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Back to the Basics

30 Aug

I am here in the Texas countryside towards the end of my current housesit.  In the midst of everything going on in the world, I’m glad to have been hunkered down for a bit caring for two sweet kitties and a whole mess of plants in the Texas heat.

As time lingers on and the world and the US face many challenges, I have to remind myself to make an extra effort to get back to the basics. For me, these are the practices, the way of life that best supports my health, wellbeing and my mental and spiritual health, development and growth. 

As we’ve been sailing through these unexpected seas for a while, I certainly have had my moments when I wanted to crawl back into familiar territory and habits that don’t necessarily serve me.  While of course it does my spirit some good to have some lighthearted breaks and treats, it also does me a world of good to continue to build my foundation on those things that truly nurture me and support an unshakable foundation when so much seems to be crumbling around us.

Reiki has been and continues to be one of the steadfast pillars in my foundation. I find sometimes in the midst of all that is happening I get restless or frustrated and want to settle things “my way” instead of leaning on my spiritual resources. Of course time and experience remind me how uncomfortable this can be and instead to lean more heavily on the steadfast ways that have served me as I have wandered around some of this planet over the past decade.

As a Second Degree Reiki practitioner, sending distance Reiki is a big part of this. This is the same healing energy experienced in a hands-on Reiki treatment but it can be sent anywhere and to anyone regardless of time and space. I remember one time I was driving with a friend who was having painful sinus issues. As she was the one driving I couldn’t very well give her a hands on treatment at the time so I asked permission to send her Reiki. She agreed and immediately she noticed her sinuses start to loosen and drain. Recently I sent Reiki to a friend who had financial and personal challenges stacking up and needed to move forward. The next day she had a breakthrough. I have to smile remembering reconnecting with a friend who is also a Reiki student. I told him I would send him some Reiki and immediately began to do so.  “Are you sending now?” he asked as he took note of experiencing that “Reiki energetic feeling.” “I am!” I replied!

As a traveling house and pet sitter, I also rely on using Reiki to clear the energy regularly and repeatedly of the places I visit.  All homes, all places are filled with the thoughts, history, and chaos of the moment and the times. I clear the energy because it helps to support a more harmonious living circumstance and honestly, just makes things feel better!  It’s also a great foundational tool to support improved mental health, emotional health and any challenges or changes that may need to happen or be addressed in the home or space.

I remember when I was just starting out in Reiki. I was crazy sensitive in the wake of slowly tapering off the anti-depressant Paxil to the tune of extreme withdrawal challenges. I had picked up a little gig working for a friend in their tent at a festival. So many people… all that energy was a big challenge for me especially in my circumstances. My Reiki teacher encouraged me to clear the energy of the tent over and over again while I worked. I was skeptical at first. But in earnest, it made a difference and made working possible in my still pretty fragile state.

I also recall one housesit some years ago where something about the energy of the place just didn’t feel right. It was palpable. I couldn’t sleep at night. My Reiki teacher encouraged me to clear the energy regularly and I did. I was there for a while and with regularly clearing the house felt great and I slept like a baby.

Would you like to explore Reiki energy in your world? A distant treatment can support mental, emotional and physical health as well as challenging circumstances and situations. Clearing the energy of your home can support a more peaceful and harmonious environment.

At a time when many of us are still spending more time at home and there are a whole slew of challenges about, I would love to support you with Reiki.

For a limited time I am offering the following Reiki treatment options:

Distant Reiki
• $35 for a 45 minute treatment
• $60 for a 20 minute treatment four days in a row.  A treatment four days in a row in Reiki is very powerful.
• $108 for a 45 minute Reiki treatment four days in a row.

Distant Reiki Home Energy Clearing
• $25 for a 30 minute energy clearing of your home or selected address

Reiki Sample
• $35 Distant Home Energy Clearing (15 minutes) and Distant Reiki Treatment (30 Minutes)

If you’d like to know more about Reiki please follow this link. It shares a bit more about my practice and experience as well as some helpful links.

If you’d like to schedule a Reiki appointment or have questions, please email me directly at gypsywomancafe@gmail.com.

These are unusual times. But also a useful time to practice shifting our attention, taking our time, going within to explore new pathways for living.

Wholeness

22 May

Greetings from the midwest as the Coronavirus journey continues! Like many of you out there, I am shifting through an unexpected set of life circumstances at this time. In an effort to relate to what’s so in my life in a way that serves me, I am doing my best to expand and adjust my way of thinking and not get lost in my own mind or tripped up on the intense world of emotions out there out in plain sight and hiding in some unexpected corners.

