Tag Archives: insight

The Laughing Heart

hand with candles

 

 

 

 

 

 

your life is your life

don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.

be on the watch.

there are ways out.

there is a light somewhere.

it may not be much light but

it beats the darkness.

be on the watch.

the gods will offer you chances.

know them.

take them.

you can’t beat death but

you can beat death in life, sometimes.

and the more often you learn to do it,

the more light there will be.

your life is your life.

know it while you have it.

you are marvelous

the gods wait to delight 
in you.

-Charles Bukowski

What is the Dark Night of the Soul?

hopeThis phrase is commonly used to describe a time in one’s life when it appears as though all is lost, including the attention and support of God. Old ways of seeing life and believing in it end without a clear focus on what comes next. It can be a period of dark moods and hopelessness.

Originally stemming from the 16th century writings of Carmelite priest Saint John of the Cross, the phrase “Dark Night of the Soul” was indicative of mystic development, a quest for holiness. In our modern era, the phrase indicates a time when spiritual development is moving full speed ahead, except the person in the midst of it is usually in despair. During this time, the old and familiar fades away, making room for a new and deeper meaning to life. The challenge is that we can’t see the relevance while going through it, so we suffer.

Experienced as internal chaos and misery, the original Christian notion of this Dark Night is that God has turned away for good. What actually happens is a new pathway opens up that encourages transformation of one’s relationship with God. It’s a blessing in disguise.

In Christianity, the feeling of abandonment by God, a place of darkness, is considered a test of one’s faith. The agony of making your way through the dark causes the old self to reform. The ego dissolves, and a surrender takes place. Old expectations and illusions about God are broken. It is this process that brings a person to new levels of consciousness and into a new, more meaningful relationship with God.

In the midst of a Dark Night, don’t pull out the pills or jump off the bridge! Keep walking through it. It doesn’t last. You’ll come out the other side. God, Goddess, the Supreme Being, the Divine, the Universe, whatever name you choose, you can be sure that it does not desert you. It might seem to for a time, but it’s impossible for it to abandon you. Instead it leads you into greater light.

My Thoughts on Doing a Silent Retreat

533796_3292120096307_1066899692_3043234_1472076028_nEvery year I do a silent retreat or two for at least a week at a time. And each time, people look at me puzzled when I tell them this is what I’m doing. After all, it’s so strange to not talk incessantly, or be talked to. Isn’t it?

Sometimes I join a group, other times I go solo. Often, in April, I like to do a solo retreat in Maui or Kauai (or both, let’s be honest). It’s my birthday month and I love to be immersed in the island vibe. But this April, since I was in Maui last September finalizing the last chapters of my new book, I decided to do a silent retreat in a place where I won’t be able to check messages because there’s no wifi, let alone cell phone service. I’ll be with about 100 others, who come together from distant places, all with a similar idea: let’s take a little breather from the madness, check in, tune in, and listen to what’s real and true, if only for a week.

I very much look forward to no talking, writing, reading, computers, television, or electronics of any kind. No checking email, no Facebook, no Twitter, no CNN, no Orange County Housewives. Am I in the minority when I think we’ve become a completely distracted, unbalanced society through this media? At any rate, there will be the sights and sounds of nature along with deer, turkeys, maybe a fox or two, hawks, lizards, sunshine and intermittent fog.

And, oh yes, I almost forgot—the sound of my own thoughts. The chatter of my inner 5 year old, my inner sullen teenager, and various other inner selves all interrupting my older, wiser self. There will be unexpected random memories, songs from 1983, compulsive planning, weighing the pros and cons of letting my hair go gray, living room redecorating, and ideas of what I should have said to someone 15 years ago. This chatter will go on at least for the first couple of days until it exhausts itself and my mind surrenders to balance and spaciousness.

The first time I attended a silent retreat, I had signed up for 10 days at a meditation center in the Massachusetts countryside. I’d been told by one of my professors that it was the best thing he ever did. Better than any sort of therapy. Incredibly transformational. So I jumped right in and attended the New Year retreat when we entered this millennium. It was lights out by 10pm on December 31, 1999. No fanfare, noise, champagne, nothing. We were awakened by the sound of a bell at 4:00am on January 1, 2000 to continue meditating. It was odd, but delightful.

So here I am 13 years later, still longing to get immersed in my week of silent meditation. Still looking forward to not knowing what’s happening in the outer world. It feels a little defiant, actually, in this information age, to simply turn my back on it all and ignore it. I won’t speak for a week, or be spoken to. I won’t hear my neighborhood’s leaf blowers, screaming children, or the Harleys going down Hwy 1 on Sunday. Instead, I’ll have the opportunity to engage inwardly, locate my deepest center, learn to love the rhythm of my own breath, and release a bit of what doesn’t belong to me.

When it’s over, I’ll return home with greater inner peace, with more love to share, and a greater tolerance for all that is noisy and alive. Now why would anyone not want that?

