A lot of people feel threatened if they feel they are being asked to question their cherished beliefs or their perception of reality. This is a learning I embraced as a Buddha Chick. Questioning is what keeps our minds supple and strong. Simply settling on one way of seeing things and refusing to be open to other possibilities makes the mind rigid and generally creates a restrictive and uncomfortable mindset. We all know someone who refuses to budge on one or more issues, and we may have our own sacred cows that could use a little prodding. (An India Proverb) Being open-minded for myself means that I am willing to question everything, including those things I take for granted at times.
A willingness to question everything, even things we are sure we are right about, can shake us out of complacency and reinvigorate our minds, opening us up to understanding people and perspectives that were difficult for us before. This alone is a good reason to remain inquisitive, no matter how much experience we have or how old we get.
For me this practice builds my mind like you would a muscle for strength or healing. My first experiences of mindfulness and seeking truth were based on the Zen tradition. In the Zen tradition, this willingness to question is known as beginner’s mind, and it has a way of generating possibilities we couldn't have seen from the point of view of knowing something with certainty.
When I became ill as I sought after truth and healing, learning to question everything and also starting to look at "life" like I had never seen situations before, "beginner's mind" did give way to being open and being able to accept newness into my life. This included my mind, body, spirit and soul. When you nurture and question these four specimens like a scientist you are finding truth and healing for your entire being. The willingness to question everything doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t believe in anything at all, and it doesn’t mean we have to question every single thing in the world every minute of the day. It just means that we are humble enough to acknowledge how little we actually know about the mysterious universe we call home within our own being.
Nearly every change in the history of human progress came about because someone questioned some time-honored belief or tradition and in doing so revealed a new truth, a new way of doing things, or a new standard for ethical and moral behavior. Just so, a commitment to staying open and inquisitive in our own individual lives can lead us to new personal revolutions and truths, truths that we will hopefully, for the sake of our growth, remain open to questioning. This kind of growth from questioning leads us to unshakable peace, compassion for our self and all beings in our vast universe, it also allows us to go deep within to find our authentic true self.
What I have learned from questioning is what I thought was truth was not; many times it was my pesky Ego. In questioning my own beliefs and thoughts, I realized I have everything inside of my very being that is truth, love, joy and peace. I did not have to travel to India or Asia. I did not have to meet a master to teach me these things. I will add though, I do have a wonderful wise mentor that has helped me grow through this process. As you practice questioning meaningful beliefs and thoughts, your reaction to life will also change. You will become more compassionate towards all beings, you will live with a wise heart and clarity of mind will become wisdom. You will live with equanimity and happiness. Isn't that what we all want, YES...I believe it to be true!
As Good Church Lady and Inner Buddha Chick set out on this integrative journey she begins to practice Metta with loving-kindness, mindfulness and self-compassion. Self-soothing practices such as yoga, centering prayer, meditation, journaling, and being out in nature are taken on with gratitude. Good Church Lady takes a back seat while Inner Buddha Chick takes some risks.
Are they risks or merely choices? Well, choices can be pretty risky. It seems that as Good Church Lady, she never really had a choice. So much of her life was a kind of death march – picture lemmings falling over the cliff ... She felt as though she were just another cookie cutter Christian – never allowed or never daring to express her individuality. Not wanting to throw caution to the wind, she seeks out Thomas Merton as a companion for the journey. Here was a man who dared to live out of his authentic self. Subscribing to The Merton Institute for Contemplative Living - http://mertoninstitute.org/aboutus/tabid/60/Default.aspx
I find he has some good words to share in regard to identity. I hope to apply this to my true self.
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.
(Some helpful thoughts from Contemplation in a World of Action by Thomas Merton. Notre Dame, Indiana: Notre Dame Press, 1998 pg. 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.
Contemplative Pause: Throughout this week, pause, take a breath, and listen with your heart. How do you identity yourself?
