Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

Lessons in expectation January 29, 2010

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 2:14 pm
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Parenthood is most definitely the hardest best thing I’ve ever done. While I have never doubted my decision to become a mother, I have doubted just about every other decision I’ve made, whether it’s about returning to work full-time, living in one of the most expensive places in the country, or even moving into a two-story townhouse. Wherever I am in time or place, I almost always can be thinking of at least one other thing that I’d either rather be doing or feel like I should be doing.

It’s enough to drive me over the edge — and it did this week. I completely lost it, sobbing hysterically for about twenty minutes and continuing to have bouts of weeping periodically throughout the day until the emotion had finished draining from my body. It was an incredibly freeing experience. I realized I had been carrying around with me all of these expectations — mostly of myself — and every time I didn’t live up to one (which was practically constantly), it was adding a small burden. Those small burdens had multiplied until I was nearly crippled beneath their weight. The release of emotion enabled me to drop that weight, and it was like I was suddenly filled with helium — I felt so light yesterday I was nearly giddy.

Nothing had changed in my external experience. If anything, yesterday was an even crazier day — not only did I have back-to-back meetings, I had overlapping meetings, and a doctor’s appointment that included my second blood-draw of the week. When I went to pick up a prescription last night, I found out I have a deductible on brand-name scrips, and I had to spend over $100 to get this one out of hock. My response? Laughter. I walked through the day so lightly that I actually enjoyed myself. I let go of my expectation that I would get anything done, and somehow found the time to be productive in the midst of all of the meetings.

I have to laugh at myself for how many times I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way. But until I truly *get* it, I suspect it will continue to keep coming up. In the interim, I’m enjoying my newfound lightness, and the way it enables me to stay fully present in my time with my son. And nothing could be a greater gift than that.

Photo: “when expectations are reversed,” originally uploaded by psyberartist

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Aaah . . . May 28, 2009

Filed under: inspiration,practice — jennsheridan @ 1:19 pm
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A friend of mine posted a quote from my dear favorite Hāfez this morning: “There are so many gifts still unopened from your birthday.” I realized it doesn’t matter what he’s saying, it just makes my whole being open up, relax, and let go. I was moved to seek out inspiration from another Sufi this morning, Rumi. After a few minutes of surrendering to the perspectives of these beautiful mystics, I felt the challenges of this week fall off of me.

One of the biggest challenges for me this week has been shaking off some of the recent decisions made by this lovely state that I live in, California. First, there was the news that Prop. 8 (banning gay marriage) was being upheld, followed quickly by the governor’s latest budget recommendation that includes, amongst other gems, cutting so much revenue to our state parks that 80% of them would have to close. After moving through my intial feelings of disappointment and frustration, I was able to find peace in the reminder that times of great change are often accompanied by chaos as the smallness and limiting beliefs created by fear are ultimately dissipated by the expansive, creative, loving energy of our ongoing growth. This snippet of Rumi’s wisdom seemed especially appropriate to me this morning:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

From: The Essential Rumi, by Coleman Barks

Here are a couple of other treasures from the realm of Rumi’s wisdom. I hope that they have a similar opening, expansive, releasing feeling for you today, and that your being can relax into the Aaah . . . . Namaste.

Moving Water
~ by Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river
moving in you, a joy.

When actions come from another section, the feeling
disappears. Don’t let

others lead you. They may be blind or, worse, vultures.
Reach for the rope

of God. And what is that? Putting aside self-will.
Because of willfulness

people sit in jail, the trapped bird’s wings are tied,
fish sizzle in the skillet.

The anger of police is willfulness. You’ve seen a magistrate
inflict visible punishment. Now

see the invisible. If you could leave your selfishness, you
would see how you’ve

been torturing your soul. We are born and live inside black water in a well.

How could we know what an open field of sunlight is? Don’t
insist on going where

you think you want to go. Ask the way to the spring. Your
living pieces will form

a harmony. There is a moving palace that floats in the air
with balconies and clear

water flowing through, infinity everywhere, yet contained
under a single tent.

From: The Glance

This We Have Now
~ by Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

This we have now
is not imagination.

This is not
grief or joy.

Not a judging state,
or an elation,
or sadness.

Those come and go.
This is the presence that doesn’t.

