Thursday, July 31, 2014

Listen to Your Intuition

I have a few people I highly respect and whose judgment I trust.

But I trust mine more...

If I do not hear that "knock" or "Voice" that tells me to more forward - or in this direction instead of that - I don't budge.

Sometimes, I do end up taking the road that was suggested - but maybe a year or so later - when I feel I am ready; when I have received the indication to do so.

The only times I've had regrets or gotten myself into serious trouble, is when I DIDN'T trust my intuition.

I was chatting with a friend earlier this week, and we both agreed that it was very important for us to follow the inner promptings and whispers of our hearts, and in fact, she suggested I write about this.

But I must insert a caveat here, because following one's intuition does not imply we make decisions on a whim. For years I taught bioethics, and I always instructed my students that one could not go against one's conscience in making moral decisions. However, a conscience also had to be an informed one, and there were methods and considerations to be followed...

Trusting implies listening. And in order to listen deeply, we must eliminate all those things that drown out the "Voice" of stillness, for it truly speaks.

I have been reflecting all week on how intrusive technology is. Just today, I read an article about Facebook's new messenger app, which seeks greater control over our lives. All around me I see people texting rather calling someone - or speaking to the person right next to them. Texting alerts litter the ears everywhere, like sound pollution.

I am not bashing technology, but I am suggesting we should not be ruled by it.

Yesterday, I visited the writing getaway retreat of a friend's husband, and I was struck by how monastic and exquisite it was. He writes there every day, surrounded by a grove of trees, reminiscent of an English forest, a well filled with gold fish, and an expansive deck overseeing a major creek. He lives like a recluse by day, and I immediately understood why he never went anywhere - I mentioned I would never leave that place if I lived here.

We spoke of rare editions of books and maps and map makers, and the many rare finds he excavated and researched in both the British Museum and Library as a professor. 

This is a man whose life is rich, because he has not only listened to his intuitions, but as a writer, it has given him tremendous insights into diverse subjects. I was fascinated by his latest book project, which has been accepted for publication.

So, create the space to listen. Lose yourself in it. Some might meditate or pray. Some who are agnostic or nonbelievers derive their "faith" and strength from nature or philosophy or universal values. And if you create this space to listen, both inside and outside of yourself, you will be able to always, wholeheartedly, trust your intuition!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Between the Worlds, Cultivating a Blue Mind, and Yearning for the Beach

This month is just about over, and I can't for the life of me, tell you where it went!

I had a lot of goals and projects, and while I took care of some minor ones, it seems I hardly made a dent on my list.

Perhaps it is the heaviness that seems to permeate so much on the planet right now - war in several places, including the conflict between Israel and Gaza, which I visited, just over 7 months ago. Even then, I was very much struck by how two people co-existed in the same, very small area - and were literally invisible to one another. The tension was palpable. I wanted to take them both by hand - the Jew and the Muslim - and say to them: "Here, look at each other! You share the same land and ancestry! You are children descended from the same man - Abraham!"

There is also the matter of the planes recently shot down from the sky, particularly the one over the Ukraine, so many innocent lives needlessly taken. It just does not seem to be to me the kind of summer I had envisioned - carefree and easy...

Nearly everyone I speak to seems to be going through something - many find themselves in transition - or between worlds - as I seem to be - between what was and that which is not yet...

Many are struggling with illnesses, searching for what is next in their lives - and often indecisiveness seems to be the only constant.

One of my friends, who is a therapist, noted at my weekly prayer group today, that those who are emotionally and spiritually gifted often pick up vibrationally on what is going on all around them, and unless they know what to do with it, and how to process it, they can easily become depressed or overwhelmed.

Even when you have the tools to deal with situations, it does not mean you can avoid feeling the heaviness, the sorrow, and the grief that is palpable all over the world right now.

All of this makes me want to literally run away to a beach, and just walk alongside the ocean, which is very grounding.

I read of a book titled, "Blue Mind," reviewed in the Washington Post yesterday, and later was struck by this description of the book on Amazon:

"Why are we drawn to the ocean each summer? Why does being near water set our minds and bodies at ease? In BLUE MIND, Wallace J. Nichols revolutionizes how we think about these questions, revealing the remarkable truth about the benefits of being in, on, under, or simply near water. Combining cutting edge neuroscience with compelling personal stories... he shows how proximity to water can... increase calm and diminish anxiety..."

