October 24, 2012
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night, fretting that you cannot sleep? Does it distress you beyond belief that you are awake when it seems that the rest of the Earth is not? Have you ever considered what an opportunity it is to be aware in that moment of wakefulness? That it is a gift to be alive?
A friend once told me that before electricity, people would sleep at odd hours, wake up whenever they did and used their time to make love, think or even talk to one another? The clock did not dictate their days.
In our modern age of productivity, we are forced into a rhythm that our bodies often reject. If you “suffer” from insomnia, I ask you to consider the power of the night.
Nighttime has a special quality of solitude and introspection that we don’t often get during the day. No phones are ringing, no demands are tugging at you, no secretaries telling you to sign this paper or that. All you have is the sound of your own heartbeat, pumping in your chest as sure as night follows day. In those quiet times of wakefulness, you have received a gift that we often deem a curse. It is time for you to simply be.
Nighttime offers you the moon, bright and shiny, smiling down at you to remind you that the sun is shining somewhere on the planet where you might not be. It gives you the stars and the brilliance of the planets that encircle themselves with the force of an ever-expanding Universe.
The night offers you the sound of the trees and the last falling leaves before they make their final descent, saying farewell to the time they have spent with you.
It gives you the hoot of an owl, resting placidly on a branch to let you know you are not alone. You are never alone.
The night encompasses you in its dark cloak, hugging you with a power far greater than you can imagine.
It gives you a chance to listen to your breath and the sound of children laughing in their sleep.
When sleep alludes you, remember that the rhythm that keeps you awake has a story to tell.
That story is your life. Your time.
That story, my dear one, is you.
October 23, 2012
Behold the gift of silence. It marks the spaces between our thoughts. It cleans the edges of our minds. It gives us room to breathe.
Martin Heidegger once said: “We make space inside ourselves so being can speak.”
But do we really? Many people struggle with silence, as if it is the absence of something, like air or water or food to eat. But silence is a necessary, yet sorely lacking part of our day. When we enter the silence, we are greeted with our inner core. For many, it is a sad sight to see. Ruins formed by neglect float on the inside. It is painful to observe how poorly fed our true selves have become.
For years you may have had the habit of filling your time with distraction, not wanting to look inside yourself for what will truly make you happy. Then one day your body, the emissary of all thought, finally strikes you down with an illness or malaise. You are forced to notice something is not right. It affects everything about you. Your body knows.
Or perhaps you have forged on as a result of your circumstances. You held on to a belief system so tightly, even as it strapped you into a straightjacket of your own making. You knew something wasn’t right, but you held on for dear life to the only thing you were taught was true.
Only, it turns out, it wasn’t.
Then you receive a wake-up call, as we all do, to what is really going on inside your soul. It cries out for the nourishment it needs so badly. Some of us have pretty strong pain points. We can go on for years without paying attention to the deep-seated pain caused by ignoring our truest reality. Others more attuned to themselves feel it much more quickly and take action right away.
Wherever you are on your journey, know that this is your life. There are no mistakes, just experiences that change your direction. We each have a personal bank account of time. The choice is ours as to how we spend it.
Bathe in the silence today. It will speak louder than any words you can tell yourself.
September 24, 2012
Serenity Stewart sang in her minivan. Occasionally, she’d step in front of a choir and do the same. But for years she hid her secret gift of song, in which she had been classically trained, just to get by.
With four children to raise on her own, she kept her creative self locked away while she did what she needed to do. Working as an office administrator for a busy health care practice, Serenity ran a tight ship, always looking after others.
But that creative self needed to live. It took Serenity’s nearly dying to breathe life back into it.
In July 2005 she suffered a brain aneurysm that left her bleeding out of her nose and even her eyes. As she lay on the cold ER table, her last view was of the gorgeous doctor with tan, tight arms scrubbing up for surgery.
“God, this can’t be my last vision,” she spoke to the sky. “Look at how beautiful this doctor is. I’ve got some unfinished business to do!” It was this sense of humor that got her through the next months of recovery. For the first time in her life, she started to strip away the layers of “mainstream” as she calls it to really live. In an act of self-discovery, she began to realize that an empty vase has the most potential.
“Every possibility starts with courage,” she told me over the phone. She took a year off and sailed around the world. She discovered her passion for deep sea fishing and even caught a marlin off the coast of San Diego. She literally emptied herself out to start anew.
Serenity now sings jazz reminiscent of the 1940s. Hers is sultry music that speaks of a long-lost era of community and togetherness. At the end of September she will start her P.S. I Love You tour, which will land her in Paris next March (yes, I’ll be going!).
Music helps her and her audience tune into the healing energy that only music can bring. It is a meditation, and a dedication, to life.
