Elephants are a gentle encouragement toward wisdom, this was told many years ago by a very old Hindu Monk. It guides us to be open and accepting, and to weigh and balance many spiritual points of view as we travel our path and search for our own inner Truth.
We all know the feeling of walking through life as if we are carrying the huge burden of our worries and stresses on our backs and shoulders, struggling to keep moving forward. It can stop us in our tracks. This is especially true for the feminine nature. Would you agree, you are the glue that holds it all together? There is no real way to move freely and fluidly in such a situation, and we are all longing to lay our heavy load down. But, how do we do this, where can we go, who do we call upon, where is the sweet release? Let me share by first telling you the real truth. This feminine being does not exist, she never did. But, there are many influences in our world today that makes us think differently. I can hear many sighs of relief already.
We have deep within us our own Spiritual Guide to wake us up, to strengthen our purpose and show us another journey we can take. Nothing is ever too much when we call upon our Sacred Divine that lives and illuminates within us. In every being there is a hidden wholeness, a larger self that can be nurtured. We lead our self there when we go beyond what we may think is not even remotely possible to experience, the vast love of our Spirit. This is where you lay your burdens down, where you sit at the feet of truth, compassion and comfort. This is healing to reach into our wise heart, one difficulty at a time and allow our Spirit to transform our growth into new dreams for what is possible.
The spiritual imagination is a powerful tool, and we can use it to take journeys to faraway places without ever leaving our home. Because of this, we too can lay our burdens down at the feet of a Divine being or Divine beings, such as the Mother Theresa, the Mother Mary, Buddha or on a mountain top. Releasing ourselves from that which we can’t handle on our own is indeed a powerful, spiritual practice. When I am feeling tossed to and fro, I will go to my Sacred Space within my home. I will sometimes go to India and look for the Spirit Wisdom of the Elephant. My imagination can sit me high upon the matriarch and provide Spiritual comfort. Elephants travel in herds and are very strongly attached to one another. Their society is matriarchal, which means a female elephant leads the herd. When an elephant in a herd is injured, especially if it is a younger elephant, the others in the herd will stop and wait for them and even help them until they are well enough to move on. Such compassionate, wise, spiritual beings they are.
No matter how smart we are, how capable we are, or how hard we work, no one can single-handedly cope with all the worries that we tend to take on in the course of our daily lives. And, we aren’t designed to do so. Our well being depends upon our ability to hand over that which we can no longer carry by ourselves, just as the Elephant does for me.
A Spiritual Practice:
Visualizing yourself carrying your burdens to the feet of someone or something much bigger than you can be a powerful spiritual daily practice.
To begin, sit with your eyes closed and envision an all powerful, Spiritually Divine comforting being in whatever form that takes for you, standing at the end of a road. See yourself carrying a large sack, imagining that all your worries are inside it. Watch as you make your way to the being of your choice, and lay your baggage down at their feet. Allow yourself to feel the lightness and relief of this action, express your gratitude, and sweet surrender. You will be amazed by how this simple spiritual meditation can free and comfort you from a burden you were never meant to carry.
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Cindy calls the Roanoke Valley in Virginia her home. She is surrounded by beautiful mountains that inspire and heal her everyday. Having worked twenty five years in the retail industry, she moved up quickly and loved her career, but had to quit work due to chronic illness. She is on a healing journey through Metta meditation, mindfulness practices and self compassion. Cindy's heads up the "Mindful Living" department here. She also writes here:
As Good Church Lady, I’d never thought of myself as a creative – that was God’s job to create and he had finished his work and rested on the seventh day. On the other hand, Uncovered Buddha Chick is learning to live more and more out of her true self. Something awoke in me late last year–an expression of my sacred self as a creative–creative, yes, an artist? Perhaps, for what is an artist but one who creates?
This month’s theme, "Creativity: Expressing Our Sacred Selves," invites each of us here to consider that we ALL, as sacred spiritual beings, are brimming full of creativity. I now believe that as image bearers of the Creator, creativity is inherent in our sacred selves – our true selves. As a spiritual being, I want to co-create & collaborate with the Divine.
Ahh, but I’m not an artist you might say. Wait a minute! Let’s take a look at that word, creativity, and its synonyms, and see what possibilities might arise for you. (There’s noting like the dictionary and thesaurus to lend expanded understanding to words. The following definition is from dictionary.com, my best friend as a writer and one who simply loves words.)
Creativity defined: the state or quality of being creative. Creativity is the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination. Creativity is the process by which one utilizes creative ability.
Now, in light of the definition, consider alternate meanings of the concept of creativity and I dare say that each of you dear readers will see that you, too, are a creative soul: Cleverness, genius, imagination, imaginativeness, ingenuity, inspiration, inventiveness, originality, resourcefulness, talent, vision.
More and more as I live into and out of my true self, inherent creativity in all sorts of mediums have been begging to come out. Listening with love to the invitation to explore my inner artist, I’m beginning to establish a creative, contemplative practice. What does this look like after my inner artist was given permission to come on out and play? I wish I could say that I create masterpieces everyday but, truth is, most days I don’t do any art.
This month’s invitation to contribute to this topic of "Creativity: Expressing Our Sacred Selves," gives me a gentle nudge to begin again. Here is a reminder to practice “beginner’s mind.” To be open to opportunity and possibility and enjoy the process—letting go of the need to create a perfect product.
Imagine…what inspires you? What mediums might you explore? Here’s an invitation for you, too– Where in the day to day do you see beauty, truth and goodness? What might ignite that creative spark - kindle the possibilities of creativity in you?
Here’s what I’ve been exploring: Butter cream frosting Creative writing Poetry Knitting Colored pencils and paints Photography Setting a lovely table Each of these is creative expression….
What inspires you?
Hanging in my sewing room is a beautiful calligraphy piece by Janet Casey which reminds me that
Creative People… Break Routine Entertain the Absurd Give up on conformity Frequently think like children Take a break leave time to dream Step beyond the obvious and the expected Pay attention to & nurture their ideas Welcome ideas from everywhere Think outside the b o x Make lots of mistakes Sleep on it
This quote by Neil Gaiman prompts: "Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art. "
When was the last time you’ve gotten in touch with your inner artist – responding to the invitation to let her explore? What is your preferred medium to express your sacred self? I’d love to hear.
May you see beauty, truth and goodness. May you be inspired. May you be resourceful. May you express your creative, sacred self with joy.
Previously know as Undercover Buddha Chick, Uncovered Buddha Chick is learning 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. Through mindfulness, metta and loving-kindness and self compassion practices self awareness is being cultivated. With eyes wide open to see and ears to hear what’s really going on within herself, she is learning transparency. In the process, pre-conceived notions, prejudices and judgments are being released. Her longings for authentic community are being met, in part, on the pages of Buddha Chick Life. Having come out of the shadows to live clear, calm and wise, she wants to be a better human being. She is me. Is she you?
