Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Year Rituals

The New Year is just 3 days away. It's a time when many people stop and reflect on the year just ending and the year to come. And a time for New Year's rituals to embody those thoughts, desires, dreams, and wishes.

Here is a common and meaningful ritual for the New Year.

Releasing the Old

Take a moment to reflect on what you would like to release for the New Year. Is there something that you feel is holding you back from all you want to be and express? Perhaps it is fear, excess, weight, resistance, or something else. Take out a piece of paper and write a statement to express it. For example, "I release everything currently holding me back from financial success."

If you have a fireplace or wood stove, you can mindfully put this prayer of release this into the fire.
If you don't have a fireplace, you can tear or shred the paper, or bury it to decompose in the ground. Or write the release on toilet paper and flush its down the toilet. You can release this in any way that feels true and good to you. For a feeling of lightness, you might like to wave bye-bye to it as it swirls down and away. If you feel more solemn about it, then bring that reflective mindfulness to your release.

Calling In the New

What would you most like to bring into your life experience in 2016? More fun? More income? Vibrant health? A better relationship with a family member? A new love interest or deepened connection to your existing partnership?

Take a moment to reflect on this. Really feel into what would be great. Phrase this in a positive way. For example, instead of phrasing it as "No more stress" write something like "Ease, Flow. Peace". You can write a prayer or affirmation, or just a few words.

Don't worry about how it would happen or even whether it's possible. Just feel what you would like to experience in the coming year, and write that down on another piece of paper. If you are not a writer, find or draw a picture that symbolizes what you want. This paper can go on your altar, or some place that you will see it regularly. Or it can be planted as a symbol of a seed that will grow. You can tie it in a tree, or put it in a corner of your home that represents that part of your life.

In the past, friends would tie their hope onto a balloon and release it, but this is not an eco-friendly method, so think of something that feels right to you.

How About You?

Do you do New Year's Rituals? What is your favorite?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Return of De-Light

This morning was the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.

It is a time of celebration because the light returns tomorrow as the days become longer each day.  It is the return of de-light!

We still have longer nights than days until the Spring Equinox, so it is still a time for introspection and germination, like a seed in the soil.

This longest night of darkness and the return of the light… return of del-light…

Like most of us, as a child I felt the Joy and limitlessness of innocent youth. Then, just as the night becomes longer than the day, as I grew, I learned to think and experience life in the same way as those before me and around me. Or as don Miguel Ruiz would phrase it, I was domesticated. I forgot who I was.

So now it is time for us to return to the light. To remember who we are. To shine that Light. T return to the delight and the Light of our innocence.

It is time for the return of De-Light.

May your life and your year be filled with the Light and deLight!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Lessons from the Garden

I’ve had indoor plants for decades, but I’m new to gardening. And I had fun digging in a community garden recently. My job was to weed two raised beds.

Bermuda Grass

Now if you’ve never weeded Bermuda grass, you may not know about the roots. I knew that the roots went pretty deep for this kind of grass. So I dug, following the roots. down. And down. And down. I noticed a few things that seem to mirror my mind.

First, that the surface had quite a few appearances of this grass, but as I dug, I saw that it came from the same root system. Second, that much of the grass on the surface was connected deep down.

So it is with my mind. I seem to have a variety of areas in my mind or in my life where I need to weed. But ultimately, it all comes from one source. One big deep root.

Faith As Deep and Tenacious

And then a friend pointed out that Bermuda grass is quite tenacious. A small clump of roots could sit

dormant for years in  the shed or in a dry patch of ground. But sprinkle a little water on it, and it grows. And grows. And grows. He said, “As you dig, pray that your faith is as tenacious as that Bermuda grass.” In some ways it is. And then there is my couch potato resume.

A Lifetime Project

And no matter how deep you dig, and how carefully you follow that root system, it seems like it will take a lifetime to rid that raised bed of all of the Bermuda grass. So it is with life. I could spend a lifetime weeding my mind of one thing. Like eating too many sweets.

