Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

Growing Pains December 8, 2008

Filed under: inspiration — jennsheridan @ 9:27 pm
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I’ve been struggling a bit lately. Nothing major, just feeling overwhelmed and having trouble getting caught back up again. Of course, being “caught up” is just a state of mind. Really, it is simply peace of mind. So what I’ve come to realize is that bringing myself back into alignment with my peace needs to be my top priority. Everything else can, and will, fall into place once that simple goal is realized. The best part? It can happen in a moment. Ah, I feel better already.

I read this gem from DailyOM last week when I was having an especially challenging day due to a couple of colliding illnesses. It made me want to be a little more gentle with myself, give myself a break, and remember that even on my trickiest day of the year, I have still grown so much and come so far since my best day of last year. I’m guessing that’s true for you, too. So give yourself a big hug and a pat on the back, and remember to celebrate all that growth has to offer, even when it hurts a little bit. Namaste.

Growing Pains
Initiations For Growth

Life is about growth, which is wonderful, though not always easy. Indeed, many of life’s lessons can be painful or difficult. Yet, such challenges are often the ones that present the most opportunity for spiritual growth. Initiations for growth come in many forms. In fact, we can view every challenge in life as an opportunity to learn and grow. While these disruptions in life are not easy, they are necessary.

The challenges the universe sends us can seem unbearable at times: a job we don’t want to spend another day at, a broken heart that feels as if it will never heal, or a long and painful illness. And then, there are the challenges that can be just as scary because we are being called to step up to the plate in ways that we may think we are not yet ready for: overcoming our fears in order to realize a lifelong dream, leaving behind a situation or people in our life that we may have outgrown, or moving across the world for our dream job or life partner.

At such times, it can feel as if the world is testing us and that life is asking more of us than we think we can give. We may feel uncomfortable, frightened, and unsure of what to do. However, life isn’t so much going against us as it is encouraging us to grow. During these periods, we can grow stronger by putting one foot in front of the other, as we work through our challenges. We may be asked to let go of old safety measures, shift old patterns of behavior, or step into the abyss of the unknown. When we do rise to the occasion, we end up better off for having made that journey. Not only do we end up learning and growing, but we inevitably become more compassionate to the challenges of others and wiser in the ways of the world. Our faith in the universe also grows because, ultimately, we can’t help but realize how much we are supported and taken care of at all times. When we are in the midst of a growing period, it is not easy to see our reward, but it is there, waiting for us to grow big enough to reach it.

Photo: “plant growing on bricks,” originally uploaded by e453753

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Living with uncertainty May 20, 2008

This past week has been such a good reminder for me that life is what happens when you’re making other plans. My overdeveloped intellectual, masculine, left-brain side of me has been absolutely writhing with impatience as I’ve essentially accomplished nothing that I set out to accomplish. I had all these plans for how I was going to get back on track, or even better, how I wasn’t going to get thrown off track in the first place by my trip to Georgia. My intellect was already expressing disappointment with me that I hadn’t been blogging regularly and so I downloaded the 10th A New Earth webinar to watch on the plane with the intention that I would even post my comments from Georgia without missing a beat. The universe must have been laughing at me, for when I turned on my laptop at 30,000 feet the file was gone. All attempts to watch the webinar since I’ve been home have been derailed by everything from computer failure to 100 degree heat.

I’ve had similar experiences with most of the rest of my too long to-do list to the point where I just have to relax, laugh, and say, Okay, what do you want from me? When I sit still and listen, I receive a gentle response that comes from the spiritual, feminine, right-brain side of me reminding me just to be, to let go, to take care of myself, to be myself, and all the rest of it will fall into place. I’m reminded that now is the time for me to relax into the mystery of life, to learn to live with uncertainty, to focus on BEING instead of doing. This is my gift both to myself and to the world, because through being I can become what I came here to be, which really is just simply ME.

My life has always been fairly well planned. I didn’t have a sense of what I’d be doing 5 or 10 or 30 years from now, but I had a feel for the rhythm of it, for the texture of it. My ambitions would take me far in my work and I would be very successful. I believed in the common wisdom of climbing the corporate ladder, using my current job to get a better job, working hard so that I would be well rewarded. This was my DOINGness, my masculine energy, my left-brain intellect at play. But I was never happy in my work, never happy with the rewards, never happy with the success. It all felt empty and without purpose. I knew there was more to life than what I came to think of as “making other people rich.” I knew that my true purpose lay in a different direction, but this energy was so strong in me that I couldn’t escape it.

