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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…

Healing From Abuse Within Spiritual Communities

September 6, 2018

The spiritual disillusionment and doubt that accompanies abuse or assault that occurs within a spiritual organization or at the hands of a spiritual mentor, leader, or teacher can devastate your connection to the very support you are most in need of.

I’m happy to be back blogging, and plan to do so regularly again. I appreciate your patience while I have been working on other projects (which I’ll announce soon.) There are so many things I’d like to write about this Fall that it’s hard to know where to start. My focus as always is relevant energetics information and support for women. In that context, I decided to focus this week on gentle chakra healing for those who experience sexual trauma within a religious or spiritual organization, or who have been disillusioned by learning of such abuse within their own spiritual communities.

Like many of you I’m sure, the latest revelations about sexual abuse and assault within Catholic parishes and schools in Pennsylvania has set my blood boiling. I wish I could say such crimes are restricted to Catholicism or even one religion, but of course they are not. Although because of the sheer size and influence of the Catholic Church these particular stories have made headlines, I cannot think of any major world religious tradition within which similar stories have not surfaced in the last decade. As someone who follows such things, I am personally aware of completed or pending sexual abuse, assault or harassment cases against Hindu, Tibetan Buddhist, Zen, Vedanta, evangelical Christian, Mormon, Orthodox Jewish, Sufi, and multiple prominent yoga, organizations. I have worked with individuals who have been victimized within these organizations, or who have studied spiritually within them and been rocked by the scandals as they unfolded.

Of course, the surfacing of these events is against the backdrop of the larger #MeToo movement. We’ve watched such revelations roil Hollywood, government, college campuses, sports organizations, the tech industry, the media industry, and more. A long overdue reckoning is occurring – a messy and imperfect one, but that’s how change always unfolds. For me personally, I feel particularly devastated and angry about abuses within religious and spiritual organizations, because of the spiritual disillusionment and doubt triggered for survivors. In addition to the wounds shared with other sexual abuse and assault survivors, these individuals are often also cut off from what could be their greatest asset in healing – their own inner connection to spirit, energy, and faith. To me, to cause this disconnection in another human being is perhaps the biggest crime one can commit.

In the aftermath of these abuses, it becomes difficult for survivors to separate the trauma they have experienced from the spiritual teachings and practices they have received within these traditions. Consequently, teachings, practices, and rituals that may have been legitimately healing, empowering, and awakening to them in the past – sometimes for years – are now corrupted, a source of pain rather than growth and insight. They often feel as if they have lost a part of themselves, or as if the very meaning of life as they understood it has been ripped away. This feeling is not only restricted to the individuals directly victimized – anyone learning of such occurrences within a tradition they have held dear, or of credible accusations against a teacher or mentor they respected, will often experience the pain of this disillusionment and doubt as well. Everything is thrown into question.

The prevalence of these scandals raises a lot of Big Questions about the role of religious and spiritual traditions in today’s society. Are they dinosaurs? Can they adapt? To what extent do celibacy vows and religious views on sexuality contribute to the problem? To what extent has the premise of spiritual ‘conduitship’ – the passing of certain spiritual realizations or empowerments directly from teacher to student, or leader to parishioner, through ritual, and/or esoteric transmission (a cornerstone of the mystic arm of every tradition in some form) – contributed to abuse? How has the idea of lineage – largely based on the passing of spiritual teachings through spiritual conduitship from generation to generation – contributed? Can these forms be adapted? Can the value and power of the teachings be preserved if they are? Should they be?

As someone who works with energy, I highly value the idea of spiritual conduitship and transmission. All of us are impacted by each others’ energy and awareness all of the time – we are truly part of a matrix of energy and awareness. In the most powerful spiritual traditions, this is used for the good – one individual’s awakening or connection to enlightenment/spirit/God/Goddess becomes a doorway for others to walk through. Healing energy transmitted by one can enter and benefit another. But as has become abundantly clear, these tools can easily be corrupted to facilitate abuse.