In the past weeks I’ve tuned into a handful of zoom meetings and youtube videos in an effort to keep myself tuned to a positive channel.

Here are few of my “favorite hits” and resources from recent weeks!

Krishna Das Chai and Chat Series
I love this series of little snippets of Krishna Das having tea while answering questions from selected curious minds. If you’re unfamiliar with Krishna Das, he is a well-known Kirtan Artist and loved and respected worldwide for his soulful chanting and humble, fun and down to earth nature. What I love about these videos is I feel he is the real deal sharing simple earnest truths from his journey. I love the vibe of his talks, the information shared and the way I just feel better after I’ve relaxed in them for a bit.

The “I” of the Storm
This is a book I am reading with an online Unity Church book group. We’re just a few chapters in, but already it is assisting me is shifting and developing a new point of view. The heart of the message of this book is that nothing is against us. The journey so far supports coming from a place of wholeness, outside of our automatic beliefs and meaning that we assign in this world of opposites, and living, making choices and viewing our lives from this lens.  He refers to this as the “I” of the storm.  A worthwhile read and a great lens for strengthening new muscles and adjusting points of view!

Creative Mornings Acts of Wholeness by Katherine Wintsch
Creative Mornings is an international meetup group in cities around the world that supports gatherings of creative folks – which is all of us!  They recently shared this video in their regular email offerings. It’s a fresh light story of a professional woman’s journey of needing to totally reevaluate her life when it was broken and not working. She shares some wonderful metaphors and her own experiences reminding us to start within in assessing what we need to make our life work and build out from there.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy, Reiki Master
Maureen has a distinct intuitive gift and offers numerous light-hearted and fun reminders of how we can stay tuned to joy in our lives no matter what our circumstances.

The unmistakable theme of all of these is wholeness. In my experience, it’s easy to get lost in feeling fragmented and tripped up. There are so many distractions out there that invite us into that!  I found all of these to be like signposts and simple reminders that it needn’t be so.

How about you? What beacons of light or simple joys are helping you stay connected in a positive way?

Thanks for tuning in!  Here’s wishing all of us wisdom and grace as we continue this journey!

 

 

 

Trust Reiki

18 Apr

I started practicing the Usui Shiki Ryoho tradition of Reiki more than 15 years ago now. I was introduced to Reiki in a synchronistic passing with a neighbor on Carrollton Ave in New Orleans, LA.  “You should try Reiki” he suggested and it was as if a little bell rang in my ear. “Yes I should!” I thought.  A few weeks later I saw a Reiki flyer at the local yoga studio which connected me with a class by Reiki Master Elizabeth Ohmer Pellgrin.  And so my Reiki journey began.

I’ll be honest with you, my beginnings with Reiki started off a bit choppy. My body was so wracked with the depth of recent challenges and a lifetime of “holding on tight” in the midst of traumatic circumstances that when I gave myself Reiki my body practically convulsed and the energy was met with my own habitual resistance.  “Trust Reiki” Elizabeth encouraged and I did, continuing with my daily practice. “I am turning into a gloworm” I joked as I noticed a palpable shift in my body and being with regular self Reiki treatments.

I was fortunate to become part of a vibrant Reiki community. We met regularly for group treatments in various circles all over town. I made new friends and connections and Elizabeth was a steadfast support in my journey. I felt swept up and supported in a whole new way that formed the beginning of a new foundation.

A few years later when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and we were dispersed everywhere, Reiki was there. I met up with Elizabeth in Austin, TX  for a private second degree class. I can still remember sitting at the kitchen table in my temporary Austin abode excited and enchanted by the new leg of my journey.

Elizabeth shared the story of asking her first Reiki teacher, Ken Bower, the difference between first and second degree. He said, “Honey, first degree is like driving a Volkswagen. Second degree is like driving a Lamborghini.” Elizabeth said “Ken, how can you compare something as spiritual as Reiki to cars?”  He smiled and said, “You’ll see!” About two minutes later he pointed to a fancy car Elizabeth had never seen before. She raised her eyebrows and said “What?” He smiled and said “THAT’S a Lamborghini” as it sped off like a jet!

