Experiencing: Awaken to Your Aliveness

Being mindful is not a matter of thinking more clearly about experience; it is the act of experiencing more clearly. ~Sam Harris

People often comment that they can’t meditate because as soon as they start meditating, the mind starts chattering away, and then, before you know it, the time is up. Does this sound familiar? 

Experiencing is a very satisfying way to approach your meditation time. It is simple to dofullsizeoutput_421 when you focus on the sensations in the body as energy and vibration, and thereby merge into the field of awareness.

Experiencing is different from having an experience, however wonderful that experience might be. It is different from being entertained like watching a movie. It is even different from being mindful. I can be mindful in the way I eat my food, or slow down my pace and walk mindfully. Your awareness is surely heightened, but these are still more like having an experience, memorable though it may be. It is different also from being in the present moment. I like to make a habit of being in the present moment in the grocery check out line. It’s more enjoyable that way, but I am still very aware of my surroundings. With experiencing you lose the awareness of your surroundings and merge into a field of energy. It is not easy to describe without sounding cuckoo. It feels like every single cell in your body just wakes up all at the same time.

Daydreaming can be a form of experiencing if you are conscious that you are indeed daydreaming. To experience you do enter a trance-like state of being. There is ordinary reality when you are thinking and doing and planning and taking care of things. Then there is non-ordinary reality where you are tuned in to the awareness of you at this moment in time and space. 

I find it difficult to experience with my eyes open. Open eyes directs the awareness outside. Although it can be done and concentration on body sensations can be maintained, the eyes are quick to pick up things to focus on. Then the mind immediately enters and follows up with a story about that thing.

Staying present with what is is a subtle pursuit and the mind becomes easily bored. “Really? Is this all we are doing right now? Is this really doing anything anyway?” Actually, no. It’s the opposite of doing – simply being and feeling.

fullsizeoutput_9f4When you bring your attention inside, it can feel very intense. At times it’s difficult to stay with the intensity, and so, in a split second, the mind is back telling stories and hashing things out. Ego jumps in and wants to make sure s/he is not to blame for any problems or concerns that arise, and, before you know it, you are back to the races with the busy mind chitter chattering away.

Then the task becomes to refocus on the sensations in the body as energy and vibration, slow the breath and settle in to stillness and silence. To heighten the sense of aliveness, tune in to the heartbeat and the flow of blood in the body.

Feel it, be it, experience it. You are alive! Awaken to your aliveness!

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 

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. ❤

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.

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.

Is Making Art Selfish?

At the end of this last intuitive painting workshop, one participant shared that someone said to her that making art was selfish, and she should focus on her other work in which she is giving to others. Is making art and giving your heart and soul the nourishment and attention it needs selfish?

Not everybody instantly understands what intuitive painting is all about. I can point in the direction of how to make art from your inner landscape, but ultimately it is up to you to img_2814find your way through the wreckage. Yes, wreckage. We bring to the blank paper so much emotional baggage from our pasts, our families and loved ones, and our cultural conditioning that it can be intimidating to dive into the creative process.

What’s going on inside must be acknowledged first and foremost. If not, the shadow aspects will intervene and cause lots of confusion. Once you let yourself know that you are going to listen to the Inner Voice, only then do you get cooperation from your creative spirit. It is safe to show up.

That is why we start each workshop with meditation so that people can get lined up with their true selves.  This is a very important step and helps participants to put their toes in the water first to test the temperature. Your intuition is your ally on the journey, and it is accessed through the depth of your being and knowing.

During the meditation we are gathering our scattered energies and bringing our emotional img_2810lives to the forefront. People think art is about how well you can represent something, but creativity is about giving your emotional life permission to express itself unconditionally. There is no need to suppress and repress our truth. Showing up as artists involves being vulnerable, telling our truth and exposing our emotional selves.

After I finish guiding the meditation, people are free to create. Even with the intention to use our intuition, doubt and hesitation still creep in. During this last workshop, I read this quote from Deepak Chopra as participants were starting to find their way with the materials.

Today I will factor in uncertainty as an essential ingredient of my experience. 
In my willingness to accept uncertainty, solutions will spontaneously emerge out of the problem, 
out of the confusion, disorder and chaos.

img_2822Being able to embrace uncertainty, an important skill when making art, is an invaluable life skill. It involves trusting whatever shows up and how it shows up. It teaches us how to trust ourselves.

Paying attention to our emotional well-being and taking the time to risk expressing our true selves is not indulgence. It is essential to our vitality

As you can see, participants dove right in and explored, experimented and allowed the art to happen. Making art is not selfish. Art is a exquisite interplay of making it happen and letting it happen, and, in the process, nurturing yourself and healing the world!

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