Songbirds Sing of Surrender

On my walk today, I noticed how I was striving to get up the hill in my usual power walking way. My chest was tight and determined, ready to shatter all obstacles in the way.  In the noticing though there was a deep awareness that I don’t have to push so hard any more. Whether that way has served me or not is up for debate, but let’s just say that now I know another way that feels a whole lot better. I slowed down and took some giant lunges, so I was still working but not striving so hard. I used to love to wail along to those songs about “nobody done told me life was gonna be this hard.” But now I know that those are just beliefs. Statements about whether life is easy or hard are just generalities that may be true or not. The thing is – how do they make you feel?

Life just is.

As I began to slow down, I realized I had neglected to notice that it was a beautiful fullsizeoutput_88spring day. I started listening to birds singing all kinds of incredible songs. One in particular caught my attention. It was as if the bird was singing harmony with itself as it warbled up and down the scales. It reminded my of the sound rain water makes on a metal roof only more melodic. 

I found a place to lie down and dropped deep into the nothingness and started to wonder.

I have used my will to meet goals and accomplish stuff. There is nothing wrong with will. It’s a function of the 3rd chakra and supports self esteem. Only problem is I spent much of my working life in fight or flight, handling one crisis after the next as if there was some constant invisible threat. That takes a toll on the adrenal glands to say the least. Is there another way to be besides being in that typical jacked-up, intense stress state? Or the opposite – collapsed in a heap trying to recover?

“Surrender to what is,” the songbirds remind me. “Surrender to nature, to your own true nature.  It doesn’t mean you are giving in or giving up. It does mean that your scared, fragile ego will have to stop fighting, running, resisting and pushing. It will thank your in the end. It doesn’t necessarily want you to buy into it’s panic. It just needs to be reined in, and then you can loosen the reins on your soul self. You are free as a bird ~ if you let yourself be.”

So What is the Energy Body Anyway?

We’ve all heard the term “energy body,” and maybe we’ve had experiences of the energy body, but how would you go about trying to explain what it actually means to you? You’ve probably seen the diagram of the outline of the physical body with the circumscribing lines encircling the physical body. These are called Koshas, and thereIMG_0825 are many names for those layers – etheric body, auric body, causal body, prana body, bliss body. For simplicity sake, I’m going to lump them all together today.

I come from years of training and experience in Yoga Nidra. In Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, you are guided into Turiya, which is the 4th state of mind beyond waking, dreaming and sleeping where you experience the transcendental states of the ancient mystics. This is my most direct experience of the energy body.

Yoga Nidra practice combines conscious action (stretching, breathing, and chanting) with conscious receptivity (sensing, feeling, and detached attention) producing a paradoxical state of integration which effectively activates the energy body. If you simply let your mind merge into the flood of energy pulsating in the body, you can connect your individual consciousness with the unified field and experience the blissful illuminated essence of your being.

Being able to access the energy body is very important to your health and vitality. You can think of the energy body as a non-physical dynamic field that distributes prana or life force to and also releases excess energy from the physical body. This fullsizeoutput_2cinvisible body is a living energy made up of invisible subtle matter which functions as a medium to energize, clear and revitalize body, mind and spirit. “The energy is like water which should be moving to keep it fresh. Otherwise you create a stagnant swamp,” says yoga teacher, Marlene Smits.

If you close your eyes for a moment and become still, you can get a sense of this alive energy moving through you. The energy can take certain pathways like the meridians or chakras, but it is up to you to develop your own sense of how the energy moves in your body. Use your detached attention to sense and feel into the alive space that is your energy body. With practice you can build on pleasurable sensations in the body and pulsations of breath and blood flow. Pleasure is key. The more you can allow the intense sensations to build, the healthier and more vital your energy body can become and the closer you come to awakening the bliss body.

For more direct experience, please join me for Yoga Nidra for Relaxation Sunday, March 11 at 10:30 – 11:30 am at April’s Yoga and Pilates in Pacifica, CA.

Inner Visioning

I am preparing for a retreat that I am part of called “Invisioning & Renewal Retreat: A Day to Gather Strength and Wisdom in the Alchemy of Art and Nature.” I thought I would develop a mnemonic device for people to practice and reference as they are experiencing the day in nature and making art called AEIOU. Here goes…

What does Invisioning really mean?

A – Allowing. Allowing is that quality of non-grasping and at the same time not fullsizerender51resisting. We allow whatever is to be as is without having to control, manage or change it.

E- Easefulness. Easefulness is when you let go of all your agendas in the mind and tensions in the body. You go with the flow. There is no need to swim up-stream. Trust is the key word here.

