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Packing Light

Summer has arrived in the desert. So perhaps like you, we're getting ready to get out of Dodge. In fact, it's tradition at the Shadow Rock campus to close down for the month of July.

I'm looking forward to a wonderful escape from the heat, but am also reminded - like every other time I take off -  that "Wherever you go, there you are." Hm. Have you found that?

Even when I go somewhere to escape the stress of heat - or just daily life,  once there, I find that I've taken along the same patterns of thinking that stressed me out to begin with. Some concerns can certainly be legitimate, and there are some things we must do, but there's so much we can truly let go of.

I recently read that many of us think as many as 50,000 thoughts per day. No wonder we're exhausted! So many of those thoughts are the same ones we've thought over and over again. And so often we've even come to confuse ourselves with what it is that we think.  Who would we be without our thoughts?

Like many spiritual traditions, yoga and meditation invite us to quiet the mind in order to explore that very question, and to find ourselves again: to tune into the deeper, constant, true self that lives in the silence beneath our thoughts. Easier said than done, I know.  That's why it's called a practice.

I find that it helps to be aware of the pattern. It also helps to give ourselves a routine - to set a time and place to  sit comfortably for a few minutes each day.

And like a monkey with a marble, it helps to give ourselves a tool. My go-to marble is simply to count my breaths. Or sometimes I practice using the sound of a simple mantra like "so" on an inhale, and "hum" on the exhale. It means "I am that." But it doesn't really matter. The purpose is to focus on the sound as a means for interrupting the rush of thoughts, and maybe give us a brief rest in the silence between them.

So whether you stay close to home - or travel across the world this summer, I invite you to mentally "pack light". Experiment with letting go of some of that excess thinking, and truly enjoy yourself, finding rest and rejuvenation in your vacation.

"At the heart of each of us, whatever our imperfections, there exists a silent pulse of perfect rhythm, a complex of wave forms and resonances, which is absolutely individual and unique, and yet which connects us to everything in the universe." ~George Leonard, author and educator

Judy Schwiebert

Here…. we…. go….

There's so much I don't know. 

I've spent the last year talking about this Whole Life Center trip to the Middle East, questioning other travelers, reading Michener's The Source, Tolan's The Lemon Tree, dipping into books by Marcus Borg and Palestinian Naim Ateek, and revisiting the Bible. I've taken notes on almost 36 lectures (!) on The Holy Land by an archaeology professor Jodi Magness. And still, there's just so much....

I've completed my pre-trip quest for the perfect, comfortable all-weather, perfect-for-every-occasion traveling shoes.  And I've packed, taking things OUT of my suitcase, putting other things back in, hoping for the right combination of layers for 50 degrees.

I've called the phone company so I can make calls if I need to from Turkey, Jordan, Israel and Palestine without mortgaging the house, though I still can't seem to find a definitive answer about where the + sign, the country code, and/or a 0 go.

And I've set up a blog site - almost - with the intention of sharing some reflections along the way. I'm just not exactly sure when - or how I'll be able to post from the road.

As a friend of mine likes to say, "it took me my whole life to get here," yet still, there's just so much I don't know. 

So on the morning before we leave, I'm steeped in both excitement and anxiety. Like Indiana Jones, I stand before the chasm. Stepping out into the emptiness, I trust that the way will appear. Even in the midst of my anxiety, I understand that the not knowing is a part of life. The wiser part of me trusts that the path will unfold.

Joseph Dispenza says in his book, The Way of the Traveler, that, "Once we begin to see travel as an inner journey, it is possible to turn every trip we take into a spiritual practice -- a hero's adventure that enlivens our hearts and enlarges our souls.....".  He reminds me of why I love to travel..... and even while it is a deeply individual journey, how good it is to share it with companions.

And so Marilyn, Sharon, Chuck, Judy and I depart. We've heard the call to adventure, we've prepared, and ready or not, it's time to make the journey, knowing that it will be full of uncertainty and serendipity as it unfolds for each and all of us.  Here.... we..... go.

