Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Appreciating the Essence Within Everything, Including a Duck Quack!

I’ll never forget my first day of ballet class, when I was attending the college dance program at SUNY-Purchase.  My teacher, Gayle Young, yelled out in his southern drawl “Jean Bromage, you look like a duck!  You are rocking back and forth on those ronde jambes like a duck.  Quack!  Quack!”  I was soooo humiliated, I went back to my dorm that afternoon questioning everything I had worked so hard to achieve up to that point, not to mention the realization I would endure the nickname “Duck” for the next 4 years.  During that time though, Gayle became one of the most inspiring teachers I’d ever encounter in my life.  I quickly came to appreciate his wisdom, musicality, lyricism, and, well, even his sense of humor. 

In the version of the Reiki Precepts I use when teaching, there is a line that says, “Please appreciate everything and show gratitude.”  This line is frequently translated as “Be grateful,” or “Show gratitude.”  However, what I love about this translation is that it asks us to “appreciate everything.”  In my recent Reiki 1 Class, we discussed offering up a prayer of gratitude to the future during those times when we are so deeply challenged it is difficult to appreciate our experience in the moment.  It is an offering of trust we put out into the Universe that says, “I know this might suck in the moment, but I also know that somewhere in the future, as my sense of wholeness is restored, I will discover reasons to be grateful.” 

For me, this Reiki precept invites us to take our attitude of gratitude to a whole new level, looking beyond the surface of everything in life to recognize the essence of love that exists within.  No matter how muddled our connection to the vibrancy of life may become at any given time, or how hurtful a situation may seem in the moment, underneath it is a constant current of love flowing through and available to us. 

The deeper my connection with Reiki through my daily practice, the easier it is becoming to experience love held within even the densest of feelings, and see light behind even the darkest of moments.  This is where we learn to extend compassion to ourselves and others, and allow it to hold us over when we don’t have the answers or solutions to life’s problems. 

This year has brought great loss and sorrow to many people and their communities, and as a society we are experiencing a tremendous amount of fear in the collective consciousness.  Even if we don’t actively engage this fear, we can feel its presence as it permeates our culture.  However, held within the heart of this fear is an essence that is always ready, willing and able to make any given situation whole once again.  This essence carries the truth of who we are and returns us to a state of gratitude whenever we are ready receive it.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Rituals Big and Small

This past weekend I had the honor of standing by one of my Reiki sisters during the initiation ceremony of her shamanic name.  Witnessing this beautiful ritual held for her and the other shamanic practitioners was truly magical.  As it was held outdoors, nature also participated with a gorgeous butterfly appearing as the ceremony got underway, and bumble bees landing on people’s shoulders throughout as if they were soaking in the energy of this sacred gathering. 

Rituals like this are specially planned to both ignite and celebrate the energy around someone transitioning into a new phase of life.  From graduations and weddings to baptisms and funerals, ceremony has been used to honor the different stages of life since the beginning of humanity. 

In between these pivotal moments, though, are the smaller rituals we practice on a daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal basis that anchor the bigger picture into our lives.  The morning cup of coffee, workout, or meditation is a daily ritual that can set the right tone for one’s day.  For others spending time with their children or pets when coming home becomes a ritual for letting go of their day at work. 

Whether they are daily practices or momentous ceremonies, rituals create space for us to acknowledge the sacredness of life, and return to the heart of what is most important to us.  They reinforce our intentions while simultaneously helping us to surrender our attachments to the outcome.  They help us to align with our most authentic nature and mindfully approach each day fully awake to the energy we want to activate. 

When we consistently show up to our daily rituals, there comes a point when we start to feel “in the flow” of co-creation with the Universe.  Working with ritual for manifestation is more than having positive thoughts and sending out wishes into the Universe.  It’s about being in the felt sense and mindset of how we want to be and what we want to create, while allowing for all the unknown components we are unable to see or understand to align for our highest good. 

