Category Archives: spirituality

Vulnerability is Strength

transfiguration-tatiana-kiselyovaTrue strength is found in our vulnerability.

Of course, that’s hard to imagine when you’ve been hurt by those closest to you or made to believe power over others is the only way to gain traction in this world. When we’ve been raised in chaos, neglect or abuse, it’s most certainly impossible to imagine being vulnerable to anyone.

How do you acheive vulnerability when your family pattern growing up had been to divulge your secrets just to win an argument when they got mad at you?  What would it look like to be vulnerable as an adult when your childhood history had been a beating if you were truthful? Why bother being vulnerable, because you tried that as a child and still your needs were not met.

Instead, you entered the adult world through a different way of being. You grabbed your weapon of  anger, arrogance, addictions, compulsions, aggression, overachieving, under functioning, numbing out, depression, or anxiety. You clung to your strategy in whatever circumstance those defenses needed to work for you. You fought like hell to hold your ground. And now you’re tired. Your weapon of choice is battered. You’re exhausted. There must be a better way.

There is and it starts with self compassion. Try this little exercise I use with my clients: Write down the three worst things you tell yourself about yourself. Write them in “I am” statements. Say them aloud. Now go up to someone you respect and turn those three statements into “You are” sentences and say them to that person. Can’t? Of course not. You would never be that mean to someone else. So why are we so mean to ourselves? If we’re not careful our inner dialogue can be horrific and not fit for human ears. It guts us of any self esteem and tramples our sense of identity.

It takes courage to make a change toward self compassion and this is the root of vulnerability. This is where your strength lies – in opening to yourself. In treating yourself with love and tenderness. No one will ever treat you better than you will treat yourself. No one is treating you any better than you are treating yourself at this point in time. So, how are you being treated? How are you treating yourself?

Tara Brach writes in her book True Refuge: What if we could recognize our faults and look to see what is beyond them? What if we could see, with great tenderness, the painful unmet needs that have shaped our behaviors? For many of us, this process is the work of a lifetime, one that requires the active support of loved ones, therapists, spiritual teachers or healers. Yet it begins the moment that we are willing to look at ourselves through the eyes of compassion.

Opening our hearts to ourselves means we can drop our weapons. We can stop defending the invisible beast of self loathing. No battle is won until we can claim peace. Peace cannot be experienced until we surrender ourselves to the grace of self compassion.

Art- Transfiguration – Tatiana-Kiselyova

Leaning into is the Only Way Out

    vortice As long as we’re in this world, we can’t escape its hard knocks. Many problems are created by our own bad choices and negative thoughts. Some struggles are out of our control. While other life issues develop because of poor attachment to our original caretakers and as a result we don’t know how to form healthy adult relationships. A number of difficulties are a result of traumas. Some people develop a lack of trust in their ideas, talents or sexuality because others mocked or shamed them.

Working through this pain while staying connected to our humanity helps our Soul become stronger and more resilient. When we choose growth over pathology, acceptance over denial, healing over victimhood, we’re embracing our authenticity. When we honor our unique struggles verses denying we have any, we’re in touch with our Sacred Self.

Connecting to that sacredness is about leaning into the pain we feel and working through the puzzle of healing. When we avoid our inner turmoil by blaming others, self medicating or repeating old patterns that are harmful, we’re riding a whirlpool of chaos. The only way out is to confront our suffering. This way forces outside of ourselves no longer control us. Stepping out of the vortex puts us into the eye of the storm, which is where calm resides.

When we grow psychologically, we stretch — sometimes it’s messy, always uncomfortable. At times it’s downright painful. Like the twisting of gold wire to make jewelry, we’re applying pressure to achieve new form. The wire becomes stronger as it bends to hold the beautiful gemstone. It doesn’t change what it is, only manifests into something greater than its initial form.

Reclaim all that is within you.

Art-Deborah Koff-Chapin

The Pull Toward our Soul

boatA lodestone is a naturally magnetic mineral. When combined with metal, these two objects are drawn to the magnetic pull of the North Pole. No matter where you are on earth, the needle of a compass will point north, directing you towards your intended destination. To this day, despite our amazing scientific abilities, geologist can’t explain exactly why this connection works. It’s still very much a mystery – an accepted mystery, but a mystery nonetheless.

