8 months, but 10 years, A Short Story on an Inconspicuous Path to Overcoming Addiction 

It has been 8 months today since I have stopped drinking alcohol.  I feel like the pieces of my life have finally fallen into place. My baseline being with accompanying highs and lows feels manageable for the first time in my life. I no longer feel like a ticking time bomb. 

It’s almost like a switch flipped. The whole thing and the way my life and relationships fell into place is almost miraculous.

But is it a miracle? It feels like it. But when I stop to consider how this phenomenon took place it wasn’t magic. It was years of learning and work. A lot done in smaller, very memorable spurts. But it’s far from a miracle. 

As Alan Watts often said, there is no specific defining moment when an event begins. He challenged his listeners to think about when a war really begins. Or when life truly springs into action. At birth? Now of a proper embryo? When the sperm meets the egg and they mesh? Or is it at the point when there is a twinkle in the father’s eye upon seeing the female that he will procreate? 

My current sobriety journey started at some point. It was part of the plan long ago. It  has been 8 months since I have consumed alcohol. I did take Antibuse. I am on Vivitrol. I did increase my anti-anxiety medication. I did live alone for 2 months and dive headfirst into 2-3x per day sobriety meetings, visits, and activities. Those things made it easier, but the life lessons I learned through spirituality and yoga in past 6-10 years have made it so I may not have needed to start from scratch when it came to the absolutely brilliant concepts of AA where many recovering addicts learn to live a life without addictive substances. 

When I first learned some of the concepts that now use with ease, they all seemed to be “no brainers”. They were some of the most difficult and yet somehow simplest concepts to process and apply. They made sense. “Accepting life on life’s terms”. “One day at a time”. “It’s not your business what other people think about you”. “Nothing changes if nothing changes”. “If you want what you never had, you have to do what you’ve never done”. 

It was almost 10 years ago when I started to proverbially “wake up” spiritually and first began to contemplate that I’m in a participatory saga in this universe.  

This realization not being the norm, it felt jarring for a while. It wasn’t the way I knew the world to be. But it made SENSE. The world flipped on its head for me. I felt kind of lost but also curious and hopeful. 

The idea of “Let Go and Let God” wasn’t new. I went to Catholic school growing up and similar concepts were sort of beaten into my young mind. But I wasn’t taught what they truly meant or how to put them into action.  

It wasn’t until +/- 10 years ago after being divorced and seeing the world through completely different lenses which I, oddly, had difficulty adapting to, that I began to seek out spiritual living. When I listened to Podcasts on what “Faith” really meant. I realized I hadn’t really understood or practiced it. I wanted that. I wanted what people who live contently and simply had. I wanted to Let Go. I wanted Faith in something bigger than myself. 

Religion tries. Schools don’t touch it. Parents never learned it themselves. It took being downtrodden to want to seek it out. It took being curious, feeling scared, and feeling hopeless to consider a different way of looking at the world. It took having the security, intelligence and means in my life to have the luxury of exploring something else while living my current life as it was to test out different ways to approach things. 

TEST them out. Make mistakes. Try again, try something new. Watch the screw up or success. Learn and adapt. 

When I think back over the past decade, there were certain moments where I knew what was taking place was a turn off the current path and there was no road back. Unlike a highway where you can turn around, once we experience or know something; there is no way to unknow it. I am calling them Defining Moments. 

These moments were critical to me, but were any the start or even end to alcoholism? 

No doubt it all let to a more spiritual path. Everyone’s journey toward spirituality (if they get to experience it at all) is different. This was mine. 

When I first felt jarred, out of place, and not like myself – I noticed instantly. Until then I was one of the happiest people I knew. I thought this unsettling feeling would last a few hours. Then maybe a day. 

When a week passed, I realized a week had passed and I wasn’t myself again. I was worried but convinced that any day I’d snap out of it. But I didn’t. It was a time of absolute chaos. I had two tweens, two more young kids and my then fiancé at home. There were changes for everyone, not all being handled well by all the kids and more so worse with some of the adults that were throwing more difficulty at us by not adapting well in their own right and making my household even more disruptive. 

Defining Moment

I remember the very first time I used alcohol to chill out. It was a random weeknight. I picked up my kids from their father’s house. They were upstairs doing homework away from me at their desks) and I was practically home alone in a gigantic house starting dinner and anticipating the arrival of the other 3 household members to come bounding in with loud rolling backpacks, 3 dirty lunch boxes, dry cleaning and BAGs of stuff that needed to be distributed. It was around Jan or Feb 2011. I was OFF. My kids had complained to me earlier about how nothing felt normal for them. I now felt off, irritable, fearful, and uneasy for a few months on & off, but mostly ‘on’. I couldn’t take it. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew that if I didn’t make dinner and just went up to my gargantuan gorgeous bedroom to cry that it would disrupt the evening, the sports schedule, homework help, and my husband’s fear that the kids won’t see us as blissfully happy, that our coming together was just all the big mistake that everyone was hoping it would be… you get it. 

With my heart beating uncontrollably in my chest, I contemplated taking a shot of hard alcohol. It worked for me once before in 2009 right before a kid’s party when someone in my life (an alcoholic at the time) gave me a shot to chill out while I ran around at the last-minute putting things together and was completely amped up. I remembered how it worked INSTANTLY. As the heat of the liquor warmed my chest cavity, I felt my nerves unpeeling and my mind slowing down that day back then. Did I really want to go down that path? 

I kept putting it out of my mind, but my mind kept bringing it up. I went over to the liquor cabinet and looked at what we had in there for hard liquor. 

At the time I enjoyed beer and wine. Perhaps a little too much, but I knew my limits and when I was hitting them. I knew how to stop. Days, weeks, and months could go by without thinking about drinking. There is a history of alcoholism in my family, and I always worried about it for myself knowing how much I enjoyed it. I had never abused it though. I never drank alone; would never even consider it.

Until now. 

I KNEW it was a bad move, but it seemed like a viable option. It would have been  viable if it had been  once every two years. But something in me knew that night that if I took a shot that it wouldn’t be the last time. 

As I stood there contemplating whether to do this dumb thing, I heard the peppers and onions I was making for fajitas sizzling in the pan behind me. It sounded like a ticking clock that was reminding me any moment the garage door would open or one of my kids would come down and I’d have to pretend I’m not disturbed and feeling the way I felt that nothing was wrong with me, and that I had an unwavering interest in everyone’s day. 

