I’m hearing a number of reports lately of people getting stressed about the pressures of the Holiday Season. More than any other time of year, this can be a time when we most need to rely on our spiritual practices and tools to help us navigate situations and events with equanimity. One of the most important practices is to accept what is, AKA surrender practice.
This really came home to me when I was having a conversation with Eckhart Tolle about a challenging situation I was facing. He turned to me and asked, How is your surrender practice going? As usual, he got right to the heart of the matter. He was reminding me that if my internal state was one of acceptance, I would be able to handle whatever happened while maintaining a connection to my core of peace.
A surrender practice, as Eckhart suggested, involves internally accepting what happens, including your own reactions. The priority becomes attending to your inner state of being first, then responding appropriately to the outer circumstances. As he said a number of times, the process is to accept what is, then take the best action possible, from that surrendered state.
Catherine Ponder has a beautiful surrender pointer I really resonate with. She refers to accepting or surrendering as coming into agreement with what is. I love this because it makes surrender so accessible to us all. Once something has already happened, I can come into agreement with the fact that it has, and then see what the best response could be to the situation.
Eckhart refers to this as becoming friendly with the present moment. To come into agreement, to become friendly, automatically shifts any situation or experience, and helps increase the possibility that it will have a positive outcome. More importantly, it keeps our inner state open, clear and calm. Our experience then is one of peace, regardless of what is happening externally.
During the Holiday Season, many of us have ample opportunity to put our surrender practice into action. The holidays often find us in situations that can trigger us. I invite you to focus on your surrender practice this season and see how fully you can come into agreement with what is happening and thereby experience, at the very least, less stress and more ease. Perhaps you will be able to experience a fuller surrender that leads you to a deep, unshakable peace.
Aunt Helga’s condescending comments at the annual family gathering may just roll off your back this time as you recognize her words say nothing about you, unless you let them. Instead of becoming tense in long holiday lineups, maybe this year you will use those moments of waiting to come into agreement with the delay and thereby drop into the calm stillness of your center, instead of wasting that precious time by stressing out.
If you feel you need a little support getting through the season, I have a few suggestions of helpful resources. If you are sensitive and/or feeling yourself getting overly affected by people, you might want to check out my friend Dave Markowitz’s book Self Care for the Self Aware. This book is a great resource for helping to learn how to let things move through rather than sticking to you, how to release energies you may have taken on and how to strengthen your boundaries. I use his Return to Sender technique often in sessions, as it is so helpful.
Another resource is the Shift Into Freedom audio program by Loch Kelly, available through Sounds True. This program has many guided practices for awakening your deeper nature so you can have a greater experience of wholeness that also includes your human aspects. His Emotional Freedom practice is one of the best I’ve ever come across for dealing with difficult emotions such as anger, fear and sadness. It can help you disentangle from emotions and shift into acceptance and peace.
Finally, if you would like to get more rooted in your heart’s wisdom, and release painful emotions from the past, consider joining me for my Heart Alchemy online class starting Saturday, January 6. I’m also offering a new online workshop, Bringing the Shadow to Light, if you find yourself in the same reactive patterns and really want to get to the bottom of them so you don’t have to repeat them in future. This online workshop will also help you uncover more of your light and express it in your life and the greater world. Starts January 10. More details on both courses may be found on the Schedule page of my website.
Wishing you much peace this Holiday Season.
In last week's blog I wrote about the primary key to experiencing embodied wholeness: feeling, or being with, what arises. Now I'd like to share the other main component which, in a word, is discernment. While feeling what arises engages loving compassion, discernment calls forth the sword of awareness to cut through remaining illusions that are reinforcing the sense of separation and thereby perpetuating suffering. I often refer to this skill as separating fact from fiction.
Whenever we use discernment to reduce the moment down to what is actually alive (i.e., real), we are left with the facts: pure being, pure life. The fiction is the story, the mental commentary about what is. I'll share a dramatic example from my own experience to illustrate the process of separating fact from fiction, and the liberation it often leads to.