Sacred Feminine energy, women in general, have learned to give of their own sustenance, of their very body, often times until they are left physically and emotionally spent. Feeling depleted and empty, we look for validation, approval, and worthiness from others outside of ourself. Not finding it in the external, one is left feeling shamed, blaming self, and overcompensating to fill the emptiness. Our vessel runs dry.
You must give to yourself what you seek in the external. You must give yourself love, attention, pleasure, support, creativity and appreciation. It is an act of sacred devotion to Love yourself. Spirit requires this devotion from you, because Spirit needs your gifts poured out into the world as love and service. In truth, you can only give and serve from your surplus, your overflowing full cup. It is the creative juices from Self-Love that feeds you and fills your cup to overflowing. When you know this, you make decisions and follow through with action guided by Self-Love.
Here's where the miracle happens. When you have filled yourself up with Self-Love, Pleasure, Nutrition, Rest, Healthy Boundaries, Creativity, Self-Appreciation, Spiritual practice—the most Spiritual act of Self-Love is to give your love to another, especially one who challenges you to love, one you may not want to love, one you have "issues" with. This generosity opens the ocean of waters and fills your Divine sacred vessel to a never ending of overflow.
Truly such Spiritual Self-Love will stir up the shadow as no other. To deeply feel into the sacred Self, to be able to see and express our value, beauty, and power, this is to experience the very essence of the Divine Feminine. The magic and miracle of being a woman is that our Shadow turns us toward the Light. What we see in our Spirit is the Light of our own Love reflected. The Divine Feminine lives and breathes through each of us. Her vibration is expressed both individually and collectively. When we choose to recognize and honor the Divine Feminine, we are choosing to recognize and honor our own sacred Selves.
This is the powerful Divine Feminine, for She is We and We are She. We are all holy women, the daughters, the priestess, the Goddess container, the sacred chalice of all mysteries, the Great Mother of All That Is. There is no separation. When Self-Loving, individually powerful Women gather to stir each other's shadows, support each other's growth, reflect each other's Light, and work together, Sacred Feminine power is reclaimed in the collective body. She emerges as a loving, transformative creative energy. Natural order and balance is restored. That's how Sacred Spirit Self-Love changes the world. It is the only thing that can.
What you hold, may you always hold. What you do, may you do and never abandon. But with swift pace, light step, unswerving feet, so that even your steps stir no dust, go forward securely, joyfully, and swiftly, on the path of prudent happiness, believing nothing agreeing with nothing which would dissuade you from this resolution or which would place a stumbling block for you on the way, so that you may offer your vows to the Most High in the pursuit of that perfection to which the Spirit of the Lord has called you.
(English version by Regis J. Armstrong, OFM CAP & Ignatius C. Brady, OFM Original Language Italian)
To be Human, is to engage in acts of creativity. Spiritual awareness is optional. Practice, unavoidable. ~Laura Hegfield
My blog is the place where I continuously express my sacred self.I have come to think of this space as both a healing sanctuary and a Cyber-Art-Journal where I share and process my thoughts, feelings and experiences through words, images, meditation and sometimes song. I view blogging as an art form unique to our era. Blogging combines my love for the interplay of words and images to tell stories, evoke emotions, find meaning and open to the sacred-ordinary details of living in an interactive format.
I am vulnerable. I allow others to connect with my imperfections, my fears, my joys, my pain, my longing and the beauty I see, hear, feel around and within me. This is a gift for people all around the world to discover and comment on as well as a profoundly healing, spiritual practice for me.
I greet my blog not as a blank electronic canvas to fill, but a conduit for transmitting the sacredness that flows through me. My intention is to inspire others to explore the depths of their souls, trusting that they too will rise to the surface, hearts healed with gratitude for the many blessings (sometimes hidden needing closer attention to be revealed) in their own lived experiences.
I choose to express my sacred self openly, because it is one thing I feel I have been called to do. I believe expressing our sacred selves is what we are all called to do, each in our own way. It happens in small gentle steps, this unveiling, this courage, strength, humility, playfulness, trust and faith in others, in ourselves, in the Holy One of Blessing. For most people, expressing their sacred self may be a deeply private experience. I certainly don’t post every detail of my life. There is a thin dividing line between what is universally valuable and healing for others to witness for ourselves to release, and what is to be held close to our bosoms, shared only with a select few or one or the ONE. I pray that one day all people will be free to openly express their holiness, whether the dense cloak that hides their light is stitched by a political, social or religious system or personal fear of being seen naked.
To read a raw and true story from my life that shows exactly what I am talking about you might want to view On Tuesday I Met The Bogeyman. Take your time exploring the world through the eyes of my heart on other posts. Perhaps a poem or photo will resonate and fan the spark within you to create something you would not have dared to before. I hope so, I really do.
Laurais 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.” Laura's columns focus on "Healing with Gratitude."
Grow and Glow with Conscious Intention Healing through Meditation
by Cindy Hively
Conscious Intention Meditation teachings and practices guide you to experience the place of true inner peace where the 'story' and distractions of life fall away leaving you with a life of wholesome health and happiness.
Conscious Intention Meditation is a simple and authentic self-empowerment and healing system that only requires your presence, intention and passion. It does not require any prior qualifications in energy medicine, meditation or spiritual philosophies. It is a modern and advanced system used by people such as Reiki masters, yoga teachers, psychologists, energy healers, social workers, accountants, school teachers, university students, musicians, parents , workers and people of all cultures and ages. It is one of the most evolved systems used in the developmental education of enlightenment since 2010, yet is as ancient as the first moment of creation itself. I would say the healing through CIM is on fire and the word is out and being taken seriously. More and more are paying attention, especially in the field of Mental Wellness because of the over whelming scientific evidence that conscious intention medicine factually works. This is great news for those of us who suffer from chronic illness/any illness, and especially brain disorders.
Traditionally in Western culture, we have sought relief from stress, anxiety and depression through medicine, alcohol or drugs. Now, in today’s modern world and the joining together of world cultures through technology and media, we can enjoy sharing and exploring scientifically researched and proven practices such as meditation to enhance the well-being of our lives naturally and authentically. This system of meditation is easy and simple and requires less and less effort the deeper you go into the process of letting go. Can you feel relief and a sense of empowerment knowing this? I am using this practice everyday and jumping for joy. Inside of our own being we actually have the power to heal ourself, feel as well as possible, and the medical field is getting it! That is truly a cause for celebration ...
Thoughts are the cause of all human suffering. Our thoughts are constantly comparing, searching, seeking, judging, organizing, controlling, manipulating and questioning life. Who Am I? Why me? How do I look? Why do others act as they do? Why am I happy? Sad? Lonely? Depressed? Why is there anger? Blame? Criticism and war? Where do I find peace in my life? Is it in my relationship, money, work, my home or my car? The list goes on. The mind is always “doing’ something or getting ready to take action in order to survive, keep safe, or feel loved.