With second degree I began to support myself and others in new ways. A few years later when I took a leap and left the United States and began an unexpected international adventure, Reiki was there.  As someone who was very sensitive and still challenged by simple and day to day things, Elizabeth encouraged me to send Reiki to those in our community not only to support them, but to support me. Amazingly, as I began to devote more time daily to the practice of sending Reiki to others, my own challenges and discomforts lessened.  It felt like through sending I was becoming aligned with that energy and the more I stayed there, the better I felt.

I had the opportunity one year to attend the Northwest Reiki gathering at Breitenbush in Oregon.  I loved not only meeting and connecting with other Reiki practitioners and learning from the wisdom of the Masters, but also soaking in that energy for a weekend. I was at a crossroads in my work life at the time and I’ll never forget, after bathing in Reiki all weekend I just KNEW what I needed to do. In my “ordinary life” the choice that it supported may have seemed like a risk, but after a weekend of Reiki it felt like walking on solid ground.

As the years have gone by, Reiki has been my refuge, as I lean thickly and heavily on my daily self hands-on practice and hearty distant practice. As my New Orleans community has dispersed and grown, we still stay connected via a second degree Facebook group.  In this group we share our own Reiki requests and those in our community and send Reiki regularly. This daily devotion has become one of the pillars in my life and where I turn to provide a foundation for myself in the midst of ordinary life as well as crisis and challenges.

I am someone who has experienced a lot of upheaval and challenge. This includes physical and mental health challenges and challenges from the past. I had my apartment and all my belongings destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and then once again all my belongings were destroyed a few years later in a leaky storage unit in the hot humid city.  This launched me on an unexpected five year extravaganza abroad filled with interesting but also challenging twists and turns living in Europe and Asia. And in the past few years, my North Carolina apartment flooded, which began my house and pet sitting tour of the United States which has lasted over a year now. Through it all, Reiki was and continues to be there. My steady practice lays the stones that one by one support the building of an unshakable home no matter what is happening in my life or where I am.

In the midst of new challenges and in the wake of my journey and experiences, I hear the words of my teacher and the many teachers among her and before her. Trust Reiki.

Back in Texas

10 Oct

I’ve been in the Austin, Texas area for about a month now. I have to admit that my landing has been a little less than elegant. A series of car issues and just a feeling of “adjustment” have had me feeling not quite on my feet.

I lived in the Austin area for a few years in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Known as an “evacuee” at the time, it was a powerful and transformational period for me. Returning almost 15 years later is quite a trip. Austin has, shall we say, exploded! Honestly, it was a bit of a jolt to see the maze of new highways, strip malls, building and shopping developments in the town I lived in and called home for a bit. As I’ve been here a while longer I have had glimpses of the town that I loved and the place that for a little while felt like “home.”

One of my favorite places to return to has been Unity Church of the Hills. This church was a bit of a refuge for me when I lived here post-Katrina. It’s where I first heard Gary Renard speak (author of Disappearance of the Universe) which had a major impact on my spiritual thinking. It’s where I went to a sound healing session and got my first truly deep restful nights sleep in the wake of the upheaval of hurricane Katrina. Years later, with new ministers at the helm, the church is as dynamic and alive as ever. Their message is so gentle, powerful and loving. It is a great community to take a dip in while I am here.

Black Tourmaline

After a year of traveling and house and pet sitting in the US, while in many ways I am so grateful for the diversion and new scenery (and still want more of it!), I am also a bit exhausted from the constant change and travel. More recently here in Austin I have found myself in need of a bit of an “attitude adjustment.” Stumbling upon a few friendly reminders like “laughter yoga” and the importance of laughter for health and even a “chance encounter” with a powerful healing stone, black tourmaline, to lift off some of the negativity (in myself and the world at large) have made a difference.

Some of the people I turn to for wisdom and advice talk about this time in general as one of great change and spiritual shift. Perhaps even an inner revolution of sorts. Can you feel it? I know I feel that myself, my world and the world are being rocked in a deep way.

When “the going gets rough” I turn to my favorite trusted resources to help smooth out the ride.

Young Living Oils Lavender and Valor

  • Young Living Essential Oils  These oils are my constant companion, especially when things feel a bit rough. Valor and Lavender (among many others) are a few big hitters that bring some groundedness, soften some of the anxiety, and restore a bit of equilibrium to my mind, body and being. Would you like to learn more?
  • Healthy eating.  Wow, it really makes a difference. I have to be honest, when I am stressed or feeling a lot of emotional intensity I want to run for comfort food. But I do my best to make good choices in times of stress. Eating a healthy base makes such a big difference in my body, mind and mood. It’s critical. Recently I’ve been revisiting the site of Kris Carr (https://kriscarr.com/), cancer survivor and wellness guru. I’ve especially loved reading about her meal planning tips (https://kriscarr.com/blog/kris-carr-crazy-sexy-meal-plan/) and exploring some of her recipes!
  • Spiritual Nourishment. I have to say, I love God. And for me spiritual nourishment, connection comes in many forms. My daily reiki practice. My buddhist chanting practice of Nam-myoho renge kyo. Time in nature. Being inspired by the beautiful music of “Celebration” at Unity Church of the Hills. It’s all good. And for me, it’s all needed, helpful, useful and inspiring. What do you turn to for your spiritual nourishment?

