Thursday, December 30, 2010

Food and Spirituality: Creating a New Connection to Nourishment

Bring mindfulness to your food in the New Year. This free talk and webinar will help you connect to your food in a new way. It will cover topics such as:

The role of food--Beyond uses for survival

Breaking old eating patterns

5 techniques to developing a new connection to your food

What is "spiritual" in the context of food?

I'll also share my own stories on the topic and have a brief Q&A at the end.

1/6/11 4pm PST (7pm EST)

Dial-in Number: (712) 338-7506
Conference Code: 6609857

Please Register on this Link:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Heart Awakening: Falling in Love with Everybody

I feel like pausing from the string of blog posts about cultivating an awakening to talk to those of you within the spiritual awakening process. In earlier blog posts, I've talked about how to connect to your heart. The work to do this always starts with you, and then it spreads out to others. Ultimately, there is no other, and we are all one. At the start of the spiritual path, this seems like an absurdity spouted off by non-dualists and other people trying to be profound and impressive. You may poke a friend and say, "You feel very different from me," proving your point that you end at your fingertip. That's essentially where we all start out within the confines of the ego, but as the ego dissolves, so too do those boundaries. And when the heart awakens, a whole new world unfolds.

I AM Love!
I believe that when the heart awakens you'll never see the world the same. Over night, you become an unwavering advocate for all life--from the tiniest ant to the foulest dictator. All the ways where separateness ruled your life, those melt away. It's an incredibly powerful awakening, although I don't consider it the only one. When body, heart, and mind all awaken, the soul comes into its full embodied awakening. The heart is an amazing piece of this journey, and if you've come to this place, it may be hard to stop smiling. You are love. How could you not smile?

Appreciating the Pain of Others
Standing in the space of your heart--in the space of boundless and unconditional love--is extraordinary. But others aren't there. In this space, this last sentence is an absurdity. I know that if you're reading this from a heart awakening then my suggestion that anyone is not also in this space makes no sense. Because you get it. You see the ultimate truth of interconnection and you see the threads of love running throughout everything. Your energy may even be drawing out this love from all those around you, sending their unconsciousness and pain into remission. In yet others, the pain may come forth more vehemently, trying to be acknowledged and healed by you. And truly you can do it. But it's not yours to heal.

The deeper loving awareness tempered by an awakened mind is able to see and appreciate the pain that others live in without trying to change it. Ultimately, there is nothing to change, and in this world, it is important to appreciate the suffering that others have chosen. Just as you will have seen how virtually all of your suffering has been created by you, now you must learn to love and appreciate others and their suffering.

Others' Suffering Doesn't Mean You Have to Suffer Too
Your heart energy is now immense. A part of you wants to save the world. A part of you wants to wipe out and end suffering all at once because you know that it can be done. You know that suffering can all end in one singular instant because you no longer believe in the ego and its games of time and separation. You are right. It can happen this way. The entire world can wake up in this one moment, but just as you had to follow your path to such profound love, so too do others. With that said, you no longer need to suffer with others while they get there. You will certainly be able to aid and assist those who are ready to heal, but no one can ever be carried into awakening. No one can have their suffering removed from them (except from time to time, God's grace gets offered in some situations--but no one can influence that intervention).

So I urge you not to suffer needlessly again. I know you want to share your heart with everyone, but it's not yet time to do so. Those with awakened hearts still need to respect the limitations of their energy and body. True heart awakening knows that the awakened self--while illusory--still needs to be nurtured and protected as much as all those others. And I know that this still may be hard to understand if you're so completely awakened that other/self is a dual concept that no longer makes sense. But rest assured, much like you have to feed the body with food (which is a physical version of duality), you have to feed and care for your heart as a separate entity too.

The Beauty of an Awakened Heart
This is a profoundly beautiful time for you. You will see the best in everyone. No problem can't be overcome. No wound cannot be healed. This is truth. This is ultimate reality. But you will also have to learn to respect the duality that most people live in on this world. And most of the world isn't ready to live in such a high energy space. When survival is the primary mode of existence, that's what must be addressed first. But we are all headed in this awakened direction, and with a lot of patience and love, pretty soon many people's hearts will wake up and fall in love with everybody.

Today's "lovely" photo comes from my student, Missy. Thanks, dear one!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Healing Family Issues and Karma

Family is the home of some of our greatest issues and greatest opportunities for freedom. And depending on your family, there can be some incredibly serious issues that have to be addressed. Truly, the topic of this spirituality blog post is a book in and of itself, but I'll offer a few insights to help you find some constructive ways of healing as you progress on your spiritual path.

It Ain't All Bad
Few family relationships are all bad. Outside of situations which are physically and seriously emotionally abusive, most families live in the spaces of verbal jabs, dirty looks, manipulation, guilt-tripping, and obligation. It's not fun. And the energy in and around most families is very rarely particularly clean. We also generally end up acting out our old roles once we get in the family circles. But for all the annoyances and long held grievances, there are good parts of family. And hopefully, one of those good points is love.

It Ain't the Cleanest Love, But It's Something
Since most families haven't been working out their karma or issues in a spiritual context, love from family can feel like this mixed drink with one part clear, crisp water and another part river bottom sediment. Because so many people have been drinking this mix for so long, it's deeply informed them of what love is. At it's purest, love is deep, expansive, and unconditional. Love never judges, but as you fall into it, you fall into a deep, deep place of integrity with yourself and with the world. I'm sure that's not what you grew up with. But as you spend time with your family, start to pay attention at where the love is the cleanest. When a family member is coming from that place, do your best to meet it and acknowledge it. So often we get caught up in pitched battles and arguments where we disagree, but when you stop and find where things are healthy, you can choose to nurture those places.

It Still May Be a Freaking Mess
Of course, if this is the first time you've changed your behaviors to nurture love in your family, it may be awhile before any of your family members can really reciprocate or adjust. I suppose in this way, family is a labor of love. And of course, there may be ways where you still need to stand up in your authentic power to be you. You can't shrink from conflict, although you don't need to seek it. If you've been involved in family conflicts all the time, your path is most likely leading towards letting go and no resistance. If you've always been avoiding family conflicts, then your path is most likely leading towards standing up for yourself. These are broad generalizations, and as always, I encourage you to develop your inner knowing and discernment around these situations. But I do encourage you to trust yourself and to not be afraid if things get messy. It's family; that's kinda the nature of the beast.

Severely Abusive Situations
As I mentioned before, this advice applies best to moderately healthy families. In situations where beatings or humiliations are common, the best action often is to leave the situation. Especially as you go down the spiritual path, you'll find that you absolutely have to have people who treat you with love and kindness. You can't learn what authentic love is when you're still feeling absolutely crushed and destroyed. That's not okay. So you have to find the courage to leave. You may not necessarily leave your family for ever, but a break from that energy field may be necessary for a long time until you're at a point of inner strength where you can face the situation safely.

Clearing Family Karma
The thing about family karma is that it's group work. There's only so much you can do. Yet, as you grow on the spiritual path, you'll find yourself more and more immersed in these issues because they are the basis for a lot of core and limiting beliefs. The spiritual awakening process takes us through EVERYTHING. To be a reborn person means that you have to re-create a new foundation. In many ways, a lot of issues that you found in your mind and heart will be rooted down in your family up-bringing. It really is a gut-check.

Thus, you may have thought that you weren't smart at all. Then you realized that part of that was that you didn't love yourself. Then you realized that you were giving up your intellectual power in many of your relationships, and now down at the base of your world, you remember a time when your father called you an idiot. And it stuck.

In truth, he was probably acting out something that happened to him with a teacher or another family member. So clearing this issue for yourself becomes a powerful alchemy. It breaks a cycle of self-harm in your family, and this does have an effect on the family energy field. You may also need to claim your intelligence with him in some way. It really depends on your individual situation. But I do know that as you clear these issues, you may also want to fill this space with affirmations and actions to reclaim this issue. Go slowly here. Take time to be in spaciousness. There's no need to create a new identity that claims to be smart. Trusting yourself and what feels true is the smartest thing you can ever do, and sometimes we learn how to be quiet and listen. Sometimes we speak up, which naturally shows our intelligence. There's no one in particular that you need to be, and that includes in your family.

But this will likely rock the familial boat.

Take It Slow: Your Family Might Not Know What Hit It
Family karma is so sticky that you might really upset some of your family members as you clear these issues. Or rather, the level of upset feelings in your family will be revealed as you let go of your role in maintaining the illusions that were in part hiding some of them. You will have to find patience so that they can catch up, and you will likely have to accept that many family members--much like other relationships--won't be joining you on this journey.