What are your daily, weekly, and seasonal rituals?  How do you show up for them?  Do you savor them, or do you often find your focus somewhere else?  I invite you to take inventory of your daily routine and reflect on the consciousness you bring to each activity.  When you start your day with a specific action, does it reinforce a certain level of productivity and focus that you otherwise wouldn’t experience?  Do you start feeling as though you have plenty of time to get everything done?  Do your interactions with others go more smoothly?  The time we allow for this doesn’t have to be long.  Even a 5-minute daily ritual carried out with clarity and consistency will affect sustainable change for the better. 

While the big vision is important, the real power for transformation lies in consistently showing up each day with clear intention.  Mindfully engaging in the activities that frame your days, weeks, and seasons is one of the most effective tools for staying true to the higher vision for who you want to be in this world.  

Thursday, August 10, 2017

August’s Lunar Magic

This week started off with a spirited charge from the lunar eclipse on Monday.  Even though it couldn’t be seen in North America, it’s energy could be felt by many.  With the archetypal theme of Aquarius coming through, this lunar event opened a window to allow a higher vision to come into focus and presented a spark of inspiration to propel us forward in alignment with this vision.

While eclipses are magical in that they act as a portal into multi-dimensional awareness both in our awake and dream states, they can also simultaneously dredge up old fears, emotional wounds and grief that need to be cleared for the alchemy of an eclipse cycle to take place.  The hermetic principle of correspondence applies here.  “As within, so without.  As above, so below.”  An eclipse is like a chiropractic adjustment for the soul or higher self so that we can align our inner world with that higher vision the universe or divine source is holding for us.  When we decide to make a change in our lives or to manifest something new, it is already a done deal on a higher dimension.  Our job is to clear away the energetic, emotional and physical debris that prevents the higher vision from manifesting on the three-dimensional plane.  When we tune in to the energy and wisdom an eclipse cycle offers, we are given a chance to dance with life in a magical and playful way, as well as experience deeper shifts in our lives.

If an eclipse cycle does indeed trigger some buried patterns that need to surface and transform, do not be surprised if your body doesn’t also respond.  Headaches, nausea, insomnia and back or neck issues can kick up around an eclipse as well as life circumstances being in sudden upheaval.  As we lean in to these experiences, no matter how uncomfortable they may be, and look within to what the higher self is revealing, we can begin to clear our inner debris and more fully embody this new consciousness wanting to shine through.  This past week, as my own body went through some physical upheaval, I recognized some long-buried fears rising to the surface.  In the recovery process, I could feel a clearing in my body making room for a higher vision I’ve been mapping out.  As I leaned into the discomfort, I felt a whole new level of love and appreciation for how my body and my higher self can work in conjunction. 

Not every eclipse cycle needs to have dramatic effects on one’s life, but as we observe what is coming up for us in these weeks around the eclipse, they become a queue from spirit to look within to see what wants to shift or transform.  August itself is a magical time of year.  Summer is coasting along and there is a release as we sense the gentle beginnings of the year’s unwinding.  It is also the beginning of the harvest season.  These next 10 days leading up to the big solar eclipse, a once in a lifetime event for many, are an opportunity to experience a little magic at play, opening the heart and mind to observing the symbolic language of the universe and giving the linear mind a summer vacation.  If you have a question or decision to make about something, begin to look for answers from what may seem like random places.  It could be a song about that question playing on the radio, or someone casually mentioning something that leads to an answer, or an unusual animal crossing your path that holds a symbolic key.  I remember a cricket flew through the window of my 3rd floor apartment one summer evening and sat on my bookcase, playing its music for me.  As I turned off my TV and sat on the couch listening to his beautiful sound, I was so grateful for this animal’s gentle reminder to stay centered in my heart.

The week ahead will be a great time to find some stillness and tune in to your own inner subtleties, as well as the subtleties of the world around you.  The space underneath the surface of everything is where most of life transpires, and when we allow our sensitivities to tune in to that space, magic begins to happen.  Think of the eclipse as a booster for developing that intuitive awareness.  While the lunar eclipse offered us higher vision awareness, the solar eclipse will then be asking us to anchor that awareness into our physical world and to cultivate the courage to live in alignment with that vision.  The vision could be asking you to make small changes in your life, or it could be asking for bigger inner and outer shifts.  Either way, the most important way we can benefit from this lunar cycle is to live in the present as fully as we can, because as we do, we allow the process to unfold with ease and become a joyful adventure.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Great Mother Within

Having just returned from camping at Yosemite National Park, I am still feeling the energy of this special place settle into my being.  The waterfalls coming down from the moutaintops have been at their fullest in decades, and there is still much more snow waiting to melt its way down into the valley.

