Breaking into Pieces

Many years ago a family member offered one of my daughters a shiny new helium balloon.  She was very excited.  We were outside on an overcast and windy day. I attempted to help her hold on to it, thinking it might fly away.  She was an independent three year old that wanted to do it alone.  The balloon was loosely attached by a clip to her dress.    Eventually the clip failed and the  balloon  slipped from her grasp.  We all watched the balloon float farther and farther away.  My little girl fell apart into a inconsolable storm of pain, loss and anger.  I knew it wasn’t just the loss of the balloon.  We had just moved to Alaska from the East coast with out her father.  The balloon was another thing removed from her small world.  I will never forget her pain.  I will never forget feeling so lost and helpless as a parent.  It seemed like I could not ease her heartbreak.

Most adults have experienced the same overwhelming emotions and sense of loss my child did at three; just for very different things. Often we experience our losses with extraordinary anger, pain and grief; because it is tied to something else.  Regardless of our age, we can loose control in the surface wave of emotions, that pull us back into thick muddied waters holding  past events.

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What Heals Your Ego Wounded Self?

The journey of healing our ego wounded self is a profound and deeply sacred journey.

“Does the wounded self ever get healed?”
“How does the wounded self get healed?”
“What happens to the wounded self as we heal?”

My ego wounded self, like everyone’s, came into being when I didn’t receive the love I needed and I decided that it was my fault – that I wasn’t good enough. I hid away my core self and went about trying to figure out how to be to get love, avoid pain, and feel safe. I developed many of false beliefs about myself and others, and learned to be very judgmental toward myself to have control over getting myself to do things “right”, so that others would like me and not get angry at me or reject me.

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Life Can Be Easy - The Choice is Yours!

Do you remember when one of the big office supply stores developed the big red "Easy” button as a reminder to "keep things easy at work"? Years ago, one of my fellow staff members at The Ford Institute started bringing a big red "Easy" button to all of the in-person workshops and trainings we did. He would keep it out at the staff table at the back of the workshop room. It was actually a perfect reminder for all of us that an invitation for transformation exists in every moment and it can happen in an instant if we choose to open up and receive the invitation. Unfortunately, most people don't recognize the miracles that are always dancing right in front of them as well as their innate power and ability to shift what they are experiencing in each and every moment.

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How To Deal With Negative Feelings

Your feelings are a signal giving you feedback.

They are communicating to you, showing you what you need to pay attention to.

We are conditioned to only feel what we think of as “positive” feelings. And we tend to do everything to avoid “negative “ feelings.

We must realize that the more we suppress our sadness, the more we limit our capacity to feel joy.

Consider this: Feelings are neither good or bad. These are just labels we place on them as a means of survival.

Feelings are feedback.

Feelings are energy.

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Learn to Be a Storm Watcher

Before we can learn to free ourselves from our own fearful reactions to unwanted events, we must realize just how worthless fear actually is -- especially when we turn to it to protect us from what are essentially bad dreams wrought from the darkened works of our own imagination! When it comes to these stormy moments in life, what we resist always persists. In truth, it is our not wanting to be in a psychological storm that produces the very storm of unwanted feelings that we don't want!

One of the things that make uncertain times so hard to bear is the flood of fearful feelings that seems to travel with them, like hard rains we are sure will soon fall from a distant, dark cloud on the horizon. But such fear is neither a natural nor necessary part of uncertainty, and this you can prove to yourself if you're willing to be a conscious storm watcher.

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The Practice: Take Heart

What do you do when the bottom falls out?

The Practice:
Take heart.

Why?

It takes heart to live in even ordinary times.

By “taking heart,” I mean several related things:

  • Sensing your heart and chest
  • Finding encouragement in what is good both around you and inside you
  • Resting in your own warmth, compassion, and kindness; resting in the caring for you from others; love flowing in and love flowing out
  • Being courageous, whole-hearted and strong-hearted – going forward wisely even when anxious, knowing your own truth and as you speak it

When you take heart, you’re more able to deal with challenges like aging, illness, trauma, or conflicts with others. You’re also more able to take advantage of opportunities with confidence and grit.

Additionally, it takes heart to live in, live with, and live beyond times that are really hard. Your personal hard time might be bad news about your health, the death of a parent, or betrayal by others. Or it could be related to changes in your country and world, and your concerns about their effects on others and yourself; I’ve written about the importance of finding and facing facts at the level of society (feel free to skip it if you don’t want my take on politics).

