Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
Deep calls to deep. . . I love those words.
In a world where very often it seems like a challenge to keep our heads above water and the river of modern life feels like it is rushing so fast we can barely keep up, there is some comfort in the idea that something deeper is calling to us. I have always felt that magnetic pull to what lies beneath the surface of things--whether it be people, circumstances, stories, dreams, or personal pain. This curiosity is what originally lured me into the realm of "healing" so many years ago. I was seeking a way out of my own struggle with clinical depression. Therapy and medication helped me get to a place where I could function well enough to explore alternative options. I began to learn the difference between healing and curing. The former is about becoming whole and the latter is used to describe a state where our disease symptoms have been reversed. We can be "cured" and not necessarily healed, just as we can be "healed" or in the process of healing and still have symptoms of illness. I discovered that my experience with depression was partially chemical, partially situational, and partly a symptom of a completely different type of crisis--feeling orphaned from my own soul. In my case, depression was a dark night experience that brought me directly into a crisis of faith. As a result, my life felt drained of purpose and joy. I experienced a disconnection from my deeper self or what I call a "soul loss."
Let's continue with depression as an example because it is such a common struggle for millions of people. We can turn to psychiatry to attend to the chemical component, we can utilize psychotherapy to address the underlying thought and behavioral patterns. But where do we go to treat the soul? Many people find solace in their religious or spiritual traditions. But what if someone has outgrown the particular tradition they grew up with or, like me, finds themselves questioning all notions of "faith" in general?
Wholeness is a word that we use a lot in the world of healing, yoga and complimentary health. In my own life I am always looking for examples of wholeness and ways to create experiences of it. Inviting circles of people to gather is one of the best ways I've found. When people come together with their own heroic stories of love and loss, triumph and trauma, peak and powerless moments and experience the value of being seen and heard and given space to be wherever they are, something beautiful happens. In circle we commit to radical listening and open questioning rather than fixes, solutions or setting others straight. We confront our deeper questions about our lives. As Parker Palmer says about "circles of trust:"
"When you speak about your deepest questions, you do not want to be fixed or saved: you want to be seen and heard, to have your deepest truth acknowledged and honored. If your problem is soul-deep, your soul alone knows what you need to do about it, and my presumptuous advice will only drive your soul back into the woods."
We listen for our own wisdom teacher to emerge somewhere in the space of talking and listening. This takes time, patience and tremendous trust in the process--not qualities we have been taught to develop in fixer-rescuer-helper model of relationships. Underneath the outer trappings of our personal narratives, lives a common, shared experience: the human experience. When we really listen to another and allow our own soul truths to be spoken, we eventually rest in the center of all of life, a place of belonging to something greater.
"Soul Matters" has become the way that I am best able to articulate the central message and core longing that my own life and work revolves around. The words are a simple reminder of what you may not hear echoed in the peaks and valleys of your everyday life--namely, YOUR SOUL MATTERS. What matters most to the soul are the core values of purpose, meaning and authenticity as well as the ways we experience those values in our lives. What matters to your soul may not offer a paycheck or a retirement plan. It may not bring you acclaim or any kind of outer recognition. It may not make any sense to anyone but you. But it is precisely the way that you come alive and find joy that matter most to the soul. Also because we exist in the human form--matter--we must express soul through the body. The two are intimately joined. It is in this intersection of matter and soul that purpose and meaning can be known and actualized. Self-expression is vital for our well being and fulfillment lest we remain distracted and overwhelmed by merely surviving, alienated from a deeper sense of purpose and suffer the symptoms of depression. There are many pathways to soul because soul is connected to our "genius" or particular gifts. Anything you love can be a door to expressing your depth: art, storytelling, dance, writing, nature, poetry, cooking, etc. The possibilities are infinite.
What people, places, ideas or experiences offer you a sense of purpose? What meaning do your personal stories (past and current) bring to your life? What, inside of you, longs to be known, expressed and shared? How can you live in a way that is congruous and aligned with who you are most naturally when you aren't trying to be someone "special?" Without active engagement in these soul matters our lives start to feel sterile, narrow, stagnant and two dimensional at best and empty, lonely and burdensome at worst. One thing I know for sure: we cannot enter the conversation and engage with questions of purpose, meaning and authenticity without awakening the soul force. It is a natural reaction and response to this kind of inquiry.
Soul matters is, for me, part of my personal mission and passion for bringing more soul to life in our world. When we nourish the soul, we attend to the health of our deepest root system and in turn every part of us is fed. We begin to awaken our creative capacity and author new chapters to our life stories. Others in our lives are inspired by our presence. We discover positive and productive ways to be in the world and offer our genius. We experience the deep satisfaction of knowing that we can handle all of the joy and pain inherent in this universal adventure and become whole human beings in the process. This is what true healing means to me. At the end of our lives we can look back and see the beautiful tapestry of soul that we wove as we went. We can say with certainty: that is what really mattered.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.
~Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi
This particular poem was the first of Rumi's writings that I encountered so many years ago and it made me an instant devotee. Today I read it again, several times out loud, to allow the transmission to help me fully transition into this new year. Welcome to 2019! Another new opportunity to awaken and discover more of what our hearts truly desire. What a rigorous challenge and exquisite blessing it is to continue to wake up again and again as we seek to become conscious human beings rooted in something much bigger than ourselves. The temptation to roll over and go back to sleep is strong!
I've been practicing waking early these days as a part of my commitment to my Sadhana or spiritual practice. In the Kundalini yoga tradition early morning practice--somewhere between 4 and 6:30 am is prescribed because the power of "Amrit Vela" or twilight hours is believed to be the time when the ego is relinquished and union of the Soul and God are most easily achieved. Or as Rumi suggests, when the "secrets" of dawn are whispered. Additionally, it sets the entire tone for my day and surprisingly gives me the energy I require to live and work. My early mornings continue to be the most sacred time of my days. Kundalini is the yoga of awareness and energy. It is a technology designed to awaken the inner life force for physical healing, emotional balance and spiritual growth. The yoga practices or “Kriyas” and meditations utilize a combination of four powerful tools: Mantra (sound current/chanting), Pranayama (breath practices), Asana (physical postures) and Mudra (hand positions). Every Kundalini class works to balance the endocrine system and strengthen the nervous system so that we can live with greater vitality, clarity and joy. It is the most powerful yoga I have experienced thus far on my personal yogic journey.
It became so transformative for me that I decided to enroll in a year long Kundalini Teacher Training program that began last October. As part of our curriculum we are given a particular "Kriya" or set of yoga exercises and breath practices to do each day as well as an 11 minute meditation to commit to for the duration of the month until we meet again and are given a new set of practices. I love what the sustained and repetitive experience is offering me--a chance to go deep and explore many different facets of myself within a single practice. It takes 40 days to create a change in the grey matter of the brain, so committing to a single practice like this is instrumental when we want to transform our lives.
Another requirement of my teacher training was to attend a day of White Tantric Yoga, an annual Kundalini gathering that happens at the time of Winter Solstice at a ranch in Lake Wales, Florida. Perhaps, like me, you immediately begin to wonder what exactly is "White Tantric Yoga?" Do you imagine some free form group sex practices somehow disguised as yoga? Do you picture a re-creation of Osho's crazy cult like city depicted on the Netflix special "Wild Country?" Maybe you remember something you read about the famous musician Sting and his wife talking about their long, luxurious 2-3 hour lovemaking sessions inspired by yoga and tantra. All of those thoughts came to my mind. There are different kinds of tantric practices that you can read more about here but White Tantra is aimed at spiritual growth and involves meditation practices done with a partner; guided by a Mahan Tantric or master of the tradition.
I registered and began reading about the Kundalini White Tantric experience a month before I was scheduled to go. I saw pictures like this one below of how I would be positioned across from my partner (which I did not yet have) and invited to sit for over an hour at a time meditating into their eyes. . . .
Needless to say, my mind began to freak out and over the course of the month preceding the experience I envisioned every possible worst case scenario from claustrophobia to losing my mind entirely. When I asked my teachers how best to prepare for this, they all said happily "There is no preparation! Just do your best." I was told that you could show up without a partner and would be paired with someone when you arrive. This only added to my anxiety. However, less than a week before the scheduled day arrived, my cousin who lives in California texted that she would be coming to Florida specifically for the event and would love to connect. I asked if, by chance, she needed a partner assuming she already had one but she instantly said yes! And miraculously, I had the perfect partner. Deep relief. This process leading up to the event showed me much about how my mind can easily and quickly imagine the worst! It was already doing its work on me.
The day finally arrived and I woke at 4 am to drive to the ranch in time for the morning warm up exercises before the mediations began. I joyfully reunited with my cousin Charlotte, a beautiful grown woman who I remember walking to kindergarten when I lived in San Fransisco in my late 20's. We set up our little patch of camp in the tantra tent, positioned across from each other so our knees were touching. The facilitator for the day welcomed everyone and she said "This is a day to celebrate yourself. . .to honor the YOU in you." Somewhere between her words and the familiar presence of my cousin, I began to soften and lighten up. I would do my best and enjoy the experience.
The particular set of meditations chosen for that day were all based on the theme "Renew and Be You." We would first watch a video of Yogi Bhajan explain the meditation and then we would do it with our partner. We would be shown how to sit, for example, with our palms touching our partners at the level of the heart and looking directly to their eyes while chanting a mantra for 62 minutes. Then we would be given a 15-20 minute break and come back for the next meditation. The day followed this pattern for a total of six, 62 minute meditations. It's the equivalent of an Ironman for yogis! It seems obvious to say that it is a challenge. The meditations are meant to serve as a laboratory to explore the mind--the first 11 minutes are the hardest, I heard. All the shit comes to the surface--self-doubt, resistance, pain, anger. In some mediations tears poured as I felt myself release deeper levels of sadness, regret and pain. In other hours, laughter bubbled up as our meditation was visited by a little fly that would buzz around our heads and tickle our eyelashes as if to remind us not to take it too seriously. It was true, somehow magically after 11 minutes the experience shifted from impossible to possible. With our eyes steady and fixed on each other, our energy connected with the bigger group energy and riding the sound current of the mantras, a threshold is crossed and elevation and bliss become the main experience. Somewhere in that timeless space when the meditation became magic, the facilitator would say "This is the final 3 minutes. Stay with it!" and Charlotte and I would smile, our eyes growing excited and giving each other the unspoken encouragement to finish strong. And we did. Every time.