How do I identify myself? For so long I was Good Church Lady. Now as a Buddha Chick scientist, I find that there’s more to me than I ever realized – I’m able to make choices – choices for change - will I choose to live out of love or stay rooted in fear? To make this work, I’m learning that I must lay a foundation of inner calm and unshakeable peace by taking a look at the flip side of this coin to see where I am operating from my ego self.
Buddha Chick training suggests that the only way to deal with ego is to develop a new relationship with it – acknowledge its presence and then turn away from its messages.
I learn that this is as simple as changing the radio station if I don’t like the song that is playing. With all this talk about EGO, Good Church Lady stirs in the back seat. She’s getting uncomfortable - she is suspicious of anything "Freudian" and not familiar with this kind of language.
Inner Buddha Chick assures her that we’re open to new understandings - daring to risk old understandings. She longs to live out of this prescription for inner peace:
The lesson instructs that “as calm increases and clarity comes, our inner wisdom begins to rise to the surface. This inner wisdom is sourced in our true nature (our essence) and it expands. We can trust it; base our life upon it. It is our guiding light, but it is dangerously dim when we cannot access calm.”
Continuing with those observations and notations of all the things, people, settings and circumstances that create a feeling of peace within me, Good Church Lady leans forward and whispers in my ear, “It seems as though you are getting more and more preoccupied with your self.”
Inner Buddha Chick responds, “Go to sleep back there. This is the dawning of a new day - it’s a new age ;-)
Pondering Merton’s quote above, a question arises about an area of my life that seems to have an anguishing strangle hold on me. Might this foundation of peace allow me to face FEAR?
A formula of my own arises: Choices +creativity + courageous commitment= Character
I’ve been told I’m a woman of great courage and so I dare to take a look at a part of my history immersed in FEAR. Good Church Lady, restless again, gives me a nudge and I find myself rushing head long into the dark shadows where more fear resides. Hmmm ... here’s a clue that Good Church Lady feeds EGO. Given this consideration, I’m invited to be gentle with myself; reminded that this is big holy stuff!
Taking some deep breaths, compassionate questions emerge and I realize that I’ve been expecting a lot of myself—wanting a quick fix.
How tender am I feeling toward myself? Hmmmm ... this raises a big lump in my throat.
Sitting here, right now, I feel very tender towards myself. I'm looking at myself with gentle compassion, giving myself a pat on the back, knowing that this training is a place where I'll be nurtured with tenderness and kindness. Thus, I can learn all the more how to implement some really good self care. Good Church Lady dozes off…
An awareness surfaces. When things get out of whack due to fear, it seems that I either go numb or I feel TOO deeply.
I'm seeing that awareness is good. Here is a tool where I am learning to take notice without judgment, then, I can simply make a choice: Will I waste energy feeding EGO or will I switch channels to Presence/Spirit?
Oh, may God help me! Is it really that simple?
In a mentoring session with Jan, she reinforces these new learnings: “Yes, believe it or not, it can be that simple. It is all about heightening our awareness to see ourselves clearly for how we are reacting and making a new (wiser) choice. Feel where ego takes you and discern to make a choice to lean into Spirit. Of course, we do this again and again. We practice until it does get easier. And it does! “
And so, with Good Church Lady asleep in the back seat, I find myself cautiously continuing along into the uncharted territory of integration.
Undercover 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.
In our day-to-day lives, the pressure to conform to people’s expectations often keeps us from realizing our potential. Group thought infects us even when it is blatantly and sometimes, laughably obvious that we are acting against our own best interests. It is natural to want to identify with a larger group and we do so by ignoring our opinions and feelings, and conforming to community standards, some of which may be irrational.
To determine how much we are affected by the feelings, opinions and pressure from our peers, we could ask ourselves the question, “Am I ignoring who I am, to be accepted?”
The anxiety to conform to society’s ideals spills over into other areas. Here are a few:
· We follow the herd, shelling out money for the commodity that everyone else seems to want and have. We shun those with no visible consumer interest e.g. books, movies, and music.
