On the process of moving forward.

This morning, as I helped my daughter with her violin home practice, we had a conversation about the process of learning and ‘improving’.  In order to reach the next level/phase/step in any process of learning, you must practice and ‘master’ the skills associated with the level you are at.  Then, through a variety of techniques, you move on gently pushing yourself forward through practice, repetition and focus.  Parts of this process are challenging and quite frankly, boring.  Parts of this process feel effortless and exhilarating.  All of it:  the tedium, the joy, the frustration, the fun…. are necessary components to development.

As far as I can see, this is true of all artistic processes and maybe most everything.  We know it in music, art, dance, martial arts, creative writing, etc.  Knowing its truth does not make it easy or desirable. I’ve known many who simply give up or walk away when they reach one of these points of transition that are especially difficult or frustrating.  And perhaps that TOO is an appropriate response.  After all, timing is everything. And we can’t possibly expect to be experts at everything.  At least not all at once!

Interestingly, there is one place in my work that I am perhaps most motivated to “succeed” where I see other drop off or plateau regularly. That is in the process of self-discover or awakening.  Many claim to be on this path towards wholeness and ‘enlightenment’, but few are willing to really push through the places of resistance and engage in the difficult work that it takes to get there.  Many find a place along that path that feels good/comfortable and simply remain there without much resistance.  This is also true in many other disciplines.  My daughter could choose to stop progressing in the violin at the point she is now. She would still be able to impress her friends with her playing, bring out the violin at Holiday gatherings to play for family, teach the basics to kids and perhaps play with a community orchestra.  This would be a fine place to stop.  Or she can continue and aspire towards something else.  The choice is hers and we talk about this choice frequently.

Spiritual development follows many of the same patterns.  We can use our practices (meditation, yoga, energy work) to move us forward OR we can plateau at a place we feel cozy and choose to stay here.  Both are viable options especially when chosen consciously. There is a vital difference though here from other practices.  This ‘self awareness’ piece is something we all are engaged in whether we are consciously working on it or not. The same is not true of the violin, for example.  Because we are all human and in the process of evolving both individually and together, the self-work we do effects not only our personal existence, but our collective experience as well. Every single one of us on the planet. And where we choose (if you believe its a choice) to plateau has a profound impact on our world.  Its a spectrum, of course, and knowing where you are on that spectrum represents a key element of our awareness.  Understanding the reasons and necessity for moving forward is also a key part of this awareness.  Its not just about YOU.  In this one area of our life, we truly are all connected.

In my work, I guide people through the process of moving to that next level. Whatever it is for them. Wherever they are in the moment.  That process, by its very nature, involves intricate detail and subtle awareness around where it is easy to get stuck, give up or plateau.  Especially those deceptive places that make think you have arrived, when really you are still in the process itself.  Its a tricky  balance that I see as a kind of dance.  But this is my specialty and I work invisibly.

Knowing and expecting that you will get pushed, that there will be resistance, that you’ll have a natural tendency to want to reach for the practices and places that represent “escapism” in its many deceitful forms when the going gets tough.  And then, being willing to take a deep breath in and take the next step forward….  anyway.   This is the process of living and learning and evolving.  And when we are able to see that our spiritual development requires the same kind of learning process that ever other “skill” we have every attained requires, we’ll slowly begin to understand both the process of AND the necessity of this work. This vital component to the well being of our present moment and all future generations on this beautiful planet.

May you find the courage, strength and support you need to bravely and boldly take your next steps forward in this moment, today, this week and this life.

peace.

 

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Where or where is “yoga”?

