What's all this talk about awareness?


What's all this talk about awareness? Well, whether or not we are aware of our feelings, our thoughts, or our body’s felt sensations, they are affecting us in one way or another… So, perhaps we are not aware of our sadness, because we don’t want to feel sad, so instead, it manifests as a short-temper, or as a sluggish, heaviness in our body, or as a weekend-long Netflix marathon in our jammies with Ben and Jerry…  Or perhaps we have this underlying fear of rejection that is just out of our awareness, originating from when our parents got mad at us when we were children, and they ignored us for weeks on end, and as a result, we felt totally isolated and rejected, but since we’re not quite aware of that, our fear of refection manifests as an obsessive need to please, or as an anxiety about people being mad at us and an intense fear of confrontation…

Awareness is empowerment. Awareness illuminates what was just below the surface of our sight, but that was causing all kinds of varying reactions, without any understanding as to why… Awareness empowers us to respond to life, rather than react to it in an unconscious way.  Like, when we’re mad, and it’s clear to others, but when confronted about our anger, we deny it, we shove it away, “no, I’m not mad,” we say through clenched teeth and intense upper back pain, and the thing is, we may not even be aware that we are.


Awareness reminds us that we create our experience from the inside out, and that all the peace, love, security, and courage we’re seeking comes from within.  Now, at first, it might feel like an impossible task, to sit quietly, and listen to thoughts, feel feelings, tune into our bodies felt sensations… or it might feel scary to sit, perhaps we're afraid of what we’ll find when we do.  All the more reason to do it.


And the truth is, when you’re first practicing awareness, you’re going to all of a sudden, see, feel, sense things that you may not have before, but that were always there nonetheless… So, despite what you may find, when you’re sitting quietly and listening to your body, your heart, and your mind- always remember that in order to feel love, open your mind to inspiration and creativity, feel healthy and well, you might have to feel the sadness that’s been weighing you down, hear the negative self-talk that’s been making you think you can’t, or feel how sick and unhealthy you really feel in your body.  

And awareness isn’t just about uncovering negative, painful stuff, it’s also about how good and nurturing it feels to connect with that stillness, that awareness that you find within, because it’s in that space that you tap into your inner-guidance, to that wealth-spring of love and peace and joy that some wisdom traditions, and religions refer to as your soul, Spirit, God, enlightenment, cosmic consciousness, Buddha nature, Christ consciousness… It’s from this space of stillness that dreams are remembered, connections are made, pain is released, and we see ourselves in all of our humanness. If any of this strikes a chord of truth within your heart, peaks your curiosity and has you wanting to explore, then register for my online course, Awaken, Envision, Release. I help you open the door to this awareness.

Sometimes, strength is just about showing up.

Strength. I'm taking an online class to learn how to intuitively connect to the major arcana cards of the tarot, the symbols and archetypes that play out in our lives. When we arrived at card #8, Strength, after spending a few days being with and getting to know this card, I learned an invaluable lesson about strength. Sometimes, strength is simply about showing up. Showing up to yoga class, showing up on the page to write, showing up in relationship even when it feels hard. Even when we feel tired. Even when we feel weak, uninspired... Just showing up. Being present. And remembering that in time, everything does in fact pass. We are sad, we are happy, we are angry, we are stuck, and then the feelings pass... so, not to get too attached to any one particular feeling, either loving or hating it, but just allowing, noticing, staying calm, and showing up. Being present. And today, I noticed with great joy in my heart that now, nearly two years since my husband died, there are more days of happy than there are sad. There was a time when there were more sad days than happy ones, and I would worry and lament over these feelings, wishing they would just go away, being hard on myself for what felt like steps backward when I would feel sad after a few days of happy... But, the grief had to move in its own time, and what I have learned from the sad, I would not trade for the world. Learn to have gratitude for it all. Rich lessons for us to learn in all of our experiences.

Spiritual Practice; cause we forget, we must integrate, and we can always get higher...

