Tag Archives: mindfulness

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.

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?

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.

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.

When working on yourself doesn’t feel like you’re working on yourself

When you’re in pain and life is hard; when your self esteem is at its low point and you are struggling. As you work on your issues, you work through painful feelings and you feel like this struggle counts as ‘working on yourself’, and it is. One way of coping through difficult times is by listening to music. You can listen to happy music that inspires you and changes your mood. Or you can, like I have preferred doing, listen to music that expands or plays out your feelings in way that you are not able to. The song helps you emote.

The video above is best reflects my self-esteem when it’s at its lowest point. I imagine my self-esteem taunting me sarcastically in the lyrics to this song. Paradoxically, it makes me feel better.

Another way of working through feelings is by using sound. Sound without a melody and without lyrics. The focus is on the vibration of the notes, and the harmony between the notes. Using sound and vibration for healing does not rely on words to process the feelings. It does not require the use of the left side of your brain – the logical, thinking side.

A simple practice that you can do to begin understanding the use of sound as a healing tool is toning. Toning helps with reaching a meditative state and getting some vibrational movement into your body and through your energetic fields.

Sit down in a comfortable position, sit cross legged on the floor; or in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Preferably without shoes on.

Do 1:2 breathing: Inhale slowly through your nose, hold your breath briefly and then exhale slowly through your mouth. While inhaling, count up – for example when I inhale slowly I can count (in my head) up to 10. So then, on the exhalation, double it to 20.

When you feel comfortable, on the exhalation instead of silently breathing out, start toning by saying vowels. Say each vowel 3 times to start. As you say each of these vowels, place your hand on your heart chakra and notice the vibration that each vowel creates. Place your hand on your solar plexus or throat chakra and see if you can feel the vibration. Experiment with different notes, different vowels to see what you feel. Don’t worry if you can’t actually feel the vibration initially, the vibrational energy follows your intention.

As you do this on a regular basis, you may notice a greater affinity to a particular vowel; so you can feel free to say that particular vowel more often.

say ‘aaah’ (as in ‘pot’)

say ‘ehh’ (as in ‘fest’)

say ‘eee’ ( as in ‘feet’)

say ‘oh’ ( as in ‘fold’)

say ‘u’ ( as in ‘food’)

If you are new to using sound as a way of healing, toning through difficult times may not feel like you are ‘working on yourself’, but it is! One aspect of toning is the meditation which is calming; and then the toning vibration clears up emotional and energetic blocks that allows you to have greater clarity about your situation.

Let me know if you try this exercise and tell me how it goes! As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me or ask in the comments section.

Have a hard time meditating? Try Alternate Nostril Breathing

Alternate Nostril Breathing is a simple, yet powerful, technique for centering and grounding yourself.

You breathe in one nostril and breathe out the other 10 times and then switch nostrils.

This is the hand position you use. The index and middle fingers are placed on your forehead, between your eyebrows – a location that is called your ‘third eye’. Your ring and pinky finger press one nostril, and your thumb alternately presses the other.

alternate nostril breathing hand position
alternate nostril breathing hand position

how you place your fingers on your nostrils and third eye
how you place your fingers on your nostrils and third eye

There are variations of alternate nostril breathing that you can find in books and on the internet. I am only going to present the one that I was taught and that I use.

Sit in a comfortable position; feet flat on the floor.

Place your right hand (you can use whichever hand you feel most comfortable using) on your nose, in the position shown above.

Close the left nostril with your ring and pinky finger and inhale through your right nostril.

Inhale deeply, and then cover your right nostril with your thumb and exhale slowly through your left nostril.

Switch back and cover your left nostril again in order to inhale through your right nostril and repeat this whole process 10 times.

After the 10th exhalation from your left nostril, instead of switching nostrils, now inhale through this same nostril while keeping your thumb pressed on your right nostril.

You are now beginning 10 inhalations through your left nostril and exhalations through your right nostril.

