In India, I experience the gamut: giddy laughter, loving kindness from strangers, heart connection, unexpected friendships, communion with cows, encounters with monkeys, blaring horns, sublime sunsets.
What I don’t think I have conveyed is the journey within to deep stillness – the Gift of Presence – that has been my India.
Words really don’t do India justice, and I have a hard time putting some of my deepest emotions to words, so I have attached a short 90 second video of some very sacred moments that are forever dear to me.
The soundtrack is me “tuning in” with the Adi Mantra. Something we do at the beginning of every kundalini yoga class and meditation. I was chanting this mantra in the early hours of morning, when it’s still dark and the winds come roaring down the foothills of the Himalayas. I was tucked into a blanket and let the familiar chant ground me and connect me to the Golden Chain of my teachers, and connect me to my yoga mat. To my heart beat. If you listen carefully you can hear thumps and bumps in the background. They are monkeys having a morning romp before the warm midday sun makes them heavy lidded and lethargic.
I’ll be traveling back to this country, to this yoga hall, to one of my soul homes, in just a few short months. There are spots for 2 more people if you would like to join me.
We have curated a tour that delivers daily opportunities to connect deeply to your Self, to nurture and restore with yoga, meditation and Ayurveda. Time on the Ganges, swimming in waterfalls, hiking in the foothills of the Himalayas. Satsang with living saints. Stillness.
If you feel the call, contact me. I’m here to walk you through the details. Step by step.
Last year I wrote a post about how I always go within at this time of year – actually I wrote that 2 weeks ago too – hah. Well, I guess it’s a theme for me. But something is starting to shift and lest you think that I only write about tough things, I wanted to share a bright, beautiful light that is shining on me right now. It’s called Embracing Loneliness.
Eleven years ago, I admitted to myself that I might be sensitive. Don’t laugh! Sensitive people had always made me feel uncomfortable and I had spent a lot of energy distancing myself from people that seemed “overly” sensitive. It’s been a process of accepting that indeed, I am a very sensitive person, and finding the gifts in that – it’s my creative spark, my drive to connect from the heart with others, what makes me approachable to people. I have a gentle nature and I try to honor that and try not to get too stressed out, because under stress, my fierce protector comes in and mows everybody down. Balance is a good thing. Praying for that. And working on it. Always.
Well, now I’m on to a new one – uncomfortable emotion, that is. Being in a long distance marriage, having one kid live in another state, and traveling a lot myself, I have a lot of time by myself. All my life I’ve felt lonely and it’s never been comfortable for me. Never! I’ve done so much on my own. I’m an only child, had a lot of freedom as a kid, saw my dad once or twice a year, moved a lot, felt like a ‘weirdo’ because I was ‘different’ (probably being overly sensitive – hah), I’m fiercely independent, a little bit of a loner – ok, a lot of a loner, march to my own drummer, not a joiner, etc. You can probably get the picture. All this time, I’ve thought there was something wrong with me for feeling lonely. I gave ‘loneliness’ a value judegment of wrong…or worse, unevolved – not spiritual enough. If I was truly connected to God, I would “never be alone” right? We’re all connected. So anytime I felt lonely, I felt bad about myself and tried very hard to NOT feel lonely! Push it down. Call a friend. Judge myself. Blame somebody else (ok, Andy) for making me feel lonely!
And then…something happened…something so small and every day, but for some reason, it got in and I had an “Aha!” moment. I was having a therapy session with someone that I respect. He leads workshops all over the world and lives with his wife and son and they all seem to have a very loving, connected relationship with each other. He was talking about how loneliness can overcome him during his morning meditation time and he will weep with it – even when his beloved family is in the very next room! He shared that loneliness is universal and just a feeling – a feeling to be felt and expressed and allowed to pass through. I really did feel like a bull, drunkenly tilting my head to one side and thinking “huh….? Wha??” He also went on to say, that loneliness, when felt, can be an indicator of deep love and yearning – something that I can convey and share with others and further my connectedness.
I thought about how so many people in the hospice groups for the newly bereaved are overcome with grief and afraid of how overwhelming it can feel. What we teach is that the only way ‘out’ is really ‘through’ – feeling the grief is the only thing that lessens the grief. I am comfortable with grief, I feel it every day. I allow it in and really ‘go there’, knowing it will pass and my tears will dry in minutes. What if I applied this to loneliness?
The past several days, I’ve had a lot of time alone in the house, the weather has been bitterly cold, all the animals are using me as a heating pad.
