Spirit Blog

Personal reflections on a spiritual journey...

Surrender

So it seems that my oldest child will have his first full day of public school on his fourth birthday this coming September (8 weeks from now?!) and that thought, or the reality of it, just completely rocks me to my core. It is so cliche to say that time flies so I'll just imply it. I am torn between knowing that this is a great opportunity for him and falling into fear-based thoughts that he won't be ready for this gigantic shift, tremendous change. 

In truth, it is me who is not prepared. I am grasping at the present moment, secretly hoping it won't turn into tomorrow, wishing my baby will still be my baby when instead he needs to be a boy. 

He can handle change. All he knows is change. Everything is new, fresh, exciting, different and he flows through it with grace (despite the occasional tantrum). 

I'm the one who needs to learn how to adapt, to remember that all of this is temporary. 

And the only way I can even think to do that is to surrender. To let go. To ask for help in prayer. 

"Please dissolve this fear for me. Let me be free. Thank you."

Child's Pose

Child's Pose (Balasana or Garbhasana in Sanskrit)

I used to hate this pose. I simply thought it was a waste of valuable time in my yoga practice. I wanted to move, sweat, do more.

This pose is the antithesis of all that. In fact, it embraces stillness. 

So no wonder I love it now. My life is busy. When I get on the yoga mat I want to step away from the excited energy of daily living. I want to reconnect with myself. I want to restore my inner sense of peace. 

This asana offers the great therapeutic benefit of stress relief. It calms and quiets the mind. It is relaxing. It can help with awareness and expansion of breath. And on top of all that, it is a great stretch for the hips, thighs, and ankles. 

Welcome Child's Pose!

Here's how to do it if you are new to the practice:

1. Start in a kneeling position with your feet together and sit on your heels. Separate your knees at least hip width apart.

2. Exhale and, with a long straight spine, drape your torso over your thighs until your forehead rests on the floor. Let the hips sink down toward your heels. 

3. Rest your arms alongside your torso, palms face-up, and release your shoulders down toward the floor. 

4. Allow your inhale to expand your back body, rib-cage, and spine. Use your exhale to settle and soften into this fold.

Modifications/ Variations: 

a. If your forehead doesn't easily reach the floor, place a yoga block or small pillow under your head. 

b. If it is difficult to sit on your heels in this position, a folded blanket can be placed between the back thighs and calves. 

c. You can choose to stretch the arms out in front instead of leaving them alongside your body. Press into the hands to lengthen through your back body.

Stay in this pose from 30 seconds up to a few minutes. When you are ready to release out, lengthen your spine, and inhale back up to a seated position. 

Namaste!

Faith

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you...

I am a Capricorn in the fullest sense, a Type-A personality, a mover, a doer, and an avid controller. Yet, I'm starting to learn that the less I try to manipulate, the less I attempt to control, the more I am aligned with my Highest Self. 

Let go and let God. 

To practice that means to surrender, to understand that as much as I think I am in charge, I am not. There is a much more powerful force guiding me through even the most mundane circumstances. My dharma unfolds moment to moment in every corner of my life with no work on my part.

Letting go means I remember that I am supported, protected, and safe even when my five senses say otherwise. My true essence is one with God and all the controlling, the manipulating, is my ego forgetting how it all, this vast universe, works.

I take three long deep breaths into my belly, inhaling and exhaling through my nostrils, every time I am slapped in the face with a reminder that I am not in this alone. It is usually when everything around me seems to be falling apart and all my best laid plans are coming undone. That's when it tends to hit me. That's when I remember. That's when belief becomes faith. 

Doing Versus Being

Simultaneously unloading the dishwasher, stirring the food in the pot cooking on the stove, interacting with my son about his Lego creation, helping my daughter undress her doll, replacing the pacifier in the baby's mouth, while talking on the phone with a friend and checking my calendar as we make plans to take a meditation class (the irony of which is not lost on me). This type of "being" has become quite normal for me. What about you?

I have never been a procrastinator. In fact, just the opposite. Honestly, sometimes it feels like I am in a self-created competition to see how much I can accomplish in one solid hour. I am always busy. I am always working. I am always doing. I am always multi-tasking. 

Yet this comes into complete opposition with my desire to reach higher consciousness, since that is the practice of undoing, of simply being. It is the practice of stillness, of mindfulness. It is the antithesis of multi-tasking. And, in addition, all that doing layered about doing, thoughts upon thoughts, can really cause quite a bit of stress. It makes me feel entirely disconnected with my highest self, with the divine within. So here I am constantly in a place of self-imposed mandatory time out sessions. For me, unless I commit to daily slowing down, daily relaxation time, daily meditation, I will not stop moving/working/creating/completing/doing from the minute I wake up until the minute my eyes close at the end of the day.