I left that world a little over 7 months ago, and it feels like I’ve been in a retraining mode all these months. It’s almost like I’ve been in physical therapy, strengthening my right-brain so that it can at least find a balance with my left-brain. In some ways, I’ve had to swing the pendulum pretty far in the opposite direction to get the energy shaken up enough that a balance can occur, and I may need to live from a place of BEING for a while yet before a balance is possible. I’m learning how to live my life without a plan. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a vision–in fact if anything my vision is much clearer, much stronger than it ever was before. But I’m not caught up in “how” I’m going to get there. My focus is on allowing a little bit more of the mystery to unfold each day, enjoying the ride, having fun with the process, finding peace in the present moment.

Are you at peace with the mystery? Can you find peace in the uncertainty? No matter how much we plan, how little uncertainty we think there is in our lives, life really is what happens when we are making other plans. Just like the present moment is the only one that is, life is nothing but uncertainty. We do not know what the next minute or hour or day or month will bring. When we learn to be at peace with this truth, we can truly appreciate where we are in this moment, and we can make room for BEING in our lives and begin to pave the way for what is truly important in our lives, begin to live our lives as fully and richly as possible, begin to be Who We Really Are. Namaste.

Photo: “What does this picture mean to you?,” originally uploaded by chema.foces

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Gentler still April 4, 2008

Filed under: inspiration — jennsheridan @ 5:14 pm
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The pollen count has been pretty high lately, leaving me a little sniffly and sneezy this week. I’ve honestly barely noticed it there’s been so much other stuff going on . . . until today. The appearance of allergies has turned into the appearance of a cold, and my head feels so stuffy I can barely think. The funny thing is, all of my messages for today were to just be, not to act, to allow and sit in the silence, to be receptive and let the universe do the work. Unfortunately, my body must have thought I wouldn’t listen to these messages and so it created something that would force me into stillness. I have to laugh because this is gentler than many of my other recent messages, so it would appear the “Gently, please!” message has gotten across. Next up: recalibrating my body’s idea of what “gently” means.

I’d like to share a favorite passage of Annie Dillard’s originally from her book Teaching a Stone to Talk, although I found this excerpt in Life Prayers:

At a certain point you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world, Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening. After a time you hear it: there is nothing there. There is nothing but those things only, those created objects, discrete, growing or holding, or swaying, being rained on or raining, held, flooding or ebbing, standing, or spread. You feel the world’s word as a tension, a hum, a single chorused note everywhere the same. This is it: this hum is the silence . . .

The silence is all there is. It is the alpha and the omega. It is God’s brooding over the face of the waters; it is the blended note of the ten thousand things, the whine of wings. You take a step in the right direction to pray to this silence, and even to address the prayer to “World.” Distinctions blur. Quit your tents. Pray without ceasing.

Photo: “gentle curve,” originally uploaded by yugoQ

 

Gently, please! March 31, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 2:22 pm
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It appears that I need a new mantra. Asking for messages, asking to be open, has left me with bandaids all over my body. As much fun as I am having with my “temporary tattoos” of peace and yin & yang signs, I have to say, I could stand to receive my messages more gently. I’m reminded of Richard from Texas in Eat, Pray, Love–he was asking repeatedly for his heart to be open and to receive a sign when the opening had occurred. After a few months of this prayer, he ended up having open-heart surgery. “So now Richard is always cautious with his prayers, he tells me. ‘Whenever I pray for anything these days, I always wrap it up by saying, “Oh, and God? Please be gentle with me, OK?”‘”

I can totally relate. In addition to the average, run-of-the-mill stubbed toes and bumped funny bones, I’ve fallen down the stairs (twice in one week!) and bruised my tailbone, I’ve had a knee injury that left me literally on the couch for six weeks, I’ve thrown my back out such that I was unable to get out of bed for three days, I’ve had countless sinus infections and stomach flus that completely knocked me out. Heck, in the past month alone, I’ve had a concussion, gotten poison oak, and even stabbed myself in the foot. My friends say I’m a klutz, that I’m accident prone, but I know there has been a message in each of these incidents–usually one that had been ignored previously, which is how it ended up ultimately being delivered in such a large way.

