I meditate to avoid being an asshole ~ by Vicky Cook

I introduced you to Vicky last year when I wrote about the reiki treatment she gave me.  I really dig this woman and love what she has to offer.  She has a committed meditation practice and has taught meditation series’ for a while now.  Meditation is gaining recognition in mainstream society.  It’s necessary.  We’re barreling forward, like a fast-moving train, toward a life of complete connection to machines and devices and technology.  To a lifestyle where, each moment between awake and asleep is filled with projects and tasks or pressure, stress and trying to achieve better and more of whatever it is we think we need, and want.  The problem then, is that we are not spending enough time doing nothing. 

Meditation then serves as a practice, not of checking out, but of checking in to ensure that all the ‘more of’ that you’re doing, is actually serving you.  Meditation helps create the life you want, not check out of the life you have.  Here, Vicky tells us her journey through meditation, gives us some tips and resources and takes the mystery out of the practice.

When Lyn asked me to write a piece on Mediation I was surprised, I practice meditation, I’ve taught meditation but I never really considered myself an expert on meditation.  I sat down to write this and many thoughts flooded my mind (this happens when I sit down to meditate too…)  and I wanted to write a prolific piece on the many benefits of meditation, the beauty and peace of the practice, but a voice kept coming to me WHY do you meditate, why?

So, time to get honest. I meditate mostly to avoid being an asshole.  When I don’t meditate I find I am often annoyed, slightly irritated by local traffic, I am impatient with my son and can be quite a smarmy bitch to my husband.  This isn’t my regular behavior by nature, I believe I am a kind-hearted and compassionate person. I’ve created or learned some pretty gnarly coping mechanisms early on in my life to deal with deep insecurities and retraining myself not to react but to act has been a lifelong process.

Simply put meditation is a necessity for me, it is not by some virtue that I found the practice; it was out of desperation and desire that I found it.  There is a saying I heard early on in my journey “religion is for people who don’t want to go to hell, spirituality is for people who have been there”.  I had been there and meditation is a way out.  

I picked up my first book on meditation almost 20 years ago, its concepts and ideas were leap years beyond anything my mind could comprehend and I clearly was not ready, but the seed was planted.  I have found myself, over the years, drawn to meditation in strange ways but they always seemed to be attached to a deeper commitment than I was ready to make.  About 15 years ago I was introduced to Raj Yoga and attended weekly meditation for a brief time, but they were recruiting for their center in NY and the rebel in me still wouldn’t let me join anything. I did find I liked the way I felt after our weekly meetings and desired that feeling for many years to come.

I found Reiki & Yoga about 10 years ago and that began my real practice of a consistent meditation.  Coming to a regular practice is hard; I have had some resistance towards it for most of these years.  My spiritual experiences have always come as more of the educational variety anyway, and so has it been with meditation.  This has been a benefit because it has allowed me to slowly evolve and steep myself more into an authenticity I never knew existed.  It has allowed a process of becoming rather than just changing.  I am who I am meant to be at this exact moment and I even believe that some of the time!

How do you do it, you ask?  I’ve learned all you have to do is just sit and be quiet and you can do this anywhere.  But… when you are beginning you should create a ritual (a set time, so you have something to commit to) create a space, I have an altar, but this can be a chair in your favorite room, you can have candles, a deity or any other object that softens your heart  Right now I mediate on my beautiful porch overlooking an English garden.  I found it easier to start in a quiet space with very little distraction.  Now, on my porch I hear cars go by, birds chirping and general neighborhood noise which I embrace, it teaches me I can find stillness anywhere. Next, set a timer, as little as 5 minutes a day can make a difference. I’ve found that rarely is my mind ever void of thought, so don’t get discouraged when you start creating lists or when random thoughts invade your space.    The practice of meditation isn’t to become void, but to become as “full”y present as you can be in each moment.  It teaches you to act rather than react, to begin to know yourself, without judgment, but with clears eyes and an open heart.

Some techniques that helped me out early on were to simply count my breath, it was the first real deliberate meditation practice I was consistent with. It gave me something to do while I was trying to be (you can’t go from “doer” to “be-er” overnight).  I tried a Zen meditation where you count to ten and then begin again, this never worked for me as I would always go past ten then berate myself for not doing it right. Counting my breaths 108 times (a single breath being a complete cycle of inhale and exhale) was a regular practice at the beginning.  I’ve used mantra which is also very powerful.  This can be a Sanskrit mantra or just a positive statement such as I am peaceful, I am happy, I am loved, I am abundant or I am here.  Just the repetition of a beautiful phrase in and of itself is healing, but repetition is where the true practice of meditation begins.

Many people close their eyes during meditation, which was very helpful for me early on.  I now practice with a steady downward gaze my eyes looking over the bridge of my nose a foot or two in front of me.  This is a common practice for meditation in Reiki which is my regular practice. There are other meditation techniques in Reiki I use and they can be found in the Japanese Art of Reiki http://us.ihreiki.com/shop/product/the_japanese_art_of_reiki. My Reiki teacher has a new meditation CD out with guided meditations and is very helpful when you are first beginning (or something fresh for the seasoned practitioner), it takes all the guessing out of it http://www.thereikijourney.com/The_Reiki_Journey/Welcome.html. If you prefer print, I am currently reading Be the Change by Deb and Ed Shapiro which shares personal experiences from many modern-day practitioners http://www.amazon.com/Be-Change-Meditation-Transform-World/dp/1402760019.  There are many great resources and ways to meditate, but the only way to begin is to begin. Ask people around you, read excerpts on Amazon, find guided meditations, anything you desire, there are many resources, just look.