Or I could just know that those weeds, those deep roots are there, and choose not to water them. I can choose to choose a different thought when I want that cookie or that beautiful pair of earrings.

How about you?

What lessons has your garden taught you?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Veterans Day

Veterans Day is approaching.
I have mixed feelings about this holiday.

I am very grateful to live in a country where I am free. As an American, I can worship as I choose, I have a high level of safety and peace in my home, and I have a high standard of living that includes indoor plumbing and access to health care. I have more civil rights here than most countries. As a woman, I have personal freedoms that include the right to have a job, support myself, and most importantly, I have access to information and materials that allow me to choose whether and when and with whom I wish to conceive a child. These are wonderful rights that I enjoy in this country. Some of these rights are ours because of previous wars that kept megalomaniacs in check. Some were because of civil war and activism which were possible because we live in a relatively free country.

Personal Reasons

On the other hand, I have 2 exes who were veterans of the Viet Nam war. Both were in the middle of action. Ed was a grunt, meaning he walked and crawled the rice paddies, was exposed to Agent Orange and horrific scenes that would give anyone nightmares. He eventually died from a drug overdose. Phil was in special forces. He is still alive. Each one told me only a couple of stories of their experiences there, but it was enough to know that the expression “War is Hell.” is no exaggeration. No one should have to endure that. No one.

I have seen up close what it did to their psyches. And I weep for that. I was astonished when Ed told me that upon returning from Nam, they stuck him in detox for a couple of days and then released him with no counseling onto streets where people spit on him because he fought int he war. He was drafted. He wasn’t there by choice. Most of the returning men at the end of that war were drafted. Why would the public take out their disdain for the war on the people forced to fight it?

Childish Thoughts

When I was a child, naive but wise, and first heard about war in school, I blurted out, “If the
presidents have a disagreement with each other, why not put them in a boxing ring together? Why do they drag other people into their fight?”

As an adult, I still ask this question. Apparently we did try to assassinate Hitler. That makes so much more sense than killing and maming thousands of people. Problem is, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

I don’t have an answer. I wish I did. But I can envision a world where war is obsolete. Where we look back at our past and wonder why we ever thought it was acceptable.

Peace Begins with Me

For now, all I can really do is focus on Peace in my own heart, in my own life. I can dig down and find that Peace in side when I am frustrated with the automated phone system or the fact that my password is no longer being accepted and my only option is to say I forgot it when I didn’t.

And celebrate the fact that I get to have those kinds of problems instead of much greater problems that are experienced every day by so many people, even in our own country.

And from this place of Peace and Love, I can live my life and be an example. I can raise my vibration and know that others are doing that. And eventually there will be enough of us living that way that war is unthinkable, archaic, and just plain stupid.

I pray that day arrives, if not during my lifetime, then after.

How About You?

Do you know any veterans?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Untangling Knots in the Mind

Have you ever tried to untangle a mess of yarn or string?

Tangled Strings, Tangled Yarn

I've had a lot of practice with that.

In 7th and 8th grade, I made marionettes and did puppet shows at children's birthday parties. From time to time the strings of the marionettes would get tangled.

While my 2 friends who assisted me could never untangle one, I found that if I increased the space between, I could untangle any snarl.

I forgot about this until I started knitting a few years ago. When my yarn would tangle, I remembered the marionettes, and used the same technique.

Tangled Mind

It occurred to me that untangling a snarl in the mind or emotions is solved in a similar way. Make space around the thought, allow it to breathe.

How do you do that?
Instead of running away from it, or pushing it down, or pretending it isn't there, just let it be there. And be bigger than it.

Remember that there is something much bigger than you or the problem/ thought/ emotion. That Something bigger, that Higher Power, is infinite, so it can easily contain anything and everything. And if the Infinite can keep all of our planets orbiting in place, it can certainly handle any problem in your life.

How About You?

