We all have imperfections. We all believe our lives will improve if only (fill in the blank). We spend hours trying to get comfortable and create the perfect scene. As a result, we miss whole segments in the movie of our lives.
Pema Chödrön, a beloved Tibetan Buddhist teacher and author often writes, “We have everything we need to wake up.” Happiness does not depend on external circumstances, but our relationship to those circumstances. We don’t have to like the situation, just love ourselves for the courage and willingness it takes to stay despite our inclination to run like hell.
You might have your doubts about your ability to endure what is most challenging for you. I invite you to practice with small things, minor irritations first – the light staying red forever when you need to be somewhere on time, the mail carrier delivering your expected mail to your neighbor instead of you, etc.
Picture yourself on your favorite masseuse’s table. Name the hindrance: anger, sadness, guilt, loneliness, fear, or hurt and feel the tension as best as you can in your body. Now imagine your breath inhaling compassion from loving fingertips and massaging the taut muscles. With each exhalation, release the emotion into the wide and open space of kind presence.
If you still feel heaviness in your heart after some time, it may be the inner critic disguised as doubt. Remember that all beings feel what you feel. You are not alone. Even the Dalai Lama has felt your emotions and practiced with them many times! With patience and faith, the practice will bear ripe and delicious fruit.
Sometimes painful emotions can feel overwhelming. You may not have the time and energy required to pause, breathe, and give the emotions the compassionate space they need to pass through. In these moments, try gratitude practice. When I feel stuck in the mud of messy mental states, I often give thanks for what is working well in my life – a supportive family, empathetic friends, a vocation that nurtures my spiritual growth, a hobby that helps me to express my heart’s deepest aspiration to love above all else.
What if we could all fly on wings of wisdom and compassion up to the sky? What if we could see everything? Would we still choose to love?
Kaveri Patel has been on a quest to find answers, not through religious texts, any particular person or popular dogma,but through her own experiences. She lives with her wonderful family in northern California where she practices medicine, meditation, parenting, yoga, writing, and patience. Kaveri's column here focuses on "Living Poetry." Her first book of poetry, An Invitation, has just been released. She can be reached at: email@example.com
Nature is full of cycles. We have just passed through Solstice, which for those of us north of the equator officially ushers in Winter, and for those in the south, announces Summer. Each season of the year represents a different phase in the ongoing natural cycle – birth (Spring), maturity (Summer), aging/release (Fall), and death/transformation (Winter).
Our own lives mirror this cycle – over the course of a lifetime, and in smaller versions within each year and month. Our spiritual growth is a continuous cycling through these phases in the form of new realizations, maturing wisdom, release of old patterns, and personal transformation. Most world religions have holidays, rituals, contemplative practices, or retreats that are tied to each of these phases.
In women’s spiritual traditions, the cycles of our bodies are linked with these cycles as well, and we can deepen our spiritual practice by embracing this link, and working with it in our lives. Biologically, our life phases are defined by our procreative phases –the onset of menstruation, our fertile years, peri-menopause, and post-menopause. In women’s energetics – the energy body teachings drawn from energy healing and spiritual traditions – there are energetic shifts associated with each of these phases:
- Our entrance into womanhood with the onset of menstruation signals the first opening of our 2nd chakra, or sacral energy center, in our pelvic area. This is the seat of the kundalini, or spiritual life force, in women. Much of our teen and early twenties is spent learning to deal with this energy, and particularly its sexual expression.
- Our mature, ‘fertile’ years are our birthing and nurturing years, when our creative abilities manifest as children, career building, artistic creations, service projects, building a home, or whatever we apply ourselves too. Energetically we go through many sub-phases during this time, often working on issues associated with one or the other energy centers (chakras) as we experience challenges in our lives.
- Our transformational, peri-menopausal years, which science is realizing can span our entire 40s or even longer, spiritually represents a time of shedding old conditioned identities, and owning a new definition of ourselves. Often this is a tumultuous time energetically, as we strive to redefine ourselves, and literally remake ourselves.
- Our ‘wisdom’ years, in our post-menopausal phase, are ideally a time in which we can fully own our power and accumulated wisdom. Energetically, it is again a time of manifesting, but also a period of increased stability, as we integrate our intuitive and intentional aspects.
Up until the final phase, we are also dealing with the mini-cycle of menstruation, which has its own energetic phases:
- The first half – from the end of menstruation through ovulation - represents an outward, manifesting, intentional movement of energy. We are most effective at accomplishing goals and interacting with others during this time.
