Today was mysterious. As I was walking along with Judy Brubaker I missed a call from an unknown number. I began thinking that maybe it was Oprah, or Quincy Jones, or anyone! Then I realized why the “unknown” was so awesome; it had infinite potential! It could’ve been the president calling! And if it was, I’m sure he’ll try again later anyways.
In the midst of that call was my walk with Judy. That was even more mysterious. I didn’t know Judy before this. I had merely been walking home, found an elderly woman unable to unlock her door, and asked if she needed help. She told me she didn’t but would love to go on a walk with me. I obliged. I had no way of knowing who this woman was, but she told me about herself. She was 89 years old, had been living in Chicago for the past 50 years, and used to be a film star in Hollywood during the early 1950s. I believed her, but she seemed a bit forgetful, and at the back of my mind I was still wondering what her story truly was. She then told me she still sings on Wednesday nights at Maggiano’s, but hadn’t since her recent surgery. She sang a few lines for me and I was amazed; she did in fact have a beautiful voice.
She insisted that I leave her where she was and continue my walk home, but I refused. I told her that I must walk her back home. So we slowly walked along, but as we got closer she made me leave her side, saying she didn’t want her husband to think she was doing anything crazy. I walked ahead of her but I made sure I saw her walk back up the stairs to the door where we first encountered each other. She must have gotten inside because I didn’t see her as I walked back up the street in the direction of my apartment. I felt so compelled to know what she was doing, what her life was like. We made a real connection and at this point I still have no idea why.
When I got home I decided to Google her. Judy has in fact lived in Chicago the past 50 years, does still sing occasionally at Maggiano’s, and was a film star during the early 1950s. I was amazed! I had just been on a walk with the Judy Brubaker! I may never know the meaning of our encounter. I also may never know who the unknown caller was. But the mystery is so curious, and so enjoyable. Many things in life are inexplicable. Many of the things that we do explain away are, in truth, inexplicable as well. Although the mind prefers to label and have things fit into its set parameters of perception, the world beyond such explanations is more alive, more real, and more curious than one could imagine. One of the greatest lessons I have received is to embrace the mystery. Shout out to the universe, “I just don’t know! I have no idea!” It is at that point that the miraculous has an opportunity to appear. It is at that point that anything can happen.
This is a video I found on YouTube of Judy singing at Maggiano’s:
Today I had the privilege of performing with my family band at a town festival. Waiting to perform is nerve-racking for me. But the second I’m on stage and begin to sing all of the nerves just float away, and I’m there, completely present. I love the feeling of being totally in the moment. One of my favorite aspects of presence is the experience of joy; the natural state of being that is usually covered up by thoughts and emotions.
What makes you present? What snaps you out of thinking and brings in you completely into the moment?
Presence can be practiced in any situation, but a great place to start is by finding a situation that tunes you into the now. It could be yoga, taking a walk, straightening your hair, driving, singing, anything at all! When you find that thing that snaps you into the present, it isn’t really that thing that is so enjoyable. The joy comes from being fully in the now, without psychological past and future taking up all of your attention. So give yourself a gift and begin practicing being in the now. Start with whatever brings you joy!
When I really pay attention I can hear my mind labeling the things and situations it perceives. It says things like, “Wow, the moon is so bright tonight,” and, “The sky is very blue today!” But attaching words to my perceptions doesn’t mean I actually have any idea what I’m seeing. Perception becomes miraculous and new when you can see without mentally labeling everything. When labels are gone, we can see things for the wonders they truly are.
This video is a beautiful example of the magic of perception:
Part of the first experiment in E-Squared by Pam Grout is giving yourself a two-day time frame in which to look for the “field of potential” to present itself to you in a clear way. You look for a gift, for something to come out of the abundance that is in and all around you.
I started this experiment yesterday, Thursday, at 5:05pm. In last night’s post I mentioned that I went to a dance show at Columbia College Chicago. I was looking for the “field of potential,” or God, or the universe, the whole time. When the song “Anything Can Happen” by Elie Goulding came on during the show I thought maybe that was the sign. But I wasn’t sure, so I continued to ask the universe for a clear sign of its presence. This morning on my way to work I saw a cute wooden box under a tree and thought, “could this be the sign?” But I wasn’t that interested in the box, so once again I asked for a very clear sign.
