Step out of the Bureaucracy of Ego

Chakra 7thI’ve been thinking a lot about escape lately—and the comforts of home.

Escape is a myth, an illusion. There is no escape. This is it. Here we are.

Yet, paradoxically, there are many escapes—even more than the good old standards like binge-drinking, drug use, overeating, sex, TV, caffeine, and shopping. Reading, writing, and speaking just to hear oneself talk can all be forms of escape. Even yoga and meditation can serve as escapes and feed our addictive personalities.

“It is important to see that the main point of any spiritual practice is to step out of the bureaucracy of ego. This means stepping out of ego’s constant desire for a higher, more spiritual, more transcendental version of knowledge, religion, virtue, judgment, comfort, or whatever it is that the particular ego is seeking.” ~ Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

I have created a comfortable home. I have an awesome life—which is not to say that I don’t have struggles and stresses—but, my struggles and stresses have evolved and diminished incredibly due to the lifestyle I have chosen to live. One of simplicity, natural beauty, mindfulness, and loving kindness.

This life I am currently living has bloomed and flourished thanks to discontent. In my 20s, I was discontent with the standard life I had been conditioned to embrace: the hamster wheel of school, higher education, attainment of degrees, career promotions, two-week vacations, professional existence until retirement, and death.

Even earlier, I was discontent with the dogma I had been conditioned to believe—that I was an “original sinner,” full of faults, needing to confess, repent, and be redeemed or saved. That Jesus was the perfect, white-skinned, blue-eyed son of God, crucified for my sake. I was discontent with the contents of my mind, my moodiness, my manic depression, my irrational anxiety, my being told to just take one of these pills every day to make the pain go away.

Now, it’s clear to see that my discontent was a great gift.

Keep reading

Advertisements

On Turning 37

I was born roughly 1,924 weeks ago. That number is only slightly more arbitrary than the corresponding number of years: thirty seven.

Age is strange. On the inside, I feel about twenty one. From the outside, it might seem like I am eightysomething, based on my much-cherished, early-to-bed, early-to-rise lifestyle. Nonetheless, I am barreling towards forty. How can this be possible? Am I middle aged?

I clearly remember my dad’s 39th birthday, September 30, 1991. Our family gathered in the kitchen to sing to him and eat the German chocolate cake my mom had made. I was eleven years old and suddenly overcome with nostalgia and concern for my dad’s advancing age. I was jolted by the revelation that my dad would one day die, and so would I, and so would we all. According to my childish logic, age 39 sounded alarmingly close to “old.”

On Tuesday, I turn 37. My parents are 64. Dude, it’s 2017. In the future, it will be the year 2049. What do any of these digits mean? What’s in a year? Isn’t time ultimately this moment, whatever is happening in the stream of consciousness of the present moment? Time marches on, yet life feels timeless, at times.

My husband teases that I’m a child of the eighties, while he belongs to the far-superior decade of the seventies. (Mind you, he was born in the summer of ’79.) I appreciate that the eighties were low-tech. I am grateful that social media did not exist until I was in college. I reminisce about the time before selfie sticks, smartphones and multitasking reigned all over the land. I am appalled to think about how much TV I watched as a kid and teen. I haven’t had a television since circa 2006.

I’ve done a lot of thinking over the past few years about learning and unlearning. The lesson I am currently unlearning, which I thought I had already but am realizing through my own experience as a mother to my daughter, is that “You have to be nice.” Be a good girl, try a little harder, and all that. Study hard. Work hard. Play hard.
Nowadays, I am more into softness.

I catch myself telling my girl, “Be nice.” Or urging her to hug someone or give a high-five or say something for goodness sakes’. She is currently speaking nonstop, all day every day at home, and when we go out of the house, she’s virtually silent around anyone she doesn’t know well. And that’s okay. I am practicing letting her be. Letting her do as she will, as she wishes, as long as it’s with kindness, respect and lovingness. Being softer and gentler with her, reasoning with her in a calm way, when she is not being so kind, loving or respectful.

So I’m unlearning “be nice” as a social construct, while ever reminding myself: be nice, as in: practice kindness, to all beings without exception.

Another day older, another day of precious life, another day closer to cheerful death.

I am thirtysomething. I’ve learned a lot since I was twentysomething. Have I grown, evolved, matured, become more grounded and well balanced, in general, a little bit? Have I gained wisdom? Maybe. Experience? Definitely. Most of all: self-knowledge. Understanding of my own mind, body and heart—as well as recalling, always, the essence of being and intending to flow with the energy of life.

Viva la vida!

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.

Keep reading

Meditation on the 7 Sacred Directions

_Read the original post on Elephant Journal_

Sitting or standing tall, feel where your body meets the ground.

Face East. Inhale deeply, reaching your arms toward the heavens.

Exhale and sigh, a few times. Let go of tension, frustration, worries and storylines with each sacred breath.

Thank you, East, for bringing the sunrise.

We give thanks to the teachings, the teachers, the time and space to practice, the warmth of wisdom.

Thank you, South, for providing the harvest.

We give thanks for your comforting hospitality, hugs and heartfelt conversations.

Thank you, West, for the masterpiece of each evening’s sunset.

We cherish you for bringing the dark night and shimmering starlight and for enabling our destiny to manifest.

Thank you, North, for blowing the cold winds of change.

We appreciate you stoking the fire and reminding us to huddle together, to cuddle and cooperate.

We remember, again, to appreciate this moment, whatever joys and challenges it presents us with.

Look up. Thank you, sky, for the clouds, wind, sun and moon, for giving us height, for allowing us to stand tall, here now.

Look down. Feel your soles on the planet.

Thank you, Earth, for your infinite love and nurturing nature, for your nutrients and sacred waters, plains, mountains and stones.

