Category Archives: Practice

Taking Refuge

my meditation shrine

my meditation shrine

The first time I attempted meditation was almost 20 years ago. I was reading Jack Kornfield’s A Path with Heart and books on writing by Zen Buddhist Natalie Goldberg. I was fascinated by the philosophy, the perspective, the practice, and willing to try anything that might help me cope with the difficulty of my life, my emotions and my mind. Even though I found it beneficial, sat regularly for a short time with a Zen meditation group and on my own, the practice didn’t stick. I didn’t even finish reading Kornfield’s book.

I continued to struggle for eleven more years before finding my way back to a cushion. A friend recommended Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart and mentioned that the local Shambhala Meditation Center had a program coming up I might be interested in, “The Art of Being Human.” I read the book and went to the training, and started to practice in earnest. For two years, one weekend a month I was either attending a retreat or staffing one. I read and studied and practiced. This was the same time I started to practice yoga regularly. Things were falling into place.

And then everything fell apart. I had already been dealing with a difficult work situation, was stressed and in crisis, when my Obi was diagnosed with a treatable but ultimately incurable cancer. At the same time, my friend Kelly was diagnosed with cancer. That summer I went to Shambhala Mountain Center to participate in a longer retreat, Warrior Assembly, the culmination of the two years of training I’d been doing. Not long after I returned home, Obi died. Six months later, Kelly died. Even though I didn’t leave CSU entirely, I effectively quit the job that was so problematic.

Meditation Hall at Warrior Assembly, Shambhala Mountain Center, Summer of 2009

Meditation Hall at Warrior Assembly, Shambhala Mountain Center, Summer of 2009

I was completely heartbroken, utterly lost, so confused. After two years of regular practice, I couldn’t do it anymore. Every time I sat on my cushion to meditate, I fell part, felt so raw, came unhinged and couldn’t stop crying. I was angry — if this practice couldn’t help me feel better when the worst happened, what good was it? I smile to remember it now, that way of thinking about what practice was supposed to do for me. What I understand now that I didn’t then is that my raw and tender broken heart, being able to feel that, experience it, sit and stay with it is exactly the point, not making it “go away” or fixing it like I thought.

Practice starts precisely where we find ourselves, which for many of us is a place of heartbreak, suffering, alienation and doubt. But it is precisely there, within those circumstances, that we start. ~Ryushin Sensei

For at least a year, I tried to find my way back to my cushion. I would practice in fits and starts, but it never seemed to stick. I continued to practice yoga and slowly started to write more regularly. I started taking ecourses and began this blog. I started building a routine, finding a rhythm. And then I found Susan Piver and her Open Heart Project, (OHP). I signed up for her newsletter and started meditating with her. Her wisdom, kindness, and friendship, along with the OHP community, helped me find my way back.

meditating with Susan

The great gift of a spiritual path is coming to trust that you can find a way to true refuge. You realize that you can start right where you are, in the midst of your life, and find peace in any circumstance. Even at those moments when the ground shakes terribly beneath you — when there’s a loss that will alter your life forever — you can still trust that you will find your way home. This is possible because you’ve touched the timeless love and awareness that are intrinsic to who you are. ~Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

For the past few years, I’ve been thinking about taking refuge vows. I’ve been telling people for so long “I study and practice Buddhism, but I’m not actually a Buddhist, haven’t taken vows or anything,” that I wondered if I ever would. But I’ve been feeling a longing, a growing awareness — this is my path, I’m committed to it. Like I told a teacher once, “if this doesn’t work, nothing does.” For whatever reason, this is just what makes sense to me. It helps me to live my life, to be in the world, to cultivate kindness and wisdom, sanity. And yet, I have been waiting, for either an opportunity that was close to home or one Susan Piver could attend, because it felt important to me to have her there somehow, since she’s the primary reason I’d be there.

