Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

Releasing expectations March 13, 2009

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 1:04 pm
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Expectations, small and large, have been rearing their ugly heads again for me lately. I’m discovering that pregnancy, especially when it isn’t theirs, seems to evoke a need in people to share their opinions and stereotypes with you. I’ve been bombarded with other people’s opinions, experiences, and beliefs about what happens while you’re pregnant, what happens during labor and delivery, and what happens once the baby is born. Generally speaking, I would say it is well meaning and comes from a desire to support you in what you’re going through, even when the content is on the negative end of the spectrum. Most of the time I see it that way and take what is said with a grain of salt. But every now and again, someone will say something it will just irk me to no end. When I stop and look at what is causing that reaction, I realize that if another person had said exactly the same thing it wouldn’t have bothered me so much, I would have been able slough it off. So what is the difference? Ah yes, expectations. Without fail, my reaction is caused by my having some expectation of that person, that they would think more like I do, that they would realize that what they’re saying is merely a perpetuation of stereotypes instead of being based in reality, or even that they would realize that every pregnancy, delivery, and baby is different and therefore every experience is unique.

In some respects, it is a welcome change for me to have this experience with other people instead of simply with myself. Most of the time, my expectations surround my own abilities, whether it’s about my productivity or being centered or showing up the way I choose to or, really, I could go on pretty much ad nauseam. But wherever those expectations are stemming from, whether it’s about expecting something of yourself or your situation or another person, expecting things to be better or different or any way at all, those expectations are getting in the way of living life fully. That may be a harsh way of looking at it, but the way I see it is that expectations may lead to many emotions — primarily disappointment, irritation, frustration, or even anger — but at the end of the day, they keep you from staying present, from experiencing the moment as it is happening. Expectations leave you in a state of comparison instead of enabling you to see the moment for what it is. Expectations leave you in judgment, allowing you to say that now you like the person or the situation or yourself more or less than you did before, instead of opening you up to see the divinity within.

The reminder in all this for me is that the path to freedom, the path to joy, is to see people for who they are in this moment, to accept the situation I find myself in for what it is, and to love myself unconditionally. I choose to set my intentions for my life, but allow the moments themselves to unfold in their own divine perfection, staying present to the experience and opening myself up to the opportunities each moment brings. This is my challenge to myself for this week, and I welcome you to join me. I would love to hear how it goes for you! Namaste.

Photo: “Bird’s Nest – Ptasie Gniazdo,” originally uploaded by Jarosław Pocztarski

 

Shifting gears November 3, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 5:38 pm
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Since everything is but an apparition perfect in being what it is, having nothing to do with good or bad, acceptance or rejection, one may as well burst out in laughter.
~Long Chen Pa

I kind of got lost the last few weeks, and I’m guessing I’m not alone. I can certainly point to all of the wonderful things I’ve been doing and the sense of urgency around them as the unbalancing factor, however I suspect that underlying drumbeat that you can practically feel and hear around you everywhere you go would have permeated even my best attempts at staying centered and grounded.

Yes, tomorrow is Election Day. I’m guessing you would have to live in an unplugged bomb shelter somewhere to have missed what promises to be the largest election in America’s history. What started out as an optimistic, hope-filled embrace, however, has turned into a conversation steeped in fear. When I’m not careful, I can feel the country’s anxiety and negativity seeping through into my own consciousness, and don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s all the other side. No matter which candidate you are supporting, in the desperate final days prior to the election the national conversation seems to be centered around all the terrible things that would happen if the other guy won. It’s hardly surprising considering the culture of fear we’ve been living in for at least the last eight years, but my challenge to myself and to the world today is to rise above this fear-based thinking and focus instead on your intention.

What got me excited about this election in the first place was that it represented an opportunity for another voice to be heard — the voice of the optimistic, the spiritual but not religious, those who recognize that every moment represents a choice about how we’re going to live today. In other words, my voice. I want for my country what I want for myself — the opportunity to spread your wings and fly, to live life to its fullest, to experience expansion and freedom. And I recognize for my country what I recognize for myself — the best way to encourage change in another is to begin with yourself.

