Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

Tools for the journey May 6, 2008

Nothing can stop the man with right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.
~Thomas Jefferson

I’ve been focusing these past few months on the internal tools we have at our disposal to connect to Source and our inner wisdom, enabling us to embrace the guidance that is always available to us as we go through our life journey. Meditation, following your intuition, using a mantra, forgiveness, staying present–these are all powerful tools to help us on our path. And while nothing can replace that internal work and desire, you definitely don’t have to go it alone. There’s a whole world of external resources that can be very useful in providing guidance and confirmation that what we’re receiving intuitively really is coming from our inner wisdom.

Community. Perhaps the most obvious, ubiquitous, and useful place to look is in other people. Whether it be an individual or a community, the people we encounter in our lives are gifts from the divine. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of supportive spiritual centers out there. My personal favorite is Sacred Center New York. August Gold is perhaps the most transformational teacher you will ever have the privilege to encounter, or at the very least, that I have discovered so far on my own journey. This Center has an energy that is lighting up the whole of New York City, expanding its reach further and further each year. Not close to New York? That’s okay, there are many spiritual communities available to you. Religious Science International, United Centers for Spiritual Living, Unity, and Unitarian Universalist have churches all over the country that might appeal to you. There are also many independent churches, Zen centers, study groups, book clubs, even groups and workshops meeting at metaphysical bookstores. I trust you won’t have to look very far before you find a spiritual group within your community that would welcome your participation and provide you with loving support for your journey.

Readers. I am relatively new to the concept of receiving a “reading.” I never used to take the concept very seriously, possibly because I felt you needed to do it all on your own and possibly because I discounted the quality of the information that could be gleaned through this process. About a year ago, however, my ideas on this subject shifted, about the time that my ideas on most subjects were shifting. I heard a description of the readings that Caroline Reynolds does, talking about how she uses reading your chakras to help give you clarity and point you in a direction that will ultimately bring you a sense of fulfillment, and knew this was something I needed to do. Working with Caroline has provided not only guidance, but a sense of progress as my life begins to blossom in new and unexpected ways. She helps me to see how things are interconnected and where my blocks are so I can better focus the work I’m doing where it will have the most effect. Others I have worked with less extensively are Genevieve Vulser, an angel mediator, hypnotherapist, Reiki master, and spiritual teacher, and Belle Star, whose aura photography and readings guide her life coach practice.

I recommend working with someone whose work you are familiar with or who has helped a friend you trust. If this isn’t an option, check your local metaphysical bookstore to see who they would recommend. Make sure that the type of reading they provide resonates with you, is in alignment with the kind of guidance you are looking for. The thing to keep in mind with any reader is that they can only speak to where you are today. Anyone who is claiming to be able to see the future is really picking up on where your energy is now and looking at the natural evolution of that energy if it were to continue unfolding exactly as it is today. However, the future is always malleable, we can always set new intentions and make new choices that alter the path we are on. The information they provide is just a tool to help you steer your journey in the direction you choose. Think of it as a compass, showing you where you are headed in relation to your true north, and use it accordingly.

Movement. Connecting to the life force energy through movement can be very powerful and rejuvenating. Yoga is a wonderful option, especially if you go with one of the more spirit-oriented schools of thought, as opposed to those who look at Yoga purely for its exercise benefits. I personally prefer Hatha Yoga, as it feels like a holistic approach to the mind-body connection. While I haven’t yet had the pleasure of taking a class from him, the description I’ve heard of Ned Grant’s classes is exactly the kind of yoga I would enjoy participating in. From his website: “Yoga can be considered to be a two-step process, in which the first step is the focus of the mind, and the second is the release of energy that emerges as a result of that focus. In Hatha Yoga, the focus begins with what we do with the breath and the body.” Until I find a yogi like that in my neighborhood, I’m diving into my new love, Qigong. I get so much energy from this practice that I barely notice it is also exercise. I feel revitalized within the first few minutes of getting my Qi moving and its effects last throughout the day. If you’re interested in an introduction to Qigong, I would recommend picking up one of Lee Holden‘s DVDs.

Cards. Cards are a great tool for receiving messages or gaining clarity on what is coming to you intuitively. I am loving my tarot cards these days and find this tool to be a great asset to my daily guidance. Once you learn to read tarot cards you can do readings for yourself or for others, or if you’d prefer you can find a reader to look at the cards for you. Also handy are message cards like angel cards or daily affirmation cards. Ask the universe for what you need to know today and allow your intuition to pick a card–the message you receive is usually a great reminder of where you need to place your attention today for best results.