Right after reading about the book, I wrote these lines, thinking about myself:

"Yearning for the surf and tide,
for aimless strolling along the ocean's sandy side,
breathing in the saltiness of the sea
and bathing in the ocean breeze..."

We cannot run away from what is. In fact, in the daily 90 second meditation I posted today, I used this mantra, which I repeated, with every step I took on my walk:

"I stand before what is,
with an open heart.
And with an open heart,
I dwell in possibility."
~ Macrina Weiderkehr

As bleak as these times may seem, there is possibility in everything - waiting to be born. And whether or not I ultimately get my desire to ground and wade into ocean or lake waters, I cannot let go of possibility - of the possibility of birthing a new world, a new life - a different way of being with the world, and in the world...

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

ET Phone Home!

I had not intended to title this post in this way, but it seems perfect actually!

The last few days I've found myself moping around, feeling sorry for myself for various reasons, and then - as often happens in these situations, I came across a quote that I totally resonated with and which reminded me of something Frans Stiene, my Reiki teacher would most likely say. 

It is a quote by the great Buddhist teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche:

"Hold the sadness and pain of samsara in your heart,
and at the same time the power and vision
of the Great Eastern Sun. 
Then the warrior can make a proper cup of tea."

Life is about balance. We cannot live our lives devoid of sadness and pain, but as two of my weekly prayer buddies observed this afternoon, it is about being able to step back and look at things without being caught up in the drama - or viewing things with the dispassion and detachment I've spoken of recently in my posts here, that makes the difference in our lives. And that is one of meditation's many gifts.

I very much related to this quote. When I read it this morning, it spoke directly to my heart. It was embedded in a newsletter, by Pema Chödrön, that was just as equally insightful. I felt naked in her presence - as if she were staring at me and speaking specifically to me. 

She ended her short but poignant essay with these words:

"If you can live with the sadness of human life 
(what Rinpoche often called the tender heart 
or genuine heart of sadness), 
if you can be willing to feel fully 
and acknowledge continually your own sadness 
and the sadness of life, 
but at the same time not be drowned in it, 
because you also remember the vision 
and the power of the Great Eastern Sun, 
you experience balance and completeness, 
joining heaven and earth, 
joining vision and practicality."

My Reiki Teacher, constantly speaks of the Reiki meditation practices he has taught us, which are Buddhist in origin, as practices that truly join the realms of heaven and earth, and enable us to experience that place of oneness where healing and connection with others can take place. (I assure you - he is much more eloquent in this description!)

I stared at this paragraph, knowing I had allowed myself to wallow in the sadness, even drowning in it, all the while knowing what it was that I was doing - refusing to acknowledge and remember the Light that is my true essence - but is also at the heart and essence of everyone under the Great Eastern and Western Sun as well! In this place where the suns collide and heaven and earth merge - we are always one, whether we see it or not!

Just as I was staring at this paragraph, telling myself I had to truly take time to masticate it, and then digest and embody it - the phone rang. (Yes, this is the ET part you've been waiting for!)

I ran into the other room to pick up the phone. (Yes, I know it's archaic - it was a landline!) 

I looked at the phone - and I saw my name on it. And the number that was calling - was my home phone number! 

What? My number was calling my number? 
I looked at it again, totally confused. 

Finally, I hit the answer button, and the line went dead.

This just did not make sense. I ran to look at my cell phone that was idly charging itself in my bedroom, totally oblivious to my confusion. It made no such call to my home phone. (No Siri did not tell me this!)

Maybe this wasn't really ET phoning home - but it was me - calling ME - on my landline!

I stopped in my tracks. And then I thought - this is a message to me. This weird experience was like someone taking me by the shoulders, shaking me and saying: 

"Hey! YOU! Yes ,you! 
Pay attention to the message that you've just been given!"

I'm still wrapping my brain around this one, but I've printed out the entire newsletter, so that I can place it in my heart, to let it simmer there, until its teachings truly become fragrant and take hold!