There was a strong sense of both renewal and relief everywhere as we hiked past the Merced River and up the trails to the waterfalls.  Nature was coming alive with a fullness not experienced in quite a while.  As the waters roared in the places where the rocky base of the mountains meet the river, Mother Nature was clearly expressing her power as any mother bringing forth new life must do.

As we approach Mother's Day this weekend, we honor the women who, whether they were ready to or not, stepped into the fierceness of what it means to bring new life into this world.  It takes a courageous heart to offer sustained love and nurturing to another who is not necessarily able to give back in the same capacity. It also takes wisdom to know when to offer nourishment, and when to step back and allow this life to grow into its own uniqueness and power.  

We each have the mother archetype within us, whether or not we've physically given birth.  When we fully embrace self love, self care and self nurturing, it naturally emanates exponentially to those around us.  Who knows for how many generations the mother archetype has been celebrated as self sacrifice until there is nothing left to give.  In actuality, when the authentic power of the mother archetype is fully engaged, we experience a state of self love that is so strong it in turn makes us capable of unconditional love for another.  This is the wisdom that the great mother within longs for us to experience.

Whether you will be spending time with your mother this weekend, missing your mother, estranged from your mother, coming to terms with a challenging relationship with your mother, or enjoying being celebrated as a mother, may your day be full of beauty and graced with the love of the great mother that resides within each of us.

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Melting Into Our True Nature

Over the past few weeks, in between these final blasts of winter, we’ve enjoyed some beautiful spring weather.  While walking through the park one day, I could feel the thaw taking place both within and without.  My body felt warm, but there was a residual tingle of frostiness felt on my skin.  Small, leftover patches of snow were melting and merging with the soil, offering it much needed moisture to soften and prepare for the grass and flowers to grow. 

These weeks of transition from winter into spring have many ups and downs.  The wind becomes bitter and harsh while the sun grows stronger along with our yearning to spend more time outside.  The weather changes drastically from day to day and even hour to hour as Mother Nature begins her annual birthing process.

It takes tremendous energy and momentum for new growth to take place, and at the same time it takes tremendous surrender.  As the seed pushes its way to sprout and break through the soil, the snow is simultaneously surrendering its frozen form, helping to nourish the earth and support the new plant growth.  In observing this wild time of transition in nature, we too are invited to surrender our frozen ideas and visions on how life should be and embrace what we can’t control as a pathway to new growth in our lives.  Showing up for our self-care activities and practices offers us the space needed to soothe the ego from its fear, worry and anguish over the unpredictable chaos of life, and to cultivate the fertile muddy soil needed for sure and steady growth.  If we allow the ego’s frozen hold over us, which perpetuates our suffering, to gently melt like the snow into the earth, we then empower the part of us that can observe from a place of love and allow for new experiences to blossom in our lives.  While pain and chaos are a part of the human journey, if we allow it to meld with our overall experience of life, it then transforms into the colorful beauty that blossoms as the healing from those experiences takes place. 

Planting our seeds of intention and planning for what we desire are important aspects to manifesting a meaningful and joyful life, as well as co-creating the world we want to see for ourselves and others.  However, when we allow the mind to let go of its preconceived notions on how life “should” be or how others “should” be, we allow the things we can’t control to transform into the nourishment that supports us in living in alignment with our most authentic and true nature.  In turn, just as the soil softens in response to the snow melting, creating the mud needed to support new life, when we release the ego’s grip over us, the world around us begins to soften.  How we experience the journey of life becomes a beautiful gift, even during our moments of doubt and confusion.  We dissolve the labels of who we are or who we think we should be, recognizing that the light and the shadow aspects of ourselves are one, working in tandem to support us.  In turn our whole, healed and most authentic nature can thrive and express itself in beautiful ways within the confines of our human journey.

