A Shaman in Kansas

What would Dorothy have done following her return from the land of Oz? She got back home by clicking her heels three times and repeating a mantra to herself: ‘there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home’ until she did get back home.
Then, when back home, nobody believed she had been on this amazing journey in the land of Oz.
The movie ends at this point but if the story were to continue, what would have happened?
She would have continued her journey. She would have looked for answers to understand what happened to her, and would learn what she would need to do to get answers to her questions and to continue to grow.

She would have gone through a phase of not speaking about her experiences, not wanting to experience the scorn of disbelief, but would instead go on long, contemplative walks. She’d sit on a rock, close her eyes, and in her mind, go back to that land. As she did this, overtime, she would find herself reaching new insights. New insights about herself as well as new ideas on actions to take that would enable her growth while living in Kansas. The first action would be to no longer be silent about her experiences.

We all sometimes feel like we are living in Kansas, or sometimes we just work there – existing in a dustbowl where nothing really thrives and everyone barely makes enough to get by. We imagine, fantasize, about a life ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ but rarely take action. We all have the ability, however, to have that colorful life on this side of our dreams. And, it does not necessarily involve leaving Kansas. It involves contemplation, gratitude, and acknowledging and experiencing the loving relationships that are already there. What does need to shift is our sense that we don’t innately have the power to change our circumstances – clicking our heels, changing our attitude and taking action.

What is your Kansas? What can you change about your attitude? What is a small action that you can take today? I would love to hear from you.

Honest self – appraisal without self loathing

Will I just take my slick to the grave

I’d rather live telling the truth than be judged for my mistakes

I went to the gym this morning, trying to start going regularly again. As I walked to the gym, I imagined a news crew at the entrance interviewing people who go to the gym in 5 degree weather. I imagined I’d say it was my first day back, and that I was determined to start coming back regularly. As I imagined this, I chuckled to myself as I remembered that last month was my ‘first day back’ and I believe the month before I also went to the gym, determined to start going regularly.

Certain recovery programs have a saying that you can always ‘start your day over’ in the middle of the day, the afternoon, in the evening. The idea behind it is that even if you start your day on the wrong foot, you can take a step back, regroup, and start over.

‘I love you, you’re perfect. Now change’. This is the title of a play, I don’t know what it’s about exactly, but the way I see it, this phrase highlights the idea of balancing the unconditional acceptance of oneself as being ‘good enough’ while also embracing the idea of being a ‘work in progress’ and there being ‘room for improvement’.

A difficult part of honest self appraisal is to not get caught up in the quagmire of berating yourself for your current situation. After becoming aware of your the role you played in your current situation, the next step is to lovingly accept yourself. Then, without criticism, self loathing or judgment, go on about your work of acknowledging and correcting your behavior.

Throat Chakra

Chakra five is the center related to communication through sound, vibration, self-expression, and creativity. It is the realm of consciousness that controls, creates, transmits, and receives communication, both within ourselves and between each other. It is the center of dynamic creativity, of synthesizing old ideas into something new. Its attributes include listening, speaking, writing, chanting, telepathy, and any of the arts – especially those related to music and sound.” Anodea Judith

Prayer and meditation : prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening for the answer. The problem is that being in our own head during meditation is like sitting in a crowded bar – you can’t carry on a conversation.

Chakra five – the throat chakra is where our inner world, perceptions and our experience are expressed. We tell our stories, express our feelings and we are creative. We reconnect with sacred sounds and our higher consciousness through the fifth chakra. We ask for things. Chakra five is where our idea of how things ought to be meets how we really are.

Part of the effects of energetic damage to the throat chakra is that we come to place greater importance on how we ‘ought’ to be, at the expense of expressing ourselves authentically to the world. We don’t know what we feel, what we really like or what we want or we may know, but are afraid to say so and hide our true selves. We worry about what people will think; wonder what the ‘right’ thing is to say or the ‘right’ way to say it. We lose touch with how we feel inside, focusing instead at trying to guess at what other people are thinking or figuring out what they want to hear.

“Be careful about what you pray for, you just might get it”

Exercises for opening the throat chakra:

lion pose – you make a ‘ha’ sound while opening up your face – wide mouth, sticking your tongue out as far as possible, open your eyes as wide as possible. (if you google lion pose, you will get a hefty amount of images that will help guide you)

toning – I wrote about this in a previous post: http://wp.me/p3PoH2-x

Part of the work involved in opening up the throat chakra is getting in touch with your authentic self, accepting that imperfect self and then taking the risk of being more authentically you to the people around you. It is important to start with people you know and trust that they will support you as you open up.

