Let Life Be Easier

On the opening page of his book The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck says:

Life is difficult.

This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

What are the illusions that have given birth to your expectations of yourself, others and life itself? Do you believe, somewhere deep inside, that “someday” everything will be perfect? Are you always waiting and hoping for what lies out in the future somewhere?

A young sage once said to me as we walked through a farmers’ market on a crisp sunny morning,

This, this is the essence of life: Do what you love doing. Do it with people you love. And let it be easy.

Sitting on a quiet beach on the Emerald Coast of the Florida panhandle, I watched the gulf waters. The water was so still it looked more like a lake. A few weeks earlier it had raged, sending huge waves crashing across the highway into the small bay behind me. In that moment I realized that water is consistently true to itself whether it is quietly lapping at the shore or ripping into that shore so deeply that it is forever changed. I could see that because water is consistently true to its own nature,  it is able to shape the continents and I was looking at a different Florida coastline.

Life is like that. It is consistently true to itself, ever-changing, relentlessly being what it is. Life ebbs and flows. At times so quiet and peaceful I want this moment to last forever. Other times it rips and tears at the fabric of my being. It dares me to resist its flow, to deny its very nature and, in the process, to deny my own and be taken down and devastated by its storms.

M. Scott Peck is right. The only way to embrace the very nature of life is to accept the reality of its true nature. When I surrender my illusions, I set myself free to ride the waves. World class surfers travel the globe, following storms and ocean surges, looking for the fiercest waves in order to ride them! I want to ride the waves of life with that kind of confidence and openness of mind and heart. Like my young sage, I want to let life be easy.

So when life is a challenge, I sit down and breathe. I breathe slowly and quietly until I remember that this is the nature of life. I am not being punished or tested. Life is what it is. I meditate and pray for guidance. I wait for the inner voice of wisdom. The challenges don’t disappear but they look different to me then. I know that, when this storm passes, the waters of my life will be calm again while I rest and restore my energy.

It won’t be the last storm so I rest in knowing that I am more adept at embracing all of life’s experiences. I seek out the quiet within when everything around me is raging. My own true nature carries me as I flow with life rather than fighting it, even when it hurts.

This moment is enough for me no matter what it contains. Blessings can be as overwhelming as challenges. Looking to some future that may never come is not the answer. This moment is all I have. Whatever this moment contains, I choose to be present in it because I can let this one moment be easy.

An Old Thought…

This comment  was made by Charles Dickens. Wouldn’t he be stunned by the way we communicate today!    His comment more meaningful now than it was when he made it:

Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.

The only thing I would add to his thought is that this is even more true when there is the need to resolve misunderstanding or conflict.  Text message cannot communicate the tone of your voice or the feelings on your face and in your eyes.

Enough said. Blessings of love and light, dear hearts.

Underneath Anger

One of the things I find underneath anger is fear. Being afraid is one of the most uncomfortable experiences I have had. When I am ignoring or unconscious of my fear, it often manifests s anger. When I step back and examine the anger, I find that it is often with myself. I have created a situation, or stayed in one for too long, that is resulting in someone coming at me in a hostile manner, whether verbal or physical. Even if I am angry about something beyond my personal life, I realize it comes down to something very similar. I am not powerful enough to prevent or change something that is happening. I am not in control; I do not have enough influence. I’m scared.

I do not like being scared so I get angry with myself for not being powerful enough.

At some point, once I have owned my powerlessness, I come to the doorway of surrender. I lean into my spiritual practice and immerse myself in Divine Love. As fear lessens so does anger. Now, I can be more honest. What can I do? Can I love myself enough to leave a relationship, job, or situation that is not healthy for me? Can I become more involved in my community and world, remembering that even small efforts can build into change? Can I spend quality time with people I admire and learn from them? Taking action in even small ways lessens my fear and builds my confidence in myself, in the Divine flow of life.

I can use the anger that was covering my fear to motivate me into different thinking, into positive action. Fear and anger are powerful energies and those energies can be channeled into the courage and strength I need to be a more effective human being. Yes!

