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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Find Your North Star

Where are you headed?

The Practice:
Find your North Star.

Why?

I did a meditation retreat (at Spirit Rock, wonderful place, including for workshops). One evening as we walked out of the hall after the last sit, I was feeling rattled and discombobulated. (One of the benefits of a retreat – though it can be uncomfortable – is that it stirs up of the sediments of your psyche, which can muddy your mental waters for a while.)

I looked up at the stars shining brightly in the cold clear night, and soon noticed the Big Dipper. My eyes followed its pointing to Polaris, the North Star, and a wave of easing came over me. The star felt steady and reassuring, something you could count on. It connected I think with a young part of me who loved the outdoors and learned to believe that as long as he could locate the North Star, he could find his way out of the tangled woods and back to safety.

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Practice the Pause that Spiritually Strengthens

The next time you feel yourself starting to become frustrated, angry or scared, do your best to confirm this vital insight: Negative emotions cannot exist without having something to blame for their punishing presence.

The clearer for yourself you can make this spiritual fact -- about the dualistic nature of spiritual weakness -- the better prepared you'll be to take your next step toward higher spiritual strength. Your discovery leads you to this totally new action. Whatever it takes, don't express that surfacing irritation by naming or blaming anything outside of you as being its cause.

Even if you have to remove yourself physically from the developing situation, then do it. Find some way to temporarily isolate yourself -- along with your smoldering emotional state. Please note: Isolate yourself along with your agitation.

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Two (free) Fun Baby Steps to More Love, Better Health

As part of my commitment to stay healthy and get healthier this year, before I get out of bed each morning I begin each day listening to my Morning Love Raising feelingization.

This 14 minute audio is focused on bringing love, light and healing to my body, mind and spirit and sets me up to have a great day.

In the past I used to start my day looking at my email on my iPad (while still in bed) and depending on what kind of emails I had gotten over night, my day could easily be energized or ruined pretty quickly.

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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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2020: Your Year of Mindful Self-Compassion

Just for a moment, forget about all your standard New Year’s resolutions. It goes without saying that most of us want to be healthier, wealthier, and wiser – but what if we’re going about it all wrong? Have we ever really stopped to wonder whether it’s possible to shame and “should” ourselves into going to the gym more or eating better?

Luckily, there’s another solution. Allow me to introduce you to a lovely practice called Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC). Mindfulness is the foundation of MSC. Why? Because we need to become aware of and acknowledge our suffering in order to respond to our discomfort with kindness. Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself as you would act towards a dear friend when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself.

Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “tough it out” mentality, you can stop to tell yourself, “This is really difficult right now. How can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?” Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, you are kind and understanding towards yourself when confronted with personal failings. After all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?

You may try to change in ways that allow you to be healthier and happier, but when you are mindfully showing yourself compassion, you change because you care about yourself, not because you are worthless or unacceptable as you are. Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means you honor and accept your humanness.

Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, and losses will occur; you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, and fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life.

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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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A Brief Meditation: Gathering and Arriving in Presence (3:34 min.)

A brief meditation to gather the attention, loosen and soften the body, sense your intention for being here, and feel the quality of presence of an awakening heart.

I invite you to sense what it means to you to arrive into presence.
You may take a few long deep breaths.
Just feel the movement of the breath collecting your attention.
And letting the breath resume in a natural rhythm.

Let your senses be awake so you’re listening to the sounds around you.
Listening inward so that you’re listening to and feeling the body.
As you do, you might notice the places in you that might want to let go a little bit right now.
Maybe there can be some loosening and softening in the shoulders?
Maybe you can soften your hands?
Relax down through the belly?
You can feel the breath deep in the torso.
Become aware of sensations throughout your body.
Listening to and feeling the whole moment.

Gently bringing your attention to the area around the heart.
So you can feel the heart, whatever mood is here,
And also listening inwardly for whatever longing…

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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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How can we stay open to both the suffering and the joy of life?

You and I are in training to be free. We’re in training to be so present, so spacious, so embracing, we’re in training to not look away, deny or close our hearts when we can’t bear something. The statement, “I can’t bear it,” is what burns you out in social action. When you’re in the presence of suffering and contracting, it’s the contraction that starves you to death.


