Tag Archives: awareness

On Out With The Old & In With the New or A Tale Of Embracing 2015

Blog 1

An old year ends, and takes with it people and sorrows and joys and memories, and a new one is on its way.

Neil Gaiman

Can I lose 60 pounds in nine minutes? This thought runs through my mind at the close of 2014.

It’s been awhile.  I know.  I’ve heard from several of you over the intervening months, “When are you going to write again?”  “What’s taking so long?”  Honestly, I’ve been busy.  “Doing what you ask?”  Well, I was dancing on tables and creating art — hard fought art — among other things.

2014 was a year of great change for me. I went back to work, my brother passed away, I directed a great production, my favorite Great Aunt passed way and I met some awesome people. But if I’m being honest here I have to admit I will be glad to see 2014 pass.

I realize new beginnings can happen any day at any time. A new beginning always involves leaving one thing behind and embracing something new and different. However, sometimes, new beginnings may not be of our own choosing or liking. New beginnings often are exciting, yet terrifying — no one knows what the future holds. Unlimited possibilities lie behind the door to your new beginning: successes and failures, ups and downs, and even some smiles and frowns.

Since I do not know what’s behind the next door or written in the next chapter of my life, I know it’s important to utilize tools at these pinnacle times in my life. These tools give me the strength and courage to aid me in adjusting to a new chapter in my life.

What’s in my tool box? Well … a positive attitude, and yes, sometimes I have to fake it, openness to new people and new experiences and an open mind, vulnerability so I can see into the shadowy parts of myself and grow in new ways, persistence because sometimes it just takes time and my wonderful support system of friends. But, the most important tools in my arsenal are magic, dreams and madness. In other words, you have to think outside the toolbox sometimes.

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year you surprise yourself.”                                                                                                                                                                    Neil Gaiman

 I have great hopes for 2015. Yes, I feel the winds of change are blowin’ by. I don’t much have more to say on welcoming in 2015 other than this last bit of advice that was passed onto me: I hope that in this year you make mistakes. Yes, that’s my wish for you and for me to make new mistakes, wonderful, glorious, amazing mistakes.   Oh, and whatever it is you’re afraid of doing, do it.

 

On Growing Acres of Diamonds in Your Yard or A Tale of How Your Rituals Create Your Reality

rituals“We are what we repeatedly do.”

Aristotle

This past year, I found myself floundering — stuck within an alternating cycle of feeling either overwhelmed or paralyzed.  The combination of creative tasks, course work and deadlines typically drives me with a strong sense of purpose and fulfillment. However, though I had both homework to produce and blog posts to write, I struggled to find the words to express myself.  Instead of studying or filling pages with words and ideas, I consoled myself by eating cookies and watching lots of 24 hour news networks. Needless to say, none of this was any help in boosting my productivity or pulling me out of the mean reds.  So, I started working with a coach. It has been a good — if challenging experience. I have learned some great things from him, but I think the greatest lesson is on the power of ritual.

As I put these thoughts to paper, I realize that I wasn’t depressed. The real truth was that I had fallen into a series of bad habits: email before prayer and meditation, stagnating in front of the TV instead of walking, and lunches at buffets instead of healthy, homemade salads and juices.

I had totally forsaken one of the key doctrines of living a life that I love: if you want an extraordinary life, you must have equally extraordinary routines and rituals. My coach, Fred, reminded me of this and stressed (and still stresses) this with every call we had.

I was stuck because I was allowing life to happen around me. I was overwhelmed because I was trying to squeeze as much as possible into each day with no plan of any kind. I was stuck in habits that exacerbate our feelings of stagnation, and I allowed my feelings of being overwhelmed to paralyze me.

“There is a comfort in rituals, and rituals provide a framework for stability  when you are trying to find answers.”

Deborah Norville

So, what is it that I need – that we all need? The twin powers of routine and ritual. Nourishing and supportive routines help frame our lives. Rituals remind us of our own sacredness, our desire to connect with our core, and our relationship with our higher power.

The word “routine” can seem incredibly rigid and dull, but good routines are neither. Rather than stifling your creativity, routines are about managing your energy effectively in order to direct it toward your real desires and purpose. Our daily actions are what create our life, so by creating nourishing and supportive routines, we are choosing to fuel our days and nourish our spirits.