I’ve found meditation is strong and grounding, which surprised me when I started. It should help immerse you into the world, or perhaps it will be a bridge to find your place with in it.  Either way the practice of meditation is never about moving away from the world, but finding your true “seat” within it.  Don’t expect anything, don’t expect a quiet mind or a more peaceful life, don’t ask it for anything.  Meditation will give you more than you ever knew existed, I promise.

**If you enjoyed this post, I think you’ll like this one too: “What is all this savasana & meditation stuff anyway?”

I saw the meaning of life…..

I am staring at a blank screen.  I take a deep breath.  I settle.  I need to take another one.  I settle again.  I decide just to type this, a stream of consciousness, since anything else seems too forced, too far reaching.  Inauthentic?  Not sure.

Right now Olafur Arnalds is playing on my ITunes.  I recently tweeted that his music, to me, is the sound of a deep breath; if it could play the piano (or an orchestra).  I need this music in the background to keep me from not moving; to a new screen, to wash the dishes, to make a phone call.  It’s keeping me still.  Here.

I am delaying because it almost feels too big to write, what it is I want to write.

What do I want to write?

That I was witness to the healing power of Love?  Ugh! Too cheesy, too obvious, too…..I don’t know…..common?

That I saw the meaning of life?  Yeah, but now I just feel too pompous though it’s a little closer to the truth.

That I saw the meaning in Love?  I’ll stick with that.  For now.

The violin is being played now and it makes the whole room ache for something to hold on to.  Now the piano, one key at a time, like a little child tippy-toeing across the room, playfully, to scare an adult.  Who already knows the child is coming.   Afterwards they will laugh wildly, unabashedly.  Since, children bring that out.

Anyway – I digress.  If, in my last post I was crying for no reason but a simple feeling of self-induced disconnect, in this post I would be crying for the unadulterated feeling of complete connection. Except, I’m not crying, I’m astonished.  It’s wild what lies ahead for us.  What we cannot foresee.  What we can’t even imagine possible.

I’ve learnt this week that, regardless of how hard we strive, you’ll always be lead to what you’re meant to learn.

The day after my birthday, exactly 2 weeks ago, my Mum, who was visiting from Australia, called me early in the morning.    My Nan had taken a turn after her operation and the hospital had called my Pa, and a priest.  She didn’t have long.  My mum changed her flight and left that day, leaving me to wonder what to do.  Do I wait for a funeral, or do I go right away?

I went right away.  I flew out on a Sunday night and arrived by her bedside on Tuesday night (Australian time).  In the meantime my family and I; Aunts, uncles, cousins, brother, sister etc., reached out to each other, in a way we hadn’t before, to stay informed of our movements, and update on her progress.  Her progress was never good.

Since most of our family are scattered around the country, the decision to go to her was not easy.  Leaving work obligations and considering financial strains were all considered, weighed up, and then made insignificant against the need to be by her side.  The family rallied.  We were all headed to her bedside.  My sister, a single mother, and my brother bundled up my niece, jumped in the car and drove the 2 days from Melbourne to Brisbane.  My Nan’s own brothers and sisters drove 2 days to Brisbane.  Cousins flew in, Uncles and Aunts flew in and the family members who were local kept vigil for the family, bearing the initial burden of a worry that had wrapped itself around us all.

We were coming together.  Ironically, it was the reunion my Nan would have dreamed about.

But this wasn’t a dream.

Here’s what you should know about my Nan.  She is a warrior.  A true warrior of love and faith and spirit, with a fierce love of her family.  Tough, for sure, I mean this woman vacuums out her oven.  That doesn’t sound like a kick-arse kind of action but let me tell you, you never want to mess with a woman who keeps her castle that tidy.  Fun was had, after the dishes were put away!  She’s always known her worth, and when my Pa tried to court her, 61 years ago, she gave him the run around for weeks.  She recently told me “I was never going to be easy!”  Nor was she going to be a “farmer’s wife” she wanted a grander life than that.

My Pa was grand!

This is another thing you should know about my Nan.  She is a woman of faith.  She’s a devout Catholic, with Irish blood.  Now you know her warrior spirit.  She told us all that week that nothing fazed her, whatever was in God’s hands she has accepted and she’ll fight but, she was in pain and didn’t have much in her and in the end, she said, ‘it was up to him’.  We told we loved her no matter how much fight she had and then we went to the chapel and prayed.

As it happens, when you’re staring into the jaws of grief, something bigger takes over.  Vulnerability; you see men fight tears.  Courage; you hug more; hold tighter, you say sorry (or not).  Perspective; you realize the bad never seemed that bad, you think of an empty space and how you’ll fill it.  Nostalgia; the good times are gold.  Faith; you suddenly know you need it.

As each day passed, as time filed passed us minute after minute, we waded through, waiting.  Every day a new member of the family arrived, or news of another person arriving filled the conversations.  It was a constant stream of arrivals and with each person, her eyes got brighter.  Her body was barely there, but her spirit kept showing up.

