Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

Rumi poem May 28, 2009

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There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street
and being the noise.

Drink all your passion,
and be a disgrace.

Close both eyes
to see with the other eye. . . .

Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.

Flow down and down in always
widening rings of being.

~ Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

 

Frida Kahlo July 26, 2008

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I was blessed to be able to view the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the San Fransisco Museum of Modern Art yesterday. While much of her work appears to be full of sorrow and suffering, there’s a cathartic quality to it and rays of sunlight shine through from time to time. The image above is my favorite from the exhibit, full of energy and vibrancy and life. In her short life, Frida produced a range of powerful pieces influenced by love and sorrow, joy and pain, passion and suppression. It is my belief that in the end, she found the deep peace that comes from within, from an understanding that pleasure and pain are transitory. It is definitely an exhibit worth exploring, although I would recommend going in the morning on a weekday so you have some time to linger away from the press of the crowds.

Image: Frida Kahlo. Sun and Life. 1947. Oil on Masonite. 40 x 49.5 cm. Private collection.

 

I am Life’s Anchor May 16, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 6:52 pm
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“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

We are powerful beyond measure, and as Marianne Williamson says, it is our greatest fear. There is safety and comfort in conformity, in staying small, however there is no truth, no passion, no divinity. To find these things we must expand into Who We Really Are, stand up and be seen for the unique, individualized expressions of Life that each of us is at the core of our being.

This morning I was told of an exercise that August Gold has been using lately in her classes at Sacred Center New York. I’ve been playing with it today and I love how powerful it is and yet how playful it is. The truth I’ve recently come to know about myself is that I am Peaceful, Powerful, and Playful, so it isn’t surprising that this exercise speaks to me. I find that it connects me with that larger truth of my being that I am only just beginning to let myself see, let alone the rest of the world. There is no place to hide within this exercise, but because it is fun, I am able to get out of my own way and let it flow. Here’s how it works:

You take the alphabet and create an affirmation around each of the 26 letters. Begin each affirmation with “I am Life’s . . .” and then insert a word the begins with that letter of the alphabet. You can use any word that feels good in place of Life–Source, God, the Universe, Divine Intelligence, etc. If something unusual comes up that doesn’t instantly make sense, play with it for a bit and see where it leads you. For example, “I am Life’s Dandelion,” might not be immediately clear, but if you let it unfold you might get, “I am Life’s Dandelion, spreading the seeds of truth wherever I go.”

You might be surprised at what comes up for you, which concepts make you uncomfortable and which ones resonate immediately. But remember, the truth of Who You Are is powerful beyond measure. Let go, have a little fun with it, and see where it leads you. Namaste.

My first set:

I am Life’s Anchor, connecting the divine to the earth.
I am Life’s Basin, collecting all wisdom that flows my way.
I am Life’s Caterpillar, about to become a beautiful butterfly.
I am Life’s Dancing Queen.
I am Life’s Expanding consciousness.
I am Life’s Friend, opening my heart to all who cross my path.
I am Life’s Guide, sharing what I’ve learned through my life’s exploration.
I am Life’s Hymn, expressing my joy through song.
I am Life’s Imagination.
I am Life’s Jenny Boo Boo, bringing joy and playfulness wherever I go.
I am Life’s Kick-ass Slickrock Woman, capable of doing anything or going anywhere I so choose.
I am Life’s Looking glass, reflecting Love and Light back into the world.
I am Life’s Magic carpet ride, transporting myself and others into the magic of the world around us.
I am Life’s Nowhere (now here).
I am Life’s Open book, showing up as 100% myself with nothing to hide.
I am Life’s Piecrust, ready to be filled with all the yummy goodness life has to offer.
I am Life’s Qi, allowing the energy of the universe to flow through me.
I am Life’s Revealer, healing through revealing the truth of the divinity within.
I am Life’s Superball, always bouncing back.
I am Life’s Tulip, blossoming beautifully.
I am Life’s Umbrella, finding joy even in the hardest rain.
I am Life’s Vibrant vitality.
I am Life’s Well-being.
I am Life’s X ray, seeing through the appearances to find the gift in every situation.
I am Life’s Yin and yang, balancing my masculine and feminine energies.
I am Life’s Zigzag–my path may not always be straight, but I know that life’s a journey not a destination.

