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Multitudes

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This morning near the end of meditation a thought crossed my mind…I am not perfect.
I had awoken with a tight belly, feeling queasy, and as I let go of my mantra and let myself focus on that thought, I felt my belly unclench.
I am not perfect.
This year I have been fat and thin.
I have been focused and lazy.
Loving and hateful.
Helpful and greedy.
Drunk on spirit and drunk on all the champagne.
A good listener and totally checked out.
Spirit filled and lust overwhelmed.
Healthy and gluttonous.
Selfless and selfish.
Genuinely interested and only pretending to be.
Wanting closeness and dying for space.
Caring and filled with contempt.
Joyful and rageful.
Driven and unbelievably lazy.
Authentic and totally fake.
So into you and then just waiting for the next more interesting person to come along.
Present and scattered.
Judgmental and forgiving.
Abundant and scarce.
Receiving and refusing.
Filled with light and immersed in my shadow.
Neat and clean and also messy and dirty.
Safe and reckless.
Inclusive and racist.
Tolerant and intolerant.
Available and avoidant.
Conscious and on automatic.
All of these swirl around in me, and sometimes I feel the harmony in these opposites and sometimes the great judge within has a field day making a score card that looks quite damning.
The aha of not perfect morphs into the aha of and no one can punish me for that (except me) which becomes a relaxing into the multitudes in me, which morphs into a deep spaciousness that holds all of these qualities.
I notice at the end of the year I crawl into a hole in an attempt to hide from myself, which is impossible. Something to do with that aforementioned scorecard.
What freedom, to survey and surface all of those ways I showed up this year, and then to add love. I was all of it and I was none of it. I was whole. I was human.
Happy end of 2014.
May whatever your personal version is of completing with this year leave you breathing deeply and feeling spacious and whole.

Raised in happiness

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Today I went on a lovely hike in Fairmount Park. Our guide, Bob, was chock full of information about the trails near Belmont Plateau. At times his eyes looked teary and I couldn’t tell if it was from the cold, or from the fountain of love he had for the park.
When he pointed out the nursery where the young trees live until they are ready to be planted, he said “Here, the trees are raised in happiness.”
I was so struck by that. For the remainder of the hike, the phrase “raised in happiness” reverberated through my mind.
I wondered, am I raising myself in happiness?
Last weekend I went to a sweatlodge, and through the sweat and the darkness and the prayers and the tears, emerging felt like being reborn. I found a patch of dirt that the full moon was shining on and I sprawled out, soaking up the moonlight and being supported by the earth.
All week I’ve felt different, childlike, raw.
When Bob spoke of the trees it gave me pause. I can choose to raise this fledgling iteration of me in happiness.
We all can. I think each time we have a milestone or a transformative experience there’s a choice point. Each time we wake up we have that choice. How best can I care for myself? What can I connect to in me that creates deeper connections with others? In what ways can I cultivate peace?
Am I raising myself in happiness? Or is there an old habit of pickling myself in a state of mind that is much less enjoyable?
Bob was full of gems. Later he spoke of designing trails, and how there were a number of questions you ask yourself, like is it safe, but the one that stuck out for me was, is it delightful?
Wowsa.
I felt like Bob was transmitting the recipe for joyful living: Raising yourself in happiness, and as you create your life, checking in to see if it’s delightful.
Presence is the pathway. When you are present with the fullness of your experience, you start to notice the body sensations of delight. Notice what you’re doing when you feel that way.
Then put more of that in your life.

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Last year I made a list of all the things I like to do that I stop doing when I get into a relationship. I think I ripped a line from an episode of Sex and the City (I know, shut up), and called the list My Secret Single Behavior.
Actually, it has nothing to do with being single or married or dating or a hermit. It has to do with whatever the thing is that has a large enough gravitational pull that we forget to tend to oursleves. It could be work or even an addiction to busyness.
I have a decidedly black thumb instead of a green one, but even I can grasp the need to water plants (although they still don’t last long on my watch).
Have you watered yourself lately? Turned that laser of attention that flows so easily outward back in, to see what you need to *feel* your fullness?
Last night I went to a show with a friend and was reminded of how much I love live music. For me there comes a point in a show where I marvel at the artist’s ability to get past the fear and obstacles and really live her purpose so fully that she has brought joy to thousands and thousands of people. Concerts remind me of dharma, and being inspired to live your dharma is definitely food for the soul.
How do you water yourself in ways that are fun and enlivening?
I ran across my list in my office yesterday. I thought, hot damn, so many of these things take a short period of time but they have huge ripple effects.
Here were a few:
Hiking in silence
Living room dance party
Painting after meditation
Live music
Aimless walking around the city with earbuds
Park blanket hangout with a book
Taking photos

I invite you to make your own list. Call it Cup Runneth Over, Shit I Like to Do, Deposits in the Bank of Me, whatever. Just write them down and do eeeeeet! Make sure there are a few things on there that cost no money and don’t require a huge chunk of your time. When I’m working with coaching clients who want to feel more aliveness, the first thing I see is that they set themselves up so they don’t have time to do what they love. Yes, in a perfect world you could play your violin for an hour. Let’s start with one song. Feel that soaring of your heart for three minutes and that three minutes will be the beacon that brings you back to your instrument time and time again. Make a list. Do those some of things every week. Observe the results.