Then I got certified to teach yoga. We studied yogic philosophy as part of our training, meditated, did mantra and kirtan practice, learned various breath practices and the sanskrit names for the yoga poses, read the yoga sutras — and I loved it all, saw so many similarities between it and my tradition, but also became very aware that it wasn’t my path. Yoga is one of my practices, and part of my path as such, but I’m not so much a yogini as I am a Buddhist who does yoga.

Becoming a yoga teacher made it clear it was time to make a true commitment to my path. I searched to see where I might go to take my vows, and saw that the Boulder Shambhala Center was offering the ceremony two days before my birthday. Susan couldn’t be there, but she did write my letter of recommendation. The teacher who would be performing the ceremony had taught at my Warrior Assembly, and when I arrived the night we went to make our official request to make the vow, a friend was leading our meditation session. It was time.

boulderrigden

Boulder Shambhala Meditation Center Main Shrine Room

I asked Susan her advice about taking vows in the weeks leading up to the ceremony, and she said, “Relax. Watch your mind. Enjoy. Relax. Repeat … And remember, you have nothing to prove. This ceremony is to mark something that has already happened.” I tried to remember this as I waited for my interview with Acharya Ferguson (“Acharya” in this tradition basically means “senior teacher”), and even though he’s the kindest person and I’d met him before, I was still nervous. The purpose of the interview is to make a formal request to take the vow and for the teacher to come up with the dharma name you’d be given the day of the ceremony. We were told that he might ask us questions, but might not. The person who went in just before me was talking and laughing with him, and I wasn’t sure what to wish for — if he didn’t ask me any questions, was that good or bad? Part of me wanted him to see me and for my presence to be so vibrant, my true self so clearly embodied and present that he would know just by seeing me. I think I was also afraid if I opened my mouth, I might say something weird because I was anxious and end up with an odd name that didn’t fit, didn’t make sense to me.

In Tibet, children are given a nickname when they are born. This is what everyone calls them until they are old enough to take their refuge vows and receive their adult, Buddhist name. In that culture, everyone given a name uses it. In the West, many dharma students don’t actually change their name, but rather use it as a contemplation. We were told that the name isn’t meant as a compliment or a challenge, but rather something to consider as we practice, intended to offer insight, and that it was entirely up to us whether we wanted to officially change our name, use it in that way. I felt sure my name would be a message, that it would provide me a new understanding of my path. And during my meeting with Acharya Ferguson that night, he did ask me a few questions, and I could see the exact moment he knew the name he’d offer me.

heartgiftOn the day of the ceremony, I focused on Susan’s advice. I relaxed and enjoyed myself. Acharya Ferguson gave a talk in the morning about what it meant to take refuge, and then we did sitting and walking meditation until lunch, contemplating what we were about to do. After a break to eat, we came back and had a rehearsal and then the ceremony itself.

In the Buddhist tradition, the purpose of taking refuge is to awaken from confusion and associate oneself with wakefulness. Taking refuge is a matter of commitment and acceptance and, at the same time, of openness and freedom. By taking the refuge vow we commit ourselves to freedom. ~Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

The ceremony itself was a funny combination of something like a baptism and a wedding, along with something else entirely. After you take the vow, reciting it three times after performing prostrations, the teacher (referred to in this case as a preceptor) snaps his fingers, and it’s at that moment the vow is made. My favorite moment was that finger snap. It was so simple and yet so definite. My next favorite moment was receiving my dharma name.

As I stood in line, listening to all the other names, I wondered if mine would be so good. Every person’s name seemed so rich, so full of beauty and possibility and wisdom. Every name that was read, I thought “oh, I wish that was mine!” I worried I’d get something that would be awkward or confusing. I’d talked to other people about their names, and listening to them describe their lingering confusion, I anticipated my own.

dharmanameI didn’t need to worry. There’s a rightness to the name I was given. I will continue to contemplate it, but my first thought was an appreciation of the way it married the concept of vastness, openness, emptiness with embodiment, movement, physical expression. I used to long to be a visionary, an oracle, a seer, a prophet of some sort, but I’m understanding more and more than my purpose is to be a container, an embodiment of wisdom and compassion.

