J2P: Finding the Peaceful Space

Ever since the troubling U.S. election results in November, I’ve been on a mission to find and hold the space of peace.  I’d been heading toward a directional shift in my personal journey, a shift from searching out issues and beliefs to release to affirming the life I wish to live, including a lot of practice directed to holding a loving heart space and being peace.  It’s taken me a while to realize how the external political events helped me to solidify my new direction.  And how the new direction has changed my reaction to the external events…

The first several months after the election I kept to a regular metta (lovingkindness) practice along with singing the Gayatri Mantra and Om Shanti.  Suddenly all kinds of materials about self love and finding peace began coming my way.  Among several gifts I accepted was a free Louise Hay book which led me work through lessons involving her mirror work;  I originally encountered it 30 years or more ago but didn’t do it.

I actually felt this was probably the first time I was ready for the work and in a position to really feel its impacts.  Not a big fireworks kind of impact after 30+ years of seeking, releasing, transforming, etc., but a quiet shift into a more positive space and a warmer relationship with myself.   I got another book on mirror work and plan to do those practices too.

A Patricia Cota-Robles video called to me and for something like 7 months I’ve played it as I go to sleep.  The message feels powerful to me and expresses exactly the affirmations for our times that I want to live and propagate.  Falling asleep to such a powerful message has been influencing my thinking and my reactions.  I also was fortunate to have a chance to see Patricia at an appearance here in Kentucky; the power of a whole group gathered in the name of love and peace felt amazing.

A Steve Nobel meditation on YouTube tapped me on the shoulder a number of times this summer and I’ve been slotting it into my various  practices at least once a week since.  Energetically I always feel a huge impact; one of the many things for which I can’t name a “real world” effect with a direct link but it feels amazing and as if it’s shifting me on an energetic level.

I first ran into the Solfeggio frequencies a couple of years ago but only recently looked more deeply into the story of these ancient tones that were trimmed from the annals of organized religion.  Lots of recordings are available on Spotify, Amazon Music, and YouTube (I’m sure elsewhere, but those are the three I use) and I’ve been playing the tones for several hours a day for a while now.  It’s another place where I can feel an energetic impact and can’t tell you if or what the precise effect on everyday life may be.

Perhaps the most important piece for me came from Facebook and my distress at the barrage of negative and mean-spirited posts flooding my “wall” for the first few months after the election.  Initially I passed along some informational pieces as well, but as I grew more calm I felt I wanted a different tone altogether.

I began searching among the daily posts and then searching elsewhere on the web for positive news every day and passing along evidence of the many great things that are happening in the world if only we choose to look at them instead of being mesmerized by the negative.

Slowly I’ve been realizing this collection of peaceful and peace-loving activities has been moving me into a space where I can look at something outrageous #45 has done or at a piece bemoaning the probable end of the world and feel… nothing.  Not numb.  Not in denial.  Just no longer moved by it.

When a friend thanked me for the positive tone I’ve been keeping on FB, I suddenly realized how happy it has been making me to seek out and pass along the news that speaks of a world full of amazing people doing amazing things every day.  The total impact of all the ways in which I’ve been holding my focus on lovingkindness, peace and positive news has been to shift me.  I now live in a place where I believe we are moving to the good and you can’t sway me from it.

No way to tell which of the many things I’ve been up to has had an impact but I like to thing the whole collection of practices and focusing on good news have combined to move me into this new place of calm certainty.

I believe much of what is happening is just part of the shift into a new world of compassion and peace.  I believe in the essential goodness of humanity and in holding a vibrational space that helps to lift everyone into love and compassion.  Where are you choosing to look?  What space are you choosing to hold?

Next J2P post will explore healing whatever parts of us are held in thrall by negativity.

 

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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.

Start the Revolution Without Me?

 

This is one of those posts I’ve debated about for a while — which blog?  which blog?  I’ve been doing some occasional political pieces on the Scribblings blog, but ultimately I decided this one has messages that suit both.  So I’m posting on both– not even a reblog just the same post in two places…

Lately I’ve been slowly realizing how everything I’ve done since college has been adding up to something forming in the now; a purpose and direction born long before this spiritual journey began as a conscious process.

I got to Northwestern University in 1970 and by the end of my freshman year I was radicalized.  A lot of revolution talk floated in the air around the anti-war movement and I felt both excited and unnerved by it. Puzzled by the enthusiasm being expressed by “peaceniks” for a process usually containing violence and horror — however great the outcome might be. (Though really, historically speaking, I’d have to say an awful lot of revolutions made things worse instead of better….)