Photo: “joy,” originally uploaded by Martin Talbot

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David Elkins quote April 21, 2008

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Authentic spirituality awakens the soul, reconnects us with the sacred, and fills us with the passion of life. Spiritual development is not about religious rituals and practices; it is about waking up to the wonder of life.

~David N. Elkins

 

A New Earth — Role-Playing: The Many Faces of the Ego March 25, 2008

Jenn’s thoughts and learnings from the fourth week of A New Earth: The Oprah Web Event.

“There are three words that convey the secret of the art of living, the secret of all success and happiness: One With Life. Being one with life is being one with Now. You then realize that you don’t live your life, but life lives you. Life is the dancer, and you are the dance.”
~Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

As always, Eckhart Tolle’s presence this week was very timely for me. I had lots of fresh material to work with as I was watching the podcast of last night’s webinar today. I appreciate so much Eckhart’s centered, grounded presence, and the natural way he is able to answer the questions as they come in. This week in particular I felt that Eckhart provided some helpful tools, for me anyway, in dealing with issues as they come up in the moment. I’d like to share a few of my favorites.

* Practicing the Presence. I always wanted to be like Brother Lawrence, practicing the Presence. What it used to mean to me was being aware of your connection to Source all of the time. I suppose this is what Eckhart experiences with his being fully in the present moment, being fully the awareness and the Presence instead of the ego. One caller asked about how to bring this more into our daily lives, into work and relationships and whatnot. Eckhart provided a handful of suggestions for consciously bringing Presence, beingness, awareness into your day, throughout the day, as a reminder of Who You Really Are–a form of practicing the Presence for the rest of us who are still in the process of awakening.

Eckhart suggests that you make sure you’re bringing your spiritual practice out into the world with you. While all practice helps you ultimately become aware, it easier to focus on your awareness, your aliveness when you’re at home alone than it is when you’re, say, at work. Take a few moments throughout your day to just be. You might allow your phone to ring two extra times, breathing in and noticing the aliveness within you before answering the phone. Or put a flower on your desk by your computer, periodically turning away from what you’re doing to appreciate the beauty and aliveness in the flower and feel its aliveness in you. Even one conscious breath, in and out, is a short meditation. There’s no need to wait until you’re home alone or until you feel you have plenty of time to meditate–you can bring it with you wherever you go.

* The awareness gap. I’ve heard many people over the years, myself included, be frustrated when they don’t find themselves applying their awareness enough in advance to avoid falling into an old pattern they thought they’d already let go of. Eckhart reminded us that the first step is awareness in any form. If you find yourself identifying with a role, behaving in ways that don’t serve you, or any other form of falling into old patterns, the first step is to become aware of it, even if it is after the fact. As you become more and more aware of what you tend to do, the gap between the act and the awareness begins to shrink until you find yourself becoming aware of what is happening while you are doing it. And as you continue to practice awareness, you will get to a place where you can see where you are headed even before you get there. So have a little patience with yourself, celebrate your awareness whenever you are having it, and the gap will keep shrinking until one day it vanishes.

* Facing challenges. I don’t know about you, but I definitely have areas of my life where it is easier to practice what I know and areas where I seem to keep tripping over my own feet. Eckhart says most people face one big challenge in their lives, whether it’s an illness or a traumatic event or a person. When we come face to face with that challenge there are really two ways we can react to it: 1) we can fall into our old patterns, our old ways of being–like if someone gets angry with you and you join them in their unconsciousness, getting angry back; or 2) we can allow the challenge to wake us up even more, becoming even more present and aware in the situation and taking steps to disconnect from the ego’s desire to react and just be. We can rail against a situation or we can surrender to it and go with the flow. We can get sucked into someone’s drama or we can just be with them and provide them a space to get it out of their system. One of Eckhart’s suggestions that I just loved was to pretend that you are transparent and just let whatever it is pass through you. He recommended practicing with a loud noise like a jackhammer, feeling the noise but allowing it to pass through, without reaction, without irritation. The more we practice with those smaller challenges, the more we can see the gifts in the bigger challenges and rise to the occasion.