Pendulums and Crystals. A recent (re)discovery for me is the power of stones and crystals. All products of the earth have energy, and many crystals amplify your own energy in different ways depending on the crystal. I’ve found a handful of different stones and crystals that I meditate with, each with their own energy. If I need a boost to my intuition, I use one, but if I’m looking to open my heart I use another. Crystals make great pendulums as well, which are excellent tools for refining intuitive messages. Start by asking your pendulum simple questions so you can begin to see how it responds with its yes, no, and maybe or don’t know responses. Once you begin to develop a relationship with it, you can ask it questions you need clarity on and see which way it swings. It can take time for your confidence in this tool to grow, but the more confident you are, the more you can rely on its answers.

Sound. Having just spent a few days exploring the Globe Sound Healing Conference, I am especially aware of the ability of sound to open you up to a deeper connection to Source and a greater connection with your own inner wisdom. I had the pleasure of experiencing an alignment by a “crystal alchemist” my first morning at the conference. If you’re ever in Mount Shasta, you will definitely want to look up Crystal Tones at Mount Shasta–their crystal bowls are amazing, producing vibration that sings to your soul. Another pleasure was exploring the “percussive sculpture” of Bruce Gray, whose drums and rattles feel like they are alive. These are true pieces of art as well as powerful ways to connect to that primeval rhythm within. Music of all shapes and sizes provides a way for me to experience the divine, regardless of how I’m feeling or where my thoughts are running. Experiment with different musical forms, both participating and listening, and see what works for you.

These are really just a handful of the tools that are available to you at any given time. The takeaway here for me is that the world has so much to offer you, so much support to give you, so many avenues for you to explore. Your job is not to walk down every path or try on every tool for size, but to explore enough so that you’ve found a few tools that work for you and be open to new tools as they show up for you. Whether its a new person coming into your life or guitar lessons or a beautiful deck of angel cards, these tools are here for our enrichment. They don’t replace the guidance we receive from within, but they enhance it, providing us with the support of the universe’s loving arms. Relax, surrender, and enjoy the ride. Namaste.

Photo: “Daimonji path,” originally uploaded by Chris Gladis

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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 2: Clear the Slate February 25, 2008

From the Steps to Learning How to Fly series.

One of the largest obstacles to living life fully is the white noise, the clutter that builds up in our minds and bodies. Think of yourself as a receiver–in addition to the voice of your intuition, your inner guidance system, you’re getting input from your environment, from the people around you, and from the other voices in your head like fear and your inner critic. We recently got a new clock radio that picks up so many stations, it often dilutes the quality of the ones we want to listen to, creating static and dissonance. This is what having so much input all at once does to you–it clogs up the works so that you can’t hear the messages coming to you from the universe, you can’t discern the difference between what is resonating for you versus what isn’t, you can’t see what is being placed in your path for you to work on. It all just becomes noise.

Clearing the slate is about looking closely at these distractions, cleaning things up inside and out so you can actually see and hear what’s going on. The first place I would recommend looking is at your physical environment. Do you tend to have clutter around you, on your coffee table, your dresser, your desks at home and at work? Are your closets overflowing with all of the things that have just been shoved in there? Is your car full of empty water bottles and fast food bags you were too busy to throw out? When things around us are chaotic and disorderly, it tends to generate chaos in our minds as well. Treat yourself to some time this week to tackle an organization project that has been on your mind for a while, and take a few minutes each day to arrange your home and office, picking things up and throwing things away as you go so that are living and working surrounded by harmony.

As you begin to establish order in your life, you may begin to notice the source of some of your other distractions. Begin to pay attention to your thought processes, especially when you hear things like “I can’t do that because . . .” or “I don’t have time . . .” or “Maybe one day I’ll be able to . . .” The idea that we don’t have enough time to do the things we want to do is a choice. How much time do you spend watching television, having a beer (or two or more), gossiping by the water cooler, playing video games (and yes, computer solitaire counts), or reading about what’s happening in celebrities’ lives? Sure, there are plenty of things we do throughout the day that are necessary, but there are plenty more that are essentially just time suckers, distractions that keep us from even thinking about what it is we’d really like to be doing with our time, let alone actually acting on those ideas.

Another way we distract ourselves is by living in the past instead of in the present, defining ourselves by what has come before instead of where we are today. Each moment is a new moment, with the opportunity to make a new choice. When we cling to old ideas, old beliefs, old patterns, we keep ourselves locked in the past. When we hold on to perceived hurts, we get weighed down, hurting ourselves anew every time we think of them. Letting go of these things fills you with such energy, with such lightness, that you can use it as a springboard, catapulting you in the direction of your dreams. Make the choice to put down the baggage you’ve been carrying around with you, forgiving yourself and those who have hurt you, recognizing that right now is the only moment that really is and choosing to live it from a place of love and light and laughter.