I couldn’t even tell you what it was that I took a shot of that evening. I can only tell you that it worked. I do know that it was about another week until I did that again. And probably another month or so that it became a sporadic “go to” when I was feeling so “Off” and out of control. Within a year it became the norm to open a bottle of wine before dinner and drink while cooking sometimes after a shot of hard liquor. It helped. That is the tricky thing about alcohol. When used as a medication substitute, it helps. 

It helped at the end of the day. During the day I struggled. I woke up every day with a beating heart. I still had to be “normal” though. I still had work and a house and kids to take care of. I still had to be a mom and now stepmom and think about everyone else’s well-being while my own was deteriorating. 

At the time I van-pooled to work. I loved my “vannies”. It was a welcome relief from home and work twice a day. I laughed and let loose. They were all crazy but normal. More like people I grew up with and felt comfortable with. One of the guys in the van started bible study classes after work on Thursday evenings. I couldn’t van-pool those days since the van left before the bible study began, but I decided it was worth it and drove in myself on those days. At first, I did it to support his endeavor, but I quickly grew to really enjoy talking about a bible piece and delving into a deep introspective talk about what the piece meant and how to live a spiritual life. 

Defining Moment

Not long after on Feb 28 & 29th of 2012 I took a work class off-site on “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”. My intention was to somehow be more organized and streamlined than I already was to deal with the chaos around me, but I absolutely got far more than I bargained for. 

I don’t know if the intention of the class was spiritual or not, but it was spiritual for me. It challenged me to look at the paradigm I lived in. A paradigm I had never considered to be different from anyone else’s. It challenged me to think about being intentional about what I want in my life. The treadmill I was on never allowed me time to think about what was important to me and if it would fit into my life. I just believed that if I went faster, I could fit all things in just fine (important things and things thrown at me). Just Run Faster…

Of course, I knew that wasn’t the answer but there wasn’t time to stop to do anything else. Or was there? The class had us break down where we spend our time. Work, cooking, cleaning, shopping, kid activities. No time for exercise, leisure, taking care of myself or spending quality time with anyone I loved. I often did my nails in the car before I drove to meet my vanpool so they could dry on the way to work. My hair was often wet and braided on the way to work. I was challenged to think about how these activities met my values. Wait – what were my values? How could I be 36 years old and not have thought about them before? 


I left thinking about all the habits but determined to ensure I had the four areas of Habit seven (Sharpen the Saw) in my life. Social/Emotional, Spiritual, Physical, and Mental. 

I was determined, but beaten back because I was a mom first, a wife/stepmother, and an employee. Those were what I made more important than my own needs. Too much of my time was spent in the mental arena of work and focusing on what the  important people in my life considered important, which was school and work. I wasn’t strong enough, or didn’t realize that it wasn’t selfish, to put my foot down and assert what I believed was important. I didn’t know that my body had limits and that if I didn’t take care of it that it would crash and burn. 

I began to look forward to bible study on Thursdays. It was a respite from life and a recipe for how to live. I threw myself into faith. I stopped questioning things I always questioned as a Catholic like the virgin birth or life after the cross. I just absorbed the messages and didn’t ask. 

Defining Moment

It was April 2012. My husband and I were out at our favorite watering hole having wings, pretzels, and beer with my father-in-law. I had been going to the bible study for a few months at that point and had become nostalgic for some old childhood Catholic comforts. I prayed. I read the bible. I read other religious books. I downloaded and listened to church music and found myself surprised to know I remembered the words and would often tear up thinking about all those hours in church with my blue uniform and first friends and crushes. 

That evening my father-in-law asked me if I really believed in the Catholic and Christian concepts. Of course, I didn’t really, but I wanted to; so, I said I did. He pushed in a kind way and asked me if I really, really did believe. I was drinking and I so wanted to be someone who did. Something about the drink, the atmosphere, the diametric opposites of the atmosphere of a bar while thinking about Jesus… At the moment, I felt like something in me just opened. Something about that conversation and my answers of “I don’t question” made it so. There was an actual moment where I let go and felt that I didn’t need to know the answers. All I needed to do was believe. At that moment I knew what it meant to have faith. 

Without knowing the phrase, I Let Go and  Let God. And do you know what happened when I really really really let go? A whole new world opened to me. Within a few weeks a Bishop Spong book somehow ended  up on my lap. 

Bishop Spong was a Christian Bishop who delivered the teachings of Jesus his whole career  but also secretly questioned. Post retirement he became a mystic and found religion to be allegorical. He had his own theories of how humans developed as a species, and why it was important to take the words of the bible as literal earlier on in our human years. The ideas of us as humans becoming more conscious of being conscious were new to me and absolutely fascinating.

From there I explored discovered a  world of Podcasts from the Centers for Spiritual Living  and Science of Mind. Life as I knew it flipped on its head. The bible made complete sense from a metaphorical standpoint. I stopped going to bible study because I felt in some way, I outgrew the literal interpretation of the bible  that some others were stuck on. The idea of being born again and seeing the world through different eyes was how I was experiencing life. 

The spring and summer of 2012 were when I experienced the most profound changes I had ever experienced to date  in my life, and in the shortest period. I understood things that I couldn’t before from a positively new perspective. All religions and spiritual teachings make so much sense. More importantly they seemed to all be saying the same thing. 

It sounds elementary to me now, but we really do create our own lives, and how we think about it creates our own experience. Nothing made more sense. Our universe is metaphorical. Thoughts are like seeds. You can’t plant a watermelon and expect a carrot. In the same way you can’t walk around miserable and looking at the world like it’s dangerous and then except happiness and freedom. 

One of the more difficult things for me was changing the way I thought when no one else around me was changing. I thought very highly of the people that surrounded me in various ways until I realized most of them were living on a treadmill like I had been. I was so excited to get off and slow down, but they weren’t. I still had to live and work in the same paradigm. I tried to get others off too, but I sounded like a crazy person. Others agreed and had long deep spiritual talks with me, but then walked away and did the same things they were doing before. 

???

I felt alone.

So, I’d drink and read about other people who were experiencing the same thing. 

