Life

“We have to go back, Kate!” -Lost

Katie At The AshramThis time last year I set out on a month of adventure.  I am about to venture out for another August, but this story is very different than the one I was telling a year ago.

After returning from last year’s excursions I found myself jobless, and quite without a sense of direction.  The time seemed ripe to return to a place of great importance to me, the Satchidananda Ashram.

I had once sought the ashram as a refuge at the age of 20.  That period of time was one of great turmoil in which I found myself suddenly living alone, instead of with my partner, and feeling crushed by the weight of my own responsibility for my life situation.

The brief time I spent at the ashram was one of the most meaningful experiences of my short life.  But it was just that, brief.  Instead of the planned month of service I was to do there, I rushed home as soon as the voice in my head told me it had had enough.

The work was too hard.  I missed my family.  I couldn’t stomach the health food.  And God didn’t want or need me to worship Him this way.  These were the patterns of thought that I let drive me back home.

However, I never regretted my short stay.  I loved my time there.  I loved my roommates and the lifestyle.  I knew I would be back.  I knew there was some purpose in this brief introduction.

Cut to last fall, six years after leaving the ashram.  It was time to go back.  But the tumor living incognito in my skull caused a seizure, and the long road to surgery and recovery began.  I was okay with this, I was just happy to be alive.  And I knew my time would come.

Then it was February of this year.  I felt more myself again.  Now that I’m more recovered I can see how ambitious I was being, but I decided February was my chance.  I was finally healthy, and I had been looking forward to this since before my surgery.  Then the phone rang, and a job opportunity thrust its way into my life.  It was a blessing, but I felt let down.

Now all these months later, with many hitches along the way, I’m packing to leave in a week.  I won’t be back until September 8th.  I can’t really have any expectations about it now.  Just getting to be there will be a tremendous gift.  And that is one of the major lessons about life that I’m constantly losing sight of.  Just getting to be here is tremendous.

Life can easily feel like one burdensome situation after another, but I know it doesn’t have to.  If you’ve ever experienced a moment of inner peace, of the stillness of nature, of laughter with people you love, you too know life doesn’t have to feel like a burden.  It is as if a bright light is shining down on all of us, and if we shift just one step to the right we will be completely immersed in its glow.  My going to the ashram is taking that one step.  What is yours?

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Life

Why Not Knowing Is Not Bad

By Peter SperoEverywhere you turn the world will give you a piece of its mind.  Well-meaning loved ones, TV talk show hosts, commercials, and Yelp are all here to help you figure things out.  As we get older we add beliefs on top of beliefs until there are only a few corners of our minds left available to be filled with new understanding.

We are so accustomed to being able to figure things out that a lack of understanding can trigger fear, anxiety, and an immense amount of pain.  If life situations that leave you scratching your head are disturbing to you, that is a sign to let go of your need to know.

Letting go of the need to control life through your thoughts is not only liberating, but it is also your best chance for you to experience your best possibilities.

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consciousness

Older But Not Necessarily Wiser

QuailIt would be nice if becoming another year older meant you actually became another year wiser.  But I have not always found this to be the case.  As I approach my birthday I’ve noticed that I can look back at my younger self and learn from an understanding that I had once gained but later lost.  On a smaller scale, there are some days when I really feel in tune with the rhythm of life, and others when I am lost in the darkness of my own ignorance.

How is it that wisdom and understanding come and go so easily?  They are measured by the degree to which you are present.

When you choose to be the witness of your thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions, environment, you inhabit the space where all knowledge and inspiration reside.  When you are strung along by habitual thought patterns, you step out of the flow of life.

In the moment you become aware of your breathing, of the beating of your heart, you are wiser than anyone could ever aspire to be.  May we all meet there together.

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consciousness

What The Trees Are Telling You

TreesDuring a storm a tree sees its branches whipped about by wind. Leaves fall off. Rain drenches its limbs. The sky turns dark, but the trees don’t go inside. They stand there bending, breaking, bearing the brunt of the weather. Yet not all of the tree is touched, not every part lives outside.

Inside, underground, spread the tree’s roots. And while storms rage all around it, the roots remain unscathed. The roots’ only experience of the storm is the nourishment that makes its way in.