If this sounds familiar then maybe you should commit too. Commit to a practice that embraces stillness, something that speaks to your soul, your inner being. Commit even for five minutes a day. Just commit.

Don't worry. The dishes and the laundry, the plans, the work, the dinner, the phone call, can wait. It really can. But inner peace cannot.

It is so important for physical, emotional, and spiritual health to put the phone down, turn the tv off, stop checking Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/messageboard/blog, stop working/cleaning/organizing/planning/creating/thinking even just for a few short minutes so as to sit in silence, in stillness, to sit with yourself, to just be. This is how we reach higher consciousness, how we connect with our intuition. This is how we know God/Spirit/Self.

This simple practice can truly change everything. Try it now.

"Prayer is when you talk to God; meditation is when you listen to God." -Diana Robinson

The Present Tense

After dropping my son off at school this morning, I was pushing the girls in the double stroller with my dog, Henry, in tow through the park, admiring the spring blossoms but also watching my mind run wild, recollecting the events of yesterday, when I said to myself, "Oh please let me just enjoy this beautiful morning and stay here in the present moment..." 

No sooner did I wish that then a woman with a large Rottweiler pass by. Before I could even anticipate it, her very large and very strong dog lunged for my miniature poodle mix breed and it was a loud, scary few minutes. I was yelling, the woman was yelling, both of us tugging on her linked chain leash trying to get her dog off my dog, Henry barking as he flailed about under the grip of her canine's mouth.

Everyone in panic.

Three people ran to our aid. 

When her dog was removed from our immediate space, Henry, thankfully physically unharmed, was scooped up in the arms of a large man, whom I later learned is named Vince. He and his partner, Susan, comforted me (brought to tears), my daughters, and our terrified, furry family member, Henry. The third person, a female jogger, who had approached the scene, began yelling at the woman with the Rottweiler about how irresponsible it is to have an untrained dog of that size in the park. (A fact of which I clearly agree but had no intention of expressing at that juncture). They got into a huge shouting match, calling out all sorts of names and threatening each other with physical violence. The two women continued their argument later near the street after exiting the park and it was vicious. Meanwhile, Vince turned to me and said that he and Susan were, "Dog lovers and people lovers too..." They walked ahead of me all of the way out of the park, escorting us, looking back to check on our well-being every time another dog walker passed. 

The whole experience really got me thinking. 

When we are faced with imminent danger we are forced to be in the present moment. But when the danger subsides, do we stay present? How we react exemplifies our connection with the here and now, with our highest Self. One woman allowed a situation, of which she was not even part, to get her so worked up that she was seething and shouting for many, many minutes after the whole thing had ended. And I also assume her morning was then jaded in some way by that altercation. Whereas, Vince and Susan chose a compassionate route, were instead concerned about the welfare of those involved, helped calmly, and seemed to leave the park in the same pleasant mood with which they began.

When I am centered, connected with my inner-self, I am always far more equipped at being unaffected by my outer world. I am more like the Vince and Susan of this story. However, when I am stressed, and not taking time for myself, time for inner stillness, I easily revert to the behavior of the angry female jogger. My intention is to cultivate more moments of the former, kissing an overdue good-bye to the latter way of living. The only way to do that is to create more peace in my inner life so when faced with outer turmoil I can choose to react differently.

I want to be a dog lover and a people lover too...

Be present, stay in the here and now. 

Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” -Mark TwainWhen my first-born child, Paul Krishna, was 6 weeks old he fell, under my care, and fractured his skull.

Yes. That happened. 

He is perfectly fine now and we are truly blessed. No one would ever guess that his newborn body was strapped down so he could get an MRI, that he had a golf-ball sized bump on his tiny head, that he spent hours under observation, that his parents hardly told a soul in fear of judgment, that his mother was riddled with guilt...

It was a rough entry into motherhood yet, three years later, I look back on that experience with a different perspective. But have I truly let it go?

Earlier today, my 19-month old daughter saw Paul and I practicing handstand and, while trying to imitate us, fell and injured her finger. It immediately swelled and turned purple and all the feelings from that day three years ago came rushing back. 

And here I am with a microcosm of a much larger issue.

It isn't about these incidents. It is about a lifetime of self-criticism.

And it is time for a change.

I need to forgive myself.

I have treated myself far worse than anyone else has ever treated me.

I have criticized myself endless times looking in the mirror.

I have found flaws in the way I look, act, speak, mother, and ultimately am.

It has taken a long time to overcome this detrimental internal battle but I aim now to no longer seek unrealistic perfectionism and berate myself for anything. In fact, nowadays, things are often quite the opposite. I try to give myself compliments each time I see my reflection. I regularly remind myself that I am doing the best that I can and that is just fine. I am learning how to deeply love myself.