October 27, 2017
A conversation I had recently went something like this:
“Oh, you are doing art & meditation & sound healing, but no ‘yoga’ for the workshop?” 
 How is THIS not yoga?  How is all of THIS not yoga?  Have we forgotten what yoga IS? Did we ever know in the first place?  Everything is Yoga when Yoga is understood.  There is no separation between not yoga & yoga.  As I write, I am practicing my yoga.  As I sit, I am practicing my yoga.  As I plan my day, I am practicing my yoga.  These are not just words to say and repeat robotically. This is not just a script I have been trained to recite. This is not just a theory or exercise. This is the most profound truth I have ever known.  Yoga is “Union”. These are not words to be taken lightly. Not a phrase to be gently smiled upon as you nod in agreement.  Saying it is not enough. Reading it is not enough.  Printing it on a T-shirt, is not enough.  Telling others is not enough.
Understanding it, is everything.  Let is sink in.  Let it inform every aspect of your life. 
Yoga Is Union.
Sometimes I think studios and the studio culture has completely ruined yoga by cultivating the culture that yoga is something you can pay for.   Something you can go to and experience for an hour and then go home or back to work or wherever.  Something you can read in a book on or have printed on a bumpersticker. Something you “Do”.  Something you can call/label yourself.
Yes, I am aware of the counter arguments regarding making a living and money as an accepted and valuable form of exchange.  And I am in no way against any of that. Still, I find myself asking all the time:  What have we lost, what are we in the process of losing, as yoga becomes increasingly commodified, “studio-ified”?   Its a big question.  Perhaps it is too late.  But asking it will help us as other spiritual paths (shamanism, meditation) go mainstream and are in danger of walking this same slippery slope .
I wonder how many of us really think about this, sink our teeth into this question and engage it fully?  Really consider, 10 years out, where does this path I am paving lead?  What are the pros and cons of the choices I am making now,  to the future collective awakening of this world, this consciousness?  Am I helping, or hurting?  Can I be honest? Can I even know?  Does that make it OK?
Is Beer/Cat/Glitter/Naked (fill in the blank) Yoga truly guiding us to awakening? (assuming thats everyones goal, which is a big assumption, I know.)  If it is now, does that make it a good idea?  What even contributes to our understanding of what is a ‘good idea’ or not? Thats the bigger question.
Before I started teaching “yoga & sound”, I went first to my Yoga Guru and asked him if this pairing was in accordance with the yoga lineage that I am a part of.  I then went to my Sound Healing teacher and asked her what she thought about it as well.  Both gave me their blessings, their feedback, their assurance that this was an appropriate use of both these tools.  Only then did I design the ‘curriculum’ and start teaching “yoga & sound healing”.
When you’re not sure if your work is ultimately contributing to “the greater good”, ask your teachers, your guides, your gurus, ask the Divine.  And them be willing to listen.
I am a humble vessel for the Divine and respectfully tread very carefully anytime I create a “new offering”. This is tremendously powerful work.
  • Its time to stop being so aloof with the term “yoga” and how it is applied.
  • Its time to practice better discernment as we come up with new ideas and how to apply them.
  • Its time to not just judge whether something is a good idea or not by how many people show up or come through the door.
  • Its time to be willing to live and breathe “Eyes Wide Open” instead of just saying it.
This is my wishlist at this time.  Its a personal wishlist, not meant to be coercive, judgmental or derogatory in any way.  Just one persons vision of what is happening now and one persons dream of a better tomorrow.
“May you see clearly the path before you. May you  understand fully the path behind you.  And may you walk with Grace, truth, equanimity, compassion and focus, in the here & now.”

The Secret Ceremony

it started in a dream.  or was it a dream, really? turtles.
Turtles, crossing the road, moving forward. Traveling slowly, as turtles do, while cars whizzed by them. The turtles, unfazed by the speed of that which was moving around them.  Steady, slow, determined.
This crossing to where?  why? I wondered these things as I witnessed their travels.  Cars stopped.  A momentary pause in the buzz of activity.  A driver gets out,  helps the Turtle reach a safer place on its journey.  Everyone is patient, no one gets irritated.  In a brief moment we are all connected to this turtle, her journey, and we are all reverent in the process.
This is a gift, this crossing.  To those who witness it, not just to the one initiated.  I see this scene, not once, not twice, but 3…4 times played out. Exactly the same each time.  I am always the car right next to to the car who stops the traffic for the turtle.  Like a co-pilot, a prime witness, to this event.  I wonder in vain, ‘what does it mean”?  But meaning is often difficult to ascertain in the moment. There is only being present to what is happening.  meaning follows presence.
 And then the turtle enters my dreams.  Night after night I dream of turtles.  The last night of these dreams, the most potent.  A beautiful huge sea turtle who is trapped.  something heavy tied around its back leg holds it to the sea floor.  I saw this injustice happening.  Someone did it intentionally. I felt it like it happened to me. And so I am searching for the sunken sea turtle, with little hope for its survival. With diligence, I find it. I see her limp body weighted to the bottom of the sea.  I go in to bring her out, and as I lift her out of the water, I see her still struggling to free herself.  Her limbs fanning the air around her in an invisible dance.  My heart leaps. She is alive.  More than just alive, she is totally fine.  I untangle her foot and place her on the waters edge and for a moment she turns around and we lock eyes. The turtle and I.  And the depth of her gratitude washes over me as a gift of tremendous bounty.  I am humbled.
 And she turns and dives into the water.
 Free.