So I’ve learned that, “Gently, please!” is a good addendum to any request for aid. And perhaps even more importantly, I’ve learned that I need to be mindful. Mindful of my thoughts, mindful of where I’m going, mindful of what I’m doing. And if I’m asking for messages, if I’m asking for things to be clear, then I really need to listen for an answer. I never saw anything that looked like poison oak, but I know exactly where I was when I brushed up against it because, in retrospect, my intuition had pointed it out to me. As I was walking up to a tree that was hanging out over the sidewalk, a thought popped into my head, “Poison oak!” And I kind of laughed it off and thought, “It’s a good thing this branch I’m walking past isn’t poison oak.” The next day, I had what looked like a spider bite on my arm. Again, poison oak popped into my head. Instead of ignoring it this time, I put a bandaid on it, “just in case.” One itchy week later, I definitely know the next time any thought of poison oak pops into my head I will recognize it for the intuitive message that it is. Hindsight may be 20/20, but when we’re paying attention, we can have real-time guidance as well.

So I go into this new week with my double request to be more open and to receive messages clearly, but always to have my prayers answered gently. What kinds of messages have you been receiving lately? Could you use to receive them a little more gently? Join me in my “Gently, please!” mantra this week and let me know how it goes! Namaste.

Photo: “La Fleuve,” originally uploaded by Powderruns

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Step 1: Start Where You Are February 24, 2008

Filed under: learning to fly,practice — jennsheridan @ 6:22 pm
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From the Steps to Learning How to Fly series.

I like to live my life by what I call wisdom according to Aerosmith: Life is a journey, not a destination. It isn’t about where you’re headed, it’s about the places you go to along the way. I personally want that journey to be full and rich, about learning new things and appreciating the beauty around me, about living mindfully and discovering my passions and expressing who I really am.

I haven’t always lived that way–even as I was learning the tools necessary to spread my wings, I spent a substantial amount of time living my life the way other people expected me to. I was a good girl, usually doing the “right” things, even as I was exploring realms that I didn’t think most of my friends and family would understand. My life took on a splintered quality as different pieces of me showed up depending on who I was with. I often felt like I was a shadow of myself, flimsy and insubstantial, and I yearned for the day when I could be one coherent me. But that was where I was, and the first thing I needed to learn was to let go of those expectations, to give myself a break, to stop being so hard on myself before I could begin the shift from living my life externally towards exploring the me on the inside and letting her light shine.

Starting where you are is about being loving and compassionate towards yourself. You may dream of what you want your life to look like, who you want to be, and often that leads to beating yourself up, judging yourself and finding yourself lacking. This is counterproductive, placing the emphasis on what you don’t want instead of on what you do want. The first thing to do is to recognize that you are where you are, and while you are capable of realizing your dreams, you have to be gentle with yourself as you take the steps necessary to get there. I like to think of it as building your muscles. If you had a dream of running a marathon, you wouldn’t try to run 26.2 miles tomorrow. You would put a training program in motion and build your muscles and your endurance to enable success. Each step in the training program is a stretch and while you get close to your objective during training, the day of the event is the day you actually achieve your goal.

This is how realizing life goals works, too. While we don’t always have a full training program laid out in front of us so we know in advance the steps we’ll take to reach our goals, life is always feeding us opportunities to stretch ourselves, to grow in the direction we want to be moving in. When a challenge comes up for you today, instead of handling it the way you might have in the past, ask yourself how you can react differently this time. The answer might feel a little outside of your comfort zone, but do it anyway. You know where the old road leads–explore a new road and see if it lands you in a place you haven’t been before. Play with it, experiment a bit. You might not land exactly where you want to be, but keep experimenting with it as situations come up until you find a new way of handling it that feels more authentic to who you are and where you want to go in life. If you’re shy, a public speaking engagement might be too big of a stretch, but talking to a stranger in a bar might be just the right size. Strengthen that extroverted muscle, that faith muscle, that love muscle–whatever it is that you’ve been seeking, that’s been missing in your life.