Meeting yourself

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Yesterday after class I was talking to a dear student and she shared that she almost didn’t come to class. It was dark and cold and windy and the idea of leaving the house didn’t seem that appealing. She said her motivation for making it to class was knowing that she would meet herself. She would get to be present with herself, as she was, that day.
Wow.
She landed on the exact reason that I teach yoga and meditation. Once I got to my car I had a good cry, tears of gratitude falling from my eyes. That I get to be a part of her experience is astounding to me, as is the fact that I get to pay the gift of yoga and meditation forward. During every class, there comes a moment when I look across the room and feel how people are communing with themselves. Sometimes this looks like joy and sometimes there are tears, but the emotion that accompanies a person giving herself or himself loving attention is superseded by the effect of collecting the mind and turning awareness inward.
Yesterday mind was distracted and scattered and my morning meditation felt more like trying to pin down a whirling dervish. I got out into the woods, and that 3 hour hike started out much like the whirling dervish, slowing down and slowing down until stillness dawned accompanied by a sense of ahh, there I am. At one point I laid down in a bed of pine needles and the smell of the pines and the expansive of the sky and the firmness of the earth conspired to create such a sense of fullness and well being.
How do you meet yourself? What are the practices that bring you back to You? And how can you add more of these to your life, in ways big and small? On weekends I have the luxury of a long hike, and every day I make time for meditation. Think of these as bigger deposits in the bank. But what about the smaller deposits? What are those for you? How often do you close your office door and take 10 deep belly breaths? Do you ever turn walking from point a to point b into a walking meditation? When an emotion arises can you bring your awareness to the accompanying body sensations and stay present with them until they pass through?
As you move through your life, how can you prioritize meeting yourself?

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“Again,–nothing you do or think or wish or make is necessary to establish your worth.” — A Course in Miracles
When I read the sentence above this morning, I felt my shoulders relax so deeply. What a beautiful reminder, while still wearing pajamas, that nothing that I do, no role that I play, no thing that I achieve or do not achieve, no win, nor any loss, has an impact on my worth.
The world is upside down and we are indoctrinated to believe quite the opposite. We are bombarded with images that associate worth with money, power, things, and roles. This upside down-ness is something that we can learn to turn right side up.
Think of a bouquet of flowers. You can say, these flowers are ugly. You could smear shit on them. You could stomp them into the ground. You could pull the heads off of the stems. Or you could worship them. You could say they weren’t flowers they were amazing beings sent here for us to worship. You could dip them in gold and make a shrine for them. You could also ignore them, just walk by and not even notice.
It doesn’t matter to the flowers. All of your thoughts or wishes or actions to the flower can not change the inherent worth of the flower. It is a flower and nothing can change that. If flowers had the ability to think, they might start to believe the way that you see them is real, but even that wouldn’t change the inherent flowerness of the flower.
We are those flowers. Bright beautiful beings of light, inherently worthy just by virtue of having been blessed with life. Nothing can change that and nothing can take that away. Others may try to pop our heads off the stem, or maybe they’ll dip us in gold, or perhaps they look through us like we are invisible. And before anyone outside of us does, that we have probably cast down or elevated ourselves a thousand times over. But none of it can change our true nature.
I am willing to let go of the worthiness question, and ready to stop using energy to justify myself to myself or anyone else.
How about you? It’s much more enlivening to use that energy to come into the experience of our awesomeness.
I invite you to do something today that brings you into an experience of your innate goodness. Take a yoga class, dance your heart out, take a walk. Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and bring your awareness to the sensations in your body. Once those sensations have captured the attention of your mind, bring your awareness to your breath. Take 10 deep belly breaths, and let the stillness pull you into an experience of your essence, inherently beautiful, requiring nothing outside of yourself to feel the magnitude of your worth.
And then when you go out into the world, remember *that* is your true nature, and also the true nature of every person who stands in front of you today.
Sometimes our behavior and our choices make it harder for us to experience it, but nothing we do can change your innate goodness. Once we bring our actions into alignment with our innate goodness, we experience ourselves, our relationships, and the world quite differently.

