Dangling from the moon

False-color image of the Moon taken by the Gal...

False-color image of the Moon taken by the Galileo orbiter showing geological features. NASA photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Following a dream is a twisty turny path. Launching anything new, from a wine store to a new baby is a heady mix of chaos and euphoria. The roller coaster metaphor goes a long way with me, since that sickly rushing in the pit of the stomach followed by a series of compressions and decompressions pretty much define how I feel most of the time when starting a new project. The thought “This might actually work!” races through my mind and I am at once exhilarated and petrified.

Crossing into new territory requires a hopeful heart. There must be hope for dreams to enter. There are solutions in a hopeful mind that are not available otherwise. I have caught myself numerous times this week talking about what I don’t want. Words that are not in harmony with my desires clang and bang against my head. My sensitivity has been turned way up. I notice myself parroting negative affirmations and I must stop and wash out my own ears. Did I really just say that?

This growth stuff is a continual process. Every life experience brings more to unravel and learn. I have joyful appreciation for my lapses into negative talk, because I notice them. Having cleaned up a bunch of the ‘big stuff’, cleared out the big issues, in my life I am hyper aware of even minor discomfort. This is really good, because before I was unconscious to my own words. Now they shout in my ears.

The courage to be me. It is a beautiful thing, to meet someone who lives from their essence. You can see them sparkling from a mile away. I am, in truth, a sparkling divine being, and so are you. I am so happy to be swinging on a star and sliding down the moon. I would rather dance on the edge of creation and risk being called a loon than perpetually wait in the sidelines for external approval.

So here I sit. On the moon. Living from the moment at the top of the roller coaster.

Enlighten up!

Laughter is the Sun - Victor Hugo Quote

Image by Chiot's Run via Flickr

Enlightenment. This is serious business. No room for jokes. Or is it? I had the privilege of seeing the Dalai Lama speak, twice, once in Calgary and once in Vancouver. Both times I was delighted by his sense of humor. I found it surprising how effortlessly he wove lighthearted humor in with some very serious discussions. It was the perfect example of taking your work seriously, but not taking yourself seriously.

One of my favourite books that helped me out of a deep state of depression many years ago is “Lighten Up: Survival Skills for People Under Pressure” by C.W. Metcalf and Roma Felible. One of the best things I have read was their chapter ‘Escape from the Centre of the Universe”. In it the authors drew a rectangle, representing the known universe; then drew a dot in the centre, representing the centre of the universe; and then mark an X waaaay in the corner, and marked the X with the words “You are here”.

It cracked me up. In that laughter I broke through months of self-imposed loneliness and isolation and started truly living. I was no longer content to wait until I sorted out my problems before I could be happy. I decided to be happy. It was a completely radical thought that I could just choose my thoughts. It worked.

The more I study Buddhism, Taoism and many other wisdom traditions, the more I am convinced that enlightenment can be chosen, just like happiness. The key to both is the continual choice to remain in that state in each moment. The true challenge is not getting happy or having a moment of blissful union with the Divine oneness, but staying there. It takes consistent training and practice to live from a place of altered awareness, like happiness.

When we are new to this happiness thing, it can seem forced and silly. Just the same when we are new to any other spiritual discipline, like compassion or forgiveness, it feels odd and unnatural. But all these mental and emotional states can be trained by changing our behaviours. A small subtle shift in perception can be the first step.

Free your spirit


Image by petrichor via Flickr

Unforgiveness is the sticky bond that ties us to painful memories. Energetically, whatever we focus on, good or bad, gets a dose of our energy. The more hate and anger we harbour puts more fuel into the energy ties that keep the person in our experience. Forgiveness is the ultimate act of freedom for your soul.

We often confuse forgiveness with saying “It’s Okay”; somehow excusing the person or letting them off the hook. This is a mistake. When we  are harmed by another, intentional or not, it does not serve us or them by just forgetting the incident happened. What do we learn from the experience if we just cover it up? But equally, we cannot make the other person ‘pay’ for their transgression if we hold hatred and anger in our hearts. It only poisons us.

