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.

An Experiment with Being Present

Of course I want to be more conscious and more present. Who doesn’t? Being able to sustain longer periods of presence is an on-going goal of mine. Yet I spend most of my time lost in my thoughts. For simplicity sake, let’s say there are 3 major energy centers where your attention can land – your head, your heart space and your pelvis. In general, your head includes thoughts and also spiritual connection to source. Your heart space can be about connection, expansion and sense of self. The pelvis includes the whole pelvic bowl and is about creativity and power. It is interesting to consider what percentage of time you spend in each of these energy centers during an average day.

img_2810I decided to do an experiment. I set an intention to spend the whole day being present with what is in this moment. I not only wanted to be present with “this,” but attempt to take it one step further to be One with it.

I started the day sitting at the computer and became aware of a nagging pain in my sacroiliac joint. This is not new. Usually I try to ignore it and hope it will go away. Today I gently nudged right into it and heard something make a slight popping sound. I didn’t think much of it until I stood up and realized it had adjusted itself.

Okay. Good start.

Then I was in line at the gas station and saw a young man drive by in a truck. I thought about my adult son who is having some troubles and, long story short, lost his truck. I was immediately triggered and started to feel really sad as my mind sunk into that whole story. There is a bottomless pit of heartache around that, and, for a moment, I was concerned that going there and being One with that would swallow me up for the whole day. I stayed with it though and road the wave of emotion and sensation. I included my pelvis for grounding, and it was truly intense. I won’t sugarcoat it.

Okay. Not good.

I was beginning to understand why it is tempting to simply ignore this present moment. It’s intense! I had a momentary distraction doing some shopping and was starving by the time I got home. I gobbled down my salad so fast I got food stuck in my throat.

Okay. Not mindful.

I slowed down, but what was that about? I became present and got in touch with the little kid inside that was starving and wanted food now. That greedy, hungry, little animal that wants what she wants and wants it now! Do I really

fullsizeoutput_5dwant to be One with that part of myself now? Do I have a choice? Not today. So I sat down to meditate and let that part express herself fully. She goes something like this, “I want, I want, I
want. I need, I need, I need, etc…” After a while I remembered a compassion exercise in which you enlist your witness consciousness self to say “I’m sorry that you have unfulfilled wants, needs and desires.” And you keep going with specifics about your feelings at the time until you have exhausted all possible avenues. That felt deeply satisfying, and then, when I opened my eyes, this beautiful, compassionate lady (Kuan Yin) was looking straight at me from the mantel.

Okay. Not perfect, but it’s a start.

Karma vs. Causality

We are entering the dimension where we have control – the inside.                                              ~Byron Katie

When bad things happen to you, how you explain it to yourself and make sense of it can make all the difference in the world. Many people use the concept of Karma. Karma is the idea that what goes around comes around, and it is satisfying to use when you are singing the ‘someone done me wrong’ song. But it feels a little like blame when you apply it to yourself. Another way to explain things is that it’s God’s Will. There’s not much that is more irritating than hearing that when tragedy strikes.

In my book, Chasing Serenity, (buy here) Jasmine, Maya’s unseen guide, explains the Law of Causality to her one day when Maya is in a pit of despair.

“This is the Law of Causality. You will inevitably attract the opposite reality of what you IMG_0079_2desire until you come fully into resonance with it and learn the lesson. You are always given ample opportunity to heal the aching illusion of lack and to heal the separation wherever it manifests in your life or body. Life circumstances cause us to wake up if we dare. Do you dare to be aware?”

Then Maya says, “So that is always the point – when life happens, and we feel unloved or unlovable or have fallen into a pit of despair, it is urging us to look past the mundane, childhood programming, and ego-mind chastising.”

Jasmine continues, “Yes, but of course, my darling. You are basically love and light, plain and simple. That’s all you need to know ever.”

