Tag Archives: Middle Path

Organic, Super Green, and Naked

This is a long post, so as a public service, TL; DR: Self-love is the key. And I am devoting myself to it.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I struggle with balance, finding a middle path, a middle way. This difficulty manifests in everything I do: how I work, how I practice, what I eat, how much I rest (or don’t), how I relate to people, what I think about, how much I exercise (or don’t), what I do about what I feel (or don’t), how I treat myself–everything.

Add to this that as a highly sensitive person, I have to be careful what I expose myself to: media, text, tv, radio, people. “Garbage in, garbage out” is an absolute truth for me. I have difficulty processing negativity, toxicity, and get easily overstimulated, overwhelmed. I have trouble putting any boundary or barrier between myself and the energy around me. Everything gets in.

In an effort to put better things in, to “feed” myself with things that nourish and nurture me, I signed up for a gaiam.tv membership. They have all kinds of good, health and well-being focused media. On the first day, I watched the documentary “I Am.” Then yesterday, I watched two documentaries, “Hungry for Change” and “Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead,” (this second one is actually on Netflix). Both focused on transforming your health, and both have me thinking a slightly different way about what I am doing, how I am moving through my life, and what I might do differently, how I might find balance.

What I found so encouraging in Hungry for Change is that there’s a whole section towards the end that discusses the importance of self-love to health and well-being, and talks about how detrimental, how damaging self-loathing and self-hate can be–that essentially, without self-love, health and well-being are impossible. This has long been my suspicion, that until I learned to stop smashing myself to bits, I would stay stuck, wrecked, and broken.

Some quotes from the film:

As a doctor, let me tell you what self-love does–it improves your hearing, your eyesight, it lowers your blood pressure, it increases pulmonary function, cardiac output…so if we had a rampant epidemic of self-love then our healthcare costs would go down dramatically. So this isn’t just some little frou-frou new age notion, oh you know, “love yourself honey.” This is hard core science. (Dr. Christiane Northrup)

What was the most important thing to keep off the weight? What do I believe was the most crucial component? Without question: love–love for myself and love for others. (Frank Ferrante)

Something miraculous happens when you take care of yourself. You realize that you are precious…You become in love with yourself basically, and it shines, it overflows to others, becomes contagious. You give others the permission to be in love with themselves, with life. (Evita Ramparte)

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead told a great story about Australian Joe Cross (one of the people featured in Hungry for Change), “100 pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease…at the end of his rope and the end of his hope.” The film “chronicles Joe’s personal mission to regain his health.”

Joe goes on a 60 day juice fast (he calls it a Reboot), loses a ton of weight, gets healthy, and helps a bunch of other people along the way. I was completely and utterly inspired by him. His transformation was sensible, doable, rational–more fruits and vegetables, more exercise. But more importantly, he made a decision to take care of himself, to take charge of his own health and well-being.

I can’t do 60 days, but I have spent this morning researching juicers and juice recipes, even went and bought some juices to tide me over until I can get what I need to make my own. And, I’m considering doing a ten day juice fast. This summer, when I did a Yoga immersion class, we discussed the yogic practice of fasting and I was fascinated by it, am drawn to both the physical and spiritual nature of such a practice. This film reignited that fancy.

But it’s not just that. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I know that smashing myself to bits, while an old way of being that is sticky and deep, no longer serves me. I want to be able to enjoy my life, love my life, for as long as I can. I want every choice I make, every action I take, every thought to be a manifestation, an embodiment of how deeply and well I care for myself, an expression self-love. I want to take care of myself, love myself, feed myself what I am truly hungry for, what will nourish and nurture me. 

I am a fan of various types of divination: I Ching and Q-Card Casting specifically. 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, but 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.

P.S. Patti Digh, by way of my friend Courtney, shared this on Facebook, and it explains so much better what I was trying to say about divination: “When faced with two choices, simply toss a coin. It works not because it settles the question for you but because in that brief moment when the coin is in the air, you suddenly know what you are hoping for.” ~unknown

So, this afternoon I went to Hiro Boga’s website and did a Deva card practice. She 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.

In this practice, you first get clear about your intention. My intention was:

I intend to be healthy, to radiate health, to dissolve the boundary between myself and health, myself and reality, to clarify my essence, to connect bodily with my basic goodness, for my body to be a manifestation of basic goodness, to embody health and well-being.

Then you select a card. The card I received?

Love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause.

Religious worship or action.

Feelings of ardent love.

Commitment to a purpose.