By Thursday, almost a week after the call, the doctors had told us there was no change in her condition and it was ‘only a matter of days’ which, heard through the commotion of grief and worry, translated to only a matter of days to live.  “A kick in the guts” my Pa called it for he was, amongst us all, the most faithful in her recovery, without the protection of a God.  A conversation with the doctors later that morning shifted perspective a little bit when it turned out that the ‘matter of time’ should have been, had a regular civilian delivered the news, ‘we have to wait and see what happens.’

Suddenly now, any hope we reserved was insignificant to the faith and belief we now had.  She had a chance.  So, we had a BBQ and drank a lot (we are Australian, don’t judge).

It’s interesting how the sequence of hearing news can be so impactful in how it’s received.  Perhaps, if we’d originally believed we just had to ‘wait and see’, we wouldn’t have felt so free to relax around the BBQ and celebrate the family stories that night.  Perhaps, faith would have given way to impatience.  But, because the first bit of news was so heavy, it made the new translation so much lighter.  My Pa’s face was priceless that night as he basked in the family that he and Nan have created, my sister particularly holding court (one of the funniest people in the world to me).

The next day I woke and thought; “F@*k positive thinking.  It’s unnecessary when you believe.”

By Friday every one of her closest family members (but two cousins, who were very missed) would have arrived by her bedside.  After this, we all surmised, she would decide her path.  After this, we would wait and see what happens.

So, what happened?  On Saturday she got up and walked.  Her swelling went down, they reduced the pain medication and they moved her condition from acute & critical only a week ago, to stable.  The doctors were amazed, baffled even.  The character in her face came back and we knew she had her life fight back when she started ordering Pa around and joking (teasing) the doctors.  She has quite a wit.  Surprised?

By Sunday night we were resting easy.  As the family filled my grandparent’s back yard for a BBQ (no shrimp on the ‘barbie’! – I know you Americans love to ask – but my Aunts insanely delicious prawn fritters! ), I noted to myself ‘my Nan would love this, she lived for her family and now, it’s her family that has helped her live.’ (I’m also pretty sure she was going bananas knowing that we weren’t vacuuming the oven and she heard I set the fire alarm off cooking my Pa breakfast!)

I’ve been writing about love for a while now. Exploring it, cursing it, struggling to find it sometimes and just like that, it showed up.  Again!

On the morning after I saw my Nan for the first time I wrote this to a friend:

“I saw the meaning of life in my grandmother’s eyes last night as we took each other’s hand, she held mine tight like she did when I was a little girl and she looked right into my eyes and said everything, without saying a word.  Love, gratitude, the power of family, of commitment, of faith and of staying true to one’s own meaning of that.  When she spoke, she told me how lucky she was, how lucky she felt and we talked about all the little things we did when I was a child, all the long walks we went on and the plants we planted – which never took, they were too exotic for a household garden.  We talked about the power of music, she loves Irish music.

I watched her, and watched my grandfather and the 61 years of being together that lay in between them and realized that this is the moment that counts.   All of the questions, the pain, the enduring and fighting and wondering what will happen – none of it matters and the only thing to know for sure is that this will happen and  when you’re close, do you feel lucky, and did you know Love?”

Olafur played twice.

My Guest Post – About my cleanse

I am on my last day of a ______ (insert under the breath cough here) juice cleanse, a modified cleanse I like to call it.  I wrote about the half way mark over at my yoga studio’s blog (you will be re-directed).  You should check out this blog in general.  It has some great writing in it, lots of interesting voices and observations from great yoga teachers, and my friends – whom I adore!

You can read the entire piece here: Half-way to Heaven.  Here’s a little sample of the piece of I wrote:

“….The truth of the matter is, I’m bored.  I am really freaking bored of drinking on my own because, let’s face it, no one wants to eat with me.  They’ll be bored too; “wow, was that a piece of spinach that didn’t make it through the juicer?  How is that?”

 

A winter soup I couldn’t resist sharing

So, perhaps by now you may have figured out that I don’t subscribe to any ‘labels’.  I go weeks (months) without eating meat, but I don’t consider myself a vegetarian.  Occasionally I buy Gluten free bread and my only banana bread recipe is gluten free, but I am not gluten intolerant, nor do I have celiacs disease.  I practice and teach yoga, but I don’t wear “it’s all One” t-shirts and drink green juice everyday.  I am socially responsible and interested, but only managed to spend a few hours at Occupy Wall Street.  I am liberal but I’m kinda pissed off at Obama right now.

Call me non-committal or just call me a curious moderate.  I take the maxim ‘everything in moderation’ and make it a mantra.

I am committed to educating myself on all the many different modalities of healing and diet philosophies out there so last Sunday I decided to delve into Macrobiotic cooking.  I was looking for a new soup recipe.  My go to staple soup is sweet potato and butternut squash.  Very simple to make; chop up the veggies, add chunks of garlic and onion and add it to chicken stock.  Add a few pinches of salt and you’re done.

However, I was looking for something a little bit more thought-out and I was pretty sure the chicken stock, while organic, probably had some sort of vibration spasm on my cosmic sphere since it came from a box and could sit in the cupboard unopened for weeks.  Always a red flag!

So, I stumbled upon this soup.  Using root vegetables of the season and no stock.  I was skeptical of the no stock part, and I was prepared to have to make my own.  But, this didn’t require it. Continue reading

Practitioner Profile: Lorraine Gengo; Ayurveda

A few years ago, sitting at my local bar/restaurant/cafe, I spied a new brochure/flyer in the community announcement holder.  At exactly the same time my friend, the bar owner, picked up the brochure and said “you should check this out.  The woman is really cool and her office is right here”.  Only 5 minutes after that, that ‘cool woman’ walked in and a week later I was having my first Ayurvedic massage.  Another reminder that we’re always where we’re supposed to be (esp. when sitting in a bar!)

