Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

David Steindl-Rast quote March 6, 2009

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Sometimes people get the mistaken notion that spirituality is a separate department of life, the penthouse of existence. But rightly understood, it is a vital awareness that pervades all realms of our being . . . Wherever we may come alive, that is the area in which we are spiritual.

~David Steindl-Rast

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A New Earth — The Discovery of Inner Space April 30, 2008

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

I have to say, while I enjoyed taking a week off from my usual routine, I really did miss diving deeper with Eckhart and Oprah and A New Earth. It’s good to be back!

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
I was so excited that they were talking about Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor! Apparently Oprah is having her on the Soul Series radio show after A New Earth is all over. If you haven’t yet seen the video that’s been going around, take a few minutes to treat yourself to a viewing. Really inspirational stuff. Apparently, she thinks that your right brain IS the consciousness, the awareness, the presence that Eckhart talks about. It’s all connected!

This, too, shall pass
One of my favorite expressions that you run into on the spiritual path just about everywhere, really, is “This too shall pass.” It’s an incredibly powerful concept that allows you to let go of the outcome of any experience. Most people find it soothing it times of stress or sorrow, a reminder that tomorrow is another day full of new possibilities, but don’t like to apply it to the happy times, seeing it as a reminder that the joy can’t last and feeling like it’s a bit of a buzz kill. The thing is, nothing lasts, and once you truly come to understand this, you can truly accept the present moment without judgment, without expectation. It is an expression of true freedom, allowing you to enjoy this moment and not think about what is going to come next, relieving you of any sense of dread or worry, enhancing the joy and pleasure.

Spiritual does not mean passive
A young man was asking about how one stays present and follows one’s true purpose but still manages to pay the bills on time and take care of the mechanics of life on this planet. Oprah really got into this one, I think because it’s a fairly common misunderstanding, this idea that somehow being spiritual means we’re supposed to be passive. It’s akin to the misconstrued idea that if we all followed our bliss then everyone would want to be an artist and no one would be a garbage collector. Truly, it’s about aligning yourself with what resonates with you and allowing things to flow from that place. Oprah is a perfect example of how it works–she is someone who has shown up completely as herself and the universe has said, yes, please, more of that! She did not sit on top of a mountain and meditate and expect things to come to her, however. She took action, showed up, and allowed the universe to flow from that point. The same is true for everybody. You go to work, staying fully present to Who You Are and aligning your action with what resonates for you and things will flow for you. In Religious Science there’s a saying, “Treat and move your feet.” It essentially means pray, set your intention, and then get out there and stir things up and see what falls out. Try it out yourself–take steps in the direction of your dreams, stay present and connected to your true self, and see what happens.

Everything is amazing
Towards the end of the webinar, one of the callers was talking about how present she’s felt being on vacation but that she’s worried when she returns home she’ll fall back into her old patterns. Oprah’s response really stuck with me. She was basically saying you just have to be really conscious about bringing this work into your daily life, making sure you take the time to practice awareness. But then she said, when you really put this into practice, EVERYTHING is amazing. It’s not just that nature is beautiful and the sound of a child laughing is joyful and whatnot, it’s that even just the act of breathing in and breathing out takes on a whole new level of consciousness and presence that just simply BEING is amazing. Wow. When she said that, I really got it, really felt it for that moment. What a way to live, to truly live your life. And you don’t have to go anywhere to find it–it is always available to you, within you, right here, right now.

Homework
So my assignment to myself and to anyone else who is interested in giving it a try is to practice Active TV watching. Eckhart talks about this in the book as well as on the webinar. The idea is to not allow watching TV to make you unconscious. Pick and choose when and what you’re going to watch–don’t watch TV for TV’s sake, but make sure that what you’re watching is something you truly want to watch. While you sit there, practice staying conscious throughout, feeling the aliveness within your body, staying aware of what is passing through your mind. Don’t allow yourself to glaze over–move your body periodically and look away from the television from time to time, allowing your gaze to fall on something tangible within the room. Use this time to practice staying present instead of using it as a time to escape. Good luck, let me know how it goes! Namaste.

Photo: “inner space,” originally uploaded by Wendy

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Aldous Huxley quote April 27, 2008

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The spiritual journey does not consist in arriving at a new destination where a person gains what he did not have, or becomes what he is not. It consists in the dissipation of one’s own ignorance concerning one’s self and life, and the gradual growth of that understanding which begins the spiritual awakening. The finding of God is a coming to one’s self.