And so when I got dressed this morning, I pulled out my LIVE MINDFULLY shirt as a reminder to myself to truly stay present and be mindful this week. Because no matter what happens tomorrow, it’s all going to be okay. I’m not going to kid myself and say I won’t be disappointed if my candidate doesn’t win, but I have to remember that life is an unfoldment and an evolution, always moving me in the direction of my highest good. I set my intention, I make my choices, I get out there and do what I can do, but I also allow the unexpected to come in and show me possibilities I might not have thought of on my own. And most of all, what I want to remember is not what I am against, but instead that I am FOR change, I am FOR hope, I am FOR living life fully. Namaste.

Photo: “blown open,” originally uploaded by sookie

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The agony and the ecstasy August 4, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 1:30 am
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You have been thinking about your future long enough. You may be sick and tired of going around on the same mental loops as you attempt to create something different from the life you currently have. Instead of fighting against the resistance you feel, try letting go of the attachment that you have to any long-term goals. You may be pleasantly surprised at what happens when your mind is freed from previous expectations.
~Rick Levine, Scorpio horoscope for August 3, 2008

This past week I had a glimpse into the life of a manic depressive, with amazing highs followed closely by horrifying lows. It was a 7-day roller coaster ride, and while the highs were magnificent and I definitely would have rather not had the lows, I can see how both ends of the spectrum are part of the fabric of living life fully.

Our summer adventure was an absolute blast. We had a wonderful road trip up and back, listening to recordings of Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman and Paulo Coelho’s wonderful journey The Alchemist. Crater Lake was breathtakingly beautiful, even for a second visit. We had a lovely “it’s a small world” experience by running into a former co-worker of mine shortly after our arrival at the rim. Our campsite was somewhat exposed, but we ended up not having many neighbors so it felt very private. We were captivated by the geology of the mountain and even ended up going to my first ever campfire circle to learn as much as we could about how the lake was formed. We absolutely fell in love with Ashland and can’t wait to go back when we have plenty of time to dawdle. Our B&B, Morical House Garden Inn, was gorgeous and comfortable with a wonderfully welcoming innkeeper and yummy-smelling breakfast included. We didn’t end up tasting said breakfast as we opted to revisit a wonderful little restaurant we discovered driving home from our honeymoon two years ago, Morning Glory. In addition to having some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in my life, it’s a cozy, comfortable, homey spot that just makes you feel good from the inside out. All in all, a fabulous vacation.

The trouble began when we arrived back home. Normally I’m thrilled to be home, and I was looking forward to an evening with just my cats as my husband had plans to go out that night. But I was antsy, feeling like I’d rather still be on vacation. I fell into some old patterns, which I later recognized was me looking for a way to make myself feel better that felt familiar instead of doing something centering and grounding. The next couple of days were a downward spiral of a pretty severe funk, aggravated by discovering a cockroach in one of our kitchen cabinets and having the hot water heater go kaput. Every time I’d start to think I was pulling out of the funk, something else would happen to send me back down again.

What I recognize now is that my sense of where I was (too small, now dirty-feeling apartment, not enough money coming in, not getting paid to do the work I was born to do, not liking my body or my wardrobe, etc.) compared to my sense of where I want to be (work that enables me to share my gifts with the world, spacious and comfortable home with plenty of room to grow into, large income that supports all of our needs and desires with plenty to share with others, active lifestyle that keeps me lean and full of energy, etc.) was extremely out of alignment. My energy was all stuck in judgment and resistance, the result of which was several days of misery.

Thankfully, today was the day when I got to turn it all around. I’d just had the opportunity to tell a coaching client last weekend that the great thing about a spiritual practice is that you’re building a foundation for your life. While the analogy of building muscles can be useful, the good news here is that unlike your muscles, stopping the spiritual workout does not mean you have to start over from scratch–the muscles don’t deteriorate in your absence. It doesn’t take much–a five minute meditation, a repetition of your mantra, singing a verse of a chant–to get you reconnected to your Source. Pulling a couple of tools out of my toolbox this morning, I was able to move myself into a place of peace and acceptance. Not only to I no longer feel stuck, I feel like I am soaring and free. I’m calling today my New Year’s Day because I feel like I just hit the reset button. It’s a new year, clean and open and full of possibilities. And I’m thrilled to get to live each of its days as fully as I know how. Namaste.

Photo: A shot of our breakfast table at Morning Glory in Ashland, OR

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A New Earth — A New Earth May 22, 2008

Jenn’s thoughts and learnings from the tenth and final week of A New Earth: The Oprah Web Event.

