Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Interpretation of the Tale of the Butterfly

For those of you who read my recent post "The Tale of the Butterfly," the following is a breakdown of that spiritual allegory. Of course, if you liked reading it the way it was and don't want this added layer of intellectualism, then don't read this. Here's a link to some sweet sound healing instead.

Lost in Illusion
We meet out heroine, the butterfly, lost in illusion. At its core, this is the state that most of humanity is in. The butterfly is so lost to illusion that it's impossible for her to realize that she is not a bee or that there is another way of living other than the way that she is currently living. And yet, this life makes her miserable. She's terrible at it, but she struggles to continue doing it. In a deeper way, this is her gift. Because she doesn't like where she's at, she is more likely to accept a chance to be different. For people who are not only lost in the illusion, but feel that they're good at "making honey," they are even less likely to break-free of the hive and their lives.

So, here is one of those important themes in a lot of people's awakening experiences: pain. The butterfly's pain is part of what will help her to let go of her current life and to embrace a new one.

The Turning Point: The First Meeting with the Beloved
The butterfly's meeting with another butterfly is a turning point. It's that point in our lives when either we realize that something is wrong or something in life shakes us up. She denies the truth told to her by the other butterfly, who is acting in the image of the beloved. The Sufi master, Rumi, talks about the beloved and lover, and here I'm using this in a physical sense. Later in the tale, I move this imagery into the more subtle and therefore, truer sense. So our protagonist is enamored with the other butterfly and his beauty. But she is so lost in delusion and denial that she can't even admit this to herself. She can't even speak to him, and if he doesn't engage her, then she'd actually have missed this opportunity. The fact that he does engage with her is the element of grace that works in her life. Sometimes in our lives, grace comes and gives us an opportunity that we could not have consciously created. On a deeper level, we create most of the things that come to us in this lifetime (I'm not a big fan of believing that we create everything--I think that's too ego-centric of an idea). So, the subconscious level of the butterfly is already trying to break her out of her illusions, hence the dreams she has at night. In that way, a part of her would have been trying to draw out the beloved.

For most of us, we need an external representation of the beloved because our delusion is so bad that the understanding that we hold both the lover and the beloved within us is beyond our current grasp. So too, the butterfly draws in her beloved as another butterfly, and of course, she isn't ready for him. Many of you who have written to me have talked about meeting a significant other whom you weren't ready for. You turned him or her away to stay with the relationship that you currently have or to stay single. You probably had lots of rational reasons. The butterfly's reasoning is that this other butterfly is frivolous and stupid, but all he's done is to reveal truth. In this way, many people turn away from truth because they are lost to delusion and can't even acknowledge truth. She's quite rude about it, and later on in the story, she obviously regrets it, as she seeks him out.

The Misery Grows Heavier
Yet, this initial connection isn't enough, so she continues with her life. But a part of her has been activated by the beloved. This may be like when some of you have met a soulmate. A part of you that has been dormant is now ignited. You can't ignore it, and that ignited part draws energy away from all the things that you are doing that are not true to you. In this case, it's the butterfly's work and living situation. It seems outwardly absurd for a butterfly to be trying to be a bee living the life that she's trying to live, but that's the power of metaphor and allegory. So many people in life are trying to do things they don't love because they're just trying to make their honey or should I point it out more and say "make money." It's why the question of "What would you do if money was not an object?" is such a powerful one. Money is, however, one of several reasons that people stay in miserable situations that don't honor them.

The butterfly still won't take ownership of her life, so life takes ownership of her. She gets sent away from the hive, which in the external world looks like a cataclysm. On the spiritual level, it's actually her very first triumph. But she doesn't know it yet, which is why she tries to go back to that lifestyle again and again. We all have done this, have we not? We are such creatures of habit that we can't imagine that we could live a different way. The other bees she meets are even more confused by why she'd want to work and live with bees, so she doesn't get another chance to live in another hive. This too is yet another triumph, as her life is being transformed for her. This is another act of grace that helps create more misery to force her to the moment of truth.

The Illusion Breaks and the Second Meeting with the Beloved
The clear pond is the clear sight of living in the real world. The butterfly has finally been forced to stop moving. That's why a meditation practice is so powerful for all of us. It's us voluntarily stopping the outward movement to cultivate this clear sight. She doesn't know what's happening initially, but she's in awe of how perfect everything is through the lens of the clear pond--through the lens of true sight and seeing things as they truly are. This is the start of a profound opening, and for many people, they get stuck here. When she looks at her reflection--which is the image of the true self--a couple of important things happen all at once. For one, she's meeting herself and seeing herself as she truly is. Secondly, this is a meeting with the beloved in a deeper way. The image of her beloved is no longer being projected on another, and as she reaches out to it, we have the diminishing distance between the fullness of her self. Her two halves are coming together on one level. In another way, she's transcending duality. The separation dissolves into oneness with the realization of who she truly is. She's a butterfly.

The Search for the Teacher
What follows after that is the classic flailing of the untamed mind and the remaining old ego. Having done no preparation for the spiritual path, the butterfly thinks she needs someone to teach her how to be what she already is. She immediately presumes that the other butterfly would know, and perhaps he would. But now, he's no longer the image of the beloved. He's the projected image of her own truth and inner teacher. So she goes on her quest for the teacher.

This has probably happened for a number of you who try to get back that relationship or situation that you could not handle before. Perhaps you can connect with it again. Perhaps not. A lot of times, these things serve a one-time only purpose, and when you find a beloved again, suddenly, they're not the image of perfection you thought they were. You may suddenly find out that you don't even like them. A lot of things may happen, and in this case, the butterfly's quest is a failure. On the level of the beloved, she's already merged together. There's no outward beloved to connect with again in the way that a part of her intellectual programming thinks she needs to. What she needs is the teacher, but also not in the way that she thinks she needs it.

In the quest, I'm also making fun of the gurus who live in caves, mountaintops, and ashrams in one of the sentences. You get the sense of the ardent devotee searching high and low, and she doesn't like what she finds or can't find what she thinks she wants. Her mind is fixated on the image of the other butterfly, and until she gives up and lets go, she's not ready to meet the teacher. In truth, she doesn't even really know what he looks like, and her image--her mental container for what a spiritual teacher is--is too small. When she does let go, her container can expand, and she can meet the teacher in the form of the toad.

The Master Speaks When the Student Is Ready to Listen
The toad can only appear when the student has burned out the external world focus, or if the teacher is going to preliminarily help someone, then that teacher helps the student burn out that focus until the student can truly listen and be present to what's important. Most students still think that spirituality is out there even if they intellectually understand that all their knowledge and everything of the most important nature is already within. Once the butterfly has gone through this phase, she can meet the teacher, and the teacher can tell the student that there's nothing to search for and nothing to do. The toad tells the butterfly that being a butterfly has nothing to do with doing anything. Now because she's finally willing to let go, she can hear this and embrace the truth. She is now ready to accept being, and she knows that there is nothing to accomplish to become a butterfly. It is what she already is.

From the reader's point of view, this seems like an obvious thing, right? Of course you don't have to do anything to be a butterfly, but I have to do something to become a doctor. Certainly, outward professions require training, but if you are truly a healer, that's something you already are. That's what you've been doing in your own way from playing pretend doctor as a kid to helping putting bandages on your siblings knees from playing too hard. From this standpoint, what this tale is also talking about are the core archetypes that we naturally hold that are part of our gifts to share in this world.

Back to the story, the toad leaves to find more food and nourishment. The idea here is that the toad is only interested in things that nourish it. On a deeper level, that nourishment is also love, truth, and wisdom. The toad isn't seeking as such; it has nothing it needs to gain. But it is engaged with the world, which is why it goes on looking for more nourishment to sustain it. What the toad doesn't do is go seeking experiences or getting involved in things that don't nourish it. That's an important distinction to understand about the spiritual teacher. The teacher has cultivated his or her awareness to know what nourishes and what does not nourish him or herself, which are the next steps of the butterfly's path of self-realization.

Embracing the Fullness of Being
The last phase of the butterfly's growth in this tale (there are other phases; perhaps I'll write some more stories like this if people like them) sees her embracing her natural talents and who she is. Things are initially difficult because she has not cultivated these things, and that happens for a lot of people who have to overcome the inertia of their lives. They've spent so much time living one way that they don't how to live in tune with themselves. Your story may require more time to learn how to fully "open your wings," but in this story, it happens very rapidly. From that, she finds the joy in the fullness of being who she is, and she realizes that no one can tell her who she is. In this last part, this is when we fully connect with our inner truth. In that connection, we can never been shaken. While things may be difficult or pleasant in life, we know who and what we are. And that's a powerful place to take action in the world through as well as a profound place of being that allows us to be as we are.