It fascinated me, so I began to study.  Technically I majored in history and had an English minor, but I put together my own course of study.  An instructor with a forthcoming book on the “Power Elite” (the people of money who, behind the scenes, ran/run much of what happened/happens) ignited more fascination and I started taking classes on 20th century history, political systems, economic systems, political philosophy, political sociology, etc.  I wanted to know what the plan should/would be for a replacement if we wanted to tear the current structure down.  I wanted to find out if there was a path to change without violence.  I never lost sight of the deep questions about whether those who were shouting about revolution really understood the ramifications.  They also shouted about peace and the contradiction troubled me.

I tried to continue this work as a graduate student in sociology, but fellowship money wound up side-tracking me into the Center for Urban Affairs.  I learned more stuff that influences me still, not the least of which was a massive review of literature on crime statistics and the startling revelation that the probabilities of being a victim of most of the major felonies (robbery, burglary, assault, murder, rape, etc.) had not changed since at least the 1940’s.  (see previous post for more info)

I’ve continued to periodically check for updated studies and it has remained true to this day–and I now know the unchanged probabilities actually extend far back beyond the 1940’s.  It’s remained a central point for me, the realization that fear and perception of what’s real can be manipulated by how the facts are presented and what the media and people in power choose to bring to our attention.  And in these days, when positive news is available in a few seconds of internet searching, it’s also about what we choose to focus upon.

My law career was spent mainly on cases fighting nuclear power plants one way or another and I learned a lot about the real story there and how the utility companies, in collusion with the government, have tried to create a benign view of the nuclear industry that’s out of alignment with the facts.

I used to count all of those earlier studies and jobs out of my thoughts about how various elements of “my path” have added up to where I am now and what I am meant to do.  But as these wild times have ignited me to renewed interest in these big questions about politics and economics, I’m seeing how the Universe has guided me to gather what I need for my whole adult life, not just from the point when I began to explore myself as a spiritual being.  I still don’t see exactly where it leads, though that book I decided to write months ago on peaceful activism remains in the forefront of my thoughts.

Going back to the undergraduate studies, Oskar Lange‘s book, On the Economic Theory of Socialism, moved me, convinced me and provided the basic framework for what I would like to see that has guided my political thinking ever since.  While I love Social Democratic philosophy and especially how it has played out in Denmark, I remain aware that the U.S. has reached a point where powerful money forces have entrenched themselves so deeply in the political fabric that it may well require a revolution to make a change.

Through all the years I’ve watched the left leaning side of the Democratic party (and those who, like me, are somewhere left of the party but vote for it out of expediency), I’ve been amused and bemused by the unending chatter about changing this deeply rooted political principle or that deeply entrenched lobby group.  They speak of it as though just electing a few of the right people and/or passing the right laws will be all it takes to turn everything around.

My personal feeling has long been that it will take something far more earth shattering than electing “the right” people to revamp our system into a Social Democracy.   In an ironic sense I have a feeling the election of #45 may be the catalyst that does it, but that’s another rambling for another day…

My perspective now includes years of spiritual seeking, meditation, yoga, mindfulness, chanting, etc. and my beliefs have shifted to encompass a more spiritual and less political view.  I believe in peace.  I believe in compassion.  I believe in lovingkindness.  And I’m still striving to find a way to change the world without a revolution–or at least by fomenting a peaceful and compassionate one.

I’m unhappy about the anger and vitriol on display from both sides while at the same time understanding we probably need this time of erupting anger to clear a lot of buried stuff.  I’m unenthusiastic about “resistance” being the main banner of the movement for social democracy.

I am very clear it is more powerful to be “for” something than it is to be against something and I believe it is time for a platform of social change in which we are FOR equality, FOR universal health care, FOR equal rights for all humans of every race, nationality, gender and sexual orientation, FOR a basic decent quality of life for all humans–maybe FOR a new Social Democratic party?…  Time to stop speaking of our striving in battle terms and instead to be positive about what we’re doing to create what we believe in.

I am also clear that much of humanity discounts the role many of us have been playing as we have cleared old issues, struggled to become more loving, more kind, more compassionate…  Much of humanity doesn’t believe in peaceful means.  I understand that most people don’t get the web of all life or comprehend we are energy beings first and foremost; energy beings who are interconnected and whose thoughts and feelings as well as actions impact all of life.

