Love is kindness, complete acceptance, authentic vulnerable communication, freedom, empathy/compassion, and respect. It is only when you give yourself these things, that you can begin giving them to another.
Love is kindness, complete acceptance, authentic vulnerable communication, freedom, empathy/compassion, and respect. It is only when you give yourself these things, that you can begin giving them to another.
(A small disclaimer for all the devotees who say that reading and writing about it is pointless without having experienced it – I hear you. I haven’t experienced it, but I’m going to write about it anyway. I hope she takes it as a sign of my respect and reverence that I won’t agree to drink Ayahuasca until the time feels right for me.)
I promised to write about Ayahuasca quite some time ago, but just never got around to it. My only attempt here is to collect and offer some of the wonderful resources I’ve encountered, so you can investigate further, if you’re interested.
Ayahuasca (I believe literally translated as “vine of the soul”) is an entheogenic brew (often a combination of two plants with the active component DMT). It is used in traditional indigenous ceremonies and rituals, for spiritual healing, in the Amazon (primarily in Peru). It is one of many sacred medicinal substances used in a spiritual context, throughout the world and really since the dawn of time, to induce transcendental or mystical states. It happens to be all the rage these days among spiritual seekers. If you haven’t heard of it before, I encourage you to set aside any judgments you have (good or bad) about psychoactive substances, and just explore this incredibly interesting subject.
There’s a great documentary – aptly named “Ayahuasca: Vine of the Soul“. (It used to be on netflix, but seems not to be available anymore). And another one called DMT: The Spirit Molecule (this is available on youtube). Ayahausca also makes a brief, but crucial appearance in one of my favorite recent documentaries on plant medicines The Sacred Science.
This is an interview with Graham Hancock about the effects/experience of it. (Graham is an expert of sorts in this area, and has given lots and lots of talks about it). And here is an interesting TED talk about an Ayahuasca experience in the context of nature conservation. If you’re interested in DMT itself, Rick Strassman conducted a well known study on humans of the effects of DMT in a laboratory setting. He talks briefly about some of the incredible results here.
There seems to be overwhelming consensus that attending an Ayahuasca ceremony, or taking sufficient quantities of DMT, is a life altering spiritual/metaphysical experience. I believe that wholeheartedly. But I also believe that it is to be approached with reverence, when you are called to it from within. For me, that time has not arrived (yet). If you have personal experiences, and would like to share them, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.
So this is my dog Linda (also affectionately known as Bubba. I’m not sure why, she just looks like a Bubba to me). Although if you ask her, Linda would probably correct you that more accurately, I am her human; that I belong to her. She owns me, and not the other way around.
I rescued Linda a few years ago after she was surrendered by her previous humans. I’m not entirely sure about the circumstances of her home of origin, but it took lots of love, and patience, and many months to get her to really open up, and overcome her inexplicable fear of men and the doorbell.
(Photo credit: Pexel / David Skyrius)
A few weeks ago, I was out walking the dog along the waterfront, where a new pier is being constructed for a residential high-rise. It’s been a little noisy in the neighborhood for the last few months, but nothing really disturbing; just a constant sort of background hum.
This particular day however, as we got closer to the site, I could really hear it. I mean really. You want to know how loud it was? It was louder than the loudest setting on my phone’s music app! I know, right? Immediately, the yenta complainer voice that lives in my head chimed in: “Ugh. It’s so loud. I wish it would stop. Why does this need to be happening now? Why can’t I just go for a quiet peaceful walk on a beautiful warm day without something like this ruining it? Why does this always happen to me?” She’s a real gem…
Self-love is not about affirmations or proclamations. It’s not about pretending to be happy, going to the gym, doing yoga, or eating a vegan diet. It is a practice; a difficult, often scary, daily mental exercise that you can do sitting on your couch. It’s more important than anything else you do, any day of the week. If you don’t practice self-love, then you don’t have any love to give anyone else in your life.
It’s about looking inward and getting in touch with your vulnerabilities; your darkest, most terrifying thoughts. It’s about being gentle and compassionate with your screaming inner child. It’s honoring your authentic self, and listening for the divine wisdom of your intuition. It’s learning to say yes to what your heart asks of you; and learning to say no to anything that goes against your truth.
The relationship you build with yourself through this practice is the most important relationship you will ever have. Cherish it.
