The Chakras and Lent – Week 3

I am late this week in writing this blog. I am having a difficult time moving past the sacral chakra on an emotional level. I do feel like I have moved along habit wise. Nothing can be forced with these types of things, so this week I will write about how I feel with both the emotion and leaving the habit behind while I describe the next chakra to keep on track with the weeks of lent. 

Last week I described some qualities of the Svadhisthana chakra and ways in which it can be blocked. It is related to the water element. When open, it is easy to go with the flow and surrender to your true feelings. It is equated with sexuality, creativity, power of choice, and a sense of belonging and relation with others. I likened it to the second level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

I am stuck here emotionally with all but the creativity aspect. For the past few weeks each morning and evening I sat to meditate. At first it was lovely. I quieted my mind quite easily. I envisioned a healthier life without alcohol in it. I saw myself never missing it and having control over my emotions. Then around the time my husband told me he doesn’t want to live with me any time soon and later he’d like to file for legal separation, I was unable to quiet my mind easily. Almost impossibly.

Since then I sit for a few minutes and cry. I do a round of mantra with my mala beads and try to stick with keeping focus on the mantra. But the term citta vritti from the Yoga Sutras comes to mind. I have thoughts that are cluttering. Static. It’s very difficult to get them to stop. Like waves during a storm. If you wait it out long enough the storm will pass and the water will be calm again. The only thing is I’m not waiting. I’m getting frustrated and getting up and moving about my day or reading to fall asleep. My days are full of work, exercise, eating extraordinarily well, and doing creative things. I’m drawing, knitting, and writing more than ever. Some emotion comes out through those, but the mind is not calm.

This morning while attempting to meditate but allowing thought to rise to the surface I was thinking about how I was putting off this blog. It occurred to me that I’m stuck in the qualities of last week’s chakra when it is blocked. I’m not taking my own advice by doing hip openers or anything that would help this. Then I thought of Maslow’s hierarchy and how relation with others and sense of belonging is an innate human need at lower levels of growth. I can’t move past my husband shifting so quickly from what he said daily was the happiest he has ever been to where we are now, and then my mind – my subconscious mind throws in images from my childhood where I felt my mother should have been protecting me during some of my darkest hours, but instead she sided with my father to keep peace. That is why I cry. I feel alone. I don’t feel like I’ve ever gotten the help I need in any serious way and no one anywhere has noticed or encouraged me to go get serious help. I’m missing that human connection and relation that I’m loved no matter what. I have no sense of belonging to anyone. I feel disposable. I know I would never let my children feel like they did something that was unforgivable. Love knows everything is forgiven. My parents did not give that to me.

Day 24 here. 27 days is the longest I have ever gone since 2018 within the past 11 years. I do have hope. I know that I will never drink again. But I have hope alone. Family and friends are helpful, but they have their own lives. There is no one in my life dedicated to me and helping me recover. I so desperately want to hug someone and to be hugged. During COVID at AA meetings and other rare places where I see humans it’s not something we do anymore. The sense of doing something do difficult alone and without solid human connection is a dam that is stopping the proverbial water from flowing freely. 

I do cry as I write this. This is the conclusion I came to while meditating this morning, that my sacral chakra is emotionally blocked. For lack of better words – I prayed to my higher power, in my case I asked the part of me (Atman) that is connected to the universal conscious how to handle this. I know the answers are always there when we look for them. I know I’m not really alone. 

Starting with the very next meditation, I am going to sit longer until the storm calms and the water stills where my mind stills. In the meanwhile while the storm surges I am going to use one of my favorite Louisa May Alcott quotes “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship”. I’m going to focus on how I’m not all alone and all I need is within. 

Meanwhile I continued to move along in breaking the habit to drink. It did not get stuck with my emotions. I have a fire within me to kick the drink and to be awake and aware of anxiety when PTSD comes creeping around. Fire! So let’s talk about the solar plexis and the Manipura chakra.

The Manipura chakra is yellow. 

This is the painting of the Manipura Chakra I made in January this year.  