Driving home that night I couldn't believe what I had done that day. I felt a mixture of pride and humility. I desperately wanted to go back the next day and do it again. I was shown so many things about myself that I needed to see and have confirmed in the eyes looking back at me. It was one of the most transformative experiences I have had to date. My teacher said that one day of White Tantric practices does tremendous work to clear the subconscious mind and that it will continue to work on me for months afterward. I'm not entirely sure of all the ways it altered me but I know that I have been profoundly changed and it will be a part of me forever.
I am beginning this new year with some of the important lessons I learned from that single day and all that led up to it: when confronted with something new and different the mind will naturally conjure the worst. Our fears act as threshold guardians trying their best to keep us from changing. Keep going anyway. TRUST--what you need will come to you when you least expect it. How you enter into any experience, i.e. as a "celebration of the Self" or as a torture chamber can make all the difference in what you do actually encounter. Finally, just do your best. Chances are, it is far beyond what you think.
Let's cross the threshold of this new year with the remembrance that every moment is a chance to wake up again and meet our lives as our sacred partner with whom we can see our true selves reflected back.
Don't go back to sleep. . .
"What is the power of a woman who has opened to the sacredness and Divine truth of herself? What happens when she has the courage to bring the inner light outwards? What transpires when she softens her hard edges, plants her bare feet on the soul of the earth, opens her sacred channels to the Ancient Ones and declares, 'Yes, I am ready to be seen?'
She changes everything."
2018 has been a year of great change. Its theme has been re-building after the dismantling of my life the previous year. This was my year of "Hope" as I sought to listen to the longings of my heart and follow their promptings into a new chapter of my life.
And called I was: much deeper inside myself. I was assigned the task of completing the healing work left over from the pain of divorce. I was invited to step more fully into my power as a woman and single mother; to embrace solitude rather than relationship and become intimate with my singularity. I had to unplug from old paradigms of struggle and suffering to feel worthy and push my way out of the constraints of too small boxes that no longer fit my expanding self. From the outside it may have appeared that very little was happening but the truth is that everything was being reorganized. It's what I would call a "root" year where I had to attend to the establishment of a new foundation for my life. It was underground work. This entire process reminds me of the vital importance and equal value that our inner/invisible work is to our outer work in the visible world. I learned to not judge my life based on just the "fruit" when some months or years are all about the roots.
I gave much time and attention to simplifying my life down its most essential elements: self-care, my children and developing my mission through my work in the world. Simplifying our overly complicated lives is an art and science. It requires both the imagination to envision more space and ease in our days as well as the formulas for making that a reality by letting go of the things that distract us, noisily crowd our lives and insist on their value. Once I committed to shedding the excess on a regular basis it opened me to a spacious joy that has been here all along. I vow to protect this sacred simplicity with my life.
Confession: I have been having a love affair with freedom. I am learning that freedom isn't just about doing anything I want, when I want, but rather in choosing how I most want to live. It isn't offered without a certain price either--it costs me everything that no longer holds precious value for me: relationships, things, beliefs, old programs and habits. Freedom has become the daily choice to remain loyal to the intimacy of my direct relationship to life and to trust my own knowing to lead me forward. As a result, one of the most freeing realizations I have experienced is that when I give up being overly attached to any one version of myself (mother, teacher, woman, yogi) I gain access to much more of my range as an infinite being with untapped potential and possibility. Expressing that range is, for me, what true artistic freedom is about. It is the core value with which I am more deeply aligned.
The greatest gift I was given this year was in the power of having a dream. I've experienced how stepping boldly forward, stumbling and even getting lost can reveal the way to our dream life. I know that the dream will call us outside of our comfortable stories, beyond the safety nets and enmeshed limiting beliefs. It will shake and wake us to recognize all that we possess that isn't being utilized fully. It will reveal the fears that have become elaborate excuses to keep us from making a change. A dream will inspire and invite you but it won't force you to act on it--that's up to you. The dream will leave if you ignore it long enough. But like everything in the universe it will circle back around and flash its starry smile while you're still stuck in that job, relationship or survival strategy that drains your energy and causes your soul to wither. The dream is magnanimous; it understands your fear but it's also relentless in its desire to get you to pay attention to it.
This year I met my dream with all that I have and asked that it make me into a new creation. I want the dream as much as it wants me. A dream entered into this way contains everything needed for its fulfillment. That's because the dream is alive inside of us; woven into the fabric of our soul. We have to decode the messages, follow the clues, and learn the language of our dream.