This is one of my favorite quotes by don Miguel Ruiz. It is such a profound piece of wisdom. When you “get” what this really means, it has the power to transform your life entirely. I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot lately.
Try as we might, we cannot control what other people think of us. We all want to be thought of as “good” people, but the reality is that everyone hears, sees, and judges others through their own filters in the mind. People make assumptions and judgments based on what they believe about themselves and their own realities. There is very little you can do about that in relation to another person.
When you realize this, you stop trying so hard to affect what others think of you. You just do and say whatever is in your own integrity, guided by your own truths. And how people react is entirely their business. Let them have their reactions. When you stop seeking love and approval outside yourself, you can experience the incredible joy of real freedom.
Letting go of your past can be very scary; not just to your own mind, but to those around you as well. You’ve come to rely deeply on the stories you tell yourself about who you are, what you’ve done, and what’s been done to you.
Making the choice to set down all the baggage, and look with fresh eyes, loving, honest, and compassionate eyes, can be daunting.
The ego won’t like it; I can assure you of that. But when you decide that the time has come, you will see how quickly and easily all those stories dissolve. A tiny little crack is all it takes to let the light come rushing in.
Set down the stories, release yourself of all those burdens and misunderstandings, and let your love shine again.
(photo courtesy of shutterstock)
We live in a society that keeps telling us to do more, be more, achieve more. “Lean in.” says Sheryl Sandberg. “Just do it.” says Nike. Push yourself harder. Get into better shape. Make more money. Get that promotion. Run faster, sleep less, eat less, work more. Worry constantly that you’re not doing enough. No excuses. Don’t be lazy. Why? What for? Why are you stuck in this hamster wheel, exactly? Have you ever stopped for a second to ask yourself what you’re doing all of this for? Is it so that you can be loved? Admired? Respected? Envied perhaps? So that you can afford more stuff? So that you can feel better about yourself? So that years from now, when you’re old and sick, you can actually enjoy your life?
In her book, the Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown describes the dig-deep button: “You know the dig-deep button, right? It’s the button that you rely on when you’re too bone-tired to get up one more time in the middle of the night[,] or to do one more load of throw-up-diarrhea laundry[,] or to catch one more plane[,] or to return one more call[,] or to please/perform/perfect the way you normally do even when you just want to flip someone off and hide under the covers. The dig-deep button is a secret level of pushing through when we’re exhausted and overwhelmed, and when there’s too much to do and too little time for self-care.”
Okay. It’s exactly what you think. It’s about sex, and fantasy, and pleasure, and the things that turn people on. It’s about eroticism, and emotions, and fear, and shame, and orgasms. But it’s so good (obviously); I don’t care what you think. If you’re interested in furthering awareness into the arena of the erotic, this book will open your mind in unexpected ways.
“When you recognize and accept what you feel, without judging your emotions by logical standards, you will notice that the natural life of most feelings is remarkably short and fluid.
If you are able to feel anger when you are threatened or when someone treats you unjustly, and if circumstances allow you to express yourself assertively, your anger will yield to a calm self-assurance. Likewise, if you’re not ashamed to feel anxious when you perceive danger, chances are that you will take whatever steps are necessary to protect yourself, thereby demonstrating just how courageous you can be.
Feelings that are attended to and honored move along, sometimes veering off in unexpected directions. It’s the feelings that fester and won’t let go that cause us distress. People who ignore or resist their feelings often end up obsessed with them.”
(I would say “enjoy,” but that seems unnecessary somehow…)
One of the most famous books encapsulating ancient Toltec wisdom is don Miguel’s The Four Agreements. I’ve been studying and working with the agreements almost every day, and while on the surface they are just four simple sentences;
below the surface, they are really huge pillars of an entire philosophy of life. They are an entirely different way of living in the world. What I love about them is that every day, as I discover more of myself, I find deeper and deeper interpretations of the agreements. New situations and experiences keep teaching me new lessons, bringing me back to these four sentences. It’s an incredible transformative practice. (more…)
As I was reading (and loving) Esther Perel’s book, which I told you about in Part 1, a question kept nagging at me. The process of self discovery (whether through spiritual tradition or in psychotherapy) leads to ever-deepening levels of awareness. Awareness leads to authenticity, with the self and with the other. And in relationship, when we show our authentic self to another, we call this intimacy. In my own experience, as I’ve gotten close and closer to my own authentic self, what arises is incredible desire and passion. A new ecstatic energy; not just in a sexual context, but in a creative context too. (My hypothesis here is that creative energy is the same as erotic energy, but that’s a different post). So how do I reconcile my experience with Esther’s seemingly sound position that intimacy kills desire? Is it true that if we cultivate “intimacy,” that desire necessarily dies?
