Weekly Posts

Lessons from Life

Qualities of the Authentic Self: Gratitude

23 November 2020

Continuing on the topic of Authenticity, some qualities of our Authentic Self are: Love, Gratitude, Joy, Appreciation, Acceptance, Forgiveness, Compassion, Honoring, Presence, Bliss, Openness and Wonder. Though external things can help us access these qualities, they are not dependent on externals. When you connect to your Authentic Self, such as in meditation or other activities in which you are fully present, these qualities or feelings may arise spontaneously. It works in reverse as well: whenever you access or generate these qualities, you touch into your True Nature, your Authentic Self.  Today we’ll focus on Gratitude.

One way of accessing the state of gratitude is to think of and acknowledge things in your life that you are thankful for. Even in the most difficult situations, if we can look for something to be grateful for in it, we can transform our experience. Many years ago, one of my friends was having trouble in her marriage and went to a counselor for help. The counselor suggested that every day my friend think of 3 things about her spouse to be grateful for. This was not an easy task at first, but my friend consistently looked for something to be thankful for, especially in moments when she found herself frustrated or upset with him. This practice transformed not only my friend’s state of mind and level of happiness, but also transformed their marriage.

The true value of a gratitude practice lies in the INTERNAL STATE cultivated in doing it- the itemized list of things to be grateful for is simply a doorway into the internal state. As we more frequently live from our Authentic Self, we recognize that the feeling of gratitude is not dependent on external things going our way, but rather is something that we generate from within, regardless of what’s happening outside us.  As a bonus, when we focus on generating our desired internal state, the externals often shift to match that, but our happiness is no longer dependent on this happening. 

What matters most in any situation is the state of our own consciousness. This is the only thing within our control, and is also what we ourselves contribute to any situation we find ourselves in. It is our state of consciousness- our relationship to experience, not the experiences themselves- that determines our level of happiness and the quality of our lives. Read again the list of qualities of the Authentic Self from the first paragraph, and really FEEL each of them; notice that you can access these feeling states independent of any external cause.

“Gratitude always creates more to be grateful for.” ~Louise Hay

Dr. Tanmeet Sethi, doctor of Integrative Medicine, gave a wonderful TED talk: “Two words that can change your life.” The two words are THANK YOU. Dr. Sethi shares what she calls “the world’s simplest medicine.” You can watch this short 16 min talk here:


Self-Care Suggestion: Practice accessing the state of Gratitude daily. You could journal about things in your life you’re thankful for, or simply pause for a few moments at regular intervals throughout the day to generate the feeling of gratitude. There doesn’t need to be any specific thing you feel grateful for; what’s important is the feeling state. You might do this at mealtimes, or while doing everyday mundane tasks such as brushing your teeth or taking out the trash- this can create built-in reminders to practice gratitude and doesn’t require making extra time in your schedule or adding one more thing to your “to do” list.  For instance, while washing dishes I could think "I am thankful to have food to eat and clean water to wash these dishes," or "I am thankful for these dishes which remind me of my Grandmother who I loved."

May we all recognize and receive the many blessings we have to be grateful for. I am thankful for each one of you. 

Authenticity: Be Who You Are

16 November 2020

“Be who you are. Not who others think you are, not who you think you are, not who others want you to be, not even who you want to be.

 Just Be who you ARE.”

~Arthur Lincoln Pauls

Easier said than done, right?

Authenticity, as I understand it, has to do with coming home to our truest, deepest self and living from that place. Authenticity is something that is on one hand very simple, straightforward, direct...but on the other hand, not necessarily easy.  Meditation, too, is a simple thing, but you have probably noticed that doing nothing is not as easy as it looks! The true purpose, in fact, of meditation or any other spiritual discipline is to help us access our authentic self, our true nature.  Only in the present moment is that possible; only in the present moment can you be in touch with your authentic self.

Sometimes in order to recognize what something IS it can be helpful to point out what it is NOT. We are not in our true self any time we are identified with the thoughts in our head, which predominantly orient around “the story of me,” in the past or future. It’s probably not possible to talk about authenticity without addressing ego.  Eckhart Tolle says, 

“The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, personal and family history, belief systems, and often political, nationalistic, racial, religious, and other collective identifications. NONE OF THESE IS YOU.... Give up defining yourself, to yourself or others. You won’t die. You will come to life."

Small children, animals, and anything in nature are embodiments of authenticity. There is no pretense, no attempt to impress or be anything other than they are, and they are fully present in the now. We all start out this way, but as we grow up we are conditioned to conform to the expectations of others and to society, and we start to identify more and more with this outer persona while losing touch with our true self.   If you are from a Christian background, you are likely familiar with the passage saying we must “become like little children” in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven, and also “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you”- this is what’s being pointed to here. When we are living from our authentic self, there is harmony (Heaven) within us and we create Heaven on Earth by living in harmony with all that is around us, happily making our unique contribution in the grand scheme of things. 