At this point you are probably ready for some cleansing of the body and the mind. A little self-love goes a long way here. You might choose to do a fast of some sort, although really, the goal here is to do something that feels good for yourself, that feels nurturing. It might be as simple as making yourself a special meal where the only special occasion is that you’re taking care of yourself. Or you might choose to eliminate or reduce something in your diet that you tend to overindulge in. Or you might choose to follow the Native tradition of smudging, burning sage to cleanse your home and yourself of any negative feelings or influences that have built up there. Whatever you choose to do, find something that is meaningful to you and imbue it with a sense of ceremony, allowing it to really sink in on all levels.

Following are a couple of exercises you can use to help with the process of letting go. You might use them alone or in conjunction with some of the ideas we’ve already discussed here. I don’t follow any specific schedule, but when things start to get clogged up for me, I often receive a message that says it is time to do a burning bowl or do some forgiveness work. When you listen to your inner wisdom, you will know when is the right time for you as well.

Forgiveness Exercise:
There are many guided meditations out there that will walk you through a forgiveness exercise. I like to do this simple exercise that is a melding of various traditions I’ve been introduced to along the way.

Start by making yourself comfortable in a sitting position–you can use a more traditional meditation stance if you’d like, but sitting cross-legged in your favorite chair works just as well. Close your eyes and spend a few minutes breathing deeply, visualizing the tension flowing out of your muscles as you move from the top of your head down to your toes. You might choose to envision yourself being enveloped in a loving presence, full of kindness and compassion and unconditional love. Know that you are truly loved, inside and out, and that nothing you could ever do would shake that love.

When you’ve achieved a feeling of peace and relaxation, bring into your mind’s eye a picture of the person you are ready to forgive, which might even be yourself, and see them sitting across from you. Visualize this individual in the same state of peace and relaxation that you are. Take a few minutes to speak your peace, stating what it was that they did that hurt you and how it made you feel. This is not about blaming them or telling them that they are wrong–this is a time for you to talk about your perception of what happened and its effects on you. Talk until you’ve gotten it all out of your system and you feel like you are ready to move on.

Keeping the image of this person in your mind’s eye, acknowledge that whether the hurt was intentional or unintentional, you are ready to release it. Tell them out loud that you forgive them and ask for their forgiveness in return. Imagine both of you being filled with a cleansing white light, and allow yourself to float in this light, feeling free of the weight that has just been lifted from you. Allow the other person to float off along their own path, blessing them on their journey. Stay in this white light until you feel the lightness transferred into your physical being.

As they say, nature abhors a vacuum, so take a few moments to focus on what you are grateful for. You can say it out loud or write it down, but really feel that gratitude, allowing it to fill the space that now exists within you. The gratitude does not need to tie back into what was just released, but should feel genuine, and might even bring a smile to your face.

Repeat this exercise every couple of days until you feel like the forgiveness has truly sunk in throughout your body and mind.

Burning Bowl Ritual:
There are a variety of different ways to do this ritual, which is often practiced when something is coming to an end as a way of releasing the past before the new work can begin.

Gather together a few materials that you’ll need for this ritual: a candle, a lighter or matches, a pad of paper or slips of paper, a pen, a bowl to catch the ashes. Optional: tweezers, sage.

Write down on individual pieces of paper all of the things that you are ready to release, from an old belief or pattern to a person. Keep in mind that releasing a person does not have to mean that you are rejecting them from your life but it is an acknowledgment that they are on their own path as you are on yours. When you are finished writing things down, take a few moments to relax, closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths to allow any last nuggets to come to mind.

Light the candle you have in front of you. You might choose to say a little prayer, whatever comes to mind about your intention for this ritual. Pick up the first piece of paper, holding onto just the corner. (Optional: use tweezers to hold the pieces of paper to protect your fingers from the flame.) Read what is written on the paper, saying out loud that you are ready to release this belief, pattern, person, etc. Affirm what you accept into your life, the positive thing you’d like to see manifest with this release. For example, if the thing you are releasing is your debt, then you’d say something like: “I release this debt. I know that I am prosperous and I am now living my life from that place of abundance.” Allow this affirmation to sink in as you place the slip of paper in the candle’s flame. Watch the words burn and feel the sensation of release of this concept, allowing the ashes to fall into the bowl in front of you.

Repeat this process with each of the slips of paper you have written on until all has been released. You might choose to take this opportunity to burn some sage to cleanse the residue of what you’ve released from yourself and the room. Do something that feels ceremonious with the ashes–some people like to bury them, I’m okay with just washing them down the drain. Again, you might want to take a moment to do say a prayer affirming your intentions.

I do this ritual periodically, about once every other month or so, depending on what is coming up for me at the moment. There is no right or wrong way to do this–sometimes I’ve done them two days in a row because I remembered more things I needed to release or I felt like something was especially sticky. Just do what feels good here.

