Are You Awakening?

Are You Awakening?

 

Listen this week to the Chaos & Light Podcast as we ask Are You Woke or Awake (or Both)?

 

The awakening process for some is gradual with spikes of growth followed by plateaus of processing and integration. For others, it can be an abrupt and disorienting experience. Usually brought on by a life change, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, or illness. Sometimes a person faces an unusual experience that cannot be explained by their current worldview, prompting them to explore others. In whatever way it presents itself, it is a journey towards more presence and meaning. Here are a few common conditions that accompany our awakening.

“Spiritual awakening – is becoming awake to the aliveness of this moment.”
~Eckhart Tolle

Life Becomes Uncomfortable

There tends a be a general unraveling of the status quo right before a person accepts this conscious path. As mentioned, this can be brought on by an outward event or just a sense of decreasing satisfaction in the normal. Maybe the usual gossip or celebrity news that once was interesting has now become inane. Or perhaps a bad habit feels increasingly misaligned and is impossible to ignore. People, places or ideas become ill-fitting and we grow weary of trying to make them fit. This discomfort is just a signal of a readiness to grow and evolve beyond our current mode of being.

Exploring Purpose and Meaning

An awakening is really a destructive experience that is both spiritual and philosophical. We watch our illusions and identities fall away as we make space for new understandings. This dismantling leads us to explore some high-level questions about life. We ache for purpose and the meaning of existence and seek out tools and techniques that aid us in finding significance. This prompts us to begin a meditation or yoga practice or become voracious readers on all things spiritual. There is joy in the questioning itself not necessarily in finding all the answers.

“Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world.”
~Ramana Maharshi

Witnessing Our Stories

An important piece in this process is learning the value of witnessing our stories and the stories of others. These are all the things we tell ourselves about who we are and how the world operates. We begin to understand through being present that our thoughts and emotions are not really who we are. They are data points, not our core essence or true nature. Sometimes this means we take a 30 000 foot view of the world and/or situation. Or do a deep inner excavation of our beliefs, expectations and ‘the shoulds’ that drive our behavior. Awakening is being able to witness the story without reacting from it. We do this, for example, by recognizing the way the Victim, Wounded Child or the Addict archetypes show up and dominate our thoughts. We understand that the stories we tell ourselves either empower us or keeps us stuck.

 Taking Responsibility

There is a certain re-framing of situations that happen as we move through this process. This is the movement from seeing life as happening to us, to being the co-creator of our lives. This doesn’t mean that unfortunate things won’t happen but how we respond to those circumstances is up to the individual. We also start to recognize our shadow side, the places where unresolved trauma and false beliefs rule our behavior. We learn not to see our shadow from a place of shame, guilt or fear but rather as an opportunity to be empowered. This means not putting other people in charge of our well-being or trying to control others through our wounds.

 Having Unique Experiences

When we first start to notice the patterns and synchronicities that surround us, it can be a magical thing. We begin to see the divinity in things that used to go unnoticed. It could start as simple as someone recommending a new book and then hearing about that book several times over the next week. These synchronicities are like the universe’s breadcrumbs assisting us and acknowledging our conscious efforts. 

Peak experiences are another example. They are moments of profound connection or unity to all that is. This could be the ‘aha’ moment where suddenly something makes total sense or the feeling of awe when looking over a valley from a mountain top. This can also be a feeling of bliss or ecstatic joy when we see or feel Truth. These experiences assist us in not only having an intellectual understanding but also move us into the experience of being alive in a dynamic, emergent universe.

“Your greatest awakening comes, when you are aware about your infinite nature.”
~ Amit Ray

Wherever you are on your awakening journey, remember to be compassionate with yourself. This isn’t a race or a competition. It is an invitation to find passion, purpose, and meaning in our lives. A continuous and ever unfolding process connecting us to deeper truths. This path isn’t always easy or filled with joy. Some places are dark, messy and destructive, but it is a richer, fuller existence. For me, it is the stuff of life.

 

 Listen this week to the Chaos & Light Podcast as we ask Are You Woke or Awake (or Both)?

 

 

We Are All Imperfect Messengers

We Are All Imperfect Messengers

I’ve thought a lot about the difference between the message and the messenger. I am grateful as someone who has taught various subjects to different populations in health and personal growth that people can understand the difference. I am not a perfect human. Even though I teach stress reduction, there are still times where I let stress get the best of me. Even though I teach mindfulness, there are still occasions when I spend too much time on my phone or eat while I’m watching TV. How do we talk about change when we are still part of the problem? Do we need to be removed from the culture to address the issues in it?

I find it disheartening what is happening to Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden. I’ve been watching people insult and make fun of her for having the courage to speak about something that is important for humanity to discuss. Whether you agree with her or not, to attack the person rather than the subject is a weak approach. Especially if you’re an adult and that person is 16-years-old.

