On how what you pay attention to, pays attention

The first time I heard the line (and perhaps the only time?)  “What you pay attention to pays attention”, I was sitting in a yoga teacher training session and the line felt so meaningful to me that I wrote it down. Something in me understood this and knew it to be true. 

This line makes perfect sense at an initial surface level consideration of it’s meaning. If you pay attention to your pets, spouse, or even someone you hardly know; they pay attention back. It could be a stranger you see behind the coffee counter each morning who doesn’t like you, but if you pay attention to them, you have their attention. Attention can be positive or negative. It doesn’t discriminate. 

But what about the inanimate? Does that pay attention too? This is where my curiosity was piqued because I feel that it does. 

The line struck a chord with me because I remembered in 2001 when my ex-husband and our two children moved from Cape Cod, MA to Naugatuck, CT; I experienced my first understanding of energy and the things we cannot see. This isn’t any kind of supernatural story, don’t worry! 

In Cape Cod we were living in military housing. After the hired movers packed our belongings and put our items in storage, we were moved to the four- unit temporary housing building on the lot adjacent to us. Temp housing is a place individuals and families stay when they first arrive or depart a base. At Air station Cape Cod at the time, they were are mostly identical and fully furnished. They were cleaned by professionals before and after use. We lived there for approximately two weeks. When we left a housekeeper was waiting outside, ready to clean. 

After leaving Cape Cod but prior to being able to close on the condo we were purchasing in Naugatuck, my ex was slated to start his new job in Connecticut. Since we had no home, his job put him up in a hotel, and my children and I crashed on Long Island with my two brothers in their shared condo. 

One day during this period on Long Island I went into a bookstore. In the front area of the store were a bunch of books for sale that were only $1. Without really looking closely, I picked up one of these $1 books on Feng Shui. I had heard of it before in passing jokey comments, but had no idea what it was.

I took the book back to my brother’s place and started to read about “Chi”. I was 25 years old and never exposed to eastern thoughts. I was fascinated and almost immediately understood the concept of chi. I related this understanding to the temporary housing unit we just moved from in Cape Cod.

While we were there, we were the only occupants of the 4 separate identical units. When we moved in just weeks earlier, we were able to tour each place and choose one. Chi made me think of the next family who moved it. They were all the same, and all clean. However, I seemed to intuit that a family taking a look at all four of them like we did would have a different feeling about the one we just moved out from. The chi in that place would be different from the ones that had remained untouched for a longer time. 

I talked to my brothers and some others about this new thought I had. They all agreed it would feel different in there, but they didn’t quite agree it was the energy we stirred up and left behind. There was all kinds of answers for why this would be such the air from open doors/windows to microscopic dust that we couldn’t see but would detect.

That made some sense, but I still had this underlying sense that it was chi. 

I went back to this thought about invisible energy in the coming years. What I always found strange was how people noticed what I had recently paid attention to. This is where I’m describing the inanimate.

I always loved to clean (don’t hate me). My home has always been impeccably clean. I used to be extremely busy, but still cleaned. I also had hired help on a regular basis to keep on top of it all. However, when I had some time I would clean. Often I would get into little areas, corners, nooks, tops of door frames, inside drawers, whatever – whenever I could to dust, clean, purge and give love to an area. 

What I found incredibly coincidental is that when I focused on specific areas, even when no one was home and it was shining before I started working on it, later that evening one or two family members would separately comment on it. For example, they would comment on what a great desk or end table we have. Even if I did nothing on the surface of that object but only cleaned the inside drawers. I never said anything, but knew that the energy I gave it was radiating from it and because I paid attention to it, it was paying attention and catching others attention.

Odd isn’t it?

This happens a lot. At work I may have noticed my own shoes that I often wore but didn’t pay attention to. I would look at the stitching or heel and just think “What a great shoe”. Then behold… I’d walk into a meeting and someone would comment on my shoes. How does that happen?

This works in other ways too. When I was a pre-teen and my facial features were changing, I was horrified to see that the big bump nose all the women in my family had was appearing on my very own face. I hated it. Somehow it attracted all kinds of negative attention. Another girl in my class had the same nose, and no one noticed it at all. 

As the years went on I forgot about it, and seemingly so did everyone else.

Then when I was around 26 or 27 I saw a woman with a nose just like mine, and it looked amazing on her. It defined her face. I wondered if that is how I looked and began to see myself that way. And what do you know? Others began to comment on how beautifully my nose fits my face? An Italian nose. A goddess nose. Really? That nose I HATED and was so insecure about as a kid? 

I was paid attention to in the exact same way I paid attention to it. 

Attention is nothing more than a direction of energy. We can’t see it, but it is real. In the same way we can’t see the energy that is wired to our home, but that energy is real. Also, like the energy into our home, attention can be controlled, it happens whether you believe it or not. Whether it is intentional or not. But it only works to the level we believe it ourselves. It is a “power” (pun of power akin to energy intended) that we all have. 

That means that what we think about, what we focus on, where we spend our time, what we proverbially feed ourself – all radiates from us. Not only is it the experience we have, it is the way we are perceived in the world. It’s how that line “Fake it until you make it” works. 

I know this to be true, but I don’t always remember or believe it. Just yesterday I had an experience with it which is why it is on my mind again today. I’ll close this blog with this story and hope that I can remember this lesson that I first understood now 20 years ago already! But I can’t seem to always believe enough to put into place. As one of my favorite yoga teachers often says “I’ll let you know when I’ve mastered it”. All easy lessons, but more difficult than it should be. Because we get in our own way. 

Yesterday morning I went for a long walk around my neighborhood. While heading down a street that ends at the marsh I was passing a dog that was barking loudly and chasing me down the property behind an invisible fence. I was going to have to pass him twice. Having a dog of my own I’m not bothered by it, but the noise was disturbing the otherwise very peaceful scene; and heck the dog couldn’t feel that great about being so riled up. I thought about energy and radiating safety and kindness out from my being. And what do you know? Immediately the barking stopped. I was rather impressed and feeling superior, thinking how easy this is; but the dog started to bark again. Disappointed for a moment I chuckled to myself realizing that it was because I dropped the good energy. I was no longer radiating safety and kindness, but control and something less than an open, understanding being. Upon this realization I switched my thoughts back to being open, safe, loving and kind. The barking stopped and remained that way for the remainder of my journey down that street.

Life is a journey. We keep going down different streets, learning new lessons. If we look at it from a place of love, kindness, curiosity – it’s a lovely, beautiful welcoming journey. If we look at it in another way – it will be just that way, the way you are looking at it.

What you pay attention to, pays attention.

So pay attention to what you pay attention to. 

Change your thoughts, change your life. 

Namaste. 

On Karma

I absolutely love this Van Gogh painting. It is called “Sower with Setting Sun”. It is simple but holds a very deep message. 

We reap what we sow.

Karma.

Every so often at an unintentional level of awareness; while walking, waking at night, or doing something else random; an explosive revelation of understanding takes me by complete surprise, and I consider something very deep that makes so much sense it overwhelms me with the “truth”. Soon after it is lost and quite difficult to conjure up again. It is like a sheet is pulled back, or the lights are turned on. However, it is gone in a flash. I’m only left with the memory of having a brief moment of understanding of a higher truth. 

One topic that came across a few times is the relationship between Grace and Karma. Since today is Veterans Day and most of us think of selfless service when we think about the Veteran population and what they have done for our country, I feel inspired to write about it. 

Afterall, acting in Grace really means acting in self-less service. It’s outside of the Karma wheel.

Whether or not you practice religion of any sort, most of us have heard the story of Adam and Eve, the apple, and original sin. 

“Original sin”

The Christian tradition teaches that we are born of sin and cannot escape it. We will always be sinners. Jesus died for our sins so we can be saved.

What in the WORLD does that mean? 

As a young girl in Catholic school this sounded incredibly daunting. The art and wall hangings at school and church looked dark and ominous. The music was heavy and full of what seemed like cryptic messages. I thought I would burn in hell for all eternity if I didn’t repent for fighting with my brothers. Jesus died for me to be here, wasn’t I grateful? How dare I sin?

These tenets are a lot for anyone to grasp. So many of us don’t and eventually either mentally or physically check out of the church. Those who do not check-out and spend their days on their knees with the rosary are likely not faring any better, however I think the idea is that they will go to heaven by suffering now. 

Heaven is everlasting peace. It is a way out of this world of suffering. But escaping Karma and the wheel of action that creates action is not about suffering. In fact, suffering keeps you trapped in the Karmic circle.

