Monday, June 30, 2008

InnerBliss: The Changeable Self

Eventually, this hydrangea will be dark periwinkle.

Listening to: Talk about maturation! This singer keeps evolving. The song becomes more powerful the longer you watch.

Today's Bliss Formula: A wee bit of breakfast brownie with my espresso. Mmmm, decadence.

I have overcome a lot of health problems that mainstream medicine says I should not have. To start, I got rid of my migraines. I'd had migraines since I was twelve, and I would get them anywhere from 4 to 8 times a month, and they were utterly debilitating. At one point, I lost a bit of sight in my left eye due to migraine. I never responded well to pharmaceuticals, and so finally, I took the matter into my own hands and was successful.

During my senior year of college, I started throwing up what looked like coffee grounds. Classic bleeding ulcer. The doctors told me I would just always be a Person Suffering from Ulcers. They had told me the same about my migraines when their pills wouldn't work. And they told me the same about a couple of other things as well.

If I had believed them...

But luckily, I didn't. Luckily, I did a little reading (my answer to everything), and I learned some interesting things about our physical bodies. Like the fact that the stomach lining replaces itself every five days.

Hmmm, I thought, if my stomach lining replaces itself every five days, then how am I to believe that my ulcer is "forever?"

There is nothing about us, physically, that stays the same for very long. Our cells are constantly replicating themselves and dying off.

If we are always changing on a cellular level, what would make us believe that we are the same day to day on a spiritual or emotional level?

Enter the concept in Buddhism known, in the West, as "No Self."

This can be one of the most perplexing of Buddhist concepts for a Westerner to grasp, and it can feel like it gets in the way of any kind of spiritual "progress" for many people. We use it as an intellectual stumbling block.

First a disclaimer: Though I think it's important for us to learn from all sources, regardless of their country of origin, I think it can be just as important to see what we already have. Perhaps if we delve deeper into our own traditions, we will find what we are looking for. The lure of the exotic should not be mistaken for "better." This is another post in and of itself.

Back to "No Self."

I think I have finally figured out what this can mean for my Western mind. Rather than seeing our goal as the obliteration of self, which I think is an impossible and unhealthy goal, we should see this as an invitation to know our self's as composed of infinite possibility.

It is not "No Self" but rather "No Permanent Self."

This is a radically freeing concept if you think about it.

It means that you can't put your self in any kind of box.

Georgie O'Keefe said once that even a small flower is never truly seen. How can we think, as complex human beings, that we are able to see ourselves or anyone else in their totality?

There are two ends of the Self Spectrum that are dangerous.

First, there is the end that is determined to have a concrete, once and for all defined concept of Self. I lived here for a long time.

This results in being stuck. You get stuck in your labels and your stories about your self.

So rather than understanding that depression is a temporary thing, you define yourself as "depressed."

This is why clinical diagnosis can be an awful thing. (Unless, of course, we are talking about people who are dangerous to themselves or others.) Your therapist writes "Chronic Mild Depression," and suddenly, your whole life story fits into that category -- your past and your future.

And is that who you truly want to be for your entire time here? Change is difficult but it is also easy. You just decide to be different. This does not mean you might not still have "stuff" to work through but the stuff is not you -- it is outside of you and you can remain your calm and happy self while working through it.

The other dangerous extreme is a self that is so undefined that it becomes vaporous. You have no center. You are so changeable that you immediately respond to the moods of people around you. You are constantly on the move, looking for a better life. You don't understand how to run the slow and steady race because you want instant gratification.

When you are at this end, you never fulfill your potential because you are constantly thinking there is an option you might be missing out on.

Perhaps you are good at lots of things and are afraid to make choices because that would then, seemingly, limit your choices. But to become truly good at something, to really delve into your deepest parts, you have to make choices. It's part of growing up, really. It's how you have a rich experience of your life instead of a shallow one.

It doesn't mean you can't make new choices, but you have to do this carefully and really ask yourself why you want to change again. Is it out of a sincere desire to do something challenging or are you still looking for something external to make you happy?

Somewhere on this "self spectrum" there has to be health, right? Of course. And as usual, that would be the middle way.

In terms of self, the middle way would be the awareness of our fluidity.

This is freedom. Being responsive to the now and not reacting out of the past. Always allowing for the best you to come out. Knowing you feel like crap now, but you that doesn't mean you will the next minute.

But the middle way of fluidity also respects the basic fact that we are water, meaning we know what we are made of. We know our basics. We respect commitments. We respect ourselves and our most treasured beliefs and priorities.

If we are acting out of love and compassion and kindness, that is a good indicator that we are being true to our essential selves.

If we measure our actions by those standards and not by material desires, we really can't go wrong. But we don't just apply those standards to how we treat others -- we also apply them to how we treat ourselves.

We accept that we have down days and then we move on. We accept that we have failures and then we move on.

Moving like water, never believing that we are down or that we are failure. Knowing that we are infinite possibility within a finite experience.

Do you allow yourself to be new or are you stuck?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

SharedBliss: Please Share

This is just a wee request...

If you've been liking what you read here, I would so love for you to share it. Share a favorite post or just the website itself with friends or family or someone you think might benefit.

Also, please share yourself. I have pretty consistently been hearing from some of you and I feel so privileged, yet I would love to hear from more of you! So don't be shy!

Share your bliss; share your questions. Join the discussion and let me know what you're thinking. I'd also love to know if there are topics you'd like me to go into more deeply.

Peace & Bliss to all of you.

MysticBliss: You Shine Like the Sun

The lilies are starting, so please bear with me!

Listening to: Something purely for fun.

Today's Bliss Formula: Frog is home today and then works for three days and then has four off. Four days during which we have nothing planned. Nowhere to go. Heaven. Perhaps she will even paint something new which I will share with you.

There is no way of telling people that they are
all walking around shining like the sun.


It was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty
of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where
neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach,
the core of their reality, the person that each one
is in God's eyes. If only they could all
see themselves as they really are.
If only we could see each other that way all the time.
There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty,
no more greed. I suppose the big problem would be that
we would fall down and worship each other.


--Thomas Merton

In Merton's autobiography, you learn that he came to this realization while sitting outside a mall of sorts, just watching people come and go. A mundane moment turned sacred. Instantly.

Because he was taking the time to really look.

I like that he saw our centers as the sun. In Buddhism, they would call this same thing "ground luminosity." And I'm sure that other traditions see our essence in the same light-emanating way.

It never ceases to amaze me how mystics from wherever and whenever come to the same conclusions.