From: The Essential Rumi

Photo: “Sunset gateway,” originally uploaded by Mirko Macari

 

In Blackwater Woods April 3, 2009

Filed under: inspiration — jennsheridan @ 1:47 pm
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The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster ride. The highs have been fantastic and have been wrapped up mostly in the baby who is now doing somersaults in my belly. I’ve started prenatal yoga, and this small step of self-nurture has been absolutely golden, completely necessary and fulfilling, and yet another beautiful way for me to connect with baby. We had an incredibly productive day last weekend where we unpacked enough of the right stuff to finally feel like we truly live here. Now all of my inspirational books have been moved onto a new bookcase in the bedroom, the beginnings of a new reading nook we’re creating in there. It all feels so good.

The lows have surrounded love and loss and probably a fair amount of nostalgia. I went to visit my family in Georgia and spent a couple of days with my grandparents on my mother’s side. They spend their days remembering how things used to be, resisting the way things are now, and are slowly slipping away into Alzheimer’s and senility. My last few visits, I’ve been highly conscious of how this may be the last, and so I try to soak up as much as I can while I am there, but it is easy to slip into a place of nostalgia, of remembering the good ol’ days through the rosy veil that memory provides. Home again, I find my uncle scanning in old pics of my father’s family, including some true gems of my early days with my grandfather, who made his transition several years ago now. The pictures make me smile, but also bring tears to my eyes as I remember just how much I miss him.

Life truly is a cycle, and these past couple of weeks have been full of the reminder that this new life in my belly in some respects replaces life that has come before. Individuals ebb and flow into our lives, and we are truly blessed to be touched by so many. Now that my books have been freed from their two-month bondage in boxes, I was pleased to be able to pull Risking Everything back off the shelf and uncover a wonderful poem by Mary Oliver that connects with the feelings tumbling around within me. Her words remind me of the power of love in this ephemeral world. Enjoy, and namaste.

In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Photo: “1930’s postcards- in sepia,” originally uploaded by aussiegall

 

Returning to myself September 3, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 10:10 pm
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The best things in life are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties in your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.
~Robert Louis Stevenson

So I took my own advice from yesterday–not that I realized I was giving advice–and went for a walk at the beach today. “Happily I recover. . . . / Happily I go forth. . . . / With lovely feelings may I walk. / As it used to be long ago, may I walk.” I had woken up this morning feeling off my game. After a week of being a bit under the weather, I was finally feeling better . . . so my Intellect gifted me with a flurry of thoughts that supposedly needed urgent attention. I realized that this tension I’ve been feeling in my neck and shoulders is a direct result of stress, which always surprises me. A year ago, I was working a crazy schedule plus a hellish commute for a job that I hated. What do I have to be stressed out about now?, I ask myself.

But that’s not really how it works. Whatever is going on your life is always the largest thing you’ve ever had to deal with. Not true, I know, but especially as time passes and you adjust to life as it has become, the things that happened in the past lose their full color and whatever is up for you right now feels HUGE. You can hear about starving children and domestic violence and rights abuses and whatever else makes the news today and think, how do my worries compare to that? Well, they don’t. But not because your challenges are inherently less important–it’s really that life isn’t relative. Sure, you can always do more for those other folks you’re hearing about it, and they may or may not receive relief from it or appreciate it. But none of that will make what’s going on for you go away. You are living your life in this moment, the present moment, the only moment there is, and therefore this moment is the most important moment in your life, in your world.

Which is how I came to be at the beach today. I realized that I’d allowed all the relativity, the shoulds, the external stresses to become more important that this moment. None of it really matters. Sure, I could use a larger income. Sure, very little would make me happier right now than being able to move. Sure, I have work to do around my house, for my clients, for myself. But when I stop experiencing the present moment, stop recognizing its importance, stop taking care of myself in this moment, then I have completely missed the point of living.

Now that I am back home again, those issues that felt oh-so-important this morning are still there, lingering in the back of my mind, but they no longer feel urgent, no longer feel larger than life. Because now I remember the smell of the ocean, the majesty of the seagulls and the pelicans, the feel of cypress bark on my skin. The work flows easily now, the stresses roll off me like water, and I am grounded, present, centered, and truly alive. Order has been restored to my small corner of the Universe, and all is well again. Life truly is good. Namaste.

