Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Do You Mind?

     The mind is a funny thing. Weighing in at an average of 3lbs it's just a little grey matter yet somehow we have convinced ourselves of one of two scenarios. First, that either our brain is the boss of us,  for instance we think a thought and follow through on it without ever questioning its validity. Or, second, we think that we are our minds, identifying our personality and consciousness with our thoughts alone. Neither approach to the body mind relationship is going to further our holistic growth as a body/mind/spirit creature. We are so much more than our minds, so much more than what we think. But paradoxically we are exactly what we think. Proverbs 23:7 sums it up nicely "As a man thinks, so he is".

     So we are our thoughts, but we are not our thoughts. What? OK, so for grins I just did a little experiment with my good natured hubby. I requested that he think the words I say and I began chanting "blue balloon" all the while snapping my fingers. He then reported to me that he was thinking "blue balloon" and simultaneously he was conscious of my snapping fingers. Your consciousness (snapping fingers awareness) is separate from and larger than your thoughts. However repetitive thoughts over time shape your consciousness. On a side note, it has to be a little strange at times living with a yoga teacher/spiritual seeker :).
In addition to affecting our consciousness, our thoughts shape our body as every thought has not only an electrical thumb print but a chemical one as well. Anxious and fearful thoughts can cascade 1400 simultaneous chemical and physical reactions in our bodies. Thinking you're strong makes you stronger, thinking you're weak....well, you get the idea.

      What we are NOT; however, is a helpless puppet of our mind. Rather with training and attention we can shape our minds to serve us and they can become the most useful tools. There is so much written about meditation that it can get kind of confusing, but meditation is really just cultivating awareness. A fancy way of saying watching your thoughts. So got 5 minutes for a better life? If you set a timer so you don't have to watch a clock and just sit quietly with your mind for 5 minutes a day you will begin to become more aware of your thoughts as they form. And one day, you will have a negative thought form and you will squish it like a bug. This is the beginning of changing your life.  So first you sit still, then you meet your mind then slowly you begin to shape your mind. It may be joyful, it may be terrifying, but one thing it will not be is mindless. Our thoughts can be shaped to strengthen and serve us or they can become the monster in the dark closet that eats up our life. It is a simple small thing, and yet it is huge. So, got 5 minutes?

Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Once Upon a Time

     It was a dark and stormy night and while some of us felt comforted others were terrified. We can too quickly chalk up our reactions to our individual temperaments, likes and dislikes. That is an easy and common answer, but that view is disempowering. The "fact" that a storm terrifies us because "that is how we are" leaves us no place to go but further into darkness and fear every time the wind blows. Rather, if we can begin to recognize that our life is simply a story we tell ourselves then we  can become more proficient writers of our days. Our thoughts (stories) lead to our actions and accumulated actions are life. On an intellectual level we may know this but so few of us actually question our own stories. Why?

     Scripture repeated calls us to "Do not turn left or right" but keep our foot on the path. Surely God does not intend for His children to literally only walk in a straight line. We would be constantly going and never arriving. Rather I think the image of left or right is a metaphor on how to deal with our life stories. On the path is an event in our day. To one side is a huge dramatic story we wrap around that event. For instance we get a splinter and immediately our minds turn to gangrene, amputation or maybe flesh eating bacterias. Are those zombies at the door? On the other side there is a willful silence in place of our story. We get a splinter and ignore it hoping it will go away. What splinter? It is somewhere in the middle of these extreme left and right scenarios that our path of faith and hope lies.
      In Ephesians God calls us to "not be tossed back and forth by the waves". These waves are our stories, our thoughts left unchecked and unexamined. The only truth I "know" or think I know is that change is the only constant in life. So perhaps the story you tell yourself  may be true today but not tomorrow. So, back to the question. Why don't we examine our stories? The left and the right are our comfort zones where we hold the illusion of control. Writing a dramatic story can fool us into thinking we have all our bases covered. Ignoring a situation can also provide temporary comfort found in numbness. That middle road of sitting with our lives without reacting emotionally can hurt like hell at times. So in order to avoid the pain of full on living we spin personal fables. What if the next time you get a big dramatic thought about your life not spinning it into a story and not ingnoring it but rather calmly clearly sitting with it? Do you assume every thought you have is true, because some of them are not. Not looking left or right and not being tossed to and fro by our thoughts these are things God calls us to. Steadiness and breath awareness are paths to God .Life is not a fairy tale nor is it a scary story it is just our life. Instead of embellishing it with fables or numbing it by ignoring it....how about living it?

And they lived happily ever after. THE END.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Us Vs. Them

     As humanity continues to evolve spiritually we all know by now partisanship and polarity are poison. Whether it it Democrat vs. Republican, Conservative Christian vs. Progressive Christian, or Acrobat yogi vs. Meditator yogi....the Us vs. Them is a dangerous illusion. As your exhale becomes my inhale there is no us and them there is only life. Let me put it this way. The earth is an aquarium, we are fish and God is the water. When we hate and judge we are pooping in our own water. We grow together or we die together. But we all think we're "right" don't we? "We" are the reasonable ones trying to be patient with "those"extremists.

     This is an old topic, worn bare by the footsteps of philosophers much wiser than me. Releasing us vs. them mentality is Awakening 101. So, why do we persist in labeling others in our smug superiority when we know better? Behavior in others that bothers us is only a mirror illuminating our shortcomings. God loves us so much that He allows others to grow us by annoying us. I am sure you've noticed the heart of growth is "ow". Yea it hurts. But how much more hurtful to look back on your life and witness a stagnant fishbowl full of algae and death.
     So, to the heart of the matter. Us vs. them is merely a symptom of me vs. me. I joke with my husband that "nighttime Signe" had better be good to "daytime Signe". But you know, there is only one me. Maybe you feel as if you have an angel on one shoulder and the devil on another. Or your language has evolved to the point where you "battle the ego and bring light to your spirit". Hate to break it to you but that's more us vs. them. Our dark sides will only grow darker as we label and hate on them trying to eradicate the ego is declaring war on yourself.