At the end of 2012 as the holidays approached, I was looking for gifts that would provide experiences rather than more “stuff”. I looked into the adult education programs in my town and aside from ballroom dancing for my husband and I, I decided to sign up for an 8-week yoga class starting the next January as a nice way to kick off the new year. 

I’d only tried yoga a handful of times before either in classes or on my own with videos. But something inside me always knew that yoga was going to be part of my life in a more meaningful way. Just the word itself when hearing it for 30+ years of my life invoked some kind of knowing inside of me. I never disliked it; I just didn’t understand it. I had danced for 10  years and had always been flexible, so I really did not feel anything by doing it. I loved Savasana, lying in stillness, at the end, but often got up from that part because I was always so busy, and it felt like a waste of time. Surprisingly, after just one class, I understood.  Don’t let anyone tell you that an instructor can’t make a difference! Even more surprisingly, not long after I started going to yoga, I realized it had the same effect as drinking. I felt calm, slower, more in control. 

I’d leave yoga class and come home to chaos. It was so jarring and shocking to go from one world to another. How did I deal with it? Wine of course. 

Wine, yoga, and spirituality through podcasts, books and web searches helped me to stay sane. 

Until 2016 when I started yoga teacher training. I loved yoga by that point. I recognized the mind/body/soul connection. I wanted to do it more. I didn’t realize until teacher training how spiritual and deep it actually was. On day 1 of training, I met my two teachers. They were so open about their depression and anxiety. I admired their openness and willingness to share their own foibles. 

It wasn’t until a month and a half later, while thinking about a stressful work event two-day safter it had happened, while driving to work, that I had my first panic attack. It was then that I realized the “Off” feeling I had had for the past several years and for  I was abusing alcohol over, was anxiety. 

It took a few subsequent panic attacks within the next few weeks to realize this was anxiety. Holy cow – I had anxiety! Real clinical anxiety. I wanted help for that, but I did not want to have a mental health diagnosis on my record to get medication for it. I was confused. I talked to the yoga teacher that had anxiety about it and unprompted she shared that while she herself wasn’t on medicine, she did know it was a much faster way to get things under control. She gave no advice but did give me some things to contemplate. I read through forums and decided that the people who took medicine and felt better shared that it was more important to feel like themselves than to have any silly perceived stigmatized thoughts about being on medication .

I read and considered my options carefully for a few weeks while having more and more panic attacks before making an appointment with my PCP.  I started Lexapro. I did not stop drinking. It helped. 

There are no miracle drugs either. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds do not instantly work. You must start with really low doses until your body adjusts and eventually learn at what dose you feel normal again. This can take anywhere from weeks to months. I started this crazy mix in March of 2016.

By May of 2016 I just couldn’t go through the motions any longer. At the point in my “career” I was serious about work and loved it. I had fun there while learning new things nearly all the time. I had been in my job for 14 years and knew almost everyone who worked in my very large organization. I felt respected by most people. I had mentored a few dozen employees in an official capacity and many others sought my professional advice outside of an official mentor/mentee relationship. 

Almost overnight that love of work shifted. Suddenly, I couldn’t imagine spending the remainder of life waking up early every morning, donning a monkey suit, and getting in the metal box/trap called my car to commute anywhere from 35 to 50 minutes to work. I was no longer vanpooling because my drive home often involved picking up multiple kids and a dog which at times meant I got home nearly two hours after walking out of the office (in a complete rush of course). 

Honestly, looking back, it was the drama in my home at the end of the day that  was the catalyst that caused the most stress. Nonsensical first world drama that wasn’t exactly aligned with my beliefs but was brought into my house by divorce and blending two very different families.  Beyond the drama, there were responsibilities that required my time and attention but didn’t align with my priorities or values.  

I loved everyone I lived with. I wanted to support them. I wanted to be a team player. But I just couldn’t do it all. The obvious thing to cut back on seemed to be work. I made much less money than my husband. If I cut back to part time, our expenses would decrease by that amount of my half time salary. My ex had moved to another state. My husband traveled often, as did his ex-wife. This left me mostly in charge of logistics of four teenagers. Work outside the home suddenly had no appeal. 

I was exhausted. I was burnt out to the max supporting things that didn’t align with my values,  for kids who had no appreciation for the amount of time, money and effort it required to keep it up.

I had always been a natural organizer. I always had dinners planned, food stocked and prepped, clothes washed and ready for the week. Events were organized on a calendar with duties known ahead of time. I talked to my kids weekly about what to expect and how to help out. But that all went to the wayside when I got remarried. At first it wasn’t that bad. But as the kids grew older and became busier, the chaos took over. 

 I didn’t even know what was going on week to week. Daily there were unexpected events that I should have known about, that affected my time and what I had planned. I couldn’t get others to cooperate and help us stay. My husband’s ex seemed to thrive on chaos and take delight in disrupting any attempt at organization  We failed to establish any boundaries about what we would and wouldn’t do. Our lives and our scheduled seemed out of control and at the whim of people outside our family who didn’t care and refused to collaborate.

The Lexapro helped. Weekly therapy was ok. Yoga was a reprieve. The drinking continued. I’m not sure it was helping any longer, but it was now a habit that I didn’t want to let go. I leaned on it as my evening wind-down. Some days it was all I had to look forward to and when I had to wait to have a drink because of nonstop evening driving activities, it made me even crankier. 

I had written a few blogs by that point. Once I started Lexapro, I decided I didn’t want to keep it a secret. I couldn’t handle my life any longer. I couldn’t work full time, let alone mentor others. I cut back to part-time. I stopped teaching a topic at work (Facilitation) that I had once been over-the-top passionate about. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Everything I thought I knew about myself had flipped. My belief system had turned on its head and no one understood what I was talking about. I felt like the crazy person that was now documented in my medical charts who needed medicine. I was lost. 

What felt good about this particular time – when I came clean about not being able to handle life and needing medicine, was  that I felt loved. People I liked or mentored were surprised and almost happy that I wasn’t a walking miracle, that my  social media posts weren’t the whole story. I felt support like I never had before. Others told me for the first time in my life that they related to my stories and thought I was brave sharing. Me? Brave? 

I’d heard successful, friendly, helpful, lucky… but never brave. Those other things were fluff. They were what I thought I wanted and showed to the world. But the hardest and most brave thing was to be vulnerable. 