At last, the butterfly knows who she is and can fully live her life. The illusory separation between herself and her beloved has dissolved, and she has achieved the internal oneness. Now she can fly anywhere she chooses. What a beautiful thing to be able to do. Such a natural thing to be able to do all in accepting herself just as she is.

I hope you enjoyed the story. Feel free to leave comments and questions if something arises for you.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Tale of the Butterfly

There once was a butterfly who thought she was a bee.

She lived with bees, worked with bees, and slept with bees.

Her whole life was spent with bees, and she'd never thought anything of it.

Yet, she was never a very good bee.

She couldn't carry pollen well.

She was terrible at making honey.

And getting into the hive? Oh that was just a total nightmare.

All in all, her life was not a happy one.

She did her best to fit in, but it always seemed like she was bumping into someone or making mistakes.

The other bees would tell her, "Your wings are too big" and "Why can't you make honey like the rest of us?"

At night, she would secretly wish that she wasn't a bee.

She'd have dreams of floating on great big air currents without any concern for getting pollen.

The next morning, she'd always try to forget the dreams as nonsense and would struggle on with her life.

Then one day, she met a great big blue butterfly.

So stunned by his color and beautiful wings, she did not know what to say.

And she would not have said anything if he had not spoken.

"And where are you fluttering off to today?" he asked.

She was quite surprised by his voice, but feeling rather bee-ish, she did not like the term fluttering.

"I am not fluttering anywhere. I am busy working on getting pollen for the hive."

The big blue butterfly looked strangely at her.

"Why in the world are you doing that?"

"So that we can make more honey," she said primly.

"Honey? Why do you need to make honey?"

"Well, good sir, because I am a bee."

The other butterfly stared at her for a long moment, and what he next said changed everything.

"My dear. You most certainly are not. You are a butterfly."

But she was not ready to hear this.

Having gathered her courage with a little bit of indignation, she bade him farewell and a good day fluttering wherever he willed.

She had work to do.

But later that night, the dreams came back. Now she was fluttering with not just the other butterfly, but many other butterflies.

The other bees noticed her work got even worse in the next couple of weeks until finally the Queen called her in.

After a tearful discussion, the butterfly was let go.

She packed her things and got lots of other good wishes that she'd find a new hive with bigger hallways for her over-sized wings.

She wandered for some time, talking to other bees, who looked at her strangely for inquiring about working with them.

One day, she was sitting by a clear pond.

It was one of the clearest, she'd ever seen. The water was so pure. It reflected everything perfectly as it is.

She looked at the trees and the rocks and the clouds reflected in the waters.

The lines and contours were perfectly etched in the reflection. It was almost like the whole world was captured in its purest truth in that water.

As she looked at it, she finally paused when she saw this amazing butterfly.

She turned quickly around in case the stranger she met awhile ago had found her again.

But there was no one behind her.

She looked back at the water, and once again, there was the butterfly looking quizzically at her.

She turned around again. Was this a game? Was he hiding from her?

This went on for some minutes until she found her courage to reach out.

Slowly. Very painstakingly. She reached out to the water.

In return, the other butterfly slowly and very painstakingly reached out to her.

Her heart started to pound wildly. She began to sweat.

She could barely breathe.

Their hands met and broke the separation between the two worlds.

And she knew she was a butterfly.

But you see, her whole world was now completely upside down.

Or as it were, she was now completely right-side up.

Knowing the truth was one thing, but she had no idea what to do now.

What do butterflies do? How do they live? Even more importantly, how do they make honey?

She knew what she had to do. She had to find that other butterfly.

She set off immediately, recklessly, and hopefully.

She searched high and low, near and far.

She searched in caves, on mountain tops, and in other small communities of creatures said to be wise beyond their years.

Until she was quite distraught and ready to give up.

When a toad happened to hop up along beside her.

"You seem very troubled. What is the problem, my dear?"

"I am searching for someone, but I cannot find him."

"And why are you searching for this individual?"

"Because I need him to tell me how to be a butterfly."

The toad laughed at this. "But my dear, do you not already know this? Are you not already a butterfly?"

"All my life, I thought I was a bee. So that's what I did. How do I be a butterfly when I have never done it before?"

The toad nodded knowingly and patted the butterfly on the back.

"Because what you do has nothing to do with what you are. Just be you, and it'll all work out fine."

Then the toad hopped away on its path to find food and water and other nourishment it saw fit to enjoy.

The butterfly thought about what the toad said, and she began to do all the things that she'd dreamed about.

She spread her wings wide, as wide as they could go, no longer hiding them.

At first, she still flew like she used to.

Her wings were atrophied and stunted from being collapsed and trying to fit into small spaces.

But soon, they expanded out into their natural form.

And the wind would come and pick her up and carry her around.

She fluttered about and drifted on different currents for days.

She found everything to suddenly be so easy, so effortless.

She did all of the things that felt most true in her heart, and she forgot about hives, honey, and pollen-gathering.

She fell into a deep ecstasy with each moment of just being who she was.

And she realized that all the stuff she'd been searching for was already inside her.

No one could tell her who she was.

Because she knew she was a butterfly through and through, and that was the truth.

(For those interested, you can read an interpretation of this tale on this link.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Trap of the Intellectual Mind

In Western Culture, the intellectual mind has become the great idol of our times. It is worshipped in so many ways, and it's part of the reason that education--specifically academic education--is so highly prized. It's seen as the cure-all for economic and social woes. Just get people more education. Just feed people more lima beans. But you can only eat so many lima beans. Everything has a limit in how much it helps you, and today I'll talk a little bit about the limits of the intellectual mind and the trap in thinking that it can do everything for you on your spiritual path.

The Road to the Mind Is Just One Checkpoint
Initially, cultivating right thinking (as the Buddhists might say) is an incredibly important thing in life. In so many ways, the mind has very sacred and quite useful functions to help us live in this world. Just pause and think about all the important stuff that you know...the important stuff. Not the useless crap about the latest teen pop star or what the neighbors are doing at 3am in their bedroom. Important stuff like knowing how to clothe yourself or what to eat. Memories and how-to knowledge around fixing things that break and building relationships. All this information is stored in your noggin, and that's a very good thing. Colleges and universities help us go further with critical thinking to be able to "objectively" evaluate a lot of things--obviously the "objective" perspective in the academic world is more subjective than that venue of people would want to admit, but it has a lot of value to it. All of these things are important ways to be able to move through your life and make good decisions.

When the Tool Loses Its Usefulness
But then, we start using this tool for other things, and it gets lost in the consumption of information. The Internet is an amazing place, but you can constantly be filling your mind with junk. The 24-hour news cycle and 5 million channels of nonsense on TV add to more noise. There is so much garbage out there, and the undisciplined mind will consume all of it constantly, leaving you with a blur of fuzz and static in between your ears. Along the way, your mind has been creating perspectives and points of view about everything, and combining these with a whole bunch of personal attributes, you have created a very complex ego. And the more intellectually focused your ego is, the more it consumes information in a specific way. It shuts out other interpretations and things that don't work within its limited perspective, and it focuses the mind further. This is part of how we get lost. This part of the reason why we don't really see other people because in addition to focusing, we start to project out what we want to see onto our worlds. We create this little ego and intellectual bubble that we think will somehow protect us, and we have it feed us the same types of stories over and over again.

Until one day, something or someone pops a spiritual awakening.

The Bubble Bursts Once...It May Have to Burst Again
And then the spiritual path unfolds before you, and you want to bring this tool with you too. And you can. And you should, but there are limits to what it can do. Because regardless of having a profound spiritual awakening or not, your limited ego wants to come along and start doing the same BS to the spiritual path. It wants to pick and choose what experiences it can accept. It wants to have the fun enjoyable ones and not the unpleasant ones. Or it'll only deal with the unpleasant ones if it thinks it'll get rewarded by doing so. There are whole levels of issues that people try to bring onto the spiritual path. It's like trying to bring all of your luggage--5 million pounds of it--onto the little turbo-prop plane that can only handle 50 pounds of your baggage. You're going to have to let some of this stuff go.

Refining Your Intellect, Putting Things in their Place
If you don't refine your intellect, you can become one of these spiritual philosophers. It's not a bad job. I hear the pay is good. :) But it doesn't get you very far on the spiritual path. Because you're still playing an academic game. If being an academician made you enlightened, then universities would really be the most amazing places to go, but the last time I checked, they were still pretty full of booze, unfulfilling (although admittedly fun) parties, scandals at the administrative levels, apathetic teachers, apathetic students, and so forth. Obviously, they're not enlightened; they're just very well academically and intellectually trained, and the mind needs to understand the difference.