* Guardians of being. Anyone who knows me knows how much of an animal person I am, and a cat person in particular. A caller asked about why it is that she always seems to be more present when she is with her dog. Eckhart spoke about pets (cats and dogs in particular) generally being more present than we are. I personally think it has to do with the way their memories are structured, but if you watch an animal, you can see that they are completely invested in the moment, fully present wherever they are. Right now my cat Morgan is cleaning herself in a sunny spot — she is completely focused on the task at hand, so much so that usually she only cleans one paw, like there aren’t three others for her to think about. Our pets become “guardians of being” when they bring that beingness to us. I think part of it is that as we engage with them we become fully present really in whatever it is that they are doing. But I also think that they elevate the level of beingness in the space, and when we occupy the space with them, we join them in that beingness. I didn’t really need another excuse to love having cats more, but it is always a good for me to remember the special spirits they are.

* Focus brings success. Perhaps my favorite part of the webinar was when Eckhart was clearing up a misconception from last week. A lot of people had come away with the idea that there’s no room for planning and ambition in the Now, and they wanted to know how you can still have a life of passion. He spoke about how much greater the passion and joy are when you stay in the present moment, when you stay focused on what you are doing now. The more you focus on where you want to get to, the more your passion degenerates into stress. Make plans, set intentions, have dreams, but then live each moment as it comes. Everything in life requires steps to get there, however the delusion is in the idea that the fulfillment somehow only exists in the future. As we’ve talked about before, life is a journey not a destination. Enjoy the ride.

Eckhart told a story from a Zen master that I think applies well to all of life. The gist was that if the archer focuses on winning, he steps out of the present moment and his need to win drains him of his power, keeping him from being able to hit the target. Mastery comes from being in the moment. Live each moment as it comes, experience the energy that moment contains, then let it go and move onto the next, experiencing it with just as much focus as the last. This is the path to true success, to true enjoyment of life, to true passion, to living life fully. Namaste.

Photo: “Masked figures,” originally uploaded by Frank K.

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Robert Maclean Quote March 9, 2008

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Tent tethered among jackpine and bluebells. Lacewings rise from rock incubators. Wild geese flying north. And I can’t remember who I’m supposed to be.

I want to learn how to purr. Abandon myself, have mistresses in maidenhair fern, own no tomorrow nor yesterday: a blank shimmering space forward and back. I want to think with my belly. I want to name all the stars animals flowers birds rock in order to forget them, start over again. I want to wear the seasons, harlequin, become ancient and etched by weather. I want to be snow pulse, ruminating ungulate, pebble at the bottom of the abyss, candle burning darkness rather than flame. I want to peer at things shameless, observe the unfastening, that stripping of shape by dusk. I want to sit in the meadow a rotten stump pungent with slimemold, home for pupae and grubs, concentric rings collapsing into the passacaglia of time. I want to crawl inside someone and hibernate one entire night with no clocks to wake me, thighs fragrant loam. I want to melt. I want to swim naked with an otter. I want to turn insideout, exchange nuclei with the Sun. Toward the mythic kingdom of summer I want to make blind motion, using my ribs as a raft, following the spiders as they set sail on their tasselled shining silk. Sometimes even a single feather’s enough to fly.

~Robert Maclean

 

Unprocrastination March 8, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 12:06 am
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I’m not sure which pattern of mine I would consider most debilitating. Is it my perfectionism? My habit of living in the past or for the future? My procrastination? Or are they all distracting enough to warrant constant vigilance? The degree of success I have in shifting my behavior in relation to these patterns definitely depends on the day.

Today was all about unprocrastinating. I realized a couple of days ago that I’d allowed a lot of paperwork and phone calls to pile up over the course of the past few months. For someone who puts considerable effort into living in the present, I’d allowed a whole whallup of past to build up until it had become a palpable burden, one that needed short-term relief and long-term realignment. I got to practice some of my recent success in mindfulness as I sorted the mail, paid bills, made phone calls, ran errands, and did laundry, which meant I had ideas bubbling up all day for what to write about, new things to try out, classes to teach. And I also had a beautiful sense of release, of being in integrity, of aligning with the order and harmony I desire to manifest in my home and my life.