I don’t have the answer to all of these questions. I am actively asking them myself, and as I encounter more individuals who are doing the same, I have come to consider that the asking of these questions is an important part of the healing and reformation process. The questioning is part of the healing because it facilitates spiritual engagement rather than disconnection, and provides a foundation for sorting through what is of value and what is corrupt. Any wisdom, insight, awakening, realization, or grace that you gain or experience through spiritual practice, study, or worship is yours to keep – it doesn’t belong to anyone else, and it’s untouched by others’ corruption. But you have to really discover for yourself what that is – what is yours to keep and what to throw away. As long as you are still questioning, you aren’t throwing everything out, and as disheartening as the process may sometimes be, it can ultimately be very empowering.

In addition to engagement through questioning, you may want to consider bringing extra attention to particular chakras to support your healing. While I have written before about the impact of sexual trauma in particular on the chakras, abuse at the hands of a spiritual or religious leader or mentor often has additional impacts. In particular, this is what I often see:

Root/First Chakra– As with all sexual trauma, your root chakra may feel compromised, because your sense of trust and safety has been shattered. In addition, your underlying value system may have been thrown into doubt – our psyches and energy body rest upon a foundation of values and beliefs, and if you experience a spiritual disillusionment that damages this foundation for you, you may feel as if the rug has been pulled out from under you. As you work through what has occurred, consider paying extra attention to root chakra strengthening – grounding physical activities, walking in nature, connecting to the earth, as well as root chakra meditations or exercises. As you reconstruct your foundation through your therapeutic and healing process, you will gradually rebuild this aspect of your foundation, and your root chakra will naturally strengthen along with it.

Back of Heart Chakra– While the front of our heart chakra is our relational center and connects us to our human support system, the back connects us to our spiritual support system. Spiritually supportive energies are experienced in many different forms, often depending upon our religious or spiritual framework – perhaps you feel guardians, angels, deities, or guides, or perhaps your feeling of spiritual support is more abstract, felt as a general connection to or integration with a larger force. Regardless, from an energetics perspective, this feeling of support connects with your body largely through the back of your heart chakra. When you experience spiritual disillusionment or doubt, you may feel spiritually unprotected, unsupported and disconnected. To gently support your healing and therapeutic process, you can imagine a warm, gold light between your shoulder blades in the back of your heart for a few minutes each day. If you like you can also imagine rays of warm golden light gently entering into this part of your body.

Crown Chakra– Our crown chakra is where our links to our religious or spiritual tradition or lineage are held. Of course we engage with a spiritual community on many levels of our being, and so we may have energetic connections throughout our body to people we have related to, and/or feel spiritual energies throughout our subtle body. But our crown chakra is where we receive and process teachings, realizations, transmissions, empowerments, initiations (including things like baptisms and confirmations) – anything that links us to a tradition in any way. A blocked crown is associated with intense spiritual doubt and disillusionment. Anyone working through abuse or assault from within their spiritual or religious tradition will be struggling with this to some extent.

As with the back of your heart chakra, you can augment your healing process by picturing a gentle golden light at the top back part of your head, or by engaging with a longer crown chakra meditation. Working with your crown energetically is not about generating answers to the questions you may be working through – it’s not an intellectual empowerment. What it does do is help you begin to connect directly with spirit and spiritual planes and energies, rather than doing so solely through the mediumship or conduitship of a teacher or tradition. This is what all spiritual teachings are meant to lead us too – this direct connection for ourselves – but of course that’s not always what happens. Too often dependency or hierarchies are created, and we internalize the notion that our spiritual growth must be facilitated by a particular person, group, or organization. This notion is often exactly what is manipulated and abused as part of the kind of sexual abuse we are talking about.

If you do decide to work with your crown chakra on your own, it’s very important to stay grounded. This is particularly important for sexual abuse and trauma survivors because of the tendency to disassociate from the body. For that reason, I rarely work directly with the crown chakra with sexual trauma survivors. The exception however, is cases such as those we are talking about in this post, where the abuse or assault has occurred within the context of their religion or spiritual tradition. If you do this on your own, spend short periods of time on your crown, and imagine bringing this energy down all the way to your root. Feel as if you are integrating this crown energy into your entire body. For most people, this kind of chakra work is often best utilized in combination with therapy or medical treatment, so make sure you are getting all the support you need (and be sure to check out The Breathe Network for holistic, trauma-sensitive providers.)