What is your favorite way to untangle your emotions and thoughts?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Your Fundamental Desire for Wholeness

In one of her talks, I love how Buddhist nun Pema Chodron speaks about what she calls our fundamental desire for wholeness.

She explains a beautiful process for managing our thoughts and emotions when we are "hooked" by something in our life that causes us to suffer or feel bad in some way.

It's the Little Things

She is not referring to major life trauma. This is a practice for returning to peace of mind when some little everyday upset grabs your attention and hijacks your day. You know, all that little petty annoyances that can add up until you want to scream, or toss your computer out the window.

The Antidote

Pema Chodron's steps to return to wholeness:

  1. Recognize the shenpa (suffering)
  2. Refrain from biting the hook
  3. Relax into it
  4. Resolve to keep practicing.

Try It Anywhere Any Time

This is a practice that you can do without anyone around you knowing it. 
So you can use it at work, at the grocery store, anywhere you get activated.

How About You?

What is your favorite way to let go of the little things?
Did you try this and did it work?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I'd Rather Be a Hammer than a Nail

Do you know the song lyric "I'd rather be a hammer than a nail"?
Simon and Garfunkel made it popular in El Condor Pasa.

How can we feel more like the hammer than the nail?

Or more like the bug and less like the windshield?

It's all in our point of view.

Negative Thinking is Innate

According to Rick Hanson. PhD, the brain has a built-in negativity bias.
Why? It's for survival. When we think of the world in terms of carrots and sticks, Dr Hanson says that while carrots are great, if we don't learn about the stick that could kill us, then we never get another carrot. Ever.

That's a big incentive, and also the reason that the people with brains that noticed the negative were the ones who survived long enough to pass on their genes.

So just a few negative experiences of futility or helplessness when we are young and our brains are forming, can result in some long-lasting deep-seated beliefs about what is possible or safe or appropriate.

We Need the Good

To overcome a negative experience, we need a 5:1 ratio of good to bad experiences. That goes for our relationships too. So try to have 5 times more positive interactions with your friends and loved ones every day than negative ones.

So praise your child's accomplishment, compliment your significant other, notice the good things about other people and say so when it's appropriate.

This goes for yourself too!

Notice the good things about you, not just the things you don't like. Instead of getting down on yourself when you make a mistake, realize that you did the best you could at the time. Be gentle with yourself. And then ask yourself how you might do it differently next time. That's a much more effective way to deal with it.

Have a Gratitude Journal

Writing down 5 to 10 things that you are grateful for can change your life. Being grateful helps you enjoy the good that you already have in your life. And that helps you notice even more of the good all around you.

If you don't believe me, try it.

And if you don't know what to be grateful for, start with these things we often take for granted:

  • Running hot and cold water
  • Indoor plumbing
  • Eyesight
  • A roof over your head
  • Enough food to eat

How About You?

Do you dwell on the negative?
Do you have a way to remember the good in your life?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How Prayer Changes Your Brain

Did you know that prayer can change the physical structure of your brain for the better?

Pretty amazing!

A Well-Worn Path

Our Rev. Edward has given a great analogy about changing a thought or habit: Imagine that you walk
through a field of tall grass on your way somewhere every day. There is a well-worn path that you take each time without really thinking about it. Then one day you decide to go a different way. The tall grass springs right back up behind you as you pass through. But if you keep going that new way every time, eventually you wear a new path clear of grass all the way through the field.

Your brain works the same way. And this isn't just a metaphor. The way we think affects our brains. When we think a thought or have a habit - good or bad - that we repeat day after day, that's the well-worn path that takes little thought or effort. That's a good thing for routine tasks like remembering how to drive, not to mention eat, walk, and so many other things we do every day!

Making a New Path in Your Brain

But when that well-worn path is a bad habit, then reaching for that cookie or cigarette or whatever, happens without our conscious participation. Pretty soon the whole bag of chips is gone and you wonder "How did that happen?" in the same way you sometimes "wake up" while driving and find yourself at your destination.