Profound dedication and loyalty, fidelity.

Hiro suggests that once you have received your Deva, that you “Ask for its support and partnership. Ask it to help you strengthen its quality within you, so you can embody it more fully” and that you “Act on the expanded vision and perspective you receive from your partnership with the Deva. Embody and express the quality of this Deva in your life today.”

So that’s it, isn’t it? Self-love is the key. And I am devoting myself to it.

I feel like this realization, this softening, this becoming, this commitment, this vow, this ongoing transformation needs a blessing, a benediction, a prayer, an offering. I can’t think of a better one than a poem the beautiful Julia posted this week on her Painted Path blog (go read it, if you haven’t already–if you are trying to learn to love yourself, she will help, she will remind you), “Like the Moon.” It’s the perfect thing to share here, to end this post, and I am hoping she won’t mind.

You are here in this world
to Love
to lay down the swords–the armor
to fall down laughing, to swing
amongst the stars

to lean into everything
that makes your heart flutter

to live with unapologetic brightness

like the moon


Wishcasting Wednesday (on a Thursday)

from Jamie’s post

What do you wish for your future?

Health: Body and mind connection, sanity, very little illness or dis-ease, no dis-ordered eating, activity, flexibility, and strength, longevity, ease, endurance, wellness, wholeness.

Love: Wisdom and compassion, as the foundation of all connection and relationship, self-love and shared love, love as my world view and state of being, my reality and experience and attention and action all centered in love.

image shared by Healing with Art

Sharing my compassionate vision: Through my relationships and writing, being a constant reminder of basic goodness, of our innate wisdom and compassion, of the power and joy available to us in the present moment, of the transformation and acceptance available through gentle, relaxed attention and presence.

Path and Purpose: Yes, I have my own own vision of and ideas about how I want this to look and be. For example, the books I’ve dreamed of writing, light and love manifested, materialized and shared. Or, gathering together groups of women and teaching them, (once I fully learn and embody this for myself), to wholeheartedly live their “one wild and precious life,” to serve and ease suffering. But, essentially my intention and wish is to show up and be open and pay attention, to trust in the direction I’m being guided, called, and to be committed to doing what’s required of me–to fill the Jill shaped hole. To be brave and open-hearted even when I feel afraid and vulnerable, to have faith, to practice.

Balance: Middle path, middle way. Not too tight and not too loose. Relaxed, content, at ease. Rather than getting hooked or attached, letting go and sinking in, again and again.

To live, both in honor of those who’ve been lost and to be remembered: Thich Nhat Hahn said, in response to the tsunami in Japan:

An event such as this reminds us of the impermanent nature of our lives. It helps us remember that what’s most important is to love each other, to be there for each other, and to treasure each moment we have that we are alive. This is the best that we can do for those who have died: we can live in such a way that they continue beautifully, in us.

I want to live in this way. I also wish for my future that I will live in a way that I will be remembered in the way John O’Donohue describes in his poem On The Death Of The Beloved:

Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.

Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.

May you continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love

(c) John O’Donohue. All rights reserved. Used by permission. http://www.johnodonohue.com

So maybe that’s my central wish for my future, to live in such a way that people will remember me in this way. To truly live my one wild and precious life, to embody this moment, manifest my basic goodness, fill the Jill shaped hole. To enter each day with a generous heart. To serve the call of courage and love.

Learning Things by Heart

Epiphany: a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

I met with my meditation instructor this past week, and during our discussion about something else, she inadvertently gave me insight into a bigger issue I’d been contemplating, struggling with.

I’ve talked about it before: I have trouble staying on a middle path. I practice and live too tight–work too hard, try to do too much, smash myself to bits–and because of that, I end up collapsing into practicing too loose–exhaustion, numbness, depression, and smashing myself to bits, (notice how I can work that in no matter what end of the pendulum swing I’m in?).

I have been on a mission to “fix” myself, to change, to break out of old habits that no longer serve me, a life-rehab, but my approach has been a lot of the same old, same old. And is it really about changing, becoming someone new, someone else? Do I need another self-improvement strategy, another self-help plan? Another diet, another book, another workshop or class?

And you, when will you begin that long journey into yourself? Rumi

The reminder from my M.I. is that instead of grasping or searching for something else, anything more, I could try sinking deeper into my practice, the wisdom that’s already with me.

