I laugh on my yoga mat. (Really, I do!)

Do not kill the instinct of the body for the glory of the pose.  Do not look at your body like a stranger but adopt a friendly approach towards it.  Watch it, listen to it, observe its needs, its requests, and even have fun.  To be sensitive is to be alive…

To twist, stretch, and move around, is pleasant and enjoyable, a body holiday.

There is an unexpected delight in meeting earth and sky at the same moment!

-Vanda Scaravelli in Awakening the Spine

My last post described yoga as a feeling practice. When I read this quote by Vanda Scaravelli many years ago it resonated deeply, and I began to explore the idea of the practice being “an unexpected delight.” The result is that my yoga mat has become a really fun place to be. A place to be tired and energized; a place to be terrified and gleeful; a place to struggle and a place to find ease; a place to laugh.

Peter Levine, who developed Somatic Experiencing, says you can’t be curious and traumatized at the same time. And what is that if not the yogic principle of self-study (svadhyaya) combined with santosha (being with what is)? So for me, engaging curiosity on the mat has meant noticing what feels freeing and what feels constricting. The magic unfolds on my mat as I get curious about what feels right versus what is an imposed should – an external idea of how my body should be. Where is the prana (life energy) moving freely, where is it not, and how can I allow it to be free?

Every summer, in Chicago, I teach yoga to girls from West Africa who are in the US as part of Expanding Lives, an amazing leadership and empowerment program for young women. The girls have a blast on their yoga mats. They groan and exclaim when a pose is hard, they sigh and smile when it feels good, they bliss out when we’re “just breathing.” They have no sense that they should be serious and self-contained, so they just experience the practice.

When I started letting go of the shoulds on my mat, I began to also experience my practice as fun! Instead of struggling to make a difficult pose “right,” I decided to get curious and relax, and often the pose would feel better and a smile would spontaneously emerge. Eventually I chose to smile rather than struggle, and before I knew it I was laughing from the sheer joy of moving my body in space (or even just holding still).

Sometimes I laugh because it’s hard! It’s exhilarating to be able to hold a pose until my muscles shake and my heart beats fast – listening for when my body says “Ok my dear, that’s quite enough.” My heart delights at the lyricism of a slow vinyasa. It’s fun to fall out of a balance pose, giggling like I did as a kid. It’s exquisite sensory bliss to lay in savasana (the rest pose at the end of class) with yoni mudra (a hand position) over my navel and feel prana move.

The body is a sensory instrument. How much we miss when we don’t befriend it.

I do have to admit it’s a bit of a challenge in group classes – I have to giggle softly to myself or risk disturbing the class. I’m told I have a particular way of laughing, so busting out in class the way I do sometimes on my mat at home might not be appreciated. I’m not suggesting we turn group classes into a free-for-all, but this holiday season, I wish for you that your practice can be a “body holiday.”

Do you laugh on your yoga mat?

Namaste.

 

Holiday SOS Toolkit

The holidays are fast approaching and one of the challenges for lots of folks is how to handle all the gatherings of different sorts that may seem more like obligations than fun.

I’m lucky that I actually like my family and colleagues, but in case you happen to fall into the “obligations” category, Susan Auman (my friend and business partner at CBW), and I have come up with 10 tips for a Holiday SOS Toolkit. Here goes…

(1) Remember it’s temporary. One of my unfortunate college summer jobs was selling educational books door-to-door in California.  One of the phrases I learned was Og Mandino’s “This too shall pass.”  Pretty much all social events are time limited, or you can set your own time limit by deciding how long you’re going to stay.

(2) Orient to safe others. When arriving at your destination, look around for familiar and/or friendly faces. If there’s someone you know you prefer over the others, spend time talking with that person. Make a new friend, or bring someone along you know you enjoy being with. Continue to check for people who seem friendly or inviting. Sometimes those safe “others” might be 4-legged or leaf covered!

(3) Choose to notice what’s pleasant. In any holiday gathering there’s likely something that qualifies as pleasant – or at any rate less unpleasant than the rest. Maybe the food smells and tastes good? Is there a real live Christmas tree that smells like an evergreen forest? Maybe the holiday music is cheerful? Or maybe there are pleasing pictures on the wall or friendly pets to play with? Even small things can shift a generally unpleasant experience, but you have to look for them or they might pass you by.