· In an effort to keep up with the Jones’s, we incur credit card debt. It is practically a badge of honor to say, “My credit card is maxed out!” But who pays the price?
· Fashion trends may send us tumbling with its constant changes. Designer labels and popular styles rule the day on the street, in the office and at social functions.
· When people are offensive or abusive, our desire not to make waves stops us from confronting or disassociating ourselves from them. Our inaction often leaves us with a nagging sense of guilt and regret. Yet, we continue not to take a definitive stand against such behavior.
· Current decorating styles determine our purchases rendering our homes as showpieces for the eyes of others, rather than a space that reflects our personality and provides a peaceful, relaxing and inspiring haven for us.
In the absence of an on/off switch to regulate our need for approval from others, here are some steps we can take to free ourselves gradually from the control of the crowd.
1. Make sure changes and choices matter to us. We can easily lose touch with our own values in the midst of messages that clamor for our attention and acceptance. So the next time we feel that we simply must have some hot new trend or a friend’s latest purchase, we should ask, “Is this really important to me?”
2. Start with the little things. Charity begins at home, and so does individuality. If we are annoyed at ourselves for always bowing to the opinions of others, we need to get out of the rut by slowly asserting ourselves in simple matters like choice of clothes, meals, family outings, television shows, etc. Gradually, we you will build up enough confidence to be true to yourself among family members, friends and work colleagues.
3. Believe that our opinions count. Self-talk can help suppress our anxiety about thinking our own thoughts and dancing to the beat of our own drum. We can begin by telling ourselves that our opinions count and that we are not wrong, just because we might be in the minority on some issue.
4. Determine our legacy. Despite prevailing thoughts and practices, our grace and confidence in owning, guarding, asserting and maintaining our individuality, is a powerful, worthwhile and inspiring legacy that people will appreciate and value.
We are not perfect, only human. When we feel the pull to follow the crown, we should ensure that our choices honor and enhance who we are and who we aspire to be. Our choices should resonate with the silent declaration, “I am my own woman.” Are you your own woman?
I’d like to dig out the nails with my bare hands even if my own nails break and fingers bleed. I want you to feel the tall cool grass beneath your feet, the wind caressing your face and body more intimately than any lover you’ve ever had. I want you to see the tree shaped like a heart and the cloudy white silhouette of your own unique image floating freely across the open skies, an invitation to step down from your cross.
But most of all I really want you to know (not the kind of knowing you learn from books or what others tell you) how oceanically, atmospherically deeply you are loved, not just by me but by the one who patiently knocks on your door inside, waiting for your answer.
Kaveri is a practicing family physician in northern California. In her eight years of practice, she has found that compassionate listening is perhaps more important than the exact medical diagnosis. Her own healing journey has taught her that kindness is key to meeting all difficulties in life. She especially loves to empower women and help them reconnect with the sacred feminine within. Kaveri enjoys writing both poetry and prose as a means of connecting with self and the world around her. In her free times she also enjoys mindfulness meditation, yoga, singing, music, the ocean, and spending time with her family.
My once cultivated garden has been overtaken by wildflowers. Some days this upsets me. I had worked hard to plant flowers of my choosing, just so. Illness over the past several years has made working in the garden physically impossible for me and my husband has no time to tend it. I was able to take a little walk about the yard the other day, because it was cool enough to be in the sun, (heat is not the friend of people with MS it wreaks havoc on neurological functioning). To my surprise and delight, I fell in love with the graceful arcs the abundant wildflowers made as they performed an exquisite ballet in the gentle September breeze. I realized something of great importance; it is not always the seeds we sow and blossom that bring us the most contentment, sometimes it is the seeds that grow without invitation that open our hearts to satisfaction and joy. Life is unfolding in its own time, in its own way. It is beautiful and gratifying to bear witness, to release our desire to control the things we cannot, and offer up a simple prayer —Thank You.