Like with all healing work, as you engage with it you are linked to a larger transformational process. The intensity of the focus on these issues right now, and the surfacing of the cultural and institutional shadows that have perpetuated them, are part of a painful but necessary purge. Change needs to occur within every type of institution, including religious and spiritual ones. Some institutions will not survive, and all will be changed forever. Sometimes it feels like it might be easier to throw it all out, but I actually fear that more, because we may lose our ability to connect with spirit, and spiritual growth, altogether. Sorting through the mess is worth it.

May you be blessed and supported as you do so. 

P.S. Please note I am speaking at the Women and Spirituality Conference in Rochester Minnesota September 22nd on Chakras and Sexual Trauma – I’d love to see you there! Also, I am beginning the next round of my 4-week Energy Work for Women Survivors of Sexual Trauma Teleseminar October 1st.

Happy Solstice and Kundalini Rising

June 21, 2018

Kundalini Rising by Primish Alinkil

Happy Solstice! Although not writing new posts at this time, I am finding that many people I am working with energetically might benefit from an old series I wrote on Kundalini. These 3 posts were originally posted at the monthly online magazine Meditate Like a Girl several years ago, and when that went defunct I transferred them to my website, so these links will leave this blog (please come back!) May they be helpful to you, and may you flourish in the light and power available at this time.

Kundalini Series:

Connecting with Your Kundalini

The Stages of Kundalini Shifts

Kundalini Rising in Women

 

 

 

Books to Feed Your Mind and Spirit

May 27, 2018

Happy (almost) summer! While I am still on my writing sabbatical, I wanted to share some books that I have read in the last few months that you may find inspiring and empowering. These are all books that spurred much contemplation for me, or that transmitted a wisdom I found tremendously helpful. The amazing thing about books is that they have this power to be so much more than words. I hope you find something here that feeds you. And if so, please remember to review these books on Amazon, GoodReads, iBooks or wherever you like to do so – a good, informative review helps others to find a book that may help or inspire them. While you’re at it, if you have worked with my own free little e-book Energy Healing for Sexual Trauma, please consider reviewing it on one of those platforms as well. Thank you and have a wonderful solstice and summer. I plan to return here with more new offerings and writings in the Fall.

Wisdom Rising: Journey into the Mandala of the Empowered Feminine by Lama Tsultrim Allione. Like Lama Tsultrim’s prior work Feeding Your Demons, Wisdom Rising adapts the transformative power of a core Tibetan Buddhist practice to make it accessible and relevant to anyone (Feeding Your Demons is rooted in Chod while Wisdom Rising is rooted in mandala work.) Lama Tsultrim combines a Western understanding of the psyche with the Eastern power of mandalas and dakinis. The dakinis represent our intuitive, wild, powerful feminine side, and are something both women and men can access. By working with 5 different expressions of dakini energy – the 5 Buddha ‘families’ – we can come to understand how the same energy within us can manifest as either destructive and obstructive, or as wise and enlightened. The icing on the cake is that she shares many stories from her fascinating life, including her experiences as the first American woman initiated as a Tibetan Buddhist nun, and then as a struggling young wife and mother, and finally as a grandmother and Lama. As most of you know, I study with Lama Tsultrim (and am a Feeding Your Demons facilitator) and I have personally practiced a version of this dakini mandala practice for several years, and can attest to the insight, healing, and feminine power it brings forth.

Transcending the Advanced Path by Mu is another book I have a personal connection too, as I know the author, and I know the awake, wise place from which she lives and writes. This book, and the author’s preceding ones, offer direct guidance on the integration and embodiment stages of the spiritual journey, in which we often need to let go of the very practices, beliefs, and sometimes even teachers that have fueled us so far, in order to discover the true primordial source within us. She guides us through the discovery of our subtle attachments to dogma, mystic states, and ego identifications, all of which can keep us stuck. This is a beautiful and succinct book for the dedicated seeker.

