Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

Steve Jobs quote March 13, 2009

Filed under: quote of the week — jennsheridan @ 7:00 pm
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For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something . . . almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

~ Steve Jobs


Surrender March 26, 2008

Filed under: inspiration,practice — jennsheridan @ 11:11 pm
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“The more you struggle to live, the less you live. Give up the notion that you must be sure of what you are doing. Instead, surrender to what is real within you, for that alone is sure. As stars high above earth, you are above everything distressing. But you must awaken to it. Wake up!”
~Baruch Spinoza

Surrender is a dirty word for many people. I’ve known folks who have been on the spiritual path for longer than I’ve been alive who still have great resistance to the concept of surrender. When you look at the primary definition on dictionary.com, it’s really no wonder: to yield (something) to the possession or power of another; deliver up possession of on demand or under duress: to surrender the fort to the enemy; to surrender the stolen goods to the police. Even the definition that I’m using doesn’t sound much better on the surface: to give (oneself) up to some influence, course, emotion, etc.: He surrendered himself to a life of hardship. There’s great fear that surrendering means we’ll have to give something up, or even just give up in general. But what does “giving up” really mean? To me, anyway, it means to stop trying. And boy oh boy, is there ever a lesson for me in that. There is great power in ceasing to try to do anything. It’s like Yoda says: “Do or do not. There is no try.” The more we try the less we do, not to mention the more we get frustrated.

One day last week I was working on some things having to do with my finances and I could feel myself getting anxious about it–never a good sign. As I was trying to shake off the anxiety, I had an image pop into my head of Liz Gilbert from Eat, Pray, Love, when she was lying on her bathroom floor crying and talking to God. This image was quickly followed by one from the movie Saved! where one of the Catholic schoolgirls is kneeling by her bed crying and praying wildly. I thought, well, I’ve never tried it–who knows, maybe it’s exactly what I need to do. So I went into my living room and knelt down, going almost into Child’s Pose with my forehead touching the floor. I just started talking out loud, expressing how I was feeling about money and where I was looking for resolution. Before I knew it, a flood of emotion came out and I started to cry, ultimately lying there with my head on my arms repeating, “I just need some help, I just need some help,” over and over again. Suddenly, I felt this deep sense of calm and stillness come over me–I moved into a seated position and sat there for a few minutes breathing in my newfound peace. Before I could get up and go back to my work my phone rang–it was a friend who wanted to pay me to do some work for her. I burst out laughing and when I hung up I simply said, Thank you.

I’ve invested a lot of energy lately trying to surrender–what happened that day was that I actually surrendered. I gave up in the sense that I stopped trying to do anything. My intention was in place, but I was holding on to it so tightly there was no room for the Universe to provide. By letting go, by surrendering, I opened myself up to solutions I never could have forced into being. In the end, surrendering isn’t about giving up anything–it’s about moving yourself into alignment with Life so you can begin to accept all the good that Life has to offer. This process reminds me of the poem at the beginning of Wayne Dyer’s Your Sacred Self:

Broken Dreams
author unknown

As children bring their broken toys
With tears for us to mend,
I brought my broken dream to God
Because He was my Friend.

But instead of leaving Him
In peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
With ways that were my own.

At last I snatched them back and cried,
“How can You be so slow?”
“My child,” He said, “what could I do?
You never let them go.”

What are you holding on to? What are you ready to receive? Can you begin to see how you might surrender it to the Universe, thereby allowing it to come into fruition? Take the leap of faith with me this week–truly surrender whatever it you find yourself holding onto most tightly. Experience the deep peace that surrender brings, and see what shows up to support you. Namaste.

Photo: “Sweet Surrender,” originally uploaded by What’s in a name…

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Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow March 24, 2008

Filed under: inspiration — jennsheridan @ 4:00 pm
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Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to singin my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope,
the rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing in the
surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes,
arrives in time to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the
clear water of a pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who,
approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly
weapons to Uganda.

I am the 12-year-old girl, refugee
on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after
being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with
plenty of power in my hand,
and I am the man who has to pay his
“debt of blood” to my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is likes pring, so warm it makes
flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it
fills up the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughs
at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

~Thich Nhat Hanh, from Earth Prayers

Photo: “Peacock Butterfly in the morning,” originally uploaded by Hans-Peter


Step 5: Trust Your Intuition February 28, 2008

Filed under: learning to fly,practice — jennsheridan @ 8:46 pm
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From the Steps to Learning How to Fly series.

Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru.
~Joko Beck

Have you ever had a feeling or a hunch about something that you just couldn’t rationalize? Did it end up being right on the money? For the longest time I dismissed those feelings, using my reasoning and rationalization skills to either come to the same conclusion or the opposite one depending on what I wanted to see. If I had learned earlier to trust those feelings, I would have saved myself considerable anguish in my life, but apparently it was a lesson I needed to learn the long way.

What I know now is that the universe and my inner wisdom are speaking to me all the time. When I pay attention to these messages, things fall into place with such ease I’m in awe. When I don’t pay attention or ignore these messages, things have a way of getting messy and tangled. So what’s the trick to getting in touch with your intuition? The good news is we’ve already talked about the two things I think are most important to pave the way: clearing the slate and conscious connection. When you reduce the distractions in your life and take the time to be still and listen each day, you are building the muscles needed in order to discern which of those voices in your head is your intuition.

As the quote above suggests, messages show up in a myriad of ways, and they are always coming to us. Sometimes an idea will just pop into your head, other times a book will fall off a shelf. Perhaps you turn on the radio and the lyrics to the song playing are the answer to a question that’s been bugging you, or you get an email from a friend telling you about how they just solved a problem you’ve been struggling with. Or it might be that you run out of gas in front of a building with a mural painted on the side, and the words in the mural are exactly what you needed to be reminded of. Once you begin to pay attention, you will see these kinds of messages everywhere!

You can consciously cultivate this process by doing things like using an oracle card deck or playing “book roulette”–play around with these ideas until you find a method that feels good to you. There are hundreds of oracle card decks on the market these days from a wide variety of authors and artists. My current favorites are angel cards by Doreen Virtue, which I discovered on a retreat to Sedona I went on last fall. One of my friends had a deck that she used each day, pulling out a card and reading its message. By the end of the retreat, the whole group was doing it. I had never been into angels previously myself, but these cards are beautifully designed and the readings to go with them are simple and metaphysical, and almost always exactly what I need to hear. “Book roulette” will work with just about any book, but I would recommend using one that you find to be especially wise. Some people like to use the Bible, others use The Science of Mind, by Ernest Holmes, known as “the textbook” to many Religious Scientists. I’ve had great luck with Sufi poetry–my favorites are Hafiz and Rumi. And my guess is Eat, Pray, Love would work wonderfully for me as well. Once you have a book in hand, formulate a question and then open the book at random. Start reading wherever your eyes fall on the page or use your finger to point at a passage.

Fear is also a wonderful route to getting in touch with your intuition, even if that doesn’t sound especially intuitive. The voice of fear is almost always telling you what you need to do in order to stay small, to stay exactly where you are and avoid changing and growing. I’ve learned that because of this, if I do what it is telling me NOT to do, I open myself up for great discoveries, or at the very least the opportunity to neutralize an old pattern. It can be as small as picking up the phone to call someone or as big as quitting your job. Last year, I spent a lot of time trying to “figure out” what I should do about my work. I got the message to leave my job over and over and over again, but I rationalized it away, saying that was just wishful thinking. The voice of fear kept reminding me that I needed a job for a million reasons, from money to having a hole in my resume to “what would people think?” The day I decided to give my notice it was like the dark cloud over my head lifted and the sun came out and I was light as a feather and filled with joy. It resonating so deeply within me that I finally recognized which voice was which and knew that it was the right thing for me to do.

Now that you’re ready to listen to your intuition, to those messages the universe is sending you, to the wisdom that lies within you, the next step is to learn to trust it enough to follow where it leads. Trust is a muscle, just like anything else, and it has to be built. Start with something that feels small, that feels like you have nothing to lose, like what to have for dinner tonight or what to wear to work tomorrow. Feel the difference between doing the thing your intuition tells you to do and ignoring it. For me anyway, once I started paying attention to what was resonating versus what wasn’t, it was easy for me to trust. It definitely feels better! As Nike says, Just do it–you’ll thank yourself later.

Recommended Reading:
Developing Intuition, by Shakti Gawain
The Gift, by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky
Healing with the Angels Oracle Cards, by Doreen Virtue
The Psychic Pathway, by Sonia Choquette
The Soul of Rumi, by Jalal Al-Din Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks
Trust Your Vibes, by Sonia Choquette

Photo: labyrinth–avila beach, Originally uploaded by Moon Rhythm

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The Alchemist Quote February 24, 2008

Filed under: quote of the week — jennsheridan @ 8:00 pm
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‘My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,’ the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky. ‘Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.’