Already? Really?

I woke up several times during the night and was able, each time, to go back to sleep which is not always the case. As I woke up the last time, I felt a cramp beginning to form in my left leg so I forced myself to get out of bed quickly to stop it. My thought was “At least I kept going back to sleep this time.” I decided to begin my day and the final preparations for a dear friend’s visit. Within a few minutes, my thought was, “Already? Really? Is this how my day is going to be?!”

Yeah, one of those mornings. The simplest of tasks took twice as long. The humidifier wouldn’t work so I cleaned it thoroughly and put it outside to dry. I reached under the sink for my rubber gloves and the foil, plastic wrap, and parchment paper fell out so I rearranged the cabinet. Really? Then I walked outside for a moment and saw a little bird on the wire and felt the cool morning air. I smiled and thought about how many times I felt as though nothing was easy. I also thought about how many times a complicated day unfolded as smooth as silk. Then there are times when nothing feels right even though nothing appears to be wrong – like the day years ago when I was grooming my horse and told my best friend that “I feel as though I woke up backwards in my body this morning! The world feels that strange to me.” She laughed and said she knew just what I meant.

What works for me, on a day that begins the way this one did, is to take a few slow breaths and remind myself to slow down and be very gentle with myself. I’m not doing anything wrong; I am simply not quite in sync with myself and my environment in that moment. I often play a few games of solitaire on my iPad because it is almost a zen experience and brings me into the moment. Then I read something inspirational that gently reminds me that I am, after all, learning to be human and that the process can be quite awkward. I remind myself that everything is unfolding for my highest good whether it feels like it or not. Even as I type this I am monitoring my breath because I have a tendency to shorten and hold it at times like this. Keeping my breath slow and full calms and centers me and allows me to smile because…

Yeah, already, really. And…

This too shall pass. This will shift because everything is in a state of constant change. I am a spiritual being currently having a human experience and that means experiencing the polarities and contrasts of this third dimensional world. Being gentle with myself and letting the moment be okay allows me to be available when it shifts into a more comfortable mode. It allows me to love myself even as I experience these annoying challenges when my leg aches from that early morning cramp. It is all a part of being human after all.

May your day unfold gently and easily and may you know peace.

The Little Things

When I put my house on the market a few months ago, I mentally gave myself a year for the full transition to happen because I knew people in my neighborhood that had their houses on the market for six months or more. One week after listing, I accepted an offer and three weeks later I was meeting the moving van at my apartment in another state. A lot of work but it all came together and here I am.

Yep, here I am, without a doubt or second thought about my decision or my choices.

So, why can’t I make up my mind about when to make an appointment to have work done on my car?! I am retired and new in town so there are no commitments keeping me from going to the dealership. I made the decision to have the work done four or five days ago and haven’t called. Why? Because I am hung up on when to get it done!

As I write this, I am laughing at myself. My intention is to make the call today and I will be happy to have it done. That was my intention yesterday as well…and the day before. Is this typical of me? Sort of but not really. For the most part, I am well-organized by nature. I just get things done so I can move on to something more interesting or fun. Now and then this does happen, however. I just get stuck. My answer is to be patient with myself. In this case, nothing is seriously wrong with the car so I have some leeway. I have the money budgeted and, obviously free time is not an issue. So, I will have a laugh and give myself the freedom to pick up the phone when the fancy strikes. Later, I will be very happy it is done.

There was a time when I would have denigrated myself and had a time of it rather than laughing and knowing it will get done. Today I love myself more and allow myself to be where I am in the moment. Being human is a journey of imperfection and wonder and the opportunity to love myself as I am. The Divine loves me as I am so who I am to say that is an inappropriate choice?

Aum shanti.

Group Energy

I attended my first yoga class in my new home town this afternoon. The studio is called Yoga Blend and it is on Magnolia Avenue in Burbank, California. It was recommended to me by my daughter-in-law, my fellow yoga teacher, and my new friend who is a neighbor in the complex where I live.