I was led to explore Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna by China Galland because of a vision I had in my own meditation of Black Tara. Many of us are familiar with Green Tara, the embodiment of compassion in action. Black Tara is a wrathful expression of compassionate energy – like the dakinis of Wisdom Rising above, she represents the powerful feminine energy of insight that cuts through deceit, injustice, and cruelty. Black Tara represents this energy specifically in action in the world – something very apropos  to the momentum of women in the world today. This book is a memoir in which the author  undergoes a search for the connections between Black Tara and the Black Madonna, who appears in several churches throughout Europe, as she tries to reconcile her Catholic upbringing with her Tibetan Buddhist practice, and works through her personal demons of addiction, illness, and family dysfunction.

If you have the blog for any length of time, you know I love all things chakras, and I especially love reading about chakra and energy body work based in other cultures, as energy center work has occurred around the world throughout history. In Opening to Spirit:
Contacting the Healing Power of the Chakras and Honoring African Spirituality
, author Caroline Shole Arewa connects chakra work with both Ancient Egyptian mysticism and more recent earth and ancestral based African healing work. It is interesting both for this cultural material, and as a general chakra book, as the author does an excellent job of introducing each chakra and providing many ways to work with each one.

I thought I had read all of Cyndi Dale’s books, but it turned out I had missed this one, and frankly if you can buy only one chakra book, Llewellyn’s Complete Book of the Chakras would be the one to have on your shelf. It is a compendium of just about everything you could possibly ever want to know about the chakras, including historical information, various chakra mappings across cultures, Cyndi’s own 12 chakra system, and just about every chakra-linked healing modality available. Some of my own writings are in fact covered in this book, including on earth’s chakras. Don’t balk at the price – this book is literally 3 inches thick.

Shifting into fiction, I honestly couldn’t decide if I loved or hated The Power by Naomi Alderman, but of course that’s often a sign of a powerful, thought-provoking read. The Power delves head-on into the question ‘what would happen if women were suddenly more physically powerful than men?’ In this version, a lot of great things, and a lot of terrible things – which of course is not much different from what we have now. This is definitely not a ‘if women ruled the world there would be no war’ kind of book, and I appreciated that, as there are a lot of feminine power writings, especially feminine spirituality writings, that get a little too pollyannish in that regard for me. This book will make you think about power, gender dynamics, the human psyche, and many other things.

I read a lot of feminine-heroine magic/fantasy books for relaxation, and Uprooted by Naomi Novik is one of my recent favorites. It starts out along the same lines as many twist-on-a-fairy-tale, YA-fantasy type books, but quickly becomes a much more complex story, and a fascinating exploration of gender, the different kinds of magic and occult power, our relationship to the earth, fear of the ‘other’ and more. It’s a page-turner with just the right amounts of escapism and wisdom. If you like this kind of book, I highly recommend!

 

 The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin will keep you busy for awhile, and is another thought-provoking fantasy/science fiction series that will get you thinking. These books depict a world of gods and mortals caught in mythic multi-generational battles for power reminiscent of all the Greek, Egyptian, and many other god-myths based ancient tales. In all her books Jemisin probes gender, sexuality, power, and the occult like almost no other science fiction writer out there, and her books are always a bit genre-bending. They are not always easy for me to read, and I sometimes detest at least half the characters, but still I read them, and they never fail to fascinate and intrigue.

 

I hope one of these is of interest to you, and that you have a beautiful summer of reading, joy, and transformation. If you are looking for energy work this summer, and haven’t yet taken by self-paced DailyOM course Awakening Your Feminine Chakras, I have added some new material, so consider doing so. Blessings and light to all, see you in the Fall-

Year of the Earth Dog – Compassion or Viciousness, What Will We Choose?

January 30, 2018

The Year of the Male Earth Dog is almost upon us! Although I’m currently on a writing sabbatical, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to return here and continue my tradition of a lunar new years symbol reading, especially when I learned it was a dog year. Throughout my own life my dogs have been a constant source of joy, compassion, lessons, and poignancy. I can’t imagine life without them, and so it feels especially like a gift to be writing this post.