In that time – from 2012 to 2016 I was inundated with stress and immersed in spirituality tools, breathing techniques, movements, therapies, meditations, mantras, mudras, pranayama, etc. It was all so new. It made sense. But when I needed it, I couldn’t remember to use anything I knew would work. I’d just spiral into panic. I felt like a failure in some way for not being able to remember these simple tools, but yoga teacher training helped me to realize I’m human and that it could take up to 12 years to change a habit.

12 years??? 

Yes, 12 years. 

That’s pretty  stinking disappointing huh? 

I didn’t like that idea, but after learning much about it and why; it made sense to me, and I accepted that truth.  

Defining Moment

May 2017. I’ve written about it before. I realized I might have PTSD from a history of childhood abuse. It was late in the evening at a 50-hour mandated reporter course I was required to  take to teach  yoga in Connecticut  Domestic Violence shelters. There was a slide up on the screen that described  ME. 

Could I have PTSD? I never considered it before. That was something only war vets had. But that slide described ME. And it was the result of child abuse. It was an “Ah Hah” moment. 

At  that  point it was over a year since I began anti-anxiety meds. I was now working part-time. I was allowing myself to slow down and think. And to feel. Feel all the emotions that I never had time to process. 

That summer I had a major emotional breakdown in mid-July where I decided to admit myself to an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). I used FMLA and spent a month traveling to the Institute of Living in Hartford, CT for four days per week to immerse myself in healthy mental environment with others like me: professionals who chose to spend time at such a place. 

I was unable to attend the program without having to quit alcohol for at least a week before the start and for the duration of the program. UGH. At first, I told the admissions area I didn’t think I could do that. They told me if I could not quit, I would have to go into the sister IOP for addiction. I couldn’t be labeled an addict – so I quit. 

It was at the IOP where I was officially diagnosed with PTSD. During my time there I learned another host of tools for my proverbial toolbox to help deal with overwhelming emotions and breakdowns.  The tools were very yoga-like. They were called different things, had differences of course; but the intention and underlying process was similar.  The more I learned the same types of things the more they made sense and the more I believed they could work. 

The last week or so of the program when I knew I wouldn’t be tested for drinking, I started to drink again. As much as before, even though I knew I didn’t need to and felt quite amazing without doing so. I didn’t want to quit. I rather liked drinking. I loved the taste, the smell, how it accompanied my food. I loved going to wineries and  breweries with my husband. I loved everything about it. 

That fall I began advanced yoga teacher training and delved even more deeply into spiritual practices, tools and beliefs that were aimed at serenity and peace. I found a therapist that spoke my language. The day I walked into her office she had a Pema Chodron quote on the wall, a jiggle jar on the coffee table and gave me a handout on the Ego vs Higher Self. Finally! A person that related to the way I was learning to deal with the world! 

You’d think all these things would help right? Every Monday I had yoga teacher training all day and would spend that night in Branford alone. As I learned all these healthy messages and things I started to practice, my mind was adjacently taken over with thoughts of alcohol. Where I would buy the wine, what kind I could buy. Should I buy it? I was learning all these healthy things, so why would I poison myself? There was an invisible angel on one shoulder and devil on the other. Every week it was going to be the last week and that next Monday I would quit. I graduated the program in June of 2018, but that “Monday” never came” 

Defining Moment 

There was an infamous incident in July 1993 that was equally as traumatizing as most of my childhood but changed the course of how it was dealt with. Every summer I had a mini break down, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2018 – exactly 25 years later that I realized a pattern.

Once again, I had a mid-July breakdown. This time the police were involved. This time my husband and I lived apart for a few weeks and I made time for mental health. I realized I had to quit drinking because these incidences were alcohol related. I had a problem with alcohol. I said the words for the first time in an email to my husband. I am an alcoholic. I quit on 7/13/18. 

A few days later I had a another defining moment. I was coming home from a mental health appointment to the house in Branford where I was staying alone. One of my neighbors walked up to my car when I got out to tell me that she really enjoyed my blogs. She said she didn’t realize that it was panic attacks she had been having until she read what I was describing. 

She was NOT the first person to tell me that. I didn’t understand. Once I started thinking about my panic attacks, I realized that I knew they were coming from a mile away.  Everyone else who had them seemed surprised by them.  I was not. As I once told my previous therapist (one of the many I didn’t connect with); I almost welcomed the panic attack. It was such a relief of emotion that I felt build up. It was a way to purge. That therapist said that was “interesting”, gave me a funny look and wrote something down on her legal pad. To me it sounded normal, obviously to her it was not.

But that day when my neighbor approached me, it was kind of like the final straw of needing to wonder why I was different. A few minutes after going into my house, in a very actualized moment; I realized I felt panic rising ahead of time because I was triggered. I was triggered because I had PTSD. It took over a year, but I finally understood what having PTSD really meant. 

I was so excited that I broke out a flip chart and stickie notes (my problem-solving skills from my facilitation days) and started to think about all the instances where I broke down and what I felt. Then I thought about where those feelings were coming from and how they related to childhood. Within 2-3 hours I had a list of my triggers and where they came from. It was an exhausting but very exhilarating day. I felt like I unlocked a key piece to my being that I didn’t even know was there. 

Liberating. 

That helped. But it wasn’t a miracle. I immersed myself in DBT (one of the therapies I learned at the IOP). I immersed myself with yogic practices. I was sober. I was picking up on my triggers about 50% of the time. When I didn’t, much of the time I knew how to stop the cascade. I was starting to heal from trauma I didn’t even know was there for more than 40 years. 

I started having an occasional glass of wine about 6 weeks after I quit. For several months I drank once a week or less. And never more than 2 glasses. I didn’t want anymore and didn’t miss it when I didn’t drink. 

Life went on. The holidays came. Drinking was involved in everything, everywhere. All the time. I imbibed. By mid-January 2019 I was drinking every day again. 

At this point I had a lot of tools to lean on. I used them. It wasn’t always perfect. I had little flare-ups but was able to reel them back in and come back to stability. 

For the next two years that was my life. Drinking daily, earlier, and earlier in the day as COVID came around. Occasional flare ups while drinking with the ability to reel myself back in. 