I had a debilitating health condition for many years. It was so familiar that it seemed like "me" rather than something I was experiencing. In other words, there was identification with the illness. One day, during an episode of the illness, I decided to inquire into what was occurring to see what was true. I dropped all preconceptions and met the symptoms with pure attention. I noticed there were thoughts around the possible future outcomes of the episode such as "Oh no, I will miss work again. I won't be able to make the rent". Etc, etc. With discernment it was seen these were just thoughts and not actually real. The future wasn't here yet, and who knows what would actually happen. By seeing through the fiction, the thoughts fell away (which tends to happen when we no longer believe them).
Once the fearful thoughts were disarmed, what remained was my body lying in bed, sensations throughout the body, sounds in the environment, and the spacious presence holding and surrounding it all. There was no longer any such thing as an illness, with a past and future, just the sensations of the moment. Very alive. Very real.
I then inquired into the uncomfortable sensations that were present with open curiosity, wondering what they were trying to communicate. Considering the Divine is omnipresent and omniscient, I went with the assumption that these sensations must be a manifestation of that intelligence. I received an intuition about the purpose of the sensations, and immediately responded with appropriate action. The symptoms dissipated soon after.
Without dragging along the whole illness with its remembered past and projected future, I was able to respond in the moment to the movements of life (in the form of sensations). The discomfort then fulfilled its purpose and my experience was returned to a balanced state of well-being. It's hard to express how potent this experience was except to say that moment was the end of a decades-old illness. It was over the moment I saw through the fictional story and met with the facts of the moment. The story was that there was an illness with a past and future. In reality, there were only sensations arising and subsiding in a given moment. The past and future were all in my mind, and were creating a burden I didn't need to carry.
For the next few weeks, every time a symptom would arise, instead of assuming it was related to anything from the past (i.e., the illness), I would meet it directly and just be with it, feel into it. It would often dissolve in my attention. When it didn't, I would bring warm curiosity to it and open to receive any messages or guidance - sometimes it came, sometimes not. Either way, I would be with what arose without adding any story to it.
A few months later I realized that I no longer had the illness, nor any of the symptoms I had associated with it. It was as if it had never existed. And in fact it never had except in my mind. It had always been a fictional story overlaid on the reality of a given moment, a kind of misinterpretation of what was occurring. Almost ten years later, it's a vague memory that only comes up when I'm recounting this breakthrough experience.
My purpose here isn't to say all illness is unreal or that this will bring the same results to everyone. The point is to encourage you to use discernment to separate out the fact from the fiction, particularly with anything that you struggle with. Once you do that, you will always be freer, if only of the mental overlay that often adds a layer of psychological suffering that is totally unnecessary. Through discernment you find that pain and discomfort still happen, but suffering is optional.
Our true nature is vast and deep, alive and awake, joyous and peaceful, with infinite capacity to hold our experience. I have found that to realize this truth fully it takes both awakening and embodiment. Awakening is timeless; it's an insight or recognition that happens in an instant, yet is always present thereafter. It doesn't take time, but it lasts....forever. Embodiment, on the other hand, unfolds through time and experience. This can be likened to the marriage of heaven and earth: awakening is the recognition of our Divine, heavenly nature; embodiment is how we bring it down to earth and live it.
Since everything is light-filled perfection in heaven, it makes sense that awakening is the "easy" part. There are many things that support or encourage awakening, including sitting with an awakened being, or applying self inquiry. Since we are already "that", it's actually very accessible, and many people are awakening now. The experience of recognizing true nature is usually wonderful. It often brings a sense of freedom, expansion, joy, and everyone celebrates your good fortune. Embodiment is more of a slog. Once the honeymoon of awakening starts to pale, the real work begins, and work it is.
In my experience, it's pretty tough work, and definitely not for the faint of heart. As Carl Jung said, "There is no coming to consciousness without pain". The good news is, there are some hints that can dramatically ease the way. I'll share the main one here, and more in a future blog. Although I would say embodiment is infinite - after all, what we are is infinite - you really just need to get over the hump (more on that later) and then it gets fun. Mostly.