I believe the biggest revolution may be the one that can and must happen in our hearts.  Which is not to say peaceful activism doesn’t also have a role.  But more than anything I believe now is the moment to clear any vestiges of fear and anger IN YOU, raise your energy vibration toward love, toward compassion, toward higher consciousness.  You can’t make anybody else change their thoughts or learn to meditate or choose peace.  Only you can do it. Only I can do it.  Peace begins with me.  Peace begins with you.

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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…

A positive view of where we’re going

Watched the Super Soul Sunday from this past weekend–in which Oprah interviewed Charles Eisenstein– today and found it so uplifting, I wanted to share it.  Much of the conversation is about the transitions of these times and handling them with peace.

I know so many of us are sharing videos, you could spend three or four hours a day just watching stuff, but this is 45 minutes or so that’s really worth watching.  For the next few months you can watch the whole thing here.

OWN’s execs keep changing their minds about letting people embed these videos and at the moment as far as I can tell they’ve taken the ability to embed a whole show away from both YouTube and the OWN site.  But I can put in this little blurb to give you a taste of the full version:

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…

Checking in, gratitude and joy

Two or three years ago, when the BeZine was still the Bardo Group, one of the folks (sorry no longer remember which one, though I think Terry Stewart) wrote a post suggesting that we find a partner with whom to do a text check-in every day.  In this check-in you were to say how you’re feeling and what your intentions are for the day.

When I posted it on FB, a long-time friend suggested that we do it.  Since I don’t “do texting” we settled on daily e-mails and my friend proposed adding three gratitudes.  While we miss days here and there, we’ve very steadily kept up the practice, supporting one another through various trials and on our spiritual paths.  I look forward every day to seeing her check-in, following along with her daily life so much more than I’ve been able to do for years (we’ve lived in different states for the majority of the 40+ years we’ve been friends) and in a way that strengthens our bond at deep levels.

I’ve been working for some years on improving my consciousness of gratitude –more specifically noting what I have to be grateful FOR — and this daily practice has been really good for me to add to my habit of waking up and saying thanks for something and generally trying to note and be thankful for the good stuff more.

While I like gratitude practice and find it subtly boosts my sense of well-being and feels good, I’ve never had the sort of grand, magical transformation of life that many who tout gratitude practice imply will ensue.  I see its value in quiet ways and I believe in its worth as part of a spiritual path so I’m pleased to be doing the practice — but not blown away by it.

So when I recently watched Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday with Sheryl Sandberg*  I sat up when they spoke quite a bit about stopping to find gratitude and joy.  It intrigued me to note they talked of them interchangeably but that to me they felt different.  My friend and I have both been working on allowing ourselves to be happy — a struggle for both of us — and to spend more time feeling happiness or joy.

As I contemplated gratitude and joy, I felt sometimes they would be the same thing for me (and everything on a joy list would belong as well on a gratitude list) but there are many things for which I feel grateful that don’t necessarily inspire me with joy.  One example I’ve used is utilities (electric, water, etc.).  Aware of how much of the world is lacking one or more of these, I feel very grateful to have them but they’re a little too ordinary to me for me to be beaming with joy because the lights are working (there might be a side debate as to whether I should and I suspect noting joy leads to feeling joy about everything).

I proposed adding “Joy” to our daily check-in and she readily agreed.  I can’t speak for how she’s feeling (though indications are good 🙂 ) but I am finding a much more transformational shift happening by thinking about joy every day.  Since playfulness and joyfulness, etc. are hard for me to experience, the conscious practice of noting joy is bringing it forward for me.  I’m spending far more time feeling up and positive as I find joy in many places.

One day as I tried to switch from a sliver of soap that broke to a new bar of still-wrapped soap–while soapy and in the shower–I kept dropping everything.  At first frustrated, I was muttering, “damn, that’s slippery” when I burst out laughing because, you know, “imagine, wet soap is slippery”.  Then I noted the joy in the laughing and realized small, silly things are enough — and that made me feel joyful.  My friend dubbed it “goofy joy”, which just seems perfect.

I highly recommend finding a check-in buddy with whom to share a mindful tune-in every day — and I really like our additions of gratitude and joy.  If you struggle at all to find the happy, you might find a “joyful” practice to be more transformational than gratitude.  I’d sure be interested in hearing other people’s experiences!

*I”m linking there but they’re taking it down in December, so this will go dead at some point.  They seem to keep changing their minds about how long to make these available and whether to let people embed them.  At this point I can’t find an easy way to embed and since they’re not leaving it up it didn’t seem worth pursuing…