There are so many examples of honorable people facing great difficulty with dignity, principle, and courage. They did it. We can, too.

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How can you face the fear of suffering?

Suffering seems to be a fact of life. How do we face it?

Clearly it is a stranger to none of us. Perhaps we’ve not experienced the corrosive pain of illness, persecution, starvation, or violence. We may not have lived with the deterioration and loss of a loved one. Few of us have seen the charred face of a burned child. But each of us has experienced our fair share of not getting what we want or having to deal with what we don’t want. In this, we all know suffering.

The way in which we deal with suffering has much to do with the way in which we are able to be of service to others.

Of course, not all helping revolves around suffering. Much of what we offer may be in the nature of simple support or guidance. Moving a friend’s new furniture, teaching a child to read. But it is the affliction of others that most directly awakens in us the desire to be of care and comfort.

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Ending Our Fear of Death

Fear is a powerful force, nowhere more so than when it comes to death and dying. By comparison, the solutions for solving other fears seem useless. You cannot test your fear; you cannot feel it and move on anyway. There is little reason to trust other people who seem to have no such fear. They have no more valid experience of dying than any other person who is alive.

It is reported that near-death experiences leave survivors without any fear of death, because they have seen the other side and found it unfearful. But near-death experiences, although highly publicized, are rare, even among patients who have died on the table in the emergency room, generally from a heart attack, and been resuscitated. You can take hope from their anecdotal stories—and millions do—but the information remains second-hand.

Fear of death is unique in the hold it has over us, and we spend our lives hiding or suppressing it. The prospect of not existing seems too overwhelming to face. But in one respect, despite its uniqueness, the fear of death can be faced and dismantled. There is a cure that is available to anyone. It consists of exposing death as an illusion.

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Healing Procrastination

Oscar was stuck in his life; the following issue he presented in our session was one example of how he was stuck:

“My parents are coming to visit tomorrow and, as has been my pattern, my house is a dirty mess. I usually spend the day before they arrive frantically cleaning, which I will do today, but this time I’d like to do it differently and not beat myself up and judge myself. How to get the tasks done with peace, joy, and compassion? It’s a challenge because I feel pressured and get angry with myself for letting things go.”

“Oscar, there must be a good reason that you keep your house a mess and then feel frantic when you need to clean it up. How old were you when you first started resisting things like cleaning up your room? And how old were you when you started to beat yourself up for letting things go?”

“I think I started resisting things when I was very young. I resisted getting toilet trained, and I resisted getting good grades. My mother was so controlling and invasive that I think I learned these ways of not being controlled by her.”

“So the part of you resisting is two or three?’

“Yes, that sounds right. And now that I think of it, my mom was very judgmental and I think I took over the job of judging myself when I started junior high school.”

“So you have an inner system with a young adolescent trying to control you with anger and judgment, like your mother did, and then a 2-3 year old not wanting to be controlled and resisting. As long as these parts of you are in charge, you are not going to be able to clean up with peace and joy. Is it just about cleaning up that you procrastinate, or do you do it with other issues?”

“I do it most of the time with everything.”

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3 Ways To Choose Love Over Fear

Choosing love over fear becomes difficult when we feel as if we’re being blamed, attacked emotionally, or harshly criticized. It is in these situations that we tend to choose fear, possibly even subconsciously. If our identity or ego is threatened, we can’t continue our comfortable narrative about who we are and what we stand for. This reaction to fear creates conflict within us, and we over-react instead of simply being with that fear. We become defensive, and as a result, we can become hurtful to those we love the most. But if we can become more aware of our actions and reactions, and choose love over fear, we can live in alignment with our authentic selves.

Here are three ways to begin making the conscious choice of love over fear!

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An Appropriate Response: Living from an Awake Heart

Much of our suffering comes from reacting to stressful situations with fear or aggression, rather than responding with wisdom and care. This talk explores the pathway of shifting from reacting to responding: this includes learning to pause, awakening the wings of mindfulness and kindness, and reconnecting with our deepest intention.

From Buddhist teachings…

The thought manifests the word;
The word manifests the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
habit hardens into character;
and character into destiny.

So watch your thoughts with care,
And let them spring forth from love
Born out of compassion for all beings.

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Beware Anger

Have you been wronged?

The Practice:
Beware anger.

