“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?


A Seizure, Surgery, and Search for Peace

Story Of Your LifeTwo weeks ago I was walking down the sidewalk with my younger brother, and noticed I was having a strong experience of déjà vu.  The next moment I woke up in an ambulance with two handsome men enthusiastically declaring, “You had a seizure!”

The good news, as my brother told me, was that I came out of the seizure laughing. The hospital staff wasn’t even sure at first I had suffered a seizure; perhaps I merely passed out, because I was so very conversational after regaining consciousness.  But after several different tests, it turned out that I did have a seizure, and that it was probably caused by the 3.5cm benign tumor that has taken over a portion of the top left of my skull bone.  While quite a shock to discover, this “epidermoid,” as the doctors called it, could have been present since birth.  Even though it may have been pressing on my brain all this time, it has only just shown itself to be an issue.

Although you never hope to hear such news regarding your own body, there are many things I have to be grateful for in my situation.  The tumor is almost certainly benign, it is not in the brain itself but in the skull bone, and it is in an easily accessible area.  And come November 5th I will undergo surgery to have it removed.

So now what?  Where is the lesson in this?  While I do feel that my religious practices, spiritual study, meditation, Yoga, and the writing of each post here on Let Yourself Learn have been tremendous training for just such a life altering situation, I have been at a loss for insight.  I have experienced fear, confusion, mistrust of people’s advice, and even a small dose of self-pity.  Yet through all of those feelings I kept saying to myself, “I am on the cusp of acceptance, I am on the edge of peace.”

There is a deeper knowing that, even in a moment of fear, still faintly flickers as a beacon for the understanding and abundant miracles to come.  Sharing my situation with all of you helps to fan that flame.

In my last post I talked about the uncertainty in my life, the space being created, and what it was teaching me about living in the present.  With something like brain surgery looming in the future, the present moment becomes more obviously the only tolerable space to inhabit.  There is no more time for what-if scenarios; the suffering they create far outweighs the mild ego satisfaction of “knowing” the future.

Before this series of events took place I had planned to write about my acceptance into the Living Yoga Training program at the Satchidananda Ashram, where I was going to live the yogic lifestyle and be of service to their community for one month starting yesterday.  I thought I was finally going to get that push into present moment awareness I so longed for. Now sitting here, at my same old apartment in Chicago, I am learning what it means to be present in a way I never could have thought up.  It may not look like it now, but this is happening for me, it is part of the highest potential for my life journey, and I am right on the cusp of acceptance, right on the edge of peace.


Healing In The Holy Land

Sea of Galilee
When I introduced myself to the man sitting next to me, who would become my brother on a tour bus that would become our home for ten days in Israel, I mentioned that I wrote for Let Yourself Learn.  He asked me how the blog started and I was brought back to over a year ago when I experienced the traumatic series of events that became the basis for the first trilogy of posts on this site entitled, “The Bed Bug Incident: Parts 1, 2, and 3.”

This WayNot only did those little bugs teach me about inner surrender, acceptance, and becoming comfortable with the unknown, but they also prompted the attempt to manifest my inner lessons into words to be shared with others, that we might mutually benefit from the experience.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to embark on an adventure in Israel, despite the turmoil in the Middle East, and decided to trust the voice of silence within myself that prompted me to pack my suitcase and head to the airport.

After the first few nights on the trip a couple of the participants suffered from several uncomfortable bug bites.  A visit to the doctor and the verdict was in: pishpeshim.  What were the pishpeshim you ask?  None other than bed bugs themselves.

At the Market

Over a year later, half way around the globe, my pesky spiritual teachers returned with a new lesson.  In the first series of posts for Let Yourself Learn I had been shown the areas within myself that needed healing.  I was relying on non-existent outer security and comfort. I was holding onto pain long after I had experienced it. I allowed the life of my mind to thrive at the expense of my own enjoyment.

Now, in a land of both great pain and unimaginable joy, holy to generation upon generation of human beings, I was being shown the ways in which I had been healed.  The pishpeshim became one of the more hilarious foibles of the group, and the ridiculous amount of education I had acquired about bed bugs from my own experience became beneficial and happily utilized by those who were affected.

