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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!

Feeling Normal

A grueling dull day. Dull interspersed with uncomfortable feelings. I dragged myself out of the house in the late evening to the grocery store. I met a friend there. He said he’d had a dull, sleepy, down few days. It sounded like the depression-like state I was in.

Somehow it felt good. Just hearing that allowed me to feel normal.

I was ok! Just like that!

Why is it that its sometimes so difficult to trust where I’m at and what I’m feeling? Why is it that an explanation of my experience is necessary to justify my being okay with it, accepting it? I recall going through this on several occasions. Each time I’ve felt unsettled for a while until I talked to someone who might have suggested it was the weather. Or I’d read in a book that they were normal peri-menopause symptoms. Then suddenly, I felt NORMAL.Emerging

How refreshing it would be to feel more at ease with our experiences, trusting that we are always okay. Even with the discomforts that need attention, the changes that need to happen or the longings that beckon us forward.

Perhaps we need a change in diet or medication, a renewed commitment to routine, more walks in the woods or time with friends. There will also be times when we need to understand what may be going on for us, identify the cause of some illness or disruption in a relationship. And then we could reflect, practice Focusing with a guide or talk to a friend or professional.

We don’t need to feel other than normal. Something may just be a surprise, perplexing, something just out of the norm!

Just as we are always in process, so are our lives. What we see as interruptions are merely aspects of life’s process. Somehow along the way we develop ideas about what a smooth life process is, what is normal. Anything else is an interruption. Getting sick is not an interruption to our life, nor is an unexpected visit or traumatic experiences.

These events do interrupt what may be good and smooth and planned. They could also be a spoke in the wheel of vehicle stuck in the dung of dead habit. But truly they are just sentences in the paragraph of life’s chapters.

Why do we need to explain our own, our very own personal experiences in order to in order to honor them? Why can we not trust our life process, observe what’s going on, decipher what I need and follow through with our own inner guidance?

Let’s PAUSE for a moment:

-Are there times when you’ve felt like you need to be somewhere in life where you are not? Or you’re embarrassed to tell someone how you are doing or who you really are because you don’t fit some standard or ‘norm’? Perhaps you’ve been wise to hold back expressing yourself, suspected you may be judged. But does something in you also judge yourself? Just notice.

Take a moment to breathe into the realization that where you are is where you need to be right now. Who you are is exactly who you need to be right now. Gently allow those tentative or rejected parts of you to emerge, allowing them to feel accepted by you. Notice their beliefs about how they SHOULD be. These ‘shoulds’ could be pointing to strivings, places drawing you forward, like a parent’s arms beckoning a toddler to walk a few more steps towards them.

-Notice if you have some beliefs about the interruptions in your life. They could be pointing to the challenges that need some chewing on, introspection and support understanding. See if you can honor them for what they are, honoring your resistances AND desire to move forward.

Do feel free to contact me with comments, questions or your stories.

Mindful Connecting to Self and Other

I pause. I bring my attention inwards. I connect with that place in me where I experience peace and stillness. I feel centered and together. It’s silent there. No noise from likes and dislikes, attachments to ideas, beliefs or anxieties. No feelings, bad or good, just a sense of contentment, of completeness and clarity. I move forward in life.

I move forward in life anyway! We all do!

But often we do it while operating out of a part of ourselves, wounded aspects perhaps. Very often, we live for long periods of our lives enmeshed with aspects of ourselves, quite unknowingly.Self- and Other-Reflection

I’ve recently spent many days operating out of a part of myself that feels powerless, incompetent and rather paralyzed. It has felt like my circumstances, my own body and emotions were bigger that I am. I remembered to pause (finally!).

I acknowledged the power of my conditioning and re-committed to the practices that ground me, to some routine aspects of my life that get thrown off at these times. And I turned to others for support. I cannot and choose not to fight my battles alone. I luxuriate in the support of my sisters, friends and professionals.

Staying attuned to ourselves, staying connected to others!

PAUSE to reflect on this for a moment:

Do you recognize the sense of truly feeling connected to yourself, to that part of you that is detached from your experiences, emotions, and circumstances? Perhaps this is what Buddhism refers to as the experience the self-non-self. It is also referred to as the true self, the larger self, self in presence, or, consciousness. While one may grow in relationship to this place through meditation and silence, retreats, and perhaps in crises. Access to this place is always available to us, no matter where we are. People find activities like mindfulness practices, meditation, yoga, prayer, walks in nature, dance and journaling helpful to this end.

Who supports you in staying connected to yourself? Who reminds you to turn inwards when you feel you are losing your center, when you feel off balance? Be it friends or professionals, take time to sense who you’d like to have on your team. We can choose friends who make us feel good and loved, and we can choose friends who do that while reminding us to go inwards to connect with our strength and peace and wisdom.