For example, instead of reading six books at the same time, rushing through so fast I barely remember it once it’s over because there’s a long list of ones that I have to get to right after, I could try reading one, maybe more than once, really know it, savor it. Or instead of training to be a yoga teacher, I could remain a practitioner, sinking in and truly embodying the practice, learning the full measure of what it has to teach. Or, instead of filling most of my week with regularly scheduled blog features, I could spend more time writing, straight from my heart, exactly where I am. I could remember the importance of naps and staring at my toes. I could connect with reality.

As Susan Piver so brilliantly shared in her Huffington Post article, Meditation, Relaxation, and the Self-Help Demon, “stop, slow down, look within and allow for both your brilliance and your brokenness.”

If we are looking for or saying “yes” to one thing, we are essentially saying “wait” or even “no” to something else, maybe what we’ve already committed to, what we’ve already found, who we already are.

We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake. ~Pema Chödrön

I was rereading the above quote, and realized I should try and memorize it, make it a true mantra–anytime I feel the pull to try something new, to push myself, anytime I feel like I am not good enough, anytime I am beating myself up for some supposed failure or mistake, every time I wish I were something other than I am, somewhere or sometime other than right where I am, I could repeat it to myself, remind myself.

Or maybe the simple, gentle reminder to relax is enough?

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

~ Mary Oliver

Full Snow Moon Dreamboard

The Full Snow Moon asks: “What desires lie deep within?”

Restore yourself. This is your year for retreat, your year to learn to rest, to study, to practice, to find your middle path, to pray and meditate, be mindful.

Bringing your practice to life. You walk the walk, the middle way. You meditate, you sink into your yoga poses, you write and make art, you learn what your dogs have to teach you, take the walks with them and notice. Peace of mind, yoga for life.

Love the weight off. You have carried the physical weight of your suffering and grief and anger long enough. It’s time to let it go, lay it down, but remember this will only happen as you love yourself. Imagine yourself filling with light.

Uncover the hidden brilliance in you. It is there. You can no longer deny it. Its luminescence shines through the cracks, a love and truth that will burn you if you try to contain it. The world needs your light.

Document your journey, a transformational journey. This is the dream, this is the work, this is the task, this is the magic, an epic journey on which you will encounter rough terrain and harsh weather, get lost and hurt, but you will be helped and find love. You must make a map for the others who have yet to travel here, who will go on to make the same journey themselves. And remember, just because you feel afraid and vulnerable doesn’t change the fact that you are courageous, brave, and open-hearted. You are a warrior of truth and love.

Live the life you’ve imagined. This is your dream, your desire, your deepest wish, your passion.

Three Truths and One Wish

I took a slightly different approach to this post today, (rather than thinking and fussing about it, rejecting and revising, until the perfect idea magically appears–not that there’s anything wrong with that approach. I’ll probably return to it next week): Last week, two of my favorite people, Susan Piver (of the Open Heart Project) and Patti Digh (of 37 Days), put together The Week of Inward Looking, “7 questions from 7 teachers to help you contemplate your way across the finish line into 2012.” The people involved guaranteed it would be a meaningful experience, and it was.

So my idea for today was initially to “cheat” a little and give you seven truths I’d gleaned from the week of prompts, but what I realized as I worked with the questions is that the truth I was getting at was not staying neatly organized, one unique truth per prompt, but rather it was all tangled up and everything was connected. The prompts were about body, shadows, organization, serving, creativity, spirituality, and on being an artist.  My answers kept circling around the same truths. They are:

1. Truth: Health means tending to heart-mind, body, and spirit. These may not each need equal time or effort, but balance definitely needs to be maintained.

For example, as an academic (my paid work) and an artist (my calling), it’s easy to spend too much time in my “head.” I have thought of my body as simply a vehicle for my consciousness, like a car, and I’ve only provided the most basic of maintenance to keep it running. As such, I often view my body as a problem. It needs cared for and tended–showers, food, sleep, exercise, etc.–attention that is an interruption, an irritation.

Because of this, I also see my body as a disappointment–why is it so weak, so fat, so tired? I smash it to bits for not keeping up, for making me look bad. I have been disembodied. Even after practicing yoga and meditation and dog (which requires much walking and “body-ness”) for so many years, I still treat my body as my enemy. When it attempts to communicate reality, I do what I can to distract it or deny it.

It’s only been in the last four months that I started to realize I can’t continue this way. I am instead actively sinking into my body, giving it equal time, enough time, accepting it as the oracle it is–my direct connection to what’s really happening. Being in my body means being anchored in the present moment, the place where my life is.

To be healthy, we all have to find our middle path, our middle way, and fully and wholeheartedly embody our life, tending as necessary to our heart-mind, body, and spirit, and maintaining balance.

