Chaos and anxiety having its way with us…

Social media, egos, and the missed opportunity.  

 

The following may not have been your experience over the past few days. I hope it hasn’t been, even though that means this article will be confusing and meaningless to you. For those who can relate, you aren’t alone and this can change for us.

You know, I haven’t had much time to contemplate lately how I might engage with people who identify as nazis or white nationalists. I also haven’t had a lot of time to investigate how I might help to dismantle racist (overt and covert) public policies or institutions. And that’s really a shame (and shameful) because that’s exactly what I ought to have been focusing on these past couple days after racists took to the streets with confidence and thought nothing of inflicting violence and death. I believe that we have the opportunity to influence each other when we engage with each other with calm hearts.  Unfortunately, I’ve (my ego) been very busy worrying about not doing enough according to how other people view me and the way I conduct my business, and defending myself to people who have the same ideologies as I do – instead of engaging with those I fear, or with what I fear in myself. Instead, we turned on each other and wasted time and energy with infighting and judgment. This is a fantastic example of spiritual bypassing.

Taking to social media is not the same as taking to the streets (or whatever productivity looks like to people). And yet that’s the first thing we do when something happens – state something about it on social media and anxiously await validation. Then we get trapped, reading and re-reading, clicking and commenting over and over, thinking that this will somehow do good or help us feel better, safer, calmer. Oh how we have allowed ourselves to be trained….

I read many articles and memes and Facebook wall postings this week (instead of being productive and grounded) battling insecurity when a member of my choir would step out and shame the rest of the choir for not singing loudly enough, not singing the right songs, not singing to the right people, not singing in the right venues. And then I watched myself and others waste precious energy being concerned about being perceived as “good” people doing “good” in the world instead of actually tending to ourselves and others in meaningful ways.

And then we look at each other and wonder why we’re exhausted, why we feel paralyzed and inept, and why we can’t see one proactive task checked off our to-do list over the last week. I’ve been reacting to reactions rather than responding to the inner call of my Heart.  I talk a lot about the Heart – a lot of people do. I talk a lot about the heart because it brooks no bullshit. It is the center of truth. It is the access to the All. Had I drawn all this energy into my Heart space sooner, I would have saved myself a lot of frustration and confusion.

Make no mistake – what is happening right now in the world is a wake up call. But here’s the thing – we don’t get to decide what kind of wake up call it’s going to be for other people. Hell, we don’t even get to demand that other people notice the alarm bells, let alone care about them. Despite the way social media has engineered it to appear, we are not all the same, going through the same lessons, experiencing the same life. So from person to person – different things are being integrated and learned. And other people don’t get to dictate what kind of wake up call this event is for others. We don’t get to control the narrative or the way events are perceived by others, nor how they are influenced by said events. Never before has the phrase, “Keep your eyes on your own yoga mat” been more applicable.

And if I am allowing the judgment of others to pull me out of my Heart space, I’m not keeping my eyes on my own yoga mat. I’m going to give social media (and my ego) less time and stop giving away my energy to judgment. It’s time to stop worrying about responding in a way that pleases everyone (impossible). I know who I am and I know what I stand for. Now is the time to actually BE that and allow my actions to communicate that. Not everyone is going to be pleased  – I am going to make mistakes. I’m happy to learn from those who desire to show me a better way of being and moving in the world. I’m listening, paying attention, and moving forward.

Recommended:

Brene Brown’s Facebook Live “We have to keep talking about Charlottesville” from 8-15-17

Heart-centered, courageous inspiration in action: KKK members leave Klan after befriending black musician

You are always “doing your best.” And so is everyone else….

How Grace is the antidote to judgment when we allow it in

Since embarking on this spiritual and personal wellness journey, I’ve come to realize that I used to talk a lot about concepts that I really didn’t understand because I hadn’t truly experienced them. Concepts like grace and faith and compassion. These aren’t just words, these are experiences of energy. For me, particularly when Grace and Compassion rain down (or arise, or envelope) – it’s a tangible experience. I can feel it arrive, inviting me to surrender into it. It invites me to rest, to trust, to breathe.

Grace visited me a lot in July. I spent that month constantly failing at being a “great” human being. At every turn, I was not doing a great job at being patient or having a soft Heart. And I was seeing it at every turn, getting a chance to practice acknowledging the weaknesses and choosing to respond differently, without judging myself or others. Isn’t that the usual go-to when we realize we’ve made a mistake? One way or another, we have been conditioned to beat ourselves up. We replay the error over and over again, sometimes apologizing over and over again. At the very least, we stand in judgment of ourselves in our minds, putting ourselves through a mental flagellation for being so weak/wrong/stupid/mean/insensitive/etc.

Many great spiritual teachers talk about how people are always doing the best they can in any given moment. I remember when I first heard this, I thought, “That’s the stupidest mumbo-jumbo I’ve ever heard. If people were always doing their best, the world would be in a lot better shape.”

I’ve slowly come to understand that these wise ones are trying to convey the simple truth: that people find themselves in circumstances – each of which have unquantifiable variables, most of which they cannot control. This fact, coupled with the varying modes of “awakeness” (for lack of a better phrasing) each of us experience means that people are doing the best they can in any given moment. These teachers aren’t saying that people aren’t ever messing up or failing miserably. These teachers are conveying a really important lesson about how judgment is a total buzz kill for experiencing Grace because judgment places a false narrative on reality. 