Friday, July 4, 2014

Befriending a Red Fox

I have seen him, every single day this week...

This beautiful, but thin red fox on his long sturdy legs...

I think he calls for me. And I listen. I feel impelled to go out when I think he is there, in the wooden sanctuary and its clearing, just a stone's throw away from my home. I think we connect somewhere - on some level, on some plane...

This is something totally new for me...

We stare each other down. We dance around each other...

I approach him from behind and he does not sense my presence. So I muster a little cough to alert him. He stands. He examines me.

I offer him Reiki - spiritual energy and healing energy as well - I speak to him - mind to mind and heart to heart and tell him I am his friend. My hands feel electric. I  feel the energy literally pouring out of me...

My friend who work with animals tells me you must offer them the energy and they will take what they need. In time, they will teach you what you need to know for they are filled with wisdom...

Recently he came into my yard and sat under the shade of a grove of trees in my yard as I was teaching yoga. I'm sure he was soaking in the lovely energy of the group. He seemed tired. Unwell. Though recently he seems much better...

Often he seems to be sunning himself on the wooden bridge spanning over the wetlands. Once I turned around while he lazily poked up his head. The second time I did not. I just stood there, trying to decide whether to turn back or go forward. We meet often on this bridge. I'm sure that is symbolic. Eventually he skirted away.

I know there is a reason I am seeing him right now, in my life...

A friend tells me that foxes are special and that he is my power animal, watching over me...

And so I look up what a fox symbolizes, and I find this...

"Fox spirit appears in Dreamtime in order to spark our imagination and inner wisdom. His gifts are shape shifting, alertness and unpredictability. The key is to be clever enough to see a situation, not as we wish it to be, but as it IS. Fox spirit is the grand problem solver. He teaches us to remain in solitude and silence until the way out is shown to us. The key is to see that isolation does not equal punishment – in actuality, it initiates our freedom."

And I also find that foxes bring favor from the Gods, and teach one how to be invisible - how to be still and very quiet - and how to eat well. They only eat when they need, knowing what is good medicine for them...

I am hoping that some day I can dance with this fox and that we can bow to each other, in closer proximity, without fear...

I growing to love this little fox...

Monday, June 30, 2014

Choosing Joy: Redux

I end this month, as I began it - reminding myself to choose joy...

Choosing joy was the focus of the free 90 second meditation I posted yesterday on several social media platforms - it was an invitation layered over an inspirational exhortation that a dear friend artistically created, and which I borrowed.

I do not just end this month with this thought and practice, but I set the intention to carry it forward - beyond this moment in time, as ripples spreading concentrically from the stillness of its center...

I reminded others, while subbing yoga classes yesterday, that they too, can always to choose joy.

We can choose joy - we can choose to embody and reflect joy in everything we say and do, even while in the midst of life's most difficult challenges. We should not abdicate our joy for anything - or anyone! For in so doing, we give alway our power and ultimately our very essence.

I practiced choosing joy over the last few days - first by reflecting on the Reiki Precepts, knowing full well that most of the drama I encounter in life simply proves to be illusory. 

I told myself, I would not let anyone's state of mind or being rob me of my own joy. Yes, I know it is easier said than done. But here's the thing: The more we practice joy - like anything else in life - the more we can embody it...

Today, and everyday, I choose joy.

I chose joy at the beginning of this month. And I choose it again at the end. 

Let me remember always, that when I choose joy, I change my corner of the world. I illuminate every dark room, one flickering spark of light and love at a time. I can choose joy always with dispassion. Without attachment. I can simply let go of the rest: Expectations. Desired outcomes. Needy friends. Relationships that do not serve. Work that does not enhance my life. Practices that do not nourish my spirit.

And what could possibly be more freeing?

Yes! I choose joy!
(To be continued!)

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Dancing with Luminosity and Sacred Mysteries

I have been delinquent in posting of late. But as we ease deeper into this summer season, I - like many of you - am just slowing down to more natural rhythms. What gets done gets done - and what doesn't - just doesn't!

Right now, I am done teaching yoga for the summer, except for an occasional class here or there, and I am slowly making my way through every closet, drawer, and room, weeding out things I do not need, and organizing as well. It feels good!