The hump is essentially everything that is out of balance, repressed, denied or disowned (i.e., shadow stuff). Embodiment requires the reintegration of the shadow, as it is a return to our natural state of wholeness. All of you has to get included back into being. Unless and until we return to the state of wholeness, we aren't able to fully rest in being and freely express our uniqueness.
If you're pretty sane and balanced, embodiment tends to go along much more smoothly, and you might wonder what I'm gong on about. In my case, I had a lot of shadow material, so there were a few rough patches along the way. If I had known then what I know now, getting over the hump would have been much less challenging.
Here's the key (otherwise known as the shortcut): What is required to return to wholeness is to fully feel all that has been denied or repressed. This means to be with whatever arises, as the aware presence you are, without moving away from the experience. No escape; no analysis; just being with or holding the experience. And everything will arise, though fortunately not all at once, as awareness wants to bring everything back home. At times it can be painful and uncomfortable, but as the saying goes, to feel is to heal. And the benefits are immense. The more we hold our experience consciously, the more peace, joy and freedom we experience, and the greater we discover our capacity to be. We truly are bigger than anything that arises, and by embracing it, we experience this directly, non conceptually. This brings about a stabilization of the awakened awareness which is another way of describing embodiment.
Our very presence is our own best medicine. When we bring that feeling/attention to anything that arises, it acts like magic. It is the most potent healing power there is. And since this presence is infinitely intelligent, it knows exactly what is required to return to wholeness. So you can trust your experience, you only have to be willing to fully have it without resistance. Since the ego is resistance, it's old machinations may surface in the form of distractions, avoidance, denials. Just hold that, too, and it will only deepen your knowing of your unshakable being.
Another important note is that the awakening/embodying process is cyclical, not linear. Each insight into true nature will become embodied in our experience. So wherever you are in the process, this is all relevant. We are all awakening and embodying more of ourselves in each moment.
To support your embodiment process, I have a few free meditations on my Audio page. For practice being with what arises, check out the Hug Yourself meditation. When facing a more intense emotion, the Heart Embrace meditation can be very helpful. The Inner Body Meditation is useful for bringing awareness more fully into the body and awakening the fire of presence. If you'd like to explore embodiment more deeply, I'm offering a teleclass called Embodied Wholeness to support moving into this state of being and becoming fully integrated. The next class starts November 2; for details, see the Schedule page of my website. I hope you'll join us as we experience and celebrate our ever present wholeness.
On the journey to wholeness, longing can serve as an obstacle or an ally; it's all in how you look at it. What I've found through my own investigation is when longing is embraced, it becomes a doorway into the experience of greater fulfillment and peace.
How I discovered this was through an experience of restlessness that arose one day a number of years ago. I met it with curiosity instead of resistance. The curiosity brought a warm, welcoming energy which allowed the longing to unfold and reveal it's deeper nature. I gently inquired within using the question "What am I really longing for"? What came was that I was longing for an intimate relationship. I brought more warm curiosity to the feeling and asked a deeper question: "What will that give me"? What came was that it was actually a longing for comfort. Somehow the association had been made, through previous experience, that comfort is found in intimate relating.
Rather than trying to take action to create an external change, I instead moved more fully into my experience of the present moment to see if the sense of comfort was already here. Starting with the physical, I became aware of the softness of the chair I was sitting on and the warmth of my favourite shawl around my shoulders. Then I felt the steadiness of the rhythm of my heartbeat and relaxed into the waves of breath moving through my body. In just a few moments, I was in an experience of comfort and peace, and the longing dissolved.
What I realized was the mind, through associating comfort as only coming through relationship with other, had completely overlooked the nourishing, delicious comforting embrace that was all the while present and available. Over the next few months, I used the same approach with every longing or craving that arose. I discovered that every longing at its core was always about a felt state rather than an external object. I started thinking about this process as leading a horse to water: I would lead every longing to the experience of its fulfillment.
After doing this practice for a while, I found a much deeper internal rest and contentment, and many conditioned patterns that previously created dissatisfaction came to rest. The delicious state of fullness became the norm instead of the exception.