I have been doing my own practice but there is nothing that compares to taking a class and experiencing the energy of a like-minded group. I did not know a single person in that room but we all came seeking the gifts of hatha yoga. We all came equipped with a mat, a body and mind, and a breath.

I came away feeling like my body was my own instrad of some tight, stiff vehicle that had carried me around but didn’t feel like me. Now, four hours later, I am beginning to feel where the muscles stretched or worked. There is that sweet tenderness that lets me know my practice released pent-up toxins, tightness and emotions. A cup of soothing mint tea is steeping on the kitchen counter. I will sip it after I finish this and have a quiet evening, preparing for a night of restorative sleep – and perhaps dreams of rainbows and unicorns.

Group energy takes me where I cannot go alone. No thinking “what next,” just relaxing into the guidance of a caring teacher. I could feel the energy of those around me as each person turned within and honored themselves and others with their mindful presence.

It was just what I needed and I am reminded to always be in gratitude for my teachers and their teachers, for the knowledge and traditions passed down through the generations. Yoga is a gift taken deep into my being when my heart and mind are open to receive. Thank you, Divine Love, for bringing yoga and meditation into my life.

Aum shanti. Namaste.

The Wonder of You

I sat and listened to the birds outside my window this morning. It is a symphony. Such a vibrant, happy sound. It is available every morning. Wonderful.

This is how I feel each of you in this symphony of life. You are a wonder of creation. There is no one on the planet just like you. Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself! Everyone else is already taken.” Throughout my teen years, my father invited me time and again to just be myself. The challenge was that I had no idea who I was! So I kept trying on different personalities, behaviors, and personas. None of them fit because, of course, those were already taken. It was several decades before I began to discover True Self. Teachers came into my life to guide me into the unfolding of my True Self. Learning that, like you, I am a wonder of creation and that there is no one on the planet just like me, continues to be a wonder-filled experience.

You are love manifesting in human form. You are infinitely and unconditionally loved. You are a symphony. You are Wonderful.

It can be a challenge to embrace your own wonderfulness. On a recent day, when fatigue overtook me, feeling wonderful was not my experience. I felt spent and flat and didn’t have the energy to do anything about it. It slowly dawned on me how differently I was responding to everything I was feeling. There was a time when I would have cried most of the day, feeling depressed and judging myself for my lack of gratitude and happiness. This was different. The fatigue was appropriate and the “depression” was physical. Hard work on every level had depressed the energy available for me to continue. Mentally and emotionally I was quiet and peaceful, knowing my body just sat down and refused to do one more thing without a full day of rest. The next day I felt like me! And that was wonderful!

Think. Feel. Know. The Wonder of You simply is. Find it. Believe it. Let that shine.

You aren’t there yet? Wonderful! Trust the process because you are unfolding. You don’t have teachers to guide you? Ask them to come to you. As you wait, get yourself ready. Do what you know to do now. Do it simply and consistently. You are unfolding. Explore the internet. I have never met the teachers who most powerfully influenced me early in my conscious experience. I learned through books and tapes. The internet did not yet exist. Truth is coming to you in many forms. Let it come. You are unfolding and, once begun, the unfolding happens, Period.

I love you. You are loved. You are love manifesting in human form. You are wonderful.

Ahimsa

Ahimsa (अहिंसा, Ahiṃsā), loosely translated, means abstinence from violence either by thought, word, or deed. Non-injury requires a harmless mind, mouth, and hand. In a positive sense, it implies compassion and cosmic love. It is the development of a mental attitude in which hatred is replaced by love. The scriptures define ahimsa as the true sacrifice, forgiveness, power, and strength. At its core, ahimsa is based on the intentions of a person whose focus is to not harm anyone. (Krishna Maheshwari as quoted in www.hindupedia.com ).