I finally came around to being able to use what I had been learning, but at this point I was an alcoholic who desired to stop drinking, intended to; but never could last more than a few weeks at a time when I did try. 

Then this last February 8, 2021 came around. It was a Monday. I was off from work, and I started drinking early in the day. I won’t get into the specifics of the day but there was a cascade of triggers from early on. At a point in the evening when I should have left, there was nowhere to go. Life was closed due to COVID, and I couldn’t drive to some secluded area because I was inebriated. I had a breakdown. A bad one. Police were involved again. I couldn’t come down from panic and was taken to the ER at Yale.

While I laid in the gurney in the middle of the night in the middle of the hallway at Yale for HOURS, I thought about how I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been drinking for nearly 12 hours straight. I had to quit. I was an alcoholic. 

Most days when I watched Days of Our Lives (my beloved Soap Opera) through an app on the 
Smart TV I had to watch ads. There was this ad for Aware Recovery Care that came on a few times a day. This program explained that they come into the client’s home “Where Addiction Lives” to help addicts recover in their own environment amongst their own particular lives.  Each day as I sat there to watch this soap with a freshly chilled bottle of Chardonnay, I would silently think about calling that program at some time in the near future. If I couldn’t quit on my own. I should be able to quit on my own. “Today” was going to be the last day. 

Today was every day. Tomorrow never came. 

I looked up Aware Recovery Care on my phone at midnight on the gurney in the ER hallway and inquired about their services online. The next day while I was in court Aware Recovery called me back and I set up an appointment that same evening for a telephone intake. That Friday I met my care team and I’ve been sober ever since.

Naturally they came in and at me armed with tools and ideas and quirky slogans. I had heard most of them before. I had been getting pretty good at implementing them. The only thing standing in my way of fully immersing was alcohol. When I was drinking and I was triggered, I did not recognize triggers. Or if I rarely did or was told – I didn’t care. It was in the way of my life.  

In February this year I jumped in with two feet/full body; and used everything at my disposal that was recommended. Aware came in for visits 4x a week at first. I had appointments with 2 different therapists (my previous therapist I held onto as well as an addiction counselor) and a psychiatrist for my meds. I went to AA once or twice a day at first. I went to group appointments. I attended online meetings for trauma. I pulled out my old DBT workbook. I started Antabuse (which makes you violently ill if you drink) as well as Vivitrol (curbs cravings). I upped my anti-anxiety meds. I did EMDR and LOVED it. 

I’ve been healthy ever since. 

I am still with Aware Recovery and down to one weekly visit. I canned the Antabuse (my skin breaking out very badly) and still go for a monthly Vivitrol shot. I can easily remember all the quirky slogans, sayings, tools, reminders, and breath techniques, when I need them. I know the feelings I have as I am having them, and I will pull back and slow down or walk away. It’s easy. It seems like a miracle. My entire life is the same, but everything has fallen into place. Nothing has changed, except my reaction to things. 

But is it a miracle? No. 

It’s been years of learning. Not just passive learning. I have been actively seeking out tools and methods and trying very hard to put what is needed in place. Nothing about it was easy. People at AA have said they don’t believe me when I say I am not having cravings and I feel happy and healthy. They don’t know my story. They might have learned life skills at AA and feel it saved them and I’m just a newcomer who thinks she knows it all. AA is great. But AA’s tools are the same things that I have been striving to master for a very long time. I’m finally getting the hook of it. No miracles. 

Today is 8 months since I quit drinking. But it has been more than 10 years that I have been working at building mental stability for myself. It’s been 10 years since I ever needed it. 

My divorce and subsequent remarriage shook me up and stirred up emotions and trauma I didn’t know I had. I was on such a great path before all this, but I was done growing. I needed a good shake up to grow deeper. I learned so much about myself and people in the last 11 years. I know that this is what I needed. 

Bringing my addiction back to my Alan Watts reference in the beginning of this blog, I must wonder… when did the addiction actually begin? When I started drinking every day? When I had that shot in the early months of 2011 while making dinner? Or before that when circumstances led me to believe that a shot would help? Or during my childhood when the trauma started? 

When did my recovery begin? Was it in February? Or did it start when I began seeking out help for overwhelming emotions even before my body was physically addicted? 

I am also not blind and do realize I can be hit with something tomorrow and be right back to square one in a New York second. I hope not, and I hope all I have learned will kick in and keep me on the good path. I need new habits of a constant check in. I need to continually assess myself and ensure my environment is not triggering. It can’t always be helped, but if it can I will do everything in my power to ensure my mental health is my #1 priority. 

I hope I’m not done learning. I don’t want or need such a big shake up again, but I do want to keep having “Ah Hah” moments. I hope to continue to be amazed at how sensible and deep little things are that sages and very normal people before us has passed down as wisdom. 

It’s been a journey. Some of it wonderful, other parts absolutely horrific. It spanned the range of the highest highs and lowest lows. I loved it all. It’s life. Beautiful, messy, organized, ugly. It all belongs and accepting that it ALL belongs makes it all the sweeter. 

The Chakras and Lent – Weeks 5-7

We are a product of nature. The things we do, the thoughts we have, and the habits we gain or lose mimic the physical world around us.

I would liken trying to do something or working toward a goal to climbing a mountain. At first it is very difficult. The road is all uphill. Once you reach the top you can pause and take inventory of what is around you. The road down is easy and faster.

I have really, really, really slacked on the past few weeks of keeping up with the 7 weeks of lent. I posted the last blog for the 4thweek and the heart chakra 11 days ago already. Palm Sunday is only 4 days away.

I have been blogging about the journey toward shedding old habits for lent and relating the journey to opening the 7 chakras during this 7-week period; while on my own sobriety journey.

While the chakras themselves are aligned from dense to light, so is the work. The motivation varies. My writing has reflected the motivation. I can explain further.

At first when making the firm decision to give something up like many Christians do for lent, there is a lot of motivation to do this. The will is there and it is something we think about constantly. As we start up a long mountain road one step at a time, it seems like a really huge task that will require a lot of work to get to the other side. Each step feels momentous.

As we continue up the mountain and toward the habit we can see the progress, but the road ahead is still long. 