But can I forgive myself? Can I forgive myself for all the years of self-inflicted hurt?

Part of healing is letting go. Releasing of all the judgment. Forgiveness is an organic relinquishing of all that no longer serves our highest purpose. When I spoke to myself with ugly words, I was only doing the best that I could given the circumstances of my life up until that point. It is time to forgive, to let go, to move on. 

Forgiveness is freeing. Whether you are holding on to something someone else said/did to you or something you have said/done to yourself, the act of it is in the past. So why waste the present moment sifting through something that is no longer tangible? Let it go and feel free. Forgiveness allows us to be in the moment, to be here and now, to face today with a new perspective.

Who can you forgive right now?

Happy?

As someone who has struggled with social anxiety for many years, it is now evident that my interactions or relationships with others is actually my connection with Spirit/God/divine light/energy/whatever you want to call It. In other words, "every encounter is a holy encounter." Each personal relationship can truly be looked at as a chance to grow. And every conflict gives me an opportunity to know my Highest Self even better. 

Carl Jung said, "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves."

Yup. That sounds about right.

So often it is my ego that dictates my response to a certain word or action. I am quick to get defensive, quick to feel attacked, quick to attack back in a misguided attempt to preserve my identity. Yet that never seems to give me the outcome I desire. Whether I realize it in the moment or not, when I feel hurt, angry, or annoyed I am really calling out for love. Just as when someone hurts me, that person is also calling out for love. And so what it really comes down to is this question, as posed in A Course in Miracles, "Do you prefer that you be right or happy?"

Simply put, am I going to stay stuck in my ego playing the "pity-me game," the "I am right and you are wrong game," the "way you do that is so irritating/selfish/rude/obnoxious game," OR am I going to access my Highest Self, the God within, deny my ego, and surrender?

If I am ultimately committed to selfless love, if I am committed to this spiritual journey of self-awareness, being right is not in any way a part of my agenda. It is not the goal. Instead, my agenda is love, and (trust me) that is the way to happiness.

Sri Mata Amritamayi Devi (Amma) instructs us to say, "Yes." Just yes. What does that mean? In this respect, it is the same idea. Give in, surrender, let go. When I take a moment to stop, check in, breathe, my answer to whether I would rather be right or happy is always happy. I am always more peaceful if I choose to act in this way. Then I can look back over what transpired and sometimes I can learn just a little bit more about myself. This isn't to say that I never get caught up in the back and forth arguments that can easily permeate close relationships, but it is a reminder to myself that I can choose to act differently, if not this time, then next.

I will always have a choice to be right or happy. And so do you. 

"In my defenselessness my safety lies."  -ACIM

In a Funk? Be Grateful.

March 26th is my mother's birthday. She has been deceased for six years. I miss her. Sometimes, I sulk. I wish she could have met her grandchildren. I want to hear her laugh again. I want to do another Sunday crossword with her...

And with all this I feel an overwhelming sense of unfairness. And sometimes I feel pretty down. 

Yesterday, while at the cemetery, I wondered what I might say to my three-year-old when he asks about her one day, when I need to explain death, when I need to explain the tears...

I think I will say she is no longer living in her body. Her presence, her energy, her spirit, is felt but she is no longer living in her body. She is no longer with us in that way. 

While pondering this, I was suddenly overcome with a wave of gratitude, a sense of true clarity. Here I am, in this body, with this breath, alive, and well. Despite whatever hardship I may face, I am still here. I still get to wake up each day, take deep breaths, listen to music, dance, do yoga, kiss my children, hold my husband's hand, laugh, cry, hurt, read, dream, be.

Wow. 

And so I conclude that sometimes the only way out of a funk (any kind of funk) is to embrace this practice of gratitude. Especially when I am stuck in my head, having one of those days, unable to snap out of those negative, self-pitying thoughts, my only defense is to begin listing all of the reasons for which I am truly blessed. Actually naming each and every thing, from the most mundane to the incredibly ethereal, is the fastest way to shift my perspective.

Thank you for the clouds; the fresh air from a walk in nature; my feet; the sound of children's laughter; hot tea with milk; the way the full moon looks from my bedroom window; dancing; a warm bed with flannel sheets; the way my dog follows me all around the house; the feeling of true love; my big milk chocolate eyes; toes in the sand on a beach in August; abundance; my new orange yoga mat; rice cakes dripping with gobs of peanut butter; awareness; rainy days; hugs; the way we all say goodnight...