Laura Hegfield is a mother, wife, visual artist, writer, singer-songwriter and experiential educator combining art, yoga, meditation and Jewish spirituality. She is also a Creativity Coach, SoulCollage® facilitator and Spiritual Director. Throughout the past 11 years of child rearing, teaching, facilitating and eventually coaching and spiritual direction, she has also been ill with a wide variety of symptoms receiving several different diagnoses. On September 3, 2009 after an emergency room visit, she was finally diagnosed with RRMS (relapsing remitting ms). While no longer able to work outside her home, she continues to be engaged in the world through blogging regularly and offering individual services via the Internet and phone conferencing. As challenging as living with a chronic, disabling disease is she feels that in many ways, MS has expanded her heart, mind, soul and appreciation for all the things her body IS able to do. “It seems that as the neural connections in my central nervous system decrease, my compassion toward my own lived experience and toward all beings increases. For this I am deeply grateful.”
I imagine that when a leaf receives the call from Mother Nature that it’s time to let go, it may ponder a bit. Is this my time to let go?
I imagine a conversation like this: Do I let go now or later? Do I let go with ease and flow with the winds of change that are coming? Where will I go and what will I become?
I wonder if leaves experience fear like human beings do when it comes to change and letting go.
Within its wondrous life cycle, each leaf will be reborn into a new version of itself. Some will become a forest floor, some will provide fodder for birds’ nests, some will become compost for a garden. Each outcome is laden with its own profound purpose. The leaf does not die; it simply changes form. Does it somehow know this?
As human beings, we engage in this same process—and we may balk at the prospect of letting go. But, as the saying goes: Change is inevitable, growth is optional.
Fall is the perfect time to ask ourselves: What do I need to let go of?
Of course, this varies for each person.
A habit. A relationship. A dream.
We each must discern and answer the call of our Wise Self that lets us know when it's time ...
Meditation for Letting Go
Quiet yourself amidst the beauty of nature and ask:
What is it that I need to let go of now at this time in my life?
What must I release so that I can live as my most authentic self? What holds me back from living my peace, my joy?
Once you have identified it, take a breath. Take several deep, cleansing breaths if you need to.
Stand tall and steady, face to the sky. Arms out in a posture of release.
Gently arch backwards. Imagine yourself opening up from the middle of your heart center and letting go of anything that troubles you, paralyzes you, restrains you ...
... Imagine it lifting, rising, leaving.
Open you eyes and imagine that you see it floating away, upward, like a renegade balloon. Away it flies. Onward to new surroundings. It holds you know more.
Freedom is yours.
As fall beckons and the leaves in your neck of the woods come ablaze with color, observe the well-timed beauty of their letting go, and think about yours.
As the leaves submit to the winds of change, knowing not where they will land, witness the trust they show in surrendering to their ultimate destiny, and ponder yours.
May the leaves, and the dignity with which they embrace transformation, provide a model of courage to emulate as life calls you to let go.
Jan Lundy is the editor of "Buddha Chick Life" and the creatrix behind all things "Buddha Chick.™" She is the author of six personal/spiritual growth books for women, her newest being, "Your Truest Self: Embracing the Woman You Are Meant to Be" (Sorin Books). She is a student of Vipassana and a teacher of Metta. Learn more about Jan at her websites: BuddhaChick.Org and AwakenedLiving.Com
Healing Touch: Essential Energy Medicine for Yourself and Others
Healing Touch is one of the most accepted and widespread energy-healing modalities in the world. Perhaps you are familiar with it or have even experienced it yourself. More and more hospitals are incorporating healing touch into their offerings, especially through the wise guidance of nurses and people like Dorothea Hover-Kramer.
Healing Touch is a relaxing, nurturing energy therapy. Gentle touch assists in balancing your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Healing Touch works with your energy field to support your natural ability to heal. It is safe for all ages and works in harmony with standard medical care. (Source: healingtouch.com)
Dorothea has been a clinical nurse and psychologist for over 30 years. She is considered an "elder" in the healing touch field. As the author of eight other books on healing, including six textbooks on energy healing for practitioners, her passion for recovering our whole and holy selves is evident.