Photo: “Old tree branch on a sandy beach, ” originally uploaded by René Ehrhardt

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Ghosts August 26, 2008

Filed under: journey — jennsheridan @ 11:03 pm
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I’ve been feeling ghosts all around me lately. Not the ghosts of those who have left this world–I know that in a way because they have moved on they are always with me–but the ghosts of old friends who used to be a large part of my life but due to geography or priorities or whatnot are no longer around. I see them in old pictures, hear them in classic songs, even have them cropping up in restless dreams. Suddenly, I’m missing people I haven’t thought of in months or seen in years and I feel sad.

My mom calls me a pack rat, and that applies to people as well as to things. I hate to let people go, even when it is obviously time, when we’ve grown apart or aren’t helping each other to grow any longer. It’s true, I have this dream of being able to gather everyone I’ve ever loved into one community so that they may continue to be a part of my life even if it’s only to run into each other at Town Hall meetings. There’s a piece of me that hungers for that small town feel where it’s a rare person that moves into the town and an even rarer one that leaves, where everybody knows everybody and their business, for good or for bad.

And yet, no one is aware more than I am that it is precisely because I’ve led the somewhat transient life I’ve led, pushing myself out of my comfort zone and moving into new areas with new people, that I’ve been able to grow and change as much as I have. The old friends, while still dear to me, could not have helped me to get to where I am today. They’ve had their own paths to explore, and I’ve needed fresh ideas, fresh motivations to nudge me along my own. There was a time and a place for us to be together, and the time may come where we’ll meet again. But in the meantime, I’m always being pushed out of my nest out in the wide world, where no one is really a stranger, they’re just friends I haven’t collected yet.

And so, I am writing this to honor my ghosts, to let them know I will never forget them. I will be here when the time is right for us to be in community again. In the meantime, best of luck on the journey. Namaste.

Photo: “Lighthouse in sepia,” originally uploaded by eva

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The freedom of forgiveness August 11, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 9:50 pm
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I had such a thought-provoking comment on my Forgiveness post from last week that I felt drawn to write a follow-up post on the subject. I’m re-posting the comment here as this blog lives in two places so not everyone would have had a chance to view the original. James said:

Forgiveness is an interesting concept. Such an easy word, but so difficult to master. I have recently turned to Taoism to find my way. In my readings, I have found that sometimes forgiveness is a selfish act. I had a friend do something very low down to me. I forgave him. We aren’t friends, we won’t hang out anytime soon, but the forgiveness was a selfish act, it was to make me feel better. It was to let the bad energy leave me. But recently, my wife and I have come under a lot of stress, which has turned into arguments. It is tough to forgive, because that kind of forgiveness can’t be selfish, it has to be giving. I have a hard time with that…hence the Taoist way. Hopefully I will be enlightened and learn.

James raises such a good point, that we can think of forgiveness as selfish because it makes us feel better. But forgiveness does far more than make you feel better–it creates healing (or at least an opening for healing) for both parties concerned. Forgiveness really isn’t about the other person–it is your reaction to what occurred that created you being upset in the first place, and so really it is all about you clearing up your own energy around the situation and/or the person and releasing any negative buildup. However, that doesn’t mean that the other person isn’t affected by it. As Catherine Ponder says, “When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.” That link is a two-way street, usually with negative energy circulating between the two people involved even if they aren’t interacting with each other. The more we hold on to our negative thoughts about what happened, the more negativity flows back and forth along that link. Once it has been dissolved, however, no matter who does the dissolving, both parties will reap the benefits of the forgiveness by no longer being caught in an endless loop of anger.

Now, sometimes it is easier to forgive when you think of it as being selfish. The other person hurt you and while you know you need to let the anger go so that you are no longer continuing to hurt yourself after the fact, you don’t necessarily want to help the other person either. I think this might be a good time to point out that no matter what happens between two people, there are always two sides, two ways of perceiving what took place. Usually, our feelings of hurt don’t come from the facts of the situation themselves, they come from the way we choose to interpret the facts. In the heat of strong emotion it may be difficult to recognize you have a choice about the interpretation, but the recognition of that choice is perhaps the most freeing realization you can ever have.