Judy Schwiebert

Happiness.... It's an Inside Job

It’s that special kind of Phoenix summer HOT outside and I’m already tired of it. Gazing out through my dusty bedroom window this morning, I found myself contemplating escape. Special deals on vacations to Costa Rica and other fabulous places have been filling my Inbox. Longing to visit family by the ocean fills my heart. 

I very much wanted to be anywhere but here when my eyes fell on the book by my bedside table, Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  Hmm…well, yes.

It’s an old friend, this book on meditation that seems to invariably open to the page that offers the exact kernel of wisdom I need.  This morning it was this:

“When we can be centered in ourselves, even for brief periods of time… not having to look elsewhere for something to fill us up or make us happy, we can be at home wherever we find ourselves, at peace with things as they are, moment by moment.”

We all carry our own light within us.  That’s what I believe.

But I so often forget it.  And if you’re like me, we spend so much time looking for the next twinkling thing: that trip to Costa Rica, a visit with family, even clean windows. Certainly a change in circumstances can help shift our perspective. But we don’t have to wait for 80 degree weather or an ocean breeze or any other circumstances, for that matter, to feel relief or happiness.

Spending a few moments each day bringing our attention back to our own light, we might find ourselves more living more fully in each moment, each adventure, each passion or task.

Jon Kabat-Zinn suggests that the next time a sense of dissatisfaction or restlessness arises, that we experiment with turning inward. Try capturing the energy of being alive in this singular, eternal now, the only moment we actually have.

Instead of wishing for something different than what is here, make a place for yourself. 

ü  Sit down and simply enter into your breathing, even if for just a few minutes. 

ü  Don’t look for anything – not flowers, light, a beautiful view, a sense of doing it right or wrong.

ü  Don’t even think “I’m going inward now.” 

ü  As the Nike ad says, just do it.

Sit. Feel the air on your skin, notice the sounds, sights and smells of the room, and experience the light that is alive right here and now within you.

If you want more peace and love in the world, If you want more peace and love in your life,  First love yourself, and seek peace inside yourself
~~ Quote by every spiritual teacher from every tradition

Judy Schwiebert received her 500 hour teacher training certificate through Yoga Pura in 2008.  In addition to teaching yoga, her website at www.globalspiritonline.com is dedicated to celebrating the light within each of us through yoga, travel, music, writing, and volunteering.  She also serves as the Director of The Whole Life Center.

Judy Schwiebert

Celebrate Life!

Once you decide to celebrate, everything changes.

Within even those very real sad and challenging times that come to all of us, you can find blessings. It's not that any of us is immune from these depressing moments, it's just that we can learn that they are transitory and hold within themselves teachable moments.

I've sometimes been accused of seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses, or being unrealistic. Perhaps a bit of that criticism is accurate, but I think my joy in life comes from a far deeper spiritual place. And I think you can experience it as well.

Children know how to do this. They celebrate everything, like:

  • riding a bike without training wheels
  • losing a tooth
  • picking out the first star each night
  • getting a hair cut 
  • reading their first book 
  • zipping down the ski slope
  • swimming across the pool
  • being kissed

Perhaps you can remember these 'childhood firsts' and how they made you feel. I can.  

Once you achieve a certain maturity, you know that life goes in cycles. Harry Chapin sang "All My Life's a Circle" and the lyrics still ring true for me. Life is full of change and shifting and loss, but also hope and freshness and meaning.

All my life's a circle, sunrise and sundown.
The moon rolls through the nighttime, 'til the daybreak comes around.
All my life's a circle, but I can't tell you why,
Seasons spinning round again, the years keep rollin' by.

Deciding how to mark celebrations is great fun. Jumping up and down, drinking a toast, loudly whooping, saying a prayer, writing a poem, taking a mental or actual picture, lighting a candle, calling a friend are all ways I've chosen to celebrate. It all begins with paying attention and living life with intention. Marking each celebration with some sort of ritual or symbolic act tends to plant its memory, so that it can be recalled and re-lived.

