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Welcoming Change

Greetings friends!
This is the end of the first week of 2017. The last calendar year was intense for many of us. Lives were shaken up, structures challenged, relationships altered, and paths re-routed.
2016 was a year I faced a lot of the ‘stuff’ in my life that has kept me sometimes clueless and dis-empowered. That process was scary and sometimes tiring. I’m grateful for those who supported me lovingly and willingly through it all. Each person who crossed my path, I know, played their role in my journey. I watched myself go through feeling victimized, blaming, focusing on other’s issues, social problems and such, while all the time I was losing sight of myself.
Moving from there I learned to regularly take back my power, taking responsibility for my feelings, my reactivity, my needs and desires, my personality with its own unique needs and desires, living with care and affection for myself. This then would help to soften my heart and open up to accepting and loving others more and just having more fun.
I took the opportunity to practice many of life’s skills: letting go, challenging assumptions (mine and others’), sensing into pain (felt physically and emotionally) and determining what it was about and what it was guiding me toward. I also trained myself to soak up joyous of leisure moments of ease and regurgitating them at will, I chose to starve conditioned patterns of being and allow to me to open into the freshness of the unknown in each moment. How helpful to name these processes!
Then there was the daring to make connection with people or respond to invitations as well as courage to retreat. I got to watch my resistances and notice why they felt like closed fists in the air: judgments toward my resistances just strengthened them. I found I could watch them with wonder and see how they were trying to serve me and allow them to guide me. And so life and evolution continues…

Change is in the air. It’s on people’s lips and in their psyches, especially her in the US. This naturally evolutionary phenomenon is a constant reality, shifting cells in our body, seasons and our relationships. Change is a normal part of reality. Yet, we never seem to get used to it. Yet, it often brings juicy gifts. Preparing our bodies and minds for change helps us be more receptive to the big and oft unwelcome changes that life often brings.

I like to allow small discomforts to my day by choice. And it’s really not in the category of “should”. That kills the fun. They include making a call that I would rather not, or arriving a few minutes early to an appointment I have (I have a history of being late, and it is history!) to people watch. Sometimes I put things into neat orderliness around my home to allow myself to ease into the squirming that would ensue as I adapt to this changed environment. Enjoying my body in movement has also not been within my comfort zone. When I choose it, I allow myself to move from some unease to many delicious pleasures.

As the year settles in, let’s reflect and challenge ourselves to discard our lived labels and dismantle some elements of self-identity, the “I am” stuff. “I am generous or intelligent”, “I am a good partner”, “I am free”. Yes, this is a limiting self-statement ( as all self-statements are) as it makes us subtly fit ourselves into our idea of what it means to be free, rather than just allowing what’s emerging to take its own shape in our way of being. Then there’s the “I am no” stuff. I am not racist or rich or successful. Challenging ourselves to consciously open up to change can be a wonderful experience, but is not always easy. For some, permitting less change is change. It often starts with a desire and motive to move away from something or toward something.

I invite and encourage you to challenge yourself to practice of change in yourself, your life, your thinking, your schedule. All this in conscious choice and full awareness of your process.
Stay in touch with yourself and me. Feel free to share your reflections. A happy 2017 to all and may we meet change equipped with our own wisdom and compassion.

EVENTS:

Events


The Listening Group meetings (4th Tuesday of every month)start this month: Tuesday, January 24th (6.30-8.30 pm)
At Ease with Emotions: a workshop in Monroe, MI: Sunday, January 28th (1.00-4.00 pm)

Please do come. I hope to see many of you at these events.
joya

Thankgiving in the US-2016

My dear friends,

I’ve been hibernating a long time. I emerge with this unusually long note!! Please be patient with me. Its Thanksgiving in the US, a time of celebrating harvest, feasting with friends and family, remembering our blessings with gratitude. Here in the US, we’re doing just that. We’re harvesting what we have sown. May we celebrate with gratitude, and there is a lot to celebrate, perhaps not always apparent.