What's the dream that won't go away for you? The one that's always knocking, whispering, speaking its sign language everywhere you turn in the world?
I feel the gates of 2019 wide open and the adventure of the unfolding dream beating its drums for me and you. Can you hear it? Let's enter the dream and allow it to awaken all that we are.
This is the power of a dream.
Returning to my blog after a couple of months feels like a little homecoming. This practice of writing is like a touchstone that I use to check in with myself, anchor some of my thoughts amidst all that is changing and share what's relevant in my life at the moment. I have been busy doing the work that I love--teaching yoga, working with private clients, facilitating a women's circle and collaborating on several projects. I recently embarked on a year long Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training program. I am navigating single motherhood with two children--one a middle schooler! These days I am finding and establishing a new rhythm for my life that allows for time doing all of the things that are important to me as well as giving myself the space to simply BE. While all of that has been happening outwardly, I have been participating in my own personal transformation. It's what my teacher, Dr. Estés, calls the "river beneath the river." It refers to the deeper, inner work that runs like a current underneath the surface of our lives.
A big part of my inner work has been about dismantling the people pleasing, "good girl" conditioning that keeps me from being true to myself. Like so many women, I have been groomed to put the needs, desires and feelings of everyone else above my own. Not wanting to disappoint or hurt another, I trade my truth for their comfort and approval. What I discover is that, over time, this kind of self sacrifice leads to resentment, anger and exhaustion. As a result, I experience the ultimate betrayal--a disconnection from my own soul.
Over the last several months I have been conducting an experiment in my own life. I have been making pleasure a high priority in my everyday life. Rather than putting so much effort and energy into trying to be good or do good, I am committing to doing the things that make me feel good. This seemingly small shift is creating big adjustments in my life. I am much more aware of the people and situations that compromise my joy and those that increase my sense of fulfillment. I am called to continuously confront the critical and fearful places inside that try to convince me that the pursuit of pleasure and self-fulfillment is unrealistic, immature and selfish. I notice the ways that I am tempted to deny myself pleasure everyday. I have been committed to practicing the art of feeling good. And it feels good.
I am calling it "the pleasure principle" and as long as it feels good for me and doesn't directly injure or harm another, I am free to pursue it. What I am finding is that rather than leading to any kind of irresponsible debauchery, I am experiencing a new state of freedom and joy in my daily life. It really becomes about choosing what would feel best in the moment and doing that in place of the thing I believe I "should" be doing.
While experiencing true pleasure often happens in simple ways, it's not always easy. The reality is that some people will be hurt or disappointed, despite my best intentions. Choosing to stay true to what I hold sacred and what makes me come alive, will inevitably create a gap in certain relationships and commitments. However, I am recognizing that the most important relationships in my life--with my children, family, close friends and work are actually nourished more deeply from my feeling good. We all benefit in the process.
What if feeling good today was the highest priority? How much pleasure can I allow myself to receive? What needs to be released, forgiven or healed so that I can truly experience the joy of my soul? These are some of the questions I've been asking myself everyday.
I invite you to step into this exploration in your own life. Begin by taking one day to pursue your own pleasure and see where it leads you.
My soul lives naturally in a state of joy and celebration. For me it's best expressed through dancing and letting myself feel the freedom of movement from the inside, out. When I dance I'm not thinking about how I look or what the next move should be. It's not about right or wrong, good or bad. Dancing is an authentic expression of my soul's joy--it's a moving prayer and a communion with my Self. Ultimately, I long for my freedom and joy to serve others and set them free to live their own unique beauty. Can you imagine all of the people in your life living in this way? It begins with you and taking the exquisite risk to be free. Our self-fulfillment is our greatest service to the world.
Not just part way
Or her way
Not where I've already been
Or that dusty place where it all began
Not his place
Or those pretty faces over there
Not reaching for the too high bough
Or falling so far below
Not what I know
Or pretend to be
Not some fantasyland
Or house of mirrors
Not the train of destruction
Or the flight of false desire
Please, not only to the edge
Of the Ocean
Or the waist of wonder
Take my hand and
Take me all the way.
~Jenny Clarke, 2018
"I am part of everything that I have read." ~Theodore Roosevelt
It's very rare that I am ever reading just one book at a time. I love to read, especially in the summer months when I have more time to dive into a book during the long daylight hours rather than at the end of a busy day when I can barely stay awake for a single chapter. This month I am sharing my top five literary pics for your learning, longing, loving and enjoyment as you staycation, travel or simply savor some extra downtime:
• Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh is one of two books that I re-read every summer. It's definitely on my top ten favorite books of all time. Lindbergh (wife of aviator Charles Lindbergh) created a legacy of her own through this book as a woman exploring the great balance of life as individual, artist, wife, and mother. Each chapter is named for a different sea shell and the various themes are connected to the unique qualities of the shells. In the "Moon Shell" chapter she writes of the importance of solitude as a source of nourishment in a woman's life: "Solitude, says the moon shell. Center-down, say the Quaker saints. To the possession of the self the way is inward, says Plotinus. The cell of self-knowledge is the stall in which the pilgrim must be reborn, says St. Catherine of Siena. Voices from the past. In fact, these are pursuits and virtues of the past. But done in another way today because done consciously, aware, with eyes open. Not done as before, as part of the pattern of time. Not done because everyone else is doing them, almost no one is doing them. Revolutionary, in fact, because almost every trend and pressure, every voice from the outside is against this new way of inward living. Woman must be the pioneer in this turning inward for strength." When you buy this book get at least two copies and gift a woman you love!
