I've been going through my old journals and most recently, reading through the pages I filled up during my month in India, this time two years ago, with my sister. Heart won't forget.
I've been going through my old journals and most recently, reading through the pages I filled up during my month in India, this time two years ago, with my sister. Heart won't forget.
This blog has been growing and changing shape for the two years+ it's been alive and I am grateful for the practice of consistency, the ego mania challenge and the pull of providing something for a group of people, sometimes at the expense of myself.
I have developed the many aspects of myself within these shared containers because I have always believed in transparency and shared responsibility. Plus, it's way more fun to participate in togetherness.
The time has come to realize a changing of season, and with that, much transition is ahead.
Our last SR circle will be this upcoming Monday and what will follow, I will find out.
The last yoga class I teach will be this upcoming Thursday and what will follow, I will find out.
What I have noticed while playing intimately in the digital realm is informative but also lacking in quality. I drew close to those truly sharing themselves on their account and realized one day when unfollowing 600+ people, that I was rarely inspired by a majority of the content I was viewing because I didn't feel anything from it.
I sat down one day when realizing the huge impact who I follow has on me and said, "Does this person inspire you?"
Inspiration isn't just happy and curated forms, and I found for me, it was often the opposite. I was repulsed by the amount of faking it that reeked from most accounts and if the answer to my question was no, I unfollowed.
I am surrounded by a radical community of people who show up and allow themselves to be seen, who put their heart on the line to be critiqued, who do what is being called through them, regardless of what everyone else has to say about it.
The years of experiencing this, in real life, have continued to ground me in the actual world versus the internet world. Completely different rules and ways of playing.
I will continue to use this blog, this site and the various platforms online to spread and share meaningful content and the very simple ramblings of a basic life lived fully.
When you get things in the mail, tangible and real, when you share in held eye contact, warm and true, there is nothing digital that can substitute.
I am beyond thankful for the givers and receivers in my life.
It has taught me what foundation is, what roots represent, what the fundamentals of life lived well, are.
Here are some of my favorite writings over the years if you'd like to revisit:
This one is about why being open is a must and why it's so hard.
This one is about why asking big questions is necessary.
Here I make predictions about the future which was fun.
This one is about change and why it's terrifying everyone.
Why we let go and surrender is here.
And finally, why work-life balance is a BS term that confuses everyone is here.
I have become a stronger writer through each piece and reviewing them is so special to see where I've come from.
I hope you enjoy.
life is beautiful
just like you
by Jon Kabat-Zinn
If you look up the word “spirit” in the dictionary, you will find that it comes from the Latin, spirare, meaning “to breathe.” The in breath is inspiration; the out breath expiration. From these come all the associations of spirit with the breath of life, vital energy, consciousness, the soul, often framed as divine gifts bestowed upon us, and therefore an aspect of holy, the numinous, the ineffable. In the deepest sense, the breath itself is the ultimate gift of spirit. But, as we have seen, depth and range of its virtues can remain unknown to us as long as our attention is absorbed elsewhere. The work of mindfulness is waking up to vitality in every moment that we have. In wakefulness, everything inspires. Nothing is excluded from the domain of spirit.
As much as I can, I avoid using the word “spiritual” altogether. I find it neither useful nor necessary nor appropriate in my work at the hospital bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and health care, nor in other settings in which we work such as our multi-ethnic inner-city stress reduction clinic, prisons, schools, and with professional organizations and athletes. Nor do I find the word “spiritual” particularly congenial to the way I hold the sharpening and deepening of my own meditation practice.
This is not to deny that meditation can be thought of fundamentally as a “spiritual practice.” It’s just that I have a problem with inaccurate, incomplete, and frequently misguided connotations of that word. Meditation can be a profound path for developing oneself, for refining one’s perceptions, one’s views, one’s consciousness. But, to my mind, the vocabulary of spirituality creates more practical problems than it solves.
Some people refer to meditation as a “consciousness discipline.” I prefer that formulation to the term “spiritual practice” because the word “spiritual” evokes such different connotations in different people. All these connotations are unavoidably entwined in belief systems and unconscious expectations that most of us are reluctant to examine and that can all too easily prevent us from developing or even from hearing that genuine growth is possible.
On occasion, people come up to me in the hospital and tell me that their time in the stress reduction clinic was the most spiritual experience they ever had. I am happy that they feel that way because it is coming directly out of their own experience with the meditation practice, and not from some theory or ideology or belief system. I usually think I know what they mean; but I also know that they are trying to put words to an inward experience which is ultimately beyond labels. But my deepest hope is that whatever their experience or insight was, it will continue for them, that it will take root, stay alive, grow.
Hopefully they will have heard that the practice is not about getting anywhere else at all, not even to pleasant or profound spiritual experiences. Hopefully they will come to understand that mindfulness is beyond all thinking, wishful and otherwise, that the here and now is the stage on which this work unfolds continuously.