I know that this can be hard, but this is part of having courage on the spiritual path. You've let things go on long enough, and in your heart, you know that you haven't been happy with how things have gone. Take a step forward on your path and open your heart to clearing these issues. With a lot of love, you can let go of long held family grudges, old issues, and karma. In so doing, you may be amazed at the freedom and the love that now may flow into your life perhaps from your family, but very likely from others who will appear in your life. Because issues and karma block others out. When you remove the blocks, if your current family can't travel with you, your next spiritual family will appear to hold you and love you in a new and beautiful way.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Christmas Without Ego?

With Christmas a couple days away, my friend and student Susan offers thoughts about true giving.

I wonder what Christmas would be like without ego. Imagine handing a gift to someone waiting in anticipation to see their reaction. The person receives the gift then kindly smiles back but nothing more. Then your head spins in disbelief. You ponder why your loved one did not bother to thank you for such a delightful gift. This makes me wonder what Christmas would be like without hearing a single, “thank you.”

A similar event happened to me when I was purchasing a birthday gift recently. The person picked it out, so I knew they wanted it. However, I didn’t hear an actual “thank you” from the time I made arrangements to buy it to the time the person got it.  A dark feeling gnawed at me all afternoon.  I noticed the ego trying to make its way through the back door. Then I realized I just received a great gift and lesson myself.

The recent event encouraged me to ponder why we give? Are we giving with the purest intention or to just to receive recognition for the thoughtfulness? Is that truly being thoughtful? I wonder if it is as simple as human nature to want a “thank you.” Perhaps it’s just the polite thing to do. Maybe you are reading this and think you do not have any problem giving unconditionally. Well have you ever been upset after not receiving an immediate response when you did something thoughtful?

I further realized giving unconditionally not only includes considering the benefit of all, but also considering all outcomes. If we gave unconditionally there would be no need to wonder what the outcome would be let alone receiving gratitude. This can be implemented in all aspects of life whether you are at work, consoling a friend, or opening a door for a stranger. They are all different types of service. I encourage you to ask yourself if you are participating in something to feel good about yourself for giving or are you doing it to benefit everyone with the purest intention. I hope throughout the holiday season you will look within and think about how much a “thank you” means to you.

Susan started to cultivate a deeper relationship with the Creator four years ago when she was introduced to the works of Eckhart Tolle's, "The Power of Now" by Jim Tolles. Her life has been transformed in countless ways since then.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Inner Knowing

My friend and student Susan offers another short vignette about the spiritual path. For my additional thoughts about inner knowing/intution, you can click on my "What Is Intuition?" blog post.

My friend, how can I make you see you are hurting inside?
You see it but you don’t acknowledge it.
I want to take the pain away from you and break the cycle.
However, you can only do that for yourself.
All I can do is show compassion, love, patience.
For my happiness is dependent on your happiness.
If you hurt, I hurt. If you are happy, I am happy.
We are all intertwined although we seem to be different people.
My inner knowing respects that you can only experience this.
You have moments of perceived happiness, but is it just a curtain?
Only you know if you look within.

Susan started to cultivate a deeper relationship with the Creator four years ago when she was introduced to the works of Eckhart Tolle's, "The Power of Now" by Jim Tolles. Her life has been transformed in countless ways since then.

Realizing Impermanence

My friend and student Susan offers her musings on the spiritual path.

I experience a moment of sorrow, of loss.
This too shall pass.
I experience a moment of happiness with another.
This too shall pass.
Moments of grief, perceived love, pain, thankfulness.
This too shall pass.
The importance of being rather than collecting these fleeting images of my mind.
Ask nothing in return from them, for being alive to experience them is enough.
How difficult it is to remind myself that all experiences are impermanent.
Why, in unconscious thought, do I want an outcome out of something?
It is perfect in itself.
Fear of attaching to the non-attachment.
Even as I write these very words, the moment passes.
Nothing can be without impermanence.

Susan started to cultivate a deeper relationship with the Creator four years ago when she was introduced to the works of Eckhart Tolle's, "The Power of Now" by Jim Tolles. Her life has been transformed in countless ways since then.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Healing Sexual Dysfunction: Abstinence and Self Denial

Last week, I talked about some things about sexuality that most people would more commonly see as sexually dysfunctional. This week, I am swinging over to the other end of the spectrum to take on sexual self-denial and illuminate how harmful this is to all of us.

Debunking the Glory of Abstinence
Because of whatever puritanical traditions that have put fear and shame into millions of people around their sexuality, abstinence has become this vaunted term of purity. And it's a huge problem. The idea is, of course, that you want to wait to have sex until marriage. But along with that, there's definitely a strong implication that any sexual expression or action you take, such as masturbation, is almost equally bad. And it should never be openly discussed or explored anymore than is necessary. If you have to do it, just take care of it and move on with more important stuff in your life.

In many respects, the idea of abstinence for many is the total denial of our sexual nature with no relief in sight until marriage. And then people wonder why many individuals rush into marriage. It's the relief of finally having social (and of course personal) approval to have and explore their sexuality that drives many people. For 2008, the divorce rate in the U.S. stood at 40%, btw.

Control, Shame, and Fear Destroying and Perverting Sexuality
The above descriptors are three of the top issues that we all have to clear as we come into a spiritual awakening. The fact that so many people think that those emotions and issues are acceptable in association with sexuality is grossly problematic. I already mentioned it's effect on marriages (although there are a lot of issues with why people get married, but don't underestimate the influence of sexuality in there). Let's take a look at puberty and teenagers.

Puberty is everyone's natural sexual awakening. While some families may actually talk with their kids about this, others don't. And sexual education isn't much for helping anyone understand the emotional, physical, and spiritual energetic aspects of coming into union. So in many ways, teens are left to fend for themselves or to pull together whatever ideas they can from each other and the media (and the media's view of sexuality is really distorted, but that can wait for another blog post).

So what's the harm? Here's some stats to consider:
  • "The United States has the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and births in the western industrialized world. Teen pregnancy costs the United States at least $7 billion annually."
  • 750,000 teens get pregnant every year.
  • 2/3 of teens who get pregnant won't graduate high school (This leads to many of them staying in poverty).
And of course, a pregnant teen feels like she's wearing the Scarlet Letter in this society or is a social leper. They aren't embraced, and they are treated as if they've done something horrible and dirty. Granted, it's important that teens learn to be responsible and take care of themselves, but we all need to look at puberty as the doorway into sexual understanding. Society as a whole needs to have much more compassion and support for single teen moms.

When Puberty and Sexuality Are No Longer Taboo Topics
Truly, when teens are coming into their sexuality, we really are sending them out into the woods with no tools to survive. On many other levels, we give them huge amounts of training. Think of all the training that's offered to learn math. I loved learning math by the way, but my calculus knowledge has really not done much in my career. It's nice to have the extra knowledge in case I need it. When it comes to sex, there's almost no help, which is ironic. It's such a basic, natural part of life. Sexual energy creates life. It's the most powerful process that all of us possess, and yet, it's locked in the bedroom or backseat of a car in the dark. This does create some of the perversions that I mentioned in the last blog post. This also creates a lot of fear projected towards anyone who is comfortable with their sexuality. There are some amazing Western Tantra teachers out in the world, but they're approached with this mixture of fear and shame because many people are afraid of their sexuality and the rawness of its power.

Breaking Control and Coming Into Ownership of Sexual Energy
To heal abstinence and self-denial, you have to break this idea of control. Much of the media and other ideas floating around tell us that we have to have a specific sexual experience. Trying to control our bodies and our partners to achieve these sexual experiences distorts the process and gets in the way of the deeper union that you can have energetically with yourself or with a partner. I say "with yourself" because learning to understand the energies of sexuality through your own practice is crucial. When you can fully own your sexuality within your space, coming to a sexual relationship with a partner metamorphoses. You realize something very important: You realize that your partner doesn't have your fulfillment.

After that realization, what happens in your sexual meeting with a partner will occur of its own intelligence. Much of what I teach is about helping you to recognize the natural intelligence within you. On every level from your heart to your intuition to your sexuality, there is a natural intelligence that knows what it needs and will move you to it when you let go of control. Trusting in that sexual intelligence will open you up to levels of intimacy and union that you could not imagine.

The Goal Is Not to be Out of Control in Your Sexuality
At this point, some people are so desirous of sexual connection and fulfillment that they want to interpret this blog post as a reason to just go crazy with sexuality. That's not the point at all. Exploring your sexuality is important, but really, you should always start with yourself. As you develop a new relationship with your sexuality, then you should seek a partner. This new relationship with your sexuality is essential because if you've been buried in self-shame and self-denial, you're going to have a lot of issues come up just within a personal sexual practice. (A personal sexual practice, by the way, is a little more than masturbation, but for now, stimulating and exploring your body in a mindful way is a good step one into building that practice.)