So changing that bad habit takes effort. You need to think about it, and resolve to choose the new way over and over again until you have worn a new path through the field. I've seen video of a new thought being formed where neurons that were connected disconnect and re-wire to other neurons in the brain. Pretty cool! (If I find it, I;ll add the link.)

"Neurons that fire together wire together." Donald Hebb

This is where affirmative prayer can help.

New studies in neuro-science show that getting into a Delta brain wave state can help reprogram subconscious thoughts. In the relaxed state of prayer, you can slip in under the conscious radar to install new mental software. An affirmative prayer can actually start to wear that new path in the brain's field. You strengthen the connections in your brain through repeated prayer and meditation.

"You can use the mind to change the brain to change the mind for the better." Rick Hanson, PhD

How About You?

Do you find that prayer helps you change your mental or physical habits?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Your Inner Caring Committee

You've probably heard the term "the committee in my head" meaning all the voices in your brain from parents, teachers, and other significant people in our lives. Some of them can be mean, some kind. So it's time to create a team who is on your side all the time.

So I would like to pass along a cool guided meditation called your Inner Caring Committee.

This process comes from Rick Hanson, PhD, who is a Psychologist and a Buddhist, and has extensively studied neuro-biology of the brain. That's how our thoughts, experiences, and behaviors actually change our physical brain! Cool, isn't t?

He teaches how to use your mind to change your brain to change your mind.

Quiet Meditation

Try this in a place and time when you can be quiet and undisturbed.

Your Inner Caring Committee 

Your Inner Caring Committee needs at least the 3 beings listed below.
 For each one, call to mind a person or being or historical figure, or even a pet.
my nurturing committee member

  1. A nurturing, cherishing being - Glinda the good witch or a loving grandparent type
  2. An encouraging cheerleader - someone who says "You can accomplish anything!"
  3. A wise counsel being - your inner wizard or crone
Add any others that you would like to have in your corner.

my encourager
Imagine each of these beings in turn, and feel and "hear" them either around you or inside you.

You can make a collage of their photos and keep it in your meditation place or on your altar.

When you are faced with a difficult emotion or situation, call on them to help you through!

You can make them part of your daily practice. That can build and strengthen your feeling of resilience in the world.

How About You?

Do you have an inner caring committee?
When has your committee helped you through a tough time?

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Mindfulness as mind fullness

The term Mindfulness is a newer term.
We used to say consciousness, then awareness.
It's all the same thing really.
It's about being mind-full. Not with thoughts and ideas and intellect.
But a mind full of awareness, presence, Be-ing.

It is about being present in the moment.
About not being caught up in the endless to do list.
About enjoying what we have, and getting off the hamster wheel of do, do, do.

If you are one of so many of us who answer the question "How are you?" with "Good, but busy!" then you might benefit from taking a few moments each day to be still and quiet.

Hard Lessons in Mindfulness

I had several hard lessons in mindfulness myself.
In recent years I have badly sprained an ankle, broken my arm, and slammed a car door on my hand.

In each of these injuries, the common factor was that I was thinking several steps ahead of me instead of where I was in that moment. That was a lack of mindfulness. Just living with my mind 1 or 2 seconds in the future caused these injuries.

Mindfulness Boot Camp

The sprained ankle proved to be the most intense mindfulness training. The doctor said to walk on it “as tolerated”, so I did. I had a pedometer at the time, and in my normal work routine, I took an average of 5,000 steps per day. So my ankle hurt. A lot.

But it was about 50 steps to the printer and back, at least 200 steps round trip to the restroom , and about 1,000 steps to the lunch room and back. not to mention other places in the large office I needed to go for day to day tasks.

At home I could stay off of it a bit more. I learned to go down the stairs backward to reduce the amount of pressure on and flexion required of my ankle. And I had to pay attention every single moment.

If I made one mis-step, which happened about once ever week, I would re-injure the ankle. It was humanly impossible to stay mindful every single moment.