What does this tell us?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

BardBliss: A Moment

Nothing like sheets that have hung outside to dry.

Listening to: This song is overdone and then she comes along and does this.

Today's Bliss Formula: Waiting to hear if we are headed out to dinner with friends this evening. That would be lovely. A changeable day outside -- many thick, gray clouds, then some sun, and back again. A lot of bird activity.

A Moment

You are taking a mid
afternoon nap; there is a cat
in every puddle of sun
around you.
Smells of mud and promises
float in on pre-spring breezes
through doors and windows --
their capacity for opening almost
forgotten in attempts to keep out
unwanted cold.

The house is still; sounds
of summer -- screaming children,
barking dogs, motorcycles --
long enough away to be remembered
with sentimental smiles.
The clock is ticking
as I walk up the stairs,
carrying a basket of folded laundry
and wearing a short sleeved shirt.

For once, all of this does
not escape me.
I stop and hush my self
in the middle of the steps.
I hear your sleeping breath
and observe dust particles
dancing in sunlight on the landing
and I think, this is it.
And it’s plenty.

--christine c. reed

Friday, June 27, 2008

BlissQuest: Are Your Own Rules Holding You Back?

Another photo from a walk this past weekend.

Listening to: A musical rule-breaker, a jazz genius, still kicking at 88 years old!

Today's Bliss Formula: I've already taken a walk this morning, something I have not been doing enough of, and it was good to get outside first thing, instead of looking at news and blogs.

One of the things that I have recently been working on is becoming more aware of the rules that I use to govern my life and how they affect me. My goal is to evaluate those sometimes deeply embedded rules in light of this question: Is this rule serving me or am I serving this rule?

The larger goal is to become more spontaneous in my reaction to daily life. To learn that each day is brand new and filled with possibilities that did not exist the day before. To live from my instincts and to experience being born anew each morning. I want to let go of all the "shoulds."

Otherwise, I want to live without limiting myself, without putting myself into some sort of box. In Buddhism, we hear a lot about the concept of "no self." I understand this to mean (after much reading) not that "I" do not exist, but that a solid and unchanging "I" does not. I am always changing and always being changed. I am fluid.

Thinking like this allows me to, for example, accept my moods as temporary. This is important. Instead of seeing a melancholy moment as a precursor to a larger depression, I see it as a melancholy moment -- a passing feeling. Passing. Fleeting.

Thinking like this also allows me to challenge myself.

I could have stopped my "professional" life with teaching creative writing. It was comfortable; I was good at it. Furthermore, it made other people comfortable, because when they asked me what it was I "did," I had that easy answer everyone wants -- "I teach."

But teaching has never been enough for me. I like to do it once in a while. If I thought of myself strictly as a teacher, this would limit my experience of myself as a creative person who needs a variety of stimuli in my life. I am a "snorkeler" and not a "deep sea diver." I need to be learning something new all the time.

"Jack of all trades and master of none" was used as an insult in my family. To be focused on one goal was the ideal and so I set that up as a rule for myself and used it for many years of my life to beat myself up. This was a case where a rule was creating depression and anxiety and deep sadness.

More of my rules:

I am 5'5" and I am only a good person when I weigh no more than 125 pounds. I still fight with this one, but I am learning, especially though yoga, that my body is strong and flexible and beautiful as it is and that I love to eat and food is a pleasure not to be eschewed. During my life, when I have managed to follow this weight rule, it is because I am following all sorts of unhealthy food and exercise rules.

If the house is not spotless, I must be lazy. How many of us believe this? That there are some sort of dirty house police out there, just waiting to come and take pictures of the piles of books and papers and dirty dishes? I have better things to do with my time than worry about imaginary cleanliness enforcers.

The most moral people are vegetarians. I was a vegetarian for ten years, but during that ten years, meat never ceased to be enticing. My partner is a very natural and happy vegetarian. I was a tired and hungry one. Finally, I came to see this as a destructive rule. I still have rules about organic, but organic tastes better, is better for me, and is better for the planet. That is what I would call a good rule.

And there are good rules. But I prefer to call these commitments.

I am committed to my partner. I am committed to clean and healthy food. I am committed to my yoga practice but not to the point of feeling badly if I don't do it. I am committed most of all to being happy.

And so my number one rule at this point in my life is to have fun. If a rule makes me grouchy, I show it the door.

So here's an assignment:

Start watching your most repetitive behaviors and ask yourself if they are based on some rule.

Then try to discern where you got that rule. Did it come from you or someone else?

Next, investigate the "why" of the rule. Why do you have the rule and what does this rule do for you?

And finally, is the rule making you a happier, healthier, more productive person, or is the rule holding you back?

If the rule is holding you back, can you let go of it?

Rules usually originate in fear and constriction. So this exercise is really about opening your heart and your mind -- two places that need to be opened if you are ever going to live a blissful life.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

RandomBliss: The Power of "No"

Jobie, who taught me all about priorities.

Listening to: From my childhood, a song all about action.

Today's Bliss Formula: Rain for the plants. I'm back to the library today and there is an event that should draw a couple hundred, screaming children. A candle lit in front of Jobie's picture. New ideas for my novel and other projects -- ideas that made me want to scream with delight!

Saying no to anything that gets in the way of your blissful and artful and creative life is the equivalent of saying yes to that life, to your priorities.

A lot of us have a hard time saying no and perhaps thinking about it as a yes will give us the strength we need to not make choices from feelings of obligation to others or to some standard version of what our life is "supposed" to look like.

I struggle with this all the time. Those voices in my head that tell me what I should or should not be doing can get pretty loud. But I am learning -- especially thanks to that handsome cat -- how to shut those voices down. (For a bit about Jobie, go here.)

Yet the voices got extra loud a couple of days ago.

There was a job posting at the Whole Foods Cooperative that I would be qualified for. And my "shoulds" all kicked in at once:

I could (should) help people more directly with this job.

I could (should) help the co-op.

I could (should) make more money! And buy things!

Underlying all these voices, there is a voice that it is critical I get to and recognize, but it can take a while, it's the voice that says:

What you are already doing with your life is not enough; do more. Making money is the most important thing. Having a recognizable-to-others job is most important.

And...the big one:

Stop trying to follow your dreams; you're getting too old for that. You're getting nowhere. It's time to face reality and grow up.

These voices come from many places, but the important thing is to bludgeon them to death! They are a choir of naysayers and listening to them gives them energy, grows them; they are emotional and spiritual parasites, stealing your life.

You have control over this. But only if you pay close attention to the constant chatter in your head, which is where yoga and meditation and other forms of prayer come in.