Harsh realities are not designed to induce guilt, shame, blame, hopelessness and self-reproach in us humans. They are realities plain and simple. They are not intended to cause us to brace ourselves against life and hold on tighter to the past.

No matter how bad the outside circumstances look, the key is to make the switch and img_2814begin to notice how you feel inside. Just notice. Maybe your boyfriend did cheat on you, maybe your boss is never going to give you that raise, or maybe a family member is always going to treat you abusively. It is still not about what’s happening outside of you. You probably don’t have much control over that anyway. It’s what’s happening inside you that counts.

People struggle with the Serenity Prayer notion of accepting the things they cannot change. Acceptance starts with accepting yourself for how you are feeling first – whatever that might be. No need for spiritual by-pass. Get real with yourself and what’s inside right now. Let what is be as it is right now. From there, it is just a short hop, skip and a jump to start to question how much longer can you stay angry, depressed, jealous, resentful, feeling disrespected and rejected? That is the question.

As Byron Katie is fond of saying:                                                                                                     We are entering the dimension where we have control – the inside.

Yoga Teacher Goes Crazy

I started teaching a yoga class called Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is a deeply relaxing guided meditation. It’s similar to Corpse Pose or Shavasana that you may be familiar with at the end of many yoga classes. Yoga Nidra means “yogic sleep” and takes you to the place between waking and sleep where you can experience such profound stillness and silence that you can awaken to your essential nature as pure awareness.

I consider it a privilege to have the honor to be a guide for people in this way. The only problem is that I find myself having reactions to people’s reactions. People love to IMG_1004give you feedback which is their prerogative, but what they might not realize is that just because they like it a certain way that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is going to like it that way. One person likes this; the other likes that. I was starting to go crazy managing all the needs and responses of my students when I decided I needed to take my own advice and use my reactions to dive deeper into my own defensiveness and resistance.

Yoga by its very nature is a contradiction in terms. On the one hand, you are there to reach that blissful state of union with the All, and, on the other, there are forces conspiring against your ability to get there. It could be an external distraction like traffic noise that just gets stuck in your craw. Or (more likely) it could be an internal disturbance like “I can’t do this yoga pose perfectly, so the teacher shouldn’t ask me to do it. I’m going to talk with her after class about the scientific research that shows IMG_0688that pose is bad for your body.” It is these internal conflicts that disguise themselves so well that we don’t recognize that they coming from our own conflicts between our ego minds and reality.

Yoga teachers, myself included, make sure to provide the precaution to “Listen to your body,” and give you adaptive poses for the more difficult ones. But still our comparing minds persist and insist.

So why was I getting so upset by the feedback?

Then I remembered a phrase that my yoga teacher, Yogi Amrit Desai, often uses. “Let go of the need to do it perfectly.” Ah ha! I was putting pressure on myself to do it perfectly not only so that everyone had a great experience, but also so I wouldn’t get in trouble for not doing it perfectly. This deep belief goes back to childhood when we would get punished or lose love and attention if we spilled our milk or pooped our pants. Many of us learned that it is essential to try to control our impulses to avoid the shame and embarrassment, and, when that failed, try to control the environment. A lot of us also learned that adults often blame outside circumstances for their mistakes, and we adopted that approach by default.

So where do I go from here? What if I could let go of the shame and blame just long enough to be with the impossible imperfection of the All?

Mixing Business With Pleasure

I don’t know about you, but working together with other people can be exhausting!

I am attempting to put my work out there more these days, and that requires coordination with agencies, websites, publicity, payroll and people! I was getting discouraged because I was running into roadblocks at every turn.

“What’s the universe trying to tell you,” says my well-meaning friend.

“That I should crawl back in a hole and never come back out again?” This option is actually very appealing to me. I am an introverted Cancerian, so sitting at home making art sounds perfectly delectable. I don’t think, however, that is what the universe is telling me.

