It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us. 

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Sheltering In Love (Part 1)

During this time of pandemic, we need, more than ever, to feel our connectedness—true belonging with our own being, each other and all life.

These talks explore the bodhisattva path – practices of an awakening being dedicated to living from love. The invitation is to let this season of close-in and global suffering deepen our collective commitment to creating a more compassionate world.

Listen to the final meditation in the talk: Meditation: Embracing Life with an Open Heart (11:54 min.)

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Soulful Space

Knowing that “There is only One thing happening here and it is Good” is not about by-passing reality by any means. Being and operating from the heart space, from a soulful space, and looking out through that lens is the surest way to hold this transcendent perspective.

From a survivor perspective, we can name countless reasons to believe that it is NOT all good. With gun violence, injustice, abuse, poverty – you name it – we can certainly build a case that it doesn’t look so good. And here is where we can take a “time out” in our thinking and remember that we are more than just flesh and bone. We are more than just surviving, instinct-based individuals. We are creative-source energy in a body. We are God-source energy in a body. While that is a lofty statement, it happens to be the truth.

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The Virus Can Give Your Life More Meaning

One way to respond in a crisis is to reduce its threat. The other way is to add to the threat. The coronavirus COVID-19 might be the first collective crisis that many people have faced, and it poses an uncertain future in every country that confronts it. But this doesn’t change the two choices just mentioned. Know that your individual actions will have an impact on countless other people.

 

No matter how the COVID-19 pandemic resolves itself—something no one can predict—you can personally choose right now to reduce its threat. If you consciously make that choice, three positive things will happen. You will feel more in control; you will be on the side of healing; and you will add to the meaning of your life.

 

How to be more in control:

This begins by acting responsibly, following what the experts in disease control advise. By now everyone is aware of the need to stay at home, self-quarantine if you show any symptoms, keep 6 to 10 ft. away from other people in public, don’t take long plane flights, and wash your hands frequently (the medical school routine for scrubbing up applies here: Wash your hands vigorously while singing “Happy birthday to you” twice—and don’t forget your thumbs and between your fingers). The active ingredient in effective hand sanitizers is isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, which you can also use by itself in at least a 60% solution with water.

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Got Soul?

Through the ages, scholars as well as all religious and spiritual traditions have contemplated the definition, significance, and nature of the soul. Some people believe that soul simply suggests another word for spirit, and that they’re really one of the same, or that it implies a religious or even a spiritual quality.

You may often hear the word soul used in today’s modern culture referring to a sense of pride in areas such as religion, social customs, food, music, or even dance. I have even heard the word used when expressing a deep-felt emotion: “He put all his heart and soul into that performance.”

I’ve been amazed by the number of definitions, meanings, and references there are for one single word, which itself can mean so many different things to so many different people.

Soul is consciousness. It is my belief that the soul is the true essence of a person. When you look into a mirror and see your reflection, you notice your body, your hair, your eyes, your smile, or even your frown! The reflection looking back at you, the image you see is just your external shell; it’s not who you really are.

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If You Aren’t You, Then Who Are You?

Whether you call it your spiritual life, your inner journey, or a search for a higher power, there is a necessary process, known as waking up. It consists of no longer being unaware. By growing more conscious, you give up many things you once took for granted. You recognize that they were illusions, unproven assumptions, and second-hand opinions.
 

You can take a major step toward waking up right this minute. All you need to do is answer one questions: Who are you? This question is about your identity, which everyone takes for granted –so much so, in fact, that we lose ourselves in an illusion without ever realizing it.

Let’s start without any assumptions. Drop your assumption that you already know who you are, because what people really know is not who they really are but their story. Your story consists of everything you have amassed in the past through experience, belief, successes and failures, likes and dislikes. When you identify with these things, you mistake a dead relic of the past for who you really are. Your story might be good or bad, something to be proud of or not, filled with experiences you want to hold on to and others you would rather forget. None of this really matters when you want to know who you really are. You are more than your story.

