about the positive and great things happening in the world and sharing them on Facebook.  During a party the other night, a friend turned and thanked me for creating a space of calm and peace with my posts.

When she said it, images of the many wonderful things I’d found flooded through me and I caught on to how much joy there is finding the good and the uplifting and sharing the happy.  I’ve been excited and joyful about it ever since.

I think the thing I love the most about this is how small and simple so many of the “joy things” have been and how much noticing them spreads the joy through my being even more.  Years of gratitude practice never quite sent me to the same place but joy practice is changing my world by leaps and bounds.

Just a word change.  And it reminds me that sometimes the resonance of one word over another for a given person makes all the difference.  If you, like me, have trouble holding the happy space, consider whether the word which makes you sparkle is gratitude or happiness or joy or … you name it and then practice finding the moments when you feel it.

My latest magnetizing forces

If you’ve been following for a while, you know I’ve been trying to do practices toward which I’m drawn instead of setting up a practice and doing the same one daily no matter what.

Back after the election I started a regular practice of saying the lovingkindness chant and then added singing the Gayatri Mantra and Om Shanti Om.  I remained very faithful to that one and for quite a while it drew me as if I needed it like breathing.  Then I started also being drawn to do the short version of Yoga Nidra on my much-loved Swami Janakananda recording, Experience Yoga Nidra [after falling in love with this one I tried quite a few other yoga nidra recordings; none have the same script I love on the short one and the long ones leave out big chunks that are in his].

This practice has been particularly good for me in another spell of not enough sleep since you do this one lying down and it’s short enough I can stay awake all the way through.  I’ve also been loving the variation on alternate nostril breathing which takes up a fair portion of this short one – another one of those things that’s been just what I needed.  So I started alternating this with the chanting.

I lost track of who recommended this Patricia Cota-Robles meditation/affirmation, but I’ve pretty routinely played it as I go to sleep for several months now and sometimes I’ve let this substitute for chanting or yoga nidra.

Lately I’ve been drawn in yet another direction after YouTube kept putting the meditation below near the top of my suggestion list for a week or two.  The final kicker was when Sindy, of bluebutterflies and me, left a comment on one of my posts, including a link to — you guessed it — the same meditation.  I said, “okay, Universe, you don’t have to hit me over the head,” and tried it out.  I really like it.  I’m factoring it in several times a week; I’ve also tried a shorter one from Steve Nobel on the chakras and plan to try out some more.

I find this very powerful although I can’t tell you some “real life” manifestation; I just feel powerful energy forces throughout my body during it and for a long time after.  Just feel very drawn to it right now.

And of course there’s another Deepak/Oprah 21 day meditation event that started this week so I’m trying to do it too.  Some days I manage both one of theirs and the Steve Nobel, other days just one…

Rules and fear and fundamentalism

I’ve been trying out some different meditations on YouTube lately.  Something I’ve appreciated from a few of them has been instructions that allow for you to do the meditation either sitting or lying down and no specific requirements beyond that.  Over the years I’ve run into a lot of teachers and teachings with long lists of specific things you must do in order to successfully meditate or tune in to the divine, etc.

As one who’s always struggled with rules, I squirm when an instructor teaches that only those who perfectly obey a set of rules can achieve enlightenment, or succeed at meditation, or connect with divine/Buddha nature.  I’ve encountered instructions ranging from never to cross your legs or ankles, always to sit cross-legged, say only an exact script, wear a shawl wrapped a certain way when you meditate, your spine has to be absolutely straight… Personally, when I go to a workshop at which a teacher says stuff like that, I will never be attending another event with that teacher.

My mind starts asking questions like:

  • Really, All That Is created the universe and can heal the sick and raise the dead but can’t interact with a human who has her legs crossed?
  • If you can’t have your legs crossed OR uncrossed, are you supposed to have your leg bones removed so you can do a Gumby pretzel kind of thing?
  • so if your spine has to be absolutely straight does that mean people with scoliosis can’t become enlightened?  Really, God has an “oh those sinning scoliosis people, let’s ban them” thing going on?
  • Divine Consciousness has rules like a social club; gotta follow the rules or you can’t be part of the Buddha nature group?  Seriously.  People really think All That Is is petty?

Okay, my mind’s a scary place but when people make up rules that are so easy to break down into nonsense, I can’t accept those rules–and I really don’t get why so many people do.  I’ve been fascinated for years with the great love so many people have for lists of rules to follow.  Sometimes it’s a way of defining an “us” and a “them”.  I’m pretty sure some spiritual teachers want to sell people on their own set of “must follow” rules to keep people paying them.

Some rules are the ones that let people in fear believe they will be saved or reach their goal, get to heaven, reach enlightenment, etc.  I see it as the basis of fundamentalist thinking.  And I see that fundamentalism in those who want to create a path to higher consciousness paved with rules to follow.  I don’t think you have to be at the extreme edge of religion to be a fundamentalist.  Just afraid and looking for reassurance through a structure of rules providing an illusory guarantee…

I understand some of the sitting, wearing, etc. rules as rituals intended to focus intent and belief on accomplishing whatever the spiritual practice is meant to accomplish.  It just seems people wind up confusing the ritual with the end goal and somehow come to believe the precise steps of the ritual are integral to enlightenment or great meditation,etc. instead of an aid.  To me, tools are just there to use if I need them and if I benefit from a practice using my own way of doing it, the success is just as real and maybe more sweet.

Me, I don’t get along with rules so well.  I like a meditation that says I can sit down or lie down and how I do either doesn’t matter…