“I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through–listen to this music.”
~Hafiz, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky

For whatever reason–resistance, the timing of the Universe is perfect, etc.–it has taken me over a week (two, if you count my trying to watch it on the plane to Georgia) to watch the final week of the A New Earth web event. And I’m kind of glad it did. It’s given me time to really soak this one up, to savor it, linger over it, which seems appropriate for a finale. Eckhart was his usual jovial self but Oprah seemed a little sad to have it all come to an end. I look forward to watching her continue to grow and unfold, to see where life continues to lead her.

My favorite part
I loved the way Oprah put the “what to call God” problem. She said something to the effect of, Spirit doesn’t have an ego so it doesn’t get hung up on what it’s called. Yes!

How to stay present
At one point Oprah shared that her mantra (my word, not hers) is, “Be here, be now.” She repeats it to herself as a reminder to be present. Mine is very similar, “Be Here Now.” I’m not sure why it needs to be capitalized, but that is how it shows up in my head. It’s almost like the words get dropped into my mind one by one, each word their own reminder. Be. Here. Now.

Growing older, growing wiser
One of the most striking concepts in this chapter for me was how all of this applies to growing old. As I’m sure we all do, I know many people who have so identified with what they DO that growing old has been a tragedy for them. Each responsibility they can no longer manage, each task they can no longer perform, is like an arrow through their heart. The process is nothing but pain, nothing but regret, and they spend their time either complaining, focusing solely on what’s wrong, or lost in nostalgia. However for others, they begin to recognize that there is so much more to life than just the doing. It is through having the doing reduced in their life that they recognize the presence and importance of being. They grow lighter, freer, and end up with a luminescent quality. These individuals have been rarer in my life, but are such lights when you come across them. I know which way I’d rather be, but I don’t want to wait until I’m old–I want to start today! (See the poem I posted this morning for further exploration of this subject.)

What you do is always secondary
There was just something about the way this concept was reiterated in this webcast that got me. What you do is always secondary; how you do it is primary. You want to know how to fulfill your destiny? Do whatever it is you are doing, no matter how seemingly large or small, completely and utterly consciously, full of presence. No what where you are, whether you’re mailing a package at the post office, waiting tables at a restaurant, washing up after breakfast, bring your Presence with you. That’s what showing up and fulfilling your destiny looks like. Placing the plate down on the table in front of your customer with full awareness, consciousness, presence, affects everyone around you. It doesn’t matter what it is you are doing–if you are doing it consciously, you are bringing more Presence into the world and playing your role in the greater awakening of the planet.

Goals and visions
This is one of those concepts I’ve been working with for over 15 years, but I feel like it was presented to me brand new. Your goal, your vision, is not something “out there” that is in the future. It lives within you as if it were already a reality, because on some level it already is. It isn’t a goal you are projecting yourself into, something you will reach someday. It isn’t something coming from a place of neediness or scarcity, it is coming from a place of fullness, the way it would feel if you already had it. Because it is something that already exists within you, ready to be born into form in your life. Eckhart talked about writing The Power of Now in this fashion. He sensed that there was a book within him that had already been written. His job, then, was just to allow this already completed construct to come out of him, to manifest itself. This is where true power lies, because all power exists in the present moment. It is about always focusing on this step, just this step. Whatever this moment is, it is a step on the journey.

Acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm
The key point to this chapter (to me, anyway) is that it is time to choose to do everything with acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm. If you cannot operate from one of these three modalities, you are not in alignment with the present moment, with yourself, with life, and you are causing yourself and/or those around you suffering. So the question to always ask yourself is, what is my relationship with the present moment? Am I okay with this moment, friendly with it? If yes, then you are empowered. If no, then ask yourself what you can do to move towards acceptance. It may be that you need to stop doing whatever it is you’re doing, step aside and into something that you can accept. Or you may be able to find acceptance just through becoming aware of where you are, consciously shifting your attention towards recognizing that this moment is what it is. You don’t have to enjoy changing a tire, but when you accept that the tire is flat and changing it is what needs to be done, as opposed to resisting it, cursing it, getting upset with it, etc., then you will be able to find peace in the experience.

I loved what Eckhart had to say about enjoyment, that it will replace wanting. Wanting comes from a place of lack, and when you get whatever it is you were wanting, you feel empty and unfulfilled. Enjoyment, however, leaves you feeling full. It brings empowerment to what you do, flowing through you and allowing creativity to be born in what you are doing. Joy does not come from what you do, from another person, from outside of you in any way–it comes from within, flowing out of you into the world around you.

