When two or more people get together, their thoughts are stepping stones to the consciousness they share. When we think, there are two components. First, there is the thought. Second is the consciousness that listens to that thought. Most people just focus on thoughts, but in a collective consciousness, they share the consciousness that listens to those thoughts. They don’t always have to agree, for their bond is strong enough that the disagreements don’t break up their shared consciousness.
What would you think if I told you that stress — that tension creating aching in your shoulders, shallow breathing, headaches, stomach aches, irritability and anxiety — also holds the key to your personal growth, healing, and evolution?
When I was a teenager, I was (and still am) a passionate feminist. Back then, my views were very black and white. No one could bring up differences in the sexes around me without provoking a rant. Equality meant men and women were the same in everything of import. Then, when I entered college and at the same time got involved with martial arts, predictably everything got more complex.
Did you know that trying to overcome your emotions is a bit like taking down your mailbox so you don’t receive bills in the mail? Just as receiving an electric bill and responding to it keeps energy running in our homes, feeling and responding to our emotions keeps our own energy in flow. If we can see our emotions as messengers, like Karla McClaren recommends in her book Language of Emotions, then we can stop judging them and work with the messages they bring.
The playful flow of my emotions paused abruptly. The cereal-filled spoon, poised in my hand, seemed to stop of its own volition. I suddenly felt my inner antenna tune to a deeper part of my consciousness. As the words reached my ears from “Don’t Worry Baby,” from the Beach Boys, a subtle vibration filled every cell of my body.
When I came out of the tent he was carefully pouring steamy water over a sock draped over a camp cup. The sock had coffee grounds nested in it and the water was slowly steeping and draining through the sock where it was collected on the other side.
Perfect practice isn’t the idea that you should create something without error. It’s the idea that, while the finished product may not be exactly what you had in mind, having the right skill set as you practice allows you to learn.
Springs feel to me like Saturdays, where you can really relax, go with the flow, and procrastinate with zero guilt, since they are followed by Sundays. Summers are the best, but there is a lurking awareness of transience that can put a damper on things. Even though falls in Michigan are rapidly becoming another favorite of mine, they are followed by winters, which require serious preparation for psychic survival.
Tradition has it that pilgrims leave behind the comforts and security of their everyday lives to embark on a journey of the spirit. When I first walked the Camino francés in 2002, accommodations were basic, communications limited, and pilgrims who couldn’t strip down to the bare essentials had no choice but to labor under a heavy pack — or quit. This past summer, I discovered that things are changing fast, and these changes make it possible to enjoy the creature comforts of a fine vacation while on the pilgrimage trail.
Making mistakes doesn't make us a bad person.
Running from our mistakes doesn't make us one either.
One Friday afternoon, I hear a story that ends with a tongue falling in love with a river. Another Friday, I learn reasons the moon doesn’t want you; then, a girl rides the bus into a world her family doesn’t think exists. Dragons can be wiped out by genetically engineered diseases. It turns out that there are words for love derived from cooking, spacecraft, and trees.
As I’ve mentioned, I like to wonder. So I wonder about why we find ourselves so depressed, so anxious, and so overwhelmed by life. Why, in recent times, has the US rate of drug and alcohol use outstripped other developed countries, despite our War on Drugs policies? What factors are associated with the 61 percent increase in prescription drug use during the past decade, resulting in sales of 3.4 billion annually? So, grab a cup of tea and consider how this complex public health problem came to be and what we might do to make it different — if we’re willing to take a long view and broader perspective.
Many authors have written on the subject of what our relationships with food reveal about our relationships with others: Do we diet compulsively because food is the one small part of our lives over which we can exert total control when everything else seems to be spinning out of control? Do we binge on forbidden foods because we are playing out a desire to “be bad” when we spend our lives being responsible? Etc.
My nature is to wonder. About things, phenomenon, and people. I come from a long line of teachers who taught me well about the importance of reflection. From a young age, I was intensely curious about how what is happening now is a reflection of the big picture. Whether it’s by communing with others in deep conversation, a vigorous work out, playing with children, doing yoga, taking a walk in the forest, dancing, chanting, singing, reading or writing, playing with color in fabric, fiber or paint, I have long known that we encourage the presence of our best selves when we purposefully stop the whir of life regularly. I’ve listed some of my favorites, but there really are endless ways to open our hearts and mind to experience.
Being open is one of the best habits we can develop to start off the new year. The idea of being open often refers to being able to accept new ideas. But, to me, it means being able to accept a new state of consciousness. One way to practice this is by paying attention to the most basic activity that sustains us everyday — the breath. You can profoundly affect the quality of your life by noticing the breath, and simply changing where your 'in-breath' lands.
In my interactions with students and seekers, I have found that people often don’t realize when intuition is knocking on their door. They expect awareness to come as a bolt of lightning, when in actuality, it most often comes as a whisper!
Putting a positive spin on winter in Michigan is a bit of a hard sell. Our winters can be bleak, what with the gray skies and long nights. And I've got the audacity to suggest that you greet winter by slowing down and engaging in solitary reflection—at what is arguably the busiest time of the year. What was I thinking?
One of the biggest changes on the Camino in the 13 years between my first journey and the one this past summer is an increased danger to women pilgrims, and not just the young ones. Even on that first trip, I heard reports about women being harassed by men who would expose themselves or urinate in public. But they were few and far between, and none resulted in any physical injuries.
In my recent interview about Nonviolent Communication, I shared the importance of empathy as a key factor in effective Nonviolent Communication (NVC). It makes sense: if we want to create connection between ourselves and others with whom we have conflict or disagreement, or deepen our connection with family and friends, understanding their experience and view of the world is imperative, yet often deeply challenging.
Can we repeat meaningful experiences? Is it possible to recapture strong emotions? And should we even try? These questions came up for me when I thought about returning to the Camino de Santiago this past summer to celebrate my seventieth birthday. What better way to mark a milestone birthday than to return to a place that has been central to my life in so many ways?