• The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is the second book that I ceremoniously read during the my yearly summer sabbatical. It's the classic hero journey told through the story of Santiago, a young shepherd boy, in search of his personal legend and a secret treasure that he is determined to find. It's the universal love story of each of our Souls that longs to live into the fullness of our destiny. In the beginning of the book the boy has a fated meeting with an old man who tells the boy he is a king. He explains to the boy what a person's "personal legend" is: "It's what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend." I read this book every year, purposefully, to minimize this mysterious force and remind myself of what's possible. Every time I read it, I am inspired to continue the pilgrimage of my soul and to recognize the omens that are guiding me along the way. This book is certainly one of those good omens.
• Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur was a gift I received for Christmas. From my ex-husband. While we were still in the process of divorce. It's a book of short poems and illustrations by Kaur that take your hand and heart and walk you through another classic journey of childhood trauma, sex, love, loss, heartbreak and healing. It's all the heavy hitters in one small anthology that apologizes for nothing and tells it like it like it is. This book is part poetry; part self-help: i know it's hard/believe me/i know it feels like/tomorrow will never come/and today will be the most/difficult day to get through/but i swear you will get through/the hurt will pass/as it always does/if you give it time and/let it so let it/go/slowly/like a broken promise/let it go. I read this book in one sitting and by the end I felt like I had travelled through my own emotional wasteland of grief and loss only to find a deep pocket of honey in my own heart. My former spouse never read the book himself; when I asked him how he picked it for me he just said--"it looked like something you would like." He was right. I think you might like it too.
• Crossing to Avalon: A Woman's Midlife Quest for the Sacred Feminine by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. is one of those books that I have had on my "to-read" list for some time and finally read it recently at, of course, just the perfect time. Bolen is a psychiatrist with a Jungian background and feminist approach to her work. After the dissolution of her marriage she was invited to take a pilgrimage (yes, this is definitely an important theme in my life!) through some of the most famous Christian pilgrimage sites throughout England and Scotland as well as the mythic "Avalon" where she discovers the hidden power places of the Sacred Feminine that have been systematically covered over by patriarchy. Her journey represents what has become a very personal healing journey of my own in the last few years: one of reclaiming my feminine roots through relationship with the goddess or the Great Mother. Her description of the "Forest" landscape of midlife is among the best that I have encountered. This book is serving as a map that is helping me navigate the terrain of my life as I make my way through this difficult passage that feels much like an initiation. "During midlife, the desire to be real to ourselves, which comes from our soul, contributes to the crises we unconsciously create when we do not consciously acknowledge that we do not feel vital and authentic. There is an internal impetus to become a whole person and when we spend time in the metaphorical forest and the actual forest or natural world, we are exposed to the possibility of retrieval and growth of our instinctual nature, our spiritual connection with Nature, and our sense of oneness with the universe." While each of our journeys through midlife will be unique and the crises we face are ours alone to traverse, these themes of consciousness, wholeness, vitality, authenticity and connection are common to us all. As soon as I finished this book I started it all over again because of the way it speaks so directly to much of what I'm facing in my life now. If I ever write a book, this is the kind of book I aspire to create. The wisdom is passed like a torch from a woman who has made the passage herself through this dark and difficult wood, sharing her personal experience and calling on the revival of the archetypal feminine as a key force in our journey as women seeking wholeness and claiming our power.
• How To Be An Adult In Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving by David Richo will first reveal exactly how you've probably been acting like an immature child in your relationships and then offer tons of practical exercises in how to relate as a healthy, conscious grown up. Richo is a Buddhist psychotherapist that identifies the five "A's" that are the building blocks of intimacy. Essentially we feel loved when we receive: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and when we are allowed the freedom to live in accord with our own deepest needs and wishes. This book walks you through the stages of relationship from romance to conflict to commitment and will have you facing some highly vulnerable and emotionally charged corners of your psyche. It will illuminate the shadow places of attachment, addiction and obsession that we can get entangled in and enlighten the ways we fear abandonment and engulfment. It took me several months to get through this book. It's not an easy read, but an important one. Ultimately, a healthy ego and cultivated connection to our soul will lead to healthy relationships: "When we have the courage to share who we are in unique and free-spirited ways, we are likely to receive attention. When we accept ourselves, are proud of who we are and, at the same time, admit our mistakes, we are likely to be accepted. When we show generosity, compassion, and integrity, we are likely to be appreciated. When we offer affectionate touch and consideration, we are likely to receive affection in return. And when we act assertively, with clear boundaries and respect for others' rights, it is likely that others will allow us the freedom to be ourselves." The teaching and tools in this book have helped me be more aware of offering the five "A's" in parenting my children--where intimacy is first mirrored. Whether you are in partnership or not, this book is both an incredible wellspring of knowledge and superior source of support.