So my exercise for this week, and yours too, if you so choose, is to pay attention to where I am and see if I can shift the energy. If I feel like I’m in resistance, fighting the moment, then it is time for me to move into acceptance. If it’s something I’m already able to accept, then I can make a game out of it, find a way to turn that acceptance into enjoyment. And if it’s something I’m already able to enjoy, then I can look for that extra something that reminds me this moment is a step towards manifesting my vision and allow enthusiasm to come into play. The new earth already exists within us. Our job now is to allow it to come through us, to be made manifest in form in our lives. Namaste.

Photo: “Dream,” originally uploaded by Jan McLaughlin

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Heat wave May 15, 2008

Filed under: inspiration — jennsheridan @ 3:36 pm
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It’s hot. There’s really no other word for it. I’m sure people who live in Texas and Vegas would find this comfortable, but I am a fully acclimated San Franciscan and it is hot. It never dropped below 80 degrees in my apartment last night and we’re supposed to have highs near 100 today. I’ve been trying to catch back up this week, but it’s been tough. When the temperature soars, my energy plummets. So new plan–today I’m using my morning hours to be active and I’ll spend my afternoon in air conditioning, exploring places like the library and the mall to their best advantage. One of these days I’ll get back on track, but in the meantime, I’m using being off-routine to help bring any resurfacing old thought patterns off their normal routines as well. I’m practicing what I preach, recognizing that any situation can be turned around and found to be positive. Wish me luck!

I’d like to leave you with a little inspiration that came to me this week via email. It’s a geeky self-improvement message–right up my alley and hopefully yours as well. Namaste.

Installing Love

Tech Support: Yes, how can I help you?

Customer: Well, after much consideration, I’ve decided to install Love. Can you guide me through the process?

Tech Support: Yes, I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?

Customer: Well, I’m not very technical, but I think I’m ready. What do I do first?

Tech Support: The first step is to open your Heart. Have you located your Heart?

Customer: Yes, but there are several other programs running now. Is it okay to install Love while they are running?

Tech Support: What programs are running?

Customer: Let’ s see, I have Past Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Grudge and Resentment running right now.

Tech Support: No problem, Love will gradually erase Past Hurt from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory but it will no longer disrupt other programs. Love will eventually override Low Self-Esteem with a module of its own called High Self-Esteem. However, you have to completely turn off Grudge and Resentment. Those programs prevent Love from being properly installed. Can you turn those off?

Customer: I don’t know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?

Tech Support: With pleasure. Go to your start menu and invoke Forgiveness. Do this as many times as necessary until Grudge andResentment have been completely erased.

Customer: Okay, done! Love has started installing itself. Is that normal?

Tech Support: Yes, but remember that you have only the base program. You need to begin connecting to other Hearts in order to get the upgrades.

Customer: Oops! I have an error message already. It says, “Error: Program not running on internal components.” What should I do?

Tech Support: Don’ t worry. It means that the Love program is set up to run on Internal Hearts, but has not yet been run on your Heart. In non-technical terms, it simply means you have to Love yourself before you can Love others.

Customer: So, what should I do?

Tech Support: Pull down Self-Acceptance; then click on the following files: Forgive-Self; Realize Your Worth; and Acknowledge your Limitations.

Customer: Okay, done.

Tech Support: Now, copy them to the “My Heart” directory. The system will overwrite any conflicting files and begin patching faulty programming. Also, you need to delete Verbose Self-Criticism from all directories and empty your Recycle Bin to make sure it is completely gone and never comes back.

Customer: Got it. Hey! My heart is filling up with new files. Smile is playing on my monitor and Peace and Contentment are copying themselves all over My Heart. Is this normal?

Tech Support: Sometimes. For others it takes a while, but eventually everything gets it at the proper time. So Love is installed and running. One more thing before we hang up. Love is Freeware. Be sure to give it and its various modules to everyone you meet. They will in turn share it with others and return some cool modules back to you.

Customer: Thank you, God.

Photo: “Stay cool,” originally uploaded by Alexander Kaiser

 

A New Earth — Finding Who You Truly Are April 16, 2008

Jenn’s thoughts and learnings from the seventh week of A New Earth: The Oprah Web Event.

“Knowing yourself deeply has nothing to do with whatever ideas are floating around in your mind. Knowing yourself is to be rooted in Being, instead of lost in your mind.”
~Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

I swear, the A New Earth webinars with Oprah and Eckhart Tolle are just getting better and better. Each week we get to dive deeper and deeper into the present moment, deeper and deeper into one of the most important things we can learn, as Oprah said on Monday, which is to live life from a place of acceptance, of non-resistance to the present moment.