As the weeks go on, the actually shedding of the habit could be as difficult as the start of the journey up the mountain. At some point we reach the top and are able to look around and see the beauty of our work. But it is not over – we still need to go back down. Going back is so much faster and easier. 

I took most of this time to get to the summit. 

Last weekend my husband came over to where I am staying. I hadn’t seen him in nearly 6 weeks. We talked and caught up on all that we have missed. We enjoyed one another’s company. We went out for dinner and had tapas. We had breakfast the next morning and we spent much of Sunday talking and walking the dog. We decided to put our rings back on and see where the next few months takes us. We will continue to live apart and came up with a living arrangement that works for the both of us. I’m excited about this journey with him. As excited as I have been about my own individual recovery. 

From that point the last few days have seemed easier. Akin to coming down the mountain. I’ve slept better than I have in over a month. I’m more focused. I’m more determined than ever to stay on this new path. I’m on the other side of the mountain now. It is a new place I have not seen before. I do not know what it will bring or what other mountains I need to climb, but I’m excited and I really don’t want to know. Discovery is part of the fun. 

To wrap up this chakra series I will write about the last 3 in one blog. 

The 5th Chakra is Vishuddhi. It is also known as the throat chakra. It is blue and located in the region of the throat. 

The 6th Chakra is Ajna. It is known as the Third Eye. It is Indigo or in some places it is shown as violet. This chakra is located right between the eyebrows. One of my teachers often quotes that we have two eyes to look out, and one to look in. 

The 7th Chakra is Sahasrara or the Crown chakra. Depending on what material you read this chakra is violet, white or crystal – meaning it contains all the colors of the spectrum. It is located at the top of the head. 

The three below symbols are in order from 5, 6, and 7. I painted these in January of this year.

Throat chakra 

In this area we use our voice. We speak up and communicate what we believe in. Similar to the Root Chakra, the triangle points upwards. In this location it symbolizes “the gathering of knowledge toward enlightenment”. The Vishuddhi chakra has 16 petals. There are also 16 vowels in Sanskrit. The number of petals symbolize the light, breathy sounds of vowels and liken this to the quality of air.

The element associated with Vishuddhi is air. We communicate through air either through voice, audibly with vibrational or radio waves, written language that see with our eyes through the medium of air, or even telepathy. 

The throat chakra is associated with truth, self-expression and communication. Communication not only with others, but within toward our own self and our higher power. When in balance it is easier to communicate with others and to be honest with ourselves. When this chakra is not in balance, we may experience a communication breakdown. We may not be able to allow ourselves to be effectively heard or able to really listen to others or our own higher self. All that passes through this area can either help or hinder the opening of this area be it love and truth or lying, gossip, smoking, drugs and overeating. 

Third Eye

The seat of intuition. The downward facing triangle here “represents the knowledge and lessons of the lower six chakras being gathered and expanded into your divine consciousness” There are only two petals on this symbol Lens Eye writesthis “ transparent lotus flower with two white petals, [is] said to represent the nadis (psychic channels) Ida and Pingala, which meet the central Sushumna nadi before rising to the crown chakra, Sahasrara” These two nadis from my understanding are major energy changes that run through the body. They are similar to the Yin Yang in that Pingala contains Yang qualities and Ida contains Yin qualities. They help to keep us in balance. 

The element associated with the Ajna chakra is ether. Or space. Or Light. It is something lighter than air that connects us all with one another and the unseen. It is an element that remains more of a mystery because we know it is there but it’s not as tangible as the others. This element and the third eye are the gateway between the known and unknown.

The qualities of this chakra are intuition, inspiration and inner vision. When in balance we are able to trust our intuition and tap into our creative imagination. When out of balance it may be difficult to channel our energy toward goals.

Crown Chakra 

The Sahasrara Chakra is the divine connection to all that is. The circle holds the risen energy and there are innumerable petals of the lotus. 

There is no element associated with this chakra. It is pure consciousness. 

The qualities of the Crown Chakra are divinity and limitless wisdom. It helps us to recognize our true nature and our connection to all that is. When in balance we are able to connect with the world around us and partake in the serene understanding that we are all one. When out of balance it is difficult to see through the chatter of the mind and we may be consumed with the accumulation of stuff and other distracting activities that cut us off from our true nature and connection to everything else. 

Similar to Maslow’s triangle, the top is smaller and easier to transverse. The qualities associated with the upper chakras are where we begin to understand ourselves and how we fit into the universe and can use our gifts to aid in it. At the top part of the Hierarchy of Needs we find, morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of the facts. 

It is if all the chakras are clear and the connection from the base of our humanity is directly in contact with the celestial world where we accept things as they are and use our tools and gifts to navigate the cosmic waves. 

I love this quote. We cannot control the sea, but we can control what we do in it. Once we accept the world as it is and people as they are, we can learn to use our own tools to not be afraid and navigate with ease. 

I have been writing about the koshas for the past several weeks. The 5th and inner most kosha is the Anandamaya kosha. It is known as the “bliss body” or the “bliss sheath”. It is where we connect to our higher self that is always here within us in a central, calm, harmonious state. This serene, still place cannot be affected by outer circumstances. 

All three of the higher chakras (throat, third eye and crown) are associated with the Anandamaya kosha. 

Only the Throat chakra and the Third eye have seed mantras. 

The Crown chakra’s sound is silence. 

The seed mantra for the Vishuddhi chakra is HAM.  

The seed mantra for the Ajna chakra is AUM or more commonly said as OM. 

Chanting HAM when creating a new habit would assist with the desire the hear your inner voice more clearly to make better decisions. Chanting AUM would assist with connecting to your intuition to do what is right. 

Of the three higher chakras, only the Throat chakra has a prana vayu associated with it. Udana is known to govern speech, growth, and upward movement. It helps to promote mental clarity. The triangle pointing upward in my artistic version above symbolically pulls the energy up from the lower body to the higher parts of the self. 

As we reach the summit of molding new habits or breaking old ones, it becomes easier. We tell ourselves more truths, it is more difficult to make excuses and easier to listen to our intuition and higher selves when an old craving starts to creep around. That upward moving energy of the three higher chakras makes the end easier than the beginning where every step was an effort. Similar to how it would be coming down from a mountain.

Today is day 42 in my sobriety. Lent is almost over and all of those who have chosen this sanctified time to give up a habit have almost hit their sacred 40 day mark. In my first blog I wrote about the sanctity of the number 40 and why it is a marker in many religions and texts. 