Ahimsa is most often defined as “to do no harm.”  When I attended certification training through Integrative Yoga Therapy with Joseph LePage, he sat with us quietly one evening under a tree and strummed his guitar. He sang to us in English, Spanish and Portuguese, soothing our minds, bodies and souls. We were exhausted from long days and nights of practice and study. As everyone settled and began to relax, he quietly told us that we would have the next day off and that he had arranged transportation to take us all to an arts festival near a lake. Of course we were delighted. Then he sang to us again and quietly added, “To push further would be an act of violence or himsa, which is contrary to everything that I believe and am teaching you.”

We were shocked. We spent the next three hours exploring this idea of himsa/ahimsa with him. He would ask a question and not allow us to answer until we sat in silence for ten minutes. Joseph lovingly and compassionately guided us into our beliefs and behaviors to help us see the violence we do to ourselves as well as the violence we do to others and our world. He insisted we use the word violence rather than harm, which sounds and feels softer, not so “bad.” He helped us understand that, even words spoken softly ,but with ill intent, are violent to the hearer.

It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. I am still learning to live in the truth of what I opened to that night.

Understanding and practicing ahimsa requires wisdom and balance.

Ahimsa is the acme of bravery. Ahimsa is not possible without fearlessness…Violence is generally considered to be ignorance, but when used to protect the lives of the weak and defenseless, it is considered to be Ahimsa. (www.hindupedia.com )

One of the basic practices of ahimsa is to mindfully notice the thoughts you hold toward yourself. What do you say to yourself when you drop an egg on the kitchen floor? Is your first thought “The easiest way to pick this up is with a spatula” or “That was stupid. I’m as clumsy as ever!”? One expresses ahimsa and the other himsa.

Ahimsa must begin with one’s self. How am I committing violence, doing harm to myself? The purpose of this practice is to forgive and heal in order to shift each pattern as it is revealed. The balance is in learning to discover without judgement. Judgement does further violence to one’s self. To bravely face our own behavior and still forgive is no small thing. To develop new behaviors in the face of life-long patterns, deeply ingrained, takes strength and endurance.

Once begun within, ahimsa demands expression outside the self. Now mindful practice examines how I respond to others. Again the balance is in learning to discover without judgement, avoiding further violence to one’s self. The bravery and fearlessness manifests in making amends to those harmed or wounded and changing future behavior. Looking into the face of a loved one and admitting wrong, asking to be forgiven is an act of bravery and strength. Doing the same while looking into the eyes of an enemy is a monumental accomplishment.

Yes, I said “looking into the eyes of…” Living in different places may require a phone call. Yes, a phone call! Texting and emailing are distant and impersonal. I have witnessed a number of relationships killed by the lack of personal interaction. Hearing each other’s voices and looking into each other’s eyes moves us more quickly into love and compassion for ourselves and the other person. The eyes are truly the windows of the soul. Looking softly into the eyes of another allows me to see another being learning to be human. I see parts of myself and find it impossible to be defensive or mean. Allowing another person to look into my eyes requires that I be open and vulnerable to their gaze, to their seeing into my soul. Now the process of healing can begin.

As you sit with these thoughts, practice gentle compassion toward yourself. Take small steps to change patterns of violence and harm. Be brave and strong in the process. Facing your truth can only lead you into the arms of Love, into your True Self, your Soul. Divine Love dwells in you and desires to manifest through you as naturally as a river flows toward the sea. I’ll meet you at the ocean’s edge and we will ride its waves together.

Namaste.

This Moment Gives Birth to the Next

This moment gives birth to the next.

I often make this statement to my yoga students as an invitation to mindfulness, being present in the moment. I love when one of them asks me what I mean by that because it is an invitation for me to take them deeper.

If I am in a truly unhappy, difficult experience and I am advised to count my blessings I will feel a small smile forming on my face as I quietly nod my head. Years ago, a woman older and wiser than myself told me that gratitude opens the heart for further blessings. In order for my heart to open and receive what I need right now, I must be mindful of current blessings. The Circle of Life is evident here. If I desire blessings, I must see blessings right now in this moment. The gratitude I feel in this moment gives birth to the blessings and gratitude I will feel in the next moment. It is a circle within the Circle of Life.

