Groundhog Day Inspiration: Reflecting on the Mundane & Magical

As I leaf through old journals from six and seven years ago, I notice how much has changed, and in many ways improved, in my personal life, since then.

It’s a challenge to get through the diaries sometimes, because they starkly show me how intensely neurotic, insecure, and obsessive I was, in my own handwriting. I’m grateful to feel more generally grounded, trusting and accepting these days. Thanks be to yoga and mindfulness.

And yet. Early February’s full moon eclipse in Leo really did a number on me. Still is. You, too? And today is the new moon in Pisces. More shifting sand. March commences on Wednesday. Venus is retrograde. Love is in the water.

I have been delving into new material, gaining new perspectives, shifting paradigms, slightly, almost imperceptibly. Swallowing my pride. Realizing changes that need to occur. So much is being processed, digested, reflected upon, slowly understood. It is good, and it is not easy.

I’m a bit sheltered from the present political sh*tstorm in the USA, due to living south of its borders and consciously limiting the amount of news articles I consume. Nevertheless, my heart goes out to all the folks suffering from anxiety, depression and the like, much of it the direct result of the new administration’s white-supremacist-fueled fear mongering and illegal, immoral abuse of power. I remember all too clearly feeling that way in 2004 when G. W. Bush was re-elected, which now pales in comparison to the current conundrum.

I recently re-watched Groundhog Day, the 1993 comedy starring Bill Murray in which every day when he wakes up, the main character finds himself in the hell realm of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, always the same freezing morning of February 2nd. At first, he is confused (how is this happening? why isn’t anyone else in the movie being similarly affected?), then freaked out and desperate (attempting suicide in a variety of ways, to no avail), then manipulative (learning the backstories of the townspeople and his coworkers, primarily with the aim of getting into Andie MacDowell’s pants), and ultimately surrendering (not until he truly lets go of his ego and authentically strives to help others will tomorrow finally come).

Lately, I, too, have been feeling like every day, every week is the same. I wake up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep for hours, sometimes resting anyway, sometimes–like now–getting up and reading and writing. At some point, my eyelids droop with exhaustion, and I go back to bed. I rise again as the sun rises, and my four-year-old girl makes a sour face at me when I kiss her good morning. A few minutes later, she is in a better mood, back to her sweet and cuddly little self. I plop down on the sunny balcony and sit and breathe. My fabulous black cat, Oscar, curls up in my lap, prompting me to stay a little longer. (He is a feline Zen master.)

So there I sit, listening to the birds, breathing, starting with a grateful heart. I send out loving kindness to my aging parents and grandmothers, my beloved partner, daughter, myself, friends, family, water protectors, neutral acquaintances.

I think of the wise words a friend posted on Facebook last month, along with a head shot of the 45th U.S. President.

Can you LOVE this Man?

Can you feel COMPASSION Toward this Man?

The CHALLENGE: I would suggest that those of us who claim to be Christians or adherents of Buddhist philosophy pray for him or hold him in our good intentions/in the LIGHT. Otherwise, we are really not who we pretend ourselves to be.

I try, and fail, to send metta to He Who Shall Not Be Named and his newly-appointed cabinet of leaders with whom I disagree. May you be safe, happy, healthy and free, I try to say but cannot force myself to genuinely feel it. Universal compassion is put on hold. Like all things, it has to unfold in its own time, organically.

I step away from the cushion and delve into the informal practice of the rest of the day. I eat some papaya, pour a cup of tea, and settle in to open my computer and get to work.

Like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, it gradually dawns on me that getting out of my own head and caring about and helping others is the way to freedom from the mundane. It is the path and the goal.

And so I write, in loopy, messy cursive, endless checklists and poetic stanzas and love letters and random streams of consciousness, as therapy. And so I publish a blog and attempt to connect my heart to yours for this one precious moment. And so I read and feel an immense and simple gladness that the words on the page make sense.

I feel grateful that my old diaries deliver little gems of wisdom that I wrote down so many years ago, like this one:

“Just as the ocean has waves or the sun has rays, so the mind’s own radiance is its thoughts and emotions. The ocean has waves, yet the ocean is not particularly disturbed by them. The waves are the very nature of the ocean.

Waves will rise, but where do they go? Back into the ocean. And where do those waves come from? The ocean. Thoughts and emotions rise from the mind, but where do they dissolve? Back into the mind.

Whatever rises, do not see it as a particular problem. If you do not impulsively react, if you are only patient, it will settle once again into its essential nature.”

~ Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

May every moment and experience wake us up and be of benefit.

Year of the Yin Fire Rooster

{original post on elephant journal}

episode034-2017-yearofthefirerooster

Monday, February 27, 2017, marks the beginning of the new year in the Tibetan calendar, also known as Losar or Shambhala Day.

As the rooster crows to welcome the sun, we wake up.

A mindful morning ritual helps us begin each day with a solid yet flexible plan. Healthy habits help keep us more creative and less destructive during these politically uncertain times.

We need to take a bird’s-eye view, seeing beyond the veils of delusion and illusion, looking at the current situation from a higher perspective and remembering that this too shall pass, whatever it is—pleasant, neutral or unpleasant.

Face reality. Keep up the good work. Never give up.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and to go to extremes: reading and thinking too much, obsessing and fretting over the world’s problems, which are all our problems. Then, to bounce the other way into denial or avoidance: hearing disturbing news, and not knowing what to do, where to go, how to handle or process it.

Here’s an eloquent reminder from Howard Zinn:

“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. An optimist isn’t necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”

This year, this moment, is all about raising consciousness, collectively and personally. This life is all about finding the balance—the spot on the continuum between too much and not enough.