(4) Notice body tension and let it go. Difficult situations can make the body tense. Anxiety and stress generally show up as muscle tension in the body. Knowing the places you generally get tense can be helpful. If not, check for tension in your brow, jaw, shoulders, abdomen, pelvic floor or arms. You can choose to let go of tension in these areas. If your body’s not keen on letting go of tension you might have to consciously tense a little more (I know that sounds contrary), then stop your conscious tensing. Usually the muscles will let go – at least more than they did before.A little tip: your tongue can be an indicator of how tense you are. Tongue pressed fiercely up against the roof of your mouth? You’re probably revved up. Relax/soften your tongue and notice what happens in the rest of you…

(5) Move around!  Bodies actually become more tense when forced to sit still. Moving around can ease some of the tension (freeze) in the body and help you to relax. Sometimes just stretching in place or moving at the joints can help. For example, rolling the shoulders, wrists and ankles or gently stretching the sides of your neck might not appear too strange and can relieve some tension in those areas. Less tension means the brain thinks you’re more relaxed!

(6) Take breaks. If you’re like me, your inner introvert gets a bit overwhelmed by all those nervous systems in one place. Or maybe you just get overstimulated by lots of activity, color & noise? Removing yourself may be as easy as taking a trip to the loo! (That’s the restroom btw). While you’re there, check on your muscle tension, do some breathing with nice long exhales to relax the body and maybe even check for something pleasant – magazines? nice soap? interesting wall art? :-)Depending on where you are, going outside “for some fresh air” might also be and ok way to escape for a while.

(7) Pre-plan for contact with the sane world. If you know you’re going to be in the midst of a chaotic or highly unpleasant crowd, plan with a friend you can text or call (on those trips to the loo or when you’re breathing fresh air). Sometimes you need someone else to remind you to breathe.

(8) Get helpful.  I’ve found that purposeful activity can be very rewarding. Probably due to all that dopamine that gets created when you feel productive? Hosts are often happy for help and it’s sometimes also a way you can meet other people who are also helping.

(9) Plan an activity for the group. Directing the group in an activity can be a fun way of interacting, and also setting the tone of the gathering. Susan suggested the post-it note game. To play, you draw different characters on post-it notes and without the person knowing who the character is, each person gets a post-it on their back. Other people give people clues and each person has to try to figure out what their character is.

(10) Bring or wear something soothing. If all else fails, this is a back-up plan. Maybe you have a smooth stone that soothes you that you can keep in your pocket? Maybe there’s a lotion you like the smell of? Maybe a scarf with a texture you enjoy? Maybe your favorite colored shirt or tie or comfy shoes? Maybe your favorite tea?  Maybe you can check in with your favorite meme or funny YouTube video on one of those trips to the loo.

Whichever activity you choose, make sure you’re mindful and focused on that. Leave any aggravation, frustration or stress behind and stay as much in the present moment as you can. Much of what we experience comes from what we choose to focus on.   Whatever you celebrate, wishing you a wonderful, mindful, pleasurable Thanksgiving and very Happy Holidays.

The Trauma Brain Project

I recently had the honor of being on a panel of body-centered therapists following the reading of a play by Dayle Ann Hunt titled The Trauma Brain Project.

This play is powerful, moving, intense. It is the story of a woman’s journey to heal from the repressed memories of early childhood sexual abuse. Dayle takes us on this journey of her own life experience as someone who was diagnosed with Epilepsy as a child, who was also experiencing paralyzing migraines, unexplained nausea, psoriasis, sinus growths and a string of inexplicable conditions that followed her throughout her life; all of which led her (in her 50s) to shadowed memories of what had happened and to eventual healing with somatic therapy.

The cast is amazing. The direction is expert. We the audience were riveted for the duration of the piece.

This play is a must-see for anyone who works with diagnosing illness. Dayle Ann is passionate about medical professionals, therapists, and trauma survivors knowing that their symptoms may be trauma-related. The body and mind do actually influence each other.

