Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wild Inside

In previous weeks we've discussed different parts of us that make the Whole of who we are.  We've named and given attention to the Body, the Genius and the Divine in us.  Sounds a lot like Body-Mind-Spirit doesn't it?  But there's one more part we cannot afford to leave out!  This part is responsible for memory, emotion, mood, intuition, dreams, premonition and instinct.  This part is even responsible for how well we communicate and whether or not we have great sex!

Let me introduce you to our Wild nature!  Yes.  There is a Wildness inside us.  It is not lost on me that I am writing about this only days after Maurice Sendak's book, "Where the Wild Things Are" was released as a movie.  I cannot wait to see it!  Personally, I think Max's Wild Things are his own Wildness.

There's Wildness inside us!  This Wild nature is like a very young child.  As such, it can be fragile, angry, stubborn, terrified and silly--all within a span of ten minutes.  The Wild enjoys color, sound, texture, rhythm, movement, scent, taste, lighting, song and ten thousands subtle stimuli.  Our Wild self associates certain tones of voice, peices of music and even the scent in a room with memory.  Have you ever smelled apple pie baking and been brought back to another time and place?  Or, heard a peice of music that transported you?  This is the Wild inside us.  S/he never forgets anything.

The Wild one makes associations between stimulus and circumstance.  So, that song you hear today on your iPod might invoke the memory of that perfect day when you were seventeen--making you really happy in the present moment.  The way a light slants through a room might bring on unexplained feelings of melancholy.  A tone of voice might cause you to relax while a gesture might pique your anger.  Wild Self makes connections between the stimulus you are experiencing now and circumstances in the past. S/he does this because it is her nature to do so and also because she is at the helm of the autonomic body systems including those which release chemicals like adrenaline, seratonin, dopamine and others.  These chemicals wash through our cells, effecting mood and emotion.   Is it any wonder we sometimes feel like we don't know what's come over us?

Our Wild Self makes connections.  She connects past to present.  He connects what is happening to us (outer stimulus) with what will happen within us (internal response).  The Wild one is also the connector between the Genius and Divine Selves, but that is a discussion for another time.  Our Wildness is our intuitive and instinctual nature.  Like an animal, s/he is alert to ten thousand levels of information in any given moment.  In reading the subtle levels of energy, light, tone, body language and more, she perceives the nuances in conversational exchange, filling in the details which give context and depth of meaning.

Our Wild nature has many other functions.  We'll discuss them over time.  For now, though, it's good to simply acknowledge this part of ourselves.  This Wildness in us, needs honor and love, just as our Body, Genius and Divine selves do. 

This week, we'll spend some time noticing when emotions and moods arise as well as how the Wild One might be responsible for triggering them.  We'll spend equal time noticing the negative and postive so we can begin to understand what keeps the Wild self contented.

10/30/09. The Wild in us is much like a young child. S/he has a lot of natural energy which can easily overwhelm us--showing up in the form of tantrums (as adults we just call this anger or even rage), nervous anxiety, worry, insomnia, overeating, avoidance patterns, hypochondria and even create dis-ease in the body.

The Wild in us needs to play. We need to engage in fun, stimulating activity for the simple pleasure of it! Can you commit to taking your Wild Self out on a date this weekend? A leisurely walk through nature when you really allow yourself to engage with the beauty of the natural world is always good for the Wild soul. Perhaps, you'd prefer a trip to the theater or the massage therapist?

If doing something fun for your Wild self will bring you into better balance and closer to peace, are you willing to do it? What can you commit to doing for yourself?

10/29/09. Today, can you commit to something a little more in depth? Paying attention, as you did yesterday, to the fluctuation of your moods and their possible causes, can you take this knowledge a step further?

When you become aware that your mood/emotional state has shifted and you can pinpoint what may have been the precursor, can you go back to that moment in your mind's eye?

As you review the moment, relax your body. Drop your attention into your breath. Breathing long and deep, with a relaxed body, simply review the moment. Don't engage with it emotionally. If your emotions start to engage, simply breathe through them. Remind the Wild inside you to relax. Like a child, help the Wild in you to settle down as you breathe. It may help to make a sound--a deep sigh or a more forceful sound on your outbreath--to push away the strong energy the Wild one wants to build up within you.

Do this once or twice today. Does it help? What else might help?

10/28/09. Today, see if you can pay closer attention to your mood. Does it stay steady all day or does is fluctuate? Is it upbeat, cranky, giddy? Can you discern an overall mood or are you so deeply focused on the task(s) at hand that you are shut off from your mood-state?

If your mood changes abruptly, see if you can pinpoint why. If the sudden change had to do with an event or interaction with someone, what about that circumstance pushed you out of (or into) balance?