To begin to come into ownership of your sexuality is what is important. Controlling your sexuality is not ownership. Most of the time, it's simply a denial of this energy in you. You're going to want to spend at least a half hour every other day and then moving to once a day to build this practice to really learn about your body and to learn all the harmful levels of shame, control, and fear that you've absorbed. You can start to use the energy of the orgasm to release these things. It's one way that you can start to comprehend the beautiful energy that you have and all that you can do with it beyond simple physical pleasure or creating a new life for this world.

Celibacy and the Sexually-Awakened Being
In some spiritual traditions, celibacy is used to cultivate and enhance spiritual energy. Many of the ideas in Taoist and Western Tantric sexual practices talk about circulating orgasmic energy, and they offer practices specific to men and women to hone and expand those energies. Celibacy isn't a total self-denial in these traditions, but the focus is on the sexuality of the individual and melding the individual's masculine and feminine energies. So while they aren't taking a partner, they are still keeping those fires alive.

Because ultimately if you're interested in the spiritual path and spiritual awakening, every inch of us has to wake up. Nothing is left out. If you try to leave something out, it's probably a good idea to ask yourself why. All aspects of our body, heart, mind, and soul are beautiful. Our sexuality is so powerful that it is even a doorway to enlightenment if appreciated, cultivated, and owned properly. So if you are healing hurtful issues of shame, control, fear, and self-denial, find the courage to embrace your sexuality. As you do, a new energy and a whole new way of being in your body and in your human experience is about to come to life.

Next blog: Sexual Healing With Your Partner

Friday, December 17, 2010

I Sit to Sit

My friend and student Susan offers her latest experiences on the spiritual path.

I sit in the dark room staring at the barren trees outside.
I remind myself of my intention.
No point to practice this if the intention for nothingness is not set.
I am empty yet full, or am I? Why do I question?

As soon as the intention is set the Light gently comes through the top of my being.
It feels soft, not as intense as before. That is ok. The connection with my Lord is there.

Imagining the Light flowing through each sphere. All of which feel to be spinning at the same pace except the one at the core of my being, my heart. Trying not to judge why. Kindly reminding myself to stay present as each un-present thought tries to make it’s way in.

Energy between my palms
This desire to explore more. Slowly bringing my hands apart, then closer, then apart. The energy feels light and clear the further apart my palms are from each other. As my palms get closer the energy is dense and is repelled by the two barriers. The hands move in circular patterns, the energy follows.

These hands know where the healing is needed. They scan the front of my body.
As they pass each chakra the energy feels light, except at the heart of the problem. The energy feels dense and stronger. Then, for no reason at all I slowly and rhythmically wave my hands towards me as if I am cleansing myself.

One hand is brought to my chest. Then the other. I bring compassion. I bring love. I hold my palms against my heart tightly. Then suddenly a tear falls down my right cheek. A sense of fullness, love, and compassion overwhelms me. I embrace the feeling of being abandoned and realize I cannot abandon myself. Everything I need is within.

My hands repeat the process. The heart is spinning faster. Feeling lighter but knowing more work must be done.
I sit to sit
I sit to be
I write to write
Nothing more.

Susan started to cultivate a deeper relationship with the Creator four years ago when she was introduced to the works of Eckhart Tolle's, "The Power of Now" by Jim Tolles. Her life has been transformed in countless ways since then.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Healing Sexual Dysfunction: Promiscuity, Pain Practices, and Other Perversions

It's time to get into some of the really tough stuff. There is so much sexual dysfunction in this culture that it's totally appalling. On the one hand, people are acting out so many shames that they are constantly partnering to try and find some gratification. On the other side, there are people with their sexuality so locked down that they are stripping themselves of their power and subsequently wanting to deny others of their sexual power. Make no mistake about it, sexuality is power. It is one of the most natural, carnal powers we all have. It creates life. If the energy of sex is channeled, it expands our creativity and our own confidence and charm in this world. It's energy can further be channeled to move us into spiritual awakening. Instead, this power has been denuded and mashed down into a tiny box for its expression, and in trying to get out of that container, it's often become twisted and warped in its expressions.

Sexual Promiscuity: Healthy Partnering Versus Constant Partnering
I want to be clear about what I mean when I say promiscuity. Having different consensual partners isn't necessarily promiscuous. Promiscuity is when the individual is constantly having to find a partner for personal gratification. The process is repeated over and over, but ultimately this individual isn't actually getting what he or she wants. In some cases, the individual may not be even enjoying the sex. This happens to a lot of women who become promiscuous in part because they think this how men will like them, and their drive for male approval is so strong that they continue to find partners. It's easy to say they just have low self-esteem, but there's usually a lot more going on in someone who is constantly looking for sex.

Pain and Sexuality: When the Love Is Gone
There's so much pain involved in our lives that it's not surprising that for many people pleasure and pain are intertwined in sex. Sadism and masochism can oftentimes be sexual without actually involving sex. Once again, I'm not talking about a little love bite or a smack on the ass, here. I'm talking about the full-on whips and chains. I mean we've got to really get into this topic, people. So much shame has been hiding this stuff that no one can really deal with what's going on.

In the spiritual awakening path, a great deal of the work we have to do is to peel apart pleasure and pain. They're so intertwined that when someone actually feels something healthy or good, they may have no idea what to do with it. It may scare them. They may run away and return to their old unhealthy patterns. But the point of the spiritual awakening path is to begin to see that pain never has anything to do with love. It's important to delve into it and begin to see where pain was first introduced into any aspect of ourselves, especially sex, if we want to reclaim ourselves and awaken.

Puritanical Repression and the Shaming of Sexuality
I've heard plenty of things about how the Christian church decided to control sexuality in order to maintain it's control as an organization over its followers. I'm not going to actively support that particular stream of thought because I'm not so interested in pointing fingers as in healing souls. All I do know is that the particular stream of Christianity (the Brownists and the Puritans) that seemed to really take hold of the United States culture certainly can't handle sexuality. Even today, it was big news for the Pope to decide that condoms are okay in some cases of AIDs. Truly, there are some pretty backwards views around sexuality.

At some point, with limited contraceptives and the need for social control in communities, waiting until marriage to have sex made a lot more sense. It created a structure for successful child-rearing so that the community could prosper during most eras when food was often scarce and resources were limited. People also got married way younger. Today in the U.S., the average age of marriage for a man is 28 and for a woman it's 26. But with so many contraceptives available and people getting married later, there is naturally going to be more exploration of sexuality outside of marriage (not that that wasn't happening before).

Nonetheless, sex has been taboo. It's been scary. So it's been squelched down out of most conversations. If you bring up sex around a lot of people, they're instantly uncomfortable. So, down, down, down, into the depths and backrooms and drunken forays its been pushed. In so doing, the repression has built up a counter insurgence. This arising is almost like physics--an equal and opposite force being created. But because sex has so few healthy avenues to appear in our society, it's gotten twisted and contorted as it's reared back up. It's kinda like the dude or chick who goes to college from a repressive family and just goes hog-wild for four years. It's not the healthiest thing to do, and there can be serious consequences depending on how far he or she goes.

Rape, Sexual Abuse, and Incest: Root Causes Rotting Out Sexuality
With so little awareness and so much shame and fear around sexuality, traumatic sexual violations get hidden. Women and men don't want to talk about them. They feel powerless around them. But those things cannot be forgotten, so these individuals act out. They act out through promiscuity. They act out through different fetishes, dominance, submission, and many other sexual practices. If the individual was raped, they may put themselves in a dominant controlling position--mostly unconsciously--trying to take back their power. But without a lot of love and awareness, there's nothing gained. In fact, the pain is redoubled as the person falls farther and farther into pain practices and continues the pain cycle. Others (men, usually) may become rapists, child abusers, and sexual abusers, acting out what happened to them again and again on others with no avenue for healing. And they probably don't fully recognize that they need one.

Here's the tip of the iceberg for sexual abuse in the U.S. Keep in mind, the iceberg is much, MUCH bigger because shame forces people to not report many of these crimes and traumas.
  • In 2000, there were 88,000 children sexually abused (this number includes only the substantiated child sexual abuse cases).
  • In 2007, there were 248,300 people sexually assaulted.
  • 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their life time.
  • 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their life time.
The depth of sexual hurt in this society is staggering, and as I said, much of it is never reported.