These are turbulent times. These are times rich in potential. In our bodies, there is some similarity in the experience of nervousness and excitement. Often they come together: one to check that we are safe and one to propel us forward. They both guide us. I am being pushed into more of what I do for work and I now actively seek more opportunities too.

Like many of you I’ve experienced the whole gamut of emotions in the days before and after the elections rather intensely. Today, over and above all those emotions, is a knowing, a deep conviction that this is a natural and necessary phase of our evolutionary cycle, as a nation and as a planet. For many of us, it may resonate with our individual life cycle. We have had a part in what has brought us to this point and we are part of what will move us forward. We get to choose how we move forward.

In a pre-election talk, the priest of the Great Heartland Buddhist Temple of Toledo Rev. Jay Rinsen Weik, reminded us of a drop of Zen wisdom that summarizes what may be a core message for life today: No one can do it for us but we cannot do it alone.In similar vein, in the wake of the great Full Moon around the same time, Lakota Elder Tokala Two Elk reminded us in a Spirit Lodge teaching, that we did not come in to this world in a bus or an aircraft with a whole lot of other people. We came in alone. But we also were born into a human clan.

The day before US elections, National Catholic Review reported that Pope Francis urged social justice activists from around the world not to succumb to the politics of fear. “Because fear—as well as being a good deal for the merchants of arms and death—weakens and destabilizes us, destroys our psychological and spiritual defenses, numbs us to the suffering of others,” he said. “In the end,” he continued, “it makes us cruel.”

Let’s learn how to lean into our fears and doubts, while not giving our power over to them. Let’s take any wisdom these icky experiences offer and manage the emotions that come with them so we can step into our greatness. This is no time for smallness and pettiness and finger pointing. We’re all invited to look freshly at the structures that support our happiness and well being individually and as a community. We’re also being forced to dismantle the structures that do not serve us.

I was prompted to look up the word ‘apocalypse’ the other day. The Greek origins of the word are uncover, unveil, reveal. What has been disguised and under cover is out in the open in all its stench and in all its potential radiance. Deep rooted illusions of differences, selfishness, and the astonishing ignorance of rather intelligent beings is staring us in the face. Simultaneously, deep generosity, caring, and connectedness across all sections of many communities also stand seen by the world.

I believe I’m not alone in believing that we are witnessing the phasing out of an era that has done its time on earth. We’re ushering in a new era. What we, each and every one of us add to it in our own individual ways, will determine the nature of this ushering in. It’s time for us to all dive into our hearts, and allow ourselves to admit if we are afraid to love and be wrong and we’re afraid to be vulnerable, that we need help and safety to change our stories and not be shamed by anyone for who we are. How long do we want to keep our defenses up? It’s exhausting! We want to feel safe and trusted because we are white, because we are black, because we are Asian and Latino. We want people to accept us for being lesbian and gay and bisexual and transgender and queer. We want support in this country that we have sought refuge in, where we choose to toil and enjoy and share the fruits of our labors.

To my students: be diligent in your awareness of self and other, because other is truly an extension of yourself. Religious people have talked of this from time immemorial. You know it in your heart, your bodies, don’t you? Be aware of the tiny flinch you may feel in these times: is it from your conditioning as a white or black person, or one who has been sexually abused? Be with those parts of you and protect and allow them to heal. Mostly, allow your larger self, your sense of consciousness that you have been taught how to access respond to these times. You know how to do that! This is not a time for reaction, but a time for responding: with kindness and compassion, with righteous (not self-righteous) anger and with ferocity to protect all that is good and whole.

Please stay connected in your awareness to your bodies, in which you live and through which you experience and interact with the world, as well as heal. It is not, your bodies will show you, people who are to be attacked at this time. It’s the stuff that keeps people from people, and keeps us blind and deaf and heartless. Let’s attack those things with loving ferocity: all the isms and all that makes us hurt each other. They have no place in our bodies, our lives or our society.