The thing is, even if you find the topic of climate change debatable, a conversation can still be had about the sustainability of an economic model based on continuous perpetual growth and the burning of fossil fuels. Do we not owe it to future generations to take pause and examine where we want to be in 50,100, 200 years? The level of rapid expansion on all fronts is something we’ve never seen on this scale. If you owned a business with continued pressure to expand, would you do so without a plan, limits, or policies? The globalization of our economies requires us to figure out a path moving forward as a global community.

What happens when China and India continue to follow the industrialized Western model? 

The idea that anthropogenic climate change is debatable is a Western, mostly American mindset. Maybe because as the world’s largest consumers and users of fossil fuels per capita, we risk the most change to our daily life. But let’s pretend for a moment that it is debatable. What do we have to lose by acting more sustainably? What do we have to lose if we don’t? Would the world not be better off by using more clean energy or by protecting our air and water?

People worry about hurting the economy or relinquishing control, but really it is about power. Currently, our approach is exerting our dominion over nature, our power over it. Living in harmony with nature and honoring the earth and her inhabitants, flies in the face of corporate interests and American exceptionalism. That’s why the oil industry tries to quash any plans for light rail in cities like Phoenix and Nashville. Saying, it is un-American to take public transit. As the most intelligent species, we should look at ourselves as stewards rather than masters. Living in Japan, we don’t have the luxury of pretending that it does not exist. There is no debate; there is only mitigation and preparation for it’s worsening effects.

So I welcome the Gretas, the Leos, and the soccer moms to speak loud and let your voice carry. And please, don’t stop. This conversation needs to happen.

Are they perfect? Hell no, but here is the thing, we are all imperfect messengers. The vegan who wears leather shoes, the activist who flies on private jets, the environmentalist who drinks out of plastic. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t value in eating less meat, taking public transportation or using less plastic. None of us are flawless. If we wait to consider a message because the messenger is sometimes out of alignment between their vision, values, and actions, then we will not improve. When it comes down to it, it isn’t perfection that is required. It is about balance and harmony. Individually, globally, and spiritually.

Sustainability is just balance and harmony in action.

Sustainability is just balance and harmony in action. And this doesn’t require infallibility, only that we come together, conscious and honest about where we stand. We can debate about the timeline, but perpetual growth based on the exploitation of the earth’s resources is a lose/lose proposition. So while Greta’s pleas may have seen a bit heavy-handed, her worries are not unfounded. At our current pace of growth in all areas, to not include the environment in our discussions, is just insane. The silver lining is that we already have many innovations and emerging technologies; we just need the personal and political will to put them into action.

We aren’t going to solve our problems by longing for the past.

There is not a single person among us who hasn’t lived incongruent to their values. We all take part in the culture we live in, which has been continually formed and developed by present and past generations. It’s okay to discuss where it is failing and more importantly, make a conscious effort to look where were are going. We aren’t going to solve our problems by longing for the past. We are too many, too globalized and too technologically advanced for that to work. Industrialized thinking doesn’t cut it in an information age. So, this requires us to allow all fallible people to speak up because, without them, there would be no one — not a single person to champion this cause. If we focus on the message rather than the messenger, we might be able to get some real work done.

 


(c) Can Stock Photo / rfcansole

Death & Re-Birth: A Bat’s Message

Death & Re-Birth: A Bat’s Message

I am visited by bats nightly here in Japan. Every evening as the sun begins to fade the bats fly out over our balcony ready to feed. They are whisper quiet as they swoop and dive for their night’s meal. I regard bats as magical creatures, they teach us about the importance of embracing death in our lives. This isn’t just physical death, but the letting go of ideas and patterns that no longer fit.

In preparing for our two-year journey to Japan, my family and I went through everything that we owned and accumulated over the past ten years (or longer) and decided what we were ready to let go of. I told people that this was a continual lesson in surrender. Because as I looked over everything, it wasn’t just stuff I was looking at, but little pieces of my identity that I accumulated along the way. Old college notebooks, and textbooks that I just kept packing from place to place. Not realizing that I was packing around fragments of my ego that I kept trapped in a box. I decided to release those items realizing that holding on to them was no longer necessary to satisfy the idea of who I thought I was or should be. I honored that and grieved the loss as I shed the ideas and expectations of past versions of myself. This is what surrender is, a deep acceptance of what is rather than the illusion.

Before moving here, I was often asked, “But what are you going to do when you get there?” Frankly, I have not figured that out nor do I feel rushed to. I wanted to go into this experience without any pre-conceived ideas of what my life would look like. I do know that in moving to Japan I was ready to let many aspects of my current life die. So each night as I watch the bats, I am reminded of that choice. But I also know that in death, rebirth and renewal are what follows. This process has not been instantaneous which I am grateful for. Some death can be painful and abrupt, this has been gentle and thoughtful.