I am using the word “Suffering” for lack of a better word to include any unpleasant feeling that you would rather not have. Suffering is the word that the Hindu and Buddhist traditions use in their texts to describe this sentiment. A chief principle of these teachings is that suffering can be eliminated through non-attachment.   

Non-attachment is another term to pause at.

What is Non-Attachment?Non-attachment means moving through life without letting things, people, or places have such a hold on you that you make wrong choices. Don’t Let Things Own You. No one’s perfect

Non-suffering takes place when we become unattached to any outcome of our actions whether or not those expected outcomes are good or bad. Non-attachment is to accept that being here on earth, in the flesh, enjoying the sunshine, enjoying taste, sight, sound, and anything else our 5 senses can enjoy WILL including suffering, hurt, let down, mistakes – a big ol’ hot ugly mess! Non-attachment means to take it all in as it happens. Let it go when the moment passes. Be in the next moment as that one happens – and accept that one too. 

Unpleasant experiences are to be expected. Doing something to avoid any type of suffering will only cause more suffering because you are doing something with the expectation of feeling a certain way. This is the same (other side of the coin) as doing things to feel good, because doing something to feel good is an attachment to the outcome too and an attempt to not feel “bad”. 

Non-attachment allows feelings to pass. Accepting this and doing the right thing no matter what all of the time is Grace. 

Grace does not mean being a doormat. Grace does not mean putting forth effort where it is not received or is fruitless. 

 “Fruitless”

Fruitless as in a tree that is not bearing fruit. When there are other trees nearby to nurture and prune, it is literally fruitless to put forth pruning effort. It is not to say you should rip it out and kill it (unless it’s killing something else that is alive since you are the gardener). It is to say if you spend 4 hours pruning the fruitless tree and become too tired to tend to the fruit bearing ones, no good service was done. 

Being fruitful is to use our energy in ways that will move life around us positively, remembering what serves the purpose of greater good vs. what is a fruitless. 

To think about what you are doing and the effects of your action, without concern about how it will affect the way you feel. To always do the right thing. To live in Grace. 

The central tenet is to avoid being attached (by your own feelings) to the outcome, but use your energy in ways that do the greatest good.  

Sowing seeds in the spring to harvest later and live through the winter is important. It behooves us to do the best we can to keep the garden growing and prolific. The intention of gardening may be food to live, however; taking pride in the outcome is where we are toeing the line because we are [again] attaching to an outcome. Pride is one of the Seven deadly sins for a reason. It is not to be confused with self-respect. 

It is not a sin to feel good. It is a sin (or our own self-inflicted suffering) to be attached to the outcome of what we do. We cannot avoid being human and feeling good or bad about things that happen. But letting that pass is where we will begin to feel free and enjoy life. 

What if the garden fails after all that work? It could. This is where expecting bad events as a part of life fits in. What if a hurricane blew through, or some crazy invasive bug species descended upon the crops?

If the garden tending included pride, the destruction would be a set up for disappointment (suffering). If the garden tending was done with grace, self-respect and included non-attachment… you get the point.

It does not mean that since it could happen that you give only a small hoot all year and go fishing every afternoon.

It also doesn’t mean that going above and beyond is a great act of heroism either. Taking out every single last weed or being obsessive about testing the soil or water when there is no evidence it needs it would be a waste of energy. You will deplete yourself.

Knowing the sweet spot of where to quit for the day and revitalize the body with activities that fill you with joy (maybe that is fishing) is the way to feel satisfied and full of life in this karmic dimension. 

Filling your own tank so you can fill the idiomatic tank of the realm around you is where the beautiful balance lies. Right in the middle. A little bit of effort, a little bit of ease. Just enough to yield the best results. 

Karma means action and action motivated by compassion is good. To complain that what happens to you is just the result of your karma is lazy. Instead, confidently recalling the advice that, “You are your own master,” you can change what happens by taking action. Dalai Lama.

I’m going to switch lanes here, but not the direction. The Lord’s Prayer in the Christian sector has recently come to mind while contemplating the relationship between Grace and Karma. Particularly the line Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us

Consider that line…

On a surface level it means saying “sorry” and the other person saying “I forgive you”. But when you consider this automatic response that we are taught as kids and take Karma into consideration, this line from is incredibly powerful and takes on a much deeper, spiritual meaning. 

I forgive but don’t forget

A popular saying. What does it mean to you? 

If you have a sound mind and memory, forgetting is not possible. 

Consider whether or not ‘forgetting’ is with good intention. Meaning that all ill feeling or suffering you have felt prior to forgiveness is completely gone. Your heart is truly light and empty. When a situation conjures up the memory of what you ‘forgave’, is there a lack of reaction in the body and mind? If there is no reaction, that means you have really forgiven. Grace is present. 

Forgiving but not forgetting could also mean that you will not make the same mistake twice. That would be toeing the line as well. If any feelings come up (positive or negative), whether or not you are aware of it; you are stuck in the karmic circle. Grace is not present. 

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Think about that again if you have never really considered it deeply before.

If you have not truly let go by forgiving someone, your body or mind will react with an unpleasant feeling. If you haven’t really let go, YOU (not the other person) will suffer. 

You will be free and forgiven (hence, not suffer from the pain of sin) when you forgive and let go. No one can do that for you. 

That is Karma. The only way to travel outside of it is to act with Grace. With self-less service. 

In the beginning of this blog I wrote about original sin and the Christian teaching that Jesus saved us by dying on the cross. 

If we strip away all the religion, artifacts, dark art and music; and consider the message – I can see Grace and self-less service in it all. 

From the article The Distance Between Grace and Karma with regard to the teachings of Jesus: 

In calling His followers to a new approach that extended beyond the rule-keeping of the Law, He later said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (5:43–44 NKJV). In other words, Jesus was saying, “You don’t have to respond to evil with more evil. Instead you can respond with good.” Karma would dictate that we should always reward evil with evil, and only reward good with good. But the law of grace demands a new approach, one that directly opposes karma.

You do not have to be a Christian to agree that a spiritual man who we now call Jesus was on this earth about 2000 years ago. This man preached kinder ways. This man was content living as an example of not being attached to an outcome and consistently doing the right thing. 

This man did not put forth extra effort where it would not be understood (he did not mingle with the rich and powerful). He took time for himself to fill his own cup when it was needed. And most importantly, He ultimately showed us that it is possible to not suffer through accepting whatever life threw at him with Grace. He did this on the cross. It was his ultimate sacrifice. 

This was the ultimate self-less service. It is not because Jesus was special, au contraire; He taught us that we all have this amazing power to do the same. And we do! That is how he saved us. 

Beautifully enough, not so dissimilar to how our nations Veterans saved us. Through. Self-less service. Grace. 

Karma vs. Grace: A Psycho Spiritual Analysis

Grace offers us a way out of our ego’s grasp. With grace, we do not have to earn our salvation. In fact the effort to earn it is precisely what we most want to avoid. Instead, we surrender to the will of the One who knows us better than we know ourselves and wants to give us something beyond our imagination. Grace sets us free from spiritual anxiety that everything we say and do might determine our final destiny.

Namaste! 

Similar blogs of mine: 

On Grace

It’s Through the Heart

You are the MOST important person on your gift list

On Halloween and Our Shadow Side

On Giving Gifts that heal this holiday season

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog

https://esterinaanderson.com

On Halloween and Our Shadow Side

We were made from the universe, so we contain the same elements of the universe. The universe is both dark and light. So are we.  

But who are “We” really? 

If we can agree we are not our liver or kidneys which are vital organs, is it feasible to agree we are not the organ of the brain? 

If we are not our brain, are “we” what is in the mind – which is function of the brain? It would be analogous to saying that we are not detox, which is the function of the liver.  

Hopefully the answer is no, because “we” are the substance that hears what the mind is saying. We are the part of the body that isn’t cells or substance. Just because it is only us that can hear what our mind is saying, doesn’t’ mean what the mind is really us.   

Our mind is influenced by the physical world around us. Jingles in our head, the constant replaying of a conversation we had or show we watched, the proverbial angel and devil on our shoulders justifying a decision in two different directions. Those things happen without conjuring them up. If we notice it, that part that notices is really the part that is us; not the part that is providing the commentary. 

That is IF we notice at all. The commentary, songs, dialogues, internal arguments or justifications for being ‘right’ or bad feelings of being ‘wrong’, and all the random and not so random things our mind is consistently chatting about are so ever presently constant; that we actually believe what we are thinking is who we are. But that is not true. Who we are is the witness to this chatter. 

