Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

Rumi quote January 29, 2010

Filed under: quote of the week — jennsheridan @ 3:00 pm
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Don’t go off sightseeing.

The real journey is right here.
The great excursion starts

from exactly where you are.
You are the world.

You have everything you need.
You are the secret.

You are the wide opened.
Don’t look for the remedy for your troubles
outside yourself.

You are the medicine.
You are the cure for your own sorrow.

~Rumi

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Waiting July 23, 2009

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 4:03 pm
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“I’m a lover of reality. When I argue with What Is, I lose, but only 100% of the time.”
~ Byron Katie

It’s less than a week until my due date. While it feels like I’ve been pregnant for years, if I went into labor today, the baby would still be early. Time is definitely an illusion here towards the end. The good news is, we’ve gotten quite a bit done in the past couple of weeks. The amazing thing is how much there is (and always will be) left to do. I am definitely reminded of Abraham: “We are all on a perpetual cycle of joyous becoming. We will never get it done, ever, ever, ever, ever.” So while we aren’t “done,” we are ready. The car seat installation has been inspected (and approved). The hospital bags are (mostly) packed. We’ve lined up a friend to take care of our cats for us while we’re at the hospital. My birthing bracelet is complete, and beautiful! We have diapers, a bassinet for the baby to sleep in, baby clothes laundered and ready. It is all coming together.

What is left is the intricate waiting game of pre-labor. Unfortunately, I’m not handling it as gracefully as I might have liked. I pulled a muscle in my side last week—in my sleep, no less. My feet and calves are so swollen it feels like I’m lugging watermelons around. Every day it seems like my body finds some new and interesting way of throwing me a curve ball. I’d love to say that I view each new thing as part of my practice—and sometimes I do, although usually it’s after the fact—but for the most part I’m falling into the dangerous practice of living in the future, wishing I were somewhere I’m not.

I know that my practice for labor will be surrendering to the moment, accepting whatever happens, truly living “it is what it is.” What I wasn’t expecting was how much that would need to be my practice heading up to labor. As usual, reality is different from my expectations, and I have a choice about how to handle that. Some moments I fall into a funk, upset that I’m unable to get very much done. Other moments, I recognize that I need to start where I am, and that may mean I spend the day with my feet up, or it may mean that I get to run some errands or unpack a box or two, or I may be able to do a little of both. But whatever it is, it is exactly that—no more, no less. Finding peace with that is my daily and indefinite challenge.

And so here I find myself, in the rhythm of the unknown, celebrating my practice. As John Lennon sings, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” So today I choose to focus on that life that I am living, what that life really is for me today, and allow everything else to fall into place in its own time. It’s all we can ever do, really, but there’s nothing quite like having it show up for you rather literally to make you realize what life really is all about. Enjoy the moment. Or not—it’s up to you. But this is the moment where your life is being lived. How does it feel? Namaste.

Photo: “It was summer she walked into…,” originally uploaded by Gordana Adamovic-Mladenovic

 

Awareness May 22, 2009

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 1:27 pm
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It’s been a great week in getting ready for baby. We’re now two weeks into our Birthing From Within childbirth classes, and I’m loving the discourse they trigger and the focus on how, really, this is a way of life, not just a way to approach birth. This week, we practiced non-focused awareness, a technique I had started playing with last year that I simply love. It’s a way of noticing what’s around you, what your body is experiencing moment-to-moment, without judgment.

You can practice this technique any time, anywhere, and the more you do it, the more easily you can slip into it. While it definitely works as a pain management technique, it also works as a walking meditation, something you can take into your day that increases your experience of the world and decreases your judgment of it. To begin, I recommend closing your eyes, and starting with a few moments of breath awareness. Then, allow your awareness to reach out from your breath. As I sit here, I can hear the whir of my computer fan, the singing of the birds outside my window, the music playing softly in the other room, the sound of my fingers striking the keyboard as I type, the difference between the sounds made by the letter keys and the space key. I can feel the cool tile underneath my toes, the edge of the desk cutting into my elbow, the support of the chair beneath me, the feel of my robe on my skin, the subtle movements of baby adjusting inside me. If I open my eyes just a smidge to allow some visual sensations entry, I notice the grain of the pine of my desk, the bright red of my mouse pad, the quality of the light in the room, the striking contrast between the white of the computer screen and the black of the rest of my computer peripherals.