I think that the answer requires taking a small step further into what we mean by intimacy, and then drawing a distinction. (I think Esther taps into this, but without a proper framework. I humbly offer my own reconciliation for your enjoyment).
The kind of intimacy discussed in Mating in Captivity is what I’ll call egoic intimacy. This is the merging of two into one. It is emotional safety and enmeshment, care-taking, clinging, and a loss of self into the relationship. A coping mechanism for the inherent anxiety of love. (“Please love me. Please promise you’ll never leave me.”). It feels safe and secure, but comes with a price. It is a fusion or a collapse of personal boundaries. In it’s most negative experience, it can feel like obligation, responsibility, control, and manipulation. The communication that manifests sounds sort of like surveillance masked as concern (“where were you? and what were you doing there so long? I was worried about you.”). The relationship engulfs the partners and threatens their individuality. This, says Esther, kills sexual desire. To reawaken the desire, partners must create psychological distance, separateness, emotional privacy, and a reclaiming of a sense of self. (more…)
By Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Indian Elder
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain mine or your own without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day.
And if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure yours and mine and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes.”
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
I’ve been vaguely interested in Kabbalah for a while now, (Madonna notwithstanding) but every time I touched it, it felt too esoteric and incomprehensible. Maybe I’ve matured in my spiritual understandings, or maybe I just never found the proper teachings. Anyway, yesterday I took a quick dip into what it is, and what it does. And I finally get it!
Here’s what I found:
“We aren’t who we want to be. We are what society demands. We are what our parents choose. We don’t want to disappoint anyone; we have a great need to be loved. So we smother the best in us. Gradually, the light of our dreams turns into the monster of our nightmares. They become things not done, possibilities not lived.”
Just under the surface of our conscious minds, while embroiled in the busyness of our modern lives, we are all harboring a vague discomfort premised on a terrifying possibility – that we will one day be standing at death’s door, where we will realize that we’ve squandered our one chance at living. That we have sacrificed our time and energy in pursuit of distractions, rather than the pursuit of our true passions. That we have mis-lived in a sense, by failing to live fully. That we have focused on doing what was expected of us (what we expected of ourselves), rather than what we truly wanted, thereby wasting this magnificent opportunity. This discomfort often culminates in what we call, colloquially, a mid-life crisis, although it arises at other times as well, often following a death, a loss, or betrayal of some kind. It bubbles up in the form of a question:
Is this it? Is this all there is to life?
This question nags at us frequently, especially during bouts of insomnia, or after the high of attaining some milestone has subsided. But the fear of change, and the uncertainty of where to seek that change, keep us locked in place most of the time. If, however, the grief or pain of loss is acute enough, such that the fears become relatively insignificant by comparison, then the real search begins for the more. That’s when we develop the capacity to ask the really hard, scary, existential questions, to look inward with honest eyes, and find the transcendentally meaningful answers.
I just returned from a week in the land of wine and pasta, where I was honored to officiate (symbolically) the wedding of my brother and sister-in-law. I suppose it’s only fitting that I spent the entire week contemplating love, marriage, commitment, desire, and sex.
It all started before I left… I signed up for Psychotherapy 2.0 – a two week online summit of brilliant minds sharing their fascinating work. Regrettably, I only caught a few sessions, but I did get to hear the one I was most excited about: Esther Perel, The Double Flame: Reconciling Intimacy and Sexuality. The talk focused on:
I posted some time ago (here) about Gaya’s famous teaching: “there’s no one out there, just a bunch of mirrors reflecting you back to yourself.” It took me nearly a year to really grasp the magnitude of how this principle actually operates. In short, there are many different ways to think about this idea.
