My Braided Life

Triquetra

In this past year, I have been graced with a lot of insight into how my life works and how I can live a happier existence with a feeling of wholeness and joy surrounding my days. I have been so introverted during this process that I lost all desire to write anywhere but my journal and on a project I felt called to explore. A friend gently suggested that I put out here some of the insights I have gained … that they might be of interest to someone else and that she, for one, would like to read them.

So, here is my first exploration in this direction:

Rituals are like a checklist, ensuring all of me is being nourished.

I wake up in the morning at about 5 AM. I roll out of bed and find my way to my meditation space. 25 minutes later, I feel more awake, centered, and ready to journal for a quick 5 – 10 minutes. The dog and I then scoot out the door for a walk around the block where I make a point of connecting to my favorite trees in the neighborhood, often with me placing my hands on their bark and listening. As we make our rounds, I practice being aware of the energy grounding me to the earth and remaining mindful of each step as I walk it. I try to pay attention to where my awareness resides in my body, and I make sure to spend some time with my awareness settled in my nurturing 2d chakra space.

These morning rituals embody my perception of the three major strands within the braid of my life. In every life, the braid is present. One strand is the physical me, another is the mental me, and a third the spiritual me. One of the things I have learned over the course of this past year is that it is vitally important to “feed” each strand of the braid so that none is starved or engorged. If we want the braid of our life to be healthy, each strand has to receive our attention on a regular basis.

For myself, I appreciate the physical strand by getting outside and walking each day. I try to eat healthy foods and to be mindful as I eat. My spiritual strand is fed by my meditation practice and by my mindfulness exercises, as well as my tree connections. My mental self benefits from the journaling, the discipline that I impose on myself, and the work I do each day. Note that in each case, there are things I take in (such as food) and things I give or expend (such as exercise). I have come to understand that this give and take is very important. It is like breathing in and out, giving and taking, each with its own cycle. If you take in, you must find a way to release. Balance requires it.

There is more, of course. I try to include creative activities. I try to read each day, even if it is just for a few minutes. I am using an app on my phone to teach myself German. Everything we do embodies at least one strand of this braid. The key is to be aware of which pieces of ourselves we are exercising when we participate in a given activity. If we only do the intellectual, we are  feeding it to the detriment of our physical and spiritual selves, and we will eventually pay a price for that neglect. The same holds true if we feed the spiritual, but do not exercise or eat well … or if we take care of our bodies, but never exercise our minds or make time to listen for the voice of the Divine.

Sometimes, I envision more strands. Most of the time, it is just the three. It is the Celtic triquetra – the three-sided knot – that symbolizes so many trinities in our lives. I use it to remind me of the balance of mind-body-spirit.

Letting Go

books

Not being catholic, I have somewhat of an outsider’s view of the Lenten season. Mind you, Catholics aren’t the only ones who celebrate Lent, but they are certainly the most visible – especially on the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday.

From my experience, Lent is usually honored by giving up something that you enjoy. The thought has been explained to me as as a sacrifice to echo the sacrifice of Christ, though I have recently read of other interpretations. The idea is to recognize how challenging it is to give up that one small thing (even if it is usually to our own benefit in some way), and to therefore appreciate how great a sacrifice was done on our behalf.

I was thinking about this idea of sacrifice over the last few days, since I often choose Lent as the perfect time to give up something. After all, there is a lot of support out there for letting go at this one time of the year. Take advantage of the communal energy! When I participate in this process, I like to look at it as giving up something so I can see what kind of hold that thing has over my life and evaluate whether I am willing for that hold to continue.

Frankly, my concept of Lent has changed over time. It used to be more in alignment with sacrifice, but this year, I am seeing things a bit differently. I realize that the sentiment behind “sacrifice” is that it should be something you enjoy or want to continue doing, so that giving it up is in some way unpleasant. What I am realizing is that giving things up doesn’t have to be unpleasant to be beneficial. My spiritual life and my physical life can both see benefits if I do this right.