I’ve felt alone and have been missing my family, and have even felt some melancholy and existential angst about the passage of time as well as knowing that I am preparing to be away in India for several weeks – which always makes me feel as if I’m in outer space – as far away from familiar as I can get.
But what’s different these last few days is that I’m sitting in stillness (usually with at least one animal on top of me) and lighting candles, painting, creating beauty and warmth, and saying out loud “I’m lonely” and really feeling it. Letting myself go there. I’m sharing it with others without (and this is big, and new) hoping somebody (ok, Andy) will make it better. And guess what? Big surprise. It’s passing! Not only is it passing, it’s kind of welcome. In a poignant way. Like shedding a tear for a beloved grandparent – so sweet to remember their face, and sad to miss their embrace, but heart-opening to connect to that loving memory. This moment of loneliness connects me to my heart. I long for my husband and connect to the love I have for him. I notice the beauty of the falling snow. I’m present and aware that this moment is fleeting. I am grateful to be in my own good company. I heat soup. I feed the cats. I walk the dog. I feel content. So simple. So big.
There is a loneliness more precious than life. There is a freedom more precious than the world. Infinitely more precious than life and the world is that moment when one is alone with God. – Rumi
On Sunday, as I was going through security at DIA, I saw a TSA agent help an elderly man who was struggling with his backpack. It was a busy morning and people were rushing to empty their bins and put their shoes back on, and the man was trying to quickly exit the security area but his backpack strap was tangled and he couldn’t get his arm through. The TSA agent reached over and lifted up the pack so that there was more room to maneuver and the man was able to put his pack on. Tears stung my eyes at this simple act of kindness between strangers.
Last week I sat vigil with a man who was dying. I do this as often as I can, but what was different about this time was that he was conscious. Not just awake but aware. This was a first for me. It’s one thing to walk in as a complete stranger and sit with a person who is dying when they’re unconscious, but to walk in to somebody’s room when they’re alive and present seems presumptious at best and intrusive at worst. In that moment I had to push ego aside (“Will I be good enough?”, “What do I have to offer?”, “Who am I to be here?”) and say a prayer to be of service. To say he was gracious would be an understatment. Welcoming me into his journey, his transition, with a smile and a whispered “hello”, it was his kindness that allowed me to access my highest self and connect on a soul level for a brief period. We prayed together, I stroked his magnificent head and laid my hand on his heart. To love freely, without any thought of past or future, is to truly be present and timeless. The gift was all mine.
I looked up the definition of compassion and learned that it translates as “suffering together.” And it’s not just about suffering – when we feel compassion, our heart rate slows down, we secrete the “bonding hormone” oxytocin, and regions of the brain linked to empathy, caregiving, and feelings of pleasure light up, which often results in our wanting to approach and care for other people. Compassion generates more compassion. Beautiful.
Yesterday I shared a burden with a friend and she cried for me as I could not. I was numb and all cried out. Even though my heart was heavy, seeing the kindness, the compassion, in her eyes, gave me a sense of peace and I felt lighter, less alone.
“Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion. ”
Back when I was younger, I kept my heart under 24/7 lock down. Nobody was going to hurt me! Not surprisingly, by shutting everything down, I stayed closed off to giving and receiving love. I also had a lot of heart palpitations and irregular heart beats throughout my life. About 5 years ago I was put on beta blockers because my heart symptoms were so frequent and disturbing. Then, one magical day, on a hike to a sacred place of mine, I prayed to Spirit to “remove the shield from my heart.” At the time, it was a ‘throw away’ prayer, something I casually tossed out. I just said the words at the last minute, before I hiked back down the mountain. However, I came down from the hike and haven’t been on heart meds since. True story. There have been heart palpitations, but now when I experience them, I get quiet and ask my heart what it’s trying to say. What do I need to pay attention to? Every time, it’s been related to something emotional that’s happening in my life that needs attending to. The heart is an amazing barometer of the emotional body. Pay attention to it!
These days, I can’t open my heart fast enough. I feel like the picture of Hanuman, and I’m ripping open my own chest, saying “Here God, let me help you!”
I found a book – or rather it found me – The Untethered Soul, by Michael A. Singer. I have no idea why I reached for it at the bookstore, I think I liked the color blue and the horse…and something about the word “untethered.”
The book is small – digestible for me, and easy to read. It talks about living with an open heart, it gives directions on how to do this, it’s a PLAN (I love a plan!) on how to keep your heart open and what to do when you feel your heart closing. As soon as one becomes willing – conscious – to witness the energy shifts of their heart, they can be aware of a tendency to close the heart. The book breaks down the theory of energy centers – especially the heart center – using scientific terms within a yogic context. And did I mention it’s easy to read?! Really.