Try this for a week and see how you feel. It won’t take more than a few minutes to do. This is a great way to begin a meditation practice. Let me know how it goes!

My little hater

A while back, the church I attend announced that it planned on raising 1.5 million dollars through it’s parishioners in order to give the church a makeover. My spouse immediately said ‘I’m going to get involved!’ and I thought to myself that this would be a waste of money as the church would never raise the needed money.

More recently, Marianne Williamson – an ‘internationally acclaimed spiritual author and lecturer’ – announced she will be running for congress in her district in California. I love Marianne; I’ve read many of her books, attended her lectures; and think that it would be great if she could be elected to Congress. But then I thought: ‘she won’t get elected’; ‘the general public won’t go for her’. I read some of her website, there were some parts in her FAQ’s that I felt were a little awkward; so again, I pondered that maybe she was putting energy into a losing battle; ‘she’ll feel bad if she loses’. I read some of the comments, and already there were some haters posting ridiculous statements.

Sometimes I look at the comments section of Youtube videos, or of articles that I read and there are always haters commenting, no matter what the topic – sometimes important, divisive topics; and at other times quite innocuous topics. A few years back, I had posted a Youtube video that I had taken while on an airplane whose wings were being ‘de-iced’. I put the video to music and posted it. It was innocuous enough for me that I could post it, I wasn’t putting something dear to me online – but still, there were hater comments. I’ve wondered about the haters that have time to post toxic commentaries online, and I wonder who they are in their ‘real’ lives. But then, I don’t really have to look too far, because I have my own little hater.

The church placed this fundraising thermometer with their goal amount. I was embarrassed for the church, that they would set themselves up for such a major disappointment. As the weeks passed, slowly but surely the red marker kept rising. Eventually, and this didn’t take a long time either, it reached it’s goal and then surpassed it. I was stunned, and I felt it was a lesson learned. The church benefited by having many people who were like my spouse – they took the leap of faith and put their money where their mouth is.

I don’t know if Marianne Williamson will win, nobody knows that. But she is taking that leap and doing what she feels called to do. It is a major leap, that won’t be easy – but what is life, if not for the leaps?

All of these negative thoughts I have – about the church’s inability to raise money; how they’ll embarass themselves; how Marianne will be disappointed to have put herself out there – are comments that I make to myself. My projections. I am my own little hater. Statements that are preemptive strikes to any action that I may desire to take. ‘this is stupid’ ‘people won’t understand’ ‘nobody would buy that’ ‘it’s not good enough’ ‘I’m not an artist’ ‘I don’t know enough’.

Do you have a little hater? How does your little hater stop you in your tracks; slow you down; make you doubt yourself?

Working with music and sound in therapeutic ways is something that I am feeling called to do. In doing this work, I have to bring in all of me. I do have something to offer despite being imperfect. As this blog evolves; as I evolve – I hope that you will be able to get something that you could use for your own personal growth and healing.

http://www.holynamebrooklyn.com/

fundraising thermometer
fundraising thermometer

http://marianneforcongress.com/
Marianne Williamson


Beating the Little Hater

sound bites – the elements and mindfulness

Click on the top left corner of the image to hear the sound for that image. These short Vine videos help you focus on individual sounds that may go unnoticed around you. After browsing through these, take time throughout your day, to notice the sounds in your immediate environment. What element does it represent?

EARTH – what is an ‘earth’ sound – footsteps, metallic sounds? The earth is unmoving, solid below our feet. Do you feel grounded, steady or stuck and unbalanced?
pawsteps

footsteps

walking in the grass

subway – underneath the earth (lower your volume!)