I recently read some comments from a Buddhist monk who explained that monks were only allowed to own 8 things, and those 8 things were actually predefined. This idea coinciding with the timing of Lent made me think of the possibility of giving up ownership, or at least reducing my ownership footprint. I read a new slogan somewhere on the web: “Don’t declutter. De-own.” Sounds scary … and that means it is powerful.

I certainly own a lot more than 8 things. Honestly, I own a lot more than the 100 Things that another blogger suggested. I grew up in a poor household and it was made very clear to me at a very young age that how much stuff a person owned was a measure to compare oneself against. Many family members were hoarders, though I doubt very much that any of them would admit it. When I moved in with my current partner, I think I was well on my way to becoming a hoarder, myself. She, however, is not a hoarder. In some parts of her life, she is downright minimalist. Needless to say, my collection of stuff drove her nuts!

We broke up for a while due, in part, to this very issue. During that time, I came to realize that I really identified with my stuff. When she didn’t want things out where it was visible to guests, I felt like she didn’t want me to be visible. When she would gently suggest downsizing some of my collection, I felt she was wanting to downsize or diminish me! It sounds crazy, I know. From what I can tell though, this is very much how hoarders feel. I now call this syndrome being “stuff sick.” The love I felt for her forced me to face this about myself, and I truly believe she pulled me back from the brink of becoming a hoarder.

Over the years, I have learned to let go, to hold on less and less. She taught me that memories and emotions might be triggered by seeing certain things, but that doesn’t mean we have to keep them. If the object serves no practical purpose, we can take a picture of the thing and let the actual object go. It is a process and I am still not as good at it as she is, but I keep improving.

Which brings me to the idea of Lent 2013.

My idea for this year goes beyond sacrifice into the value of reviewing what defines me. I am not willing to be defined by these things I enjoy. I can give them up and still be me. So, I have decided to give up ownership of one thing each day. At the end of the month, these things will go to Goodwill / Savers. Instead of giving up chocolate or sweets or some other decadence I enjoy, I am going to commit to releasing one item for each of the 40 days. My rules to myself are that I can’t just give up a pair of shoes and count it for 2 days, nor would a box of office supplies count for any more than a single day’s gifting. It can’t be something I simply don’t care about either. To be a valid sign of my healthier attitude toward the things in my possession, I am committing to giving away things I am holding onto “just in case.” If you know anyone with hoarder instincts, this is tough! 20 years in the computer industry simply reinforced that tendency in me, so I am sure this will be a challenge.

Day 1 is going to be a handful of books that I always meant to read, but haven’t. These particular books have been in my “to-read” pile for more than 3 years. I love books and letting them go is never easy for me. Sigh. Time to let them go.

Whew! One day down!

Are you taking advantage of this letting go energy? What has Spirit prompted you to let go of?

Mindful Shopping

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user AMagill – Use of image does not constitute endorsement by the artist.

We are about to hit the biggest shopping season of the year, at least in the USA. This year,  with all the changes that have been (and are still!) occurring in my life, I feel prompted to ask myself to clarify what I value. I have always loved giving gifts and looking for something the recipient will truly appreciate, so I am seeing that this new perspective of mine simply adds another layer to my personal shopping filter.

It is easy to say that I value people over things, intention over object, and ethics over greed. The real question is whether or not I live it out. No matter what words I formulate in my mind or out loud, the real test is in what I do. I am always fond of saying that our lives are much like riding a bicycle in that we always wind up aiming for whatever we are looking at. So, what my heart believes directs the course of my actions as surely as the mythical siren song lured sailors to places their logical minds did not want to go.

Being the change …

We talk about change and how we want the economy to be less greed-driven, less competition based, more empathy-driven, more service based. I suddenly realized that the idea of being the change I want to see applies to everything, even this. If I want to be part of the solution in terms of changing what drives the economy, then I need to be really clear on what drives me!

How do I decide where I am going to shop? Is it just about prices? Getting the most for your money isn’t a bad thing, but if that is the only criteria I were to use to determine where I shop, wouldn’t that be a greed-driven decision? Do I really need to give multiple gifts, or expensive ones to those I love, for them to know how much I care?

Of course not. Consciously, I know this.

