Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

Choosing peace June 4, 2009

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 1:43 pm
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There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.
~Mahatma Gandhi

I don’t have a lot of public speaking experience, but I have had the pleasure of giving a handful of talks over the years. One of my earliest was on “choosing peace,” a concept that continues to come up for me from time to time, and always resonates. What I am remembering this week is that peace is the bottom, underlying truth of just about everything. When we desire something, often what we are truly desiring is to have more peace in our experience. When I desire a greater experience of prosperity in my life, is it really just that I desire more money? That desire might be specific — say, to be debt-free — but what does having more money ultimately give me? A sense of peace surrounding my finances: no need to worry, the knowledge that I can cope with whatever comes my way, the freedom to make choices from a place of trust instead of that place of “have to.” When I desire more time, am I really looking for more hours in the day? I’m looking to feel productive, to not be rushed, to know that it is all getting done with plenty of time to spare — I’m looking to feel at peace.

I think most of us are comfortable with the idea that the manifestation of our desires brings peace, but I think the truth is that being at peace is what brings about the manifestation of our desires. Peace is a choice that can be made regardless of the circumstances. Once you accept what is, accept whatever is up for you in this moment for exactly what it is, without judgment, and especially without condemnation, you can find peace with it. You don’t have to be debt-free to feel at peace with your finances. You don’t have to have plenty of time to complete your project in order to feel at peace with whatever the outcome is. You choose the peace first, which lays the foundation for your desires to be made manifest.

This week, this concept is cropping up everywhere. Most prominently, it is playing out at my office. There is a lot of change taking place, some ostensibly for the better, some ostensibly for the worse. Some of my co-workers have chosen to focus on the negative, and it is making them miserable. While I can see their perspective, I also know that I have been down that path before — I know where it leads, and I know that I don’t want to go there. Instead, I am choosing peace — choosing to find the good where I can, and where that method hasn’t been working for me, to find peace with what is. The difference in our experience of what is happening is striking — I am getting my work done, enjoying my work relationships, spending the bulk of my day smiling and laughing, and able to support others who are in need.

Thich Nhat Hanh says at the beginning of Being Peace, “If we are not happy, if we are not peaceful, we cannot share peace and happiness with others, even those we love, those who live under the same roof. If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.” This the choice that I am making this week — choosing peace, enabling myself and those around me to experience that peace regardless of apparent circumstances. What choices are you making today? How can you make a different choice to create a different outcome in your life? Give it a whirl, see what happens. I can almost guarantee you’ll be happy you did. Namaste.

Photo: “Peace,” originally uploaded by momo

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Feeling expansive March 19, 2009

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 1:34 pm
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I find myself unsubscribing from a lot of my mailing lists lately. It’s not that I’ve suddenly changed my mind and don’t believe in the causes, but I’m finding it overwhelming to have my inbox full of the same doom and gloom that you see in the media and hear people talking about in the streets. These days it seems like everybody’s primary or secondary focus is on the negative, with much debate about who to blame and how much worse things will get before they get better and even whose situation sucks the most.

This is all in direct contrast to my own situation. My company is growing rapidly, with the focus on how quickly we can get new people in and trained to support our growth path. My life is constantly getting bigger as we prepare for baby: we just moved into a new home that’s about twice as large as our last apartment, I am literally expanding as every day I discover a new article of clothing that no longer fits comfortably around my belly, and my heart and spirit are inflated with the love and new vision that I have for my life and my purpose. When I look at my friends, I see people taking new steps along their life journeys — exploring new paths, starting new jobs, getting married, finding out more about who they really are.

But the contrast runs even deeper than that. When I close my eyes and listen to the energy of the universe, feeling the truth of what lies beneath the surface experience of what is, all I can feel is expansion. I’ve talked before about the consciousness shift taking place on our planet and how we’re reaching a critical mass that will tip us over into the next phase of our evolutionary journey — that shift has never been more apparent to me. The more chaotic things appear to be on the surface, the more that deep energy underneath feels positive, serene, and definite.