Living without an old habit should be easier by now and hopefully a new lifelong practice is in place. If you have gone over your own big mountain as I have, you are in a new place too. I’m thrilled to be here. It’s a place I have not gone before. There is a new path to navigate, new unknown places to check out, and undoubtedly new mountains to climb. With the knowledge and lessons learned from finishing this recent climb, we now have some firsthand tools to make the next one a bit easier. 

Hopefully you learned a thing or two about your energetic system and the chakras along the way and can keep them open and flowing for your upcoming life’s adventures. 

Some poses to keep these last 3 chakras open are:

  • Throat chakra: Neck stretches, Shoulder stand, Bridge, Fish 
  • Third Eye chakra: Forehead to ground – as in Child’s pose
  • Crown chakra: Inversions, particularly head stand

My last 3 short videos cover a few more basics and are not particularly aligned with the suggested poses above.

I cover Downward facing dog in Week 5, the Half-lift in Week 6, and finally Tree in Week 7. Tree to balance it all out – because hey… who doesn’t need some more balance in their lives?

So grab a mat and let’s do a little tune up on these basics.

Thanks for taking this journey with me.

Namaste! 

The Chakras and Lent – Week 1

The Chakras and Lent – Week 2

The Chakras and Lent – Week 3

The Chakras and Lent – Week 4

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

https://esterinaanderson.com

The Chakras and Lent – Week 4

This is another week I have been very hesitant to write. An even more emotional week as I journey through sobriety. The emotions I am facing are difficult, but when I truly accept in my heart what others are telling me out of love, it is uplifting and feels like years of emotions are spread.

I hit one month of sobriety this week and was given a one-month coin electronically. 

Week 4 of lent. Perhaps many days into giving up an old habit that no longer serves you. It may be a time when the new habit or letting go of the old one is really taking shape and we start to feel the rewards. We may question why we were doing what we were doing in the first place. We may feel like beating ourselves up for doing something stupid, waiting so long or not even seeing the harm it was causing. 

The fourth chakra is the Annahata chakra or the Heart chakra. It is green. Unsurprisingly this chakra is located at the heart. 

Below is my painting of the Anahata chakra.  

The heart chakra is right in between the 3 upper and 3 lower chakras. The two triangles that are upside down from one another symbolize this connection. According to Learn The Meaning Behind Each Chakra, Anahata “Fuels your compassion towards yourself and others…. The six-point star in combination with the 12 petals in this symbol represents your 72,000 energy channels, or nadis (6,000 x 12 = 72,000). This is also representative of how Anahata is the central chakra that connects the whole system”.

In a way I feel as if this week I have been able to start to move away from the focus of myself to how I have related to others. This is not a new expedition, but it is one that I am looking through a new lens. A lens that does not involve alcohol. A lens that doesn’t get blurred when I don’t like what I see and drown it away. Without a mind-numbing substance, it’s far more difficult to not feel all of life’s emotions, the good/bad/ugly. My heart is there and feeling as it never has before and the sludge of inebriation doesn’t cover all that the heart is trying to tell me. 

Someone who asked me to not mention them in their blogs had a very difficult and honest conversation with me last weekend. This person never told me the things they had before about ways in which I had hurt them. The things they said sounded familiar – as other family members have told me the same thing before; but due to circumstances I would rather not get detailed about; I was unable to take them seriously. 

I apologized profusely. I heard & acknowledged their pain. But I was shocked and very upset that this person never told me this before and was now quite angry with me. I was immobilized for hours and cried non-stop. My heart actually hurt and was undulating waves of pain. As it started to get dark out several hours later, I felt like I had to get out of the place I was staying. I went for a drive and cried some more. I had a strong desire to write, but I had nothing but my phone with me. I went into Walgreens and bought a notebook. I sat outside and started to write, and write and write. Pen to paper, like I haven’t done in years. I wrote about how hurt I felt. About why this person and seemingly everyone else around me are deciding now to tell me what they don’t like about me as I’m working my way through these early days of sobriety. I was feeling sorry for myself. 

At some point I somehow made my way into just writing things I did not want to admit that I don’t like about myself (my shadow side). I was digging deep to keep finding more things after I exhausted what was at the surface. As I took them from my mind onto paper, I was surprised and also relieved to see these in a tangible manner. My first instinct was to destroy this paper afterward, but I kept looking at what I wrote. 

Slowly I was able to look at these “things” and make a connection about what people have told me they worried about. It propelled me to begin writing all the things I have remembered they said that I didn’t believe or acknowledge before. Sitting out in the cold, I realized with both surprise and relief that I do these things. I do them, they are not ok and I have justified them. 

As long as I could remember I did not even understand that certain things were not ok. There was a point in my not so distant past where I did realize they were not ok by other’s standards and did what was needed for everyone else’s sake; but in my heart I still felt they w ere ok. That evening my heart too understood what was not ok. I was overwhelmed with grief at this realization. I wanted to run and apologize, but it is going to take a long time down the sobriety path for those who were close to me to grasp that I really am finished with alcohol. 

What may have happened to me last weekend as I wrote and felt sorry for myself and then compassion for others was where the heart chakra joined my higher and lower self. 

I’m visiting with my aunt in Florida at the moment I am writing this. A few nights ago over dinner she told me something about how she understood my husband. When I woke up in the middle of the night (as I always do these days), in the twilight of my consciousness I thought about her words; and again – like a veil being quickly lifted from my eyes this time; I was able to see something else that so many people have told me. People who love me dearly and others who are quite neutral. I started a separate blog about this. I did not cry but I was overcome with emotion. I actually stopped and decided to lay there in the dark and just allow my heart to feel and process the emotions. I remembered to do some of the grounding techniques that I have learned over the years while I just let myself feel and process. It was exhausting to be honest. I fell back to sleep (which is unusual) and woke up feeling like I understood something new. 

The heart is the only part of our body that makes its own electricity. That electricity gives us life and connects us to the energy in the world that we interact with. We don’t know precisely where energy comes from. It is as if the heart connects the physical world to the spiritual. In the same way it connects the 3 lower chakras (basic survival & human connection needs), with the 3 upper chakras that provide a deeper understanding of the cosmos and our role within them. 