- The second half – after ovulation through menstruation - represents an inward, contemplative, intuitive energetic movement. This is a time when we need to honor our need for solitude and contemplation to the greatest extent possible.
To begin to work with these phases and cycles, spend some time contemplating where you are, first in your overall life phase, and then within your monthly cycle of outward/intentional and inward/intuitive movement. It’s worth noting that many post-menopausal women feel that they also have a similar outward/inward cycle, sometimes consciously connected to the cycles of the moon, and in other cases just a personal rhythm that reveals itself over time.
Consider first if there are any ways you are resisting honoring the phase you are in. Are you wishing you were in another life phase? Can you see the challenges of this phase as potentially opening doorways to new wisdom for you? Can you identify and appreciate the gifts your current phase has to offer? Can you sense yourself as engaged in a natural, ancient, sacred cycle of birth, maturation, release, and transformation?
Now think back to the prior phases of your life, and consider the energetic themes listed above. Do you think you were able to successfully learn the lessons of those phases? Are there any experiences or challenges that you feel you need to revisit for yourself, to re-frame and understand in the greater light of your current maturity? Often we hold on to self-blame, regrets, or anger from prior phases that inhibits our ability to fully claim our power in our current phase.
When working with your menstrual cycle, or your natural outward/inward cycle if you are post-menopausal, consider how each phase manifests for you. Do you suffer from intense PMS? Because this is our most sensitive time energetically, our symptoms can often be compounded by a high level of activity or social interaction during this time. Experiment with adding just a little more space for yourself during each day of this part of your cycle, whether engaged in explicit spiritual practice or other self-nurturing activities. Likewise, think of ways you might harness your greatest creative potential at the height of your cycle each month.
If these cycles have not yet revealed themselves to you in your own life, consider keeping a little diary for a month or two focused on how you are feeling in terms of inward vs. outward expression each day, and note where you are in your biological cycle.
Just noting our life phases and cycles can be a big step towards beginning to honor ourselves and our lives as part of something larger. We can begin to sense the rise and fall of our own energetic patterns, and work with these spiritually. Instead of the passing of time being something we rail against, we can truly begin to honor our sacred cycles, and where we are in them.
Lisa is a meditation teacher, energy worker, writer, and mom to three. She loves helping people heal and explore the unseen aspects of themselves through chakra (energy center) meditation and related energy body work. She specializes in women's energetics - the distinct characteristics and phases of women's subtle bodies, and the special spiritual doorways available to women through their feminine divinity. In her work she draws on many diverse traditions, including Vajrayana Buddhism, Tantra, Zen, gnostic Christianity, shamanism, yoga, astrology, and several energy healing systems, most particularly the work of Cyndi Dale. She writes on all these subjects at her blog Mommy Mystic (http://www.MommyMystic.com), as well as writing regularly on Buddhism for Bellaonline (http://buddhism.bellaonline.com/Site.asp), where she is the Buddhism site editor. She offers classes, workshops and personal sessions through The Maat Institute (http://www.themaatinstitute.com.) Lisa's column here is entitled, "Women's Energetics."
To live in sacred space is to live in a symbolic environment where spiritual life is possible, where everything around you speaks of exaltation of the Spirit. ~ Joseph Campbell
Creating space for joy, both physically and emotionally, allows Joy to fill our days with its fragrance and its light. Do you make time every day for joy? Do you permit yourself to feel Joy? Are you quiet enough to hear what Joy may be telling you? Slow down. Stop. Listen and receive. Do you welcome joy? Have you made room for joy? Do your home and workplace reflect love and beauty? Do your surroundings inspire you? Make at least one day a week a different kind of day: a Sabbath day; a day of rest and observation, renewal and rejoicing. Yet remember: every day is an auspicious day for Joy—another day to love.
Some cultures use holy water, the scent of flowers, fresh fruits, fire, incense, sweet cakes and other sensuous offerings to tempt their gods to descend to earth. We may do the same to invite Joy into our lives. Feel free to use symbols of the spirit to inspire you. Don’t be shy about placing sculpture, paintings, signs and photographs that evoke peace and joy throughout your home. Create altars if you enjoy them. All of these are beautiful reminders of the eternal realm. Celebrate the flowing energy of life with growing plants, fountains and fresh flowers. Have music that is soothing and uplifting.
Invite Joy into your life as if it were an honored guest. Create a beautiful, loving and welcoming environment. Live there as an honored guest yourself, for that is what you are. And Joy will come. And Joy will remain.