The same mystery lies deep within us all as we make the journey back to our Soul. Just like the lodestone and metal are attracted to the pull of the North Pole, our spirits have a natural pull to a higher frequency – some deep essence of truth that leads us when we listen to it. Every time we feel there must be something “more” out there for us, when we feel off course, or when something inside just doesn’t feel right, our inner compass is telling us we’ve lost our way.

The draw toward our guiding principles is already in there. Yet, when we continue to repeat old, destructive behaviors, deny our pain or when we don’t take the time to identify what our needs are, we’ve muddled the needle’s direction. When fear overrides any other vision, we can’t see where we should be headed. Our simple, natural compass starts feeling like a complicated GPS system with directions written in another language.

Yet, if we would only step back and let the simplicity of the needle correct itself, we could find the way back home. By purposefully doing less, reclamation can be accomplished. Thomas Moore in his classic, CARE OF THE SOUL,  refers to this paradox of Soul work;

It’s not easy to observe closely, to take the time and to make the subtle moves that allow the soul to reveal itself further. You have to rely on every bit of learning, every scrap of sense, and all kinds of reading, in order to bring the intelligence and imagination to the work. Yet at the same time, this action-through nonaction has to be simple, flexible, and receptive. Intelligence and education bring you to the edge, where your mind and its purposes are empty. 

No matter how each of us defines what and where that spiritual place of origin is – what their truth is – the fact remains, we’re drawn to seek it. We crave the connection to ourselves so deeply that we’ll go to great extents to find it, even outside of ourselves. This leaves us with addictions or giving our power to others whom we feel have the answers. Humans are full of dichotomies. We have everything we need to understand the right path for ourselves and yet we don’t listen. We bend our compass to point away from our magnetic pull because our ego decides we want to go in another direction.

This knowing is not a community knowing, though there’s a component of the collective in it. The knowing of our Soul speaking to us and guiding us toward the things we need to do in order to grow, utilizes what Jung calls the collective unconscious. Symbols, energy, archetypes all connect us to an ethereal family. Like a lost first language, if we listen, it will come back to us. Moore says;

Observance of the soul can be deceptively simple. You take back what has been disowned.

Another way to look at this is, our knowing is our soul. If we turn away from what we know to be true, we’re turning away from the deepest essence of our being; the God-given light in all of us. That is the compass which will guide us in all things and get us through our storms.

Sending Energy The Old-Fashioned Way

16l Johannes Vermeer (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, 1632-1675) Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window 1657I wrote a letter to a friend the other day because it was the only way to contact her. I was complaining to myself that an e-mail would be faster and then it occurred to me that what I was doing was sending my very metaphysical friend my personal energy. I changed the negative thought and reflected on loving energy. What better way do we send energy to someone than through our touch? What a lost art, not just in taking the time to write our words but in taking the time to send our intentions.

In our fast paced life, it’s much easier to fire off a text or e-mail. Yet, what energy are they receiving? Ours? The rest of the world’s? The person who wrote the html programming?  I don’t have many friends left whom I can even imagine sending a letter to, but I would like to try to be more purposeful about it. Even a card with a note has this energy attached. We have touched it. We have chosen it. Our feelings for them are carried in the paper and ink.

This energy became very apparent to me during a dirty Santa session with friends last Christmas. I chose my gift on the table based on the flow I saw emanating from a bag. It turned out to be a hand-knit scarf (which was subsequently stolen by another friend). This was the only handmade gift that year. The idea that of all the gifts on the table this one was beaming, stayed with me. This was confirmation to me that the intention of our energy embeds in the things we touch. This is what we do when we send a note or gift forward. We’re sending forth a piece of ourselves.

 

 

Our Soul’s Journey

SC2As a writer, I’m determined not to fall in love with my words. Still, I do. I’ll get attached to a paragraph or sentence. I’ll move the clever thing around, cutting and pasting again and again, determined to keep it because, well, I love it.

