Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

Adjustment June 23, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 8:59 pm
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Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.
~James M. Barrie

The past couple of weeks have been a wild ride. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I had a sudden shift in the work I was doing from very little to quite a bit in a matter of days. Not only did several freelance projects come up, but I started working part-time for the Hoffman Institute. At the same time, my mother was arriving from Connecticut last week and this weekend was the last of the long training walks for my upcoming Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. Today is the first day in almost two weeks that hasn’t been absolutely chock full of activity. While I am definitely enjoying the respite, it also gives me an opportunity to review some ideas about adjustment periods that have been rattling around in my brain of late.

I used to have the idea that when there was a major change in my life, it was a good idea to extend it to include other changes as well. For example, when starting a new job, I would think it was a good time to start going to the gym or perhaps to make a shift in diet. What I’ve since learned is that the stresses combine almost exponentially, and often not only does the gym or diet fall by the wayside but it is replaced with equivalently unhealthy behaviors like eating whole pints of ice cream in one sitting. Instead, I’ve found that thinking in terms of moderation works much better, and from the place of relative relaxation I can be much more present throughout my day, enabling me to possibly park farther away from the office or make a healthier choice at lunch. Somewhat unintentionally I can begin to move closer to my goal because I’ve given myself the space I need to make the adjustment to the new job.

That idea of staying present is key to not just surviving an adjustment period but coming out of one completely on top. The change gives you an opportunity to pay attention in an easier, more natural way. Going back to the example of the new job, it isn’t the same ol’ commute, the same ol’ coworkers, the same ol’ lunch spots. There’s an opportunity to see the world through new eyes precisely because things are new. It is significantly easier to create a habit of seeing the positive in, say, a commute before a part of you is convinced that the commute is miserable.

While I haven’t been absolutely perfect at this the past couple of weeks, this idea of staying present, taking things as they come, has gone a long way toward enabling me to stay relatively productive, centered, and grounded even everything around me has felt like a whirlwind. And that doesn’t mean I’m not tired, because I am. But I’m still excited about the work that I’m doing, still looking forward to seeing what evolves out of this new set of experiences that have come my way, and still here, being me, putting one foot in front of the other, living each day as fully as I can. Namaste.

Photo: “swirly game adjusted,” originally uploaded by Robert Judge

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A New Earth — A New Earth May 22, 2008

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

“I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through–listen to this music.”
~Hafiz, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky

For whatever reason–resistance, the timing of the Universe is perfect, etc.–it has taken me over a week (two, if you count my trying to watch it on the plane to Georgia) to watch the final week of the A New Earth web event. And I’m kind of glad it did. It’s given me time to really soak this one up, to savor it, linger over it, which seems appropriate for a finale. Eckhart was his usual jovial self but Oprah seemed a little sad to have it all come to an end. I look forward to watching her continue to grow and unfold, to see where life continues to lead her.

My favorite part
I loved the way Oprah put the “what to call God” problem. She said something to the effect of, Spirit doesn’t have an ego so it doesn’t get hung up on what it’s called. Yes!

How to stay present
At one point Oprah shared that her mantra (my word, not hers) is, “Be here, be now.” She repeats it to herself as a reminder to be present. Mine is very similar, “Be Here Now.” I’m not sure why it needs to be capitalized, but that is how it shows up in my head. It’s almost like the words get dropped into my mind one by one, each word their own reminder. Be. Here. Now.

Growing older, growing wiser
One of the most striking concepts in this chapter for me was how all of this applies to growing old. As I’m sure we all do, I know many people who have so identified with what they DO that growing old has been a tragedy for them. Each responsibility they can no longer manage, each task they can no longer perform, is like an arrow through their heart. The process is nothing but pain, nothing but regret, and they spend their time either complaining, focusing solely on what’s wrong, or lost in nostalgia. However for others, they begin to recognize that there is so much more to life than just the doing. It is through having the doing reduced in their life that they recognize the presence and importance of being. They grow lighter, freer, and end up with a luminescent quality. These individuals have been rarer in my life, but are such lights when you come across them. I know which way I’d rather be, but I don’t want to wait until I’m old–I want to start today! (See the poem I posted this morning for further exploration of this subject.)