~Paolo Coelho, The Alchemist


Blossoming February 13, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 5:30 pm
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I already feel like I’ve been on a roller coaster and it’s only 9:30! I woke up this morning really tense, my whole body aching from head to toe. I’d had a long night of not sleeping well, presumably because my back hurt but substantially because I’ve had underlying money worries all week. I dragged myself out of bed a little before 6, set myself up on the couch with an ice pack, and started to do my morning pages. I grumbled for a little while but finally just started asking myself questions. What is it going to take for me not to let stress show up in my body? What do I need to learn in order to kick my money issues once and for all? What is the source of this fear that I can feel rumbling around in my tummy?

The bottom line? As Marianne Williamson says, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” The more I recognize that I need to take risks, the push myself out of my shell, to claim my power, the louder the voice of fear becomes in my head. But as Anais Nin said, “And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I know that this change is necessary and I know that now is the time and I know that I am ready to live my life like Ellis suggests: “How would it be if everything that you thought you knew / Was turned upside down opposite from your point of view / How would you feel if the ground was really the sky and all of this / time you’ve been walkin’ when you coulda been flying.” Yeah baby, yeah!

So I got out a pad of paper and wrote down each of my fears on its own page. Then I went back and added the old patterns that surface, enabling those fears to gain footing in my consciousness. I took my 11 slips of paper, a pile of pillows, and a whiffle bat and I bashed each fear or pattern. Hallelujah! The paper was really too light for this process and so it would float up in the air, which immediately made me laugh. So I kept bashing and laughing and bashing and laughing until I felt completely filled with love and light and laughter. The weight of those fears and patterns had lifted. I danced around my living room for a little while, high on the feeling of lightness, then scooped up the slips of paper and held a burning bowl ritual. I took the slips one by one, stated my intention for what I am now accepting in my life, and watched the words burn away, going back into the nothingness from whence they came. When I was done, I took out my sage and smudged myself and my apartment, acknowledging that today is a new day, and that I am starting fresh.

I find ritual soothing, a way of getting a message out of my head and into my body. While it might not be necessary in order to affect change, for me it feels like one of the better tools in my toolbox, a tried and true method of getting things to move in a direction that feels good. Like anything else, it’s a process, and I may need to do another ritual next week, next month, or even tomorrow, but for right now, I feel free to fly. Namaste.


Baby steps February 11, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 6:20 pm
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Life is such an interesting journey, isn’t it? What I’m especially in awe of these days is how even though the light often only shines on the very next step, it is always leading you somewhere that enables your growth. I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I needed this time off to help slow me down, enabling me to change direction without skidding out of control. But that is not what I thought 4 or 5 months ago, which is why I ended up with a knee injury that forced me to literally SIT for weeks until the way I was thinking about things had shifted enough to start the real change. I can still feel healing taking place in my soul, and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to take some time off, to retreat from the world for a spell.

A month ago the pendulum had swung so far the other way that I was feeling panicky about the idea of a full-time job, feeling like this retreat was necessary for me indefinitely. But somewhat out of the blue, I’m feeling pulled in a different direction. My soul recognizes that while this time off has given me what I needed to connect more deeply with Source, it is now time for me to connect with people, and to do that, I need to be out in the world, a tangible being for folks to interact with, so that I can continue along my growth path and share my gifts with the world.

I had an interview last night, and it was kind of funny, because my brain went through the full range of patterns that it usually does in these circumstances. I slept really poorly as the mini-computer in my head did all of its calculations and ran through its infinite scenarios and told me all of the reasons why this job is a bad fit for me, focusing especially on that belief that a full-time job would distract me from my purpose. The interesting thing was that when I woke up this morning, my head was still. All that was left was the idea that I needed to speak to my guides, speak to that Intelligence deep within me to see what it thought–in other words, what the REAL me thought about all of this. And the answer wasn’t entirely surprising considering the messages I’ve received over the past few months. I was reminded that the voice that keeps me from sleeping is the voice of fear, that what really makes me anxious about this job is that it would force me to show up in the work world in a deeply different way than I ever have before. But it also reminded me that this job is an opportunity for me to take the way I’ve been showing up in my spiritual world, i.e. as a Practitioner, and apply it to a work environment, to use the skills that I have honed on that path out in the world in a new way.

I honestly don’t know what will happen with this job, and that is really okay with me. But what I do know now is that whatever happens, I will continue to grow and to be given steps that take me on the path that ultimately lead to my goal. The light may not show me very much, but it always shows me what I need to see, and when I take the steps I’m guided to take, I always get to experience even more of the divine way that things flow together. Namaste.