The version we practiced this week includes cues, so your partner finds a rhythm and gives you cues to help you shift your awareness from one modality to another to help with the flow: Breath. Touch. See. Hear. Touch. Breath. Hear. See. And so on. At first, I found it distracting for someone else to determine my rhythm, but as I got used to it, I found it meant that my attention was always being brought to something new. This meant that I didn’t end up “following” a single sensation. For example, we were using holding ice in class to give us a discomfort that we could practice with. The cue “Touch” inevitably brought my attention to the strong sensation of the ice in my hand at some point during that awareness cycle, but it couldn’t linger there, turning from awareness into “Oh wow, that is really uncomfortable” into “Oh my god, that really hurts!” It was just another body sensation to be observed, much like the feel of the carpet under my feet or Sean’s hand stroking my arm.

The best part was putting this into practice out of the blue when one night this week, I was feeling really nauseated, my body’s response to being overtired these days, and I was complaining about how I felt like I was going to throw up. My attention was so tied into what I was feeling I was literally making it worse. Sean said “Breathe,” and for a moment I was annoyed, thinking he was trying to dismiss what I was going through, but a beat later he said “See,” and my whole body relaxed as I figured out what he was doing and went into my practice. Within a few seconds, the queasy feeling in my stomach was a non-issue. It didn’t disappear, but I just wasn’t paying it any attention. I was able to finish what I was doing from a place of consciousness, and enjoyed the remainder of my evening instead of being sucked into an icky place of not feeling well. Small example? Perhaps. But still a powerful reminder for me that this works when you practice it, and that life truly is a practice. Namaste.

Photo: “rain over street lights,” originally uploaded by s m

 

Releasing expectations March 13, 2009

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 1:04 pm
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Expectations, small and large, have been rearing their ugly heads again for me lately. I’m discovering that pregnancy, especially when it isn’t theirs, seems to evoke a need in people to share their opinions and stereotypes with you. I’ve been bombarded with other people’s opinions, experiences, and beliefs about what happens while you’re pregnant, what happens during labor and delivery, and what happens once the baby is born. Generally speaking, I would say it is well meaning and comes from a desire to support you in what you’re going through, even when the content is on the negative end of the spectrum. Most of the time I see it that way and take what is said with a grain of salt. But every now and again, someone will say something it will just irk me to no end. When I stop and look at what is causing that reaction, I realize that if another person had said exactly the same thing it wouldn’t have bothered me so much, I would have been able slough it off. So what is the difference? Ah yes, expectations. Without fail, my reaction is caused by my having some expectation of that person, that they would think more like I do, that they would realize that what they’re saying is merely a perpetuation of stereotypes instead of being based in reality, or even that they would realize that every pregnancy, delivery, and baby is different and therefore every experience is unique.

In some respects, it is a welcome change for me to have this experience with other people instead of simply with myself. Most of the time, my expectations surround my own abilities, whether it’s about my productivity or being centered or showing up the way I choose to or, really, I could go on pretty much ad nauseam. But wherever those expectations are stemming from, whether it’s about expecting something of yourself or your situation or another person, expecting things to be better or different or any way at all, those expectations are getting in the way of living life fully. That may be a harsh way of looking at it, but the way I see it is that expectations may lead to many emotions — primarily disappointment, irritation, frustration, or even anger — but at the end of the day, they keep you from staying present, from experiencing the moment as it is happening. Expectations leave you in a state of comparison instead of enabling you to see the moment for what it is. Expectations leave you in judgment, allowing you to say that now you like the person or the situation or yourself more or less than you did before, instead of opening you up to see the divinity within.

The reminder in all this for me is that the path to freedom, the path to joy, is to see people for who they are in this moment, to accept the situation I find myself in for what it is, and to love myself unconditionally. I choose to set my intentions for my life, but allow the moments themselves to unfold in their own divine perfection, staying present to the experience and opening myself up to the opportunities each moment brings. This is my challenge to myself for this week, and I welcome you to join me. I would love to hear how it goes for you! Namaste.