Thoughts from the past constantly replay themselves from our subconscious mind. For example, fear of abandonment, need for approval, unworthiness and failure are patterns that repeat themselves throughout life—in relationship with ourselves, others, and community. These thoughts sometimes force us into feelings of confusion and depression.
We define ourselves and who we believe we are through family, media, religion, spirituality and society. Our natural state of being is stillness, peace and silence. It is as pure and innocent as it was the moment you where born. From birth you have been conditioned, controlled, manipulated and encouraged to believe you are different than this natural state. The need for safety, wisdom and education is an important part of human existence but we spend so much time working on survival that we have forgotten to give ourselves time to stay in touch with our authentic self.
Peace is always will be present. Silently sitting behind the activity of the mind like an ocean that calmly abides, it watches the waves arising before itself, and from itself, but not separate from its own essence. Meditation helps control the waves of thought that crash endlessly against all resistance to peace. Meditation is an authentic contemporary approach to spiritual practice and inquiry designed to bring about a total transformation of humanity. Conscious Intention Meditation creates equilibrium of the mind.
One of the most common misconceptions people have about learning how to meditate is that it involves trying to stop your thoughts or attempting to control or change the mind in some way. For this reason, many people see it as something difficult to do. In truth, true meditation is completely effortless. In fact, trying to stop your thoughts is an impossible task. The mind's job is to produce a constant stream of thoughts and we actually have zero control over the content or the frequency of the thoughts. The average adult has around 100,000 thoughts per day, 95% of which are the same as yesterday! No wonder we find so little peace. Giving the monkey mind our attention all day is absolutely exhausting! One of the most significant benefits of learning how to meditate is that it frees up a tremendous amount of energy. CIM is the philosophy and the technique which helps direct the 'Conscious Mind' to create a new perception of itself by dismantling old patterns, habits and addictive thoughts. These patterns of beliefs are what creates the obstacles to happiness in our lives. (Source: Robyn Collins, Coordinator, Conscious Life Teachings. www.consciouslifemeditation.com)
CIM creates new neural pathways within the brain. This can lead to improved concentration, a feeling of true contentment and peace, increased productivity levels and sensation of fulfillment, joy and happiness. This meditation process also allows for previous life difficulties to be brought unto a place where you are able to consciously with intention heal from past experiences.
Stress, pressure, fatigue, poor diet, alcohol, and drugs damage neural connections between the brain’s prefrontal cortex—or “CEO”—and the rest of the brain. When you are overtired or under intense mental or physical stress, the brain bypasses its higher, more evolved, rational frontal executive circuits—it starts using more primitive stimulus/response pathways. Consequently, you respond to daily demands without thinking; you make impulsive, short-sighted decisions. When the CEO goes offline, strong emotions, such as fear and anger, take over, adversely coloring your view of the world.
Impulsive, reactive behavior
Poor working memory
Drug and alcohol abuse
Unethical thinking and behavior
High blood pressure
Eating and sleeping disorders
Weak immune system
Low self-esteem and self-confidence
Worries, anxieties, and fears
Shallow, divisive emotions
People who practice Conscious Intention Meditation have reported improvements in various areas of their lives.
Here are some of them:
Natural Spiritual connection
More mental clarity and creativity
Feeling less stressed
Improved sleep patterns
A more relaxed way of handling difficult situations
Improved energy levels
A deeper understanding of life
Purposeful, flexible thinking
No impulsive, proactive behavior
Greater work focus & productivity
Excellent working memory
Settled, focused attention
No substance abuse or addictions
Ethical thinking and behavior
Energy and vitality
Fit cardiovascular system
Strong immune functioning
Self-confidence and secure self-esteem
Feelings of safety and peace
Compassion and empathy for others
Healthy interpersonal relations
Happiness and optimism
Practice is preparation. Without practice the human being is unprepared to meet the demands of life. Practice is, at its center, engagement. When you practice, you engage the various faculties that the chosen activity requires. The more you engage, the more prepared you become. When you took your first steps in life and began walking you most likely balanced tentatively, teetered and fell. Often. But with practice, as you engaged the activity of walking over and over, you became increasingly more competent, more proficient and ultimately more elegant to move about in the world and meet the demands of your life.
Without practice you often find yourself lacking the competence needed to meet the multifaceted challenges of life. Fail to engage in disciplining your mental focus and you are likely to find yourself in repeated dis-stress instead of focusing on real strategic priorities. Fail to practice attuning to your child and you are likely to find yourself unprepared in being able to connect with them as they grow. The practice of CIM is no different.
Without the repeated engagement of practice you are largely unprepared to meet the demands of your life. It is simple, practice is a necessity. But what happens when you engage life and acquire a certain level of competency that is satisfactory for you? To answer this question we must look more closely into what it means to engage.
Engagement is the conscious inhabitation of your body and mind. Practice is happening when your open awareness is moving with, in and through your embodied activity. Dedicating to practice is your conscious participation with your life. Engagement is the conduction of your free and open awareness through your activities, whatever they may be.
When you acquire a certain level of competence that is presumed to be working well, practice typically stops. As soon as ‘good enough,’ is achieved something subtle yet extremely powerful happens: habituation steps in. One of your habituation’s central attachments is comfort. Wherever you are comfortable, wherever ‘good enough’ is subjectively perceived, your habituation will invest vast amounts of resources to maintain this comfortable status quo. One way your ego achieves this is to stop practicing. Shoeing away the ego and continued practice of CIM will continue to cultivate your life in ways that keep you centered and grounded.
This inspired desire to cultivate equanimity for yourself, the inner imposition to develop and evolve your gifts, skills and unique capacities is nothing other than your Divine be-ing calling you forth into your greatest possibilities. Your desire to go beyond habituation, to reach into novelty and to liberate the constraints of your life is the beating heart of your true strength. When you free yourself from the ego’s grip upon comfort, I think you will find yourself realizing a necessity once again. If you are to actually face and embody the purpose of your life you need your strength. Without practice strength and cultivation rarely manifest. Ultimately, practice is part necessity and part inspiration. To understand and embody practice requires both.
“True fulfillment, peace and happiness can be found in the silence of the mind. Suffering is caused through the identification and definition of the body, the world and the question: who am I? Freedom is attained through transcendence. Conscious Intention Meditation is about welcoming the miracle, freedom and peace, found only in stillness”. ~Author Unknown
Editor's Note: This article comes to you as a Special Feature due to its length and scope. It is an excellent and insightful portrayal of Vipassana meditation practice from the Buddhist tradition and one woman's transparent experience with it.
I: The Agony of the Breath
I dread committing gaffes. There—I said it! Until a few years ago, I wasn’t even aware of my fears or of the simmering, underlying dissatisfaction that fueled their existence. A surge of awareness has since developed, helping me become increasingly mindful. Today, I acknowledge and accept failures and limitations as a gallant step toward positive mental health. This is just one example of the many gifts vipassana meditation has given me.
