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Making Time for Retreat

April 10, 2019

Felt pulled to repost this post on retreat. You can retreat for half a day, a weekend, a week or more. Taking this kind of break can be such a great gift to give yourself. Wishing you this time and space to unfold.

Mommy Mystic

Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.   – Herman Hesse

Painting by Francis Wenceslas Holler of St. Francis of Assisi in his cave retreat. Painting by Francis Wenceslas Holler of St. Francis of Assisi in his cave retreat.

Solstice is coming up, a time of spiritual retreat across many traditions. As I head out on my own retreat, I thought it was a great time to share some thoughts on how to prepare and engage in a spiritual retreat of your own. A retreat can be anywhere from a day to months in length (in some traditions years), and can be done in your own home or away. Of course there are organized spiritual retreats at centers around the world, or you can combine retreat with pilgrimage, drawing upon the energies of a natural or religious destination as part of your journey.

Even if you stay home, a retreat is…

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Working with Color and the Chakras

March 19, 2019
abstract rainbow colorful pattern background

Mere color can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways. – Oscar Wilde

I wanted to post something fun and light-filled this month (it’s important not to become so weighed down by the pain of the world that this becomes impossible), and so decided to focus on colors – literally light in all its radiant glory. Colors are a big part of working with the chakras in both energy healing and spiritual traditions, and they are a modality anyone can embrace.

If you google colors and the chakras you will of course get the rainbow spectrum mapping that has become pretty much synonymous with the chakras in the West:

Root/1stchakra – red

Sacral/2ndchakra – orange

Navel/Solar Plexus/3rdchakra – yellow

Heart/4thchakra -green

Throat/5thchakra – blue

Third Eye/6thchakra – indigo (or sometimes purple)

Crown/7thchakra – violet (or sometimes white)

This sequence is called ROYGBIV- the actual spectrum of light as it appears progressively in a rainbow. As common as this color/chakra mapping currently is, it is not based on traditional chakra teachings. It evolved in the West in the last century, as Eastern chakra teachings migrated here and mixed with first Theosophy and then both the Human Potential and New Age movements. You will not find this chakra/color mapping in any classic Hindu or Buddhist text. Instead, within them you often find that different colors are visualized in the same chakra depending on the purpose of an exercise or meditation, rather than one chakra being associated with only one color (there are also variations in the number of chakras in each mapping, although all the in-body chakra mappings are a subset of this one.)

Rainbow chakra mapping

The fact that this rainbow mapping isn’t thousands of years old does not invalidate it however, and as I mentioned in my Chakra Levels posts I find this model very helpful when working with the chakras progressively and for empowering certain kinds of physical healing. The progressive nature of this mapping captures the shift in density and frequency that the chakras represent – the root chakra being the slowest vibrating and ‘densest’, therefore connected to our physical body and material world, while the crown is the fastest vibrating and lightest, tied to spirit. Working with these color gradations is often initially helpful for sensing the chakras physically, and is also great when working with the upward and downward pathways – upward for spiritual flow and downward for manifesting flow.

However, the more traditional way of working, in which different colors are visualized or received into a chakra depending on the deity or mandala one is working with, is also very powerful. In these cases, if you’re focused on a white light deity for example, you might be visualizing white light coming into your heart chakra, or if you are focused on an orange yantra, you might visualize orange light coming into your navel. Blue, white, and red feature prominently in a lot of Tibetan Buddhist chakra meditations, not always in the same locations, and gold and white are used a lot in Hindu deity meditations, in almost any chakra, but particularly the third eye and crown. There are truly infinite combinations.

Colors function on multiple levels – on one hand, they are vibrational, and do seem to have similar vibrational effects on pretty much everyone, regardless of age or culture (for example colors in the blue family are universally the most soothing.) But colors also have a cultural component – red tests quite differently depending on someone’s culture, as it is associated with good fortune and brides in the East, but in the West is considered a more martial and aggressive color. White is associated with weddings here, while in China it’s linked to funerals. These kinds of associations impact how we react to these colors.

What this means is that you should experiment. If you’re familiar with the chakra ROYGBIV mapping you can use the color of one chakra within another chakra to ‘infuse’ the energies of the first chakra into the second – for example, you could visualize red in the 3rd chakra to ground your will power, or green in the throat to bring heart to your communications. You can play with receiving a color into your entire body, not just one chakra, when you really need that energy to be dominant – yellow into your whole body before a sporting competition for example. You can also experiment with flow, and other colors that don’t appear in this mapping. Colors are the play of light, and by experimenting with them you empower your own fluidity in the dimensions of light that make up our world and beings.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use color and the chakras:

