Enchanted

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A gray wolf howled in my dream last night as he sat at the edge of the dark woods. Then he turned and ran into the forest. I took chase, following him through the woods to a clearing where a fire lit the night sky. Slowly, from above, a familiar chanting began and I looked up as they descended.

Draped in black they swirled and twirled landing to form a circle around the fire.

Six witches.

My witches.

The Witches of Ravenscroft.

They danced and sang and called for me.

The elder male witch looked at me with knowing eyes, “Where have you been my darling? The night grows short and your magic weak. It’s time to throw kindling on this fire lassie, lest your magic goes up in smoke.”

His message clear, I joined in the dancing and singing. I was home again amongst my creations. 

I woke from my dream knowing I must immerse myself in their world and get back to work on my novel! The six witches and the wolf are characters in my book, A Conspiracy of Witches.

Have I mentioned that I’ve fallen in love with one of my characters?

Anyway.

Something must come off my to-do list.

So, my friends, I am taking a break from blogging to go make some magic!

Until we meet again, 

…enchanted under the stars,

~Sue, An Artist’s Path
A Space for Creative Seekers

The Journey Beyond Yourself

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What do we find when we journey beyond the self?  The simple answer, according to Michael Singer, is the ability to see this world through the loving eyes of God. But which God, you may ask.

“How can anyone really know anything about God? We have so many teachings, so many concepts, and so many views about God. But they’ve all been touched by people. Fortunately, deep within us there is a direct communication with the Divine. There is a part of our being that is beyond the personal self.” ~Singer

In his final chapter, The Loving Eyes of God, Singer reveals the journey beyond yourself, untethered from the ego and awakened in Spirit. This is the pinnacle of the spiritual lessons laid out in previous chapters.

Thus far we’ve learned:

  • We are not the voices in our head. We are the one inside, the observer, the witness, listening to our thoughts and looking out at the world.
  • It is important to live with an open, spiritual heart and not let anything close our heart off from the world.
  • We must let go of pain and disturbances that block our energy and keep us from moving forward. This doesn’t mean we don’t feel the pain, but we don’t hold on to it, we release it.
  • What we resist, persists. Stop fighting with the world.
  • We can’t control people or events, but we can control our reaction. And then, if action is needed, we take action from a place of awareness.
  • That our judgment of others is a reflection of ourselves and a powerful spiritual teacher.
  • Our happiness is an inside job. If we want to be happy and peaceful we must let go of the part of us that wants to create drama. The path to happiness is paved with gratitude.
  • A more peaceful life can be found by following the middle path and not allowing our emotions to swing out to the extremes.
  • We control where we choose to focus our energy.
  • A daily meditation practice strengthens our mindfulness muscle allowing us to stay focused and centered, peaceful and calm.

All of these lessons, if practiced, can lead us to a more awakened state and allow us to see the world through the loving eyes of God.  Michael Singer explains it this way:

“What happens to one who walks this path toward God? What transformations do they go through along the way? To understand this, imagine what would happen if you started feeling tremendous love for all creatures, for every plant, animal and of all the beauties of nature. Imagine if every child seemed like your own, and every person you saw looked like a beautiful flower, with its own color, its own expressions, shape, and sounds. As you went deeper and deeper, you would start noticing a phenomenal thing ~ you are no longer judging. If that happened you’d get a glimpse of God.” ~Singer

So ask yourself, “Can I see the beauty in my fellow human being and feel compassion?” If you’re not there yet, that’s okay. Awareness is the first step toward awakening. For most of us, the shift from Ego to Spirit is a process. But if you’ve been reading these posts you’re already walking a spiritual path and your eyes are open. You’re no longer sleepwalking through life.

Although we’ve come to the end of our journey through The Untethered Soul, if you’d like to learn more about walking the spiritual path, I recommend Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth, Awakening to your Life’s Purpose.

“You are the universe becoming conscious of itself.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Another great resource that combines science and spirituality is the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). Their website can be found here.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. May your heart and mind remain open and your days be filled with love, gratitude, and compassion.  I wish you safe travels and much love on your spiritual path.