For more about healing sexual abuse, please read this blog post:

Healing Sexual Abuse

Taking Back Your Sexuality: The Long Healing Road
In spirituality, I've learned that every part of us learns differently. The body learns one way; the mind learns another; and the heart, of course, learns in yet another way. The same principle applies. Spending time with a therapist or psychologist to help you understand what happened to you is very important, but it's not the whole of the equation to healing your sexuality. First of all, you need to stop whatever you're doing with your sexuality. You're going to have to pull yourself out of whatever relationships you're in and the communities you're cycling with. You have to stop and look at what you're doing. If you don't, you're just going to keep cycling through the same unhealthy sexual practices. Once again, as in just about every third post I put up, this is where I mention that you must find a spiritual community to help you. A support group (incest survivors, sexaholics, etc.) is very helpful too. Really, you're going to need a ton of support from multiple angles to reclaim your sexuality. And if you are getting away from the current groups of people you're hanging around, you're going to need to replace that support mechanism with a new one. Some people can do it on their own, but really, it's very important to be looking for and asking for help.

As I said, victims of sexual abuse will need to heal on multiple levels. You've probably been so sexually active because a part of you knows that there is deep healing within you. In some ways, your own sexuality will be your key to healing. As a doorway to creating life and to spiritual awakening, that energy can also be cultivated to heal you. There are energy practices that you can learn from a Western Tantra community that can help you to focus your energy in your personal sexual practices. In doing so, you can bring a lot of love and light right down into the very center of your sexuality and to the places and areas of your body that were traumatized.

You may also combine this with work with an energy healer clearing your energy, and you may also consider other somatic experiences. Deep tissue massage, cranio-sacral healing, and many others can go deep into your physical and energetic bodies (it's plural--in many respects, your physical body and energetic body may even have separated and need to be re-merged because of the trauma). I've had one friend tell me that there are healers that have someone relive the trauma so that they can fight their way out. This, of course, is done with profound integrity and with a very well-trained, professional healer.

Sexual Healing: Yet More To Heal
And still, this is the tip of the iceberg. There are levels of self-forgiveness that will have to happen within your own heart. There will be many tears, and having a spiritual teacher can be super important to have the energetic support to move some of these issues as well. You're going to have to open your heart to yourself and to your perpetrator, and if you were the perpetrator of sexual crimes, then you're going to really have to open to yourself and be accountable for your actions. Re-meeting your victim or perpetrator may or may not be necessary or possible depending on circumstances and what happened. And if it happened in early childhood, it may not be even readily apparent who it was (early childhood sexual abuse is horrible--it requires so much energetic support to help the event just to surface into the victim's conscious mind). That meeting would be a lot of trauma to face, and it would only make sense further along the line as someone has cleared the issue and can more easily talk about it.

And talking about it is key. It is the doorway to the conversations that we've all avoided in our society around sexuality. Because as we talk about sexual dysfunction and what is really causing it, we begin to also start to see where the healing needs to go. And with that deeper healing and awareness, more room will be made for healthy sexuality to re-emerge in our society. It's time to re-think how we approach sexuality. It's time to stop shaming teens who get pregnant. It's time to stop avoiding this topic in conversations, and it's time to stop hiding the pain. As a whole society, it's time to be accountable to our sexuality instead of trying to forget that it exists.

Next blog: Healing Sexual Dysfunction: Abstinence and Self-Denial

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Atoning for Power Abuse: Ego and the Path of Penance

Following on my blog post about abuse of power, I wanted to delve a little deeper into the importance of penance and healing. It's an important thing to understand that every abuser is in him or herself also a victim. It's not just that they're acting out pain that's been done to them, it's that they're also burdened by the pain that they inflict on others. In an interesting way, it's like in football. With any big hit, the impact on the hitter as well as the hittee is always a 50/50 split. So no matter if you've murdered someone or simply yelled at someone, the damage to your energy was just as bad. I know that you're thinking how can it be as bad if they're still alive. I think ultimately this is impossible to quantify, but every now and then, you'll meet someone living out a life of penance for another life of abuse. And then you'll have your answer.

Admission of Guilt: The First Step
Power is very much seated in the 3rd chakra, where the ego is also rooted. Subsequently, they're a natural pairing, and one that has gotten horribly imbalanced. To heal this imbalance, you have to admit your guilt. This is different than feeling guilty. Feeling guilty is about suffering through shame. Admitting your guilt is the first step to atoning for it on the spiritual path. It's a hard first step because most of our egos have ingrained in themselves the idea that admitting guilt or being wrong about anything is a sign of weakness. The ego's over-active, auto-protect mode kicks in. You come up with fifteen reasons why you aren't wrong, why the other person totally deserved it, and so on. Well, that's a load of crap, and you know it. You can keep going through that mental cycle, but your suffering and shame will only grow. You may become more violent, irrational, and cold-hearted. But no matter how much pain you inflict on others, that will not free you of your guilt.

After You Write the List, Beginning to Atone
I also mentioned in the last blog that you should list out what you've done. It's not an easy process. A lot of hard feelings will come up as you do it. You need to be with those feelings. Don't fight them. Don't resist them. They simply need to be heard. Once you've written down all the ways that you've abused your power in regards to yourself as well as to others, it's time to begin to atone.

The level of atonement needed for each issue will vary widely. It depends on how severe the issue is. There's a broad spectrum of wrongs from murder to forgetting to return a book to a friend who'd loan it to you. The latter just needs you to return the book and say, "I'm sorry I kept this for so long." The former needs much more work. Here are some ideas for active atonement and penance to bring you peace and forgiveness--if not from others, then from yourself.

  • In-person apology. Just saying you're sorry is a powerful thing.
  • Asking for forgiveness. This is the natural next step. Depending on what happened, the person you are asking for forgiveness from may not give it readily or at all. That doesn't negate the importance of asking for it. If they don't give it, that is simply something you have to accept.
  • Writing a letter of apology. Sometimes it's not possible or easy to do a face-to-face apology for a wrong. A letter gives you space to fully outline how you feel.
  • Service. Depending on your abuse, active service to the person or people you hurt is another powerful way to demonstrate your penance. It also is a physical way to let yourself know that you're taking actions towards atonement and forgiveness. If you graffiti-ed someone's fence, then in this scenario, you'll be repainting it.
  • Confinement. You may need to be confined depending on the hurt you've done. This can mean incarceration, restriction of access to certain people, and other forms of confinement to be accountable for your actions. It's not the best solution, although in some ways you may need to have some kind of separation from a situation before you can make amends.
  • Confessing your abuses and sins to a priest. This really is an important function of any spiritual teacher or clergyman. Done in sincerity, this can be truly freeing.
  • Confessing to God through prayer. God is on-call 24-7; you might as well take advantage of that open and free hotline. Confess it all, and ask for God's forgiveness. This can also be really amazing and powerful for you.

The Power of Forgiveness
Genuinely aspiring for forgiveness will bring you towards the resolution you need. It may not be the resolution that you want. You may feel the brunt of your abuse reflected back to you. The idea isn't for you to now become the victim, and you shouldn't have to have pain inflicted on you. The eye-for-an-eye methodology has locked us in cycles of pain for millenia, but don't expect this all to be a super easy process. It's going to hurt a little as the pain you've brought to others comes home. Now you get a chance to start to feel through what the other person felt. It's not fun.

But you may also find more forgiveness in the other person than you might have expected. Because in so doing, the other person is freeing themselves of a burden that they've carried as victim. You both have a vested interest in the process of forgiveness. It will re-balance both of your senses of power. It's a super vulnerable place to be in, but as I've often found in my own process, vulnerability is at the center of some of our deepest power. In essence, by learning how to become vulnerable to your own emotions and to others you are now learning where your true power is and how to be in that power. Your ego will scream. Your ego will kick. Your ego will scratch, claw, and bite thinking that you're going to be harmed. And this won't be clean or easy, necessarily. But coming through this fire, you will find the path and strength to heal and become whole again. And you may even begin to find out what true power really is all about.

Next blog: Healing Sexual Dysfunction: Promiscuity, Pain Practices, and Other Perversions 

Today's photo comes from my student, Jenn. Thanks!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Abuse of Power: Reckoning With Your Actions

It is only fitting that after discussing the abdication of power that now we discuss the use and abuse of power.

A History of Violence: Turning the Tide on the Spiritual Path
The long history of abuse of power is staggering. It takes the very heart out of you. It sucks out the soul. Depending on who you ask, the total number of deaths by violence is in the 100s of millions for the 20th century. One site places the total somewhere around 262,000,000 deaths. Wikipedia offers a number of ranges for different conflicts and horrific events. If you've ever heard some of the spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle talk about how horribly sick humanity is, then perhaps that above number gives you a frame of reference. Can you imagine so much death. Many countries don't even have that many people. It would be like 9 out of 10 people in the U.S. all being dead.