I will refer back to the Angel and Devil relation above. How can you proport to be (as a person) the Angel who is advocating for the right decisions, when the Devil is right there doing exactly the same thing but advocating for something else? We may feel it is right to do with the Angel says because it is what morals and laws are built upon. But the Devil is in there too making a case. How is that dark side not as equal to who you profess to be? It’s not a pretty part to acknowledge, but that Devil is as normal as the Angel. 

That Devil part is the shadow side. 

Shadow side: 

“What is the ‘shadow’ self according to psychology? The ‘shadow’ is the side of your personality that contains all the parts of yourself that you don’t want to admit to having. It is at first an unconscious side. It is only through effort to become self-aware that we recognise our shadow.”

Your ‘Shadow’ Self – What It Is, And How It Can Help You

Neither the angel or devil is really who you are. 

You are the part that notices the angel and devil. 

Both will equally influence the decisions you make unless you learn to separate your true self from what your mind chats about. 

The best way to learn to notice your thoughts is to sit in meditation. That is another topic for another day perhaps. 

The point of this blog is to explain that you are not your thoughts. It is as natural to have good and bad thoughts as it is for the day to be dark and light. Our physical bodies are made of the physical universe, so our bodies are governed by the same laws. Both the good and bad exist. I believe the purpose of the Yin Yang is to visually demonstrate these natural laws that exist in our dimensions.

No human alive is above this law. Perhaps Jesus and Buddha had a better understanding and in their teachings of attachment in various ways, were showing us ways to live more humanely and to ignore the monkey mind. We didn’t have the language of the various levels of brain function at the time, but it’s not different from the unconscious, conscious, and superconscious. Or the Id, Ego & Superego. 

  • Unconscious: autonomic system that regulates bodily functions, influences the conscious to act in fight or flight to protect the body and their systems.
  • Conscious: thoughts and mind chatter about inner and outer world. 
  • Superconscious: part that notices thoughts

We would be missing the mark of having higher superconscious brain function over animals if we do not take this knowledge and work to separate identifying who we are from our thoughts. 

If we do not understand that we are not our thoughts, we attach to our Angel side, then expend time and energy hiding the Devil side away from ourselves and others. We attempt to un-attach to the shadow side by saying it is not who we are. But we are not the light side either. We are a witness to this very duality that exists in nature.

Ironically, embracing this shadow side and allowing it to feel natural is like breaking free and opening up to a beautiful new world. 

Embracing the shadow self can lead to a greater understanding of our whole self, as it helps us to understand, control and integrate it. Because when we shine a light on our shadow, we become conscious of the unconscious and gift ourselves with the power of conscious choice.” (Embracing the darkness within)

Embracing does not mean it is ok to take it out to the world and inflict it on others. 

Acceptance of the shadow side is personal work to in order to provide yourself clarity of the drivers you are unaware of because you didn’t want to acknowledge the thoughts the angel part of you didn’t like. No one is judging you but you. It is important to accept all thoughts that come up. It is difficult unless you really understand that these thoughts are just passing images and words. They are not the real you.

Halloween is a time to let out the Devil inside. A time of the year to celebrate the murkier side of life as we transform from summer to winter (light to dark). 

Samhain is the pagan celebration at the point in time believed the veil between the worlds is thinnest. In the Northern Hemisphere it is celebrated on October 31st, while in the Southern Hemisphere is it celebrated April 30th. Samhain is the transition of when the real switch between seasons occur, where it is impossible to deny that Winter is Coming (Sorry – I couldn’t help the phase [Game of Thrones] – Haha).

Accepting that it is natural to go from light to dark and celebrating nature helps to those not wishing winter to come to accept it as a natural part of life.

Now, transform that sentence (bolded) to the one below:

Accepting that it is natural to go from light to dark and celebrating nature helps those not wishing to acknowledge their shadow side to accept it as a natural part of life.  

Not accidentally, November 1st and in parts of the world the days leading up to 11/1, are a time to celebrate the dead and death as a natural part of our world. 

Death is natural and should be as expected as living is. Just as the shadow side is natural and should be as expected as the good in us is. 

These next few days is naturally a time to be in touch with the laws of nature, as the veil between worlds is in thin, so it’s easier to grasp. 

When I taught yoga classes regularly, I had a theme each month that I used. In October I had always used the theme of Embracing the Unknown in honor of world-wide Halloween traditions. I began each class with the same words in which I will end this blog. I asked students to consider perhaps incorporating some of these thoughts into their practice, and allowing whatever it is they fear to be welcome. 

Embracing the Unknown

  • Facing the scary, hairy thing under our beds
  • Not being afraid of death, but honoring it
  • Knowing our deepest renewal begins with surrender
  • Embracing the concept that life requires the presence of both light and dark

How Do Day of the Dead and All Saints Day Compare
Halloween-time traditions around the world

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https://esterinaanderson.com

Why BLM Matters So Much To Me

Over 90% of communication has nothing to do with the words that are spoken. Tone matters, but not as much as body language. Spoken words account for only 7% of how you interact with another person. 

Anyone who has owned a pet knows that you can tell a lot about what an animal is thinking, their mood, or their temperament without a single word.  They too know your mood at any given moment even though they do not understand a word of it. 

Words mean very little. The way you act and how society shaped you involuntarily speaks volumes. In fact it is so loud that often the words you say cannot be heard. 

I grew up in Brooklyn until I was 12. We lived in a predominately Italian and Hasidic Jewish neighborhood right on Coney Island Avenue. I’m the daughter of an Italian immigrant who came over in 1970 because his large family dragged him here at the age of 20. It wasn’t an easy life for my father’s family here in the United States. At that time immigrants no longer had the opportunities they did just a few decades earlier. All but my father and one of his brothers returned to Italy. My father’s reason for staying was that he met and fell in love with my mother.

My father grew up in a small town with an incredible work ethic and even stronger ambition. For his family this paid off immensely. But in the United States his work ethic and ambition went unnoticed and did little to get him ahead. He couldn’t get ahead and even learn English when he had to work so hard just to put food on the table to feed my two brothers, mom and I. 

His parents were of the traditional followed traditional, old-school Italian practices. The mother was barefoot at home taking care of the kids, while the breadwinner male provided for the family. The male raised his hands to his wife and kids when he felt he needed to in order to keep his family in line and teach them the value of putting up with crap life throws at you without bitching and complaining about all you don’t have.

Consequently, that is how I grew up. My Brooklyn neighborhood felt dangerous. There were creeps on the street everywhere. We often had various homeless people living on our front step. Our front door didn’t lock. We lived three stories up in a vacant building in a small apartment with only 3 small bedrooms where you had to walk through 2 in order to get to the 3rd. Privacy, my own things, or own room never even crossed my mind. 

I moved to Long Island in Middle School. A poor town in the middle of what seemed like nowhere compared to Brooklyn. My father knew a handful of Italian friends who moved there, so our very Italian traditions seemed normal. My mother dropped out of high school in 10th grade, was in love with my father and didn’t even want to tell her family about the dark side of living with my father. 

Growing up all I ever saw was my father working and never getting ahead, and my mother depressed at home all day in a ratty mumu.

No one helped me with my homework. No one asked how my day was or what I was learning. No one told me I was smart or pretty or really even hugged me. No one said I love you in our home. My father’s workday dominated how our evening would go. Children were an aside. You fed, bathed, and clothed them until they were 18; then they were on their own and expected to come back every Sunday night for football and dinner. 

Believe it or not I saw nothing wrong with this. I did want something more. I wanted healthcare and time off. I wanted to not depend on a man. I think everyone I know, knows my story. I joined the military, got skilled in a few trades, used the Montgomery GI Bill and then my own funds to get an MBA. I got married and had children young (19/21/23 respectively), worked 2 jobs for several years, and spent the first 10 years of my oldest’s life going to school in one form or another. 

I was proud of myself. Many people ooh and ahh and say they are proud of me for being “self-made”. White privilege didn’t benefit me. The first time I heard the term I was pissed because it seemed to disregard all I worked for. 

I was one of the happiest people I knew. Not to toot my own horn, but I was also one of the hardest working people I knew (if not the most). To say I put 110% into work, my kids and my family was to say the least. I was really happy this way. 

In 2007 after 12 years of marriage I learned about a secret my husband had been keeping that absolutely devasted me. We recovered and I was almost back to my old self, but the same issue came up again just 3 years later. This time the marriage did not last. 

Being a divorcee and remarrying someone of a different background and current societal class changed my life. I broke down. I liken it to Richard Rohr’s book called “Falling Upwards”. 

I broke down but I also became a better person. A more aware person. 