I had been introduced to Ayurveda 10 years prior when a work colleague had talked about a dinner party she had recently attended where all the foods cooked were from an Ayurvedic cookbook, she had left feeling amazing.  Ever curious and impulsive I went out immediately to buy the cookbook, have kept it close ever since and can safely say I still have not cooked a single recipe from it!

However, it introduced me to the concept of Ayurveda and its healing system and I have been intrigued ever since.  Naturally, I was all about getting an Ayurvedic massage and from that first meeting, Lorraine and I met quite regularly for many months, using the oil that was personalized for me, and kept me in balance during a particularly stressful period.

Below is an interview with Lorraine about her journey from Journalist to healer and what Ayurveda is.   Continue reading

A bundle of Miracles

I have a confession to make.  I abhor the yoga ‘world’.  The ‘it’s all one’ t-shirt wearing, ‘my perfect down-dog makes me a perfect yogi and I wear mala beads, drink green juice and don’t wear fur’ yoga world.  The world of yoga that, through its magazine subscriptions, yoga teacher ‘stars’, commercial ‘zen’ drinks, and display of tattooed, sculpted biceps (In other words; Uniform) make it no different from any other industry vying for commercial recognition.

I’m not better than that.  In fact, sometimes I feel like a failed outsider in an industry where I am supposed to feel more connected.  Regardless of how often a yoga teacher tells me, I don’t always feel like a fucking miracle!

Even from the beginning of my yoga practice it felt like I wasn’t here for the same reason others were.  A lot of people come to yoga ‘broken’, either from a physical injury, a break-up, work-related stress or just a general feeling of discontent….most are searching.  I didn’t say everyone, I said a lot.  Let’s get clear here, not everyone is broken, some just want a yoga body.  I found yoga because I fancied a boy. Continue reading

The progress of our nature

So, there’s a storm brewing.  Actually, as I write this,  a storm is on its way, her name is Hurricane Irene and she dressed in all her finest  a few hundred miles off coast, hit the Bahamas, North Carolina and is now careening her way north to New York City and coastal New England.

I am not one to listen to the broadcast news on a regular basis, big news stories inevitably find their way to me when I am sitting at a bar, or a coffee shop or from my clients, so I didn’t hear about the hurricane approaching until yesterday.

NYC has shut down all its mass transit, a first in history.  Many roads out to the coastal towns were shut down late last night and everyone is being urged to stock up, be prepared and be safe.  I have to admit, I really don’t know what that means.  Be safe.

So, I went to the wine store – stocked up on red since I figured that would still be good if the power went out.  I was trying to be sensible.  I wanted to buy ice-cream but figured that would be silly, so I bought chocolate instead.  It’s humid, it might melt, but I’ll probably enjoy it before it does.

What does one ‘purchase’ to be safe?  band aids?  Condoms?  At least they could be used for many purposes I suppose ( like protection from water?  Maybe?).  I went to Facebook to see what the ‘word on the street’ was, and it seems like chocolate chip cookies (freshly baked of course) and other general forms of junk food have been purchased, in large quantities (one friend admitted to $200 worth!), so I guess I am not completely off the mark.  I’ll have to pull out my pink rubber boots from storage, I’m pretty sure they’ll be deemed safe.

I bought extra batteries and, can you believe, I got to the register and they gave me an additional packet – retailers are actually being kind!  It’s a 2 for 1 batteries sale during a time when people are desperate for batteries – in this country?  Can I attribute it to Obama?  Probably not.  Whether this storm is as big as predicted, I’ll be all stocked up for other devices that require batteries, and it’s a safe bet I’ll enjoy the storm a lot more.

It’s quite interesting to watch, and hear, people’s reaction to this kind of anticipation.  It is clear that the news reports are blasting dire consequences and warnings of an Armageddon, but either people are not very convinced of it’s ferocity of overly panicky about it.  I like these moments, where mother nature reminds us who runs this show.  Whether she comes slapping through or not, she has people running a little scared.  But, some fear is good.  It’s good to be reminded that we are not untouchable, that we are still vulnerable and that we do have survival instincts that go beyond finding a phone charger in NYC when you’re out of juice and you’re running to meet your friend for dinner but didn’t write down the address because it was sent on a text.

Still, we’re a long way from the time when our elders watched the migration of animals for signs of impending weather.  I wanted to call on that kind of information these last two days, because it’s really hard to trust the hype on the news stations, I generally don’t.  I was supposed to head down to Long Island last night for my weekend there.  I had clients booked but so many people kept advising me against it, and, since it’s right on the coast, I suppose it was basically like opening my front door to a hurricane knocking.  Should I go? Should I not go?  So I sent a text to my friend “What’s going on down there with this storm?”  “Dunno.  I never believe or follow the news” she replied.

I was disappointed, I don’t generally follow that kind of news either, that’s why I contacted her.  I wanted old school information, word on the street stuff, fisherman stories and a ‘feeling in the air’.  So, I responded with some lame updates of what’s actually happening in the world, you know; never seen before transit closures in NYC, big storm coming, that kind of thing, which she had heard and I got a response “just mass hysteria”.  A lot of FOX news stuff I guess.