What you do is always secondary
There was just something about the way this concept was reiterated in this webcast that got me. What you do is always secondary; how you do it is primary. You want to know how to fulfill your destiny? Do whatever it is you are doing, no matter how seemingly large or small, completely and utterly consciously, full of presence. No what where you are, whether you’re mailing a package at the post office, waiting tables at a restaurant, washing up after breakfast, bring your Presence with you. That’s what showing up and fulfilling your destiny looks like. Placing the plate down on the table in front of your customer with full awareness, consciousness, presence, affects everyone around you. It doesn’t matter what it is you are doing–if you are doing it consciously, you are bringing more Presence into the world and playing your role in the greater awakening of the planet.

Goals and visions
This is one of those concepts I’ve been working with for over 15 years, but I feel like it was presented to me brand new. Your goal, your vision, is not something “out there” that is in the future. It lives within you as if it were already a reality, because on some level it already is. It isn’t a goal you are projecting yourself into, something you will reach someday. It isn’t something coming from a place of neediness or scarcity, it is coming from a place of fullness, the way it would feel if you already had it. Because it is something that already exists within you, ready to be born into form in your life. Eckhart talked about writing The Power of Now in this fashion. He sensed that there was a book within him that had already been written. His job, then, was just to allow this already completed construct to come out of him, to manifest itself. This is where true power lies, because all power exists in the present moment. It is about always focusing on this step, just this step. Whatever this moment is, it is a step on the journey.

Acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm
The key point to this chapter (to me, anyway) is that it is time to choose to do everything with acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm. If you cannot operate from one of these three modalities, you are not in alignment with the present moment, with yourself, with life, and you are causing yourself and/or those around you suffering. So the question to always ask yourself is, what is my relationship with the present moment? Am I okay with this moment, friendly with it? If yes, then you are empowered. If no, then ask yourself what you can do to move towards acceptance. It may be that you need to stop doing whatever it is you’re doing, step aside and into something that you can accept. Or you may be able to find acceptance just through becoming aware of where you are, consciously shifting your attention towards recognizing that this moment is what it is. You don’t have to enjoy changing a tire, but when you accept that the tire is flat and changing it is what needs to be done, as opposed to resisting it, cursing it, getting upset with it, etc., then you will be able to find peace in the experience.

I loved what Eckhart had to say about enjoyment, that it will replace wanting. Wanting comes from a place of lack, and when you get whatever it is you were wanting, you feel empty and unfulfilled. Enjoyment, however, leaves you feeling full. It brings empowerment to what you do, flowing through you and allowing creativity to be born in what you are doing. Joy does not come from what you do, from another person, from outside of you in any way–it comes from within, flowing out of you into the world around you.

So my exercise for this week, and yours too, if you so choose, is to pay attention to where I am and see if I can shift the energy. If I feel like I’m in resistance, fighting the moment, then it is time for me to move into acceptance. If it’s something I’m already able to accept, then I can make a game out of it, find a way to turn that acceptance into enjoyment. And if it’s something I’m already able to enjoy, then I can look for that extra something that reminds me this moment is a step towards manifesting my vision and allow enthusiasm to come into play. The new earth already exists within us. Our job now is to allow it to come through us, to be made manifest in form in our lives. Namaste.

Photo: “Dream,” originally uploaded by Jan McLaughlin

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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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A New Earth — Breaking Free April 9, 2008

Filed under: a new earth — jennsheridan @ 7:51 pm
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Jenn’s thoughts and learnings from the sixth week of A New Earth: The Oprah Web Event.

“The next step in human evolution is not inevitable, but for the first time in the history of our planet, it can be a conscious choice.”
~Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

It was another great week with Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, and A New Earth. I’m loving the ongoing awakening that is happening within me and in the world around me. Can you feel it? It’s almost tangible. And it’s completely infected my language these days–I find myself speaking about ego and awareness and staying present even to people who don’t necessarily know what it is I’m talking about. I figure if they don’t understand what I’m saying they can always ask me, right?

