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And God Whispered…

November 14th, 2018

I’m right here.

As I headed into the woods to look for fall warblers and hawks, I found myself smiling at the abundance of yellow trees. I looked up to see the sunlight streaming down onto the tops of the trees. Then tears came streaming down my face. I was overcome with joy of being in nature, of being surrounded by light, of walking with my spouse. Of feeling the crunching of leaves and feeling peaceful. It had been a long time since peace filled me – as most of the year has been spent being with my ill father until his passing in September.

Nature is a great reminder that everything changes. Leaves fall and mulch. Seeds succumb to the darkness. And transformation comes in every season.

Many emotions filled me with every breath – sadness, gratitude, peace, and grief. I felt all of it. I looked up as the sunlight bounced off the yellow leaves and listened to the silence that filled the trail. Suddenly I heard squirrels hurrying through bushes, birds flying from tree to tree, and crisp air blowing the leaves. Smiling at the beauty all around me, I heard the words, “And God whispered, I’m right here.”

Through the mystery of grief and love, my heart felt peaceful. Lost in emotions of sadness, I knew joy. Grasping for connection, I knew groundedness. Longing for the return of hope, I found myself whispering, “I’m right here.”

 

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Posted in Letting Go | Toning the Om

Sorry for Your Troubles

November 2nd, 2018

Streams of my father’s friends came into the funeral home to honor him and share their condolences. Many walked up to me and extended their hand and said, “Sorry for your troubles.” I couldn’t really understand at first what they were saying. As the line grew longer and longer, many folks told me how they met my father, shared a story, and ended with their condolences, “Sorry for your troubles.”

I was a bit overwhelmed by the number of people who came to my father’s wake and repeatedly hearing the words sorry for your troubles. I came to learn that the expression is used all over Ireland. As the poet and theologian Pádraig Ó Tuama writes, “It comes directly from an Irish phrase, yet Irish has no word for ‘bereavement’ – the word used is ‘troiblóid’. So the phrase would be better translated ‘Sorry for your bereavements’.”

It was quite powerful seeing his wake filled with long-time friends and neighbors all sharing in our loss. Grief felt beyond expression – beyond words. Sorry for your troubles gave space to my inner experience of grief. The expression felt bigger than a condolence message. It felt like an acknowledgement of the enormity of losing a parent, especially someone like my father who was so loved and touched so many lives.

As the author, Liz Gilbert, says, “Grief is not an interruption of your life, but a braided-into-your soul aspect of it. We weep and we continue.” My experience of grief is that it brings me to my knees. It reminds me of how much I love and long for the connection that existed. And I am also reminded of how hard it can be for people to express their condolences or to know that grief lasts a lot longer than the days following a funeral. I know it can feel overwhelming to reach out to check in on grieving friends after time has passed after their loss. And it’s as overwhelming being the one experiencing grief.

Bearing the effects of losing a loved one takes more than weeks or months. It’s an everyday experience where sometimes grief feels heavy and other times grief inspires more love. The most important part is showing up, expressing your condolences (calls and cards are wonderful), sitting with those in grief; and if you don’t know what to say, you can always hold their hand, wipe their tears, and say, “Sorry for your troubles.”

This is dedicated to my beloved father, Ted Flanagan, who passed away on September 6, 2018.

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Posted in Letting Go | Toning the Om

Echoes of a Grieving Heart

October 13th, 2018

Thoughts swirl after grief. None of them seem real or capture the essence of loss. Sometimes I look for words from other people to help give language to the grief that lives inside my heart. One author who captures grief brilliantly is Joan Didion. In her books, The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights, Didion writes about her experiences of grief and the echoes of aches it leaves behind. Each line feels like a deep meditation of the heart. 

Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought?

In time of trouble, I had been trained since childhood, read, learn, work it up, go to the literature. Information was control. Given that grief remained the most general of afflictions its literature seemed remarkably spare.

That I was only beginning the process of mourning did not occur to me. Until now, I had only been able to grieve, not mourn. Grief was passive. Grief happened. Mourning, the act of dealing with grief, required attention.

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death.

You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.

To my beloved dad—I miss you everyday.

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Posted in Life | Toning the Om

Permission for Joy

August 30th, 2018

After attending the 5th and final year of Camp Good Life Project, I had a clear sense of what nourishes me. Connections. Conversations. Community. All of those fill my heart. Meditation. Mindfulness. Mantras. Those fill my soul. Letting the rest go. Clearing the way for what comes to me and fills me up with joy. As I sat on a rock looking out at a lake, I started listening for what I could give myself permission to experience to feel more joy and more peace.