From Learn The Meaning Behind Each Chakra This chakra “directly affects your confidence. The ten petals of this symbol connect it to the ten Pranas in your body, or, for simplicity, types of air energy manipulation….The upside-down triangle in this symbol represents the energy of the lower three chakras being concentrated and energetically spreading up to the higher chakras. Think of it as an upside-down funnel of earth energy”.

It is known as the solar plexis chakra due to its location at ­­­­­­­above the belly button and below the heart. From Healthline(Science over the yogic principles) – “The solar plexus — also called the celiac plexus — is a complex system of radiating nerves and ganglia. It’s found in the pit of the stomach in front of the aorta. It’s part of the sympathetic nervous system”. 

Of the 5 elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), this chakra is associated with hot qualities of fire. It is yellow like the sun. 

The fire within. The gut feeling. The Manipura chakra is the area where these qualities abide. If we go up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we would be in the place where self-esteem and confidence come into play. 

I feel very confident now about my ability to kick the drink and take control of my emotions. When I’m out and about at meetings or with others I do feel self-esteem and confidence in myself too. 

When the solar plexis chakra is balanced or open, we feel empowered in just the right ways. We walk through life assured of our abilities. We feel strong. However, when this area is imbalanced or blocked we may feel we are either under confident or over confident. We either lack energy, or have too much energy. 

On the journey of habit breaking, once there are a few weeks under the belt – the confidence that we could really really do it starts to shine! We do get that fire in the belly to make it work. We are not under or over-confident at this stage. We are really starting to be in the flow. For me personally, despite getting stuck emotionally – my habit breaking is moving along very smoothly. I do have a fire within to never drink again. To never let myself lose control of my emotions and self again. Ever. 

As the description of the symbol above states, the downward triangle along with the element of fire helps to lift up all those other things that are blocking the flow of whatever it is. In this instance it would be blocking the flow of change. We need that inner confidence and fire to really make that happen. 

Previously I explained how the koshas are like 5 sheaths that are layered in between our own individual light or soul and the outside world. The 3rd layer in is associated with the Manomaya kosha. It is the sheath of the mind. We moved from the first layer of skin/food where our physical body touches the outside world, to the second layer of prana or chi – that energy that connects us to the world. That same energy connects the world through us and to the mind. Hence the mind sheath. 

The mind sheath makes sense of the outside world through interpretation. The problem is that it can only make sense out of what it knows. 

The mind talks to us. The thoughts we have are the mind formulating interpretations of the outside world and using previous experience to determine a conclusion about every situation we encounter every moment of every day. All animals have this ability. It is what keeps us alive and safe. It alerts us to danger. 

It is a problem because what it knows will shape our thoughts, beliefs and patterns. If it doesn’t experience anything outside that realm, it will make assumptions that can be one sided. Dangers may not be real, it is only the perception. 

It is said to be why so many people experience stress in our modern world. The body can only handle so much information and make sense of it at once. With computers, phones, dinging alarms, media flashing, etc – there are a lot of moments in most people’s day where it is overwhelming. The fight or flight (gut feeling) of danger kicks in. For most people the human higher brain function jumps in to alert the interpretive part of mind that there is no real danger. But that stress and the adrenalin that started is still there coursing through our bodies as if a lion was just about to attack us. It is normal, but too much of it will shape the mind to create patterns and conclusions that do not fit the situation, and many people live in a constant state of stress.

The Manomaya layer of the mind is needed to keep us safe. It protects those lower chakras of basic needs, safety, security and reproduction. While the fire of the solar plexis will help pull up any blockages so energy can flow, if this chakra is blocked- all will stop with the mind layer at the level the animal brain scans for survival. It becomes more difficult to apply wisdom to situations and live in a healthier, stress free way. 

When I drink my thinking stops here. I am unable to connect with wisdom. My body feels impaired and my gut is scanning at a higher alert for danger to compensate for being impaired. Having PTSD and mixed-up signals to begin with, my gut may feel an emotion and interpret it in only one way. I get stuck there. I’ve had one too many mental episodes right at this point. 