Imagine yourself on a carousel that is spinning really fast — out on the edge things are wild and you have to hang on for dear life or you’ll get thrown off, but at the center you can let go and relax and enjoy the ride. I think the universe is offering us a choice in this moment. Do you want to hold on to old, limiting ideas about how the world works and your place in it? Or are you ready for new way of living and being, one that is full of learning and exploration, but ultimately of expansion? If you choose to hold on to the old, that’s okay, but it will likely be a rough ride. If you choose to explore the new, you may fall down and scrape your knees like a child learning to walk, but you’ll be running before you know it, experiencing this ever-expanding energy that is at the core of your being.

When I close my eyes and listen to the silence, I know there’s only one answer that resonates for me. And so I choose to focus my energy on recognizing the growth and expansion that makes itself more evident every day, and I see the apparent chaos as a temporary piece of the transition we are going through as a society as we adjust to our new way of being. Where do you choose to focus your attention? How do you feel when you close your eyes and feel the truth of what is happening in your life and the world around you? Listen to the truth that resonates within you — that is your guide to growth and expansion, but ultimately to experiencing true peace and joy. Enjoy the ride. Namaste.

Photo: “The last drop,” originally uploaded by Gordana Adamovic-Mladenovic

 

Moving February 27, 2009

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 2:09 pm
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Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.
~Albert Einstein

I love to move. Okay, so maybe the act of packing up all my belongings and actually locating them from one home to another isn’t my favorite activity ever, but still, at the end of the day, I love to move. For me, moving is, like most things in my life, more of a spiritual exercise than a physical one. I love the way changes to my physical environment change the flow of energy–even when I’m not moving from one place to another, I periodically rearrange my furniture, shifting the things that fill the space and seeing how the new arrangement feels. I love the way moving gives you an opportunity to sort through the things accumulated on this journey through life, purging what is no longer needed and celebrating where you come from with the memories uncovered through the process. And I love how a new home represents a new era of your life–the good and the not-so-good, the new challenges and victories, the new experiences that will shape the next stage of your life, just the way your past experiences helped shape where you are today.

Like any transition, there’s a sense of nostalgia involved. Whatever your reasons for wanting to be in a new place, whether it’s a home, job, or relationship, the old place had it’s good times. Our current home saw us moving from an era of financial difficulties to times of prosperity. This is where we lived when we got engaged, when we got married, and when we found out we were having a baby. This is the home where I spent the 15 months of my self-discovery and exploration, the place where my days began with the question of “What do I *want* to do today?” This is the home where I trained for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, walking up and down the incredibly steep hill that we’re perched on. And this is the home where my breath never ceases to get taken away every time I drive down that hill to my apartment, and every time I step out onto the balcony, with its spectacular views of the bay, the bridges, and San Francisco.

At the same time, I am ready to begin creating the new memories that this next phase of our life will bring. As Christy Snow sings, “There is always change / And change is good.” Life is always unfolding in new and wonderful ways. What transition are you in the midst of? How can you both savor where you’re coming from and enjoy the movement into the new? We are living in exciting, change-filled times. And I, for one, am enjoying the ride. Namaste.

Photo: “Moving Day,” originally uploaded by Osbornb

 

Writing on a blank slate February 20, 2009

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 2:47 pm
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Try and be a sheet of paper with nothing on it. Be a spot of ground where nothing is growing, where something might be planted, a seed, possibly, from the Absolute.
~Rumi

New beginnings can be wonderful, feeling like a fresh start and a clean slate. If you’re anything like me, you like to play with the idea of reinventing yourself, of becoming that person you’ve always wanted to be. But it may seem like often you find yourself falling back into old patterns more quickly than you might have expected. It is challenging to be a truly blank slate. The past is essentially a habit, and it shows up in the way we think and talk and act. We may think that we need a change of place or people in order to achieve that state of newness, but wherever you go there you are. Unless the change begins within, it isn’t really change.

So it was with both nervousness and excitement that I started my new job in January. After a blissful 15 months without a “real job,” I was looking forward to getting back into regular interaction with people and putting some new skills into practice. The time off had given me a real perspective shift and an opportunity to make some real and lasting (I hoped) changes to the way I thought about work. I was a little nervous about the apparent loss of my freedom, but I was mostly nervous that I might fall back into the same negative patterns that had left me so miserable at my last full-time job.

