The Answers

At the end of mine and Mark’s first two years of marriage, I had managed to pack on 25 pounds.  My “newlywed 25” came from learning to cook and following recipes meant to feed 4-6 people.  That left plenty of food for second and third helpings, which I happily indulged in.  On New Year’s Day 2001, I watched Richard Simmons on QVC.  I knew his food-mover system was for me and promised Mark we would not regret buying it.  When it arrived, weeks later, I immediately began the diet.  I had amazing results.  I kept a food journal, measured my food, watched my portion sizes, moved the windows, and exercised EVERY day.  Within six months I had lost 35 pounds.  I was smaller, fitter, and hotter than I’d ever been in my life.

At my job as a second grade teacher, I became the poster child for weight-loss.  Soon my co-workers formed a weight-loss club that was a small scale version of The Biggest Loser.  Everyone put money into a pot and the “biggest loser” would win the prize.  I gave everyone a little presentation of my experience with Richard Simmons’ food-mover system.  I made hand-outs of my diet tips and lent my food-mover books to a couple of people.  I just knew I was giving them the answers and they would all follow suit and lose lots of weight just like I had.  At the end of the competition, the winner had lost about 10 pounds…which meant that as a whole the group definitely didn’t meet my goals for them.  It was the first time I clearly saw that just because something works for me doesn’t mean it will work for anyone else.

The same idea can be applied to the spiritual life.  Everyone seems to have their answers and they often present them to others as the ONLY answer.  I’ve written before about the ashram I visited almost two years ago.  During the visit, I was able to sit with others at the feet of the guru.  He is a beautiful, loving, enlightened soul!  He seemed to channel spirit as he spoke to us…right up until the moment he said ___ yoga is the way to reach enlightenment.  I left there that weekend in the hopes I could begin this yoga practice, even considering one day going back to train as a teacher.  Once I was home, I did two yoga sessions and that was it.  So did this mean I was incapable of becoming enlightened?  Or maybe the guru’s answer wasn’t mine.

In 2003, while we lived in Texas, I picked up a book on Meditation.  I read it and was so excited and inspired, BUT I could not meditate.  I told Mark about the techniques in the book.  “Can you imagine how great life would be if I could do this and make it work?”  But I could NOT do any of it.  I realized it was an answer, but not my answer at that time.  In 2007, when I began my own meditation practice it did change my life and it became a valuable tool.  I started telling people everywhere that they should meditate and that it would solve so much for them.  I still think this is true, but I also think there are a lot of times and ways a person can meditate.  I sit on a pillow, cross my legs, close my eyes, and inwardly repeat a mantra.  Some people sit in a chair, lay down, or chant out loud.  But you can also meditate while you shower, mow the lawn, drive to work, exercise, or prepare a meal.  I think it is important to go inward and silence the mind (as best you can by letting thoughts come and go), but again this is an answer that will only work when and if you are ready for it.

Businesses, individuals, and organizations will present their ideas as THE answer.  They count on people buying into that claim.  Their survival relies on it.  With it your life will be better, without it your life may fall apart.  And lots of those answers work for lots of people a lot of the time.  But there is nothing, no matter what you are told, that fits every individual all of the time.  With this in mind it is good to pay attention to the feelings and thoughts that come to you when you are presented with a new answer.  Make your own way and seek your own answers.  Also, in my opinion, you don’t have to marry any set of ideals.  We are all free to change our minds and allow our thinking to evolve!

Resolutions?

I don’t really believe in making resolutions.  I’ve only ever been successful at keeping a resolution once and that was about 9 years ago.  But if I was going to make them, here are some of the things I’d like to do/be/achieve this year.

1.  Lose 20 pounds by eating healthy and exercising every day.  (Even if I don’t lose the 20, I still want to eat healthy and exercise daily because I just feel better and my body works better when I do.)

2.  Meditate twice a day totalling at least 40 minutes every day no matter what!

3.  Read from the Bible (thanks Heather), A Course in Miracles, or Joel S. Goldsmith for at least 10 or 20 minutes a day.