Today we took the kids in our summer program on a field trip to a museum. We were having a great time. I remembered, as we were walking around to the different exhibits, to keep looking for this highest potential to present itself to me. I then checked my cell phone to see what time it was. I noticed I had a new voicemail from a number I didn’t recognize. I was so curious I listened to it right then, and heard a voice saying “Hi this is a message for Katie. I’m calling from the Dance Movement Therapy program at Columbia, and wanted to let you know that you won our raffle from last night! Congratulations! Please call me back to let me know when you can come pick up your prize.”
So that is what a clear sign is! And as if the experiment hadn’t gone well enough already, when I called the woman back I asked her what the prize included. There had been a couple different prize packages. The one I won included one month of unlimited yoga classes at a yoga studio that is on the same street, literally steps, from the front door of the new apartment I’m moving into in September. Now that is what I call the “field of potential” saying, “Hey Katie, what’s up? I’m here!”
Is there any downside to asking the universe to show you the best of itself? To believing that all encompassing abundance is on its way to you right now? As I said in yesterday’s post, the worst thing that can happen is that nothing happens. The best thing that can happen is beyond your wildest imagination! What miracles are you looking for in your life today? Are you expecting great things to happen? Even if you don’t yet know what you want, you can always ask for a clear sign from the universe to show you the unlimited wonders it has to offer.
I’m still reading E-Squared by Pam Grout and it has reminded me of what I’m always trying to convince myself of. Namely, that the world is wondrous when you look for the wonder. The universe rises to meet you where you are, with the situations and things your perception accepts as possible and real. Why not see what happens when you drop the conditioned ideas about what life is, and decide that miracles are everywhere and are readily available to you?
When you look for that highest potential you are much more likely to allow your perception to actually see it expressed in your life. And if you’re like me and your mind needs a little more convincing, ask yourself: why not?
Why not see what happens when you decide something wonderful is currently happening in your life? Why not see what life is like when you ask it to show you the best it has to offer? The worst thing that could happen is that nothing happens. The best thing that could happen is that all your dreams come true. Theres no “losing” side of suspending your disbelief and deciding to see the best of your imagination manifest before your eyes. So why not try it, and ask the universe to give you a clear sign of the abundance it has ready and waiting for you.
Tonight I went to see my former teaching assistant perform at the Dance Movement Therapy show at Columbia College Chicago. When this song came on I heard the universe saying “Yes I’m here, keep watching what I can do!”
I am a huge Michael Jackson fan. Since I was in grade school MJ’s music has had a profound effect on me, lifting me up and inspiring me. The day MJ died I was at the Satchidananda Ashram. I found out by overhearing some other people from the dorms causally discussing it. I was completely beside myself. It may seem silly to be so mournful over the death of a celebrity, but I had loved MJ for so long and was looking forward to him creating new music. I had even purchased a ticket to one of his shows in London without having any clue of how I would get there.
The day after his death I was very low. I didn’t want to do anything, let alone something enjoyable (the pain body can’t stand enjoyment). My roommates then tried to persuade me to go to “Laughter Yoga” with them. Laughing was the very last thing I felt like doing, but eventually they convinced me. In Laughter Yoga you “fake it till you make it.” I’m not sure if I truly laughed or not, but afterwards I felt considerably lighter, more peaceful, and even a little bit happy. Laughter doesn’t have to be real to have positive effects on your mood, thinking, and physical health. Now I try to remind myself to laugh every day, no matter what. And this video really helps with that:
Thanks to Marc and Angel Hack Life for introducing me to this video!
I’m a huge fan of audiobooks. Every morning I listen to an audiobook, interview, sermon, or anything that will inspire me and bring me more fully into the spirit of the present. I am always amazed by how words of inspiration change my inner state from tired and dreary, to awake, energized, and joyful. As I do my makeup I let the positive words sink in. By the time I’m out the door I feel excited for life. This is the polar opposite of the feeling I have when I first wake up in the morning.
