Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

Grounding ourselves March 6, 2009

Filed under: inspiration — jennsheridan @ 2:25 pm
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There is nothing quite like uprooting yourself to remind you of how important it is to be grounded. This week I’ve felt somewhat disjointed and out of focus. Normally that happens because I’ve allowed my morning practice to slip. However, if anything, I’ve intensified my morning practice this week as I recognized how necessary it was to my remaining centered through this transition. I thought maybe I had just overdone it over the weekend, and these were signs that my body still needed to catch up on its rest, but if that were the case I would have expected to see improvement from day to day this week. Yesterday as I was out taking a walk around my building, it finally dawned on me what’s been missing — my sense of being grounded. I’ve had this DailyOM article on reserve since last summer as a wonderful reminder of both the need to be grounded and how simple it can be to ground yourself in a breath, in a moment. Today I plan to follow its advice, as well as some of my own from last spring, and spend some time with my feet firmly planted on the earth, breathing in that grounding energy and restoring my sense of balance, of connection, of my roots. Namaste.

Being A Strong Container
Grounding Ourselves

We often hear people telling us to ground ourselves, but we may not be sure what that means and how we might do it. Grounding ourselves is a way of bringing ourselves literally back to earth. Some of us are more prone than others to essentially leaving our bodies and not being firmly rooted in our bodies. There’s nothing terribly wrong with this, but while we are living on the earth plane it is best to stay grounded in the body.

One of the easiest ways to ground ourselves is to bring our attention to our breath as it enters and leaves our bodies. After about 10 breaths, we will probably find that we feel much more connected to our physical selves. We might then bring our awareness to the sensations in our bodies, moving from our head down to our feet, exploring and inquiring. Just a few minutes of this can bring us home to bodies and to the earth, and this is what it means to ground ourselves.

We can go further by imagining that we have roots growing out of the bottoms of our feet, connecting us to the earth. The roots flow with us so we can we always move, but at the same time they keep us grounded. We receive powerful energy from the earth just as we do from the forms of energy we associate with the sky, and our body is a tool that brings these two energies together in a sacred union. When we are grounded, we essentially become a strong container in which our spirits can safely and productively dwell. This is why grounding ourselves every day, especially at the beginning of the day, is such a beneficial practice. Fortunately, it’s as simple as bringing our conscious awareness to our bodies and the earth on which we walk.

Photo: “Cross section of a tree’s roots,” originally uploaded by Aaron Escobar

 

Summer adventure July 27, 2008

Filed under: notes — jennsheridan @ 7:17 pm
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My husband and I leave in the morning for a summer adventure. We’re heading up to Crater Lake, camping there for a couple of days before heading to Ashland for a quick taste of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Nothing could have made me happier when my husband expressed a desire to spend his few days off up there. It’s absolutely beautiful and exactly what I needed to ground myself after the all-over-the-map-ness of the past couple of months.

Here’s to a wonderful, centering, grounding week for all of us. Namaste.

Photo: “Crater Lake – Discovery Point,” originally uploaded by Charles Dawley

 

Reconnecting May 27, 2008

“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”
~Will Rogers

We all have those moments, days, weeks where it feels like we can’t keep up, we aren’t centered or grounded, we’re separated from Source. I don’t know about you, but when it happens to me, I have this sense that it will require a grand gesture to turn it around. Missed a few days of meditation? Then I must need an hour-long meditation plus two more hours of spiritual practice to catch back up. And then when I don’t have the time or make the time for such a long practice, I judge myself as lacking and sink deeper into the darkness.

The thing is, of course, we’re never completely closed off from Source and no matter how disconnected we feel, reconnection is literally only a breath away. Once the awakening has begun, once you’ve had a taste of the experience of your deep connection to Source, it doesn’t take much to bring you back there. Here are a few simple tools you can use throughout your day to either help you remain connected or reconnect you as needed:

Breathing. We are constantly breathing, in and out, all day long, each and every day. It is something we are generally unconscious of, but try bringing your consciousness to this natural process, recognizing with each breath that you are alive in this moment, right now. Do this for a few moments or a few minutes, depending on where you are and how much time you have. It’s amazing how this simple technique can bring you quickly back to yourself, to you as observer, as awareness, to the now.

Be Here Now. The key to happiness is to stay present in this moment. I find that a simple mantra can work wonders in helping me remain present when I find my mind wandering into past and future events. I’ve been using “Be Here Now” recently, although any mantra will work. I’ve also been playing with the idea that whatever I am doing right now, it is my life’s purpose to be doing it, and so I remind myself of that as I work. It is a great way to turn any activity into a meditation and almost always brings me up out of whatever dark thoughts were trying to take hold in my mind into the space of light and peace that is always available in the now.