The Wild inside is on the alert, ready to change chemistry at the slightest gesture. Becoming more alert to his/her motivations is a huge step toward bringing her/him under the loving embrace of the Genius and Divine in us.

10/27/09. Take a long, slow breath. Let your attention drop into the body. Relax all the places you habitually hold tension--your forehead and jaw, neck, shoulders and buttocks. Let you breath be natural and easy as you straighten your posture, open your chest and your pelvis. Excellent.

Take a few moments now (or later if you can't do it right now) to close your eyes and simply let your mind clear. Don't stress about clearing the slate of your mind. Just let your thoughts slow down while you focus on the black screen behind your eyelids.

Next, open your eyes and look around you. Notice one object in the room. What memories, feelings or thoughts arise as you gaze at them? You might find it helpful to jot these down.

Take a breath with your eyes closed. Let you exhalation carry the thoughts from the object away. Now, open your eyes and notice the lighting in the room. Where does it illuminate the space? Where do shadows fall? Is the light natural and coming in through a window or is it from overhead lighting or a lamp? How does the light in the room affect your level of comfort, you ability to see your work? How does it affect your mood? If you aren't sure, that's okay too. We are making a start at noticing such things.

If you'd like, you can do this exercise with your other senses. For example, notice scent and smell, color and texture, the sounds in your environment, etc.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hello God

There is a part of us which is Divine.  It's not like divinity or similar to divinity.  It is. We are.

Take a deep breath and come more fully into the body self.  Notice and adjust your posture as you take several long, full breaths.   Elongate your spine and open your chest. Release the habitual tension in your jaw, shoulders, buttocks and perineum.  Continue to breathe slowly and deeply in a relaxed manner as you read on.

It doesn't matter what religion you belong to or what tradition or path you follow. All traditions tell us we are a part of God. 

The Christ said, "The kingdom of heaven is within you."  If heaven is within us, then so too must God be. 

The Charge of the Goddess says, "If that which you seek you find not within yourself, you shall never find it without."

The first commandment of the Old Testament  references our Personal God when it states, "Thou shalt have no other God before me."

The Buddhists tell us to dissolve the (genius) self so we may experience Oneness.

It doesn't matter whether we call this part of ourselves God or guardian angel, spirit guide, totem animal, goddess, godsoul or another name.  We have been told that divinity lies outside of us.  But this is only half true.  The divine is everywhere and in all things and beings.  So, god is also, quite literally, inside of us.

Take a breath.

What might it mean if you are God?  Stop here and really allow yourself to imagine what that might look, feel and be like.  Breathe through any fears.  You are only imagining right now.

What might it mean that I am God as well?
What might it mean if your spouse or lover is God?  And your children, and your neighbors?  What might it mean if the homeless are god?  And those you don't agree with?  And those your country is at war with?
How might being God change the way you take care of yourself?
How might knowing others are also God impact the ways you interact with them?

The part of us that is God is the part we know as our soul.  It is connected to the other parts of us.  The Genius (who thinks and reasons, talks and solves problems) and the Wild (who intuits and remembers, imagines and experiences emotion as well as overseeing the autonomic systems of the body). We are Three-fold.  We are A Trinity.

All the spiritual, religious and magical traditions of the world teach about this Trinity.  It is through the personal god or the Divine within us that we are able to connect and communicate with the Divine outside of us.

With my hands clasped before me, I bow to you now and say "Namaste."  The God in me, greets and honors the God in you.
October 16, 2009. The God/dess within is our Highest Self. The God/dess within is the part of us that strives for beauty and truth, sweetness and justice, communion and love. The God/dess within is our most whole, healthy and authentic self. S/he is kindness, compassion, honor, integrity. She is laughter and love!

October 15, 2009. Think about the following question: What is the difference between saying/agreeing that "There is a little piece of God/dess is everyone," and saying/agreeing that, "If God/dess is inside me, then that means I am God/dess"? There are no right or wrong answers to the questions. It is simple a meditation.
October 14, 2009. Claiming our personal Divinity is both liberating and scary. As Divine beings we are answerable to ourselves. Accepting we are part god requires we accept a kind of freedom we may never have fully comprehended. With this freedom comes responsibilty.

Today, take some time to sit with the feelings of liberation and fear, freedom and resonsibility. Breathe through any negativity which arise in your thoughts (genius), emotions (wild) or your body. You might want to look up the words in the dictionary. Or, you might want to write about your reactions in a journal.

October 13, 2009. Take some time today to think about the post for the week. What are your reactions to the idea that we are each Divine? How does that ring true or false for you? Why?