How far have we moved away from understanding the natural rhythms of our home, our planet, without updates from our news media?  My roommate was adamant about this storm, not because of what was being said on the news (we don’t have T.V. to watch it anyway) but because there were no birds on the river, or squirrels in abundance in the park, and the river was unusually high (a new moon is approaching, so that could account for that).  Still, I wondered, how did our ancestors predict these storms?  Or could they?

Well, yes, and they did it in much the same way my roommate claimed she did (although, truth be told, I am seeing birds flying in this storm!).  They watched the animals and trees and rivers.  They listened to the wind, or the foreboding lack of.  They smelt the air, they felt the temperature and they tasted the leaves.  And they did this everyday and picked up nuances and became aware of differences.  They also had to catch their dinner each night, build their own houses by hand and they actually had to use their imagination to tell bedtime stories to their kids!  So, you know, I’m not saying we go to back to that.  However, we could go back to some of that.

As we invest in ‘progress’ and lay concrete and steel and metal structures over land, inject chemicals into our oceans, puncture holes in the skin of the earth, how do we measure our return?  Or are we simply short-term investors?  What I want to know is what exactly are we progressing toward, when we can’t eat the fish from our oceans because of the mercury levels, or even swim in half of them because of oil spills?  What is most disturbing is that this sort of decimation is happening right in front of the mirror on a daily basis.

Women are getting injections to stop their periods because they’re ‘annoying’, the same way we nonchalantly sprayed CFC’s into the air to stop bugs only to create a large hold in the ozone layer.  Men and women are pouring chemicals into the lines on their face to hide natural signs of ageing, the same way Monsanto poured millions of pounds of PCB’s into open-pit landfills, denied doing it, only to turn the environment of a community carcinogenic.  Hollywood seems to build new noses like most real estate developers build cookie cutter homes.  We dump toxic food in our bodies like energy companies dump their waste in our rivers and streams.  It doesn’t stop.  Or should I ask, when will take heed?

The irony isn’t lost that I am writing on this on a small device, connected to a wireless wave of connection during a hurricane.  I think I’ll leave you with this powerful video of Eve Ensler and step out into the rain now.

Blessings for breakfast. Or (10 practices to build happiness!)

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort.  You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and even travel for it.  You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessing” – Elizabeth Gilbert.

Boo Yah!  Take that self-doubt and circumstance.

I read this quote a few days ago and it stopped me in my tracks, so much so that I have made it my daily affirmation (I replace ‘you’ for ‘I’ and I add a big ‘MY’ before happiness).  Not because it was profound, or anything different than what I have read a hundred times before but because of its firmness.  I felt like it slam dunked the responsibility of my life’s achievements (and non-achievements) right in my lap and it has incited a fierceness in my spirit to continue the work I do to create my life; exactly-the-way-I-want- it!


I think it’s the ‘participate relentlessly’ that has got me all excited.  The word relentless always stirs something in me.  It makes me think of the honey badger (which Bernadette Birney wrote a fantastically funny post about) who is tenacious about his pursuit and relentless about his blessings.  This guy gives a shit about his happiness….and you should too.

“Participate relentlessly?  Live free of relenting.  Don’t give up.  Become relentless about your happiness – it’s that important.  You participate in your life without giving up.  Participate.  Play, act, engage – be part of the results.  Life doesn’t just happen to me – I make it happen.”  This has been the conversation, the constant loop, in my head of late.

Until I hit about 28, I felt like I just manifested the shit out of my life, so much so, I was eating blessings for breakfast every morning!!  I grew up with such an irrefutable knowing that I would always achieve what I wanted and that anything and everything amazing would happen to me – and it usually did, at least in my view.  Things always worked out for me, despite never taking the popular, conventional route to get anywhere.

Until I decided to take the conventional route.  Living without a plan and with a ‘follow my whim’ kind of uncertainty got to be exhausting, so I did what every tired dreamer does; I followed the lights and took the path of ‘follow the crowd’ kind of uncertainty.  I just decided to stay put and let the ‘conventional system’ do the work for me.  I stayed in one town, I stayed in one job – I even stayed with one boyfriend.  It was good; safe and conventional.  However, I think this is where it all slowed down for me.  It wasn’t that amazing things stopped happening for me, I just stopped being relentless in the manifesting of them.

It took a few heartbreaks, bottles of wine, a therapist, a few life changing courses and most significantly; a yoga practice and a life coach, to shake (and wake up)what my mama (and my grandmother )gave me; a sense of wanderlust, enthusiasm and excitement to follow my dreams.

Truth be told, I was dreaming but I wasn’t clear on what dream I wanted to really follow, for a while – I forgot what my dream was.  My wants, and needs, changed every day and they created a smoke screen for my true desires.  I really just couldn’t identify what my dream was – that’s where my coach came in.

So, how does one participate in life, outside of the usual mundane acts of necessity i.e. work, errands, tasks, to-do lists, exercise etc. to produce results or, blessings ?  Because, true happiness – I believe – doesn’t stem from those acts alone, they just create space and make it easier for it to exist.

I put this question out to my Facebook crew and here are some of the responses……………

“Simple. By doing exactly what I want to do all the time with the people who inspire me the most.” Says Aubrey

Elisa says “Constantly picturing myself exactly as I want and where I want to be… And being willing to create that vision on 3 levels 1. Thinking about it 2. Talking about it to anyone and everyone that will listen and 3. Acting only in ways which support its manifestation. Xoxo”

“By accepting where I am meant to be…” Corti

George says “sum it up in one word: Integrity”

My very silly friend Zamdar yells at “bananas and little flying bugs” because they are the only thing stopping him in his life – I might suffice to say he uses humor (might I add ALL. THE. TIME!)