When I feel like I am in the dark, I also appreciate pulling a few cards. Sometimes this means a tarot reading from my own deck or a professional reading. I also enjoy getting a quick burst of insight from Collette Barron Reid’s online card ap (https://www.colettebaronreid.com/). I am amazed at how often her cards deliver a morsel of wisdom that helps me refocus, regroup, realign in way that is meaningful and helpful.

Here’s wishing you a little peace, wisdom and laughter wherever you are in the world, whatever your journey!

Turning Poison Into Medicine

20 Jul

It’s been a bit of an odd day. I have worn myself out with my share of emotional excavation. I am tired.

This time in my life partnered with a few situations that have me feeling all twisty inside is moving around my emotional furniture – and you know what a pain remodeling and redecorating can be. At times, it’s been an overwhelming day with situations that have me feeling bent for reasons I do not fully understand. But then while chanting today I remembered an important element of my Buddhist practice – turning poison into medicine.

I had almost forgotten about it. But as I sat chanting in front of my Gohonzon it came to mind. The idea behind turning poison into medicine is that any situation, no matter how painful, can be transformed into something that can be of use -helpful even. Remembering this set me free just a bit because it’s a reminder that in circumstances that are troubling to me I don’t have to be a victim. I can choose to transform it to something that will truly serve me and my life.

I appreciate bringing my challenges to the Gohonzon and being able to place all of it there. I don’t have to hold back or be embarrassed. I can bring all my troubles there no matter what they are. And I can begin to transform them.

In SGI Buddhism the way to change poison into medicine is by chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. I also chant chapters from the Lotus Sutra. How grateful I am to have a practice that opens a door to a little bit of freedom instead of feeling trapped in my circumstances. It’s like a powerful lantern when I feel I need to find my way out of the dark.

So just appreciating this access. It’s sort of like a trap door when you’re not sure how to get out. Turning poison into medicine gives us power in the big and small challenges of life’s journey.

Opening Doors in the New Year

1 Jan

Happy 2018!  Well, time is rolling along and I can hardly recall where 2017 has gone. It’s fun for me to remember that while it’s 2018 for many of us, in Thailand it’s the year 2561 with a calendar based on the Buddha!  That was one thing that traveling always offered me… just when you thought a thing was “so” – it gave you an opportunity or experience to see that it just wasn’t the case.

I am here in Hendersonville somewhat bundled up with the chilly air outside.  It’s been a satisfying and at times quiet holiday season for me. While in some ways I am used to spending the holidays on my own with my years of traveling abroad, I find I tend to approach this season a bit tenuously not always sure what to do with myself  and in some ways just doing my best to “make it through” until it comes around next year. This year it’s been a pretty nice balance of connection and independence and I am grateful for both.

Last week I took just a couple of days to visit the Art of Living Center in Boone, NC to spend some time with the head of the organization, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I first stumbled upon the Art of Living in post-Katrina New Orleans as they were there offering courses to support the community in the aftermath of the storm. Something about the energy of the organization caught my attention. I attended an information session to learn more and when the wife of a favorite minister joined the session as an experienced participant with the group, I knew I was in the right place.

I took their foundation course called the The Art of Happiness and their practice called the Sudarshan Kriya quickly became part of my morning routine. In the craze and aftermath of life post-Katrina, I took a little refuge in the peaceful feeling of this organization and periodically attended their evening long Kriya’s, gatherings and service opportunities.

That was over ten years ago. Since then I’ve been fortunate to stay connected with the organization and the practice. I’ve connected and practiced with local groups while traveling including Vienna and Kansas City.  To my amazement and delight, I was also able to attend their World Culture Festival in Berlin in 2011 while I was staying in Wettenbostel, Germany.