 

If you’re interested in this topic and have any ideas on how this play can be more widely disseminated, please contact D
ayle Ann at www.thetraumabrainproject.com

After the play I led the audience through a few basic exercises to help with regulation since watching anything traumatic can have an impact on our bodies. And it struck home to me again tonight that we are being inundated daily with news of traumatic events. This doesn’t mean we are all traumatized by this, but we are more than likely affected. So I thought I’d quickly share one of the techniques that I shared with the audience in the hopes that you might be able to use it in your day-to-day. It’s called 3-2-1

  1. Look around and notice and briefly describe (e.g. “orange mouse pad”) three (3) things you see
  2. Now listen and name two (2) sounds you hear
  3. And now notice one (1) thing you’re feeling with your sense of touch.

How are you feeling now? You can repeat that sequence one more time if you’re feeling a little more focused or settled than you were before you started.

Namaste.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Happy 2016!


I saw an ad for a course recently that promised “total happiness” as one of the course’s outcomes (along with “your best body and beyond” – and all in less than a month!). Isn’t that how New Year’s resolutions are made? Out of the pursuit of happiness?
I’ve realized in my years as a therapist that there is an underlying message in our culture in general – or perhaps it’s best to say in our society in general, because there really isn’t just one “American” culture – that if we’re doing this human thing right, we should be happy.  And apparently we should be happy all the time no matter what happens. I’m curious about how this came to be, but the main issue I have with this premise is that when people find themselves unhappy, there is often a presumption of failure. If I’m supposed to be happy (all the time) and I find that my life situation has caused sadness or despair or frustration or anger then it must mean that I’m failing at this thing called “being human.”
The reality is, that by virtue of landing in a human body (however you believe that happened), you were set up for a life experience that likely will include a wide range of emotions, of which happiness is only one. Even the most optimistic of souls (and I live with one of those souls) occasionally gets sad, disappointed, frustrated and even angry. Every human experiences physical and emotional pain. It’s part of the package. It’s not a sign of failure.
Now there is the definite possibility, especially if your life involved overwhelming trauma, that your human system might actually no longer remember how to recognize pleasure. If that’s the case then there is some work to be done. Pleasure is part of our birthright. It’s part of the package. For happiness to happen, in my opinion, the ability to experience that which pleases us is required. And through the wonders of neuroplasticity, human systems – even after years of deprivation – can learn to recognize pleasure.
So while happiness isn’t necessarily the goal, a complete lack of happiness is also an indication of a system that’s lost its ability to be resilient. (Not a failure, an indication of a need for more resiliency). Daniel Siegel describes “integration” as the healthiest human state. Peter Levine discusses being in a state of flow. Either way, we are able to have the capacity to experience the range of life’s experiences, to be present for life and make some choices about how we want to respond, rather than going into reactivity. (And really, even reactivity is part of the package!) When we are in an integrated state of flow we are able to allow life to happen. We can be with ourselves, and others, as we are – happy, sad, lonely, joyful, disappointed, angry. We don’t have to get stuck in any one of these. Isn’t that a worthier pursuit than happiness?

We already have Peace on Earth

In my yoga classes and with therapy clients and meditation students, I often lead a mindfulness exercise where we notice discomfort or tension in the body and then also notice where there is ease, relaxation or comfort.  It usually comes as a surprise that both tension and ease can exist in the body at the same time – what you experience is determined by where you place your focus.  This works the same with emotions – we can have multiple seemingly opposite and often conflicting emotions happening at the same time.  What you experience is determined by where you choose to focus. 
This all might come as news to some of us.  Yes, we have multiple emotions and sensory experiences happening at once, but we usually only focus on one – and usually it’s the more challenging or unpleasant one.  The idea that I could change my experience based on what I focus on actually irritated me when I first heard it because it seemed to be saying that I should ignore the feelings I was having.  Actually, rather than ignoring what you’re feeling, the ability to notice what else you’re feeling can open up a wider range of experiences and possibilities.  The more we notice, the more the experience expands. For example, noticing that there is also comfort or ease in the body often has the effect of alleviating some of the tension!
I led this exercise for a group yesterday, and then this morning in my meditation I had a thought:  Maybe what we need to do is not keep working for Peace on Earth as some future ideal that seems only vaguely possible.  Maybe what we actually need to do is to open to the Peace that is actually already on Earth.  Noticing the softness of your breath, the gentleness of the wind, the smile and coos of a baby, the stillness or soft movement of the lake, the softness of a loved-one’s embrace, the gentle  falling of the snow or grass swaying in the breeze, the moments of quiet.  Accessing the feeling of peace in your body – the felt experience of peace – you can perhaps also begin to experience this even in the midst of chaos.   You can begin to notice the peace of the Earth underneath us and the peace in the air all around us – even when there is also anxiety and hurry and fear.  The more we can notice the Peace that is already here, the more it can expand.
This holiday season, may you experience the Peace that is already here on Earth.
Namste!