Listen to one of her songs today. You will be glad you did!
August 14, 2012
It has been four years since the global recession grabbed hold of the world. It seems in the United States a lurking pessimism has undermined the once unshakable can-do spirit of a nation I’ll always consider home.
Yet never before have we had the possibilities we have today. We are desperate in so many ways — informed usually by fear (of losing or getting a job, of finding the right spouse, of making the right decision, etc.) and yet fulfillment lies within our grasp.
If you’ve heard me say it once, you’ve heard me say it one thousand times. Abundance lies within.
When we are desperate for something to happen, we pine away the hours, hoping, wishing and praying for That Thing to occur. And then, when it finally does, it doesn’t have the flavor of satisfaction we thought it would. All that energy we wasted wishing for the very thing that would happen anyway! We would enjoy it more if we expected it less.
What would our lives be like if we allowed things to unfold in the divine scheme that is our DNA instead of pushing, wishing and wanting things into existence?
We would be much happier indeed.
Whenever I start to obsess about something, I ask myself what the origin of my yearning truly is. It is typically intertwined with a feeling of lack, as if filling the whole from the outside will finally quench my eternal thirst.
Eternity is in each one of us. We share that common bond. Life is about a constant giving, receiving, allowing and releasing.
We live in an age of plenty. We needn’t grab at anything. We already have everything, and I mean everything, we will ever need because we are born with an entire package that makes living possible. Now is the time to uncover its mystery.
And that mystery, you will find, is you.
August 11, 2012
Pictures, pictures, look at all the pretty pictures! We have so many of them swirling around in our heads that they wouldn’t fit in even the largest museum.
Murals of how our relationships should be; canvases splattered with paint, depicting our perfect job, children, life. In our minds we create so many images of how we think life should be.
Then life happens.
The source of our greatest unhappiness stems from the clash of our pretty pictures with what we see before us. Our brains try desperately to converge the two, but to no avail. The result is confusion at best. Or maybe denial. Or in some cases, depression.
So what can we do?
Start with the gallery in your mind. Change out the pictures to reflect a new reality. Look at the outside from a different height and in a different light.
In other words, get real.
You’ve got an image in your mind that isn’t coinciding with the one on the outside. It simply isn’t jiving with what you thought should be.
In that case, you have some choices. By changing what you project from the inside out (from a new set of pictures of your own creation), the outside automatically changes. But it all stems from the inside, your ultimate source of light.
In his sixty-fifth book, Spiritual Solutions, Deepak Chopra speaks of three levels of awareness.
- Contracted awareness (the state of unhappiness, fear, anxiety). At this level you experience all problems, obstacles and struggles. You feel conflict and no way out. If you stay at this level, you become exhausted. And who wants that? Pas moi! So let’s move on.
- Expanded awareness (where solutions reside). Obstacles are easier to surmount; struggle dissolves. Your vision moves beyond conflict to what is possible.
- Pure awareness (bliss). Problems don’t exist on this level. Challenges are viewed as creative opportunities. You are in complete alignment with your highest purpose, with nature, with All That Is. You recognize your true self.
I have caught a glimpse of level three on numerous occasions in my life, but the truth is we move up and down this scale as we slide back into fear, remorse and sadness, then bounce up again to a renewed understanding of what happened and why. Deepak claims level three is our natural state, the state of pure consciousness. It is Enlightenment.
I’d like to get there, turning those pretty pictures into a warm mass of loveliness. Want to join me?
And if you haven’t had enough of Deepak and his wisdom, you can view him on Oprah’s Life Class taped from Radio City Musichall in New York City is just one more reason to view this video. The pulse of NYC vibrates through the screen.
July 10, 2012
Usher sings about searching for himself in his title album Looking 4 Myself. He says he finds himself in someone else. I think that is partly true. We are social animals and we need each other to serve as mirrors of our true selves. Sometimes we meet people who help us discover what we already have inside. They tease it out of us, sometimes on purpose, other times simply because that is who they are.
Self-discovery is a necessary part of our lives. It is an exciting journey that ends with our last breath. One of the most encouraging things I heard was an eighty-year-old woman who said she recently found herself for the first time and she liked what she saw. With a gleam in her eye, she had unearthed her true self. It took eighty years, but there she was! Hopeful for the future.
Entering into all parts of ourselves can be a daunting task because we sometimes find things we didn’t realize we carry with us. It forces us to reshape how we see ourselves and the world around us. Yet it is the most rewarding experience if you really allow yourself to see.
Being forward-looking is a part of our anatomy. If we wouldn’t have a vision for the future, how could we make sense of the now? Yet sometimes we get caught up in the what-if scenarios that we forget how to live right here. At this very moment.