This is where most habits get stuck. The lower parts of the brain that scan for safety take over in situations that are not a real danger. The mind gets stuck on one thing. If you are a shopaholic or a gambler, the mind is telling you that the anxiety will go away if you indulge in the habit. This applies to thoughts too. A situation may not at all be dangerous, but it feels like it. A presentation, seeing someone you don’t like, whatever it is, the mind becomes fixated. Without this chakra being clear and allowing for prana/chi to pass from the outside world past the mind, unwise decisions will likely be made. 

In the earlier blogs I described seed mantras as shortcut words to a lengthier explanations of an intention. Using Sanskrit as a vibrational language connects the energetic vibration of the sound of the intention to the universal energies, and aids in making this intention a reality by conditioning your brain to remember what you really want. 

The seed mantra for the Manipura chakra is RAM.

We can use RAM to clear the solar plexis chakra and the gut brain and to stay open to possibilities. We can chant this word with the intention to remember that all we see and feel is limited to our own experiences. If we quiet the chatter in the mind, we will be able to see past that. We need a bit of the fire element to kick start this because it isn’t where thoughts generally gravitate. It is at this point where we need the desire (fire) to take control and discern what we really need in a given moment. 

I wrote about how the Prana Vayus are the 5 ways in which energy moves throughout the body. Yoga poses assist in moving energy in particular ways. 

The prana vayu associated with the solar plexis chakra is called Samana. Samana moves in a circular direction to balance the two vayus associated with the lower chakras by of Prana that is directed up, and Apana that is directed down. 

The Yoga Sanctuary writes “Samana vayu helps us to take in what we need and release what we don’t in an even balance… It is responsible for the processing and assimilation of all that is taken in—food, emotions, perceptions, and breath. Samana is used to assimilate these energies so that they can be used optimally”. 

On an emotional level, as I wrote above, it’s a stopping point before making a decision. Taking in what is necessary and disregarding the rest. If that is not clear, decisions will be made based on the animal brain which doesn’t always necessarily discern what is really required at the moment. Stopping here and knowing this will help us to make decisions that best support our intentions for new habits as well. 

Yoga poses which aid the physical body in keeping this energy moving are

Sun Salutations, Warrior postures, core-strengthening postures like Navasana (boat pose), and Breath of Fire pranayama.

Little side story: In April of 2014 while gardening I injured my back. Usually the pain would go away within a day or two. This time the pain remained until December of 2015 when I finally went to physical therapy. I had been practicing yoga at that point for a few years, but I did not know how to engage my core to protect my body. 

Much to my surprise at the time, the physical therapy I was prescribed was yoga postures. The therapists showed me how to keep the core engaged while I performed the physical movements. Within less than two weeks the pain was gone and has never come back.

In week one’s video I walked through the core pose of Tadasana or Mountain pose. In that video I described what it is to “engage the core”. Today’s video is of Childs Pose or Balasana in Sanskrit. I chose this pose because it was the basis for many of my physical therapy movements where I went from resting to engagement. Next week I will cover Table pose where I truly learned core engagement during physical therapy. But for this week we will do Childs. It is a pose to help calm the mind, which is also very important to help open the Manipura chakra by tuning out the chatty mind. Additionally, this pose helps increase blood circulation which may help to even out the body’s energy through the Samana Vayu.  Lastly it is a good pose for stretching the hips and thighs. Before we move to the higher chakra’s, these stretches make sense in relation to continuing to open last week’s sacral chakra which is aided by hip openers.

So grab a mat & join me in this very short video.

Until next week.

Peace 

The Chakras and Lent – Week 1

The Chakras and Lent – Week 2

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https://esterinaanderson.com

On How it Takes a Village

Last Friday was my birthday. Before the invention of Facebook and smart phone, my family would always call. I would get a few cards in the mail from family, in-laws and old friends. It felt very special.

For the past 12 years-ish, it is an avalanche of birthday greetings on social media, text and messenger apps. The calls and cards are nearly gone. Times have shifted. It is very nice, but it does not feel as authentic. Quantity does not trump quality. 

Every handful of people takes some extra time to write a few lines about how happy they are for me, or how they see my pictures and it looks like I’m doing so well. It is kind of them to put in the effort to reach out and say something specific to me. However, I realized last week that they are only seeing the façade that social media unwittingly enforces.  