You go through this ceremony which is like part baptism and part wedding and you expect to be born again somehow, cleansed or something, a new beginning, but really I’m just back in the heat of my own stew, laughing at how silly I was to think anything was going to be magically changed by it. I have to do the work, show up and practice, it’s up to me and that’s never going to change. This is my path, for sure and for real.

The biggest illusion about a path of refuge is that we are on our way somewhere else, on our way to becoming a different kind of person. But ultimately, our refuge is not outside ourselves, not somewhere in the future – it is always and already here. ~Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

The Shit is a Metaphor

goldenraintreecolor02I find myself constantly amazed by the color this time of year, how everything is lit up, the way some of the leaves are so bright on some plants that they look like they must be plugged in, electrified. I’m also gripped by a tender sadness as our garden gets too cold and stops producing, as things begin to die off, as the trees drop their leaves and stand naked, gray and bare.

It’s necessary, this cycling between blooming and resting, this transition from awake to asleep, from life to death. It’s the way things are, the way this works. We can resist it or try to deny it, but that only leads to more suffering.

I was watching myself this morning on our walk, noticing how I deal with obstacles. I work so hard in my practice to allow things to arise as they are, to be present with reality but without judgment or agenda, to show up with an open heart, to maintain my sense of curiosity and humor, to be patient and kind. I work at it, but so often I fail. I get triggered, hooked, irritated, upset. I act out.

that's not dirt, that's shit

that’s not dirt, that’s shit

This morning, there was horse poop about every 20 feet on at least three of the miles of trail we walked. With a puppy who doesn’t have a very good “leave it” yet when it comes to something so appealing, that means I spent an awful lot of my time trying to keep him out of it and it out of him, either by having to pull him away from it or reach into his mouth after it.

So I spent a lot of our walk this morning covered in shit. It was on my hands, the leash, and my pants. I wanted to just accept it for what it was, no judgement, but I confess after a bit, I was frustrated and looking for someone to blame. I was mad at everyone: the horses, their owners, my dog, myself. All we were trying to do was have a nice walk, to enjoy the cool air and beautiful colors and quiet and time together, and instead our path was littered with shit.

There was so much of it that at a certain point it was comical. When we came up the hill and saw the bridge we needed to cross was covered in it, all I could do was laugh. In that moment, I felt myself soften, shifting from wanting to bag up all the shit and dump it in the living room of the first horse owner I could find to feeling a genuine sense of kindness towards all of us, how hard we try and how messy and challenging the whole thing is. We cling so tightly to our sense of security and comfort that we can completely forget to look up, to see how the sky is lit up, that the leaves are glowing, to know that it is fleeting, all of it, and we must pay attention because soon it will be gone.

Life Rehab Resource: Practice, Part Three

liferehabresourcesAfter writing the first two posts about practice, I started thinking about what practice actually means to me. What is it? Here’s what I came up with, in no particular order.

  • Regular, ongoing, routine. Working with the same thing repeatedly over time, coming back to it again and again. Compulsory, something you show up for no matter what. I’ve heard it described as digging a well — you don’t dig for a bit in one area and then move to another spot of ground and start to dig again, but rather you keep digging in the same spot until you hit water.
  • Without agenda. Cultivating an attitude of nonjudgement and nonattachement, you drop criticism and striving. You stop comparison with other or self — past, present, or future. Let go of both fear and hope. Show up with an attitude of open curiosity, without evaluation, dropping any story you have about what’s occurring.
  • “Only don’t know.” Have a beginner’s mind, again that sense of open curiosity, like a wobbly, awkward toddler learning to walk. As Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki said, “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind, there are few.”
  • Skillful means. The intention to learn, to transform, to develop mastery and wisdom.
  • Mindfulness of the present moment. Connection to and curiosity of your immediate experience. Your mind and body in the same place, at the same time.
  • Done from love, in pursuit of joy. In Austin Kleon’s new book, Show Your Work, he defines being an amateur, a state we cultivate in practice, this way, “the enthusiast who pursues her work in the spirit of love…regardless of the potential for fame, money or career.”
  • “Not too loose, not too tight.” Learning to continually balance your effort with ease. “Wobble turns to sway and sway turns to balance. Never get too comfortable, relax where you are.” Pema Chödrön describes it this way,