The list could go on and on or change completely. The most important way of practicing this method is to keep looking for more ways to say thanks. Who you are actually thanking is irrelevant. It is the act of gratitude that shifts one's negative thought patterns into something lighter. And if you feel stuck thinking of what it is that makes you grateful, simply say thank you. Even if you don't necessarily feel it, fake it, and say it. It will work, regardless. 

Talking to Myself

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."   -Ian Maclaren

No amount of meditation will ever fully stop the incessant flow of thoughts that permeate my consciousness, so the only hope for peace of mind is to change those thoughts to something positive. After a lifetime of negative self-talk, switching gears can require quite a bit of attention.

It works when I repeatedly pause to notice the language that I use. It works when I commit to awareness of the present moment and how I want to represent my authentic self. It works when I respond with, "Thank you," as oppose to attempting to discredit one's compliment. And it works when I look in the mirror, into my own eyes, and speak with love.

When I see my reflection it is imperative that the words I use are kind. No more finding fault. No more criticism. I use affirmations and I use them regardless of whether I believe that they are true. These are the statements that matter to me:

I am beautiful. (Even if I wake up feeling less than.)

I am strong. (Even when I feel exhausted.)

I am healthy. (Even if my five senses exhibit evidence to say otherwise.)

I am loved. (Even if I am hurt.)

I am supported. (Even if I feel overwhelmed.)

I am safe. (Even when I am vulnerable.)

This is how I embrace myself. This is how I check in. This is how I do yoga. 

So how do you talk to yourself?

Next time you look in the mirror take a moment to pause, to be present, to be kind. 

Morning Ritual

So, in the morning, the baby is crying to be fed, my 3 year-old is shouting that the bunny from his alarm clock has woken up, therefore implying that he too should be allowed out of his room to start the day (immediately!), my 18-month-old daughter is often crying out for Daddy, the dog is barking to be let out, my husband is rushing to take a shower to get out of the house to work on time, and it is super easy for me to, immediately upon waking, feel completely overwhelmed and stressed. And it is super easy to say negative things internally or out-loud that can shape the course of the morning and then jade the rest of the day.  

Yet, I have a choice. I can choose to wake up differently.

If I take just a moment in bed, before moving, to say thank you (thank you for another day; for my breath; for my family; for this life) my day will be so much better and that is a self-proven fact.

It is all about how I view the situation. If I tell myself that it is hard, then it will be hard. If I tell myself that it is overwhelming, then it will be overwhelming. But if I tell myself that I am peaceful and loved, supported and blessed, then I will begin to face the day with radiance and light. Nothing will get me down because I can see it differently.

And you can see it differently too. So, tomorrow morning, before you jolt out of bed, pause there just long enough for a few deep breaths, for a few words of gratitude, for a few positive affirmations, and see the change. Make this your new morning ritual. 

"Perception is a choice and not a fact." ACIM

Coming Home

The meaning of home has changed for me. Until age 18, home was my lavender bedroom where I buried myself in journals, daydreaming past clouds of my father's pipesmoke and stacks of my mother's Times crossword puzzles. After a year in a dorm with my good friend near Columbus Circle, home shifted again to the basement of my Italian grandfather's house. I built an altar under the stairs and we shared space, first with an angel named Miriam from Guatemala, and then a few years later Damayanthi and Naleen, replaced her in the house on Cebra Avenue. Damayanthi, with only a few words of English, had just come from Sri Lanka and was pregnant within a few months. That was the first time I had heard a screaming baby in the middle of the night and I remember thinking that I could never be a mother. Not too long afterward, my Poppy died and I lived completely alone for the first time in a small apartment only a few miles from where I grew up. Then suddenly I was in love and moved again. Now I live with my husband and three very young children. There is almost always a baby crying within these walls and yet it just seems natural.

My living situations have shifted dramatically over the last two decades which got me thinking about the word "home." What is home? Is home a lavender bedroom or an altar under the stairs? No. Home is a feeling. It is whatever is left when I am finally alone, when all the sounds of the street are muffled and the children are asleep. It is what I find inside of myself. It is unchanging. My home has been the stillness, the inner peace, I have had access to since I was a child. It has always been the same beautiful space even when I didn't recognize it. It has taken a long time to make this inner space a comfortable home, a place where I feel safe and not alone even if no one else is around. For many years I was scared to be still, to be with myself. But no longer. Now I know that this is home. And the more I come back to that stillness, the more I sit and take long deep breaths, the more I attempt to quiet the mind, the better acquainted I come with my true home, my true self.

I spend a lot of time in my physical home, decorating, cleaning, organizing. But yet, when I care for my inner home with the same attention to detail, I suddenly seem to find happiness no matter what my outer circumstances bring.

Stop now and take a breath. Go home.