Have a beautiful Summer~xo
"Simplicity is complexity resolved." ~Constantin Brancusi
Ah sweet summertime. . . another school year is complete and the pace of life slows dramatically. It's the savasana (corpse pose) of my year where I can gratefully let go of the effort of living: juggling work, teaching classes, school projects, and extracurricular activities. This is when I settle into the delicious sweetness of being for a couple of months. One of the benefits of being self-employed is that I get to structure and plan my life in a way that allows for this kind of space to recalibrate and restore. I use this time to nourish my body with more rest and lighter foods (lots of watermelon!), stimulate my mind with books that I specifically save for these longer days (stay tuned for my summer reading list) and ignite my soul with plenty of time to daydream and listen for what inspirations are seeking my attention.
More than any other season in my life, summer is dedicated to savoring simplicity and ease above all else.
Also, as this month marks the mid-year point, it is the perfect opportunity to pause and reflect on where the first half of the year has brought me and to consider my next steps. I project my vision to December 2018 and choose NOW how I will conclude the calendar year. How do I want to feel as this year ends? What am I most proud of? Who have I become? That positive projection helps me discern my next right steps and keeps me on track with fulfilling my intention to stay aligned with my greater mission for being alive. I don't concern myself so much anymore with "how" things will unfold, instead I anchor my commitment to my "why" and trust that the details will fall into place as I continue to show up and stay curious.
I've collected a few gems that I have discovered this year so far that I'll share as my "Mid-Year Manifesto." Here's what's been important in my journey in the first half of 2018:
*Simplicity reigns supreme. As this post is themed, simplifying has been an overarching theme in my personal life. It's an art to be able to refine and define your life based on a few core values and then create something beautiful as a result. My new mantra: subtract to find the solution. Less really is more. Unless it involves watermelon.
*Despite evidence to the contrary, if it doesn't feel right it's probably not. Don't wait for full blown red flags. Pay attention to the yellow lights and stop before you override your intuitive hunches. Science has proven that you actually have a gut-brain that can signal the central nervous system--use it wisely.
*When in doubt, zoom out. Make a regular practice of widening your perspective. Wherever you are right now, imagine you could look at yourself from high above and at a distance. What do you notice about yourself and your life from this place? How do your problems look? What couldn't you see that you now recognize? How can you use this information to serve you? Broadening the lens through which we perceive helps us identify what's most important and let go of the rest. Which leads me to my next revelation:
*It's okay not to care so much about everything/everyone. This has been such a liberating gift for me this year. As an empath, it's incredibly challenging to turn down the volume on feeling so much. Learning to create healthy boundaries is one of the biggest lessons for the thin-skinned. I recently read the book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@ck and my big take away was this: Give less fucks. Be much more selective about the fucks you give. In the end, was it worth giving a fuck about? The thread of simplicity weaves right through here and the law of subtraction must be applied for best results.
*Tell the truth without blame or judgment. I am learning that real truth telling takes time and patient persistence. It's not for the faint of heart--it's for the courageous ones who aren't willing to settle for less than their very best. Start by telling yourself the truth. Say it out loud. "My deepest truth right now about ______________is __________________." Notice how it feels. Is it scary, exhilarating, shameful, empowering? If you're willing to take it a step further, try sharing your truth with someone you can trust. If, like me, one of your greatest values is freedom--you must be willing to tell the truth.
*Take the leap. Do the scary thing that you know clearly in your heart you are called to do next. Yes the fear and doubt are there but deep down you know it's right. Ask yourself: will I be sorry that I didn't take my chance? If not now, when? Just do it.
*Cherish the people in your life that feel easy like summer to be with. Your people, your tribe, your allies. They are one of life's greatest treasures and without their love and support you wouldn't be who you are. These are the people that only want to see you truly happy and living in joy. This kind of love is the ultimate simplicity--grace embodied.
What beautiful gems or challenging wisdom has the year offered you so far? Write them down. Share them with someone. What do you want to have a bigger experience of in the next 6 months? What is your positive projection for the conclusion of the year? Send it out with clarity and knowing that everything is unfolding perfectly. Then just relax, let go of the hustle and let the summer be savored.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and righting,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
I am a woman of rituals. My daily life is punctuated by ordinary moments consecrated in sacred and simple ways. In contrast to routines, which are performed habitually and usually with a specific outcome in mind, rituals provide a space for something bigger to enter us and meet us in the moment--wherever we may find ourselves.