If you would like to experiment with this approach you can try out this guided process as a starting point. Please feel free to share your results. I'd love to hear from you
Self love is a wonderful concept and something we hear about often, but how do you actually "do" self love? And why is it so important?
In my experience, the only thing that really heals is unconditional love. The parts of us that are wounded or abandoned need acceptance and love in order to heal and return home. Part of the embodiment process includes welcoming the rejected parts of us back, which results in a greater sense of wholeness and integration.
As helpful as love and support from others is, often the love we most need is that of our deeper being. Our own presence can be our best medicine on the path to wholeness. I find that applying love liberally is the best approach. Every time any discomfort arises, I like to embrace it with love. This includes physical, mental or emotional discomfort. Pretty much everything responds well to love, so you can't really go wrong. As we respond with warmth to that which arises, a kind of alchemy happens and the pain, discomfort, judgement, etc., lessens and ultimately turns into peace.
So the next time you feel out of sorts, I invite you to try a dose of the medicine of your loving kindness towards yourself.
One day while guiding a friend in this approach, a process spontaneously arose which I've started calling "hug yourself". I find it very effective and have heard from others that they do as well. If you'd like to try it out, you can access a short recording of the Hug Yourself process here which will give you a taste of the wonderful embrace of your own spirit. You can find this and other meditations on the Audio page of my website.
Ascending and descending are cycles of a greater process of integration that happens in our spiritual unfolding. Although we are always already everything and all, the experience of knowing our allness seems to unfold through cycles of integration.
We go through times of seeming to ascend into the light of spirit. These are the times of expansion and upliftment; literally the “up” cycle. We soar in the bliss of our Divine nature, or feel the vastness of our being and taste the "peace that passeth understanding". In these moments we are in the light - the light of our own being or spirit.
Many of us wish to stay in this higher state. We tend to prefer the up swings of the cycles of integration. However, in order to fully embody these greater aspects, the descending arc is also necessary. In the descending movement, that greater light comes in, all the way into the cells of the body.
It’s a more introspective process and can actually feel uncomfortable so we often try to avoid it. However, if we relax and allow it to unfold, it can be quite beautiful. The more we embody the fullness of our spirit, the more fully we can live. The process of integration is one of returning to wholeness, of being fully embodied as all that we are.
Trees are a good metaphor for this state of wholeness. The deeper the roots, the higher the branches can reach to the sky. If we will allow the periods of deepening and rooting, our experience will be more integrated and stable, and ultimately more expansive and liberated.
When you are in a descending period, I invite you to let your roots go deep by surrendering to the process. Know you are discovering more of your own depth and capacity to hold your experience and creating a solid foundation for the full embodiment of your light.
Here is a guided mini meditation to assist you in navigating the ascending and descending movements within your unlimited being.
I noticed fear arising recently in anticipation of an upcoming dental visit. Fear always gets my attention, so I immediately inquired into what the source of the fear was. What I discovered was that under this normal, everyday kind of fear (who doesn’t dread going to the dentist?) was something larger. As I moved into it with curiosity and openness, it revealed itself to be the fear of death. There was a clear intuition that ultimately all fear has it's roots in the fear of death.
I inquired into how to heal this underlying fear and my inner guidance clearly said, “Face it directly”. The invitation was to actually go through the experience of my own death and see where it took me. Suddenly, it was as if I were watching a movie of my own moment of death, followed by a funeral service. I could hear the eulogy and see people mourning. I felt emotions through my being. I can’t fully express how real it felt. There was the sense of the spirit lifting out of the body at death and the body becoming inert and cold. There was also the sorrow of knowing this earthly walk had ended. Yet through it all, there I was, watching. And after the death, I still existed.
This wasn’t a conceptual exercise. I lived the experience, and a deep knowing arose that there really is no death. The body becomes lifeless but the spirit, that which I am, continues. The spirit never was limited to the body so it felt like not much changed in the reality of "me". What I am is deathless, timeless, ageless.
We can access this deathless part of us at any time. It’s always present and aware, in every moment. One way to have a tangible experience of this is through accessing our spiritual body. Here is a guided meditation to assist you with expanding into this greater self: Expanding into Spirit.