We’ve all fallen prey to believing what we see, forgetting that as humans we aren’t capturing painful moments with our cameras; or putting out the dirty laundry for the world to see. Social media platforms are full of the good times, the beautiful moments, platitudes of gratitude, showcasing political affiliations, hating on articles or something that happened to you, asking for prayers for a situation, etc.

But how many people are being truly real? How many people do you see wear their heart on their sleeves or share with the world how they are suffering with personal issues? Or tell the world their worries about their loved ones (outside of disease or death)? 

I find it ironic when I talk to people off of social media that I do not know too well; they will comment that I wouldn’t understand something they are telling me because I don’t have issues with my family, that my kids went to college, or that I have a healthy life. I question why they think this, but it’s obvious that they see my feed where it’s tulips and daisies. 

I’ve used my blog in the past to communicate more heart wrenching stories. Honest truths about things I suffer with and unpleasant things that have happened. Most who read it thank me for being open because it helps them to realize we are all alike and suffer similarly. Some others question how I can possibly put it all out there? I’ve even been accused of being too negative on my blogs.

Yikes. You can’t win. 

I don’t post or blog for anyone’s benefit. I don’t post to make people feel good or bad. I post and write from my heart about what I’m experiencing in that moment. Life’s moments are not all good. It’s just as normal to feel negative emotions as it is to feel positive ones. So why pretend we are always happy and that everything is great? 

I’m day 18 into sobriety.

On February 8th I had an alcohol induced mental breakdown and went a bit crackers. It has resulted situation I never thought I would be in. It damaged relationships and my self-esteem.

I’m getting the level of help I never wanted to ask for because I saw such things only for other people. I believed that only a failed, broken person needs intensive level of services. Where did those beliefs come from?

They came from my environment. From stigmas. From the false belief that something is wrong if you aren’t happy because look around at everyone else – they are blissfully happy. Even though I share the ways in which I’m not happy, most people still see the tulips and daisies.

Human connection is at an all time low. We have so many platforms and mechanisms to communicate, but they strip away authentic relations. It’s easier than ever to show the world only what you want the world to see. When everyone does that, everyone else thinks they are the only ones who suffer and feel more alone and ashamed than ever. 

We end up trying to live up to unrealistic expectations of what it means to live out a human experience. 

I don’t want to do that. 

I have quit drinking for good. I have PTSD and it affects the way I perceive situations. When I drink and my brain slows down all bodily reactions, it also slows down my rational mind to pick up the signals that what is happening around me is not what my body’s fight or flight auto response thinks it is. 

I need help. Help to stop drinking and help to process old trauma that comes up because it would like to leave and finds opportunities when I’m not paying attention (drinking) to burst out. 

I’m getting help. I’m not perfect. Not getting help sooner has done a lot of damage. Some damage cannot be undone. 

It takes a village for each individual to be the best version of themselves. If a village has no real connection and facades of perfection, the result is that the people in the village are going to feel damaged, alone, anxious and depressed. 

Being real is what makes life and relationships real. Without pain there is no opportunity for growth or change. Pain is part of life too. It’s real and no one amongst us doesn’t feel it. 

I am asking anyone reading this who sees me in real life to honor the fact that I am no longer drinking. I’m asking anyone reading to be real with me about your life or anything I’ve done and how it has affected you positively or negatively. 

I’m real. I’m imperfect, angry, sad, hurt and suffering from my past and an unhealthy way of dealing with it (alcohol). I’ve hurt others because of this and trying to make it not true about myself. But I’m also really loving, funny, kind, creative, brainy and friendly. 

I wrote a blog not too long ago about embracing your Shadow self. We all have one. So let’s all embrace our own and learn to live with it and forgive others for their shadow sides as we would like to be forgiven. https://esterinaanderson.com/2020/10/30/on-halloween-and-our-shadow-side/  

I’m asking to be a part of a real village, even if I have to create it myself 

Peace 

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The Chakras and Lent – Week 1

Today is Ash Wednesday. The start of lent. 40 days and 40 nights. Easter is on the way. My understanding of why the Christian faith gives up something for lent is because shortly before Jesus died, he spent 40 days and 40 nights in the dessert fasting. 