Thank you for grounding us in reality, in gratitude, in the moment-to-moment experience of breath and the evolution of change and the promise of consistency that surrounds us.

Thank you, Heart, for breaking open, for melting, for feeling the vast prism of emotions, for accepting, for cultivating awareness and compassion, and for sparkling.

East, west, north, south, earth below, sky above.

Bring it all back to the center of the heart.

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.

The Trecena of K’at: 13 Days of Fertility & Freedom.

“The telling and hearing of stories is a bonding ritual that breaks through illusions of separateness and activates a deep sense of our collective interdependence.” ~ Annette Simmons

We are living in the space between stories.

The old story of separation no longer holds water. Many have woken up to the fact that The System is rigged. We are exploring what freedom truly means and how to live from the heart and overcome old obstacles and fears that no longer serve.

We are beginning to glimpse the new paradigm, even though we are not completely living it yet. A new story is in the process of being written, collectively.

According to the Mayan cosmovision, the coming days are ideal for cooperation, community, networking, connections and remembering the truth of interdependence. These are the days to remember that everyone’s destiny is bound up together.

Learn more about how the Mayan calendar works here. In short, there are 20 day signs (nahuales) and 13 day tones. Each sign and number has unique significance. (Note: I use the terms and spellings in K’iche’ Maya. In the classical/Mexican system, most of the names and spellings are different.)

The Mayan day 1 K’at is today, Monday, June 27.

For the 13 days until July 9, we will be in the trecena ruled by K’at: the net. Its animal totem is the lizard. These days are superb for exploring our freedom and embodying our purpose.

In The Serpent and the Jaguar: Living in Sacred Time, Birgitte Rasine writes that K’at (or Kan, in the classical Mayan system) “represents the magic of germination and growth, in the form of new offspring, new crops, and the expansion of future generations.” She says the Maya “pray for abundance and express their intention to understand, to to seek to understand, their fellow human beings, events or situations” on these days.

This trecena is described as both sacred and dangerous, as K’at energy is creative, fertile, intense and potent. Rasine advises: “Respect the sanctity of your life, of your own talent, imagination, and capacity for creativity, fertility, abundance. Don’t belittle yourself of your abilities, but be realistic in terms of which talents you do indeed possess and where to best channel your creative energies.”

K’at is also associated with fire and the forces of nature.

Look to nature as a reminder to move at your own pace, be patient, and live in the present. Watch a dog joyfully jumping when reunited with his owner or a cat lazily napping in the sun. Contemplate a giant tree, its deep roots and strong branches remaining steadfast throughout its long lifetime.

We are human animals, and the more we can live in tune with our instincts and intuition, the better. Above all, remember that we are a part of nature, and nature is made up of the same stuff as us. Separation is an illusion.

“Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.” ~ Ann Landers

K’at days are a special time to remember the truth of interdependence. We are all part of the same web. It’s time to revise the Golden Rule; we mustn’t treat others as we wish to be treated, we must realize: there are no others.

Cultivating Beginner’s Heart

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it’s sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

–ee cummings

Prajnaparamita

Ever since I stumbled upon Zen philosophy (back in the San Francisco Bay area circa 2003), I’ve been fascinated by the concept of “beginner’s mind.” I’ve attempted to maintain it myself, to varying degrees of success. It’s a daily, lifelong practice.

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few,” teaches Suzuki Roshi in his classic, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

Buddhists see the heart and the mind as one entity: the heart-mind. Westerners generally think the heart feels, and the mind knows.

Could we equally say, “Beginner’s heart”?

Take a deep breath. Arrive here in this moment even more fully. Let your heart-mind read and absorb these words.

“When we talk about understanding, surely it takes place only when the mind listens completely—the mind being your heart, your nerves, your ears—when you give your whole attention to it.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

Can we blur the lines between mind and heart? The mind is the heart. The heart and mind are inseparable.

A beginner’s heart is open, curious—full of awe and wonder.

Beginner’s heart remembers that we are all ultimately the same.

Emerson lived with beginner’s heart:“That which draws us nearer our fellow man, is, that the deep Heart in one, answers the deep Heart in another—that we find we have (a common Nature)—one life which runs through all individuals, and which is indeed Divine.”

Keep reading!

Tarot Insight for Spring Equinox

The choir of birds
Sing gospel
To me, hear now

ten_cups

The final outcome is death.

Ain’t it the truth?

Ashes to ashes to dust to no longer occupying this body mind spirit heart

My fear is being a hanged woman

Stuck in flux, bound upside down

The world of my ego wants me to seek justice, balance and fairness for all beings. Including myself.

My heart is broken, pierced, cut, open

I am blindfolded and looking within for strength, for peace. It is there.

The future isn’t going to  bring any salvation, any immediate clear, clean resolution, any enlightenment

My goal and destiny is our goal and destiny: living our purpose; giving our gifts to the community, local and global

The High Priestess of my former self who needed a guru, a lineage, a guide, no longer seeks but rather finds wisdom inside my chest and on the soles of my feet.

The Queen of Wands wants me to remember the power of my thoughts and the radical acceptance of all that arises from benevolence to pity to joy to fear.

I am juggling infinity. Finding balance in paradox and duality. Equilibrium between
grace and grit
being and doing
acceptance and action
contentment and discontent
shadow and light
creation and destruction
masculine and feminine
yin and yang

And at the center of it all, here we are celebrating life, home, family
creating space for love, joy, sadness, curiosity, confusion and all else

Thank you, teachers
Thank you, cards
Thank you, ears, eyes, hands, feet, lungs, heart, stomach, brain

Thank you for serving me every moment of every day of this splendid, precious life.

A holy moment
Barefoot eyes bright
Heart splayed open