Communing with Your Higher Self

green goddessYour Higher Self is the wise, all-knowing part of you that is connected directly to All That Is—the Divine Source. It knows why you’re here, where you’re headed, and carries much knowledge and awareness accumulated through eons of time. I believe it’s the part of us that helps us hold our integrity in life. It keeps us moving forward toward positive expansion.

In this age of constant distractions—shiny, sparkly objects catching the attention at every turn—it’s easy to become detached from the Higher Self. At worst, this detachment leads to self-abuse such as drug-use, violence, physical neglect, and negative mental states. At best, it’s a nagging feeling that you’re not living the way you were meant to.

Accessing your Higher Self connects you to your wisest self which has answers for you and knows what step to take next. Communing with your Higher Self requires that your mind be quiet enough to hear its wisdom. Being in silence, settling inward, and getting in touch with the body and breath is one path to linking more strongly with your Higher Self. Experiencing joy is another way. Real inner joy, coming from experiences that raise your vibration high enough that you transcend the ordinary mundane world, can link with your true higher nature.

We not only can touch our soul essence in meditation by tuning into the body and breath, or when we allow ourselves to be truly joyful, but we can gain guidance from our Higher Self and begin to allow it to be the guiding force in our lives. Once you’re in touch—ask, wait, listen, and trust. It’s always been talking to you, but hasn’t always been heard. So give it some practice because there is no guidance better for you than your own wise counsel.

The Power of the Mind to Heal

power of mindThe mind is so powerful that it alone can help you heal. You have the ability to focus your thoughts on what you want and how you want to feel. In each moment you can notice where your mind has gone, whether to worries, fears, judgments, and other negativity, or to thoughts that are aligned with what you want for yourself.

The first step is to have an ongoing practice of noticing and managing your thoughts. This isn’t easy to do if you’re addicted to the television culture, where mass media offers a never ending stream of negative concepts into your brain. Or, if you like to get online and read the daily headlines followed by stories of horrific occurrences around the world. Or, if you like to “trauma share” with friends and colleagues about the annoying things that happen to you.

In the case of serious physical illness, we might find ourselves in a doctor’s office listening to negative possibilities and statistics that don’t sound promising. Because we are susceptible to these predictions, we often believe the bad news and accept it as fact when it isn’t. This can hinder the ability to heal because the mind is powerful enough to create what it believes.

We hear stories about people on their “deathbeds” whose families don’t tell them what the doctors have said about their dire situation. The person gradually gets well and goes on to live a full life. The mind didn’t have the opportunity to grasp onto the negative concept of doom, and instead believed in wellness. Our unwillingness to integrate the power of the mind into mainstream medicine is a hindrance in modern healthcare. If we were masters over our own minds we could enhance and improve the entire medical system.

There are few more important things you can do than to shift your mind to the positive. Any negative thought can be transformed by focusing on its opposite. Writing down the opposite thought, even drawing it out, helps change the negative thought pattern. Notice what you think about. Are you hooked in to the latest gory or fear-based story on the nightly news? Do you have people around you who enjoy talking in negative terms, going over and over the same dark topics? Do you do this yourself? If so, noticing these times and making an effort to change them is your path to making a positive mind a habit.

The best conversation I had over the past holidays was with a friend at a dinner party who said, “I’m focusing all of my attention on seeing the best in people. I’m simply not talking negative about things. My challenge is to practice this even when others around me are being negative.” Isn’t that a challenge we all could be willing to take on?

That was a conversation I could have carried into the wee hours of the morning. When you find another person who’s behaving as if their positive thoughts make a difference, it’s inspiring, uplifting, and life-affirming. This is where true healing begins.

 

Last full moon of 2012 is Friday, December 28

moonThe final full moon of this rather momentous and expectation-filled year is upon us and will be at 7 degrees of Cancer in the wee morning hours (PST) on Friday, December 28.

This is a relevant full moon, more so than usual, because it creates a dynamic aspect between the Uranus-Pluto square. The Sun will join Pluto in Capricorn, both will be in opposition to this full moon in Cancer, and adding in a bit of intrigue and the unexpected will be a square by Uranus (creating a dynamic T-square).

The full moon in Cancer can be an emotional one, bringing up issues of security, home, and family. This particular full moon I expect emotions might run higher than normal, as the moon gets right in there and decides to mingle directly with the ongoing revolutionary interplay of Uranus and Pluto. This week and through the weekend is a good time to make yourself cozy and warm at home, nurture yourself, and perhaps take a look at areas of your life that are cold, severe, and not nourishing, in order to bring more balance and healing into your life.

Those of us with prominent Cardinal signs between 4-8 degrees (or so) will feel this in our lives more so than others, particularly since we’ve been undergoing the energies of Pluto and Uranus for some time now. This would include Cancer, Aries, Capricorn, and Libra folks who are likely experiencing extraordinary changes on deep levels, which may or may not be obvious until it’s already happened. It’s an exciting and interesting time, made more interesting by the upcoming full moon.