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Hide-and-Seek with God

“I Am Loving Awareness”
—Ram Dass

Over the past decade, I have experienced divine connection in a variety of ways—in Nature, in solitary or group meditation, and with spiritual teachers who helped facilitate that falling away of form into formlessness. In spite of any longing on my part to hold onto it permanently, however, my experience of God came and went, arose and then receded. Repeatedly, I vacillated between the appearance and disappearance, almost as if I were playing hide-and-seek with God. Then Ram Dass died.

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Open Heart, Open Soul

If your heart opens completely, everything else within you also opens. Your heart becomes an expressway to your soul. And your soul is the designated navigator for this lifetime. Not your mind or your physical body. Before you were born, your soul was downloaded with the customized codes for this particular life journey. God’s cosmic plan is miniaturized within your cells. As soon as you open your heart completely, those soul codes light up and go into super-connectivity mode. Everything starts to flow seamlessly within your conscious awareness, within your physical form, and thus within your life.

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Manifest Your Feelings

Most of us have experienced moments, maybe even life times of attempting to control the future.  This might happen when we want something so badly, we view it as the only acceptable outcome.  The irony of this is, when we only allow one option, we close the door to possible better options. Often times fear creeps in and our brain will begin to tell us why we may or may not, achieve our perceived only option.  At this point the focus becomes on why it might not happen, versus  why it will happen.

Is it possible to just relax and really let the future unfold? Yes;  but there are several important pieces to consider when allowing your life to open up magically.  If you have specific goals; ask yourself why this and not something different? Make sure they are your dreams, not someone else’s.  The next piece to consider is, how will you feel when you achieve your goal?

Feelings are the most important piece in creating our future and enjoying the now.  Imagine and connect to the feelings you love.  Make them a part of your everyday life.  Let each breath hold a connection to your favorite feelings and dreams.  Each time you experience a feeling it can build and continue to grow until it fully becomes who you are.

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Embodied Presence (Part 1) – Planting our Roots in the Universe

In describing our human predicament and dis-ease, D.H. Lawrence says we are like a great tree with our roots in the air. We need to replant ourselves—in our bodies, hearts and spirit. These two talks are guides to replanting ourselves. In Part 1, we explore how we are so often dissociated from the life of our body, and the pathways home. Part 2 looks at the challenges of pain, fear and trauma, and how we can gradually and skillfully reconnect with a wholeness of being.

One of the realizations I keep coming back to is that the portal to presence is through awareness of this living body. ~ Tara

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Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: Stewards of Light

The more a comet
burns away, the
brighter it gets.


As it enters the
atmosphere, more
and more of it flakes
off and burns up.


Until there is only light.


This is our journey
as a spirit in a body
over a lifetime.


As the years wear us
down and burn us up,
we grow brighter.


Until at death,
we are all light.


A Question to Walk With: Describe an aspect of who you are that has brightened over the years.
This excerpt is from my book of poems in progress, A Thirst for Simple Light.

Where is God When Disaster Strikes?

This is such a great question. If our faith is ever going to waiver, it will be when we see or experience, painfully scary and seemingly unnecessary events. Today we have plenty of examples to choose from. My answer; God is always with you and within you.

Without spending too much time on the concept of going within to connect with God; that is where you will find eternal peace.  Practice meditation and prayer.  Spend time in silence.  You will begin to experience the world differently, kinder.  You will begin to identify miracles of the smallest nature that lead you to experiencing life in a kinder and more simple world.  Simple because you become the great observer, and recognize everything as both miraculous and anticipated.

Our external world matches our internal world.  When we experience inner peace; we see glimpses of God in everything we pause to study.

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A Conscious Reset

There are times in life when you may feel as if you’re running backward down a dark alley that has no outlet. Kind of like a bad dream. When you finally realize you’re backing yourself into a dead end, there’s nothing to do but stop, take a deep breath, and look honestly at where you are. In fact, you are being given a precious opportunity to fully awaken and live with greater awareness. It’s what I call a conscious reset. And it’s what I’m experiencing right now.