So, a month into this new chapter, these are the questions that I will sit with:

  1. What within me is ready to die?
  2. What within me is ready to be alive?

 

Just a little footnote. The question, ‘what within me is ready to be alive?’ is a question author and friend,  Jacob Nordby has asked me several times and I wanted to give him credit for such a great question.

 

(c) Can Stock Photo / mbolina

Seeing the Sacred

Seeing the Sacred

I know that social media isn’t very good for me, nor is obsessing over the news. And yet, I find myself not being able to look away. While I do think it is important to be informed, what am I really gaining from being so immersed in it?  I can’t help but think from an energetic perspective that while my mind thinks I can stay above the fray – where is my energy? If I’m spending even a portion of my day swearing at my computer because of all the craziness, clearly I’m deeply entrenched in it all.  I need to remember to reboot my system and I decided that my antidote to all this fuckery is to stop myself and take a moment to see the sacred – every day and as needed.

Now for me, the sacred means connecting with the essence of something. It means stripping away all of the pretense and narrative and being with the beauty and purity of the moment. It can be a single moment or a collection of them but its really about recognizing the divinity in something. Sometimes that means stripping away a lot of layers but most of the time it is just witnessing what’s right there in front of me. 

So while it can definitely be during times of prayer or meditation, for me finding the sacred does not have to happen at a church or at my altar. I find the most sacred moments are those that just sneak up on me. Like when I’m reading with my son and he just snuggles in a little closer. Or the brief moments when he holds my hand while we are walking, something he rarely does anymore now that he’s approaching eleven. I often find it in nature too, but again it doesn’t have to be on a hike. There is this green ivy that crawls along my balcony wall and often birds will come and play in it singing their songs. To me that is sacred. It’s a beautiful and pure moment stripped down to its essence.

I think we miss a lot of these moments in our lives. After all, I can go on a hike surrounded by beauty and be thinking the whole time about what groceries I need to get for dinner that night. Then, there can be times when I’m walking down the sidewalk and I fall in love with a single flower that grows through a crack in the asphalt. That’s what seeing the sacred is all about, finding the beauty between the cracks. Being able to be awed by that one perfect moment.

I’ve thought a lot about what makes a moment sacred and I’ve boiled it down to what I call the three As. Attention, appreciation, and awe. If I’m not paying attention, I miss the sacred. It might just be a little blip on the divine radar and if I’m focused on all the cracks, I might miss the flower. And let’s face it, sometimes those cracks deserve our attention too. The next element is appreciation. I have this silly thing that I do when I see the birds enjoying my balcony. I say out loud, “Thank you for sharing your space with me”. My loudness depends on who’s listening, I may be thankful, but I acknowledge I also sound a little crazy. This is my way of giving a tip of my hat to the moment and to the creature that is sharing it with me. The last thing is acknowledging the awe that born out of the other two. Gratitude and mindfulness are the parents of awe. 

I describe this feeling as my heart opening and I can feel it reaching out to envelop the sacred. It is almost like it is creating the container to hold the moment but in doing so it is also transformed by it. It is the experience of the divinity in me melding with the divinity all around me. Sometimes it reaches out far enough that it takes my breath away a little. I think the more sacred we can find in the regular moments is how we stay sane in all of this. Awe and frustration can’t occupy the same space.

So I encourage you to find your sacred too. Maybe it’s in your favorite piece of poetry or an opera. Or the color of the fall leaves or the song of the little bird that lands on your balcony. As I write this I can hear the noon bells from the church below. There is a sacredness in their sound too. It’s all around us if we are looking.


(c) Can Stock Photo / ipopba

 

Seeing Beyond the Lens of Patriarchy

Seeing Beyond the Lens of Patriarchy

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any”. ~Alice Walker

I remember the moment that I really understood how my lens of patriarchy affected me and how it altered the way I showed up in the world. I was in the midst of reading the Women Who Run with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes and I could feel a fire rising inside me. I felt the need to sit in deep meditation and witness as generations of suppression, repression, and helplessness moved as waves of emotion through my body. I cried for the harming of societies past who felt the brunt of a system much more deliberate than the version I was currently living. I grieved deeply as I saw the actions of myself and generations through this understanding. Then I sat with the revelation that I had never really understood the lens from which I viewed the world.

The Divine Energies

If I look at that experience carefully, it wasn’t just the suppression of women that brought me to such depths or the past hurts they’ve endured, it was much deeper than that. It was the diminishment of many of the values and ideals that I held dear. Aspects of the Divine Feminine that as a society we accepted as less than. In our current climate, it isn’t just about the suppression of women but about the imbalance of both the feminine and masculine energies. It’s about what we have decided is worthy and noble and what isn’t. The Divine Feminine is the embodiment of emotion, creativity, flexibility, and intuition. She is receptive, inclusive and mysterious and yes, even dark. The Divine Masculine is about loyalty, logic, reasoning, strength, and security for all. In our Western culture, we favor many of the characteristics that are inherently masculine and diminish those that are more aligned with the Divine Feminine. Though, in our patriarchal system, neither are well represented.