For behind all seen things lies something vaster; everything is but a path, a portal, or a window opening on something more than itself.
What is the Sacred Feminine? The Sacred Feminineis the energy within us and in the universe that serves life itself. The qualities of unconditional love, compassion, wisdom, beauty, gentleness, patience, accepting, forgiving, nurturing, welcoming, accessible, kind, intuitive and healing, and so much more, are carried by the Sacred Feminine.
The time has come to balance the energies within ourselves and in our belief systems by honoring the Sacred Feminine. The newness of a New Year is the perfect time to embrace your calling and live this mystic, magical Sacred journey. You may believe the religions of the world have different beliefs, ideologies, and rituals, and it is true some do. However, in looking at what most religions have in common it is the intention of love, compassion and kindness to all living things. These qualities are of the Sacred Feminine.
In our year long "Creating a Life of Contentment" course with Jan Lundy, December's theme was rich in discoveries of the Sacred Feminine. In my learning's, She (I) is a powerful essence that gives both strength and fluidity to love herself and to all human beings and to all of life. Knowing that the World's Divine Mother, and other Divine Sacred Goddesses are present, gives me strength and comfort as I face life’s challenges on my spiritual path of devotion.
Intention is an important first step toward balancing the male and female within. With intention we focus our energy and our thoughts on the shift that we are creating in our self, which results in balance. Whatever we focus on we create more of and it expands. The mind is a tool and we create through our thinking.Adding intention drives us to our goal with powerful energy. So through intention we seek aspects of ourselves that will draw to us to the opportunities that allow this to manifest within us and to grow. When we live with intention, we are able to live our true potential and our own divine nature, which is balance.
Awareness supports intention. With awareness of our own Divine nature, the door opens to seeing the Sacred Feminine and she dwells in each of us. Awareness of ourselves gives energy to developing our Sacred calling and expanding the beauty in ourselves. The rich qualities that are inherent in the Sacred Feminine as we cultivate this essence grows to fullness in our spirit when we bring our self to awareness.
Acknowledgment of the many wonderful qualities of the Sacred Feminine that we carry in us and express in our daily lives helps to ground us in the knowingness of who we are. With this awareness and acknowledgmentwe are more able to live our true potential. We are given this great gift and acceptance of our own being is crucial to understanding our sacredness. We are not our bodies, not our minds or our emotions. Knowing we are Spirit, assists us in Divine creating in all areas of our lives. We are Divine Creatures with a special purpose. Give into your Divine Sacredness with great compassion and experience your feminine being, Spiritual acceptance will start you on this path.
What we learn is how spirituality manifests most in how we deal with problems, especially in relationships with people; secondly, in whether we unfold the potentialities in our being and how we embrace them; and finally, an absolute, crystal-clear understanding of what lies behind the appearance of things; not being caught up in the appearance but really seeing the cause behind the cause and the purpose beyond the purpose. It can lead to an extraordinary clarity that should give a great brilliance to your whole being; your consciousness can become like a light that illuminates all things, and you yourself can become like a crystal, absolutely clear. It is a true Awakening!
Below are a list of practices or questions that may come to mind to cultivate and think upon. Mindfulness lends greatness to these experiences as we call upon as our Sacred Feminine who reveals more and more of our being.
Being more grounded and present for whatever shows-up in life
Having greater patience with those around you
Feeling juicier and more connected to your passion and creativity
Getting more focused, so you accomplish a lot with your limited time
Restoring that twinkle in your eye and laughing more easily
Being calm, instead of fearful, in the face of challenging situations
Getting deeply connected with an amazing community of Soulful Women
Having a deeper sense of intimacy with your loved ones
Embodying the frequency of love every moment, so you can transform the world through your love and service
Accepting your body as perfect and Divine with compassion
Look at yourself in the mirror and appreciate the Goddess looking back at you
A poem that illustrates this by Patricia Lynn Reilly ...
IMAGINE A WOMAN
Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good She is a woman. A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories. Who refuses To carry the sin of others within her body and life.
Imagine a woman who trusts and respects herself. A woman who listens to her needs and desires. Who meets them with tenderness and grace.
Imagine a woman who acknowledges the past’s Influence on the present. A woman who has walked through her past. Who has healed into the present.
Imagine a woman who authors her own life. A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf. Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and wisest voice.
Imagine a woman who names her own gods. A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness. Who designs a personal spirituality to inform her daily life.