One is that every time you are emotionally triggered by something, it’s an invitation to go inside and discover more about yourself. The trigger is a gift; a clue, of sorts, letting you know that there is some negative self-judgment hanging out in your subconscious, waiting to be healed. Another way to think about this is that the external world is just a reflection of what’s going on inside of you. If you have chaos, or drama, or negativity in the world around you, look inward and you’ll see that that is precisely what’s happening inside your mind. If someone is mistreating you on the outside, I’d bet you are mistreating yourself on the inside. (No blame or judgement – just food for thought). A third perspective is that all the judgments you hold about other people, are really all about you. They have nothing to do with the behavior or appearance of another person. This last perspective was the subject of my previous post.
Life Lesson – Conflict
Things are blissfully busy here, as usual, but I wanted to share some ideas and posts that are in the works:
One of my favorite teachings on handling negative emotions comes from Pema Chodron’s book, Getting Unstuck: Breaking Your Habitual Patterns and Encountering Naked Reality. Pema (I’ve spent so much time with her teachings, that we’re on a first name basis) describes an experience, on a particular retreat, of unabating anxiety every time she sat down to meditate. Struggling with it for days, unable to find its source, or make it subside, she visited her teacher looking for guidance. After listening to her describe the experience, Dzigar Kontrul Rinpoche said “Oh, that’s the Daikini’s Bliss! That’s a high level of spiritual bliss.” Hearing this, Pema became excited about her next meditation practice. After Rinpoche left, she sat down on her cushion, ready to experience it again, however the feelings were gone.
“When he said that, that was melting it, or space coming into it, or warmth coming into it. You change the way you look at it.”
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. -Rumi
I came across this article, by John Horgan, questioning the benefits of the new meditation craze. I thought he made some interesting observations, and on some level I agree with him. I sent him the following email; probably worthwhile to share here as well.
This is a beautiful excerpt from The Art of Sexual Magic, by Margo Anand.
When I put aside my prejudices and looked at my deepest motivations and fears, I was surprised to be confronted by a rather sorry-looking individual, covered with bandages, limping along on a crutch, incapable of hurting anyone.
I immediately recognized him. It was me. It was my wounded self, a symbolic representation of all those doubts and fears about myself that I had so carefully hidden from public view for so many years. And when I looked a little closer at this injured being, my heart was deeply touched. I wanted to reach out and help him to heal, because I could see, beneath the bandages, that he was only a small boy, a helpless, wounded child.
Throughout the last few months of my work with Gaya, we’ve been talking a lot about the people in my life, and how I’m relating to them. Gaya keeps repeating to me that there’s no one “out there;” everyone is really just a mirror reflecting back at me.
At first this was difficult to grasp. Surely, the people in my life are real humans – I can touch them, see them, hear them (even smell them sometimes). I accepted what she was telling me, but it didn’t really sink in until much later. What she meant is that who they are to us, how we see them, how they make us feel, is nothing more than a reflection of how we see ourselves.
Conceptually, what we choose to see in others, the way we see them, and the judgments we have about them, are nothing more than judgments we hold about ourselves, and how we think we ought to be or not be. In clinical terms, this is called projection. In other spiritual traditions, this is called shadow work.
Magic comes into your life all the time. You can dismiss it and make it really small, or you can follow it into a new way of life. The latter option takes so much more courage than you can imagine…
I came across a movie recently that challenged all of my old beliefs and judgments about who or what I ought to be. In watching the movie, I discovered that I could be happy living in many different ways – a possibility that never existed before. Then I found a news article about a little communist nirvana in Southern Spain, and my heart sang with delight. Me? Communal living? No way. I almost couldn’t believe my own reaction. So dear friends, set aside your judgments and beliefs of who you ought to be, and give yourself the chance to really live!
While everyone was out drinking and barbecuing this weekend, I spent most of it on the couch with this book (the actual physical book). It was so powerful in so many ways that I’m adding it to my “books that will change your life” list. If you’re unfamiliar with the canon of feminist writing (I was), Polly is a prominent and powerful voice among many amazing leaders. You can read more about her work here.
This is a difficult one. It sounds easy, but it’s really not. Just be honest. Just tell the truth. The truth will set you free. How many times have you heard these words? And yet, it’s such a struggle for so many people. This lesson has appeared several times in the last few weeks. It has tested my strength and courage; but when I stepped up to meet the challenge instead of hiding from the truth, it left me feeling absolutely magical.