Yours under the stars,

~Sue
An Artist’s Path
A Space for Creative Seekers

The Secret of the Middle Way

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Do you ever feel out of balance, off kilter, in need of centering? Is your energy negative and destructive?

There is a way to live a more peaceful life. The path to a more productive and peaceful life is not a secret, it’s outlined in ancient text as part of the wisdom traditions. In this post, we will explore that ancient text in Michael Singer’s chapter, The Secrets of the Middle Way. Here Singer introduces us to the Tao Te Ching, known as “The Book of The Way”, written by Lao Tzu in the 6th century.

“The Tao is so subtle that one can only walk around its edges, but never actually touch it. In that treaties, the very basis for the principles of all life is laid down. It is a treatise on the balance of the yin and the yang, the feminine and the masculine, the dark and the light. You could easily read the Tao Te Ching and never understand a single word, or you could read it and tears could pour from your eyes with every word you read.” ~ Singer

My first experience reading the Tao over twenty years ago was the former – I couldn’t make sense of it. I was a spiritual newbie, but some ten years later I read it again and had the latter experience of tears and goosebumps as every word came to life for me in a way that opened my eyes.

The middle way is a philosophy also shared by Buddhist, who follow the middle path of wisdom by following the noble eightfold path. Similarly, the Tao points us toward the middle way, toward balance, by reminding us not to push against life.

“It’s the place where there is no energy pushing in either direction. The pendulum has been permitted to come to balance concerning food, relationships, sex, money, doing, non-doing, and everything else. Everything has its yin and yang.” ~ Singer

At this point, you may be thinking that the middle way or middle path is static, without momentum or energy. Nothing could be further from the truth, because once you stop wasting your energy fighting and resisting life out there on the extremes, you will find you have enormous amounts of energy to solve problems, get work done and move forward.

Even the Buddhists are clear on this matter, the middle path is a place of investigation, seeking knowledge, wisdom, and truth. It is not a passive existence. The middle path is filled with curiosity, excitement, analysis and exploration. Focusing your energies on the middle path ensures a life of adventure! When the yin and yang are in balance, there is enormous power and energy available to you. But you might be wondering how to stop swinging to the extremes.

“The Way is in the middle because that’s the place where the energies are balanced. But how do you stop the pendulum from swinging to the outer edges? Amazingly enough, you do this by leaving it alone. It won’t keep swinging to the extremes unless you feed the extremes with energy. Just let the extremes go. Don’t participate in them, and the pendulum will naturally come toward the center.” ~ Singer

On the other hand, Singer does acknowledge that the extremes can be good teachers. If we can get perspective and look at a situation objectively (often this takes hindsight) we can see where we went off the rails, swinging to the extreme. We can also see how much emotional energy was consumed by living on the extreme edge.

So what does not participating in the extremes look like? For me, lately, it’s been limiting my social media experiences and even the news. I engage just enough to stay informed and then turn it all off and go for a walk, work in my winter garden, make a pot of beef stew, or write a blog about how to stay centered. LOL.

But seriously, try applying this principle of balance and centering to your daily routine. Limit your exposure to negativity as best you can. Make time for yourself and those activities that fill your soul. It is winter, after all, a time of rest and restoration.

And remember, although you can’t control external events, you can control how you choose to respond.  Focus some of that energy inward and take care of yourself!

tao

~Namaste

What You Resist, Persists!

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Do you think it’s possible to live your life free of stress, problems, fear, and melodrama? Michael Singer tells us that a peaceful life is possible if we stop resisting life’s events. In his chapter entitled, The Spiritual Path of Nonresistance, Singer warns that resistance is a tremendous waste of energy.

“The fact is, you’re generally using your will to resist one of two things: that which has already happened or that which hasn’t happened yet. It is not life’s events that are causing problems or stress. It is your resistance to life’s events that is causing this experience.” ~Singer

He’s right! What’s the point of lamenting over something that’s already happened or wasting time and energy worrying about events that aren’t likely to happen? If there are lessons to be learned from the past or plans to be made for the future, those are best done in the present moment where your true power resides.

But let’s explore this idea of using our “will” to resist life’s events. Singer talks about how we can use our will power, or the Power of the Self, to block our own energy. This happens when we hold onto our thoughts and emotions instead of letting them pass through us.