~Aldous Huxley

 

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

 

Curiosity March 27, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 9:41 pm
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“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
~Walt Disney

I’ve got a bit of a chicken-and-egg dilemma here–what came first, my curiosity or my spirituality? Okay, dilemma may be a strong word, but I am, ahem, curious about this. I’ve been noticing my curiosity blossoming like mad in the past few months. The whole world just seems fascinating and I want to learn as much as possible. I mentioned this recent influx of curiosity earlier this week in a class I’m taking, and a woman responded that curiosity opens you to connection with the divine. So I got to thinking, have I always been curious? And at what point in my life did I become spiritual?

While I usually define “my spiritual path” as having begun approximately 17 years ago, by stricter definitions I have been spiritual my whole life. I was born into a Southern Baptist family and can remember experiencing deep faith as a very small child. I was in awe of the fire-and-brimstone pastor of my grandparents’ Baptist church and would always become more devout when we went to visit. I don’t have many memories of stereotypically girlie things like planning my wedding 25 years in advance, but I do remember lying on the bed flipping through the Old Testament of the Bible looking for good names for my future children (Rebekkah was always my favorite). I also remember an incredibly formative conversation I had with my mother on the way to church when I was about 8 or 9. I asked her how she knew God was real and she said that when she looks at a flower or at the way our bodies were built, she knows there was an intelligence at work in that process, a belief I still share with her today. So while spirituality and religiosity might have been entangled during that era, I would say my spirituality began when I was fairly young.

What’s interesting to me is that I don’t think I was a very curious kid. I would spend twenty minutes with my nose against the glass at Baskin Robbins trying to pick a flavor and then end up with vanilla (still my favorite to this day, especially the Breyers with the real vanilla beans in it). I didn’t like to meet new people or do new things–I preferred the comfort of the familiar. I probably re-read as many books as I read new ones, which is probably why I’ve still never read as many of the classics as I would have liked.

I have to attribute the development of my curiosity to a person. I met my best friend Kirsten when we both moved to Connecticut around the beginning of fifth grade. Her parents had met during the Peace Corps and their whole family had an air of the bohemian compared to what I had grown up with. While I had been raised to have faith, Kirsten had been raised to ask questions. And boy, did her questions ever throw me for a loop! If God loves everyone unconditionally, why do you have to build fancy cathedrals for Him and dress up for Him? Wouldn’t he love you just the same wearing jeans in a shack in the woods? Kirsten opened me up to a new way of looking at things, and really introduced me to the concept that we each have our own unique perspective on the universe.

The convergence of my spirituality and relatively newfound curiosity happened when I took the Confirmation class my freshman year of high school. Now involved in a Congregational church in Connecticut, we spent a year studying the Bible, moving our awareness of our faith from that of a child to that of an adult. I threw myself into the class, asking question after question, studying everything I could get my hands on. I finished the program, went through the act of Confirmation, and promptly dropped out of the church. What I’d discovered had really only opened my eyes, deepened my curiosity, and sent me out into the world like someone dying of thirst would seek water.

That is the place my curiosity finds me again now, at this stage of my life. Having recently left the spiritual community that was my home for many years, I find myself open to all the wonders the universe has to offer. I may land again one day and build a nest amongst a new group of seekers, but I hope I never stay in one place for too long. What I’ve rediscovered here is too precious to misplace again, and this life is just too darn short not to try to soak up as much as humanly possible. It’s okay to savor old favorites–friends and books alike–but there is a whole world of new things out there for me to discover, and I know I’ll love every minute of the process. Namaste.

Photo: “There must be a present for me in one of these bags!“, originally uploaded by John Haslam

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Notes from Jenn’s World March 14, 2008

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Just a quick check-in about a few things going on in my world.

Gratitude in recovery

After almost a week, I am finally back to feeling myself. While I am relieved to have most of the nausea and dizziness gone, I do hope to hold on to the sense of presence I have felt throughout this experience. Driving home from running errands today, I could feel how much more in the moment I was, feeling the steering wheel and stick shift in my fingers, the amount of resistance in the pedals, the sun on my face. I smiled the whole way, recognizing the gift of the present moment and grateful for being able to have the experience feeling fully myself, fully in my body. It has been such a gift!