To understand how an ancient meditation technique correlates to an individual’s acceptance of their fears, and in doing so, of transcending dissatisfaction, let’s first understand what vipassana is. Vipassana, a mindfulness technique the Buddha practiced nearly twenty-five hundred years ago, is the process of examining one’s mind through silence, breath, and body awareness. The Buddha advocated the three marks of existence: dukkha, or that dissatisfaction is inherent to life and causes suffering; anicca, or that life’s sufferings are impermanent; and anatta, or that releasing attachment to worldly pleasures and the ego can help an individual release suffering. Vipassana in the ancient Indian language Pali means “to see things as they are.”
In the summer of 2008, I was among a group of nearly 120 people that attended a ten-day, instructor-led vipassana meditation course offered by Spiritual Master S. N. Goenka. The setting couldn’t have been more picturesque: a quaint retreat center in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California. At the time, I lacked even the faintest understanding of just how swiftly this experience would transpire change. The retreat consisted of ten days of breath awareness and meditation, at the rate of ten hours each day. Grueling? You bet! Actually, it was downright brutal. For ten days I spied the vast cosmos of my mind, searching for inner peace and clues to unravel the mind’s myriad mysteries. For ten days I lived like a monk, shunning all luxuries and self-indulgences. Imagine a benign, insipid world of no computers or cell phones, and no texting, reading, writing, praying, listening to music, or watching television. Here’s the granddaddy of all forfeitures—no talking! The only highlights were Goenka’s nightly video sermons and food.
Notwithstanding the sacrifices, my meditation got off to a roaring start. Just waking up at the crack of dawn was energizing. Experiencing nature amid all of its beauty enthralled my senses. Taking a break from my normal life seemed rejuvenating. Goenka introduced retreatants to a technique called anapana, which consists of observing one’s own respiration. Per the instructions, I watched my breath as it traveled in and out of my nose. Outside, all was quiet but for the minor distractions stemming from fellow meditators’ digestive track faux pas, or the air conditioner’s intermittent drone, or the occasional straggler’s muffled strides. The governing diversion was “inner” commotion. At every meditation sitting, my conditioned mind became readily absorbed in thought, reaction, analysis, drama, and fantasy. At this stage, a meditator has two goals: become aware of a spiraling thought, and restore the mind’s focus to the breath. Simple, right? Not really! The primary hurdle is the ability to recognize a wandering mind. Many minutes would drift by before I would realize that the movie playing on my mental monitor, starring me, was headed to Nowhereville. I would shudder back to the present and return to my breath. Then Mental Films would roll out its next production. Again, the minutes would elapse until the next realization and refocus. Needless to say, this happened over and over. The first day in meditation turned out to be more of a game involving constant pursuit, near-captures, and repeated escapes.
In addition, other sources of external distraction, such as physical aches and pains caused by long hours of sitting, the struggle to acclimatize to a new place, the anger and irritation that arose from people’s insensitive behaviors such as checking out early from meditation so they could make a beeline for meals or trading a sit for sleep also took up a good portion of my attention. My conditioned mind judged their conduct with a roll of the eyes, or a bobbing of the head in disbelief, and even an occasional snort and snicker. It took me many hours to let go of the memory of the woman in the dining hall who sneered upon seeing a grimy plate on the buffet table. All she had to do was pick it up and put it for wash. She didn’t; I did. It took even longer to forgive the woman in the neighboring bed whose constant squirting of a nauseating mist interrupted my sleep.
My awareness and my capacity to observe my mind strengthened on the second day, enabling me to follow my breath for longer durations. But it had been two days since I had left home. I missed my family. The lack of social interaction sprouted boredom and restlessness inside of me, which was ironic as I was continually amidst people. The lull of the exterior offered a clear contrast to my mind’s chaos; both drove me crazy. That night, the swell of stimulation I had experienced upon arriving at the retreat deflated to a mere ripple, and I felt physically, mentally, and emotionally fatigued.
The third day unraveled a surprise: my mind’s clamor began to fade into a calmness that I never knew existed. I found myself eating meals slowly, mindfully, pausing between spoonfuls of food, and then chewing and swallowing it with a sense of gratitude. Thoughts still dominated during meditation, but my tranquil mind’s focus had shifted from engaging in melodrama to merely observing thought. It hadn’t come easy, but my mind had finally learned how to disentangle itself from thought’s nomadic ways and ease into the oasis of the present moment. During breaks I found myself contemplating on the art of “being with oneself,” emitting compassionate vibes in response to others’ disruptive behaviors, and making a mental list of potential candidates for this course, among other things. I wasn’t just living like a monk; I was beginning to feel like one too! Although I didn’t grasp it at the time, this exercise in honing patience and concentration helped ground me in the reality that is the now, and would remain as an anchor to help endure all future emotional upheavals.
II: The Anguish of Pain
The three-day rigorous practice of watching my breath prepared me—mind and body—to enter the realm of vipassana. The technique itself is not complicated; it consists of observing the sensations the breath creates. Sensations represent pre-conditioned, mental patterns of the mind. They are a basic form of experience and existence that precede the thought processes, i.e., they exist before the litany of commenting, editing, labeling, qualifying, and judging begins. Per the Buddha, sensations are “karmic” in nature, in that an individual inherits the previous life’s “sensation load” at birth—a congenital disorder of sorts! This defilement “reservoir’s” extent is directly proportional to the past lives’ karma buildup. In the present life, sensory contact with the outside world through the portals of sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, and thought can activate dormant sensations and/or fashion new ones.
Sensations are also described as “defilements” or the very specific emotions, memories, fears, attitudes, expectations, beliefs, pain, likes, dislikes, and stories that appear repeatedly in our consciousness. When summoned through a mental practice such as vipassana, the sensations manifest on the physical body in a variety of forms: pricking, pinching, itching, goose bumps, tingling, tickling, burning, pulling, tugging, pressure, tightness, heaviness, numbness, dryness, creepy-crawly sensations, pins-and-needles type sensations, pain, heat, chill, and/or sweat. And while these sensations are present at all times throughout the body, the conscious mind can’t detect them because of its lack of focus.
With each breath, as my attention moved throughout my body, from my scalp to my toes, the sensations slowly began to emerge from within. Continued meditation intensified my attention and accelerated my awareness of the arising sensations, which consisted mainly of pain, pressure, heaviness, numbness, pricking, and a few pleasant sensations. Whatever their nature, the sensations arose and passed away. As I learned to observe them, new sensations surfaced and bounced off of the physical landscape of my body. Ongoing mindfulness showed that no single sensation lingered for longer than a few moments. Per the instructions, I directed my attention to what was happening from moment to moment without holding on to what felt good or pushing away what felt bad. The directive was to survey the sensations with perfect calm and objectivity. Thus when sensations surface, and the individual remains nonreactive or nonjudgmental to their emergence, the sensations can make a permanent exit from the individual’s system. Through consistent practice, this “shedding” of sensations “lightens” an individual’s load of defilements, helping change unhealthy attitudes, perceptions, and habits at the deepest, unconscious level.