“Stress only happens when you resist life’s events. If you’re neither pushing life away nor pulling it toward you, then you are not creating any resistance. You are simply present.” ~ Singer

We can also use the Power of the Self, to examine what we resist in life. Why do we resist some events and let others pass through without notice? Why do we care what some people think and not others? What offends us and causes us to become defensive? This process requires self-reflection without judgment.

 “You will be surprised to find that in most situations there is nothing to deal with except for your own fears and desires.” ~ Singer

If you look deep inside, your fears and desires will reveal themselves, unearthing the seeds of your suffering. The reality is, you have to stop watering the seeds! Through the process of awareness, you can stop the seeds from growing by letting the energy pass through you rather than resisting.

I’m reminded of the Taoist concept, “Wu-wei, effortless effort” which is another way of saying “do nothing and let go”.  In Taoist terms, there is a recognition that this world is beyond our control and to live a more peaceful existence we must practice patience and acceptance.

I don’t know that my life will ever be completely free of stress and drama but I take comfort in knowing that the extent of my mental suffering is based on how much energy I give my thoughts and emotions. I may not be able to control the world around me or the people in it, but I can control where I focus my energy.

This week try practicing the art of awareness. Stop and reflect when you find yourself pushing life away or pulling it toward you. Then, let it go.  Be patient with yourself and others as you walk the spiritual path of nonresistance.

~Namaste 

2017 Reveal

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Our rescue pup, Peanut

Happy New Year! As promised I’m sharing my area of focus for 2017. But first let me introduce the newest member of my family, Peanut. He’s going to help me with the big reveal. In fact, his adoption three days ago confirmed what I need to focus on this year.

It all started when my daughter showed me a picture of Peanut on the Humane Society’s website. Look at those eyes! Who could resist those big brown eyes? So off we went on a long drive to the city to see if Peanut would be a good fit for our family. But nothing could have prepared us for what we saw when we arrived. There, in an over-sized kennel, was little Peanut, a two-year-old dachshund mix – with only three legs. His back hindquarter was shaved bare from his recent leg amputation. I gasped aloud and then knelt to look closer.

In the background, I heard the staff reassuring that he was healing up fine and adjusting to getting around on three legs. But Peanut and I were having our own conversation. His little tail wagging as his big brown eyes spoke to me. He needed a home, a family to love and a place to heal. I connected with his sweet and gentle soul. It was a very “in the moment” experience, which leads me to the reveal.

In years past I’ve chosen areas of focus such as compassion, peace, gratitude, patience (still a lot of work to do on that one) and of course, last year was my year of yes. In 2017 I want to focus on the one virtue that will help me in all those areas. In fact, it will help me to live a happier more joyful life with less ego and more soul. And so, without further ado, in 2017 my focus will be …

Mindfulness

Being mindful and living in the moment may sound cliché but it’s easier said than done. As part of my mindfulness practice, I’m following Elisha Goldstein’s advice and adopting the seven habits listed below. You can read the entire article on mindfulness by clicking here.

  1. Approach everyday things with curiosity and savor them.
  2. Forgive mistakes big and small.
  3. Show gratitude for good moments and grace for bad ones.
  4. Practice compassion and nurture connections.
  5. Make peace with imperfection, inside and out.
  6. Embrace vulnerability by trusting others and yourself.
  7. Accept and appreciate that things come and go.

A big “THANK YOU” to all my Facebook readers and WordPress followers! Wishing you all a magical and joyful 2017!  ~ Namaste

2016 ~My Year of Yes!

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I declared 2016 my “Year of Yes”. I was inspired after reading Shonda Rhimes book and adopted a “sure, I can do that” attitude for the year. (This introvert needed to step outside her comfort zone!)

The year began when I said yes to a Nano to Publish writing class. I learned a lot but realized my coming of age memoir needs more editing before it’s ready for publishing. But that class led to another opportunity with the A to Z Blogging challenge in April, where I discovered WordPress and the blogosphere.