After experiencing a state of spiritual enlightenment (that ah ha moment when you are in complete alignment with all that is, when you suddenly have a glimpse of the true meaning of life, when you are in complete present moment awareness and “see the light,” experience an awakening...), that can be induced through drugs, chanting, trauma, near-death experience, meditation, birth, a manic episode, sex, yoga, or even spontaneously...Well, then comes the part of the process where we must digest, we must integrate into our daily lives, into our relationships all that we've discovered or experienced during our enlightened state.

Thich Nhat Hanh sums this up beautifully when he says, “before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” I think he says this because after we experience a state of enlightenment, our natural inclination is to want to repeat the means in order to continuously achieve the ends, but then life still carries on as usual... So, if you had your enlightened state of mind through meditation, your natural inclination will be to want to meditate all the time to maintain that enlightened state, or if the enlightened state of mind was achieved when smoking marijuana, the natural inclination will be to want to smoke marijuana all the time to maintain that state. But, seeing as we live in the physical world, where we all have responsibilities, we cannot be meditating all day, or smoking marijuana all day, well, some of us can, but not the average person, and then even if we could, we'd end up suffering because of our attachment to it...

And so we can begin to make it a daily practice to awaken, to stay awake, as we experienced in our enlightened state, so that over time, each part of our day, each moment of our day, we can begin to fully feel alive to the true meaning and purpose of what it is we're living for (love, God, service, peace, joy, gratitude), and living fully in the present moment with all of our spiritual truths... And so this is why we maintain a spiritual practice even after we've experienced an enlightened state... because we forget, we must integrate, and we can always get higher in light, love, and awareness ;)

So, what is a spiritual practice? Exactly what is sounds like, an act you consciously choose to do that connects you to your spiritual Self, connects you to others, connects you to the Divine/Universe/God (much more on this topic of spiritual practice later).

Living life fully awake

And just when I think the day's work is done, I remember that there is still more to do, and then I remember to surrender to the work so that it becomes no better or worse, no more or less than what I'll do when I'm done with the work. Surrender to it, accept it, so it becomes a part of my meditation, a part of my spiritual practice, and then I realize this is what I have to offer others, what I have given to myself that has helped me out of the darkness. So, what has helped me? A daily spiritual practice, which happens to be writing, learning the art of being present and still through a meditation practice that has allowed me to bring this way of being into other parts of my life, being committed to seeing the spiritual in all things, circumstances, and roles, allowing emotions to move through me without judgement or resistance, the same way we birth our children, without resistance to the pain, but rather by surrendering to it, allowing it to move through us, our children, our ideas, our emotions, our thoughts, without guilt, without struggle. Finding a way of creatively expressing my emotions, leaning on friends and family that support me, lift me up, letting go of ways that no longer serve me (first becoming aware of those ways), and really allowing myself to be silently drawn to pull of what I really love -Rumi, and making that my career. Five years ago, googling spirituality and psychology and discovering a perfectly suited educational track and creating a career for myself based on how I could best serve others while utilizing all of my gifts, passions, joys, and learning how to follow my bliss, my peace, and my joy. Yes, we can all live a life fully awake, with hearts wide open to let in love and let go of pain.

Moments to start anew

Yesterday, I nearly got carried away on waves of bitterness, resentment, and in general feeling low and very sorry for myself. It is very easy to get over-identified with one particular emotion or thought, especially if it is a very potent one. Yes, yesterday by the end of the day, my back hurt from carrying around my newborn, my toddler had two accidents on the floor (very uncharacteristic of her), it was three days into a brand new routine of my toddler returning to school, and nearly marked two weeks of adjusting to caring for the girls without the help of my family, and oh yes, without the help of my husband that passed away nine months ago. Yes, I began to completely identify with my negative feelings... And then I remembered my meditation practice. I am experimenting with a chanting mantra meditation right now, and so I did that. It reminded me that I am also experiencing many other thoughts and feelings besides those that threaten to take me down a not-so-nice rabbit hole, and that helped dilute the potency of the bitterness, resentment, and victim-mentality that was starting to build. I began moving my body into yoga stretches to ease the pain of my back and hips, I washed the dishes from dinner, and then I called a friend with whom I could vent with, cry with, and then finally laugh with. Yes right now is a challenging time in my life, but is also providing me with an opportunity to grow and evolve through it. And now today is a new day, filled to the brim with moments to start anew and see the silver lining...