Goenka’s nightly lectures provided the doctoral dissertation for observing the sensations. It is striking how external, sense perceptions—what we can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch—veer towards, but ultimately elude, a sustained experience of joy and contentment. The human focus rests primarily on externally oriented functions and results in a good part of our lives used up in planning, researching, analyzing, implementing, and decision making on the external plane. The Buddha advocated going past the external plane, beyond the physical form and paying attention to the reality of human life: what can’t be seen by the naked eye, but stimulates the brain; what can’t be touched, but tightens the muscles; what can’t be sniffed, but burns the lungs; what can’t be heard, but throbs in the ears; or what can’t be tasted, but produces a sick dread in the pit of the stomach.
The human resistance, owing to bias, ego gratification or error, to look inward and acknowledge paralyzing thoughts and feelings is self-defeating, and keeps individuals locked up in unhealthy patterns. Sex, alcohol, drugs, food, power, fame, money, work—the list is exhaustive, really. People take refuge in material pursuits, falsely believing that these pursuits will lead to Nirvana. Life becomes a contrived cat-and-mouse game as individuals mindlessly fasten themselves to sights, sounds, tastes, words, motions, or electronic stimuli, chasing after the next job, the next house, or the next spouse/partner, until fatigue or death triumphs. Reacting to situations in the outer environment, the Buddha said, affects the inner environment, spawning two types of sensations: (1) “Craving” sensations generated from reacting to anything that satisfies pleasure. (2) “Loathing” or aversion sensations generated from reacting to pain, both physical and emotional. The human predisposition to react with craving and loathing sets up a vicious cycle of reactions and sensations. The reactions eventually dissipate, but leave behind a residue that reinforces an existing sensation or begets a new one. Either way, the outcome is “suffering”—a life that reinforces addictions, compulsions and emotional dysfunction, and is filled with dissatisfaction, emptiness, stress, anxiety, anger, fear, and other negativities.
A question emerges: how is the Buddha’s ancient, psycho-spiritual doctrine relevant in the digital age? The first revelation that jumps out for a vipassana practitioner is the impermanent nature of the arising bodily sensations. When an individual observes change at the experiential level and sees firsthand how things arise and pass away, they soon begin to associate impermanence on a more conscious plane, in life situations and challenges, an ocean wave-like activity—they come and go. Some of life’s challenges arrive unannounced like earthquakes and tornadoes, and unleash unspeakable horror. Job loss, financial loss, divorce, emotional betrayal, and illness are a few examples. Others, like hurricanes, leave behind a trail of destruction but are more predictable and can be planned for. Ongoing family and marital conflicts are examples. The regular practice of vipassana builds up equanimity, an opportunity to harness pain into something positive, more workable, usable, and sustainable. Loss and change are facts of life, but reactions, negativities, impulsive behaviors, and self-destructive habits don’t have to be. They don’t have to define who we are or how we live life.
Humans are creatures of habit. We hold on to our past, because we think we can go back and fix it. We’re also emotional beings and cling to our fears and insecurities because we are afraid of change. Looking inward helps determine what enslaves us. Learning to let go and moving with the flow of life—disaster and all—is a wonderful shift as it helps break free of the limitations that have held us back, encouraging us to grow, to live meaningful lives. As the veil of inner blindness lifts and we learn to accept the present, cravings transform into love and fears dissolve into faith, ultimately fostering a healthy, balanced, connected life. After all, humans are social creatures. It is binding on us that we maximize that connection and learn to live harmoniously with peace and equanimity. And where we find peace, balance and composure, therein, we find Nirvana!
III: The Harmony of Breath and Pain
When vipassana camp ended, I was more than ready to return home and be with my family, and even more ready to plunge into my normal life with my husband, children, friends and family, and I did so with a renewed sense of spirit. One of my chief concerns during the course had tethered on whether I’d make the transition back into talking and how challenging it would be to get back into the rhythm. The thought surfaced in meditation, especially in the beginning, and I remember wondering if there would be any “side effects,” such as hours of speech training and therapy. And then my mind had switched orbits. What if I’m so taken by silence that I decide to embrace monkhood, trading in my home for a monastery? Imagine, Sister Raji! Oh, my poor family! How are they going to manage my loss? Oh, the mind is so rooted in fears and self-importance! Of course, my concern was completely baseless as I neither ended up in a convent nor have I stopped talking since the course concluded.
Vipassana, the blueprint of a new life, has helped me fashion a world in which I’m able live in sync with my heartfelt longings, without the fear of failure or of being judged. I live life with a keen sense of awareness. I understand that I should stop reaching out for sense gratification, and instead, reach in, within myself, to find the authentic me. The Buddha’s teachings have taught me to focus on my myriad strengths, surround myself with positive people, and tailor my attitude to be more accepting of people and their behaviors. I’m less inclined now to fulfill others’ expectations at my emotional expense. Vipassana has also turned down the volume on my “complain” and “demand” notes. Forever I had experienced anger and frustration because I could never win arguments or dominate conversations like some of my friends and colleagues did. Post vipassana, my “deficiency” has transformed into a skill—a skill that allows me to be a better listener and remain open to others’ points of view, one that has added a whole new dimension to all of my relationships. I now understand that dominance and defiance are the hallmark traits of the ego, not of an individual; that traveling in the fast lane and multitasking are recipes not for effectiveness, but rather dissatisfaction. Making peace with what I cannot change or make go away has been, paradoxically, empowering.
Continued practice enables me to operate in a realm in which I’m truly excited to be myself and I’m energized to serve the greater whole. Awareness of the overwhelming impacts of perfectionism and self-recrimination has resulted in my being kinder to me and less self-critical. What is really great about silence is the simplicity it evokes, the opportunity to observe, absorb and appreciate the miracles in seemingly ordinary things, including bees buzzing as they flit from flower to flower transferring pollen, puffy white clouds that drift away to reveal a blue sky, or sunlight glistening through raindrops to erect a rainbow. I’m also learning to integrate flexibility into my life through the art of prioritizing. Each day now is a celebration of life’s bounty—food, shelter, health, friends, and family.
By profession, I’m an environmental engineer. Years ago I had a sweet government job, owned a house in the suburbs, had a wonderful family, and lived a perfect life by all external accounts. Yet I felt restless, powerless, and driven—if not consumed—by an inability to accept my good life. I always wondered why I was among the few that flourished while millions languished in hunger and poverty. I later traded in my career to become a stay-at-home mother, which, unexpectedly, proved to be a turning point. I became involved in volunteering, a new life experience that allowed me to have a meaningful, positive impact on communities worldwide, and eventually helped channel my distress into gratefulness. I have since stayed active by being involved in my children’s lives and in charitable causes. A privilege that I’m truly grateful for is using my thoughts, words, and action to inspire my children.