Wikipedia defines the number 40 as having great symbolic meaning to Jews, Christians and Muslims even today, and the number is used in terms of time, representing a period of probation and trial. 

Noah was on the boat for 40 days. When I learned about mantra in yoga teacher training, 40 days was the minimum recommended time to do one. Even U2 has a song called 40. 

40 days is good period of time to create a new habit, or give up and old one. In terms of lent, this period happens right before the rebirth or understanding of everlasting life that takes place on Easter. We give up something that does not serve for 40 days, so 40 days later it is conquered and we in some way are like a new person. 

For the next several weeks I hope to write about a chakra each week. Similar to giving something up and creating better habits, choosing to honor each week of the season with a blog is a commitment to doing something that will better my life.

I’m on a new journey. For reasons I won’t write about today, I have permanently given up alcohol. I’m day 9 into my new life. Unlike times before; I have no plans to ever go back, cut back, have it once in while- it’s never

Coincidentally lent came right at the start of my commitment. 

The chakras build in order of basic survival to enlightenment. I wrote about them once before a little less that 2 years ago https://esterinaanderson.com/2019/03/31/on-the-chakras/

Some relevant text from that blog:

There are 7 main energetic centers of our bodies from which energy flows through. They start at the base of the spine in the tailbone area and work their way up the body through the crown of the head.

Ancient texts in Eastern philosophies explain that as there is a visible physical body, there is also an accompanying invisible energetic body. It is just as complicated and intricate. It has systems, nodes, and channels as our physical bodies do. Energy can get blocked just as an artery can. Emotions are energetic. They get stuck and if not released can go deeper and deeper into our being and/or eventually manifest through physical pain.

The 7 main energy points are the chakras. Each is associated with a color of the rainbow. 

Akin giving up a beloved habit that is not good for us, as time passes it becomes easier, similar in the way that the chakras (as energy points) go from denser to lighter qualities. 

At first stopping or quitting something may feel like survival to get through each day. At some point it seems doable and a fire is lit within us to carry on. Eventually more clarity sets in and shedding the weight of a particular habit enables us to be more open and present, say more, know more, and become all the wiser and stronger for it.  

Week 1 – Muladhara

The Muladhara chakra is red . 

I painted the Muladhara as well as the other six last month. 

From Learn The Meaning Behind Each Chakra: The upside-down triangle is the alchemical symbol for earth, which also reminds us of the grounded energy of Muladhara. The four petals in this symbol represent the four mind-states that originate in this chakra: mind, intellect, consciousness, and ego.

It is known as the root chakra due to its location at the base of the spine. When we sit, it is the place where we root directly to the earth and physical world. Of the 5 elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), this chakra is associated with the heavy and dense qualities of earth. 

Due to its root quality, it is not unlike the start of Maslow’s triangle, where it is difficult to move past that level if basic survival needs are not met. 

This chakra symbolizes safety, survival, grounding, nourishment from the Earth energy (food, other humans, clothing, etc)

When the root chakra is balanced or open, we feel grounded or well-established—physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and even economically. However, when this area is imbalanced or blocked we may feel unstable, unhealthy, and disconnected.

Old habits can feel like a security blanket. As much as we may intellectually know that habit does not serve us, it can feel symbolic of safety. We know life with it, but some part of us inside that is fearful may panic over the thought of our existence without it. That old habit at the root is a blockage. It is causing us to feel unstable, unhealthy and disconnected. Until we trust in something more powerful than the physical want of keeping a habit; we will feel more connected, grounded and safe. Safe because we can exist in an even better capacity without the handicap of what it is we need to shed. 

In this next section I’m going all yogic, so follow along if you’d like, or just skip right on over and perhaps do the 5 minute , 1 pose practice to aid in grounding at the end of this blog. 

From the yogic perspective koshas surround what we might identify as our soul with 5 sheaths or layers. The way one of my teachers describes it, would be to imagine our soul as our light. If we were to picture that light screwed into a lamp piece, there would be 5 layers between our light and the outer world. 