What truly connects us to everything else is love and acceptance. There is a reason why we equate love with the heart. When we open our hearts, we feel the universal love that is all around us. As we allow it to penetrate our own being, we become more accepting of the world around us just as it is. 

Of the 5 elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), the Anahata chakra is associated with the mobile, light, cool, dry element of air. Air is what we breath in. It is how that life force of prana I wrote about in week 2 moves about. The heart and the breath are what sustain life. When those ultimately stop, so does the life energy. The body is still physically there, but the conscious life that propelled it to move, think and act in the physical world is no longer. 

The quality of this chakra is love. To accept and love all that we encounter as it is; to accede that life is oneness. It is nearly impossible to love and accept if we are not comfortable and love ourselves first and foremost. If we can’t forgive ourselves and understand our own human nature, we cannot give that gift to others. Our hearts are ultimately blocked from living life in an open and fulfilling way. When we open the heart chakra and experience self-love, we can then be open to the unconditional love of all else. 

I think on Maslow’s triangle this chakra falls between last week’s layer of friendship, intimacy, sense of connection and the next layer of the triangle where respect, self-esteem, strength, and inner freedom reside.

Self-esteem. I always thought I had self-esteem. I now question if I do, because I am not sure if I love myself. While I lived about in the world as I have most of my life and no one challenged my behaviors, I felt good with myself. Now that I have been challenged, I have to take a step back and question why I couldn’t see what I see now. Why was I confident? 

This is a tricky part. I know I should still love myself. I did not intend harm, in fact almost every intention I have had in life was out of love unless I felt under threat and reacted as if my life were at stake (oh the lovely tribulations of PTSD). But it’s difficult to take a step back and acknowledge that I hurt people that I love and/or think very highly of. It’s challenging to accept that I did harm (unintentionally of course). I love the saying, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”.  Having an intension and carrying out love are not the same. I do ultimately love myself, but it’s a little shrouded with surprise and wonder about how blocked I was. My self-esteem has dwindled. 

I can’t help but think of the line in the Lords Prayer – “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. If we can’t forgive ourselves, if we can’t forgive others, we cannot receive it back; because it means we truly do not understand it and the power of freedom that it possesses. Love and forgiveness are in a way very similar. 

There is no way I can move about the world with love and acceptance of others, until I love and accept everything about myself. Just as it is.  I will get there. I just need a little time to process how I have lived my life until this point. Just on the other side of acknowledging the discomfort of this, is love and freedom. 

It’s important to move past this when shredding old habits or building new ones. There is a reason we usually want to give up something we don’t like. Although it does, it shouldn’t come to a surprise when we do let something go or create something better that we can learn how the previous behaviors were causing damages that we were unaware of. All the previous self-esteem or self-love in the world could knock someone down with a harsh realization of the harm one has done. Either to themselves, the environment or others. Accept it, process it, and move on (easier said than done…).

When the Heart or Anahata chakra is in balanced and open we feel the universal connection to love. Our heart feels both full and content. We express our outer selves with our inner values. There is nothing blocking that direct connection. Not substances, habitual actions or habits, addictions, excuses, blindness to how actions hurt… Just a direct flow of what we intend from inside to the outside. 

When this chakra is out of balance we feel withdrawn, lonely, possessive, jealous… It is difficult to understand ourselves & others. Without that that balance we cannot forgive. We hold grudges. We try to keep the heart safe, but we are really hurting it by limiting its potential to love and to be free. 

I have been writing about the koshas and how they are like 5 sheaths that are layered in between our own individual light or soul and the outside world.  The 4th sheath is called Vijnanamaya. It is known as the wisdom sheath. The Yoga Sanctuary writes “Vijnanamaya encompasses intuition and intellect. It can be thought of as the witness mind, or that aspect of our consciousness that is not entangled in what we are doing or thinking, but rather, acutely aware of what we are doing and thinking. Vijnanamaya kosha is awareness, simply put.”    

Our heart knows better. It is the other layers of the koshas and the strong human/animalistic pull toward base emotions and survival (lower chakras) that prevent us from clearly hearing what our inner goodness is communicating to our mind. 

The seed mantra for the Anahata chakra is YAM. One way to harness the power of this sound would be to chant it with the intention to be aware without judgement or emotion of how we and others are interacting with the world. I justified all kinds of reasons about why I was drinking. I was not looking from a neutral role at my situation. Only when I accept that the reasons I used to justify drinking were because I did not want to stop yet, will I have the power to stop. I believed my own reasons and was entangled in what I was doing and thinking. YAM helps to clear that entanglement and just see things as they are. 

As I have written in the earlier weeks, the Prana Vayus are the 5 ways in which energy or life force moves throughout the body. The prana vayu associated with the root chakra is called Prana. The Prana Vayu is centered in the chest around the heart and is known as “forwarding moving air”, it is directed inward and upward. This vayu directs the other four. It makes a good case for how life should flow from the heart region. And how life (prana) is connected within and around the heart space. 

As we are in the thick of lent and hopefully conquering whatever we gave up , use of the Prana Vayu can help to propel us up and forward to a new and better future. One that we are in charge of and are directing. 

Yoga poses that aid in opening the heart center are ones in which the heart is open such as sphinx, cobra, locust, bow, camel, fish, puppy pose, upward facing dog, cow, reverse table, flip dog, dancer, low & high lunges with an arched back, wheel, bridge, and warrior 1 to name a few. Cow is one of the easier ones to do because there is a lot of support while you are on all fours. It is important to ensure you come into your cow and push the heart out and open from a solid table foundation. 

This week’s back to the basics pose is Table Top pose. Table is mostly a transitional pose but there are many poses that are built directly from it such as cat, cow, sunbird, rainbow, gate, and childs. Before moving into any of those it’s important to have the start from table down pat. So… grab a mat & let’s practice some table. 

Until next week! 

The Chakras and Lent – Week 1

The Chakras and Lent – Week 2

The Chakras and Lent – Week 3

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

https://esterinaanderson.com

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

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

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 

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

https://esterinaanderson.com

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

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

https://esterinaanderson.com

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. 

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

https://esterinaanderson.com

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

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.

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

https://esterinaanderson.com

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.

 

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

https://esterinaanderson.com