Self-care:  There are many ways to practice accessing your deeper, authentic self, so that you can more frequently live from that place which is in harmony with all.  Focusing on the breath is one such practice that helps us to disengage from the narrative in the mind, by which you can access your deeper authentic self.

Experience the breath directly, just as it is, without trying to control it or make it be any particular way.  Let the breath become a portal that takes you out of the "story of me" to something deeper, your authentic self - in this very moment. Be fully present- feeling, hearing, noticing the breath... let it come and go naturally.  Let other sensory input and even the thoughts just come in and move through you in the same way, noticing without reaction, without grasping onto pleasant sensations or shutting down to unpleasant ones. 

If you are interested in going deeper with this topic, or want more support for your exploration of it, I recommend Eckhart Tolle’s books The Power of Now and A New Earth. Or listen to Oprah’s fantastic 10 part podcast with Eckhart on A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (Chapter 1) from Oprah and Eckhart Tolle: A NEW EARTH on Apple Podcasts. Here is a link to the first of this series:  https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/oprah-and-eckhart-tolle-a-new-earth/id1458654443?i=1000434071830

May you be strengthened in living as your Authentic Self. 

What Are You Feeding?

9 November 2020

"Nothing can survive without food. This is not only true for physical beings, but also for states of mind. Love needs to be nurtured and fed to survive, and our suffering also survives because we enable and feed it."

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

My compost pile was the recent source of inspiration, bringing to mind this quote. I had looked forward to living in the country again for many reasons, one of which being to live more in harmony with nature. I enjoy gardening and composting- there's something so beautiful about the cyclical process of letting go of what isn't useful and seeing it transformed into nutrient-rich soil, becoming the perfect base for new plants to grow. We pick the plants, nourish our bodies with their life-giving nutrition, let go of the "waste" and the cycle begins again. As the saying goes, "junk" to one is "treasure" to another.

Well, it turns out our compost pile was "treasure" to more than just my garden plants. Unfortunately, we had placed it too near our barn, and soon we were finding evidence of some rodent who had found our hospitality much to his liking. He gnawed through plastic bottles and tarps, and left droppings everywhere (including in my horses' hay, which must have seemed an inviting nest!) Disgusted, I realized I had two options: the usual human solution of destroying things we don't like (i.e. putting out traps or poison), or "removing the causative factor" as we'd say in bodywork. I decided to stop putting scraps in the compost pile and see what happened, knowing I could resort to the other option if absolutely necessary. Well, I'm happy to say that within a few days the unwanted visitor had disappeared completely and has not returned. No "anti-rodent" strategies necessary. I simply had to stop feeding what I didn't want.

The same is true of our thoughts and how they impact our experience - both personally and collectively. If we have a situation in our lives we don't like, for example, it is common to focus on it, talk about how bad it is, and invest a lot of our emotional energy into it. We think the problem is the "other guy"- there's always some enemy or another for us to be against. We don't realize that our very focus on the situation continues to feed it energy and make it more powerful. But we do have a choice. We can get clear about what IS wanted, and shift our minds from feeding the "problem" to feeding the "solution." If you want an end to war, don't be anti-war, be pro-peace. Stop wasting your energy fighting and reinforcing the negative, and put your efforts into focusing on what you want most. Cultivate the feelings of peace, fulfillment, harmony inside your own mind and heart - that will make a bigger contribution to bringing peace to the planet than any anti-war activism, and it will improve your quality of life on the personal level as well. Positive change on the global level starts within each one of us. "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."

At any moment, we have many options available to us in terms of which aspects of reality we invest our energy in. The ones that thrive are the ones we feed.

Self-Care Suggestion:  Whenever you find yourself upset or unhappy about something, pause and ask yourself "What am I feeding?" It's possible that your focus on the problem is keeping it active.  There is value in recognizing something you don't want, certainly, but not so you can stay stuck there, feeling like a victim of Life; acknowledging the problem is only of value if it gives you clarity about what you DO want.  Focus more on that- it will transform both the way you feel and what you manifest in your life.

Obstacles on the Road of Life: 

A Turtle Story

28 October 2020

“The obstacles on the road of Life don’t take us off track, they put us on it.”

