Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Spiritual Sexuality Congress Press Release

For those of you who are interested here is the official press release on the spiritual sexuality congress going on in NYC in October. For the sake of integrity, I'm not recommending anyone goes because I don't know anyone in it and haven't done any work with this group. However, I highly applaud this kind of conversation, and I encourage you to learn more about it if you are moved to do so.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Sandra Oles
(203) 227-5238

NATIONAL CONGRESS ON SPIRITUAL SEXUALITY AND SEXUAL HEALING: HEALING THE BODY, FREEING THE SPIRIT


New York, New York , September 27, 2010 – The Association for Spirituality and Psychotherapy is sponsoring and hosting the National Congress on Spiritual Sexuality and Sexual Healing; Healing the Body, Freeing the Spirit on October 29, 30 and 31, 2010 at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City. Henry Grayson, Ph.D. and Kenneth Porter, M.D. are chairing the event. Tickets are available through www.natconss.com. Seating is limited and participants are encouraged to register early. The presenter line up features some of the top spiritually based professionals, and many are authors in the respective fields of psychotherapy and academia.

The congress will be hosting presentations by: Michael Mirdad, Ph.D., Jalaja Bonheim, Ph.D., Rich Borofsky, Ed.D., Antra Kalnins Borofsky, Ed.M., Lee Holden, Mary Sise, ACSW, Andrew Harvey, P.C., Gina Ogden, Ph.D., and Stuart Sovatsky, Ph.D.

The conference will provide an interactive, spiritual, scientific and clinical forum in the areas of spirituality, sexuality, psychotherapy, and healing for psychotherapists, health care professionals, healers, religious professionals, and others interested in the convergence of these areas.

A spiritual perspective on sexuality is now needed in this world for a deeper sense of connection with who we really are, and a deeper sense of bonding with our partners, families, friends and colleagues. For thousands of years many of the great spiritual traditions of our planet have pointed us in a particular direction, the realm of sexuality. In our present culture, sexuality is not an easy realm to explore. Sexuality is deeply misunderstood. It is either laden with guilt and shame, the focus of wounding and abuse, commercialized and trivialized, or seen as an easy path to so called enlightenment. The goal of enhanced pleasure in our lives is something we all can applaud. But the great spiritual traditions point to something deeper, the possibility that sexuality can be the gateway to our most effective healing and spiritual maturation.

It is in this spirit that the Association for Spirituality and Psychotherapy is bringing together the nation’s experts in the exploration and the teaching of spiritual sexuality and sexual healing. Join us for this transformative weekend. The National Congress will include exciting talks, gentle experiential work, movement and artistic performance. Additionally, an optional third day of post-conference workshops will afford the opportunity to collaborate in smaller groups with some of our presenters. Together we will embark on a sacred adventure capable of facilitating genuine maturation and healing.

For additional information about the National Congress on Spiritual Sexuality & Sexual Healing: Healing the Body, Freeing the Spirit, contact Sandra Oles at (203) 227-5238

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

National Congress on Spiritual Sexuality and Sexual Healing

I am always amazed at what opportunities find me on the Internet. I had a person reach out to me via my blog contact form to write about the upcoming National Congress on Spiritual Sexuality and Sexual Healing. The conference is happening in NYC from the 29th to the 31st of October.

Obviously, I can't commend or critique this conference, as I've never been to it and don't know the presenters currently. However, I can not emphasize enough the value of this conversation and the importance of pretty much everyone becoming more deeply aware of their sexuality.

Sexual Dysfunction Rampant: Solutions Needed
There is an awful statistic that something on the level of 1 in 4 women have been raped, and I believe that's the conservative number. I've also heard that that number goes up to 50% by some estimates. And before we stop there, let's not forget that men are also sexually abused and raped. This is even more taboo, which puts men in possibly even worse circumstances. That doesn't make light of the trauma that many women endure, but for a man who has been raped (this happens a lot in war), so much of his identity is judged if he tries to come out and explain what has happened and get helped.

Let's stop there. Let's just say rape and sexual abuse are horrible, and they cause horrible problems which people continue to act out as perpetrators and victims in endless cycles. We need to break that cycle and help people heal.

