Greetings from the Land of Enchantment: July 2013

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fine Versus Fat versus Fabulous

In the past few weeks, a couple of friends have said a couple of things that took me back a couple of steps. We all know that weight is a cultural obsession here in the United States. I get that. Okay--fine. But it's become so ingrained, so normalized, that what would have once been pretty rude to say to someone, people seem to not even notice they've said it. I have three fairly recent examples: One, a woman walks up to me and a friend who are in conversation and offers us a plate of black garbanzo beans saying, "Here, you should eat these, they really helped me lose weight." To which I replied, "Are you implying I need to lose weight?" Two, a friend and I are walking together and we see another friend walking her dog. The friend I'm walking with says, "We should really walk your dog together, then we wouldn't be so fat." To which I thought to myself, "I don't feel fat right now, why is she saying that?" Three, a friend leaves me a message about work and then proceeds to offer her services and experience in losing weight with a popular program in our community right now. To which I thought, "F*** Off already! Enough!" 

 I have had a long and seemingly unending relationship to my weight. It goes all the way back to 5th grade, when I was teased at school for having a "balloon butt". It continued through middle school and high school where I was encouraged to join diet programs (expensive diet programs!) or if not on a diet regimen, then had ice cream and other treats physically removed from me with the cry of "You don't need that, you'll get fat!" I'm not going to defend obesity here; it's not good for you and as someone who has struggled with weight and identity for years, I can tell you, it doesn't feel good either. But neither does the constant obsession with our weight. I'm a big girl; I will most likely always be on the larger side of S, M, and L; and I've come to be really okay with that. I enjoy my body; I feel good most days; and I don't hate myself when I look in the mirror any more. But then the culture comes up and bites you on the proverbial ass. And what makes me more upset than anything is that women are doing it to each other--and to ourselves! Stop it already! 

So if you read this and you're a friend of mine, don't suggest a new diet program to me; don't tell me how you lost weight by doing x, y or z; and don't call me, or yourself, FAT! I want no part in that culture any longer. I want to look in the mirror and not just see "fine" and definitely note "fat"; I want to see fabulous! I want to see healthy, happy, and holy. I want to see radiant, beautiful and sexy. I want to see Goddess, Infinite, Invincible Creativity of the Creator. And I want you to start seeing it, too. Wahe Guru!

Monday, July 15, 2013

The House of Cards and the Beast Within

“Shame is the cornerstone of Addiction.” --Dr. Howard Samuels 

In the beginning, in the middle, and in the end, shame is the root. Remove shame from the equation and all the constructs and structures of compulsion, addiction and negative habits fall away like a house of cards.

I read this simple sentence today,  Shame is the cornerstone . . ., and was astonished that I had never read it before, heard it before, or realized it before, myself! It made so much sense. Funny when the most obvious truths escape us for so very long. Yet there it was. So simple. So true. I’ve written about my beast before, my shame, embodied. And even with all the healing I’ve done, it still remains. We’ve befriended one another this beast and I, so that now it serves me like a canary in a coal mine. When I am confronted by even a hint of discomfort or pain, it’s there to be my first warning signal—alert! And I’m grateful. Because in the past, the beast would try to send me a signal, but because I was so afraid of looking at the shame and listening to what it wanted to tell me, the beast became a signal of something entirely different. Instead of becoming more alert and ready to witness what was actually happening within me in any given moment, I would numb myself. Typically with food, but sometimes with sex or sleep or tv; and in the old days, of course, it was alcohol and drugs. The dis-ease comes in many forms, but it’s always the disease of ‘covering up’.

The beast first came into my life during a meeting. I knew then that it was shame. But somehow over the years, I disconnected the beast from the shame; and while I was never willing to actually experience the shame myself, the beast grew more entrenched, more solid, more present, even as I grew more unaware, blind even, to what shame was or how it worked.  To the point that last year, when a student asked me how I had overcome shame in my own life, I was embarrassed to admit I’d never done much work around it. And that was the beginning. The floodwaters of shame that I had held back through sheer ignorance and blind will released and I was confronted with a lifetime of unprocessed pain and shame and grief, which basically arrived in one declarative phrase that kept running through my head (and I realized later that it had been running in my head since I was a child): “There’s something terribly wrong with me.” This is the fundamental lie. The breech. The broken contract between the soul and God. And it happens so early on that we don’t even recognize it until we’re swimming in hidden agendas and acting so automatically from our identical identities that we don’t even recognize ourselves in the mirror any longer. That’s the moment. When we’ve reached the end of the tether, that’s the moment we can reclaim ourselves by simply letting go.