There were prominent issues from being in two different economic classes that came to a head many times where I felt myself and my children didn’t measure up to what my step-children’s lives were like back at their mothers house. The division between private school, spending a lot of money on opportunities to beef up a high school and later college education, and even what kind of school should be looked at created a large divide where myself and my children felt as if the things we strived for and were very happy with were what the lower class does.

My most enlightening moment was a few days after my current husband and I moved in with our 4 kids into an incredibly, too large for my liking house, down a beautiful cul-de-sac not far from my old reasonably sized house just a few miles away. In this area no one ever saw there neighbors so it was a welcome feeling when our neighbors right next door came out to meet us. They also had 4 kids around the same ages as ours. They were very nice until they realized we had two 11-year-olds that were not exactly the same age. We explained we were blended. It wasn’t the words they said – because the words were sweet and nice. It was the body language, the surprise and uppishness in their voices. I don’t think we ever spoke to them again.

It was at that VERY moment a flash of awareness came across my consciousness. I suddenly wanted to cry for all the black families moving to a white neighborhood or how an LGBT couple may feel buying a home in the suburbs. I became aware of the stigma of how mixed races try to explain how they are being looked at when going about their lives; or how someone who doesn’t speak English perfectly is treated. A divorcee is probably much lower on this totem pole, but it helped me to see and feel how society treats people that they feel are the non-traditional humans you see on TV. It’s why I relate to the line in the BLM rules about breaking down the notion of the traditional nuclear family.

Over the next few years before I started having clinical anxiety, I continued to get angrier and at the same time continued to climb the ranks at work. 

The contrast between my husband’s kids and family became almost unbearable. My step-kids were told constantly by their mother that my extended family is white trash and that their step-siblings were not as good as them because they went to public school. It morphed into me and my ex using my husband to put my kids through college, me using my husband for money and a host of really other rotten things. Everything I did was looked at through the lens of me being a monster. Obviously none of this was true, but because of my background and my non league education, I wasn’t one of them. 

I understand that after dozens and dozens of “digs”, it’s possible to get really angry in a situation that seems like it didn’t call for it. Similarly to how a black person might storm out of a room because of a comment no one understood could even be offensive.

One specific example is how private schools and fancy camps was one of the great divides of our blended family and one of the main reasons that created a rift between our children gelling into something new. After a lawsuit, a camp dispute that went on for months, when in the same evening the high school my children went to and then the camp my daughter was going to were put down by two separate people, I got what may have seem unrealistically angry by the second comment.

Black people have all kinds of digs in their day to day lives. Just walking into a store perhaps and seeing the elderly white woman behind the counter reach under to get closer to the panic button is a little dig that me as a white person we would never notice unless someone pointed it out to me. Perhaps I did that or something to the like too, but didn’t even notice I was discriminating or questioned why I was.

Take that example of the panic button as one part of a whole day of these digs that weren’t meant but are a part of how we accept society act it is. Then imagine a black person going out to participate in a peaceful riot to ty try to explain how what we can’t see is hurting them and in many ways holding them back (it goes far deeper than this, but it is too much to write about here).

Then imagine being in this peaceful demonstration and then getting called the “N” word and told to go back to the rubbish where you came from and off “my street”.

Can you see how the experiences this very normal black person had in their life and day may cause an otherwise very rational human being to riot and lose their mind? I’m not saying that it’s OK to riot or loot or loose your mind, but I’m saying I understand how it gets there.

I understand because it happened to me a few times. I can understand how not feeling heard and being forced to live in someone else’s perceived “better, more civilized” society would make the person who is in the perceived lesser category feel.

Riot is the voice of the unheard.

We aren’t listening.

I sincerely fear that an executive order from the president banning cultural sensitivity training and marking it as “un-American” and “divisive” is a horrific move in the wrong direction.

It leads to more “not listening” and more ignoring of what too many are trying to say. It ignores the fundamental built in narratives that if you work hard in America you can make it.

That is absolutely not true for everyone. Not everyone is granted the same opportunities due to where you are born, the color of your skin and even the gender you are attracted to.

I’m a democrat and I believe in hard work. I don’t think that conservatives hold the only claim on this. I don’t think anyone is looking for handouts, but I think they are looking for a fair chance. I know I’m smart, but without tutors, money, or even support; please don’t tell me I had the same opportunities as everyone else. And my skin is white! How can we expect for a moment that a black person in an impoverished neighborhood could compete with a good school, tutors, not having to work after school, being able to easily study because the heat and lights are on and their belly is full. Meanwhile they are being marginalized while going into a store, looking ratty when the family can only provide hand-me-downs and consequently have to waive the flag and say the pledge that there is justice for all.

How can you expect the average black kid growing up in a ghetto to possibly make it out of there through hard work and education when their school was so sub-par to one right outside the gates of the ghetto and then claim it’s socialism if we put more money toward schools? I think it’s quite Christian to take care of others and still a democracy.   

Citizens who don’t have access to healthcare cannot get help when they are sick or help with mental illness at any kind of age – let alone when you are young and can still “make it” in America. It’s not socialism to want to find a way to give people access to healthcare, the very thing that will keep them healthy and contributing to the society we hold them down in.  I never had healthcare growing up. Mostly because my father was an immigrant. Even thought he was here legally, he couldn’t get a job that provided for it. Not because he was stupid or lazy, but because he didn’t have the same inherent opportunities that are so invisible and part of what so many people think comes with life, that they can’t see them. 

Not stopping to think about what you were inherently born with and took for granted is privilege. There are all kinds of privileges like just being American, being male, or having money. And skin color. With white skin it’s very difficult to feel the sting of how society looks down on others with different skin color. Even if you don’t look down on darker skin colors, it doesn’t mean that it is not real. In fact it makes it harder to believe that it is.

There is nothing embarrassing or humiliating about learning you have privilege and that being blind to it creates an unjust society. In the same way there is nothing that should be embarrassing about being a male vs a female. Unless you are an enlightened male or were educated on the subtle societal ways males dominate our society, as a male you will not see it.

As someone with money and maybe even the luck that some risk you took to build yourself up panned out, doesn’t mean that someone else isn’t working really, really hard – perhaps even harder than you, but circumstances will never allow them to compete to get to where you are.

This is exactly how black people are being held down. I’m several steps (maybe generations) behind my husband. 43 points exactly in a privilege walk. How can anyone believe a black person isn’t behind me on this scale? I don’t need data and statistics to know they are. I know because I’m alive. I feel the 93% of non-spoken word communication I’ve been treated with and I see the 93% that black people are treated with. And guess what? It’s much worse.  

This is why it matters to me. It’s personal because as a woman and as someone who can mingle in a different social class, I have experienced how many privileged don’t know they are privileged and make judgements and comments about things that are downright just not true or just plain insulting to me.

Women are sexualized and marginalized. The upper class looks down on the lower class and believes their more expensive schools and activities are better than the middle class school and activities. They don’t realize that these types of activities is what keeps America unjust and that the privilege they creates opportunities for them that do not exist elsewhere.

Black people have historically been treated differently. Because they were they lived in lower class housing and neighborhoods. Because they had no money there are not generations of families with college degrees in competitive jobs, making even more money to put more kids in college.

The field is unlevel.

It’s unfair how society just looks the other way and then blames the lack of hard work on those who just cannot physically or mentally make it. 

I may not have understood this as a white woman who in many ways has been marginalized. It wasn’t until I was 40 years ago and immersed myself in some things where I realized what I took for granted – the good of being white, and the bad, such as the role I was playing being a women; were things that I was blind to and when along with because it was just such an integral part of society that I didn’t see it.

I learned from extreme measures. The book I referenced above “Falling Upwards” talks about how it often takes extreme measures and extreme discomfort to learn about seeing another side. It’s a blessing to fall because the world makes a lot more sense to me. I can understand and see the injustices all around me. It’s not a Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish or any religious type of teaching life. Unless you stop to think about it, what we teach in American schools and homes as “success” is actually greed and looking out for #1. It’s the complete opposite of love.

Now at this moment in history we are being told that trying to understand where someone with a different background of the already made American dream and line “With justice for All” is un-American and creates a divide.

Not acknowledging there is a divide and ignoring what the a very large majority of a country’s people are saying is a divide.

My father will now be 70 years old this year. He will never retire. He is an alcoholic with tons of medical issues and terrible senior healthcare. My mother died at the age of 49 from lung cancer. Yes, she smoked earlier in life; but please don’t tell me that treating her during her life for depression and helping her find a way out of an abusive home and the stress that it caused would have done nothing for her. If nothing else, her quality of life and subsequently that quality of life for my brothers and I would have made a world of difference. 