This isn’t a conversation about gender though it is through gender roles and stereotypes that the conversation has become muddied. It is about creating a new paradigm that benefits everyone, and this requires that we recognize and value both the masculine and feminine that exists within every individual and every culture. These energies have nothing to do with gender and everything to do with restoring balance, harmony, and wholeness. It is time for us to re-evaluate what it is we value and what brings us to the world we want to create. It is also time for us to understand the lens from which we see the world and how that defines or limits our power and what we believe is possible.

A Time of Revealing

Over the past decade, we have seen the underpinnings of our deceptive financial systems leading to outrageous wealth extraction and income disparity. We have seen the biases and racism of our political and judiciary systems, and now we are shedding light on sexual harassment and predatory behavior.  All of these are forms of abuses of power and all of these are symptoms of a system that benefits a few at the cost of the many.

In our most recent revealing, we have been bringing to light feelings of shame, self-betrayal, and feelings of powerlessness. But in our attempt to bring these wrongs to the forefront of our consciousness, we are substituting shame for shaming. We are bringing light to our own internal feelings of shame and replacing that with public shaming as a means of social control. Does that bring us toward the world that we want to see? We have talked about predatory behavior as really being about power over another. In this call out culture, are we not using the power of social media to destroy lives? We are at a point where a single allegation can bring down the life of another human with no conversation of due process, or opportunity for redemption. This can’t be our end game.

I’ve seen groups of people trying to silence other groups because how could they know the challenges and lives of someone else, someone different from them. The answer is we don’t, but if we tell anyone they shouldn’t be heard, then we diminish all voices. It further perpetuates the atmosphere of separation, polarization, and resentment. People should be able to engage from where ever they are and from their own experience; this is speaking their truth. And we need to listen, but when our truth also involves the silencing of another’s voice, then we are just doing to someone else what we have had done to us. That is matching the same level of consciousness that created the world we are in. So if we want to create something different, we have to approach it from a new place, from a new lens of our own conscious creation. Matching fear with fear, anger with anger or shame with shame will result in more of the same.  If we want to create a climate where all people are valued, welcomed and heard then we can’t squash one voice for the sake of another.

Tales of Power

Patriarchy isn’t just about men. It is a system. A system we all take part in. In order to dismantle this system, we don’t go after men; we unplug from the story that created it. We see the lens from which we have been viewing the world and opt to take another viewpoint. We are seeing people unplug from this story all over the place. What we are saying right now is that we will not plug our spirit and our wellbeing into a story that keeps us small. At the same time, we need to be mindful of what we are unconsciously creating and of the destruction that we are leaving in our wake. Otherwise what we are creating is no better. That is the reformation of a system, a Band-aid approach, that doesn’t let wounds heal, it only creates more. We want to birth a new system and this requires a new story. It is time to take our power back as individuals, not so we can have power over another but so we can witness our own power.

There are some very real things to be offended by, but being offended is a choice that we must consider carefully. Because when we do, we also accept the role of the victim. I know that some people are still in their anger. Anger, grief, and condemnation are all part of the healing process but so is forgiveness and compassion.  Anger is a powerful entry point into action and has the ability to destroy what no longer serves us. But without moving through it into forgiveness and compassion, anger’s destructive force can take over and leave more wounds.

“Once you do away with the idea of people as fixed, static entities, then you see that people can change, and there is hope”. ~ Bell Hooks

 

Our world faces many difficult challenges, geopolitically and ecologically. We need to be able to come together more than ever. For myself, the endgame in this time of revealing is creating a world of honor, harmony and mutual respect for all living beings. What is yours and are your actions in alignment with it? Otherwise, we stay in the cycle of us versus them, or the victim and the perpetrator. What if we don’t move from a place of powerlessness, not at the level of the collective, but as an individual? What if we are powerful beyond measure and that is the lens we now see the world? Or if that is a hard place to see, can you use compassion and forgiveness and witness the wounds in another? Can you aid another in their healing, so there is room for redemption?

At some point, we have to have a conversation about how we begin to heal. How we learn to forgive those who have hurt us. Moving from a place of radical love for ourselves and for our fellow humans. A place where we can receive information that challenges us, triggers us even,  without going directly to a place of bad or good, or us versus them. Where we don’t feel the need to control the world through the lens of our wounds. Where we can hold space for forgiveness and provide the opportunity for people to continue to grow and develop and deeply heal. Arthur Schopenhauer said, “Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world.” How does your lens limit your power, your potential and what is truly possible? Are you ready to create a new story?

 

(c) Can Stock Photo / Jozef