I – Innocence. Innocence is what Suzuki Roshi called “beginner’s mind.” It is when you are looking through your child eyes. Everything means something. You see the world in a blade of grass. Your imagination is active and creative juices are flowing.

O – Openness. Openness is that expansive state we create when we connect to Source or The Field. We make space for our true selves and our deep feelings.

U – It’s all about you and your experience. Keep asking and observing – What is happening in me? There is no out there out there. GURU – Gee, you are you.

I hope you will consider coming to this special event. I would love to BE with you for this day of invisioning and renewal Sat. Feb. 3 at Elkus Ranch just south of Half Moon Bay, CA.

register here –> https://themusicwithinus.com/events/invisioning2018 

Ecotherapy – The Womb of Nature

I recently added Ecotherapy or Nature therapy to my website.  (Amy’s website) It reads:

Ecotherapy, an outdoor option for your therapy session, stems from the idea that people are part of the web of life, and that our psyches are not separate from our natural environment. It provides individuals with an opportunity to explore theirfullsizeoutput_20a relationship with nature and find metaphors and direct experiences that can restore well being. Studies have shown that people who engaged in the natural environment experienced improved mental health, because while we are shaped by the modern social world, our psyches have evolved and adapted to the natural environment. During an eco-therapy session, I will artfully guide you to experience a connection with the living energies of the natural world resulting in a deep and sacred sense of connection with your own spirit/soul/self.

While I have training in eco therapy, the real impetus for the offering is that I lost my office space. I was wondering what I was going to do, when a friend, who knows my love of nature, suggested it. Clients were actually eager to try ecotherapy, and it has IMG_0536been a wonderful experience. Gazing out over the Pacific Ocean, a client talked about the waves of flack that were coming her way at work, and she made an art piece to work with the energies. Another client was admitting her problems with boundaries in her life, when a hawk swooped by being chased by a very vocal smaller bird very clear about her boundaries.

When you are open to it, nature has a way of coming to our aid and holding us in just the way that our souls need.

Soul initiation is often described as a death and a second birth. Like entering a cocoon, your first ego dies and a soul-rooted ego is birthed, not from culture this time, but from the womb of nature.                  ~Bill Plotkin

 

I Am Already There

My intention these days is to carry a sense of presence with me throughout my daily activities. I have gotten to the stage where the time I spend meditating is very enjoyable and rewarding. I enjoy turning my attention inward and can feel a deep sense of restful awareness when I do. However, as soon as I start to “do” something, the busy mind takes over, and, instantly, I am in a race against time and in resistance to reality.

Here is a funny story I read on the toilet this morning from The Teachings of Sri IMG_0380Ramana Maharshi, edited by David Godman that might elucidate the conundrum.

The seeker questions the guru about the difficulty of maintaining one’s peace of mind when you have to work and tend to the needs of one’s family. “Everyday life is not compatible with such efforts,” he laments.

The guru replies: “Why do you think you are active? Take the gross example of your arrival here. You left home in a cart, took a train, alighted at the railway station here, got into a cart there and found yourself in this ashram. When asked, you say that you traveled here all the way from your town. Is it true? Is it not a fact that you remained as you were, and there were movements of conveyances all along the way? Just as those movements are confounded with your own, so also are the other activities. They are not your own, they are God’s activities.”

In other words, if we are inwardly quiet, not forgetting the Self connected to the All, we can be present during all of our movements and activities. There is no doing. There is nothing to accomplish. There is no getting anywhere.

I tried this today as I was getting ready to teach my class. I kept reminding myself. “I am not doing anything.” Then when I was driving there, I told myself, “I am not going anywhere. I am already here.” That was very different from my usual modus operandi. Usually I am filled with anticipation, hustling and bustling to go sit with presence once I get there.

What a shock! I am already there.

Grant Me Serenity

It is common knowledge that a major key to moving forward is acceptance of what is. Wishin’, and hopin’ and prayin’ make a really good song, but don’t always help move the energy.

Acceptance, however, can be a difficult place to access. Others can see and might even tell us that’s what we need to do. Often resentment and resistance persist.

Let’s back up a bit. Remember the Serenity Prayer? It doesn’t ask for acceptance. It fullsizeoutput_40asks for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. In other words, serenity is a precursor to acceptance.

Perhaps, if you so desire, take a moment right now to invite serenity into your
awareness. Take a deep breath in and let it out slowly. Another deep breath in, and let go.

Quiet the mind.

Quiet the heart.

Be present.

Blessed be. ❤

A Certain Sense of We-ness

Funny that now that I am in my 60s, I finally realize that I have been asking the wrong question. Maybe it is the gift of maturity that I finally get it, but the standard beliefs and tenets of modern psychology and Buddhist inquiry conspire against us.