Most of us run on autopilot, hearing these voices and responding to them with our very lives but not really listening to them, not talking back, not telling them to shove it.

This is where the idea of constant choice comes in. You are making constant choices, but if you aren't aware of these voices, you will be under the illusion that some nebulous, external control mechanism is making your choices for you.

You will easily be swayed by external forces. You will say you have priorities but you will not live them. You will allow others to determine how you use this only time you have. You will go along with the crowd even when it feels like crap. You will be a sheep.

It took me a few hours, and I almost gave in, but I didn't. I said NO.

Because my dreams aren't impossible. As a matter of fact, my dreams are essential -- and not just to me. Living and being who we are meant to be, living the dreams that have been planted in our hearts -- me doing this, you doing this is essential for everyone else on this planet. The more of us who dare, the more others will dare.

Dare to be happy. Dare to say no.

Be brave. Know yourself and keep moving toward the self that you were born to be.

When people want to interrupt your precious art or writing or whatever time, say no. When an alternative life presents itself that would take you from your dream, say no. When people are toxic to your goals, say no.

If I can, anyone can.

And after I finally said no, I was rewarded greatly by the Universe (otherwise known as the Great Jobie in the Sky). Other opportunities immediately presented themselves that are more in-line with my priorities; ideas came flowing in from the Muse; and an iced mocha entered the picture.

What more confirmation could I ask for than that?

SharedBliss: Link to Marcy Hall Interview

I'll be posting later about the power of saying no to whatever does not feed your bliss, but for now I wanted to point you all in the direction of an interview with my partner, Frog. I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

SharedBliss: A Path to Other Blissful Blogs

An inviting path...

Listening to: An excellent song, exemplifying an excellent path through life.

Today's Bliss Formula: A bit of work time at the library (or "berry"). Good to get out with "the masses" (ha).

I thought I would occasionally do something different with SharedBliss -- something other than an interview every single Wednesday. Though I would like most Wednesdays to be interviews, I would also like to throw in the odd open thread question or a blog list.

I realized that I've never revealed what blogs I like to read, which bloggers I find inspiring. And there are so many of them.

When I was thinking about starting this site, I paid close attention to my own internal responses to other blogs. I learned that I didn't like using my reading time with anything overly negative or snarky or pessimistic. If I'm going to read, I want to leave the work feeling invigorated, more fully myself, ready to GO! (As a favorite blogger says.)

So...

Speaking of GO! This blog makes me smile every time. She's funny in an assertive and bold way, and I can feel the energy of her life coming right out of the screen. This is a great blog to read first thing in the morning; it makes me want to write a giant To Do list and finish every single thing on it.

Of course, some of my favorite blogs are focused on yoga, including this one and this one. They're very different from one another, but I think that illustrates the wide variety of minds (and bodies) out there in yoga land. And another and another...

One of the first blogs I ever read religiously was an author blog, my favorite author -- or one of my favorites. Another author, which you might find surprising, but I love the voice in her blog -- better than her books by far, though some of them are funny if you are in need of something light.

This is the only blog I read written by an agent, because she's nice and makes me feel like all things are possible -- rather than discouraging writers, which many agent blogs do.

And this young chick is amazing, truly inspirational -- and did I mention young? Really young. She started out as a fashion blogger and has grown from there. Mostly what I love about her writing is the pure and unadulterated exuberance.

That's just a small selection, but I think a good one.

These are the types of blogs, I believe, that are taking blogging to a different and exciting place. They aren't just diaries but they're informative and/or they give glimpses into different ways of being. And there is some quality writing going on.

I hope you find something new to enjoy!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

EcoBliss: Keeping a Weather Journal, More Important than You Think

Walking further than I normally would want to,
we happened upon this lovely fern forest.

Listening to: This song, I think, exemplifies how many people feel about "bad" weather.

Today's Bliss Formula: I am luxuriating in the time with my frog today. And in the fact that we have no more trips scheduled at all for the rest of the summer. The only "trip" I want to take is a regular jaunt down to our peninsula's beaches. And a walk to our backyard to sit on our plaid blanket and wait for birds.

As I mentioned yesterday, the best part of our trip this past weekend was the walking. Lots of walks. And the best walk was into the woods. There are patches of old growth forest here and you can feel there is age and wisdom amongst these trees.

During one of our walks, it was starting to rain. This normally would send me running for cover, shrieking even while I do so. Yes, I am a princess. And though my hair is not cotton candy puffy in any way whatsoever and I don't wear makeup or high heels or silk, I think I may melt. I'm not convinced that I won't, anyway.

But this time, Frog pointed out to me that the woods were like an umbrella and I took enough of a breath to realize that she was speaking the truth. So instead of running and most likely slipping and falling, I relaxed and enjoyed myself.

I've had this thing with the weather. I think it's because my father, who if the weather weren't to his liking in some specific way, spent a good deal of time swearing at it. I picked up the habit, sadly.

But being car free has gone a long way to changing my tune.

Also, being depression free has helped. And I think that is a key to this puzzle for many people.

We tend to use the weather as a mirror for our own emotions. So if we feel at all bad and wake up to a gray sky, we blame the weather for our mood. When really, the feeling about the weather is coming from the mood.

How I judge the weather -- as either "good" or "bad" or "pretty" -- has everything to do with my own internal landscape at that moment.

The weather is not out to get you.

The weather, really, has nothing to do with you.

Be grateful for the rain; most parts of this country are suffering from drought.

Be grateful for the four feet of snow; precipitation is precipitation and four feet of snow sometimes closes things down. We used to love that when we were little.

Let me also discourage people from seeing the weather as somehow our "fault." Yes, there is something going on in terms of climate change. There is no denying that. (Well, there is, but if your last name isn't Bush, you probably put some stock in real science.)

But...regardless of climate change, you can't change the fact of the rain. You can't blame climate change for earthquakes. Big hurricanes have always happened. Tsunamis have always happened. Stuff has always happened.

If you're that worried about the weather, stop driving.

Now, I have proof about this weather thing not really being a big deal: I keep a weather journal. So when people say things to me like "GOD! This spring is so COLD!" I can say, "Well, actually, last year about two days different from today, it was the same temperature." (What a pain in the arse I am!)

Or the classic in my neck of the woods is surprise at "late" snow. But I can document that we almost always get a bit of wet snow once the forsythia are completely yellow.

My weather journal has taught me about cycles and consistency. It has taught me, for example, no matter what we like to tell ourselves, that each season really is just about the same length of time.