I took a look at some of my own practices, and attitudes, because I wanted to know how I was keeping my own happiness afloat, and cultivating a lot of the blessings that are happening in my life, and they aren’t at all far off from what my friends mentioned.

So, I thought I’d put together, and share, a list of 10 essential practices that, based on conversations with others and my own experiences, seem to always land me face to face with my blessings.

1/ Perspective – I question it from time to time, because it might not actually be making me happy at all.  Does it tend to be cynical or judgmental or make me worry?  Does it have a lot of blame and guilt?  If I can only see a situation or person in a negative way, I find someone to help me actively see a positive side.  Besides my friends, my life coach has made a significant difference in the way that I view myself, my opinions and the actions I take.  Changing my perspective always yields different results – and feelings.

2/. Words – what am I saying in the world?  Even when it’s sarcastic or meant for entertainment, if we’re not being truthful then what are we actually telling people?   I work to be careful with words, to be kind in them.  I strive to always say what I mean, and mean what I say, and stand behind it all with action (unless I am giving you a time I am going to show up at your party – I’ll likely have no integrity around that ask Aubrey).  Like my friend George said “integrity” – it goes a long way (thanks George, see previous sentence).  This is always a work in progress for me but I am clear that the results in my life, and how people treat me, is directly related to what I say.

3/. Internal dialogue – I practice really listening to what I am telling myself.  I listen to the excuses I have for why I can’t do something, or don’t have something, or didn’t achieve or why I lost.  Or the justifications for why I did something that didn’t feel great.  And then I question whether it’s true.   I write morning pages on a regular basis and until then, I was unaware of how negative I was speaking to myself and how often.  I have changed that around to be much kinder – and create possibility.  My coach often reminds me of this in regards to the questions that I ask myself.  She says “The quality of your life depends on the quality of questions you ask yourself”.  So a question that might have been stated as “Why can’t I do that?” is now replaced with “How CAN I do that?” in a quality of tone that sets me up to answer in only productive ways.  Affirmations WORK, by the way.

4/. Gratitude.  We’re such a damn spoilt society that we seem only grateful for the bigger things in life, and material or occasional gifts.  I try to pay attention to someone who smiles at me.  I practice being thankful for the everyday things like having a car to drive, and a bed to sleep in, a shirt on my back, I even try to be grateful for the slow driver in front of me – perhaps he is saving me from an accident ahead!  I practice being grateful every day, not just for the obvious things like my friends, but for the everyday moments that are woven into my life unconsciously (I’ve even been grateful for the parking lot across the street that has a parking space for me – I was reaching)
Sandra says “By being grateful every day for everything, for my breath, my kids, my family, my friends, my pets, even for the cloudy days or for the jerky driver somewhere on the roads. It is the most powerful attitude. I use gratitude as if it was a muscle the more that I use it the stronger it gets.”  I started a daily ritual where I am grateful for the small things and I know it has made a huge difference in my life.  Not only do opportunities just show up for me, I am generally just happier and I truly think it is because of this act alone.  Who doesn’t want to give things to people who are grateful for them?

5/. People – I ask myself “who are the people in your life and what are they supporting in you?  What are they not supporting in you?  How are they reflecting back to you who you are?  Do they inspire you, and challenge you and make you feel important all at the same time?  Are they doing inspiring things?”  I have different people in my life, for different reasons but, as my teacher always says “You are the company you keep, so keep good company”.  I am reminded time and time again when I am frustrated or hurt or angry or disappointed by someone in my life, that I am doing – or have done – the same thing to someone else somewhere in my life.  But, going back to Aubrey’s comment; doing things with people who inspire her – it means there is always a place to go, not someone to compete with – but a place of possibility.

6/. Dream – Every day, am I dreaming?  Am I creating big ones, ones that I can see and feel?  I write them down and give them so much detail that I have a fire in my belly.  I now create little plans to live my dreams, and I revise those dreams when I need new ones. My cousin Rachel reminded me of our grandmother who always said “Darling, your dreams are free”  and she added “therefore, dream BIG, Dream every day! AND always follow your Dreams…cause they’re free, they don’t cost anything!!! Hasn’t done me too badly” and how very right she is.  She is one of the most successful dream catchers I know.

7/. Connecting – I want to always connect with people, connect with nature, connect with my achievements and the journey that I am on.  I have to remind myself to really share with people.  I don’t just mean sharing my words (or my libido), or my opinions,  but am I listening too?  I ask myself all the time “Are you giving people space to open up and be honest?  Are you being honest?”  Please, don’t think this is so easy for me – I have often been quoted as saying “I am a slut for my own company” – as I have gotten older, it’s easier and easier for me to just do my own thing and not reach out but I know that when I do I feel a part of something bigger than myself.  Like Christopher McCandless realized “Happiness only real when shared.”

8/. Compassion – things are never as they seem, not everyone sees the world like you.  I am very clear that I never really know what’s going on with someone, even when I know them so well and particularly when they are seemingly ‘offending’ me by their behavior.  Wayne Dyer often says that ‘everywhere he goes he meets people who are looking to be offended by others.’  As quick as possible, I work to give up the drama and shut-up sometimes.  I find a way to be compassionate to the person who is bothering me the most – I know if I can do that over and over again, I can do anything.