I wrote awhile ago about how awakening quiets the intellect a long time ago. When it's allowed to, the energy will balance out naturally. Your mind does know what it's role is, and as it is refined, the subtle information that the mind can interpret via intuition is pretty profound. But most of you haven't done this work yet. You probably don't even know the difference between the many internal parts and pieces of your mind that yammer at you all day. And all of that will be one of the many possible starting points. You're going to need to know what's going on in there before you can put anything in its place. Start with a journal, and pay attention to all the inner conflicts and discussions you have with yourself. It may be illuminating and potentially disturbing to bring awareness to all the discussions and stories that are actively playing out inside you.

Balancing Your Energetic System
I often talk about the wisdom and natural intellect of all aspects of us. Our hearts have wisdom. Our bodies have wisdom, and of course, our minds have wisdom. The wisdom of the soul runs through all of these spaces, and that wisdom can only be activated through placing awareness there. Depending on all the crap that you've got in the way, there may be quite a bit of discipline and self-work that's needed. For others of you, you may be surprised how quickly amazing information and understanding starts to flow out of you just by giving it space to do so. Obviously, fear, sadness, and anger will get in the way. Fear is one of the worst because it'll paralyze you. You'll say, "But I can't really be a doctor. I'm not smart enough." In this space, the mind is not serving it's purpose, and it sounds like it's blocking the wisdom of your heart. I'm sure you can think of other examples, and that may seem daunting initially, but if you don't put the intellectual mind into it's appropriate place, who will?

The Gift of the Well-Trained Mind
The great gift in all of this is that you're making space for a lot of wisdom to come through you. There's so much information within you and in the world that is right at your fingertips if you do the work to make space for it. The well-trained mind can work through the slush and debris of the New Age world as well as the business world to find truth and what feels right. A lot of people are telling people a lot of things about awakening, and not all of it is helpful or particularly accurate. Your intellect can help to see through the shams and the fakes. It helps you to make space for your own wisdom so that you no longer need to go searching for anything because ultimately, there's nothing to search for anyway. There's nothing you need to know. You already know it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Coming of the Divine Mothers and Divine Fathers

Spiritual parenting is a topic that I know is on many of your minds. How could it not be for many of the moms and dads who have strong spiritual practices or who have had an awakening? You want to bring this gift to your kids, and if nothing else, you want to help them be freed of karmas and past mistakes that you've spent so much time clearing out of your own systems. So the question becomes, "How do I help my children the most?" And of course the clearest answer is to start with you.

The Road Gone Before and the Road Ahead
So much of our families' histories is to travel the same road again and again. The road behind us and the road in front of us are not actually roads; they're loops. We travel around the same tracks, and regardless of the amount of "success" we have in the external world, we play out the same types of issues with intimacy, scarcity, abuse, and general habits. Some families resemble each other's energies so much that I can't really tell that there are different people there. That's not necessarily bad--it just depends on what your soul path is. But for most people, that similarity isn't a choice. It's a default setting. How do you know what other choices you can make until you do something other than your default setting? How do you know you really love being a plumber when that's all you and your family have ever done? Similarly, how do you know if you were raised well or not until you look at other examples of how families work.

The Exploration of Family Dynamics
There's nothing like having a child on the way to get you looking at family dynamics in a new way. Children are often all of our biggest wake-up calls, and for women, I can think of few other physical rites of passages that can possibly equate to the process of child birth. Child birth is a dramatic statement to every level of a woman that things are now different; you are now a mom. Men don't have an equal physical process for a life shift quite like that, which is why so many rites of passage for men in the past were so physically arduous. Men have needed something profoundly physical to let their bodies know that they are no longer boys, and without those rites, many males simply live out their lives as boys--acting out childish fantasies like making lots of money, having lots of sex, etc. While a rite of passage doesn't change all of that, it does give men a firm place to start out and realize themselves in a different way.

Subsequently, it's been easier for fathers in the past to not feel connected to the whole process of pregnancy. They've been so disconnected from themselves that they can't possibly feel the connection with their partner of a growing fetus. So, it's been easy for them to walk away or consider the whole situation a burden. Obviously, there are also many deeply involved dads, but the new level that's coming to men is the gift of feeling that creative connection beyond the initial conception. This is a process--an ultimately it's always been like this, but more consciousness is going to be coming to it--that has always involved both partners through conception, birth, childhood, and well, most of the rest of our lives. Why do you think as adults on the spiritual path that we spend so much time dealing with both issues of our parents? Those lines of energetic connection are still there, and so we all have to learn how to heal them as appropriately and as best we can so that we can fully come into our own energy.

Old Lines of Familial Energetic Connections
I've spent a lot of time talking in blogs far past about issues from my family around scarcity. Scarcity is the idea that there isn't enough. It leads to miserliness and a whole lot of fear. It breaks the cycle of giving and receiving that is so important to keep us all nourished. Much of my work has been to clear out that fear, and subsequently, children that I have in the future will have much less influence from those old fears. My parents and grandparents have also done bits and pieces of work around other issues so that they wouldn't come to me, and that's part of what we're talking about today. Doing your work to clear away old abuse issues, fears, anger, and other things is one of the greatest gifts that you can give to your children. Children are such little sponges and are so connected to you. When they are developing inside of a woman and through a lot of their early years, they soak up everything. EVERYTHING. You know this already if you are a parent. And the deepest connections will always go first and be there the longest. The energy and the stories that come through your being and presence will be the most profound, which is why doing your work to know yourself and all the family issues are so important. The more you work to break those unhealthy connections and those patterns of fear, the more freedom you offer to your child.

For instance, let's say that your family has a history of believing that you're intellectually smart. You consider yourself to be stupid. Then education becomes part of how you break that cycle. It's a profound thing in Western Culture because education offers so much social mobility. You undoubtedly will have to face a lot of self-esteem issues around not being smart enough, and maybe you'll even want to quit school. This is doing your spiritual work in the real world, and it offers your children so much future freedom (and I'm not talking in your ability to make more money). You'll carry with you a sense of accomplishment and a new belief in your intelligence that no one else in your family has ever had. That's part of breaking the cycle and creating freedom for your children.

Being a Spiritual Parent Starts With Being a Spiritual Person
We all know the "do as I say, not as I do" mentality is a load of crap, so don't try it. As I just illustrated above, you need to do you work. Face your fears. Heal your wounds. That's step one to being a great spiritual parent. It will help you to get in touch with your inner knowing, which will be invaluable as you make difficult decisions at times for your children. Being clear about what feels true helps from everything such as when it's time to put your child down for a nap and to what school to send your children. Intuition has a lot of purposes. As always, it should be balanced by logic and gathering facts. Together, that's a very powerful decision making tool, and it's a very powerful tool for your children to learn and see in you.

Spiritual Guidance for Your Tots
Some women have been woken up spirituality from the process of childbirth, and some men have been awoken in preparation for being dads. You're both more likely in the category of offering spiritual guidance and teaching to your children. You have to know by now that a new wave of very aware children are entering and about to enter the world during this time of possibility and shift. While I don't care to make up another annoying spiritual label like Indigo children (labels get in the way of fully seeing and appreciating individuals), there's going to be another generation like that. Many of you are being awoken to be the divine mothers and divine fathers to shepherd them into this world. Many of these children will be very delicate and won't like the crudeness of the world, so it'll be up to you how you help them to assimilate. Assimilation is key because you can't hide them away from the world. Most of them are needed to be very active in the world vibration, which is not a comfortable one by any means. So your challenge will be to help get them the spiritual tools along the way for them to stay energized and healthy while shielding them at times from the difficulties that they aren't ready for yet.

Still others of you may have been gifted with a very aware child, but you don't feel like you have the tools to do a lot of this. Perhaps, you'll need to find a spiritual teacher to help your children from time to time. Meanwhile, you still will need to do your own work, and you'll need to own that this is a social/spiritual contract with this child that you've chosen. It should never be looked upon as a burden, but that won't mean that it won't challenge you. Any parent reading this today knows that raising a child is always a challenge. They'll hit your hot buttons on every level, which is why especially with very aware children, they may become your greatest spiritual teacher ever.

Letting Go of Right and Wrong in Spiritual Parenting
After you eliminate the big issues like physical abuse and verbal abuse, you'll simply have to trust yourself as a parent. I think this is true for all parents, but especially with those of you bringing spirituality into the new family you're creating, it may seem very unknown and uncertain. Trust yourself. Do your own work to stay clear about yourself and what feels right, but then you have to have faith. A lot of faith and a lot of love are so important in many aspects of life, but especially with raising children. They'll be all right, and you're already doing a beautiful job if you care enough to try and bring spirituality into your role as a parent.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Embracing Life's Contractions and Times for Rest

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you may have heard me say words like "expansion" and "contraction." They're always pared because like breathing, they are the complete cycle. In the Trimurti concept of Hinduism, the three main gods are Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva (Creator, Protector, and Destroyer--There are many traditions of Hinduism, and they each discuss the deities differently). So things are created and expanded out from nothingness, and eventually, they are destroyed and returned to dust. We live within that sphere of reality, and so for every time in your life when you are expanding, growing, and challenging your boundaries, there will come a time for shrinking, letting go of many things, and self-nourishing. From this space, I am writing you today.