Pain happens

Hello again!  Long time no post.  There have been lots of changes happening for me recently, and for many people this is a time of change and transition.  Just since this summer 4 people I know have moved out of Chicago with their families.  A quick glance at the news will reveal that this is indeed a transformative time for humanity as a whole.

Change can be exciting and it can be challenging.  In fact any process of transformation can involve both of those states – and sometimes both at once!

As humans we are often surprised when change happens, and when it is difficult.  There is a mistaken notion that if we shouldn’t have to feel pain or discomfort supported by advertising and the media. Yet by virtue of being human, pain (in all its varying degrees) is an inevitable part of our experience.  Sometimes the pain is emotional and sometimes it is physical. Either type becomes suffering through our reaction to it.  When we resist, deny or reject difficult experiences, they tend to magnify – the pain insists on being felt.

One of the biggest sources of pain, I think, is this idea that what we are experiencing “should not be.”  We use a lot of energy resisting what is already here.  So, what is the solution?  One of my favorite yoga teachers, Roger Eischens used to say “It is what it is.”  I heard this phrase from him when he was dealing with the brain cancer that eventually caused his death. That simple phrase has saved me a lot of emotional wrangling.  When I feel myself getting caught up in the debate of “this shouldn’t be happening to me” I hear Roger’s voice “It is what it is” and I surrender to the fact of the matter. Marsha Linnehan, who developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy while working with severely suicidal patients describes the concept of “Radical Acceptance” – essentially a letting go of resistance to the truth of what is here.

A great deal of anxiety and stress can be released through this process of accepting what is.  This doesn’t imply approval or complacency, but a simple act of acknowledging and letting go of resistance to the moment.  I sense this as a physical shift – a visceral “letting go” of inner tension that I usually didn’t even realize I was holding. A spontaneous full breath usually follows.  Sometimes I have to remind myself to do this multiple times as the tension creeps up again.  And sometimes what is here really hurts and I get to feel the hurt without all the added tension created by the thought that the hurt shouldn’t be here.  This process can take a long time, depending on the situation, and in those times, I try to notice the degrees of pain – acknowledging moments of relief – or moments of “less than” the pain or difficulty that was here before. By being willing to be with what is, I get back into the flow of life and inevitably, the hurt moves through and I come out on the other side. 

A Spot of Sunshine

I was driving up McCormick Blvd yesterday afternoon and like so many other days in Chicago it was overcast for the 2nd or 3rd day in a row.  Suddenly there appeared a spot of sunlight over the street, which stayed long enough for us to drive through it.  It felt like such a treat – a spot of sunlight on a cloudy day – and if I hadn’t been paying attention, we would have missed it altogether.   How often is life like that?  When things seem bleak, can we pay attention and take pleasure in those little spots of sunshine?  I like to call those little miracles – like not being able to find my keys and then having a sudden intuition or looking in just the right direction to see them in an otherwise hidden spot, or coming to an intersection to make a turn and having someone stop right away to let me in.  I try to notice and give thanks for these little blessings and then they begin to add up, giving the impression that my life is full of blessings – and it is – except if I wasn’t paying attention to these “little” things, I probably wouldn’t notice how many there are! I’m convinced that the more you notice the more there are – kindof like positive reinforcement to the Universe :-).