    My middle way and your middle way are not the same middle way. For instance, my style is to be casual and soft-edged and laid-back. For me to do what usually would be called a strict practice is still pretty relaxed, because I do it in a relaxed way. So strict practice is good for me. But perhaps you are much more militant and precise. Maybe you tend toward being tight, so you might need to find out what it means to practice in a relaxed, loose way. Everyone practices in order to find out for him- or herself personally how to be balanced, how to be not too tight and not too loose. No one else can tell you. You just have to find out for yourself.

  • Making friends with yourself. Spending time with, being gentle and present, observing without judgement, showing up no matter what. My friend and meditation instructor Susan Piver describes it, in the context of meditation, this way,

    I encourage you to relax self-judgment, especially when it comes to your meditation practice. Our practice, rather than trying to get meditation “right,” is about relaxing with ourselves just as we are. Instead of critiquing our every move, we extend the hand of friendship. This, it turns out, is the way to find our innate, pre-existing wisdom which is always there.

  • Obstacles are path, are practice. They aren’t simply something to be removed. “What stands in the way becomes the way,” (Marcus Aurelius). What arises is what you work with.
  • Post practice is also practice. What you learn, what you are working with, who you are follows you off the cushion, mat, page, leash. Eventually you realize it’s all practice.
  • All dharma (truth), all practice instruction can be distilled into one word, a single concept: relax. Soften, be gentle, slow down. Go ahead and try to stump this one, disprove it — so far, I’ve failed.
  • Keep your heart open, no matter what. Beautiful or brutal, tender or terrible.
  • Practice is clearing a space, experiencing spaciousness and clarity.
  • Transforming habitual patterns and discursive thinking, changing or removing that which no longer serves.
  • Preparing for death. Cultivating an awareness of impermanence, peace with this state, practicing nonattachment, letting go, surrender.
  • Seeing reality naked, stripped of it’s storyline, of our agenda.
  • Cultivating confidence and courage. As Susan Piver defines it, “Confidence is the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.”
  • Surrender. Giving up perceived control and habitual resistance, awareness and acceptance of “this is what is, now.”
  • Being in relationship. With ourselves, with our suffering and that of others, with our shared experience, with reality, with basic goodness — fundamental wisdom and compassion.
  • Showing up is essential. Stop waiting for something to happen and just happen. Take your seat. Begin. Let go and begin again. Start over. Take the “half step that will change your life.” According to Susan Piver, the number of fresh starts available to you is infinite.
  • What you practice is your choice, specific to you. For me it’s yoga, meditation, writing, and dog. For others it’s running or ikebana or parenting. As long as it embodies the qualities of practice, it is practice.

Do you see, kind and gentle reader, why I said I could write a whole book about practice? ♥

Life Rehab Resource: Practice, Part Two

liferehabresourcesRemember how I said last week I could write a whole book about practice? How the post I wrote then couldn’t possibly say everything there was to say about it? I hadn’t planned a Life Rehab Resource post for today, but when I started writing and one accidentally fell out, it was about practice. So here we are, Part Two.

I just did my first yoga series out of a Yoga Journal. On one of our morning walks this past summer, we went by a house for sale that had a full box of about ten years worth of Yoga Journal magazine sitting out front on the sidewalk. I passed it up at first, tried to convince myself I didn’t need them, was in the process of decluttering, but ended up going back for them.

Now that I’m training to be certified as a yoga instructor, I decided to go back through the old issues and do some of the series, see if there was anything I wanted to “steal.” I’m going to try and do one new series a day, supplement my own practice. I’m not making it out of the house to as many classes, so need to do more on my own at home anyway, start building my own vinyasas (a series of poses).