It has taught me about the Buddhist concept of no attachment and no aversion. The weather simply is. Like much of life simply is.

It has taught me to pay attention to the rhythms of the season and thus to my own rhythms. For example, during the hottest parts of summer, I am not likely to do daily yoga and I am more likely to nap. This is just part of my own personal cycle.

So, try this. I am a regular journal writer -- and you should be too if you are in any way a seeker -- so at the top of each journal entry, I write "Planet," and under that I write a brief description of the weather, and if it is the growing season, I track what's happening in our yard or with the trees.

This is an awesome and powerful way to feel more connected to your life and your community. When you notice each tree, each flower, each bird, you feel responsible for their well being as well as your own.

If anything, when you look back and compare the "Planet" section to the rest of your journal, you might start to notice how much you blame the external weather for your internal weather, and maybe, eventually, you'll stop.

That's when you'll know that true change is in the air.


Monday, June 23, 2008

InnerBliss: 8 Physical Changes for A Brighter Outlook

Our feet did a lot of walking in the woods this weekend.

Listening to: I loved to dance to this at clubs in college. (Yes, it ages me.)

Today's Bliss Formula: Being at home. Being with our cats and the rabbit. Frog has most of today and all of tomorrow off. The lily buds are starting to color. There are strawberries to pick. The yard is getting that overgrown, wild look that I love.

This weekend, as I mentioned before, we were out of town. We went here, so Frog could get level 1 and 2 Reiki training. It's a quiet and woodsy place so we got in a lot of walking.

But being away from home always means that I eat incorrectly, I don't do yoga, and I am just generally off my routine. And I am a major routine cat. But for very good reason.

Though I no longer suffer from bouts of depression, for most of my life, I have suffered from frequent and intense bouts. I have worked really hard to find health, and my mental health, it turns out, depends heavily on my physical health.

We often talk about how our mental attitude affects our physical bodies, but we forget, I think, that it goes the other way. When I talk to friends who are still suffering from depression and anxiety, I emphasize the need for exercise and healthy eating. Of course, when you're depressed you don't want to hear that a walk will make you feel better but it will, and you don't have the energy to walk but a walk would give you energy.

It's all very catch-22.

How we eat and the water we put into our bodies also matters. Good, whole, clean foods. Plenty of vegetables. In my case, good, organic meat is important for my outlook. And no gluten.

I advise these friends (who are asking, by the way) that perhaps the best place to start is with the concrete, the physical, baby step type stuff. And then from there, you work inward. It seems counter-intuitive but how will you ever have the strength to work through your baggage if you can't even sit up?

So for those of you who are still looking for that bliss, still trying to figure out your best life, your most authentic life, why not start with getting physically healthy? It will clear your mind, allow you to see what you need to do, and then when you know, you'll have the energy to do it. You'll also be increasing your will power and your determination.

A few suggestions:

1. Walking. I've written about this before in terms of impact on the environment, and it's a perfect example of how the microcosm and the macrocosm are intricately and intimately bound together. You walk to save some resources, and the planet, as well as you, gets healthier. Walking, too, is a great way to slow your mind. To clear your head. If I go on a walk with a problem in mind, it will inevitably be solved by the end of the walk. There was a famous author (can anyone remember who?) who would walk around twenty miles every single day. He was English, of course!

2. Yoga. Obviously, I'm an official yoga pusher! But I am not exaggerating when I say that I don't know how I would be where I am without yoga. I always tell people that you don't have to "believe" in it -- it will work on you regardless. It brings an equilibrium to your body that no other form of physical movement does. It teaches you to more fully inhabit your body. It brings you back into your body if you have been absent for any period of time. For a really wonderful and exhaustive yoga blog, check this out.

3. Get good sleeps. Which I wrote about here.

4. Play. We forget to have fun with our physical bodies. My bike really brought fun movement back into my life. And it's gentle and good for my hips -- which are wrought with problems from some congenital issues and some abuse (dancing, tennis, being too flexible for my own good). But do you remember what it's like to go down a hill, smiling and giggling the whole way? Depression is no challenge for joy like that!

5. Good food. Have you gone organic yet? If not, why not? Yes, it can be expensive but ill-health is more so. If it's truly a strain on your budget, pick out the most important things -- produce, by far, is where you and the planet will reap the most benefit. A great overview of the whole food puzzle is this book.

6. Food allergies. I think a lot of us suffer unnecessarily. It has taken me many years, but I now know I am highly allergic to soy -- especially soy lecithin. For a whole year, I felt like someone was strangling me. I had all sorts of tests done, and my partner, frog, kept saying "stop eating soy." I wouldn't listen. Then I finally did. The throat thing was completely gone within a week and now I can detect if I have eaten even trace amounts of soy because I start to cough. I have also recently discovered that when I don't have gluten in my diet, my brain fog -- which I just thought was something I had, period -- my brain fog just up and left the premises. I feel AWAKE. It is nothing short of a miracle in my eyes. I still cheat and then I pay. Eventually I will stop cheating. But it can take me a long time to learn. For a great gluten free site, go here. Her book is also awesome.

7. Supplements. I'm not a big one for supplements -- I try to get everything I need from my foods, but sometimes they are necessary. Just try to get good ones.

8. No more pain. If you have any pain at all in your body, get it taken care of. Pain changes who you are. I know from years of low back pain. Now whenever I am grumpy, I do a body check and usually my back is aching.

That's really the big point -- being aware. We are physical (and spiritual) beings having physical and sensual experiences. Your body is the conduit through which your life experiences flow. If anything at all is blocked in that conduit, you are pushed out of the experience.

What could you do to, literally, feel better?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

MysticBliss: Clear Your Mind of Pollutants and Bad Weather

YUM!

Listening to: Sounds from space. Reminds me of chant. But then it was the ancient yogis who discerned that the universe speaks "OM."


Today's Bliss Formula: Coffee on the porch of an old house; my journal to write in and good books to read. No computer can be a good thing for a day or two (or more...).


I know a lot of people are doing the whole Eckhart Tolle/Oprah on-line thing, so I thought a little Power of Now would be good today.

I love this book; I think it's his best work. I feel like he wrote this and now he just keeps re-writing it. If that makes sense.

My copy has at least two colors of ink in it and after making my mark throughout the text during a couple of readings...well...there's barely anything not underlined.

The first time I read this book, when it was out years ago, I was at a coffee shop downtown. I had to take a bus home and it was snowing -- early winter, wet snow. It was very cold. Our buses here are notoriously late so I sat on a bench and started to wait. In the cold. Getting wet.