2. Truth: Being the best version of your true self is being fully awake and alive, and YOU are necessary.

image by dan, freedigitalphotos.net

“We are so accustomed to disguising our true nature from others, that we end up disguising it from ourselves,” (La Rochefoucauld). When you hide who you are, or try to change it to please others, you can end up getting so good at it, you forget who you are, and that isn’t living.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others,” (from A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson).

And yet, the choice to be authentic is difficult. In an article in the January 2011 issue of fear.less magazine, the author Steven Pressfield (“The War of Art”) says “I think we’re all terrified of that, to be what we’re meant to be. Because then all the responsibility lays on us and we can’t hide behind anything.”

Maybe worse yet, if we are trying to do what we think others want or need from us or what they are comfortable with, it hurts when they don’t accept or love us, but if we are wholeheartedly being “ME”–the very best and brightest we have to offer–and they don’t accept or love us…that’s a whole other level of hurt. And yet, we must open up to it, tell the truth of who we are, and welcome whatever comes after, because it at least will be real.

“Who you are is infinite; you are a child of The Uni-verse and you have been sent here with a specific gift that is only yours to express. The events that happen, happen to shape us, to mold us and to help us step into who we are supposed to be. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You are eternal and a part of a living Uni-verse that supports you. Give us your gift,” (from The Daily Love).

As Oscar Wilde so simply put it you should “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Come out of the shadows. Stop hiding your light. We need you. You need you.

3. Truth: You are the only one stopping yourself from having the life you long for, and you have to get out of your own way.

If you are waiting for something to happen, stop waiting and happen. Write that shitty first draft, paint the picture no one else will care about but you, consider what you “long to say with your life” and say it. Stop waiting for rescue and save yourself. Create and do for yourself because it feels better than doing nothing. Wake up, open up. Be brave. Make something meaningful and share it. You have the chance to heal and help, to touch and transform the heart. Save yourself. Be willing to fail, to fall, and when you do, get back up, try again–no matter how many times the wave knocks you down, don’t give up, giving up means drowning.

One wish: I wish for all of us gentleness, kindness, and bravery as we enter into 2012. I wish them in the way that Susan Piver describes them “gentleness (defined as opening to and accepting yourself from moment to moment, feeling what you feel without judgment or agenda), kindness (feeling, knowing, and acting as if all beings are just like me in that they seek love and happiness), and bravery (inviting my fears, confusion, and personal nuttiness as part of the path).”

What I’ve Learned on this Vacation

Having time off from my paid work, time at home and away, is such a gift. Sinking in to that space allows me to be wholly mindful in a way that I don’t seem to manage otherwise, and I learn so much from it.

I committed myself this week to doing a whole “Review, Reflect, and Resolve” project, but found myself getting irritated, and tired, and frustrated, and anxious–not at all the experience I’d expected. It was taking too long, wasn’t going as smoothly as I had imagined, and I felt scattered and unfocused–until I realized why: I have been blogging about my “life rehab” here, and this has been an ongoing process of reviewing, reflecting, and resolving my life. I have already taken steps, I am already doing the work, and there’s no need to separate that out as a special, isolated practice because it is, all of it, MY LIFE.

And yet, it’s good to be clear and mindful, about who you are, what you value, where your particular strengths are, what you have to offer, how you can help, and what you want your life to look like. And when you are connected directly to that, when you absolutely embody who you are and what you value, there’s no need to make any other special statement about it. Instead you simply sink into it and rest–it’s where you live. As Leo Babauta suggested in his post “Quashing the Self-Improvement Urge,” we can let go of goals and projects and improvement, and “instead…be happy with ourselves,” what he calls a “revolution of contentment.”

I didn’t completely abandon my review, reflect, and resolve, but I have reframed it. I am putting pages into the 2012 weekly planner Eric got me to be able to carry a physical reminder with me, of who I am and what I value and what I hope to manifest. I am so excited for the possibility and transformation of the new year, and think this “book” I am making will remind and inspire me when I need it. What I’ve learned while being on vacation is that to approach a year of “retreat,” I need to remember the qualities of retreat I hope to manifest: practice, balance, rest, and transformation.

I’ve been reminded that I need to make time to tend my body: eat, shower, sleep, exercise, meditate, do yoga, walk with the dogs, spend time with Eric.

I’ve been reminded that I need to make time to tend to my spirit: meditate, do yoga, walk with my dogs, study and read, be creative, write.

I’ve been reminded that I need to make time to tend my heart: served most effectively when there is balance in the way I tend the other two, because in that way/those ways, I am generating and manifesting love and kindness towards myself, but I’m also practicing keeping my heart open, being mindful, vulnerable, present, and brave. I am able to connect my core values (kindness, bravery, silliness, creativity, curiosity, and presence) directly to my actions.

You might wonder where “mind” is on my list of things to tend. I have come to understand that concept (through my study and practice of Buddhist principles) that the brain is an organ of the body, so would be part of what you are referring to when you talk of that physical collective. The “mind” or consciousness is centered with, and directly connected to the heart. Together, they join wisdom (mind) and compassion (heart) in a single, central location. This space is our fundamental nature, our basic goodness–who we “really” are, underneath, before, and beyond anything else. So when I referred to “heart” earlier, I meant heart-mind.

For my year of Retreat, my resolve is to sink into my practices, know and manifest my core values, be open-hearted and brave, have faith in a sacred alignment between what I want and what I have to offer, be mindful of my middle path (the pause and the gap, balance and freedom), rest and restore and rehab. Transformation is one element that has special meaning to me, as I realized the other day that every butterfly is first a pupa in a cocoon–fat, soft, round, vulnerable, and completely still. You simply cannot transform and grow wings without that time in stasis, and therefore, you must retreat if you are looking to transform. Yes, I might feel a bit sad or even embarrassed by my blobby, fat, slow self while the rest of the world is happily crawling around chewing on stuff, or floating in the sky on their beautiful wings, but I have to remember I am exactly where I should be, things are unfolding just as they should. It is right, true, and completely natural.

Just like savasana pose in yoga, this quiet and stillness and surrender is necessary to integrate the body and mind with the practice, to assimilate and process the practice into an embodied whole.  In the same way, off the mat, deep change needs a balance of deep rest and contemplation to allow our innate wisdom to work, for integration to happen.

In between inhalation and exhalation,
In between joy and pain,
In between remembering and forgetting,
In between who we think we are and reality,
There is a pause.
Seek refuge there.
~Goswami Kriyananda

Three Truths and One Wish

I’m not sure why exactly, but these posts are the hardest to write out of all the regular features. I wake up every Tuesday morning having no idea what I’m going to write about, and by the time I start to work on the post, I’ve typically written and then rejected at least 2-3 ideas. But it always works out, something always comes to me and it’s “right.” This is further evidence that much of art is about showing up and being open to what happens.

1. Truth: There is a middle path, a middle way. This is another one of those concepts that is from Buddhism, but one doesn’t have to be Buddhist to see the wisdom in it. The middle path, the middle way is balance, evenness, equanimity, calm, clarity, wisdom, insight, ease, natural, and organic–it is freedom.

It is not too loose, not too tight. It is not extremes or fundamentalism. It is between the extremes of addiction to indulgence in sense-pleasures and addiction to self-mortification, between attachment and aversion to pleasure and pain, between self-indulgence and self-denial, between hedonism and asceticism. The middle way, the middle path is neither overindulging in the pleasure of the world or rejecting it’s goodness. It’s the “but this one is just right” moment that Goldilocks discovers again and again in the story of The Three Bears.

2. Truth: Every person has their own middle, and must discover it for themselves. “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,” (Pema Chödrön).

For example, I push to get more done, make improvements, keep working, harder, faster, better–but this is too tight. I burn out from this way of being, and I slip into sickness, exhaustion, numbness, laziness, and depression–and this is too loose. I have to learn what balance is, where the middle way is for me. No one else can tell me. I have to find out for myself.

We can’t use other people’s measures, external criteria for what is enough, for who we should be and what we should do. We don’t need to look outside ourselves for validation, acceptance, permission, and love. We can get still and quiet, practice and pray and meditate and listen, learn to love ourselves, to settle in to our middle.

3. Truth: The middle is not a fixed location. Where my middle path is today might shift tomorrow, or even in the next moment. It will shift with time and circumstance. Age, physical ability, knowledge, skill, practice, and understanding will all move the middle. We need to maintain mindfulness, be aware of the shifts, the twists and turns, the change in weather and speed and slope and strength, and we need to adjust our exertion and rest and route when necessary.

One Wish: That you may find your middle path, and through continued mindfulness and ease, remain on it. I wish for all of us that we find our middle, where we don’t feel the need to grasp or hold on to or reject or run away from the reality of our experience. I wish that we all, on our middle path, move through our lives fully present and able to work with whatever arises, skillfully and compassionately. May we all be free.