To look for truth, and to be honest, is terrifying. Forget big universal truths; I’m talking about little truths, personal truths. We are afraid to look inward, and to be honest with ourselves. And even if we are courageous enough to do that, then we are so concerned with the feelings of others, that we are afraid to share our truths with them. We punish ourselves with all sorts of guilt for causing someone emotional pain, when we really have no idea how they will feel if we’re honest. We jump through crazy ridiculous hoops, all because we want to avoid the turmoil of emotional pain (theirs and ours). Being honest and being kind are not mutually exclusive. You can and should deliver your truth without blame or judgment, but definitely with kindness. It just takes a little practice.
Some time ago I took a short business trip to Ohio. I picked up my rental car, and found that the agent had thrown in a GPS for free. (I usually opt out of the GPS because of a traumatic experience in Albany, but that’s a different story).
Anyway, I plugged in the address of my destination, and when I pulled up to the building, the GPS announced “You have arrived!” How nice, I thought. I have arrived. Let’s take a moment to celebrate that.
After my meeting, I returned to the car, and plugged in the address of my next destination. When I got there, the GPS again announced “You have arrived!” Again, I took a moment to savor my arrival and settle my thoughts.
As I got out of the car, I felt great. I could stop worrying about the traffic, or the weird sound the car was making, or being late for my meeting. All those worry thoughts were no longer relevant in that moment. Just taking that small second to recalibrate and calm my thoughts before moving forward made such a difference!
What a lovely mantra that would be – with every step, at different points throughout the day (no matter what you’re doing), you stop for a moment and think “I have arrived.” In this way, you get to really cherish the journey.
How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but there is something that is even more essential to living a Wholehearted life: loving ourselves.
Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Every article, every self help guide, every book on relationships, tells us the same thing – learn to love yourself first! But what does that really mean? How do you actually love yourself? How do you get to that place where you’re not just repeating silly affirmations, but you genuinely feel feelings of love for you, within your body?
It’s a three step process. (more…)
I’ve been working my way through the Five Levels of Attachment by don Miguel Ruiz Jr. Although you can probably get through the book in one sitting, I’m taking my time with it. I will read a few pages, and then take some time to digest what it means. When I go back, I will re-read a few pages, and find a new deeper understanding. The words resonate in very interesting ways. The Ruiz family seems to have a knack for that kind of writing.
I came upon an exercise in the book that I find very profound – The Labyrinth in the Toltec Tradition. The instructions are pretty simple, the results however are very powerful. The focus of the exercise is a taking of responsibility for our own lives, a letting go of egoic conditioning and limiting beliefs, and a healing method of forgiveness.
And so without further ado, imagine yourself standing at the entrance to a large life-size labyrinth…
This is a review I’ve been meaning to share with you for weeks. You’ll want to file this one under “science-catches-up-with-spiritual-truths.” Here is a link to the amazon page. If you’re naturally skeptical, or you’d like some assurance from the medical community that all this self-love and don’t-believe-your-thoughts stuff is safe and healthy, this is the book for you!!
The book is written in really practical tone, almost like a manual to healing. The concepts and approaches suggested in the book are very similar to the self-inquiry and neutral observation we learn in meditation and spiritual tradition generally. The authors use, what I consider, platonic names for the mushy spiritual things that don’t seem to fit in with science.
For instance, we often talk about intuition, and how we ought to learn to listen to it, and allow it to guide our decision-making. In the book, this concept is called your “wise advocate.” The authors suggest that when your brain is sending you conditioned responses or compelling you to behave in certain ways, you ought to listen closely for your wise advocate, who will guide you in healthier, more loving ways.
The authors do stop short at one point in the discussion of mindfulness, to assert that their view doesn’t endorse the non-judgement standard we’re used to talking about here. But that’s fine; to each their own, right?
All in all, as my awareness grows, this book helped me take it a step further. It helped to understand myself from a clinical perspective and to see my spiritual practice from a scientific point of view. I would highly recommend it.
There is life. And then there is the story you tell about it.
One of the most important steps in the shamanic tradition of the Toltecs, is a taking of responsibility. While I’ve always considered myself a very responsible person, this is a different kind of responsibility. The tradition teaches that we must take ownership of our lives, of all the bad things that happened to us, of the stories we tell ourselves about those things, of the pain, and of the emotional wounds. This is the only path to true freedom and happiness.