I still hesitate, so I dig a little deeper. I realize that there is a part of me that knows my idealism isn’t shared (yet!) by all those I love. So, I am concerned about how to live out this philosophy of mine. I can make things. I can offer skills. I reflect on the idea that I want to give them things they will appreciate, and my concern is for those who still seem caught up in the consumerism of the old paradigm. How do I find the right gift for them, and still remain true to this shift within me?

At some point, even if it is just for materials, I will need to go out and purchase some things.

In a capitalist society, your money is your sphere of influence

An awful lot of businesses have recently had their leadership say and do things with which I disagree strongly. They have the right to freedom of speech, and I would never want to take that away from them. On the other hand, I too have freedoms. If they are going to do things I perceive to be against my personal ethics, I don’t have to support them and their business by shopping there. This concept of the ethical shopper is one that I have seen popping up all over the place.

Thanks to various boycott movements, consumers are discovering how powerful their shopping habits truly are. If a boycott can influence behavior, then I have the power to bestow my vote of confidence upon any business, simply by shopping there. Realizing this, and wanting to change how businesses are run, I know there are some behaviors I want to reward and others I don’t. Companies that treat their employees like more than just  a resource to be used and discarded need to be encouraged. Those that want to act ethically, do minimal damage to the environment, support their local communities and are responsive to the impacts their decisions make in the world – those businesses deserve my support. On the other hand, those who don’t do these things need to be sent to the time out corner. There are only two practical ways to express my disapproval: one is to write them a letter (and yes, I frequently do this), and the other is to simply refuse to give them any of my money.

Influencing change

This is how any of us can influence the ethics of capitalism. In retail, the people’s mandate is defined in profits. If a company is profitable, they think that we are OK with how they do business. We each have the power to influence that bottom line of profitability with every purchase we make. Frankly, as we awaken into our personal power I believe we will be seeing this trend continue to grow.

I am looking forward to this year’s gift giving, partly because I plan on being extra creative about it. I do admit, however, that trying to determine where a company falls on my naughty or nice list could be a lot of work. I wonder if there is an app for that? Imagine something that gives every store a score based on how they treat their employees, the environment, and their community. Maybe with links to more info if it is available. Too bad I am not a developer. Anyone out there want to take this on? 🙂

Stone Light Retreat

Crystal Cabin Guardian

When I finished my last day as a Network Systems Administrator, and stepped off the cliff into creating my own business, I knew that the change was huge. I have always believed that 80% of just about everything in life is mental, so I knew I needed to shift my mindset before I dug into the business, in order to give it the best possible chance of succeeding. The method I chose for doing this was to go on a three day retreat in Viroqua, Wisconsin.

Viroqua is in what is termed The Driftless Region of Wisconsin. Technically, the driftless region is defined by the fact that glaciers did not leave any of their mess behind. Boulders, silt and sand are called “drift,” and so none of this was left decorating the region when the glaciers last melted. Practically, it encompasses a region with gorgeous landscape, deep river valleys, and amazingly uplifting natural aesthetic influences.

The natural beauty makes this a perfect place for a retreat. Lucky for me, I already knew of a place that would fit my list of requirements: Moderately isolated, “off the grid,” and preferably friendly to my spiritual path. Stone Light is a place I found a few years ago. I have hiked its paths before, and recommended it to many a friend, but this was my first opportunity to take up residence there, myself!

Stone Light is not huge, but don’t be fooled by its size. Steve, the owner, has gone through a lot of effort to create paths and features to draw you into the natural setting. We are not talking untouched wilderness here, but a natural beauty enhanced with a blessing here and there. You might be walking through the woods and come across a bowl on a tree stump that is lined with 100 or more small crystals. There are rocks placed near the path that look like nature carved them into shapes such as a person praying. There is a labyrinth, an outdoor altar space, and so much more. What there isn’t is electricity and the electro-magnetic interference that goes with it. Nor will you find running water in the cabins. Instead, the Amish-built cabins are accompanied by a nearby outhouse. Steve opens a portion of his home to the retreaters so that a shower can be had the morning after hiking in the woods all day. It was very appreciated!