Sri Sri has brought yoga, meditation and practical wisdom to millions of people in over 150 countries. I was encouraged by a trusted friend to take their second flagship course, Art of Silence, in their European Center in Bad Antogast, Germany in 2014.  This was an opportunity not just to grow further spiritually through the framework of this course, but also to meet and share a little space with Sri Sri who would be at the European Center for a few days of the course.

Since that experience in Germany, I keep in mind that it’s a good idea not to miss an opportunity to be in Sri Sri’s presence and that is why I headed for Boone over the holidays.

Sri Sri was in Boone teaching an advanced course to students who had taken at least eight Art of Silence Courses (I have taken one) and have practiced with him for many years. The evenings were open to the public for chanting and an address from Sri Sri and that is where I fit in.

When I first arrived, making my may up the windy roads to this somewhat secluded mountain escape, who do I see walking solo down the road but a small Indian man.  Is that….?  I thought… and sure enough it was… it was Sri Sri walking down the road apparently taking some respite from the intense teachings of the day. What do I do?  Uncertain… I slowed down, rolled down my window, waved and said “hello!”…

At first, it was a bit of culture shock seeing this tiny spiritual man dressed in robes coming straight from the throws of more regular American life. But it was a good reminder to shift… to turn the dial just a bit and take things in a little differently.

With over 1000 students attending this course, I joined the busy dining hall for a modest meal of Indian fare, rice and dessert.  I sat with a few folks participating in the class who have been long-time students of Sri Sri.  They talked of spending time with him over 25 years ago at the simple Ashram in India and noting the many differences and shifts in their life since then.  I also met a woman who lives in Asheville, also a long-time student of Sri Sri, and a great reminder of some of the benefits of these practices in the long-term including a youthful spirit and demeanor.

Then I headed to the large meditation hall where I joined the 1000 plus participants as well as other guests, friends and family. Sri Sri eventually came and took his place seated on the stage up front. He didn’t speak for long, but his simple and refreshing words were a great reminder to me about this whole thing called life. He started by asking us to imagine all of the conversations we’ve had, thought, participated in, watched on tv… and then to imagine that we were separate from that.  And to consider that all of that, this changing world of conversation, beliefs and opinions, can distract us from experiencing the unfathomable joy and beauty found in our inner depths. He encouraged meditation as an important tool on this journey. All in all, he just reminded me that half the things I was worried about, considering, trying to figure out were in many ways distractions from the very opportunity he was talking about.

I left from my time there reminded of this. Of course I still think too much, still need to make life decisions and don’t always know what to do… but this simple message and his presence reminded me to continue to explore opening a door just beyond on all that… and that journey is always available to me no matter what I may or may not choose to do in this life…

And so, here I am, trying to enter a bit more gently and mindfully into 2018.  Sometimes gracefully, sometimes less so. Trying to not take all the conversations in my head and with others too seriously.  And just taking it from there.

Here’s wishing you a little extra dose of peace, happiness and well-being this New Year!  And may we all find that little door within us, in our own time and own way, that opens us up to greater gifts of joy, wisdom, peace, freedom and happiness!

Learning to Dream Again

19 Jul

Well, I didn’t mean for it to happen… After five years of travel, big leaps, amazing challenges and opportunities, when I came back to the US all I wanted to do was rest. While elated by my journey, I really wanted a big taste of life that seemed more “normal” to me.  Thankfully, that’s exactly what I got. As a little more time passed, my time and energy went into getting some of the basics going in my life… work, a place to live. This was all good, but after nearly a year of a lot of hard work, focusing on the practicalities of life, and a big dose of “normal,” something started to happen… my capacity to dream was shrinking away.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do… I lived for five years on a healthy appetite and desire for gobbling up new destinations. Despite the obstacles and challenges that came with it, year after year each new international travel opportunity roused excitement in my soul and gleamed inspiration in my eyes. But in the end, after five years, two continents and six countries I found myself in a deep need of restoration and something different… and I wasn’t quite sure what that was.

The Dreamer Card from Doreen Virtue’s Angel Tarot

Here I am over a year down the road, and where does that leave me?  I have found myself lately feeling the need for a new dream but also feeling depleted, at a true loss for it and no inspiration in sight.

So recently I have been taking small steps to get myself into some new space. Ignite a new light. Perhaps open a tiny little door.

Last night I attended a Meet-Up group in Asheville called “Being in Business.” The idea behind it is folks who are interested in exploring and cultivating a spiritual element in the way and how they do and develop their work.  Last night our featured speaker was Lauren Foster, a “happiness coach.” As she told her story, I could really relate to her journey of overcoming many obstacles to reach her dream but also needing support, a new vision and assistance to continue to cultivate new possibilities in her life.