The Gift of Being Small
We live in a world lost in the illusion of perpetual growth. From my times in business, start-ups would idealize the hockey-stick growth curve. If you can see the visual in your head, the line of growth starts out small until it sky-rockets perpetually. It's a very juvenile thing to imagine, and even if you have growth of that kind for awhile (assuming you can keep up with it), it will eventually end.

Furthermore, in this constant striving for more and growth and continued consumption, we miss the gift of being small, doing less, and resting. We can really get ourselves in trouble when we try to perpetuate this growth during times of contraction, of shrinking. This is typically when people get sick. I'm half-convinced that humans are very seasonal. While a whole bunch of people going indoors makes it easier to pass diseases, I sometimes think that people get sick in fall and winter because it's a time for many of us to be in a contracted energy--doing less, but we keep pushing on. We push past limits that--at least in this case--are there to let us know that it's time to stop pushing.

Finding Out What You've Left Behind
Because we are in such a hurry to get somewhere and achieve things (at least some of us fall into that category, anyway), we forget what we've left behind. For others, you never try to go anywhere and live in a contracted space. For you, this blog is an encouragement to look at what's holding you in place. Being in a contraction whether naturally or whether you are afraid to grow and challenge your borders gives you a chance to see what needs cleaning inside you. Contractions take us down to the lowest energy level that we naturally hold, and part of healing and cleaning this space out means that for our next contraction, we won't have to go to this low level of energy again. This takes a deft touch because the rigorous energy of expansion has gone, and we don't have a lot of energy really available. Rest is so important as is focused and mindful healing and clearing during the times when we do have energy.

The Constant Contraction: Lost in Your Small Kingdom
But for those of you who aren't in a free-flowing expansion and contraction state, I really challenge you to challenge your borders. The reason you don't have a lot of energy is because you're cut-off from yourself. You're cut-off from the deeper flow of energy in the Universe. Until you make a concerted effort to break through your self-erected barriers, you're going to always be afraid, thinking that the world is unsafe and constantly after you. You'll live under a cloud of drugs, sex, booze, over-eating, or whatever it is you choose to do to make yourself feel better for the short-term, and you will grow increasingly depressed, despondent, and possibly angry if you've got enough energy to stir some up. It's a bad place to be, and it's where most people live now-a-days as our anti-depressant prescription culture tries to numb away the feelings. Which is potentially even worse, although some people genuinely need this kind of medicinal intervention.

If this is where you are, you need to make a new beginning. This blog post isn't really aimed at this. I'm writing for people who have a more natural expansion and contraction happening in their lives. For you, I'd encourage you to check out my Starting Out section to begin to find out what's going wrong.

Dusting Off the Old Issues
Naturally, you're going to find some of your old issues hanging out down here. It's normal. We all scrub through issues multiple times as we grow and have more resources for deeper and deeper cleanings. We keep going until we finally release the issue fully. When we no longer need this issue in any way and on any level, we are free of it. And that's the real gift of a contraction. We can see all of our issues in blinding detail. Consider a contraction to be like coming home after a trip or your day of being out and about. During your trip or your local excursions, you're trying on new things and seeing new places. You're perhaps doing new things and learning new things. You're growing in a brand new way, but eventually, you have to go home. And at home, the dishes still needed to be cleaned; the laundry needs to be done; and the cat has to have its litter box emptied out. You've done this before, and you'll do it again. While this isn't a perfect metaphor, you get my drift about the work that needs to be done "at home."

Awakening and Rapid Expansions and Contractions
For those of you in the initial parts of your spiritual awakening, expansions and contractions can come extremely quickly. It can feel like being on the end of a yo-yo. You have the awakening energy driving behind you, which makes it easier than ever to clear out contractions, but at the same time, getting flung down into the middle of them can be extremely challenging emotionally, physically, energetically, and mentally. Nothing is left out. This is why spiritual awakening can be so exhausting, and just when you think you've cleared a little bit, you're launched back skywards into an amazing expansion, absorbing so much love and beauty and truth. And then you plummet back down into contraction. It really is a marathon of sorts, and you have to do a lot of personal work to keep your breath. Just keep breathing. Inhale. Exhale. Expansion. Contraction. You'll get through.

Sleeping It Off
I'm at a point where I can do a little work on myself and kinda sleep off the rest. I know that this is a temporary state, and I've learned to come to peace with it. There's not much to do, but to rest. If I don't, I'll get sick. I am on a very short leash these days, and it's for my own good. Obviously, I still balance other activities and some work. But my students have already noticed that I am a little less available. This isn't because I don't want to serve and help; this is exactly because I want to serve and help. Until I help myself, I'm not much use to anyone else. If I have a broken leg, it's not time for me to go running with others. There will be other times for that once I've healed.

So, I encourage you to pay attention to what this contraction means. What is it showing you? Why are you so low energy? Don't get caught up in astrological signs and portents and yada yada. Pay attention to you and what's moving through your life. It's so easy to try and blame external situations, and even if you wrap them up with "spiritual speak," it's still the same avoidance technique. If this contraction is showing you something that needs to change in your life, prepare to make that change. If it's simply telling you that your own internal seasons have turned, then let it be winter. Let the fields of your life go fallow for awhile. Spring will come, and with it, a new possibility and cycle of beautiful growth and expansion.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Prayers for the Week

One of the things I haven't talked too much about on this blog is prayer. I pray a lot. I pray before eating my food. I pray before going to sleep at night. God is on my speed dial list, and I use that number regularly.

A lot of times, my prayers are in the form of gratitude or in sending love and positive energy to others. I realize that I don't actually know what's right for others, which is why prayer is a such a beautiful practice. The Universe is much smarter than I am about how everything should unfold, so I do my best to let the Universe figure out the details while I offer up my love to those who need it.

A Week for Prayer
This is so much change and shifting going on in the world, and primarily, my heart is called to pay attention to North Africa and the Middle East. Lives have been put on the line, and lives have been lost. I don't know where any of this is leading, but I invite you to share these prayers with me if you feel moved to (and you don't have to if you don't feel that movement in you heart; simply find what you do feel moved to pray for to bring prayer authentically into your practice).

In my family, we have a beautiful saying as part of our prayers. It goes: "Everything will work out better than we can possibly imagine." I think mom made it up, and I've incorporated it into numerous prayers. In essence, it accepts that we can't imagine what the best outcome looks like. Certainly, you've probably seen a lot of strange stuff happen in life that you never thought could happen. I studied history in college for one of my degrees, and I learned about all kinds of strange things that you'd never thought could have happened. So I use this saying in my prayers to honor the deeper divine mystery that I can never really know how things need to unfold.

Sending Peace, Love, and Prosperity to the Middle East and North Africa
Here are my three prayers for the week. Join me if you'd like to.

  1. May everything work out better than we can possibly expect in the transition of governments in Egypt.
    1.  After amazing the world with mostly peaceful protests in Egypt, a transfer of power and of governmental style is process. But the road is still very tremulous. The next big step is for them to hold elections, which appear to be overly complicated and potentially leading to a lot of dissent and unnecessary confusion.  Who knows what the motives are behind all of that? This is the latest that I've read:
  2.  May everything work out better than we can possibly expect in the formulation of a new political system in Libya.
    1. I don't think anyone really appreciates how volatile Libya is. I think in the U.S. we have a very blind attitude that somehow democracy can just be spread all over whatever pains you around the world. Nonetheless, a new cabinet has been formed to create an interim government as they set up for elections. That cabinet is already drawing heat for not being representative of one minority group. Here is the latest as of today:
  3. May everything work out better than we can possibly expect in Syria.
    1. I have no idea what to even say about Syria. Since March, the Syrian government has murdered over 3500 protestors who have wanted to oust the current leader in that government. The Arab League of Nations has approved sanctions against Syria, which is an unprecedented move for that organization according to CBS News. It may be a situation where things get a lot worse before they get better, but that's why I leave this prayer up to God to resolve. The latest is here:
May your prayers bring love and light to all those around the world in these difficult times of change and rebirth.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gratitude to Mother Earth

Another poem from Susan as well as picture of hers. Enjoy.

Tall life force,
Allowing me to fall into your embrace
As I lean against your trunk
Feeling my heart beat melt into yours
To see your face,

Your waves crash onto the land
The hum of your voice soothes me.
My body sways with yours.
As I take your hand.
Your support is my life boat,
Your love is my sail,
During the rough seas.
I can never fail
On this journey.