In February I joined a weekly writers group that meets for breakfast and conversation at a quirky little cafe called The Black Dog. I think we’re supposed to be writing, but we spend more time chatting about our books, characters, art, and debating if we should eat the potatoes and the toast, LOL. They’re a talented group of artists and writers! But more importantly, they’ve become dear friends.

In March I said yes to becoming more involved in the political process and attended my first State Caucus and decided there must be a more efficient way to nominate delegates… a blog for another day.

As the year went on I kept saying yes. I said yes to Tai Chi classes, poetry readings, attempts at writing poetry, a writers retreat, lectures on writing and occasionally, writing.

Over the summer, the geek in me said yes to Pokémon Go – research for my blog, of course.  As SuperSleuther, I reached level 23 with an impressive Pokédex before losing interest and looking for the next bright, shining thing.

In September I said “NO” to the loss of my younger brother. After the shock and denial phase, I surrendered and said yes to the grieving process and acceptance of the temporary nature of all things. My Bubba lived his life with “arms wide open” which was his way of saying yes to this life.

In November I said yes to participating for the third year in National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo.  I was successful in writing a 50K manuscript about witches, wolves, and druids. I had fun coming up with ideas and researching Wiccan, Paganism, and Druidry. I must confess, I am enchanted by the old religions and their connection to nature, mother earth, the moon, sun, and stars. I want to learn more so I said yes and enrolled in a year-long course through the Order of the Bards, Ovates, and Druids. 

Looking back, it’s been a busy year with twists and turns and moments of synchronicity. Recently, a friend suggested I declare 2017 my year of “balance”.  But as my final act of 2016, I’m gonna say Yes to 2017 with a shift in focus. I want to practice what I preach so my focus for 2017 will be….

…oh, snap!

I’m over my self-imposed 500-word count and I’ve probably lost most of you at this point…. but if you’re still with me, check back on New Year’s Day for the 2017 reveal!

Bada bing, bada boom… that’s a wrap! Cheers to you 2016!

The Path of Unconditional Happiness

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“Happiness is an inside job.”

As the year draws to a close we’re entering the home stretch of my blog series on The Untethered Soul with five chapters to go! Thanks for hanging in there with me on this spiritual refresher course. In my opinion, these last chapters are the most inspiring and provocative. They include unconditional happiness, nonresistance, contemplating death, the middle way, and the loving eyes of God.
have-a-nice-dayIn his chapter on happiness, Michael Singer asks us a simple question: “Do you want to be happy?” I imagine everyone would say yes, of course, if only…(fill in the blank). We tend to put conditions on our happiness. I’ll be happy when I lose ten pounds, happy when I get the promotion, happy when I can afford a new car, and on it goes. But Singer tells us happiness is a choice, a choice that can lead to enlightenment if we drop the conditions.

“If you decide that you’re going to be happy from now on for the rest of your life, you will not only be happy, you will become enlightened. Unconditional happiness is the highest technique there is. You were not put on Earth to suffer. If you want to be happy, you have to let go of the part of you that wants to create melodrama.” ~ Michael Singer

Not surprisingly, many folks take issue with this idea – the idea that we can be happy 24/7, regardless of what life throws at us. I don’t know how realistic it is to feel “happy” in every moment of every day. So I am going to suggest a compromise, based on my own experience.

Let’s replace the word happy with peaceful.

I can envision living a more peaceful life. In fact, using some of Michael Singer’s techniques, I can achieve a peaceful state, regardless of the world around me, by going inward and focusing on the present moment. But it ain’t always easy. For me, it’s more of a process than a constant state of being.

My life philosophy is, living with an open mind, open heart and compassion towards all. It’s a rather simple philosophy in theory, in practice, well, that’s another matter. I make it more difficult when I let the melodrama of my mind have its way, but that’s my choice too. Sometimes I like a little drama, it keeps life spicy. Striving to live a more peaceful life doesn’t mean I never experience drama, or anger, or the full range of human emotions – I do!  But through the practice of awareness, I can see my thoughts spiraling out of control and pull back, become the observer, the witness and make a choice. Do I wanna go down this rabbit hole of drama? Or, get my act together and calm down? That’s awareness.