Ask your friends to encourage you to tune inwards when you appear to be off balance, distraught or overwhelmed. Let them know how best you can hear their kind reminders, so they don’t sound like paternalistic, critical or judgmental voices to you. Show them how you want to be loved. These are probably the best friends you’ll ever have!

Questioning Values

I’d been working outdoors at the Zen temple longer than I planned. Seasonal allergens have been bothering me. A friend hearing how allergic I was remarked about how generous I was to put my service before myself, “A true Boddhisatva” she remarked.

She was sincere. But I was not happy with myself for knowingly doing some injustice and violence to my body that has only me to count on for its well-being. I knew I was taking a risk when I left my home that morning. But I did so want to go!

“No”, I wanted to say to her, “This is not being a true Boddhisatva”. My personal practice, my challenge has been to be more mindful of taking care of myself, something I tend to neglect. Helping others and keeping busy comes easily to me and meets some other disguised needs.

We each have our growing edges. Someone who is disorganized has organization as a goal she constantly strives towards. At the other end is someone whose daily life is disturbed because he is obsessively organized. Each has their own challenge. One person strives to be more sensitive to others while another is learning to guard against being overly sensitive to others. Each seeks their own individual balance.

Does any part of this story resonate with you?

Question Marks

We often strive to absorb values we have inherited from our familial, religious or cultural backgrounds regardless of whether they benefit. Have you also been raised with beliefs and values that seem absolute? What are your values? Are there any that are good in themselves but that have gone beyond being guiding principles, but are rather sources of distraction from your life path?

I invite you to take a look at some of your values: being responsible, caring, a good mother or father, hardworking. Consider your beliefs in the areas of sexuality, wealth, religion, environmental sentiments, or health.

How do these values guide your daily life? How do they help you? We may find that we’re either buying into values handed down to us or we’re reacting to them. Either way, we’re not responding freely. Everything has a place in our lives: food or wine, meditation, sports, work, relationships… and awareness of their role makes all the difference. Awareness of our beliefs and values puts us in charge of them, giving us the freedom to truly choose how we want to use them. Only we will really know whether our actions come from a place of freedom or habit.

Take a moment to PAUSE!

Bring to mind a value or belief that you sense has a hold over you. Could it be how you value friendships, money, or food… Notice how it influences your perceptions, feelings, relationships…

See if you can observe with no value judgments. Is this something that is helping you or has it gone unquestioned in your life. Gently ask inside: am I using this value as a guide or is it using me?

Notice what surfaces and feel free to email me with what you discover.

Exploring Our Resistance

We sometimes have a difficult time accepting people, situations and aspects of ourselves the way they are.

Resisting reality has a certain quality that feels uncomfortable. I have the image of a child pushing against a wall to make it move or banging her fists on the table, “I want ice cream NOW”. Imagine the frustration, the helplessness, the torture of wanting something that is not possible.

One would hope that caregivers would help the child in this difficult place, without either neglecting to hear her feelings or giving in to her cries for ice cream. Helping to train our children’s bodies and minds to live with less than perfect reality is one of the best gifts we could offer them. Learning to know when to push for something we want and when to let go is a skill that benefits us greatly.

When you encounter resistance, what do you do? Do you recognize it? Notice it? I know that I often do not notice that what I’m experiencing is a form of resistance. All that I may be aware of is that I don’t feel like doing something or talking to someone. I may feel frustrated about a situation or angry that I have to do something I dislike.

Let’s explore this: First see if you can put yourself in the mind and body of the child I just talked about and notice your feelings and body sensations. Notice as you struggle to push against that wall, hoping it will budge. Watch yourself as you get whiny and then loud as you desperately long for ice cream.

Take a moment to PAUSE and notice any one thing that you may be struggling with or something you are not at ease with in your life.

This could be you:
-“My teenaged child is acting out and I hate it”
-“I want my partner to want to spend more time with me”
-“I wish I did not have to work for a living”
-“I keep declining invitations to parties even though it would benefit my business if I were to go”

See if you can ease into the experience of that struggle. Notice it in a non-judgmental way. Allow the feelings to surface. See if you can describe those sensations in your body. What is it that you are having a hard time with? What’s underlying your wanting this reality to be different from the way it is?

The real reason for our difficulty in accepting something in or around us often lies hidden until we’re ready to open up and listen with a curiosity that is non-judgmental and caring. It could be that we are overworked, or feeling responsible or worried, maybe a need to feel acceptance and affection, or the discomfort of depriving ourselves of our desires and preferences.

After we discover the REAL cause of our resistance, the fear, the need, the desire; we can then be with those places in us as we would with a friend who may be grieving over a failed exam, a lost pet or the loss of a relationship.

“Yes, I know how much that meant to you”
“I know how hard it is to let go of that wish”
“I feel how scary that is for you”
“I do know what it’s like to long to feel loved”

When these places in us feel heard, they help us face difficult realities more easily. Resistances transform into forward movement.