The social issues we face are real. It’s the single most divisive element in this election. But I don’t understand how anyone can be against helping other members of society be brought up to simple standards of living with dignity. There are cases of lazy people, but they are not most people. 

Most people, given fair opportunities will take it. But those opportunities have to be there and visible. Without them there is no hope. You can’t blame someone for not working 80 hours a week knowing it won’t ever get them out of the ghetto. There are some where it can, I agree. Some of those individuals take advantage of it, and others squander it. But I do know that for the majority (like my father) – no amount of hours would have made a difference. I’m not advocating for giving money to lazy people, I’m advocating for creating opportunities for lower socio-economic classes.

That is why living wages are important. 

Black people are in this category of the lower socio-economic rung more so than any other sector of our society. They are in these rungs because of the history of our country. You want them to wave a flag and be proud of living here? Not try to peacefully protest and explain this in some way? 

We can’t have a conversation about fixing anything if these issues and the whole BLM issue are not acknowledged. BLM came up now for a reason. It’s not just because of police brutality. Police brutality was what made people get up and onto the streets, but it’s not the only reason. Privilege is so entwined into our society that unless you are living on the fringes you cannot see it.

Not seeing white privilege at work or how the lack of attention to these social issues doesn’t mean they aren’t real. Telling your own story of the hard work you did or the hard work your parents/grandparents did does not make anyone else’ struggles today null and void. It seems to be a valid excuse to turn your head. Helping others doesn’t turn our country into a socialist country, it turns our citizens into evolved human beings who can look past themselves for the benefit of others, which will in turn truly be beneficial for the society and county at large. It can be an even more thriving democracy when all our citizens are working and healthy enough to contribute and be proud to be an American. Right now it thrives for only some but not all. It’s not Justice for All.

What you do, how you act, what you post, how you treat people is what people perceive when they are communicating with you. I’d go the mat to say that most people are not knowingly racist, sexist, arrogant or pretentious on purpose. Knowing that, know you might be one of those people and not know it either. But those who aren’t know – because it’s being communicated so loudly, they can’t hear what you are saying. Stop and think about what you really think, what you really feel and what you really support. Is it justice for all? Or is it keeping you and you only safe and sound? 

This may sound disjointed, but the point is that I know I couldn’t see this message only a few years ago. I would have said society is fair. But I now know it’s not. Until we all acknowledge that we aren’t equal, the inequity will continue to grow.

I don’t think we want to do that to ourselves, our neighbors, our children or our country. But it’s happening.

Please. Wake. Up.  

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On Weeds and Pseudo Humans

I love to garden. I spend a lot of time outside puttering around. I find gardening and having my hands in the dirt to be peaceful. I feel connected to the earth. I feel accomplished because I witness the fruits of my labor.

 

I prune lifeless or waterlogged leaves. I deadhead. I water. I cut back things that start encroaching into other areas. And I weed. And I weed. And I weed.

 

Weeds can be tricky. A few years ago I wrote a blog “On Lessons from the Garden”. I wrote about how initially going out in the dirt to garden it can be confusing to determine which life popping up out of the ground is legit, and which are weeds.

 

I’ve thought about this concept a lot through the years. One of the first times I spent significant time weeding and tending to the dirt was in 2002. I was only 26 years old and I had my first condominium with an incredibly small patch of dirt in front of it. I was astounded as to how many things looked like they were bona fide plants, but actually weeds.

 

While removing buckets of rocks and weeds from this tiny garden area in the spring of 2002, I learned that weeds tend to mimic what they are coming up near. At the time I thought about heaven and hell. I contemplated how people might look like good people but really are not. If you don’t remove the weeds from the beautiful place you are trying to create – they may take over and possibly kill the garden. It is not too dissimilar to any battle between good and evil.

 

Over the years I’ve thought about Carl Sagan and his famous lines about how we are made of star stuff. I’ve thought about Yoga and the 5 sheaths of the koshas. I’ve thought about Taoism and balance. I’ve related all of this to the garden and where weeds fit in.

 

Another quote I’ve always thought about in conjunction with weeds is “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…” ~Hermes Trismegistus

Not too surprising these days I’m thinking about and often feel confused over the news, the state of the world, what “friends” post on social media, and fellow humans that just don’t seem to get what loving on another really means. Flowers and plant life come in all shapes, colors and sizes. With the right conditions and care, they are able to be all that they came into the world to be.

 

The inherent property of a weed is to mimic what it is near, so it appears similar the product that is alive & well, and attempting to thrive alongside it. Impersonating is often the only way a weed can survive above ground for any length of time unnoticed. If you aren’t paying attention as a caretaker, you will inadvertently allow it to flourish. I often wonder if weeds actually know (not to say they are consciously thinking this) that they are not like the life they are trying to imitate. I do not think they do.

 

Intrinsically, the genetics of a weed is different from that of the flower it is trying to look like. Outside of initial appearance, the weed will eventually grow faster and from an aesthetics point – uglier than the flower. It may eventually stand out but at that point it also may have done some significant damage. Additionally, some weeds do not do any harm and live peacefully alongside the intended botanical it is near.

 

If the laws of nature are in the same in the unseen world where the weeds and humans simply appear from as the material word, (As Above, So Below quote above) who is to say that some humans are not really inherently human? Perhaps some, like weeds do not possess the natural beauty and radiance they were intended to deliver here in the material world above the ground and amongst the others. Perhaps like weeds, they have no idea they do not have the intrinsic properties of those they are trying to mimic.

 

So if weeds come right through the dirt into the world without any prompting, can pseudo humans as well? Like weeds, they likely don’t even know they are not real. Could it possibly be that the case with some people we know and/or in high places making decisions on our behalf?

 

Just some super crazy food for thought ❤

 

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On Where to Go from Here

Seriously….

 

White men get it the least from the possible perspective of any kind of human that roams this planet.

 

Anyone who knows me or has been following my blogs knows that 2012 was a really transformational year for me. I won’t post my long story yet again, but a Franklin Covey class about the Steven Covey book “ 7 Habits” really transformed my thinking. I was just in a place in my life where it hit me at the perfect time. Then 4 years later I started Yoga Teacher training, and again I was hit with change. Change that this time I had to actually take steps to make. It caused anxiety to a point where I got a reasonable accommodation at work and was able to transform my whole life for the better. I couldn’t support the world as I knew it even unintentionally for a second longer.

 

Then in 2017 I took the CT state 50-hour mandated reporter training required to teach yoga at domestic violence shelters. Another training that rocked my world. My two greatest learning points were about white privilege and that I had PTSD.

 

I write this now because I’m not stupid. I have an MBA, but I didn’t know a thing about white privilege or that I had PTSD and was regularly triggered. How could I? It’s the same way a white man doesn’t understand and wouldn’t even comprehend until a woman told him about walking down the street with a key under the index finger – you know, just in case. Or how it feels when you are just going about your business and some man tells you to smile. Smile??? WTF. First of all, who walks around smiling? And secondly there is no good response to that. If I smile I am encouraging this stranger. If I don’t the stranger seems to just judge me as “Who does this bitch think she is?”

 

Most men that hear this are not those who tell women to smile and don’t get it. But I don’t know a woman who hasn’t heard that. Or “You look really nice today” (from someone you’ve never met). This is harassment because no matter what I do or say, I don’t feel comfortable – so how about um… you don’t say anything? I’m not going to feel better about myself because someone I don’t know tells me I look nice or to smile.

 

And why do I write this?

 

Because our world is dominated by white men for some reason. Most boss’ I have were white heterosexual men. Though I’ve had male boss’ that are not heterosexual or disabled, and they still might not get this blog. Most of the things I’ve had to put up with came from the perspective of a white man’s world. It’s not the norm and no one should put up with the insane perspective of “normal” any longer.

 

Perhaps I thought some things were normal. I grew up as the only female child in an immigrant Italian American household. Women were subpar. I didn’t believe it, but I was taught by my mother that it’s something women just put up with.

 

In a similar (thought NOOOOOooo comparison) way black people are taught about what is “normal” to put up with.

 

As I’m becoming older and more educated, I’m realizing how NOT normal it all is. How ‘un’ OK this is. It’s not OK that anyone male, female, black, white, red, yellow, gay, trans – whatever is not equal and should ‘put up with’ ANYTHING other than 100% respect for being a living being and having the privilege of life on earth with everyone else.

 

In the same way at 41 years old I suddenly learned and began to comprehend the term white privilege – it’s time for men, any non-minority and even women who don’t think for themselves to understand what they take for granted and are either purposefully or inadvertently supporting. I didn’t know. I also didn’t know how much sexual assault was prevalent until this training either. I took this in May 2017 when the budgets were just getting cut for such things and learned that they were using leftover funds for public awareness campaigns about these two things. #Me Too and the term white privilege came into play right around that time. It was the social justice funding that raised awareness and it needs to keep going. We need as a society to SUPPORT and not mock these things.