So, choosing peace, or happiness, doesn’t mean you won’t still experience life’s difficulties. You’re simply choosing to see things differently, through the eyes of awareness. Once you’re aware, then you can choose how best to respond.

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” ~Wayne Dyer

Once again, Singer recommends adopting a daily meditation practice to stay centered. I think he may be right, though – knowing you can center yourself and choose peace leads to a happier life. See how we came full circle just then? LOL.

Give peace a chance

Give peace a chance

So this week, as we approach the new year, practice choosing peace, and know that it is your choice. You are not powerless over how you react to what the world throws at you. And if you’re resistant to this idea….well, stay tuned….

Next week: The Spiritual Path of Non-resistance

~Namaste

The Reality of Fear

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I AM FEAR

I am the menace that lurks in the paths of life, never
visible to the eye but sharply felt in the heart. I am the father of
despair, the brother of procrastination, the enemy of progress, the tool of tyranny.
 
Born of ignorance and nursed on misguided thought, I have darkened more hopes, stifled more ambitions, shattered more ideas and prevented more accomplishments than history could record.
 
Like the changing chameleon, I assume many disguises. I masquerade as caution. I am sometimes known as doubt or worry. But whatever I’m called, I am still fear, the obstacle of achievement. I know no master but one.
 
Its name is Awareness. I have no power but what the human mind gives me, and I vanish completely when the light of awareness reveals the facts as they really are, for I am really nothing.
 
You see, if you have the courage to acknowledge your fears, you will be taking the first step toward controlling them instead of them controlling you. And if you take the next step toward awareness, you will be able to move past them to empathy, perhaps even to love.”
 
~ Author Unknown

I kept this description of fear tacked to the bulletin board in my office for years. I gave copies to anyone I thought may benefit from the message. Mostly, I kept it for myself.  So when Michael Singer wrote about how to free ourselves from our fears in The Untethered Soul, I had a hunch it came down to the one skill I had yet to master: AWARENESS.

I had another one of those “ah-ha” moments while reading Michael Singer’s description of fear. He describes fear as simply “a thing”, often just the rambling thoughts of our mind. Now, to be clear, we’re talking about psychological fear, not physical danger. In cases of danger, our fight and flight instincts take over.

“People don’t understand that fear is a thing. It’s just another object in the universe that you are capable of experiencing. You can do one of two things with fear: you can recognize that you have it and work to release it, or you can keep it and try to hide from it.” ~ Singer

So what do we do to dispel our fears? First, we have to realize that we can’t control the world or other people. And we can’t expect our minds to protect us from experiencing life. Life is gonna happen. At times life is pure joy. Other times life is filled with sadness and loss. Awareness of our thoughts and feelings is the beginning of healing and releasing fear from our minds and hearts.

“Do not doubt your ability to remove the root causes of the disturbances inside of you. It really can go away. You can look deep within yourself, to the core of your being, and decide that you don’t want the weakest part of you running your life. This is the essence of the path. This is the essence of a spiritual life. Once you learn that it’s okay to feel inner disturbances and that they can no longer disturb your seat of consciousness, you will be free.” ~ Singer

This week, be the Observer, the Witness – watch your thoughts come and go. Observe, feel, and release. Breathe and be free.

In the spirit of the holiday season, a quote of inspiration.

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Next week:  Going Beyond

~ Namaste

Living with an Open Heart

untethered-soul-3“It’s impossible,” said Pride.
“It’s risky,” said Experience.
“It’s pointless,” said Reason.
“Give it a try,” said the Heart.

Living with an open heart makes us vulnerable and yet without an open heart, we are closed to the love, joy, and happiness that makes our human experience meaningful.

In chapter seven of The Untethered Soul, Singer provides insights and techniques to keep us from closing ourselves off from the world. He warns that if we close our hearts, we lock our fears inside with us. If there is no light, we can’t grow. We become prisoners of our own making.

One insight Singer offers is the realization that our thoughts and emotions are just objects of our consciousness. I remember reading that line over and over. It was another “ah-ha” moment for me as I studied Singer’s book. I realized that my thoughts were just objects with no power to hurt me unless I gave them the power. Often, I gave my thoughts a lot of power and a lot of attention. I’m a recovering overthinker. I’m learning to trust my intuition again!