Choosing and creating

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I keep thinking about an interaction I had with a kind old dude a few weeks ago. I was doctoring up a cup of coffee. He was waiting in line behind me. As he watched me add cream and sugar he said, “That’s too much sugar, baby. You’re creating diabetes for yourself.”
I laughed nervously, embarrassed to have been found out for enjoying a cup of cream and sugar with a splash of coffee. And I felt a wave of love for him because he was so clearly being my adopted grandfather for that moment.
Two weeks later the words, “you’re creating diabetes for yourself” keep popping into my mind. Food (actually anything) can be medicine, but it can also be poison, depending on what it is and when and how you eat it. So the gift of his words has been a reminder that food choices are creating a health impact.
But the deeper reminder of his admonition was that every choice is a creative act. It’s so easy to forget that and to abdicate responsibility for our choices to the situation, or another person, or the past, or even the future.
When we choose, we create.
It is a bold thing to look at our lives and say, what’s here is the sum total of choices I made. Yes, shit happens, and we don’t control the universe. But we do choose our reaction to the shit that happens. And much of the time shit isn’t just happening, rather, we are choosing and our choices are creating our reality.
We practice yoga or meditation or running or gardening or whatever our personal practice is to quiet our mind and turn it inward.
When we rest in ourselves and touch our deep inner knowing, the choices we make are in support of our highest good.
As I move into the week I’ll be curiously checking in with myself to ask, what am I creating? What am I choosing? And am I creating from my deep inner knowing, or something else?
Wanna play?

Gd dehumidifier

New homeowner scare #1
I can’t get this GD thing out of the box. It’s an effing monstrosity and though the box specifically says DO NOT turn it on its side it’s the only freaking way I can get it out by myself. I contemplate asking for help but if I can’t even get the dehumidifier set up by myself, this homeowner shit might be for the birds.
I get it out. Hopefully I have not flummoxed the motor or whatever. After I get it out I see a small note on the box that says it’s a 2-person job. Thanks a-holes. These things should be made clearer at the outset.
Next, where the hell is the outlet? Wait, there’s only one, next to the dryer? I plug it in and the lights go out?
Fer real? It’s 10 pm? Who needs this shiz?
I feel the tears coming. Dumb idea to do this alone. And then an inner cheerleader: you got this girl.
So I go to the fuse box. Flick all the breakers on and off. Realize maybe the dryer and dehumidifier are too big to be plugged in at once. Unplug the dryer, plug in the dehumidier, et voila! Shit’s working.
How interesting, to roll with the waves of fear, sadness and WTF that all came through this one little experience.
Life itself is the guru. It shows where those places are that need to be loved. What thoughts or beliefs (I can’t do this, I don’t know how) are floating around unexamined or unacknowledged and ready to be held up to the light?
Every obstacle presents that opportunity, to love some suppressed part of ourselves (for me, Damsel in Distress hidden behind the highly independent woman), and also to claim our wholeness more fully. Also to see the options we don’t usually take, which in my case is to ask for help.
The littlest things can bring such learning when we are paying attention.

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Today, I am 37.
I feel amazing. And I think that’s because over this last year, I learned how to hold my own hand.
I always liked hand holding. To me it means, I’m with you. And it means that love flows between the two beings holding hands. Think of it…you hold the hand of the one you love, you hold the hand of a friend, you hold the hand of a child. If a stranger fell down in front of you, you’d hold their hand to help them back up. So holding hands covers every kind of connection, from friendship, to the general love we have for other humans by virtue of being human, to the amazing love of your beloved.
But are we taught to hold our own hand?
Maybe some of us learn to, but I think a lot of us don’t. Life happens and things don’t work the way you want them to and it is easy to look outside of yourself and say, that, over there, is the cause of this pain.
What I have found over this last year is that the biggest abandonment is that of my self.
I saw all the ways that I stopped holding my own hand. Feel rejected? Let go of my own hand. Feel scared? Let go of my own hand. Feel loved? Let go of my own hand and focus on the other person.
Once I became conscious of it, I saw how often I let myself go.
So I went on a mission to learn how to hold my own hand.
Luckily, that One in me who has never left my side had guided me to study and teach methods for doing just that! It crystallized…these are tools that help you not to abandon yourself.
The Sanskrit word for health is “swastha.”
It means to rest in one’s own self. I feel I’m resting in myself when I have the sense, deep inside my heart, that I’m holding my own hand. When I’m connected to that part of me that remains unchanged even as external circumstances and mental states do change.
Yoga helps me to do this because meditating daily gives me the imprint of being with my Self. It’s the pattern from which the rest of the day is cut. Being steeped in that sense of connection every morning helps me to feel when it starts to slip during the day. And then I can bring myself back.
Ayurveda helps because the morning ritual, dinacharya, is a beautiful series of self-care actions, each helping to cleanse the things that keep us from feeling connected within.
And Conscious Living skills help because they are about connected to breath, movement, and self-love, all of which lead me back to myself when I notice I have let go of my own hand.
What a gift to have had teachers like Rod Stryker and Kathryn Templeton and Kathlyn Hendricks, all masters of paths that lead to resting in yourself.
What a gift that I get to teach people these three ways to come home to themselves!
And it is a constant practice. Just like meditating, how you realize you’re attached to your thoughts and then you release them and return to your mantra…so it is with holding your own hand. When, for whatever reason, you’ve let yourself go, you notice, (not judging, just becoming aware) that you’ve let go, and then pick up your own hand again.
It doesn’t mean you don’t still get sad or overwhelmed or angry…it just means you stay with yourself as these states of mind and emotions pass through. And you experience those states differently.
My birthday wish for myself is to continue to hold my own hand, and to expand in teaching others how to hold theirs. And to learn how to keep holding my own hand while also holding someone else’s (whoever that is and whenever he chooses to appear). Also, to have fun while doing so.
Woot! Yeah!
My birthday wish for the world is that we all learn what it feels like to hold our own hand, and to do more every day to strengthen that connection.
The more we rest in ourselves, the more we see the beauty of the world and in each other, so we choose love. And the more we choose love, we have peace.

