How to go with the Flow

Step 1: Arrive

“The first step is to slow down and let your mind settle enough that you are able to drop from the heights of conceptuality back into your body, a simple form in space. Can you really feel present, in your body as it is, right where you are?” ~ Judy Lief

Be still. Find a quiet space. Create some alone time. Breathe and allow yourself to truly arrive, to fully embody your body, right here and now.

Step 2: Invite

Welcome, emotions, one and all! None will be turned away; none will be dwelled upon. As Pema Chodron teaches:

“Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”

Step 3: Let go.

Surrender. Allow.

Perhaps the outcome we want, or think we want, will not be what happens. That can bring up an immense and overwhelming fear. What if our love isn’t the kind of love that lasts forever? What if our love isn’t the kind that can co-habitate? What’s best for the child(ren)? What’s best of each of us, individually?

When I sit, I see how hooked I am on predicting, planning, and plotting. Letting go simply means dissolving all those extraneous thoughts and stories into thin air. Consciously choosing to stop boarding those cyclical, worrisome trains of thought, and watching the mind play its games.

We can change our lives by changing our intentions and changing our actions. It is liberating to let go and see what unfolds.

How open to each moment can we be? Remember that love is the thread that is invisibly present in all.

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Inspiration from Women Warriors in the U.S. Civil War

The Civil War completely transformed the face of America, from the inside out, including shaping the development of gender roles and women’s rights.

Famous women like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mary Todd Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Louisa May Alcott, and Susan B. Anthony, who are quoted below, are not the only ones who had a role in the outcome of the American Civil War. Multitudes of women with unknown faces and names, now forgotten by the history of the past century-and-a-half, had a large impact during the Civil War.

Compared to previous generations, American women had improved their standing. White women, at least, were gradually gaining more rights with the slow passage of time and legislation, though they were still far from equal to men in almost all aspects of life. Non-white women were held back even further by society’s norms. Black women in the Civil War were routinely subjected to indignities because of the racist, patriarchal system that oppressed and devalued them.

Everyone was expected to do their part. Three out of every four eligible white men in the South enlisted in the Army. The entire culture was shaped and colored by the war. Women did not wither and faint, they stood tall and were determined to take action to support the effort. They were a force to be reckoned with. Anger was a common sentiment; it took the form of rage over war’s exaltation of masculine virtues and women’s debilitating inability to participate.

At least a few hundred women disguised themselves as men and served in the Army undetected. They typically were not discovered until they were injured or killed in battle. Other women served as spies, hiding documents or supplies in their skirts and corsets. Women could be covert and take advantage of the ironic respect women were given in society at that time. They were unlikely to be searched, yet they were not allowed to enlist or even vote.

The painful feelings of uselessness lay the seeds of women’s wartime transformation. In the emergency conditions generated by war, women welcomed the sudden expansion of practical, often public, ways in which they could take action as dutiful citizens. Ultimately, everything was up for redefinition in the chaos of the Civil War, including long-established and unquestioned gender roles.

Almost overnight, a thousand female voluntary associations appeared across the South, mainly sewing societies that came together to tackle the coarse sewing of tents and uniforms (not yet standardized in color or design on either side of battle), knitting winter socks and gloves for the soldiers, and fundraising through concerts, fairs, and theater performances, among other charitable activities.

Though war is a decidedly yang activity, by reflecting upon the Civil War through the yin perspective of women, we begin to see the nature of the conflict in a new way. By the time the war was over, many Americans’ definitions of true womanhood had evolved and expanded greatly. The Civil War’s complex significance continues to impact this nation, especially with regard to race relations, feminism, and equal rights.

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7 Signs of Narcissism

Simply stated, narcissism is an inflated view of the self, combined with relative indifference to others.

There are two distinct categories of pathological narcissism: exhibitionist and closet. Both stem from an inability to adequately develop an age-appropriate self due to problems with the quality of nurturing provided during their childhood by the primary caregiver, typically the mother.