We all need daily time-outs, an excuse to stop and take a moment to celebrate, connect, honor and recognize the different aspects of our lives. This is where ritual comes in. Rituals offer us compassionate discipline where we focus our attention and energy on achieving a certain feeling. They will ground us regardless of what’s happening around us.

Extraordinary routines require minimum engagement in order to let us achieve productive results. Rituals are celebratory, meaningful, and require us to be completely engaged—even if it’s only for two minutes.

One of the first things I did after starting to work with my coach was to reestablish nourishing routines and rituals, thereby creating structure, support, and strong moments of being. I realized very quickly that solid morning and bedtime routines formed parenthesis around my day. This seemingly simple change in my day-to-day living has altered my world.

I’m more productive, more creative, and feeling incredibly grounded. My sense of drive and purpose has returned to me with an underlying feeling of peacefulness. Nearly every person I talk to says that the way they start their day sets a tone for the whole day. Our morning routines set the tone for productivity, and our morning rituals give us a daily check-in with how we want to feel, and who we want to be.

“I believe in rituals.”

Charles Simonyi

So, what should we include in our morning routine?

Choose actions that create an environment of order and support. Simple chores like unloading the dishwasher and clearing the kitchen counters don’t just minimize disorder; they also leave your energy available to help you create and strategize rather than merely reacting.

Similarly, nothing can disrupt your day like skipping a part of your morning routine. Even something as basic as making the bed every morning gives your brain an important message: the old day is over, and today is a fresh, clean slate.

Creating your morning ritual can be just as simple: just turn some of your regular morning tasks—showering, for example, or making coffee — into a time of reflection. Some of my greatest awakening thru prayer has been in the shower. Even transforming the most mundane activity can be a way to choose how you want to feel, to honor your soul, and to show respect for your spirit.

I spend time each morning in prayer and meditation, and writing in my journal —activities that never fail to connect me with my core and remind me of my sacred place in the world. And I give thanks for my blessings – thank you for the blessing of breathing; thank you for the feeling of my feet on the floor; thank you the sun streaming thru my windows; thank you, thank you, thank you.

“The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them.”

Pat Conroy

More powerful than any morning habits, however, are our bedtime routines and rituals. Bedtime routines allow us to close out our current day as well as stage the coming one. The elements of your routine should be personal to you, but I recommend that they include both self-care (brushing your teeth, washing your face, moisturizing your skin) and preparation for the coming day (choosing your outfit, reviewing your appointments, and staging your bag and keys near the door).

Your bedtime ritual, on the other hand, is a time to focus on connection, reflection, and celebration. Regardless of how much you did (or didn’t) accomplish that day, each evening is an opportunity to reconnect with yourself, your desires, and your spirit. Connecting with our spirit is a vital component of creating a life we’re in love with.

Later, after my own self-care, I write in my gratitude journal, both to remind myself what I’m thankful for, as well as to record the highlights of the day; often I share this gratitude writing on Facebook. Finally, I take a few moments to still my mind with prayer or meditation. Lastly, I proclaim aloud the best thing that happened that happened that day and turn off the light.

Even if I’ve had a bad day, these rituals help me fall asleep feeling peaceful, content, and loved.

Adding small rituals of opening and closure to my days gives tremendous value to my mind and soul. For me, good rituals are evident in how peaceful my heart feels.

I fully recognize that it’s possible to get stuck even in good routines. The routines that work now may not be as productive next week. Dreams and desires are ever-changing, so as I continue to grow and stretch myself, my routines and rituals will grow and stretch as well.

Empowering routines, along with loving rituals, are essential ingredients in the recipe for living a daily life that I love. By creating your own rituals and routines, you’ll be taking the first steps to creating your own recipe.

On The Rings Of Contemplation or A Tale Of Give Us This Day Our Daily Silence

Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.
George MacDonald

Many years ago while living in San Francisco I found a dusty little book in Dog Eared Books, The Cloud of Unknowing. It is this wonderful, anonymous 14th century book that presented contemplative meditation as a teachable, spiritual process enabling the ordinary person to enter and receive a direct experience of union with God to me.

This form of meditation, more commonly known as ‘Centering Prayer’ (from a text by the brilliant Thomas Merton) can be traced from and through the earliest centuries of Christianity. The Centering Prayer centers one on God.