Why?

Anger is tricky.

On the one hand, anger – feeling annoyed, irritated, resentful, fed up, mad, outraged, or enraged – alerts us to real threats, real injuries, and real wrongs that need correcting, and it energizes and fuels us to do something about them. In my family growing up, my parents had a monopoly on anger. So, I suppressed my own, along with a lot of other feelings, and it’s been a long journey to reclaim my interior, including anger, and be able to feel it fully and (hopefully) express it skillfully.

Whether in personal relationships or in the halls of power, people in positions of authority or privilege often tell others that they don’t deserve to be angry, they shouldn’t get so worked up, it’s their own fault, etc. when in fact they have every reason and right in the world to be angry. It is certainly important to know in your heart what is actually happening, how bad it is, what the causes are, and what to do – and decide for yourself how much you want to get or stay angry.

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The Fear of Loving

Loving holds within it the greatest joy and the greatest pain in life. Yet, without it, life is empty.

Love. We all want it. We develop many ways of trying to get love and be loved. From the time we are infants, we do not thrive without it. When we don’t get it, we may turn to many addictions to fill the emptiness that occurs when we don’t feel loved. When we feel loved, we are on top of the world.
Yet many people have a fear of loving. Not a fear of being loved – a fear of loving. 

Why Would Someone Fear Loving?

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Choose in Favor of Your True Self

Imagine for a moment you’ve gone to a movie cineplex that has 16 separate theaters in it. You buy your ticket and walk into the show you came to see. But, before too long, you realize you don’t like what’s on the screen so you decide to change theaters. Unfortunately, the next movie’s just as pointless. So you change theaters again. And again. Now as long as you remain one of those audience members who live only from the level of the lower “me mind” your only choice is to ramble around within the cineplex. You move from one show to the next—all the while not remembering that the film you just walked into was unable to please you the first time you saw it.

But by learning to live from the higher Free Mind another choice comes to you. You walk out of the movies. You take yourself out of the theater complex. Now you’re free to go enjoy the rest of your day in some other way.

To help you better grasp the intention of this illustration, we need to take a brief look into the theater of our usual mind. Consider your own thinking for just a moment. Can you see how your mind loves to go over and over events that haven’t even happened yet? This mental process is the “me mind” hard at work. But let’s take a closer look at what this nature of ours is really doing.

Each time the “me mind” envisions some future event it’s actually trying to find a feeling of security for itself. But the only security this lower nature can ever know is imaginary. So it has to dream up one scene after another where somehow you’ll come out a winner. The more victories it conjures up in this way, the more fear it feels that it won’t win the battles it just created. And the more agitated this low level of mind becomes from its own unconscious activity, the more it tries to settle itself with more mental movies. We can see the end of this painful picture without having to draw it ourselves. This psychological profile demonstrates what it means to be both prisoner and prison maker!

The Free Mind is always a witness to your whole mental and emotional experience, so it can’t be made a slave of any hidden desire. In this instance, the higher intelligence of the Free Mind instantly understands that no mere mental picture of security has any real power to make you feel secure.

And this realization empowers you, effortlessly, to just walk out of your own mental movie. Can you see the immense difference between the “me mind” and the Free Mind scenarios? Being able to consciously walk out of the movie- making complex of the “me mind” is the same as the power to free yourself. Why? Because once you walk out of this tiny darkened theater that your lower nature considers the whole world, you know for certain and at last: there is something outside the world of your usual mind. And once you walk into its light, you know that everything can be forever new for you.

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Don’t Take it Personally: The Protective Personality

There are more than seven billion people living on this planet which means more than seven billion personalities, opinions and ways of seeing the world. With so many diverse and varying ideologies and socio-cultural milieus, someone is bound to act in a way, or say something that upsets another.

The question is: Do we always have to take everything so personally? If not, how do we make what seems personal, impersonal?

Ego: Why We Take Things Personally
From the time we are young, usually before we’re even ten years old, situations or moments in life occur where we feel unsafe or insecure, or someone says something that makes us feel unlovable. When this happens, we begin to develop a second self, or a false self. That false self is often the “ego,” which I like to call the “protective personality” because no one likes to have an ego, but people don’t seem to mind having a “protective personality.”

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Erase Fearful Feelings from Your Life

Any seemingly scary condition in your life, whatever it may be, is not the real problem. It’s your reaction to it that has you shaking. Which is why, if you’ll become truly conscious of a fearful condition instead of afraid of it, you’ll change forever your relationship with fear.