My belly touches your belly.
Compassionately held in your
Of forgiveness and
Of grace.
You feed me with all that I need.
All that I am.
You planted this seed
So that I may bloom
into knowing who I am to become.
I already am
Divine feminine, Divine flower.
Rooted into your fertile soil.
My cord connected once again.

Help me to break free from the walls
Of this seed.
Pushing through the dirt,
Gasping for air,
To know the feeling of sunlight on my stem.
I must tear,
Through the walls that resist me
From staring into your rays.
You never left me,
You never will,
For all of my days.

I forgot
Where you were.
Yet you were in front of me,
All the while.
My Guides, sent by you
To show me what was
For me.
Oh how I did not foresee
The beauty I now know within.
Reminded again, and again.

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, November 22, 2011

After the Awakening: The Spiritual Path Goes On

I've been waiting for awhile to start talking about the after the awakening part of the spiritual path. In truth, I've been waiting for my own transition to settle enough that I don't feel like I'm completely channeling the information without any grounded experience myself. And maybe I still am.

It's important to re-distinguish what I'm talking about. The awakening is the singular point of a shift where we understand what's real. It's like we irrevocably link into the higher source and our higher selves, and after that, we have to do the work to align that higher level with the human level. Depending on your path, a huge energy rush--like a surge of water busting through a dam--comes pouring into our beings. For some of us, it's debilitating because we're being changed deeply on every single level--intellectual, emotional, and physical. It can feel overwhelming and like it's a too much for us to hold. But we're only getting what we can handle, and we can handle this shift. And as that initial surge abates, we move into the natural flow that we've always been in, but had been blocking. In this natural flow, the spiritual path goes on.

But I Still Feel So Human
I was at a talk by an author who wrote Enlightenment Ain't What It's Cracked Up to Be: A Journey of Discovery, Snow, and Jazz in the Soul. He did a wonderful job of pointing out how profound this shift can be and how disappointing the reality of enlightenment is to our egoic ideas of what enlightenment should be. Awakening doesn't make us infallible, charismatic, or any more "perfect." We are still incredibly human, and our very humanness feels like it's enhanced tenfold. I wrote in a recent blog that awakening feels kind of like being pushed face down into your best and worst parts. That in and of itself makes the initial transition overwhelming. We live in such an insipid and lifeless world that both our great light and our great darkness are too much for us. We have been living on the weak tea and barley diet, and suddenly the full flavor palate of life is in our mouths. What to do?

And then we do something. Some of us embrace this change fully. Some resist it deeply, and the initial surge eventually dies down either way. How this goes for you will be distinctly your own experience. I can't generalize that, but I can say that the initial intensity will pass. Going back to the water metaphor in the first paragraph. After that first great wave of water, the ensuing waves become softer and more gradual. Some times they are bigger, and some times they are smaller. But they are unlikely to be like the first (of course it depends on your path), and as you go, you come into the deeper acceptance of these ebbs and flows. They are part of the natural waters of the universe.

What to Do Now?
For those of you who have embraced this flow and filled yourself with this life force blasting you, I doubt you'll have this question as the first great swell subsides. You will probably know, and in embracing this transition, you'll have been actively manifesting what you want. Because you understand that this awakening has been taking you towards what you are truly here to do and what you truly want to be. It can take you towards nothing else. That's the nature of it.

For others of you past those great initial shifts (they can come in multiple intense waves--as I said, it's different for all of us), if you didn't really embrace it, you may feel slightly abandoned. At times, this energy is like having 50 people from a party all in your living room with you. You feel crushed and crowded, and then it dissipates. A lot can go away if you haven't been making space for it. If you haven't had a dedicated practice and have numbed yourself with old habits (work, sex, drugs, etc.), you may feel sort of lifeless and lost. This type of resistance can be done. People can beat down enough of this to not really embody much of what's being offered, but then the misery you go through just becomes a bad phase of life. And you never really go back to sleep. You know. You know what's real, and you'll also know what you did to yourself. And in all the ways that ego uses guilt for you, a part of you will feel like you missed the bullet train to that golden city of your dreams. So now for you, you still will need to build your spiritual practice and will have to walk that journey of 1,000 miles.

The Speed of Life Slows Down: You Come Back to Earth
Going back to those of you who are embracing this shift of consciousness and the trials and tests that it brings so vigorously and forcefully, you'll notice the shifts start to slow. The intensity starts to "reduce." I put this in quotes because the frequency may still be really high, but if you've been integrating it, then it won't feel like it's dragging you so far up into the clouds. As I've mentioned in other blogs, "high states" can go away for a lot of people who wake up depending on where their vibration wants to rest. Part of this is because you have to have two states of awareness to distinguish a high state from another state of awareness. If you are on top of a mountain, but there's no up or down anymore, how do you know that you're on top of a mountain? The concept of the mountain goes away. You are where you are, but you still feel very human. High states function off of having alternate points of reference. Integrating your awakening takes many or all of those away, and you can simply feel very normal.

You have come back to earth.

Doing the Work Before You
You will still have bad habits. You will still argue with people and get mad over stupid shit, but perhaps not as much. You will have the ability to step back from any situation and bring a lot of awareness to things. You will, however, still make mistakes, and all of this is okay. Every emotion and every mistake is as much of a gift as being able to feel open and loving. Nothing is static. Everything is dynamic, and you are embracing that dynamism. If you are cold, you can appreciate and embrace the cold. It's not winter's fault. You learn to put on a jacket. In the same way, if someone yells at you at the traffic light, you can learn to let go of those hot, angry emotions. They have nothing to do with you. You know where you are going, and you are grounded and trusting in that.

Yet doubts may remain or ebb and flow. You'll still have your spiritual work to do to take care of yourself. Spiritual work now is as much about self-care as any kind of improvement. You can always improve because as long as you draw breath, this spiritual path continues in front of you. You can always find a way to open further, but only if you chose. You understand more fundamentally that you are perfect in whatever way that you consciously choose to be, and you don't need to grow or improve if you don't feel called to it. That's not an ego decision. That's simply understanding your own path in a very deep and profound way. And of course, you will likely change and evolve with what your path looks like as you go along. It is always changing, and it is always the same.

One Step In Front of the Other in the Post-Awakening Era
The quest for enlightenment is over if you were on that quest. It wasn't what you thought it was. It was a realization. It was a moment of profound "Ah-ha!" But life goes on. You're back in your everyday life, and you have to decide how you're going to live it with this new awareness that is also so old. This awareness is you, and it's always been here. Now you are looking at your home and realizing all the things that no longer suit you. You may have already done a lot of this work, and over time, the renovating of yourself becomes much smaller and subtler. There's not much to do. When you align with yourself, you may be surprised just how effortless and perfect things are, and at other times, it will still require a lot of effort. It's perfect either way, but it's still one step at a time. It's still one breath at a time. There are still assholes in the world. There's still murder, rape, and thievery. There's still the duality of good and evil on this planet. But you can see it for what it is, and you can see that your path is always right underneath your feet.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

2012, the Global Awakening, and the Apocalypse

It's time to take a crack at some of the big things that people are talking about. I normally don't blog about 2012, the global awakening, or the Apocalypse because it really doesn't have much of anything to do with how you live your daily life. Most of this stuff is a lot of conjecture and theory, and while it makes us all feel good to think we're part of a greater shift in humanity, the real work of the spiritual path comes inside our own hearts. That's why I don't like to talk about this stuff too much; it gets you thinking about stuff going on elsewhere. It moves your focus away from yourself to some other unworldly, huge thing that is kind of beyond the scope of daily life. If we get lost to that, then we are all just getting lost again. Awakening doesn't come through the idea of awakening and of others having this shift. It comes because we become extremely present to this here and now.

2012 and Why It Doesn't Matter to You
As I said, it's exciting to be part of something bigger, but the truth of awakening and the spiritual path is that we are already interconnected. So you don't need to be part of anything bigger or look towards a bigger shift for some kind of encouragement. Most of that desire for something bigger is part of a much deeper need to feel connected to others. It's projecting itself out there as a great global awakening. This is fine so long as we don't get caught up in this new myth that we're spinning. I hear in the voices of so many people this strange hope that in less than two months, Utopia will be here. We'll be surrounded by rainbows and equal wealth distribution in a land of honey and milk. It's not going to happen that way. It's not how we learn on this planet. We primarily learn through pain.

Bringing the Apocalypse Down on Your Ego
You know that I'm not a proponent of suffering, but I tell my students and I write on this blog that this path takes you through pain. Your pain cannot be avoided, but it can be released. In releasing it, you no longer have to suffer. But in the process of turning towards our pain, it feels like the world is ending. Everything comes crashing down. So in many ways, the Apocalypse is a very personal thing--how much it translates on the grand scale of global economies and the affairs of state remains to be seen. But as I said, I'm not much concerned with that because I know that the real awakening is always an individual thing. Sure, the more of us that wake up, the more there's this energy moving and shifting and influencing others. But once again, don't get lost in that. Stay present to you and where you are going. In the process, you're going to find a lot of your world that doesn't fit. Consciously letting go of things makes your personal Apocalypse much easier. Holding on to things that don't serve you will make you feel like you're being whipped and quartered by the 4 Horsemen.