Letting go of what you might ask? Whatever it is you’re holding onto. Whatever you’re white knuckling. Whatever you think you need. Whatever makes you hang on more tightly rather than actually open your hand and look inside—and see what? Your Self. Like an animal that sees itself in the mirror and runs away, we are afraid of ourselves! Our creativity, our light, our shine. Our own godliness and goodliness. And who instilled that fear in us? Does it even matter? Not really. It’s the human condition. But because we’re human we can also change it. We can befriend the beast and ask it to help us, which is, oddly enough, I think what it’s been trying to do all along. Shame is only there to teach us our worth. And now that I’ve befriended the beast, now that I know it’s trying to serve me, I recognize the signal and I stop, I wait and I listen.  What message am I repeating or am I hearing that is asking me to demean myself, or asking me to sell myself short? And I listen.

And because I’m doing something different, guess what? The results have been different as well. Since I’ve begun the practice of listening to the beast, I haven’t eaten compulsively or used any other method of checking out and harming myself. I’ve had the compulsive moment arise, but instead of acting on it. I stopped. I waited and I listened. Unfortunately, it takes what it takes to come into a right relationship to our shame-body. I don’t know that there’s a simple step by step resolution. But I do know that the sooner we stop and look, the sooner we can heal.

Let go. Open up and look inside. Whatever monster lies within is simply trying to help you. Trust the beast and allow the shame to simply fall away, like the house of cards it is.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Breakthrough: Transformation & Meditation

Meditation has never come easily to me—at least when I’m practicing on my own. Perhaps that’s why group practices are emphasized in most meditation traditions. The peer group has the power to focus you and take you more deeply into the experience than if you were alone. It also has the power to clear you out faster because everyone’s aura is merged and all the subconscious sweeping is magnified by the group energy and electromagnetic field, which is why White Tantric is so powerful: 2000 yogis all lined up in a row to clean out their subconscious. Wah!

I recently completed a serious of group meditation experiences that really did a number on me, in a good way.  We think that we’ve worked on ourselves; we think we’ve peeled back all the layers—more than once!; we think we’ve cleared most of the garbage out—and then we go into deep meditation, in a group, and we experience an entirely new superhighway of subconscious flotsam and jetsam hanging out in our subconscious. It never ceases to amaze me.

In this series of courses I recently took (21 Stages of Meditation, White Tantric Yoga and Mind & Meditation: Level Two Teacher Training), we went very deeply into the subconscious in order to reveal the true Self—the Self within the self. But in order for the true self to emerge, a lot of stuff had to move out of the way. Stuff that’s been around a very long time; it wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was pretty scary but the resolution was so powerful that I think I’d do it all again!

As I deliberate on the images that arose in my meditation, I recognize that it was a deep subconscious release as well as a balancing of the polarity within myself. We often relate to the teachings of Yogi Bhajan as me a female and you a male and how we make that work out, or not. But the reality of his teachings on polarity are that they must be resolved and balanced from within, and without; we tend to overlook the polarity within, or not recognize its existence at all. But as the male aspect within me expelled itself out of the crown of my head in the form of every black creature that walks the earth—snakes, toads, millipedes, rats, beetles, cockroaches—I realized I could no longer ignore it. I could no longer keep pushing the masculine aside. I had to see it; it would not go unseen any longer. This was the first stage of the “breakthrough”.
The second stage came through the feminine polarity. As my mind was looking for any kind of solace in the midst of this shit storm swarming out of my head and all around me, a beautiful white serene figure of a woman appeared holding a large peacock feather umbrella, the sun rising from the crown of her head. And this image alone allowed me to move through this black cloud of terror without fear. (Although I did have that after-effect feeling as if from a bad mushroom trip, “Am I ever going to be normal again?”)

But these two polarities are not the end of the story. This meditative exorcism triggered my “beast”; a nickname I gave to a particular pain in my side that has been with me for years. 13 years to be exact.
The “beast” is a physiological manifestation of shame that my body has held for a long time; and after this meditative experience, I was ready for it to be OUT! So I went to see a dear friend of mine who I trust as a healer; and we sat down to “get it out.” Well, that was not what “the beast” wanted. Still, an amazing healing came to me, which was the third stage of the breakthrough: deep in the healing space, my beautiful image of the divine feminine returned to me, but this time she turned against me and was trying to destroy me. I immediately called upon the spirit and psyche of my beloved to protect me, as well as some spiritual teachers and guides. But here’s the interesting part—these helpers were all images of the divine masculine. They were all male.  And in this way I learned, for the first time, that all the years of rejecting men and creating boundaries around my own power was simply feeding the “beast”. My divine feminine power NEEDS divine masculine to balance it out. In fact, I needed three divine masculine figures in order to tame the dragon and allow the grace of the divine feminine to flow. All this time I thought men were out to get me but it was me all along! My Shakti needs the male energy in order to function in a balanced, healthy and supportive way.