This year the Chinese and Tibetan New Years’ (Losar) celebrations culminate on February 16th with the new moon, but preparations begin with the full moon on January 31st. Rituals honoring ancestors, cleansing of homes, donations to monasteries, and spiritual retreats are all part of the two week lead-up to the transit from one year to the next. Unlike in Western astrology, the element and animal assignments for each year in Chinese and Tibetan astrology are not based on the earth’s position relative to constellations. Instead they are part of a recurring cycle composed of the possible combinations between the 12 astrology animals, 5 elements, and male/female (or yang/yin) energies. In this sense these systems are more about telling you which energies are ‘up’ and which are not, each lunar year. This post is not a formal interpretation or prediction based on these systems (although I do incorporate some of the traditional readings) but instead an intuitive riff on what these energies are and what you may wish to focus on, using the symbol of the dog as a starting point.

One of the more well-known Italian renaissance paintings of the animals entering Noah’s ark (including dogs!) by Jacopo Bassano, 1570

As I started t0 research the symbology of dogs, my first discovery was that there really is no separating the history of dogs from the history of humans. Our species’ development have been entwined. Archeological digs have found dogs buried besides humans from as far back as 36,000 years ago, during the first hunter-gatherer period. Dogs were community protectors, and likely provided a warning system for early humans against their many predators. Dogs may also have been used in hunting. Whatever the reasons, dogs were with us from very early on, as our helpmates, guardians, and companions.

This ancient relationship is reflected in one of the stories circulated in many cultures about the role of dogs on Noah’s ark. In this tale, the two dogs on board (often said to be Afghans) patrolled the ark continuously, alerting Noah of sick animals, conflicts, or any other issues. One day they discovered a hole in the ark through which water was beginning to pour. One dog ran for Noah while the other plugged the hole with his nose, thus saving the ark and all aboard.

This story encapsulates all the best quality of dogs – their intelligence, protectiveness, compassion, loyalty, resourcefulness and sense of duty. In its best expression, these are all traits associated with the dog in the Chinese/Tibetan system too, and thus these are the positive energies that are ‘up’ this year. Ask yourself how you can bring these forth within yourself. Duty is not always a fun word, and thus not one most of us really like to think about, but this year it is key. Who or what are you responsible to besides yourself? Who or what do you need to protect? What is your duty? This is a year to prioritize your goals with these questions uppermost in your mind.

The jackal-headed Anubis weighing the feather of Ma’at in the Egyptian Book of the Dead

The Ancient Egyptians are known more for their reverence for cats than dogs – particularly in the form of Bastet – but the canine (jackal)-headed Anubis is very prominent as well. His function as the ‘weigher of hearts’ in the Egyptian Book of the Dead (or Egyptian Book of Coming Forth by Day) reflects another quality of dogs recognized across cultures and times – their deep intuition and sensitivity to the truth of human character. Stories abound of dogs who sensed the true malevolent intentions of someone when their owners did not (as expressed in the popular meme ‘I’m suspicious of people who don’t like dogs, but I trust a dog when it doesn’t like a person.’) Anubis weighs the heart of the deceased against the feather of Ma’at – the feather of truth and enlightenment – to assess whether the heart-soul should ascend to heaven or descend to hell. Anubis is a moral compass and standard keeper.

Are you in touch with your own inner compass, your guide to what is right and what is wrong? Can you connect with your deeper wisdom and cut through the noise and ideology of our world in order to sense directly when something is in alignment with truth and when it is not? Do you try to live from this place of instinctual truth within yourself? Turning inward to find this compass, and attempting to live by it, are a big theme this year- and likely will be tested.

Ancient Greek goddess Artemis, protector of wildlife, childbirth, and young girls, with one of her faithful hunting dogs.

Greek goddess Artemis is often shown with her hunting dogs, who are both her companions and obedient helpers. Dogs are grounded, practical creatures. Although they appear throughout mythology, they aren’t dragons or unicorns – they have their feet on the ground and live amongst us mortals. Like Artemis’ dogs, they often epitomize discipline and service. Dog years are considered good times for following through on existing goals. These aren’t necessarily visionary times. Historically dog years can be times of revolution but usually this occurs when the change has been building for awhile. So what have you already started that you need to complete? What do you need to bring discipline and service to – within the world or within your own life? Keep your feet on the ground and apply yourself – this is what is rewarded this year.