The closet narcissist is more likely to have a deflated, inadequate self-perception and also a palpable awareness of the emptiness within. The exhibitionist type, on the other hand, maintains an inflated, grandiose self-perception that is out of touch with reality. Without investigation or reflection, the exhibitionist type assumes that others are just like him. The closet narcissist desires constant approval from others, while the exhibitionist constantly seeks admiration and ego-stroking.

The seven deadly sins of narcissism:

  1. Shamelessness: inability to process shame.
  2. Magical thinking: seeing oneself as perfect.
  3. Arrogance: diminishing and degrading others with self-importance.
  4. Envy: coveting others’ images, possessions, or achievements.
  5. Entitlement (a.k.a. privilege): feeling and acting extra special and better than everyone else.
  6. Exploitation: using others without regard for their feelings or interests.
  7. Lack of boundaries: no boundary between self and other.

At the community level, we need to work to reverse the alarming trend of narcissism in society by promoting altruism in children and teens. This can be accomplished by incorporating the explicit teaching of emotional intelligence and mindfulness through both traditional learning institutions and home schooling.

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6 Radical Spring Cleaning Suggestions

 

“I dedicate the merit of the occasion to all beings. This gesture of universal friendship has been likened to a drop of fresh spring water. If we put it on a rock in the sunshine, it will soon evaporate. If we put it in the ocean, however, it will never be lost. Thus the wish is made that we not keep the teachings to ourselves but to use them to benefit others.” ~ Pema Chodron

Mid-March is upon us, and in our household, it’s time for some serious spring cleaning. There’s much more to it than traditional chores like dusting, sweeping, washing, organizing, and rearranging….Here are six alternative ideas to spruce up our spring selves.

1. Sweep out the mental cobwebs.

Partake in morning, noon and night meditations. Just a few precious moments at sunrise, midday, and sunset can clear our minds. Gaze up at the sky. Connect with the breath. Resist the urge to check your phone or mentally compose your next email or status update.

Think of it as sweeping out the dusty corners of your mind, opening the windows and inviting in a refreshing breeze for tea. No matter what problems, joys, and dramas we are currently dealing with in life, we can choose to set them aside and just be for a little while, multiple times each day.

“I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.” ~ Anne Lamott

2. Do a spring cleanse.

Spend a day (or, better yet, a week) eating extra mindfully and lightly. We don’t have to go to the extreme of the master cleanse (the one that use lemonade, molasses, and cayenne pepper mix) in order to get the benefits of a detox. Cut out alcohol, coffee, dairy, cheese, white sugar, and enriched flours. Eat fresh fruits, raw salads, or lightly steamed veggies. Drink loads of natural juices, herbal teas, and pure water.

Resetting our diet is a powerful way to spring clean. Just be sure to ease out of it gradually by reintroducing foods like brown rice, potatoes, and whole grain breads, as opposed to diving back into eating meaty or fried dishes, right after your cleanse officially ends.

“I tried a juice cleanse, and it was a total disaster. For the eight hours that I lasted, I felt like I was on the brink of starvation. For me, it’s about making the right choices.” ~ Ivanka Trump

3. Practice “spring of consciousness” writing.

Keeping a diary costs nothing, is freeing, and can be extremely therapeutic. Use a new notebook or open a new document on your computer. Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and just write your heart out. Whatever you’re thinking or feeling, let it spill out uncensored onto the page. No stopping, no editing, no planning. What comes out needn’t be legible, logical, or lovely. It doesn’t have to come out in perfect sentences or even make sense.

This is your sacred, private space for expression. Go back and reread it at the end of the day, month, or year. Take time for reflection, noting how you’re evolving, growing, and healing. Save the pages, or burn them in letting go ceremony.

“I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees.” ~ Pablo Neruda

 

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The Relationship between Happiness & Morality

“Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.” ~ Aristotle

Since its inception, humankind has been fascinated by the pursuit and the fruits of happiness.

Aristotle asks, “What is the ultimate purpose of human existence?” Notably, his prime interest lies in life’s “purpose” rather than its “meaning.” He inquires as to what is the most important goal toward which we should direct all of our activities. Pleasure? Abundance? Status and reputation? While Aristotle does not deny the value of these, he asserts that happiness is the chief good for which humanity should aim, “worth pursuing for its own sake and never for the sake of anything else that might be gained through it.”