That’s a sure sign the brilliant tidbit has to go. If I’m inserting words into the work just because I like them, I’m not moving the story along. So, I emotionally detach then delete. I don’t even save the paragraph in my “drop” folder anymore. I’ve found I never go back to it. If there’s substance in what was said, it’ll come out in other ways.

Just like those words, attachment to the trivial keeps us from seeing a bigger life picture. If we’re clinging to something just because we don’t want to let it go, then it’s time for us to detach and delete. This could be a behavior, a way of thinking about things, a way of seeing the world. Holding on “just because” is really holding on to fear. This stalls us. It limits the choices in our lives. It inhibits us from living our true story.

Most certainly this struggle manifests to a deeper degree when our psychological awareness increases and spiritual consciousness arises. We find ourselves called to a new way of being yet woefully ill-equip to make the journey. Suddenly, the character we crafted through the years doesn’t match the current storyline. No longer are we the master of our own universe, the fabulous fixer, the narcissistic know-it-all, the helpless martyr, the upper-class soccer mom, the macho ladies’ man or the sheltered housewife. We’re hesitant about where the plot’s going to take us and we turn back.

Slipping on our old armor, we notice it’s too tight. We manage to squeeze into it, but eventually we blister and can’t breathe. We’re cranky. We’re in pain. We remember that brief moment of total freedom when we felt our Self through therapy or meditation and now we feel confused.

Eventually, the armor of inauthenticity wears us down. We look for help and find people who’ve already made this crazy trek. This calms us. We peel off the defenses. Sometimes we do this willingly. Sometimes we fight like hell, watching the blood from our fingertips streak the metal as the chainmail is yanked from our clutches. Tender and vulnerable, we have no choice but to cross the threshold and enter this special new world.

Growth puts us into a state of transition and transitions are scary. They’re literally the movement from one place to another. This is where ordeals occur, where the bad guy might get us. What if we lose sight of the road, or run out of gas, or meet people different from us? How will we react? What will we see? What will we do?

Detaching from the old allows expansion to begin. We’re able to engage with ourselves and others in new ways. We practice genuineness and vulnerability. As we eventually find our bearings and trust this different kind of control, we open our heart to new challenges. This provides us with space to shift deeper into the subjective, less evaluative aspects of our new Self. We learn to embrace and not measure the mysterious experiences of our innermost cave.

As we encounter more challenges, we notice we’re also being rewarded. Empathy, Intuition and Creativity start to unfold. This new gift of awareness allows us to identify what we need. Because we understand the necessity of travelling lighter, we now detach from that which weighs us down. Detach and delete. We see clearly now. We’re living the bigger picture. We’re operating in new ways. We move ahead, but know when to rest.

At times we stop to replenish at sites along the path. There, we meet people we didn’t know existed. We notice ourselves being present to them. We’re fascinated and moved by the stories they share of their own journeys. The things they share fill our hearts and leave us grateful. As we pack up and move on, because we must, we ask for directions. We’re seasoned enough now to know when to seek guidance.

We also begin to feel and it’s good. Colors and energy move easily through us. We no longer flee in panic at the sensation. Another gift.

An odd thing strikes us. We realize that we know now that Knowing is not knowing in the way we thought it was. It’s not an answer but acceptance. It’s not conclusions but curiosity. Looking back, we see the path we’ve travelled. We see those unnecessary burdens we shed and wonder why we needed them in the first place.

Smiling, it occurs to us that this journey is our home now and it’s such a long way from where we came. We look down into our hand and see life’s elixir. It glows warm in our palm. This is something we’ll be passing on to the next person we meet on the road. While this is something to keep, this is also something to share. We want to pass this along. And now we know all is good.

Artwork by Deborah Koff-Chapin

The Miracle of the Inexplicable

005I’ve owned a lot of plants in my life. They come and they go. Some bi-annuals fade away. Some house plants have been inadvertently killed due to my busy schedule. The one plant that’s been a constant in my life for the past fifteen years is my night-blooming cirrus.