 

That is what these protests are trying to teach. I don’t support looting and shooting or any of that – but I CAN understand being FED the “EFF” up with so few understanding how poorly you’ve been treated. It’s not OK, but hate and wrong do not justify hate and wrong. Though – AGAIN, being a child abuse/domestic violence survivor – I understand (I really really really do) that at times the mind snaps and you are taken to a place where the only thing your body is doing is trying to survive something that may not even be real at the moment. I’ve been there. I’ve snapped… . I’ve dealt with the horrible consequences of it. But if the public is even more aware of how one could snap from being treated poorly due to these social justice issues (NOT to play down BLM at the moment) – perhaps folks like me wouldn’t snap and the public wouldn’t have to pay for the results of me being human and cracking under the pressure I’ve been put under. If I were black and experienced the same thing ON top of being black and what that must feel like every day… I can’t even tell you – I would have spun myself off the planet by now.

 

I know I can’t be the only person who understands this. I feel alive when I see similar stories and posts. But a piece of me dies inside EVERY time someone who is white, or male, or has never been raped or has never been abused in anyway replies in some way to tell me I’m crazy or that it’s BS. Once way back in the day when Facebook was new I wrote “I’m either an insane person living in a sane world, or a sane person living in an insane world”.

 

I didn’t have a platform or reason to point to why I felt like I did. But I know I felt like the world didn’t understand at the time. And I now know for sure that it’s the world that’s insane and not me. And even though I wrote that previous sentence and can erase it before I post it. I’m not going to. The humans in this world who were all born equal as the bible and all spiritual text tells us have been systematically trained to think in a certain way. And we can not only be systematically untrained, but we can then teach a new more loving and comprehensive norm to the younger generation – who will then do the same.

 

We have to invest in social issues. Invest in our youth. It’s the only way out of the mess we are in. We have to know at a cellular level that we are all equal. That we all want the same thing for ourselves and our kids and our pets no matter where we stand by the outer color of our skin, or genitals in our underwear, or political party that we check off at the DMV. We all want love and to be loved. It’s not a crime to understand that by accepting another viewpoint of getting there is a loving viewpoint and something those spiritual teachings we point to would want us to do. It’s ONLY by that example that the viewpoint of others who think there is only one way to get there would consider doing the same.

 

This blog might seem a bit all over the place – but the point is that we are not all equal right now. By acknowledging this FACT, changing the conditional way we’ve been taught to think, and by just letting go and accepting that as humans we all want the same things (and have an equal right to get them) BUT have learned by society different ways of getting there -we can make a difference.

 

Friends, we are in a strange time and have the ability to change history to make a difference. I want our kid’s kid’s kid’s…. to read about how in 2020 humans transformed rather than ‘effed’ up again. We have the power to do that! Are you in?

 

Please say you are… ❤

 

Because the light and humanity and all that is love in me, sees and honors the same you.

 

Namaste

 

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Demystifying Yoga: Movement over Exercise

When I meet anyone and they first learn I either do or teach yoga, for some reason they feel compelled to tell me about their own experience with it. They tried it in the past and it was awful, they love it now, they have a friend or relative who likes it or teaches it… and/or more famously something along the lines of “I’m not flexible” “I had some sort of injury/surgery/etc” “It’s not for me”. One of my favorite funny lines is from the owner of the studio where I used to teach who said something to the effect of Saying you are not flexible enough to do yoga is like saying you are too dirty to take a shower. 

 

If you’ve never done yoga or are a newbie to it, how can you already know it’s not for you? It’s kind of an everybody thing. AND it’s probably not what you think it is.

 

Myth buster:

You don’t have to be flexible or even “in shape” at all. I wouldn’t sign up for anything called “Power Yoga” or the hot yoga classes if you’ve never done it. If you read the description of the class and it says all levels are welcome, they mean it. If it says experience needed (which most don’t) those would be the ones to initially stay away from.

 

So what happens there?

You bend yourself into a pretzel of course… OH I CAN’T EXPRESS HOW MUCH I’M KIDDING. But I do feel like that is what people think when I tell them I do yoga.

 

You stretch and move. Often slowly and mindfully. You breath in a way that you control the breath and can notice and appreciate it. Nearly anyone can keep up. Most of the classes I’ve ever taught were to an older, less flexible population who tends to come back regularly because they start to feel a positive shift within themselves. Micro changes in their body, minds and spirits that become macro changes over time.

 

Folks with all kinds of injuries or past surgeries often attend. In fact, many a student finds yoga after surgery because their surgeon recommended it as helpful and one of the initial few activities the patient can engage in. Unless you are a well-practiced yogi I wouldn’t attend if you are pregnant, have osteopenia or osteoporosis. There are special classes for those students. If you are worried about a medical condition, don’t hesitate to call ahead of time or let the instructor know before class begins. He/she has heard it all before and may often some advice to modify. However the bottom line is always, if it hurts don’t do it.

 

It’s Movement rather than Exercise.

 

Yoga is not really exercise as we know it. It will not be as if you are in a group gym class spinning on a bike or doing aerobics, and if you lose pace you have to work to keep up. The teacher is not going to yell at you to keep it moving (high tail it out of there if they do). Most students in yoga classes understand that everyone is at a different level and will not become frustrated if someone is falling behind – if there was even a way to ‘fall behind’. It’s not that type of thing.

 

Yoga is about listening to your own body. The instructor is providing direction, but you ultimately decide how far you want to go in a pose or stretch. Yoga should never hurt, burn, or pinch in any way. If it does it’s vital to pull back from whatever just created that feeling and either ease into it another way or stay where you were a moment ago. A good teacher will create a space where students are not looking at one another or judging anyone else. Once you understand how the practice works, you will learn there is almost no reason to look past the bounds of your mat (except occasionally to view the teacher). The practice is about you, in your own space, on your own mat – connecting movement and breath.

 

That’s all you need to do. Move and breath. Then magic happens. Just from doing that somehow all types of benefits begin to occur.

 

From The American Osteopathic Association and Yoga Journal some benefits include

 

Physical:

  • increased flexibility
  • increased muscle strength and tone
  • improved respiration, energy and vitality
  • maintaining a balanced metabolism
  • weight reduction
  • cardio and circulatory health
  • improved athletic performance
  • protection from injury
  • improved posture
  • prevention against cartilage and joint break down
  • better bone health
  • increased blood flow
  • enhanced balance
  • decreased blood pressure
  • regulates adrenal glands
  • boosts immunity
  • eases pain
  • supports connective tissue

 

Mental

  • manage stress
  • maintains the nervous system
  • releases tension
  • improves sleep
  • increase body awareness
  • sharpens concentration
  • helps to center attention
  • provides peace of mind
  • gives you inner strength

 

If you already engage it in you likely know this. And if you don’t – give it a try!

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On Being in the Dark

A light breeze blew in from across the street when I opened my blinds and cracked my bedroom window while it was still dark this morning. The noise of the roaring Long Island Sound across the street filled my ears, as the semi-salty draft infiltrated the space in which I was standing. A bell buoy chimed in the distance. A nearby bird sang a melodic tune. The feeling of the cool, damp air felt refreshing in the otherwise still sleepy space and my skin. I took a deep breath to let it all in; to appreciate this moment in the dark.

 

I went about the morning routine and onto my morning meditation practice. Since we changed the clocks last week it is now dark again in the morning, and for a few weeks more we get to watch the sunrise on the horizon a bit earlier.

 

It rained last night. The world felt just a bit more crisp… renewed. I opted to practice in a different space this morning. I turned off the lights and opened all the curtains to allow the darkness in while it turned to fresh morning light.

 

I stumbled around the dark to find my meditation pillow while carrying lemon water. My animals staggered around me, a bit confused and excited about my unanticipated movements. I felt around for the door stopper to prop open the front door. I was having difficulty finding it. I had to put down my pillow and water to crawl around to find the doorstop.

 

Yikes… was that sound of my cup just knocked over? Is that the dog walking through it? Did the water wet the nearby pillow?

 

I sat down on the floor, slightly defeated. I chuckled as I felt wet paws on my legs and then doggie kisses on my cheeks. My mood lifted. Was there a lesson here? Yes – there is a lesson everywhere if we look for it.

 

We can’t see in the dark. We can feel around for what we know, but we cannot use that sense of sight very well. We don’t really know what is there. We only know what we saw when it was light.