I arrived on Monday and explored the town a bit before heading up to the retreat. There is a food co-op, a rock shop and a few restaurants to enjoy. I hit the co-op and picked up a few things to take to the cabin with me. Nothing that needed refrigeration, of course. I was going off the grid and excited to be doing so!

I had brought a bunch of crystals to enhance the goal of my retreat, which was releasing the past and being open to the new life I wanted to lead. The cabin had a few crystals of its own, so I was able to use them to set up a wonderful grid after calling in the directions and creating my sacred space. I felt very comfortable and “at home” in the space. This allowed me to do the rituals and practices I needed over the course of the three days I was there.

I read. I journaled. I did lots and lots of meditating, especially outside. Initially, I focused on release, but by the end, I was opening myself up to the world around me and pulling energy from the Earth. The last night I was there I did a wonderful Listening Meditation, where I sat outside for about an hour or so and simply listened to all the noises around me and documented them in my journal as I did so. That was actually a wonderfully opening meditation.

This retreat was everything that I had wanted it to be. It was both exhausting and rejuvenating, healing and cathartic, cleansing and enlightening. I came home on Thursday afternoon feeling like I had been scrubbed clean inside and I knew I was ready to face the new life I planned on creating. If you have never taken time to be totally alone with yourself – no tv, no phone, no internet – I highly recommend it. Facing yourself without distraction can be challenging, but it can also be extremely rewarding!

So, here we are a week and a half later, and I can still say that the retreat did what I needed it to do. I won’t say that I feel ready to conquer the world every day, but I keep working to find the steps to create this life I want so much. Every day, I am wake up and feel like it is going to be even better than the day before. I haven’t been disappointed yet.

I am so glad that I went to Stone Light. I am also glad I went for three nights, instead of the two I had originally planned (thanks for the nudge, Ann Marie!). The only downside was realizing at one point that no electricity meant no fan to give any relief to the stifling heat that sauntered in on my second night there. (edit: Please note that the heat was part of a record-breaking heat wave socking the Midwest at the time, and not reflective of normal weather in the area! ~RnT) But then the rain came and all was well again. The energy at Stone Light is amazing. Steve goes to great lengths to enhance the healing energy of the land with judicious placement of crystals. The cabin came with its own sage stick (good thing, as I had forgotten mine!) and the book selection in the cabin gave me much food for thought. He has a variety that rotates through all the cabins and the books encompass many different faiths and approaches to spirituality. In other words, there is a little bit for almost everyone. I will definitely be going again, and hope to make this a regular ritual.

Stone Light Retreat

Click above for slide show images of my retreat

Ch-ch-changes!

 

My daughter meditating at Dun Aengus, Ireland

This past week has seen the beginning – and end – of so many things in my life. I stopped being employed by someone else the Friday before last. I will miss working with the people that have become my friends over the past 3 1/2 years. However, because we have become friends, I have every confidence that the large majority of us will manage to stay in touch thanks to email, social media and (hopefully!) regular get-togethers!

It was an interesting ending filled to the brim with both a great deal of affection and a peacefulness of spirit. I am hopeful that, by letting this go, I am making room for lots of new and wonderful adventures I hope to find coming my way. What kinds of things might those be, you may ask?

I have had a dream for a while of bringing my gifts to the world in the form of my own business. My whole life, I have thought of myself as a teacher, a poet, and a writer. In the last few years, I have gained so much insight into being a more integrated, whole person, and I am convinced that my ability to “walk in two worlds” in just about every aspect of my life is something I can use to advantage. I have decided to bring together the world of meditation and mindfulness and the world of business, to see what happens. I am excited to know that I am far from alone in this dream!

Google actually has mindfulness training for its staff, believe it or not! They see the return on investment for incorporating this into their business practices. Meditation in all its forms is escaping the world of spirit and finding a place in the workaday world. The benefits are huge and not just for CEO’s and upper management. Stress is repeatedly touted as one of the primary reasons people get sick and miss work, and some studies suggest that 75 – 90% of all doctor’s visits are directly linked to complaints and conditions related to stress. Meditation and mindfulness practices include tons of simple techniques anyone can learn to be able to handle stress better. The dynamic is really clear, too: Less stress = Better health. The best part is that you can reap the benefits no matter your faith, no matter your personal belief system and even regardless of whether you believe it will do anything for you or not!