Before long, the waves of life washed me over to vipassana’s coast. Looking back at my early years, I now realize that I lived like an iceberg, a drifting existence, a mere flick of the potential that lay obscured below the surface of who I am. Vipassana has helped me tap into that potential, giving form and expression to my creativity. I’m sure glad to still have the house in the suburbs and a wonderful circle of family and friends. I’d like to believe that I write more adroitly now. In addition to responding to my family’s needs and fulfilling my various responsibilities, I am beginning to articulate my own needs, voice my opinions, express my preferences, and nurture my passions like never before. As a youngster I loved to sing. So I enrolled in voice lessons to revive and enjoy the art. I wrote and published a book about my vipassana experience, entitled Inner Pilgrimage: Ten Days to a Mindful Me. Thereafter, I started writing a blog. I maintain my facebook fan page and a website. I’m now a motivational speaker, and fervently talk about my transformation to audiences at various venues. And to think that public speaking had always buckled my knees! My hope in sharing my story is that it’ll inspire others to begin their own journeys of self-discovery, at their own pace, using vipassana.
That said I still experience low days. “Inner” conflicts still hold their grip. Despair, dread, and doubt continue to clutch at me. Anger and frustration over what I can’t change, like when my neighbor overwaters their lawn, still burns my insides. But the equanimity derived from vipassana has made it easier to release irrational fears and negative emotions. Vipassana meditation is helping me reconfigure my life, one fear fragment at a time. To say that these changes happened overnight would be a gross exaggeration. Finding the authentic me is—and will be—a lifelong journey of exploration, trial, and acceptance.
"Make the most of every sense; glory in all of the pleasures and beauty which the world reveals to you ..."
~ Helen Keller
In every waking moment we are surrounded by beauty, in our homes and workplaces, neighborhoods and towns. From vast landscapes that uplift and inspire to a single wild rose that opens our heart. Beauty is everywhere—if we have the eyes to see it. And the awareness to log it in: "Ah, beauty, I see you. I'll stop and spend a few minutes with you."
As the pace of life continues to accelerate, how much are we truly aware of beauty? We seem to move through our days with such speed that we view our surroundings with blurred vision, or perceive the landscape of place as if it were a black and white photograph, missing its vibrancy and allure. And, yet, when we do slow down enough to take notice, to remark on a lovely grove of trees or a sunset, do we take it in fully? Savor it? Appreciate it? Allow ourselves to feel the remarkable relaxation response that naturally comes when we give ourselves over to beauty? I sense that we don't.
Instead, we do what Adair Lara confesses to in her book, Slowing Down In a Speeded Up World: "I don't spend a meditative moment really tasting the blackberry jam or gazing at the faces of my sleeping children or stepping out to the porch to feel the rain on my face.
"Or if I do, I do it quickly, checking it off the list: Gazed at sleeping children. Lifted face to rain. Note to self: Smell roses tomorrow."
If this sounds familiar (I know it did to me when I first read this many years ago), and you'd like to have a felt experience of beauty—tap into its power to touch your heart, bringing more ease and joy into your day—consider taking these five steps toward tapping into beauty.
Wherever you are, a parking lot or a park, walk more slowly. Gauge your pace and slow way down. The faster you go, the less you can really see.
Look up and around instead of down. Have you ever noticed how many of us walk with our eyes downcast? Look up at the sky. Scan the horizon. Zoom out, zoom in, just like a Google map, and see what's up close and what's further away. Pay attention on purpose and take note of what you see.
Turn your senses up to "high," as if you are using a dial. Amp up your vision to notice all of the colors and hues around you. Do the same with your sense of hearing. Listen, really, listen to the sounds—or lack of them. Traffic, human voices, birds, silence. Stop moving if you can. Stand very still and simply allow the sounds and sights to fill you.
Notice how your body feels when your senses are attuned. How does your mind responding? Does each relax, let go of tension? The act of being fully present in any situation, simply observing what is happening around us while using our senses, is an act of "mindfulness," or what stress reduction researcher, Jon Kabat-Zinn calls "present centered awareness." When we respond to our daily activities in this way, we are no longer resisting what we are experiencing. We are fully engaged—our body/mind united in pure awareness—and we stop struggling. This practice alone can create a powerful relaxation response. Being present with mindful attention can be very good for what ails us!
Engage this process again and again, incorporate it as a life practice, and you'll soon discover yourself craving beauty. You will be on the lookout for it, eyesight trained to scan your surroundings to search out things of beauty. Why? Because your body/mind has made the connection that it feels good to connect with beauty and, naturally, it wants more of that.
In my own life, especially when I am a passenger in a car, I am forever on the lookout for a thing of beauty to touch my heart: cloud patterns in the sky, birds in flight, grass and greenery and flowers' first bloom. We can learn to "choose beauty" in this way and focus our attention on having it more visible throughout our day.
Though the truth of the matter is beauty is always here. It doesn't go anywhere. It is we that wander and drift away, getting lost once again in the rush and blur of the day; shades of gray instead of vibrant blues and greens dominating our vision. But we can remember—and reorient ourselves back to this very moment—with attention and practice. We can learn to lean into beauty and invite it in.
As the first sprigs of spring emerge from winter's sleep, may you be delighted by their presence, newly aware of the gifts of beauty that are here ... waiting to be embraced and appreciated.
Bhakti yoga is one method of attaining enlightenment in Hindu spirituality. Known as the path of love or devotion, it calls for the practitioner to love a personal god with all his heart and being. When the devotee surrenders completely, unification with the Divine is assured. Sakhya Bhakti is the practice of cultivating a personal relationship with the Divine, thinking of Him/Her/It as a parent, friend, or even lover.
There are many ways that a devotee might show his love and devotion, but one that is often overlooked is the act of composing devotional poetry. Just as countless love songs have been written for human lovers, so have they been written for the Divine. Nearly every religion and every culture has had devotional poets who expressed their love through word or song.
Traditional Hindu literature has given us many examples of this type of devotion. In the Ramayana, Hanuman is a devotee of Rama (Vishnu), and in the Mahabharata, we have the story of Draupadi who was devoted to Krishna. In the Bhagavad Gita, the relationship between Arjuna and Krishna is explored. There is also a popular 18th century Bengali poet named Ramprasad Sen who worshipped the goddess Kali as the Divine Mother and unmanifest Brahman. Looking more closely at each of these stories of devotion yields a better understanding of Sakhya Bhakti.
In the Mahabharata, Draupadi has a close friendship with Krishna. When Draupadi is at risk of being publicly humiliated, she calls out to Krishna to save her, and he does:
O Krishna, O Krishna, O thou great yogi, thou soul of the universe, Thou creator of all things, O Govinda, save me who am distressed, who am losing my senses in the midst of the Kurus. (Ganguli, sec. LXVI).