Remember to breathe long and deep as you think and feel your way through the idea that the soul might actually be God.

You might want to journal about your thoughts and feelings. Or, you might want to re-read passages from your own spriritual or religious tradition while holding this new perception.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cycles of Nature

Although we often forget or deny it, we are part of the natural world. All of nature moves in cycles and patterns. There are the great tides of the sea and the migration of birds, the mating patterns of the butterfly and the huge seasonal shifts as our planet orbits the sun. We too, live within the cyclical laws of nature. And, within us move cycles seen and unseen.

We are aware of the rhythm of our heart and the cycling of blood through the circulatory system. We have a circadian rhythm--our natural sleep-wake cycle. If we are female and of a certain age, we undergo a regular cycle of fertility called menstruation.  If we undertake to follow the cycle of breath, it can bring us into our center and ground our awareness in the body and the present moment. These are all physical patterns, but what of the more subtle patterns working through, within and upon us?

How does the light filtering through the window as the hours pass by affect our mood, our wakefulness, creativity or depression? How do sound vibrations entering the ear affect concentration, relaxation, agitation? How do the larger patterns of the season, climate, weather, and even the stars affect our cells? It is a lot to fathom at once!

 It is important to take time to notice these patterns and their effects upon us. Doing so can only help us better know ourselves. Knowing ourselves better can only help us take better care of ourselves. Taking better care of ourselves can only help us become more effective in the world.

Until we come to awareness, we don't even know what it is we don't know.  Once we are congnizant we have the power to choose and to transform.  How will we know if the waning light of autumn brings on sadness if we aren’t paying attention?   Once we know, we can take real action toward self care. Perhaps we don't need a prescription for antidepressants after all.  Perhaps that extra glass of wine isn't necessary to lift our spirits or help us relax.  Instead, we might try taking Vitamin D, sitting in front of full spectrum lighting, changing our diet and increasing our intake of beauty.

Oftentimes, my students and clients will complain about complacency, apathy or what they deem laziness when it comes to consistently doing the poistive things which make them feel better.  It is true that this resistance may have something to do with punishing ourselves or being afraid of the changes which might come if we consistently practice self-care. It is also true that this pattern of “slacking off” is part of a larger cycle.

In nature that which grows unchecked is considered a nuisance, plague or cancer. Why would we expect or want ourselves to enter states of unchecked growth?  If we don't take time to stop and review, we won't even know what is happening to us.  More often than not, the kind of transformation we are undergoing is quite subtle.  We cannot be the people we are longing to be—more authentic, creative, generous, evolved—until we allow ourselves to slow down and notice who we are right now.

Take a long slow breath. Find your center. Come fully into your body before you quickly read on. Take as long as you need to slow your breath and your mind so you can really take in what comes next.

Too often we sign on for one workshop, spiritual practice, exercise class, self care regime, or commitment after another in a mad rush to take better care of ourselves and develop our spiritual core. Inevitably we fool ourselves into believing that if we do more we’ll make greater, quicker strides forward on our quest. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t work. Just as we know a quick stop at a fast food restaurant might fill our belly but leave us nutritionally depleted, so too can this all-at-once approach to our own personal transformation and spiritual development.

For a long time now, our culture has emphasized a puritanical work ethic and capitalist ideals which promises us more hard work will yield bigger and better results. Think about how these ideals permeates your professional, personal and spiritual life. Think about how these thought patterns have influenced our communities, economies, the environment and the government.

Faster is not necessarily sustainable. More is not necessarily desirable. Bigger is not necessarily better.

Our body/emotional selves know this. Take a breath into that body-wisdom.  Your breath will affirm and expand the idea, helping it take root and shape within you.

Begin to forgive yourself for pushing yourself so hard that the only thing left for the body/emotional self to do is quit exercising, eating right or meditating. When the body/emotional self wants to quit we are being given a clue about our internal cycles.

When we begin or deepen a new regime, we set a cycle in motion. We are, in a sense, giving birth to something new in us. When we are committed, we begin to see results pretty quickly. This excites us and we may find ourselves slipping into that capitalist ideology and push ourselves to do more, go faster, get bigger results. Meanwhile, a part of us is trying very hard just to catch up and adjust to the radical changes already in place.

The cycle thus far looks like this: Commit, Do, Get Results, Quit.

If we have been doing the work of personal transformation and spiritual development for a while, we might recognize this pattern well. We realize how hard it is to re-commit once we have quit. We become distrusting or even hostile toward ourselves for quitting. We call ourselves names like lazy, complacent, apathetic, underachieving or self-sabotaging.

I wonder if the trees in autumn are berating themselves for losing their leaves.