I recently attended a workshop on the neuroscience of creating, relating and resilience, that was quite eye opening. The workshop leader, Joanna Clyde Findlay, is doing research on trauma, and how to help people get beyond the feelings of victimization without getting re-triggered. Anytime you go back into the distressing material, there is the likely possibility that the brain will go back into that state of fight, flight or freeze and re-experience the trauma all over again. Her research is on art therapy, so she has designed a protocol to address trauma. It’s quite simple really. The short version is that first you make a representation of the distressing situation or incident. Then, you change it.

I made a paper sculpture of an obstacle course with myself as a kind of board game figureimg_3040 that has to figure out how to go over, under, and through all the obstacles. It felt hard, unrewarding and downright depressing. It put me back into those feelings of alternately  being over-reactive and angry or else defeated and resigned. When she said to change it, I wanted to throw it out and start all over again. Then in the next breath, she clarified… to change it without throwing it out.

I started cutting out the figure to make her more streamlined which felt good. After working for a while, I started drawing pictures of people on the obstacles. They turned out to be the exact people who I have been working with to start new programs and classes. (The unconscious is uncanny.) Then it dawned on me that the reason my resistance was so great was because of my longstanding difficulty dealing with people. Navigating my needs with theirs img_3041always puts me into that little kid place of being powerless over my parents’ moods and whims. Things like – asking for what you want/need, negotiating, following up, persevering, checking in, clarifying and mixing business with pleasure are all way beyond my skill set.

Anyway, I felt completely different after I changed the piece. It became more like a playground or amusement park where you get to play with different challenges and have fun. (I even put my dog on one. I have a good relationship with him. :))

Over the next couple of days, many of the previous obstacles had started to resolve themselves. I found out about the other people’s circumstances, many of whom were dealing with difficulties of their own. I experimented with new ways of communicating without feeling anxious about whether my needs were going to be met, or not. I let others know that I value the relationship and that made all the difference in the world.

Today I have felt what can almost be described as high. I can deal with other people. They are only people after all. I can care about others in my community and, at the same time, feel cared for too! That can-do feeling is called resilience.

Shedding Your Skin

You may have heard that 2016 is a 9 year. In numerology you add the digits together to come up with the number like this 2+0+1+6 = 9. 9 is a number of completion and endings because next year will be a 1 which is when we get to start again fresh. Also December 12th or 12-12 is considered to be a gateway to higher consciousness so this is an ideal time to shed the old skin and release any energies and emotions that are not yours.

I had a revelation the other night while I was lying quietly in bed in the stillness of the fullsizerender_2night thinking about shedding my skin. The old skin is a metaphor for a habitual energy body that is based on old fears, fallacies and misconceptions from childhood. It is made up of portals, hooks, receptor sites and open invitations for old stuff like limiting self concepts, ancestral patterns, and toxic family members; energies we have been carrying with us for perhaps life times.

Some might be for those people in our lives who can rob us of our power. You know who that is. If you remember Red Dog from the Lynn Andrews stories, he took her marriage basket, which was a symbol for the balance of masculine and feminine energies.

Is there someone in your life who can do that to you?

As I lay there, I could feel that the tensions in my body were alien energies. They were not mine! They are hanging around from ancient maybe ancestral times and may have been IMG_0800the result of trauma and abuse from the past and lingering defensive structures that really don’t serve any longer. Often when I attempt to open up my heart, I can feel a compression that doesn’t allow my heart space to expand. Whatever that is, it is not mine!

Old stories also live in our energy bodies. They have hooks and hangers to latch onto and can get going really quickly. We are powerless to stop the worthlessness, comparisons, and disaster stories unless we remove the sites for them to hang on to. Do you really want to keep that old junker lying around?

That’s where Snake energy can be helpful. We can simply shed the whole energy body coat, pockets and all and be free

When you get this radical idea of shedding your old energetic skin, there is a sense of possibility to really be able to be open to the present. It’s not – “It is what it is.” It’s –“It is what is NOW!”

Peaceful Solstice to you, my brothers and sisters.