Spirituality and Sexuality
In many respects, sexuality is very much in the space of the divine mother. The divine mother aspect in the world has been, well, raped, burned at the stake, and fragmented into multiple pieces (Mother Mary vs. Mary Magdalene). The divine feminine is in ascendancy in this cycle, and she is much needed. One of the ways that she's returning is in the renewed appreciation of the power of sexuality and the deepening of love in that space. When sexuality is reactivated, it's not just about pleasure or procreation. It also can be about healing and enlightenment.

This is heavy magic. It blows out mental structures. Everyone knows that. What are you thinking about when you orgasm? Anyone? Anyone? Yeah, your mind is blown. That's part of why this mind-focused culture is petrified of sexuality. Because when you give yourself up to the divine mother in that moment, walls come down. The more you deepen your practice, the more walls you can bring down. It's phenomenal.

Reactivated Sexuality Clearing Sexual Abuse
A lot of people end up in different sexual communities and practices trying to get back to the divine feminine and their sexual power. However, too few sexual teachers have been available, and so much social taboo has sublimated many of the ones out there. Subsequently, people who need healing or who simply have a great deal of power in their sexuality end up acting out unhealthy patterns in these communities and their relationships.

And to pull this whole post together, that's why congresses on spiritual sexuality and sexual healing are so important. They are putting the information back at a more accessible level. The teachers are able to deliver their messages, and people can finally come back to healing their sexuality. Then they can own it, and when they are fully empowered with it, their creative abilities go off the charts. It's astonishing stuff. It's everyone's birth-right. And it's in you waiting right now.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

You're Going to Change

All life is change. All perspectives are fluid. Spiritual awakening helps us see that truth.
Perspectives can make all the difference as we change.
One last piece of my previous blog caught my attention: You're going to change. I want you to think about that for a minute. So many people enter the spiritual process wanting to change one or two things, but that's not how this process works. You're going to be changing everything inside you. And because you're changing everything inside you, everything outside will have to adjust. This is scary in our culture. We're all so bound up in attachments that any little tremor on the cords that bind us will inevitably cause discord with others. People will blame you.

Why couldn't you just be happy with what you had?

Why are you doing this spiritual thing?

What's wrong with you?

The list will grow.

You're Not a Fixated Point in the Universe
If you're used to saying, "This is who I am," then get ready to be walloped. We have this incorrect view of ourselves as static entities. But nothing in our lives ever really supports that. Our bodies are constantly changing from when we are born to when we die. Sometimes the changes go at smaller rates, but we're still changing. Subsequently, our personalities, our awareness, and all of our abilities have the ability to continue to change. Having re-made myself a couple of times, I can tell you that changing who you are is very do-able, and when you're aligning to your soul, it's immensely rewarding.

Moving More of Your Chips Into the Spiritual Pot
But if this is the first time you've ever considered that you could change your personality and how you are in the world, you'll doubt yourself. You won't have fully understood the costs either. You think you can get away with tossing a couple coins into the pot; you don't intend to gamble with your life that much. But you'll have to make a choice at some point, and you won't like it. Because awakening on this plane isn't quite easy yet. There are only so many teachers and spiritual communities available yet (oh, but we are growing). Still, you may find yourself in an area without much community and no teacher able to help you (at least not in a body). And you'll have to decide if you want to meet the ante.

Deepening Into the Change
It's not that all of the path is hard. Some of it has this effortless beauty that makes you swim in bliss at times. It's so gorgeous. You feel huge and in love with the world. You want to share it with everyone. But it's so easy to be in those moments. Sometimes I think because the good moments are so easy, we burn up all of good moments tokens at the spiritual arcade. Then we're left with the bad moments tokens that we still have to spend to get more of the good tokens.

Usually, I don't get the sense that someone has truly started the spiritual shift until they've had to give up something that they didn't want to give up. At one of those big moments when you make a big jump, things really go in motion. I've had to give up ideas, relationships, safe jobs, and a variety of other things I would rather have held onto--every now and then, the nostalgia for drinking at a bar washes over me. It doesn't last long because I know what alcohol does to my body now. You get the picture.

This is a small example for me. For someone else, it may be a big deal. Romantic break-ups and divorces are other examples of when spirit asks you to lay yourself on the line for the greater self that you truly are. And in doing so, you also have to be open to the change, to the emerging self. If you lock down too much to wait out the tough times, you don't learn. You have to get used to the burn that comes with the shift--like doing a difficult exercise, sometimes before becoming proficient, you have to sweat and push a little bit.