The Monster Within, Take Two
Last week I talked about my big Aha! surrounding the pain-body in me and in those around me. What was so wonderful about this week was recognizing how simple it is to disconnect from your pain-body. Naturally, many people want to know how they can be free of the pain-body and how long it will take to attain that freedom. Eckhart spoke about how it is really a matter of disidentifying with the pain-body through your awareness of its presence within you. All it takes is this moment, the only moment there is, to see that the pain-body has been triggered and to become aware of it. It’s such a beautiful culmination of everything we’ve been talking about here. Being present, being aware of this moment, enables you to recognize your identification with the pain-body in that moment and be free. That doesn’t mean it won’t come back again, but what it means is that the more aware you are, the more present you are, the less power the pain-body can ever have over you, because it requires unconsciousness to continue its reign of terror in your mind and body.

True Love
I loved listening to Eckhart talk about love this week. It totally reminded me of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves.” Love is not about wanting or needing, it isn’t about what you get from another person, it isn’t about romance, and it certainly isn’t about wanting another person to change in any way. Eckhart spoke about true love as being the recognition of the essence of the other person, of the divinity within each and every human being. It is truly Namaste, defined by Namaste.org as, “The Light of God in Me recognizes and honors The Light of God in You and in that recognition is our Oneness.” When we are with someone that we love exactly as they are, requiring nothing from them, just allowing them to be, then we are experiencing true love.

Traffic as an Opportunity
At the end of this week’s webinar, Oprah and Eckhart were talking about how many people get frustrated in traffic and how they just don’t understand how people can experience road rage. I’ve spent more time in the car with people intolerant of traffic to be able to claim a lack of understanding–it is easy to see the unconsciousness slip over them. Eckhart talks about it being a matter of taking the traffic personally, which totally resonated with me. Everyone else who is on the road is just as absorbed in their own world as you are, so of course having them move into your lane in front of you isn’t personal–how could it be? They barely even notice there’s another human being in that car, and they definitely don’t know it’s you. The only thing that is happening here is that you are reacting to a situation that is completely out of your control. Getting upset, feeling stressed out about it does not change the situation in the slightest–it just makes it even more intolerable for you. Eckhart spoke about this as being a wonderful opportunity to practice your awareness, and in that case, the more traffic the better. If your car isn’t moving at all, you can even close your eyes for a brief breathing meditation or practice feeling the aliveness within your body. Whether you tend to find traffic frustrating or not, take the opportunity this week to use traffic to your advantage–I bet it will transform your time in the car, and ultimately will leave you feeling more centered, more connected, more awake, and more aware. Namaste.

Photo: “Love is being stupid together,” originally uploaded by Nattu

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Two of my favorite things April 8, 2008

Filed under: tools — jennsheridan @ 11:33 pm
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My meditation altar

I feel like a kid in a candy store. The last few weeks I’ve been indulging in a few new toys that I am just loving playing with. As part of this shift, I cleared out one of my bookshelves and turned it into a sort of altar. It is now home to my abalone shell with a sage smudge stick, a couple of Buddhas, rocks I collected in Sedona and Utah, my pendulum and crystal, and some cards whose images and messages I just love. I’m using it as a place to display my daily angel card and tarot card as well. It just has such a lovely warm-and-fuzzy feeling to it. I’ve been meditating on the floor in front of this altar for the past week or so–certainly not as comfy as my couch, but I do like the way the energy is building in this space. While I hate to play favorites with my new toys, the Osho Zen Tarot cards are so much fun I’ve been a little like a doting grandmother with them, showing them off to anyone who cares to listen. Whether you’ve been reading cards for 30 years or are brand new to the concept, these are sure to captivate you. Beautiful and insightful.