Her newest book, Healing Touch: Essential Energy Medicine for Yourself and Others is receiving rave reviews by well-known energy healers, including Donna Eden. It is a practical guidebook, one that offers stories and techniques to help anyone become familiar with and learn how to begin to offer healing touch to others - or to use it in their own program of self-healing.
Courtesy of the publisher, Sounds True, we are delighted to feature one of the healing techniques from Healing Touch for your reading pleasure. And to give away one copy to a lucky commenter.
Leave your thoughts here and be eligible to win!
Practicing the Self-Chakra Connection by Dorothea Hover-Kramer
The Self-Chakra Connection is a personalized adaptation of the Healing Touch method known as the Chakra Connection, illustrated and described in chapter 11. It is an empowering self-care resource for increasing your sense of vitality. The Self-Chakra Connection can be used in the morning to energize for the day, during the day for a boost when you feel depleted, or in the evening or at bedtime for calming. Touching each area as you hold healing thoughts may enhance the experience, but just focusing your attention on the area will also suffice. Sitting or lying down are the best positions, and a quiet location will support the experience. The Self-Chakra Connection can be combined with the Chakra Meditation given in exercise 7.1 as well.
Exercise 7.2 Self-Chakra Connection
First, set a positive intention for your best friend—yourself. Invite thoughts and feelings of appreciation to each body area as you lightly and lovingly touch yourself. Hold each area for thirty to sixty seconds or longer, in as your body needs, while focusing on that part of your body. Give yourself the gift of time so that you can enjoy each step.
• Start by taking several deep, conscious breaths and feel the flow of energy into your body. Bring this flow to your heart and feel it filling your body with warm light. Let the flow of warmth and light now go into your hands and bring them to the ankle and sole of the left foot.
• While holding the ankle, move one hand up to the knee and sense the flow of warmth and light between ankle and knee.
• Next, use your hands to connect the knee and hip on that side of the body.
• Repeat the same pattern on the right leg starting at the right foot and ankle.
• Now hold both hips, feeling the flow of warmth between both hips and in your lower body.
• Connect the first and second chakras by holding your hands lightly above the juncture of the legs and just below the navel.
• Connect the second and third chakras by holding the hands lightly just below the navel and over the solar plexus at the base of the sternum.
• Connect the center below the sternum to the heart center.
• Keeping one hand on the heart, bring the other hand to the wrist, elbow, and shoulder of the opposite arm.
• Change positions and bring the other hand to the heart while connecting to the other wrist, elbow, and shoulder.
• Hold both shoulders and give yourself a loving hug!
• Continuing with the deep breaths, connect the heart center to the throat center with one hand over each area.
• Connect the throat to the brow center.
• Connect the brow and the crown of the head.
• Allow the breath to flow through all of your body, feeling your inner core and all the places that you’ve touched. Extend your arms and image the entire field around your body.
• Gently return to the present moment feeling relaxed and refreshed.
If you are a fan of chant, kirtan, or Eastern devotional music, you will be familiar with Deva Premal. She may be best known for her soulful rendition of the "Gayatri Mantra"—a mantra she states was sung to her while still in her mother's womb.
You can listen to her sing the Gayatri Mantra here.
Deva was raised on chant and spiritual disciplines by a German mother, though trained as a classical musician. She was interested in healing modalities as a young woman and eventually wandered to India to study at the ashram of Osho. In 1990, she met Miten there. He was to become her spiritual and musical partner. Together, they have created numerous albums and concert tours, spreading their passion for chant all over the world.
Their new album, "Password," is a musical shift for them. Copenhagen’s jazz players have been brought into the mix. The album contains sublime arrangements of ancient mantras which complement Deva's soulful vocals. The album also features Manose, a bansuri maestro from Nepal.
A mantra can be a "holy word" or phrase, the name of a deity, quality, or simply a sound—like Aum or Om. As a spiritual practice, mantra practice is a rich way to focus and clear the mind, all the while connecting us with our heart center and the Divine as we understand it. “Mantras are passwords that transform the mundane into the sacred,” says Deva.