Being conscious of your fear empowers you to interact with it in an entirely new way. This new inner relationship gives you the power to be awake to fear's scary influences, instead of being their unconscious slave. And as each day you discover something new about the shaky nature of your own fearful reactions, they lose their power over you. Why? You see them for what they have always been: unintelligent, mechanical forces.

To be consciously afraid means that you know you are frightened. You feel it, but at the same time you know that these very fears, as real as they may seem, are not you.

Fear is really nothing other than a self-limiting reaction that we’ve always mistaken for a shield of self-protection. It’s time to let it go, which you can do anytime you want. Here’s how: Dare to proceed, even while being afraid.

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Forgiveness: Releasing Ourselves and Others from Aversive Blame – Part 1

Rumi invites us to find the barriers we’ve erected against love, and a universal one is blame. These three talks are an invitation to relax those barriers, and to open our hearts to our inner life and to all beings. Part I focuses on chronic self-judgment; Part II on the places of deep self-condemnation, and Part III on where we have locked into anger, blame or hatred of others. Each includes guided reflections that can support us in directly awakening beyond the confining thoughts and feelings of blame.

“Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find
all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it.”
 ~ Rumi

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How To Have The Courage To Shine (Even When Fear Tells You To Be Small)

The Goddess Metis has a strong and powerful message inherent in her archetypal nature that encourages us to heal some of our self-sabotaging behaviors this week. But, before I focus in on her, I’m going to break down the storyline of the energetic umbrella over all our heads this week to reveal the invitation that was revealed in the weekly forecast.

This week’s universal energy reading begins with the energy of the goddess Mnemosyne, goddess of memory and mother of the 9 muses (of course Zeus, that ol’ horndog was the dad) in the Greek pantheon. She begins by inviting us to look to the past to discover the roots of our patterns, the things we learned and integrated that either support us or bury us in a mire of self-limiting beliefs and behaviors or supportive and positive ones. What story are you telling yourself and others about your past? Can you see your old story play out in front of you? We are memory based creatures and what we remember consciously or store beneath our waking mind rules our lives in ways many of us find baffling. But she arrives to remind us that, to make a shift, we need to tell new stories.

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From Loathing to Loving: A New Relationship With Your Body

As we transition to warmer months, you’ve probably started to notice that bodies and skin are showing up everywhere. If you tune into daytime TV talk shows, you’ll start to see bikini fashion shows. On the bestseller list, diet books are on the rise. Gyms are full as people keep their beach bodies in shape. And dietitians are offering discounts to reach your summer body.

It’s no surprise that this time of year can stir up a lot of shadows — the emotions, beliefs, habits, and patterns stored deep inside the psyche that dictate our relationships with our bodies. It’s prevalent in every program and workshop I do. Person after person shares the depths to which they have struggled with body issues and the years they have hated their bodies and thus themselves.

Personally, I’ve struggled with my weight and body image from a young age. The quality of my day used to be determined by the number on the scale. I would only feel worthy of being loved by myself or others if I looked a certain way. I had grown up with the belief that it was not okay to eat so in my book, food was the enemy. I made my body my enemy!

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Featured Book: ‘WILD MERCY’ by Mirabai Starr

“Ever since I met her when she was a teenager at the Lama Foundation, Mirabai Starr has been absorbed in the teachings of the great mystic saints, especially the women. Like her namesake, the poet-saint Mirabai, she brings to her work an intense love of God and a passion for the Beloved. My Guru said, ‘Love is the best medicine.’ Mirabai will help open up your heart to love.” – Ram Dass

Mirabai Starr writes creative non-fiction and contemporary translations of sacred literature. She taught Philosophy and World Religions at the University of New Mexico-Taos for 20 years and now teaches and speaks internationally on contemplative practice and inter-spiritual dialog. A certified bereavement counselor, Mirabai helps mourners harness the transformational power of loss. She has received critical acclaim for her revolutionary new translations of the mystics, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila and Julian of Norwich.

The following is an excerpt from her latest book, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce & Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics (April 2019, SoundsTrue), available for pre-order here.

Join Mirabai and kirtan artist Nina Rao for a Wild Mercy book launch event on April 23 at Deepak HomeBase, on the mezz at ABC Home in NYC.

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