The Sacred Art of Grief

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Grief is an expression of love. Grief happens because of love, because of our deepest passions and connections. 

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Grief is a fundamental element of being a human being. However, unfortunately, there is no honored place for grief in most societies. It hangs out in the margins, such as our mental institutions (for so-called “crazy people”) or shut away in our private bedrooms. Most cultures do not understand the restorative, liberating processes of grief—thus, we judge it by what it appears to be on the surface level. We judge it as “bad.” We run from it. 

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And yet, it’s here. It’s always here, waiting around the corner. If we dare to love, if we dare to open our hearts, then grief shall surely greet us at some point. 

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This mortal life will break our hearts; we cannot avoid this fact.  The people and the things and the places that we love, eventually, will transition. Some will die. Others will make the choice to walk away. Some outside force (a governmental policy, pandemic, war, natural disaster, or something else.) will shift our beloved daily routine—and we will be left in tears. What to do???

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The first thing to be aware of is that grief can be the single most powerful, transformative healing tool—if we choose to perceive it that way. Despite the fact that we were trained by society to fear grief, we can transform our relationship with it. We can use grief to gain wisdom. We can use it to discover lasting peace. In my experience as a spiritual healer who guides people through various chapters of transition, I have discovered that there are seven common myths surrounding grief. In the following paragraphs, I’ll dispel these myths, so we can  open up a new dialogue. In order to receive grief’s wisdom, we must understand grief’s true nature.

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Myth #1: To go through a period of grief means that we are weak-willed.

In most modern societies, we are conditioned to believe that individualistic strength is the ultimate display of worth. We are taught that we must “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” and achieve many feats all by ourselves. We are taught that we must be strong in order to prove that we are good and worthy citizens. But, how healthy are these beliefs?

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There are many different forms of strength. Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh describes a lesser-known form of strength called “interbeing.” 

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Interbeing is a wise mode of living that acknowledges: I need you and you need me—and that’s okay! Vulnerability (allowing oneself to help and be helped by another) is not a mistake nor a weakness. The iron-jawed, macho version of strength that is so often touted by our society is, frankly, a relic from the past that is quickly passing away on our planet. To recognize interbeing is to admit that we are all in this together. When I am feeling healthy, I can help those who are sick. When I am feeling sad, the ones who are feeling happy can help me. Interbeing is a dynamic interplay; it’s a dance. Living from the principle of interbeing is a brave and beautiful thing to do. In fact, it is the ultimate strength, because it stimulates empathy—medicine that we humans require for our evolution. 

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When loved ones die or when life changes dramatically, we are catapulted into a grief process. Yet, when we accept interbeing, our mindset shifts. We have compassion for ourselves. We understand that when we lose the sun of a loved one, we may feel chilly for a little (or long) while. We realize that when we lose the comfort of a special place or object (our house burns down, we are forced to move, etc.), then of course we feel jangled! It’s totally normal! And it’s okay! Grief is a normal part of human life. 

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To wail, to cry, to moan in shock and horror…to allow these things to be expressed actually require tremendous strength. To grieve is not a weakness—rather, it is the greatest gift we can give. By embracing our grief, we learn to love ourselves more fiercely than we ever thought possible. This process allows us to grow in wisdom and compassion: two vital ingredients needed right now for planetary restoration.  

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Myth #2: Grieving shouldn’t take “too long.”

There seems to be an unspoken agreement in most modern societies that it’s okay to grieve for a few days before and after a funeral, but pretty soon, we should “pull ourselves together” and walk back out into the world with a smile on our face. 

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This is simply bullshit. It’s not true. Grieving might need to take months or, sometimes, even years. As my beloved teacher Ram Dass has often said, “Allow plenty of time for grief.”

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Allow your grieving process to take however long it needs to take. Be patient with yourself. There’s no timelines here—only presence and being.

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Myth #3: When we are sad, lonely, or depressed, other people will dislike us. Grief makes us too “needy.”

This myth is one of the major reasons why so many people hide away their grief and suffer in silence. Many of us have a great fear that says: “If I am troubled, I should keep it to myself. I don’t want to spoil somebody else’s day.” However, this kind of flawed thinking simply breeds more pain and trauma. When we don’t reach out for support, all those feelings and thoughts get bottled up inside of us. Too often, we slap a fake smile on our face and walk out into the world pretending that everything is okay. But this kind of repression breeds disconnection from our fellow human beings, and perpetuates outdated, negative patterns of isolationism. 