  • Visualize a dot of white light in each chakra that gradually grows larger – one at a time or simultaneously. This is for purifying, clearing, and empowering connection to Source/enlightenment (a way of connecting with the innermost layer of the chakras in the 3 level mapping I like to use.)
  • Draw red light up from earth into your root chakra, and then from there up through each chakra and through your crown up into the sky. This is a way of bringing the root energy through your entire system for energizing and clearing blocks to personal growth.
  • Bring gold light down from the sky into your crown, and then down through all of your chakras and into the earth. This brings awakening and clarifying energy all the way down into your body.
  • Visualize the rainbow spectrum (ROYGBIV) of light from root to crown one chakra at a time to reconnect to spiritual joy and expression.
  • Visualize the rainbow spectrum of light from crown to root one chakra at a time then working on manifesting a goal – moving from spirit/idea to matter.
  • Imagine your entire body receiving one color of light – literally from every direction into every cell. Practicing receiving in this way is soooo important – I find that women in particular have a difficult time just visualizing themselves receiving energy and light unconditionally in this way. See light flooding in from above, below, and all around you into your very cells. Decide the color of light according to what you most need. If you’re familiar with the common contemporary chakra associations you could pick one of those colors:

Red (root) – grounding, stability, support

Orange (sacral) – passion, creativity, sensuality, fluidity

Yellow (navel) – determination, organization, will

Green (heart) – love, compassion, connection

Blue (throat) – clarity, self-expression, honesty

Indigo (third eye) – insight, stillness, boundarylessness

Purple (crown) –  purpose, faith, spiritual connection

Others I like, based on other traditions:

Lavender – soothing, like a balm

Light green – gentle healing

Pink – nurturing, loving

Gold – enlightening

Play! bring colored light into your very cells and see how you respond. And see if you can really feel into the depths of these colors – we are so used to screens nowadays, and the limited perception of color they provide. There are an infinite number of colors – some colors humans cannot normally perceive, but it seems some animals can. See if you can stretch your perception to receive them.

Wishing you much color and joy in your life as Spring blooms.

 

 

 

Year of the Earth Pig 2019 – Completing a Cycle

February 4, 2019

Feb 5 2019 through through Jan 24 2020 is the year of the earth pig

Welcome to the year of the Earth Pig! Conventional interpretations of pig years within Eastern astrological systems are mostly very positive – pig years are considered to be times of abundance and good fortune (which we could all use.) Individuals born in the year of the pig are generally considered responsible, fortunate, and friendly. Of course, there are subtler messages to be gleaned within this general reading, so here is my annual intuitive exploration, using the pig as it is represented across many different cultures as a guide. Enjoy!

Tibetan astrology cycle – although the animal symbols are not all the same as the Chinese system, the pig/boar is the last of the 12 year cycle in both

The pig is the last of the 12 signs in the Eastern astrological systems that adhere to a lunar new year calendar. As such pig years represent the completion of a 12 year cycle, as well as a time to plant seeds for the next cycle. This is a good time to look back at what was going on 12 years ago, the end of the last cycle, as well as 11 years ago, the first year in this current new cycle. If we do this in U.S. politics for example, we see that in this exact week in the last year of the pig (February 10th, 2007), Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the presidency. He was considered a long shot at the time, but one year later, also during this week (the first in the 12-year cycle ending now) he gave front runner Hillary Clinton a run for her money in the Super Tuesday primaries, assuring a long and hard-fought primary battle. It’s not hard to see the karmic momentums generated during that time, and how they have driven political events directly and indirectly over the last 12 years.

So look back to February 2007 and 2008 for yourself. What seeds were you planting in 2007 that have continued to play out for you since that time? (I started writing!) What did you initiate in 2008 along those lines (I started this blog!), and what themes in your life have dominated since then in this 12 year cycle? Is there anything coming to completion for you now, or that has completed recently? What do you want to initiate this year/cycle?

Child’s drawing of the Three Little Pigs from the World Stories project.

While in Western culture pigs are often depicted as stubborn, lazy or unclean, there are a few pig stories that more closely align with the Eastern take. One is the classic fairy tale the Three Little Pigs, in which two pigs are eaten by the big, bad wolf when they unwisely make their homes out of straw and wood, despite warnings. The third pig takes the extra time to make his house out of bricks, and survives. The moral that hard work pays off, and that shortcuts don’t, is very apropos for pig years. Good fortune will be realized by those who plan and spend responsibly, and pay attention to detail. Hard work, rather than risk or impulse, are rewarded in pig years. So think carefully about your goals, consider what could go wrong, plan diligently, and proceed responsibly.

Charlotte’s Web- from the classic book cover

Another positive, and delightful, Western depiction of pigs is found in the story of Charlotte’s Web. The pig Wilbur within this tale of loyalty and friendship more closely aligns with the view of pigs in Eastern interpretations – those born in pig years are considered social and loyal, and these qualities are said to be rewarded during pig years. Collaborating with others will bear fruit, and generosity to others – financially or in terms of praise and time – will generate positive momentums. Consider who in your life you might partner with, or how you might strengthen current partnerships. Consider what organizations you wish to donate your time or money too, and what causes. Acting with good intentions is particularly empowered right now, so think about what you value and how you can contribute to people and organizations that reflect those values.