As adults, moments we can choose to celebrate things that might include:

  • making it through the first holiday after the death of a spouse
  • saving a nest egg when saving's been difficult
  • holding a newly born grandchild
  • marking the first fall day when the windows and doors can be open
  • cooking a fabulous meal
  • hearing from a long-lost friend
  • physically achieving something new
  • paying off a debt
  • recovering from an illness
  • saying good-bye to a parent

I wish you many celebrations

Marilyn Rampley

Writing & Healing: Thoughts on Getting Started

Each of us has within us the power to write and the power to heal. Writing is a lifelong gift. Bringing ourselves to writing can also bring us to healing.

How Writing Heals

Writing is a tool-an emotional, intellectual, and spiritual tool. Writing about your joys, confusions, grief or anger can help in finding meaning and purpose in your life.

Sometimes writing about something allows those emotions to find a new home. I don't know about you, but I like it when anger and angst find new homes-such as my journal! This is just one of the ways writing can lead to healing.

Writing also heals by:

Allowing for a safe, judgment-free zone for self expression Encouraging "freedom to mourn loss and live beyond it," says writing and healing author Charles Anderson in "Me acuerdo: Healing Narrative in Stones for Ibarra"

Creating a shift from being a victim to being in charge of the story, according to Susan J. Brison, Philosophy Professor and trauma survivor

Acknowledging the deep-seated, human need for stories of hope and survival

Show Up to 'Heal Up'

In the words of Woody Allen: "Eighty percent of success is showing up." It's the same with writing and healing.

I've said in my workshops that the practice of writing is, in many ways, like yoga. The more you engage in the practice, the more strength, flexibility, and balance you develop. The more surefooted you are, the more it is sensed inwardly and outwardly.

Sometimes you just have to 'show up' and put your head in a different place in order to feel better. I usually feel more relaxed and at peace when I write a few words of gratitude in my journal or complete a series of sun salutations. The trick is to get started.

Here are 5 ways to show up so you can start your writing and healing practice:

  1. Find or create a space you enjoy. Clear the clutter and reminders of other obligations.
  2. Set a schedule and time frame that you devote to just writing. Fifteen minutes Tuesday and Thursday mornings before coffee and email? Evenings as you reflect on your day? What ever you choose, stick to it, even if all you do is doodle or comment on a favorite poem the first few times.
  3. Light a candle close by that reminds you and others-well maybe not the dog-of your purpose and that you are off limits.
  4. Check in with yourself. Without judgment, take stock of how you are feeling today: tired, snarky, blue, hungry, happy.
  5. Be in your head and heart.

Choose Your Writing Tools

To clear the way for thoughts to flow, you need to decide if you are writing in a notebook, a journal, your smart phone, iPad, or on the computer.

Some people find they can write better by hand. Mary Sojourner calls this "the heart-line" since our thoughts flow from brain to hand by way of the heart. But others, like me, find they can access a writing flow more easily using a keyboard.

If you are not using a computer, many options exist:

  • Simple lined paper for those who need lines.
  • Blank sheets in a notebook for those more prone to doodling.
  • A bound journal
  • Scratch paper for the "green" recycler

If, like me, you're afraid to mess up a fancy journal or feel it unworthy of random, unorganized, or even ugly thoughts-then free yourself of that notion.

Buy something you can get in the mud with-literally and metaphorically. Some people like to tape clippings and/or doodled-napkins in their journal. Whatever works for you!

When I write at home, I almost always write on the computer. When I travel I use a generic, soft-cover, college-ruled 7" notebook similar to the more intimidating Moleskin notebooks I wish my first draft ramblings worthy of.

Just Start

Whatever writing tools you prefer, the key is to go easy on yourself. Just start. After all, the end-result is to feel better, so you don't want to complicate the art of writing with worry or self-doubt. And, you don't have to wait until you have purchased that collector's edition Mont Blanc pen. Just get the words, thoughts and ideas on the page, so the healing process can begin.

Until we meet again on this blog, or in a writing workshop at the Whole Life Center, I wish you well writing.

Namaste,

Renee

Renee Rivers