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If you are currently surrounded by friends, family, colleagues, or others in your life who are not supportive of your grief process, then I want to share some hope with you. In my work as a spiritual guide, I have learned that if we allow grief to flow with unconditional self-acceptance, then that support system that we desire will eventually manifest. It may take a little time for it to appear in your life, but I promise you that it eventually will. 

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There are many kind, loving, open-hearted people in the world who want to support you. They genuinely believe that your grieving is a healthy process. In my life, when I began to embrace (rather than shun) my deep soul-grief as a tool for healing, my group of friends at the time (some very frazzled, overworked grad students) reacted with coldness, confusion, and anxiety. This was hard. But, it was also a wake-up call. I realized that my priorities in life were changing. Eventually I discovered a new group of friends who truly supported me in the way I wanted. Indeed, a period of grief is a wonderful opportunity to evaluate whether you are happy or not with the people in your life. True companions on the path will love you even during periods of great difficulty and they will encourage you to be authentic and feel your feelings. 

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When we are grieving, it’s healing to talk with others! Friends, family, or a trusted therapist or spiritual healer are an invaluable resource. It’s good to release all those feelings and thoughts in a safe space. There’s nothing “needy” about needing a space to talk. 

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Grieving is simply a normal human process of ending an old chapter and beginning a new one. When we can learn to embrace our grief without guilt or shame, then and only then we can harness the full healing potential of our tears. 

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Myth #4: Grieving is self-indulgent. 

Just as a baby needs to be held when she cries, so too do we need to lovingly hold ourselves during difficult periods. Remember: it takes fierce courage to love, especially when the world looks frightening.

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Myth #5: If I allow myself to truly FEEL all of this grief, it will destroy me. I will never recover. I will never be happy again.

Here’s the thing: At the bottom of every fear is, ultimately, a fear of death. Thus, we often have a subconscious fear that says that our negative emotions might obliterate us. We are afraid that if we allow ourselves to sink into the depths of despair that not only will never again travel to the heights of happiness and hope—but that our physical bodies will not be able to withstand that amount of pain. 

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We are afraid to feel because we are afraid of death.

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In supporting brave survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, these courageous beings who have faced unimaginable losses, what I’d discovered from hearing their stories is that we can only fly so high as we are willing to surrender to the low. In other words, if we want more mountaintop experiences of joy in our lives, then we must be willing to, occasionally, explore the tearful valleys. Ironically, it is only through our willingness to fully taste our sorrows that we will emerge stronger and more capable of enjoying the ecstasies of life. 

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Myth #6: To be spiritual means to be positive.

This an incredibly harmful, false dogma currently circulating in many spiritual circles. This myth says that sadness, grief, and other lower vibratory emotions are a sign of spiritual immaturity. But nothing could be further from the truth! 

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The willingness to fully feel one’s grief is the lotus flower that grows out of the muck. It is the courageous alchemy that transforms a person into a spiritual master. If we attempt to block our challenging emotions and try to strive for only positivity, then we will surely disappoint ourselves again and again. That disappointment will only breed frustration and self-contempt. It’s much better to simply accept ourselves just as we are, and let the grief flow.

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Myth #7: I don’t want to be lazy; I don’t have time to grieve.

These two closely-related myths are perhaps the most persistent of all, especially for Western cultures. We are, quite simply, addicted to working our asses off and always feeling like we have to constantly “get stuff done.” Rest is often regarded as a guilty pleasure or as a necessary evil. And yet, the sweet waters of grief call out to us, interrupting our daily routines and inviting us into a period of deep relaxation—if only we’ll allow it.

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Grief is actually a calming energy for our mind, body, and spirit. The turbulence of some shift or great change has shocked our human system, and so there needs to be adequate time to settle down. If we do not take the time to grieve, we will enter into a state of persistent numbness (trauma), or even perhaps bitterness and hatred towards ourselves and others. 

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I always tell my meditation students, “If you don’t think you have time to meditate, then you are vitally in need of meditation for your sanity!” In other words, when we are constantly busy-busy-busy/go-go-go, then we are not able to heal properly. 