When choosing a Yoga Journal this morning, I went with the earliest November issue I had that included a series, since that’s my birthday month. Oddly, even though the oldest issue I have is from 2003, there wasn’t a November issue with a vinyasa until 2008 — my last birthday before everything shifted. By February 2009, just a few months later, both Kelly and Obi would be diagnosed with cancer. I had been practicing yoga for a few years by then, using a mat Obi had chewed a tiny hole in when he was just a baby.

Yoga FeetJust like writing and meditation, the practice of yoga came to me in fits and starts. It was years after my first attempts that yoga became a regular thing for me. As with those two other practices, when it finally stuck it felt essential, like I’d die if I didn’t do it. And when I say “I’d die,” that’s not just an exaggerated way of saying how important it was, it’s the truth. Writing, yoga, meditation, and dog, practice, saved my life.

And just like with writing and meditation, the benefit compelled me to want to share, to teach the practice to others. This is where I find myself now, training to be certified as a yoga instructor, going through old Yoga Journals looking for ideas.

The series today was “Invite Quiet.” It suggested that November was a season for turning inward, just like nature does, and that this series of forward bends could help cultivate quiet.

Forward bends are, by their nature, introspective and meditative…Forward bends are calming to the nerves, soothing, and grounding. These poses teach us yoga is as much about surrender as effort, if not more so. ~Yoga Journal

This, I would suggest, is true of practice in general, of life, that it’s “as much about surrender as effort.”

A willingness to surrender is your greatest ally in forward bends [as in practice and in life], helping to quiet the mind and release stiffness…In the spirit of introspection, be more curious about the process than the destination. ~Yoga Journal

As I invited quiet in this practice this morning, other things came:

  • the sound of the wind
  • the climbing rose bush that needs trimmed back scraping against the front window
  • the occasional dog bark and car engine
  • the call of geese
  • the hum of the heater
  • the tick of the clock
  • the occasional shift, sigh or snore from the boys, all three of whom were napping
  • the memory of what the vet said this morning, that a clean MRI for Sam would be good news since “it might be a tumor”

There’s no place anymore that’s truly quiet, free of all sound. At the very least, there is always the sound of our breath, of our own heartbeat. Where there is life, there is noise. And yet, through practice there seems to be the opportunity to cultivate calm and space, to slow down and be still — which can feel a lot like quiet.

Life Rehab Resource: Practice

liferehabresourcesDisclaimer: I could write a whole book (and am) about practice, so to imply I’m going to be able to say everything there is to say, or even only the very most important things there are to share about practice in a single blog post is just silly. And yet, this is the life rehab resource that wants to be shared today.

I started thinking about it when I was writing my morning pages. This is a practice I first learned by way of Julia Cameron, who describes it this way,

Morning pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages* – they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind – and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.

She even made a video about the practice.

As I was writing my morning pages today, I was thinking about how they are a life rehab resource I’ve been able to maintain no matter what else is going on in my life. There are lots of other things on my to-do and to-be lists right now that I’d love to be doing but had to give up, temporarily. For example there are stacks of books I want to read, a list of movies I’d like to watch, Nia and yoga classes I’d like to attend, letters I want to send, courses I’d like to design, two books and various essays I want to write, but for now there just isn’t time. But morning pages, those get done every day no matter what. For me, they are like warming up before exercising. It’s the thing I need to do to be ready to write the stuff I plan to share.

Just as Julia describes it, much of what I write as part of my morning pages is garbage — whining and complaining, rants, confessions, anxiety, speculation, disillusion and confusion, lists, “and then he said” nonsense. A record of confusion. It gets it all out of the way, clears a path, makes space for the truth, what needs to be said, wants to be shared — the lotus that pushes its way out of the muck.

morningpages

there is a tattoo of a lotus on the inside of my right wrist to remind me of exactly this

In writing out all the crap I can see how silly it is, how ridiculous I am. It’s the same when you watch your thoughts and emotions arise in meditation, where the instruction is to observe them arise and let them go without getting attached. I realize through sitting practice how much of my life is spent in reaction to my thoughts and emotions, getting triggered and hooked. Someone says something, judgement kicks in, and off I go. A thought arises and I run after it, trying to catch and hold it, turn it into something solid.