Changing Needs for Changing Demands
Along the way, what will work for you during one phase of your process won't work in another phase. One great example for me is meditation. Meditation is a huge part of my process. I meditate for an hour a day because I have to. It keeps me grounded, energized, open, loving, and a whole lot of other important things. However, for bringing the energy of awakening deeper into my body, sitting meditation doesn't currently help as strongly as a moving meditation like a 5Rhythms dance class. Conscious dance helps me to clear things in my body and to open me to different types of sexual and physical energies. It's a lot of fun, actually.

Conversely, for building an intellectual spiritual awareness (no that's not an oxymoron), going to spiritual lectures and meditations is really important. I haven't found that the conscious dance does very well for building that framework to really hold, cultivate, and focus the experience. I've seen lots of people have very deep experiences on the dance floor, but I don't get the sense that they truly understand what's moving. So things arise, and then they dissipate. They don't get the focused understanding to start to intensify the energy to move the awareness up and out.

You don't have to intellectually understand everything in your spiritual process--in many ways, you won't be able as you find out that the mind has definite limits. However, when you're new to it, it's really important to build that framework to hold you and guide your energy through the process. The framework will help you to accept and appreciate the change that's coming, that change that's happening, and the change that you are.

Today's lovely photo comes from my friend and reader, Becky Stiller. Please feel free to check out her beautiful work on this flickr link.

Spiritual Tools of the Trade

I've already set up some of the basics to understanding what I'm talking about in terms of spirituality in earlier blog posts. If this is the first blog post you're at, feel free to check out earlier blogs on this link to cultivating an awakening.

There Is No One Way...And There Is Only The Way
In a later post, I'll talk about the difference between higher Truth and truth of the moment, but this subhead is a good example of it. There are countless traditions and tools to use to deepen your spirituality. Prayer, meditation, communion, baptism, pilgrimages, Reiki, and so many more can be deeply helpful and healthful to you. In truth, just about any tool can be a path to the Way (the big W denotes this is the path that we're all ultimately on even when our individual paths may look very different). So long as your tools keep you in integrity and treating you with love and kindness (even when life is hard), you'll be okay. Let me outline a variety of spiritual tools that have helped me and others that I've heard about.

Energy Healing

Energy healing is probably not the most immediately accessible tool, but I've found that it's super helpful, and that's why I'm leading with it. Reiki is a popular energy healing modality, but there are others. If you explore into this topic, you can find out that you can also do your own energy healing. If you're brand new, I encourage you to find someone who can do this kind of work on you with great integrity. This is probably a good space to do research and ask around as well as to trust your own intuition, which I talked about in an earlier post.

To simply explain energy healing, someone moves divine light into your energy body--that's all of you by the way. A good energy healer will help to see your blocks and issues that are stuck in your body and are blocking your growth.

Journaling!
I hear from more of my friends after I've made the recommendation that this is super helpful for them. I know it's huge for me. It's huge for other people I've met on the path. It helps to continue your growth by giving all the experiences some kind of framework. Journaling uses the power of your mind in the way it's supposed to be used--in service of spirit. My methodology of journaling changes. Sometimes I'm just writing about the experience. This is simply recording the experience. This methodology is good for dreams especially when they don't make much sense. The next step is to start to write about what an experience means to you. The step after that is to take apart why you reacted and what you felt. If you held back, why did you hold back? If you opened way into an experience, what was that like?

As you go, you'll learn how to daisy-chain an issue. For instance, if you didn't buy a candy bar at a store, but there was an issue behind it, then you start to dissect that to release the issue into your deeper awareness. For instance, you didn't buy the candy bar because you didn't want to spend the money. Sounds practical, right? Then you dig a little deeper. You actually have plenty of money. Well, then you realize this is a pattern you do with rewarding yourself. You dig deeper. You figure out that whenever you get close to something you want that you pull away. You keep going. You remember when you were a child always having something you wanted held in front of you only to be taken away by your older brothers.

You see how this works now. You just journaled out that you're continuing a behavior from childhood all around a decision about a candy bar in a store. Undoubtedly, you're doing this behavior in many other instances of your life. Pretty soon you start making other connections with your past and current relationships in romance, work, and other areas. It gets deep fast. Be sure to bring your life preserver as you get out into deep waters.

Meditation
You knew this one was coming, right? Okay, there are a variety of ways of doing this. To get started just sit for 10 minutes and focus on breathing slowly. Search for meditation groups in your area to find some community support--which is great for starting out. You can also find books on meditation. Some meditations involving chants. Others don't. You just have to find what works for you, and every group is different.