This is so exciting! I am taking my years of experience training people on everything from software usage to shamanic practice and combining it with my business skills in a way that will benefit all of us. Imagine a job where teams meditate together to solve problems, or where mindfulness practice increases both productivity and job satisfaction. I see it coming to be … I really do.

So, I am very excited to be putting together a series of classes designed to bring meditation and mindfulness training into the work world. I believe this can be life changing for people and a profitable strategy for businesses. The icing on the cake is that this gives me an opportunity to change the world, one breath at a time! 🙂

More details coming soon … including how you might be able to win a free class for you and up to 10 of your coworkers! Don’t worry, though. This blog is not going to become focused on my new business (I am putting together a website and a facebook page for that!). Although I am sure meditation topics will come up now and again, the purpose of this page has always been to celebrate spirit through a connection to rocks and trees, along with other facets of nature. I was just so excited about this new adventure that I simply had to post about it here!

I will let you all know when the new site is up and running and I do hope that many of you will join me there as well. In the meantime, I am curious if any of you work for places that already offer this kind of training? If so, what do you see as the best benefits it has brought you?

April Foolishness

Yesterday was April Fool’s Day. Most people I know use it as an excuse to pull jokes on the unsuspecting, taking advantage of someone’s trust or naivete. It is rare that a “victim” is truly foolish, but that idea is what sent me thinking …
As someone who has often gained insight from contemplating the tarot, April 1st naturally brings to mind the idea of The Fool. The Fool is often misjudged by the world at large, because s/he has an innate trust that defies the logic of this world. Walking off a cliff in the Rider-Waite deck, I am reminded also of a rune that I pulled for my meditation focus this month: Dagaz. Dagaz is about breakthroughs and transformations, but it is also about radical trust and leaping empty-handed into the void.

Dagaz and The Fool appear to be ideal centers of focus for me right now, as it looks like my life is about to change. At the very least it is going to be a moderately big change, and it could indeed be transformative. I am in a position where I need to change jobs, and I don’t know what I should do next. I am tempted to stay with what I know, with what I have done for 20 years, but I wonder if I am limiting myself by thinking that way. A boss I had many years ago once gave me some words of wisdom that have had a huge influence on me. He said that I needed to remember that there are times when you can’t reach new shores unless you are willing to lose sight of the old one. This time of transition is an amazing opportunity for me to reinvent myself, if I only have the courage to walk that path, and step away from what I know.

Everything is in flux, and I am reminded by The Fool and Dagaz to engage in radical trust. The time is ripe. So, I have to wonder how I make that happen? I know it involves trying to listen to the still, small voice within … as constantly as possible. The New Testament tells us to pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and I truly believe that this is what it is talking about: Listening without cease for the nudges from that place inside where Spirit resides. I know that most people think of prayer as talking TO the Divine, but I have found that listening is frequently more vital than talking. If I take that as step one, then I have to wonder if there is anything else I can do?

As a member of our western culture, it is challenging for me to wait and listen without doing. I am always wanting something to do, and it feels very uncomfortable to not be involved in some type of action, especially when a goal, no matter how nebulous, is in mind. I have found that Spirit often accommodates me with “busy work.” I think it means something productive, until the light goes on. Then I realize I was just given something to occupy my need for action until the real action comes along. The risk, of course, is that I might miss an opportunity for right action if I focus too much on the busy work. So, I have to be careful to be an attentive listener.

George Sand once wrote (in Mauprat) that, “No change, even from bad to good, can be accomplished without pain.” Change is uncomfortable as habits are modified and expectations have to be revisited. Even when I want the end result, it is a process to create new habits to support that outcome. When I am not sure what the end result will look like, it is even more challenging!