Now I know about knee scooters. I had never seen one at the time, and it would have saved months of healing time.

I still practice mindfulness as often as I remember to remember. And now I ALWAYS remember to be aware on the stairs. And I am aware most of the time when I am walking. It’s an ongoing practice.

Free Online Mindfulness Summit - a Much Gentler Bootcamp

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There a free mindfulness summit happening in October 2015. It’s 31 days, with a speaker each day… leaders in the field of neuro-science, neuro-psychology, and mindfulness meditation.

Check out the speaker lineup, and register here.

And let me know how it goes for you!

How About You?

What is your favorite mindfulness practice?

Other Articles On Mindfulness

The Art of Absence
Dancing with Chaos
The Emptiness of Mind-fulness
Exchange Deadlines for Live Moments
In the Stillness
Living in my Right Mind
Living in the Hum, Not the Humdrum
Paying Attention Costs Nothing

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Living In Love

One day when I was going through a period of feeling unloved, unappreciated, and alone, I clicked on the radio and heard a love song. I realized that all these songs were written to express love for someone. So why not listen as though they were sung to me?

Background Funk

That feeling of being alone and unloved was a background feeling. A way of seeing the world. We’ve all had things in our lives that caused us to feel that way. And yet all of us want to connect. Whether we feel that as a surface awareness or the need has been pushed deep down to avoid the pain of not having it. No one wants to feel isolated. Even though for anyone who has survived trauma, it can feel safer to be left alone. Alone is still no fun. But it was the background "normal" in my life. Kind of like the wallpaper on my computer or smart phone.

Add to this the fact that we live in a world that is electronically connected, but not always connected in person.

Changing the Wallpaper

So I decided to make a play list of my favorite love songs. But with this list, I would not sing along.
I chose songs with lyrics I want to hear, and allowed myself to take them in. I listened and received these lyrics. I really felt that this is how someone feels about me.

It’s a way to call the One into my life. That One can be Spirit, or it can be the man of my dreams.

I listened to this playlist every day, and within a week, I felt lighter, happier, more loved. I began living more in Love. Why not live in Love every day. Walk through it, let it wash through me, feel it, appreciate all the beauty around me. It feels good! Why not?

A New Normal

It made a difference in how I showed up in the world. How do I know? Because a close friend mentioned to me that I had been more positive. I smiled and said, “I shifted something inside me, and it changed how I show up.”

Give it a try. Look for your favorite love songs, and put them on your smart phone, or burn them to a CD. Listen every day as if those songs were being sung to you. And see if it makes a difference in your background feeling of the world.

It's a Practice to Remember

And when I feel myself slipping into the "I'm alone." pitty pot, I listen to the playlist again and remember how cherished I am.

My Playlist

Make your own playlist. Pick songs you wont' be tempted to sing along with. Learn to RECEIVE them in your heart! To get you started, here's what's on my playlist:

Be Mine, David Gray
Absolutely, the Subdudes
Back Door to My Heart, Mark Selby
Close Your Eyes, Aaron Neville
Crazy Love, Van Morrison
Don’t You Know, Keb’ Mo’
Every Morning, Keb’ Mo’
Have I Told You Lately, Van Morrison
I Have Loved You For a Thousand Lifetimes, Michael Whalen
Just the One (I’ve Been Looking For), Huey Lewis
Morning Glory, the Subdudes
Now and Always, David Gray
Ribbon In the Sky, Stevie Wonder
She Is My Everything, John Prine
Sound of Her Voice, the Subdudes
Staight Into Sunrise, Gato Barbieri
Stay Here In Your Arms, Cedric Burnside
Tell Everybody I Know, Keb’ Mo’
Two of Us, the Beatles

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Death - a Once In A Lifetime Opportunity

Death is a once in a life opportunity. I don't want to miss it.
That's how I replied as a tween when someone said that they wanted to die in their sleep.

Well, it's once in a lifetime for most of us anyway. We've all heard stories or read books about people who lived to tell about their near-death experiences.