she persists.

this persistence, it is the very thing we are made of.  Flesh, bone, blood, persistence.  I believe it is what holds us together at our very core.  Many have forgotten. Too many.  As we have moved into places, initiated our ascent,  motivated by fear, by threats, by bribes, by guilt, by the need to prove how successful, beautiful, important and relevant we are …. the slow, steady, mundane pace of persistence is in danger of being lost. forgotten.  forever.  we are in trouble.

Its not sexy.  Or radical.

Its not juicy.  Or big.

this persistence.

say it. listen to its whisper.

Persistence is not about taking risks,  making leaps of faith, diving into the unknown.  It is not the “just do it” mentality of  pop culture fame and fortune.  Nor is it the ignorance of looking the other way.  Of giving up and giving in.  I can’t bear to hear one more person applaud the accomplishment of tough as nails pushing through barriers, of the value of being a radical risk-taker.  I can’t bear to hear one more person tout the ‘let it all go and just wait for sign’, the trust in the universe and you don’t have to ‘do’ anything,  mentality either.

Where is our sense of balance?  of persistence?

I know.  I look to the artists.  Not the ones you’ve ever heard of.  Not the ones in museums and big deal NY galleries.  Not the ones who are famous, or almost famous, or who have created a life that makes them a true living through their art.  No. Not them.

I look to the real world, struggling, mundane, ordinary artists who persist.  The ones who, in addition to full time jobs (by necessity), families, responsibilities and general adulting, still… still make time to make their art.  They do it without recognition. They do it without reward.  They do it in too small spaces, in too small gaps of time between things.  They don’t do it perfectly, or every day.  They don’t waste their precise little time applying for shows and recognition. But still…. but still, they persist.  Unknown to anyone they persist.  They persist in spite of everything.  When every impulse, pressure and sign indicates how difficult it is, they persist.  why?  Why?  Is it just for their own gratification?  Is it just so they don’t forget who they are?  or maybe, just maybe, they are silently teaching, leading the way in the invisible realm.  Showing, guiding us, in the principles of persistence.

If you want to know the truth about persistence and not some trademarked version of it, you must seek these people out.  Understand what it means to buck the trend of accomplishment to find the soul of authenticity.

Look to the artists.  The quiet ones.  The not motivated by success ones. There is so much wisdom here.

Lets not lose touch with the heart of persistence.

I know.  I persist.

 

Phoenix.

 

I am on fire this morning. A blazing hot transmuting machine.

My soul is shining bright in this dark dark place. My vision razor sharp and focussed.
These are the times I am made for. To shed. To Shift. To Awaken.
This is the work I was born to do. This journey has led me here in this place and time. Right in the center of it all. There’s no place I’d rather be.
Denial is useless. I must own this dark place and rip it open from the very center where I stand. Turning the fabric of the universe inside out, because I know,
oh,
I know,
whats on the other side.

Octavia

A story from my day.  Celebrating the extraordinary within the ordinary.  May your lense be clear so that you may see the light all around you now, and always.

I met a woman yesterday.  She was in front of Safeway ringing two bells, one in each hand. She was a Salvation Army volunteer.  Red apron on, christmas hat askew and a broad smile on her warm weathered face.  I noticed she was dancing a little, while ringing her bells, one in each hand.  Creating a rhythm, a pattern and enjoying the moment.  I tapped the beat with my foot as I walked to get my cart. She made me smile.  I greeted her warmly and went inside to shop.

When I came outside after shopping, my son was hungry “RIGHT NOW MOMMY!!!!!” he demanded.  So I sat with him and all our groceries at one of the outdoor tables and let him eat some food I had just purchased.  At that moment, the bell ringing woman appeared.  She was on a break and had a snack with her. She sat at the table behind us to rest and eat.  As she walked by I again said  “hello!”  and smiled broadly.  Her presence truly made me happy. My son looked at her, than at me,  and as though knowing what I was thinking he said (very loudly)  “I hate it when you talk to strangers Mom.  It really bothers me.  You don’t know her.  Why are you saying ‘hi’ like you know her?  You’re embarrassing me.”  and on and on he went as only an 8 yo can.  I listened and gently tried to tell him that she didn’t seem like a stranger to me because I saw her so often in front of the Safeway.  I went on to talk about community and the people we live side by side with who are not really “strangers” at all.  In fact, none of us are really “strangers”.  This just caused him to get more upset and so I was about to just drop it and have the conversation later , when the woman came over to us.