All of this is swirling in my mind on a pretty constant basis right now. I meditate and count it a victory if I can get even just a few minutes per day of no-mind peace and silence. I try to let it all go, but I am not beating myself up when I can’t. I recognize that I am not a Buddha, a Jesus or some other spiritual master. I am where I am on my path and that is ok. I just keep trying to relax into my truest self, and trust that I will get better at this as I go along.

From The Gospel of Thomas:
Verse 70: Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not have that within you, what you do not have within you [will] kill you.”

From The Psalms:
51:6 – Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

What’s Your Style?

Have you ever heard of the concept of ‘Learning Styles?’ I was introduced to this idea about 3 years ago, during a year-long course in shamanism. Huh? “What,” you ask, “does a learning style have to do with your spirit walk?”  The answer may surprise you, because it has a LOT to do with spirituality, seriously impacts how you relate to yourself and others and understanding it gives you a powerful filter to see the world more clearly.

Seems like a lot to lay on one little concept, doesn’t it? I was thinking about this over the weekend, as I realized how much this knowledge has impacted my relationship with my daughter, my partner, with co-workers and sometimes even with strangers. That’s what made me decide to share some of this with you. It is powerful stuff!

The first introduction I had to the concept was based on the teachings of a psychotherapist who was instrumental in the formulation of the original idea: Dawna Markova. Others have expanded her basic learning styles over the years, but I sincerely feel that hers are enough for getting a grip on the process. Her work has the added benefit of not being too confusing and thereby beyond the average layman to understand.

Basically, it goes like this:

Each of us has 3 basic channels of learning. We take in the world at one level, process it at another, and connect it to ourselves and spirit at yet a third. For example, I interact with the world primarily through my auditory channel: I talk. I read (yes, that is considered ‘auditory’). Sounds come easily to me. When I go for a leisurely walk in the woods, I am most likely to follow the sounds of birds, animals or the wind. I tend to say things like, “I hear you!” or “Sounds good!” I process this information through a kinesthetic filter, writing or creating something, maybe mimicking the activity, and when I have it internalized, there is a visual … a mental image (I often call it my mental map) associated with the topic. Now, I also process things very quickly, so I go through this whole series at lightning speed. This made it challenging initially to determine what my sequence actually was. It was almost like one channel bled into the next. When you get it figured out, though, you will know. It will make sense of things that seemed without reason to you. Suddenly, it will click and you’ll achieve a deeper understanding of how you think.

“OK. So what?” I hear you say. Well, the way I process information tells you a lot about how to share information with me so that I “get it.” It also helps explain things like why I can never find things in the fridge, or why it helps for me to go for a walk or write when I am upset, or why I can’t handle intense television programs very well …. Seriously. The way I figure it, the speed at which I process images (heading straight to my deepest channel) doesn’t allow me to put the filter in place saying “this is not real.” So, it is all real to me while I am watching. My fight or flight instincts go into high gear and I do not find it fun. Not at all.

(A)uditory – (K)inesthetic – (V)isual. These are the three basic styles. Everyone has all three, but they might be in a different place in your learning process. Combined in the various sequences, they make for six patterns. The basic premise of this system is that everyone falls into one of the six patterns. Once you know a person’s pattern, it is amazing what that tells you about their tendencies (Remember, we can all work or train to behave differently than our tendencies!). It also makes it easier to accept when a person does something totally different than how you would do that same thing, or reacts differently than you would. Accepting that other people literally think differently than you do is a powerful tool in your repertoire!

For example, another person I know has auditory for her deepest channel. Her instinct is to take everything said as being directed at her, personally. For her, this is part of auditory going straight to her deepest self. Understanding that about herself helps her to put this in perspective and come up with ways of dealing with it, just as I have found ways of dealing with the power of the visual in my life. Another person I know is kinesthetic up front (how she interacts with the world). She has to touch things, smell them, taste them. She can’t imagine working in an office. She would hate the immobility. Knowing this about her defuses any irritation I might feel when she can’t sit still or gets wildly physical. Knowing it about herself helps her recognize that a sit down job will likely never be in her future, and it also helps her to understand why she has to physically touch things before deciding about them. For her, it is not so much how something looks, but how it feels that she finds most appealing.