Eventually the sun broke through the clouds and today is a gorgeously sunny day here in Chi.  As we celebrate the sun I also send out prayers for those in Japan that their recovery from the devastation will be swift and certain. My heart aches in compassion for their suffering and at the same time I am grateful to be safe, and dry and warm.

Namaste!

What do you want?

This year has been the year of fabulous yoga training for me.  In January I went to Tucson for the Level I training in Amy Weintraub’s LifeForce Yoga which specializes in yoga for managing anxiety and depression.  The workshop was held at a Catholic retreat center high up on a mountain with a fabulous view of Tucson.  We saw the sun rise every morning as we chanted the Gayatri mantra and on the last night were blessed with the rising of the full moon in all her luminous glory. 
Even though I’m an island girl, the deserts of the Southwest are magical to me, and in Tucson the desert is dotted with majestic Saguaro cactuses, which at 6ft tall are over 100 years old!  Suffice it to say the whole experience was transformative.  It was a great opportunity to “get away” and be somewhere else – to slow the pace of life and have an opportunity to be in silence with myself when I wanted, but also to be in joyful communion with others.

One of the things that Amy taught at the workshop was sankalpa.  A sankalpa is an intention.  You can create an intention for your class, for your day, for your stage of life.  You come into this life with a sankalpa – your life purpose.  Your sankalpa is essentially what you want to manifest.  But most often, when we are asked what we want, we respond by highlighting we don’t want!  For example:  “I want to not be so stressed,” or “I want to stop being so disorganized.”  We tend to focus on what we don’t want, rather than clarifying what it is we want to manifest.  In a way, it can be scary to imagine what you do want – what if you don’t believe you deserve it?  Or what if the current circumstances of your life don’t seem conducive to your dream manifesting itself?  Some of us were taught not to hope for too much, so we don’t end up disappointed.  Kriyanandaji, the head of the Temple of Kriya Yoga, often repeats the phrase:  Aham Brahmasmi.  He translates this to mean:  “I am the creative principle.” In other words, I have the power to create my life.  If you have the power to create your life, then why not direct your energies toward what you want, rather than what you don’t want?

So, what do you want?  Amy recommends that you bring your sankalpa into the present:  “Peace flows through me now.”  I’ve spent a lot of my life being tired and focusing on how I don’t want to be tired anymore.  So instead I created the sankalpa:  “Good health and vitality flow through me now.”  Guess what?  When I say it I feel better, clearer, more energized, and a smile comes to my face!  Of course just stating an intention starts the energy flowing, but you must follow intention with action to manifest your heart’s desire.  It is also beneficial to courageously, mindfully and gently excavate the underlying subconscious beliefs that might be sabotaging your best efforts.

The second fabulous teaching was last weekend right here in Downer’s Grove.  Rod Stryker also taught about sankalpa and he mentioned another term that I wasn’t familiar with until recently: vikapla.  Rod described sankalpa as the intention linked to your heart – that which you want, your reason for being – and vikalpa as that belief or desire which separates you from your purpose.  Whichever one of these is strongest determines your destiny.  A lack of fulfillment in life, Rod taught, is based on not living your purpose.  And if you’re not living your purpose, it might mean that your vikalpa is stronger than your sankalpa in terms of your desire for it to manifest.

I think we all get glimpses of our vikalpa.  You might feel yourself recoil when presented with a fabulous opportunity and then notice yourself coming up with reasons why it’s not the right thing or why you can’t do it.  Or you might start to clarify your sankalpa and find that your mind comes up with all kinds of reasons why it can’t happen.  Mindfulness helps us to notice these moments and look at them clearly, examining our deeper motivations, rather than running away.  What is manifesting in your life right now?  What might be the underlying belief or desire that has brought these circumstances into being?  (Rod Stryker has a book about these teachings coming out in a few months.  If you read it before I do, let me know what you think…)

So in two separate trainings this year already, I’ve been presented with the teaching on sankalpa.  Maybe its time to really get clear.  What do I want and do I dare to dream that the desire of my heart could become the life of my dreams?  I’ve seen plenty of evidence so far that your entire life can shift based on the strength of your desire.  If you had told me 10 years ago that I’d be a yoga instructor, energy worker and therapist I would have laughed.  I was a committed database manager with a love of logic, data and computers.  I promise you that life can change in a heartbeat. Aham brahmasmi – you are the creative principle.  The first step to putting that power to work is to get clear on what you want.