4.  Start volunteering once a month with a friend from church at The Shelter feeding a meal to the homeless.

5.  Write a novel!

6.  Continue to post on the blog daily.

7.  Journal each day especially about all that I am grateful for.

8.  Keep in touch with people.

9.  Keep the house clean and clutter-free.

10.  Practice yoga at least 3 times a week.

11.  Set a schedule for internet “checks” and stick with it!

12.  Last but absolutely MOST IMPORTANT is to spend more quality time with the girls and Mark!!!!

So now that I’ve made the list, I am surrendering it!  Some of it will happen because it is meant to and some of it will not.  As long as I am aware enough to hear the still small voice and to pay attention to the signals my body sends me, I should be just fine.  I have a good feeling about 2010, that is for sure.  2009 was a year for change and rebirth, 2010 will be the year for me to discover who I am and what I’m capable of now!

Kelli’s Click

I mentioned Kelli in my blog award post the other day.  Hers was the first blog I started reading.  I found it by doing a wordpress search of “self-discovery.”  She and I have a lot in common, both ex-teachers turned stay-at-home-moms with musician husbands and both spiritual seekers.  You will get a glimpse of her talent and inspiring message by reading her story below.

Let the Struggle Cease to Be

Kelli B. Haywood

http://eastkentuckygal.wordpress.com

I had never planned to be a mother.  I was one of those people who didn’t want to bring a child into such a corrupt world, and I didn’t feel that I was emotionally equipped to properly care for a child.  All those feelings changed after we lost my husband’s aunt to cancer in her early forties.  Both my husband and myself came to the realization that we wanted and needed children on the ride home from her funeral.

We now have two children.  Becoming a mother changes you in dramatic ways.  My husband and I decided that it would be best that I stay home with my children.  I view so many things from a different perspective since becoming a mother, including my future goals, nutrition, spirituality, education, and my own responsibilities to my family.  What it didn’t change was my emotional capacity to be fully present for my children.

I have been working through some difficult childhood experiences since I started college.  I’ve been trying to break down years of insecurities and emotional reactions to situations that are extreme or out of place.  I have come a long way – a really long way.

I recently turned thirty-one, and I must say that the passed year has been one of spiritual renewal for me.  I am discovering who I am and who I can be in reality.  The year began with me being in poor physical health.  I had experienced my second unwanted (the first being unnecessary) c-section.  I had been mistreated by a doctor and it left my body broken.  Not only was my body broken, but so was my heart.

A few months after the birth of our second daughter, we moved back to the land where my husband and I were both born – Appalachia.  It was where our families were, our heritage, our children’s legacy, where our dreams resided.  It was where we belonged.  The relief we felt upon reaching the mountains again was tremendous.  We lived in a larger city for several years after undergraduate school.  I taught middle school and went to graduate school and my husband finished graduate school, taught college classes, began his art and music career , and became a tattoo artist.  However, we never really settled into city life.  We went with the flow, but never found our place, and both of us were reluctant to call it home.  So, when we settled into our little cabin in the holler, and began our plans for homesteading, it felt like we were free again.

I loved watching the girls grow in this new familiar environment, and I had nothing to be upset about in our current situation, but the past kept creeping in with reminders in both my physical and mental health.  It wasn’t long before I was actively seeking a healing.  I adopted a traditional foods way of eating for our family based on the information in the cookbook Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon .  I lost a lot of weight in the most healthy way.  I loved the feeling of control I had, but I still struggled with my dragon – impatience.

In June of 2009, I began a serious practice of yoga and meditation.  I mix both Hatha and Kundalini styles, but have since focused more on Kundalini.  It has led me to tremendous healing in all areas of my life.  I’m becoming the mother I want to be.  The wife I want to be.  I have even found a place of sincere spirituality.