Having studied psychology for 30+ years now, I have been on the path of self-discovery and personal growth. I have been intently interested in the Self with a capital S, and what makes it tick, what makes it suffer, what makes it happy, etc. Coupled with that I have also been interested in exploring all the various aspects of IMG_5176Buddhism. One of the basic practices of Buddhism is self-inquiry, and the big question is “Who am I?” The difference between the two is that modern psychology has the arrogance to think that it can actually answer that question with all the various and sundry theories, research projects and clinical practices. At least with Buddhist inquiry, the more you ask the more you understand that you will never fully grasp the Self, and there is great relief in letting go of the seeking. Once you let go, there is a wonderful surprise waiting for us called awareness. Resting in awareness, identification with a specific self dissolves and witness consciousness emerges. There is still a certain sense of you-ness (perhaps called Oneness), but it is inextricably connected to the All.

I was content with that realization until I read the last paragraph of Buddha’s Nature: A Practical Guide to Discovering Your Place in the Cosmos by Wes Nisker.

Instead of asking “Who am I?” The question could become “Who are we?” Our inquiry then becomes a community koan, a joint millennial project, and we all immediately become great saints – called Bodhisattvas in Buddhism – helping each other evolve.

We all suffer. It doesn’t really matter that my suffering may take a form different than your suffering. I may have money problems while you have family problems and someone else has career problems. The basic fact is that we all know suffering as we can learn here from the telling parable about the mustard seed.

Kisa Gotami had an only son, and he died. In her grief she carried the dead child to all her neighbors, asking them for medicine, and the people said: “She has lost her senses. The boy is dead.” At length Kisa Gotami met a man who sent her to meet Buddha.

“Buddha, give me the medicine that will cure my boy.” The Buddha answered: “I want a handful of mustard-seed.” And when the girl in her joy promised to procure it, the Buddha added: “The mustard-seed must be taken from a house where no one has lost a child, husband, parent, or friend.” Poor Kisa Gotami now went from house to house, and found that there was no house where some beloved had not died.

Kisa Gotami sat down at the wayside, and thought to herself: “How selfish am I in my grief! Death is common to all; yet in this valley of desolation there is a path that leads one to immortality who has surrendered all selfishness.”

Putting away the selfishness of her affection for her child, Kisa Gotami had the dead body buried in the forest. Returning to the Buddha, she took refuge in him and found comfort in the Dharma, which is a balm that will soothe all the pains of our troubled hearts. http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/btg/btg85.htm

So I say to myself “How selfish I have been in thinking that my suffering is special.” Now I’d like to turn toward the collective by asking “Who are we?”

Thinking vs. Knowing

We think we know our own life, but what we know is only an edited version, colored by our emotions and narrow vision.      —Gregg Krech, “Naikan Therapy

Part of being a Modern Day Mystic is distinguishing what you think from what you know. Just the other day, I experienced a rude awakening about the difference between thinking and knowing. I was engaged in a lively inner dialogue between my mother-self and my grown daughter about recent events with her new boyfriend. I found myself lecturing her, and the words started with “I know you….” I had to stop myself and question whether I really did “know” what was going on with her. Quite plainly, I didn’t. I was actually “thinking” this and that about her situation. This realization hit me right between the eyes ~ perhaps that would be in my third eye. 🙂

Catching myself red-handed like that really made me start to wonder about theIMG_6348 different sources of the information that winds up in my head.

This morning I started to consider what book to read while I sat on the toilet. (TMI, I know!) I have a quite a stack. I was thinking that I would pull out one of the daily readers I have, when an image of one of the other books popped into my head. I was going to ignore it, because I had already decided on the daily reader. Since it is my intention lately to really listen to the wisdom of my higher self, I caught myself and decided to go with the book that popped into my head. I was not disappointed. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

I have no idea where the information came from, but it felt different from the everyday thoughts that I have. You might call it intuition. But what, after all, is intuition? What is the source of intuition? Lately I prefer to call it “knowingness.”

My mentor says that we all have our “peeps” that are working behind the scenes to guide and protect us. They include ancestors and our own spiritual guides and helpers. Honestly, I never really understood what she was talking about, but I think I am beginning to.

The other night I had a bout of insomnia. In my mind, I was rehearsing what I had planned to do in yoga class the next day. It was an advanced Sanskrit chanting technique, and it was playing over and over in my head like a broken record. Finally, at my wits end, I decided that it was my “peeps’ trying to get my attention. Maybe they were telling me that it was too advanced, and I needed to change what I had planned. So I promised myself that I would change it to something more basic in the morning. Then I fell right to sleep. When I got to class, I realized it was a good thing because I had 3 new beginning students who may have been turned off by the esoteric chanting.