This year I have begun each morning with a little ritual where I greet the new day by stepping outside as the sun is rising and I take a few deep breaths to offer my thanks to Gaia, our beautiful Earth Mother, for all that she provides. I light incense and place it next to a special rock in my front flower beds. Some days I pray; other days I stretch or sit quietly for a minute or two. This spot has become a favorite corner for my kids and I to place objects such as flowers, shells and feathers. It is our collective outdoor altar where we can be reminded to "Believe" that anything is possible. I have chosen to believe in miracles. I know it may sound silly to some. Honestly, at a certain stage in my life, I snubbed the idea because it seemed new-agey and intellectually immature. Just as evolving is a genuinely humbling process, it's also wonderfully surprising to see the ways in which we can view something in an entirely new light as our perspective shifts. That is precisely what A Course in Miracles calls a miracle: a shift in thinking from fear to love. In this way, miracles aren't just metaphysical occurrences defined by inexplicable events. Miracles can and should be a part of the lexicon of ordinary, everyday life as well.
Our brains look for patterns and we create meaning based on what we see and repeat daily over the course of our lives. Just as each day follows the pattern of morning, afternoon and evening or a story has a beginning, middle and end, our minds need a certain framework to function optimally. Our routines serve us by providing a certain context for our lives to unfold with some predictability and certainty. Without the appropriate and necessary structure to our days, we can easily feel anxious and overwhelmed. However, if we become too consumed by the familiar patterns, we easily close off to the possibility of miracles.
I define the miraculous as the opening of our mind-heart to "the field" Rumi writes of as the place of infinite possibilities. Modern science calls this the "quantum field." Consider for a moment as you look around you, all that you see and "know" as a result. Bookcase, tree, water bottle, lamp. I know this is my house, my books, backyard, neighborhood, etc. In some ways, this itself is a miracle. Just being alive to see, touch, taste and experience this world is a mind-blowing phenomenon! Now take a moment to contemplate all that you cannot yet see or the "unknown." Imagine this field of infinite potential as part of your experience in the present moment. I think Rumi offers us a secret key in his poem that invites us to cross the threshold between known and unknown, beyond duality, and to lie down in the grass-- shift our perspective--in order to let the field meet us right now. In this way, every moment becomes the doorway into the infinite field.
Rituals simultaneously contain their own logic or mental pattern and order as well as magic or a supernatural force and mystery. They serve as vital threshold places between habit and holy, familiar and foreign, conscious and unconscious. It is the fertile field in which we can plant the seeds of any dream or longing that our heart yearns to experience. We need to practice returning to this remembrance often so that we train ourselves to awaken again and again to possibility. One of my teachers, Chameli Ardagh, speaks of this remembrance as a powerful sadhana or spiritual practice. She says: "Keep reminding yourself, this is what I can see right now, but my perspective is limited. Your brain will keep looking for the familiar and try to limit your possibilities. Let your mind be open like a flower. Practice to stay in wonder." Our ritual practices can support us in developing this kind of fluidity of awareness.
What rituals or remembrances keep you poised on the threshold of wonder? How do you practice entering "the field" and shifting your perspective to include a wider scope of reality? Finally, what would feel like a miracle for you right now? Write it down. And then write it again in the present tense, as if it is happening now. Keep returning to the heart of possibility. Discover the ways to believe again when your mind circles back to its familiar pathways of limitation and doubt.
Stay open, devote yourself to the discipline of seeing possibility everywhere, and take a few moments each day to let your soul rest in the infinite field. . .
I'll meet you there.
April 1, 2018. #244
For the last eight months or so this is how every one of my journal entries has begun: with the date and a number. I started counting my days last summer when my "new" life began. At that point I had no idea how I would make it as a single mom with two kids--working and maintaining the only home that we have known. It felt like a huge free-fall into the unknown. While a significant chapter was ending I decided one day, definitively, that it would be the first day of the rest of my life. Day #1. This is how my counting started and in my journal that day I began to create my new reality by re-claiming the space around me as my own: add a floor lamp to the corner of the bedroom, clean out the closet under the stairs, move the white bookcase from the office to the living room, buy new sheets. . . . It was a simple list that served as a map for my next steps. Everyday since then I have added to this list and have challenged myself to expand my vision of what is possible.
Starting over in this way has given me a palpable sense of creative control over what will happen next in my life. The ability to consciously choose what I really want both physically and emotionally. The linear structure of counting my days keeps me moving forward and offers a realistic perspective on what I can manage to accomplish or experience within the scope of a single day. Accumulating these days over the course of a week and a month has been an amazing experiment in recognizing how real change happens: organically, gradually and systematically with diligent attention to the generative action that needs to be taken and the toxic strongholds that need to be surrendered.