There is always something right in front of us, right where we are today that is a gift for the growth we have been asking for. It might feel small, it might be a just baby step, but each step is a movement, and each step opens up new opportunities for expansion. As T. Harv Ecker reminds us:

Success is a learnable skill. You can learn to succeed at anything . . . If you want to be a great piano player, you can learn how to do it. If you want to be truly happy, you can learn how to do it. If you want to be rich, you can learn how to do it. It doesn’t matter where you are right now. It doesn’t matter where you’re starting from. What matters is that you are willing to learn.

Start where you are right now, in this moment, and take a step, begin the process of learning how to spread those wings, to move in the direction that you’ve always dreamed of.

Recommended Reading:
The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho
Conversations with God, by Neale Donald Walsch
The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle
Spiritual Fitness, by Caroline Reynolds
Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Photo: Views of Bratislava, by Lukas Ondrousek

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Drifting February 17, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 12:20 am
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I have to laugh at myself sometimes. Yesterday, my thinkArete.com Big Idea that comes in a daily email was about “drifting.” It essentially was talking about the patterns we fall into that take us off course, that distance us from our Source, from our goals. Some of the examples he uses of ways we all drift are: “blame, criticize (my personal favorite), judge, lecture, ignore, explain, or withdraw. If, for some odd reason those don’t work, just try these: control, be sarcastic (!), procrastinate, watch TV, complain, get overwhelmed, justify, go shopping, (whatever you do, definitely!) don’t breathe, interrupt, get righteous, space out or worry.”

The reason this makes me laugh is that yesterday, I drifted. Not all day, but for a substantial portion of it. Mostly I was in to withdrawing, procrastinating, and spacing out, but I’m sure there were other things in there as well. While there were several reasons for that drift, at the end of the day, aren’t they all just excuses? Isn’t it all just your ego throwing up resistance to keep you off balance? The funniest part about it all is that I was completely aware of what was happening. I observed myself getting off track and instead of taking steps to rectify the situation, I threw myself into it whole hog. Perhaps that is why I was able to, from time to time, pull myself out of it long enough to clean the kitchen, make the lasagna I’m entertaining with this evening, take a friend to the airport. And perhaps it is also why I was able to get up this morning and get back on track without a massive effort. My home is spotless, I did my 4 mile training walk, went to the farmer’s market, and I still have time to sit down and do a blog post before I get ready for my guests to arrive this evening.

Today’s thinkArete.com Big Idea was about “shifting,” what we do when we want to “get back into Ease and Flow.” The gist is that we have to breathe, and breathe again, and breathe some more, which I take to mean we have to take time for conscious connection to Source, and to ourselves. It certainly feels significantly better than drifting does, you can actually feel the shift taking place in your body. And I suppose that is what life is about, really. While we all strive to be on track 100% of the time, we’re human, and we make mistakes, we drift off course. The trick is not to stay there, to make sure we take the time to shift, to reorient ourselves so that we’re moving in the direction we consciously are choosing to, the direction that feels like it is taking us towards our goals. And be gentle with ourselves in the process. I don’t know about you, but I can always use a reminder of that. Namaste.

 

The shining January 4, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 9:08 pm
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The new year did not get kicked off exactly as I planned. I ended up being waylaid by a stomach flu of some sort. While it was a very purging way to start the year, I would have preferred to do it my way, and definitely more gently. Isn’t that always the way?

While I was caught up in the flu I found myself full of doubt, wondering if the choices I’ve made in my life these past few months were the right ones. Between jobs, focusing on my own personal growth instead of on making a buck, the lack of income has been a challenge. When I’ve gotten quiet and listened, I’ve been reassured that I am right on track, that the work I’ve been doing is exactly what I needed to be doing and that the income would sort itself out in time. But that voice was hard to find this week, and the voices of “logic” and “lack” loomed large instead.

The good news is that now that I’ve recovered my energy, I’m finding myself feeling very clear, very much on purpose, and very connected to that message of being in the right place. I feel very… full. Ironic considering how little I’ve eaten this week, but it makes a surprising amount of sense. I’m reminded of the movie Stardust — Claire Danes plays a star who has fallen to earth. When she is happy, she begins to shine, filling with light that pours out all over. That’s how I feel, like Who I Am is filling me up and pouring out, shining for all the world to see. It’s no wonder really that I feel full.

Well, I should probably put a little food in my body as well to ensure that it isn’t just lightheadedness I’m feeling. If you’re in the Bay Area, stay dry and firmly planted to the earth during this storm. It’s good to be back. Namaste.