Inner peace is a practice. It requires practice in every single moment. This looks different in every moment. I know that when I’m at work it looks different than when I’m at home. At home I can listen to my audiobooks when I get ready for the day. At work I can allow myself to focus fully on each task, keeping my attention on the “doing” instead of the result I am working towards. When I am at home watching TV and a commercial about some deadly illness comes on and I am about to be afraid of it, I have to practice peace by letting go of fear. Each and every now is an opportunity for greater peace. It is totally fine that not all moments seem as peaceful as others, that is all part of the practice.
Yesterday I began talking about the pain body, the residual energy of past pain that lives within each of us. The pain body creates great opportunities for practice. Of course they don’t feel great, but the awareness gained in the moment of disidentification from the pain body can put you light years ahead of your current state of consciousness. Practicing inner peace with a heavy and active pain body can thrust anyone into a spiritual awakening.
When I was just entering high school I had a very active pain body. I can see now how the emotional pain and the thoughts in my head fed each other constantly. This was a blessing because I knew something was wrong. I knew that the pain and anxiety was not okay. I remember telling my mom, as she was driving home from a friend’s house, that there was something wrong with me. I told her that the voice in my head was always coming up with horrible scenarios about the worst things that could possibly happen to me. It would come up with scenarios where everyone I loved died and play through how I would cope and what it would feel like. While that all sounds quite dramatic, it wasn’t until many years later that I realized everyone had a voice in their head that was making up various scenarios, many of which had negative outcomes. The active pain body was so uncomfortable that it woke me up to that voice as a “problem.” Instead of assuming that the mind is just the way it is, I knew it was causing me too much pain to be in its natural state.
Together the pain body and the voice in the head create the ego. They live their lives through you, and until a little spark of disidentification comes in, they are you. They make your decisions, they create your reactions, and they completely obscure the inner peace that is your natural state. The ego will cease to run your life the moment you realize it is not you. That is all that is required. That is where the practice of inner peace begins.
As the days passed before the extermination I experienced great fluctuations in my state of consciousness. There would be brief moments of clarity where I felt fine, peaceful, above my circumstance. Then I would soon despair again. I had to pack up my apartment as if I was moving, treat all my clothes. I had to live apart from my boyfriend who graciously stayed at the apartment, per instructions from the exterminator, while I fled to my parents’ house in the suburbs. We’ve lived together for years and now we were in separate places, both without any of our “stuff.”
My mind constantly tormented me with the fear that I was going to bring the bugs to my parents’ house. But as the days went by, my moments of clarity were able to shine through more and more. I was learning to bring acceptance to my outer circumstance. The negative thoughts were so obviously unwanted and unhelpful at this point that I made the choice to start letting them go, one by one, as they came up in my mind. And they came up all the time. So this was a lot of great practice at letting go of negative thoughts.
I then had to go back to the apartment to “test” the results of the extermination. Everything was fine. On my fifth day back I woke up and went to work. As I was typing on my computer I noticed one of my fingers was swollen. Then I felt something on my thigh, went to the bathroom, and saw it had swollen up the size of a large tomato. I had been bitten. I left that morning assuming I would see my boyfriend after work. But now I’d be driving back to the suburbs, living apart for another two weeks while the second round of treatment took effect. I emailed the exterminator. I called my boyfriend to tell him what had happened. I called my mom to tell her I was coming home. And I was okay. I had been through this once before, I was learning how to let go of the circumstance. I was learning to be okay with uncertainty. I was learning how to accept what happens, because to not accept what happens is to cause yourself unnecessary suffering.
The universe gave me a round two, another opportunity to try again. And this time it was easier not to freak out. It didn’t feel like a horrible struggle prepping my apartment for extermination, or commuting to work from the suburbs, or not knowing when I would live at my apartment again. I’m still learning to accept that bugs exist. But now, in comparison, the other ones don’t seem so bad. I’m now back at my apartment and haven’t had any bites again. Although that doesn’t mean they won’t come back. And I am okay with that now, I have learned to be comfortable with the not knowing. I really don’t know what is going to happen, where I’ll be living day to day, if the next apartment I get will be bed bug free. From experiencing the suffering I caused after having bed-bugs I have learned that it is much more helpful, peaceful, and joyful to let go of those fears and be in the moment I am in. After all, it is the only moment I will ever be in. So if I’m afraid and worried now, it is likely I’ll continue to be afraid and worried. But if I’m peaceful and accepting now, it is quite likely that my future moments will also be peaceful. After all, the future never happens, when it does it is called the “now.”