Normally this would have made me a bit peeved.

But I had the most amazing experience. I knew I was cold, but I knew it didn't matter. I felt myself getting smiley instead of peeved. A gruff looking motorcylcle dude walked by; he stopped and backed up. Stood a polite number of feet away from me and said, "You are a beautiful woman." He smiled and walked away. He wasn't hitting on me; he didn't expect anything.

But I had been feeling like I was glowing, so I knew it wasn't what I looked like physically that he was responding to.

From Tolle:

Once you have identified with some form of negativity, you do not want to let go, and on a deeply unconscious level, you do not want positive change. It would threaten your identity as depressed, angry, or a hard-done-by person. You will then ignore, deny, or sabotage the positive in your life. This is a common phenomenon. It is also insane.

Negativity is totally unnatural. It is a psychic pollutant...

Whenever you notice that some form of negativity has arisen within you, look on it not as a failure, but as a helpful signal that is telling you: "Wake up..."

Even the slightest irritation is significant and needs to be acknowledged and looked at; otherwise, there will be a cumulative build-up of unobserved reaction.

Remember that your mind is as a big and bright as the blue sky. Clouds will come; storms will come; wind will come; but all weather systems are temporary. Some last longer than others, but cultivate a willingness to let the storms pass.

Cultivate methods by which you can help the storm move through your life; breathing and yoga always work for me. Journaling. Talking. Walking until you are done with it.

I think, too, that we forget that while the storm is blowing, the sun and blue sky are still there.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

BardBliss: Burnt

From our city arboretum, LEAF.

Listening to: She looks so young here...and where are the feathers?

Today's Bliss Formula: A slow day amongst old trees in a place where cars cannot even be heard. Off the beaten path, truly.

Burnt

The fire of the sun
greeted me daily, burned
me from the moment of my
birth, left its mark upon
my flesh.

And for many days, I stared
at, picked at, pointed out
my scars to others. With pride,
I bore my burned flesh
in public like prized jewels.

For many hot afternoons, I
became my scars. In the mirror,
there was no me, only them.
I admired their pink ridged softness
and gave each a name.

Until a violet-orange sunset
came with a soft rain and after --
a gentle breeze and after --
the glow of the full moon
and her luminescent halo

poured over my burnt flesh.

And with the kiss of night
I danced naked under the dark
blanket of stars and the ridges
disappeared one by one
until there was just me.

--christine c. reed

Friday, June 20, 2008

BlissQuest: 7 Suggestions for the Solstice

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright!

Listening to: A good song for the Solstice.

Today's Bliss Formula: Being outside, of course!

Today is the Summer Solstice or Midsummer in the Northern Hemisphere, the longest day of the year. From here on out, they just keep getting shorter, which is why I'm a bit partial to the Winter Solstice, from which the days just keep getting longer. Besides, I'm Nordic genetically speaking and the heat makes me cranky!

Today, my partner, Frog, and I are headed to Lily Dale in New York State. On this Solstice evening, she will begin her level one and two Reiki training. Neither of us have ever done anything like this and we are both giddy and excited. It seems an auspicious day to begin a new venture, much less to begin an energy-based training.

And the sun is energy, which I think we sometimes forget in our attempts to get away from it.

Over our lifetimes (that of Generation X), the sun has been given a bad rap. When I was little, my mother would slather on baby oil -- not UV protection! -- and lay on a silver, shiny blanket, courting the sun in a way that would get her some serious crazy looks now.

But we need a certain amount of sun exposure every day so our bodies can produce the vitamin D that is necessary to good health. No need to be out in the middle of the day; you still want to avoid a burn. And sun is not just for summer. Winter sun is my favorite; it's weaker, which is good, and so you can be out longer, which is also good.

For many years now, the Canadian government has been running a health campaign whereby they encourage people to get out in the sun to prevent cancer -- and yes, you read that right, to prevent it. And now our mainstream medical community is catching up and seeing that those wacky Canadians might have been onto something. Vitamin D pills may become the new aspirin.

But why take a pill when you could just take a walk?

And today of all days, make sure to get outside. There are so many ways to celebrate!

1. You could get up with the sunrise and go outside and do sun salutations. When you do this yoga set outside, you can really feel the meaning behind the poses. I love stretching my arms to the rising sun and opening my heart to the sky and listening to the waking birds rather than any other music.

2. Check out what's going on in New Mexico. The video on this site is fun and informative. The Kundalini yoga community takes the Summer Solstice time to gather and chant and do yoga in large groups. They see the Solstices as very powerful and take full advantage.

3. The Neo-Pagan community has a multitude of ways to celebrate. From group to group, you would find a wide variety of ritual and approaches. Go here for a great explanation and don't hesitate to explore further.

4. Go here for a pretty good list of customs from different countries all over the world. Something will catch your eye, I'm sure.

5. The Goddess community likes to emphasize the aspect of Litha, for whom the celebrations were, mythologically speaking, devised to begin with.

6. If you've grown a garden, eat foods that are truly local and in season. Right now, we have enough in our yard to make dinner and dessert!

7. When the sun sets, light a fire. I love fire rituals, and one of my favorite is to light the fire, write down on a piece of paper something that you, perhaps, want to change or let go of in your life, and then throw it in the fire and watch it turn to ash.

The point is that there's no wrong way. But try something. If you are on a quest for a more blissful and meaningful life, trying new things is the only way to learn about yourself and what feels right for you.

I know something doesn't work for me when it makes me feel too silly. I'm a traditional sort of girl and I like things to feel quiet and private.

Then again, we are going to Lily Dale!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

RandomBliss: 9 Steps to Better Sleep Besides Drinking Herbal Tea

I just wish Miss Emily
could relax...

Listening to: For years, this band helped me to fall asleep. And how does this voice come out of anyone from this planet?! (Listen through to the end; it just keeps building)

Today's Bliss Formula: The clouds today are sitting on my head and making it ache but I am grateful that I no longer get migraines. (I got rid of them about twelve years ago -- I'd had them since I was twelve.) So a "normal" headache is a wonderful thing. I can function.

When you don't sleep well, you know exactly how important sleep is to your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Sleeping well, for me, has been something relatively new. I have probably only been sleeping -- truly resting -- for a few years now.

When I was younger, chaos in the middle of the night was not a rare thing. And so the pattern started where I did not allow myself deep sleep but rather dozed while on high alert.

I don't know how I finished high school, much less college or graduate school. As I get older and heal myself more and more, I realize how strong my willpower has been -- because, I think, willpower is all I have functioned on for a long time. And yet I thought I was lazy (due to always feeling tired).