I keep remembering the dharma story about the stringed instrument: A musician cannot play his guitar if the strings are too loose. No sound will come out. Yet, if they are too tight, the strings will break. We need to find the right combination of tension and ease in order to make beautiful music.

Staying aware of important issues and prioritizing self-care and self-love in order to be able to offer love and care to others in need. We are all in need.

“Rooster greets the new day with all the elegance, strength and vibrancy of its entire being, in service to the community. Let us all do the same. “ ~ Karen Abler Carrasco

May all beings sharpen our skillful means. May we discern what to hold onto and what to let go of. May we share our true feelings and our honest voices.

Tashi Delek! (Good Luck!)

“There are seasons in your life in the same way as there are seasons in nature. There are times to cultivate and create, when you nurture your world and give birth to new ideas and ventures. There are times of flourishing and abundance, when life feels in full bloom, energized and expanding. And there are times of fruition, when things come to an end. They have reached their climax and must be harvested before they begin to fade. And finally, of course, there are times that are cold and cutting and empty, times when the spring of new beginnings seems like a distant dream. These rhythms in life are natural events. They weave into one another as day follows night, bringing, not messages of hope and fear, but messages of how things are.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche 

Yoga is for Every Body.

{Deep bow of gratitude to elephant journal. Original post here.}

Own it.

Own your shape, your color, your size.
Own your feminine side and your masculine side.
Own your curves and your rough edges.
Own your shadow and shine your light.
There is no such thing as too big or too small.
There is no too much this or too little that.

It is what it is.

Our bodies are temples.
And we don’t need anything but a body to practice yoga.
Yoga can be practiced anywhere, anytime, all the time.
We don’t need to be anything to do yoga.
Yoga shows us that our ego is sacred.

Yoga is daily life, no stone left unturned.
It’s how we breathe.
It’s in our posture: the way we stand, walk, talk, eat, dream, relate.
It’s in the way we love.

Yoga is this moment, right here, right now.
Yoga is awareness, acceptance and the sacred union between truth and balance.
Yoga gives us the energy to serve others and share love, kindness and compassion with all beings, without exception.

Yoga is not dogmatic or bound to a single lineage or guru.
Yoga has no physical or spiritual prerequisites and requires no fancy clothing, props or accessories.
Yoga is the connection to our breath, our bodies, our minds.
Yoga cultivates gratitude for this life, this breath, these teachings, this chance to be here and love and grow and let go.

We don’t need to be any certain way to practice yoga: not flexible, not strong, not balanced, not thin, not young and lithe. Not anything!

It’s a lifelong practice.

Replacing the Human “Race” with Humility & Humanity

{Full article originally posted on elephant journal}

My home is situated smack dab in the middle of two villages. The first, San Marcos La Laguna, is a town known primarily for its plethora of spiritual teachings, holistic wellness offerings, yoga courses and the like—a hippie haven for the past few decades. The second is Tzununa, a small pueblo whose name means “hummingbird,” with relatively few gringos. (Everyone who is not Mayan is considered a gringo here, not just folks from the U.S., a fact that enrages some of the Europeans.)

I am very conscious of being a guest in this country where we’ve established our home and are raising our daughter, while at the same time I’d prefer to transcend borders and just be human. Not Texan, not American, not a gringa, not Christian or Buddhist or attached to any superfluous label.

It is not that uncommon to overhear this line of conversation in these parts:

“Where are you from?”

“I’m from heaven, man.” (Or, “I’m from nowhere.” Or, “I’m from everywhere.”)

While it’s easy to laugh and poke fun at the wannabe transcendentalism, there’s also a grain of truth in this concept. We are all from Earth. We are all humans with hearts and minds and lungs and skin. Does it ultimately matter where we were born or raised, where we came from?

Krishnamurti says:

“You have certain characteristics, certain culture, certain way, certain tradition, and you are satisfied with that—you are British—all right? We’ll tolerate this? And in France we are French. Go to Spain it is the same. Go anywhere in the world, it is the same assertion. Outwardly and inwardly we are isolated—my desire, my fulfillment, my wanting—all the rest of it. So is that one of the causes of conflict, isolation? Obviously. Politically, as long as you remain British and the French, and all the rest of it, there will be no global relationship and therefore there will be no peace in the world at all. Right? Tell that to the politicians and they will say ‘Buzz off’. And we elect these politicians!”

Nationalism is harming us and has been ever since borders were delineated. A few weeks ago, I finished a long biography called Hitler, by historian Ian Kershaw. It took me six months to read; it was so disturbing that at times I’d put it down for weeks. The term Nazi comes from nationalist. Hitler spearheaded the hatred and fear of the masses under the banner of German nationalism and pride.

Clearly, Donald Trump and his administration are doing the same, right in front of our faces.

Patriotism, tribalism, fanaticism—all this division kept in place by our self-righteous beliefs, dogmas and opinions are doing us no good. The fictitious borders that separate neighbors into countries, the building of walls and banning of individuals based upon their country of citizenship is backward and inhumane.

We need to let go of the absurd notion that “America is the greatest country in the world.” Why does it have to be about greatness and being number one? Why can’t we collaborate and cooperate instead of always competing?

The only thing that makes sense today, in order to overthrow the divisiveness and hatred, is to resist. This might appear counter-intuitive, if we continue to look at the world through the lens of flags and separate nations, but the way through the present darkness is to cultivate love, peace and kindness within ourselves, and extend those positive energies out into the world in our daily lives, relationships and interactions.