“Hi” she said to us both cheerily.  “Do you mind if I talk to your child?”  she asked me.  “No, not at all” I offered and asked my boy if he would listen to what she had to say.  He didn’t respond to my request, but the woman jumped in amiably.

“Can I talk to you for a moment please?” she asked kindly .  He rolled his eyes and deliberately looked the other way.

“Well, ”  she coaxed, “I would like to see your eyes when we talk please.  Do you mind looking at me?”

To my surprise, he turned to face her and offered her  his intense full gaze.  She met it with absolute gentleness and equal intensity.

“Well,” she began “I just wanted to tell you a little bit about myself so we don’t have to be strangers.”

She went on to talk about her life a bit, how she was old (grandmother age she told him!), how she worked for 25 years and then retired.  She explained to him how much she loves people, ALL people, and how she has the strong desire to help others.  She said that after she retired she couldn’t just sit at home and do nothing so she started volunteering wherever she could.  She now volunteers with Salvation Army working 10 hour days in front of Safeway ringing her bells and hoping kind people will give whatever they can to the charity.  She talked about families and children who have very little, no toys, no home, no food, and how every little bit helps and how each time we reach out to help another, we make the world a better place.  She told him how lucky he was to have parents, a home, food, warm clothes, toys and to always be grateful. She did all this without ever sounding preachy or getting angry or raising her voice or making him/us feel bad about our privilege. His gaze met hers the whole time and she never once looked away from him.

At the end she simply said to my boy, “Thank you so much for listening to me”

And then I turned to her and asked her name. “Octavia” she said.  I expressed my gratitude for taking the time to talk to my son.  She smiled a kind “You’re welcome” and gently went back to her meal.

A moments exchange that revealed humanity at its very best.  The kind words of a wise elder meeting the willing ears of a young boy.  In this exchange, I saw the most authentic expression of hope.

We can change the world.  One person at a time.  We just need to listen. And speak with authenticity.

 

Broken

 

I am shattered.  Into a million tiny bits.  Scattered everywhere at once.   In this space, there is not even an inside to come to.  There is nothing. I am broken.
And yet still, I breathe.  And this breath, well, it must have a container, right?
And this heart?  Well, it is still beating too and so it must also have a body.
But the pieces of myself that are torn to shreds are the ones that belong to my Eternal Being, not this physical one. It is painful beyond words.  It is devastating beyond compare.  I am not sure that I am reparable.  I feel rage, anger, sadness, desperation, sorrow….
until the breath, it calls me.  And slowly with each inhale, I feel a tiny shard of me return.  It may not be much, but it is a beginning, and I’ll take it.  With focus and intention,  I use my breath to bring in more pieces.  and more.  and more. There are so so so many still to collect.  Collect them, I must and will.
I am reminded of a broken piece of pottery my then 6yo son laboriously taped together.  Each and every tiny ceramic shard.  He taped it back to its perfect original form. It took him hours.  I remember looking at that tenderly repaired pottery, now so obviously “imperfect” and feeling a surge of incredible love for him and the time and care he took.  Each piece of tape represented his concentration and intent.  He didn’t give up until it was whole again.
And then he sheepishly presented it to me, wondering if I’d noticed it had been broken in the first place. I actually did not notice.  I just thought how odd it was he decided to cover the small bowl in tape.  When I realized what had happened, that bowl took on new meaning, it became a symbol of what is possible when we care, when we are willing to do something that seems impossible, like taping a bowl back together teeny tiny bit by bit not leaving even the smallest piece out.  And it was more beautiful to me than it had ever been in its original form.  Its function as a bowl long lost.  But its inspiration as a symbol of perserverance profoundly moving.
This image, this memory, of that bowl, keeps me going.  Keeps me searching out more scattered pieces.  Keeps me focused on putting myself back together with tenderness and care and the willingness to believe it is possible.  With the innocence and compassion and willingness of a child who cares… a whole lot, I slowly come back to Wholeness.