     We all have behaviors we desire to nurture and patterns that we wish to diminish. But hating on your ego is not the way to get there because that is merely hating on yourself. Can you spend time with your "dark side" without judgement without recoiling in horror? Because the key to bringing light into your life is love and that means not compartmentalizing yourself but applying compassion to every nook and cranny of your beautiful soul. Once there is no longer a "me vs. me" then maybe some of the "us vs. them" societal issues will begin to soften. After all, we are us and them is me one big family in the sea.

Love your neighbor as you love yourself...this is where we begin

Monday, June 4, 2012

How To Change The World

     I like to think that my presence on this earth will make the world a slightly better place than when I came into it. I like to imagine that your presence on this earth is improving living conditions as well. Isn't the point of life to co-evolve  as a species to coexist in a supportive manner and to reach our individual bests by serving others? ha ha, that's pretty pretentious sounding, but I mean it. We are here to give not to take, we are here to serve rather than bask in entitlement. We are part of a greater living organism called life and like it or not we are connected on many levels. Well, you say, you spend your whole day at the office and your evening feeding kids. You don't have the luxury of teaching yoga and contemplating life. You are too busy living life to co-evolve. OK, then, fair enough, I know we are all busy so I will give you two steps guaranteed to make the world a better place. Two short steps....are you in?

     1) Be who you are. You are an amazingly complex flawed and perfect person. There is absolutely no one else in this world exactly like you. Even if you are an identical twin you still have your own preferences and life experiences. So, why do so many of us waste so much time and energy wishing we were who were not? I am not talking about ceasing efforts at self improvement here I am talking about accepting yourself as you are now. To grow into a shiner happier version of your self you have to start with self acceptance. When you allow yourself to be yourself you encourage others around you to quit trying to fit some societal mold of perfection. There is a huge difference between loving yourself into a more evolved version of yourself and trying to force change because of self loathing. The first brings light into your life and the lives of those around you and the latter creates internal strife.  Love yourself now, not when  __________ happens.

     2) Be where you are. We all have the experience of peering out a window at school or work just wishing we were anywhere but here. Some of us also have the experience of changing jobs, or states or even countries due to dissatisfaction with our lives. Now I am not saying travelling, change and moving are in any way bad, rather the contrary. But what I am saying is that you are where you are for a reason. Engage with the people around you. You wanna change the world? Look around you.  Instead of weeping for those far away hold out a hand to someone close enough to reach it. That old maxim "bloom where you are planted" really sums it up best. You are you where ever you go and you will not be a better you simply because you are somewhere else.

There is no better you than you and there is no better place than here...Be you, Be here. Be fabulous!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Coming Out

      Three months ago I opened Quiet, my yoga/massage studio, as a faith based studio for people to come and find a still space to grow their faith. As a Messianic Jew (A person of Jewish heritage who follows Jesus) I labeled Quiet a Judeo Christian faith studio. So far, so good...this is who I am this is what I am offering. There is no doubt in my mind that my Guru is Jesus and my path is to follow Him therefore the label made sense. I am not, however, of the school that my way is the only way. I pray in Jesus' name because that is what is in my heart and Who I follow. But, wow the baggage that comes with the Christian label had begun to get heavy. And for a moment I considered discarding the label entirely.

     I believe God is love and if we are emulating God we are loving everyone. Not liking everyone, mind you....but loving them to the best of our abilities. If we are putting out a genuine effort to love God will step in and help us. So, the homophobia I see coming from the church is breaking my heart. It is not clear to me that being gay is a sin. There are some very esteemed scholars that seem to believe that the scriptures that we interpret as "don't be gay" actually say "don't be a pedophile". I am not a Greek or Hebrew scholar so I really have nothing to add to this specific conversation, except that I find it very clear in scripture where God says "don't judge". So, why all the hate? Is it fear? A wise person once explained to me  that sexuality is a continuum. Very few of us are 100% attracted to only the opposite gender. When we feel a moment of attraction or admiration for someone of our own gender does it scare us into homophobia? Whatever the reasons for the hate it has to stop. Spirituality is measure relationally and when we are hating a huge section of the population for whatever reason out spirituality is muddied and bloodied. Sometimes literally. When we have to make hate a crime it is time to take a long hard look at ourselves.

     This issue was big enough for me that several times I wrote (and deleted) an entire blog on why I was no longer affiliating with organized religion and why I was no longer going to use the word Christian in describing myself. But I deleted it because I eventually recognized the same judgement and fear that I was writing about was in me only it was pointed in another direction at the gay bashers.  Point a finger at someone else and there are always four fingers pointing back at you. I also deleted it because I am a follower of Christ and like it or not that makes me a Christian. But as a Christian, Messianic Jew, or Child of God....whatever the label the job is the same. Spread love, be love, bring light to the darkness. So, to this purpose I am "coming out" as someone who believes my gay brothers and sisters are every bit as much a Child of God as I am. Their "gayness" I believe will not keep them from Christ, from heaven, from a meaningful life any more than my brunette hair will. I will not give up any of these labels I choose to label myself with just because I am not in agreement with the church. But in the darkness of homophobia I can no longer be silent. God says "If you love me you will love my people". So, I will continue to endeavor to love not just people of other sexual orientations but also the people bashing them. Because when we hate the "bashers" we are the bashers..

If you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt only more love...Mother Teresa