Global Shifting Within Your Heart
As you come to understand how interconnected you are, you'll start to appreciate that when you shift how you are, you change the world. That's the only way a global awakening can occur. It happens when you have a greater dedication to your love and your heart. You don't have to fly to India or start a non-profit. Just be more kind and loving and present in your daily life. That'll affect a couple dozen to hundreds of people. You change the ripple of energy you send out when you let go of grudges, grievances, and sadnesses, and that has an effect. Just because your ego may not readily see it doesn't mean that it's not there, and you shouldn't be looking for that outside verification anyway.

The more you look for validation, the more you're really looking for your own self-love. Validation for your experiences and proving to yourself that you're doing good is just another ego game. Many of the great influential people in the world have been hated by more than a few people (seriously, I don't think Gandhi was all the popular with the British). Clearly, he wasn't looking for external validation.

In general, living your life in loving kindness has a profound influence on others, and you can't look to please everyone by following a spiritual path. That's just not how this world operates.

The 2012 Global Awakening and the Apocalypse
If you really want me to talk about the macrocosm of all this stuff, the global awakening and the Apocalypse are the same coin. They're different phases. One is tearing down an old dilapidated structure that is rotted out with fear, hatred, anger, despair, and sadness. The other is rebuilding a newer structure that is eco-friendly, air-conditioned, and has a spa area. :) Seriously though, you get the point. The new building, however, won't be perfect. Rats and other vermin may infiltrate it again, and then this one will have problems. It too may need be torn down and replaced at some point.

In so many ways, awakening is an alive and ever-rolling wave. We'll go through highs and lows. We'll make mistakes, and we'll have successes. The end of the world isn't the end of our world. It's the end of a certain way of living and being in the world. For those people hooked on money and greed, this will be traumatic. I can't imagine having a business that you've poured your whole life into suddenly go defunct is any fun. But as those of us individually wake up, we will want to live in the world in a different way, and we'll want to support different types of businesses and governments. The old structures crumble (lay-offs, firings, bankruptcies), and new structures have to be build. Some of the new won't last because we're creating something new, and life in its early stages is fragile. But over time, some things will be built with the foundations that they need to withstand the currents of life, at least for a little while.

What You Can Do to Prepare for 2012
In my opinion, we're already in the midst of 2012. I feel like the energy has been shifted for some time, but regardless, I would say you need to live your life. You need to follow your heart. What else could be more important? Prophecy will attend to itself. It's of no real concern to us. We don't need to predict the future, and getting caught up in that future-focused attitude is just another ego game where we try to control things and find safety. The world is not safe, and perhaps if anything, in the next couple of years, the world will show all of us just how unsafe it truly is.

Which is why love, compassion, and community will be so important. We're going to really need to support each other on this path. For all those waking up, I know just how much love and community you need, and hopefully, you're doing your work to find others to connect with you and support you. For those who are building your spiritual path, you're going to have to continue to open your hearts bigger and bigger to all the pain and joy out there. You can't be selective. It's all part of this world, and you can't avoid it any longer. No one is going to be able to avoid what's coming, and hopefully with a little luck and a lot of love, in the times to come, this world will be transformed into a more peaceful and loving community and many of the wounds of the millenia gone by will be healed.

If you're looking for an online community, feel free to like my Facebook Spirituality page on this link.

For a few more thoughts on 2012, check out the following video:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Labyrinth

A poem from my student, Susan. The beautiful picture is also her handiwork.

The entrance is before me

I look ahead into the rows of bricks

Strategically placed.

Stepping one foot in front of the other

Beginning the journey through the labyrinth

I call Life.

I follow this path.

Looking straight ahead,

Yet it guides me to the left.

I look to the left,

Then am brought to the right.

Walking straight.

Exhaustion sets in while I search

In every direction, except towards the one

I am on now. In this moment.

Comfort sets in as I see another

Pilgrim on this journey.

Two people, travelling through

The same windy turns of this

Mouse trap.

We briefly face each other

Stepping closer to unity.

Before the next thought emerges

Our backsides are facing.

I look behind.

We come closer again

Except we journey on two parallel

Paths. Almost One, but not quite.

Letting go into acceptance of what is

To be.

The closer I try to get to the center,

The farther away I am lead.

Then I arrive at a point where

Expectations disappear,

Presence takes it’s place.

My feet continue to walk straight,

Pivot, shift, repeat.

One transition into another.

Ceasing to look beyond what is in front of me.

Before long, I arrive at the center.

That was faster than I anticipated.

Nowhere to go but here. No one to meet but

Myself and the Divine within.

I sit, reflect, am One.

Have been all along.

The journey does not end here, though.

After reflection I stand and up to return.

Retracing my steps

To the beginning, which is also the end.

One may never understand the

Mysteries of the Labyrinth.

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.

The Emptiness of Death

Susan shares a deeply personal experience about death.

I remember waking up that morning and realizing that something was different. The dream earlier that night of her walking out of the hospital should have been enough of a sign. My cell phone was still turned off. I didn’t want to turn it on, but knew I needed to at some point. Instead, I proceeded with my morning ritual of meditation and getting ready for work. As I stepped out the door, I finally turned on my phone. I could already feel what the message was on the voicemail. She was no longer living in her present body. My mother had passed away into the unknown. I felt relieved that she didn’t have to suffer anymore. Afterall, I don’t remember a time in my childhood where she wasn’t sick. I felt sadness and anger. What scared me the most was that I even felt her pain. It was thick and dark as molasses. Her spirit was still very much alive on this Earth, kicking and screaming, not willing to let go.

I always had this fear of death as a child and into my adulthood. I remember having mini anxiety attacks. My heart would palpitate at the thought of non-existing. Would I have any memories? Was there really a heaven “up there” where everything was perfect? Wouldn’t I eventually get bored being able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted in this place called heaven? There must be a point where you can enjoy only so many tootsie rolls. However, it was the lack of pure existence in this life that scared me the most. I was afraid of being confronted with an empty and void space at the end of my life.

Death still feels empty to me, but it feels different now that I look at it from a new perspective. The emptiness of death is majestic and gorgeous, similar to a galaxy of stars. It gives space for life because it is a part of life. The two, life and death, are equal. One isn't more important than the other. I had a great opportunity to start looking more deeply into the depths of my own fear when I travelled back home after hearing the unfortunate news.

The fear that I experienced felt exactly the same. I felt it as soon as I stepped into the house. Her spirit was there, angry as hell. I was immediatlely brought back to similar memories as a child, how I felt small and unworthy. Yet I pushed through in order to do the work I was sent to do. I remember standing in her bedroom in front of her recliner chair still reaking of fresh cigarrette smoke. My hands were trembling, trying to keep the bowl of sage in one hand and the lighter in the other, preparing for clearing space. Then my spirit guides came to help. I looked into the fear and saw it for what it was, for the first time. As I walked throughout the bedroom, my hands continued to shake and sweat, but I allowed the fear to flow through me. There was some point when the fear transformed into strength and empowerment. The energy of the room began to shift and cleanse. I knew I couldn’t do anything wrong during the space clearing. My intentions were pure, and I knew God would guide me to do the right thing. A few days later I felt fear return as I was about to perform a ceremony alongside a creek. Once again, I allowed the fear to come through me instead of resisting it. After doing so, I was given the space for freedom.

One interesting thing about death is that it always gives an opportunity to transform relationships with one’s self and with others. It was fascinating to see how my relationship with my father changed. The role of parent and child seemed to be completely reversed. I found myself being an educator. It was unfamiliar and strange territory, yet liberating. For the first time we honestly spoke from a place of love and support rather than from a place of fear grounded in repetitive conditioned habits of society. I found that death allows us to not only accept the fear in ourselves, but the fears we share together. By looking deeply into the darkness that inhibited the growth of our relationship, we found a space allowing us to open up into a freedom that was never embraced before in my family. My mother’s spirit was ever present as my father and I talked on a park bench in this healing way. I sensed that she began to understand. For the first time our family karma was beginning to lift. We were all beginning to let go of our individual pain and family karmic pain as well.

I have been dedicating myself to the Kirtan Kriya from the Kundalini Yoga tradition for the past month. During the meditation one chants Saa Taa Naa Maa. Saa means infinity, cosmos, begininng. Taa means life or existence. Naa means death, change, transformation. Maa means rebirth. ( It has opened up so much for me regarding how I view death. In my experience I’ve found that death is only one part of the life we experience. It needs to occur in order for Creation to exist. I’ve also come to know that even though something may die physically, it’s spirit will always exist. The energy that exists within it is never destroyed, only transformed into something different. I always thought I knew what this meant, but did I truly Know it? After all, who hasn’t seen the Lion King movie, right? However, my intellectual mind knew what it meant, but my heart and body did not.