Music. Listening to music can be a quick and easy way to reconnect. Our bodies are energy and we are all vibrating. Music is also a vibration, and when the two vibrations meet, we can experience a deep harmony. I know for me there are a few tracks that from the first note I feel myself transported. If you don’t already know what works for you in this way, I recommend exploring the many examples that are available these days developed with the intention of positively affecting people’s vibration. My current favorite is Jonathan Goldman’s Waves of Light, although I also enjoy the Brainwave Suite and the second track of Kelly Howell’s Retrieve Your Destiny. The Globe Institute for Sound Therapy & Healing is a great resource as well. They have a collection of CDs available in their store with demos for you to sample. When you visit their website, they have a selection playing, “Awakening,” that instantly transports me, and I often leave the page open in the background while I’m working so that I can stay in that sense of the divine no matter what I’m doing.

Nature. If you have a wee bit more time, try connecting with the natural world. If there’s a park or a forest nearby, go for a short walk. Try taking off your shoes, feeling the grass or dirt beneath your feet. Connecting with the earth directly is a quick and easy way to literally ground yourself through the earth’s energy. When you don’t have nature readily at hand, try observing the flora and fauna around you. Flowers in a vase, a house plant, a pet, a bird outside your window — take a few moments to really experience these examples of life that can be found just about everywhere, using each of your senses. You may feel how they radiate energy just like you do. Or you may just notice their simple beauty. Whatever comes up for you, the natural world provides so many examples of the essence of life that it can become a great way for you to reconnect with your own sense of that essence within you.

The key here is really it only takes a moment to remember what it is we already know–that we are one with the Source of all life and that the only moment that truly is is this one. When we come into that awareness, we are in contact with the power of the universe, with the divine. Try playing with a few of these tools this week, maybe by setting up a reminder alarm to go off a few times throughout the day or by using them when you start to feel yourself slipping into unconsciousness. I think you’ll find it only takes a moment to turn your day around. Good luck, have fun, and let me know how it goes! Namaste.

Photo: “That my life would depend on the morning sun,” originally uploaded by ThunderChild the Magnificent

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Hugging back April 10, 2008

Something I was reading this week recommended hugging a tree, saying that if you get still and pay attention you should feel the tree hugging back. Somewhat by accident, I ended up participating in a tree hug fest yesterday, and I am so glad that I did. What a magnificent way to connect with nature and the universe. Booyah!

I’ve been feeling the pull towards the beach this week–it takes about 30 minutes to get over to Half Moon Bay and I tend to fill my days with so much busyness that I don’t feel I have time to make the journey. Every time I go I think, wow, it’s so close, why don’t I do this more often? The intellect can be so silly sometimes. Turning it off and letting the greater wisdom within me do the thinking always nets better results.

So while I was there I had two goals: to walk my 3-mile walk for my Avon Walk for Breast Cancer training, and to soak up as much beauty and peace and, well, beach as I could. It was absolutely gorgeous when I arrived–a deep blue sky reflecting into the sparkling blue ocean, relatively warm (I’m thinking mid-60s), a handful of fluffy, white clouds. I set off in a northerly direction along a path that ran along the top of the cliff. At some point I reached an easy access point to head down to the beach and I did, walking along the water and just enjoying the smell, the way the clouds dancing across the sun cast shadows on the sand, the feeling of the sand giving way beneath my feet.

When I turned around to head back the other way I realized that dark, heavy clouds were coming in, slowly obscuring the sun, but it was an almost tangible blanket with distinct edges–when you looked out to the horizon you could see the sun reflecting off the water on the other side a few miles out. It was absolutely breathtaking in its own way. On the way back I made a game out of walking in my own footsteps, half running in the sand and laughing at my own silliness. At the car, I knew I was having too much fun to go home, so I just kept walking past it towards a clump of trees I saw hanging on the edge of the cliff.

And man, as much fun as I had walking on the beach, exploring these trees was definitely the highlight of my day. It’s only Thursday and I don’t want to squelch any upcoming joy, otherwise I’d claim it as the highlight of my week! I had to cross a little bridge to reach this grove of cypresses and it was like crossing into another world. A deep peace fell over me and I felt as though I’d walked into a large cathedral with the kind of deep energy that collects over many years of reverence. My steps got very slow and I could feel my energy shift in response to the trees, keeping the playfulness but almost mutating it into a sense of celebration, a joie de vivre, that resonated all the way to my core.