Do we desire money, pleasure, marriage, children, and accolades because we believe that the possession of these will make us happy? According to Aristotle, all virtues are a means of obtaining happiness, while happiness is simultaneously both the path and the goal, the means and the end. Happiness is not fleeting, evasive or temporal, but rather the ultimate end and purpose of human existence: the exercise of virtue. This happiness is far from from the pop culture definition of a happiness attained through acquisition and consumption.

It seems to me that the older I get, the happier I am. Wisdom comes with age and reflection, and more wisdom brings greater joy. According to Aristotle, authentic happiness cannot be achieved until the end of one’s life, since it is a goal and not a temporary state. Our individual level of happiness is the result of our character development and requires contemplation, a mental activity which Aristotle sees as the ultimate realization of our rational, intellectual capacities. Aristotle conceives of “happiness as the primary goal of the happy life.” The whole point of contemplating and examining the nature of happiness is to aid our pursuit of happiness.

Aristotle would surely criticize our modern culture of instant gratification, because he realized that humans cannot achieve happiness through the pursuit of superficial or momentarily-passing pleasures. He astutely noted that “the mass of mankind are evidently quite slavish in their tastes, preferring a life suitable to beasts,” long before our current era of digital devices and their provision of an unending stream of information made possible by the internet.

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The Earth-plane: 6 Ways to Ground Your Root Chakra

Where on Earth are You?

Feel where your body connects to the planet. Feel how gravity is grounding you to Mother Earth. Breathe in a sense of belonging and of being completely right where you are.

Our chakras, according to Swami Saradananda‘s wonderful guidebook, Chakra Meditation, are “seven focal points of radiant power, or vital energy, within the subtle body.” Translated from Sanskrit as “wheel,” these seven energy centers can be visualized as gears, constantly shifting our subtle energy upward and downward.

Muladhara chakra is the Sanskrit name for our root center and literally translates to “root support.” The element associated with this center is earth; the sense is smell; and the color is red. The core issues are energy, identity/ego, safety and security, roots and ancestry. In other words, the root is our foundation and personal ground of being.

In a recent interview with Deepak Chopra, he explained how Donald Trump is stuck in his root chakra. When our energy stagnates here, we can become egomaniacal and extremely paranoid. Our insecurity, if not healed, can lead us to feeling incredibly uncertain, unsafe, and unsupported. The feelings, of course, become unhealthy, narcissistic behaviors and words that lash out in a fruitless effort to protect our little selves, by keeping others at a perceived safe distance.

Perhaps right now, most of us on the planet could use some grounding, balancing, and healing of this primal, primary chakra. May these be of benefit.

Six ways to connect with the root chakra.

1. Connect with the soles and the soul.

Practice a walking meditation. Walk in exaggerated slow motion, noticing the act of walking. Feel gratitude for the ability to move in this mundane and miraculous way. Focus on the soles of the feet. Notice the heel touching the ground, next the ball of the foot, then the toes. Walk more slowly than you’ve ever walked before. There is no destination. The act of walking is itself the practice. Simply walk and breathe, nothing more, nothing less.

2. Use aromatherapy and healing stones.

Aromatherapy is a fancy way to say smelling stuff. The essential oils that activate muladhara energy include patchouli, sandalwood, ginger, thyme, basil, and clary sage. We can burn or smudge cedar, sage, or patchouli, in the form of incense. Wearing gems and stones, such as hematite, smoky quartz, beryl, black tourmaline, and garnet, assist in healing and aligning root energy. It’s also useful to place these gems and stones on our meditation altars.

3. Eat earthy foods.

To counteract feeling too airy, spacey, or ungrounded, we can intentionally eat meals and snacks that root us and reconnect us with the earth element. These include veggies that grow in the ground (beets, carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes), as well as beans, nuts, tofu/tempeh/soy, and pumpkin or sesame seeds. Eat these comfort foods in small portions, mindfully and slowly, savoring their density and deliciousness.

4. Give love to your knees, ankles, and feet.

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