momentum

I wish I’d started this online writing habit sooner. I had a hard time transitioning from processing things on paper to processing things, well, essentially on a lot of tiny pieces of paper and corners of envelopes, but the most consistent of my writing practice to be at a keyboard is new, and i actually really like it and my fingers are grateful and it will be easier to edit. I have no interest in even reading my old journals (never really have – except for the 8 nights of Ganesha and our New Year’s Eve reminiscences. Anyhow…

Spirituality, and more specifically spiritual awakening to me defined as experiencing the unity of god-consciousness, more easily understood perhaps as considering everything and acting as if everything is God Herself unfolding before your eyes and heart. That’s the estimable prize, recognizing The Beloved in EVERYTHING, Worshiping Life Itself In This Moment Exactly How It Is. Truly Surrendering in Perfect Trust to the Present Moment and aspiring to let that air breathe through your being in a testament to love. Then life becomes your privilege, you get to be the ambassador of love in every situation you meet. Yes, this is what I want more than anything. What else could I want? To be a good partner or parent, daughter or employee? All those things come with total devotion to Life Itself Unfolding. (I had a lady really say some nice things about me at the monastery gift shop and what fell out of my mouth was, ‘yeah, devotion to god will do that..”

So, yes, this is what I care about to distraction. Evolving. Realizing, Embodying and Expressing Love Itself Everywhere. Do I fall short? sure. all the time, but less and less.

Spirituality has always been in my top 3 concerns.  No question. I really am fascinated by life itself and love and spring and cycles of nature and all this stuff that’s so much bigger than me, that works with remarkable harmony even if speckled with crisis. Contemplating the nature of nature has taken up thousands of hours of my time. And I still understand so little. But that which I understand is so tender and brilliant and remarkable.

My health had been my #1 priority since rhode island. once that had a jump improvement, it became the trip. and probably during the trip spirituality shifted from #2 to #1. And what a trip it’s been. I’m noticing a lot of progress towards more love and greater freedom, more release and openness to new learning. Since evolving is my top priority and this sounds like evolving, I am feeling very much on the right track. I don’t want to get to attached to that, though, because life is constantly shifting, but with spirituality in the driver’s seat, in living and expericing life in service to life itself — cut to I think Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography (penguin classic) and he had this wonderful prayer he would say – and i’d like to go find it but i don’t have it close, and I’ll paraphrase:

Dear Lord, please accept my kind offerings to my fellow man as the only means at my disposal of demonstrating my gratitude to You for all your goodness…

Man, I love that concept. I envision a world where that sentiment (how we treat each other is how we praise God) is obvious.

I should also probably spell out that Life Itself is my most pleasing name for the creative force of the universe, or God, or whatever animates us.

But this post was about momentum, and I am feeling decidely new momentum. Little moments of awakening are shattering now-defunct beliefs (you can’t unlearn how to ride a bike). It makes me wish i started doing this sooner (ha! ties in with the start of this!) because transitions that used to take months and years feel like they’re happening in weeks and maybe that’s true and maybe it’s not. But I’m grateful for the momentum and happy to capture the moment in time (seems like it has a relationship to the word momentum)

Some Things I believe

I believe in Life Itself. I believe that Life is life-positive, because life-negative experiences dissolve into the loam for new life, as evidenced everywhere. in all of nature. So, I believe the universe is friendly. Indeed, I believe the universe loves us, and every bit of itself, ecstatically.

I believe that I was created, that I am being breathed by something much more expansive than the Lisa Johnson nee Sferlazza that’s been walking around thinking about herself for 50 years. It’s much more interesting than that. That we, as expressions of life, were created by something much bigger than us, much more subtle, much more powerful – and that something is responsible for all the fascinating stuff of this planet, of this cosmos, in our bodies and our minds.

I believe we are at a really interesting time in human history.

I believe the best I can hope for is the Prayer of St. Francis. May I be an instrument of Love Itself moving through Life Itself.

Being that instrument is my #1 priority. I don’t always get it right, and I’m often quite a silent instrument, but being that instrument is #1 for me. It is, I think, the highest possible expression of my being and the one I want to give the world. It’s what I want to contribute to evolution. My evolved self is fully and radiantly expressing love. full-time. 24/7/365.