This is a Gift Plant. It’s cuttings were given to me by a neighbor. I’m on my second large container that holds its colossal greenery. This plant is hardy. Indigenously, it grows on the ground in the tropics. It’s singular flowers bloom once – at night between dusk and dawn – then they’re gone. Forever. Never again will I see the same blossom. There will be more to come. I never know when or on which side of the plant another will grow. If I’m blessed, and I have been, there will be more than one at a time lurking beneath the heavy foliage. So, I have to pay attention.

When the stems of the bloom slope down from a leaf, letting me know the phenomenon is about to happen, I’ll stay up late that night. Like a mid-wife excited about assisting in the birth of the next miracle coming into the world, I watch in wonder at a process I’ve seen over and over. I shoot a million pictures and text anyone who wants to see. The scent of the flower is concentrated. If the plant were in the house, every room would be filled with this ineffably orangey-musky smell. The bloom is white. It’s larger than the size of a man’s fist. Inside is another, tiny bloom. Like something otherworldly, this miniature star extends outward into the moonlight, heralding the nocturnal insect that’s supposed to come and steal its nectar.

The soul of this plant seems deep and meaning-seeking to me. This is the Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha or Mandela of all plants. It’s exotic, yet hardy. It’s majestic, yet not particularly pretty. It stands above all other flora and stays consistent with its purpose. It spreads its large leaves in an outward reach. I handed out some cuttings at work and they’ve remained happy by themselves in an empty glass or rooted in water. If a leaf cutting is slipped into mud, its tendrils spread and grow another plant with very little help. If I were to give the cirrus a personality trait, I’d say it’s indifferent in that pleasant way where it enjoys company but doesn’t need it to thrive. To me, it’s also the greatest metaphor I know that reflects the inexpressible spiritual moments in our lives.

You know those moments. Like the time a passed loved-one manifested at the foot of your bed to say hello (or good-bye), or the time you felt yourself in your sleep talking to your ancestors, or the time you know you saw little people sitting in the trees smiling down at you, or the time you felt the presence of God so strongly in your body you couldn’t speak, or the time you astral-travelled to another planet and woke up terrified yet wishing that could happen again, or the time you heard a loving voice behind you, yet no one was there. Those moments. Those singular moments we’re both terrified of, yet exhilarated by. Those are the moments that remind us we’re just one tiny carbon-being among a larger, unfathomable universe that’s beyond our comprehension yet, we feel so knowingly tied to. Those moments.

Sometimes we sleep through those moments, figuring there’ll be another bloom later on. Sometimes we stay up all night fascinated by the miracle of the inexplicable. Sometimes we explain them away because our mind can’t understand what happened. Sometimes we fear telling anyone because the community we’re tied to may expunge us, yet when we do share, we realize they too have had those moments. Some of us spend every waking hour attempting to get those moments back. Yet, like those elusive and hardy blooms, they come when they come. We just have to open to them when they happen.

We can look for them. We can ask for them to happen again. We can cultivate our lives to increase the probability of them. They will come again. Painfully, they will also go. Though in their coming and going, they leave something behind. They leave us with a reminder that we’re connected to something bigger and that something bigger is here for us. They leave us exhilarated by the miracle that is our life. They also leave us humble, because we can’t really explain how or why. If we want to stay open to them, we’re forced to just accept them. This is the hardest part – accepting something we really can’t understand. Yet, it’s in the acceptance of these mysterious experiences that we feel our Soul. Those moments leave us open to probabilities. They free us, for just a while, from the mundane routines in our lives that can keep us numb and forgetting the bigger picture.

Perhaps if we become like the cirrus, open to engagement, yet comfortable with just being, we can feel the inexplicable rhythm of those moments more regularly. Perhaps we can allow them to run their course, accepting the gift of their presence and their loss. 012

The Spirituality of the Obvious

 

1014244_533912696706563_727841077_nOnce in a while we get a signal – a really big signal – that comes in subtle packages as a way to remind us that Spirit is with us wherever we go. The problem is, we rationalize it away and lose a great opportunity to connect.

