From the category archives:

For Beginning Seekers

Holiday Survival Guide to Staying Spiritually Centered
Creative Commons License photo credit: seantoyer

To say holiday family gatherings can be challenging is a gross understatement.  Take attendant seasonal stress, combine with deeply-ingrained behavior patterns rearing their ugly heads, mix in a few triggering personalities, a smattering of cultural conditioning, and finally toss in forced togetherness with people you might see (and begrudgingly at that) just once a year, and we’ve plenty to deal with right there.

Add a desire to express your spirituality, or moreover, share your enthusiasm over a spiritual awakening into this mix and it can be like throwing gasoline on a burning yuletide flame.

I don’t want to paint too bleak a picture or lapse into dysfunctional family stereotyping (easy as it would be to go there). Of course, not all families are dysfunctional nor geographically and emotionally disconnected. Yet the fact remains that family members estranged by time or distance often come home to roost at the holidays, making for uncommon interactions between people who don’t see one another on a regular basis.  The holidays also involve more socializing than other times of the year do, and much of it happens in contexts that are ripe for confrontation, judgment, and argument.

If you’re newer to spiritual exploration, and especially if you’ve had a sudden and distinct spiritual awakening (as I did) religious holidays like Christmas and Chanukah and their ritual celebrations offer both challenge and opportunity, with more than [click to continue…]

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journey
Creative Commons License photo credit: jerseytourism

It’s the end of the journey through another year, December in the northern hemisphere where I live.  I love this month not for the holiday lights, shorter days and colder weather, but because things slow down for once.  Largely thanks to the cluster of December holidays, the pace lets up, and there is time, space, and breathing room to reflect. Mmmmm . . . just savor how good that feels.  Take a deep breath, let it out.  Exhale.  Doesn’t that feel wonderful?

Yet no sooner do we reflect on the past year, or our entire lives to date, than we fast forward to what we will do next, do differently, or both.  We can’t help but move from reflection to dreaming and intending for the future.

Intention has been a growing focus in my life this year and is a paramount theme for 2011.  And it’s not just me – the concept of living with intention seems to be popping up all around me, and I say it’s about time.  Especially with science catching up to spirituality, we’re learning more all the time about the power of intention – even before it leads to action – to really and truly move the physical universe.  (If you’re curious for more on that – especially the science piece – don’t miss what Lynne McTaggart is doing at The Intention Experiment.  This ain’t hocus, people).

One thing’s for sure on this journey:  you can set the course, or [click to continue…]

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chakra meditation
Creative Commons License photo credit: AlicePopkorn

Hi, Karen here. While I’m off on a new accidental adventure in Barcelona Spain I invited my good friend Penelope Love to submit the following guest post. I know you’ll adore her story as much as I do. Happy Thanksgiving US readers!

My first intimate encounter with an Eastern medical doctor occurred not two weeks after 9-11, when recurrent images of crumbling towers on the nightly news all too accurately reflected my disheveled marriage to my first husband and correspondingly—my inner world.

There I stood at the outset of this fateful journey, my bare calves streaked with filthy water, my ankles rubbed raw and bleeding, again. Arrayed in my DKNY raincoat and spike heel uniform, I’d just dashed five blocks from my midtown Manhattan office and down a block decorated with Brazilian flags to make it to my doctor’s appointment on time.

It was already 11:03 by the time I found her location on the second floor of a…well, I’m still not sure, but I believe it was a residential apartment building. A massage sign on the downstairs door had almost thrown me off the scent, because being fresh out of the University of Florida, I was looking for a lone medical office, perhaps two or three stories and an elevator; and in light of a Catholic upbringing, I shuddered and almost didn’t pass go once I saw that sign. Yet I felt vaguely aware of some benevolent force drawing me in despite visions of oily naked [click to continue…]

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Sunrise over Taos Mountain, New Mexico

We all think and say we want our dreams to come true, but there’s a funny catch-22 about dreams:  it’s often more fun to dream them than to live them.

On the one hand, when what we desire is still “just a dream”, it’s airy – illusory and imaginary – and often highly motivating.  But when and if it comes true (it manifests), the reality of a dream might not match the fantasy. Often, the dream made real feels a lot more like a goal achieved or work to be done than what you imagined your dream life to be.  Which is why – with as many dreams as I have – I try to use them as a landscape in which to create specific goals.  You could say I use my dream-scape as a creative play space.  I think that’s part of living consciously – knowing what you want while at the same time daring to get wildly, almost insanely creative about it.  Think and imagine without limits; they’ll always be there later, right?