I was sitting on a beach chanting the Kirtan Kriya. I noticed how each breaking wave coincided each time I spoke Saa Taa Naa Maa. One wave after another continued to be created, cap at the top, then cascaded and broke onto the beach in an effortless way. The waves didn’t hesitate to break at the bottom because they know that is the change that needs to occur. Everything is constantly changing. Life is a precious gift, but it can only be truly appreciated when we see the beauty in the emptiness of death. It just IS.

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, November 8, 2011

How to Work With a Spiritual Teacher

I'm taking a pause from my general advising and teaching to talk a little about working with a spiritual teacher. Since the way I offer spirituality to people is about helping them to choose and discover their spiritual path, I generally encourage students to find other spiritual teachers to work with even as they work with me. I come from the thinking that one-size does not fit all, and even further, certain teachers are good at certain things and not others. You wouldn't have your math teacher telling you how to do gymnastics or have your gymnastics teacher telling you how to speak French, would you? (Yes, I know people can be multi-talented; I happen to be one of those people, but you get the point).

In the interests of helping people better engage with spiritual teachers, I'm writing this blog, so let's get to work.

Your Spiritual Teacher Doesn't Have Your Truth
The last time I checked my pockets I don't have anyone else's truth but my own. Sure, I sound pretty good in Skype sessions, workshops, and on this blog, but I'm still just speaking from my truth. It comes from my distinctive lens of experiences and interpretations. I'm pretty good at seeing stuff about other people, but that's never a substitute for your own awareness and deciphering your own truth. The biggest trouble people get into on the spiritual path is coming to a teacher for answers. It's like going to the desert for water. Sure there are some nice looking mirages, but ultimately, you should check your canteen. You may be surprised at what you're already carrying.

Giving Away Your Power to a Spiritual Teacher or Organization
Yet, people persist in looking outside to others for their truth, and when they do this, they are giving up their power. You see, it's really hard to start a religious war if you don't think your religious leader has any control over your spiritual path. You start to think for yourself, and then the idea of crusades and terrorist bombings don't make any sense. You see the greed, fear, and control behind them. Hopefully, most of you aren't being faced with issues like this, but you know what? There are still plenty of strange cults springing up around the world, and the teachers are telling people that they won't get this or that or be allowed to initiate in some way unless people do what the "teachers" say. While certain rites of passage can be secluded for the sacred space an individual needs, most of spirituality is really not a big secret. Be love. Help others. Spiritual truth is very simple. You know this in your heart. And in your heart is some of your greatest power; don't give it away to a spiritual teacher...EVER.

Appreciating Your Spiritual Teacher's Limitations
Here's an interesting thing that people forget; spiritual teachers are people too. They may be enlightened, but that just means they know what's real in life. They still get angry, make mistakes, and stub their toes. It's not a perfect world as a spiritual teacher, and many aren't enlightened. Some teachers are protectors of the path; so they help to make sure rituals are remembered and kept. In general, there are all kinds of types of spiritual teachers, and you can learn more about what a spiritual teacher is on this blog post link.

You will find all kinds of teachers. Some can teach you about how to appreciate your body through movement like conscious dance or yoga. Some can teach you about your heart and how to open it in love and service to others. Some can teach you about principles and ideas--which is the most commonly accepted form of spiritual teacher. Others will teach you through energy and their very presence may even shift you, depending on how they are designed to be. Every person has a different kind of soul design, let's say. Some just naturally resonate energy in a certain way, and their aim is to help people shift at the deepest level. In saying that, they are no more or less important than the other teachers, and as you've read this, you may realize that not everyone who is teaching in a profound way considers themselves to be a "spiritual teacher" as I'm defining it. That's fine. They don't need to. Definitions don't really earn you that much on the spiritual path. But you may realize that your 3rd grade teacher was a heart teacher, and that's where you learned a lot more lessons about love than you did about math or reading. That teacher may be the shining reason of how you've learned to offer and receive love. You probably never knew that you were being taught in that way until reading this blog.

Making Space for New Teachers at New Times
But a heart teacher is here to teach you about your heart. S/he may not take care of her/his body at all, and to learn that lesson, you'll need a different teacher. Some of us teachers can pretty much teach everything, although we all do some things better than others. And we are all growing and changing. To understand me a little more, I help people see the big picture and bring together what someone is learning in a cohesive way. It can be easy to get lost in all the different practices out there and make a mess. It's like having a recipe. You need certain proportions of ingredients to make a nice batch of chocolate chip cookies. If you don't, you just get a mess. So, I help people balance out what they're learning on the heart level, physical level, intellectual level, energy level, psychic level, etc. I make suggestions to people about when it's time to find a new body-healer or what-not as I see their development, but as I said, it's always up to the student to decide if that's right for her or him.

Being Activated by a Spiritual Teacher
Letting go of teachers is a tricky thing, right? Because when you're really activated at times, it's tough to see clearly. Being activated means one or more of your issues are being triggered. It becomes easy to project those issues onto a teacher. Say that you're working with a massage therapist/energy healer, and that person is working on abuse issues with you. Perhaps, the work has gotten deep, and now you're afraid this person is going to abuse or manipulate you. You want to get away from this person. That's called being activated. You're not seeing clearly because a lot of the abuse issue is getting moved like dirt getting kicked up in a dust storm. It happens like this so that you can clear it out. Much of clearing issues is kinda like re-living them. With the support of a good teacher, the issue moves, and you release it. And you should feel a little lighter and a little better. It's not always a clear cut thing in the intensity of the moment. If you don't feel like things are being healed, then that is a good sign that it's time to move on from this person. Just don't jump ship too soon. Dedication and commitment are extremely important things especially when the seas get rough.

Letting Go of the Notion of Progress
In instances of healing, there can be a clear sense of progress. If you have a broken leg, then when you can stand, you can feel the difference. In spiritual practice, you may not get a sense of progress, and it's important to let go of the idea of getting somewhere when you work with a spiritual teacher. The important thing is that as you develop your inner knowing, you continue to check in with that. You ask yourself, "Is this still a good relationship for me to have?" If the answer is "yes," keep going and trust the process. If it's "no," let your teacher know and move on. It's really very simple, and any true teacher should trust your right to make choices and live your life anyway you want. You may even make mistakes in when you let go of a teacher, but that's okay. If you fall on your face, that teacher will still be there to help you stand up because undoubtedly the teacher has done more than a few face-plants her or himself.

Trusting Your Spiritual Teacher
You should have chosen a teacher whom you can trust. As I said, your inner knowing is crucial here. It will help you to find what feels right for you when the teacher offers different ideas or practices. It'll help you to know when to leave and when to come back. This is a very fluid relationship, and some of you may only need certain types of spiritual teachers once every 2 or 3 years. It completely depends on you, and none of this operates on an 8 Steps to Enlightenment program that you can do in 30 days. I've noticed that such nonsense is running around out there. It's setting up strange expectations for people, and some of the techniques are being used with a lot of bad intentions around them--in this case, pushing people into places that they may not be truly ready to embrace.

I know there's a very immature line of thinking that says you're never in a place that you're not ready to be, but I try to be pragmatic in living in this world. I would say that sticking someone up on a mountain ledge to climb it without prior training is unnecessary. I mean you may still be able to do it, but part of how I work with students and create a safe space is to find the gear they need to climb and help them train on an indoor rock wall for awhile. In this way, that's how I do my part as a spiritual teacher to develop trust with students, and I encourage you when you search for spiritual teachers to make sure that they're creating a space and connection that you can trust.

Teachers Aren't Perfect and Neither Are You
Please, please, do yourself a favor: delete the word "perfect" from your vocabulary. You're not on this path to be perfect. You're on this path to be you to the fullest degree that you can be you, whatever that means. No one on this planet is perfect, and if you get into this path and into a relationship with a spiritual teacher looking for that perfection, you'll be disappointed. You may also ignore parts of you that are difficult to work with and that fall outside of your definition of perfection. A good teacher will help you go into those difficult parts, and you both may not have the right answers at the time. But as many notable teachers say, you do the best you can. And that's all that you can ever really expect from yourself and from a spiritual teacher. You both are going to do the best you can, and then you trust God and the universe to take care of the rest.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Putting Your True Face Forward: Part 2

I started this last blog about your true face intending to talk about squelching emotions, but I ended up talking about the body and how we mask and cover ourselves. Oh well. That's just how it goes with intuitive writing. Nonetheless, more content on the ole blog is never a bad thing, so I'm following up the "Putting Your True Face Forward" blog post with a part 2 to talk about the emotions and ideas that we try not to show. I'm also going to talk a little bit about this ridiculous idea of always thinking positive and how you can take a good idea and turn it into an inauthentic practice.