I use my knowledge of learning styles every day to help me understand and accept the reactions of people who think differently than I do. When I teach something to a group, I try to incorporate aspects of each channel to allow for an easy way in to the subject for everyone. I may lecture for those auditory folks, show how it’s done for the visual people and have lab time set aside for those who have to do it to get their brain around it. When I teach one person, I can tailor the training to the individual, assuming I have been able to determine how they learn best. I think good teachers instinctively reach for a similar model because their intuition tells them what is needed. When you have someone who knows a subject well, but can’t teach it, the answer may be as simple as expanding beyond their own learning style when mentoring people.

The flip side of the research done on this topic has been the power it gives to marketing people. Advertisements attempt to go directly to our deepest channel, avoiding those pesky processing filters (middle channel) whenever possible. When they succeed, we find ourselves buying something we don’t truly need with no clear understanding of why we *had* to have it. As you understand how you process information, take some time to analyze the ads that have been most effective in getting you to do or buy something you later realized was unnecessary. How did that appeal? What channel was it targeting? Not only will this help you understand your own learning style better, but it will defuse the power of the ad! I have found that advertising becomes less effective, the more I understand why I react as I do. This information helps me reclaim my personal power and re-establish the sanctity of my own mind.

If you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend Dawna Markova’s books. The two I would suggest to consider as great introductions to the topic are: The Open Mind: Exploring the Six Patterns of Natural Intelligence,  and How Your Child is Smart: A Life-Changing Approach to Learning. I like checking out sample pages on books.google.com when it comes to books like this. You might find it helpful, as well. She also has a website where you can explore some of her more recent work topics: http://www.dawnamarkova.com . If learning styles have given you any insights to yourself or others, please feel free to share … either here or on Twitter. I would love to hear from you!

Backyard Gratitude

This weekend has been a delightful surprise, weather-wise. The wind tells me it is fall, but it isn’t a biting wind. There is a softness to the air that is welcoming, friendly and downright enjoyable. I stand in my backyard and let my chattering mind fall to silence. I close my eyes and listen. Crows cawing counterpoint to a chittering songbird I don’t recognize. Their music serenades me in accompaniment to the rustle of leaves and a distant wind chime. The sound of traffic adds an occasional reminder that I am in the heart of a city, but it is early yet. Traffic is light and the wind carries the sounds away, rather than toward me. I could almost believe that I was in a small town instead of a city. The weather, sounds and my inner space all come together in beauty and serenity.

As I stand there, cold feet against the grass, I am reminded of a song by Brooke Medicine Eagle:

Pine needles and earth beneath my naked feet

I bow to the mountain. Her ancientness bows to me

Obsidian wings of the laughing crow

Invite the soundless bells of dawn.

The melody and words tumble over and over in my head as I feel my body relax into the morning. Today, I am grateful to be alive. Grateful to be able to stand outside and enjoy the wind and the leaves and the songs of birds. Grateful for music that touches my soul. Grateful to have this space to share my thoughts with you.

May your week be blessed by nature’s song. Sending you my love …

Gratitude

In the US, November is home to the celebration of Thanksgiving. Traditionally, this is a time of giving thanks, appreciating family, and celebrating abundance in the form of a feast on the 4th Thursday of the month. The harvesting from October is done. Food has been canned, dried, pickled or salted. People are just hunkering down in preparation for the cold Northern hemisphere winter. So, we stop and give thanks. Grateful for all we have and the abundance that surrounds us.

In this 21st century, the imagery I just described feels traditional, and “old-fashioned.” I look around me in the US, and I see a country that is blessed with an amazing abundance of food all year round. We don’t wait for the harvest any more! I remember, as a child, waiting for the first peaches to arrive in the store … or the first ears of corn … the first blueberries. It is easy to feel gratitude when you receive something that seems rare. We looked forward to those first crops of the year when I was younger. I can’t tell you exactly when it became commonplace to eat anything other than the canned or frozen variety of blueberries in winter. It just sort of slipped in there when I wasn’t paying attention.