WATER – what are the variations of water sounds that you could think of? What sounds suggest the element of water? Water flows down the path of least resistance but with quantity or over time, can effect much change in the landscape. What do the sounds of water bring to mind?

morning dew by a stream

water in a bowl

dripping faucet

water fountain in pond

FIRE – As compared with water, which flows down, fire rises up – it transforms. what images or sounds elicit the idea of fire?

lighting a match

AIR

how to save the world

Last Sunday, my spouse and I decided to go for a late afternoon walk in the park. It was our lazy way out of doing a 3 mile run. Instead, we decided to walk the 3+ mile loop of our park with our dogs, as a way of getting the miles in but not over-exerting ourselves. This of course, is not the point of this post, but I need to set up this scenario.

We walked around the park, but although it was already late afternoon, it was pretty hot, and our dogs are not used to the heat; and although they are fit, 3 miles was a big jump from their usual 1 mile max on a walk. So, we carried them, looked for water, sat in shady areas, got their bodies wet to cool their core. Eventually we sat in a cool shady area for a longer period of time, where the dogs (and us) could rest, and watch the people in the park.

While sitting there, watching kites fly, people playing frisbee, or paddle ball, sitting around, eating, reading to their child. I lay back and enjoyed it all. Though the park was full of people, it was peacefully quiet.

I turned my head, and looked at the curve of the hill that I was on, that flattened out to the path. Beyond that was a lamppost, a fence, and then more greenery beyond that. I thought about the earth, the dandelions all over, imagined the hundreds of people that walk through this area; imagined the iron worker that must have taken pride in the lamppost they made, or not. The people that installed it in that spot, and the others that repaint it a shiny black every so often. Were they proud of the work or indifferent? I went on to think how the fence must have been installed by someone – I wondered how they felt doing it – was it a hot, sticky day like today or the middle of winter?. I wondered about the stories that each person in the park had – why were they there, were they happy? serene? miserable? There were also the birds, bugs, and other animals that live in this park – all in a peaceful coexistence. We are all one.

With this thought of one-ness, I then started thinking about the world; caring for the world and how there are some people/organizations/countries that are not taking care of the earth/people/animals/vegetation, and are more focused on profit. How could we be one, and then do this to ourselves? What can I do to stop fracking, or to stop use of GMO’s or whatever other global or local issue that is affecting the world?

We are all one…hmm. The thought came back to me, like the speck in Horton Hears A Who!. Earlier that week, I had spoken to someone about how, within families, we cannot change others, we can only change ourselves. Even if the other person is the one that’s ‘wrong’, we can only control our own behavior – what we say and what we do. We have to focus on ourselves if we want to make progress, otherwise we can wait forever, unhappy, waiting for someone else to ‘see the light’. And then it hit me – well actually, the speck landed on my forehead: maybe this earlier line of thinking also applies to the world – that all I have to do is work on myself. Somehow, this is the key to saving the world – make myself the best person I can be. This new thought has been quite tentative – a thought that can float away on doubt. But it hasn’t, it has rested on the spot right above my nose. I did not swat it away, it was not bothering me, but was also surprised that it remained there, still.

What do you think? Change the world by becoming a better person yourself. Phooey! That can’t be possible, can it?

Earth Day

Today is Earth Day – a day for us to renew our awareness of our connection to the Earth.  As we go through our daily routines, especially those of us that live in urban areas, it is easy to forget about the ground we walk upon.   It is deeper than the sidewalk in front of our house, the road that leaves town; or the bicycle lane that takes us to work.  Even in more rural areas, we may still focus on the day to day troubles and fail to contemplate the gifts of the earth.

Along with the idea that we need to take care of ourselves – mentally, physically and spiritually comes the much bigger notion that the earth is what sustains us all on each of these planes.  Our gratitude for our life does not begin nor end with our ‘thank you for this day’; it begins with the simple actions that enhance or diminish our lives on a daily basis, that also enhance and diminish the quality of life on earth.  Think about it.  Think about the things you do to enhance your own personal well being.  There should be no incongruity between self-care and care of the earth.  The reverse holds true as well, if you know how to take care of the earth – you have the fundamental knowledge of how to take care of yourself.