My love ferns

When Sean and I got married two years ago, our friend Don put together some absolutely beautiful calla lily bouquets for me and my bridesmaids to carry. As an accent to that, he also picked up two potted calla lilies that were used to adorn the area of the patio where the ceremony was held. I dubbed them my “love ferns” after the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. I was a wee bit worried about my ability to keep them alive–while I no longer consider my thumb to be completely brown, it is far from green and I tend to surround myself with plants of the variety Those That Can’t Be Killed. The love ferns live out on the deck and I water them somewhat sporadically; while they always seem to recover from my dry spells I wouldn’t have called them thriving . . . until now. The last few months I’ve been much more conscious of my plants, watering them much more consistently and talking to them regularly. As a reward for my attention, the calla lilies bloomed for the first time since the wedding. They’ve been absolutely gorgeous and such a treat to view out on the deck each day. Definitely motivation to continue being good to them!


Koyaanisqatsi April 7, 2008

Filed under: inspiration — jennsheridan @ 9:19 pm
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I just read an awesome article, “Pearls Before Breakfast,” by Gene Weingarten. A friend had posted something on Facebook about it having won a Pulitzer and, curious, I googled it. When I read newspaper stories, at best I skim them, usually really just reading the first couple of paragraphs. This may be the first time I’ve ever read every word. In addition to being well-written, its concept was fascinating–what happens when a world-renowned violinist dons the role of street musician during rush hour–and turned out to be an incredibly interesting commentary on what appears to be the American way of self-absorption and not paying attention. Life out of balance, which is what the Hopi word “Koyaanisqatsi” means.

Take a few minutes to read the article–it is definitely worth it–and please use the comments to let me know what came up for you.


Gently, please! March 31, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 2:22 pm
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It appears that I need a new mantra. Asking for messages, asking to be open, has left me with bandaids all over my body. As much fun as I am having with my “temporary tattoos” of peace and yin & yang signs, I have to say, I could stand to receive my messages more gently. I’m reminded of Richard from Texas in Eat, Pray, Love–he was asking repeatedly for his heart to be open and to receive a sign when the opening had occurred. After a few months of this prayer, he ended up having open-heart surgery. “So now Richard is always cautious with his prayers, he tells me. ‘Whenever I pray for anything these days, I always wrap it up by saying, “Oh, and God? Please be gentle with me, OK?”‘”

I can totally relate. In addition to the average, run-of-the-mill stubbed toes and bumped funny bones, I’ve fallen down the stairs (twice in one week!) and bruised my tailbone, I’ve had a knee injury that left me literally on the couch for six weeks, I’ve thrown my back out such that I was unable to get out of bed for three days, I’ve had countless sinus infections and stomach flus that completely knocked me out. Heck, in the past month alone, I’ve had a concussion, gotten poison oak, and even stabbed myself in the foot. My friends say I’m a klutz, that I’m accident prone, but I know there has been a message in each of these incidents–usually one that had been ignored previously, which is how it ended up ultimately being delivered in such a large way.

So I’ve learned that, “Gently, please!” is a good addendum to any request for aid. And perhaps even more importantly, I’ve learned that I need to be mindful. Mindful of my thoughts, mindful of where I’m going, mindful of what I’m doing. And if I’m asking for messages, if I’m asking for things to be clear, then I really need to listen for an answer. I never saw anything that looked like poison oak, but I know exactly where I was when I brushed up against it because, in retrospect, my intuition had pointed it out to me. As I was walking up to a tree that was hanging out over the sidewalk, a thought popped into my head, “Poison oak!” And I kind of laughed it off and thought, “It’s a good thing this branch I’m walking past isn’t poison oak.” The next day, I had what looked like a spider bite on my arm. Again, poison oak popped into my head. Instead of ignoring it this time, I put a bandaid on it, “just in case.” One itchy week later, I definitely know the next time any thought of poison oak pops into my head I will recognize it for the intuitive message that it is. Hindsight may be 20/20, but when we’re paying attention, we can have real-time guidance as well.

So I go into this new week with my double request to be more open and to receive messages clearly, but always to have my prayers answered gently. What kinds of messages have you been receiving lately? Could you use to receive them a little more gently? Join me in my “Gently, please!” mantra this week and let me know how it goes! Namaste.

Photo: “La Fleuve,” originally uploaded by Powderruns

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