Leslee recently wrote in her post on Psalm 23 about flashcards sent from God.  I believe it.  While I was controlling my life with so many things, struggling to find balance and healing, I was still uneasy and impatient.  Little things made me angry.  I felt anxious about the things that I couldn’t keep from going wrong.  I manifested problems that weren’t there.  I blamed myself, and in part I deserved the blame.  Then, one day during my Kundalini yoga practice I heard my inner guru speak.  It said, “Stop fighting.  Why are you still fighting?”  I had been thinking “let go and let God”.  I had been crying out to my soul – “What are you still so troubled about?”  I had been trying to meditate through all the chatter thoughts and the planning and fixing that my mind wanted to do.  I had been keeping up the guard I had had up since childhood that took so much energy to maintain.  Instead of being guided in my yoga practice, I was trying to rush to the result.  I was fighting tooth and nail.  I was fighting for my life, for normalcy because that had become a habit for me beginning as a pre-teen.

It wasn’t long after that that I bought some Yogi Tea.  On the little tea tabs there are quotes from Yogi Bhajan, the guru that brought the ancient technology of Kundalini yoga to the United States.  On that particular day, my quote was… “The mind is energy.  Regulate it.” Again, stop fighting.  Stop planning.  Just be present.  I was getting the message, but to really bring it home, my pastor’s sermon that night was on Psalm 46.  The following is the 10th verse of that Psalm:

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

God wanted me to stop fighting.  It was an order.  He is in charge and I don’t have to worry about my needs being met, or what happens next.  There is a plan for me.  There is a plan for all of us, if we stop fighting.  It is easier said than done.  I continue to do my best day to day to reverse the old habits of constantly trying to plan what is next, and speed up and slow down time.  I try to find joy in the present.  Whatever is currently going on is exactly what is suppose to be happening to me at that moment, and there is joy there – no matter what the situation.  I’m growing to have a servant’s heart, which is what the heart of a mother should be in my opinion.  Until you help your child learn the ways of the world and help them find their place in it, you are your child’s teacher – you are their hope, and your patience with them is so very important.  You are their Mother.  When they are grown, you will wish you had had more moments being present with them as they were youngsters.  I know I will.

Namaste

namaste_01

The common definition I have been given for the greeting “Namaste” is “the light in me greets the light in you.”  That “light” is the spark of divinity within all of us.  It is also called our Christ Consciousness.  I’d say it was a huge moment in my life receiving this information.  I am not just this human body and mind, but within me lies a light and that light is God.  My view of life has not been the same since.

I am grateful to have found an amazing church that is supportive and encouraging of the search for truth.  I go to church not to gather with friends (although they are an amazing group of people) or out of duty or obligation, but for spiritual food.  Some Sundays I stay home because my nourishment that day is meant to come from loving time with my family, time in nature, or reading spiritual literature.  But most Sunday’s I feel a pull to go.  It never fails that when I respond to that pull and show up, I receive “my message.”

Today I received a few messages, but the most important one came in a song.  From time to time our music director will have us sing the song “The Face of God.”  This particular song, I believe, expresses the same sentiment as the greeting “Namaste.”  The lyrics are as follows:

You are the face of God.

I hold you in my heart.

You are a part of me.

You are the face of God.

Usually after 2 verses of the song, we are asked to turn toward someone next to us, look into their eyes, and sing the song to them.  I will admit that often this is an uncomfortable feeling.  I think it has a lot to do with the quote I posted yesterday.  It is hard for us to accept our own divinity.  Many of us have had lifetimes of being told we are miserable sinners.  We also have a difficult time truly connecting with other people on a soul level.  So to look in the eyes of someone you either don’t know or don’t know well and acknowledge their spark is quite the challenge.  Today when the song started, I felt a bit nervous.  Who would I sing to and how would it feel?namaste welcome

When it came time to find a neighbor, the friend sitting next to me had stepped out.  I turned around and saw a visitor, who was there with her daughter.  The woman was probably in her 80’s.  I reached for her hand and looked into her eyes as I sang the song.  She had beautiful blue eyes and I watched as they welled up with tears.  By the end of the verse the tears were streaming down her cheeks.  Her daughter looked at her and began to cry as well, then I also began to choke up.  It was a beautiful moment.  We had gone past the superficial level and experienced the true meaning of “Namaste.”