My husband had major surgery last month and being his wife and all, I took care of him afterward. I thought I was prepared: I cleaned the house, caught up on laundry, sanitized the bathrooms. We made sure that the outside chores were all caught up and any major lifting/carrying/hauling had been taken care of.  We were very busy in the weeks leading up to the procedure because we knew he’d be out of commission for a few weeks to a few months. 

Unfortunately I didn’t get a lot of sleep which, looking back, was way more important than cleaning the bathrooms. I was nervous about the surgery, so I didn’t sleep well the week before. When the surgery was completed and everything turned out fine, my adrenals suddenly downshifted back to normal and I felt like I got hit by a mac truck. I was exhausted, achy and overly sensitive and emotional. This isn’t me being hard on myself – it’s just fact. When I don’t get enough sleep, I can get pretty ridiculous taking things personally. It’s like my shell just evaporates and nothing rolls off my back. I’m made of Velcro. Couple this condition of mine with my husband’s – on serious pain management medication and was adjusting to this new role of “patient,” and let’s just say the first couple weeks were rough.

Despite the rough road, my husband and I were doing the best we could. I was being the best person I could be in the situation I created. My husband was being the best person he could be in the situation he was in. And that’s the space where Grace gets a chance to enter the scene. Simple acknowledgment that “this is hard and we’re not perfect” is so much more productive than “this is hard and I’m failing.”

Do I look back and see where I could have done things differently to have had a smoother experience? Yes. Do I make a mental note of it for the future when similar situations might arise? Of course. Do I apologize to my husband for the moments when I wasn’t my best self with him in his time of need? Yes, of course. Recognizing that we’re all doing the best we can in any given situation isn’t about not taking responsibility or getting let off the hook or ignoring mistreatment or hurt feelings. It is about remembering that we are human beings being human. If the core of any given relationship is healthy and strong, these situations that arise in life don’t have to be defining or altering in any way. And we can rest in the fact that each person is doing the best they can always. This is where room for Grace is made – in the simple, “This is hard, we are doing the best we can, and above all else, I love you and am here for you.”

I’m grateful for the opportunity this situation handed me. Had I trudged down the well-worn path of self-and other-judgment, I would have missed the Grace and compounded the pain. It sometimes took effort to choose Grace because, well, I’m a human being, but each time I did, the effort was well rewarded.


A quick note about a new page on this site.

Because of this surgical event…
I took the month of July off from social media, writing, and accepting new clients. Now I’m slowly returning and amping up for September 12th, when registration opens for the Crystal Therapy Certification Program. I am really excited about this fresh start with a new group of practitioner candidates – we’re going to have a great time of learning and expansion together. I have only 4 spots left for 2017. If you are interested, please visit the link above.

I have decided to release some crystals from my personal collection.  I have spent the last two days creating a special Crystal Shop page here on the website. I hope to eventually offer crystal essence sprays and oils too. For now, the shop page will have only a handful of very special, one-of-a-kind crystals, as well as information about my crystal finder service. If you are hunting for a special crystal, I am happy to go on the hunt for you. Simply fill out the contact form found on the page to get the ball rolling.

 

Any questions? Feel free to email me at tana at tanaschott dot com.

With gratitude,
Tana

Identification with thoughts – more on mindfulness

Identification with thoughts – more on mindfulness

I’ve been talking a lot about mindfulness and meditation practices in my blog and just in general because finding, learning, and integrating these practices helped me learn how to be with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks differently.

I know people want to hear how they can ERADICATE or banish depression and anxiety from their lives. In my experience, there is no way to minimize the effects without first learning to be in relationship with these energies. In the same way we talk about being anti-something politically…that is until we meet and get to know someone who happens to be that something. You know what I mean? There is no boogieman but coming to this realization is having the courage to come face-to-face with that which we fear. You have that courage. And you don’t have to do it alone. Find a coach, a spiritual counselor, a healer, a good counselor.

So the question is always “how?” How do I meditate? How do I have a mindfulness practice? What is the point? It seems hard. I can’t do it. Etc etc Here, Teal Swan provides a step by step process and explains the role judgment plays AND explains about that ever important gap that begins to form between the identity and the thoughts. Give it a listen. You can choose to cut to the chase at 29:30

Mindrolling with Raghu Markus, ep 113

 

If I hear “meditate!” one more time….Mindfulness in our healing work

If I hear “meditate!” one more time….Mindfulness in our healing work

Two interesting messages came through over the past week. The first was a criticism that in recent posts, I have been too critical of the metaphysical community without providing much in the way of alternative options.

I used to detest criticism. I was once a perfectionist who got a lot of gold stars and extra credit points. I was lauded by my teachers and bosses. When I would receive correction of any kind, I received it like a blow to the chest. I would cry, worry, and overanalyze. I would ping-pong between defending myself and berating myself. I do not doubt that I missed a lot of excellent feedback that would have helped me be or do better because I was too busy having an emotional and mental meltdown.

Now I welcome criticism, in the end. Oh don’t get me wrong, my gut still drops and I get light-headed and can’t take a deep breath for fear that I have been caught out. (At what? Depends on the situation. It’s insecurity, plain and simple). What I welcome is the result. After setting aside the complaint/suggestion/edit so that I can get back into my body, I pick it back up, refocus, and consider it. Sometimes, after consideration of the critique, I make changes. Sometimes I do not. Regardless, the critiques gives me a chance to consider something from someone else’s perspective which is an expansive exercise. It’s nice to see through someone else’s viewfinder once in awhile – to remember that when I see red, sometimes others see green or yellow or blue.