Silence is God’s first language,” wrote the 16th-century mystic John of the Cross. And silence is the normal context in which contemplative prayer takes place. But there is silence and then there is silence. There is an outer silence, an outer stopping of the words and busyness, but there is also a much more challenging interior silence, where the inner talking stops as well.

The purpose of prayer is the noughting of oneself and the all-ing of God.
Anonymous

Most of us are familiar with this first kind of silence, although we don’t get enough of it in our spiritual life. It’s the kind of silence we normally practice in retreat times and quiet days. With a break from the usual hurly-burly of your life, you have time to draw inward and allow your mind to meander. You may pore over a scriptural verse and let your imagination and feelings carry you more deeply into it. Or you may simply put the books away and go for a walk in the woods, allowing the tranquility of the setting and the relative quieting of external pressures bring you more deeply in touch with yourself. You listen carefully to how you’re feeling, what you’re wishing. In this kind of work, the free association of your mind provides the key to the renewal, and silence furnishes the backdrop where this work can go on.

But there is another kind of silence as well, far less familiar to most students of spiritual growth. In this other kind of silence, the exercise is exactly the opposite. In silence, you encourage your mind to float where it will; in this other silence — or to use the generic description, meditation — a deliberate effort is made to restrain the wandering of the mind, either by slowing down the thought process itself or by developing a means of detaching oneself from it.

Intentional silence almost always feels like work. It doesn’t come naturally to most people, and there is in fact considerable resistance raised from the mind itself: “You mean I just sit there and make my mind a blank?” Then the inner talking begins in earnest, and you ask yourself, “How can this be prayer? How can God give me my imagination, reason, and feelings and then expect me not to use them?” “Will I go crazy?”

Perhaps the most powerful argument is the one from authority. Virtually every spiritual tradition that holds a vision of human transformation at its heart also claims that a practice of intentional silence is a non-negotiable. Period. You just have to do it. Whether it is the meditation of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, the zikr of the Sufis, the devkut of mystical Judaism, or the contemplative prayer of the Christians, there is a universal avowal that this form of spiritual practice is essential to spiritual awakening.  All major, worldwide religions, most urgently and irrevocably set upon the total transformation of the human being. And while it’s true that we don’t have pictures of Jesus teaching a meditation practice exactly — this can be read between the lines fairly easily on any number of occasions in the scriptures.

Like most of the great spiritual masters of our world, Jesus taught from the conviction that we human beings are victims of a tragic case of mistaken identity. The person I normally take myself to be — that busy, anxious little “I” so preoccupied with its goals, fears, desires, and issues — is never even remotely the whole of who I AM, and to seek the fulfillment of my life at this level means to miss out on the bigger life. This is why, according to His teaching, the one who tries to keep his life will lose it, and the one who is willing to lose it will find the real thing. Beneath the surface there is a deeper and vastly more authentic Self, but its presence is usually veiled by the clamor of the ego with its insatiable needs and demands.

This confusion between ego self and I AM is the core illusion of the human condition, and penetrating this illusion is what awakening is all about.

God hidden within me.  I find Him by hiding in the silence in which He is concealed.
Thomas Merton

At the center of our being is a point of emptiness which is untouched by ego and illusion, a point of pure truth, a point of light which belongs entirely to God. This little point of emptiness is the light of God burning in us. It is like a pure diamond blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it, we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of an inner sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely and it is the gateway to heaven.  As we enter contemplative prayer, we draw near the wellspring from which our being flows.

On Spinning My Wheels & Grinding My Gears or A Tale Of Raising My Standards

Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards. When people ask me what really changed my life eight years ago, I tell them that absolutely the most important thing was changing what I demanded of myself. I wrote down all the things I would no longer accept in my life, all the things I would no longer tolerate, and all the things that I aspired to becoming.
Anthony Robbins

Every single wildly successful transformational/motivational/spiritual speaker/author/minister has a story to tell about that awful time in their lives when they were homeless, sleeping in an alley/bus-stop/car/empty field, washing their clothes in a Denny’s bathroom or their hair with the 7-Eleven soda machine. They were either cracked out, drunk, disorderly, abused and rejected, or sober, but fat, sick and utterly despondent.  I can relate to this as I am working my way back from one of these, and no, I have never washed my hair at 7-Eleven.