The paradox is that although we are set up to live into the future, all we really have is now.
So it is up to us to juggle our future desires with our current condition and to find a beautiful balance between what is and what could be.
Now go find that entrance into yourself and explore those caverns. Perhaps we will meet somewhere along the way to share a moment of now.
I’d like that. Would you?
July 7, 2012
The carousel of our thoughts that make our minds go round and round is a lot like the tango. We go in one direction, then the next. Sometimes we’re passionate, sometimes we’re fierce, but always in touch with both sides of ourselves: the leader and the follower.
Depending on our mood, your positive thoughts might be the leader, sweeping the negative ones across the dance floor with ease. On other days negativity might take the lead, nearly dropping your positive ideas to the floor in one fell swoop.
According to a book I’m currently reading, Buddha’s Brain, we can actually train ourselves to create new dance tracks in our heads. So when the negative thoughts creep in, we can place our tango dancers back on track to a smoother rhythm. I’ll be blogging more about the book when I’ve finished reading it, but one thing is for certain: we are in charge of the dancers in our craniums.
It takes two to tango. In the case of our brains, we have an entire fleet of dancers rocking it out in our heads.
If you’re feeling time-crunched today, ask your time abundant dancer to take over. Breath is important in dance so remember to get enough air while you go through the steps of life. Give the clock a hug and don’t worry. Wherever you are going, you’ll arrive at the right time, even if it’s not ‘on time’ in our always-on world.
July 2, 2012
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ~Aristotle
A few weeks ago I read a book by Google’s self-proclaimed Jolly Good Fellow, Chade-Meng Tan, aptly entitled Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace).
Before you groan, “Not another self-help book whose content I’ll forget the minute I click off here…” hear me out. This book is based on an actual mindfulness training course given internally at Google. That the author has a quirky sense of humor makes it all the more enjoyable to read his work. Plus it has lots of pictures that made me laugh.
But on to mindfulness! Do you want to feel a natural high? Then read on.
The most memorable exercise for me was the Just Like Me/Loving Kindness Exercise adapted from Buddhist meditation practice. The objective is to increase your compassion and kindness, which thereby raises your own happiness level and, most likely, that of others too. It goes something like this:
Get into a comfortable position (I found sitting cross-legged to work well because lying down inevitably put me to sleep). Take two minutes to breathe deeply and quiet your mind.
Now visualize someone in your life. Say to yourself: “This person has a body just like me. This person has a mind just like me. This person has feelings, emotions and thoughts, just like me. This person has felt disappointment, fear, hurt, pain and confusion, just like me.” You could go on for some time, saying various things you know you share with this person. Then you end it with “This person wishes to be happy, just like me.”
The Loving Kindness part of the meditation involves wishing the person well. For instance, “I wish this person to be free from pain, to experience joy, to be extremely happy. Because this person is a human being, just like me.”
End the session by resting your mind for one minute.
I have only done this exercise once, but I was ready to hug the world after I did it. The book is filled with powerful exercises like this one. And it does require that you search inside yourself for your own golden nugget. You know, that lovely jewel resting deep within that wants to shine.
My jewel is blue. What color is yours?
June 18, 2012
For someone who’s often on the move, meditation is a hard thing for me to do. It’s no wonder the monks rest atop mountains to think, reflect and focus. It’s not easy down here on the ground for the rest of us!
The other day I was in exercise class, hoping that the teacher’s music would be inspiring to withstand an hour of power sweating. But before the music even began, I made the decision to find something inspiring in the kind of music she offered. So instead of relying on what I considered an external impulse for my happiness, I decided to be happy about whatever came. And you know what? I really liked it. It was an amazing mindshift from lack to abundance based on one decision.
It got me to thinking about meditation, mindfulness and gratitude, which are all rolled up into one neat ball of fuzzy compassion. What if we were to adopt a meditative spirit to everything we do?
The key is in harnessing your thoughts and really looking at them. If I had decided this particular teacher never provides great music (which I have been known to think in the past and yes! I was right. Funny how that works), I would have placed myself in the mindset to look for some way to be right about that too.
We can convince ourselves of anything, really. We can talk ourselves into and out of things as easily as putting on a pair of socks. But are we willing to look beneath what we are trying to convince ourselves ~to really see our ultimate truth?
Taking on a meditative approach allows us to be open to what is really happening in the moment.
- Feel the breeze on your hands and cheeks.
- See the light slant through your window.
- Hear the birds singing their song.
- Taste your own courage…or fear.
- Smell those roses.
Do all these things without judgement. They are neither good nor bad. They simply are. As you absorb them into your being, notice how your full acceptance sets you free. Without resistance you have entered the kingdom of your own self-made heaven.