A fundamental quality of all practice is the cultivation of observation without attachment. Practice helps me to see the ways I habitually react, sometimes allowing me to interrupt myself and rest in the gap between thoughts/emotions and action. Through practice I contemplate how my habitual patterns and discursive thinking are no longer serving me. In this way, practice helps me to ease suffering. Over time I start to realize how blindly driven I’ve been by my thoughts and emotions, see how empty they actually are, and start to relax, consider other options, access a deeper wisdom and compassion, and employ more skillful means.

For example, on the yoga mat, I observe how in a pose I might criticize myself for not doing it “right.” Maybe I compare myself to the person on the mat next to me who seems to be doing it “better,” or I judge myself against a “perfect expression” of the pose. The thought arises that I’m doing it wrong and I begin to criticize myself. Shame quickly follows and soon I am smashing myself to bits, not really practicing yoga at all. In a final act of aggression, I force my body further into the pose, causing discomfort or pain, possibly even injuring myself.

sundaymorningyogaThe longer I practice, the more I am able to interrupt this pattern. I notice the thought or emotion arise. I pause and am curious about it instead of immediately acting on it. I consider what might be triggering it, notice how it feels in my body, all while trying my best to not start telling myself a story about it. Staying with this, I might understand that my body is unique (in the case of the yoga pose “gone wrong”), and at this particular time this is what is. Maybe my quads are especially tender after lifting weights or doing a lot of walking earlier in the week, or maybe I didn’t get enough sleep the night before and I have less energy. I recognize that the compassionate thing to do in this moment is a slight modification of the pose to maintain alignment and accommodate my body’s current state. My self talk shifts to love for my body, appreciation that I showed up to practice, gratitude that I’m paying attention and working with my body in this way, listening and trusting, being gentle.

Suddenly there is space, ease where before there was struggle. As in yoga, it’s best when writing morning pages — with all practice, actually — to not force or attempt to control, but rather show up with an open heart, be curious about what is, and in this way sink into and allow the truth of the moment.

Life Rehab Resources: Divination

liferehabresourcesI confess, when I realized this morning that it was Saturday, and that meant I needed to write one of these posts, I thought “oh crap.” Last week, I was sure I knew what I was going to tell you about today, but this morning it no longer seemed like the right thing, even though I was going to make myself write about it anyway if nothing else came up. Then when I was shuffling my tarot cards this morning, it came to me: divination.

Divination, from the Latin divanare, which is “to foresee, to be inspired by a god,” related to divinus, divine, is “the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of a standardized process or ritual, a systematic method with which to organize what appear to be disjointed, random facets of existence such that they provide insight into a problem at hand.” It’s a way of making sense, uncovering wisdom, accessing insight, developing intuition, seeing meaning, finding patterns, knowing. It is an invitation to the Universe, the Divine, Light, Love, God, whatever you call it, a way of saying “help me out, give me a sign, show me the way.” It is part prayer, part practice, magic and medicine.

I love all kinds of divination practice — picking a random line from a sacred text, tarot readings, throwing I-Ching coins, Hiro Boga’s Deva Cards, Q-Cards, or any such oracle through which the Universe might send me a message. Opening a book to a random page and reading a line of poetry with the expectation that there’s a message for me, taking a walk and asking for a truth to be revealed — it’s a choice to trust in something bigger, to believe I am connected, can communicate with a deep and eternal wisdom.

I know there are those who consider it a dark art, of the devil, and it probably can be if that’s your intention, but I believe it’s a way of communicating directly with God (whatever name you use for this wise and compassionate energy). It’s like prayer, opening my heart and listening deeply for answers to my questions, a way of requesting guidance.