 

Nature ensures we are in the dark half of the time. Depending on your location on this beautiful planet; that half could be an even 12/12 hour split daily, or anywhere to 24/0 split as the time of the year changes. Either way we can be assured we will be in the dark exactly half of the time.

 

Everything that happens in nature is mirrored in the non-material world. Or should I say our physical world that manifests to what we see with our visual sense and “know” is born from the non-physical world that created it, and what we experience is actual a mirror of our creator. Another way to put it is something one of my favorite yoga teachers (Crystal) likes to say “As above, so below”. Half the time it is dark.

 

Our minds and the non-material world work similarly to nature. It is not possible to know everything there is to know. When we don’t know something, we are in the dark. We don’t even know what it is we don’t know.

 

However, the humbling part is that to navigate better – we have to accept that we are often in the dark. That we will not be able to see or know everything we need to in any given moment. When we think we know something, but it is unfamiliar; it may be best to proceed with caution and understand we are in the dark.

 

How does this translate to the world?

 

Perhaps accepting that to feel, say, or move about in a world with absolute certainty about your opinion/religion/etc is a set up for failure. We should accept that what we believe and the paradigm we operate in is not always what we think it is. We should stay open to other opinions, even if (or I might even say especially if) those opinions ignite something inside us that resists. There is a reason you feel so strongly about a topic – be it gun control, womens rights, or just something a friend said that rubbed you the wrong way. Why? Because the other opinions are from equal humans too, and they have a paradigm that is just as real as ours is to us. We are in the dark half of the time, and it’s a misassumption to believe that we know everything we need to know.

 

More real world….

 

Apple News has woken me from a deep sleep twice this week. The first was to inform me about who won the Democratic Primary Tuesday night, and then again to relay that Trump declared a travel ban.

 

Did I need to be woken for news I didn’t ask for? No. It could have waited. Side note: the alerts are now turned off. The point is, someone else decided what is important I know in a given moment. But more importantly, these are topics that are clearly split between the masses in current events. Political party divides and jokes about how COVID-19 is overblown vs. preparing to not leave our homes for a few weeks.  Who is right?

 

No one. We all have valid points. Every opinion matters. The best way to move forward is to accept that we do not know everything. We may have shut down to other opinions by only watching or reading one-sided news. Even you! The one who thinks their ‘News’ is the Right one and the ‘Others’ are idiots for reading/watching/streaming (insert name of media here).

 

If we didn’t listen to the other side how could we really know or understand their paradigm? When we don’t accept someone else’s humanity and paradigm we create walls (tangible and intangible) and de-humanize one another. This not only goes for the other guy to understand you, it goes for you too. Maybe the other guy is that way because of similar treatment from paradigms like yours.

Not only may we not know how the other half thinks, we should understand that even if we do and stay open to all opinions; we will still not know everything we could possibly know about any given topic.

 

There are too many studies, media outlets and channels, people/universities/groups/countries who know something very important and cannot get the word out to the masses efficiently or fast enough. There are individuals blocking content from themselves and governments blocking such from their people. We have to accept that we operate in the dark as often as we operate in what we think we know in the light.

 

I did get up from the floor and navigate (in the dark) to find a towel. Knowing I was in the dark was comforting because I knew I’d stumble and probably not get all the water off the floor. It was more important to me at the moment to accept that I can’t do what I want in the way that I want when I can’t see properly. Metaphorically, since I can’t know all there is to know – it would be a misnomer to traverse through life with absolute certainty based on my limited paradigm. It’s freeing to accept that I may be missing the mark at any given moment, but it’s ok because I’m doing the best I can.

 

I made my way over to where I intended to mediate. My 3 cats and dog sprawled sleepily around me. I had a slider cracked and continued to feel the cool air on my skin.

 

I listened to the seagulls. The birds. The Long Island Sound. The buoys. A car in the distance. My dog breathing.

 

I couldn’t see well, which heightened my other senses to appreciate and grasp what is normally missed. Unless my intention was to purposely look for them, in the light I would have overlooked the feel of the air on my skin and the music of nature in my ears. These ‘other’ things are so beautiful and have the power to help me to understand my surroundings more completely. My eyes are important; but in a way, they create blindness.

 

The rain began again. A new sound emerged as the water hit the earth and the various objects between the sky and ground. The darkness began to turn to light.

 

As the grey sky filled my home with a grayish tint, my other senses began to take a back seat to my eyes. Unless I closed my eyes, it became more difficult to appreciate noise and the sense of touch. If I solely listened to my loudest sense (sight), I would continually miss out on so much other beauty.

 

My cats and dog were excited when the routine changed up this morning. Spilled water was fun. They accept the world just how it is and enjoy it. They accept they cannot understand it all and just try to work with me when I talk to them. They understand the nature of life better than we do.

 

Why not take a message from nature? Accept what is and enjoy it for what it is. Recognize that we can’t know possible everything, hence we cannot possibly think we are right with absolution. Once we are comfortable with not knowing, other senses will come into play in order to compensate and reveal to us things we would have otherwise missed.

 

The only way to do that is to let go and acknowledge that it will always be dark half of the time.

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It’s Through the Heart

It’s through the heart where our light comes from.

Our heart is in the middle, between our head and the ground.

It’s the connection between our body and mind.

It’s the way to the middle path.

Through the middle is where liberation lies.

Liberation is pure love.

 

This morning while practicing sadhana (a spiritual routine) I had an inspiring thought. While engaging the 3 bandhas during some breathwork, I thought about keeping my heart open and full of light. These three bandhas are energetic locks at the perineum, naval area, and throat area. The heart is automatically not locked. It’s open.

 

It’s Valentines Day so I thought a bit more about the heart as I moved through my practice and into meditation. Suddenly so many random ideas I’ve had, spoken about, and written about began bubbling to the surface.

 

What is the right thing to do? How can the heart lead us?

 

Society puts us on a confusing path by teaching us from a young age that there is good and bad. Our brain learns how to navigate this world through comparison and opposites. It would stand to reason, as many of us do, that good and bad are opposites. If they are opposites that means if you are not good, you must be bad. Growing up Catholic, I also took that to mean if I am not good, I am a sinner. Then guilt and shame rise up. A quick road to a slippery slope.

 

The first time I felt an absolute true spiritual connection through words, quotes and teachings was surprisingly in a two-day work seminar I took in March 2012. It was the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The instructor went through a spiral notebook we all received as we learned about the habits working from the inside of ourselves outward. Never [to me] were such true words spoken. I felt connected with myself in a way I never had before. I realized I have paradigms, the inner power to change my thoughts, and can root to my true self so deeply that my values and morals will guide my decision making. I walked away from that training a different person.

 

Several weeks later I was on work trip in Maine. We were on a mandatory outside walking break. Since I didn’t read the memo, I was trotting around in my stilettos along a scenic mountainous path in Portland ME. Since the 7 Habits training I started to change my life. I was walking alongside a colleague who had also been at that training with me a few weeks back, so I asked her if she enjoyed it. She replied that she absolutely did! And not only did she enjoy it; she wasn’t sure why, but she and her husband started going to yoga on Saturday mornings since then. Additionally she is a physician, so the email list that generated from the class targeted her to learn more about the heart.

 

The heart, here it is again.

 

She was involved in a series of live online classes that focused on physical and spiritual heart health, and how to work with patients on things they connect to in order to motivate them toward better health. She explained to me that she’d never thought about it before, but the heart is the only thing in our body with an electrical impulse. Where does that electricity come from? It’s the link between our inner and outer worlds. Interesting right?

 

Electricity is light. Light comes from our heart from the netherworlds.

 

I’ve also been reading and re-reading Michael Singer’s “The Untethered Soul”. Chapter 6 is all about the heart. What it is. How our life ends when it stops. How when we keep it open, we experience life fully. Why we close it and how we can choose not to. It’s fascinating.

 

 

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

On a slightly different (yet related) tangent, several years ago I took a Yin Yoga Teacher training. At one point our instructor drew a Yin Yang on the white board and explained the dark and light side in a way I had never before considered.

 

Most of us have the understanding that the white side is Yang. Lots of energy. Pure light. The sun. Male. Loud. The dark side is Yin. Stillness. Darkness. The moon. Female. Quiet. Knowing this I’ve always considered one side good and one side bad. Yet it semi-bothered me that what I considered the “good” side or the Yin side, was the dark part of this circle.