The three levels of every situation
One of the callers this week spoke of being highly sensitive, which leaves her often overwhelmed. I think Eckhart’s answer can be applied to anyone, sensitive or not, in any situation that is dredging up any type of negative emotion. Eckhart spoke of there being three levels to every situation.

1. What is happening: The first level of a situation is whatever is happening at this moment that is disturbing you (i.e. traffic, long lines at the store, loud noises).
2. Your reaction to what is happening: The second level of a situation is your reaction to what is happening, whether it’s a physical reaction (i.e. a contraction in your stomach) or an emotional reaction (i.e. overwhelment, frustration, irritation, annoyance, anger) or a thought pattern (i.e. I’m miserable, I can’t stand this any longer).
3. Your awareness of both of these levels: The third level is your awareness of the situation and your reaction to it, where there’s no judgment, it’s just purely observation.

When we let go of having our self-concept tied up in the way we react to things (like being highly sensitive) and accept what is happening in the now without judgment, we release old patterns of behavior that have left us feeling trapped. This is where true freedom lies.

Reaction vs. Response
I loved the distinction between REACTION and RESPONSE that I got out of this week’s class. Reaction comes from your ego, and always has a piece of what the ego expects to get out of the situation. Reaction is a conditioned response, based in the past and therefore never totally adequate to the present moment. Response comes from a place of truth, from your inner being, your inner wisdom, without judgment or negativity. When responding to a challenging person from a place of awareness, your intuition will provide the right words for the situation. It might be what the other person needs to hear or it could just be the truth you need to speak in that moment, but it will come up without negative emotion or attachment.

Abundance comes only to those who already have it.
This idea is one that I think many people have trouble really wrapping their minds around. I know when I was growing up, I didn’t understand the full meaning of Jesus’s words, “For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” But once you understand that abundance comes from within, that it is the divine birthright of each and everyone of us, a light begins to shine on the meaning. We are all abundant–those who recognize this truth live this truth, and money flows to them like a river; those who do not believe this to be true live from a place of lack, and lack flows to them like a river. So how do you turn things around in your life? Begin by recognizing the abundance that is already present in your life. If you don’t see abundance anywhere, you aren’t looking closely enough. Abundance isn’t just in your bank account–it’s in the abundance of fresh product at the supermarket, the abundance of flowering plants in a garden, the abundance of blue in the sky. Appreciate what is around you, truly feeling grateful for it. Oprah even suggested keeping a gratitude journal, where every day you write down at least 5 things you are grateful for. Another way to truly recognize your own abundance is to give to others whatever it is you feel you are lacking. Anyone who can give, already has, and therefore is able to receive more in return.

I’ve been expressing my gratitude all over the place today. I’m grateful for the beautiful contrast between the blue sky and green trees outside my window. I’m grateful for the love of my wonderful cats and husband. I’m grateful to be home with Oprah and Eckhart Tolle today. I’m grateful to this path and to all that I’ve learned. I’m grateful for the little deck garden I created with lettuce and herbs. I’m grateful to have a large deck that can double as an outdoor dining room. I could keep going and going and going . . . So, what are you grateful for this week? Today? In this moment? Soak up that appreciation, write it down, and keep looking for all the good, all the bounty, that is already present in your life. Namaste.

Photo: “Revealing,” originally uploaded by Kjunstorm

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WWTDLD? April 1, 2008

Filed under: connection — jennsheridan @ 4:43 pm
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Yesterday morning as I was meditating, my cat Gryphon curled up in my nap and began chewing on my fingers. It’s her morning “Please feed me!” routine, which she usually reserves for waking me up. As Sean and I talked about it last night, he was pondering what the Dalai Lama would have to say to that. As the Dalai Lama is quite practical, Sean thought he would recommend moving the cat, removing the distraction of the nibbling.

This morning I was thinking that yes, the Dalai Lama is practical, which means it isn’t likely he would recommend trying to change the behavior of another being. Instead, he would probably look at what little you do have control over. The only being I have control over is myself, but I also have control over where I choose to meditate. Therefore, I’ve relocated where I meditate to a place that is less likely to encourage kitty nibbling. We’ll see how well this works!

What do you think the Dalai Lama would do?