Let's Talk About Your Heart
So many people--men--are disconnected from their hearts. Now, I'm not giving women a free pass on this, but since I was directing more of the last blog at the ladies, now it's the guys' turn. So much of the spiritual path before men is about re-claiming their hearts. Guys don't know what they're feeling. They know anger and excitement, but by the time you get near love, sadness, and fear, they're looking for another bottle of beer to run and hide in. It's one of the many reasons alcoholism is a big problem in society. Another is years of built of bad social patterning around community, but that's for another blog post.

But in matters of the heart, in every way that we avoid our feelings and try to put forward a face that denies how we feel, we lose ourselves. We divert more of our energy towards holding down emotions to support this big tough exterior, and we lose that energy from more important things in our lives. Consider this, if you have to put one hand on top of a lid to keep a pot from overflowing, you can't do as much in your kitchen, shop, or wherever. Your whole range of motion is limited. Sure, you can say, "Look what all I can do with this other hand." But there are limits to how far you can stretch that arm while the other is occupied holding down the lid. In so many ways, avoiding our emotions is one of the most limiting things we can do for ourselves because we also avoid so many other situations which could trigger those emotions. And we ultimately are never really there for anyone else much less for ourselves if we can't understand our own hearts.

What Lies Beneath
I think this subhead was also a movie once--a scary movie, not that I ever watched it. Nonetheless, all the emotions that lie beneath this fake mask of control and confidence that you show are probably scaring the Hell out of you. You can't control them. That's the thing about a lot of emotions--they're outside the logic and rationale of the mind. The mind can't control them, but the heart knows how to be with them. In many ways, by not knowing what's lurking beneath the surface, we are already out of control and being controlled. Think about the undealt issues with an ex. You stop going to different places because you might run into her or him. You're being controlled by those issues, and it's limiting your life in what you do and where you go. It's time to take a peak at what's underneath the facade.

It's a Lot of Heart Work
I'm not going to sugar-coat this; dealing with emotions is a lot of heart work. You're going to find a lot of stuff about yourself that you'd forgotten or that you don't really like. You're going to feel weak, insecure, and terribly upset at times as you clean out the garbage. Dude, your tank is overflowing with sewage. It's not a pretty sight, but it won't stop bubbling up until you ship it out. That's just part of the work.

And it may not be a fast process. Some of the nasty old issues from our families have rotted down below for years, and because you've avoided them saying, "I'm fine. My old man was a total fucker to me, but I'm fine," there's a lot of stuff built up around it. Getting to the core issue may take time (it may not too--it just depends on if you're really ready to let go). But the emotional freedom that you get when you clear out these old issues is amazing. You'll be astonished at what it opens up in your life. Consider that if you've never really followed your heart before, once you know what is in your heart, it could vastly change your career. Suddenly, you know exactly what you want to do. So you quit your soul-sucking job and find a new career doing something you truly love to do like cooking, teaching, farming, or whatever it is you want to do. Now isn't that worth a few tears of heart work?

Always Being Positive and Always Being Untrue to Yourself
I'm going to step away from the heart and emotions back to this mask of always being positive. This is a really nasty thing that's going around in spiritual circles. It's like the flu, and it can make people really angry and sick. The reason is because it negates being scared, angry, sad, and other emotions. It makes them bad, and it embraces a very juvenile view of the spiritual path. That view says that you should always be happy. I have no idea how that is remotely possible, and I can only assume that people have gotten that idea from a very limited lens of a few spiritual teachers, who possibly weren't really doing their jobs right.

On the spiritual path, ALL emotions are equally valuable. When we don't acknowledge all of them, that's when we start to get in trouble. Repressing your anger and not reacting from anger are two different things, however. So if you learn to face your anger, it's much easier to release it peacefully and not just punch someone in the face the minute you feel a little anger. Ignoring it entirely is much more likely to create a future reaction as it boils to the surface. In this way, you are being untrue to yourself by trying to always be positive. Sometimes, you're just pissed. That's okay. That's what you're feeling. It's just important that you don't make major decisions or take reactive actions from that place. Take a deep breath and find out what that anger is telling you. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
  • Are you angry because you didn't say something you needed to say?
  • Are you angry because your ego feels hurt?
  • Are you angry because you aren't taking action?
  • Are you angry for allowing yourself to become a victim?
Anger is often a lot of repressed and blocked energy. Hiding it by saying that you're "fine" only makes that issue worse. Each emotion has it's own way of being dealt with, but you can't deal with any of them until you accept them.

Your True Face Begins to Emerge
I think if some of you have read both posts, you may realize how much work you have to do to be you. Isn't that sad? Isn't it sad how much time we've spent covering ourselves in the mud of life and then trying to smear a happy face in that mud to show everyone that we're fine? The good news is that if you've realized that you're doing this, you can change. You can always change. There's never a time in life when you can't change. You may need help. It may be a difficult process, but you can always change.

And very likely, how your "true face" looks will change. We're not static beings. We're very dynamic. Every day, we're changing, which is why it can be so painful to always be trying to force the same "positive" looking face onto ourselves every day. It's like trying to wear the same clothes that we wore as babies. It would be absurd to do it. So why do we force ourselves into these out-dated molds? It's time to grow up, regardless of the answer to the question. It's time to move out of our spiritual infancy and learn to walk on our true path and show our true faces.

Friday, November 4, 2011

You’re Grounded!

Thoughts from my student, Susan, about the importance of self-care.

I fondly remember that corner. I was sent there as a child, not often, but often enough to know when I was in trouble with my parents. Followed by being sent to the corner they yelled, "You’re grounded!" However, to my parents’ dismay, they started to see that I enjoyed participating in this pre-grounding ritual. Slightly to the right of the corner was a small window that framed the front door. My parents noticed me gazing out the window after being sent to the infamous corner. They saw how I enjoyed the solitude with being in this small secluded space, admiring the beauty of the sun, trees, the finely landscaped front yard. It was perhaps a temporary effective tool of discipline, but more importantly, it helped me feel balanced and at home with myself being sent to this corner. It was a time for reflection. Needless to say my parents were perplexed. This was supposed to be a place of punishment, not a refuge. That was when my days of being sent to the corner ended.

Twenty-something years later I’m pondering the same concept and how little we take time to ground ourselves and take care of ourselves. With being a healer, I have been advised countless times about the importance of self-care. I thought I was doing enough, well apparantly not. I have been doing a lot of work on many energetic and physical levels. Integrating transitions in my life, healing my own blockages, taking care of my body, and working in other people’s energetic fields through my job in physical therapy was taking a toll on me. I am learning first hand that when we don’t make space to ground ourselves in self-care, then God is going to make that space for you whether you like it or not.

Oftentimes it occurs by a external factor such as acquiring a severe illness or getting physically hurt at work. Some people may push their bodies to the limits so that they end up having a mental or physical crisis requiring hospitalization. It makes sense, though. Our society repeatedly tells us to work harder and even play harder when we have that rare chance to enjoy our time off. I pondered on how often I was using my free time for self-care. Even when I was committing to self-care, was it true self-care? How often are we mindlessly placing ourselves in front of the television or browsing facebook? On the other spectrum, are we utilizing our limited free time from work with constantly being in motion in the form of activities with friends, clubs, and organizations? We can call it hanging out or having fun, but is it really self-care? These things aren’t inherently bad. It’s the attachment and how often we do those things. I am learning what may be seemingly beneficial in the short term may not be in the long term. It’s the balance that matters.

I was quite resistant to my situation. My ego desired for me to be at work. I didn’t recognize right away why God put this circumstance into my lap. Once I finally let go, had a conversation with God, and allowed myself to relax, I soon began to realize what self-care really meant to me. My ego was using the concept of self-care as something to "get through and be done with" instead of an enjoyable necessity. After being educated on various forms of self care and being an educator of it myself, I always took it as something I just needed to do in order to keep providing more for others. It was something that had to be done, but with a slightly skewed negative attachment to it. I never considered asking myself if I truly wanted to accept it as a necessity, a good thing, until now. No wonder my body was burned out and tired. Yet another trick of the ego cleverly disguised in different clothing.

I see people get burned out every day, overextending themselves instead of taking time for rest and reflection. I even noticed it in myself from time to time. Although I may have realized when I needed some extra time for morning meditation or yoga, I didn’t do it consistently enough to sustain myself. I found joy in my spiritual grounding practices, but didn’t make enough time to find joy in it consistently. God has certainly put me in a corner for grounding. However, it wasn’t for punishment at all. He did it so that I could see the reflection of myself in that little window, so that I could see just how big and wonderful I really am. But first, I can only continue to do that if I take care of myself.

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.
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