She had us do a simple exercise where we imagined our lives 3 years down the road and wrote down our dream in the area of joyful work. She encouraged us to let go of limitations. As I sat to do the exercise, it was almost as if my dreamer was dead.  She had been down this road before. My dreamer had been on high gear and worked over so hard for so long, it was hard to get her cookin’ again.

Poem by Shel Silverstein

Author Elizabeth Gilbert tells the story first offered by Mark Manson that each creative dream comes with a “shit sandwich.” And that if you really want something you have to be willing to live with the shit sandwich that comes with it. And the truth was, after five years of travel, I had grown beyond belief, had done things unimaginable to me… but was also fully aware of the downsides of it as well as my own personal challenges and limitations.

So where to go now? In doing the exercise at the Meet-Up, I couldn’t bring myself to imagine a specific goal… but I did allow myself to gently explore how I’d like to feel in joyful work in three years. Some images came to mind. Ideas. We then shared our dream with a partner and that made it even better!  What great feedback I received as well as my partner’s additional thoughts regarding my fledgling images, notions and inspirations.

One of the participants in the evening it turns out is international best selling spiritual author, Tori Hartman, who has just released a new book. How satisfying it was to meet someone who had cultivated that level of success in her own life.

I returned from the evening a little… inspired and more at ease. What a relief it was to meet my dreamer again. My dreamer was grateful that I wasn’t going to force her in the road ahead or insist that she live life this way or that way but instead make space for just a glimmer of a softer, gentler notion.

So for now, I am glad to merely have wooed the dreamer back in.  No big expectations. No harsh realities. Just a little tender dreaming that feels good and satisfying instead of just a more harsh routine that was trying to dominate me. Plus, a few concrete ideas of new stepping stones to take…. to keep the dreamer alive.

How about you? How has your relationship with your dreamer been lately? Have you taken just a moment to invite the dreamer in?  Sit him or her down for tea? I wonder what they might have to say. If you have a dream to share, even just a glimmer, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to share them in the comments below or even send me a private message.

Reflections

29 Apr

It’s a quiet Saturday morning in Asheville.  I am enjoying a morning of just feeling more at ease and good in my bones and can’t help but think of the long journey that brought me here.

I have to say, it is good to be in the United States for now and in some ways I am starting to feel at home and appreciating the many fortunate simple things I presently have in my life.  But I am also aware that it was my epic journey around the globe that brought me to this point.

I have always loved travel and been drawn to it.  A child of the midwest in a community with little interest in international exploration, looking beyond our borders and having an adventure were always things that excited me.  If you’ve followed my blog you may know that my 20s brought some unexpected challenges my way and I ended up on the anti-depressant Paxil for over ten years.  When I went off of it the withdrawal/discontinuation symptoms nearly flattened me and it took me years to get some small semblance of “I’m alright.”

A few years after this when I began my international journey,  I was thrilled to consider something that brought excitement back into my life and truly lit me up and inspired me.  At the same time, I was still just a shell of myself and experienced many persistent issues that made daily living and “normal life” hard for me.

So here comes the benefit of my journey.  While traveling – my unexpected epic five-year adventure to Germany, France South Korea, Austria & Thailand – lit me up and brought me to life in ways I can hardly express, it was also extremely challenging for me.  Daily I was pushed in small and large ways.  The beauty of this journey and experience is it forced me to grow and develop in ways that I NEEDED to do to begin to get my life back after the impact of Paxil and also the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The scared, limited, wounded shadow person that I was after the impact of Paxil withdrawal and other life challenges slowly began to chisel away, shift, develop and take new shape.

And so with my gratitude for a bit of ease and restoration on “home” territory also comes my appreciation for all the excitement, struggles and challenges along the way that brought me to where I am now.  A new plateau.  I am aware that while I still have my challenges, my abilities and capacities that are serving me now are the fruit of my journey.  This growth could have only happened in foreign territory.  A life abroad helped me to drop my “regular” paradigm and demanded that I adapt and grow to new ways of being. This ultimately brought me some freedom and allowed me to drop some of the limiting patterns and behaviors locked into and stuck in my more familiar environment.

So if you are someone who wants to travel, should travel, needs to travel but hasn’t for a whole assortment of reasons… just know that it’s possible to travel, no matter what your circumstances.  Surround yourself with good grounded people who will support you in this idea.  And know that challenges don’t mean travel (or whatever it is you want) is not for you, it just means that overcoming those challenges will be part of the equation.  And that’s okay.