9/. Be active – in my learning, in my body, with my talents, in my healing and health, in my spirituality.  Whenever I hold back, whenever I stop writing or practicing yoga or cooking for myself or reading and consuming new information, I always feel like I lose momentum in my life. I feel stagnant.  For me, staying active with my body and my mind keeps me actively rolling toward my blessings.  I do the work, the emotional and psychological work to keep the quality of my life high – so that I always wake up excited and enthusiastic.  Some of us need more guidance than others but, in my experience, the people who I consider the most ‘together’ and happy and achieved are the ones being active in their life – they are doing the work.

10/. Yoga – it has pulled it all together for me.  It has taught me about my breath, and the power of transformation through it.  It has taught me about the myriad of ways my body can move and strengthen.  It has taught me about the power of surrender and of connection.  It has taught me the power of meditation and most importantly, I found a sense of self and a community through my yoga practice.  Sometimes too it just provides me a good old sweat and a nap at the end – and that’s cool too.  It definitely took me a little while to find the practice that met me, but once I did I knew it was for life.

I am happy to report that I am back now in a conventionally unstable part of my life, relentlessly pursuing my dreams and participating in manifesting, once again – the shit out of my life.

I would love to hear how you participate.

No woman, no cry

No woman, no cry?  No, please do, you should (we all should) once in a while……Occasionally, it’s actually necessary.

The other day I worked with a woman who was grieving for the most recent loss of her dog.  I have mentioned that I am not entirely a dog lover, but I understand the relationship people have with their animals – it is one of unconditional, familial love.  So, no doubt, she was really sad.

In fact, she preempted the booking with this information and a warning that she should be in a room where she won’t disturb other clients in the case that she does in fact, howl.  Heavy.

But, actually.  Healthy.

However, when we met she kept apologizing for crying, or for the fact that she might cry.  She worked hard to hold it in and resist the urge to let it out or, more importantly, to simply feel the emotions of mourning.  “Cry it out sister!”  I wanted to shout.  Please, cry it out.  Cry until your eyes are bloodshot and puffy and you make silly faces.  It’s OK.  It’s called being a compassionate, loving, human being.

Actually, it’s just called being sad because your dog died.  Reasonable.

When did it become socially unacceptable to not just cry in public, but even cry in front of someone in private?  I’ve said before, sorrow simply reminds how much we can love.  And isn’t that what makes the world go around?  When did crying become a sign of weakness?  I’ll admit, crying does hinder activity sometimes insomuch as you can’t do anything else but cry until it’s done. So, say, a soldier in battle might not be the most valuable person if he went all Tom Brady on his battalion while in the middle of war, but on his return – a few tears shed would be healthy.  No?  In fact, maybe it would do us all a lot of good if we saw more of the effects of war in this way.

Or, if you’re still crying over an ex years later it is probably an indication that there is something deeper, unable to attach to reality, going on and you might want to consult a professional. I am not saying crying is always healthy – or necessary, there are extremes to it of course, as evidenced below:


But, kudos to the kid for having no fear – or shame…or any social filter for that matter.

I am not afraid to cry in public (much to the embarrassment of some family members, and some ex-lovers I am sure).  In fact, I’ve cried in subway stops, on many a busy corner in Manhattan, on the phone in a bar, over spaghetti, over vodka, in a yoga class (more than once), at a concert and of course, my personal favorite – at the airport.  Oh, and there has been the drunk/hung-over cry – but we can leave that one alone for now.

I found myself wiping tears off my cheek on a packed train listening to Krishna Das on my iPod the other day (it wasn’t the same train I was sitting on with my eye rolling neighbor), not because of anything completely sad, but more because of the overwhelming love I feel in his music.  Some might consider this too emotional, and I’ll agree – so long as you take out the ‘too’ part.  What does that mean – too emotional?  Who holds the tear barometer?  It felt good to experience so much emotion I shed a little tear.

I have come to discover that I am feeling more – and this is a good thing.  It’s a good thing because our feelings are really our true barometer of where we are (and where we are not).  Our society holds a lot of weight on thought, we are taught to think our life into existence and that is good when you’re dealing with economics and logistics but is it useful, without feeling, in relationships?  Maybe we’re thinking a little bit too much in them.  I get the sense that so many of us often feel something but then think it’s not a good idea to share it ( or worse, think ourselves out of the feeling), this isn’t always healthy.  It’s strategic.

I also wonder, what experience are we denying someone (or ourselves) when we are holding back from a good cry?  Would you ask someone to stop laughing?  Essentially they’re both an innate reaction to something touching right? Something that speaks to us, whether emotional or humorous.  Who hasn’t laughed until you’ve cried, or cried until you’ve laughed?  I sort of feel like each could be the others bookend.

On a scientific note, an emotional tear carries toxins far different from a tear induced by an onion.  Researcher, William Frey found that stress-induced tears actually remove ‘substances’ from the body.  Yep, a good cry just doesn’t feel good because it releases emotional baggage; it actually releases things that aren’t good for you.  Another point for crying.

Back to my repressed crying client.  In the end, I gave her hug – I started there, she cried.  Then I loaded her up with tissues, and the gesture made her cry more.  I treated her and by the end of the session she was smiling.  Not because she had released all her tears, but she had released something and that felt good enough for now.  Sometimes grief happens in layers, but it’s important to let it happen.