The outermost layer is the annamaya kosha. It is the “food” sheath.

From the article Annamaya Kosha-The energy system of Ayurveda and Yoga:   In Sanskrit, it means the sheath of food. It is the sheath of the physical self as food empowers it. Through this sheath or layer, we identify ourselves as a mass which consists of the skin, flesh, fat, bones and filth.

Basically the first layer between our soul and the outside world in our skin, which is created by food. 

The seed mantra for the Muladhara chakra is LAM.

A quick explanation of a mantra, then a seed mantra. 

A mantra is a statement or sentence that is repeated frequently. Our minds are fed constantly by what is around us whether or not we are aware. Most of what we mentally digest from our environment is negative. We absorb things by media, conversations, advertisements, jingles, songs, etc. Our subconscious picks these things up and replays it over and over. Before we know it, those things we picked up become our thoughts, then beliefs, and then our reality. We are in this way like little machines on a program. 

For example, you will have a healthy dinner and then feel full. An hour or so later you sit in front of the TV and there is a burger joint commercial. Maybe you didn’t even see it, perhaps you were in the bathroom when you heard a familiar jingle. Minutes later you are thinking about burgers. You now believe you are hungry (when you aren’t). Not long after you are in the car, driving up to a fast-food joint and doing something your rational mind knows is not in your best interest. 

That is a really simple example, but it happens all of the time every day in very complicated and subconscious ways. What is around us sticks and becomes our norm. 

By repeating a mantra we fill our mind with something we consciously want to put in there. 

The world is but a vibration. Science proves that. The Sanskrit language is vibrational, meaning the sounds of the words correlate to the energic vibrations of the intention, mood, or object they describe.

A seed mantra is sort of a short cut to a larger meaning. They are said to contain the entire essence of a teaching. For example, rather than chanting “I’d like my insecurities and lack of stability surrounding quitting alcohol to come to pass”, I can chant “LAM” with the intention of clearing the root chakra in regard to my attachment to alcohol. It is understood that the vibration of LAM will connect to the subtle universal energies and help will aid in making this intention a reality.

All this talk about energy! Onto Prana Vayus and how energy moves. 

Energy moves 5 ways within the body. The prana vayus are the directions in which this energy moves. Prana means energy and vayu means wind. Yoga poses are associated with certain energy directions by moving energy in certain ways. 

For example, if you are looking for more energy, certain poses help that energy to flow upward. If you are looking for less energy and feel the need to ground down (perhaps when anxious), a pose that directs energy downward will assist in doing the trick. 

The prana vayu associated with the root chakra is called Apana. Apana moves in a downward direction and aids in elimination. 

It makes sense that the root chakra is associated with forces that drive downward to keep you rooted, and to help the body eliminate waste. 

Yoga poses in which the body is firmly rooted are associated with the root chakra.

So – do you want to join me in getting a start in either creating or breaking a habit over the next 40 days? Perhaps we can tackle the first few, most difficult days by doing something radical and clearing the first chakra through mantra or some grounding poses.

For the next seven weeks I will also be performing a virtual pre-taped back-to-the basics posture series. They will be a few minutes long and cover some key elements of the most basic yoga poses. 

This week is Mountain Pose (Tadasana in Sanskrit). It is the most basic of all poses. When I first learned yoga it was just something that we did in class every so often after doing something else. I was just standing there. One day the teacher broke it down from the ground up and it’s never been the same for me. I learned how engaged and present I could be by just standing. How I could root and reach. 

I later realized that Mountain Pose is incorporated into everything. When we understand the concept of Mountain, we may come to realize that your perfect mountain pose (depending on your own body) can help you in alignment with everything you do. Walking, driving, running, sitting… and of course, other yoga poses. The concept of an aligned spine, engaged core and where certain parts of your body point to can be carried out into almost every physical way in which we move about, be it on the mat or in our lives.

So if you’d like to join me, clear a small place on the floor to stand – and let’s practice Mountain.

Some other grounding poses if you know them are Childs, Down Dog, Squat and Legs up the wall (everyone’s favorite) to name a few.