Being is the present moment. Life is this collection of moments in constant change and at once very much the same. Being as an expression of Life is exhibited everywhere, and that being is also always in a state of becoming and a state of having had been something else. Or not. I am here to let life live as me and through me. Life. Living. yes, it moves through this personality, and yes, things come and go, some more endearing than others. But life is moving through. we are growing and evolving and changing even when we don’t notice. We notice how much we’re changing when we’re sitting in stillness.

This is just a start of something I’d like to nurture and make concise and compelling, talking about Life Itself and Love, the Divine and Human Choice and evolution and heaven on earth and prayer without ceasing, out of sheer gratitude. I love it.

i believe every breath counts. every choice counts. every gesture of trust counts.

I believe the yin yang symbol is literal. That we are composed of dynamic forces in ultimate harmony. and as we move in relationship and understanding of those forces, we are in flow. and that’s such a nice place to be. creative, open, assured, curious…

I always know what to do now

It’s been a long time coming, but I finally know what to do. And it’s becoming a habit.

In any given moment, if I am sad or confused or struggling in any way, I now know that the very best thing that I can do – for my health, for my sanity, for my best response in whatever situation I am in – is to take a deep breath. Or five. Or start on a pattern of deep breathing that will be the wind that will sail me through this experience with as much presence, surrender and action (what? aren’t those contradictory? not necessarily) I can muster.

  1. begin the deep breaths
  2. smile
  3. relax the body
  4. notice where the body is holding additional opportunities for release
  5. keep with the breath
  6. remember what I’m here for*
  7. re-relax the body
  8. reconsider the situation from this new and improved state

If the situation still merits concern, worry, or more time before it can be resolved, I like to invoke a mantra. It could be anything – some people use Louise Hay affirmations, bible verses, vedic mantras or buddhist… A couple of my favorites are “there is nothing wrong here” and “i love knowing Life Itself is ever-unfolding and I am part of that.” I also love the Paul Selig “wording” and Byron Katie’s “the work” has been really nice lately.

In any case, it is super exciting that this pattern is revealing itself as a habit. A habit I’ve long wanted to cultivate, but I also had a lot invested in taking things personally. You know, assessing if my any of my definitions of/sense of identity or self was being assaulted in any way, and then getting on with the testy work of defending said construct. Lousy habit. this one is better.

Taking a deep breath is always the best path (unless you’re in some seriously polluted air, which happens a lot, especially in a few Asian cities. But beside from that, the deep breath, the body relaxation, the prayer – that is *virtually always, if not always* the *very best* thing I can bring to a moment. The situation I am in will get the best version of response from me and interaction with me when I am operating from that space. It is simple and free, it demands I recognize that I am enough right now, just as I am, and I can meet whatever it is I am facing. This is the style of living I want to cultivate. And have be my standard operating system, which is hopefully naturally always evolving itself.

Any skill I can then employ, any knowledge I can offer, an contribution I can make is then coming from it’s fullness, not the lack of the situation or the fear of it continuing. Things get much simpler much more quickly, and I am also learning a new way of interacting with my own body (because when I check in my body is almost always in some weird, stressful contortion somewhere or another).

The Ministry of Stillness

Welcome to the Ministry of Stillness. Membership is free. We are available everywhere, pay  a thousand-fold on every deposit, and provide an education that serves every interest. The Ministry is completely unstaffed, as the Ministery resides in the Stillness of the individual heart. With no rules or by-laws, the ministry includes the collection of moments, practices and intentions void of action. It does not require exclusive dominion in the life of it’s members, and indeed enhances the Activities of Life (the counterpoint to the Stillness).

Initiation into the Ministry requires:

1 single, deep, intentional breath.

Much like potato chips, we bet you can’t eat just one. One single, intentional breath each day is a significant and important practice in its own right. It’s good for you body, it’s good for your mind… but it opens a door to the concept of wholeness. of this moment being ok just as it is. Much like with the chips, you *can* eat just one, but why would you?  Once you fully connect to stillness in that 1 breath, which should happen within a month of beginning daily practice, it’s like you saved yourself a bunch of incarnations. you’ve set yourself on a path oself-carere, self compassion, presence, wholeness… it sounds all goody two shoes in concept (or pious or boring or something like that) but it is exciting and dynamic and ever-expressive.

