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But can you say them out loud?

by John C. Parkin

The spiritual freedom of the “F” word…

Have you watched a young child playing? Or can you remember what was going on inside your head as a child? I’ve done both. I do the first regularly because I have young children. And the second because when I really relax I remember what it was like to be a child.

If I lie down and look up into a blue sky and listen to the sound of a distant airplane, it invariably brings up a memory from my childhood. Why? Because as we grow up we stop being fascinated by ordinary things. So when I do occasionally take pleasure simply in what’s around me, it reminds me of the last time I did that: when I was a child. This is what children do. They live in the miracle of existence. Everything is new and fascinating. They can enjoy the wrapping as much as the present . . . a leaky faucet as much as a beautiful lake . . . the smell of rain falling on dry concrete as much as the smell of baking bread. Read the rest of this entry »


“But now that I am in love

with a place that doesn’t care

how I look and if I am happy,

happy is how I look and that’s all.”

– from Fleur Adcock, “Weathering”

Now that I am living from a place I call my Core of Peace, I see that it’s the very simple things that have arrived in my life that bring me all I need to stay connected to that sense of peace. Simple things like the feeling of a warm, furry cat. Things like full-bellied, out-loud, no-holds-barred laughter. Things like a scoop of ice cream enjoyed while sitting in the two best orange Adirondack chairs in the world. Things like the pure flavors of a good piece of meat prepared lovingly and unfussily.

These were things I had long ago written off as the childish or plebeian pleasures of someone I tried hard to “outgrow”. I thought that as my sophisticated pedigree accumulated items on its list, that my tastes and bodily sensations of joy should transform and complicate accordingly. Read the rest of this entry »

“We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.” – J.K. Rowling

“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” – Plutarch

“The quality of your life is directly proportional to the quality of your attention.”

My teacher, Silvia Nakkach, said this to us on several occasions throughout the past year at CIIS, during our journey of spiritual transformation through sound voice and music. It wasn’t until very recently that I started to appreciate the meaning behind these words, and how they applied not only to my life, but to every human being.

Have your ever stopped to consider, “What are you listening to?”

Today, two different coaching practice partners (yes, on the same day!) described to me their experience with noticing what they were listening to. I had sent a new tool several weeks ago to the first buddy – my Daily Sound Journal. The exercise was to choose a day in which you would decide to notice the sounds you hear, and to note your bodily reactions as well as thoughts that arise in response to the sounds.

I hadn’t gotten feedback from her until today, when she told me that as she consciously listened to the sounds she was hearing throughout a given day, she began to notice that there was very little silence in her days, and that she had very little choice over the sounds that she was listening to. This prompted her to make some immediate changes in her life that involved creating specific times of silence in each day, and being more proactive about choosing music to download for herself rather than accepting whatever was playing on the radio, for example. Read the rest of this entry »

Love arrives;

and in its train come ecstasies

old memories of pleasure

ancient histories of pain.

Yet, if we are bold

love strikes away the chains of fear

from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity.

In the flush of love’s light

we dare be brave

And suddenly we see

that love costs all we are

and will ever be.

Yet, it is only love

which sets us free.

– Maya Angelou

I used to spend a lot of time imagining what love would look like. I never really considered what it would feel like.

Have you really fallen in love with your Self, your soul, your essence? Have you felt the feeling of loving yourself freely?

Before you start making visions of what love looks like, or searching for things that look like love, feel in your body, your heart, and your spirit what love feels like to you. Stay awhile, listen for what it tells you. Then, maybe, you’ll be able to see the love around you, waiting for the moment to arrive.

This was so good I posted it on both of my blogs. Sorry if you’re subscribed to both and seeing it twice…but it’s worth it!

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space.

In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

– Viktor Frankl

Are you creating space between the stimuli and responses in your life?

Think you don’t have time? It’s a little like saying you don’t have time to fill up the gas tank in your car.

Preparing my mind and body for my first live acoustic rock performance experience tonight as part of a trio. Beautiful warm weather here in northern California, and this morning I read these words from Iyanla Vanzant:

I have learned to look at my life as an observer. I stand back, look at what happened, and focus my attention on the place where the wound was inflicted. I do not look at who inflicted the wound or how it was inflicted. That it was inflicted is the essence of healing. Find what your wound is, where the wound is being played out in your life, and heal it. Only by doing the work on ourselves that is required to heal mental, emotional, and psychological wounds can we ever hope to be whole in our spirits. I chose to do the healing work because I didn’t want to be mad anymore. I didn’t want to cry anymore. I wanted to heal so that I would have something to celebrate – myself.

from Yesterday, I Cried by Iyanla Vanzant

I felt deep in my soul a renewed calling that I must tell my story. Not just for myself, but for others. Not just this part of the story, but my whole story. It’s all I’ve been trying to do, and now I know it needs to be done. Read the rest of this entry »

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, practice is addressed in three ways:

abhyasa – repeated practice performed with observation and reflection

vairagya – detachment

sadhana – discipline in pursuit of a goal

From BKS Iyengar’s translation and interpretation:

Abhyasa is a dedicated, unswerving, constant, and vigilant search into a chosen subejct, pursued against all odds in the face of repeated failures, for indefinitely long periods of time. Practice implies a certain methodology, involving effort. It has to be followed uninterruptedly for a long time, with firm resolve, application, attention and devotion, to create a stable foundation for training the mind, intelligence, ego and consciousness. (14)

Vairagya is the cultivation of freedom from passion, abstention from worldly desires and appetites, and discrimination between the real and the unreal. Proficiency in vairagya develops the ability to free oneself from the fruits of action. (14)

Non-attachment is the deliberate process of drawing away from attachment and personal affliction, in which, neither binding onself to duty nor cutting oneself off from it, one gladly helps all, near or far, friend or foe. Non-attachment does not mean drawing inwards and shutting oneself off, but involves carrying out one’s responsibilties without incurring obligation or inviting expectation. It is between attachment and detachment. Detachment brings discernment: seeing each and every thing or being as it is, in its purity, without bias or self-interest. (15)

The dynamic balance of practice involves both the vigorous, zealous, devotional pursuit of consistent practice, and the detachment from the fruits of one’s efforts. This means giving it all you’ve got, pouring your heart and mind into your practice every day towards a goal, AND being OK with whatever result you get from that effort.

Most of us are willing to do one or the other – we’ll put in the work, but only if it means we’ll get something out of it. Or, we’ll say “I don’t care”, and use it as an excuse not to go after our dreams.

Balance isn’t a destination to reach, or even a goal to achieve. Balance is a state of coordination achieved through constant attention, effort, AND letting go in order to surrender to change. It’s being open and inviting, while remaining unattached to outcome.

Headstand, for me, is the ultimate practice in dynamic balance. You must feel it, do it, and think it, or you will fall out of the pose. Read the rest of this entry »

from A Year With Rilke, transl. by Joanna Macy & Anita Barrows

Spring! And Earth is like a child
who has learned many poems by heart.
For the trouble of that long learning
she wins the prize.

Her teacher was strict. We loved the white
of the old man’s beard. Now we can ask her
the many names of green, of blue,
and she knows them, she knows them!

Earth, school is out now. You’re free
to play with the children. We’ll catch you,
joyous Earth. The happiest will catch you!

All that the teacher taught her – the many thoughts
pressed now into the roots and long
tough stems: she sings! She sings!

Civil rights activist Howard Thurman said: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Do you know what it feels like for you to come alive?

Or are you taking someone else’s word for it?

Start now…go into the silence of your own heart, and start listening for what makes you come alive.

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