Until next week (hold me to it!)

Namaste

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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. 

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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

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https://esterinaanderson.com

Sunday Mornings

Sunday mornings always had a feel to me of a new dawning. No matter where I’ve been on a Sunday morning, I have felt a certain vibe in the air that the day is even fresher than the Saturday and weekday mornings before it.

 

In cities coffee shops are just opening, few cars are in movement on the streets, and most stores are closed. There is a certain quiet in the air. Softer movements. A slower vibe.

 

In suburban and rural towns, the atmosphere also has a peaceful quality. The strip mall lots and main streets are mostly empty except perhaps for a convenience store, gas station or breakfast shop.

 

Sunday morning is not quite as exciting to me as Saturday morning. Saturday morning is about chores, shopping, making plans for the evening. Sunday for me is more about taking time to wake up; enjoying my cup of coffee longer, mentally and physically getting ready for the week ahead, and having a whole day ahead of me to do so.

 

This cloudy, albeit beautiful morning is so very typical at this time in my life. I am up before anyone else at the moment. I came downstairs to the main kitchen/living area and it looks like (what we like to say) a bomb. But it is a bomb that I love. This scene is a snapshot in time; my life at almost 43; my family; where I happen to be in the world.

 

On Sunday morning my house often has blankets strewn about the couches, the floor and perhaps even a kitchen chair. Yesterday’s paper is usually lying about in a neat heap still waiting to be read. The cats are milling and meowing like crazy for their morning meal of a little wet food. The counters and coffee table will often have mostly empty popcorn or snack bowls. A cold tea bag sitting in an empty Starbucks mug from one of the cities we have visited. More often than not there is an espresso cup somewhere with a small circle of the dried, dark remnants sitting at the bottom. An open, unfinished bottle of wine sits on the counter with an accompanying wine glass or two in either the sink with an amount too small to finish lying in the lowest nook of the glass, or haphazardly rinsed and left in the dish drain to dry. It’s not difficult to see what we did before bed, be it a puzzle, a card game, or just some movies, since the TV remotes or pieces of whatever we were doing are mostly left where we had them when everyone retired for bed.

 

I will either be up alone or with the hubby. The first order of business is to start the coffee. Then we quiet the little milling lions who get increasingly vocal by the second until they receive their ever-so-desired wet, stinky cat food. Either alone or splitting up the tasks, we will start to load the dishwasher, open the blinds, fold the blankets and put the house back in order.

 

Today I’m alone. I woke up before Daren, excited to begin a new day and continue to work on a painting that I am in the midst of completing. I cleaned up the house and then sat on the living room floor with two pillows beneath me facing the East to do some morning breathing and meditation. It’s a cloudy, dreary and gray morning; but beautiful none-the-less. The sun is still making its way up and about and brightening the day, even though we can’t see it.

 

I couldn’t help but take a picture of the scene I was looking at. Every morning it looks different. Even in its drab form, this morning was picturesque to me. I stepped outside to get a closer shot and the air felt SO fresh and cool, I didn’t want to go back in. But I did – simply to get a chair and two blankets to take my morning practices outside.

It feels like Sunday. Even in February, birds are singing. I can’t see the town or even much of our neighborhood from the back porch, but none-the-less it has the Sunday morning vibe of serenity that I enjoy so much.

 

Nothing exciting, but I am feeling intense gratitude and oneness with the world at the moment. A snapshot in time. It’s just a beautiful and precious Sunday morning.

 

The page has turned. The week, day & month are fresh. We write the story, whether we do so intentionally or not. Be mindful of your thoughts.

 

Namaste.

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How I’m Choosing Who to Vote For

This past weekend Daren & I went to Harvard for Freshman Family weekend and attended the Keynote address: “The Polarization of America: Can We Bridge the Divide?” with IOP Fellow and former Congressman from Nevada, The Hon. Joseph J. Heck.

I didn’t know the name, but found the talk to be something I can really chew on. Before anyone starts to look Heck up, and bash or celebrate any move he ever made; Heck is Republican and obviously putting his neck on the line by speaking in a highly liberal environment – not only for the parents last weekend, but through many lectures for students during the year.