Crown Chakra – who has your head?

What spiritual path are you on? Having a path, a framework that guides your thinking and behavior is important to help you as you face your trials and tribulations. From the smallest broken shoelaces that we face on a daily basis to major issues and traumas that can be so debilitating, having a path enhances resilience.

Your crown chakra connects you to the Universal Energy, your Higher Consciousness. Your spiritual practice is like soothing balm that energetically flows down through your chakras: informing how you see and interpret events thru your crown chakra and your third eye/intuitive 6th chakra; helping you know what to say with your throat chakra; soothing your hurts and your ability to give and receive love and compassion with your heart chakra. Quenching the ‘self-will run riot’ of your fiery third chakra where you want things to happen on your own terms. Balancing dualities, black and white thinking, and the ‘other’ through your second chakra. Helping you process your fears through your root chakra. As you face your ‘fight or flight’ situations, you know that ultimately you are safe with the protection and guidance of your higher power.

Notice that I said spiritual ‘practice’ not ‘beliefs’. Your belief system may provide a framework, but you are what you practice to be. It takes more than sitting in church or temple on a weekly basis. There needs to be a daily spiritual consciousness and activity in order to create and maintain the energetic flow from your crown down to your root chakra and back up again.

As we work our way up the chakras, we work through the blocks that we have in our lower chakras. As we do so, we achieve greater insights into ourselves. We bring what was previously hidden from us into the light of greater consciousness. On our energetic journey back down the chakras, we take this greater consciousness and apply it to our behavior so that we can work towards being our higher selves.

Often, in psychotherapy , there is a goal of attaining ‘insight’ with the belief that somehow, if an individual understands themselves better, this person will then make the necessary changes in their life. Ideally, this would be so. This usually only happens if the individual lacks the right knowledge. For example: If you ask the question ‘how do you get from here to Elm Avenue?’ The answer may be ‘make 2 rights, then go to the light and make a left and you’ll be right there’. Why would anyone ignore such clear instructions? If only life could be this simple. In life, one often asks ‘how can I improve my life?’ The answer inevitably includes: ‘you should practice daily meditation, regular exercise, eat right, and be of service. All the books in the self-help or health and wellness section of the bookstore address one or more of these issues.

Many people struggle with developing a daily spiritual practice. In our culture of immediate gratification and lack of connection to the earth, a daily practice can feel uncomfortable or impractical. It feels too slow. We can get stuck in the first 3 chakras of working for more safety, more pleasure and more material goods all fueled by fear of not having enough and give those activities more priority than working with our higher, unafraid selves.

Do you have a spiritual path? Do you have a tiny flame of spiritual inspiration that needs to be fanned by your awareness of its existence and letting go of fear? What can you do to let your light shine?

Holding on to the Earth

Holding onto the earth
Root chakra
The legs are extensions of the root chakra. When something in our life throws us for a loop, we tend to lose our sense of innocence about our ability to remain on the earth. Our feet grow thick burly roots, making sure our feet are planted firmly on the ground, so we can be secure in the knowledge that we won’t be flung completely off the earth this time as it rotates around the sun.

You’ve been holding on to the earth. Your feet are in pain, you have limited movement. You have made staying grounded your job, to make sure everything is in its right place. But now you are becoming aware that your sense of groundedness feels more like being stuck.

Foot Meditation
This meditation is for your feet. For those of you who want to let go and let gravity do it’s job. You and your feet no longer have to do gravity’s job. It’s time to let your feet do their own job: walking, climbing, descending. Your feet get you places and take a beating along the way. Holding onto the earth is not in their job description. Let the earth do it’s job of holding on to you. You can do this short meditation anytime you feel stressed or your feet feel extra tense.

Imagine your feet with suction cups on your soles. Sit somewhere and wriggle your toes. Focus on each one individually. Then, slowly lift your feet, and as you do – imagine each suction cup ‘popping’ and letting go of its grip on the earth. Now lift one foot a couple of inches off the floor. Then let your foot drop. Lift each foot again, this time raising it higher as if floating away. Lower your feet back down. See how they naturally came back to earth? No need to fasten yourself onto the earth. Now stand up and do an exaggerated marching step ( or you can simply imagine yourself doing so). Hold each leg up for as long as you can, feel the muscles in your thighs contracting to keep your leg up. Notice how your legs eventually come back down? Stay with that feeling; let yourself experience the deep meaning of gravity doing the job that you have taken on to do yourself for so long. Imagine yourself laying on a patch of grass (or if you can find a park or patch of grass, even better!) Give the earth a hug and thank it for doing it’s job of keeping you here.