Meditation to open the heart and music to speak to the heart

Last night I meditated with my brother (thank you Ramsey) for the second night in a row, just a 15 minute session with a beautiful indian chant to begin, “thou and I never apart, wave of the sea, dissolves in the sea... I am a bubble, make me the sea...” The lyrics of the chant, “thou and I, never apart” played in my heart throughout both meditations and felt like a strong reminder that Mitch is always with me, and even more than a strong reminder, a felt sense of knowing that he is always with me. This was a shift in my grieving process because of the knowing, and the knowing was accompanied by a very receptive, peaceful feeling in my whole body. There have been many times throughout this grieving process where I have felt as if I was grasping around in the dark to connect with Mitch, but last night there was no grasping, just a knowing that was accompanied by a calm, peaceful feeling in my heart and spirit. I was reminded of my last night with Mitch when we were sitting in our car, and all of a sudden I was overcome by a wave of peace that I could feel in every part of my body, and all of a sudden I knew what peace truly felt like. I remember sharing that with him, and being aware in that moment of how damn lucky I was. And I always pay attention to songs that just “randomly” come into my mind, because they usually hold some kind of significance to me, either a glimpse into my unconscious, or communication from the divine... Well, the song that came into my mind last night during the meditation was a song by Mason Jennings called, Southern Cross, part of the chorus being, “have some faith...” Another reminder for me to keep my faith strong. It's amazing the difference just 15 minutes can make....


Part 2: Simple techniques for creating a meditation practice of your own

So, how can you go about creating a meditation practice of your own? First, find a time of the day when you can be distraction-free, perhaps that is early in the morning before the family is awake, or in the evening (my personal choice) when all are asleep. Once you choose your time, “unplug” from the world, even if you choose to meditate for just five minutes, create a calming space in which to practice. Create a space that is as distraction-free and clutter-free as possible, and as calming as possible, dim-lighting or natural lighting, incense (if you like), and sacred objects (Jesus, Buddha, vase of flowers, photos of passed loved ones, crystals, and again, only if that feels “right” for you). Next, sit upright, back straight, cross-legged, palms facing up gently resting on the thighs, or you can choose to lay down (only if you won't fall asleep), or sit on a chair, with feet on the ground, back straight, palms facing up gently resting on the thighs. Gently close your eyes and breathe, deep, cleansing breaths, could be in through the nose, out through the nose, or in through the nose, out through the mouth, whatever feels right for you. A few techniques you can try to help you step outside the stream of thoughts and feelings that will distract you from simply sitting in your space are as follows:

~Simply focusing on each in-breath and each out-breath, and when your mind becomes distracted by a thought or feeling, imagine it floating on by, in the sky that is your mind, and gently bring your focus of awareness back to your breath.

~Silently or not so silently repeat a mantra, which can be a phrase or word that brings you a sense of peace and interconnectedness, for example: let go, simply trust, faith, love, peace, let go let God, om, grace, etc. the choices are endless, but choose something that is short and sweet and that brings you a feeling or sensation of calm, peace, or love.

~Pray, talk to God, offer gratitude, prayers for others, prayers for yourself.

~Visualizations: visualize thoughts and feelings as passing weather in the expansive and open sky that is your mind. Be at peace with the clouds, the rainbows, the storms, the tornadoes... Simply observe them passing by... Or put your attention on your heart center and visualize your heart opening like a flower, expanding with love and light. The love and light permeates each cell of your body, expands to loved ones, to the world...