People say you have to sit and meditate for a while to get the benefits, but I sortof feel that reverse-engineering it might be where it is at. Create single-breath experiences that feel so good you can’t help but want to do two. then three. and maybe 5 minutes and maybe 20… Being so in love with the feeling that we can’t help but create room for it. Although making the room for it and sitting is nice, too. Let’s face it, there’re as many ways to meditate as there are experiences of meditation, as well as only one. Life. Is. Dichotemy. except when it isn’t.

But, the Ministry has levels of experience once you decide to join, with corresponding gifts and costs – like bank deposits in the 60’s, where you get a free toaster or coffee maker. Or PBS donations.

Here are some ballpark potentials based on my experience, while of course your mileage may vary:

Believer: Cost: Remembering 1-5 times per day to take a deep breath (or 5. or 20). Benefit: improved digestion, heart health and chemical equilibrium. Improved presence in the daily life.

Apprentice-level. Cost: Intention, Focus and Time (10 min/day). Benefit: all those of previous level plus infusing calm and wholeness into life; the beginnings of peace and wonder

Accepting life as your teacher and the breath as your connection to it, you spend 10 minutes a day in not-doing. Pausing the body and breathing deeply. One minute at a time, 10 all together, whatever. This infuses stability into your experience and gives you an idea of who you might be with  or without all of these plans in your head. what then? who experienced that, and now what? It’s a pretty cool trajectory, outside of the dramas of the personality and into the experience of the person.

Master-level. Cost: 100’s of mini-identities we hold onto for no reason; 20 minutes per day. Benefit: The expansion of the experience of wholeness. The end of trying.

As the focus of life turns from the dramas to the experiencer, this level requires probably about 20 minutes per day. However they occur.

At this level, you get everything from the Apprentice -level benefits package, PLUS the beginning of the disentanglements from all of the bullshit that keeps the space between your ears feeling like a battlefield. Cost is high (doing this work is uncomfortable), but payoff is transformative. Once you address (not even fix!) this stuff, you can’t be enslaved again.

This is the defusing of the triggers that keep you caught in feelings of shame, abandoment, sadness, defensiveness, unrequited desire… all of that stuff. So you can take your breaths and infuse your body with life, as it is right now, loving you, breathing you, wondering where your creativity and love will take us all next. It’s empowered, creative, curious and brave.

FACING THIS STUFF IS HARD, but it can be surprisingly gentle. I STRONGLY SUGGEST ANOTHER HUMAN, LIKE A THERAPIST, IN THE MIX. There are lots of tools, too (off the top of my head, EFT, TheWork of Byron Katie, Radical Forgiveness) but HEALING HAPPENS IN RELATIONSHIP. (this is definitely something that needs its own post, but for now just accept that as worth considering).

I think fear of this process is what keeps most people from wanting to slow down, being willing to experience stillness. (In stillness, all of it exists, but none of the stories about it do, which is disorienting if you’re really stuck in some stories).

I think people think it’s an endless pit and quagmire. It’s not. It’s like a knotted up necklace, or a tangle of thread. Difficult. Requiring patience. False starts. Slow movement. The whole bit. But, with slow and diligent effort it becomes untangled and then there isn’t a tangle there. And that is FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC. It looks like a bottomless pit, but it’s just an oil slick. Slippery, yes, and you might slip and fall on your way through it, but really just a slick, barely a few inches deep. not nearly as scary as it seems.

Integral: Cost: the re-prioritization of your life entirely, towards your own evolution. 30 minutes per day. Benefits: That which you’d been chasing begins presenting itself to you.

Benefit: evolution. Beingness. This is the space i’m exploring, so i can’t speak about it directly, though there are lots of people (thomas hubl comes to mind, with loads of others)

It should also be discussed, the stillness of illness and the categories of membership in that arena. Medically, I sometimes put myself on a 15 minutes of every hour REST and I do quite well, getting a lot done in those 45 without overexerting. and the 15 restful often distills the next best step without really having to think about it. Highly recommend.