After studying the basic tenets of the tradition, and learning the Toltec psychology, I embarked on the long, and sometimes scary, process of reframing my stories. As I looked at each painful experience of my past, examining my thoughts, feeling, and actions, I began dismantling the victim perspective. When I was done, I realized that I am no longer the victim of any of my stories.
I want to be clear that this isn’t about denying the truth of what happened, but it’s about finding the core negative beliefs that create the victim story. By removing the pity party dialogue, the right versus wrong dichotomy, and the negative judgments against ourselves and others, we are unshackled from the victim mind-frame and all the pain that comes with it. (If you’re familiar with Buddhist lingo, this is the second arrow of suffering).
The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not the thinker. The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought. That thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also realize that all the things that truly matter: beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken.
Eckhart Tolle, Practicing the Power of Now
You’ll forgive me for my absence over the last few months – I’ve been continuing on my intense, thrilling, and at times terrifying, journey of spiritual discovery. For the past year, I have immersed myself, heart and soul, into the study of Buddhism, mindfulness, meditation, awareness, past-life regression therapy, and Toltec tradition. I have found, through a variety of modalities, a peace, fulfillment, love, kindness, and a passion for all of what life brings. I’ve spent the last six months doing an apprenticeship program, that first took me deeper into my own awareness and spiritual practice, and then taught me how to teach what I’ve learned.
My adventures have now brought me back here, with a new set of skills and wisdom to share with you. Over the next few weeks, I will be refocusing my work in that direction. My intention is to use what I’ve learned, and what I now know to be true, to help lead you (if you’re interested), to your discovery of yourself and what is true for you. I imagine it will take the shape of a coaching practice, but I’m still working that out in my head. (If this resonates with you, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss further).
I’m also preparing a very interesting interview with Judi Cohen, which I’ll post in the coming weeks. Judi is the founder of Warrior One, whose mission is to train lawyers in mindfulness (if you don’t know what that is yet, you will soon!). I had the great pleasure and privilege of participating in the Essential Mindfulness for Lawyers course over the last few months. I can’t recommend it enough!
That’s all I have to share for now. I’ll be back soon with more fun stuff to explore.
Here are some additional resources to consider and investigate. I’ll just give you a brief annotated list and you can look further into anything that piques your interest.
* Mooji – His website is here, but his satsang videos (available on youtube) are terrific and plentiful. I was introduced to Mooji by a friend who is much more advanced than I am in spiritual practice – and I’d say that he’s not really for beginners. Mooji is a spiritual teacher or guru with a style that he calls “the lazy man’s way to enlightenment.” In my opinion, there’s nothing lazy about it – his talks are very philosophical, abstract, and often leave me feeling quite out of my depth when listening to him. If you’re ready to be taken to the proverbial “next level,” Mooji’s a great resource. If I’m not mistaken (which I might be), I think his teachings are of a Hindu lineage, rather than a Buddhist one.
* Lao Tzu – (from wikipedia) was a philosopher and poet of ancient China. He is best known as the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching and the founder of philosophical Taoism, but he is also revered as a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions. The Tao is full of nifty lessons, quotes, versus that align beautifully with spiritual wisdom. Here is one:
Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.
As far as I know, one of the best modern interpreters of the Tao in our Western world is Dr. Wayne Dyer. His site is here. He’s a regular on the self-help circuit and is a best selling author many times over.
* A Course in Miracles – similar to how Esther Hicks receives Abraham (see my post on the law of attraction), and how Jane Roberts received the Seth Material (a future post), this guide to spiritual transformation (in my opinion, just another approach to the same universal truths) was received by Helen Schucman in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and compiled into what’s been called the New Age Bible. The most prominent teacher of this particular path is Marianne Williamson. She has a ton of books, audio courses, and interviews, if you’d like to learn more.
The subject of pilgrimages came up yesterday as I was watching the new PBS show called Sacred Journeys. The show follows Bruce Feiler as he travels the world on six historic pilgrimages: Lourdes, Shikoku, Jerusalem, The Hajj, Kumbh Mela, Osun-Osogbo. I watched the first two yesterday and was really fascinated. You should check them out.
I really got into researching the Camino Santiago pilgrimage a few months ago, even going so far as to read Shirley Maclaine’s book, The Camino, about her experience. There’s a terrific documentary about it (the pilgrimage, not the book) here. The Camino (also known as the Way of St. James) is an 800+ mile journey from Northern France, across Spain, and all the way to the Atlantic.