No, this is not just a crisis in the USA. It is also a personal edge we’re facing, if we allow ourselves to. We could also continue to stay in denial. Not all of us need to participate in protests. Social activism takes many forms: our inner work as we challenge our own conditioning, as we stand up for our truths, as we engage with curiosity with ‘the other’. It is pausing to sense our intentions and possible effects of our words before we post on Facebook. It is learning how to create good soil, organize potlucks with friends, listen to the real fears of our ‘targeted’ neighbors. Let’s begin exactly where we are at. Let’s ask for help when we need it and urge each other on toward our “more”. Let’s live together in a more intentional manner.

Do feel free to respond. Let us know how you’re doing and what you’re doing for yourself and others. Inspire and encourage us all.

joya

Start Here, Go Anywhere

20160122_130602 (2)Walking down Main street in Ypsilanti, my hometown (currently!), I pass by our Public Library and I see this: “Start Here. Go Anywhere”. This has been my mantra, my directive in my own journey through adulthood.

In Rumi’s poem “The Journey”, the translation reads “The great excursion starts from exactly where you are”.

http://dailyrumi.livejournal.com/241145.html

There’s nowhere else to start! We start just where we are, in whatever state of success, joy or despair we find ourselves in. Most of us are accustomed to seeking goals, joys, satisfaction and completion outside ourselves. We try to explain our troubles away, blame others or look at our circumstances through our ‘victim’ lenses. We dart around our days with little awareness or desire to really live in our bodies, relate with ourselves, follow our hearts. And each time we do that, we lose an opportunity to move forward ourselves.

Symptoms show up when we get too estranged from ourselves. When they show up in and through our bodies, our emotions, our relationships, we may be forced to sit up and pay attention. And at that point, we can either attend to our symptoms or to ourselves.

When we make it a practice to focus on ourselves, we can truly go anywhere and co-create the life we choose with all that we have. And we usually have more than we think we do!

A huge challenge to focusing on our own lives, are the subtle messages we internalize about being selfish, self-centered or being irresponsible. I learned this early in life in Catholic school as I sang “Others, Lord, yes others, let this my motto be”. What I actually learned was that I shouldn’t love myself. Many other societal influences only nourished this belief, this subconscious decision I made. It has taken many years to choose to get to know and love myself and look at my challenges as opportunities to propel myself toward internal freedom and fulfillment.

Read Mary Oliver’s poem “The Journey”: link

Yes, those voices will call out to you; guilt, shame, obligation will trot by your heels for a while. And you will look ahead and walk on, and you will find companions along the way, and soon the aroma of freedom and aliveness will keep you hooked on your dreams and desires. And you will grow your capacity to love more freely and fully.

PAUSE: What is it that keeps me from focusing on myself, my tasks, my needs, my challenges, my desires?

Stay connected to yourself! Stay in touch with me too!

Valentine’s Day Begins with Me

For lovers in love, for broken hearts and those seeking love, Valentine’s day can be a anything between joyful, inconsequential or trying.

Has anyone noticed that merely being in a romantic relationship is not the recipe for happiness and fulfillment?

On this Valentine’s day I invite you to consider being first a Valentine for yourself, relating to yourself in a special way with tenderness and deep caring. Perhaps you’ve been a stranger to yourself or to parts of yourself. Perhaps you are starting a friendship or already have a deep connection.

Would you take a moment today to PAUSE and be silent?

-Tune in, allowing your breath to center you and draw your attention to yourself through your body

– Say a real sincere inwardly ‘Hello’. How are you in this moment? Take your time. See what arises.

-Check inside: am I happy? Is something bothering me? Am I truly okay just being me? Am I first in my life? Do I take enough for me so that I have enough to offer others?

Notice what arises. Just be with it.

Here’s a song to play and sing along to yourself this Valentines’ Day before you reach outward to wish anyone else a happy Valentine’s Day.

(It’s about 3 minutes long and kind of indicates the era I was raised in!)

A Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you, my readers!

Where’s Your Base Camp?

I teach small groups of people Focusing, an organic process of allowing ourselves to learn how to listen to, understand and follow the inner guidance that comes through our bodies.

