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.

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?”

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.

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.

Picking Up the Poop

My daily horoscope suggested that I needed to take a self care day for myself today. “Who me? I’m fine,” I thought until I sat down to meditate. My mind bounced from thought to thought like a ping pong ball flooding me with unpleasant memories and associations.

“This is an undisciplined mind,” I observed helpless to gain control. When there is so much rimg_2897esistance to dropping in, walking meditation is always an option. So I meandered over to the small serpentine labyrinth I built in the back yard. Since the stones had gotten rearranged over months of neglect, I replaced enough of them to manage to go around.

Standing at the gateway, I asked my question. “How can I encourage my body to stay calm and relaxed even where there is always pain and suffering?” And then I proceeded to take my first step into a heaping pile of squishy dog poop! It was disguised under leafy debris and still soft and gooshy thanks to the recent rains. As I stopped to wipe off my shoe (thankfully I was not barefooted!), I recalled the time when my psychic friend had stayed over. She noticed the dog poop intermingled in the labyrinth and had a psychic conversation with our dogs asking them to please find another spot. Apparently they did not listen because this is still their favorite, albeit sacred pooping zone.

Anyway, it added to my experience because so much of human life involves cleaning up, reworking and repairing stuff. This obviously includes our emotional fallout and psychic debris from every day existence.

That’s the message I got when I reached the center of the labyrinth. As much as I would love to think I can just keep pushing forward following my dreams, sometimes the wise thing to do is just deal with what’s right in front of us – even if that’s just picking up the dog poop.

Going into the Wilderness through Art

IMG_0836The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.     ~Albert Einstein

Am I just getting old or is time speeding up? People in my circle just seem to be getting hit left and right with major life challenges. As we enter the new world, it is becoming increasingly more important to check in with our spirit, soul, selves frequently throughout the day. One way to do that is to make some art. A daily art making practice has the capacity to be a mini-visionquest, and you can bring food and water!

Creativity is part of our true nature. That means that everyone (whether you consider yourself to be a creative person or not) needs to create. But…

You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself. ~ Alan Alda

To be inspired and allow the creative spirit to come through, you need to be present like in meditation. You need to be able to receive the signal. It doesn’t matter how clever or talented you are if you are not connected. A state of allowing what is present right now is the most conducive. What am I feeling, thinking? Allow whatever is there to bubble up without editing. Notice the resistance but let it go.

Scribble technique: To practice, take a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Get centered and still for a moment. Then when you are ready start to scribble. Up and Down, left and right. Circular, jagged. Keep going until you come to a stopping place. Now just take a look. Turn the paper around and pick a spot to go in with color. Use markers or pastels to start coloring in sections that get your attention.IMG_0837

Afterwards take a look and start writing down associations. What got uncovered? Revealed? Discovered? What is trying to get your attention? What do you want to change? Feel free to add or subtract. Date it and give your art a title and you are done.

Making art gives us a chance to stop and get into a relaxed state. No matter how fast time is going, we don’t need to be racing around trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. That’s the old paradigm. When we are tight and tense and wishing things weren’t as they are, we are denying ourselves. We can neutralize external pressures by taking time to expand into the vibration of our own spirit, soul, selves. Making art is one way to do that.

PS: The first scribble is called “Hummmmmmm…” and is a reminder for me to chant throughout the day. The second is called “Healing Light” and looks a lot like the cast on my broken arm (another story) that needed attention.