Oh, and there are other kinds of meditations such as dancing meditation and walking meditation.

Prayer
I don't hear enough people talk about the importance of prayer these days. I think I'm around too many meditators. Prayer is huge. It helps you to put out your intentions to the universe. In a way, you can give yourself up to God for help and guidance in your prayers. This isn't the wishing-well approach to prayer, by-the-way. This is about genuinely asking for guidance and setting the intentions that you want to manifest in your life. Don't just whine to God that life is hard. Life IS hard. Welcome to life. But it can also be beautiful, and you can find a deeper grace and peace with it as you deepen your experience of prayer. The step after that is when you start to join groups of people to send communal prayers to others.

Spiritual Friends
Community support is so important. You are not doing this alone, and you don't have to be even when your entire world is crumbling...especially when your entire world is crumbling. You'll find them at meditation groups; online in spiritual FB groups like mine and many others; kirtan chants, and else where. As you become more attuned, you'll start to be able to find these people anywhere. But start with some of these mentioned groups so that you start to understand what spiritual people are and how they act. If you've been surrounding yourself with draining people (angry, depressed, fearful, etc.), you may not know what a healthy person is like or how to be with someone spiritually aware (and yes I equate spiritually aware with being healthy).

Countless Spiritual Tools
I'm not even scratching the surface. I'm offering you the door. You need to take it, and then you'll find all kinds of tools. Find the ones that work for YOU! Everyone has there favorite forms. I'm a writer; of course, journaling is a huge tool for me. But if astral projection gets you the connection you need for part of the path, do it. If fasting helps (and it's really an important tool), do it.

What's key is that you start to build a toolkit and learn how to build that toolkit by trying out different things and trusting when something does or doesn't work for you--here's the importance of intuition again. One tool will be good for one situation, and another tool will be good for yet another. Don't hold on to these too tightly. You're going to change. Your needs are going to change. And remember that this is the start. You use the tools to create the scaffolding around this new spiritual being you are re-creating in yourself. They will come and go as you need them and as you find out what your beautiful spiritual being truly desires to manifest into this world.

Namaste.

Next blog: The Purpose of Meditation in a Spiritual Practice

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Fight Against Extremism and Hate

I'm pausing from outlining building a spiritual foundation to talk about the Koran burning threats by a pastor in America. In some respects, this will also be an important basis for continuing this discussion because it shows what happens when we start to focus on "the other" and not on ourselves.

But They Did It To Us
Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek. You would think a pastor would know this, but obviously, he's gotten lost in his own hate. And that's sad, and it's deeply concerning that anyone can be in a spiritual leadership role and be so full of vitriol. There are plenty of reasons to hate someone else. If you go back far enough in history, we can all find plenty of terrible things down by someone else to someone in our lineage. In holding onto that hate and that pain, we all are lost. It's the downward cycle. I happened to be a Buddhist event in Berkeley yesterday called Sanghapalooza, and one of the speakers mentioned that hate only perpetuates hate. Love can stop the cycle of hate. No matter what someone else has done to us, if we truly want to be spiritual, loving, and kind people, then we have to find our way to love.

911 Was a Tragedy
There is no doubt that 911 was a tragedy. So many people were hurt. And then a greater tragedy occurred as the U.S. began lashing out at other countries. The legacy of 911 continues with what has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's so easy to hurt others; it's much harder to heal ourselves.

And now with a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero, those filled with hate and revenge have found a new way to spread their disease. A peaceful Islamic center is not a threat. The U.S. prides itself on freedom of a religion, and that means that an Islamic center has equal right to be put just about anywhere in the U.S. There is no threat to helping people to learn about Islam especially with over 1 billion muslims in the world. In my eyes, it's absolutely essential to have more Islamic presence in the U.S. to show people that there's an enormous difference between Muslims and extremists.

What Are Extremists?
Ultimately, extremists want power and control. Many suicide bombers are pulled out of very poor situations. With some rich leaders in extremist groups offering money for the family, the suicide bombers can get talked into these extreme acts. When you have nothing, you are desperate. Do you know what that's like? It's easy for someone to talk you into something so crazy in the hopes of helping your family and going to Heaven when you have absolutely nothing and no other hope for betterment in your life.