Photo: “Bird’s Nest – Ptasie Gniazdo,” originally uploaded by Jarosław Pocztarski

 

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

 

Shifting gears November 3, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 5:38 pm
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Since everything is but an apparition perfect in being what it is, having nothing to do with good or bad, acceptance or rejection, one may as well burst out in laughter.
~Long Chen Pa

I kind of got lost the last few weeks, and I’m guessing I’m not alone. I can certainly point to all of the wonderful things I’ve been doing and the sense of urgency around them as the unbalancing factor, however I suspect that underlying drumbeat that you can practically feel and hear around you everywhere you go would have permeated even my best attempts at staying centered and grounded.

Yes, tomorrow is Election Day. I’m guessing you would have to live in an unplugged bomb shelter somewhere to have missed what promises to be the largest election in America’s history. What started out as an optimistic, hope-filled embrace, however, has turned into a conversation steeped in fear. When I’m not careful, I can feel the country’s anxiety and negativity seeping through into my own consciousness, and don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s all the other side. No matter which candidate you are supporting, in the desperate final days prior to the election the national conversation seems to be centered around all the terrible things that would happen if the other guy won. It’s hardly surprising considering the culture of fear we’ve been living in for at least the last eight years, but my challenge to myself and to the world today is to rise above this fear-based thinking and focus instead on your intention.

What got me excited about this election in the first place was that it represented an opportunity for another voice to be heard — the voice of the optimistic, the spiritual but not religious, those who recognize that every moment represents a choice about how we’re going to live today. In other words, my voice. I want for my country what I want for myself — the opportunity to spread your wings and fly, to live life to its fullest, to experience expansion and freedom. And I recognize for my country what I recognize for myself — the best way to encourage change in another is to begin with yourself.

And so when I got dressed this morning, I pulled out my LIVE MINDFULLY shirt as a reminder to myself to truly stay present and be mindful this week. Because no matter what happens tomorrow, it’s all going to be okay. I’m not going to kid myself and say I won’t be disappointed if my candidate doesn’t win, but I have to remember that life is an unfoldment and an evolution, always moving me in the direction of my highest good. I set my intention, I make my choices, I get out there and do what I can do, but I also allow the unexpected to come in and show me possibilities I might not have thought of on my own. And most of all, what I want to remember is not what I am against, but instead that I am FOR change, I am FOR hope, I am FOR living life fully. Namaste.

Photo: “blown open,” originally uploaded by sookie

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Happy Autumnal Equinox! September 22, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 11:39 pm
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I have mixed feelings about today. On the up side, fall is my absolutely favorite time of year. I love the change of weather, when the temperature begins to cool and evenings take on a crispness that encourages sweaters and jackets. I love when the leaves begin to change, exchanging their gorgeous greens for majestic reds, yellows, oranges and browns. I love school supplies filling the drugstores, with the clean, blank notebooks begging to be filled with fresh ideas. But it’s a mournful time too, as day and night share equal time today, signaling the beginning of our descent into darkness for the winter. It’s time to turn within, to connect to the wise Self and eternal Source within, staying quiet and leaving the boisterous extroversion of spring and summer behind for a spell.

Even living in a place where it stays warm so late in the year that leaves are still changing around Thanksgiving, fall is fall, and I always associate this time of year with new beginnings, with learning new things, with positive change. This year has felt sort of like fall has arrived every month, bringing regular change and inducing an ongoing sense of wonder at the world and my place in it. One of those changes is that for the first time, I am embracing the darkness, exploring the quiet stillness, the appearance of things coming to end, connecting with pieces of me that usual go unnoticed or ignored. I am not terribly interested in defining myself in concrete terms, perhaps because my self-definition is utterly fluid right now. What is much more up my alley right now is just being in the moment, seeing what shows up in it, and truly responding to it from the center of my being. What happens next is so much more powerful than what would have happened if I’d simply reacted or allowed my Intellect to interfere.

Life is an ongoing process, an experiment in becoming more — more of Who I Am, more of who I came here to be. It’s such a wild ride, unexpected and joyous and thought-provoking and vital. I’m simply excited to be here, excited that it’s fall, that it’s another season in the cycle of this crazy and incredible year, excited to see what I get to learn and be and do next, and excited to share bits and pieces of my journey with you. Namaste.

Photo: “Forever autumn,” originally uploaded by Josep Mª Rosell

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