Imagine a woman in love with her own body. A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is. Who celebrates its rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.
Imagine a woman who honors the body of the Goddess in her changing body. A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom. Who refuses to use her life-energy disguising the changes in her body and life.
Imagine a woman who values the women in her life. A woman who sits in circles of women. Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets.
Meditation: The Complete Guide ~ Book Review and Giveaway!
Techniques from East and West to Clam the Mind, Heal the Body, and Enrich the Spirit
by Patricia Monaghan and Elenaor G. Viereck
Touted as “the best general book about meditation on the market” (New Age Retailer), I have to agree. Meditation: The Complete Guide is exactly that.
The authors begin their adventurous exploration by being very clear that meditation means many things to many people. “To some, it means simple, relaxation; to others, a deep blissful surrender to the divine. To some, mediation means rigorously following a prescribed path; to others, it means exploring a path unique to the self.” (from the Introduction)
What Monaghan and Viereck do very well from the outset is to give us permission to explore various types of meditation and to find what out works for us—all shoulds and rules are silenced. Many seekers have been turned off by traditional forms of meditation. They may have felt it to be too stringent or difficult so a traditional meditation practice may have become a longed for, but never embodied, practice. The authors know this well so they encourage the reader to dive in and experience freedom around whatever forms they wish to try. For only then, with “a lightness of approach,” can the practice do what a spiritual practice is intended to do—change us from the inside out. We are assured that meditation in its varied forms can do just that.
I found the Introduction to Meditation to be excellent, concise, and inviting. The authors make some very important points clear early on.
1. Meditation involves choice and is a practice of training our attention.
2. Meditation is not a religion.
3. Meditation is a path, not a goal.
They also identify what meditation is not:
“It is not relaxation or self-hypnosis. It is not thinking, nor is it a way of controlling our thinking. Meditation is certainly not daydreaming, nor is it a kind of drug that automatically makes us feel better.”
Monaghan and Viereck then open the door wide—beginning with indigenous practices (Trance Dancing and Drumming), moving through Yoga and practices sourced in Buddhism, and on through the meditation practices of all the major religious traditions. Taoism (Tai Chi and Qigong) Judaism (Mussar and Hitbodedut), Christianity (Contemplative Prayer, Taize, and the Jesus Prayer) and Islam (Sufi Dancing and Prayer) are some of those that presented.
The final sections of the book focus on "mixed and modern forms" of meditation, active practices and creative meditations. The reader will delight in the wealth of information that is presented in a clear and direct way. Complete instructions for engaging in each practice are provided making this a truly comprehensive guide to meditation in the broadest sense.
I highly recommend this book and, myself, took special delight in perusing sections (and forms of practice) I knew little about, Hitbodedut—“Conversations with God,”—from Judaism, for example. It was delightful to discover the common heart and soul of so many of these practices. Each serves as a vehicle for deepening our awareness of self and Spirit, as well as uniting us with a global community of seekers. In our unique expressions, we are One.
Buddha Chick Life is pleased to be able to Give Away one copy of Meditation: The Complete Guide, courtesy of its publisher New World Library.
Leave a comment here. Share your thoughts about meditation practice and what forms resonate with you. We’d love to hear from you!
An active mind and time alone are not a good combination for me. Ironic, considering how much of my time I spend alone, writing from home during the day (or not) and alone in the evenings as often as not with my husband’s travel schedule.
I have known for a long time that going for stretches without social interaction does something to me. It pushes me somehow in ways that are uncomfortable. And while I know that this discomfort is a sign of something I need to examine more closely, my methods of examination push me in to a darker place from time to time.
I am very good at telling myself what I Should Be Doing. Years of being directed by my parents, a Marine Corps father and a mother who was desperate to be in control of her own destiny, to go here and do this and prioritize that taught me that inactivity was to be avoided. It also taught me that service to others and their priorities was of paramount importance. So I often find myself struggling to prioritize tasks in such a way that it becomes eminently clear which things deserve doing first, second, and on down the line. Struggling because there is no way to do that. There is no universally accepted rubric that says this book review is more important than that load of laundry or taking the dog for a walk as he whines and follows me from room to room.
I tend to give precedence to those things that serve others - laundry, cooking, shopping for household necessities, straightening up - and push off others that seem more nebulous. I have, over the years, figured out that the dog only really needs to be walked every other day (please don't tell Cesar Milan), that if I make it to yoga or the gym twice a week I am really doing well, and that I can crank out a good book review in an hour.