Fourth Chakra – The heart

All you need is love – So simple, yet so hard…

The heart chakra is at the center of all the chakras. The element associated with it is air. We all breathe the same air. Without air we can only survive a few minutes. Without love, are we really living? When we breathe, there is a balance between input and output. The same holds true for all matters of the heart. One cannot give without ever receiving; one cannot endlessly receive without ever giving. As with breath, sometimes we hold our love out of fear. As with breath, we sometimes may need to do 2:1 loving* in order to restore balance to our heart.

I have worked with many people who say they will no longer love because they have been hurt in the past. Although it’s understandable that past trauma or loss impacts a person’s ability to get close to others, trauma doesn’t have to be a death sentence on your future. As Marianne Williamson says: “we are not held back by the love we didn’t receive in the past, but by the love we’re not extending in the present.”

Our culture emphasizes fulfilling the needs of the first 3 chakras: more safety, more security, more pleasure, more fun, more ‘getting my way’. All this changes though, with love in the mix. Anodea Judith describes it this way: The first chakra is solid earth – unmoving, static. The 2nd chakra introduces movement, separation. The third chakra is where these moving objects collide and release energy. The 4th chakra is the organizing principle – love. “Once we perceive objects and their activities as relationship, we begin to perceive the perfection, balance and eternal nature of these relationships.”

What to do , what to do…

simple exercise: Think about a person you have a resentment against, someone that really irritates you. Now, for the next 30 days, pray for them or send them a positive wish or hope for their health and well-being. For example : “I hope (pray) that “name of person” has good health and happiness, and that they have a nice day today”.

See what happens in 30 days! I think your heart chakra will be a little more open!

* 2:1 breathing exhalation is twice of inhalation. Discussion about what 2:1 loving would look like can be the topic of a future blog post.

You Spot It, You Got It

One indirect way that fears rear their ugly head is to take the form of projection – we believe others are feeling something that we in fact are feeling, but are unable to acknowledge: ‘THEY think I’m _____'; ‘THEY are saying ______’. It is then easier to focus on angry feelings: ‘ how dare someone judge me or gossip about me.’
Projecting your own fears makes them unmanageable because it is impossible to control what someone else is thinking or doing. But if you identify and ‘own’ your feelings, then it becomes more likely that you can work through them. You can become more active in getting the necessary skills or support; You can
process with someone who knows you and can give you more accurate feedback.

Chakra framework

The chakras energetically hold all of our life memories. Throughout our lives, our consciousness is impacted by the events of our lives. If we do not or are not allowed to process these events in a functional way, our interpretation of these events is what leads us down the road of shame; self blame; secrecy; automatic thoughts or automatic feelings that no longer apply. If you journal, reread passages from different years of your life. Is there a theme that emerges? A theme will most likely emerge in the interpretations you make, which tend to center on fear or shame.

Chakra work gets around over-analyzing data. It is important to have an understanding of your issues through psychotherapy and/or self-help groups. Chakra work is not a short cut around the traditional process of psychotherapy and possibly painful emotional work; but it does help release emotions / thoughts that have been hidden from view. Sound healing restores balance to your chakras. Depending on where you are in your personal healing – chakra work will enhance or deepen the work that you have already done/are doing and lead you to greater freedom from the shame or fear based thoughts.

Third Chakra – Solar Plexus

third chakraAs we move from first and second to third chakra, we move from passive elements of earth – influenced by gravity; and water, going down the path of least resistance, to fire which burns up, destroys and transforms. First we build a sturdy house where we can get all our basic needs met and feel safe. We make a family and allow ourselves to experience joy and pleasure. Then we say to ourselves ‘is this all there is?’. There is this whole great big world out there, where do I fit in it? Part of the work of the third chakra includes our will and our sense of power; our will helps us change, to take risks and get out of our comfort zone. Do we feel powerful, in control or powerless, unable to take the reins of our life?

One can get stuck in the energies of the first 3 chakras when the question ‘is this all there is?’ is answered by taking actions to attain yet more perceived safety, more money in the bank, more pleasure, more sense of control. The feeling that what one has is not enough is usually fueled by fear and unresolved issues. In order to continue energetically to a higher order consciousness, one goes beyond the self to a Higher Power, to knowledge and actions that reflect the beliefs that ‘it’s not all about me’ and that the hole in your soul will not be filled with more ‘stuff’ or more power.