The concept of spirituality can narrow our thinking rather than extend it. All too commonly, some things are thought of as spiritual while others are excluded. Is science spiritual? Is being a mother or father spiritual? Are dogs spiritual? Is the body spiritual? Is the mind spiritual? Is childbirth? Is eating? Is painting, or playing music, or taking a walk, or looking at a flower? Is breathing spiritual or climbing a mountain? Obviously, it all depends on how you encounter it, how you hold it in awareness.
Mindfulness allows everything to shine with the luminosity that the word “spiritual” is meant to connote. Einstein spoke of “that cosmic religious feeling” he experienced contemplating the underlying order of the physical universe. The great geneticist Barbara McClintock, whose research was both ignored and disdained by her male colleagues for so many years until it was finally recognized at age eighty with a Nobel Prize, spoke of “a feeling for the organism” in her efforts to unravel and understand the intricacies of corn genetics. Perhaps ultimately, spiritual simply means experiencing wholeness and interconnectedness directly, a seeing that individuality and the totality are interwoven, that nothing is separate or extraneous. If you see in this way, then everything becomes spiritual in its deepest sense. Doing science is spiritual. So is washing the dishes. It is the inner experience which counts. And you have to be there for it. All else is mere thinking.
At the same time, you have to be on the lookout for tendencies toward self-deception, deluded thinking, grandiosity, self-inflation, and impulses toward exploitation and cruelty directed at other beings. A lot of harm has come in all eras from people attached to one view of spiritual “truth.” And a lot more has come from people who hide behind the cloak of spirituality and are willing to harm others to feed their own appetites.
Moreover, our ideas of spirituality frequently ring with a slightly holier-than-thou resonance to the attuned ear. Narrow, literalist views of spirit often place it above the “gross,” “polluted,” “deluded” domain of body, mind, and matter. Falling into such views, people can use ideas of spirit to run from life.
From a mythological perspective, the notion of spirit has an upwardly rising quality, as James Hillman and other proponents or or archetypal psychology point out. Its energy embodies ascent, a rising above the earthbound qualities of this world to a world of the non-material, filled with light and radiance, a world beyond opposites, where everything merges into oneness, nirvana, heaven, a cosmic unity. But, while the unity is surely an all-too-rare human experience, it is not the end of the story. What is more, all too often it is merely nin parts wishful thinking (but thinking nonetheless) and only one part direct experience. The quest for spiritual unity, especially in youth, is often driven by naivete and a romantic yearning to transcend the pain, the suffering, and the responsibilities of this world of eachness and suchness, which includes the moist and the dark.
The idea of transcendence can be a great escape, a high-octane fuel for delusion. This is why the Buddhist tradition, especially Zen, emphasizes coming full circle, back to the ordinary and the everyday, what they call “being free and easy in the marketplace.” This means being grounded anywhere, in any circumstances, neither above nor below, simply present, but fully present. And Zen practitioners have the wholly irreverent and wonderfully provocative saying, “If you meet the Buddha, kill him,” which means that any conceptual attachments to Buddha or enlightenment are far from the mark.
Notice that the mountain image as we use it in the mountain meditation is not merely the loftiness of the peak, high above all the “baseness” of quotidian living. It is also the groundedness of the base, rooted in rock, a willingness to sit and be with all conditions, such as fog, rain, snow, and cold or, in terms of the mind, depression, angst, confusion, pain, and suffering.
Rock, the students of psyche remind us, is symbolical of soul rather than spirit. Its direction is downward, the soul journey a symbolic descent, a going underground. Water, too, is symbolical of soul, embodying the downward element, as in the lake meditation, pooling in the low places, cradled in rock, dark and mysterious, receptive, often cold and damp.
The soul feeling is rooted in multiplicity rather than oneness, grounded in complexity and ambiguity, eachness and suchness. Soul stories are stories of the quest, of risking one’s life, of enduring darkness and encountering shadows, of being buried underground or underwater, of being lost and at times confused, but persevering nevertheless. In persevering, we ultimately come in touch with our goldenness as we emerge from the darkness and the submerged gloom of the underground that we most feared but nevertheless faced. This goldenness was always there, but it had to be discovered anew through this descent into darkness and grief. It is ours even if it remains unseen by others or even at times by us ourselves.
Fairy tales in all cultures are for the most part soul stories rather than spirit stories. The dwarf is a soul figure, as we saw in “The Water of Life.” Cinderella is a soul story. The archetype there is ashes, as Robert Bly pointed out in Iron John. You (because these stories are all about you) are kept down, in the ashes, close to the hearth, grounded but also grieving, your inner beauty unperceived and exploited. During this time, inwardly, a new development is taking place, a maturation, a metamorphosis, a tempering, which culminates in the emergence of a fully developed human being, radiant and golden, but also wise to the ways of the world, no longer a passive and naive agent. The fully developed human being embodies the unity of soul and spirit, up and down, material and non-material.
The meditation practice itself is a mirror of this journey of growth and development. It too takes us down as well as up, demands that we face, even embrace, pain and darkness as well as joy and light. It reminds us to use whatever comes up and wherever we find ourselves as occasions for inquiry, for opening, for growing in strength and wisdom, and for walking our own path.