No more.

As I have learned from a wonderful chiropractor/healer, you have to have enough energy to begin with in order to fall into deep sleep. That may seem counter-intuitive -- that you need energy to sleep -- but without energy you can't do the cellular level repair work that sleep is really all about.

Think about that: every night when you are sleeping, your body is repairing itself. It makes me wonder how much of modern disease stems from the fact that we sleep less and less, and that we sleep less well.

If you consider the importance of this aspect of sleep, you'll take the quality of your sleep more seriously.

And good sleep is the first step toward a healthy, pain free body, which is the first step toward a healthy mind which is a step toward a healthy spirit.

Over these years of chasing good sleep, I have found many things helpful, but there is one thing that is most important of all...

1. The number one way to increase the quality of your sleep (drum roll...) is...to live the life you want to live. If you have not found your bliss -- or more accurately, if you are still denying your bliss or not living your bliss, your deeper mind will know. Upon laying down, your mind will take this opportunity to spin fantasy or to castigate you with negative self talk. If you are living the life of your dreams, if you are following your bliss or at least working on following it, you will get to bed and feel as if your day were well spent. Contentment within yourself leads to good sleep.

2. The number two way to get better sleep then is to finish your day before you go to bed. Even if you still have to have a "fake job" in order to finance your dreams and your bliss, every day you should do at least one thing to build your bliss life. When you go to bed, you will rest easy knowing you are on your path.

3. Further, if you go to bed with lists in your head of "shoulds", you will not sleep. So take a moment -- but not in your bed, perhaps at a small desk -- take a moment and write short term and long term goal lists. Get it all out.

4. Really get it all out. Journal before bed. Write out all the things that are on your mind or nudging you in your heart. The idea here is to empty yourself of day time thought.

5. Have a pen and paper by your bed. If you're like me, no matter what, as soon as you lay down, an idea will pop into your head. Sometimes, for me, it's an idea for this blog or for some teaching that I'm doing or the first sentence of a new novel. Whatever. If I lay there thinking that I can keep it in my head until morning, my creative mind won't let me sleep out of fear of losing the idea. So as soon as it pops into your head, grab that pen and paper and write it down. Just a small note will do. A reminder.

6. Sleep aids like music are helpful. But it needs to be soothing music. Or you could listen to someone reading a spiritual text. I love hearing Deepak Chopra's voice -- that accent! -- and I love, in particular, a recording he has done of the Bhagavad Gita. Play it very low because the more still you get, the better your hearing will be.

7. A lot of us, when we were little, were taught to say our prayers at bedtime. This can still be a great ritual. You could just do some deep breathing and visualizations. Or you could use mala beads and make up your own prayer-like ritual. Whatever focuses and calms your mind. Repetition is great for this and why prayers like the Rosary are still used to this day.

8. Pre-bed is also great for yoga -- but of a specific kind. In Kundalini yoga, there are many breath techniques and mantras as well as physical exercises designed specifically for "restful sleeps" as Ana Brett says. Kundalini bridge pose with long, deep breathing is said to "shut down" the nervous system for a good night's sleep.

9. The right kind of reading. Do not -- I repeat -- do not read about "issues" before bed. Do not read books about the oil crisis or about dying polar bears. You may laugh, but I know plenty of people who do this. If you must read, and I myself like to read at bedtime, try poetry or spiritual reading. Thich Nhat Hanh is great before bed. The voice in his writing is so soothing.

And sure there are all sorts of other "rules" and remedies for good sleep: Alcohol in small amounts and only many hours before bed (studies show it interrupts the deepest levels of sleep); turn off the TV; no violent movies; herbal tea; warm milk; a warm, sea salt bath with lavender; lavender on your pillow. And there are lots of homeopathics if you are really desperate; my favorite that doesn't leave me feeling drugged is Calms Forte. Valerian makes me walk around in a stupor the next day.

But I've not had to rely on anything external for quite a while now, because during the day, I take care of my body, my intellect, and my spirit.

Preparation for good sleep starts upon waking.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

SharedBliss: Interview with Donna Davidge, Yogi & Retreat Owner

Donna "Amrita" Davidge, Yogi
& Owner of Sewall House

Listening to: The painterly images in this video seemed appropriate to Donna.

Today's Bliss Formula: For some reason, this summer has been quieter than others. I am grateful for this. Normally by early afternoon, there are so many children and so much noise. Perhaps this year, they all have camps they are attending?

This photo of Donna allows me to explain a bit about the Sikh connections within the Kundalini yoga community.

Not everyone who practices Kundalini is a Sikh. I'm not. Ravi Singh and Ana Brett do not wear turbans and I get the impression that they do not solely associate themselves with Sikhism. Kundalini, like all yoga, is open to anyone and helpful to anyone, regardless of your "official" religious affiliation. At a Kundalini yoga event, like White Tantric Yoga, you are asked to wear white (because it combines all colors) and to cover your head -- but you don't have to wear a turban.
Sikhism itself is only 500 years old. I find it a tolerant and loving mystical tradition. Their concept of God is not at all anthropomorphic and they see yoga and meditation as a way to God. They follow the traditions of ten gurus. For more, go here.

Yogi Bhajan, the man responsible for bringing the secrets of Kundalini yoga to the west, was a Sikh, and he was also Donna Davidge's first teacher. She has been teaching Kundalini yoga since 1985 but has not stopped her learning there. Her teaching now integrates other forms of yoga.

You can see the integration in her DVD's, which were my first experience of her. A friend of mine had gone to Donna's retreat in Maine and brought the DVD's home; they are beautifully produced and challenging (and her husband, Swedish singer and songwriter, Kent Bonham, provides music).

Yogi Bhajan gave Donna her spiritual name, Amrita, which in Sanskrit means "nectar of immortality."

A side note about Kundalini yoga and Sikhism: everyone I have encountered in this community exemplifies the principles of this tradition. They are open minded and caring and helpful. They walk their talk. And Donna had been one more wonderful example of this.

Describe the PrimeBliss of your life. How did you come to know that this was your PrimeBliss?

My prime bliss was getting on to a spiritual path that felt helpful and loving instead of a religious path I had known in my childhood that had made me feel fearful and not good (the original sin concept). In yoga and related philosophies, the idea is that we are a reflection of God, all inherently good and pure and powerfully connected to the infinite.

What types of choices and sacrifices did you make to be able to craft this bliss-filled life?