Recommended Reading:
The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
Radical Forgiveness, by Colin Tipping
True Balance, by Sonia Choquette

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The grounding, Part II February 7, 2008

This process of grounding is truly a process. While I did finish the task I set out to accomplish yesterday, it did not leave me with the feeling of relief and order that I was hoping for. The good news is that I can now be lazy and not have to look for things (ha ha ha). The bad news is that it seems the whole apartment needs this type of overhaul. Our place is pretty small and our hobbies tend to take up a lot of space. The office bears the brunt of this and until we have more room in which to set up a system of organization that can actually be maintained, order really needs to be restored fairly regularly or we just have to live with the consequences. Office aside, the kitchen really needs to be tackled, and then when that’s done, I should really do something about old magazines, and then go through the paperbacks to see which ones can be donated to new homes, and then there are closets that need some reorienting, and then . . .

When does it end? At what point does getting organized become just being a perfectionist, or only seeing what’s wrong instead of being able to see what’s right? Or is that just “all or nothing” thinking, where if one thing is organized then everything else should be, and if one thing is disorganized everything might as well be? And what about Nietzsche’s discovery, “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star” — where is there room for my creative chaos?

As with everything else, it seems, I need to find a balance here. Order enables me to be still, to reduce distractions, to see clearly, and chaos enables me to mix things up, to get silly and crazy and messy and see what happens. Order provides the grounding so that when I am open at the top, truly connected to that divine creativity that is calling me to expand, I can be stretched yet maintain my connection to the earth. One of the reasons I love Yael Naim’s Far Far so much is that she’s talking about that birthing process, praying for something to happen to her, feeling the beautiful mess inside and recognizing where it will lead. “I guess I’ll have to give it birth / To give it birth / There’s a beautiful mess inside and it’s everywhere.” Sometimes things have to get messy before we can get clear, but that mess needs space in which it can live and breathe and feel safe once the birthing process is complete.

So I will continue to ground myself, to get organized and nurture myself and my family. And I will continue to reach out into the stars, to let things get a little messy and see where it leads, knowing that I have laid the foundation that makes it possible for me to find order and clarity when I need to. Namaste.

 

yes is a world January 24, 2008

I was all set to write about the power of action today, but as I was swapping out my “Quote of the Week” this morning, it occurred to me that as much as I love e.e. cummings poem that was there, I haven’t necessarily been LIVING it.

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skilfully curled)
all worlds

Reading this poem, even if it’s my hundredth time reading it, gives me chills. It speaks to that part of me that has spent most of my life asleep, that part of me that yearns for me to stand up and truly say YES that all of life has to offer. It speaks to me in the language of my soul, answering a call that my spirit has been crying for a long, long time.

I’m still at a point where I’m not sure I know what living a life of YES would truly look like, but I think I can work backwards from what it would not look like. It would not look like settling–it would be making choices that serve me and my goals. It would not look like accepting table scraps and saying thank you, can I have some more please–it would be recognizing my power and strength and the gifts that I bring to the world, knowing my value and expecting it to be seen. It would not be gray and flat and lifeless–it would be full of color, fully fleshed out, vibrant, animate, alive.

Sometimes I’m blown away by how difficult it is for me to speak my truth, to stand in my power and tell the world that I’m here, that I’m a force for good in this universe, that I am a voice of wisdom and understanding, that I am a conduit for God or Infinite Intelligence or Source or whatever you want to call that all-powerful, all-encompassing ONENESS that is the creative source of our universe. The DailyOM this morning struck such a chord with me, talking about that feeling of spinning our wheels, possibly even feeling like we’re going backwards, but needing to remember that each step is a step forward. Forward progress, it’s all forward progress. That can be so difficult for me to recognize some days, when I find myself stuck in a pattern that I thought I’d caught and eliminated 10, 15, 20 years ago. How long am I going to allow myself to be stuck under the mantle of “I’m not good enough”?

But this is when I have to take a deep breath, let all that tension in my shoulders and my stomach dissipate and remember that the “I’m not good enough” of 2008 is a mere shadow of its former self. The truth of my forward progress really is self-evident–when I let go my perfectionism and judgment, I can see it clear as day. And this past year has been about moving what I know from my head to my heart, into my body, so that I can FEEL it. I suppose this next year is going to be about moving it out of my head and body into the world, really putting my money where my mouth is and living the life that I truly want, that I know I deserve, and that I truly was born to live. This year is going to be about shifting my self-definition, how I perceive myself internally and how I describe myself to the world.

I am a writer. I am a coach. I am a spiritual intuitive. I have unique gifts to share with the world. This is who I am. Do you know who you are? How do you want to define yourself moving forward? Are you ready to share that definition of yourself? I cannot promise you that this kind of shift will be easy, but I know that, for me at least, it is necessary. And I hope to even have some fun with it along the way. 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.