Eastern Wisdom

I've dallied with Eastern Philosophies since I first discovered them at age 17. And some traditions say Tibetan Book of Living and Dying is an excellent resource for anyone interested in this topic. It describes a meditation practice to prepare for this sacred moment.
that our entire lives can be a preparation for that sacred moment when we slip out of the body. The

Whether you believe in reincarnation or not, that moment is when many people finally forgive someone they couldn't, reveal secrets longings of their heart, realize that they wanted to give more of themselves.

A Sacred Moment

In witnessing these sacred moments, I remember that I want to live my life that way. When I hear, "Live each day as if it were your last.", I think of these things. I don't think it means to party til you drop, although some people may want to do that.

My father had an extended illness, and I was honored to witness in my many visits how his energy shifted. My mother died suddenly and unexpectedly, and I wonder whether she felt unfinished as she slipped away.

When I realize that anything could happen at any moment, and any day could be my last on Earth, I imagine what I might feel as I lay dying. What might I regret not saying or doing? What might I wish I had accomplished? Would I feel that I had finished my life... everything I wanted to accomplish? Both in the outer "success" realm, and in the inner, growth realm?

Couch Potato or Deep Living

So instead of watching another movie, I have the opportunity today, this evening, right now, to dive deep inside and ask those questions. To know more about who I am and why I came here. To be more awake instead of working on what the late Linda Webb-Kakabah called her "Coach Potato Resume."

My coach potato resume is pretty impressive already. I'm cancelling my Netflix streaming and Hulu subscriptions.

I want to build other parts of my resume.

I want to listen to the big I-am.

What About You?

What do you think about death?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Your GPS- God Positioning System

Recently, I was riding in carpool to an unfamiliar place. We had printed directions from online, one person opened a map app on her phone, and another programmed her phone so Siri could guide us. The funny thing was, each one gave different directions. One said to turn left, the other right. Our driver had to choose which one to follow.

So we wound our way through the Oakland Hills toward our destination. Even though we may have taken a few wrong turns, we got there in plenty of time for the event, and had fun along the way.

Follow That Sign

It is the same with Spirit guiding us. We have an internal GPS - a God Positioning Service. It constantly whispers directions, suggestions to us. It might tell us to turn right, left or to go straight ahead. But it offers so many more suggestions to help us be where we need to be. The best way to our goal, whether it is to the market, to get along at work, or to enlightenment, is to trust our intuition.

Like our driver who followed that advice and sometimes not, we sometimes listen to our inner guidance and sometimes we ignore it. Whether we don’t hear it, or we ignore it, or stubbornly resist it because we don’t want to be told what to do, we all too often don’t follow our guidance.

With every “wrong” turn, Siri corrected our route. So does Spirit. If I ignore that inner feeling, that inner urge to go somewhere or do something, Spirit keeps whispering to me, making course corrections all the time. Automatically recalibrating from wherever I am at the moment. It always guides us home.

How Do I Know When It's Intuition?

So how do you recognize when it’s your Intuition talking to you or whether it’s your ego?

The short answer is: just keep practicing.

The longer answer: As you practice, notice how you feel when you have that thought. Spirit’s direction is always gentle, always a suggestion. And it lacks the charge that the ego contains.

Intuition is the still, small voice. It never shouts, reprimands, judges, or freaks out. It suggests.

Ignoring the Signs

If I ignore the street signs, I may not get where I want to go. At least not as quickly. Same with intuition. I can’t count how many times I have discounted an intuitive thought. I might be pulling out of my driveway and have a thought to go on the surface streets instead of the freeway, and think, no, the freeway is faster. Then find out that there is a slow-down on the freeway. Or when I am eating, I feel that I’ve had enough. And then think, “Oh, there’s only a few bites left, and it tastes so good.” Then 20 minutes later, my stomach is telling me that it was too much.