Another technique involves awareness. When we feel the tendency to close ourselves off, defend ourselves or fight against something, instead, he reminds us to relax into it. Remember, awareness requires presence. You must be focused in the present moment. So, take a breath and as thoughts arise, don’t fight them, judge them, or try to change them. Accept.  Surrender.  Let go.

“You will get to a point in your growth where you understand that if you protect yourself, you will never be free. It’s that simple. Because you’re scared, you have locked yourself within your house and pulled down all the shades.” ~Michael Singer

And finally, Singer tells us to tap into our “inner will” and center ourselves. We have the power to focus our attention in the present moment and become aware. Being mindful and aware is key to maintaining an open heart.

Before we go, I’d like to add another suggestion. I was reminded recently about the power of gratitude. If you feel your heart closing, take a moment to count your blessings and be grateful. This technique works for me every time!

As you start your week keep these suggestions in mind.  Life can be overwhelming this time of year with work, family, and social obligations. If you find yourself closing off, becoming defensive, angry or hurt, remember to take a breath, focus, assert your will, count your blessings, and then let it go.

Next week: Don’t be Afraid ~ Be Free

~Namaste

Grief and the Spiritual Heart

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“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Grief stole most of November. The sorrow from the sudden loss of my younger brother, two months earlier, became unbearable. When I saw this quote from Gibran I realized it was true; I was weeping for the loss of what had been my delight.

My brother and I had a special relationship. We were both aspiring writers and November held special meaning. In the past, we participated in the Nanowrimo (National Novel Writers Month) challenge; write a 50,000-word novel in November. He was “Bubba Gator” on the Nano boards and we enjoyed tracking each other’s progress online. This year his Nano board word count remained at zero. I cried every time I logged in and saw his profile picture, my handsome Bubba Gator.

In past years, at Thanksgiving, we would entertain our extended family with talk of our characters, plots, and imaginary worlds. My brother was three chapters from finishing a novel he’d been working on for years. He planned to finish this year. His teenage children have vowed to finish his book. I promised to help.

Life goes on. We heal. We grow. We keep an open heart.

Part of my healing process includes this review of Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul. As I prepared this week’s post I knew it was a timely reminder not to let grief close my heart.

Singer explains that at some point in our lives, we all feel the joy of love and the sorrow of loss. Our journey through life brings happiness and suffering. In his chapter on the spiritual heart, he helps us understand why our hearts close and what we can do to stay open.

Singer points out that much of what we experience in life gets stuck inside our hearts and our hearts tend to close to protect us from future suffering. Our heart’s energy flow becomes blocked because we either resist the negative experiences as they surface, or we cling to the positive memories.

“When you are unable to allow life’s events to pass through you, they stay inside and become a problem. These patterns may be held within you for a very long time….that unfinished energy pattern is called a ‘samskara’. This is a Sanskrit word meaning impression, and in the yogic teachings, it is considered one of the most important influences affecting your life. A samskara is a blockage, an impression from the past. It’s an unfinished energy pattern that ends up running your life.” ~ Michael Singer

Over the course of our lifetime, we can store up many samskaras resulting in a closed, hardened heart. Our past samskaras can make us hypersensitive with a tendency to over-react when we find ourselves in similar situations or feel our heart is at risk. The pain of the past comes flooding back and we close our heart and are blocked from moving forward.

So how do we move forward? Singer advises us to stay open and when the old energy patterns emerge let them pass through. It doesn’t mean you don’t feel the pain or pleasure, you do, and then you let it go. This, he says, is the heart’s purification process.

“Learn to be centered enough to watch the energy patterns come up. Once you can sit deeply enough inside and stop fighting the stored energy patterns, they’ll come up and pass right through you. Your heart will become accustomed to the process of releasing and cleansing. Just keep letting go.” ~ Michael Singer

Take time this week to watch for old energy patterns and practice letting them go. Awareness of your own samskaras is a sign of progress. Try not to linger on them, notice them coming to the surface of your heart, feel whatever energy they bring and then release.

Living with an open heart allows you to be open to new experiences and move forward – maybe even write a book!

Until next week ~Namaste