Abuse of Power: Facing the Sickness in You
But we're all carrying this meglomaniac little ego inside of us, you know. It's different for each of us, and it has it's different disguises. You're all peace and love until someone hits you, and then it's on. I remember an Aikido instructor talking about the practice of still sending love and kindness to someone who is attacking them. It's an amazing practice, and one worth pursuing if you're drawn to martial arts. Or another scenario is when someone challenges you on a core belief like saving the environment. Quite quickly, this other person is the enemy, and you are SO noble and SO right in your belief to save the environment that you'll do anything to defeat that other person. There is a difference between making a stand on an issue and verbally or physically striking out against someone who differs. But to the ego, it's always about being right.

Types of Abuse: More Then You Might Think
There are more types of abuse than I care to list, but if you've been an abuser, you may need to see some of them listed out before the light goes on, before you can realize what you've done.
  • Physical abuse. This is the easiest to spot in someways, but it's also more prevalent than you think. Murder, rape, beatings, stabbings, shootings, and other violence fall in this category. But so does most of sports. Think about it. How quickly do sports fall out of "Who cares who wins?" into the category of "You don't want to be a loser, do you?" Yes, professional sports is a prime example of how we glorify physical abuse, needless competition, and ego desire.
  • Emotional abuse. Ah, this one may be more subtle, but it's equally toxic. This refers to all the yelling, guilt-tripping, shaming, verbal humiliating, degrading, retraction of love, bad-mouthing, and many other emotionally damaging things that people have done. Almost all of us have emotionally abused someone in a conscious or unconscious way.
  • Intellectual abuse. You can watch this on TV just about any time day or night. We call it debating. Essentially, you make someone feel stupid and take apart their arguments, identities, or other mental pattern purely for the sake of winning an argument, your own self-gratification, or because you like to inflict this pain on others. Yes, yes. There are friendly debates, but it's up to you to decide if you're having a friendly debate or if you really just want to be right.
  • Spiritual abuse. This is kind of an oxymoron because spirituality is never about abuse. But in essence, the ego is using spirituality to get what it wants. For every pope or imam or other spiritual leader that used their religion to send out people to die for that leader's gain, horrible things have happened to people's spirits. Subsequently, many people don't even want to associate with religion because of how terribly it's been used and abused through the centuries.

Masochism: A Hidden Abuse
Many of these abuses are focused outward, but many people also abuse themselves. They tell themselves that they aren't good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, and so many more awful things. Anorexia, bulimia, and other disorders are some examples of the inner abuse manifesting on the physical level for an individual. You're using your own power to hurt yourself, and it's not okay. This typically falls in the victim category, which I already talked about, but it's important to outline it here as well as yet another abuse of power that is keeping all of us locked into cycles of pain.

Competition Gone Horribly Wrong
There's a type of competition where you know that you're not really competing. It's fun. Who wins doesn't matter. Being a loser doesn't matter. But instead, especially in the business world and in the U.S., competition has become this Holy Grail of concepts. We seem to think that it's made us better. It has not. It has gotten us more money, but not one more second of peace, love, or kindness. Just look how scared we are. While 9/11 was a horrific event, to think that Afghanistan or Iraq really posed a huge threat to the U.S.'s way of life is asinine. Fight their armies compares to me taking out two 10 year old girls down the street. If you saw a six foot four man do this, you'd call the authorities. That's the level of fear in the U.S., and I wouldn't exempt other countries in fearfulness. We see threats greater than they actually are. All this competition has made us scared of losing this pile of money that we sit on, and in truth, we are already losing it.

Listing Out Abuses of Power
This is where it gets brutal. It may be time to list out all the ways that you've hurt yourself and others. This is the start of the reckoning, and this is where the major clean out gets going. When you hurt others, you hurt yourself. When you hurt yourself, you hurt others. We're all interconnected, and so long as these pains stay locked inside, festering, we will continue to murder, rape, steal, and hurt countless millions more. And then we'll justify ourselves and bury our shame and actions under a pile of justifications and intellectual concepts. The time has come when we can't wait any longer to face our abuses. We are a horribly sick people. No shiny building or occasional lump sum donation to the Salvation Army can hide the horrible miasma and reek of a past of death and destruction.

You don't want to feel guilty, and you don't want someone to tell you that you're a bad person. I'm not telling you that you're a bad person, but you have to be accountable for your actions for your real beauty to emerge. Because if you aren't accountable, you won't be ready for that beauty. You'll be overwhelmed. You're run away. You won't feel like you could deserve something so wonderful after what you've done. So really, what I'm telling you is that the only way to be somewhat prepared for a spiritual awakening is to proactively start to heal. Because in the final analysis, no one will care about what you've done if you're standing in your light. They will just see the light, and the darkness will melt away.

Next blog: Atoning for Power Abuse: Ego and the Path of Penance

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reclaiming Your Power: Tips and Techniques on the Spiritual Path

I felt like there was more to say around reclaiming your power since my last blog post, and I wanted to talk more about what it is going to take to stand up for yourself. This is a powerful healing for the third chakra--home to your personal power. This is your inner fire and where you can strike out into any endeavor in the world. However, the point is to cultivate this fire, not to burn the house down. The fire needs to be cultivated within first to burn away the thought patterns inhibiting your growth and separating you from your authentic personal power. The idea is to not pick fights and arguments. There may be selective places where you have to strongly stand up for yourself, but you will exhaust yourself if you are always fighting and fall into the other side of the power spectrum as an abuser.

Authentic Personal Power
This is your right to stand in your truth and to act decisively for what is right for you. I've noticed a lot of women trying to reclaim their personal power, but unfortunately, many of them have been picking up right where men left off. Women's rights has galvanized women in the U.S. and led them to take on new roles in society. This, in many respects, is an important part of the spiritual path. Women are balancing their energy systems with being able to provide for themselves and make accomplishments in the world. Subsequently, the challenge for men is to come to terms with their hearts and feelings.

However, as I've talked about in my Authentic Male Energy blog post, a lot of what has been labeled as "male" is just really messed up ego. As women emulate men, many of them are taking on increasingly skewed warrior/competitive energy. It's not a pretty sight. Women think they have to become "bitches" to succeed in business and in other venues to get the respect of men. And I'm not saying that this hasn't had some benefit, but there's a definite cost. It perpetuates a very sick cycle of ego and exploitation. It's not healthy to you, and it really won't help you make connections in life. Much of this "male" energy that women are adopting is about taking energy from others and dominating. This is an old, out-of-date paradigm, and it's one that I'm actively working on clearing as a man.

Standing In Your Truth/Not On Top of Someone Else's
Authentic power is knowing yourself and what you want. You don't feel the need to compete with others. There's nothing to be gained there. You can protect what you believe in when needed, but you do so without need for retribution or vengeance if you're slighted. You understand that you cannot be touched, and in matters of physical harm, you won't stay in places where you're hurt any longer than you absolutely have to.

These are powerful things to come to terms with. To start down this path, the first technique is to simply write to yourself about what you want. What matters to you? You may never have stopped in your entire life to think about this, and it's important that you do so now. Coming to terms about what you want is the most basic seed in your personal power. If you don't know, then you are always at the whims of others and blowing about in the wind of differing opinions.

But I Can't Decide
If you can't decide, then who can? You may have felt powerless for so long that you make almost no decisions for yourself. What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of choosing incorrectly? For a good portion of our lives, most of our decisions are very little and not super momentous. We make decisions about what we eat, wear, and do. Take a look at these little decisions. See how you can make them more consciously. Do you like eating broccoli or are you just eating it because your mother always told you to eat it? You don't have to change your whole world yet to reclaim your personal power. You simply have to find the courage to nibble at some of the edges to build your strength and sense of self-confidence.

Relationships Recalibrated: Taking on Bigger Challenges
As you take ownership of bigger decisions, the shifts and challenges grow. If you've been letting your husband or wife make all the decisions about where the kids go to school or where to go for vacations, then suddenly having a voice in the situation will be jarring to your partner. You may want to ease into it. Tell him/her that: "I know that I've let you make these decisions before, but it's important to me to be more involved with these decisions now." Depending on your partner, it'll still require an adjustment. You're changing the power dynamics of the relationship. But if you're with someone who really loves you, then you'll get through. If you're not, then you've just illuminated a major problem in your life. If your partner won't share power, you need to find out why. It will likely point to more work that you both have to do to make the adjustment.