Sow and piglets in English countryside

Although in Western culture pigs have sometimes been denigrated, they have often also been associated with fertility and abundance, just as in Eastern culture. Their rotundity and ability to bear many piglets was viewed in both Celtic and Nordic culture as symbolic of nature’s bounty. Pigs were often sacrificed to the gods as part of ritual feasts, especially those in which blessings for good harvests were sought. This connection to bounty is another theme to draw upon this year – what do you consider abundance to be in your life? On both the material and immaterial levels, what are you grateful for and what would you like to multiply? Think in terms of what you already have that you would like to increase, as opposed to focusing on lack.

Egytian goddess Nut is shown with stars on her body arched over the world, representing her as mother of all

The sow was sacred to Nut and in some areas she was depicted as a sow with piglets – in the same protective position

Pigs were associated with both Isis and Nut in ancient Egypt – both feminine archetypes, and this pig year is considered a feminine/yin one. Nut was sometimes depicted as a sow with piglets, echoing arched depictions of her encircling earthly existence as the night sky. Although we often think of Isis as the Egyptian archetype of the great feminine, in fact Nut was her mother, and represents certain feminine themes even more than Isis. As goddess of the sky, Nut ruled the cycles of day and night and all the planetary movements that define earthly existence. Fertility is linked to these cycles in Egyptian lore – as it is linked to both seasonal and feminine bodily cycles here on earth. While you are contemplating your life from the standpoint of the 12-year Eastern astrological calendar, also consider your more personal cycles of growth, particularly in terms of what you have created or are seeking to create. Perhaps you have multiple cycles in process – some in the idea stage, others in stages of execution, and still others nearing completion. Consider each consciously, and evaluate if each process is in alignment with spirit, your deepest self, and what you hope to achieve in the world. Contemplate the meaning of the feminine in your life, and what yin energies you can draw upon in your creative and manifesting efforts.

In the Buddhist depiction of the three poisons, the pig represents desire

Now we come to some of the obstacles that can derail us in pig years. Pigs represent one of the three ‘poisons’, or internal forces that can keep us bound, in Buddhism – desire. Really desire in and of itself is not a problem, it is our relationship to desire that can get us into trouble. If our desires overtake us, morphing into greed that thwarts our integrity or into addictions that consume us, we can no longer manifest from a place of spiritual alignment. Holding our desires lightly, as sources of joy when they are satiated but not as blind drives that must be fulfilled, is the key – easier said than done, of course! What are your deepest desires?  Do you desire admiration, fame, respect, wealth, power? Do any of those threaten to overwhelm your judgement or ability to stay grounded? In pig years grounded, well-intentioned actions are rewarded, so it’s worth spending time to understand what forces in yourself might rise up and sully yours.

Vajravarahi is a wrathful form of Vajrayogini, often shown with a sow’s head coming out of the right side of her own

Within Tibetan Buddhism we find another, very different, depiction of the pig, connected to Vajravahari, the wrathful form of Vajrayogini, often shown with a sow’s head coming out of her own. In this form Vajravahari represents the cutting through of ignorance with insight, and as part of the Padma Buddha family, the transformation of craving and desire into the enlightened wisdom of discernment. This kind of discernment enables us to see when we are trapped by an internal force such as desire, and how to manifest it instead as a reflection of beauty and joy. Consider how you might transform your deepest desires into action that reflects these higher principles, rather than solely for your own gratification. Rather than sinking into self-gratification, or its opposites, self-denial and self-judgement, seek to change your relationship with your desires and consider how they might be put to use for the greater good. Do you seek fame or power? How can you use that in  a beneficial way? Do you seek pleasure? How can you manifest that as a reflection of light? This is a difficult path to walk, fraught with the potential for self-delusion, but it is one of the most powerful, and in alignment with the pig year energies.

Varaha, third avatar of Hindu god Vishnu, shown here slaying a demon and lifting the earth from the dark waters

The third avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, Varaha, is depicted as a pig/boar, and exemplifies the uplifting of consciousness required for us to work with our own desires in this way. In the tale of Varaha, a demon torments the earth and all beings on it, eventually forcing earth down into a primordial sea. Vishnu takes the form of the pig/boar Varaha, plunges into the dark waters, slews the demon, and lifts earth back into her rightful place with his tusks. The water is seen to represent the darkest, often unacknowledged, parts of the human psyche, and Vishnu in this form represents the forces that raise our consciousness and help us act from our higher natures. So consider: what uplifts you? Bring more of this into your life. Consider also: how can you uplight others? And do more of that too this pig year.

Pigs are smart! Here’s one shown doing a puzzle. Google ‘smart pigs’ and you can find them doing some amazing things:-)

Coming back from mythic to real-world pigs, I find it fascinating that in recent decades pigs have been shown to share an immense amount of DNA with humans, so much so that they are one of the leading contenders for human organ donation. Pigs also consistently rank in the top 5 in terms of intelligence amongst animals – one recent study placed them second after only chimpanzees, ahead of dolphins, elephants, and dogs. Pigs are sensitive, smart, and social creatures, and these are the traits we can all seek to bring out in ourselves this year.