I know that the best thing I can do is banish "Shoulds" from my vocabulary. And I've come a long way in that regard. But I became aware today that I do it in so many other ways, I'm not sure I've really come as far as I thought. Every time I catch that inner voice berating myself for wanting to do something more than another thing that is probably more productive or helpful, I am "shoulding" myself. If I have the urge to lie down on the couch and take a cozy nap with the cat instead of folding that load of laundry or going to get Bubba's contact lens solution, the nap is vetoed even before it was fully realized as an option in my mind. If, instead of reorganizing that closet of Lola's that disgorges random items every time you open the door, I would rather sit down and read for an hour (who wouldn't?), I hear this sweet, condescending voice in my head that says, "You can read on your own time, dear. That closet isn't getting any cleaner while you sit there, and you'll feel guilty the whole time you're on the couch, so you won't focus on the story, anyway."
I have even become so sophisticated at this little game that the notion of spending an entire day rewriting a chapter of the book I'm currently working on becomes physically repugnant. Not because I don't want to write, but because I have so thoroughly convinced myself that my writing serves nobody but myself (at least until I sell something), that every word I type is a piece of laundry left unfolded or six steps fewer with the dog this afternoon. I have associated things that give me joy with guilt and feelings of laziness in an effort to convince myself to be more productive in the service of others.
The truth is, I spend more time performing mental calculations in an effort to decide how to structure my day than I do actually performing the acts themselves. It is as though I envision some stern judge and jury I will face at the end of the day as I justify the things I decided to spend time on. And for what? There is no gold star that goes on my permanent record. There is no jail time for dishes left undone. From time to time there is an extremely hyper retriever in my face if I neglected to walk him, and almost always there is remorse that I didn't write more (or at all) today.
So the question remains, what am I avoiding by continuing to deny myself the freedom to choose things that please me each and every day? What would happen if, for some portion of every day I sat down and did something that speaks to my soul? Something whose only purpose is to make me happy? As I write this and envision myself doing it, the grounded, heavy feeling in my core is enough to convince me that I've been looking at this the wrong way. The simple act of imagining that I have given myself permission to indulge my desires regardless of what anyone else may think warms me from the inside out. Calms me. Settles me.
That is not to say that the notion of implementing it doesn't frighten me a bit. It is counter to everything I was taught and every example set for me by adults in my life. But if I close the door on that chatter and sit in the space and stillness of the other imagining it feels possible.
Everyone has heard the axiom, “The truth shall set you free.” For me, whenever I heard this, I thought about the importance of being truthful to others. Until recently, I never thought about Truth in terms of being truthful to myself.
See, you have a personal Truth that is as unique to you as your fingerprint. This means, that if you live your life from your Truth, you live a life that is totally unique, creative, and sacred. So… Have you been Truthful with yourself lately? If not, what’s holding you back from seeing your Truth?
Reflecting on your answers to these questions can help you assess whether or not you are allowing your sacred self to be your guide on this life journey. Remember, by pretending to be something you are not, you will never become what you are meant to be (Oprah). Have you ever pretended to be something you weren’t because you thought it was how you “should” be? If so, perhaps it is time for you to live your life in alignment with your truth, your sacred self.
CONSTANT CHANGING (as opposed to craving…)
Our lives are always in flux. Just when you think your life is in balance, some significant life change occurs, like motherhood, a new job, relocation, ending an unhealthy relationship, the death of a loved one, etc, and the equilibrium you worked so hard to achieve is disturbed. This is life. So what’s a woman to do to keep mental sanity and maintain emotional balance during the inevitable transitions of life?
Try this: Get centered, tap into your sacred self, and let your Truth be your guide.
Your center, your sacred self, your divine-essence is your one true constant among the constant changes on your life journey. In fact, its whole point of existence is to help you navigate the changes in your life with purpose and divine direction. When you tap into your sacred self, the Truth it speaks will always be accurate.
STRATEGIES FOR HEARING YOUR TRUTH
If you feel it’s time to redesign your life with your Truth as your guide, the first step is tuning into the whispers of your sacred self. Some of us might be so disconnected from our inner-sacred selves, that we don’t even know where to begin. Below are a few strategies to help you turn up the volume of your inner-voice.
Create a Physical Sacred Space
Some people, myself included, need a physical space to go to before they can get into their mental sacred space. This sacred space doesn’t need to be extravagant. It could be as simple as the center of your living room floor. Find a special physical place to read, journal, write, dream, visualize, meditate, or do whatever it is you are passionate about and visit it routinely.