I gave up a wonderful marriage and career in my mid 20's to run off to Europe to "find myself." It was veiled in a pseudo-modeling career, but the things that happened to me and the growth I needed in order to be happy started with this tumultuous time and choice in my life. So I guess you could say I sacrificed security and the "American dream." It was rather selfish at the time, but we are often selfish in a destructive way until we learn to undo some of our past hurts, to love ourselves and others and to learn the importance of serving from a healed and more whole place.

How does your PrimeBliss radiate out into the rest of your life?

I became a teacher because my first teacher, Ravi Singh, told me to! When I started there were not all these teacher trainings and yoga was still quite odd and non-mainstream. I did it primarily because I knew it had already begun to spin the tapestry of my life in a better direction and I knew that if I could radiate to others the healing and joy it had given me then I could serve a positive purpose in other people's lives, no matter if it was just one person. Ravi once told me "If one person shows up, teach." Yogi Bhajan said "If you want to master something, teach it" so I knew I wanted to keep studying and practicing and evolving as I became a teacher quite early into my studies.

What are some other activities that also give you this sense of bliss? Things that make you lose track of time?

I love being with my cats: one is old and blind and hyperthryoid, and the other had been in a shelter for over 7 months and is big and black and fluffy and the sweetest cat I have ever owned. Animals teach us SO much. I also love to be in nature, whether in New Mexico at the Kundalini Summer Solstice or on the porch of our retreat home in Maine, which holds special significance to me because my great grandfather built it and I have heard amazing things about him as a "metaphysician" so I aspire to carry on his work. The most special place, though, is my mother's 60 year old lake cabin that I inherited (with my older sister) when my mother passed. It is absolutely isolated on a lake and all you hear are loons and the occasional fishing boat. You cannot even get there by car! I also love writing, which I did as a child a lot. When I studied acting with Michael Moriarty in NY City, he urged us to write a one woman show. I wrote one about my great grandmother's life in Maine. When I shared my writing in class, he called me Donna Davidge Throeau! So I guess my love of nature showed through. I am also blessed with a lovely husband from Sweden, whom I met through Kundalini Yoga and married at age 48. He has whole-heartedly embraced my yoga retreat adventure, and we are a great team, enjoying each other's company even when we are wallpapering(!) and he is now the chef serving the guests, so I think it important that even when working, we are happy and grateful! (Like the Buddhists say, our work and play should be the same!) This is not to say there are not challenges, all of us have them!

What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?

Most days, I have some physical asana practice. When I am in NY City, it is primarily a Mysore Ashtanga practice at a studio owned by Eddie Stern, who is a wonderful teacher. It is a quiet and sacred space, really a world apart from NYC for me energetically. I also study some with Dharma Mittra. He is amazing. For years, I have done many Kundalini sets, meditations and sometime practices that either Yogi Bhajan or Guru Dev have given me from the many manuals. In Maine, we have 30 minutes just sitting in silence every morning. For about 10 years, I did the 2 and a half hour Kundalini Sadhana at 4 in the morning as much as I could, but frankly, I got very tired during the day as I teach A LOT so I have sort of created my own practice since then as suggested above, it sort of evolved that way! I think Sadhana is important! I love chanting and breathing and asana practice as all part of my sadhana.

What music is your bliss?

Of course, I love my husband's music; he is just starting his own mantra project after composing and performing the music for our 2 Kundalini Yoga DVDs. I love a lot of the music from 3HO and Kundalini Yoga - Snatam, Sat Kartar, Guru Ganesha, Sat Kirin and many others. I also like Krishna Das and many of the non-Kundalini yoga artists as well. I used to incorporate non-yoga music, even Barbara Streisand, but I don't so much any more into my teaching and life.

Name books or authors/poets or people who are your bliss, who influenced your bliss.

Yogi Bhajan for sure is my biggest influence and I can thank Ravi Singh, again, for leading me to him. I had the chance to be around him a lot and get a spiritual name from him in person and his teachings have really transformed my life. I love Deepak Chopra's 7 Spiritual Laws for Success. We have lots of other great related books at Sewall House. I have devoured many of these books over the years. In general, I find people's lives inspiring so I have read a lot of biographies over the years on people from all walks of life, latest being Obama's "Dreams For My Father," which he wrote in 1994 and is wonderful. I also loved Tolstoy's War & Peace, which I read years ago. As a yoga person, I have studied the Sutras some as well.

What advice would you give to someone who feels they have not yet discovered their PrimeBliss?

I would suggest that no one ever give up on finding their happiness. Sometimes we have to take a really true, hard look at our lives and ourselves, and change is not easy but it is the gift life gives us. Some changes we can choose and some choose us but we can constantly work on our emotions, old ingrained patterns, and our inner life to become a happier more inspiring person. We may not "have" everything we would like, but what we can chose is how to "be." I have been through a lot of "stuff" in my life, and one thing I never did was give up; many things did not turn out the way I would have liked or hoped, but I can honestly say I am a happy person, and every day, I have my physical and mental health without the crutch of drugs or addictive relationships and all the things that can destroy a sensitive, wounded human being. I am thankful for life. Yogi Bhajan taught us to be aware and then to make choices from that place, choices that were constructive rather than destructive, to ourselves and to others. If you find something that seems to be good for you in a healthy way, stay committed!

Do you have a favorite quote you would like to share?

I think it was Helen Keller "Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all."

Thanks, Christine, for giving me this opportunity to share a little of my life experience on this humble path of learning.

And thank you, Donna, for being so open and candid.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

EcoBliss: 15 Bits of Earth Bliss

An American Tulip Poplar who
lives a block away from us.

Listening to: I couldn't find the exact song I wanted, but this will do just fine! (Live in concert they are even more amazing.)

Today's Bliss Formula: Paying attention and sitting still more often. I am "running" too much and that is a not a place from which I am able to be creative. My inner hermit is screaming from the activity, yelling "too much information!"

Are you paying attention?

Yesterday, about halfway through my day, I realized I wasn't. So I stopped all the computer work and went outside and really sat ... still. That sitting still, first of all, completely rejuvenated me. But it also helped me to see my imbalance a bit more clearly and come up with a solution. And finally, it helped me to write in my journal more deeply than I have in weeks.

All from sitting still. For a half hour.

My point being that it doesn't take that long. Though the longer the better. If we don't have time to sit still and notice our worlds, what kinds of lives are we living and are they worth it?

If we don't take time to sit still and notice our worlds, how will we ever be better stewards of this magical place?