The experience of time is but a question: what is good and bad?  The present is the punch line.

Israeli FamilyThe pishpeshim incident was just a small moment in what turned out to be one of the most monumental experiences I have yet to witness in my short life. No story, no combination of words, can express the gratitude of my soul more than the tears of joy that still come to my eyes when I take a moment to notice the overwhelming love from the people I connected with that continues to linger in my heart.

So what was the main lesson that I was being taught by my experience in Israel? I learned that it is impossible to understand the real situation and life experience of a person, a nation, and a society, by mere words uttered in a news program. I learned that the brilliance of our tour guide, Iftah, wasn’t born just of his knowledge and expertise, but of his unwavering request that we remain present. I learned that there is courage, bravery, and the strength to persevere in depths of the human heart that I have yet to penetrate.

Tel AvivBut the lesson that brings tears of gratitude and peace to my being, is that no matter where I go in the world, I can always be loved. Whether we are far from home, or in an unhappy home, the love that is the makeup of our being can be reflected back to us through the eyes of another.

In the post right before I left, I mentioned that inner security is the only true security. But that isn’t entirely true. Outer security can be experienced in the form of love. Our love for one another is our greatest security and our purest freedom.   To all those I encountered on this journey, thank you for your love. Know that I love you more than there are stars in the clear desert sky. And even if you weren’t physically on this journey with me, whenever one is loved, one is loved by all, and I thank you.


There And Back Again

The AlchemistI’m back and gone all in an instant!  I recently returned home from a soul-soothing trip to Florida, only to embark tomorrow on a ten-day adventure in Israel.

While on the outside this might not look like the “right” time to travel to the Middle East, the opportunity is before me and I’ve accepted.  Most of life’s big leaps never have a “right” time, and waiting can turn into the ultimate comfort zone.  So instead of looking around outside of you to discern the precise moment to take action, take a look within.

In the eternal present of your inner life everything has already unfolded in a manner befitting the perfect organization of the universe that enabled your life to manifest.  If your mind is like mine, decision-making can be an agonizing process.  But beyond the mind, when you inhabit the space of the witness of your being, there are no decisions to be made.  There is only the pure potential for perfect action.

The ultimate security, in a world of unstable forms, is inner security.  Get to know the silence within. Sit back and get really comfortable in the resting place of your being.  From that vantage point the roller coaster of life has a visible track, you are strapped in tight, and each drop and turn is met with enjoyment.

Enjoy your next ten days, please keep me updated on what lessons life is giving you in the comments, and I’ll talk to you soon with quite a tale to tell.


An Ending, An Insight, And A Vacation

PeaceWhen space is created in your life it can seem as if something has been lost and you are left less than you were before. But contrary to the mind’s idea of space, that opening is the foundation of abundance.

When it comes down to it, an abundance of space is really just the platform on which abundance manifests. I say this as I move into what looks like a wide-open field of possibilities in my own life. My incredible teaching experience that was grant-funded these past four years has reached its end date, and I am humbled with gratitude. Whenever I feel an inner longing towards what was, I know I experienced something to be thankful for, and any bitter-sweetness changes to pure sweetness.

Over a year ago I began planning a vacation to Florida. While I didn’t know at the time what my life was going to look like a year later, the trip is arriving right on schedule. One week ago I had my last day of work, and in one day I leave for a ten-day excursion. The universal schedule is too vast to contain in a mind, but it is prompt and efficient nonetheless! Trusting in time is the same as trusting in the present moment, it is allowing life to exist as it is and consequently aligning your own experience with its perfect unfolding.


Uncomfortably Numb

ToesI first noticed it late one December evening.  The little girl I was babysitting for had fallen asleep during her bedtime story and I sat next to her, legs outstretched on the bed, trying to devise a way to exit without making any noise.  Staring at my feet I realized that, although I could feel my legs, I wasn’t feeling my toes.  I moved them back and forth against one another, and the movement was there but I lacked the sensation that had been so obvious up until this point; I normally had extremely ticklish feet.