More to come

Yawning

If every breath counts, which it obviously does ENORMOUSLY, yawns are like the hyper-power boosts like from a videogame. You know how sometimes you have to go around collecting hearts to fill your lifeline back up, but once in a while you can just collect one super heart that restores you to 100%? Or like the full restore in Pokemon? What? Videogame references from the girl who has less than 10% videogame saturation? Yep. I’m a product of my environment…

But, yawning, man, this is a practice. It is a boon. You’d never had thunk it, but once you do it with intention you’ll be amazed at what you can do. Indeed, I think that anyone that yawned every hour and/or between activities for three full days, at every transition-point, would be hooked for life because life responds very quickly with flow.

I’d love to create an app to help remember this. I remember doing A Course In Miracles 25 years ago, using stopwatches and timers, trying to remember to remember every 10 minutes. I’d get inventive because I loved it so much, and I loved what it activated in my day so much, but without a cue I would too easily forget – just fully neglect infusing moments with presence as I ran around through the course of my day. But everything is so individual and unique, i don’t know if technology can get us there (although i guess plenty of apps remind you to get up and stretch these days. which is good.). But I wonder if determination to be present, to remember isn’t part of the requirement. But, then again, we should take all the help we can get on the road to sheer and utter love. Let’s all experience that as fully as we can as often as we can, using whatever tools and practices facilitate that state.

So, back to this ‘every breath counting,’ yawnings are clearly superbreaths. I hadn’t realized this until I read “neurowisdom” by two members of the faculty of the MBA program at Loyola-Maramount. I only read the first third of the book, but it extolled the evidence-based virtues of yawning and then the rest of the book seemed to apply yawning in different applications – as in, yawning was the core and central message with a thousand applications and benefits for optimal brain health and functioning. Serioiusly? Yes? Ok! Yes, please!

 

Been there…

I know a man who is amazing. he is 95 years old. Yep. and he is funny and smart and still sharp as a tack. he is not, however, the most stable walker in the world. His limbs are beginning to get the better of him. He is holding out as long as he can, sometimes using a walker, sometimes a cane. He should be using that walker 100% of the time, but he’s pacing himself – or something.

I feel for him. So deeply. He is holding on to his independence. He’s holding on to the notions of himself he’s been carrying around for 90+ years. Losing those capabilities, you lose a bit of yourself. And nobody likes that.

But, Jesus told us, we must become like little children. Little children who aren’t married to concepts of the self, who trust in the progression of things, who innocently meet the day. We need to die to who we used to be to become the person we are now. There is spiritual freedom in this concept, but the personal cost is high.

Having to grieve the loss of my physical capacities was incredibly hard, but not nearly as difficult as contending with the meaning I gave the process – what it meant about me, my value, my worth, how useful I was in the world. It completely f@cked with my sense of myself and my relationship to the world. It was grueling. I needed to find my value outside of every. single. thing. i previously attributed to myself. I had to be enough just as I was, abilities dwindling, vulnerability increasing, I still had to be OK. This was virtually impossible. Luckily, I had Tucker. He is beyond supportive. His holding a space of “my value” being by virtue of my simple being – taught me how to grow into that space. It still took a long time and some agony.

I’d really like to talk to this wonderful old man about this process. Admittedly, I’ve gotten most of my physical capacities back, but at the time I was losing them there was no guarantee. He has a guarantee that once it is gone, it is gone. And that is different than my situation. But the world that has opened up to me because of the process of accepting my limitations (slowing down) and still being able to be in my worth – I want this world to open up to him. I want him to see the opportunity for growth (he’s a really spiritual guy) instead of the perspective of just the decline of who he used to be.

But, he’s going through a lot, and just about the last thing he wants is advice from someone like me. It’s inappropriate for me to even go there. Makes me sad, though.

Don’t mourn the chrysalis. Fly.

ramblings

I make a lot of proclamations. They’re entirely unnecessary. Except maybe the claim of worth. But other than that… how things will go “from now on”… it’s just silly.

But, the claim of worth… oh, the claim of worth. the radical idea that you and I are enough. right now. just as we are. we are enough and we are naturally growing. and as we become ourselves, we are moving in the direction of our thoughts, of our focus and of our love. We can get a whole other ball of wax in there, but at its essence, it’s our love.