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The Three Wishes of Every Spiritual Aspirant

Principal to all that we study is an immutable, interior law: As goes my attention, so comes my experience. What I give myself to, I get. If I give myself to something low, I get low. If I give myself to something beautiful, I get beauty. If I give myself to the Divine, I get the Divine. This law is what we must keep in mind as we gradually look at the idea of what it is that we really want from life. Not: What do I want when I get up and I see the news and I get all stirred up, or what do I want when I look at the markets and I get all worried about that, or what do I want because something has stimulated me… but what do I want when I see that all that has stimulated me has left me with nothing?" That’s a significant difference. 

What is it that I really want? A big part of a person's work --for probably many years -- is just the gradual realization of how (like the Prodigal Son) they have wandered off and squandered their resources -- meaning their time and their attention -- which is all that we really have of our own. Then it starts to get a lot simpler to give voice to a truth seeker’s three real wishes.

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Trusting Who We Are (retreat talk)

When we are suffering, we are believing something untrue – usually a limiting story about who we are. This talk explores the roots of our self-doubts, and the teachings and practices that remind us of our basic goodness – the loving awareness that is our source (given at the Fall 2019 IMCW 7-Day Silent Retreat – 2019-11-06).

Carlos Castaneda – the Don Juan books – puts this way. He says, “You talk to yourself too much. You’re not unique in that every one of us does. We maintain our world with our inner dialogue. A man or woman of knowledge is aware that the world will change completely as soon as they stop talking to themselves.”

Sri Nisargadatta says, “Love tells me I’m everything. Wisdom tells me I’m nothing. Between the two my life flows.”

I really invite you to experiment and find the way of remembering love that warms your heart because it’ll help you trust your heart and we deep down really want to trust the goodness of our hearts.

May we trust who we are.

~ Tara

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Everything Depends on What You Want from Life

Our lives are living opportunities to explore the celestial stuff of consciousness from which we are created. We can either choose to substantiate this relationship with reality through the "process" of paying attention to its invitation, or we can refuse it.

 

The first (and highly recommended) action places us upon the guest list of God’s life. 

The latter choice, our failure to be awake and attend to the moment at hand, leads to nothing but more involvement with nothing. So the right choice is always to choose in favor of Real Life! That's what our studies together are all about: learning to discern Truth when it knocks at our door. And practicing what we know strengthens our relationship with Truth. For instance, much as in the same way we must learn to give our attention to these impulses of consciousness appearing in the stream of our self, so we must learn to be awake to the garbage that bubbles up from the bottom of this stream that also calls for our attention. When a depressive state begins to press in, we can work to wake up and remember that a depressing thought embraced crushes the one who embraces it. We learn this lesson by loving something Higher.

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Change Your Entire Life with this Simple Technique from Thích Nhất Hạnh.

To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

I was visiting a friend in New York City this past weekend as we discussed various elements of all things spiritual. Discussion of teachers, techniques, paths and so forth culminated into some personal and candid sharing with one another. She knew some of my past but not all of it. She’d never heard the stories of my self-inflicted cutting, or that I used to sleep on a dozen sharp knives because it gave me a sense of being alive in an otherwise empty and fleeting day to day reality. Then there was the suicide attempts, numerous trips to emergency rooms, rehabs and psych wards, all of which she took in stride.

As I went to sleep in my friends cozy guest bed, I reflected on those dark times and how truly transformative the following technique taught by Thich Nhat Hanh has been in turning my life around. I also thought that since it’s worked so well for me, it may work well for you too.

It’s extremely simple and can be done anytime, anywhere and in virtually any circumstance.

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Count Your Blessings – You Are One of Them!

One of my favorite teachers is Mathew Fox, whose book Original Blessing made probably the biggest impact on my life when I was really struggling around the holidays. My mentor, Margueritte, who bless her sweet heart was like Aunt Clara from Bewitched (for those of you who remember the dotty old witch whose spells sometimes landed her in a trash can, or she’d accidentally turn herself into a cat) handed this book to me along with the same author’s version of the Sermon on the Mount. The holidays seemed to trigger all my low self-worth buttons and behaviors, and all she said to me when she gave them to me was, “God doesn’t make junk—and you are a treasure.” She also used to call me her exotic bird too, while others in the church basements we frequented would look at my goth appearance and look away in fear and loathing muttering that there should be a dress code for sobriety. Ya right. 