The Seven Sleepers and their dog, as shown in this illustrated Falnoma (Book of Omens) from 16th Century Iran

The Seven Sleepers is a tale found in both Christian and Islamic texts from the medieval and renaissance periods. Seven youth who are being persecuted for their beliefs during early Christianity escape to a cave and seal themselves in to hide. They sleep for hundreds of years, awakening once the period of persecution has passed and they can safely and openly live according to their beliefs. A faithful protector dog is key to the story, standing guard outside the cave throughout the centuries.

This story represents the protection and keeping of what is sacred, even in the face of tremendous opposition. The dog is the guardian of those holding truths that must be kept secret for a time, but never die out. What is sacred to you? What is at risk of dying out in today’s world? What is being persecuted that you must stand against? Or more personally, what flame inside of you must be kept alive at all costs, or your life is not worth living? These are also guiding questions for this year. Protect what matters most.

Ferocious, three-headed Cerebrus, from a Greek vase, 560 BC

Of course there is another arcehtype of the guard dog, in reality and mythology – the vicious one. Perhaps the epitome of this is the Greek Cerebrus, or ‘hound of Hades’, who guards the gates of hell. A fearsome, ravenous three-headed beast, Cerebrus flatters and fawns over souls entering, but viciously attacks any attempting to leave. His job is to keep souls in hell. Symbolically, this is what he represents – the forces in us that keep us bound.

Within the Chinese and Tibetan systems, dogs are considered earth animals, linked to the element earth. With this year also being an earth element year, it is considered ‘double earth’. On top of this, it is a yang or masculine year. All together this represents an imbalance that can be problematic, the biggest risk being stubbornness, intractability, and rigidity. These are our biggest binding forces right now. Continued patterns of segregating by ideology, of seeking out media and viewpoints that only reflect what we already believe, of digging in to what we already ‘know’ and shutting out any other perspective, are the biggest dangers for us all. These are the shadow side of the energies arising. Danger lies not simply in any one particular ideology but in how we attach to it, and how we respond to those who disagree. Danger lies in thinking that only the ‘other side’ is being rigid and closed, and not ourselves.

So can you resist this tendency to solidify and hunker down? Can you stay open and inquisitive? Can you seek interaction with those whom you know believe differently than you or whom you even find threatening? Can you break through your own self-imposed inner binds, whatever form they take? Can you avoid objectifying and villainizing the ‘other’?

Dogs don’t fight for sport unless trained and bred to do so by us.

If we give in to the darker aspects of this energy rising, the price is clear – conflict and violence. This can quickly spiral out of control. Even conflicts that start in defense of noble values and ideology can take on a life of their own, turning vicious and spiteful, and no longer connected to any moral goal.

Dogs in nature will fight for territory, food, or status but they don’t fight for sport. Humans have trained and bred them for that, reflections of our own darkest depravity. Viciousness for entertainment is not natural to dogs. Is it natural to us? What causes it? It’s all too easy to justify aggression in the name of protecting ourselves and our tribe, in defense of territory or ideology, but when does it stop? Do the ends ever really justify the means?

These are the question we need to ponder and face right now, on a personal and social level.

The actual Hachiko, who inspired the famous Tokyo statue

But let’s get back to the lighter side of dog nature, and what it may have to show us. Above is the actual Hachiko, he of the famous statue in Toyko. Hachiko used to meet his owner at the train station at the end of every workday. Is there anything better than a dog greeting – tail wagging, always happy to see you, whatever mood you may be in? Like most dogs Hachiko offered this every day to his owner, until one tragic day when his owner didn’t return. He had died suddenly at work of a cerebral hemorrhage. Hachiko never gave up, returning day after day to the train station at the same time for the rest of his own life, in the hopes his owner would return.

There are many ways to read this story. Certainly it is a testament to the loyalty of dogs, and to their steadfastness. There are many stories of dogs who traveled hundreds of miles to return to their owners after having become lost. But for me the beauty of this story is also in its tragedy, the reminder of the unpredictability and transience of life. We cannot control or predict everything that will occur. However, we can choose to meet whatever arises with love and steadfastness.