Over the course of this last year I feel like I have crossed an ocean: surfing the waves of grief, diving into the depths of despair and then breaking the surface to breathe in moments of the most exquisite joy and to behold an entirely new horizon. I have felt my future as the blueprint of my own soul beckoning me to keep counting--to come back to today when I get distracted, fearful or confused. Keep hold of the thread and step into each day with courage and trust. I am growing in intimacy with the understanding that true fulfillment is an art that unfolds as we are willing to live in ways that summon our inherent creative potential--to be wholly ourselves. When we challenge our limited perspectives in any moment and lean more heavily into the edge of what is unknown to us as a frontier of freedom, we train ourselves to become pioneers moving ahead with a greater purpose for our lives. We sacrifice the well worn trails of conditioned habit for new pathways of discovery.
Day #244: Easter. Time to rise. Today I rise above my current situation for a moment and see the bigger picture. I can see that I am on the edge of a breakthrough--don't stop now. Doubt and fear will always be present but I get to choose my focus-this is part of my power now. Will I be the victim or victorious? I can focus on the old story that believes nothing will ever change and I'll always be stuck here. Or I can focus on the fact that anything is possible now that everything has changed. What single thought will serve my highest self now?
I concluded my first journal entry last year asking myself how I most wanted to spend the first day of the rest of my life. I decided that I would live it like it was my last: full of joy, deeply grateful and completely at peace knowing that I have lived and loved with my whole self. Today I am on the edge of another unknown threshold and I give myself completely to this miraculous journey. There are no mistakes and everything serves a greater purpose. The past is over and I am free to experience a future far beyond my wildest dreams. Today I begin again.
I am open to whatever is coming next. . .
The late, great Irish poet and theologian John O' Donohue describes a blessing as "a circle of light dawn around a person to protect, heal and strengthen." This is such a lovely image that offers comfort as well as a clue to how we can transform our pain into hope. We don't have to be ordained in a traditional role or receive religious training in order to administer a blessing. What if exactly who and how and where you are in this moment was the perfect opportunity to bestow a blessing?
Have you ever been in the presence of another and felt this quality of warmth and light? Did you feel how you were receiving a blessing through their particular quality of attention or the way they spoke to you or rested a hand on your shoulder or even hugged you in just the right way? It is truly a wonderful and miraculous experience that we can easily take for granted or miss entirely because we have closed ourselves off from this authentic form of connection. Perhaps you have been the one to bless another through your loving listening, spontaneous affection, or quiet prayer. . .
Every day we will meet some form of suffering--in ourselves or another human being. The question of how we meet this suffering and what we can do about it becomes a vital inquiry that we are called to respond to in ways that are helpful, hopeful and healing. Instead of thinking that we need to have answers or solutions to every difficulty, maybe we could simply practice the art of blessing. It could be a silent blessing or a smile blessing or a touch blessing or a written blessing or a fresh flower blessing. The avenues of expression are endless. How we offer the blessing isn't as important as our intention to bless.
I believe that the ability to bless is a true form of power and alchemy that we each possess if we choose to utilize this resource within our being.
I recently ended a yoga class by asking everyone to place their hands over their heart and offer themselves a blessing. I guided each person to imagine this circle of light around themselves and to ask for the blessing that they most longed to receive: for the health of their body, peace of mind, freedom from a particular worry or fear, or any concern that was most troubling. It's only when we are able to receive the blessing for ourselves that we can naturally offer it to others.
Consider this latent super power that you possess: to bless and be a blessing. Contemplate how you can be a blessing in your various roles and relationships. Do you have a heart that is available to receive the blessings that are being offered to you? Create a simple ritual each morning before you leave the house to take a moment to bless yourself and really feel that you have been gifted with a special blessing. Then ask to be a blessing for another. Silently bless each person you see. Remain open to the opportunities to offer protection, strength or healing to someone else in any way that feels genuine.
Notice the blessing bearers in your life. Appreciate, love and cherish them. Do not take lightly those that gift this kind of grace, as O'Donohue says:
It is such a privilege to have people who continue each day to bless us with their love and prayer. These inner friends of the heart confer on us inestimable gifts. In these times of greed and externality, there is such unusual beauty in having friends who practice profound faithfulness to us, praying for us each day without our ever knowing or remembering it. There are often lonesome frontiers we could never endure or cross without the inner sheltering of these friends. It is hard to live a true life that endeavors to be faithful to its own calling and not become haunted by the ghosts of negativity, therefore, it is not a luxury to have such friends; it is necessary.
May the immeasurable beauty and belonging of blessing meet each of us in the particular way we most need. May we remain faithful to the calling to respond in kind. May we be continuously grateful.
Bless you. Bless you. Bless you.
What My Clients Are Saying:
"I know that “life changing” is a bit over used but it best describes how I feel about what Jenny Clarke offers with "The Courage to Create" course. She uses the metaphor of the labyrinth. A twisted turning path with hidden chambers that takes you to the center and then back out again with new insights. I took the private version of this program. The weekly lessons took me to the core of who I am. Along the way looking into some long closed chambers where we cleared out a few ghosts and discovered some buried gems. At the end of the course I emerged forever changed with a new understanding and appreciation of who I am. You can not get lost in a labyrinth as long as you keep moving forward. The journey begins when you take the first step. I highly recommend that you take the first step and sign up for the Courage to Create!" ~L.H.
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