For instance, if you want to have more decision-making responsibility in finances, but you're terrible with money, then you have to own that. You'll need to get better at finances, so maybe a class will help you out. I do have to keep reminding you that the spiritual path is an extremely practical one. Everything is  interconnected. So perhaps a finances class is a doorway to better power-sharing in your relationship.

Letting Go of People Who Keep You Powerless
In all of this, you will have to let go of people who keep you powerless. That doesn't serve you or them, and you can't expect to change anyone else but yourself. You'll need to develop new friendships and communities to help you with this growth. A spiritual teacher, mentor, or inspiring friend can be a really crucial individual to help you turn the corner, but you still have to make that turn.

As always, journaling about your process is helpful as well as meditating to let go of the noise of the day. Affirmations can be really helpful as well. An affirmation is simply a positive statement to yourself. They can be: "I am strong," "I am a great decision-maker," "I know what I want," or "I can make the changes I want in my life." Affirmations help to instill a really strong can-do attitude, although it may feel really hokey at first. You may not believe what you're saying. In this instance, you're breaking down old mental programming. It'll take time. Just keep practicing.

Above all else, reclaiming your personal power will take patience and persistence. You've got to get a spark started to get a bigger flame going. Then you have to carefully feed that little flame and protect it from those who don't believe in you or who want to keep you down. In time with the right care, you'll have a roaring fire going and be burning a path to a new, amazing awareness and life.

Next blog: Abuse of Power: Reckoning With Your Actions 

Today's picture is a gift from my student, Missy. Thanks, dear one!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Reclaiming Your Power: Victim Identities and Abdication of Your Personal Power

As we wind through this blog series on healing, the next stop takes us to matters of personal power. I've already talked about how to connect to your physical power, intellectual power, and other variants of this topic. When you're imbalanced and don't own your power, this can require a different mindset. Many people have been giving away their power to others throughout their lives. They haven't felt worthy of making a decision, or they didn't want the responsibility of making decisions. So they let someone else do it. Other people have created victim identities that focus on being powerless and use this ego device to manipulate people to get the very power they've given away.

As you can tell, it gets murky around issues of power, but the path to spiritual awakening doesn't leave anything out. You have to take back the power you've given away, and that means there are going to be some bumps in the road.

The Victim Identity and Powerlessness
The victim identity is so common in this culture that it almost is accepted as normal. The ultimate attitude is "Poor me. Why does this always happen to me?" It plays out in words and phrases such as when it rains someone says, "This is just my luck." No. This is the weather. Check a weather report, and take your power back over its vagaries. The weather has nothing to do with your luck. The same goes if you get stuck in traffic, get a last second project at work, or the baby spits up all over your new blouse. It is just part of life. By saying, "This is just my luck," you turn an event into more support for a victim identity, which may be so deeply integrated into who you think you are that this blog may be a little startling to you.

Other victim identities play out over past traumas. For instance, you got beat up in school for wearing a red sweater because that was the color of your cross-town rivals, and now you never wear that color. You may have even forgotten why you don't wear that color. The victim identity is so deep that it's been forgotten and has to be unearthed. Or you had your heart broken, so you never open up to others because you don't want to get hurt again. "Poor me," you say, "I'll never love again." You've given up important power in your relationships. Undoubtedly, it's soured other relationships around you and brought more people with  victim identities to you. It's a chain reaction to give up power; you end up surrounding yourself with powerless people and the occasional abuser/user person who victimizes you further until you stand up for yourself.

Giving Up Power in Decisions to "Better Qualified" People
You don't have to be a victim to be someone who gives up their power. This shows up a lot around intelligence. "Wow. So-and-so is so smart. I'll just listen to her and do what she says." Now, there are plenty of scenarios to listen to other people and do what they say because of their expertise. The HVAC guy can tell me what do with my heater any day of the week, and I'm going to do what he says. That kind of power transference is made cleanly and with awareness. I do withhold the right to ask questions and refuse to do what he wants if I don't feel good about something. But generally speaking, he knows heating, and I trust that.

However, even if the HVAC guy has really got his life together and has some good advice in addition to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, I'm not going to give up my personal power to him to let him make all my life decisions. I know that you're thinking that I'm being really silly, but I encourage you to look at people in whom you've invested authority. Maybe it's a father, mother, husband, wife, boss, or close friend. As on top of their stuff as they may be, they can't be responsible for your life and your power. Listening is important. Taking advice is important. But so is taking responsible action to make things happen in your life. Don't just sit on the sidelines expecting someone else to do it for you or that things will just "come to you." Life does have its grace and things do come to us when we're willing to receive. But for the purpose of reclaiming your power, you HAVE to be the initiator and the owner of your decisions.

Making Mistakes: It's a Down and Dirty Process At Times
Some people come to the spiritual awakening process and the spiritual path looking for the clean, immaculate way out of any situation. "If only I am just good enough...." Well, life is dirty. It's muddy. It's a kick to groin nasty, and when you start standing up for yourself and taking back the power you've given up, you're going to take it in the teeth some times. Because other people don't want to change. Many people don't want to give up the power you gave them. But you are worth it, and you're going to have to find the right way through through fists and fights, sharp words, or leaving unhealthy situations. Usually, violence is a last resort in all of this, and I'm not an advocate of it. But I am leaving space for its authentic use in defense of yourself or a loved one if you're in a really hard situation. Soon after, you most certainly will have to leave such a situation for your own self-preservation.

Rebirth and Renewal of Your Power
Making it through power reclamation is hard work, so I hope you've been developing a spiritual community to give you support and nourishment. However, coming through will renew your own inner fire and your sense of self. This is a rebirth of the "Can Do" attitude, and it helps to rebuild your identity's foundation. The spiritual awakening process is intense, and if you make such a big move, this type of self reclamation can also ignite the awakening. Awakening really has a mind of its own, but oftentimes, it lights up when a large issue is moved or healed. Victim identities and the abdication of power are huge issues that will drain and stifle a person for a lifetime. So if you have the courage to face these issues, you may find a greater reward than you could possibly imagine.

Next blog: Reclaiming Your Power: Tips and Techniques on the Spiritual Path

Monday, November 29, 2010

Opening a Closed Heart

Following up on the blog about broken hearts, I obviously have to turn my attention to all the closed hearts in the world. It's a funny thing that the very thing that makes everyone feel so good--love--is also the thing that many of us shut out. I had a pretty limited heart for a lot of years. Only a very small number of people came within range of my love. My heart had so many qualifications and bear traps before someone could get to me that it was nearly impossible to feel my love. I remember one day in June of 2007 when I was just starting down the spiritual path. I counted out all the people I loved, and I barely got off one hand. A part of me chimed in saying, "Well, that's stupid." I called up a dear friend shortly thereafter and told her that I loved her. And that's when my heart truly began to open.

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But What If I Get Hurt
Okay, on with the regularly scheduled blog post.

The fear of getting hurt tends to be the crux of the problem. At least, it's what most peoples' minds fixate on. In closing your heart, you feel like you've hedged your bet against getting hurt. Well, that's about as bad as stopping breathing. Sure, you won't inhale any smog or pollution, but you're suffocating. Many peoples' hearts are suffocating, dying. It's making people heartless and cruel. Have we seen enough cruelty in the world yet? I sure have. You may not even think of yourself as a cruel person. You think you're being rational and practical. What a load of egoic bologna. That's just a mental pattern that you've adopted to justify why you're afraid to be vulnerable. And when you fire employees without a severance, that's just business. And when you cut someone off in traffic, it's their fault for not taking the open space in the lane. Cruelty starts out smaller than this in neglecting to listen to another or lend a helping hand. You do this because ultimately, you're being negligent to your own heart, and that's the ultimate cruelty itself.

Pain Comes and Goes: The Memory Makes It Linger
If there's anyone to blame for continued pain from a lost love, it's the ego. It has its broken record of particular events that it plays round and round that makes you suffer. That record makes you re-live the events instead of letting them go. So, it's like you're stabbing your heart again and again. In truth, a lot of pain that we feel is much more of our own doing and our own attachments. We fall in love and then we get so attached to the other person that we live and die by what that other person does or does not do. So many ego stories and personal projections play out in a relationship that it is a wonder that people find happiness in the romances playing out these days.

But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't open your heart. Until you start to open your own heart, you'll have a lot of difficulty finding love. In one of the ways where I like the Law of Attraction--which is kind of a spiritual fad these days--the idea behind LOA is that like attracts like; love will attract love. If you're negative all the time, you'll attract other negative people. If your heart is closed, you'll find other closed-hearted people. Then you get to justify yourself and your pain, "God, I only ever date these crazy bitches" or "All the guys I attract are such assholes and jerks." These "unsuitable" paramours are reflections of you and your heart, and it's time to take responsibility for this fact.