There was a single cypress hanging off the edge of the cliff, completely bent so that its top ran almost parallel to the ground. I walked up to it and wrapped my arms around it, resting my chin on its bark and looking out over its vista. I’d been soaking up the beauty of the beach for almost an hour, but it was like I was seeing it for the first time, I was seeing it from the tree’s vantage point. I stood there for a few minutes, soaking up the energy of the tree, not even really conscious of the fact that my toes were just a couple of inches from the edge of a cliff. I just felt so safe, so centered, so grounded, so connected.

The next tree I came to was sticking out of the earth at about a 45 degree angle. It wasn’t one I could really hug, so instead I ran my hands along it, really seeing it through my palms and fingers, feeling the intricacies of its bark. There were a couple of knots that looked a bit like the deep, soulful eyes of a horse or a whale or something, and I looked deeply into them, feeling like I was looking into the tree’s soul. The tree emanated such a sense of grace, and I felt honored to have it share its presence with me.

After that, I ran through the clumps of trees I found and explored them like I was a little kid, seeing them as great places to play games, making different rooms out of the trees’ canopies, seeing how many I could walk between along the edge of the cliff without going back out to the path. These trees brought me to a place of such joy and gratitude. I felt childlike in their presence, totally in awe of them, yet having so much fun with them.

I am so grateful to have had this experience yesterday. I needed this connection, this reminder of the magnificence of the universe and my place in it. And now I know exactly where I can go if I ever need help reaching a place of peace and serenity. The grace of these trees will always show me the way. Namaste.

Photo: “the lone cypress as seen from the 17 mile drive,” originally uploaded by Vaidyanathan Krishnan

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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 III February 8, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 7:15 pm
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My head feels like it is completely bubbling over with all the great stuff I’ve learned this week. I love how life continues to throw me curve balls and sometimes I flub them and sometimes I just hit them out of the park, but regardless of the outcome I’m always learning something. One of the biggest things I’ve learned this week probably should have been obvious — although those are the things that usually take me longer to figure out — which is that grounding is an ongoing process. It’s not like getting a tattoo or something where you can see immediate results and there’s not a significant amount of maintenance, you have to work on it a little bit each day. And there’s not a magic tonic that will always work — you have to find balance even within the act of grounding.

While Wednesday was all about getting organized, yesterday was about Abundance and Nature. And yes, those are capital-letter concepts for me. I was absolutely thrilled because I finally got my first freelancing check. Phew! I’ve been biting my nails for a few weeks now, anxious because while I absolutely did not want to put a single penny more on the credit card, the cash on-hand wasn’t enough to cover our expenses. Yesterday’s check was for three weeks of work and I felt such a flood of relief pour through me as I reviewed our financial situation. I did what I’d been putting off doing for a while now — I shined a light on our expenses and put together a plan of where our money is going for the next couple of months. The whole time I was doing it, I could feel my center getting more secure, I could feel the concept of Abundance flowing through my body, and I felt so steady, so stable, so . . . grounded. It was like a lightbulb went off in my body that said, Eureka! Feeling secure about my finances makes me feel grounded! I know, Duh! But it was good for me to see the truth of it and to really feel it through and through.

The other thing I did was to take a lovely 3-mile walk at the reservoir. I’d had plans to go with a friend and when she had to cancel, I could feel myself start to think about the other things this would open me up to do at home that afternoon. Thankfully, an inner voice rang out loud and clear reminding me how important it is for me to get outside while the sun is shining, to connect with nature, and to be active in the process. Riding high on this concept, I also made plans with some friends to go to the beach next weekend (I really hope it doesn’t rain), knowing how walking alongside the ocean is both necessary and something I never do often enough. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a water sign, but rivers, lakes, oceans, ponds, even puddles speak to me deeply. It’s always been interesting to me that the two places that ground me the most are the desert and the ocean — the presence and absence of water, yet both teaming with life. I can feel my energy shift in their presence.

Ah, I feel very content this morning. I feel like I am opening up, like this experience of grounding has made it possible for me to connect more deeply with myself, with Source, and with those around me. And I feel such FLOW happening — I registered for the Avon Breast Walk and people are already coming out of the woodwork to walk with me, I have an interview lined up for Sunday, and I even feel short story ideas beginning to bubble up. Yes, please! I love this process, I love the learning, I love the living of it. Namaste.

 

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.