I’m sharing this with you because I believe that they way people choose to react or respond to criticism can inform them about their ability to do honest self-inquiry. If external criticism destroys a person, it is highly unlikely they are going to be able to critique themselves in an honest way. What if everything they feared they might be (loser, failure, bad spouse, bad daughter, bad student, bad anything, idiot, narcissist, ignorant) is actually true? When that fear lingers, the ego is running the show which only means that it becomes more difficult to get out of our own way so that we can find ourselves seated back in the heart.

So what might be a first step toward honest self-inquiry for the purpose of healing? Consider your reaction to criticism. Just think about it without judging it. How do you react when someone tells you that, from their perspective, you are either doing it wrong or could be doing it better? How does your body react? Your gut, your limbs, your facial expression, your brain, your lungs and chest? Observe it as a scientist would observe an experiment. A secondary exercise is to do this without judging yourself.

The second comment received was from someone who was frustrated because they would like to do self-inquiry and begin digging into their healing work, but they are tired of being encouraged to meditate or start a mindfulness practice to do that. When I received this feedback, I silenced my environment and meditated on it. (Which makes me giggle a little bit because I have a semi-warped sense of humor).

mindfulness

The reason why many teachers recommend a mindfulness practice, or meditation, is because learning how to be still helps us become better discerners. It teaches us to recognize thoughts for what they are (potential tools) and how to distinguish between helpful and unhelpful beliefs and stories. Self-inquiry requires the ability to be with the self so that we might know the self. When we become more acutely in tune with our physical bodies and get to know the different ways it communicates with us, over time we are less surprised by our reactions as they turn into responses.

Mindfulness or meditation practices help us get out of our minds and into our bodies, connecting with the breath. They help us slow down and access different parts of the brain. And there are many different ways to have a mindfulness practice. There are many different ways to meditate. Sure, some will insist that there are rules – do’s and don’t’s when meditating. Some will insist that their meditation practice is the only true meditation practice. Well, lots of people say lots of thing. Saying or insisting something is true doesn’t make it so. You get to decide. The payoff of a practice like this is that we learn how to train our brains to be tools of our Hearts. In a meditation or mindfulness practice, thoughts are merely observed: they are not go-commands or absolutes. Through simple observation, we can allow the thought to drop into our heart space where the Heart guides our awareness toward what to act on and what to lovingly set aside.

When I first started meditating I was very frustrated. I couldn’t do it. I would dim the lights, minimize distraction, light a candle, sit on a special pillow, and close my eyes in a sandalwood-infused space and just get frustrated. Time and again, I gave it honest effort for over 10 months, if memory serves, only to end up feeling weak-willed and spiritually lazy. I shared this with my spiritual counselor who asked me, “Tana, how do you spend your time on a day-to-day basis? What do you do and how do you do it?” I told her that I worked from home and that I spent my days researching or writing. She clarified, “So your day-to-day activity is generally done in quiet solitude and it is a very internal, mindful and disciplined experience?” I said that yes, it was. Then she recommended that I stop trying to meditate in quiet solitude because that was my usual way of being to do my job. She encouraged me instead to begin treating other day-to-day activities like doing the dishes, folding laundry, mopping the floor, mowing the yard, cutting vegetables as opportunities to learn how to still the mind. Watch thoughts come, detach, and let them go. Try giving all of your attention to the thing you are doing. Feel the water on your hands, the grass under your feet, the cloth against your fingertips, the knife cut against the board. Notice those physical sensations and get really inside your body. And you know what? It worked.

Before long, I found myself looking forward to chores because I knew it was going to be a chance to take a break from thinking and experience my reality through my physical body. I learned a lot about my physical body which began to teach me a lot about my subtle anatomy in time as well. The connections were starting to form because I was making space for them. Thoughts would come and I would breathe them out and come back to the carrot I was peeling. Thoughts would come and I would fall back into my legs and arms pushing the mower across the front yard. Thoughts would come and I would notice my body’s reaction. In time I was so fully inhabiting my body during these activities that the mind learned, “Oh, this is my time off. Catch ya later.” Once I had learned to fully inhabit my body, connected to my surroundings, connected through my breath, I was able to fall into that Oneness space I had heard so much about.

Something to keep in the back of your mind: the way you access this spaciousness may change over time. After a while, chores didn’t do it for me anymore. My life changed, I changed, my routine changed. I now access that space through another practice. Some people can start a practice and follow it everyday for the rest of their lives. Other people will pick up a ritual and put it down to pick up another one as needed. It’s all good.

We can experience a lot of judgment from others who are only looking to find validation for their own choices and practices. There is no one right way to do most anything. If this were true we would never see new inventions or innovative advancements.  When we talk about meditation, we’re not really talking about meditation. We’re really talking about learning to be with ourselves fully: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Oftentimes this involves quieting the mind so that we can clearly see how we’ve constructed our realities through a neutral perspective. However you get from point A to point B – I don’t really care and frankly, neither should anyone else. The important thing is that you figure out a way that works for you. If you’re tired of hearing that the answer to every question is to meditate, and you’ve tried to meditate repeatedly with no success, that’s okay. Figure out what meditation is supposed to provide and then figure out another way you can get there.