Krishna also has a personal friendship with Arjuna. In fact, Arjuna’s relationship with Krishna is the basis for the Bhagavad Gita, a section of the Mahabharata which is sometimes read as a complete story in itself; a story that explains (among other things) the concept of bhakti yoga. Krishna tells Arjuna that those who love him are greatly loved by him (poetic line breaks added by me):
That one I love who is incapable of ill will, who is friendly and compassionate. Living beyond the reach of “I” and “mine” and of pleasure and pain, patient, contented, self-controlled, firm in faith, with all their heart and all their mind given to me: with such as these I am in love. Not agitating the world or by it agitated, they stand above the sway of elation, competition, and fear: that one is my beloved. They are detached, pure, efficient, impartial, never anxious, selfless in all their undertakings; they are my devotees, very dear to me. That one is dear to me who runs not after the pleasant or away from the painful, grieves not, lusts not, but lets things come and go as they happen. That devotee who looks upon friend and foe with equal regard, who is not buoyed up by praise nor cast down by blame, alike in heat and cold, pleasure and pain, free from selfish attachments, the same in honor and dishonor, quiet, ever full, in harmony everywhere, firm in faith: Such a one is dear to me.
(Easwaran ch. 12, v. 13-20).
Ramprasad Sen, a devotee of Kali, popularized a specific form of devotional poetry that is still popular today. In this poem, Ramprasad sings how he is without fear because his divine mother protects him:
Whom could I fear in the universe where my Mother is matriarch? I live with perfect ease upon her estate, indivisible awareness and bliss. I am her direct tenant, free from formality and hierarchy. There is no payment of rent for this sanctuary, this garden of nonduality, its value beyond assessment by the mind. Nor can my sacred abode be sold at auction, for there are no owners and nothing to own. The manager of Mother's holdings, Lord Shiva, transcends every limited conception and transaction. There is no disharmony or injustice here, for there is no division, no separation. Mother does not impose the heavy tax of religious obligation. My only responsibility of stewardship is constant inward remembrance, eternally breathing Kali, Kali, Kali. This mad poet lover, born directly from Divine Mother, cherishes one consuming desire: to purchase her diamond paradise of delight with the boundless treasure of pure love and give it away freely to all beings (Hixon Lines 1-26).
The concept of Bhakti is not isolated to Hinduism. Indeed, most, if not all, of the world’s religions contain an element of love and devotion for God. Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and even the religion of ancient Greece provide worthy examples of bhakti devotion through poetry.
In Buddhism, bhakti is often expressed as compassion and loving-kindness. Compassion is one of the founding principles of Buddhism, and another expression of bhakti yoga. In the Karaniya Metta Sutta, The Buddha teaches that love for all beings ends the cycle of rebirth:
As a mother would risk her life to protect her child, her only child, even so should one cultivate a limitless heart with regard to all beings. With good will for the entire cosmos, cultivate a limitless heart: Above, below, & all around, unobstructed, without hostility or hate. Whether standing, walking, sitting, or lying down, as long as one is alert, one should be resolved on this mindfulness. This is called a sublime abiding here & now. Not taken with views, but virtuous & consummate in vision, having subdued desire for sensual pleasures, one never again will lie in the womb. (Bhikkhu sec. I.8)
In ancient Greece, Sappho of Lesbos could be considered one of the first Western bhakti yogis, with her devotional poetry to Aphrodite. Throughout her work, Sappho displays a very personal relationship with Aphrodite, sometimes talking with her as she would a close friend:
…you asked, What ailed me now that made me call you again? What was it that my distracted heart most wanted? ‘Whom has Persuasion to bring round now to your love? Who, Sappho, is unfair to you? For, let her run, she will soon run after; if she won't accept gifts, she will one day give them; and if she won't love you -- she soon will love, although unwillingly....’ If ever – come now! Relieve this intolerable pain! (Barnard fig. 38)
Sappho has (or at least imagines she has) a very personal relationship with Aphrodite; she imagines the goddess will take care of her and grant her wishes, much like the relationship between Draupadi and Krishna in the Mahabharata.
Christianity could be thought of as a bhakti yogic practice, for it is centered on the love that devotees have for Christ, and the love that Christ returns to his devotees. In fact, when asked what the greatest commandment was, Christ gave an answer that could be read as the textbook definition of bhakti (poetic line breaks added by me):
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. (New American Standard Bible, Matt. 22:36-38)
In Judaism, the psalms are a good example of bhakti yoga, because they were originally composed as devotional hymns and poems. One Psalm that is particularly striking in its portrayal of love and devotion is Psalm 63:
God, you are my God; I search for You, My soul thirsts for You, My body yearns for You, As a parched and thirsty land that has no water. I shall behold You in the sanctuary, And see Your might and glory, Truly Your faithfulness is better than life; My lips declare Your praise. I bless You all my life; I lift up my hands, invoking Your name. I am sated as with a “rich feast,” I sing praises with joyful lips When I call you to mind upon my bed, When I think of You in the watches of the night; For you are my help, And in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy. My soul is attached to You; Your right hand supports me.
(The Jewish Study Bible, Psalms 63)
Islam frowns upon any musical expression that isn’t devotional in nature, and so there is a rich tradition of devotional music and poetry. The Persian poet Rumi is the prime example of bhakti devotion in the Islamic world. Rumi believed that Love was itself a religion, better than all others:
A true Lover doesn't follow any one religion, be sure of that. Since in the religion of Love, there is no irreverence or faith. When in Love, body, mind, heart and soul don't even exist. Become this, fall in Love, and you will not be separated again.
(Shiva, fig. 1)
With examples from Rumi, Sappho, the Psalms, and the Bhagavad Gita, one can see that devotional poetry is among the richest and most beautiful poetry in the world. Across time and across cultures, humans have always longed for an intimate connection with the Divine, no matter how they envision that to be. Sappho, with her friend Aphrodite; Arjuna and Draupadi, with their friend Krishna; Hanuman, with his friend Vishnu; Rumi, with his Divine Beloved; Ramprasad Sen, with his Divine Mother; and David, with his Divine Father have given the world great treasures by sharing their relationships with the Divine. Their love and devotion have shown us all how to unite with the Divine. They have taught us the meaning of bhakti yoga.
Barnard, Mary. Sappho. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1958. Print.
Bhikkhu, Thanissaro. “Karaniya Metta SuttaGood Will.” Sutta Nipata I.8. Vipassana Fellowship. Access to Insight, 2011. Web. 30 November 2011. <http://www.vipassana.com/canon/khuddaka/suttanipata/snp1-8.php>.
Easwaran, Eknath. The Bhagavad Gita. 2nd ed. Tomales, CA: The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, 1985. Print.
Ganguli, Kisari Mohan. “A Translation of Mahabharata of Vyasa.” Mahabharata Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 November 2011. <http://www.mahabharataonline.com/translation/mahabharata_02066.php>.
Hixon, Lex. “Its Value Beyond Assessment By the Mind.” Poetry Chaikhana. Ivan M. Granger, 2002-2008. Web. 30 November 2011. <http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com/R/Ramprasad/Itsvaluebeyo.htm>.
Shiva, Shahram. “Rumi Odes and Quattrains.” RumiNet. Jain Publishing, n.d. Web. 1 December 2011. <http://www.rumi.net/rumi_poems_main.htm>.