Opening Your Heart and the Power of Vulnerability
It is a funny thing how we go through cycles of expansion on the spiritual path. So I've had my heart open up several sizes giving me the strength of ten grinches plus two (It's the holiday season as I am writing this; Go watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas if you want to get the allusion =). I'm back in another heart expansion in my life, and I can still feel the same tremulous vulnerability around it. Yet, I've learned how powerful that vulnerability is. When you are authentically you, you give permission to others to open their hearts and be in a sacred space. Love does a lot of healing between two people when this happens, and it opens doorways to many other things. Some people can find themselves crying or scared when this opens up. So much old karma and pain is getting washed out. Just be with it. Or maybe it's overwhelming because where love was barely a muddy creek running through your heart, now it's a raging torrent. Just be with it. Let it overwhelm and expand your banks, expand your capacity for love.

You will feel horribly out of sorts if you've never been in tune with your heart. And you will want to be careful about who you initially share this with. Your instinct will probably be to share it with everyone. Initially, just let it flow. Your heart has an intelligence all it's own, and you need to learn how to trust it. It's not that you turn off your mind--it's not an improvement to go from being totally in your head to totally in your heart. Balance and ownership of both is important for the integral spiritual awakening path. But for a time, it's not a bad thing to put more of your trust and focus on your heart.

Tips and Techniques for Opening a Closed Heart
To get a little more grounded in my spiritual advice for opening a closed heart, here are a couple things that you can do to get started:
  • Make doing an activity you love a daily practice (writing, jogging, painting, wall climbing, coffee with friends, etc.)
  • Focus on how much you love something about yourself
  • Tell someone that you love them without expecting that love to be returned
  • Share emotional, personal stories with close friends that you haven't shared before
Conversely, healing a closed heart may also involve getting rid of things that do not serve you. Here are some things that you may want to clear out:
  • Stop hurting yourself (Extreme work-outs and anything harmful to the body, mind, heart, or spirit)
  • Stop doing things that make you angry
  • Stop doing stuff that others want you to do, but you don't want to do
A Doorway to Spiritual Awakening
You may find out that you're doing a lot of things that do not serve your heart. This is a doorway to deeper change in your life. For instance, you're saying to yourself, "But my job always makes me angry." The first step would be to see how you're attaching to the situations at work, but if this job doesn't make you happy and isn't what you love, you will likely have to quit it or change it to come to terms with your heart.

I didn't say opening your closed heart would be easy. You've set up a lot of situations around you that perpetuate your current way of thinking and feeling. However, I can't emphasize enough that it's totally worth it. Because as you open your heart, you're going to see your world in a brand new way, and when you start to make changes with your heart, an opportunity for a deeper awakening may now become possible. And as always, this amazing, fulfilling change has been waiting locked away inside you the whole time.

Next blog: Reclaiming Your Power: Victim Identities and Abdication of Your Personal Power

For more on this topic, here's a video you can enjoy:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Entering Your Spiritual Adulthood

One of the terms that I'd like to offer to the world at large is the idea of spiritual adulthood. I think it is an important concept to have and a transition to appreciate as people wake up and subsequently go through the unsettled stage of changing their lives to be in tune with their divinity.

Spiritual Infancy Around the World

Most people are in their spiritual infancy phase. They don't know what spirituality is, and for many people, they don't even care. It's much the same for a child with math, tying shoe laces, or dating. They don't much matter. Children are impulsive and work off basic programming to get what they want. "I want food now." "I want to be warm now."  Adults in their spiritual infancy aren't very much different. They've got a pile of thought structures and life patterns on top of the same immediate gratification triggers. "I want to get laid." "I want to buy that." And so forth. They aren't owning their life in any way, and they can get easily manipulated by others because they have very narrow and self-involved perspectives. They may also manipulate others. They can feel like victims a lot or are always afraid of becoming the victim, which can make them very aggressive. We all know how these cycles work in our lives, and they lead to a lot of pain and suffering, which I talk about more in this spirituality blog post:

Cycles of Pain and Suffering

Waking Up: Spiritual Puberty and All Its Awkwardness

Fortunately, people always have doorways to open and to grow spiritually. These moments are always right here and right now if we know how to look at our lives and the many lessons we naturally attract. In the specific spiritual shift of spiritual awakening, a whole bunch of doorways and life lessons are flooding in. All these issues and old pains that we didn't deal with kept us locked in childhood. Now the growing pains of spiritual maturation have arrived. It's not a fun time period for many of us, although it can be immensely rewarding. Much like in our physical adolescence, everything becomes extremely awkward, and you feel really out of sorts. You kinda know where you're going, but not really. Emotions get really activated. All in all, you don't know who you are anymore.

Sadly, our culture does a terrible job accepting teenagers and the physical maturation they go through much less anything spiritual. We want to ignore them and all the stuff waking up in them. It's a terrible thing because no one really helps teenagers understand the sexual maturation occurring in their bodies (SexEd really doesn't count in my opinion. "Hey everyone. This is a condom. And good luck!"). Subsequently, because it's so ignored or diminished, a lot of the sexual energy can also get stirred up in the overall spiritual awakening that brings us to spiritual adulthood. That's not bad, but it does require a certain level of skillfulness so you don't get lost or overwhelmed in it. The point I'm getting to essentially is that the society doesn't know how to handle this awkwardness that everyone goes through already. Don't expect a lot of external compassion for your shifts. Just go within towards the true love that you are seeking anyway.

Making Space in Society for Spiritual Transition in Adulthood

There is no specific age for when a spiritual shift or transition may come. It arises when it arises. However, I think it's important that society begins to understand, expect, and respect these transitions. Much like when puberty hits, we all understand that there's a process from childhood into sexual adulthood. When people get into their late 20s and early 30s, this can often be one of the first natural doorways into spiritual adulthood. As young men and women finish the physical maturation, new levels of emotional and spiritual maturation may naturally arise.

For a spiritual awakening, people will generally require a sabbatical or extended vacation from the "normal" life of society. What's required of everyone to settle into their spiritual adulthood varies widely. Everyone moves through different issues in different ways, and everyone moves towards a vibration that is appropriate for them. I often like to use plant metaphors to give people an idea of how different we can all be. For instance, the growth and maturation of a rose bush is quite different than a redwood tree, but it's important that this process is embraced regardless of your particular path.

Qualities of a Spiritual Adult

In a stabilized state of awareness, the spiritual adult is much clearer about what is important in life and what is fluff. You don't have to awaken to come into your spiritual adulthood of this lifetime, and since this isn't a term I use too often, I wouldn't even get hung up on this concept. It is merely one way to express the many different levels of awareness we shift through in a concrete way.

Some simple traits to spot in a spiritual adult can include:

  • An ease in offering love and compassion to any situation
  • Greater patience
  • Selflessness
  • Clarity on what is real in life and what is illusion
  • Less inclination to blame others for things
  • More openness in expression and in being who they are

Compassion for Yourself and Others

I hope this spirituality blog post encourages you to have more compassion for yourself and others in times of spiritual transition. I also hope you have compassion for all those who will stay spiritual children their whole lives. This is not a failure or a bad thing. It's just a different soul path. But if you are growing up into a mature spiritual person and different life lessons are arising, I can only encourage you to embrace these growth opportunities and assure you that this too shall pass. Having the sight and wisdom of a spiritual adult will now usher in a new way of living and enjoying the many opportunities of this lifetime.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Face Off Challenge: Taking on the Female Body Image and Social Superficiality

My friend Susan shares her challenge to women to take a look at their true faces and let go of make-up. To join the Face Off challenge on Facebook, click on this link.

Watching Myself, Face-to-Face
I stare into the mirror in my bathroom. The not so flattering light is enhancing every blemish, everything I see as a flaw. I’m holding a worn out make-up brush in one hand and foundation in another. Why is it so disappointing to have the need to cover up who I truly am? I was all too familiar with this topic. After all, I have been battling with severe acne for over 15 years. At that moment I put down the make-up and compassionately looked at myself in the mirror. I stared and just looked.  After I got past examining every blemish I could finally see the real me. I saw a beautiful woman. This is how I came to conclusion to present the “Face OFF Challenge” to every woman.

Why Should I Do This?
This challenge goes beyond promising yourself not to wear any make-up at all for 2 weeks straight starting DECEMBER 12, 2010. It shouldn’t even be presented as a challenge but an opportunity to know yourself on a deeper level. Now you must be thinking that either the lack of make-up isn’t going to change your self image or the mere thought of it gives you a bit of anxiety. The question is how would you really know if you didn’t try? This is an opportunity to see just how healthy your self image is, how closely you watch your ego, how you interact differently in society, as well as notice the physical changes of your skin. This is an opportunity to know your True self and heal the pain/issues that are brought to the surface.