I wonder if when the Earth turns her face from the sun each evening, she screeches in anger toward herself, “Quitter!”

I wonder if the child lying down for a nap after a hard morning of entraining muscles, nerve-endings and brain cells belittles himself for not having accomplished enough.

We need periods of rest for integration. That means there will be times when we cannot take on another commitment, another practice, another asana. There are periods when we must stay the course with what we are already doing.  There are times when all we can do are the very fundamentals of our practices while our body/selves get accustomed to the great leaps and bounds of growth we have made.

All natural cycles include a period of rest.  There are forty pauses between breaths every minute.  There are pauses in music, between contractions at birth and even in the great turning of the seasonal wheel of the year. These periods are built in to ensure we have embodied the activity which came before and to strengthen us for the activity which comes next.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Daily Commitments for the Week:

October 5, 2009. Notice the cyclical pattern of your day in a deeper and more focused way than following your routine schedule. A good way to begin doing this is to check in with yourself four times: On awakening, at lunchtime, dinnertime and bedtime. At these times, stop and take a moment to breathe long and full. Notice your body and where it is, Then, continuing to take long, full breaths simply notice the following: Where is the sun and what is the quality of light? What is the quality and quantity and volume of sound in my environment right now? Am I hungry, angry, lonely, bored, tired, thirsty or agitated? Am I content, happy, engaged, alert, comfortable or calm?

You might want to jot down your responses to these questions. If you need to you can decide to take action to change something either in your internal or external envrionment. You may also choose to give thanks for what's right in that moment.

October 6, 2009. If you are already committed to self-care, personal transformation or spiritual development, think about what happens when you reach a plateau. Do you quit entirely and have to start over? Do you push yourself harder to get to the next level?

Ask yourself if its possible to discern what the basics of your practice entails. What are the fundamentals? When you reach the next plateau, rather than quitting or pushing past the gold which arises when we take time to rest, renew and review, can you give yourself a set amount of time to work the basics of your practice? Can you commit to refraining from self-derision and instead allow the spaciousness within which integration occurs to open within you?

October 7, 2009. Today, commit to setting aside thirty to sixty minutes to review the yearly cycles in your life. Breathe long, slow and deep. Center and align yourself in the way you know how. Draw a circle on a page and divide first into quarters--one for each season--and then into eighths so each season is comprised of two eighths. Beginning at the top of the wheel label the first section Early Spring, the next Late Spring and so on until you finish with Late Winter.

Next, place all the most important events of your life inside the section of the Year Wheel when it took place. Some examples are your birthday, anniversaries, gradutations, the birth of children, major accidents or illnesses, highpoints and disappointments. Note as well when you feel most motivated, flirtatious, creative, focused, exhausted, antisocial, etc. Get it all down inside the circle.

Here is a tool that will give you clues about the cyclical patterns of your life. Once we become aware what is happening to us, we can anticipate the pattern or choose to change it.

We are not powerless. With just a little knowledge and desire, we have the power to overcome our most deeply held patterns. We have everything we need to see with clear vison, heal with clear intent, and step forward with clear conscience.

October 8, 2009. Today's commitment will take about 10-15 minutes. Today, we'll draw another circle. This time don't draw the lines in until you are done completing the information. First, inventory all the things you do each day which you consider to be "work." For example, you paid job, the laundry, grocery shopping, etc. Next, inventory the things you do which you consider fun or important but not-work such as your spiritual practice, sex, making art, working out at the gym, getting a massage, watching television or dancing. Finally, list the things which you would call "rest." This category includes sleep, of course, but might also include listening to music, reading, watching television, hanging out, etc.

Some things I have listed in one category above, might go in another category on your list. That's okay.

When you are done, divide the circle in three. Is your circle balanced or off-balance? Someone wise told me there are three eight hour "servings" in each day. To be healthy, we need a full eight hour serving of each: Work, Play and Rest.

Just notice your circle and the sizes of the servings on your daily plate. Now that you have information, you have power.

October 9, 2009. Take another look at the circle from yesterday's commitment. Take long, slow, deep breaths, feel yourself inside your body and let your focus become deep and still. In looking at the cycle of your days and where things are out of balance, we don't necessarily want to start throwing things out. It may be more beneficial to begin moving toward balance by moving things around.

Can the commute to and from work which you list as "work" become "fun?" Perhaps making dinner could also move out of the list of chores and be approached as fun. Maybe you can move bedtime back an hour so you get rest rather than the entertainment or "fun" of television.

How can you reorganize and recategorize your daily round so it comes more closely into balance? A change of attitude before a change of plans and schedules will bring you immediate ease.