Create a Mental Sacred Space
You may or may not need to get into a physical sacred place in order to access your mental sacred space. Your mental sacred place is that place you go in your mind where you practice visualization, state your intentions, witness to your thoughts, or repeat positive affirmations. You can create this mental sacred space absolutely anywhere. You could be standing in line at the grocery store, and instead of stressing about how long it is taking for the cashier to check-out the person in front of you, you could zone out, go to your sacred mental place and, let’s say, visualize a specific situation you want to manifest in your life. Or you could simply focus on your breath. Most likely, you’ll feel at peace almost instantly.
Stillness and Movement Meditation
I think there are two great ways to meditate-- stillness meditation and movement meditation. Some people prefer stillness meditation. By that I mean, sitting still and focusing on your breath for a period of time. If you are hesitant to engage this form of meditation, I encourage you to transcend this Egoic fear. The Ego may be saying, “That’s weird. I could never find the time to do that. It’s just not me.” Ladies, if you have never tried just 5 minutes (just 5 minutes!) of stillness meditation, I say give it a try. Do it daily for a week and see what happens. You might be amazed.
Now, I do love myself some daily stillness meditation, but I find that my all time favorite time to meditate and listen to my Truth is when I am running. I whole-heartedly believe that exercise is an amazing form of “movement” meditation. When I am running, I feel strong, empowered, and unstoppable. It’s the perfect time to visualize scenarios I want to manifest, I assess how I am feeling about myself, and I let my creative wisdom come to me from every direction.
It doesn’t matter how you create space in your life to get centered and listen to your sacred self. What matters is that you do it in a way you enjoy, and you do it often.
LIVING YOUR TRUTH
When you are uncertain about your Truth, it blocks you from all you are meant to be. Make yourself a priority and routinely schedule time to connect with your sacred self. Just remember, your Ego might tell you that taking time to listen to your Truth is selfish. You are a woman, so it’s second nature for you to give until you are blue in face while never really allowing yourself to receive the gift of self-renewal. Make your sacred self and living your Truth a priority in your life. When you do so, you exude happiness, compassion, and acceptance. And most importantly, you inspire others in your life to do the same.
Jennifer Niedzielski is a teacher, writer, mother of three young daughters, and the co-founder of Mindful Moms Network™. After teaching in the traditional classroom setting for over 12 years, she is transcending classroom walls to inspire and teach women how to reclaim their calm and take exquisite care of their mind, body, and inner-selves amidst the chaos of mothering. Through Mindful Moms, it is her intention to create a nurturing and supportive community for moms that encourages Inward Development through the Art of Mothering.
To find out more about how to be a mindful mama, please visit Mindful Moms Network™ Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1275432069#!/MindfulMoms
Kirtan is a spiritual practice performed in India’s devotional traditions. It’s thousands of years old, and, today, appeals to millions of people worldwide (of all faith traditions) who love blending musical instrumentation with singing and scriptural phrases.
Kirtan is a form of “hymn,” one sung in praise of God or a divine being. It is a way to focus the mind and concentrate (an especially effective if you find meditation difficult). It also opens the heart. Music, as we know has the power to do that, and reach beyond where words can go. Then, paired with “holy words” (mantra), kirtan can uplift us and create profound inner connection.
Not to mention that the practice is fun and builds community. To chant in a group with others is equally connective. The chant session is usually led by a leader, who calls or sings out words, and the audience repeats, so it is a practice that anyone can enjoy without previous experience or skills.
This month, in honor of our theme of “Welcoming in the Sacred,” we are pleased to feature, “Kirtan Nation,” a CD set and gathering of some of the greatest voices in chant.
Deva Premal, Wah!, Jai Uttal, Steve Gold, MC Yogi with Krishna Das, Daphne Tse and more joined together—studio and live—to sing and chant with devotional grace.
And just in case you’re wondering what is meant by the term “Kirtan Nation,” this is what the artists have to say:
“A kirtan nation has no borders, no army, and no government. It is a place where all are welcome as citizens of the universal heart, and the only coin of the realm is sacred sound ... No passport is required. All are welcome ...”
If you’d like to experience and join up with “Kirtan Nation”—and be eligible to win this 2-CD set, leave a comment here. We’ve got one to Give Away, courtesy of the publisher, Sounds True.
What is your experience of kirtan or chant? Have you ever participated in a live session? What was it like for you?