There are numerous rituals and practices to choose from. Journaling, attending a drum circle, taking a walk in the woods or a hike up a mountain – can you find your true self in these places where you can’t hide? Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong – can you drop into your center and detach and access the expansive all? Gardening, washing the dishes, pooper scooping the yard (no lie) – do these activities help you assess yourself through your body? What do you do that enables you to observe your thoughts from a non-judgmental space? To access the collective consciousness? To drop into your Heart center? Go. Do. That.


You might be asking why I keep bringing up self-inquiry as a part of the personal healing experience. That’s because the only person who can heal you is you. The only person who can honestly access and assess your actions, thoughts, motivations, reactions, responses, emotions, etc., is you. I can have my perspective about you and your experiences, but I can’t fully understand them because my perspective – based on my personal experiences – will inevitably cloud the view. If you desire to experience healing in your life, you have to be able to know in what way and in what capacity. And then you have to be able to consider what you’ve done, thought, believed, emoted, etc., and how these actions (or inactions as the case may be) have contributed to your perception of imbalance. That’s self-inquiry.

I believe we need community – healers, friends, coaches, counselors, teachers – to walk alongside this sometimes difficult terrain. Other people’s experiences and perspectives can shed light on our own in unique and deeply expansive ways. In the end I am responsible for my own healing work. I am responsible for making the choice to heal and for taking the steps. No one can cajole another person into healing. No one can control another person’s healing and force it. But we can come alongside each other and support each other’s work. Sometimes we need to hear each other’s stories to experience a breakthrough. Sometimes we need someone to be fully honest about how they perceive us because we have blinders when it comes to ourselves. Our self-preservation instinct is strong. But we have to make the agreement.

If you have reached the point where you’re feeling able to dive in and begin a new stage in your healing journey that includes self inquiry – good for you.  It seems that in just about every life scenario, there is an easy-out option that is not only available, but encouraged. And here you are, deciding to let your guard down and peer into the uncomfortable aspects of your life: your reactions, your feelings, your thoughts and beliefs, your routines, your everything. You’ve agreed to honest self-inquiry. As Pema Chodron and every great teacher has said:

Ram Dass’ Facebook Page

Embedded within every complaint I have about an aspect of my life is a choice to stop pushing back and truly be with what I fear, hate, dislike, or am discomfited by. We can’t learn from that which we continue to try to shove into corners or closets. We can’t learn from that which we continue to reject out of hand. Life is inviting us, through each and every experience, to engage with it and learn from it and explore ourselves through it. It is the entire spectrum of experiences and their correlating emotional and physical responses that we’re being invited to engage with, which means not every exploration is going to feel good or safe or comfortable or pleasant. Because all means all. When we try to avoid the less pleasant experiences, we are choosing to only partially engage with Life which means we are choosing to evolve only partially. And this affects not only us, but our families and communities. The complaints or concerns we carry around with us about our experiences, our emotions, our world, our family, our friends, our country, ourselves will only continue to bubble up until we’re willing to fully engage with them.

So it must be asked and only you can both ask and answer the question: do you find that you cannot meditate or find a mindfulness practice because you’ve been too limiting in defining what that might look like for you? Or….Or, do you stop meditating when you become uncomfortable with what arises in your consciousness?

But how do I not become paralyzed when I first start to see my stuff? 

I think one of the biggest lessons of all can come right at the beginning of this excavation process. The first time we choose to sit with an issue and be with it, our egos can really freak out and they try to distract us through judgment and guilt (more concepts/thoughts). This is particularly easy for the ego to do because people new to healing and self inquiry are usually still giving deference to their brains. And the brain usually hasn’t been trained yet to see situations multidimensionally. The brain, a terrific categorization and organizational tool, tends to live in Flatland where only 2 categories exist: good or bad.

The Heart is the place where everything can be held simultaneously. But we have to learn to recognize our Hearts and how to hand over the reigns to the Heart and that can take some time and practice of questioning our thoughts and beliefs and habits and perspectives.

Your “stuff” – whatever you’re seeing that you want or need to change – is not an enemy. It is not out to get you.

And you are not a horrible/bad/stupid/weak person.

You are worthy. You are loved more deeply than you know.

It’s just a rope. It’s just a rope. And we’re all hanging on it together.

 

So much grace and peace,
with gratitude,
Tana

PS: f you work with crystals in your healing practice, some excellent mineral allies include sedimentary carbonates. Calcite, Rhodochrosite, Magnesite (great for Heart work), Stichtite, Serpentine, Aragonite, Azurite, Eilat Stone, Malachite.

PPS: Never want to miss a post? You can now subscribe to this Blog! Just enter your email in the box at the bottom of the page on your mobile device, or to the left of the screen on your desktop or laptop.

Joy and Grace in Nondualistic Healing

Joy and grace can be present in difficult experiences – healing from a non-dualistic perspective.