In a recent training a discussion ensued when speaking about finding that place of refuge and grounding within us. One of the participants, with eyes sparkling, told us of what she’d heard mountain climbing was all about. She offered me the link (thanks K!). It is worth watching!

It’s Alison Levin, the Team Captain of the First American Women’s Everest Expedition telling about her own journey along Mt. Everest.

I learned, like the others in my training group were also learning, the importance of returning to base camp to recover, be nourished, strengthened and prepare for the next and perhaps even more challenging hike up. This presentation speaks so much to our own life journeys.

Having watched this Ted Talk, allow yourself to PAUSE:

-Which parts of Alison’s narrative resonate with you in your life’s climb? (I have a few favorite parts but mostly it is the essence of the process that inspired me).

-What’s your Mt. Everest these days? A relationship? An unhealthy habit? A task? A personality trait? (Notice that the mountain is the mountain. It’s your relationship to the mountain that needs attention)

-What do you do to prepare to climb your mountains?

-Who’s on your team?

-Where’s your base camp?

May we all find our base camps within us.

May we all find teams to support us in returning to base camp along our climb.

Too Busy, Too Fast, Too Many, Too Much…

“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist… most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by the multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist…destroys his own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of one’s own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

Thomas Merton

This speaks to folks like me and many of those I am friends with, people who express themselves and show love and integrity by giving of themselves to the point of being violent! We truly care, we have strong beliefs and values that we are willing to stand up for…. but we can get carried away.

I’m learning and being mindful of this on a daily basis. This doesn’t stop my activism, or giving of myself. I am just more mindful of my intentions, maintaining perspective, and trying to constantly clarify for myself why I do what I do and for whom I am doing it. This has helped me be more honest, truly loving and more free… and the process continues.

In what area of your life do you tend not to be in sync with yourself and a sense of being purposeful?

When does that sense of “too much”, “too frustrated”, “or “too tired” visit you?

When do you find yourself complaining, judging others, losing that feeling of peace?

Pause: Take a moment for a few mindful breaths.

See if you can connect with a need you may have, something that keeps you going constantly. Acknowledge that need in a caring way, really noticing it, giving it the time it needs.

Perhaps you hold a belief that propels you forward compulsively. Let it be witnessed in a non- judgmental way. It could be a conditioned response to what you learned from your parents, teachers or culture. Know that you can hold on to its noble essence and let go of the conditioned drive that accompanies it.

Just being kind and mindful to what your busy-ness is really about may give it space to always be a choice. It is my hope that we will all learn how to give wisely and generously of ourselves: to ourselves and to others.

Do feel free to share your reflections with me.

The Power of Wishing Well

This has been referred to as a practice of massaging the heart muscle. In times of having a difficulty with someone in your life, try this. It has always worked for me with different results each time. Always rewarding!

Bring your body and mind to rest and with your attention perhaps in your heart area, repeat these phrases with a sincere heart.

Practice directing these wishes for yourself, and then for a loved one, for someone who is neutral (a stranger perhaps), and a difficult person. You can use them in whatever order you choose. You could also direct it to just yourself, or just one other, or the whole world of sentient beings.

May I be happy
May I be well in mind and body
May I enjoy peace
May I be safe from inner and outer harm
May I live my life with ease
(replace or add to these wishes as you choose)

End with some silence, just taking in the whole experience.

You can repeat this as you move along with your daily tasks, or right in a difficult situation. Just silently choose to wish well with a sincere heart.

Sometimes your wishes for some people may feel fake or difficult. Pay attention to those. Something in you may need some more loving towards yourself. Go back and send loving-kindness to those parts of yourself that need healing and love. Repeat as long as you like and throughout the day.

I hope you all benefit from this. Do feel free to share your experiences with others and with me.

When a Part of Me Takes Over

How often have you been your angry, hurt or immature self? Do you remember doing something that in your right mind you’d never think of doing like yelling at someone when they’ve not done their job or getting really emotional when your partner has forgotten to consider you in her plans? This happens when a part of you has taken over. It speaks on your behalf.

