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!

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.

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.

Comfortable In Your Own Skin

Early on in my career, I worked at a drug and alcohol recovery center with teenage girls. My supervisor asked me what I wanted to accomplish with the girls, and I said I wanted to help them feel comfortable in their own skin.

“That will never happen,” she said dismissively.

On one hand, I understand what she meant, and yet on the other, I still deeply believe that no matter what trauma we have experienced and no matter how spooked out of our sovereign space we may be, there is still an innate capacity to connect to our own eternal, infinite nature. Words like presence, consciousness, awareness, beingness, knowingness, Soul, expanded sense of self, or true nature point to the ineffable experience.IMG_6059

I recognize that there is a great deal of resistance and the ego-mind might squirm a bit. Often feelings of despair, guilt and resentment are lurking just below the surface. You will inevitably bump into many obstacles digging through the bedrock. Perseverance in the vein of allowing whatever is to be as is can melt ancient armouring along the littered pathway.

Judgments about the rewards to be had from going within often impede coming home to oneself. Thoughts like: “I should feel good, positive, loving, wise or ___________, may cause us to give up before we even begin.

Impatience can be easily subdued with gentle reminders to relax, breathe, allow and most importantly… FEEL. 

It’s okay to feel. It’s good for you to feel.

Feel body sensations. That means all body sensations, whether pleasant or painful. Feel your skin using a sense of heightened awareness. Feel the aliveness of your autonomic nervous system, and bodily functions, like breathing, heartbeat, blood flow, and temperature regulation.

Once you catch a glimpse of dimensionless presence, it will intensify as you continue to focus your attention on it, letting it grow and stepping back to observe and watch and quite simply experience.

Welcome home to the place where your soul resides.