I was listening to On Being’s podcast the other day, excited because Krista Tippett interviewed Richard Rohr. His newest book, Divine Dance, was recently released and Ms. Tippett asked him all manner of important questions and referenced his earlier works as well. As I always say after listening to an interview of Fr. Richard Rohr – I highly recommend it. (He has also been interviewed by Rob Bell and I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve listened to that one interview 7 times. So far). I try not to fangirl over people. I recognize it’s not healthy for me or for the person I’m feeling awestruck about. Richard Rohr would be the first to agree, but if I had a chance to meet Fr. Rohr, well, that would be something else.
In this interview, he shared an experience that resonated so deeply with my experiences that I had to write about it immediately.
MS. TIPPETT: Just coming back to this both/and thinking that is a quality of the second half of life, of spiritual deepening, you talk about this quality of “bright sadness” that in that deepening, there is a gravitas and a lightness both. Say a little bit about the bright sadness.
FR. ROHR: I remember some of the times when I was most happy, after — I used to spend the whole of Lent in a hermitage alone, and I’d come back just sort of glowing, like a bliss ninny, for the next couple weeks. But when people would look at me, I remember again and again, they said, “Richard, you look sad.” And I said, “Oh my gosh, do I?” Because in fact, I’m feeling exactly the opposite….So it’s the strangest combination of being able to hold deep sadness and deep contentment at the very same time. So I discovered that in myself, and my most wonderful moments were also my most sad moments, which leads you to a kind of participation in what I called earlier “the one sadness,” that your very fact of enjoying grace and love carries with it a dark side that I didn’t deserve to know this, I didn’t earn this, and most people think I’m crazy if I try to talk about it. So the two intense emotions very often coexist in the contemplative mind.So that’s what taught me this both/and world view, that opposites do not contradict one another. In fact, they complement and deepen one another.
The act of intentional healing does not wipe away sadness or the other uncomfortable feelings. Rather, in my experience, as I heal, I learn to hold many seemingly opposing emotions or energies altogether, at the same time. Each is informing the other. The more grounded, Light-conscious energies are present and informing the other, less grounded, blurry energies. What is healed and balanced brings what has been in darkness into the Light so that more balance can be experienced. But this doesn’t eradicate pain or the shadow.
I recently wrote an article about depression and uncomfortable feelings. I shared a personal experience I had in early April with depression, including the depressive episode’s conclusion and lessons learned. I received a few messages from people who, after reading the article, wrote to express concern and care for me, hoping that I was feeling better. It’s very kind and I’m deeply grateful that I have people in my life who do care and are willing to express that. But I was also surprised to get this kind of response. In the article, I had shared that the experience was past-tense and even more important – it taught me so much! That’s a cause for celebration!
In trying to be a more succinct writer, I sometimes leave out important bits. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to stay on topic, maybe it’s because trying to put words to these types of experiences is very difficult. What I didn’t share about that depressive episode is that, in addition to it being a teacher, there was an enormous amount of Grace present. While it’s true that I didn’t – couldn’t – feel anything, still I was aware in a way I hadn’t ever experienced before during a depression, of an overwhelming okay-ness. I couldn’t directly access it emotionally, but I was aware of its presence and it was bigger than me.
As I’ve healed my emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects over the years, I have fallen into the trap of thinking after a particularly difficult lesson, “Okay, whew. That’s over and I’ve learned my lesson so I won’t have to go through that again!”  But that’s not how healing works. It’s not dualistic. It’s not linear. It is never completed – as in, “It is finished.” Nope. How many times have I had a particularly challenging time, gotten through it (rather than skirted around it), and thought “that’s over!” only for that lesson to reappear weeks, months, or years later? Many times. Depression and anxiety are two such lessons.
But! (I know, it sounds so dreary. “You mean this difficulty will never go away?” Well, no. But …).
The Big But is that as we intentionally heal and become more aware, we can’t help but experience each instance differently than we did before. Ten years ago, a depressive episode would have knocked me flat on my ass. I would have experienced what the pros call “suicidal ideation.” This time, many years and many similar-but-always-different experiences later, this depression was simply noticeable. This time, I didn’t think about death, rather, I noticed my previous aliveness and knew that would return. I thought, “Oh, you know what’s coming, that ALIVE feeling – pay attention and notice it more deeply this time!” I found the event so interesting even though it was a very detached interest. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have taken a shower for days on end, and I wouldn’t have left my room. I would have slept weeks away. This time, I allowed myself to relax, but I was still engaged with my life.  I slept normally. And instead of weeks, it lasted a total of 3 days.
Why am I sharing this with you? Well, because I don’t think we’re used to hearing or reading about our teachers’/healers’/coaches’ difficulties. It makes a lot of people uncomfortable when the “person in charge” doesn’t have their act together. Many of us have that inner aspect I call the, “Who do you think you are?” aspect. We ask it of ourselves and we ask it of others. Prove it! Prove your knowledge/health/awakeness/education/joy/etc. Prove to me that I should pay attention to you and what you say. Prove to me that you can help me heal/grow/learn. Prove it! And the Prove It mentality turns in on us too, and if we’re unaware of it, it can keep each of us from becoming more and more of who we are when in community with one another. If I can’t prove that I’m perfect at X, I can’t teach X or help others learn about X!
And so we expect that people who are in any type of leadership have it figured out. People who are in positions of leadership in the healing community  (especially?) let followers see only one side of their lives and only when that side is nice and shiny.
I am very wary of the teacher who stands (or sits) in front of a crowd and doesn’t express him or herself authentically – who doesn’t let imperfections and quirks shine. I’m confused at the idea that I’m supposed to learn how to be a healer from someone who doesn’t continually seek healing for him or herself. And so, I share my experiences with you not to make anyone uncomfortable, but because this is what is true. And I just so happen to be in a place in my life where, as I heal and expand, I can see it and learn from it and then share it with you. Leaders don’t lead by example by being perfect. Leaders lead by example when they are fully present, fully authentic, in their healing work.
I won’t ever share to garner sympathy or pity. By the time I can write about it, I have gone through it and have lessons-learned to share with you. And trust that even as I am going through my stuff, though perhaps not accessible in the same way, joy is present. And Grace. I am experiencing both/and. It is a bright sadness. And it is a holy moment.
We don’t need to require perfection from one another. We don’t need each other to always be happy and pleased and peaceful. We don’t need our teachers/leaders/coaches to have everything figured out. We can be authentic with each other, holding a space of compassion for ALL of it, without fear or pity, without extending sympathy. We do not have to feel responsible either for fixing anything or helping anyone figure out their stuff. This is a beautiful time of learning how to hold a space of compassion for each other and for ourselves. Allowing, allowing, allowing. This is where the both/and blooms.
With deep gratitude,
Tana