Since we are entering an era when feminine energy is emerging in a new way, I would expect to see issues around women’s rights, mothering, nurturance, and care-taking emerge during this full Cancer moon. I’ll be in silent retreat during it, unplugged and news-free, but will be interested to see what transpired in this regard after I return. Meanwhile, full moon blessings and Happy New Year.

Astrology: Fearful or Divine?

Astrological Wheel, Chartres

Astrological Wheel, Chartres

Even in my relatively open-minded community in coastal California, someone recently told me she was warned about the devilish nature of astrology. I rarely hear such things from the people who work with me. Those who know nothing about astrology soon see its value and the role it has in illuminating our lives. But there still exists the perpetuation of ideas from centuries ago that were based on human fears. Spreading these fears served to keep the masses under control.

Tapping into the rhythms and vibrations of planetary bodies in our solar system is a way to connect with our natural world. I’ve been interested in how the planets affect our lives since I was eight years old — that’s 40 years — and I haven’t come across anything sinister in either my studies or my practice. On the contrary, I’ve found doorways to higher wisdom, inner peace, and solace. It is a tool that helps access your personal power and connect you with your Higher Power, in whatever way you choose. Astrology is fascinating and rich, having to do with the beauty and harmony of the natural world.

Astrology was used in the early church (some European churches still have astrological symbolism carved into their interiors). It acquired a negative association as Christianity expanded. That was a time of great tension and suspicion between the church and the people. Astrology was banned in some places and condemned as a tool of witchcraft. However, it didn’t die out fully because people were unable to dismiss or ignore the knowledge that planets affect our lives on earth. If earth’s relatively tiny moon alters ocean tides, how can it be that much larger bodies have no impact? I’ve been following the effect of the planets almost my whole life, and they certainly do have a say in our lives. There isn’t anything sinister about it. It’s simply nature.

Why Meditate?

meditationThe most immediate way I integrate spirit into daily life is through meditation, the simple practice of quieting the mind long enough to become aware of the here and now, to become aware of what is within. Meditation reconnects us with ignored parts of ourselves.

Our souls live through our bodies. To connect with the soul we connect with the body. Through this connection, excess mind chatter, worries, and fears die down so we can settle into the present moment.

One basic, widely-used meditation technique is to sit with your eyes closed. Bring your attention to your breath without changing it in any way. Observe the inhale and exhale. Note when the in-breath stops and becomes the out-breath. Do this for several minutes twice a day. It’s that simple!

Sometimes, however, it’s not so easy, and there are reasons for this. During meditation your mind races, your breath is sometimes quick and shallow, you might feel frustrated or restless and don’t want to focus on your breath. You want to think instead. Sometimes people I work with say “I’m just a big thinker.” That’s true! This is what our minds do. They think about the past, what someone did, what you yourself did or didn’t do, what you’re going to eat for dinner, how your knees ache while your sitting quietly. The mind will do this. It generates thought, continually. Despite this, basic meditation practice is about bringing your focus back to your breath and quieting the thoughts.

Your mind will master you if you don’t master it. Meditation is a simple way to develop mastery over the mind.

Mercury Retrograde November 6 to November 26, 2012

Mercury

Mercury’s domain is the mind, perception, education, and transportation. When going along as normal, it helps us think and communicate. The retrograde period, which lasts around 21 days and occurs 3-4 times every year, doesn’t mean the planet reverses its orbit, but it seems to from our vantage point. Mercury appears to initially slow down, stop, then go backwards.

This apparent retrograde motion affects our lives. Mercury retrograde is blamed for malfunctioning computers, derailed plans, delays, and confused communications. You’ll find people mixing up appointments, arriving late or early, or forgetting things altogether.

Unusual things can happen during the retrograde, and Mercury is already known as the “Trickster.” He seems to enjoy watching people slip on banana peels. In January 2009, President Obama had to re-do the oath of office. Mercury was retrograde the first time around. And the health bill that needed revising again and again? It was introduced during Mercury retrograde. The President isn’t using an astrologer, apparently. What about the unsuccessful Facebook IPO? Mercury retrograde. Obviously Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t have an astrologer, either. It’s ancient wisdom to wait on final agreements and official introductions until Mercury turns direct.

Ideally, a retrograde period is for review. It’s the perfect time to ponder or research a major purchase or document, or revise something you’ve been working on. The mind wants to rest from its normal push forward and take time to reflect. Otherwise, we can experience frustration, misunderstandings, and confusion.

If going with the flow, we would be introspective and meditative during this time. However, we are generally out of touch with these natural rhythms. Most of us will soon be busy with Thanksgiving holiday plans. How to handle this period with little or no upset? Take it slow and be more patient than usual. This isn’t a time for doing things at the last minute. Double check travel plans. Allow extra time to get places, to complete projects, and make preparations. Keep in mind that everyone needs a mental rest right now, but is not necessarily getting one, so offering people your understanding would be helpful.

Check to be sure what you say is understood. It’s not a time for assumptions. It’s the ideal time to back up your computer files, as things have a way of simply disappearing. As for the elections occurring today, we’ll have to wait and see what the Trickster has in store for the U.S. There will likely be some “re-dos” on the horizon.