But no matter how you think about it, forgiveness is both selfish and giving. Whether you choose to forgive for your own energetic benefit or because your relationship with another requires you to be as loving and as giving as you can be, the best thing you can do for everyone involved is to forgive. Forgive yourself, forgive the other person, forgive the situation, forgive the person, just keep on forgiving until you genuinely feel like all of the roots of the anger have dissipated. Forgiveness is the quickest road to freedom there is. Namaste.

Photo: “A Brand New Day,” originally uploaded by Hendra Saputra

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Forgiveness August 7, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 9:04 pm
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When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere.
~La Rochefoucauld

Inspired by Catherine Ponder, I’ve been doing some great work around forgiveness this week. I found this ritual by Rev. Peggy Ray online and wanted to share it with you. I’ve found it really useful and recommend spending some time with it once a day for at least a week. Don’t feel like you’re harboring any resentments? Dig a little deeper, or perhaps start with yourself. Where there’s even a smidgen of hard feelings, spending a few minutes in forgiveness can create healing you weren’t even aware you needed. Namaste.

Healing Relationships Ritual

Sit comfortably in a chair, with your back upright, and your feet flat on the floor. Breathe slowly, deeply and rhythmically for at least five minutes. There is no need to hurry through this exercise. Let your body and breath slow to a peaceful, comfortable rhythm before going further.

Now imagine yourself surrounded by a beautiful cocoon of golden light. Let it settle softly about you, comforting and protecting you within its soothing glow. Feel yourself snuggling into it, feeling safe and warmed by its light. This is the healing light of God’s love and tender concern for you.

Say the Unity prayer aloud to yourself:

The Light of God surrounds me The love of God enfolds me The power of God protects me The presence of God watches over me Wherever I am, God is And all is well.

Now focus again on the golden light all around you. Begin to draw this healing cocoon of God’s love into your heart. Breathe in, inhaling slowly, drawing it deeply deeply deeply into your body. Let this wonderful healing light fill your heart with warmth and love. Feel it expanding throughout your body, healing any hurt areas within your emotions or heart. Circulate this golden energy all through your body, breathing deeply and easily as you do so. Take as long as you need to allow this energy to flow wherever it needs to.

Now visualize that the person that you are having difficulty with is sitting across from you. They are not allowed to speak to you or touch you without your permission or an invitation to do so. As clearly as you can, tell them your truth. Tell them about your anger, your pain, the hurt that you feel. Try not to blame them or to make them wrong, but to offer them the gift of your truth. Stay as centered on your own feelings and pain as you can. Say everything you need to say, leaving nothing back. Then recite the following prayer, beginning with their full name:

________, I forgive you for any pain that you have ever brought to me in this life or in any other life, whether real or imagined, deliberate or unintentional.

I ask that you, _______, forgive me for any hurt that I have ever brought to you, in this life or in any other life, whether real or imagined, deliberate or unintentional.

I bless you, I release you to God’s care and keeping, and I set us both free.

Now imagine two enormous hands of light, with palms cupped directly in front of you. Visualize them as huge, tender, loving hands – God’s hands, and they are as big as the room. Release the person and the situation into these beautiful tender hands of light. Just lay it all down into these loving hands. Surrender the other person, and the entire situation into God’s care and keeping. See yourself being set free as you release this heavy burden. It has taken a tremendous amount of energy to carry this pain. Take a moment to forgive yourself for having had angry or fearful thoughts about the other person.

Draw in another deep breath from your golden cocoon of light, and let the love slowly circulate all through your body, filling the areas that were full of hate just a few moments ago. Breathe deeply and slowly, and notice how light you feel. If you wish, crawl into those loving caring hands and lay your other burdens down as well. Feel these beautiful tender hands gently cradling you, rocking you, comforting you. Stay and rest in this healing peace as long as you need to.

End with this prayer:

Mother-Father-God, I thank you with joy and with gratitude for allowing me to shift, to grow, to heal. I know now that I am not doomed to endlessly hate and hurt. Through your love and tender care I am set free. Thank you for the light of your love as it illuminates my life and heals the wounds within. Amen.

Do this as often as you feel necessary until the situation is resolved. On a soul level we are all connected, so this healing energy will reach the other person, whether they are still on the Earth or have already passed on. No healing is ever lost.

Photo: “my balcony,” originally uploaded by shikeroku

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