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 Trecena of Tzi: 13 Days of Authority

Today is 1 Tz’i. The next two weeks (or, technically, 13 days) will make up the trecena of T’zi. Learn more about how the Mayan calendar works here.

According to the Mayan cosmovision, these are days for examining our concepts of and beliefs around law and authority (both material and spiritual); fidelity; vengeance; order, accuracy and precision; and sexuality.

Tz’i energy reminds us to avoid ambition, pride, envy, lies, crime, ignorance and ingratitude. Tz’i’s animal totems are the dog, coyote and raccoon. Its direction is south and color yellow.

In The Serpent and the Jaguar: Living in Sacred Time, Birgitte Rasine writes that Tz’i  calls on us to “wake up, stand up, and claim the extraordinary power of our personal, spiritual, economic and political authority to start changing the way human society interacts with the planet and its life-sustaining resources.” During this time period, the Maya “pray that justice be granted to all people.”

This trecena is the time to reflect on the concepts of authority, justice, law and law enforcement. What do those things mean, to you as an individual and to us as a society?  Rasine advises: “Think about the authority that you exercise within your spheres of influence…” from family to work to community to media and more.

“Consider how established your authority is, its source and what it depends upon.”

This is likewise a good time to think about privilege, specifically white privilege. How much of our authority depends on our race, our ethnicity, our skin color? What media are we consuming? What narrative is that media trying to spin about black  and brown versus white and “blue” people (the police)? How can we see through the thin veil of spun stories and remember our innate goodness and equality? How can it be that the “justice” system is so biased and stilted, so very far from engendering equality?

Walk the fine line of humble authority without crossing over into arrogance or bossiness. Live the paradox of cultivating beginner’s heart-mind while honing your skills and knowledge in your areas of authority.

5 Simple Ways to Infuse Our Daily Lives with Love

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Wake Up with Love

It’s a new day. It’s a blessing to be alive. Listen to the sounds. Listen to your breath. Do a  bit of stretching and moving. Mindfully brush your teeth (and/or swish coconut oil), brew a cup of tea, enjoy some fresh fruit. Sit quietly with gratitude for a moment before diving into your daily tasks.

Blessed Be the Food

Sit with your plate before you. Place your palms over the food. Thank you, sun, moon, rain, wind, and soil. Thank you, farmers, distributors, market sellers, cooks and servers. Thank you self, friends and family for sharing this meal. Eat slowly, taste fully, with appreciation. This style of mindful eating leads naturally to a desire for wholesome, natural, local and delicious foods.

Find Your Balance

“Do not hurry; do not rest.” ~ Goethe

Listen to your intuition. It is a day for much action and productivity? Is it a day for reflection and rejuvenation? Are you more alert and energetic in the mornings, afternoons or evenings? It’s okay to feel however you feel. Notice, accept and embrace the flavor of the moment.

Do Gazing Meditation

At the sky; into the eyes of your dog, partner, baby, best friend; at the leaves on the trees; at a flower; at the river flowing. Spend a few moments gazing into nature. The sky is always there. Even if it’s not blue today, gaze upward, feel small and touch the sky with your heart.

Give Love

Look within and ask yourself: “Do I need to give love to myself and/or others today?” Soon enough it will be mutual, boundless exchange. Write a sweet note to an old or new friend… or to yourself in your journal. Have a meaningful conversation. Pick a bouquet of wildflowers to give someone. Smile and make eye contact with a stranger. Prepare food with love. Speak with love. Write emails with love. Breathe love.

 

My Life Is Over.

Everything suddenly erupted at once like an irate volcano.

A summary. I had my worst fight ever with my husband. I saw clearly that I am my own worst enemy. I took actions which led to me being fired, effective immediately, from my teaching position. I gave the gossipers in my community plenty of new grist on which to mill.

I’m feeling the urge to hide in a cave until Mercury goes direct on February 11. I’d like to go on to the Himalayas, but I know that isn’t the answer. The wisdom of no escape. Plus, logistics. And money.

This week, I have sought (and found) solace in the city, of all places. Guate. My former home. My aversion. I am grateful for you now, Guate. I’m sorry for all those mean things I said before.

I cannot be at home right now. Yet home is wherever I am.

I am living in paradise and paradox. I need space and time. I need to sleep, shut down, restart. I need to connect with advocates, friends and strangers. I need to remember all the amazing spiritual teachings I have been blessed to encounter in my precious human life so far. I also need to forget them.

My schedule is suddenly wide open, which rocks, but my bank account won’t be refilling itself automatically anymore, which is worrisome.

It’s okay. Things are both falling apart and coming together. Meltdowns lead to breakthroughs. This I know for sure. It ain’t my first time at the rodeo, as y’all say in Texas.

In the wake of my personal turmoil, a dear friend reminded me of something I shared with her in yoga class years ago, a variation on the traditional metta aspirations. May they be of benefit.