For me, words like “soul” and “spirit” are attempts to describe the inner experience of human beings as we seek to know ourselves and find our place in this strange world. No truly spiritual work could be lacking in soul, nor can any truly soulful work be devoid of spirit. Our demons, our dragons, our kings and queens, our crevices and grails, our dungeons and our oars are all here now, ready to teach us. But we have to listen and take them on in spirit of the heroic never-ending quest each of us embodies, whether we know it or not, in the very fabric of a human life lived, for what it means to be fully human. Perhaps the most “spiritual” thing any of us can do is simply to look through our own eyes, see with eyes of wholeness, and act with integrity and kindness.
By Tsultrim Allione in Women of Wisdom
"In order to understand wisdom, we have to go back to the beginning, to the basic split. The split is between "I" and "others." This is the beginning of the "ego." The ego sees everything dualistically, there is a space which is "here" and which is "me" and "mine" and another space, "there," which is "them" and "theirs." This barrier between the internal space and the external space creates a constant struggle. The conventional search for happiness is the ego's attempt to redress this split by making it all "mine," but the ironic twist is that the more the ego tried to control the situation, the more the barrier is solidified. In the struggle the ego completely loses track of the basic split that is the source of suffering.
After the dualistic barrier is initially created, the ego forms a kind of governing headquarters which sends feelers out into the environment to determine what is safe and what will enhance itself and expand its territory, what is threatening and what is merely uninteresting or vaguely annoying. These feelers report back to central headquarters and the reactions to this information become the fundamental poisons. From these poisons develop further elaborations, and we get into conceptual discrimination, further pigeonholing of perception in more complex forms. We end up with a whole fantasy world centered around the ego. A story line develops based on these reactions and one thing leads to another. The whole thing gets so complicated that the ego is kept constantly busy and entertained by the plots and subplots which develop from the basic dualistic split. This clinging to the fantasy that the ego needs to control its territory and protect itself from threats is the basis of all suffering and neurosis. However, since this process has been going on for lifetimes, the thickness of the plots and subplots sometimes becomes overwhelming.
Because the energy of individuals varies, their styles of relating to the basic split also vary. When the ego's frantic struggle is relaxed, the basic energy of the individual can shine through as wisdom. The way wisdom manifests will vary according to the nature of the individual."
"Your youth, your voice, your energy, were all such a blessing. I loved your wise words and seeing a young woman with such purpose and openness. Your inner beauty shines true and lights up your face. Thank you for all of the beautiful and wise things you shared with us this weekend. XOXOXO"
"Dear sweet sister, such bright and pure light you shine. Thank you for your honesty, openness, curiosity and love. It is so clear to me that you are doing what you are meant to do. Keep inspiring us and believing in you!"
"Heather, after our first evening together I went home and told my best friend in Australia about how much I liked your energy and that you came up with "trauma camp!" Like - how was I not calling it that all along? You have such power at such a young age and I think you should run with it!"
"Yes to you!! I see so much of myself in you Heather! Thank you for coming! Sharing, spilling, being brave on the rocks. I believe in you. Cheers to bare feet!"
The three littles I nanny for as my teachers
Littlest: "MOM! We had the option to go into the haunted house today. The scary or the not scary version."
Mom: "What's the difference between the scary and the not scary version?"
Littlest: "In the scary one, you walk through with the lights turned off and in the not scary one, you walk through the same thing with the lights turned on."
Middle: "It's darkness savings, we're on the sun's time now."
Oldest continues to mirror myself to myself, what being an oldest naturally asks of siblinghood. I came home from dropping off Littlest and Middle at soccer and gymnastics.
Me: "How's dinner coming so far?"
Oldest: "Not well."
Me: "Why, what happened?"
Oldest: "The can opener fell apart."
We spent the remainder of the evening in laughter and contraption creation to get a small enough opening of each can to pour out.
Me: "We make a great bean team."
and so we begin
a day in the life
"To grow up, we build an ego that sets boundaries between the self inside and the world outside. And society initiates us into a world ruled by laws, structure, obedience, and duty, gradually replacing the ecstatic mind of childhood with the rigid and conventional mind of adulthood. As this ego takes on a life and personality of its own, it controls and directs our attention, limiting our vision to matters of fear, hope, and survival, and cutting us off from the freedom and joy we knew as children. Its constant chatter, judgments, and interpretations filter out much that is essential to our wholeness, separating us from ourselves and the world of others in which we live.
After a while, every spontaneous impulse, every natural urge to express a feeling or an emotion, must struggle through a labyrinth of socially conditioned responses. We become "educated," but in the process we lose our true self, our "original face." We fix our awareness in the "everyday world" and lose touch with a deeper dimension of life.
As the daily assault of modern life wears us down, more and more of us long for healing, for new ways to connect with our Spirit, to feel joy in our lives."
- Margot Anand