I put this video up so you could listen to the song if you want to.  Hearing it gives a little more meaning to the post.  It seems the video must have been put together in the aftermath of Katrina as it contains a lot of those images.

Pain

I was meditating on Monday and I inwardly asked for direction.  What do I need to learn now? What came to me was “pain.”  I need to learn to accept pain, and even to find comfort in it.

I often find myself backing down from pain, both physically and emotionally.  I avoid confrontation so as to avoid the pain of criticism or rejection.  As for physical pain, I work out and do yoga, both of which allow me to experience some degree of pain.  But what I always find is that when the pain arrives I back off.  When lifting weights instead of working through the pain, I drop the bar.  One of my favorite poses in Yoga is the Camel pose.  I like it because it is a very challenging pose that I can do with only minor modification.  The problem is I can only hold the pose for a few seconds because of the pain.  I would greatly benefit from holding it longer, but it hurts way too much.

ICP

A driving force in my life (and most people’s) is fear.  What I fear is pain.  The best way to begin to release fear is to learn to appreciate pain.  When I got this “message” during my meditation, I felt very much that it was directed toward physical pain.  I thought particularly about my experience with yoga and the poses that challenge my body.  I feel like dealing with pain begins at the physical level, then moves into the emotional level, and ultimately to the spiritual plane.

Conveniently enough, I had already scheduled an appointment with pain at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday.  I have been thinking about getting a second tattoo for a while and finally had the nerve to follow through.  The process of getting my tattoo took about an hour.  In the first phase I nearly passed out.  The artist got me a cup of water and lounged the chair back.  Kelly, who was along for moral support, went to the gas station and got me a Coke.  I reminded myself to breathe (just like Alain, the artist, had instructed me) and stayed with it.  It was difficult and required me to be present.  I am very good at visualizing all sorts of things at painful moments that only make matters much worse.  I couldn’t let my mind lead me astray.  I had to just feel the pain as it was.  It was quite a challenge for me as the tattoo is big with intricate detail.  After it was over the reward was this beautiful symbol on my leg to remind me of my spiritual journey.  Throughout the  day I could feel the twinges of pain near my ankle and strangely enough I appreciated and found comfort in them.  It was the feeling of aliveness as my body worked to repair itself.  I believe that in moments of great pain and pleasure we are made accutely aware of the divine energy within us.  It is another reminder not to run or hide from the opportunities that may bring us both….

Here is a picture of the tattoo.  Unless you are one of my tweeps, this will probably come as a complete surprise to you.  I haven’t shared my desire to get a tattoo with very many people.  It is Ganesha.  The first person who told me about Ganesha, described him as “the remover of obstacles.”  It is this attribute of God that will lead me beyond the distractions and keep me on my spiritual path.

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Religion

These days I feel as if I am caught between two worlds.  There is the rational/scientific world in which many people are atheist, agnostic, or just completely hiding their belief in God.  Then there is the Religious world where people wear their strongly held beliefs on their sleeves and walk around with an “if your not with us, your against us” attitude.  I feel very grey in this black and white world.

I grew up in the south, but unlike most families in our community, we didn’t start attending the Baptist church (or any church) until I was 12 years old.  By then I had been a blank slate too long to be indoctrinated.  Or it could have been that I felt so much like an outcast amongst the kids in my church that the true message of the religion could never quite penetrate all the other stuff I felt while there.  (I still find it quite interesting that no matter what church I  attended -there were 3 in all-I always felt an off the charts level of discomfort amongst the other congregants that I interacted with.)