What spiritual practices are you willing to explore and engage to embody your truest self—a person who is naturally peaceful, joyous, and grateful?
We have all witnessed others engaged in meaningful spiritual practices. Bearded men garbed in black, bobbing rhythmically at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. White-robed swamis chanting “Hare Krishna.” A Gospel singer raising the rafters with heartfelt strains of “Amazing Grace.” Sufi Dervishes whirling. African drummers drumming. A lone Buddhist meditating cross-legged on a craggy peak overlooking the ocean. All these and more fill our imaginations, ever hopeful that we, too, might find practices that enliven our spirit.
Spiritual practices, simply put, are those activities that connect us more deeply with the virtues of the Spirit, with the Divine itself, by whatever name we call it. They are practices that provide us with a unique opportunity to experience sacred time and space; to remove ourselves from the distractions and noise of a too busy world, and remember our spiritual connection. Spiritual practices, properly cultivated, enable us to access inner calm, joy, and gratitude for life.
A Feast for the Spirit
The variety of spiritual practices available to us is boundless, as is our understanding of the sacred. There are quiet practices: various forms of prayer, meditation, silence, or sacred reading; active practices: singing, chanting, dancing, worship, or creative expression; and physical practices: yoga, bowing, tai chi, gardening, or mindful walking. Spiritual practices can be done alone or with others. In one’s home, in nature, in a church, temple or mosque, at all times of day or night.
It might seem that we must search long and hard to find the spiritual practices that will nourish and sustain us. In truth, all we need do to uncover them is explore a bit, then listen deeply as we “feel” our way through them. The measuring stick by which we discern whether a particular practice suits us is through body awareness—through the vehicle of our thoughts, physical senses, and emotions.
Any spiritual practice that we try on for size should, initially, have a positive effect upon us. We notice what thoughts we are having; if conscious thought has slowed or disappeared, altogether. Is our body at ease? Are our senses pleased? Are we feeling a sense of connection to our spirit, or with a Higher Power? We listen to what our body/mind says and we honor its wisdom.
With dedication, we will locate the “right” practices for us. By staying faithful to them, we will begin to experience their deeper benefits. The key is dailiness. It takes time for spiritual practices to work their magic upon us—to root us more deeply in the qualities of the spirit. Psychologists tell us it takes twenty-one days to create any new habit, ninety days for that habit to stick. Spiritual practices are no exception. It may take a year or more for them to become an invaluable part of our lifestyle.
Have Practices, Will Travel
A personal spiritual practice, well honed, can also provide comfort and stability in a very busy life. It can dependably deliver us to the shores of peace and well-being no matter where we find ourselves. For example, if nature is our spiritual connector, all we need do is step outside, take a deep breath, and feast our eyes on Mother Nature’s glory. If music enhances our sacred connection, we can plug into that—literally—with an ipod or cd player, in a car or on an airplane. Books for inspirational reading can be taken anywhere, as can a yoga mat or prayer rug for devotional practice. Have practices, will travel, I say. It is sound and wise for us to cultivate spiritual practices that can be done alone, anytime, anywhere.
Becoming the Practice
In time, the lines of distinction between ourselves and the spiritual practice will begin to blur. We actually become the practice. Its benefits—inner calm, openheartedness, generosity of spirit—meld into us. One day we may actually awaken to realize that we not only feel more loving, be we have become more loving; that we do not just feel more peaceful, but that we have become a peaceful presence in the world. Our friends and family confirm this. They tell us we are different; that we have changed for the better.
Ultimately, by engaging in spiritual practices, we have not only benefitted ourselves, but we have done the world a great service. Perhaps, unknowingly, we have succeeded at what peacemaker Mahatma Gandhi invited us to:
To be the change we so desperately wish to see in the world today.
(This is the final installment in this series about awakening to one's true self. You can read all previous entries in the archives.)
Realizing that Good Church Lady and I need each other, I’ve invited her into the front seat with me so that we may mirror each other with compassion as we continue on this integrative journey.
I’ve gone from RESTLESS RESIGNATION to OPPOSITIONAL RESISTANCE on this Buddha Chick Life journey. With RESOLUTE BABY STEPS I dared to enter in to CAUTIOUS INTEGRATION. Working through the challenging season of CONTEMPTUOUS COMPANIONING almost did me in but brought me to the realization that Undercover Buddha Chick and Good Church Lady could indeed live in a state of COMPASSIONATE COMPANIONING. Each of these steppingstones has brought UNCOVERED BUDDHA CHICK out of the shadows.