~ Yvonne Adams

Life is teaching us all the time, and communicates through many different “teachers.” Recently I had an encounter with just such a teacher, in the form of a Turtle.  As I drove down a long, straight stretch of country road, I saw this turtle up ahead.  Rather than meandering slowly across the road as they usually do, this guy was walking with great determination and dare I say speed, straight towards me down the middle of my lane! Even with my car approaching, he had no hesitation and was not deterred in the slightest from his path. I stopped my car in the lane and put on my hazard lights, to protect him from oncoming cars and to warn other drivers; then I got out and attempted to encourage the turtle towards the shoulder of the road where he’d be safe in the tall grass and wooded area. He did not appreciate my intervention.  He did not seem the least bit afraid, but was simply annoyed and frustrated with me, expressing himself in little grunts before retreating into his shell momentarily as if to say “Leave me alone! Let me get on with what I’m doing!” Then he'd burst back out of his shell and into full forward motion again. We went through this repeatedly, as I directed cars around us while continuing my attempts to steer him to safety. As he refused to go to the nearest side of the road, I then tried encouraging him to the other side where there was mowed lawn and a driveway, and finally he conceded. From there, he could at least travel safely to wherever he was trying to get to. Phew!

Sometimes we are just like that turtle- stubbornly determined to continue on our familiar or chosen path, unaware that to do so may not be in our best interest.  Life keeps trying to look out for us, to redirect us, but we misperceive those redirects as “getting us off course” or being lead into a dense thicket where we fear we’ll be lost. We charge ahead, resenting and resisting the helpful guidance Life attempts to offer.

One might think that moving forward with speed and determination on a straight open road would be the quickest way to your destination- the shortest distance between two points is, after all, a straight line. But sometimes that straight path is a certain “death”- as it would surely have been for this turtle.  Going “off course” can actually get us to our metaphorical destination faster and with all aspects of our Self intact.  Many times, we arrive at an even better destination than we ever could have imagined when we began our quest.

If we can surrender our own need to be in control and have it all figured out, if we can trust that Life does, in fact, have our back and is always working towards our highest good, then we can start to align our own internal compass with that higher guidance that is always available, always trying to support us. We can cooperate and co-create with Life in a way that ultimately brings harmony not only to ourselves, but to everyone affected by our choices and actions.

Self Care suggestion: Reset your internal compass by connecting to your own “center” several times a day, even if only for a moment, so that it’s easier to do so when you really need to.  When you are calm and centered, you come into right alignment with your Self, and can more easily receive the guidance Life offers. When in doubt, get still, go within...feel your breath, feel your body...mentally try on different options, imagining what it would feel like to go this way or that, and move in the direction that feels harmonious, expansive, peaceful.

Slow down, you'll get there faster...

21 October 2020

“Slow down and enjoy life.

It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast;

you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”

~ Eddie Canter

It can be easy to get caught up in the fast pace of life and the ever-increasing pressures and demands. Sometimes I find myself rushing around in attempt to get everything done, and recognize I am literally getting "a-head" of myself. I have to laugh when I realize my posture is reflecting my mental attitude: my head out in front of me, my body lagging behind trying to keep up! The truth is, our minds can think much faster than our bodies can act. In order to do things well, we need to slow down and bring all parts of ourselves - body, heart, and mind - into whatever it is we’re doing.

One night many years ago, I was driving home in a blizzard. The road had many sharp turns and hills, and the visibility was such that I could only see a few feet in front of me. A little voice in my head said “Slow down, you’ll get there faster!” Though the uncomfortable situation made me want to rush to get it behind me as quickly as possible, I knew that the only way to get to my destination safely and in one piece was to slow down. I recognized this was a metaphor for life as well, one I really needed to be reminded of just then. In Life, too, it can sometimes feel like there’s so much coming at us at once that we can’t see clearly or get traction under our feet. We may want to speed up to get it behind us, or think we have to rush to get it all done, but in doing so we sacrifice the quality of whatever it is we’re doing, as well as the quality of our own lives.

Slowing down and getting present, handling one thing at a time, we do a better job at the things we’re doing, and we “arrive at our destination” with all aspects of ourselves in “one piece" - in unity.

Self Care suggestion:  Slow down. Recognize when you are feeling rushed, and give yourself permission to go at a pace that is comfortable for you. Posturally align your head over your heart, your heart over your foundation (seat/feet). Set the intention that whatever you do, you do it as a unified whole: body, heart, and mind in harmony.

“The only way to gain control in a world that’s going too fast, is to learn to slow down. The only way to spread one’s influence wide, is to go deep.

The world we want for ourselves and our children will not emerge from electronic speed, but from a spiritual stillness that takes root in our souls. Then, and only then, will we create a world that

reflects the heart instead of shattering it.”

~ Marianne Williamson