I give myself permission to…  

Take a weekend off to play;

Read the entire Sunday New York Times; 

Take a long afternoon nap;

Read three books at the same time;

Write from my heart all day;

Impulsively book a weekend get-a-way;

Connect more with nature;

Be open to not knowing;

Make room for what is next;

To experience JOY;

Love myself more.

What are you willing to give yourself permission to experience?

 

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Posted in Gratitude | Toning the Om

Do Work That Brings You Joy

August 20th, 2018

I didn’t set out to change the world. Most people I speak with don’t either. I set out to change an intense emotion – grief. It was important to me and over the years I have found it’s important to others as well.

People want to do important work. Work that has meaning. Work that brings joy. Work that matters.

I bring the best of who I am to my work and that is enough – I am enough. And what I have learned is bringing my best inspires others to bring their best too.

There will always be nay sayers (I have my fair share of those too). The gift is knowing what you offer and finding people who are open and ready to receive.

Changing the world is too big. Changing ourselves is about finding our growing edge and expanding from there.

If it’s not important, why bother?

If it doesn’t bring you joy, move on.

If it is meaningful and joyful, keep going.

Big gratitude to everyone who shows support with my coaching and shamanic healing practice and to those who attend my meditation and spiritual retreats. It is work that brings me so much joy.

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Posted in Gratitude | Toning the Om

Peaceful Mind, Happy Heart

August 14th, 2018

If our thoughts are peaceful, our meditation is also usually peaceful. If we have spiral or negative thoughts, then we describe our mind as unsettled. We might be unable to “stop” our thoughts.

The goal of meditation is not to stop our thoughts. It’s to notice our thoughts. It’s a place where we can experience a subtle change in our thoughts. Our meditation is as much when we are in the world as it is when we are on the cushion.

If your mind is a little peaceful then it’s possible to experience a little more peace and expand it. As my meditation teacher says, “If we can feel a little peaceful, we can feel a lot peaceful.”

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Posted in Meditation | Toning the Om

Being Here—Being Home

August 7th, 2018

There was a time I was between here and there. Now I find myself between here and here.

I came across the above line in one of my journals and was reminded just how easy it is to move away from the present moment. I have released the notion of staying busy. I found the busier I was, the more exhausted I became. By making space for some quiet, I am able to find time for walking, watching sunsets, meditating, writing, and sitting. It’s amazing how busy we can convince ourselves to be!

As Thich Nhat Hanh says in his writing, I Have Arrived, I Am Home:

“I have arrived” is our practice. When we breathe in, we take refuge in our in-breath, and we say, “I have arrived.” When we take a step, we take refuge in our step, and we say, “I am home.” This is not a statement to yourself or another person. “I have arrived, I am home” means I have stopped running; I have arrived in the present moment contains life. When I breathe in and take refuge in my in-breath, I touch life deeply. When I take a step and I take refuge entirely in my step, I also touch life deeply, and by doing so I stop running.

          Stop running is a very important practice. We have all been running all of our lives. We believe that peace, happiness, and success are present in some other place and time. We don’t know that everything—peace, happiness, and stability—should be looked for in the here and the now. This is the address of life—the intersection of here and now.

I have stopped running and I have arrived. For me, being here is being home.

Welcome home.

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Posted in Meditation | Toning the Om

What Is Your Suggested Speed Limit?

July 25th, 2018

We decide life’s pace.

We decide whether we must get someplace at 50 miles per hour or 20 miles per hour.

We decide how fast or how slow we go.

We decide the pace of our life and the pace of our breath.

What is your pace?

Can we slow down long enough to feel life, to feel our heart, and to feel our breath?

What is your suggested speed limit?

Mantra: I allow the pace of my heart to show me
the way.

 

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Posted in Meditation | Toning the Om

Where Are Your Thoughts Taking You?

July 19th, 2018

As we become more aware of our thoughts, we can start to observe and listen deeply to the messages we give ourselves.

Take a moment and ask yourself:
Is this thought giving me joy or taking away my joy?

 

Spend 10 minutes each day observing your thoughts.

Watch where you mind goes and allow your breath to take you back to peace.

The calmer our mind, the more we can give and receive.

Give yourself 10 minutes each day to observe your thoughts.

Where will your thoughts take you today?

Breathe your way to peace.

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Posted in Meditation | Toning the Om

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