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I copied the white board drawing with fascination. Yang represents the warrior. Yin the healer. We need both. But we cannot just be one or the other. The warrior will destroy everything in his sight if left alone. The healer will never move and be destroyed if left to her own devices. The balance is in the middle. We need to be activated with Yang power when needed. Getting lit by your inner fire in order to make change and do our work in the world (the visionary). But also knowing when to step back and be in the place of love, peace and acceptance of what is (the teacher). Balancing the Teacher and Visionary is the middle path. A little of both as needed. Not too much, not too little. Neither side being “good” or “bad”.

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The “right” path is through the middle. The “wrong” path would bring you around and around the circle. The true way is right in the middle in the path between both. In the Yin Yoga world it’s the Tao (the way).

 

 

The middle way. Buddha said that!

Unknown

 

How do we get to the middle? It’s up to us. We can do it with our own energetic light if we keep our heart open.

 

Why the heart?

 

Because it’s the middle. It’s the 4th chakra right down the middle.

 

Our brain, heart and gut all have neurons that are in constant communication to keep our autonomic functions running smoothly. We have 3 parts of ourselves that govern decisions and how to be in the world. In the physical body these parts reside in the upper, middle and lower parts respectively. We also have 3 levels of brain function. The reptilian brain, the limbic brain and the neocortex. The neural connection between the three is well developed. Our psychic apparatus consists of the id, ego and superego.

 

If we listened to our lower selves only where our gut, bowels and reproductive organs live; we would live in a world where it’s all about food, sex and waste. It’s the primitive side of us. The lower brain that all creatures with a brain on this planet have. It is the basis of evolution. To do what it takes to survive. The reptilian brain. It would be the id in our psychic apparatus. It would be the Yang in our Yin Yang.

 

If we listened only to our mind on the other side of the body, the part we consider in our heads we might get nothing done. For one it’s noisy in there. The mind never stops talking! It contradicts itself constantly. It’s all about learning, growth, creativity and is never happy just where it is. It seeks more. It’s calculating. Only humans have this part of the brain. It would be the superego or the neocortex. We take what we learned from others as right and wrong, and operate from there in a confused state of mind about what actually is right from wrong. This part seems to believe that loving one another, helping others, and giving is how to make the world a better place.  But using that alone, we would never be activated by the fire in the belly to get up and do something when we see the world in a state of injustice and disrepair.

 

The heart balances these two out. It’s the emotional center. The limbic system as mammals all have. The part of the brain that if left alone dwells in balance with nature and the cycles of life. Values and morals come from this part. This parr’s decisions are based on the greater good without taking more than needed. Animals do not hoard. They don’t kill if they aren’t going to eat. They live in and with nature as one.

 

Since we are human, we will always have the metaphorical devil and angel on our opposing shoulders. The mind and gut are both very loud and seem to have (no pun intended) “minds of their own”. Our bodies are built that way. Perhaps our heart, right there in the middle hearing both and having a subtle intelligence of its own, is where the answers to our inner and outer dilemmas reside. We just need to quiet the other two and listen.

 

I’ve tried to follow the advice in The Untethered Soul and purposefully keep my heart open. It’s hard! It’s a habit we all have to protect ourselves. But if we trusted our hearts to listen to our lower selves when we sense danger or our higher selves when we sense creative energy, we wouldn’t need to protect it. We would use the heart’s intelligence to put the other two to work when they are most needed.

 

The heart is special. It is the only part of us that generates it’s own electricity. I ask again, where does that electricity come from?

 

It comes from a place we cannot identify. A place that gives life. A place that the path we seek would lead to. In sadhana this morning while energetically holding the bandhas at the throat, gut and base; with my heart open I realized it’s the part of me that I want open and to be my guide through this world. I want to take care of it, love it, and listen to it.

 

It’s through the heart where our light comes from.

Our heart is in the middle, between our head and the ground.

It’s the connection between our body and mind.

It’s the way to the middle path.

Through the middle is where liberation lies.

Liberation is pure love without attachment.

Unknown

Namaste

 

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On Grace

I am inspired by a yoga teacher training today that I was part of. During a conversation about mantra, the topic of Grace came up. On my way home I listened to U2’s song “Grace” and couldn’t help but walk in the door to my computer and write.

 

The topic of Grace was only a small part of an amazing day and didn’t last long. But it did leave an impression on me. We were reading the book “Healing Mantras” by Thomas Ashley-Farrand and discussing the topic of karma. On page 39, someone read a paragraph that I have read before but never quite understood.

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One of my teachers that was leading that section stopped a bit to talk about a few things. The one of which that sticks out most is the equation of Effort + Grace = Results.

 

Hmmmm….. interesting.

 

One of my classmates asked her to repeat it so she could write it down.

 

Either before or after the equation, my teacher (Shelley) was talking about how escaping karma means leaving little to no ‘wake’. The same classmate asked her to define wake. Wake was meant in the context of how a boat makes a wake in the water.

Hmmm… Did it make sense? Yes, to me; but in some way I wasn’t sure and noted it was something to sort out mentally later.

 

Then another classmate shared how she understands what Grace is, but would struggle to define it. The question was left open to the floor. Lots of ideas circulated. As the group talked, U2’s song “Grace” played in my head. Particularly the part where Bono sings: “She travels outside of karma”.

 

That line is stimulating, and along the lines of the text in our book. I mentioned the U2 song. Then someone else mentioned the song “Amazing Grace” and precisely the line “How sweet the sound”. Earlier in the day we had an Ayurvedic lesson and looked at a chart of the journey of consciousness in conjunction with an extensive conversation about how the material world and the non-material trickle into our own selves. It’s the concept of prakriti and purusha mixed with some prana. But not to bore anyone to tears with this yogic speak, one of the basics that may or may not have been in that particular conversation but is scientifically proven is that we are all but a vibration. One of my teachers pointed that out.

How sweet the sound”.

 

That is deep but we took it a breath deeper to discuss that the old testament many of us are familiar with, is that one of the first lines is In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

A classmate makes a little sound of an exploding head. Yes, this is a head exploding part. But the Word was God. Sound over light as the classmate who brought it up expressed it. Vibration itself as possibly a higher vibration that light?

 

Wow, where did the question of “Grace” go? And what did it have to do with this conversation.

 

Another classmate took it down a few notches to say that her concept is of Grace is the following:

  • You have kids and they break something in your house. You yell.
  • You have kids and they break something in your house. You tell them you understand and it’s ok.

The latter is Grace.

 

Suddenly the Jesus analogy made sense. There is something you aren’t proud of, and someone else takes it on and forgives you. I said this during class. My other teacher said, yes – it’s as if they take the shame.

 

Great conversation, but we had to wrap it up and straighten up because a community mantra class about going to start soon. Mantra conversation to be continued at a further time.

 

Fast forward about two hours later and I’m driving home listening to music. I’m inspired and excited, but what I’m listening to is sort of dragging me down. I ask Siri to play U2’s song “Grace”. The earlier conversation started to take a lot more shape for me and inspired me to write.

 

I don’t think I can fully grasp the depth of this beautiful word, but I feel I’m “One Step Closer to Knowing” [me shamelessly stealing another song title from U2].

 

If I had to describe my understanding of Grace at this moment, I would explain that it’s a person’s ability to realize that we are just a piece of all consciousness experiencing itself through a pointed view of ourselves. Or in simpler terms, a soul watching events unfold. Nothing matters.

When you get this from a core/soul level you do realize that nothing matters in the end. If you take on the shame or sins of others and free them from their suffering, you can release it from yourself because you understand that what happens ultimately doesn’t matter. It’s the highest form of vibration. It’s the stillness between the good and bad.

We are here to learn and it is all welcome. Once you can take the hurt away from others, onto yourself and release it – you move past the karma cycle. It’s the famous Christ analogy I never understood nor could anyone in my Catholic upbringing explain it to me. I still don’t propose to know it, but I do feel I’m “One Step Closer to Knowing” 

Lyrics below with my thoughts in blue.

Namaste,

Esterina

Grace

U2

Grace
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name 

Christ analogy

Grace
It’s the name for a girl
It’s also a thought that
Changed the world

And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings (sound/vibration)
Grace finds goodness
In everything 

Grace
She’s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk

She travels outside
Of karma, karma
She travels outside
Of karma

Once you master this and do it, you understand how both good & bad are both part of the physical world and welcome. You can move past the circle of karma

When she goes to work
You can hear her strings the vibration again
Grace finds beauty
In everything

Everything is beautiful because it’s a part of life so it belongs

Grace
She carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips

She carries a pearl
In perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings

Grace takes that shame without strings. Just removes it and leaves no wake. Not a good or bad wake. Just working through life and bringing things back into balance where everything is as it has always been – in perfect condition. 

Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace finds beauty
In everything

Grace finds goodness in everything

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