Drawing of Wilbur in an exuberant back somersault for the original 1952 version of Charlotte’s Web, by artist Garth Williams

I’ll end by returning to my favorite pig Wilbur, shown here in his leap for joy in the original Charlotte’s Web. Enjoyment is another traditional pig quality, found when we embrace what is in a grounded, present, and grateful way, without tipping into excess or greed. May you exemplify the best of pigs this year, and leap with your own joy. Please feel free to share your own predictions or advice for this pig year in the comments-

 

Mother-Child Energy Lines, Part II

January 22, 2019

For my first post of 2019, I am adding on to the post that was viewed the most in 2018 – The Mother-Child Energy Connection. Though an older post, it has built up an audience over time – perhaps not surprising as the mother-child connection is one of the most powerful of our lives (for better or worse), and one that is relevant to all of us: Whether or not you have children, you do have, or have had, a mother.

In fact, dependence upon a mother is one of the defining characteristics of human life. While gestation is common to most mammals, the level of helplessness with which humans are born, coupled with the length of time it takes us to reach maturity, is unique. Dependence upon others is built into our experience, integral to what it means to be human. And while many may provide us care, because we gestate within a birth mother, this energy line is unique.

Before I add on to what I’ve already written about this topic, I’d like to clarify what I mean by ‘energy line’. I view all of the various structures we work with in energy work – chakras, meridians, energy lines, cords, etc. – as components on various energy maps. These maps provide our conceptual and intuitive mind with hooks it can utilize to connect with our subtle body. There are many different energy maps, and just like with maps in the physical world, which one is best for you to use depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

Working with maps focused on energy lines is most useful when dealing with relationships. We all exchange energy with other people when we interact with them, and within these exchanges thinking in terms of ‘energy lines’ is most useful in terms of our ongoing relationships, and/or particularly intense ones. In most cases, lines form as a relationship develops over time, and the connection points in our own subtle body will reflect the dynamics we have with the other person – is it based in emotion, power dynamics, intellectual compatibility, common purpose, etc. (of course many of our relationships are a combination of several dynamics.) Within energy lines, two types are unique, because they develop based on physicality, as opposed to interactions over time (although those interactions may impact the line): Sexual lines, formed during sex, and mother-child energy lines, formed in gestation and mirroring the umbilical cord. Both these kinds of lines feel very different from other lines when you connect with and work with them, and the energies and emotions that flow along these lines can be particularly intense (which should come as no surprise to anyone.)

I don’t want to repeat everything I have already written about the mother-child line in the original post, so if you haven’t read that, please do. But here are answers to the most common questions I have been asked about this line over the years since that was first posted:

What about adoptive parents, fathers, and other caretakers – is the energy line they form with a child less valuable?

No! on the contrary – there is nothing provided by the mother-child energy line of value that cannot be provided by others. Many people are not raised by their birth mother, and a lot of individuals may participate in a child’s care – fathers, partners, stepparents, extended relatives, siblings, and other caretakers. All of these individuals will develop lines with a child – hopefully based in love (the more the better of these.) Because of the second chakra’s role in nurturing energies, on the caretaker side these lines will often involve the second chakra, especially if formed with a baby or young child that still requires intensive physical care. In general, these are of a different type than the mother-child line formed through gestation, although I have seen lines between adoptive mothers and children that have formed over time and that are almost identical.

However, just because the mother-child energy line is unique doesn’t mean a child is missing out if they don’t have a relationship with their birth mother. There is nothing provided through this line that can’t be provided through other energy lines by other caretakers. It is not a necessary line, and no one is missing something essential if they don’t have a relationship with their birth mother – what is necessary for any child, any being, is to have a network of caring individuals in their life. For adoptees that have no contact with their birth mother, the birth mother-child line simply closes on its own over time. It may be reactivated if someone chooses to meet their birth mother later, or it may not.

So why bring this line up at all then? Why is it useful to know about? The value of understanding this energy line, and the value of working with it through energy work or healing, is usually in cases of dysfunction. Learning to close this line is particularly important if your own mother was abusive or suffered from addiction or mental health issues, or experienced trauma which you may have taken on through this line unknowingly. Another possible dysfunction is if your mother did not allow this line to shift and deactivate as you became an adult, and attempts to control you through it. Or conversely, as a mother, you may want to consciously work with this line if you feel overwhelmed by parenthood, constantly anxious about your children, or know that you are inhibiting their independence more than you should. In all these cases, whether as a parent or child, working to consciously close or relax this line will help you to regain your energetic autonomy and balance.

Is this energy line linked to epigenetics?

This line is not the main foundation for energetic inheritance, and therefore not the most useful for doing energy work to help ‘toggle’ genetic proclivities on or off (see this article for more info on epigenetics and energy work.) This line is more connected to psychological imprinting, and so as mentioned above is often most useful to work with in cases where someone has taken on trauma or dysfunction from their mother that is not their own.

Does this line continue after death?