The bin Ladens of the world want power. They see that the U.S. has power, and they want it for themselves. It's not about religion. Religion is a marketing tool to get people to sign on to do it for Allah. The five pillars of Islam say nothing about killing other people. For those of you who are interested, the five pillars are believing that Muhammad is God's messenger, prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage. The Jihad term is meant for fighting inner demons and has been grossly contorted to serve the extremists' desires for power.

Where Are Extremists?
They're here--in our hearts. The pastor threatening to burn Korans isn't the only one. He merely shows the level of hatred already in us. If you want to stop extremism today, take a look at yourself and all the ways where you have reacted abusively and meanly. Clear that evil from your soul, and you begin to diminish the power of any such pastor, suicide bomber, bin Laden, etc. This is the start of a longer path, and we must use our voices and our love to be heard to stop people from acting so horrifically. As we become clearer, the absurdity of burning a holy book or fighting a holy war becomes more apparent. It becomes almost laughable because you start to realize that you're no different from "the other." The other that you had hated so much was really just you all along.

The Spiritual Path Is Urgent
But the darkness won't let go easy, which is why turning to the spiritual path is urgent. We all need to deepen our understanding, our compassion, and our love. We need to learn how to stand in our authentic power to dissuade and overcome such hate and extremism in ourselves and--when needed--those in the world who would do violence. It's a perilous time, but good people need to stand up now. No religion is ever about pain--that's simply power, greed, and control trying to hide behind yet another mask--Muslim or Christian.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What Is Intuition?

Clearing the internal skies for the light of intuition.
Intuition is a commonly tossed around term, but I think many people don't have a full-grasp on what it is and what it isn't. It's also essential to the spiritual path. As you walk deeper and deeper into the path, you find that rational reasoning is extraordinarily limited. You also find that your greater awareness is operating outside the tiny circumscribed area that is the purview of rationality. This is where intuition comes in to guide you to your deepest truths.

What Intuition Is Not
It is not the devil whispering in your ear or some other kind of fearful nonsense. When intuition is the most clear in you, there should be no fear at all coming with the message. Typically, any fear about something is generated by the rational mind in its inability to engage and integrate the intuitive message. By integrate, let's try this example.

You are walking down the street. You get a sudden urging to turn to go into a BMW car shop to look at cars. Your rational mind jumps in saying that you don't have money to buy a car much less to buy a BMW. You don't need a new car anyway. Yours runs fine. You'll look stupid going into a car shop just to window-shop.

Keeping the Radio Clear of Chatter
The above example is an instance of the mental noise that quickly over-runs an intuition. Your mind is too small to accept a slightly out-of-the-box suggestion. It's too caught up in reasoning to trust the guidance, so it blocks it out, stops it from integrating into you, and then transforming into the action of going into the store. I've found that following these simple little intuitions gives me a deeper sense of being on track with my life, and pretty soon, other things and opportunities begin to pop up.

The intuition typically comes of its own will without any thought. Thought usually is a problem as it blocks out intuitions. Hence, meditation and any other healthful practice to clear your mind are really key to getting clear intuitions.

Having Faith in Your Intuitions
In many ways, intuitions are you direct communications from your spirit, your guides, God, the universe, or whatever energy/inspiration source seems to be present in your life. Subsequently, you need to cultivate a sense of faith to allow them to come freely to you. Too much doubt (typically driven by fear) will stop you from receiving well or stop you from acting on the intuition. Acting upon an intuition is essential because it helps you to realize, manifest, and embody the spiritual communication. The further you go on the path, the more intuition becomes the golden chain link of sanity that helps pull you through the ups and downs of the path.

But I'm So Confused
It takes years of practice for many people to get the clarity they need to hear their intuitions clearly. If you haven't practiced trusting your intuitions, start small. Do it with what food you feel you should eat or where to go with a friend tonight to hang out. It doesn't have to be a big thing. Usually, intuitions are small things anyway that build up to big things over time. In many respects a big intuition is called a revelation, and too many of those things completely shake up and change your life anyway. You don't need that yet if you're still working through a lot of confusion. You simply need to start carving out a little space of trust so that intuitions can start to grow unimpeded. Pretty soon you'll start to see a little clearer and feel a little closer to where you want to be.

For more on the topic, you can listen to me in this video:




This picture for intuition comes from my student, Jenn.

Next blog: Spiritual Tools of the Trade
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