This is a much more layered topic – there are deep psychological reasons that some people don’t have the emotional capacity to cry and I am not qualified to address that but if you’re a person who simply holds back – why not shed a tear or two because, after the tears, in the words of Bob Marley  ‘everything is gonna be alright’

My recent Reiki treatment

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Where is your left hand right now?  You’re right foot?  Are you aware of the surface that you are leaning against?  Have you been touching something long enough that you are not even sure of the sensation of weight?

Funny isn’t it, how we can spend so long in a position and completely lose sense of a sensation (or the sensation shifts).  It’s the same with our energy (and I don’t mean the hyped up kind of energy you get in Gatorade bottle) – you know the one I am talking about, the kind you can’t define – and not always aware of.

The kind that is channeled in Reiki.

I recently had a Reiki session with Vicky Cook  (who I would link to but she doesn’t have anything to link to…so spiritual ;)), who is a dear friend as well as a simply beautiful human being and intelligent healer, and I am keen to tell you about it.

I have had Reiki at various times, but not formally – just snippets of people practicing their newly studied skill which is an entirely different experience to receiving a session completely focused on you/me.

Reiki (pronounced Ray-key) has its traditions rooted in Asia, particularly Japan.  It’s essentially a form of healing which involves the channeling of universal energy from a practitioner to a patient/client/recipient, via the hands.  It’s a ‘Healing Art’ – as Vicky says.  The practitioner is essentially the conduit for this positive, healing energy.

Uni-fucking-versal energy? I can hear it in your voice……”Oh Puhleese! All you new-agey people always talk about universal energy, like it’s some vague concept that keeps us others ‘out’”.  Let me give you another example – a hug.  Think of how you feel when are hugged by the person you love….healing energy right there baby.  That’s the kind of energy that is tapped into in Reiki.

Honesty on the table, I was pretty cocky going in that I wasn’t going to feel anything except gratitude for the rest I needed.  I seem to always prepare for disappointment with healing modalities that don’t include some form of sweat and effort (i.e. yoga) and intense physical pain or adjustments (deep tissue massage, chiropractic etc.)  It’s not that I don’t have faith – I have a lot of faith – just not always of my own ability to completely let go.

Of course, I am very conscious of energy all the time – without even trying – and that wasn’t a pompous, hubristic remark.  It’s part of the business of delivering Zen (and I say that with my tongue firmly in my cheek), much like a musician is conscious of distant sounds, or an artist sees another shade of green.

If I am not conscious of your energy, or the energy of a yoga room with many people, people won’t trust me, or relate to me.  Put it this way, it’s much like George W. Bush not really being conscious of the effects of decisions he made while in office – and look where we are now….still a little broken.

But, I digress – of course I do (just going with the energy man…)

Universal energy is in direct cahoots with your instinct.  Your instinct really is very powerful with a connection to it, as evidenced here.

Scientists have had a hard time measuring the effects of Reiki, but there have been studies that have shown an increase in production of cells after a Reiki treatment.   If you aren’t living under a rock you might have heard the term ‘quantum physics’ – the idea that cells are influenced by thought – manifestation.  It’s along the same lines.

So what actually happens?  I hear you ask.  A session can last about an hour, sometimes less.  You lay on a table fully clothed, relax and then the practitioner gently puts his/her hands slightly above or gently on various areas of your body (usually start with the head and then general areas like your joints; knees, hips etc. and feet).  There is little touching at all.

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You don’t actually feel the heaviness of touch, like, say, going to a masseuse, but you feel the practitioners hands close by. Vicky starts to connect with the energy, and lightly takes a ‘scan’ of my body, feeling any blockages – essentially feeling where she should focus.  Then, she gently holds her hands over areas where she feels need it.

I was really hoping for something amazing to happen, I truly was, but I was doubtful.  I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and then let the magic happen….and it did.  My session was, quite frankly ….. Insert a more creative and expressive word for amazing here __________________.

I have tightness and some pain in my right hip and knee, Vicky spent the longest time there.  My right hip started to become really warm, and then my knee started twitching in a sort of convulsing way.  When she came up to my left shoulder, I felt this overwhelming sense of emotion (felt like love)  in my chest – my body started to tingle and I burst into tears….like a tropical storm – it came with force and then ended just as quickly.  Leaving a silent hum.

Almost a week later and I can’t wait for my next session, my body definitely feels different.  Lighter.    Maybe science can’t measure it; perhaps it doesn’t seem as effective because it’s not labeled in a bottle but what of the idea that we can just feel it?  How is that for a concept?

Here is how Vicky describes this art:

“Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes

healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an
unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If
one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it
is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.
The word Reiki is made of two Japanese words – Rei which means “God’s Wisdom or
the Higher Power” and Ki which is “life force energy”. So Reiki is actually “spiritually
guided life force energy……
….While Reiki is spiritual in nature, it is not a religion. It has no dogma, and there is nothingyou must believe in order to learn and use Reiki. In fact, Reiki is not dependent on beliefat all and will work whether you believe in it or not. Because Reiki comes from a highersource, many people find that using Reiki puts them more in touch with the experience oftheir religion rather than having only an intellectual concept of it.”

Here are some articles you might find interesting to further your curiosity

http://www.reikiteaching.co.uk/page10.html

http://wisechoices.blogspot.com/

http://www.skepdic.com/reiki.html