As Undercover Buddha Chick I was able to share my deepest longings - to live more and more out of my true self; to live simply and without fear – well - at least, to be courageous in the face of fear and to live with an open heart. To be more mindful - as one who has eyes to see and ears to hear what’s really going on within herself -as one who dares to lay down pre-conceived notions, prejudices and judgments.
Continuing now as Uncovered Buddha Chick, longings for authentic community and engaging without manipulation or pretense are being realized. Daring to come out of the shadows I’m finding that it is possible to live clear, calm and wise. My experience here has brought clarity to my sense of identity helping me become a better human being.
Reviewing the journey thus far, I dare say that the key element was taking that vow of transparency – daring to look honestly at myself –in a spirit of curiosity and wonder, with deep joy and gratitude. In so doing, there is a growing reality that the brilliant and beautiful version of my authentic self - long waiting to shine -is being grasped. I discover that being transparent means that I no longer have to hide from anything – most especially from myself.
As I practice being transparent with a warm and loving heart, cultivating self compassion is another foundational concept. Metta helps me here. Imagining myself encircled by dear, tender hearted women, I hear them speaking Metta blessings over me. Wondering who am I to refuse, their graces are received. How can I deny this for myself?
Thomas Merton offers some sage words for my consideration – a touch stone to keep me pointed to true North:
What is meant by identity? ...For practical purposes here we are talking about one's own authentic and personal beliefs and convictions, based on experience of oneself as a person, experience of one's ability to choose and reject even good things which are not relevant to one's own life.
Merton, Thomas. Contemplation in a World of Action. (Notre Dame, Indiana: Notre Dame Press, 1998) p. 61
Thought for the Day
Identity in this deep sense is something that one must create for oneself by choices that are significant and that require a courageous commitment in the face of anguish and risk.
Contemplation in a World of Action: 61
Contemplative Pause: Throughout this week, pause, take a breath, and listen with your heart. How do you identity yourself?
I come back to these words time and time again finding they fortify my true self.
My experiences here have helped cement the concept of choices – I have the ability to choose.
A particular pair of Mantras coupled with dropping into a breath practice help me stay grounded in the reality of living as a clear, calm and wise Buddha Chick.
Inner peace is mine, one choice at a time.
Inner peace is mine, one thought at a time
Stepping into this New Year, I’m welcoming the sacred – continuing with these spiritual practices. Yet, there’s a tension in the realization as this season of exploration draws to a close. The tension comes from knowing how far I’ve come, yet knowing how far I’ve yet to travel on this healing path. Knowing that there may well be times of regression and/ or spinning wheels, I’m not wanting this phase of the journey to end. It’s been an amazing adventure and I’ve felt encouraged and bolstered every step of the way by the caring, affirming community known as Buddha Chick Life.
I’m so very grateful for a recent reinforcement from "Beads of Wisdom” - a daily reminder for living compassionately with ourselves and others, sent in the spirit of Metta by Janice Lynne Lundy:
In our journey home to our true self, we will inevitably have many ups and downs, good days and bad. Keep in mind that this process of becoming self-aware, of finding what we need to thrive and live joyously, can be a long one. Such profound change does not happen overnight. The voyage of self-discovery we are all on--a journey to wholeness--is a lifelong process. It may take a lifetime to learn our needed lessons.
Be patient with yourself. Be gentle with yourself. Love yourself. Remember, you are not alone. We are all on this journey together.
Processing here has gently raised my awareness and noticings of overwhelm, anxiety, and the fear that gripped me just one year ago. I can say that responding with intention to the initial invitation has freed me from these difficult emotions that were part of my identity.
Buddha Chick Training has allowed me to see that these conditions do not define me.
Dear Chicks, with you as my witnesses - as I am learning to live in greater freedom in those areas of my life where I was feeling restricted and small, now living out of my passion and pursuit for wholeness, I invite YOU to take some gentle steps and press into your own healing journey.
Undercover Buddha Chick (now Uncovered Buddha Chick) is a woman who longs to live more and more out of her true self – to live authentically. To live simply. To live without fear – or, at least, to be courageous in the face of fear. To live with an open heart. To be more mindful - as one who has eyes to see and ears to hear what’s really going on within herself. One who dares to lay down pre-conceived notions, prejudices and judgments.
She’s someone who longs for authentic community – who longs to engage in conversation without manipulation or pretense. She longs to come out of the shadows and live clear, calm and wise. In short, she wants to be a better human being.