So, my fellow seekers, I’d be curious to know ~ what kinds of voices do you have going on in your head?

Synchroncities Galore

Are you experiencing more synchronicities these days?
Part of being a modern day mystic is to be able to recognize and acknowledge the existence of synchronicity.  Synchronicity is a concept developed by depth psychologist, Carl Jung. It is the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related, but have no discernible causal fullsizerender_4connection. Even though these phenomena are not testable, the modern day mystic takes that leap of faith that allows him or her to perceive meaningful connection with seemingly unrelated events.

Lately I’ve been notably aware of undeniable, multiple synchronicities.  There are many different types of synchronicity, but I will only talk about a few here.

  1. The Out-of-the-Blue Synchronicity. I attended a workshop and the workshop leader mentioned the work of some teachers that we had both studied 10 years ago. The next day I had a long drive. I blindly reached into a bin of CDs I have in the backseat of the car. I pulled out a stack and the exact CD she was referring to was on the top of the stack. Mind you, I had completely forgotten about it, and I hadn’t play that CD for 10 years. I called the teacher right away, and she was duly impressed. She wanted to borrow it from me because she couldn’t find her copy.
  2. Synchronicity of Convenience. On the way to shopping, I walked past my neighbors garden lamenting to myself that her peach tree had finished producing. I had several different errands to run including getting a few items from the grocery store, most importantly –  some zucchini. I did the other errands and ran out of steam for the grocery store. On the way past the garden again, I was pleased see a large zucchini placed in the “Please Take” bowl.
  3. Be Careful What You Wish For Synchronicity. I was shopping at a discount department store, when I saw the cutest cat bowls with the inscription “Eat, Play, Love.” I thought to myself “If I had cats, I would get those for sure.” We have two dogs and that’s plenty. Then two weeks later, my husband, who is really not that fond of cats, mentioned that the cat rescue people were at the local pet store. I said, “That’s nice, hunny,” without giving it a second thought. Then ten minutes later I was over there and ended up adopting two darling, orange tabby farm kittens.

Synchronicity can be explained by the Law of Attraction, and it can be worked so that instead of the connection being seemingly unrelated, you use your intention to bend the outcome in your favor. That’s involves more intentionality. Being a little on the lazy side, I prefer to delight in the surprise factor of synchronicity. Sometimes my higher self has a better vantage point on what I really need, and what would support my higher purpose.

I’d love to hear about what kind of synchronicites are happening in your life.

YOGA NIDRA for Relaxation

Yoga Nidra explores and lengthens the alpha state, a thin space between sleep and wakefulness, a brain wave length often sought after for higher quality rest.  Yoga Nidra rebalances the nervous system, so you arise with a clean slate, starting from a refreshed, rebalanced state.                                               ~Gina Sager, MD

If you are looking for a practice that can access deep peace and connect you with your eternal nature as pure consciousness, consider Yoga Nidra.

In the current political and global climate, many of us are feeling anxious and uncertain.  It is no wonder since we are constantly being bombarded with stimuli that pull us outside of ourselves. The tendency is to want to turn away from what we are experiencing inside, and we end up feeling separate and powerless.

FullSizeRender-11The beauty of a practice like Yoga Nidra is that it gently and efficiently invites you to turn toward your own experience. It dissolves the boundaries, tension and defensiveness between inside and outside, so that you can realign with your feelings, and body sensations. In doing so, you can surrender to an identification with the eternal, infinite nature of pure consciousness that we are.

When I was first introduced to Yoga Nidra, I had already studied many relaxation techniques that were perfectly good, but I would soon find the tensions and contractions creeping back into the body. With Yoga Nidra and its deep exploration of the body as it is really experienced, I went to a place between waking and sleep where my body-mind could really hit the reset button.

Yoga Nidra activates the parasympathetic nervous system. It is a systematic multi-staged series of ancient relaxation techniques that invites the body to drop into the most profound level of stillness and silence. You enter a dimension of trust and faith where it is possible to completely release all tensions from the body and anxieties from the mind.

This simple, easeful practice is a doorway to a state of effortless ease where we can awaken to our essential nature of pure awareness. Our bodies respond to the progressive guidance with the deep knowing that it is okay to relax and simply be.

YOGA NIDRA for Relaxation is coming to April’s Yoga and Pilates click here in Pacifica every Sunday 10:30 – 11:30 am starting July 16th.  Please join me with my XL heart chakra crystal singing bowl to experience this deeply relaxing and rejuvenating ancient practice.