I am enough! You are enough! We are enough! just as we are! It’s really a radical idea – and isn’t that crazy? It’s not so much “all is well” as “all is as it is, as evidenced by its being so.” and feeling AGENCY within that. operating from the perspective that that which you are has the tools to navigate whatever you are in the midst of. that’s a bad sentence, but a nice idea.

One of the things I love about Tucker is that he articulated his belief in the universe that if a crazy dark force presented itself, so would the sword to slay it. It’s a basic agreement with the universe.

today I researched whether it was Einstein who said the most fundamental question to ask is “Is the Universe friendly?” It’s debateable. But it is a seriously important question. So much rests on it. It is Einstein-worthy.

We have so many brilliant minds in the human experience. there’s scary stuff and bullshit, but there is So. Much. Love. So much wonder. so much brilliance and so many *extremely cool* people. Tons and tons of really, really beautiful souls.

i like this evolutionary approach to life. this idea that wherever we are, here we are, and where are we looking? towards greater love, freedom and order. always growing, always changing, always becoming, but more importantly, always “being”. What are we “being” Who are we Being? Making choices for love. Making choices to grow and learn and express in the areas that we care about. Put this purpose first: living your values. Our actions are always expressing our beliefs. How about our beliefs include we are expressions of love able to express this love and contribute to the supremecy of love in the universe. something like that.

i love this knowledge that we are an expression of something beyond our comprehension. Whatever force can create universes and life and water and all sorts of *incredible* stuff. Life Itself is SOMETHING.  It is magnificent and intricate and just so darn cool. But we get caught up in the minutia and cannot see the majesty of the simple fact of human existence, however long it lasts. And this continual promise of nature with decay and renewal. we are so afraid of death, but nature isn’t. she transforms it. it’s not a theory, it’s evident.

I’m getting too deep even for me, and i’m pretty sure my time’s way up.

Slow Recognition

I did nothing I intended to do today. No amount of slowness was going to change that, but the mentality that cultivating slowness has developed in me let me really engage with what has been happening instead of the long-held habit of only partially paying attention to what IS happening and mostly lamenting what I wanted to happen and how to make it so. Let me be 100% clear: I like this way better than the old way.

My intended day didn’t slowly drain from the agenda, it flew away like a little piece of paper in a hurricane. Because of this, there was nothing left for me to try to save, no amount of “if i just do this, then i can…” and consequently I have been able to engage with my children with a freedom most days don’t allow. Most days have at least some objectives no matter how slowly I am going.

But, today, I got some 1-on-1 time with each of them. Each of them told me things I’ve never heard before, got excited about things I didn’t know about and expressed interests that were new to me. I mean, we are all changing, evolving beings – and children are changing and evolving at an outrageous pace, but it is exciting to have someone you know so well surprise you. It is especially invigorating to go roaming into new territory. All this from listening without agenda, nowhere to go, nothing to be but here and now with you.

I would like this to be my every day. I would like to bring focused attention to these marvelous beings that are always bubbling with new thoughts. When I am reactive, when I am “on task” or when I am just treading water I do not have the time or inclination to meet them with such openness. Realizing that is just so sad. How often I listen to the story simply so I can get to the “that’s nice. now will you please empty the dishwasher?” And that just sucks.

I get this wonderful feeling that as I deepen my practice of slowing down, of stillness, of agenda-release, today is giving me a glimpse of the kind of connection that can become our new normal. Laughter-based over criteria-meeting. I am so freaking sick of criteria.

I am also super psyched to have this tangibly come up while my kids are still relatively young. Enjoying their current stages, and their coming ones may just be the most important stages of all. Most parents are pretty chillax about a child learning to walk. No need to freak out, it’s a process, there are ups and downs – we recognize that. Plus, let’s face it: toddlers are adorable. But when kids are learning to really be themselves? Who they are socially, what they really care about, how they want to show up in the world – all this stuff that is *really hard* and it just happens to fall during the period of time when their bodies are changing and lanky and awkward, their hormones are messing with them and we parents are often the most demanding, the least empathetic, the most frustrated.