No. This particular energy line is very rooted in the physical body, and ends when either individual leaves the physical. Adjusting to the loss of this line can be very difficult, in addition to the grief experienced. This is especially the case if a child loses a mother before they’ve reached energetic independence, or a mother loses a child before the child is grown – in both cases the remaining individual’s subtle body has to go through a major adjustment process, similar to an amputee adjusting to the loss of a limb. It takes time and compassion.

However, just because this particular line ends with death does not mean there are no other types of connections that remain. These are psycho-spiritual in nature though, usually rooted in the heart or third eye chakras, rather than the navel or sacral. Certainly there may be value in working with a spirit medium or healer to reach closure in these cases, but this is not done through working with the mother-child sacral-navel energy line.

How do these lines impact energy workers, energy healers, or spiritual practitioners who work on energetic levels and need a great deal of energetic integrity and strength in order to do what they do?

The short answer is – a lot! If you engage in any kind of energy healing work, or energy based spiritual practice, then working to clear and balance your own energy lines of all types is critical to both your effectiveness and your self-care. If you are a mother, learning to balance your children’s energy needs along with your own is essential. These needs change over time, as I outlined in the original article, and so you may find you need to pace yourself accordingly along with your children’s developmental stages (which correspond to their energetic independence.) The amount of support you receive from your partner and other caregivers will influence this as well. More than anything, learning to close these lines when it is appropriate, so that you may replenish your own energy and do your work, is key.

However, having children, and the impact of these energy lines, may also shift your intuitive abilities, and mode of working energetically, in a way that is beneficial to yourself and clients (if you do client work.) I experienced this myself after the birth of my first daughter. Although initially I was dismayed at how my energy seemed grounded in my lower body in a way that prevented the kundalini from rising in meditation in the way it had previously, over time I realized that I was developing new kinesthetic (body-based) intuitive abilities that eventually led to the work I am doing now (for more on different types of intuition I recommend Cyndi Dale’s The Intuition Guidebook.) With the birth of twins just 19 months later, I definitely experienced ‘need overload’ and had problems balancing my energy, but with time, and as my children grew, I learned to do so. Now the upward kundalini flow is restored, and I am much better at managing my ‘mandala’ of energy lines. Pacing has been key.

What’s a basic tool for working with this line?

The simplest most effective tool that is applicable to a wide variety of situations is visualizing a door on this line that you can open and close as needed. If you are doing this with the line to your own mother visualize a line from your navel to your mother’s sacral chakra area. If you are doing it with your own children, visualize lines from your sacral area to their navels (with multiple children it really is like a mandala, with you in the center.) Imagine there is a door on this line close to your own body. Visualize closing this door, and a settling of energy when you do so – a quieting, like when you close the door to a room and can no longer hear noise made in another room of your home. Imagine you can then open the line as you wish.

As with all visual energy work, this visualization works on two levels. Psychologically it functions as an affirmation of ‘I have the right and ability to maintain my own energetic integrity.’ It also triggers a shift on your energy body level, which over time you will be able to feel, and enable you to gain control over this line. Closing this line is never meant to be punitive or done out of anger or spite. The value of this tool is for energy balance and self-care- when you need to rejuvenate, reboot, or retreat. Energy lines may also be cut or cleared, or worked with in other ways, but in the case of this particular line, working with toggling it open and closed is often the most relevant and helpful. Other variations and types of work with this line are really specific to an individual’s needs and situation.

The mother-child energy line is one of the most powerful and central in our lives, and understanding it is important for anyone interested in working with the subtle body. Learning to work with this line can greatly aid our ability to engage with our own mother, and children, with love and compassion. I hope you found this helpful and look forward to any insights you have of your own.

The Magic of Not Knowing – And New Year’s Book Giveaway!

December 18, 2018

Being at ease with not knowing is crucial for answers to come to you. – Eckhart Tolle

Miracles are like pimples, because once you start looking for them you find more than you ever dreamed you’d see. – Lemony Snicket, The Lump of Coal

Solstice is a time of transition, insight, and magic. This Solstice I wish you the magic of not knowing. As I contemplate the world and my own life this past year, I find that so much of the pain we experience and cause is rooted in our certainty that we know: Know what the world needs, know what someone else means, know what is possible, or know we are right. These might all sounds like good things to know, and I allow that sometimes they may be, but our addiction to knowing them can also blind us. When we know we are closed off – we are done listening, or inquiring, or really looking. And when we don’t listen, inquire, or look we don’t hear, realize, or see.

This kind of closed knowing I’m talking about is both conceptual and perceptual. It provides a framework for how we see the world, and how we react to it. Of course we actually need a framework like this to function in our daily lives –  we need to know that red means stop and green means go, that touching a hot stove will result in us getting hurt, that vegetables are good for us, and that 2+2=4. We spend a lot of our childhood accumulating this kind of knowledge. Gradually we add a lot more things to it, or in many cases, those around us imprint them upon us – our preferences, our beliefs, our values, our sense of our self, our way of interacting in the world. None of it is a problem, in and of itself, until it becomes solidified. At some point we forget that we’ve absorbed a lot of this unquestioningly, never examining it for ourselves. We forget we didn’t choose it.