It is ironic that we humans find it easier to be grateful when there has been a lack recently filled, rather than when we are surrounded by constant abundance, but there you have it. As I sit and think about this idea, I realize that I lack for nothing that is important to my survival. Nothing. Compared to many people on this planet, I am surrounded by an unimaginable abundance.

I believe that everything from our genetic makeup to our environmental training makes us always strive for more. What we have is never enough. We are never satisfied and so we are constantly striving, reaching, working and grasping toward the next thing. This is not conducive to gratitude, or recognizing the abundance that already surrounds us. On the other hand, being truly grateful puts us in the now. When we can sense how grateful we are for what we have, we aren’t worried about what might happen tomorrow or stressing about what did or didn’t happen yesterday. We look around us in awe – and feel, even for a few moments, just how rich we truly are.

This November, I plan on exploring and expressing my gratitude for the amazing life I have. I remember that, when my daughter was younger, she used to concentrate too much on the one bad thing that happened in any given day. I wanted to change her focus, so I made her tell me every night something she was grateful for. No two nights could be the same. I think I am going to pick up where I left off with her and make a point of including the abundance I recognize in my journal. What I found with her is that, when you start looking for abundance instead of lack, you start seeing more and more of it. I truly believe that where we focus our attention is where we pour our creative energy. If we focus on what is missing, we find more to BE missing. If we focus instead on all that we have, we find more of that too!

My intention for this month is that I am going to practice growing my awareness of all the wonderful ways that abundance is expressed in my life. Feel free to join me!

Centered in the Storm

“I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”

~Frank Herbert (‘Litany of Fear,’ from the novel, Dune)

Fear takes many forms. Personally, as I sit here, writing with a toothache, I am reminded that I am terrified of dentistry. I have also been reminded recently that I fear making “wrong” choices sometimes. They say that fear is a trigger for fight or flight syndrome. I think that is really stage 2 of the fear response. My first reaction is actually to freeze. My ability to make decisions gets hung like a bad application on the computer. I can’t get out of my own way, even when it is in my best interest to do something. If I let the fear escalate, that’s when stage 2 kicks in. Maybe, my lizard brain is trying to decide which way to go, but the reaction is not based on any intellectual evaluation. It is emotions, pure and simple.

On the other hand, if I can somehow grasp my center, the home of my place of balance and the source of the still small voice … then, I can ride out the fear, let it flow through me and take what I need from it without being overwhelmed by it. Then, I don’t run. I don’t fight. I think. Depending on the situation, I may think hard and fast, but not in a panic-struck way. I hit the “zone,” and manage to go into a space in my head that isn’t always easily accessible to me. This place is where things click and relationships between events seem obvious and in technicolor. It is a healthy space. I might even call it a holy space.

Learning to stay centered is a process. Being centered when life is flowing by smoothly is not so hard. When I get emotional, though, it can be challenging to remain centered. It isn’t just fear. Sorrow, joy, any strong emotion can knock me for a loop. Sometimes, I forget that “centered” does not mean “without emotion.” It means that I allow myself to feel the emotion deeply without letting it control me. I detach myself from it. That is what I got from Frank Herbert’s Litany of Fear. I learn that my emotions, my fears — they might be powerful, but they are not me.

It has taken me a while to learn that it is important to detach from all emotions, not just the “bad” ones like fear or sorrow. We are just as likely to make poor, or less-well-thought-out, decisions when we are joyful. I don’t think I am alone in remembering my daughter asking for something unusual when I was in a good mood. She knew I was much more likely to not think it through and just say “yes,” making it easier for me to hold on to that good feeling.

Being centered isn’t just for rough times, but for awesome times, as well. If I am honest, I would have to say that centering comes easiest when the times are mediocre! As a side benefit to my learning to let the emotions be without holding on to them, I find it clears space inside. The emotional torrent resembles a high power hose, washing away the leaves from the path in front of me. When I succeed at experiencing without holding or owning these emotions, I can see clearer. Their source in my life is more visible and I find understanding of my own motivations. This is an amazing gift!

Like in Frank Herbert’s Litany, I turn my inner eye to see the path cleared by the emotional storm, and where it has been, there is nothing. Only I remain.