When you close your heart down to protect yourself from suffering, you also close yourself off from being fed by that same life situation.


If you can stay open to both the suffering and the joys and the stuff of life, all of it, then it’s like a living spirit. It just connects to your living spirit and there’s a tremendous feeding going on.

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How to Create a Life Changing Mantra

Mantras are honored in a vast variety of spiritual practices and traditions, through many centuries. They elevate daily lives, and have an important place in both mindful and intentional living. Mantras are also one of the main ingredients in successful manifestation. They can be words, sounds or even repetitive actions.

Many people experience life without recognizing their personal power.  The words and thoughts we repeatedly tell ourselves are basically mantras that are void of sacred energy and intent. I invite you to take charge of your life by using intentional mantras. Follow these simple steps and get ready to celebrate your dreams:

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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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Making the Season of Peace Really Matter

A world ceaselessly in a state of unrest seems to mock this time of year as a season of peace. Most people are simply grateful that unrest hasn’t touched their lives, and hope fades for the victims of war and strife who will probably never enjoy peace except during brief truces. The link between holidays and holy days may be fragile in these times, but you can be a unit of peace consciousness starting now.

This  happens at the level of intention and attention.

First, intention. Holidays are about gatherings, first of family but also of events that embrace community and nation. It's therefore easy to feel, on the negative side, that you have little or no control over what's happening around you. Swept up in holiday rituals that are simply a given, surrounded by squabbling family members and old tensions, you can easily be overwhelmed.

The way out is by centering yourself and being clear, first on the inside, what you intend your holiday season to be.  A helpful exercise is to sit quietly with eyes closed and say to yourself, I want joy. I want peace. I want grace and love. As you say each phrase, pause and feel joy, peace, love, and grace as  the silence of your Being. Joy, peace, love and grace are your essential nature. It doesn't matter how you settle into this  feeling/knowing. Putting your attention on your heart is often helpful, or seeing a soft light in that region.

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Are you looking for peace in an uncertain world?

Did you know that forgiveness, peace, love and joy are inextricably linked?

It is only when we’ve experienced true inner peace that we understand there is another world that exists beyond the ego mind’s comprehension.

It’s an awesome world of wonder and the bliss of pure love. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Imagine waking up tomorrow morning… your to do list is full… family is on the way…

The demands of life just keep coming…

and you…

you are completely at peace.

How good would that feel?

As we enter the holiday season, peace is often the gift we most desire. 

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Choosing Joy to De-Condition Our Negativity Bias

Some years back, I was talking with a woman in our community. She was a breast cancer survivor and she told me about a conversation that she had with a friend who also was a survivor. Her friend asked her, “What would it feel like for you to think that something good might happen, rather than something bad?” Her response was, “Totally weird and uncomfortable. “Good,” her friend said. “Try it now.”

From an evolutionary perspective, it really makes sense that we feel uncomfortable when we envision positive things coming our way. Our brains are designed to scan for trouble and fixate on what might go wrong in any given situation. This is described as the negativity bias and it one of our hard wired survival strategies. Of course, it is a very good strategy for avoiding real danger. But, in the absence of a true threat, it limits our capacity for enjoying, and celebrating our moments. We have such a short time on planet earth. When the negativity bias rules, we get very loyal to our anxiety, mistrust and vigilance. We cannot inhabit the fullness of our lives.

In happiness research, a common denominator among those who are deemed “happy” is a sense that they are actually choosing to be happy. They believe that happiness is possible and there is a willingness to turn towards it. Catholic mystic and writer Henri Nouwen writes:

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and then keep choosing it every day.”[1]

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The Paradox of Planning for the Future

When you initially arrive into a new situation, the optimum strategy for dealing with that situation is to quiet down and hear the totality of what’s going on around you. To hear all of the variables and how they are all working together, just in a quiet intuitive way, out of which will come an optimum action. That is, the more fully you are present in that moment of decision making, the more you can expect an optimum response. Optimum in the sense of it being in the deepest harmony on the most planes of reality.


The best practice for being fully present at that moment of choice is to practice being present in this moment.

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30 Simple Ways to Create Balance and Connection

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