I was “saved” at some point, while attending my first church.  My cousin and I spent a quiet moment with our dear great Aunt (who was an amazingly spiritual woman, truly connected to God) and asked Jesus into our hearts.  I know I felt something in that moment and I carried it with me for a while.  I began to read my bible and would talk for hours on the phone with a friend who wanted to be a minister.  But instead of being taught how to nurture that spiritual relationship  in myself, there was pressure to put it outward and save others.  Since I was such a shy and quiet person, this wasn’t something I was capable of and I began to scrutinize what I was taught at church.  I had a difficult time believing in a God that would pick and choose based on people’s behaviors.  I didn’t understand how, with all the billions of people in the world, only those that asked Jesus into their hearts could go to Heaven.  The questions began to outweigh my beliefs and as soon as I went to college I left religion and God behind.

Flash forward fifteen years or so and Mark orders the book “Mere Christianity” and encourages me to read it.  I was not happy about it, but I read it and something in it struck me.  In the book C.S. Lewis says something to the effect of God being your conscience and that the feelings you get of things being right or wrong is God communicating with you.  I didn’t agree with everything in the book (in fact parts of it made me feel quite yucky), but that was the one thing I needed to hear to understand and believe in God again.

Since then more spiritual doors have been opened to me.  I have learned a lot about other religions and what is most important to me now is finding the similarities, the basic principles that they were all founded on.  I love so many aspects of various religious traditions that I don’t feel I can choose just one to call my own.  I enjoy practices such as yoga, meditation, and chanting that are associated with Eastern religions.  I send my daughter to a Jewish preschool and am grateful for the exposure she gets to the religion.  I am fascinated by the healing practices and speaking in tongues associated with the Pentecostal church and the miraculous stories of the Saints in the Catholic tradition.  I feel that Jesus is my highest teacher and truly a way-shower.  The underlying message of all mystics is the same no matter what religion they become the symbol for.  And I would say that a true mystical message is to seek within for your spiritual identity, because ultimately it is about feeling the connection for yourself not following a path laid out for you by someone else.

Thank You Alanis

I used to listen to Alanis Morissette with my best friend in college.  I never owned the CD (the one with You Oughta Know on it) but Kristin did and we were together enough that I burned out on it as if it was my own.  All of those songs were so great and Alanis got extremely popular and then very overplayed and disappeared for a while.  She came back a couple of years later with this new song called Thank You.  It was catchy and I sang along to it although I never truly got it.  The line “Thank you India” threw me the most.  At the time I didn’t know the significance of India and why people would travel there.

What I now know is that some people travel to India to visit ashrams and study with Gurus.  A true Guru is a mystic that has reached enlightenment and the realization of their oneness with God.  They will often have a following of individuals, much like Jesus did with his disciples.  But you don’t have to be a follower of any particular Guru to visit an ashram in India or elsewhere.  You can go just for the experience of spending days or weeks in sacred silence and  studying yoga or meditation.  The idea of taking a trip like this to India is very appealing to me.  But since it will be years before I am able to participate in that kind of experience (probably after the girls are adults), I carve out my “India” time where I can.  I spend 20-40 minutes a day in silent meditation, I attend retreats and workshops (I even got to go to an ashram here in Florida and meet and listen to Yogi Amrit Desai), I do Yoga and chanting from time to time, read lots of spiritual books, and do my very best to notice God working in my life.

Last weekend I visited Kristin and she told me that she’d listened to Thank You and that it reminded her of me.  She played it for me.  It had been years since I’d heard the song.  I got chills listening to it.  Below are the lyrics and I’ve put in bold letters those that spoke to me the most.  To me, life is about raising your consciousness and opening up to what is real in this life (which in my opinion is God and Love).  You learn how to do this through every experience, good and bad.  That’s what I get from this song….

How about getting off of these antibiotics
How about stopping eating when I’m filled up
How about them transparent dangling carrots
How about that ever elusive kudo

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

How about me not blaming you for everything
How about me enjoying the moment for once
How about how good it feels to finally forgive you
How about grieving it all one at a time

Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

The moment I let go of it was
The moment I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it was
The moment I touched down

How about no longer being masochistic
How about remembering your divinity
How about unabashedly bawling your eyes out
How about not equating death with stopping

Thank you India
Thank you providence
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you nothingness
Thank you clarity
Thank you thank you silence