From the category archives:

Power and Awareness

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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Bamboo Grove at Morkami Gardens

This time of year, much of the northern hemisphere grows cold. Often the change in climate makes it easy for our hearts to grow cold too. We contract our bodies to stay warm, add extra layers to insulate ourselves. If we’re not mindful, our emotional bodies will mimic our physical bodies until we’re tucked tight in our cocoons, aptly-shelled until spring’s thaw.

For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, it’s certainly fitting that we celebrate heart-opening holidays like Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa during the darkest, coldest season of our year.

Then again, some of us get a free pass. Since I live in south Florida, this time of year marks the boundary between our wet and dry seasons, a welcome transition from balmy, moist sultry summers to cool, crisp delightfully sunny winters. It’s as if the season of heat gives birth to the season of light, both of which I resonate with and cherish deeply.

It Wasn’t Always This Way

Before seven years ago I lived in Chicago (“up north” as we call it down here). Back then this time of year felt [click to continue…]

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The Dragonfly
Creative Commons License photo credit: pr0d1gy

Recently this story about a journey crossed my path.  You may have run across it yourself; it’s often read at funeral and memorial services:

The Dragonfly

Once, in a little pond, in the muddy water under the lily pads, there lived a little water beetle in a community of water beetles. They lived a simple and comfortable life in the pond with few disturbances and interruptions.

Once in a while, sadness would come to the community when one of their fellow beetles would climb the stem of a lily pad and would never be seen again. They knew when this happened their friend was dead, gone forever.

Then, one day, one little water beetle felt an irresistible urge to climb up that stem. However, he was determined that he would not leave forever. He would come back and tell his friends what he had found at the top.

When he reached the top and climbed out of the water onto the surface of the lily pad, [click to continue…]

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The Outer Journey

View from my Trail Ride in the Chilean Andes

Lately I’ve focused considerably on the inner journey – specifically, the path through my own most recent evolutionary shift in consciousness and personal growth, likely one of many such shifts any seeker undergoes in a lifetime.  After moving through that growth cycle this spring, I had an amazing summer, abundant with travel to beautiful, familiar and far-flung places alike.

It reminded me of something: life isn’t all about the inner journey.  The outer journey – in particular, the fact that you have one – is just as important.  And naturally, the two are inextricably connected, for the outer journey sparks and fuels the inner; the inner is mirrored in live lessons and the physical reality of the outer. At least that‘s how it’s always been for me.

Insatiable Wanderlust

Those who’ve read the “meet Karen” page of this blog will know that the outer journey – I’m talking about literal travel here – is one I have been incredibly blessed to have with great ease and little effort of my own.  It’s also been one of immense variety and constancy since I was a child.  And it’s something I’d like to [click to continue…]

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How Open Are You?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Jules LaVerne

2011 is shaping up to be a year of rapid, no-nonsense “shifting into gear”.  For many people – self included – we’re close to completing the transition through the gears which has defined the past few years.  I don’t know about you, but I’m intending to enter a more stable place of greater alignment with my goals and desires in 2011.   After the preceding (and apparently, ongoing) period of economic, climate and political instability, I welcome this final push even if it won’t be entirely comfortable.

Which is why right now, it really pays to have goals and desires; to have clarity of intention followed by intentional action.  Alignment and clarity are necessarily linked – you can’t be aligned to something without defining it to begin with. The dimensions and areas of your life, of all you are, can’t be congruent without clarity.  So I view clarity and more specifically, the willingness to examine and truthfully see as another defining lesson of 2011.

For some of us, this means simply opening our eyes or pulling our heads out of the sand and at long last facing what we’ve been avoiding.  For others, it will be time to take off [click to continue…]

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i believe in symmetry
Creative Commons License photo credit: timsnell

While 2010 ended with a whimper for me (and for the most part I was glad to see it go), 2011 is starting off with a bang.  There’s “no rest for the wicked” as the saying goes.

Not that I’m wicked (truly, I’m not) but we all have negative habits, conditioning or baggage hiding somewhere and when it must be dumped, the universe will waste no time in pulling up the trash bin.  Seems like 2011 is hauling in the garbage trucks.