Culturally, I think we can do better. I remember Gordon School’s principal talking about how important it is to hire middle school teachers that *actually enjoy* middle school kids.  The thought had never occurred to me before (honestly, and this is embarrassing, that anyone particularly liked that awkward phase, much less that teachers could enjoy students at all). Now I see the beauty, the humor, the vast vistas and the dark corners of adolescence. It is so much different for my kids than it was for me. And i am SO happy my life has conspired to have me be here, so persent to it. And today showed me I can be even moreso, and the rewards are… beyond.

Everyone’s Life is Different

While I literally believe “we are all one” I am also just so blown away by how different our lives are. our bodies. our opinions and beliefs and proclivities…. the diversity on this planet is truly astounding. And all of those dozens of ‘wonder cures’ I tried on the internet, that I genuinely believe fully worked for plenty of people (and hence my willingness to give it a shot). Every body is different, and it is up to each of us to feel around in there and be and express who our internal self is asking us to be.

I’ve had this wonderful coalition of inputs over the past three months, maybe a little more. I’m loathe to change anything because I really like the direction my health, mind, contribution and general wellness are headed in. I would imagine this is probably my 1,967th combination of elements since getting sick. I’d say about 200 of them were really solid, but none quite like this.

But, we know your mileage may vary. indeed, my own mileage may vary next week. these periods of homeostasis or growth are periods. learning to listen and be responsive instead of reactive makes the transitions between them smoother. less surprising, less caught-off-guard.

Assuming the body is in the right and has an important message, slowing down to  listen takes us into greater love, freedom and communion with ourselves, others, and the universe.  It is a moment of mindfulness met with a heaping helping of nurturance to the highest expression of the individual and the whole. Every breath counts. And truly, every breath summons a cascade of the universe’s loving response. So, yeah. I want to do that all the time.

Most meditation techniques start with a decent chunk of time – 15minutes or more, although I’ve seen apps with some much more manageable bites – 2-10, which i think is great. I had the worst attitude in the world toward sitting meditation. Sitting meditation was the one thing I wanted to not have to do. It wasn’t until I came to it through moments of deep listening  I wanted to extend that the whole thing turned around.

I really do believe that every breath counts. And every moment offers the opportunity for one of these healing, restorative breaths. It’s actually just the application of focus and intention on that which is happening regardless. May as well make it restorative.

But what restorative means differs for everybody, and on every day for the same person. so the practice isn’t so much a prescription but a development of sensitivity towards the present moment and how to meet it with love, openness and strength.

Because isn’t that what we all want? We’re doing it different ways, but we’re seeking happiness as we define it. That’s the reason for the diversity and that’s the opportunity. Because how we define happiness defines us.

 

 

If you need to know now…

My dad had some sayings, one of the most annoying of which was, “if you need to know now, the answer is “No!”” If you were trying to pressure him into a decision, click, dead in the water… As a teenager trying to answer my friend, this seemed to me like him being a jerk. As an adult participating in the 21st century scam-economy, the man was brilliant.

So many people (usually trying to sell something) try to pressure us to take advantage of “this limited time offer,” to create urgency for us when none exists except to benefit them.  This is the culture that created FOMO and my dad was having none of it. He saw through whatever offer it was, to its essential nature, and if you were trying to create urgency you clearly had your own interests at heart.

It was not in my realm of possibility not to give an answer right now to whatever you were asking of me. There were lots of things I pined for and the urgency in an offer created a real sense of loss when I couldn’t act upon it. It was a goose-chase caused by haste and desire and trying to please.

As slowing down became my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual practice, I started to see the wisdom of my dad’s policy. It really is revolutionary. It usurps that sense of urgency immediately and puts the scales back to zero to begin to weigh the decision. Dad was a Libra. Makes sense.

There are still times when I just can’t help myself. I get caught up in the sway. Significantly less than before this practice, but it is so nice to have this practice to come back to. (horrible grammar, I know).  The sense of urgency gets all of the air sucked out of it. The present moment gets a little space. the desire to try to prove oneself worthy by participating in the right things gives way to sensing the nuances of internal feeling to decide what is right for you.  That subtle shift changes the whole world.

It’s nice to catch when someone’s trying to generate urgency (hello: the internet) and to use my dad’s technique to dismiss it entirely and get onto the real practice of being in the present moment.