How? Good question. Nature has always brought me deep peace and sincere gratitude for this world, this planet. I remember being so deeply sorrowful that letting myself see the beauty around me was actually painful; it seemed to hurt my eyes and my broken heart was frightened of taking it in. If I let it in, I might feel grateful and start to live again and then be hurt again. When I read that this morning, it doesn’t make sense to me but that was the level of my awareness at the time. Fortunately, life and love won out. The beauty around me that day assaulted me time and time again until I relented and let it in. Then I wept and wept, releasing the sorrow and pain that had consumed me for a time, being grateful for the beauty and love surrounding and filling me.

Life can be overwhelming. Staying centered in True Self through practices like yoga and meditation keeps me in the moment, present with the truth of who I Am. I Am a spiritual being currently having a human experience. If I Am present and mindful in this moment, I can be grateful for what it contains while knowing it will give birth to further experience – which will be determined by my level of awareness of Self and Source and by my desire/intention to be divinely human.

Laughter begets laughter. Standing in the parking lot after a yoga class with students and laughing reminds me of what is real and important. As I drive away, I laugh instead of cursing when another driver cuts me off or sits talking on the phone while the light turns green. We humans are a goofy bunch. Why not accept that and have a good laugh?!

This moment gives birth to the next. I live alone and must remind myself of the importance of human touch and affection. When I feel that need, I enter my yoga classes hugging students and receiving their hugs in return. I touch an arm while listening and often find myself holding hands with the person. Love and affection flow through the room.

Receiving the blessings of gratitude begets more blessings of gratitude. Yes, life may bring sorrow but I now know that within that sorrow there are moments of deep love and understanding, the growth of compassion. Blessings that elicit gratitude as deep as the sorrow.

This moment gives birth to the next. The Circle of Life is a moment-by-moment journey, an experience in being human and letting the Divine shine through. Light shines through a pinhole and expands as it moves beyond that tiny opening. Love demands expression and only needs the smallest opening to shine its light into my heart, my mind, my life. When it moves beyond any opening I give it, Love expands exponentially in every direction bathing my world in its Light.

Divinely Human

The Inner Stillness that I Am dwells in the very depths of my being. It is that sweet place that remains peaceful even when my mind, emotions, body – or perhaps all three – are in chaos.

During a particularly challenging time in my life, I let myself collapse in primal tears in the middle of my dining room. My mind and emotions were filled with fear, frustration, anger and disappointment. My body shook with the intensity of it all and my tears erupted into screams. In the midst of this I became aware of this oasis of peace in the core of my body, behind my naval. It felt so weird to be in both experiences at once but it told me that I was okay; I wasn’t losing my sanity. Chaos was clearly under-girded by deep abiding peace.

I now understand that the Inner Stillness is the essence of my being; it is True Self. My practice now is establishing me in this Inner Stillness so that I may live from this place: consciously, peacefully, powerfully live from the Essence of my Being, from the Stillness that I Am.

Practicing is the process of doing something over and over again until it becomes a part of you. In the beginning we gather information through teachers, books, family, friends, etc. We begin to embrace belief systems or programs that enhance the quality of our life. As we mature, we continue to learn about ourselves and life; we evaluate what we believe so that we can evolve and grow into our truth. Each of us must find our way, our truth, our True Self. Then we begin to live from that True Self, the Inner Wisdom, the Still Quiet Voice that comes from within. Whatever it is named or called, it is the Divine Presence within. It is Divine Love manifesting in and through me, the Source of my existence.

Life is the spiritual practice of becoming a divine human being, i.e. a human being that shines with the love, compassion and presence of the Divine.

I am eternally, unconditionally and Divinely loved. I Am Love in form. I Am Love manifested. It is my nature to abide in the Inner Stillness that I Am. The more often I go there, the more truly it will be my home.