[It is the route] to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Brazilian author Paulo Coelho wrote the book “The Diary of a Magus (Magician)” or “The Pilgrimage” based on his own experience along this way.
This is a touchy and controversial subject. I’m not sure that I’ve formed any solid opinions about it yet, but let me tell you what I know, and share a quick story.
Some years ago, a friend cornered me at a family function, and basically held me captive for thirty minutes, telling me about The Secret. You’ve all probably heard about it/read the book/watched the video, or been similarly cornered by a follower. Well I gave it a fair shake back then, and decided it didn’t work for me. I now realize that I didn’t fully understand it, and wasn’t going about it the right way. (more…)
I’d like to share two resources for meditation that I find very helpful.
Let me first say (admit) that I didn’t awaken through meditation, and I wasn’t especially drawn to it at first. Meditation is difficult. It can be boring (if you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing). It’s physically uncomfortable, if not downright painful… And that’s just on the surface!
I first believed that meditation was supposed to make me feel good and happy and peaceful, but after a few sessions, all I felt was anxiety and an odd emotional discomfort. That’s when I decided that meditation wasn’t for me.
However, as I got more and more into the spiritual teachings, I tried to force it. I tried to “make” myself meditate every day. My mind came up with thoughts like “i should do this. i should want to meditate. i should have enough discipline to actually do it and develop a daily practice because otherwise I’m not living a spiritual life.” These are all, of course, just more judgments and mind traps. Once I realized that and let go of what I “should” be doing, I suddenly found myself drawn naturally to meditation, without having to force it. (Sidenote for beginners: the anxiety and emotional discomfort is meditation gold – don’t run from it. Welcome it. Use it.)
So my advice to you – don’t force it on yourself. Allow what’s there. When the time is right, you will be drawn to it naturally, without having to push yourself.
Resource #1: The insight timer app. It’s free and available on iphone and android. There are a ton of terrific guided meditations, if you’re into that. Or alternatively, there is just a timer function with beautiful bells (are they called bells? gongs? chimes? I’m not sure). Be aware though, that if you set your phone to airplane mode, in order to avoid interruptions, you will lose access to the guided meditations during that time.
Resource #2: Gary’s gratitude meditation. (it’s the first of the free sessions – you’ll need to create an account to access it, but it’s entirely free). This was one of the first meditations I ever did and continue to do almost daily. For me (as for many spiritual people), gratitude is a huge and important aspect of practice and belief structure. I think it is a crucial component of happiness, fulfillment, worthiness, and love. I downloaded the audio to my phone and listen to it (most days) while I’m walking the dog.
Good morning internet friends! It’s cold here this morning, so with a hot cup of coffee, I’ve sat down to write some more…
Several weeks after I discovered Gary and the Toltec wisdom, I thought surely these ideas must be available in other traditions, and so my relationship with Buddhism began. Instead of following one specific sect of Buddhism (they seem to be country-specific), I cherry picked ideas and teachers from the different lineages. Here is a collection of monks and nuns and dharmas that I follow. (more…)
It is my belief that once you awaken, and you start on your own spiritual path, you begin to see that every religion and every tradition teaches almost exactly the same universal truths; they just all go about it in different ways. This is a great thing, because as I mentioned before, different modalities will resonate for different people. It is up to you to find the one that will open the door for you.
And so here are some resources that will take you along the Toltec path.
The best known modern teachings of the ancient Toltec wisdom are the Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz.
This book is a terrific quick read. The concepts are seemingly simple, but when you try to put them into practice, you’ll see that it’s really hard work.
If you haven’t done a lot of meditative inquiry, you might also find some ideas to be revolutionary. My favorite one is don’t take anything personally. At first you think “ok. sure. I can try not to take things personally.” But when you dive deep with that one, and you really try not to take anything at all personally, you start to bump up against your value system, which makes you wonder if there are some things that should be taken personally – which is exactly the point. When you’ve gotten a handle on the Four Agreements, there is the Fifth Agreement, which will take you deeper into the mastery of awareness, transformation, and intent. These are the three pillars of the Toltec tradition. (more…)
I’ve come up with a series of ideas over the last few weeks, that involve making major decisions and investments of time and money. At first I felt a sense of excitement, and then some feelings of fear and doubt started to creep in. In trying to watch my thoughts from an observer perspective, I started to wonder if the fear and doubt was conditioned egoic thinking, or if it was my intuition telling me to stop and wait. A few articles and youtube videos later, I came upon one from Simone Wright – which resonated with me.