If you acknowledge forgiveness as a feeling of freedom and releasement, then you can easily experience the power of forgiveness to transform your life. Try these steps to find your freedom:

  1. Write a list of people you need to forgive. Make sure to include yourself on the list.
  2. Pick one person on the list to forgive. Since forgiveness is an internal shift in your feelings, you do not need the other person to participate in the process. In fact I would advise against it in most cases, because ultimately it does not matter what they say or do, it only matters how you feel.
  3. Repeat the affirmation “I am willing to forgive _____” several times. Notice how you feel. Pay attention to any tightness or clenching in your body. Tightness in your muscles indicates resistance.
  4. If you feel anger and contraction, or any sense of resistance at this point, you can back up a step and say the affirmation “I am willing to think about forgiving ______”.
  5. If you still feel contracted or angry then visualize yelling at the person. Tell them exactly how you feel; do not go into repeating the events, stay focused on the feeling. Let it all out. The time for holding it all in is over. Do this for 10 minutes.
  6. Go back to the affirmation “I am willing to think about forgiving ______”. Stay at this step until the sentence feels too long and bulky. Test out dropping the words ‘think about’. Notice what happens to your body. Use the feelings of relaxation as your guide to the next step.
  7. Move on the affirmation “I am willing to forgive _____”. Again, pay attention to your muscle tension. Where are your shoulders? Are you clenching your hands? Is your jaw relaxed. Stay here for as long as you need to. Experiment with dropping the words “willing to”.
  8. The last affirmation is “I forgive ______”. At this point the feelings of release and freedom will flow naturally.
  9. Repeat. Go through everyone on your list and forgive them in the same way. Be sure to forgive yourself as well. Naturally, there will be some people who keep winding up on the list over and over, particularly if they are still in your life. That is perfectly ok. It is ok to be angry. It just doesn’t do us much good to hang on to it. The process gets easier and easier the more you practice it.

Test it out in your life. Observe your relationships shift on their own accord without any effort on your part. What else might shift in your life, now that you are free?

Discovering the size of your spirit


How much joy do you let in? Do you stop the flow of goodness before it starts. When things start to get really good for you do you find a way to stomp the happiness out of it? We are trained to believe that we are these small, helpless beings tossed around in this sea of chaos called life. We accept that we can’t change anything and that we should just keep our heads down to avoid the rubber bullets that get aimed at dissenters. But that is just plain nonsense.

We are these huge, magnificent beings that get the brief pleasure of walking around in these physical bodies. Our directed thought toward what we want is all that is needed to begin to change matter itself. Through the power of pure feeling, we can manifest our greatest joy or our greatest sorrow. Everything in your life can turn around in an instant the second you think a different thought. So what kind of life do you want to have?

In the centre of your heart is a source of power so tremendous it can bring you all of the solutions you are looking for. The odd thing is that our ego guards this light so fiercely it can convince you it isn’t there. The ego is a swirl of illusions and separation, it keeps a petty little record of all of the times you have ever been hurt, humiliated or harmed. The ego brings all these things up when you get close to your inner source of enlightenment. It is sort of like an advanced burglar alarm gone haywire; the ego has forgotten that you live here.

So there is a shell of pain and suffering that surrounds your inner light. This is why meditation can be so difficult at times, to get to our core we have to wade through the muck of emotions that we haven’t yet finished with. As we let these old emotions go, one by one, we get closer and closer to our own Source energy. If you are feeling sadness, stay with the sadness; don’t distract yourself from the feeling. Just dive into it. What you find is that the more you focus on the emotional state you are in right now, the faster it shifts. It pops like a bubble.

What you are left with is a view of your infinite well of energy, right in the core of your heart. All you have to do to reach enlightenment is let go of everything that weighs you down and believe you can.

I have had little brief glimmers of this state that keep me going back for more. I find the true challenge is to hold that expansive feeling in your mind at the same time as you are able to focus on the details of living. After all somebody still has to pay the bills and feed the cat. I think that is why most of the enlightened sages in the world had a team of people, followers, around them that took care of their day to day needs. The most advanced spiritual training is not to escape to a distant monastery to find enlightenment, but to find it where you are, in the middle of a busy city, living a busy life.