You Make the Rules

I want to cultivate this experience to its fullest potential. The outcome of this experience depends upon the intention you put into it. Since it is your experience, you should have the final say in what the rules should be. I felt it necessary to stop wearing ANY form of makeup (eyeliner, foundation, blush, eyeshadow, concealer, lip color, mascara). If you are a woman that only wears mascara then perhaps you can stop wearing that. On the opposite spectrum, if you can't take out the trash without having your "face" on, then perhaps this is a perfect opportunity to make a drastic change.

In addition, I do not want to make up any excuses to wear makeup. This includes not wearing make-up for any special events, social events, holidays, work meetings, etc. It forces you to be your true self in all situations. Many women, including myself, feel that wearing make-up can give you the extra boost of confidence for a specific event. So far my experience has revealed that I was using make-up as a type of veil, inhibiting others from seeing who I truly am. I also wonder if it is really that important what others think of me. If so, wouldn't that be an indication I don't truly love myself?

There is no particular reason why I chose to keep the contract with myself for 2 weeks. Many studies say it takes 3 weeks to change a behavior. I started the challenge 6 days ago. The first few days were the most challenging for me. I realized Face OFF is more than not wearing make-up on your day off nestled in the privacy of your home. Once the two weeks is up I predict that you may continue the challenge due to the resulting benefits, start wearing considerably less make-up, or decide the timing for the challenge wasn't right, hence causing you to wear the same amount of make-up (if not, more).

The Experience
Every woman's Face OFF experience is going to be different, some more dramatic than others. I can only hope sharing my experience will encourage you and help you know that you are not alone.

Issues and insecurities I didn’t even know I had immediately began to surface. They were mainly associated with my acne. Looking at myself in the mirror forced me to embrace the impermanence of age. Our form is always changing.

When interacting with others I could only question myself if the other person was judging my acne and therefore judging who I was as a person. Society has conditioned women to have this initial reaction. Society has a completely different viewpoint on make-up. The general population says if you wear make-up, then it shows you care about your appearance. If not, then you don't have self confidence. This theory can be compared to the "you are what you wear" concept as in preparing for a job interview. In the past I felt more comfortable not wearing make-up around close friends/family but not others. I realized I was looking to an outside source to make me feel accepted in society rather than realizing I already had acceptance/happiness within myself.

The opportunity also forced me to actively make a change in improving the health of my skin. By focusing my intention on improving my skin, small but incredibly meaningful events started to occur.  I was standing in aisle and staring for 5 minutes at all the natural skin products at the Food Co-op in Pittsburgh. Just as frustration started to set in, another customer started to chat with me. She shared her story about her acne experience and then proceeded to tell me about the natural regimens she used. Our acne histories were uncommonly similar. I immediately realized this was a blessing from God. The thirty minute conversation with this incredible woman was undoubtedly a blessing from God. That day I began an all natural regimen for the first time which consisted of cleansing with a mild all natural soap (oatmeal, clay, or aloe) followed by applying hand-squeezed lemon juice with a cotton ball. I also started applying all natural Indian clay once a week.

I can already notice improvements in my skin. As each day passes I am becoming increasingly aware of how I interact with others, being evermore in the present moment. I keep a close watch on my ego. Just being aware of how I am feeling and letting the emotions flow through me helps tremendously. This amazing opportunity has helped me realize that I don’t need make-up to help me feel beautiful. Every day I am learning that I am perfect in all of my imperfections.

Susan started to cultivate a deeper relationship with the Creator four years ago when she was introduced to the works of Eckhart Tolle's, "The Power of Now" by Jim Tolles. Her life has been transformed in countless ways since then.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Healing a Broken Heart

healing, healing a broken heart, spiritual healing, spiritual awakening
The path of spiritual healing is a powerful one, and in few places is healing so sorely needed as in the realm of our hearts.

It's a sad truth that many people live their lives feeling broken-hearted after some major event with a significant other or close relationship. But you can't open fully into spiritual awakening without your heart. So for this spirituality blog post, we turn our attention to all those broken hearts and the spiritual tools that can help them mend.

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Forgiveness and Letting Go

In many ways, the reason that your heart continues to feel broken and so very tender is that you're holding on to the experience. In your mind, you are replaying the events that transpired and repeatedly breaking your own heart. It is important to feel through and accept what has happened. But the next step after that is learning to forgive and let go.

Forgiveness is one of the most powerful tools on the spiritual path. It can transform your life. And you need to forgive the person who broke your heart. Many people don't even really understand how their actions affect others, so letting them know how you felt can potentially be healing for them too. If this person did it intentionally, then let them now carry the full burden of that crime and broken trust. Forgive them. Let them go, and your part of the relationship can complete and heal.

A Spiritual Blog Post About Forgiveness

Facing Yourself and Your Complicity in Breaking Your Heart

A lot of times, forgiving someone else is actually the easy part. The harder part can be forgiving ourselves. Some of you may be saying, "What did I do?" But you know. You let it happen, and a part of you hasn't forgiven yourself for letting it happen, not seeing it coming, not preparing, and for half a dozen other things that the mind thinks it can predict but actually cannot. Your heart was broken. An event happened. You did the best you could at the time with the tools that you had. It's now time to forgive yourself.

Breaking Your Heart Again and Again

It gets worse. You had the event, and then you replayed it over and over in your mind. You turned it into a thought pattern. You replayed the whole set of scenarios over and over. You told it to your mother, your brothers, close friends, and everyone else who'd listen to try and find a mental way out of it. But at night when you'd close your eyes, the mental movie was still playing. In this way, you continued to break your own heart again and again. What was probably a relatively short time period in your life got a long, long extension. So along with forgiving yourself in the moment, you need to forgive yourself for all the moments that you replayed and mentally re-lived the pain. Because each time you did, you shrunk a little more. You closed off your heart from others a little bit further until your heart started to have almost nothing left to give to anyone lest yourself.

Giving Your Love Away

The idea of giving your love away is sitting down at the root of the problem. You can't give your love away. Not like people have been thinking, anyway. There's a wonderful story in Don Miguel Ruiz's The Mastery of Love. In this story, a man finds a beautiful jewel that descends from the sky. It's so perfect and pure that he has to go show his love this jewel. He finds her and gives it to her, whereupon she drops it. The jewel shatters.

In this story, we have the allegory of giving love away. Initially, we all want to blame the woman for breaking the jewel, breaking his love (you can switch the roles and have the man drop the jewel just as easily). But the problem that Ruiz points out is this issue of giving love away. When we try and make someone else responsible for our happiness and love, we give up our accountability to our hearts. We make ourselves dependent on someone else, and if they have a bad day, then we're angry that they aren't giving us what we need. And if they drop the jewel and break our love, then we're angry at them for hurting us. But you can never expect someone else to make you happy and fill you with love. That love is always within you. You have to learn to own it.

The Healing Power of Owning Your Love

When your loves, partners, and external experiences are no longer necessary for your love, you have started to free and awaken your heart. The bondage and the pain of the heart in this world come from placing this love in other things and people. Take back your heart. Own all the pain and feelings there, and then let them wash away. You can shine your love in fullness on others, but do not give it away or expect it to be returned. When you begin to take actions and do things that align with your heart and what you love, your world starts to shift. People will be drawn to you who can reflect you in this higher way, although it will take some work at first. You probably haven't been resonating at this level before and have attracted other people with broken hearts and victim stories around you. Don't worry. The best way to heal is often letting go, and in letting go, you may find that the people around you will have more permission to heal as well.

Clearing Heart Wounds

As you own what you love and what nourishes you, you'll begin to have more energy to clear the wounds in your heart. If you have to confront someone who hurt you, then your heart will guide you to do that. Learning to love yourself is a big piece in healing a broken heart. It rebuilds your foundation in your heart, shifting it from an outward focus to an inward focus. Keep in mind that this is authentic self-love. This is about total acceptance of you in this moment. It's not about saying how great you are. That's the ego trying to create love, and it doesn't work. You are already great and amazing in this moment. As you come to appreciate that, you'll also see very clearly what darkness and things that don't serve you are in your life. You will need to fix them.

There are a lot of wounded hearts in this world. It is time to let go of the pain. It's the only way we can stop perpetuating cycles of pain, hurting ourselves and others. In doing so, you clear the way for more love to enter your heart and to fill your life and all those dear to you.

Next blog: Opening a Closed Heart 

For some more thoughts on healing a broken heart, you can watch this video:
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