It’s fitting that on this closing day of January I’m sharing three lessons that have already come up for me this year (yeah, that’s just what January had to offer!).  Thankfully, they’ve been swift and precise, resulted in some much needed laser-introspection, and yielded chucking of habits that were holding me back:

1.       How you do everything, and how you feel when doing it, is more important than everything you do.
Your vibe tells all, and despite how you act or what you say, people will usually pick up on your true feelings about something.  Reluctant to sit through three hours of your son’s baseball practice?  It’ll show.  The challenge for most of us – I think – is we end up doing all sorts of things we don’t really want to.  Or what we thought we wanted turns out to be a far cry from our expectations.

What to do when there’s a gulf between what you have committed to doing and how you feel about it?  [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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October Clean up
Creative Commons License photo credit: kodomut

Few of us make it through life with a light load.  At some point, we intentionally or unintentionally become hoarders.

I don’t necessarily mean hoarders of physical stuff, although that can be part of it. Anything that manifests in physical form has emotional, mental and spiritual components behind the scenes.  Even if we’re not physically holding onto things though, most of us carry plenty of emotional baggage.  Eventually it’s time to toss it or run the risk of it becoming so bogged down we can’t carry the weight.  When that happens we can no longer grow; we become stuck in one place, barely able to move or breathe, like those horrifying scenes from the A&E reality show on the same theme.

The question, always the question, is howHow do you dump the emotional baggage? How do you throw out the mental garbage? How do you take out the trash? [click to continue…]

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Military dance troupe
Creative Commons License photo credit: tibchris

After writing this two-part series on following your bliss, I’ve come to realize one of the biggest obstacles to going after what makes you happy is actually standing up and bucking conformity if that’s what it takes to get it.

It’s all well and good to have figured out what brings you lasting and authentic joy, to acknowledge you want whatever that is, and to accept that being in alignment with it will make you happy.

It’s a whole other thing to stand up to the forces that be and declare you’re going to go publicly do whatever brings you joy, especially when it’s not the norm.  And that, dear readers, is exactly what makes Chris Guillebeau’s debut book The Art of Non-Conformity (affiliate link) so timely, reassuring and downright practical.

The Young Grasshopper of Non-Conformity

I’ve been following writer and world traveler Chris Guillebeau for about a year.  Sensing a kindred spirit (we both love to travel, travel-hack and write) after connecting with his blog, I immediately raised my hand for an advance copy of his book when he offered it and was lucky enough to get one.  Now about half-way through my read, I realize we share another key trait: non-conformity.

Chris Guillebeau Art of Non-ConformityLike many readers of Chris’ book will undoubtedly discover, I owe him a debt of gratitude for emboldening and empowering me to set my own rules and go after the life I really want.  Because you see, Chris is a freakin’ non-conformity master.

In his early 30’s today, Chris is a man who refused from an early age to accept the status quo.  He dropped-out of high school after two years (mostly from what I construe as boredom) and went straight to college.  Taking classes simultaneously at a community college and local university, he graduated with not one but two (count ‘em, two) bachelor’s degrees at the end of his second year as a college student.  His friends from the brief time he’d spent in high school were just finishing their freshman year.

Chris then went on to do a variety of non-conformist things including a short stint working the night shift at Fed-Ex at age 20 followed by starting and running an eBay business, and more notably, spending four years as a volunteer aid worker in West Africa.  While in Africa [click to continue…]

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Plan management trainee, nancy from Ghana and me
Creative Commons License photo credit: Frerieke

In part 1 of this series I explored internal alignment as an alternative to thinking in terms of absolutes.  I invited you to see all judgments as a matter of individual perspective and a chance to move away from the narrowness of right and wrong, black and white, either/or.  Then I suggested that if you’re going to peg your internal barometer to one thing, if you’re going to pick one state by which to measure your alignment, make it joy.  But many are asking “Why joy? And how do I know the real thing?”

Contrary to most mass religions and popular belief, I believe our human journey is not intended to be a path of suffering, nor a massive test we’re supposed to pass.  Whether you honor your inner guidance system or not, however, will determine if you make it into one.  And of course, it is absolutely your choice to believe as you wish.  (Recognize, however, as you believe so you will create.)

The good news is, we haven’t been sent here without an internal guidance system. We all have one – our emotions. Those emotions we call “negative” are there to steer us away from what is [click to continue…]

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