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Last night I went to a kirtan led by Krishna Das. I arrived already feeling like my heart was blown open so I thought, this should be interesting. And it was…the experience was different than the dozen other times I’ve seen him. From the first song I could feel my energy responding, but this time it was less about outwardly expressing the stirring devotion in my heart and how that was manifesting energetically, and more about feeling steady in the midst of feeling ecstasy, and riding and containing the rising energy, without feeling the need to discharge.
And I had the sense that I was singing to a place deep inside my heart, which was so cool because in the past I’d felt I was singing to a force that was outside of myself. Through the singing of the names I could feel the force outside, the force inside, and then the merging of inside and outside until there was no difference.
At one point KD told a story about a time where he was learning kirtan and was singing with the cymbal player, and he talked about the quality of listening that he had to use in order to hit the notes.
It made me realize that when I do kirtan, especially when I know the songs, it’s almost like I listen just enough to get the tune, but what I am really doing is waiting to sing.
Interesting.
So when he began the next song I listened. With no agenda, but with full presence. And something magnificent happened where this whole enterprise, which had previously been, he sings, we sing, everyone gets transported to bliss, became something quite different. When he sang I received the mantra in all its fullness. And when I sang back, I felt we were giving him the mantra too. And after a while it wasn’t him and it wasn’t the audience, it was like the gods and goddesses were singing to each other and somewhere along the way the “I” who sings was swallowed up.
It was exquisite.
There are so many ways, so many paths to remember that we are more than a body or a mind or a personality or what we have or don’t have or what we like and don’t like.
Gratitude to Krishna Das, and gratitude to all the teachers of these practices that help me to remember. And I hope when I write and teach and just move through the world that I do my part to help people to remember too.

Seeing the light

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I start my day drinking a warm beverage and reading something spiritual. Ayurveda taught me the importance of priming my digestion to work optimally and priming my mind to remember I am spirit housed in flesh. Something magical usually happens during these quiet moments, some small bit of synchronicity that reaffirms, yes, make time for yourself in this way. It’s important.
This morning a light show danced across the hallway wall outside of my bedroom. Light appeared to be moving and streaming across the wall, streaming and weaving patterns of movement that evoked the kaleidoscopes I loved as a child.
I watched the light, mesmerized, seeing it as proof positive that we are indeed moving through a soup of energy, a pool of light and love so subtle that we can’t see it with the naked eye.
The sage Adi Shankara, in describing the nature of reality, taught “The world is an endless ocean of ambrosia. My body is but an island.”
That ambrosia of consciousness and energy is many times not apparent to us as we move through life. It’s easy to forget that we are consciousness expressing itself in human form.
Creating time for quiet contemplation is one way to access that deeper reality. There is value in creating pauses throughout the day to rest in the home of your Self.
This soup of energy that we move through is a supportive force that energizes everything we do. This Shakti, this power, is love and light. It is the animating force, the pulsation that thrums at the very basis of life.
Sometimes we are reminded of that divine force through a trick of light against the wall. Other times it is the gaze of your beloved, the smell of fresh cut grass, the peace after a yoga practice, a burst of light in meditation.
That Shakti is always there, supporting you, whether you slow down enough to see it or you don’t. But life feels so much more exquisite when you touch that energy every day, when you make time to feel its presence.
As we transition into fall, consider creating your own ritual for contemplation. Setting aside just 10 minutes in the morning for spiritual reading, silence, or diaphragmatic breathing is a beautiful way to get started.

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