The gist of this book was that we are all born in Original Blessing, not Original Sin, that each of us is born innocent and blessed by the Divine, and that our task in this lifetime is to discover that sparkling thread of this Truth and weave it into the fabric of our lives. In this way we could free ourselves to be human, to keep committed to a conscious contact with a benevolent Higher Power, and if we make mistakes we can be accountable and take action and make amends when needed. We were not the sum total of our mistakes, that they, in fact, are each an opportunity for growth and a return to Love and to Spirit. 

For someone newly clean and sober, this was a revelation because I had so much shame and unprocessed rage I didn’t know how to be other than to say, “I’ll show you how hurt I am. I’ll set myself on fire,” or just sit in a corner and stuff my face wondering if I will ever feel safe, or free from myself. (Oh! Right! If you’re new to my blog, I’m turning 34 years clean and sober soon, and the holidays are when I get right into looking for blessings everywhere even in the face of pain).

So this concept changed everything for me. Since then, every year I have started taking my inventory of the year before around now.

It’s when I clean house, both my actual environment and my inner. I take away what I don’t need from my outer, which is relatively easy, but before I focus on what needs to go internally, I do a slightly different inventory. I first look for the treasures in my life, experiences that were both obvious and obscured.

It’s kind of like a hidden object game called Where’s Waldo—Elf of Holiday Blessings? 

So I’m going to invite you to do what I do. 

The question I ask myself is where can I find the blessings in my life hidden in plain sight? 

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Using Mindfulness to Let Go of Stressful Triggers

A wise person once said, “Hell is other people!” That being true, what’s a being to do? We have little to no control over the actions or reactions of someone else. The good news, however, is that if we develop the tools, we potentially have 100 percent control over our reaction to a given situation. It doesn’t mean we won’t experience difficult emotions; it means that we can manage those emotions before they eat our heart out.

Mindfulness, present moment awareness, allows us to notice emotions arising. If you find yourself stressed out at family events, for example, slow down and notice what is coming up for you: “Oh, that’s anger in my chest,” or “that’s anxiety in my stomach.” Labeling the emotion puts more space between you and the situation, allowing you to observe what is occurring instead of being hijacked by the emotion. Once you label the emotion, your brain calms down. Then, you can soothe yourself by placing your hand wherever you identified feelings constriction and consciously sending yourself softening and soothing thoughts. Imagine placing a warm compress or warm oil on the hurt.

The next step is to acknowledge that it’s difficult to feel this way, and give yourself love and encouragement by way of an affirmation like, “This too shall pass.” Everything really does change; the good changes and the bad changes.

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How to Create Compassionate Holidays

Compassionate Holidays require that you act consciously each moment. Unconscious caretaking and pleasing others (giving gifts because it is the “season”) are NOT compassionate deeds. They ignore the humanity of the recipient because the recipient is being exploited by frightened parts of your personality. This type of interaction multiplied billions of time each “Holiday Season” makes the experience much less than it could be.

Compassion is being moved to and by acts of the heart. I am not speaking of the sentimental “heart,” the “heart” that feels pity and need to fix other’s problems (these are experiences of frightened parts of the personality). I am speaking of the most healthy, inclusive, grounded, and loving part of yourself. If this heart is not involved, no compassion is present. Therefore a compassionate Holiday, like a compassionate family dinner or a compassionate country requires you to replace the experiences of frightened parts of your personality (which also include anger, impatience, frustration, and judging) with the experiences of loving parts (gratitude, appreciation, patience, caring). This creates authentic power.

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Vodka, Cops & the Bhagavad Gita.

“The Edge…there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”

~ Hunter S. Thompson

As I sat in meditation recently, I had one of those experiences. It’s something I’ve learned to laugh at now, the absolute ridiculousness of it in a very Bukowski sort of way, but there’s of course a small part of my stomach that still knots up when memories like these rear their ugly heads.

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30 Simple Ways to Create Balance and Connection

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