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

The Untethered Soul ~ The Lucid Self

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“This place is a dream. Only a sleeper considers it real. Then death comes like dawn, and you wake up laughing at what you thought was your grief.” ~Rumi

Most of us have had the experience of a lucid dream; knowing we are immersed in a dream while dreaming. This is the analogy Singer uses in chapter four to describe the true nature of our consciousness; the awakened state.

Honestly, most of us don’t live in an awakened state on any regular basis. I know I don’t. I would like to think that after years on the spiritual path I could maintain a state of conscious awareness, but I don’t. However, the fact that I’m aware of this is a huge shift for me. And, I know I can bring myself to a state of conscious awareness if I can quiet my mind and focus on the present moment.

We learn in this chapter that we have the power to focus our consciousness, to sit in the seat of awareness and not be consumed by the events around us. We focus our awareness all the time. Some of us get lost in our art, or a football game on tv.  But then we fall down the rabbit hole, first, with the immersive sights, sounds, smell and feel of our human senses and then the voices in our head take hold. We are no longer aware that we are separate from our thoughts or the events around us.

“What differentiates a conscious, centered being from a person who is not so conscious is simply the focus of their awareness. It’s not a difference in the consciousness itself. All consciousness is the same. Just as all light from the sun is the same, all awareness is the same. Consciousness is neither pure nor impure; it has no qualities. It’s just there, aware that it’s aware.”  ~ Michael Singer

Okay, I know what you’re thinking – this is deep stuff, a head scratcher, but stay with me. There’s another way to gain an understanding of what Singer is trying to explain and that’s through the process of meditation. Singer explains that the ability to focus your consciousness back on its self is a form of meditation.

“The more you are willing to just let the world be something you’re aware of, the more it will let you be who you are – the awareness, the Self, the Atman, the Soul.” ~ Singer

Meditation is a practice; be patient with yourself. I’ve experienced what some call the ‘gap’ – the space between my thoughts while meditating. It’s a very personal experience that has allowed me to view my human experience from another perspective.

This week, consider starting a meditation practice if you’re inclined. Meditate and focus your awareness inward. There are many wonderful guided meditations available on YouTube. Find one that works for you and travel the inward path toward awareness. See if you can experience the gap, the space between your thoughts.

~Namaste

The Untethered Soul ~ Infinite Energy

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Have you ever felt an inner vibration of boundless energy  and wondered where it was coming from? In his book, The Untethered Soul, Singer discusses our inner energy centers and explains that an infinite amount of inner energy is available to us as long as we don’t block it.

“The flow of energy comes from the depth of your being. It’s been called by many names. In ancient Chinese medicine, it is called Chi. In yoga, it is called Shakti. In the West, it is called Spirit….the yogis call energy centers chakras.” ~ Michael Singer.

Singer goes on to explain that, in essence, our inner energy is our Spirit. However, when we close our hearts, close our minds and give into our fears we block our inner energy and lock our Spirit inside.

“The only reason you don’t feel this energy all the time is because you block it. You block it by closing your heart, closing your mind, and by pulling yourself into a restrictive space inside. This closes you off from all the energy. When you close your heart or close your mind, you hide in the darkness within you. There is no light. There is no energy. There is a very simple method for staying open. You never close. It’s really that simple. ” ~ Michael Singer

Technically he’s right – it is that simple, but in practice, it takes extraordinary awareness and a willingness to do the work. But he pleads with us not to let anything that happens in our lives be so important that we’re willing to close our hearts over it. Instead, he asks us to relax into it, deal with it, but do so with an open heart.

And so I would ask you to take an inventory this week of what you’ve closed your heart and/or mind to. As we move through the next few chapters, Singer will guide us through the process of how to remove those blockages and stay open, allowing our inner energy to flow.

~ Namaste

The Untethered Soul ~ Who Are You?

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“Ramana Maharshi, a great teacher in the yogic tradition, used to say that to attain inner freedom one must continuously and sincerely ask the question ‘Who am I?’ He taught that this was more important than reading books, learning mantras, or going to holy places. Just ask, “Who am I? Who sees when I see? Who hears when I hear? Who knows that I am aware? Who am I?” ~ Michael Singer

It’s the age-old question, isn’t it? Who am I? If you’ve been following along with the last few posts, you know you’re not the voices in your head. I will admit this is where it gets deep in Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul, but as we move into chapter three, it’s important to grasp the concept of our deeper consciousness; this is critical in establishing your spiritual foundation. Honestly, I can’t begin to explain it in a short blog post and even if you read Singer’s book on your own, be patient with yourself. It took me years before I could answer the question: Who am I? So, what I will attempt to do in this short summary of chapter three is plant a few seeds.

Okay, so we know we’re not the voices in our head. We also acknowledge that in our human experience we are many things and wear many labels:  male, female, mother, father, wife, husband, lawyer, doctor, artist, writer, gourmet cook, sports afficienado….you get the drift. But we’re going deeper here, beyond this human experience. In Chapter Three of The Untethered Soul, Singer provides his answer to the question “Who are you?”

“I am the one who sees, from back in here somewhere, I look out and I am aware of the events, thoughts, and emotions that pass before me.”

You may be asking why it’s important to answer this question in the first place and that’s valid. Let me answer from my own experience. I wanted to find peace of mind and to understand why I’m here. Those answers only came after years of seeking and several “ah-ha” moments along the path. So let me share my answers to the big three questions; your answers may be different and that’s fine. Trust your own path.

Who am I? I am spirit immersed in this human experience.

Why am I here? I am here to grow, to learn, to create.

Who are all of you? You are my teachers and my students. We are spirits, traveling through this earthly realm…learning, growing and creating together.

Again, these are my answers.  You may already have your own answers, but if not, be patient; when the student is ready the teacher arrives. Walk your path and if you’re so inclined, continue to follow me on a  journey through The Untethered Soul.

Next week: Chapter Four ~ The Lucid Self

~Namaste

 

The Untethered Soul ~ Your Inner Roommate

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“Your inner growth is completely dependent upon the realization that the only way to find peace and contentment is to stop thinking about yourself.” ~ Michael Singer

And so begins Chapter Two of The Untethered Soul. In this chapter, Singer refers to the voices in our head as our inner roommates and we’re encouraged to spend some quality time getting to know our roommates. As we listen, we ask ourselves, “who is it that is listening to these voices?

We are then introduced to our inner witness, the one that watches and listens to our roommate(s). In my opinion, understanding the distinction between the voices in your head and the one who is listening is a profound spiritual teaching. So I’d ask you to pay close attention this week as you listen to the voice in your head. Again, ask yourself, “who is it that is listening?” The “listener” is your inner witness, or your consciousness, your soul. Call it what you will….the point is, the one who listens is not the voice you hear. Sit with that thought for a moment.

After spending time listening to our inner roommates we learn that we can free ourselves from this internal melodrama. In the coming chapters, Singer will provide us with the teachings and techniques to free ourselves and develop a spiritual practice of conscious awareness.

But there’s a catch…you have to want out of the self-imposed mental melodrama. You start by becoming conscious enough to understand your predicament. You have the will, and the power to take your life back. It’s your choice. And to be clear, it’s not that the world is gonna change for you – it’s the way you see and interact with the world that changes.

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

Next week, Chapter Three: Who Are You?

~Namaste