Go On, Give It a Try

So I invite you to practice listening to your intuitive guidance. Just notice when you follow it and when you don’t. Notice the thoughts. Notice when you second-guess yourself or impose what you “know”. And notice how it turns out. After a while, you will get better at recognizing when it is your intuition. And you will trust it more.

How About You?

What is your favorite way to recognize the voice of your intuition?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Prayer for Inner Strength and Clarity

An affirmative prayer to say to yourself when you need inner strength and clarity.

Spirit is all there is.
One invisible, infinite vibration.
Invisibly sparkling throughout all time and space, and right here in this room.
It is the very Power that created Life, that manifested as the world we see.

Since it is all there is, I am made of that.
My body made of stardust from distant supernovas.
My spirit a drop of that infinite Being.
Its Mind is my mind. Its Love is my love. Its Being is my being.

I am a deep, clear, open presence in the world.
The joy, love, and connection I feel come from within.
They are not dependent on any outside source, person, or situation.
The deep loving clear Presence of Spirit within fills me to overflowing.
I am steeped in Its loving Being-ness, aligned open, and clear,
allowing the Love of the Infinite Source to care for me and
take care of me, guiding me, loving me, providing all I need and all I desire.

Peace is all there is. The ground and Center of my being.

I rejoice and accept this gift.

And so it is.

Photos by Anne "Naava" Dewey

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Dancing My Way To Something Better

Lately I've been dancing my way to something better.
I've been learning West Coast Swing. And I love it!

Thanks, I'll Do It Myself

I could always dance on my own, what my friend Nita calls "wiggle dancing". I've taken modern dance, jazz dance, and bellydance. I LOVE moving to music. And I tend to do it in my own rhythm and my own way. Alone.

I even took 6 weeks of salsa lessons several years ago. But the few times I tried partner dancing, even with a lesson before a dance, I found it hard to keep my balance and stay centered. Not knowing the steps, I would have my weight on the wrong foot, and stumble with none of the grace I had in solo dancing. So I stuck with what I knew. Besides, I could avoid being groped by someone who had too much beer.

Follow the Leader

Now I am enjoying swing dancing! Not just because I've wanted to learn it for years, not just because I love dancing, not just because I love music. And not just because I feel like I'm "getting it" and so having fun in class and in practice time, or because learning a new skill, or because I am meeting a new group of people who I will probably see on the dance floor for years to come. Those are all reasons I love it.

 And Even More

And I find that it is opening the way I connect with people, my comfort level with strangers, as well as my confidence, balance, and coordination. I am having more fun dancing with a friend with much more experience in swing dancing.

Something that I wanted to do but that seemed so impossible, and I am finding that my years in Aikido serve me well, because I understand the concept of leading and following, of the leader (uke in Aikido) being responsible for the safety of the follower's (nage).

Something that used to be scary is now becoming more and more fun!

Letting Spirit Lead the Way

And it's a great analogy for following Spirit when I think I can do better on my own. Spirit knows a better way for me to ne and do and have what works for me. If I allow Spirit to lead, and I know how to follow, I just might find some wonderful surprised there too!

How About You?

How do you let Spirit lead the way?

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Dancing With Chaos
How Dancing In the Dark Taught Me Not To Be a Victim
Celebrating Freedom and Independence
First Do No Harm

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Treat and Move Your Feet

Have you ever heard the phrase treat and move your feet?

Spiritual Mind Treatment is a name for the affirmative prayer we practice at the Center for Spiritual Living. It means that prayer works, and that we need to take action in that direction.

So I can pray for increased income, and then I need to take steps to grow my business or get a job.
I can pray for health, and then I need to follow guidance on healthy eating and exercise.
I can pray for better relationships, and then I need to listen to my inner knowing about what to do to achieve that.

Not sure how to move your feet? Or in what direction?

... Or Something Better

And sometimes even greater things come out of these changes than we can imagine. That's why your Practitioner will often pray for what you request "or something better".

That's because we sometimes get stuck in the "how" something should look or work, when Spirit may have a much easier, more elegant, fun way to get there.