Monday, January 30, 2017

A Steaming Cup of Self-Worth: Sustaining Our Personal Power

While meditating recently, a beautiful image of a steaming cup of tea came to me.  Breathing deeply into my lower hara center (the place 2-3 finger widths below the navel) I was contemplating the difference between self-worth and self-esteem.   We hear these terms used interchangeably in the world of self-development, but there is a different dynamic around each word.

The practice of Reiki works with three energy centers (the lower, middle and upper hara centers) and the yogic tradition works with seven main energy centers (Chakras 1-7). However, as our healing process and spiritual awakening begin, the lower energy centers (lower hara in Reiki and Chakras 1-3 in yoga) are emphasized.  Just as the tree can only grow as tall as its roots reach into the earth, our own awakening can only go as far as we are anchored into our connection with the earth and our personal power.  So much of our culture emphasizes what is happening in our external world that we often times forget to place value on how we feel about ourselves and our life experiences. Over time this conditioning leads to our personal power getting lost. It is no wonder that as people begin the self-awakening process, they lose interest (and patience) with tabloids and mainstream media.

In working with the Chakras, the lower three anchor us into our bodies so we can fully receive the blessings of life while simultaneously expending our energy to co-create with the universe. Chakra 1 which embodies the element of earth is where our personal energy rests, coiled at the bottom of the spine. Its Sanskrit name is Muladhara which means “root support”. It is where we house our energy and personal power, and own our self-worth. Just as a mountain stands tall and unmoved by what the elements do around it, when we fully own our self-worth, nothing can undermine how we value ourselves. As children, some people experienced their self-worth being worn down because of situations that stirred up fear for their safety. Children are vulnerable because of their need to rely on others to care for them and feel loved. When their sense of safety or feeling loved is threatened, a pattern of compromising their self-worth can develop. Fear is also an emotion associated with Chakra 1. In the system of Reiki, one of the first precepts we reflect on asks us to not worry or, in other words, not allow fear to have power over us. When we step onto a path of self-awakening and healing, the greater the experience of our whole and complete self, also referred to as the Higher Self, the more our self-worth can be expressed with ease in everyday life.

As I reflect on that image of the tea cup in my mind’s eye, I think of the cup itself representing Chakra 1. It is made of material from the earth, and it is the vessel that holds the tea. Chakra 1 holds the space for us to have and experience the blessings of life. The actual tea held within the cup represents the element of water embodied in Chakra 2. Chakra 2 or Svadhisthana, which means “sweetness”, is the energy center where we embrace the pleasures of life such as the indulgent aromas and tastes we find within a delicious cup of tea! Chakra 2 is where we begin to let go and relax into the present moment, taking in all that is good about life with a sense of appreciation. In the practice of Reiki, another precept we reflect on is a statement about gratitude and appreciation.

When we move up into Chakra 3, Manipura, we are connected with the element of fire, the spark of passion that inspires us to be seen in the world. Manipura means “sparkling jewel”. When we heat the water to make tea, we create steam. Chakra 3 is where our self-worth finds its outward expression in the form of self-esteem. It is the energy center where our power is expressed in a healthy way, neither relying on the acceptance of others nor needing to have power over others in order to keep its fires stoked. Without first anchoring self-worth into our being, self-esteem cannot be sustained. Our energy and power dissipate as quickly as they are attained. We are unable to set healthy boundaries, as we compromise our time, energy and money to please others, feel accepted or gain approval.  

The Japanese system of Reiki doesn’t work with the Chakras. However there are energetic and conceptual overlaps between the two systems. In Reiki we have the Joshin Kokyu ho which focuses the breath, and hence the mind, on the lower hara center in order to stay grounded and keep our inner fires stoked. Just as chakras 1-3 work in conjunction, Joshin Kokyu ho keeps us grounded and helps us sustain a balanced flow of energy in the physical, emotional and auric layers of the body.

While breathing deeply into my lower hara center and visualizing this beautiful cup of tea, I could feel the gentle flow of energy moving through each of the chakra centers. There was such a buoyant quality to it that I started laughing. I realized that in many ways, self-esteem is like the frosting on the cake. As our self-worth grows stronger and develops, the sweeter our own life experience becomes and the more inspired we become to share our joy and passion with world in meaningful ways.