And as powerful as this all was, it wasn’t the end! Three days of White Tantric Yoga; and they were the most powerful Tantric experiences I’ve had in years. So intimate, so healing, so inspiring. During day two, a friend of mine (a male friend not coincidentally) comes up to me and says, “Are you writing? You know you’re a writer, right? I’m just inspired to remind you that you’re a writer, and that you’re a good writer. “ And then walks off and I’m left standing there, thinking, Where did that come from? But still it served as the fourth stage of the breakthrough—the catalyst even—of the final shift.

Finally to the Mind and Meditation Course and the first day Yogi Bhajan says to all of us during the first video lecture, “No one ever trusts God. You will never be known as a human; it’s impossible. You are only known by what you do; because you are doers and you will never allow God to do for you.” Well, that was the proverbial icing on the cake. I knew I had to take action. I had healed something in me that was so old and so hidden, that even when it revealed itself to me, I remained surprised. I simply had to trust my intuition and follow it without fear. But in the end I knew that it was telling me something so true and deep about how I had lived my life, something I had known all along: I tried for so long to destroy myself because I was afraid of my own creativity. And the masculine and feminine within me, which had been at war for so very long, were now partners in my new awareness and awakening. I could not go back to sleep.
So, the final breakthrough: Did I have the courage to act on what I knew I had to do? Was I ready and willing to take the next step? Yes.

Meditation takes us into the deepest, darkest parts of ourselves; the unknown within and the unknown beyond. It opens us up to the most vulnerable secrets we didn’t even know we were carrying as well as the most vast and spacious truths of who we are and didn’t know we could be. Meditation is the key to unlocking who we really are—as long as we have the courage to follow its lead and not be afraid of all the creepy crawly things that hide away in the corners of our own minds.

Is Meditation transformational? Yes. But do I get to determine the route or the destination? No. But I get to enjoy the ride! 

Monday, July 08, 2013

Sadhana and Divine Intervention

Here's something I wrote for 3HO theme this month: Sadhana. . . . sharing it here:

I prayed for a husband for a very long time. Then one day, I decided to stop praying for a husband and be happy--a very wise choice that I highly recommend to everyone, smile. Meanwhile, I began praying for grace around my personal sadhana. As a teacher and a trainer, I knew that I had to “get my act together” around my sadhana or I would lose any relevancy or legitimacy I might still have with my students and in my own practice. 
I have always struggled with sadhana; and it was beginning to look like I always would.  Some things come very easy to me—sadhana was never one of them—and the definition of sadhana is discipline, which has never been my strength either! So, I surrendered and began to ask for help. I began praying for grace and slowly, slowly, my personal sadhana began to grow. An 11 minute practice here, a 31- minute meditation there, little by little; but it was still not even approaching the Aquarian Sadhana that was given to us by the Master, Yogi Bhajan. So I continued to pray while also being grateful for the small shifts I was making.
Then one day, out of nowhere, my husband came into my life.  And wouldn’t you know? He has a perfect sadhana. So now, nine times out of ten, I get up at 3:15 and make my way to group sadhana with him: Japji, kriya, Aquarian mantras and gurdwara--the whole shebang. I wish I could say it has changed my life, but I honestly don’t feel that different, unless you consider being exhausted all the time a transformation! But I know that others have noticed a change in me. And I feel the difference when I don’t do sadhana—and that’s probably the message for me. Self-care has never been my strong suit. I’ve always resisted doing what was best for me; and no, I’m not going to beat that particular dead horse here. But the fact that I notice sadhana more when I don’t do it than when I do is telling and reminds me that I  may not feel the difference when I do good things for myself, but I sure feel the difference when I don’t! And in this way, all of life becomes a sadhana of a sort.
The sadhana of food, the sadhana of kindness, the sadhana of sleep, the sadhana of right livelihood, and the list goes on. When I don’t participate in these sadhanas with some modicum of mindfulness and discipline, then the results of their absence range from mild irritability to excruciating personal pain. Still, much like the human body itself, I keep flowing in and out of balance in order to recognize the importance of these daily disciplines. Meanwhile, I just try to keep showing up, as often as I can, and allow sadhana to do what it does—make me better, whether I know it or not.