“The Nine Principles of Bhakti Yoga” The Secrets of Yoga. TheSecretsofYoga.com, n.d. Web. 30 November 2011. <http://www.thesecretsofyoga.com/Bhakti/Bhakti-nineprinciples.html>.
Jay Schryer is the God of Magic. It says so on his Facebook profile, so it must be true. When he's not busy granting wishes and altering reality, he writes. He writes a lot, but mainly fantasy, science fiction, and horror stories. His poetry has been published on four different continents, so there's that, and he also writes personalized stories for kids and kids-at-heart. As you can see from this article, he also writes spirituality articles to satisfy his deep love for the Divine in all its forms. He reads even more than he writes, which shouldn't be humanly possible, but somehow he manages to do it. When he's not reading, writing, or sleeping (which, honestly, is his favorite hobby), he is pursuing his PhD in Mythological Studies with an Emphasis in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. He dares you to try saying that three times real fast. He's still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up, but he hopes it will involve getting paid to sleep. Failing that, getting paid to write would be pretty cool, too. In the meantime, you can check out his work at http://jayschryer.com.
I am learning to celebrate the feminine by slowing down, breathing more deeply and Savoring all life has to offer me, one precious moment at a time. I am on a new “orgazmic diet” in my life. I seek foods which give me great pleasure when I eat them, sending chills and shudders of ecstasy throughout my entire body! A friend and I had dinner the other night. We told the waiter we could barely speak to each other, we were so busy having one “food orgazm” after another after another!! Now that is what life is all about!
My feminine loves Savoring Nature, feeling bare ground beneath my naked feet. Sensuously sensing the pressure of the grass, tiny stones, roots of trees pushing against me as we connect deeply, skin to skin, making love. The breeze embraces me, tracing my body with hers, twirling my curly hair around her fingers. I imagine she is as aroused by my body and hair, as I am by the air she is, and as I breathe in deeply, we become one with each other, pushing and pulling, exciting the strands of music we are as life plays us together. Ecstasy fills me when I stand naked in a thunderstorm, water rivering my naked body, lightening crackling and dancing as my hairs stand up straight on my skin! I inhale the smoke in the air and shake with delight so fully pierced by its magic, love overflowing every pore of my being!
My orgazmic diet includes sensuous delicious massages, long baths in fragrant waters, warm coconut oil rubbed on my skin. Sitting in the sunshine, nibbling on some fresh greens picked from my own little garden on my deck brings me great pleasure. Taking photographs of nature brings me even closer to the beauty all around me, providing me different perspectives and ways of finding beauty regardless of what I see. Writing my juiciness onto the page, takes me deeper into knowing and loving myself and everything around me.
I celebrate the feminine by embracing everyone and everything, welcoming what comes and resisting nothing. Loving for the joy loving brings, free of expectations of any kind. Open, vulnerable, receptive, giving as nature is to me every day of my life. Every flower and tree, every bird, rivers and mountains, the sun, moon and stars being themselves without question, whether they are noticed or not. The more I seek Pleasure the more it seeks me and I go where I am guided to be. Being Me, authentic and free.
Morgine Jurdan is an Animal & Nature Communicator, Writer, Photographer, Artist, inspiring Coach, learning to Live As Love more deeply every day. "The Divine, for me, is experiencing Itself as All That Is, so every moment of my life now, I am engaging with it. Every face, every particle of creation is in love with me at some level, and me with it. We are in an orgazmic dance, as I remember who I truly am." You can learn more about her here: http://www.MorgineJurdan.com
This month at Buddha Chick Life we are ‘Celebrating the Feminine’, a theme I now love, but was actually slow to warm up to in my own spiritual journey. When I first began meditating in college, I was resistant to the idea of a sacred feminine – which of course seems strange to me now that I work so much with Women’s Energetics! But at the time, I was attracted to the idea of working at the level of mind and spirit, and I felt that these transcended the body and its concerns, including gender. I also was so steeped in the idea of gender equality – socially, politically, and spiritually – that I hesitated to discuss how men’s and women’s spiritual journeys might be different, because difference seemed to somehow imply inequality.
My journey into chakra and energy work, and the intersection of healing and spirituality, gradually changed my view on this. I no longer view the body, mind, and spirit as independent from each other. Instead, they are a fluid spectrum, and they engage with each other all the time. When we experience spirit, it is also in our body, a vibration that we feel in our very pores. And the experiences of our daily physical life are infused with spirit, from hugging our children, to watching a beautiful sunset, to eating an exquisite meal. To me, we can’t talk about mind and body, or spirit and body, as separate, so of course we can’t discount differences in men’s and women’s experiences, since our bodies (and energy bodies!) are indeed different.
A legend that exemplifies this for me is that of Tara, honored in multiple Buddhist and Hindu traditions as an embodiment of feminine enlightenment. In Tibetan Buddhism, there are actually multiple Taras, each a different color, representing various aspects of enlightenment. The most well-known are Green Tara, representing compassion in action, and White Tara, also representing compassion, along with purity and undifferentiated truth.
Tara is sometimes referred to as the ‘first feminist’ within Buddhism because of a vow she made to incarnate continually in a woman’s body, aiding all sentient beings. According to this legend, before incarnating here in human form, Tara existed as a young princess named Yeshe Dawa, or ‘Moon of Primordial Awareness’, in another realm. She was a devout Buddhist in that realm, and became known for her spiritual attainments. Because of this, some young monks approached her and praised her, advising her that she should pray to be reborn as a man in her next life, to further her progress. To which she replied:
“Here there is no man; there is no woman, no self, no person, and no consciousness. Labeling ‘male’ or ‘female’ is hollow. Oh, how worldly fools delude themselves…Those who wish to attain supreme enlightenment in a man’s body are many, but those who wish to serve the aims of being in a woman’s body are few indeed; therefore may I, until this world is emptied out, work for the benefit of sentient beings in a woman’s body.”
- from The Origin of Tara Tantra, by Jo Nang Taranatha
I love this response because it captures the seeming paradox of talking about the sacred feminine – that on the one hand gender is irrelevant – “labeling male and female is hollow” – and yet acknowledges that there is also something distinct about “serv[ing] the aims of being in a woman’s body.”
Within the tradition of Tantra, this is captured beautifully in the idea of embodied enlightenment. Our bodies – physical and energetic – are like prisms that each refract the clear white light of Source in a unique way, creating our own distinct rainbow. Women’s and men’s bodies refract light differently, so our spiritual experience and practice are at times distinct, but we are both reflections – and both awaken to – the same clear, essential light within us.
This for me is the sacred feminine - embracing the unique ways that women refract, experience, and awaken to the clear light of Source. This is not better or worse than the sacred masculine, and indeed one doesn’t exist without the other. Embracing both, and the beautiful symbols we have for each, is part of the joy of walking a spiritual path. As is embracing our totality - mind, body, and spirit - as one beautiful whole.
May Tara, Mother of Compassion, bless you with her insight this month, and may you indeed celebrate the sacred feminine as it expresses itself in you!