They describe this moment as a time when their lives were so broken, there appeared no farther to fall; they, we, I, had bottomed out. The next stop on this journey into the dark abyss was surely death … in fact, in these stories, something always does seem to die in the car, on the doorsteps of the homes they’ve just been evicted from, in that Denny’s bathroom at 4:00 A.M., or on that fifth trip thru the buffet line: our former selves who’ve embraced extremely low standards — or no standards — for our lives. That low-standard self has to die in the fire of transformation so a new self can be born, one with the fierce determination to say, “No more! My life is bullshit! I now insist on entirely new standards for myself!”

Skip ahead a few years and they’re living in the home of their wildest dreams, married to their soul mate, acting as principal spiritual adviser to Oprah and serving as general champion for humanity across the globe. It’s a beautiful story, one I’m sure is often mostly true.

Sometimes you have to kind of die inside in order to rise from your own ashes and believe in yourself and love yourself to become a new person.
Gerard Way

Fortunately, none of us have to be homeless to experience authentic transformation. You don’t have to lose your family and sleep in the bus station to get that the life you’ve been living isn’t working and begin creating real change. You might have to experience being destitute in spirit; however, in the sense that you’ve finally and completely lost all hope that your current life strategies will ever work to make you authentically happy.  To put it simply, you know you’re ready for change when you just can’t fucking take it anymore.

Yes my friends, the choice is ours.

If something in your life genuinely isn’t working for you, and hasn’t been for a long time, and you tolerate it, then you clearly haven’t had your AHA moment. You’re trying to make your low-standards comfortable. Every minute you let it persist, you’re deciding you can take more, hurt more, fail more, fall farther, suffer deeper – ultimately, you’re OK with bottoming out.

I quoted Tony Robbins earlier; he says his AHA moment did not come when he slept in a car, which he did, but a few years later when he held an eviction notice in his sober but big, fat, junk-food grubbing hands in a tiny apartment.

You’ll know when you finally hit your ultimate AHA moment because your whole body will come alive and say, “No More!!” … but with much more colorful language and absolutely with a conviction that ensures life will never again look the same for you.

You have to remember one life, one death–this one! To enter fully the day, the hour, the moment whether it appears as life or death, whether we catch it on the in-breath or out-breath, requires only a moment, this moment. And along with it all the mindfulness we can muster, and each stage of our ongoing birth, and the confident joy of our inherent luminosity.
Stephen Levine

I believe too many of us have settled for low standards in life therefore we don’t achieve all we can. Many people don’t dream big because they think it’s unrealistic. So they only expect to have an average life and average life they get.  Also we’re spoon early on that being poor is noble, good — Godly even.  Look at The Waltons, Titanic & Little House on the Prairie – the well to do people are presented as unhappy, mean and godless so if you want to be happy be poor and have dreams, but just don’t dream too big.

Settling for second best should never be anyone’s goal. Everyone can and is entitled to get only the best, yet because most people don’t raise their standards, they keep experiencing average in their lives.

Raising standards means refusing to accept something that is not what you want. That should by no means be interpreted as pushing against that which you don’t want, because that will keep you stuck forever. It only means that you no longer agree to tolerate something that you’re not satisfied with and you focus on and demand better conditions. It means burning bridges to distance yourself from the average life and reaching for the better life.

  • Raising standards means distancing yourself from the people you no longer resonate with and being open to more enriching relationships.
  • Raising standards means quitting your job and focusing on that start-up you’ve always dreamed of.
  • Raising standards means moving out of the environment you never liked and having courage to move into much more pleasant surroundings.
  • Raising standards means refusing to live an average life.

Ask yourself where in your life you allow yourself to be limited by your standards:

  • Are you fearful when the next bill arrives?
  • Do you give up when some difficulty presents itself?
  • Are you letting other people decide how you live your life?
  • Are you accepting your situation and doing nothing to change it even if it’s not what you really want?
  • Are you in a relationship with a person who does not support and accept you?
  • Are you settling for less for fear of the unknown? 

I’m changing slowly day-by-day; I take new actions and raising the bar for myself daily. There are some great things happening in my life and it all started from making a new decision, setting a new standard and living that standard every day.

So – tell me, how can you set a new standard today?

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!