I think the main take-away from the video, and the answer to my question, is that intuition comes in an emotionally neutral way. If you’re experiencing an emotional charge, that is not the intuition speaking. It could be your own fear based thoughts or beliefs, or it could be an emotional reaction to the intuitive information itself. The key is to stop and watch what’s happening in the mind at that moment.
I also especially liked what Simone says right in the beginning: “Our intuition is the voice of our soul… who wants the highest good for us, who believes that we are capable of doing everything and anything that we set our minds to. So it’s also important to make the distinction that the voice of our intuition is going to guide us in supportive ways. It’s never going to diminish us. It’s never going to tell us that we’re a failure or we’re stupid.”
Happy Friday!! I came across two amazing new pieces in my spiritual journey, and since blog posts are free, I figured I’d share some more videos with you. (Also embedding videos is my new favorite thing, so yay!)
Here is a good sample of The Work by Byron Katie. Her entire message is that believing our thoughts is the cause of our suffering. Her program (which is easy and available for free) gets you to look at the roots of your beliefs, and to question them. In the questioning (or “inquiry,” as she calls it) you will find relief and peace and happiness.
Last week I shared my search for happiness story with you. (The tl;dr version is – I was unhappy. Found peace. Now I’m happy.) Thank you to everyone who wrote me, for all the love, support, and internet hugs!
This week, I’m so thrilled to welcome a very special guest, Will Meyerhofer, JD MSW, to continue this conversation about self-esteem. I’ve been following (read internet stalking) Will for some time, so I’m really excited that he agreed to sit down for a chat with me.
Here’s what you need to know about Will: he is the author of “Way Worse than Being a Dentist: the Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning” which was published in the fall of 2011. He has also written a book introducing and elaborating upon the central concepts of psychotherapy, “Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy,” which was reissued as a paperback in December, 2011. Will writes regularly for Above The Law, and maintains a blog about life, the law and psychotherapy, at www.thepeoplestherapist.com. He attended Harvard College, the NYU School of Law, and the Hunter College School of Social Work. From 1997-1999, Will worked as an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell. Since 2005 he’s been a psychotherapist with a private practice in downtown Manhattan and a somewhat inadvertent speciality in working with lawyers. Will’s new book, a comic novel about a psychotherapist who falls in love with a blue alien from outer space, is called “Bad Therapist: A Romance.” For more information about Will and his practice, please visit www.aquietroom.com.
Now without further ado… (more…)
I have been on a bit of a hiatus the last few months… But now I’m back, and boy do I have a story to tell you! Buckle up…
As longtime friends know, I went from BigLaw to recruiting to essentially running my own business. I’ve had, what some people might consider, a series of professionally successful years, with my fair share of setbacks along the way. Generally though, I’ve been good at anything I tried, and even when I failed, it usually wasn’t for lack of trying.
A few months ago, running a million miles an hour, I realized that I was really unhappy. I mean really really unhappy. On paper, everything looked amazing, but in the pit of my stomach I knew something was wrong. First, I blamed everything around me: the hours I was working, the type of work I was doing, the difficult clients, or uncooperative economy.
Then my beloved dog died, and I wrote off my unhappiness to grief. Then when I got over that, I threw myself into one hobby after another – looking for something that would make me happy. I learned to cook, to code, to sew. I watched everything I could find on Netflix. I read one book after another and still … nothing.
I threw myself into the self-help arena. I practiced daily affirmations and learned about the laws of attraction. I read article after article about happiness and passion and what it means and how to find it… nothing worked. Hypnosis? Tried it. Didn’t work. I let a friend drag me to some kind of seminar, which turned out to be a cult. (I’m not kidding). I tried returning to my religious upbringing, and when that didn’t work, I investigated other religions. I even went to see a shaman in New York who chanted, waved feathers at me, and then and spit-sprayed me with fire and rum. (I promise this is all true).
I watched every TED Talk available and still nothing resonated. I read Godin and Gladwell and Daniel Pink… still nothing. (more…)