As I’ve said before when I’ve talked about this, go ahead and think I’m weird, but I believe it’s just one more way to get clear about where I am and what I should be focusing on. I think this is one of the ways the Universe sends me messages, because I open my heart and ask, and even if it’s just a message from my unconscious or random chance that doesn’t really mean anything, I find it a useful tool for gaining some insight on my current situation, whatever that happens to be.

Divination is something I practice every day, in one form or another. Some of my favorite practices, resources and tools are:

  • The Wild Unknown Tarot Deck. It took me 20 years to get another tarot deck, after losing my first. People I love and respect use this one, and there was just something about it that spoke to me — the dark hand drawn lines, the bright colors, the story of the artist, a business “founded on the belief that there is a place of wonder, gentle beauty, and clarity within each of us.” I’ve been working with this deck daily for about three months. Sometimes it’s frustrating, because it will keep giving me cards I don’t want, messages I’d rather not hear. Other times, it keeps giving me the same card, over and over, and it’s a little freaky to be honest. Then there are times where the card it offers me is exactly the grace I needed.

wildunknowneightofswords

  • Hiro Boga’s Deva Cards. In this practice, you get clear about your intention and pull a card. The resulting card is your Deva. Hiro describes Devas this way:

Every creation on Earth that serves an evolutionary purpose has a spiritual counterpart in the subtle energy realms. This counterpart is a being who holds the pattern or blueprint for the perfect unfolding of the life in its care. I call these pattern-holders Devas…a Sanskrit word that means Shining Ones…As you get to know them and deepen your relationship with them, you can choose to partner with them consciously, to create your life, your business, and the world in which you want to live…Because you are an incarnate soul, all of these soul qualities are already within you, as seeds or potentials. Some of these qualities may be well-developed and readily accessible to you. Others may need to be strengthened and cultivated, for you to experience and express them more fully.

  • Qcards. They don’t make this deck anymore, which is a like a light-hearted tarot deck, but you can still find the online version, where you can pick three cards that describe where you are now or your “longterm” forecast, or you can ask a question. I like these because they are sort of silly, have a sense of humor, but are not devoid of insight.
  • I Ching. I have my own set of coins and three books I use to help me interpret them: a copy of I Ching: The Chinese Book of Changes by Clae Waltham that was printed in 1969, The Buddhist I Ching by Chih-hsu Ou-i and translated by Thomas Cleary, and The Photographic I Ching, which is my favorite of the three.

I’ve pulled cards for myself, but never had someone else read for me. Rachael’s radiant, gentle presence in the world made me trust her to do so. Our reading began with her warm welcome, calm and comforting, opening a space that hummed with possibility and intention. She showed up, was wholly present for the process, allowing whatever might arise, a kind guardian of what came, never getting in its way. As she interpreted the wisdom of the cards, Rachael made the most compassionate offering, shining a light on obstacles and opportunities alike, leaving me with a sense of clarity and peacefulness that has stayed with me. I felt encouraged and empowered by the new insights, and am grateful for the ease and joy Rachael brought to the experience.

reading

  • The creative process, practice, is a kind of divination for me — showing up, being open to whatever arises. It also assumes a connection to divinity, embodies the intention to do sacred work, to be a blessing.

The thing I most want to tell you about divination is don’t do it if it doesn’t feel right to you, if you don’t find it helpful or have trouble trusting it, (actually, I’d tell you that about just about anything). However, if you do feel the pull, keep looking until you find the right form for you, the best fit. These are my favorites, but there are so many others, and something else might work better for you.

Something Good

1. Man’s amazing reunion with the sweet Boxer dog he rescued off the streets on Dog Heirs.

2. the art of the deep yes (my TedxOlympicBlvdWomen talk) from Justine Musk.

3. Good stuff from Brene’ Brown: This Gives New Meaning to Bear Hug! An RSA Short Animated by Katy Davis and We’re doing it again! More courage and more art journaling eCourses!

4. 2013 Annual Review: Introduction and Invitation on The Art of Non-Conformity.