Not long before I left on my epic journey I had just begun chanting with the Buddhist organization SGI.  I was chanting for true change and growth in my life and that is exactly what I got. Through the excitement and inspiration of my travels as well as facing and working through the MANY challenges I experienced daily, I grew.

Admittedly, I am still under development and my life is still a work in progress.  But I am aware that I am in a better place today as a result of my journey.

I appreciate my current location and being back in the US, but I also look forward to cultivating a life where adventure and international life are again a part of the landscape… in my own time, in my own way.

So for today, I am just feeling grateful for and acknowledging the ride, the challenges and journey that brought me to where I am now.

Why I Chant

23 Apr

A little over 6 years ago I was introduced to the Nichiren Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai International and chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. When I lived in New Orleans I was first invited to come to a meeting by a member of my Reiki community. After attending a meeting, I wasn’t exactly sure what to think… but I walked away feeling the powerful presence of the chanting practice.

Not long after I attended an SGI New Years Day meeting and celebration in New Orleans.  It was here that a trusted friend shared that they had a major breakthrough in their life after becoming an SGI member and chanting.  As I was in the midst of some of my own challenges and had been moving through some thick life issues for some time, I wanted that too… so I took a leap and decided to become a member.

That was over 6 years ago and through the course of that time and living in many countries abroad, my practice and my life have continued to develop and grow.

Why do I chant?  Well, I imagine it’s an accumulation of many small and large reasons and experiences.  Here are some of them.

  1.  When I chant for something, sometimes things that seem “miraculous” happen.  I have a list of many small and large things that have worked out in amazing ways from chanting.  When I first started to chant I was selling shiitake mushrooms at the local farmers market.  The friend who introduced me to the practice suggested that I chant for my mushroom sales.  I did and without doing anything else differently, my mushroom sales doubled. When I was preparing for the first step of my international journey, going to Germany, I had purchased a ticket at a great price from US to London. It was important to me to have a place to stay in London for a day or two before flying on to Germany to give my mind and body a little time to rest and adjust before continuing.  As I was taking this journey with a great leap of faith but little money, it was necessary that I had a free or nearly free place to stay in London as hotels are quite expensive.  So I chanted fervently for a free place to stay in London. Amazingly, a few weeks before my departure I was at a local group I attend which had an out-of-town visitor. A friend who knew my London agenda said to me regarding our out-of-town guest “You know, his mom lives in London and sometimes she hosts guests.” She then proceeded to introduce the idea to him and after working out a few details, I had a free place to stay in London!
    This list goes on and on.  Often it’s simple things. For instance not long ago I was chanting for help voting in the past presidential election.  I had newly arrived in North Carolina, was not registered to vote in the state, had been out of the country for five years and wasn’t sure what I needed to do.  I chanted about it and shortly after I noticed a sign in a field near where I would go hiking that said “Do you need help voting?”  I laughed and thought… yes, as a matter of fact I do!  I called the number, the man was very helpful and with his recommendation I was able to register for early voting and easily voted in the last election.
  2. Chanting feels good.  This is pretty simple, I feel better when I chant.  Just the experience of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is a positive thing for me and I walk away in a better space than when I started.  I remember one time when I was in South Korea, I met some SGI members at one of the SGI centers in Seoul.  We chanted together for hours.  When I left, everything looked shiny. Everything – the buildings, the cement, the trees.  It was like I was looking at life through a lighter, sparkly lens.
  3. Chanting with others and attending SGI meetings often shifts my mood and experience.  On more than one occasion, I have gone to a meeting in a certain place… maybe I feel anxious or overwhelmed or sad.  Often when I leave it’s like my plate has been polished and I just feel different in relationship to my life and life circumstances.  For example, not long ago I went to a meeting and I felt like I was in a “bad place.”  I had just started a new job and felt stressed out and overworked.  Plus the night before I had a “bad evening” and had gotten virtually no sleep.  So I showed up at the meeting stressed out and a bit freaked out from no sleep.  Plus I still had about four hours of work to do that day, a Sunday.  At the meeting I chanted to have the patience, ease and clarity to complete my work without struggle.  Amazingly, that afternoon I was able to stay in a good place and easily get all my work done feeling clear and alert.  A major shift for me and honestly a bit of a miracle as I am someone who easily gets overwhelmed and doesn’t do well without sleep.
  4. SGI is a great way to connect with others.  As much as I’ve traveled around and moved, SGI has been a great way to meet and connect with others. And not just any “others,” but people who are working to overcome their own obstacles and support “not giving up” and “anything is possible.” This is a good space to be in! And it’s helped me a lot in making new, positive and supportive connections out and about in the world and at home.