Weather the storms of life like the trees. Bear witness to the force of the outer circumstances that shake you to your core. Feel their immensity. But remain inside. Be the roots; for part of you too remains untouched. And watch, as all the rain that pours on you becomes life-giving nourishment to your soul.

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Peace

How To Step Out Of Stress

DucksOn Friday night I was so stressed from my vision of the coming week that all I could do was cry about it.  Then just the next day, I got sick.  The negative emotions generated by the spinning of my anxious thoughts so quickly translated into physical illness that my choice became clear.  I could do my work with stress, or I could do it without stress.  The former was so obviously uncomfortable that I opted for the “without stress” option.

It did not seem easy at first.  My mind wouldn’t let go of thinking about the end products and panicking about how I would get there successfully.  I wasn’t going to find peace of mind from my mind.  That was the stress trigger itself.  I knew that to make the decision to go about my tasks stress free I had to surpass the mind’s attempts to help altogether.

It then became all the more clear that the uncomfortable state I had been experiencing wasn’t due to any task I had to perform, but rather, by my thoughts about their outcomes.

Focusing on the fruits of your actions instead of the actions themselves creates stress.  If you’re feeling like I was last Friday, look at your situation and notice if you are thinking about the end product instead of just dealing with the task at hand.  That slight shift in perspective may be the step that takes you out of stress altogether.

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Inspiration

Party More

Joey's GraduationThis weekend I had the great privilege of celebrating my baby brother’s graduation from college. Then came Mother’s Day.  Celebrations transformed both of those days.

This month also marks the six-month anniversary of my brain surgery. And while I didn’t have a party for that, I must confess that I’ve been celebrating its anniversary every single month since it happened. I celebrate mainly within myself, congratulating myself, feeling grateful for the passing months. But I also excitedly exclaim to my boyfriend about it every 5th of the month. So what difference does it make?

Continual celebration for any reason makes each day more memorable as well as more fulfilling. To me celebration is the practice of aligning your perspective with the reality of life. It is easy to think to yourself, “Every day is a precious gift to be treasured.” But that is just a thought in the mind not yet born into the reality of experience. When you celebrate you are acting out the reality of the sacredness of the now. You are honoring existence. And in the process of aligning yourself with this perspective, you uncover the latent joy within.

Find something to celebrate today. Did you wake up this morning? Did you go to work? Did you share a smile with another person? You experienced the miracle that is conscious existence. Celebrate it in whatever way you personally enjoy. Eat a wonderful meal, make a toast, share time with someone you love, dance to your favorite song. Instead of making your worries, thoughts about the future, and painful stories the center of your attention today, create a reason to celebrate. It will move you ever closer to a state of joy and peace, and you may find that celebration begets further celebration.

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Relationships

The Crazy Idea I Didn’t Know I Believed

LightIt wasn’t until a job training that focused on “positive discipline” for children that I realized I was walking around with an insane idea that greatly affected my relationships.

A slide in the presentation read, “It’s a crazy idea, really: to make children do better, they have to feel worse.”

Have you ever unknowingly operated from this crazy idea?  I know I have.  When I care about someone deeply and want their behavior to change, for their benefit or my own, I make them feel bad about it.  It sounds harsh, and consciously of course I wouldn’t try to make a loved one feel worse.  But up until this idea was exposed to me in such a clear manner, I was making people feel worse when trying to “help” them.

Human beings do this all the time, and not just when disciplining children.  We do this with our spouses, siblings, friends, and co-workers.

Jane Nelsen, author of the Positive Discipline series, talks about the deep roots of sprouting behavioral issues in children.  But how can we react when encountered with an adult close to us whose behavior we want to change?

That question cannot be answered in one small post.  But there are a few essential steps before you go about trying.

Firstly, take a look at the “man in the mirror.”  Ask yourself what parts of the issue bothering you, do you contain within yourself.

Then completely accept the other person as they are, and forgive them.

Lastly, become utterly present.  Let go of the unhappy story you are telling yourself and instead focus on the feeling of your hands and feet.  Feel the inhale and exhale of your breath.

While this won’t necessarily change someone else’s behavior, it will change yours.  Whatever you do in a state of presence will be positive and productive for everyone.  Of course the consequences of this presence will not be known until it is tried and tested.  I will attempt these steps the next time I feel the impulse to change someone else’s behavior through the old, criticizing manner. Comment and let me know how it goes for you!

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