After going home and running my feet under hot water, doing various stretches, and attempting to tickle my toes with my fingernails, I conceded that at some point I’d have to get this checked out.  Although my doctor tried different means of treating my unfeeling toes, as the weeks passed the only change was more uncomfortable tingling in my feet.

I am still engaged in outward means of bringing my feet back to normal, but after a few months the true message my feet were trying to send to me became too clear to ignore.  I am addicted to numbing.  And after so much work trying to numb myself, my body took the hint and complied, “if numbness is what you want, numbness is what you will get.”

The desire to numb yourself of emotions and pain manifests itself differently in those trying to escape that which they fear.  Some numb themselves through shopping, others use food, entertainment, alcohol, drama, etc.  The means with which we numb ourselves is a personal preference.  What we try to numb ourselves from can be categorized as pain.  What is painful to each of us, and what we fear, is also custom made according to the individual.  But it all results in the attempt to use external things to numb inner discomfort.

So how can we possibly let go of that which numbs us, when we would do anything to not experience the pain that we are trying to avoid?  For me the answer came in the form of numb feet.  Having these cold tingly feet have made me realize how glorious my highly sensitive, ticklish feet were, as well as how powerfully thoughts and intentions manifest into form whether we want them to or not.  The numbness, although an attempt to escape pain, has turned out to be painful.  My body is letting me know that its harmonious functioning is dependent upon my ability to accept and feel that which I experience.

While some pain seems so overpowering that it may destroy you, in reality your consciousness is vast enough to encompass any experience it encounters.  Not only can your witnessing self withstand the discomfort, but allowing yourself to fully feel it as it arises keeps you healthy.  When pain is fully felt, it moves through you.  When it is numbed, it lies dormant within, containing the power to disrupt every aspect of your life.

Now when I feel discomfort, fear, or pain I say to myself, “I allow myself to feel this right now.”  Although in just the past week my tingly feet have had improved warmth and sensation, one of the medical tests the doctor still has to perform will involve needles and will undoubtedly be painful.  This I am afraid of.  So I allow both my fear of the situation, and the pain of the experience as well. Because the ability to feel is not only a sign of life, but is itself life sustaining.


The End Of Worry

By Peter SperoIt is so easy to become consumed with worry about other people.  I find myself worrying about the wellbeing of friends and loved ones, worrying about their habits, the path they are on, how their future will affect my future.  Have you ever experienced these thoughts about the people close to you?

When I have these thoughts of worry they seem incredibly important.  I am operating under the assumption that if I don’t solve that which I am worried about right now through my own thoughts I will end up worse off in the future, things will go terribly wrong.

Yet, the truth of the matter is that everything in life will come and go except for myself.  My being.  No matter what happens to those around me, what choices they make, or how they create their future, I will always be myself right here in this one moment called the now.  There is nothing that can add to or take away from the being that I am.  And my own future is determined by the state of my consciousness right now.

IMG_0671So instead of trying to solve the problems of everyone around me, I return to the only true place of power, the present moment.  When you find yourself trying to solve the problems of those around you, and begin to feel overwhelmed, or even start to dread the future, come back to your immediate experience.  Shrink the world to the small space you are currently occupying, the perceptions that you are taking in through your five senses, and the breath. 

This is real life.  This is what is actually happening.

The worries, while they seem so real and important, are no more than thoughts in the head.  Although they seem irrefutably valid, allow yourself to relinquish them, and come into the present.  All of the solutions you will ever need are contained right here in the present moment.  They will arise as needed.  The present moment carries you through life with ease and grace.  By allowing yourself to come back into the present, you are allowing life to work all situations for your good.  Being present is the true nature of trust.  Learn to trust the now, trust life, and all of your needs will be, and already are, met.


Don’t Go There…

A lot of things get to me.  If you’ve read past posts on this blog you’ll know a handful of those things.  Did someone say bugs?  Being “rubbed the wrong way” is a common human experience.  Someone says or does something that really gets you angry, or brings up past pain.  Then there are the smaller annoyances that easily damper our mood.  A few examples spring to mind: traffic, cleaning up after people, being ignored.  