 

Depression and other uncomfortable experiences

As we await the end of this long winter, as we learn to maintain presence in a world that appears to be going mad, and as we deal with our own private lives and the issues we personally face, we might be experiencing spiritual, emotional, and mental discomfort more acutely. I have chatted with a few people in the last couple of weeks who have shared that they have been experiencing low-level anxiety, agitation, anger, and depression, for what appears to be no reason.
When people ask me, “How do I get rid of this?”, one of the first questions I like to ask is, “How does this experience feel in your body?” In other words, where do you feel tension or discomfort, irritation or inflammation in your physical body when you are aware of these feelings? What does it feel like? How do you respond to these physical expressions?
Turning toward the body and extending it care and rest can have a huge effect on the experiences listed above. It is unusual for most of us to do this however, because we are a thinking species. We are quite proud of our mental faculties and our abilities to analyze and plan and fix and solve. When these uncomfortable feelings arise, we tend to go to the mind for answers to “fix” whatever is “broken,” bypassing the body altogether.
Always be willing to question the premise.
What if nothing is broken when these experiences come? What if there is nothing to fix because these experiences play an important role in our expansion and evolution? What if everything is exactly as it should be? What if, instead of going to the mind to ask, Why is this happening? How do I make it stop?  we chose to be present, focus on the breath, and get in touch with our body?
Choosing to pay attention to the body can help us ground and connect more deeply to our Heart. The mind can take a rest. We can stop thinking for a second, stop analyzing, and stop wondering why or asking how. When we are focusing on care of the body, our attention is diverted from self-judgment. And we can give the brain a little break from trying to form an escape plan. 
Many times over the years, when I have shared that I had a cold, felt blue, threw my back out, had a headache, or stubbed my toe with well-intentioned fellow healers, I have been asked, “What do you think the root emotional/mental/spiritual cause might be?” Many believe that mental and physical maladies are untreated subtle energetic imbalances in almost all, if not all cases. The idea is that if we identify the emotional, mental, or spiritual imbalance, by identifying it and then healing it, we resolve the physical issue.
On the face of it, it makes sense. I think how we go about it might not. What this well-intentioned inquiry does is remove me from my physical body and places me in the seat of the mind through self-inquiry. It puts me in the roles of Identifier and Fixer – mind activities – when my body is asking me to be with the body. Awareness is wonderful and can be very healing. I believe in the power of self-inquiry and a willingness to be with and examine myself. But I believe there is a time and a place for this and that it must be done through the Heart. When the body is crying out, when a person feels like they are in survival mode – this is the time for rest, love, support, compassion, grace, and above all else – no judgment.
And sometimes a stubbed toe is just a stubbed toe. We are human beings living a human life on this planet where everything we do affects one another and sometimes stuff happens. Determining whether or not an experience is a “stuff happens” moment, or the result of imbalance in the subtle anatomy, for me, involves surrender and time. If there is something deeper to explore, there is no forcing it. To become aware of the unconscious, “deeper” underlying issues that might be present, I have to trust that I will become aware of those when they are ready to appear. In the meantime, I care for my stubbed toe, stay present, and breathe.
My personal experience – with depression, anxiety, sadness, grief, and more – has taught me that there is no real and lasting escape plan that the mind can offer and that there is no eradicating the issue through the mind. In fact, trying to out-think (run away from) an uncomfortable experience can intensify and draw out the experience. I think this is because the energy wants to be seen and acknowledged through the Heart with compassion and faith. Sometimes a willingness to stay in the room and be with that feeling is all it takes for it to dissipate. Other times the energy desires more attention and time, and if we allow that – if we surrender to it, the experience is a lot less painful. There is more grace and compassion present.  
My recent reminder….
A few weeks ago, on a Thursday, depression descended out of nowhere. It had been years since I felt that plummet but suddenly down, down, down I was falling, unable to breathe deeply into my toes and suddenly unable to bring myself to care about, well, anything. I couldn’t make weekend plans with my husband because I didn’t care and I didn’t foresee a moment when I’d be getting out of my chair in the near future. My brain started to send warning messages, “If you don’t snap out of this, your students and clients are going to get upset!” and “Oh no, remember last time? This could last WEEKS!”  But it was too late – I couldn’t care. It’s not that I didn’t care. I literally couldn’t care – about anything. Depression is a strange and difficult thing to experience let alone explain. 
I had been here before. I recognized it immediately. Though I was surprised that it felt the need to visit, I shrugged, opened the door, invited it in, made it sit right in front of me so that I could look it in the eye and acknowledge it. “Hi. You’re here. It’s been a while. I see you.” And then I let myself off the hook, trusting that nothing lasts forever – even when it feels like it will never end (kind of like this past winter). I chose to focus on my physical body, turn the mind-games off, and just exist as-is. I decided to be be with that energy as long as it wanted to stick around. I decided to be kind to myself in the process. 
Over the next couple of days I noticed moments when my mind would try to sneak in and “take care of it.” How can we get rid of it? How can we heal it? What’s wrong with you, Tana, that this is here? Identify that and BAM! Problem solved! Each time my brain tried to elbow its way in, I felt the sensation – or lack of sensation actually – weigh more heavily. I backed off each time, saying, “I see you, you are here and I am here and we are here together.” I stayed with it, giving it and myself compassion and grace.
On Sunday evening of that same weekend, just as quickly as it arrived, it left. I caught my breath and I suddenly felt everything again  – concern, awareness, motivation, responsibility, desire, movement, appreciation. I also noticed something re-enter which I wasn’t aware of before the depression visited: feelings of insecurity I had been holding, worry that I was inadequate in a certain area of my life, and anger seated from a place of judgment I was holding against myself which I was extending , as tends to happen, to others. In this particular case – there were underlying issues that I wasn’t aware of that wanted to be brought into the Light for healing. I can promise you that had I tried to force myself to make inquiries or tried to “fix” the depression, I would have missed the awareness that arose as the depression lifted. 
That experience lead to writing this blog post, Burning Man – on being a healer and our responsibility to self, in which I share, “Love and Light” is a phrase often used. And it can have tremendous potency when uttered by a person who is intimately aware of their own capacity for “Hate and Darkness,” as well as all the energies in between. I have since learned that nothing can truly be swept under the rug or warded off with spells or talismans. The energy is present and it wants to be seen. This is the Age of the Mirror.” 
People sometimes look at me like I’m crazy. “Just BE with it? That’s your big solution? That’s how you heal?” Yes. It’s part of my healing. And it took years of clearing thought forms and beliefs, of learning how to ground in my own body, of experiencing the Heart and learning how to become more and more intimate with and trusting of it before I could “just” be with it. I fought it for a long time. There were a lot of thoughts and beliefs I needed to clear or transmute. The experiences of depression and anxiety showed up for me time and time again – giving me ample opportunity to lean into them and learn how to exist differently, how to shift my perspective, how to surrender and find in that surrendering great freedom.
I relied on mentors and guides and healers and teachers who helped me to reframe or release my inquiries, to show me where my thinking was blinding me from the Light of my Heart. It was a group effort, make no mistake. Can we go it alone? Sure. Sometimes we even have to. When we can ask for help though, I believe we thrive when we do. Asking for help is a lesson unto itself. As much as we’re wired to think our way through “problems,” we’re also conditioned go it alone. But that doesn’t make it the ideal way of being in the world. We’re allowed to buck the system. In fact, I strongly encourage it. 
If you’ve been struggling with finding your footing in the midst of challenging emotional, mental, and spiritual experiences, I encourage you to reach out. Find a heart-centered mentor, healer, coach, guide, counselor – someone with compassion and grace, who understands the role of the mind in relation to the Heart, someone who will be neutral and honest with you. Someone who will help you see the gifts of self-care, as well as self-inquiry. Someone who will help you consider when to cut yourself some slack and when you can dig deep. You can begin this search simply by asking your Source to send someone your way. Healing – it can be simple. And sometimes it is not. Both are accepted. Be kind to yourself in the meantime, and don’t forget to breathe.
With gratitude,
Tana