While I had let things slide lately, I do have a variety of tried-and-true methods I recommend for the recovering procrastinator as you attempt to come into the present (and stay here):

* Do your least favorite thing first. Half the battle with procrastination is getting over the dread of what’s to come. If you start with the thing that sounds the least fun first, you quickly realize it isn’t as bad as you think and everything that follows flows freely. Sadly, I did not follow my own advice today and it was late morning before I realized that if I had just gotten the stuff I’d been dreading out of the way early, my morning would have been one heck of a lot more fun.

* Sort your mail immediately upon arrival. These days, more than half of what gets stuffed into our incredibly small mailbox makes its new home in the recycle bin. Newsprint advertisements from the local grocery store, political flyers, “you are already approved!” credit card applications. While I appreciate the validation, I definitely do not need more credit, thank you very much. These things can all be thrown out immediately. Everything else should be opened right away and filed into its proper home. I very rarely get bills any more since I pay mine online, so most of what I receive are things that can be displayed (i.e. cards), things that can be filed (i.e. insurance papers), and things I have plans to use in the relatively near future (i.e. coupons). As part of my recent organization efforts, I now have homes for all of these things, so I can quickly put them where they belong for easy access when I need them. FYI, if you’re interested, there are campaigns afoot for the reduction of junk mail so it doesn’t even make it into your inbox, like www.stopjunkmail.org. Sign up today and begin reaping the benefits!

* Just make the call. I don’t know about you, but my cell phone is a mixed blessing. I really do not enjoy talking on the phone and never have. I tend to leave it in my car or turn the ringer off or whatnot and when I pick up the phone I’ve missed several calls and have many voicemail messages. Half the time a quick 5-minute call is all it would take to take care of the business at hand. When I put them off, the calls pile up until I have a whole slew of them and I am dreading them, especially when they entail anything official. Today, for example, I had to call a former insurance agent. By the time I made the call I was so full of built-up dread that I felt a little ill. However, I set my intention beforehand for a smooth transaction and had taken care of my business very pleasantly within a few minutes. If only I’d called them days ago I could have relieved myself of the stress in the first place. Now I am remembering my motto, to just make the call–it is never as bad as you think it is going to be, and instead of allowing it to gum up the works, you can be in the flow of life again before you know it.

* Take care of your priorities first thing. Many of the things that are most important to me personally have a habit of getting shifted to the bottom of my to-do list when things that appear to be more important to the rest of the world get taken care of first. Meditation, walking, stretching, journaling, meal planning–you name it. What I’ve learned is that if it is a personal priority then I need to take care of it first. Not only does my day go more smoothly because I’ve started out on the right foot for me with my spiritual practice, but I end up being a lot more productive when it comes to the rest of the list. It’s a win-win for all!

* Life is too short not to spend it doing the things you love. My senior year of college, I had a lot of the required courses for my major out of the way and I began to explore the rest of what my university had to offer. I took art courses, feminist political theory, African history–not necessarily things I wanted to deep dive into but things I was interested in. I had so much fun, my grades automatically improved, and I actually retained much of what I learned. Looking back, I wish I’d understood that when I went into college. Education is about more than what you major in–it’s about exploration, trying things on for size and seeing how they fit, learning about who you really are when you take away the requirements and start to have fun. As adults we tend to allow our work to suck up so much of our energy we don’t have enough left over for our families, let alone our hobbies and our passions. How many people do you know who talk about traveling when they retire? That is not a way to LIVE, it’s a way to just get by. So start living your life today–sign up for that Greek cooking class, learn a new language, take a wildflower hike next weekend. Whatever it is you’ve been saying you didn’t have time to do, remember that this life is yours to truly live it, and there’s no time like the present to get started.

Nike’s famous “Just Do It” slogan has made them millions for a reason–it is simple and effective. What is it that you are procrastinating about in your life? What action can you take today to begin moving you away from surviving towards thriving? Why are you still here reading–go do it! And then come back and share what methods have you come across that help you to act instead of avoid so we can all learn the joys of unprocrastination. Namaste.

Photo: “just-do-it-blade,” originally uploaded by Brandon Baunach

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