And there is magic afoot, let me tell you. A few examples of everyday magic and bliss:

1. Feeding our indoor rabbit her afternoon salad completely from our own garden beds. Our variety of greens -- the colors and the textures -- makes her tail shake.

2. The cardinal who flew almost into me while I sat in the yard. Cardinal totems remind us to be ourselves, nurture ourselves, and add color and play to our lives. Their voices are loud and clear, so Cardinal medicine is about walking your talk.

3. The very small, baby squirrel who let me kneel and watch him eat from a mere 18 inches away. I was taking my walk in the park and noticed him. I could see each of his fingers, that's how close!

4. The good things that are coming from the rise in gas prices: more people buying and riding bicycles, taking public transportation, or just thinking about how they use their cars. My partner has heard people talking at the library about consolidating trips and errands. Something they wouldn't have thought about a year ago.

5. The strawberries! How could I not mention the strawberries? Last night, I cut up a big bowl of them and we ate them atop Julie's organic vanilla ice cream. Julie's rocks! Mmmmm, creamy happiness.

6. The yellow flowers on the early girl tomato plant on our porch.

7. The fattening lily buds -- pictures to come, I'm sure.

8. The cat bird who has decided our crab apple tree is the coolest spot in the city. Last night, he sat and sang and preened and showed himself off. It was quite a display and I am hoping he got a girlfriend out of it!

9. The rain we have gotten -- I have learned to be grateful for the precipitation.

10. My healthy begonias. I plant these for a great aunt who was very special to me and passed away when I was fifteen. Last summer, the species I planted did not like where I put them and I kept having to move them. They flowered but they weren't as happy as I like them to be. None of that this year.

11. The sound of the wind in the trees.

12. The fact that so many people -- people who wouldn't think of themselves as "environmentalists" -- are talking and thinking about plastic water bottles and trying to avoid them. One thing leads to another... (Did I just put a song in your head? If I did, I know approximately how old you are!)

13. The Robin nest in our front tree. I'll try to get pictures. (This is the beauty of digital cameras -- no need to be right at your subject.)

14. The Great Blue Heron who has decided to fly over our house every day like he did last year.

15. Oh, the sky out the window in which I am sitting. The big puffy clouds against a deep blue that we normally only see in the fall.

I'm sure after I post this I'll think of another fifteen things I could have added to the list.

Lists like this can dispel feelings of anger or sadness or despair. Noticing details reminds you that things aren't ever that bad. How could they be when the sun rises and beauty blossoms and the sun sets ablaze with pink and orange?

So, help me out...when you are still, what do you notice?

Monday, June 16, 2008

InnerBliss: Despair as a Tipping Point

You are a source of Wisdom and Strength
to those around you.
Painting by Marcy Hall.

Listening to: This song makes my heart happy to the point of bursting. And he just keeps getting better.

Today's Bliss Formula: Music. Books. Poetry. All of it. Writing. Walking. A rabbit in the next room. Three cats napping in sun spots. A frog outside reading and writing in her journal. Strawberries waiting for ice cream. Did I say music?

Let me preface this post by stating that I surely know despair. Intimately. But I do not see this blog as a personal diary, so I won't ever get into too many details about myself. I'll save that material for my novels -- besides, it seems more fitting of fiction.

But I have known despair. I have known deep and dark sadness. I have known the loss of the will to live. I have never actively tried to die but I have given up, wanted to sleep and not wake.

Yet these moments have not lasted or I would not be here.

This morning I woke up thinking about the sense of despair I have been getting from writers whom I thought would not go there. Writers whom I thought were beacons of hope. And then when I got online, behold -- many posts today about despair.

(Please stick with me through this; it may make you angry, but please just look into your anger, look past it to the underlying fear.)

I think we need to start at the beginning here with a definition (provided by the trusty Oxford English Dictionary -- shorter version; who can afford the longer?!).

Despair (noun): 1) complete loss or absence of hope; (a feeling of) hopelessness. 2) a cause of hopelessness; a thing about which there is not hope.

No hope.

No hope.

Strong language, that.

Stronger than I think most of us really intend. I think despair somehow has taken on a spiritual luster. Whereas saying "I am pissed" feels unseemly and aggressive, but perhaps is more appropriate for much of what we are feeling. Or "I am scared" or "I am grieving."

But no hope?

Despair is not a place to reside but rather a moment in time, a tipping point, a precipice. It is when you arrive at the cliff and decide to jump off into oblivion or walk away and figure it out.

And figuring it out might hurt and it might suck and it might take a long time, but in the very act of figuring it out, of looking into it, of diving in, you are displaying, working from hope.

You are not hopeless.

You have walked away from the cliff.

I have walked away from many cliffs. This November I will turn 40 and it has taken me a long time to figure out that I don't want to be anywhere near that cliff ever again. It has taken me a long time to figure out that despair is simply not real.

Despair comes about because we are attached to things being a certain way or we are attached to the idea of how things "should" be. We are attached to illusions.

Perhaps our childhood wasn't what we thought it should be. Mine wasn't. But my life now is mine and I believe that my childhood gave me gifts -- not because of the fear and sadness that I experienced but despite the fear and sadness and because of my own resilience and determination.

Perhaps we have lost a loved one "too soon," but would we choose to have never know them at all so as to avoid the pain of that loss? We can't bring them back but we can't lament their loss to the point of despair -- it is equal to lamenting their being.

I think of Gandalf telling Frodo, "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

Despair locks us down, paralyzes us. Wouldn't we rather act? Don't we owe ourselves action?

There is no mystical tradition that says despair is okay -- not as a long term response to anything (and I do mean anything). Jesus tells us to love -- no matter what. The Buddha tells us that at our most essential nature we are "ground luminosity."

No despair resides in love; no despair resides in luminosity.

The world may feel like it is ending, but look around at the beauty, look around at this creation. The sky is blue. There are Great Blue Herons on this planet. There is the unconditional, never ending love of an animal companion.

Science tells us that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. Hinduism tells us the same -- you cannot die because you were never born.

The freedom of that! The freedom to believe that no matter what "all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." (St. Julian)

Let go of the illusions that tell you anything else. Let go of the illusions that hold you back or make you sad. Anything that keeps you from realizing your inner diamond nature is an illusion.

You are a spiritual warrior who never stops fighting.

As you enter this life
I pray you depart
with a wrinkled face
and a brand new heart.

-- U2 (Love and Peace or Else)

If you're needing a bit more inspiration, check out the "prayer wheel" at this place.

Never cease praying (or visualizing or chanting or wishing on stars -- like I say, whatever you feel comfortable with).

But do stop despairing. There's no time to waste.