Image by bies via Flickr

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the recent passing of Steve Jobs, as I’m sure many people have been lately. When someone young passes it takes us all by surprise, in a way, because we have an idea of how long someone is “supposed” to live. But the reality is that none of us really know how long our lives might be, or when our time is up. It could be minutes, it could be decades. We push away thoughts of death thinking that it will help us lead a happier life. Lets face it, death is pretty depressing. But does numbing our brains to a huge part of our reality really make our lives any better?

When we connect to the concept that our time here on earth is finite, we don’t waste time on trivial things. We dedicate ourselves to meaningful work, we build, repair and maintain relationships, and we cherish every moment. We build our compassion muscle by realizing that every person on the planet shares the same destination on their journey. We are all born, we were all little babies, and we will all die. Many religious and spiritual traditions have explanations on what happens to us after that final step. I believe that energy is neither created nor destroyed, and that the energy that forms our consciousness continues after our body stops working.

The main point is that we face major uncertainty through out our lives… When will it end? … What happens after that? … What do I do until then?  We can distract ourselves from this uncertainty, but there it is. Hanging out there, all the time, making everyone feel uncomfortable.

Clearly, living our lives as though each day is our last, is not  a very wise strategy. We could surprise ourselves and outlive everybody (take that Survivor!). If we live to be very old, then we would want to plan things out a bit, make sure that we have money for the 65 years we will live after we retire. If we drop dead tomorrow, then the joke will be on VISA, because we won’t have to pay for our last wild day. Our poor ego, it wrestles with uncertainty. Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes it the truth for us, but maybe there is something we can do while we pass the time.

We can create enormous change in our lives by embracing uncertainty. Chaos scares us because we think we have to have it all figured out. But this is something that unites every single person on the planet. We can use uncertainty to activate our compassion, to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, to connect with the struggles that another person is going through. When people write a eulogy, they do not talk about what things the person had, but they talk about what the person meant to them. Think about it. The most important thing about your life is how you affected other people. Do you lift them up? Do you help where you can? Do you listen? Do you let them help you?

An interesting experiment for the next few days: When you are faced with a decision, ask yourself  these two questions

  1. If I die 60 minutes from now, what choice would I make?
  2. If I die 60 years from now, would I make the same choice?

If you get the same decision from both questions, then it is pretty clear, don’t wait, get going! If you get different answers, then you have a great opportunity to delve deeper. Ask yourself “Why? Why wait? Why right now?” Is there another option you wouldn’t have considered before?

The Book that Changes Everything

Cover of "Women Who Run with the Wolves"

Cover of Women Who Run with the Wolves

I love books. My living room looks like a library, with floor to ceiling bookshelves on the available walls. I love reading fine words and funny words. Technical and emotional, spiritual and practical. But after all these pages flipped, there are some books that stay with you. They leave an imprint on your mind, like newsprint ink on your hand. There are some books that cause you to change during the course of reading them.

The book that sparked my transformation from scientist to spiritualist was “Women who Run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Up to that point, I rejected all things spiritual because I was disillusioned by the dogma and hypocrisy I saw in organized religions. I turned away from anything mystical and clung to the solidity of scientific reason. I found this book after a break-up with my high school sweetheart. I was looking for a book to distract me from the pain and at 537 pages, including end notes and index, I was sold.

But what I found in this book was something more than I thought possible. Estés is a scholar and a storyteller, she unwinds stories to find their core of truth. She analyzes fairy tales through the lens of archetype. The book hooked something in my linear, analytical brain and pulled it in a creative direction. Before reading this book, I only read non-fiction; after I read it, I read novel after novel. She somehow gave me the tools to see into the architecture of a story.  She taught me to see the spirit and meaning of a story and to think about how to apply those lessons in my life.

This book also gave me a glimpse of how women could be both powerful and soft, nurturing and fierce. Growing up in a family with a majority of women, this rang true for me. This book also gave me a ladder to climb out of a very low point; to grab hold of the rung of self-esteem and to keep on climbing. She told me I was worth it.

Throughout the book, Estés encourages you to hear the call of your heart. It is a profound and magical ride. I picked this book up again today, and it still holds the magic it did when I first read it sixteen years ago.

This is the power of books, of words. Books create change. Words are powerful.

What book changed your life?

What book do you need to write?

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