5. My fellow teachers: Are you transmitting wisdom or are you explaining it? from Susan Piver.

6. How to See if Your Images are Being Used on Other Websites.

7. Wisdom from Kris Carr, “Acceptance is different from quitting. It means that no matter what happens, you won’t abandon yourself in your time of need.”

8. Wisdom from Thich Nhat Hanh, “To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”

9. Creative Compulsive Disorder: Remembering Zina Nicole Lahr on Colossal.

10. 30 Naughtiest Dogs: You’ll Crack Up When You Find Out What They Did on Viral Circus.

11. Here’s How Elizabeth Gilbert (Bestselling Author of Eat, Pray, Love) Writes on Copyblogger.

12. Make space for your future to show up from Danielle LaPorte.

13. My Body is My Guru, a great series from Kristin Noelle.

14. How Meditation Can Help Heal Our Relationship with Food from Eat 2 Love.

15. He Was Found Freezing And Dying. Yet Somehow The Last Photo Made My Entire Year. on Viral Nova.

16. don’t should all over yourself from Chookooloonks.

17. I Will Disappoint You from Rachael Rice.

18. This Guy Traveled The Country In A Pink Tutu Just To Make His Wife Laugh During Chemo on Buzzfeed. Also on Buzzfeed, 20 Ecstatic Shelter Dogs On Their Way Home For The First Time.

19. Gifts for lucky passengers keep on giving for WestJet.

20. The Light Bearer from Just Lara.

21. Wisdom from Marcus Aurelius,

Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.

22. 34 Animals With Their Adorable Mini-Me Counterparts on Bored Panda. I will add two of my own.

Sam and Hulu

Sam and Hulu

Riley and Obi

Riley and Obi

23. Invisible Child from The New York Times.

24. Good stuff from MindBodyGreen: 4 Questions To Ask Before Updating Your Facebook Status and 25 Ways You’re Too Hard On Yourself.

25. Top Five Tips for Thriving During the Holidays from Courtney Putnam.

26. Man Walks All Day to Create Massive Snow Patterns on My Modern Met.

27. How to practice by yourself.

28. The most touching Mandela tribute came from the least expected place.

29. Strange and Improbably Animal Friendships!

30. your daily rock : fragile, yet resilient, and your daily rock : detach from outcome, and your daily rock : stay close. Also from Patti Digh on 37 Days, How To Survive The Holidays. She also has a new book, The Geography of Loss.

31. Tips for Creating a Mindful Home.

32. Why the cult of hard work is counter-productive.

33. Kid President Shares Your Things We Should Say More Often

34. 20 Real Hilarious and Clever Notes From Children.

35. daring adventures in love + loss from Mati Rose.

36. Casual Predation: To know a predator, you must know what it is to be prey on Medium.

37. 25 Vegetarian recipes you can cook in under 30 minutes from Tree Hugger.

38. A Method to Find Balance from Zen Habits.

39. {this moment} from SouleMama. If we moved the guitar, there’d be room for me on the daybed.

40. This Is Scientific Proof That Happiness Is A Choice on Huffington Post.

41. Good stuff from Tiny Buddha: We All Need Alone Time: Do You Allow Yourself to Recharge? and 20 Ways Sitting in Silence Can Completely Transform Your Life.

42. 6 Traits of Happy Creatives on Scoutie Girl.

43. Show Your Work! Book Trailer from Austin Kleon.

44. Good stuff from Elephant Journal: 8 Photos of New Yorkers Most People Don’t See and 7 Things You Can Do to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder.

45. Wisdom from Anne Lamott on Facebook, (she’s such a beautiful mess).

46. It’s Eric’s 46th birthday today.

47. Man emerges from bunker 14 years after Y2K scare.

48. My Note from the Universe this morning, “Being happy now, Jill, is always more important than any new dream coming true later.”

49. The care and feeding (and shunning) of vampires from Seth Godin.

50. 24 Rules For Being A Human Being In 2014 on Thought Catalog.