One of the most prominent downers for me is tone of voice.  When someone speaks to me in, what I perceive to be, a negative tone of voice I easily feel hurt or offended.  Michael Singer, author of The Seat of the Soul, calls these our “thorns.”  What, if any, is the purpose of these thorns?  How do you get rid of them?  

The first step comes from realizing that, no matter how truly disturbing the situation is, being disturbed is in no way helpful to you.  Feeling disturbed doesn’t change situations.  Solutions arise when you feel free and spacious within, when your energy is high and can find like pathways to match its own positive frequency.  This doesn’t mean ignoring your feelings.  On the contrary, it means relaxing and allowing yourself to feel the negative energy fully, letting it pass through your awareness until it dissipates.  What are your thorns? This conversation between Michael Singer and Oprah is infinitely helpful in learning what to do about our thorns:


A Personal Message From Humanity To You:

You Are Here!Congratulations, you made it!  Every small act, intention, and detail of the universe all worked together for your being here.  The cells that formed you came together specifically to manifest you.  Existence needed you to be here as yourself.  And you made it!  The entire world is a different place because you exist.  The way you experience the world changes all of our experiences of the world.  This is how much you matter.  You are important.  You are on purpose.  When you experience a victory, we all win.  When you are full of sorrow, we all weep.  When you express yourself as you truly are, you give each of us the gift you were meant to bring to our existence.  When you look on the world with love, acceptance, peace, and joy, you are providing the opportunity for everyone else to experience that world.  Everything worked together perfectly for your being here, and is working perfectly for your existence as yourself.  Congratulations and thank you for irreversibly impacting the whole of existence.


How can you tell if you’ve actually “let it go?”

skylineHow do you respond when someone tells you to, “let it go?”  I have been told, in many different contexts, to let something go, and often my response has been, “I will, but…” Which is to say, that I haven’t actually been letting go.  I’ve been learning that a true act of letting go contains far greater power than any reason not to ever could.

By letting go, you align yourself with the power of the universe.  You surrender to that unending stream of energy always flowing towards your highest potential.  So why don’t we let go more often?  Simply put, the thinking mind.  The mind needs thorough convincing to let go of anything.  To let go of a thought, an attachment, a grudge, or a question, the mind requires a foolproof argument to relinquish its firm grasp.  The thinking mind loses control over your life when you surrender and let go.  It doesn’t know a higher power will take the reigns; all the thinking mind sees is a life out of control, without any safety net.  Since the thinking mind is so bent on holding on, it is necessary to go beyond it to experience true surrender.  This means instead of convincing your mind to let go, you only need to convince your true self a more wondrous world is waiting for you on the other side of surrender.

How do you know if you’ve really let go?  When someone close to you has upset you and you decide to be the more conscious being and let it go, and think to yourself “Yes! I’ve let it go!” that is not surrender.  That is the thinking mind holding onto the concept of being more spiritually aware than others, and the idea of letting go.  You will know you’ve truly relinquished something when you feel a deep sense of peace, aliveness, and even joy that has nothing to do with your outer circumstance.

When you are having a disagreement with your partner, and no clear resolution has been found, but you feel completely at ease, you have surrendered.  This opens you up to being a vessel for solutions.  The universe has space to work through you to solve any problem you are experiencing, any dysfunction in the relationship.  Another sign that you have surrendered is that your compassion grows.  You can listen to your partner more deeply, without the voice in your head whispering internal judgments.  You can even understand a point of view you initially disagreed with.  Surrender offers unlimited potential for growth, expansion, peace, and love.

For me, writing this is a personal message to assist myself in surrender.  Although I am writing thoughts, they help to point me beyond my thinking mind to my true knowing.  There are many things in my life I can surrender to, like my work situation, my ideas about how my outer life should look, my opinions, and my ideas about how my loved ones should act.  And the only way to discover the miraculous consequences of surrender is to try it out.  What in your life can you let go of today?