Avon Walk for Breast Cancer

I may not have been able to train this past week, but donations have still been coming in, reminding me of everyone’s tremendous support. I am up to $1184 at this point, which is approximately one-third of my personal goal for this event. I cannot express enough gratitude for everyone’s donations so far. The process has been a great reminder of the infinite abundance of the universe and the generosity of my friends and family. Thank you all!

Caroline Reynolds on Good Morning America

My mentor Caroline Reynolds was recently on Good Morning America talking about her book Spiritual Fitness. It’s a terrific interview–click here to view it–and an even better book! I am in the process of planning an 8-week class based on the program outlined in Spiritual Fitness. If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in participating, I’d love to hear from you. I am ironing out the details and should be ready to publish them soon, but if you have a preference for when and where the class is held definitely let me know soon.

What’s happening in your world? Anything new that you’re exploring? Do you have any synchronicity to share? Any events coming up on your horizon that you’re excited about? Please share!

 

My vision February 21, 2008

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Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.
~Tallulah Bankhead

I love synchronicity. I met a friend for lunch yesterday whom I haven’t seen in quite a while. At one point I felt compelled to share a vision I have. Before I’d finished, she started to laugh and shake her head. It turns out another friend of hers has a similar, overlapping vision. She’s down in Southern California right now, but she plans to move back to the Bay Area at some point during the next year to put her vision into action. My friend is going to introduce us to see if our ideas overlap enough that we could work together. How cool is that? The funny thing is I don’t talk about this idea very much these days. It’s been feeling too “future” for me to give much energy to, but this seemed like a wonderful reminder that the only place we live is in the present.

So I’ve known that I’m on a healer’s path for quite a while now. I’ve spent most of the past decade focusing on my Practitioner work in a Religious Science community, and I am in the process of evolving this work into more of a spiritual coach or mentor. Within the past couple of years I’ve had an idea for a Center develop as part of my larger vision, mostly coming up out of the desire to create the kind of community that I’ve wished already existed in my area. I want it to be a place that is there to assist people along their life’s journey, whether they would like to work with a coach, they are in need of acupuncture or massage, they are looking for inspiration and learning through books or seminars, they are looking for a psychic or energy reading, or they just need a safe haven where they can break bread with fellow travelers.

I envision a bookstore that isn’t just a bookstore, it provides an atmosphere of community. There are books on metaphysics, religion, spirituality, psychology, personal growth — great examples of fiction and non-fiction that open you up and stretch you and become good friends. There are candles and lamps and incense, cards that make you laugh and cry, jewelery and bath products, gifts to soothe the soul for yourself and your loved ones. It’s a simple store of wood and stone, with comfortable chairs scattered throughout so you can rest and soak up the good energy that gathers from the products and the patrons.

Upstairs or in the back, you might find a yoga class or a workshop or a poetry reading is being held that afternoon, or perhaps it’s a movie night where something like What the Bleep Do We Know!? or a Spiritual Cinema Circle selection is being shown, or maybe a 12-step meeting is happening, and various readers have openings in their schedules for you to meet with them. Whether you’re interested in energy work like Reiki, astrology or numerology, tarot or shamanism, or want to invest in some long-term coaching, there is someone associated with the Center for you to work with. There are offices in the building where various healing practitioners have full-time practices or you might find a table in the store where readings are held on a more impromptu basis. You might also find a writer or a musician or painter in one of the offices, lending their energy to the space and feeding the Center’s energy back into their work.

Attached to the store is a cafe where you can get a variety of juices and coffees and snacks from a counter, or you can be seated in the dining room for a healthy and delicious meal. Perhaps a jazz trio is playing in the corner, or a singer-songwriter is just getting started, or there is a beautiful, revitalizing CD being played through the speakers. The produce all comes from local farmers and is organic wherever possible. The drink list features sustainable wineries, breweries, and distilleries in addition to the juice and coffee drinks from the counter. While not exclusive, much of the menu is vegetarian, introducing you to foods you might not have had the opportunity to experience previously. Mostly it is a place to relax and connect, and there are several community tables in the restaurant if you are interested in meeting new people during your meal.

While much of these ideas flow from my imagination, I’ve been blessed to experience little pieces of this idea around the country. This Center has its roots in at least three concepts: Golden Braid Books and Oasis Cafe in Salt Lake City, Utah; The Grotto in San Francisco, California; and Sacred Center in New York City. They are all amazing examples of spirit in action, and I cannot wait until I, too, am a part of a similar creative expression.