All of this resonates for me and makes sense. It’s like reading things I already “know” on some level, but having it in this simple format has really clicked for me. I have been spending my past few days in my open heart, watching the tendency to shut down and close up when I experience an emotional trigger. So far, it’s been pretty easy and even fun. Until today. Today I got “blind sided” by an interaction with someone. It triggered all my stuff – my “good enough” stuff, my “scarcity” stuff, my “alone” story, etc. I could literally feel my energy body wanting to spin out and keep all my stories alive. It was all I could do NOT to fan the flames in my head. Instead I went and danced for an hour. But like a tongue poking a sore tooth, even with the book, and my meditation practice, and the physical exercise and conscious breathing in the heart, I still had to check several times on my stuff to see if was still there (it was.)
Tonight, after a long day, I am feeling more at peace. I am feeling more ‘free’ – truly. I have successfully stayed in an uncomfortable place and kept my heart open. I’ve felt some pain and fear and have passed through some fire. Having the feelings of fear or insecurity don’t make me pure or impure. The trick is not getting drawn into that energy, and to simply relax and release as the energy appears. “And no matter how many times you’re pulled, that’s how many times you relax and release. Your opportunites to grow are endless.”
You will get to a point in your growth where you understand that if you protect yourself, you will never be free.
Michael A. Singer.
In this beautiful song by Nirinjan Kaur, Aud Guray, she is singing the words “Protect Me, Open my Heart, and I’ll be Free.” I like to think she is giving her will over to Source, God, Spirit, and saying please protect me (so I don’t have to!) and open my heart and in doing this, I will be free. A’Ho!
Recently I sat with somebody who shared that she began her spiritual journey in her 40‘s. When I heard her say that, I felt confused. “Wha?” Something didn’t resonate…I couldn’t even put it into words until hours later. There’s no age or moment I can pinpoint as the start of my spiritual journey – I’ve been on a spiritual path my whole life…as long as I can remember.
As a young girl, sitting in church, I was uncomfortable reciting things like: “we are not worthy to eat the crumbs off thy table.” We were taught that God was love and that didn’t resonate for me. It wasn’t adding up for me and I rebelled. As only a Preacher’s Kid can. (Actually, I rebelled because I was rebellious and an acting-out kid.) My dad was pretty cool and new-agey as a Minister of Divine Science – I swear it’s not a cult, but it sure sounded like one. My mom was, and is, a devout Episcopalian and I reluctantly spent most Sundays of my childhood in church.
I have always had deep respect for earth-based wisdom teachings and was drawn to Native American culture as a teen. My father lived in New Mexico and I would spend hours on my own in the museums of Albuquerque studying the history of the different tribes in the Southwest. My father opened my eyes to the mystical realm, speaking to me of past lives, and third eyes, crown chakras… He taught me the iChing and how to meditate. I took it all in, feeling the truth in all of it, even as my mind struggled to make “sense” of it. I know that my father recognized the seeker in me, just as I see it in my children now.
Later in life, I married my first husband and converted to Judaism. I was attracted to Jewish culture; the warmth (and fun!) of holidays celebrated with family, and the food. Towards the end of our often turbulent marriage, I discovered kirtan – which is a type of call-and-response devotional chanting. It was then that I discovered the power of mantra – even though I didn’t know or understand the words, through hours (and hours) of listening to kirtan music, the sanskrit words of devotion worked their medicine on me and I began taking my baby-step journey on the path to self-love. I credit this time in my life as the beginning of consciously opening my heart. (Always a seeker, but with a very protected heart…until the birth of my children and the discovery of mantra.)
Eventually, I got divorced and left Judaism behind and gravitated more towards Eastern philosophy; aspects of both Buddhism and Hinduism deeply resonated for me. During my Kundalini Yoga teacher training, I was introduced to Sikhism which spoke to me as well.
Today, I call myself a Mystic. And a Priestess when I’m not being shy.
All these terms say to me – “There is mystery and potency in the spirit realm and we don’t have to see it, touch it, understand it in order to feel it and know it’s powerful.” Love is my religion. Corny but true. And…spirit belongs to everyone (not just special people who recite special prayers or pay special money to special priests, etc.) Spirit is. Spirit is in all of us…I am spirit (love,) you are spirit (love,) we are spirit (love.) Make sense?
Eventually you will come to understand that love heals everything, and love is all there is.