If you are curious about changing Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, SGI has some simple, helpful videos and are a great place to start exploring chanting.

Chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.  This is a short video that shows you how to chant and teaches chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

Chanting excerpts from the Lotus Sutra.  Part of the daily practice of SGI is chanting excerpts from the Lotus Sutra.  This practice is called Gongyo.  This video is “karaoke-style” and takes you slowly through the practice.

Typically, SGI members do Gongyo and chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo in the morning and evening.  There is no right or wrong way to try it.  If you like, you can experiment with chanting 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening.

If you are curious about SGI or want to know more, feel free to reach out.  It’s really been a positive, growth supportive practice for me.  It supports me overcoming obstacles and not giving up in my life and often brings unexpected benefits and solutions to my life.  I am glad to have this practice in my spiritual tool box as I go along for this ride of life.

 

 

American Yogi

7 Mar

The new place I’ve landed is a private downstairs “suite” in the home of a couple in Asheville.  In addition to the quiet neighborhood and wooded lot, my stay here comes with an additional unexpected bonus.  My new landlords and house-sharers are filmmakers and have nearly completed their project, American Yogi (click here to view the trailer!).

It was a real treat when, a few weeks ago, they invited me to a private screening in their home, conveniently, just upstairs. All I knew about their film was it had a spiritual focus and was about India – both which sounded good to me. So I joined them in their living room surrounded by a few of their friends and happily took in the film.

Maharaj-ji

Maharaj-ji

The film was a real treat!  It was a light-hearted, fun and unfolding story of the spiritual journey of my upstairs neighbor, Steven Newmark, and highlights the presence, power and teachings of Indian Guru, Maharaj-ji.

So far on my spiritual journey, I feel like I’ve just dabbled my toe into the spiritual teachings of India.  Just recently I watched the documentary telling the story of Krishna Das called One Track Heart.  Some of you may know Krishna Das is an internationally known kirtan artist (a beautiful and inspirational style of call and response chanting).  

krishna-das

Krishna Das and Maharaj-ji

A big part of the Krishna Das story was his relationship to his Guru, Maharaj-ji. Honestly, I still feel a little new to the whole “Indian Guru” thing, but I was earnestly touched by Krishna Das’ relationship with him, his complete unbridled experience of unconditional love, and his magnificent healing experience in the face of many deep troubles and sorrows.

So, when watching American Yogi and being “reintroduced” to Maharaj-ji, in some ways it felt a bit like seeing an old friend. In its simplest form, this film was a reminder to me that I don’t have to take all the hassles and worries of this life so seriously or hold on so tightly.

American Yogi's Steven Newmark in the 60s

American Yogi’s Steven Newmark in the 60s

This spiritual tale is filled with mystical experiences, unexpected diversions, and enlightening stories all folded within the uncommon journey of a pretty regular guy. It is intertwined within the stories of Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now, and features the music of Krishna Das and Jai Uttal.  And there’s even a little love story!

It debuted in the prestigious International Film Fest of India.

Here’s what folks are saying about it:

American Yogi is an inspiration.” Ram Dass

“A deeply inspired film! About what the Western mind calls fiction–and the East calls reality.” — Shankar Mohan, Director of the International Film Festival of India

Are you curious?  Well, American Yogi will soon be accessible out in the world. But first they need to handle a few final housekeeping requirements to prepare the film for professional release.  Would you like to be a part of it?

American Yogi has just launched an Indigogo Campaign to raise funds for these final steps. Here are a few ways you can participate:

    1. Get a copy of American Yogi for Yourself! Visit is.gd/americanyogithemovie to view the trailer and learn how to get a downloaded copy of the film for yourself!
    2. americanyogifb1Share American Yogi on Facebook.
      Please include the link: is.gd/americanyogithemovie and if you like you can also use this groovy graphic (right click, save image as)
    3. Share American Yogi with your community, friends and connections. Anyway you like!  Email, Facebook, Twitter…we’d love your help in spreading the word of American Yogi!

Through my travels I’ve learned first hand – it’s amazing what can be accomplished when we take the leap to support each other in our creative endeavors.  Thanks for reading and your support of American Yogi!

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