Because on the other hand, the dream made real might far exceed the fantasy, so what have you got to lose?

For those who are serious about making dreams come true or (no matter who you are) for those dreams you’re absolutely sure you want to make real, I offer this simple recipe. (Isn’t it easier to just follow instructions than to have to find creative ways to keep ourselves motivated toward dream-making?)  That’s what I love about recipes – they provide a point for an immediate beginning and a framework you can build on.  The creative pressure of getting started is off , yet you can take all the creative license you want with the instructions once you have them.  I encourage you to do so with this recipe too, so here it is: [click to continue…]

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In any process of learning, growth or change, it’s terribly easy to get caught up in the illusion that you’re becoming “more”.

We send ourselves to school to get titles and degrees – to acquire knowledge and develop the intellect.  We comb the far corners of the world to explore, see or experience more.  We strive in our jobs and careers in order to become richer, promoted faster, or accredited and known in the process.  We save and scheme and plan for a bigger house or more luxurious car, to live in a better neighborhood, or to send our kids to superior schools.  Elite athletes train to break records, celebrities vie for more time in the spotlight and press than their peers, and politicians must outdo their opponents in fund-raising and face time to even get in the game.

Such is the metaphor for success in the modern world: climb, rise, move up, escalate, soar, transcend.  Most days it feels like if you’re not advancing, you might as well not even get out of bed.

This is a serious pitfall for any seeker, because [click to continue…]

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For some of us the path to spiritual awakening, exploration and growth involves ashrams, India, relinquishing material goods, quitting jobs, leaving family, selling houses, jungle treks, Ayahuasca, hallucinations, mystical experiences, and some pretty radical lifestyle transformations before – if ever – returning to the secular world. Drastic? Usually. Exotic? Most certainly. Possible for most of us?

Forget about it.

For the rest of us, the path to spiritual awakening, exploration and growth is just pretty uneventful.

This blog is for the regular people, leading unglamorous average lives, whose hearts and souls hunger to experience more. When that hunger arises, whether we know it or not that elusive part of our selves that is core to every being living the human experience is waking up.

We are, after all, multi-dimensional beings: physical, mental, emotional, and yes, spiritual. Yet until quite recently in our collective history, we’ve focused more on the first three than the last. Heck, it took us about 50,000 (or much longer according to some) years to conquer just the physical world, and several centuries thereafter to reach the various ages of creative and intellectual expansion, like the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Age, Information Age and so on.

Emotionally we’re even younger, still deciphering how our own wiring and programming works and how to master it (which is why I adore Malcolm Gladwell’s books) lest it continue to master us. When it comes to spirituality, for the most part we’ve relegated it to a box called “religion” and there it stays (and for the majority, still does).

Now a growing minority of us find ourselves wanting to experience the intangible, and organized religion isn’t fitting the bill. We want answers to big questions that man-made theology doesn’t provide. We seek a direct – not translated – experience of the divine within ourselves; within our own lives.  We seek the ultimate experience of our true essence. When our hearts and souls cry out for this, even though we may not be consciously looking for it or even passively thinking about it, something sparks.

So we become Accidental Seekers. At least that’s what I call it, because that’s what happened to me.

When you stumble into spirituality you don’t go looking for Spirit (God/Universe/pick your term), Spirit finds you. It happens when you least expect it. It comes in forms you couldn’t possibly imagine and wouldn’t likely choose. Like the classic Buddhist proverb says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. The teacher – or the catalyst which leads you to a teacher – can be damn near anything or anyone (including – as in my own very embarrassing case – a sexy yoga instructor an entire generation younger than I). No wonder we trip all over ourselves!

So if you’ve wandered or are stumbling into spirituality – into waking up to a new aspect of yourself — it’s okay. It’ll throw you off guard, maybe even throw you for a loop, and certainly throw you out of your comfort zone (but that’s the point!). At first we don’t know this, we resist it, or both. Here’s a tip: keep walking even if your steps are uncertain and your direction unknown. The route will get easier and it will get harder, but the good news is along with way you’ll become comfortable with the twisting and turning of the path (more on that here). In the end, I guarantee you the journey is worth it.

Plus, you’re not alone. You stumbled over here, didn’t you?


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