If we’re lucky, the spiritual energy around us will stay determined and press on, making it so obvious they’re reaching through our dense atmosphere to touch us that we have no choice but to listen. These experiences don’t come often. Anyone on the spiritual path or who has lost a loved one wants them. We wish and hope for a tangible meaning. A message. A sign there is a greater connection than what we experience on this earth.

Yet when these things do happen, we sometimes get scared, stubborn or doubtful and will them away.

My big Duh moment happened on a hot, July day in New Orleans. I was spending a weekend with my friend and we were determined to have a mini-spiritual retreat despite the lovely distractions of her family. My friend is an intuitive/medium and so am I. Because we live in the bible-belt (and because I’m also a licensed therapist) I keep this under wraps in my everyday conversations. Having like-minded souls to commune with is greatly sought after when you’re in our position.

This day, we were enjoying the energy manifested by our conjoint meditations and readings for each other and were spending the afternoon on her porch creating spirit paintings. Spirit painting is something I made up one day as a way to allow my Guides to work through me. I meditated, asked to see colors and images, then went to town  on my canvas with heavy brushes and paint. The result had been more than I could imagine. I intended energy flow for myself – to break down ego barriers so I could engage deeper during meditation. What I got were soft images of faces and forms. Some I had already seen and communicated with. Some forms were not so human. Some were faces I had not seen before. The fact that they had shown themselves just by me pushing paint around, was affirming. I was on the right track.

I wanted to show my friend how to do this. That day, we set up our workspaces. I meditated for her and she meditated for me. Then we picked up our brushes and colors and started to paint each other a picture. Within a few minutes, a yellow Monarch butterfly rounded the corner from the front of the house. It came on to the open porch and fluttered between my canvas and the door. Cute! The little butterfly had lost its way. I went back to pushing the paint around and was startled when the butterfly came between me and the canvas and hovered. My heart beat wildly. I stilled. I ‘d never been so close to a moving butterfly before!

“He must love the colors,” I said to my friend. Then the butterfly disappeared, back beyond the house. What a nature experience.

The butterfly returned less than a minute later. It flew the same course, between the wall and my canvas, and ended up in front of me again. It fluttered in place right under my chin. It felt as if he was looking to see what I was doing. It stayed for a good fifteen seconds (while I held my breath!). Then it left. Again.

Twice?  We glanced at each other.

A little wide-eyed, we laughed. We wanted this to be a special message. We were attempting to reach further spiritual heights that day. But, we also wondered if this was a fluke. Were we attempting to put meaning to something that was just happenstance? Like the energy worker who believes he can will the traffic light to change, or shift the winds. Was this our petty will? Were we making something out of nothing? It was, after all, Summer. Things were blooming. Butterflies abounded.

Before these doubts finished processing in my head, the butterfly was back. I halted. My friend picked up her phone. A third time? Really? It came once again, along the same path, looping around to my right and ending up – flutter, flutter – between me and my canvas. Another fifteen seconds or so went by again before it left.

Three times. Cool.

By the fourth time the butterfly visited, we were tense with awareness. Not so much a fluke anymore. My friend snapped shots from her phone, attempting to follow the little guy around the porch without scaring him off. A long while passed. The message was clear as he intentionally hovered in front of me. Pay attention!

We were listening. Especially by that fifth time. The energy was serious now. Unbelievable!  Something bigger than both of us was revealing itself and we’d be stupid not to listen. By that final swoop, the butterfly seemed to know he had gotten through. He turned and flew away, hopping along the flowers as he went. Who, what or why this happened is still a mystery. Maybe we’ll never know. But we listened. We just knew this was an event to be trusted and like so much that has to do with Spirit, never questioned.

(we grabbed our phones as fast as we could and the buttefly stayed around long enough to let us take its picture!)

 

 

Intuition: The Two Paths of Awareness

 

untitled (2) mindDeepening our Intuition leads us down some magnificent pathways toward the inner sanctum of our Sacred Self. Having dialogue with our Intuition empowers us and steers our lives toward deeper meaning. We learn to accept that not everything communicated has words. Then we can remain open to other ways of being. Learning to trust our Intuition gives us the freedom to be comfortable with the unexplainable. When we embrace our intuition, we accept there’s a universally complex language within all of us and that subjectivity is okay.