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor and pleasure of studying once again with my Reiki teacher, Frans Stiene, who was here visiting from Australia. I decided to re-sit the Reiki III training since I had not done so for a few years. It turns out, the group I spent time with, was the best group ever. They were the most interesting, educated, sensitive group I have ever done any training with. No one spoke out of turn, or constantly, and there was mutual respect and a space for healing was held for others at all times. The practices were deep, and even more so when shared in the company of a wonderful community. Though I normally don't do things where I have to spend a lot of time with people anymore, I enjoyed this experience thoroughly.

One of the amazing blessings of the weekend was to connect in person with Susan Andrews, an avid reader of this blog throughout the years. I don't often get feedback on what I post, so it is always an honor and a pleasure when I do.

Susan and I were paired up for one of the healing practices during the weekend, and it was indeed a beautiful experience. Afterward, we spoke of our faith journeys, and at some point we talked about spiritual practices from our tradition that had nourished us, and which we later came to embrace once again, such as the praying of the rosary. In particular, we focused on the Luminous Mysteries, which had been added more recently to this ancient practice, and which I had been more resistant towards fully honoring.

But Susan shared such a beautiful understanding of these mysteries, which focused on occasions that were not previously recognized in Jesus' life, starting with his baptism in the river Jordan.

Having just been to Israel in the last year, and having had the opportunity to step into that very river on my 58th birthday, I reflected, on the meaning of baptism and stepping into a new life - opportunities we receive every now and then in our lives. I thought of conversion, and all that implies, and remembered praying for conversion of heart over a year ago, and being granted my wish in a way I could not have imagined or anticipated.

The second of the mysteries focuses on the wedding feast at Cana - and the turning of water into wine. What a festive opportunity for a first miracle! Having presided at a number of weddings myself over the years, I know how joyous an occasion this can be, and how the celebration is often sealed with a toast! Jesus begins his public ministry in a prayerful and very public way - commemorating the union of a couple whom we know nothing about. This mystery reminds us to also be prayerful and mindful as we go about our own mundane activities and work.

In the third mystery, the Kingdom of God is proclaimed and we are shown what qualities we are to espouse if we are to become faithful members of this kingdom. We must love our enemies as ourselves - even those who persecute us. We are called to be poor in Spirit and to seek justice in all our endeavors and especially for others.

The fourth mystery is the Transfiguration when Jesus goes up to a mountain to pray with two disciples and there is visibly changed - becoming radiant - and all of a sudden he is accompanied by the presence of both Moses and the Prophet Elijah. There is a fundamental change and luminosity that occurs in Jesus that reminds us that we too, can change - even profoundly at times - and as a result, we can encourage those around us to change as well - in our homes, in our work - in whatever encounters we have as we go about our day. We never know how deeply we can touch those around us.

Lastly, we have the mystery of Transubstanciation, which perhaps, has caused many Christians the greatest difficulty throughout the centuries. The truth is - we not only have the opportunity to imbibe the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament, but we can literally "eat" God in all the beauty of nature that surrounds. We can feast with awe on a sunrise or sunset - or in the music of singing birds, and in all the wonderful things that surround us. We can consume the love that is offered to us by those we care for, and our pets - so that we literally consume the Divine with our eyes!

I have not articulated this as beautifully as Susan did, but in that moment, my eyes and my heart were opened profoundly and I realize I was given such a gift of insight!

Thank you so much Susan! This one is for you!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Call to Be Who You Are

"Be who you are,
and be that well."
~ Francis de Sales

And truly, how can we be anything but who we are?

As a child, I was once asked by a nun who was also my teacher, what I wished to be when I grew up. And I simply responded, "A saint."

Of course, I had no idea what that meant, but somehow I felt enamored by the lives of the many martyrs I read about. Today, I ask myself, "What was I thinking?"

But what I really think I meant, was that I was seeking a life of wholeness. I wanted to be the best person that I could possibly be, and in my childish understanding, I thought those people were saints - people who truly became the best human beings possible. Implicit in my understanding was a sort of perfection, that of course, I know now - does not exist.

"Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
~ Matthew 5:48

Even so, we strive for something that at times seems elusive. Can it really be attained? 

James Martin, SJ, in his book Jesus: A Pilgrimage, speaks of the magnetism of saints. When you think of a Mother Teresa of Calcutta, or a Pope Francis, you are simply drawn to them and their charismatic personalities. 

But most of us will not leave lives of grandeur, but of quiet significance to those to whom we really matter. Even Mother Teresa was plagued by self-doubt and felt a tremendous absence of Divine Presence most of her life.

I believe we are all here for a reason. To be the best person that we can possibly be. And we all have unique gifts to contribute to make this world a better place. I believe we all receive this call to be who we are, and be that well. It's just that some of us choose to respond, and some of us do not...

This weekend, I received sad news about a very gifted friend who seemed destined for success in every way. He was a marvelous artist, yet he managed to squander his gifts and resources, and now is ill and destitute. I ask myself, how could this happen? How could he throw away all that talent? But we all know of someone who has...

We receive a call to be who we are. We may strive and at time fail to embody this goal. We can allow ourselves to wallow in our failures or we can pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again.

The path to wholeness is not an easy one. It is seldom romantic. It is filled with disappointments. But it doesn't matter. We are not defined by our limitations. Like the Anonymous author of the Cloud of Unknowing, a 14th century spiritual classic, I do believe, that God does not see with His all merciful eyes who we are in every instance of our lives, but who we strive to be. And this fills me with tremendous hope. And love.

Answer the call to be who you are. It is never too late!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Love Without Possessing

I marvel at the insights that can come when we feel most tired, and yet make ourselves go out for a walk. Insights and creativity can sometimes creep up on us most unexpectedly, and make us turn in another direction in our lives...

I try to beat the rain, and though exhausted, will myself into taking a walk before the next round arrives...

I try to imagine, what it would be like, to live a life that went totally according to plan. MY plan, that is! A life where only the people I wanted populated my world - one in which I related to those I have most desired in the way I wanted - a place where everything would be easy and I would be happy all the time - a life where I truly lived happily ever after...

(You know, that kind of place where dreary fairy tales end, but not without first opening a window into a more perfect world, only conceived and played out in restless ruminations? Yeah, that place!)

And almost immediately, coming out of nowhere - the first insight arrives dispelling my imaginations and thwarting any possibility of their realization - quickly dissolving and evaporating the imaginary scenarios playing out, like a movie in my mind...

"But there would be no life lessons to learn!"

Of course, there would be no life lessons. That is why things are as they are - because we are given the opportunity to learn in every relationship and every encounter. And if we don't learn what we must, it arrives back on our doorstep in some newly reconstituted fashion, and will continue to do so, until we learn what we must. It's all about the journey really, and the choices we make. The destination? Not so much...

I continue walking, acknowledging that there is a life lesson in every experience - the good ones, the easy ones - and the challenging ones as well...

And then the second insight arrives closely behind, almost intrusively...

"And the greatest lesson is to learn to love - 
but to love without possessing..."

I've always thought that one of the great lessons of my life is to learn how to let go. And I still think this. But I as walk through a few breezy patches of hidden coolness tucked under the canopy of trees, gingerly trying to evade the more humid swaths along the sunny portions of my path, I come to more clearly see that it is all really about loving without holding on - loving everything without possessing - those we feel most attached to or drawn to in our lives - and those we don't feel any inclination towards, whatsoever. We must love all who are destined to cross our path equally, because we are all ultimately, the same reflection of Divine Love. Which is to say, simply - we are all one...

And so I revisit another reflection and life lesson - and insight:

"We are all one."

Yes. We are one. We are here for life lessons. Each one of us has our own set, even though many of our individual lessons are similar:

We are here for lessons. We are here to realize we are all one. We are here to love and realize that it is all there is. And we must love without possessing...

As my steps draw me closer to my home, the feeling in my gut tells me that my insights have found their intended target.

I walk, and I listen, and I ask:

"Let me see what I must see.
Grant me clarity.
Show me the next step.
May the fruits of my labor flourish.
Let me remember my life lessons.
Let me learn them.
And let me learn to love more deeply,
without possessing!"