So try an experiment – just for one day, choose. As thoughts arise in your mind, judgements and ideas, try questioning them, or letting go of them entirely. Experiment with not knowing.

Try not knowing:

what’s best for someone else

how a particular situation will turn out

your view on a political issue

what foods you like (or don’t)

what you are capable of

what someone else is capable of

what’s impossible

what you should do

that you are right

where you end and others begin

what’s true

what’s real

This kind of not knowing can be very scary. We rely on our knowings to prop us up – they are the support beams of our psyche. But life has a way of showing us this particular house is actually pretty rickety. Something unexpected or unwanted comes along like a big gust of wind and threatens to blow the entire thing down. When this happens, we have two choices – we can shut our eyes and cling ever tighter to one beam as the storm rages around us, or we can just let go and let it all collapse. When we do the latter, we often have the opportunity to connect with a lighter kind of knowing – kindness, inquisitiveness, humility, authenticity, clarity, creativity, energy. These kinds of knowings aren’t based on concepts, ideologies, or words, but they allow us to interact with the world directly – and often more effectively then that heavier kind of knowing.

I’m not advocating a kind of nihilism here, or paralyzing self-doubt. This isn’t about negating truth or hope. On the contrary, I think letting go opens the way to a deeper truth, miracles even. All sorts of things happen all the time that we can’t explain. You can call this grace, or spirit, or God/Goddess, or synchronicity – it doesn’t really matter. All of those words are often used to explain things we can’t explain any other way.

Embrace this not knowing as an opening, a starting over, a place from which you can look at everything anew, fresh, without any preconceptions. Maybe you’ll discover you like lima beans now, or that your teenage son actually does know what’s best for himself. Maybe you’ll discover a fresh approach to a problem, or realize that someone you used to dislike has changed. Maybe you’ll have a new idea for your life, or a new sense of what matters to you. Maybe you’ll be surprised by the world. Maybe you’ll realize you’re made of light. Maybe you’ll witness a miracle.

I hope you do, I wish that for you – I wish it for all of us.

I’d love for you to share what you wish – for yourself, for others, for the world – this solstice. As I’ve done in the past, as a gratitude gift, on New Year’s day I’ll enter everyone who does so into a drawing to win one of the following three books, all published this year, and all related to topics of this blog. All you need to do is enter your wish as a comment, and include an email address (which will not display) for me to contact you should you win. You will have the option of receiving the book you win as a hardcopy or on Kindle:

 

 

Wisdom Rising: Journey into the Mandala of the Empowered Feminine, Lama Tsultrim Allione

 

 

 

 

 

Raise Clairaudient Energy, Cyndi Dale

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness: Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing, David Treleaven

 

 

 

Happy solstice, Christmas, New Year’s, and anything else you celebrate. I look forward to reading your wishes. XO – Lisa

 

Women Mystic Series – Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona, Hawaiian Healer

December 6, 2018

Western man has gone to the extremes with his intellectualism, it divides and keeps people separate. Man then becomes a destroyer because he manages and copes, rather than letting the perpetuating force of the Divinity flow through him for right action. – Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona

This month I’m adding to my (very occasional) Women Mystic series. For me these posts are a way to research and share information on women from history who forged their own way within a spiritual or healing tradition. Each time as I’m deciding who I would like to learn more about, I’m drawn to women whose lives reflect questions, or who experienced struggles, that feel relevant to me now.

In the case of this post I chose to focus on a relatively recent woman healer, Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona (1913-1992), credited with bringing a form of the Hawaiian healing tradition of Ho’oponopono to the wider world. Many people experienced great healing and personal growth through the healing system she created, and she was publicly honored as a living treasure of Hawaii in 1983. However, others criticized her for sharing and adapting aspects of this ancient Hawaiian healing tradition for non-Hawaiians, and for combining it with Christian and New Age teachings that she had also studied. These questions of cultural respect and appropriation are very relevant today – what aspects of spiritual and healing traditions should be considered cultural, and if they are, who has the right to utilize them, adapt them, and teach them?  These are questions coming up a lot right now in regards to healing modalities, yoga, and meditation.

Morrnah was born in Honolulu in 1913 to native Hawaiian parents, and her mother was a well respected energy healer and spiritual leader in their community, referred to as a kahuna. Morrnah was herself recognized at a young age as energetically gifted, and selected to carry on this tradition. Throughout her childhood and young adulthood she was trained orally, assisting her mother and other healers. The forms of healing practiced were very energetically based, and often involved words and chanting. They also often involved an entire family’s participation – if one member was ill, it reflected a larger imbalance in the family or even entire community, who all would be included in the healing ritual. Forgiveness and reconciliation were an important part of the process for rebalancing, cleansing, and releasing obstructive energies and forces from everyone’s minds and bodies. This cleansing was considered as much spiritual as physical, with mind, body and spirit within each individual and the larger community seen as one holistic unit.