Use Your Imagination

So the next time you have a prayer request, of course you start with where you are. Then ask yourself "What do I want instead? And imagine yourself being there.

Ask Your Future Self

If you have trouble imagining what it would be like to have what you want, try imagining a tape measure in front of you, marking off the months or years. Imagine yourself years in the future, already having or being what you desire. Then have that future self walk toward you, and ask him/her what steps you took in 2015 that got you there. Then be quiet and listen. You might be surprised. Or it might be something that has been in the back of your mind for a while. What can it hurt to try?

How About You?

What's your favorite way to move your feet?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Freedom and Inter-dependence

Because it meant so much to me, I'm republishing this story about independence. Happy Independence Day to you all!

Independence. It has so many meanings and connotations.

There's independence from our parents that we forge as teens. There's independence from foreign rule, which is what the holiday is all about. And then there's the independence that comes from not wanting to be vulnerable to other people.

The USSR Taught Me What Freedom Means

In 1988, before the wall fell in Berlin, I took a trip to Moscow, USSR. I was part of a group of 30 Aikidoists who went to bring Aikido to the Soviet Union. Unlike the USA, I was told that over there, it was illegal to practice martial arts because there was no specific law allowing it.

I had a fun trip to Moscow, and two cities in the south near Afghanistan. The people were wonderful. The scenery and experiences will stay with me a lifetime. But it was the flight home that really shifted big something in me. About 45 minutes after departing Moscow, I suddenly took a huge breath, and felt as if I were coming up from under water. I knew that we had just left Soviet air space. In that moment, I knew what freedom meant. And a deep appreciation for what I have as an American was born in me.

Even though communism failed and the USSR is no more, I doubt that they enjoy the same freedoms we have. I think from time to time about going back to see how it's changed, but the more than 12 hour flight is quite a barrier. And it isn't necessary for me. I carry that knowledge of freedom with me.

Family Values Self-Reliance

I grew up in a family that prized self-reliance and independence. So much so, that when I had a problem, it didn't occur to me until decades later that I could have asked for advice from my mother.

Growing up in that environment made it easy for me to strike out on my own after high school, to move to the West Coast, to hitchhike with my partner from Oregon to San Francisco with only $100 and a dream between us, to get a place to live and jobs within two weeks of arriving, and to try so many more things in my life.

But it also put a wall between me and others. That core belief that I had to do everything by myself. That I couldn't ask for help.

From Independence to InterDependence

I see it in my siblings, but perhaps it was stronger in me? I was told stories like this one:
I was three years old, and was screaming in the front yard. Mom ran out to discover that I was frustrated that I couldn't open the gate to the back yard. She started to open it, only to hear my protest, "Me do myself!" So she lifted me up so I could reach the latch and open the gate myself.

And a similar story about when I was 4 years old, and unable to undo my seat belt in a small plane. That is, until the handsome (I'm told) captain walked back and grinned at me. I became silent and let him help.

This belief was so embedded, that at about 30 years old, I was assembling a desk from a kit at my teacher's dojo, and someone offered to help. I sat for a moment, realizing that I had no idea how someone could help me with it. I just didn't know what that would look like. How would that work? Two people working on one thing? That moment set me on a path to open myself to interacting more, allowing more, opening more.

The Heart Beat Goes On

It's a journey that continues. As I open more to help and support form others, I also open to warmth and camaraderie with others. I also find that I am more open to who I am at my depth. I love being more accessible to myself and others. With discernment of course. I have a fabulous group of friends and enjoy their diverse and beautiful expression of the One. And I look forward to more and more, deeper and deeper, sweeter and sweeter. This is a new kind of freedom for me. A heart freedom that brings richness and Joy and gratitude into my life like never before!

How About You?

Do you find yourself thinking you have to do it all alone?
Do you ask for help when you need it?

You may also like:
How Dancing in the Dark Taught Me Not to Be a Victim
Dancing with Chaos
First Do No Harm