What it really needs is for you to notice it, really hear it, and give importance to its needs. Then if you need to speak to someone on behalf of a part of you, the communication will probably be much more wholesome and effective. It will feel also different inside. You’ll be coming from a more ‘in charge’ place.Balancing Rocks

There is a presence within me (and you) that’s bigger than the places that are hurting, needy and even acting out.

I’ve learned how to access that presence within me. After a whole lot of practice, I can tune in to this presence even when I’m upset, when a part of me seems to be taking over, when it seems like it’s all of me that’s angry or hurt or overwhelmed.  Awareness of this presence in me helps me BE WITH my self, sense what a painful sensation is all about, or listen to my tender and needy places. It enables me to hear, honor and give space to these places in me so they can transform in the way they need to in order for me to move forward.

Often sarcasm, slips of the tongue, miscommunication, emotional outbursts and such are indications of something within us that needs our loving presence with them.  Attending to our own needs and desires keeps them from speaking on our behalf, or leaking into our interactions with others.

Do take a moment to PAUSE and reflect.

Have you recently wished you felt more in charge of yourself: your life, your emotions and actions? Maybe you heard yourself say something that brought to your attention how sad or mad or happy you were feeling, something you didn’t realize earlier?

Perhaps you’d like to connect with that quiet place in you, an integral part of you, yet detached from all the drama in and around you.

Here’s a brief exercise that runs about 10 minutes that you can use to tune in to yourself when you’ve made some time.

Listen to the Recording: Grounding Exercise

What Nourishes You?

With all the information out there about what foods are good for us, it takes a solid commitment to keep checking in with my body about what’s good for me. I trust now that my body knows best, but only when I get out of the way. And that’s the tricky part. I often don’t even know that I’m in the way!

But even my intention to be mindful of my body has paid off over time. I am beginning to be more aware of what gets me fatigued after a meal, what makes my stomach feel bloated and what make me hungry an hour after I’ve had a meal. Along with that, a little slower to follow, is the willingness and ability to honor what I’ve learned.

As with food and drinks, there are those things that nourish our senses, our intellects and our spirits. Thich Nhat Hahn is my particular inspiration here. His writing and talks have brought to my attention the fact that so many of us have a hard time with aggressive energy. He points out how it is often a result of all the stress hormones we consume from the meat we eat, animals that secrete these in the hours and moments before they are killed. These become part of us. We then sincerely try to manage our emotions in different ways, and it’s often a great struggle. We are what we eat is powerful statement.

What do I choose to read and what television shows do I watch? What conversations do I choose to be part of and which ones do I avoid? What visual sights are life-giving for me? What fabric does my skin like the feel of? What shoes do my feet feel comfortable and secure in?

Just being aware of this: the things that make my body happy and energetic, helps me also… over time… choose to follow through with the changes I need to make. Something in me seems to support my efforts to reduce sugar by mysteriously lowering my need for it! All of a sudden, familiar items begin to feel ‘too’ sweet for my taste!

When I begin to tune in to what feels good for me, what ‘I’ like, free from what I ‘should’ like or ‘have liked’, I begin to do much better. I have to worry less about whether I’m doing it right and what professionals have to say. I do read and hear all I need to and then I can check in with the boss, myself!

A student of mine, after a class on this topic decided to PAUSE before she turned the TV on… just allowing for enough time to make it a choice. She also became more conscious of the effect that watching different programs had on her. Another student made a decision to walk away from certain groups when they began to gossip. This is not a moral issue we’re talking about. It’s about doing what feels right and delicious for us at every point. It’s about making choices for ourselves from a place that’s free, a place that knows and cares for us.

Take a moment to PAUSE!

What resonates with you in all of this?

  • Do you think about the consequences of choices you make every day?
  • How aware are you of what goes into your body and what your senses are exposed to?
  • Would you consider pausing more in your daily life, before you make choices about what to eat, watch, do or say?

Perhaps you can engage the support of family and friends in the practice of this PAUSE. It can be fun!