While Morrnah grew up steeped in this tradition, she was also subject to the social changes occurring in Hawaii as the U.S. annexation of the islands in the 1890s led to an influx of missionaries and U.S. business and governmental authorities. She was educated in a Catholic school, and spent her entire life as a Christian, although she moved away from Catholicism and embraced teachings by other traditions and individuals, including psychic and medium Edgar Cayce, in adulthood. She integrated aspects of all of these personal spiritual influences into her later work developing a healing system.

This work occurred late in her life however, as is common amongst the women mystics I have studied. Morrnah spent her adult life before this as a healer and caring for her family, outside of any spotlight. While most of her healing work was local and private, in her 50s she began to run the health spas at the Kahala Hilton and Royal Hawaiian hotels at Waikiki Beach, which brought her into contact with visiting Westerners. This led her to contemplate the Western psyche, and the specific psychological imbalances that led to stress, violence, and disease. At the age of 63, she began to formally develop her healing system based upon these teachings.

For the remaining 16 years of her life, she worked to bring this system to a wider audience, including speaking to the United Nations and World Health Organization about the imbalances she saw in western civilization that contributed to disease. She created two foundations to further her work, and trained many individuals in her methods. By all accounts this was challenging for her, as she had been known for most of her life as a quiet, contemplative woman. She had not previously sought the spotlight, but now did so, truly driven by the desire to help heal the destructive forces she saw harming her own home and the world. While many lauded her work, and she was publicly honored as a living treasure of Hawaii in 1983, others criticized her for sharing and adapting aspects of the sacred, and formerly secret, healing tradition, and allowing non-Hawaiians to learn and utilize these techniques.

As I read through some of her work, I was struck by the profound insights she had about the modern western psyche, the depth of her personal spiritual connection to the divine, and her strong motivation to help heal the world by sharing aspects of the healing tradition she had been raised in. Her own path and choices mirror questions raised today about healing, yoga and meditation traditions that originated in the East or other parts of the world. If these have been freely passed on by teachers to the West with the intention to bring healing and awakening, is it cultural appropriation for them to be adapted and/or taught to a wider audience? Are these teachings owned by a culture or part of the universal human experience? In the cases of practices such as mindfulness, sourced in rich spiritual traditions, is it OK to teach them in an entirely secular context? In place of the donation or gift systems that might have been utilized in traditional cultures to ‘pay’ for these healings or teachings, is charging as a business in a modern context Ok, and to what extent? What dollar amount crosses the line? To what extent does a person’s or organization’s motivation matter? And can we ever truly judge what does or does not benefit another being? Complicated questions that all of us working in the healing or spiritual arena need to grapple with.

Whatever the answer, I found much to admire and learn from the life and teachings of Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona and hope learning about her will inspire you to deeper contemplation yourself.

 

Embodiment vs. Transcendence – Where Do You Stand?

October 23, 2018

Donna Mejia, dancer, dance scholar, and cultural creative

Note: The Breathe Network’s Trauma Informed Yoga and Meditation Course for Survivors of Sexual Assault begins November 11th– please consider it for yourself or anyone you know who may benefit. The course is led by The Breathe Network founder and Executive Director Molly Boeder Harris, and I am one of 16 contributing instructors.

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I was inspired for this post by a keynote speech I heard at the Women and Spirituality Conference I presented at last month. The speaker, dancer and dance scholar Donna Mejia (pictured), reminded me of the importance dance has played in my own life, and spurred me to contemplate the themes of embodiment and transcendence. The play between these is so central to anyone on a spiritual and healing journey, and I think it’s helpful to contemplate them within the context of your own path.

Specifically, how do you view the relationship between your body and spirit? Do you view your body as something you transcend through spirituality or as a conduit for spirit? Do you harbor cultural biases that denigrate the body in comparison to mind or spirit? How does this impact your body image, your sexuality, and your self-healing capacity? Central questions – for women in particular, for our bodies have been the victims of so much denigration, physically, psychologically, and culturally.

Professor Mejia spoke of her own relationship to dance and her body, of how as a young dance student she heard “consistent messages from educators, parents and media that dance was a recreational pursuit that was a constructive pastime, but not an honorable life path unless you wanted to end up in the gutters of Las Vegas.” Her own dance studies and personal relationship to her body and dance, including through severe health issues, helped her embrace dance as “a tool for expanded consciousness because it leverages our most looming question of being human: how do we navigate being conscious and self-aware while also negotiating the physical and material needs of embodiment?”