I’ve been there for six very intense weeks now, and while you could argue that isn’t really long enough to know how things will play out long term, I have seen quite a bit of evidence that things really are different this time around. The time off to regroup and put some key concepts into practice outside of a full-time job enabled some new patterns to take root, and that investment seems to be paying off big time now that I am back in the workplace. And while I would not say that I have handled every situation that has come up perfectly, I’ve managed to stay calm and collected even when things have gotten pretty stressful, and on my best days, I feel like I’m demonstrating to my co-workers that balance can exist even within the midst of apparent chaos.

The best part about this experience is that it feels like I am creating it consciously. I had a choice about how I approached this from day one. I could either experience this job like many of my co-workers do, as a highly stressful and chaotic workplace that requires you to work around the clock. Or I could begin by knowing that a true work/life balance was possible for me here, and that it was an opportunity for me to show up not just as a good employee but as a spiritual individual, sowing seeds of peace. I look for, and find, the good in everyone I work with and in everything that I am doing, and I truly feel like while this might not be the Work I was born to do, it is definitely the work that I am meant to be doing at this moment in time.

I may not be a true blank slate, but I can take steps every day to overwrite past patterns with the new ways I choose to think and talk and act. What choices can you make today to begin to shift your perspective and enable change to begin to take place in your life? And are you noticing and appreciating even the smallest changes that are already showing up for you? This is my daily challenge to myself, to stay conscious and present enough to make a choice about how I respond to my work and who I show up as while I am at work, and then to appreciate the good that comes out of these choices, reinforcing the new patterns and allowing them to grow stronger. If you choose to take this challenge on for yourself, I would love to hear how it goes for you, and I wish you the best on your journey! Namaste.

Photo: “beginnings…,” originally uploaded by Sir Mervs

 

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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Growing pains August 12, 2008

Filed under: inspiration — jennsheridan @ 8:38 pm
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A mentor of mine recently reminded me that just because the road looks like it is dipping, does not mean you’ve gotten off course. The path of spiritual and personal growth can look bumpy from time to time, but think of it as driving on a mountain road–it may go up for a little while, it may go down for a little while, but the whole way you are moving in the direction of your destination. This very simple piece of wisdom helped me shift from beating myself up for not always living in the light to accepting that every step takes me forward along my path with plenty to be learned from the experience.

I loved this recent DailyOM posting that had some additional insight on what might look like a challenging time. I know that I, for one, am looking forward to a slightly less bumpy road, but I also know that when it comes I will be all the stronger for what I am going through today. Namaste.

Growing Pains
Difficult Times

It can be very challenging to maintain a positive attitude and a measure of faith when you are in the midst of difficult times. This is partly because we tend to think that if the universe loves us we will experience that love in the form of positive circumstances. However, we are like children, and the universe is our wise mother who knows what our souls need to thrive better than we do. Just as a young child does not benefit from getting everything she wants, we also benefit from times of constriction and difficulty to help us grow and learn. If we keep this in mind, and continue to trust that we are loved even when things are hard, it helps us bear the difficult time with grace.

This period of time in history is full of difficulty for a lot of human beings, and you may feel less alone knowing you are not being singled out. There are extreme energy changes pulsing through the universe at every level and, of course, we are all part of the growing process and the growing pains. It helps if we remember that life is one phase after another and that this difficult time will inevitably give way to something new and different. When we feel overwhelmed we can comfort ourselves with the wise saying: This too shall pass.

At the same time, if you truly feel that nothing is going right for you, it’s never a bad idea to examine your life and see if there are some changes you can make to alleviate some of the difficulty. Gently and compassionately exploring the areas giving you the most trouble may reveal things you are holding onto and need to release: unprocessed emotions, unresolved transitions, or negative ways of looking at yourself or reality. As you take responsibility for the things you can change, you can more easily surrender to the things you can’t, remembering all the while that this phase will, without doubt, give way to another.

Photo: “Sapa – Mountain Road,” originally uploaded by j.fisher

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Emerson quote August 11, 2008

Filed under: quote of the week — jennsheridan @ 7:00 pm
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Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit. . . . People wish to be settled; but only so far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson