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The Four Noble Truths of Love – Book Review

July 9th, 2018

Susan Piver’s book, The Four Noble Truths of Love, is an inner course on navigating relationships and well-being. In her new book, New York Times bestselling author and mindfulness expert, Susan Piver applies classic Buddhist wisdom to modern relationships, including her own long-term marriage.

The Four Noble Truths of Love will challenge expectations we have about dating, love, and romance. This mindful approach towards relationships and love invites us to explore our heart fiercely, deepen communications with our partner, increase our compassion, and lead us toward a path of wisdom and happiness.

Through the lens of both her Buddhist practices and her own experience in a 20-year marriage, Piver interweaves personal anecdotes with practical wisdom to arrive at the Four Noble Truths of Love. Piver spends time in each truth: Relationships never stabilize; Expecting relationships to be stable is what makes them unstable; Meeting instability together is love; The path to liberation. While her practices come from a Buddhist background and her study of the Four Noble Truths, the Four Noble Truths of Love are an invitation to be questioned and examined from our own experience/s.

It’s when we stop trying to see a relationship as only an extended love affair that we gain access to its unique and often undercelebrated powers: of warmth; of solace; of protection; of friendship; a connection that slows and deepens until it subsumes both hearts and blurs the lines between you, me, and us. –Susan Piver

Piver shares from her own personal experience of marriage including some personal struggles and revelations. She shares that if a couple meets their instability together – this is love. This book is a teaching on love from a “big” mind. There are insights about the phases of relationships, from irritation to deep compassion. Piver also offers practical wisdom, including meditation practices. Meditation can be a practice of love.

Everything in this book is a practice – of the heart, of the mind, of the Self. Love at its core is about being vulnerable, open, and kindhearted. Love shows us our inherent goodness and it can also reveal our unhealed pain. Love isn’t about hiding the pain, rather its’ about uncovering it. This path takes great courage – and the noble truths of love offer wise insight to practice that courage.

 

*I received an advance review copy of Susan Piver’s The Four Noble Truths of Love. I have also met Susan Piver and taken courses with the Open Heart Project.

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Posted in Book Review | Toning the Om

Haiku

July 6th, 2018


In the morning light 


Song of the great blue heron


Brings joy to my heart


📷 Mary Anne Flanagan

 

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Posted in Meditation | Toning the Om

Meditation on Compassion

June 26th, 2018

Fill yourself up with compassion with each breath. 
What do you look like when you are living with compassion?
Show yourself some compassion right now.
Allow yourself to breathe compassion into your whole body.
Notice your body and breathe even more compassion.
Let compassion move your hands to your heart.
How are you transmitting compassion to yourself?
What is your message of compassion today?
Listen to compassion.
Take a deeper breath in and out.
Breathe compassion. Again. And again.
When you see the world with compassion, what’s possible?
And take a nice big breath.
Be compassionate to youself, always.
Beam compassion with every interaction.
And so it is.

As Pema Chödrön writes, “Just as nurturing our ability to love is a way of awakening bodhichitta, so also is nurturing our ability to feel compassion. Compassion, however, is more emotionally challenging than loving-kindness because it involves the willingness to feel pain. It definitely requires the training of a warrior.

When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience our fear of pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion, to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.”

Stay with your breath. Stay with yourself. Stay with compassion.

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Posted in Meditation | Toning the Om

Aware, Awake, and Alive Meditation

June 19th, 2018

Tune into your body. Notice any place that is tense and breathe there. Like a radio station that we adjust the knob to remove the static—take a moment to adjust your body to remove any static. Send your breath to any part of your body that feels tense. Breathe into that part of you that is holding on. Be aware of your body in this moment. Your body is teaching you right now where it is. Allow your body to show what is most needed in your life right now. Your body is showing you how to be aware, aware, and alive.

 

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Posted in Meditation | Toning the Om

Mastering Our Breath

May 29th, 2018

For many years, I would sit with my teacher and she would ask me to be mindful of my breathing. We would sit each week and take a few slow, gentle breaths in and out.

Often my homework assignment from my teacher would be an invitation to be mindful of my breathing throughout my day. I was to pause and take conscious breaths with each phone call, before each email, or meal.

My teacher would often say, “I want you to master your breathing. If you can master your breath, you can master anything.”

Want to join me in my daily practice of breathing with mindfulness throughout the day?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Let’s master our breathing – a breath at a time.

 

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Posted in Meditation | Toning the Om

From Struggle to Strength

May 10th, 2018

This poem was submitted as part of National Poetry month. It is written by 15-year-old, George Ferguson. It fits into all that Toning the OM represents: mind and body meeting inner strength and possibility. I love how much George listened and learned from his own physical struggles and chose to rise up from them. His inner struggles led him to deep insights about himself. Congratulations George!

As a unique, young individual
with just the strangest issues,
physical abilities included,
from the incapability of using limbs
to being unable to keep my head screwed on my body,
led to classes,
led to lectures,
led to lessons;
bowling occurred first,
where my arms were twigs,
where they could snap at any moment,
while the ball flung from left gutter to the right,
going backwards at certain points,
and this was only part one of the project,
with my legs being the next step,
which strolled me to a path of dancing,
Irish step dancing,
where even though I had contained zero talent,
had no way of making my legs become pencils,
the people accepted me,
not only for my Irish roots,
but having a passion for wanting to become stronger than Ali,
wanting to become better than Flatley,
and that’s where the third step entered,
with my noggin latched into place,
different kinds of social issues on both ends on the spectrum,
where it became an incredible struggle,
that therapy landed right into my lap,
and even with the flaws,
the challenges,
the obstacles,
the maturity in me has risen,
and life has been a machine since the early days.

© This poem is the property of George Ferguson and permission to publish has been given by his family.

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Posted in Life | Toning the Om

Expired MetroCard? Expired Thoughts?

May 2nd, 2018

I found a MetroCard in my wallet last week and swiped it to see how much money was on it. The machine read, “Please see an attendant.” I walked over and asked the MTA attendant if she could check how much was on my card. After she swiped it and checked her computer she said, “Ma’am, this was a 30-day unlimited card that expired in March.” I thanked the lady and walked away with my expired card. After discarding it in the recycling bin, I realized that I had been carrying around an expired card.

Later, I looked through the rest of my wallet for other expired or outdated cards. As I finished reorganizing my wallet, I decided to check what else in my house had expired and could be thrown out. As I sat down feeling proud of getting rid of unnecessary items, I meditated on listening for thoughts and situations that had also expired and needed to be discarded. What else has expired in my life? What thoughts, beliefs, and feelings have expired that I am still carrying around? Could I let go of my disappointment and frustration? Am I carrying around anger that expired last month?

I invite you to check in and see if there is anything you are carrying (inside and out) that has expired. What has expired that is still living inside you?

Start with today. What are you still carrying around that you are willing to let go?

It’s time for a new 30-day pass.

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Posted in Storytelling | Toning the Om

What Is the Call of Your Heart?

April 25th, 2018

How can we slow down long enough to hear our own heart?

How do we return to our wild, untamed selves?

How do we make plans and stay open to serendipity?

How do we sit in uncertainty and trust that the universe will provide?

These are just some of the questions I sat with during a recent meditation. I started my meditation by taking conscious breaths. I breathed into my heart center until it expanded more and more. With each exhale, I could hear the question, “What does my Being want today?”

I listened with my whole body. I took longer pauses and was willing to sit in the quiet. I had to let go of the noise that normally fills my day. I stopped my inner world and I noticed I wasn’t as busy as I once believed. As I sat in the emptiness, emotions rose and connections to myself deepened. My meditation was a reminder to release old ways and to be open to new routines.

My invitation to you is to break some routines. Take a new path to work. Try a new food. Do something unfamiliar. Listen more.

All this inner work has allowed me to expand and co-create in new ways. I have emerged from my time in stillness with incredible meditations that I will be sharing at the upcoming Wild Cosmic Heart Retreat in Hawaii at Kalani Retreat Center, November 4 – 10, 2018.

What is the call of your heart?

Why not try something new and join us on the Big Island for the Wild Cosmic Heart Retreat at Kalani and enjoy some magnificent tropical beauty while you explore your wild, untamed heart.

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Posted in Meditation | Toning the Om

“Falling” – Lessons from My Cheer-leading Youth

April 17th, 2018

I spent four years as a cheerleader – from 5th grade through 8th grade. It gave me the chance to use my big mouth and spend time with my best friend, Julie. We would have practices on Tuesday nights and then cheer the boy’s basketball games on Friday nights.

I wasn’t the most athletic or flexible. Some of the cheerleaders could do backflips all the way down the court. Others could flip from the top of our cheering pyramid. I was petite and strong. I loved learning the cheers and wearing my white saddle shoes. I wasn’t as crazy for the skirts and pigtails.

Given my height, I was usually found in the front of the cheering line. And keeping our lines straight and smiles on our face was an important part of being a cheerleader. We also entered tournaments, which included routines and loud cheers. Part of our routine was building a cheering pyramid. By creatively combining lifts, poses and dismounts, you end up with a sort of mega stunt that often impressed the judges. I was frequently at the bottom of the pyramid. I remember my hands and knees on the floor while another girl’s knee would lean into my back as we built a three-layer pyramid.

If anyone felt like they couldn’t hold the pyramid and needed help, they were to shout, “Falling.” During one tournament, as we started to build our pyramid, I felt uncomfortable. I could feel the pressure from another cheerleader’s knee digging into my back. I wanted to hold on and keep smiling. As we continued with building the pyramid, I couldn’t hold on any longer. I shouted, “Falling.” The other cheerleaders didn’t hear me. Perhaps my shout on the inside was a whisper on the outside. Suddenly, I went down bringing the pyramid with me. No one was hurt as everyone started to properly dismantle. I remember after the tournament the coach yelling at me for not shouting “falling” loud enough for our team to hear.

Looking back now, maybe I didn’t realize how much the cheerleaders were leaning on me (literally). Maybe I am still learning the lesson of leaning on people in my life. Maybe we all need a code word when we need support. Maybe when we feel ourselves collapsing, we can shout out, “Falling.”

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Tears + Geckos – A Wild Cosmic Heart Journey

April 11th, 2018

Seven years ago, I began planning a week-long retreat that would take place on the Big Island of Hawaii. I wanted to spend a week exploring our wild cosmic heart. I had no idea that a week before the retreat a hurricane would sweep the East Coast. I had no idea that three weeks before the retreat I would have medical appointments and not feel well. I had no idea that my heart would feel so heavy and raw.

In November of 2012 as I prepared to leave for my flight, I thought of canceling – of staying home to help family and friends affected by the storm. I thought about how I would reschedule my medical appointments that were canceled due to the power outages from the hurricane. I thought about volunteering somewhere to help hurricane victims who lost everything.

When I asked friends if I should still lead the retreat, they all gave the same answer – YES. I listened and took an 11-hour flight to Hawaii. I arrived exhausted and anxious. When I arrived at my room, two large geckos were awaiting me. I barley slept my first night and, in the morning, I met with the Group Manager. She greeted me with a big hug and my eyes filled with tears.

As the week continued I knew I was in the right place (not only because it was Hawaii). I met so many people willing to explore their hearts. I met people who were open to being seen and heard. I met people who were willing to be vulnerable. As I sat and listened to the retreat participants, I became more in awe of the many people who live their life celebrating and tending to their wild cosmic heart.

I met Louise whose husband was dying of brain cancer. I met Yolanda who celebrated her 75th birthday with friends and a group of strangers. I watched Tina snorkel with joy as she swam in the warm ponds. I smiled as Angela took her first hula class. I listened to Francine remember that she can drum and sing. I took a picture of Susan sitting in her shamanic earth mandala, which she made in the roots of a huge tree. I laughed with Lisa in the water, like a teenager with the giggles.

Most of all, I remember that my heart felt open and grateful. I realized that when I open and invite others into my heart, the world expands. Many in the our sacred circle were longing for connection, community, and belonging. The Wild Cosmic Heart Retreats offers just that — deep connections through guided meditations, mindfulness walks around trees, shamanic journeying to the garden of the heart, and sacred play. In the midst of worry and responsibility, participants from around the world were willing to drop the armor around their heart.

I even befriended the Geckos, known to me as Heckle and Jeckle. The retreat was so powerful that I have taught it again and again. And this November, I will be facilitating the Wild Cosmic Heart Retreat at Kalani on the Big Island of Hawaii, November 4-10, 2018. Join us for a week of daily meditations, mindfulness walks in the luscious tropics, shamanic journeying, and homemade ice cream! What is your wild cosmic heart asking of you?

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Posted in Shamanism | Toning the Om