If you embark on this exploration, I’d love to hear about your sankalpa!
Namaste!

Loving Support

I just completed a wonderful 4-week meditation workshop, and in their feedback the participants mentioned how good it was to be able to share the journey into meditation with others who were understanding, kind and supportive.  Even in such a short time, (an hour and a half once per week for four weeks), there was a sense of community and shared intention that provided support for all those who were in it.  Meditation in many ways is a seeking into oneself, and yet this inner seeking is easier to do with the support of others.  

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about this sense of community and how we connect and separate ourselves from each other.  From a yogic point of view, the sense of an individual self is an illusion.  “No man is an island” was an old tune I used to hear my parents listen to as a child.  “No man is an island, no man stands alone. Each man’s joy is joy to me, each man’s grief is my own.  We need one another, so I will defend each man as my brother, each man as my friend.”  (Of course as a kid I wondered “what about the women?” but in the interest of the deeper meaning, we’ll let that pass for now!) 

All the world religions teach that we should care for our fellow human.  Yet watching the political news over the last few years, it has become so evident that we don’t, as a culture, live by that maxim.  In fact, our culture seems to be becoming more and more polarized into “us” and “them” and all based on ideas, thoughts and opinions, and the fear of these being somehow threatened and destroyed.  We identify with these opinions and beliefs and therefore when they are threatened, it is perceived as a threat to our very identity.

Even as yogis we are not immune from “separation-thinking.”  How often do yoga practitioners defend their chosen style of yoga as “better” or “more effective” than another?  Whenever we identify with a practice, an idea, or a way of being (what the yogis call ahamkara), we run the risk of thinking that we are that.  What follows is the assumption that “I am right” from which the logical premise that seems to follow is “they are wrong.”  Yet with billions of people on the planet, all with their own collection of interests, constitutional predispositions and life experiences, how is it possible that there could only be one way for us all to be, think or believe?  

 From a yogic perspective, we are not separate – we are manifestations of the same stuff – awareness, life force, whatever you choose to call it – we are manifestations of the substance of life which is One and yet each of us is a unique expression of that One.  Goswami Kriyandanda describes each person as a microcosm of the whole. Just imagine – you are a hologram of the whole Universe!

 
We are all the same stuff – just packaged in a different way, yet we spend so much time, energy and effort feeding the illusion of our separateness – this sense of “I, me and mine” that yogis call asmita.  The thing about feeding our sense of separation is that it also creates a sense of isolation and brings very little satisfaction.  When we build walls to keep ourselves, our opinions and our beliefs protected and safe, those walls also keep others out.  Those walls prevent us from hearing other people, from having sympathy and understanding, from recognizing in “others” not only our own brilliance, but also our own shadow.  And if we are too afraid or too ashamed to see ourselves clearly, we run the risk of projecting our own disfunction on to others and condemning them for it.   On the other hand, if we are able to really see ourselves with compassion, and even with humor, we can begin to free ourselves and to break down the walls that separate us from each other.
I remember the first time, as a teenager, that I realized that I wasn’t the only one with a particular trait of which I had been ashamed.  I had perceived this trait (can’t even remember what it was now) as a personal failing and when I found out someone else had it too, it was amazing!  I remember the sense of relief and freedom when I realized I was “only human.”  I could let go of that burden and stop blaming myself for not being perfect.  Being in a supportive community provides the opportunity to see yourself in others and be accepted as you are.  But you can do that for yourself and for others at any time if you think of all of humanity (and even all sentient beings) as your “community.”  Meditation is one way practice seeing yourself with gentleness and compassion, accepting yourself as you are – hang-ups, past life history, neurosis, judgments, opinions and all.  It all begins with the choice to accept ourselves as we are, with love & a healthy dose of light-heartedness.  Then we can create and/or find supportive communities where we can share this loving acceptance with others. 
What if we were to just expect loving support from our communities and especially from ourselves?  I wonder what would happen then?
In loving acceptance of you, just as you are…

Namaste.