May all beings feel contented and pleased,
May all beings feel protected and safe.
May our physical bodies support us with strength.
May our lives unfold smoothly with ease.

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How to Get Shit Done & Enjoy Your Life.

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Life is paradoxical, yet simple.

Mindfulness isn’t enough; we need compassionate action too. Mindfulness, or daily life practice, or being, must be paired with action, with compassion or doing.

Hope and fear are also two sides of the same coin. So are attachment and aversion. Life is a matter of precarious balance. Holding on and letting go.

And then there is birth and death. No matter how many times we read or think about the fact that life is impermanent and ends in death and that everything is actually changing all the time, it only really sinks in when we experience drastic change or huge loss.

We want a sense of control.

We want, as Pema Chodron says, “solid ground beneath our feet,” a firm foundation of righteousness and security on which to stand. (But when we think we’ve got it, this is an illusion.)

We want to know things. We want to understand.

Wisdom comes through time, reflection on experiences, lessons learned in daily life and relationship.

There are always three things happening in any situation: What’s happening? What are you doing? How are you? They work together and overlap.

We can view reality as it is, pay attention to how we are responding and how we feel.

We can address, “What’s happening?” wisely by looking at the nature of what’s happening in this moment. Checking in. Asking, am I in the present, fully experiencing this?

We can examine, with openness and curiosity, just what is it that we are doing. How are we reacting or responding to this moment, this experience?
We can address the question, “How are you?” by working with emotion in meditation. The inquiry into our emotional state, our energy, our health or lack of health is arguably the most important aspect of human living.

Be mindful. Look at what’s happening, what you’re doing and how you are in the present moment. Then communicate, act, behave and aspire—with compassion, love and kindness.

Let’s go out and find the things we can do to benefit all beings and the planet, our passions and purposes.

Mindfulness is an absolutely essential element of a happy, meaningful life. So is compassionate action. May peace and the force be with you!

How to Stop Judging Ourselves & Others.

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{Read the fancy, full version on elephant}

Working to let go of beng judgmental is a lifelong practice—one that can start right now in this moment.

Become aware of your judgmental tendencies.

Recall that we are all ultimately the same.

To paraphrase a gem of Sikh wisdom: all souls shine with the light of God. When feeling superior or inferior to someone, which is the foundation of judgment, it is essential to remember that each of us is actually just a little piece of the universe walking around expressing itself. We are all interconnected and therefore judging ourselves and/or others is both useless and unnecessary.

Let go of pride.

Judgmental people have a sense of superiority and an inflated ego, whether conscious or subconscious. Pride is a fence that keeps us separated and isolated from each other. When you notice excessive pride arising within, swallow it, take a deep breath and let it go.

One surefire way to put this into practice is yoga asana. Challenge yourself with a difficult pose, and see how the mind goes wild with judgment. Notice and release. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

“If you keep your mind humble, pride will vanish like morning mist.” ~ Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Cultivate compassion.

Whether we know about the difficulties of a person’s life or not, everyone has experienced adversity. Recalling this truth and cultivating compassion for people helps temper even our most outrageous bouts of judgmental thinking.

Be generous—give metta.

Metta, or loving kindness, is the act of sending good wishes for health, happiness, safety, ease and freedom to all beings without exception, including ourselves. It is a powerful meditation technique that can transform the practitioner, if not the recipient. Take a few minutes per day to practice metta.

“I notice that when I’m generous, accepting, and loving toward myself, all that’s reflected out into the world. The more I cut myself slack, the more I don’t judge myself for being other than I am, the more I’m aware of who I am, see it, honor it and respect it, the more I do all those things for others.” ~ Jeff Bridges

I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.

I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

~ Translation by Thich Nhat Hanh

As always, this list is merely composed of my humble opinions, and it’s just a beginning. What other advice can you share for letting go of pettiness and judgment?

3 Essential Life Lessons that Maya Angelou Taught Me.

3 Essential Life Lessons that Maya Angelou Taught Me.

(1) “The honorary duty of a human being is to love.” 

(2) “Never make someone your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.”

(3) “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”

 

 

What Letting Go Isn’t.

It’s been said that the dharma teachings can be summarized in two words: let go.

Letting go is the ultimate zen habit we all must master, sooner or later.

Letting go has also become somewhat of a cliche and is often misused in spiritual contexts. But it is the single most powerful, simple (not easy) skill we can cultivate in life.

Let’s take a deeper look at what letting go isn’t and is—and some concrete ways to practice it.

Letting go isn’t just cliche spiritual advice. Letting go isn’t not caring. Letting go isn’t passive. Letting go isn’t merely saying, “It’s all good” or “whatever.” Letting go isn’t lazy.

Letting go isn’t giving up. Letting go isn’t the easy way out. Letting go isn’t always fun. Letting go is the most courageous thing you can do.

Letting go is wise.

Letting go enables life, energy, love and learning to flow freely. Letting go takes practice. How can we turn it into a revolutionary daily life practice?

Here are 18 ideas for starters. May they be of benefit.