Usually things are the other way around – our dogs pass first. As writer Agnes Sligh Turnbull put it, “Dogs’ lives are too short – their only fault really.” The shortness of dogs’ lives relative to our own is a constant lesson in the transience of life, and a constant reminder to live it fully now. A reminder too that love is what matters most; and when we brave love in spite of fear – with a new puppy or dog adoption after a beloved dog dies – they remind us anew that love is always worth the risk.

So do you live with this mind? Are you holding back anything out of fear? Do you live with the precious knowledge that nothing lasts forever? What are you waiting for?

From a British post card from soon after WWI – the first guide dogs were for British soldiers returning from the war blinded by gas attacks.

As I explored the energies of this year, and the relationship of dogs to humans, at one point I was overcome by gratitude for all they have given, and do give, us humans. I read story after story of dogs rescuing humans, warning humans, helping humans – often to their own detriment (if you are looking to spend a few tear-filled hours lost on the internet, just google any of these topics!) I learned that guide dogs were first widely introduced after WWI, because so many soldiers returned from the war blinded by gas attacks. Guide and caretaker dogs are one of the most beautiful examples of canine selflessness. These dogs go far beyond the training they receive, bonding so deeply to their owners they can often sense even slight fluctuations in their ‘person’s’ biological functions, alert to any potential health dangers.

Selflessness is something we have a complicated relationship to in the West. We are very focused on self-definition and individual accomplishment, and are wary of martyrdom. Certainly self-sacrifice can be unhealthy, especially if it’s rooted in imbalanced power structures, or feelings of unworthiness. But true selflessness is not this. True selflessness is based in compassion for others, and the impulse to act on someone else’s behalf besides our own. It is a reaching outward of our heart. Do you have space for this in your life? Can you reach outside yourself? Can you act outside of self interest? (As a start, consider making a donation to your local animal shelter or to a non-profit that trains guide or caretaker dogs, in honor of the year of the dog.)

The presence of dogs has been shown to have medicinal effects on the ailing, stressed, or injured

To act in this way requires really being present with someone outside of yourself. This is another area in which dogs have a lot to teach us. Have you ever seen a dog not fully present in the moment? Visitation by dogs, and dog ownership, have been shown to trigger relaxation hormones and endorphins in humans, and to aid healing of all types. What is it about their presence and energy that impacts us so deeply? What if we all brought this to every interaction we have with each other? How would the world change? Can you challenge yourself to do that this year?

The story of Yudhisthira’s dog from the ancient Indian epic the Mahabharata demonstrates what dogs teach us.

My favorite dog story summarizes all that dogs represent for me. At the end of the Indian epic the Mahabharata, the Pandava family is determined to renounce their kingdom and ascend the ‘mountain of liberation’ – enlightenment or heaven, depending on your interpretation. They are accompanied by their dog. One by one, the brothers fall on the path, each due to personal weaknesses, and only Yudhisthira and his dog make it to the top. Yudhisthira is greeted here by Indra in his chariot, offering to take him to heaven, but telling him that the dog may not enter. Yudhisthira responds that then neither will he, as the dog has been his faithful companion, and does not deserve abandonment. He turns away from Indra, ready to descend down the mountain with his dog, when Indra calls him back. He praises Yudhisthira for his compassion and selflessness, telling him that this had in fact been his final test, and that the dog was actually Dharma. With this, Yudhisthira enters heaven/enlightenment.

Yudhisthira had accomplished many things in his life, and attained much power. In the end, what mattered most was his development of compassion, and his ability to think beyond himself. For me, this is the highest expression of ‘dogness’ and the potential for this Year of the Earth Dog. In every moment we have a choice, whether we will think or act only in our own best interests, or can consider others’ as well. It is not a problem to put ourselves first sometimes, it is even appropriate, but when it is all we can do, we are missing out – and so is the world. May we all open to others this year, in addition to ourselves. Happy Year of the Earth Dog!

Wishing you the love of a dog in this Year of the Dog

“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as well as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?”
– Mary Oliver, Dog Songs

P.S. Also, I will start my next Energy Work for Sexual Trauma teleseminar on March 26th.

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