So what can you let go of now? What uncontrollable circumstances in your life can you bring acceptance to? What negative thoughts repeat in your head that you are ready to let go of? The bed bugs taught me many things; the universe always gives you the lesson that is most helpful for your state of consciousness at that moment (as Tolle puts it). And while I perceived the situation as suffering while in the midst of it, it was for my learning, for fostering greater peace, joy, love, and awareness in my life. What a gift.
PS- I also have a different relationship with things now. Although I don’t perceive “stuff” as a burden as I did after getting bed bugs, I am not as interested in having more “stuff.” I would rather have just a few things to tend to. It has actually stopped me from wanting to buy clothes and other things. All I wanted after having bed bugs was to be just me, to feel clean and untainted. While that is an extreme that would be detrimental to stay at, it pushed me more to the middle in terms of my desire for objects, another blessing in disguise!
It seems that many wise people are prompted to their spiritual awakening by some type of suffering. This seemed the to be the case for Michael Singer as he wrote his spiritually charged book “The Untethered Soul” while in the midst of a federal indictment. This was also the case for Eckhart Tolle who was on the verge of suicide before his spiritual awakening. Suffering’s round about purpose comes back to a forced spiritual awakening. The world is on its way to “waking up” and more and more people will awaken through joy as opposed to suffering, but suffering has been a normal way for humans to awaken.
It is easy to feel grateful, joyful, and peaceful when all seems right with the world. But what happens when everything goes down hill? When everything goes wrong you are being given the opportunity to experience your own level of consciousness. It is as if the universe is saying, “This is how enlightened you think you are, but let me show you how enlightened you actually are.” Because thoughts in the end are merely thoughts. Recently the universe has been helping me to awaken to my actual state of consciousness from which I have been operating.
Around October I was walking back to my apartment one cool, damp Chicago night and felt my leg start to itch. After arriving home I sat on my couch, looked down at my calf and found it had swollen up like an orange. The itching was relentless. I tried a great many things trying to stop the itching but nothing helped. The next day the bite looked so bad that I went to the doctor who prescribed antibiotics but couldn’t tell me what had done it. I was disturbed, bugs freak me out.
About 3 weeks later the same thing happened on my foot. Around a month later it happened again. The itching was tormenting me. I just couldn’t stop scratching. I was also being tortured by my thoughts. I wanted to know why this kept happening, how to stop it, and what bugs were doing this so that I could kill them. But I never found out. A month passed, I got another bite. My mom was reading a book that talked about “shenpa,” the need to itch, that notion inside that you feel compelled to act upon. It arises in many different forms. For many the need to itch manifests as addiction. They get a feeling that they need to do something and then they act. At this point I had deduced that I kept getting these odd bites because I needed to learn how to be with them, how to have an itch and not scratch. There are definitely other areas of my life that would benefit from learning how to not act upon compelling but unhelpful thoughts. I felt sure I was getting the lesson, but of course I still scratched the bites, and still felt uneasy about any bug I encountered not knowing who the culprit was.
Come back tomorrow as the plot thickens; surprisingly the title is not a spoiler. But today ask yourself, what unhelpful thoughts are you constantly acting on? When you have one of these thoughts take notice. Sit down comfortably and close your eyes for a moment. Feel the inside of your hands, your breathing. Watch the thoughts playing out in your mind. Find out what happens when you don’t act on them right away. Allow the thoughts to be, just be there with them. Don’t label them as good or bad, or wish you didn’t have them. Bring acceptance to the moment, and just sit with the desire allowing it to be as it is. What happens next no one knows. You might find yourself acting on the thought again, or you might find yourself placing your attention somewhere new. As opposed to deciding what will happen, allow yourself to not know, and then you’ll get to watch with attention and interest to see what you do afterwards. This turns the “itch” thoughts into something interesting and helpful.