The fire of your will and your actions is fueled by the air element coming from your heart chakra. Your ability to thrive is enhanced by your compassion, expressing yourself in a healthy way, your attitude and listening to ‘the still voice within’, and by your spiritual life and beliefs. This is not solely about your particular life circumstances, but how you handle your circumstances and if you have compassion (for yourself and others), ability to seek help, and belief in a Higher Power that helps you rise above your immediate circumstances and helps you look at the ‘bigger picture’ of your life and place one foot in front of the other.

Sacral Chakra

As we work our way up the chakras, it is important to remember that energy flows downwards as well as upwards. All chakras are active and influence each other both positively and negatively depending on our history and what we have worked on as well as what we are currently acutely dealing with.

As we move from the first chakra to the second, our energy expands: From earth to water, there is a liberation of energy. Once you are safe and your basic needs are met, there is now time for pleasure and joy.

There is the image of a child on a beach, running towards the ocean, then running back to shore for safety. Each phase of childhood development is faced with this cycling between risk and safety: being able to experiment with joy, play and pleasure while having a safe ‘home base’. Trauma, shame, inability or lack of opportunity to process a difficult event or even cultural or religious mores connected to the work of the second chakra leads possibly to impact a person’s ability to risk joy, to risk pleasure. Imagine one extreme of being thrown in the ocean in order to learn to swim – sink or swim. Or the other extreme of being held back from even getting close to the water because ‘you never know what could happen’.

Addictions are a part of second chakra work. They are a way of seeking joy, pleasure and a way of avoiding pain. Addictions may be due to earlier trauma, but addiction may be due to having the genetic/cultural or familial propensity towards an addictive behavior, without necessarily having a trauma or situation that is ‘making’ you drink or do something else addictively.

The chakras energetically hold all of our life and past-life memories. Throughout our lives, our consciousness is impacted by the events of our lives. It is also impacted by our collective history – as a gender, race, cultural group. If we do not or are not allowed to process these events in a functional way, our interpretation of these events is what leads us down the road of shame, self blame, secrecy, automatic thoughts or automatic feelings that may have been helpful or appropriate, but no longer apply. If you journal, reread passages from different years of your life. Is there a theme that emerges? A theme will most likely emerge in the interpretations you make, which tend to center on fear or shame. Same play, different actors. Or like I used to like to joke ‘I was in the same relationship for many years, the only thing that changed was their social security number.’

It is important to have an understanding of your issues. Chakra work/sound healing is not a short cut around painful emotional work, but it does help release emotions / thoughts that have been hidden from view. Chakra work/ sound healing gets around over-analyzing historical data, also called rumination. Sound healing restores balance to your chakras. Depending on where you are in your personal healing – chakra work/sound healing will enhance or deepen the work that you have done/are doing and lead you to greater freedom from the shame or fear based thoughts.

**I want to give thanks and credit to Anodea Judith, PhD, who is inspiring me with her published book on the chakras: Wheels of Life, and whose work and way of looking at the chakras greatly influences my thinking**

creating a sacred space

sacred space In order to begin the practice of meditation one needs to create a sacred space. Sacred spaces are not just meant to be in cathedrals, churches or other special locations. A sacred space is an area that you set aside for yourself – a space where you can spend some time in prayer, that is dedicated to prayerful thinking and can have objects that are spiritual or contemplative in nature; or maybe they are simply pretty to look at. A candle, statue, rosary, sage, incense are some items that come to mind. Depending on your spiritual inclinations, you could have a cross; a Buddha statue; or prayer beads – whatever calls to you. It is a space, area, spot that is not used for other things – like placing the remote, or TV Guide, or last night’s glass of soda.

This sacred space does not have to be big. It could be a placemat with some items on it that are important to you, possibly a daily meditation book or even an index card with your favorite prayer written on it that you can read aloud during your prayer time. Maybe your sacred space is portable – you put it out, pray, and then put it away in a safe place. Possibly, your sacred space is in a discreet location – something that only you would know was sacred – such as corner of the room or spot behind a curtain that no one goes near.

As you think about creating your sacred space, what are the thoughts or feelings that come up? For some it may be centered on issues of safety or privacy. For others, there may be thoughts/feelings of unworthiness – feeling embarassed about setting aside a space for meditation and prayer. Who are the people in your household ? Are they supportive of something like this? Are you afraid to find out?

sacred space

Write down your thoughts, no matter what they are. Write down all your desires, concerns, fears, hopes related to setting up a sacred space. I’d like to hear from you what your obstacles are to creating a sacred space for yourself. This is the work. The inner work does not begin after the sacred space is created, the inner work is getting to the emotional place to be able to have one – to get through all the issues, whether real or imagined, that block setting up that space.