How to Hear and Trust Our Intuition

I spent the last weekend of August in Suttle Lake in Oregon, participating in a 4-day workshop offered by the Essential Light Institute, led by Jonathan Goldman (Gift of the Body). I walked away with a few of what Jonathan calls “Divine Tactics.” If you’ll allow me to, I’d like to share a tactic with you that was a paradigm-shifter for me.

Heart message or ego message?

Recently a friend shared that she becomes paralyzed by her habit of overthinking and that it gets in the way of her being able to listen to and act on her intuition. Does that happen to you? I could relate as she joked that it was because of her sun sign, but I know a lot of people with different astrological charts who share this experience. We think it’s just our personality or our birth order or our astrological sign: things we can’t control. Fortunately our ability to listen to and recognize the messages of our Heart has very little to do with personality types or birth order or astrological signs and mostly to do with learning how to listen without giving our brains the reigns.

Most people I am blessed to know have one thing in common: they are aware of the ego’s capacity to sneak in and take over. So they tend to be able to recognize their intuition, but they aren’t trained what to do with it and because they are hyper aware of the ego’s ability to sneak in, they treat their intuitive messages like any other idea that comes along – they send it to their brainbox where it gets analyzed and categorized as egoic or non-egoic. Except – it rarely works out that way because intuition is just beyond the world around us. Trying to determine an intuitive message’s origin (Heart or ego?) by way of the brain is like using a screwdriver to try to hammer in a nail.

What we start with:

Many of us are not taught how to tune in to ourselves and our inner being. Instead we are trained to pay attention to outside stimuli and to take it to our brains for evaluation. We are encouraged to analyze, categorize, and organize ideas into one of two categories: true or untrue, valid or invalid, proven or disproven, etc. We are predisposed to judge so that we can pick up or discard whatever is being considered and move forward in a timely, orderly fashion.

We want to live through our Hearts which Jonathan teaches carries the vibrational qualities of calmness, compassion, faith, surrender, and trust. But we get caught up spinning round and round because our brains get in the way.