I don’t like to discuss politics and often do not speak freely as to which party I’m more aligned with, but I’m not a Republican. Most of the audience was not either. However, the talk was wonderful and touched on many reasons why the political divide is kind of inevitable but not impossible to overcome.

One part of it really hit home for me and is something I plan to always consider as well as one can. That is the gumption of a candidate. Heck didn’t even use the word gumption, but at times and once during the Q&A he said something to the affect of considering individuals who can stick to their morals well enough to say No to power.

We need to generally hear an individual’s viewpoint on important issues whether it’s equal rights, gun control, the right to choose, immigration, etc. However, even more so it is important to consider whether or not the individual has the ability to work with others (even others on the other side) to come up with solutions that find common ground, andto have the gumption not to flip in order to please power, keep friends, take money, or even just to wrap up a session and go home.

Candidates need to have an answer on hot topics, but it doesn’t mean they are so ridiculous about it that they will no longer adhere to common sense. Party lines and rigid yes/no answers on issues make it nearly impossible to be seen or understood as something in between. Additionally, few topics are so black or white. The topics and national problems that are on the table took years to get to. They just cannot disappear overnight. It’s tricky stuff.

Take gun rights for example. Me personally – I don’t “believe” in guns. When I hear a candidate is a ‘gun person’ I look to their opponent. But in reality a candidate has to answer yes or no if they believe in ‘gun rights’, and that doesn’t answer a whole lot unless you really hear from them or look into their background.

But what does gun rights really mean? A part of me understands the other side. Just because I mightnot have one, I’m not sure I should or even want to have the right to tell someone else what they can or cannot have. If we outlawed them tomorrow what would that solve? People will still have and use them, likely often as much as they do now. We don’t have the money or man power to go into everyone’s homes to remove them. People are not going to turn them in because they are illegal. Drugs, prostitution, child porn and human trafficking are illegal but that doesn’t stop those who want to do these things from doing them. How can anyone tell a 19-year old minority single mother living in a shady neighborhood that she needs to give up her legally owned gun that makes her feel safe so she can shiver and be anxious walking down the block when she had previously felt safe, secure and that she had some power over her life? She wouldn’t be voting on my side even though she has a very rational point.

What I would love for our politicians to do is look for common ground and not give in to nonsense that power & bullying will try to instill. They need gumption to do that.

I have not a single statistic in front of me but would be willing to bet that most people in either party do not want to see one more mass shooting- like EVER. Guns are a part of the issue – of course. But does any majority really, really believe in the right to have a semi-automatic gun or weapons of mass destruction as part of no constitutional restrictions? Are any liberals really trying to take away any and all power to bear arms? Maybe some people fall into these categories, but again – I’d be willing to bet it’s a small percentage. Those persons in that small percent are not the individuals I would like to elect to pass our laws. The individuals I would like to represent my vote would have common sense and not give in to power or bullying of a smaller percent.

How can a healthy minded, willing Democrat work with a healthy minded, willing Republican to come up with potential solutions about how to prevent what we all want to prevent? We have to be willing to compromise, understand one another’s view and create a solution with them that works for all. There are many issues I don’t agree with 100% but understand the other side. It’s not easy and/or black and white.

This is where we the people come in. We do our due diligence and look for the truth in the people we have the power to elect. We understand and look past silly time limits during debates, simple colors to show which party the candidate is aligned with, and the one-liners on all these hundreds (and I mean HUNDREDS) of political signs all over the place.

My first reaction to what I just wrote if I wasn’t writing it would be some defense about “Who has time for this?” But I need to even question my own silly gut reaction. Because if not this, then what actually matters? Isn’t this our right? Our ancestors fought hard for this power and we take it for granted, bemoaning that we don’t have time and just hope, wish and pray that the right people will be elected. Or we just vote down the party line and ignore the alarm signal that someone might not be looking out for the majority or have common sense.

So get involved! Even if it’s too late – at least do a quick google search before voting tomorrow. But do vote. And vote for someone with GUMPTION and common sense. We have the power. Only when you believe you don’t you actually don’t.

 

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