Being in a body is demanding – much of our time is spent tending to our physical needs of food, shelter, sleep, and safety. Being in a body is also often painful – we experience illness, injury, and of course, aging. For women we may also experience menstruation, pregnancy, birthing, nursing, and menopause. Being human is largely defined by the phases of our body – initially its development throughout our youth, and then its maturity, and finally decline. Yet so many spiritual teachings speak little of the body, and when they do the body is often seen as a spiritual liability – its desires are presented as tempting us to ‘sin’, or as part of our ‘animal nature’ or ‘lower self’, while its transience is viewed solely as a source of suffering. Within this way of thinking, the spiritual journey is one of transcending our body’s limitations, by attaining disembodied mystic visions or meditative states, or by seeking to attain an afterlife in which we are not defined by our physicality. This line of thought has been prevalent within all the world’s major religious traditions –not only Judeo-Christianity – and needless to say, women’s bodies have been especially maligned.

For this reason, as contemporary women’s spirituality rose to prominence in the 1970s and 80s, it often defined itself in opposition to this way of thinking. Instead of seeking to transcend the body, women’s spirituality was often presented as embracing the body, and in particular a women’s bodily capacity to create life, as spiritual. For some women, this resonates, and for others it does not, as they dislike the idea of their spiritual power being defined by their procreative capacity. For myself, within the context of Women’s Energetics, I see the centrality of the second chakra for women, linked to our reproductive organs, as more of an energetic technical difference, influencing some of the ways we experience the world energetically, and of how our energy flows, but this may or may not be central to our individual spiritual path.

I do view the subtle body, and particularly our chakra system, as an intermediary between body and spirit, and the different chakra systems and chakra tools that developed historically around the world reflect this (I am using ‘chakra’ here to refer to any energy center mapping, as many energy traditions do not use this Sanskrit word.) Some of these practices, such as kundalini based yoga and meditation, developed specifically as a tool for generating higher states of spiritual consciousness, and preparing the body and mind for enlightenment. Other chakra mappings and tools were developed for energy healing – as a means of generating and directing healing energy within the physical body. While there are many ways these two different approaches might intersect, really they each emphasize a very different orientation to our chakras, and I’m a fan of both. Part of the reason I chose to use the chakras as the focal point for my own work is because it provides a foundation for deepening our experience of both embodiment and transcendence.

Assessing your own approach to spirituality in these terms can be very enlightening. What do you consider your most meaningful spiritual experiences or insights – has your body been central to any of them? Or have they been solely metaphysical, i.e. transcendent? If so, then you may want to examine ways you have consciously or unconsciously embraced the idea that spirituality is disembodied. At worst, this tendency can manifest as spiritual bypassing or disassociation – using spiritual practices as a means of escaping reality and needed psychological growth, rather than as a pathway to greater presence and compassion in your life. It also can obstruct your ability to aid your own physical healing through mind-body or energetic practices. For spiritual seekers who are also trauma survivors, probing your relationship to your body, and unwinding any ways you may have embraced a body-mind duality or body-spirit duality, may be especially important to your growth and healing. Exploring gentle ways that you can experience spiritual joy, energy, and knowledge in your body – whether it’s through yoga, dance, time in nature, or some other means, may be particularly powerful.

On the other hand, it’s possible for the idea of embodiment to become just as self-limiting. In our culture at large, intuitive knowledge is not valued, and experiences such as visions, samadhis, astral travel or spirit communication are viewed as at best flaky and at worst psychotic. Of course any of these can be a sign of serious delusion when then they occur for someone with mental health issues. But for most of us they can be a powerful conduit for bringing us life-transforming wisdom. Spiritual seekers across virtually every culture and historical time period have experienced, and acted upon, wisdom received through these transcendent means, and to dismiss them as simply fantasy is both foolish and arrogant. We are vast beings, and even contemporary science and psychology, as advanced and useful as they can be, have not come close to explaining all of our mysteries. So it’s also important to ask yourself if you are able to honor your own intuitive and visionary capacity. Are you able to allow that some things are beyond your mind’s ability to comprehend? Can you welcome and even cultivate experiences beyond your mental understanding? Do you value modes of knowing beyond words and rationality? For me, to cut yourself off from this potential, this spiritual birthright, can be just as harmful as spiritual disassociation or bypassing.

So, as in many things, navigating the themes of embodiment and transcendence is about balance and openness, and is very individual to each of us. We all have biases rooted in culture, religion, academic training, and personal backgrounds. Sorting through these can help us embrace more of ourselves, and open the doorway to greater health and spirit. These themes have been central to my own journey, as dance training was central to my youth, but in college, as I dove headfirst into western philosophy and sociology, I fell prey to intellectual arrogance and began to view it as frivolous. When I met my first spiritual teacher soon after, I began a longstanding chakra meditation practice that for me triggered many powerful transcendent mystic experiences. When I had children however, I had difficulty reconciling those experiences with the new realities of my body and energy body, and this launched me on to a new path of exploration of the chakras, my body, Tantric Buddhism, and energy healing. I’m happy to say dance has found its ways back into my life, and for me now, there never was a conflict between body and spirit, but I didn’t always see that, and I needed to go through these different phases of seeking to come to this realization. And who knows where it will lead and how I will feel about it in 10 years? This is the wonder of being human – and of being both a body and a spirit.

May you travel your own journey through embodiment and transcendence with love and joy. I welcome your sharings on this topic…

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