How can we recognize, trust and then act from our intuition without analyzing it?  The exercise:

On day 3, Jonathan asked us to focus on our breath and the inner channel of light that runs through the center of our bodies. We closed our eyes and did that. Then he asked us to feel our root chakras – first physically in our bodies at the perineum. We saw the channel of light flowing down through our root chakras and into the ground beneath us, then into the Earth where the roots hooked into the soil deep below. He then directed us to move our focus to the third eye and then to connect the root chakra and third eye to the heart chakra.

The Root Chakra’s role:

I talk a lot about “grounded Heart-centeredness.”  Why? Because being grounded is so vital to truly inhabiting these precious bodies and experiencing this life we’ve been sent to live and learn from. When the root chakra is imbalanced, I have personally found that it is usually because we have tried to escape Being Here Now. When we desire to be anywhere other than here in this life, in this body, awake to the lessons appearing to us and willing to learn them, we are bound to have imbalanced Root Chakras. (Spiritual people are not immune to escapism. Spiritual by-passing is another form of escapism. Here are links to articles describing spiritual bypassing LINK and LINK. And I have to refer you to Robert Augustus Master’s book, Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters where I first learned about it).

So when we meditate on the root chakra, we re-agree to Be Here Now. To be embodied. To experience this life.

The role of the third eye: 

I should move into first person here as this has already become a retelling of how I experienced and remember the exercise. He then directed me to focus on my Third Eye. (This surprised me a little and I had an epiphany that I associate the ego with the Third Eye. Maybe I’ll explore that with you another time). It’s important to know that a balanced Third Eye chakra that is following the lead of the Heart (what we desire all of our energy centers to do) is essentially about true awakening and taming the mind. It’s about seeing true: releasing preconceived notions, opening closed minds, observing and healing mental filters, releasing fear around truly seeing. So I was to feel that vibration. Find it, sit with it, and experience the vibration of seeing true. (Funnily enough it had nothing to do with ego).

The role of the heart chakra:

He then instructed me to move my focus to my Heart – to bring the vibrations of my root chakra up and my third eye down to meet in my Heart space. We had done an exercise where we felt into the vibrations in the field of the Heart: calmness, compassion, faith, surrender and trust. We also learned that the seat of the Heart is Humility and Trust. Humility and trust gives us the capacity to recognize truth when we encounter it. Our intuition headquarters is founded on those vibrations so we can trust the Heart always.

I was sitting there, seated firmly in my central channel of Light, experiencing being rooted in my body on this Earth – accepting, my open and seeing Third Eye, and what connected the two – my open Heart. And suddenly, I realized this – THIS is how I recognize, trust and act from my Intuition. Grounded in the acceptance of being Here Now in deep gratitude; aware of, unafraid of, and in gratitude for my ability to see; and joining that together in the center of my Being – my Heart from where all energies pass through Humility and Trust, Calmness, Compassion, Surrender, and Faith.

When we opened our eyes and were asked what we encountered, I shared that I in that moment I knew I could discern anything that came to me or from me from a place of truth. And Jonathan just nodded his head. As he does.

Since Heart Camp, I spend time each day, usually upon waking, doing this exercise of remembering. It feels like going home. If you try this meditation, I would love to know how you experience it. I hope it is a blessing to you as it has been for me.

A crystal ritual intended for the highly sensitive person

Rituals and the Highly Sensitive Person

 

Today in Facebook Land, I came across this article: Why Sensitive Souls Need Rituals,  by Kathryn Nulf, posted on The Elephant Journal website. In this article, Ms. Nulf writes:

“Rituals can have a profound impact on us HSP’s (highly sensitive persons): they calm and ground us, soothe the spirit, slow us down, remind us to live in the present moment, nourish our soul and remind us that we are responsible for our own well-being.”

This is what energy healing and creating crystal grids and crystal essences and doing crystal meditations is for me – grounding rituals that soothe and help me slow down.

Sometimes people will ask me something like, “Do you really believe in crystal energy?” And I respond, “Yes. Because I’ve experienced it and it helps me.”  Not everything in this world can be explained to everyone’s satisfaction. Heck, my experience of crystals is not explained to my satisfaction! It’s definitely in part, learning about how to live comfortably in mystery. And this world is full of mystery, much as our supposedly rational minds would like us to believe otherwise.

Subtle energy of any type – it can and will be experienced by different people in different ways. Some will have a deeply profound, tangible experience with tangible results. Some will have a deeply inner-soul experience that can’t be explained. Some will notice a very gentle support or sense of encouragement. Some won’t experience it at all, holding the “rock” in their hands, or atop the treatment table, shrugging their shoulders, looking at us skeptically. And that’s totally cool. I’m sure there is something that affects the person unaffected by crystals and subtle energy work that I wouldn’t understand or relate to either. It’s okay to be different and to have unique experiences.

Another idea I try to convey is this: it isn’t so much about the object – which serves as the symbol. Everything is a symbol pointing us to something greater than ourselves and usually through lessons in this Earth School we signed up for, but sometimes through moments of Grace too. Words, crystals, mandalas, music, books, art, light, dark, colors, numbers, shapes – all of it – symbols or tools which help us connect or reconnect to our Selves and sometimes each other in ways that bring us back to ourselves, helping us get grounded and Heart-centered.

Have you created a ritual in your life that helps you feel the ground beneath your feet? Which tools are your go-tos to create ritual in your life? How do you choose to work with them? In what way does working with this ritual tool help you?