And, yet, according to Deva, the mantra is not the be and end all. She says, “Without the silence that follows the chants, you get only half the story. It's like the climax of a good story. The silence is there because it exists in the music. It just needs to be exposed and acknowledged. It's so easy to overlook the silence inside the music... and it's that which is healing us... if we allow it to be there. This is really one of the main reasons Miten and I sing - to bathe in Silence. It's our nourishment. It's what keeps us on the road. For me there is nothing more precious than having sung with an audience, ecstatic with bliss, and then entering the deep silence that the mantra brings... so deep, that with closed eyes you really feel there is 'nobody' there at all... all personalities dissolved for a tiny sacred moment.”
Courtesy of Sounds True, we are delighted to be giving away one copy of Deva and Miten's new CD, "Password."
Leave a comment here—about Deva if you are a fan—or about a mantra you may use in your own spiritual practice. You could be the lucky winner!
As a child it is easy to forget that we are important. Society tends to teach us that you are not important unless you are successful. Society also tends to define success on a very material level. I feel like as a child and a young adult I forgot that I mattered. Had I known how powerful I was from day one I may have chosen more loving and kind thoughts and actions throughout my life. I knew I was important to my mother and family. I knew they loved me and needed me. I did not however realize that the world and every person in it needed me. I wasn’t aware that my voice and my decisions affected those far and wide. I always felt unimportant. I could not fathom that my small and simple thoughts and ways were of any importance to anyone other than myself. I didn't comprehend that my small deeds could make a large and significant impact on our HUGE planet.
I want to remind my children and all those here that we are ALL a very important and special piece to the puzzle. Our inner world affects the outer world on every level. Big or little, rich or poor we matter. If we all cared and we all realized our importance we All would see better and brighter days.
We are teaching the change we wish to see in the world by simply and purely nurturing our little boys and girls.
Every Pitter Patter Matters
Every pitter patter matters. Every word you chatter matters. Every thought you gather matters.
Walk with light and gentle pitter patters. Whisper wise and sweet words as you chatter. Think thoughts of love and kindness because you matter.
You’re special, perfect and priceless. Use love always, it’s timeless!
Smile at life with your heart. Use beauty and peace to set you apart.
Understand your uniqueness. Understand you are not just a little mister or miss. You were born to create feelings of bliss.
You may be eensy weensy teensy, teeny tiny or itty bitty, but you're love can be felt and spread in every city.
Live kindly, peacefully and gently it's the way we were meant to be. Be different, be unique, tread courageously on your little feet. You are special and you are sweet. You are here because you can add to the love the world needs.
Just be you in all you say, think and do.
Be authentic, genuine and true. Seek the greatness that is within you. Seek truths. Seek ways to make life feel fresh and new. Seek ways to enhance your beliefs and values. Use your hands and words to heal. Your talents and gifts will impact our world a great deal.
Remember as you live out your days that you're important and powerful ways are what we need to make life not good, but amazing and great.
Danielle Rutledge: I am a young woman seeking out ways to help and heal my life. I am releasing my fears and worries to enlighten and lift my being in order to better myself, my children and the world around me. I am learning to be responsible for my energy and my contribution. I live in tiny town in the middle of Illinois on 2 beautiful sandy lakes surrounded by family. I have 14 beautiful healthy nieces and nephews and 2 amazingly bright children that help me to live life on the silly side. Children are so pure and free to be. They inspire me to let loose and live optimistically.
One day I looked around and all my certainties were gone. (While once I'd thought I knew some things How could life go on, business as usual? Whenever I found one, I would grasp hold and add it to a frail weaving back of the old ways. But my weaving was too loose, and so it scattered like a cobweb on the first strong wind. To be empty handed, empty of reason-- was this safe? How would I survive it? I had no choice. My heart opened and I went in.
From What Holds Us by Ingrid Goff-Maidoff. Sarah's Circle Publishing, 2011