Unlimited potential

Are there limits to your perception?  How big do you imagine the Universe to be?  How far does your energy field go?  Where do you end and the space around you begin?

My husband and I have an ongoing discussion/debate about the limits of human potential.  I don’t think that there are any limits.  He thinks there are things humans just weren’t designed to ever be able to do.  Maybe I’m just opinionated (an existential hazard of being born with 4+ planets in Aries) but I really believe that as humans we are only limited by our perceptions of what is possible.
Think of all the inventions of the last century.  I was explaining to my 5-year-old daughter tonight that my grandmother Mary, born in 1900, didn’t have television as a child – and read books by lamp light.  And when I was my daughter’s age, TV (in Jamaica) was in black and white!  She could hardly imagine such a horror!  Technology has shifted what we believe to be possible.  And I would argue that our belief in what is possible has accelerated the phenomenal technological and consciousness shifts of the last century.  Because of technology my dad survived a heart attack 8 years ago that would certainly have killed him 50 years ago.  Because of technology we also know immediately when tragedy has occurred anywhere in the world and we can rush to help relieve suffering. 
As technology has supported our belief in what is possible we have dared to dream bigger dreams.  And because we are human these dreams of course have been fueled not just by our altruism and generosity, but also by our fear and our greed. And so even as some people dream big dreams, others are afraid that these dreams will destroy us.  We live in fragile human bodies – the identification with which leads us to be afraid of death.  This fear of death, the yogis say, is one of the things that binds us to suffering.  (It also keeps the majority of us from jumping in front of moving trucks!)  This fear of death (or of annihilation – or non-being) also seems to underlie much of our resistance to life – what I would describe as contraction.
One of my first experiences with Reconnective Healing was through a process called The Reconnection.  This axiatonal realignment process is designed to reconnect us with our true potential.  During this 2-day process I had the realization that I was participating in something much larger than myself that was happening all across the planet and directly impacting human evolution.  It was amazing to me – mind-opening in fact.  It was so amazing that it scared me silly.  I felt that I was on the edge of a precipice – that I had been brought to the edge of the Void and my next step was to jump in – to something I didn’t and would never fully understand – at least not with my mind.  In the Reconnective Healing training I asked Eric Pearl about it and he said “Isn’t it exciting?!”  Exciting? Heck no!  It was terrifying!
In the years since my Reconnection I’ve come to some realizations that my mind still has some trouble wrapping its mind around.  I’ve come to accept that the Void is everything.  There wasn’t anywhere for me to jump because I was already here.  What was missing was my perception.  The Void is awareness and awareness is all that we are.  Some of us have amazing experiences of it, others more subtle realizations.  But whether we are aware of awareness or not, it is the ‘substance’ of which we are made.  Each of us is all that is – “the world in a grain of sand.”  This is why I believe in the immense potential of humankind – if we choose to embrace it.  It’s not an imperative in my mind – it won’t make us better humans than we are now – but I think it would be really, really fun!  I also think our expansion into this understanding is happening whether we like it or not.  We can be immensely joyful and compassionate, or we can be immensely selfish and greedy.  Through it all we are being – whichever choices we make, wherever we go, whatever we do.  We are the Void – nothing and everything.  Immense, unlimited potential.
In this Universe, as we experience it, is the potential for contraction or expansion.  So as we approach the dawn of a new year, the question arises – how expansive can you allow your perception to be?  As you imagine the vastness of our human potential, does contraction eventually kick in?  What form does it take?  Is it fear, is it a belief system or an adopted “truth?”  Is it a sense of how things can’t be or should be?  Is it sadness for the way things are?  So, what if you could open to let even your contraction be expansive?  In other words, what if you could just allow it to be okay to have all those thoughts and welcome them into this sense of expansion or possibility?  Then how much could you allow your heart or your joy to expand?  And in the midst of all of this, how much could you love yourself, just as you are – contraction, expansion, resistance and all?
To quote Blake (don’t be impressed, this was my first time actually reading the poem! These lines actually stopped my breath for a second):
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
You are the world in a grain of sand – all the Universes in one human body.  What could be impossible?
Have a blessed, expansive, loving, joyful, perfect-as-you-are New Year!! 

See you on the other side…