~Body scan: start with the tips of your toes, feeling into whatever sensations or tensions you experience, noticing, sending your breath into those spaces to get the energy moving, consciously relaxing or simply bringing awareness to each part of your body as you move from your toes to the crown of your head.

~Sit in the company of a plant, the ocean, a stream, a tree, or even a rock, observe with your eyes, your touch, your smell, offer gratitude and admiration, contemplate its existence, and then simply sit with it, with awareness. You will be surprised at the wisdom you will receive from this simple interaction.

~Try keeping a journal to jot down thoughts, feelings, images, or sensations you experienced during your meditation practice to help you cultivate the "witness" mind to your experience, in order to help you bring more awareness into your experience throughout your day.

As you become more comfortable dropping into your meditative space (peace, awareness, intuition), and it will take time and practice, you will find that you are able to “meditate” throughout your day while engaging in the normal day-to-day activities. And meditation can be found in any activity in which you “lose yourself” in the joy of what is your doing, ie., art, dancing, swimming, singing, yoga, surfing, knitting, cooking, walking...Your life has the potential to become one continuous and rich spiritual practice!

Part 1: Why Meditate?

There's a lot of hype around meditation these days... So, what's it all about? What's the point? In short the point of meditation is to find your sense of inner-peace, inner-calm, inner-quiet, inner-guidance, your sense of awareness so that you are not taken on the whirlwind of thoughts that you have a mile per minute, and so that you can find your “I”ness amidst all the “noise” around you, ie. the voices of others, demands, and distractions of everyone else and everything else. Meditation helps us step inside our inner-observer of all of the thoughts, feelings, and “life,” so that we can respond to life rather than react, so that we can feel peace rather than stress, feel connected to the greater meaning of life beyond the demands of everyday life that can seem all-consuming. Meditation can help us to feel more present, more mindful in our everyday lives. We create a little bit of time to meditate, and suddenly we feel as if we have more time in the day because our “time” is not being hijacked by every thought, feeling, distraction, or demand that presents itself to us, we can really “be here now.” People meditate for many reasons, many that I have already mentioned, but to mention a few more, people meditate to feel more connected to God, to loved ones that have passed, to create awareness around thoughts, feelings, and “self-talk,” or to quite simply enjoy a greater sense of well-being and joy.Part 2 to come: Simple techniques for starting a meditation practice of your own...

More life after life: Spiritual and physical worlds interconnected

 I have been practicing meditation for the past four years, but began practicing with a clear, strong intention six months ago, which was to connect with my deceased husband. I realized that this was a possibility when days after my husband's passing, he communicated to my brother and to his mother. I began practicing with a fervor within the structure of a group through the Self Realization Fellowship. I somehow felt safer opening myself to connecting with my husband within a group setting, as I had never attempted to or had ever experienced any type of communication or connection with someone who had passed away, and while I was desperate for it, I was also a little afraid (I'd been exposed to all of the scary “ghost” stories most of us have been exposed to). Within months of intensive two hour meditations, and many subtle and sometimes obvious signs that Mitch was sending me, I heard his voice calling my name during one of my meditations, and then he began communicating to me through my own thoughts, which I have come to understand now as 'channeling.' I was ecstatic to have my questions answered and to feel so close to him. And so for the past several months I have been learning that he will not always communicate to me in such obvious ways, and that when I ask, sometimes consciously or unconsciously, he will always show me that his presence is with me in one way or another, just as he will show anyone who is close to him who asks. I find that when I clear my mind of my own thoughts and tap into the quiet space of my soul through meditation, I can fully open to feeling inner-peace and pure well-being, and am more open to feeling connected to his spirit through felt sensations, thoughts, or feelings. Through my explorations, I am beginning to understand that the physical and spiritual worlds are much more connected than I ever could have imagined. A great quote I heard from the collective consciousness called Abraham speaks to this, “there is not death, just more life after life.”