This sensing language is the language of the Soul. The dialogue involves colors, energy, emotions or perceptions.When we meditate or dream, forms come to us that the conscious Mind struggles to interpret. Jung referred to this communication as the “intuitive idea that cannot be formulated in any other or better way” than through the use of these symbols. This language is also spoken with our body energy through our etheric field. If we learn to manage our energy, we can find a new way of heightening our engagement with our world and the people in it.

Intuitive knowing is slower on one level, yet faster on another. We may sense something immediately, but not be able to describe or understand it right away. Jung describes this journey as;

…something which can scarcely be described in words. It can only be experienced. It is a subjective affair quite beyond discussion; we have a particular feeling about ourselves , about the way we are, and that is a fact which it is neither possible nor meaningful to doubt.

Intellectualizing doesn’t work with intuiting. Mind wants things organized in neat Microsoft files that can be corroborated by the outside world. A process that’s laughable to Soul.

There are two ways of using our Intuition. The first is by developing our “sixth sense”. This is what we use when interacting with people and situations. Sixth sense intuiting uses instinct as its driver. It helps us sense things like knowing when someone is lying or deciding if a new job is right for us. This sixth sense intuiting deepens how we interact beyond sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. We can develop this through learning energy work including the clearing and managing of our chakras. Reiki work helps us develop this sensitivity as well. Stillness in our own agendas is important in this process. How many times have you ignored something that you had a strong sense of because you didn’t want to believe it?

This use of etheric energy is also how we heal emotional wounds. While it’s not the only tool, but it’s one of many powerful ones. Rebalancing your chakras allows for physical, emotional and psychological flow. When we shut off aspects of our Self, we shut off some of their associated energy centers. Drawing from universal power and opening up to an infinite source of light, heightens our sensitivity. Our source of body energy is limited, but when we tap into the Higher Source, we can manifest a whole new way of living.

The other way of intuiting is through psychic or mystical engagement with our inner world that also connects to our Higher Source. To intuit in this way, we need to allow the images we receive through meditation to just be. This gives us an opportunity to connect deeper with the information we’re given. The language of the Angels and Higher Spirit is through symbols and form. These have few references in our verbal and written language.

Making the sacred space for this intuiting helps facilitate a quiet container. For me, I like a softly scented candle, since scent – while it’s a fifth sense – links us to our deeper awareness. Using a journal is also important since we can write or sketch the images that come to us. If you’re clairaudient, you may hear words in your head, similar to when we hear the lyrics of a song. Writing those down and allowing them to just be, is part of the process. Dreams are also integral to intuiting. They’re wrought with symbols that drive our waking Mind crazy since it cannot fit them into that Microsoft file. But, if you write down what you remember, over time, you’ll see a pattern emerge. This pattern, whether through dreams or meditation, will speak to you and guide you.

Many times what we get is not so much an answer, but confirmation. This confirmation can occur as an inner knowing or something outside of ourselves. The answer may come in the form of a conversation that happens later in the day, or a recurring theme you keep experiencing as you lead your daily life. As part of confirming, we can ask; What is this image, color, energy or sensation that’s being presented to me? Another approach is to ask, what does this mean to me? How do I feel when I see this symbol or experience this information? If we’re open to the messages, all will be revealed in time. Be patient, since when we’re intuiting new information and mystical experiences, we have few if any previous references.

The largest block to intuiting well is ego. While ego is an important mechanism in the development of our Sacred Selves, it can go awry if we’re not aware of how Mind loves to put up defenses. A neurotic ego may want to shape the information to accommodate its insecurities. Keeping our Mind still keeps it out of the intuiting process and this keeps us from developing inflated illusions about ourselves and what we’re doing. This takes practice and a willingness to examine those undeveloped shadow sides we refuse to address in ourselves.

This process is a journey with no end goal other than to know ourselves deeper. Using our intuition as a vehicle to help us maneuver life’s passageways is a way to draw us closer in to the light and wisdom we already possess. It’s a pathway to bring us home again to what we already know. ~ Cheryl Lewallen, M.Ed., LPC