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What are the root causes of discord on our planet today? It’s quite simple, actually. Not enough people taking enough time to slow down and love themselves. Can you imagine a world where it was normal for corporate CEO’s or politicians or presidents to say: “I need some time to rest and cry today.” I think about John F. Kennedy’s assassination, as depicted in the recent film Jackie. Only a few hours after she held her husband’s bloody head in her lap was she asked to stand and bear witness to the inauguration of the new president, Lyndon B. Johnson. Blood stains still covered her dress. Indeed, we live in a very confused, very crazy yang world—where grieving is rushed past or skipped altogether. 

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Let’s change the cultural paradigms around grieving. It all begins with me; it all begins with you. 

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When we allow the sacred art of grief into our lives, we set the tone for what we’d like to see in the world in general. We’d like to see a place where people have the freedom to inquire deeply within themselves, without fear of losing their jobs or without anxiety about social repercussions or poverty. What if it was built into our systems the idea that periodic times of grief was not only normal, but healthy and positive? Furthermore, what if we lived in a land where we taught our children that wanting rest was not an attribute of laziness, rather it was a sign of spiritual maturity? This is the kind of world that you, me, and so many others are visioning into existence. 


Yes, we can allow ourselves to cry and to be sad. We can release shame and remember that it takes courage to do this. We can support each other in releasing the old myths about grief and creating new stories about what we wish humanity to become. Yes, we can do this—together. 

 


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5 Ways to Feel Better Now!

You’re just a few moments away from a smile…



If you’re having one of those not-so-fun, oh-so-crappy days, here’s a list of some quick and easy things you can do to lighten your spirit.
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  1. Eat raw, organic fruit. The light quotient in this type of food is very, very high. Munch on a few handfuls for a burst of happy sunshine! The natural sugars and nourishing nutrients will give you a lovely little energy lift for both body and soul.
     
  2. Hang out with some animals. Spend an afternoon with squirrels in a park. Sit by a river and commune with birds. Give your doggy some extra attention. Animals are Zen Masters in disguise. When we focus our attention on the peaceful, grounded Being-ness of animals, we are reminded what life is really about. 
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  3. Listen to one of my guided meditations on Youtube. I particularly recommend my I am Divinity Meditation. It helps us remember we are more than just a human (seemingly flawed & confused)…we are ALSO a divine spark of God (absolutely perfect and all knowing)!!!
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  4. Make a list of all the things you’re grateful for. Yup, it’s cliched. But it’s cliched because it works!  
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  5.  Take a nap. When all else fails, a nap is a lifesaver. It’s amazing how much brighter the world looks after just 10 or 20 minutes of shut-eye. 
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“Welcome back to Earth, Anya”: A Story about Eating Meat and Listening to the Universe

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For the past five (ish) years, I’ve been a vegetarian. During the bitterly cold Ohio winters, I’ve had a piece of fish (salmon or cod) just to warm up my bones, but mostly during these last five years I’ve enjoyed a plant-based diet. And I’ve also enjoyed fasting regularly. (Both raw juice fasting and water fasting.) I’ve come to delight in the feeling of lightness, of clear-headedness, that comes with this way of life. I have also felt like dropping meat from my diet has allowed me to channel Reiki energy more strongly and has allowed me to connect with beautiful, transcendent beings from non-Earth realms.

 

Yes indeed, this path has suited me. It’s not felt like a tremendous effort or a struggle to not eat meat. I have been content. In fact, I’ve often yearned to go further—maybe I should become vegan? Or even raw vegan? After seeing how amazingly, gloriously high I felt from about two weeks of consuming nothing but raw juice, I’ve toyed with the idea of lightening my diet further.

 

And then, something interesting happened. About three months ago, I moved into a house with two meat-eaters. It was then that my food-world went a bit topsy turvy.

 

To my ego’s dismay, I realized I had some deep healing work to do.

 

I began to notice how I carried an inner judgment, a harsh critique, every time I saw my housemates buying, cooking, or eating meat. I noticed how indignant, how righteous I felt: I was the “good yogi” and they were hedonistic, unethical jerks.

 

But these judgments hurt my soul. These are two people that I love. They are deeply spiritual people. Were they necessarily wrong? Was I necessarily right? Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure. When I broached the subject with them, inquiring as to why they ate meat, they stated simply that their bodies required it. They had both experimented with other ways of eating, but, in the end, settled on what felt right for them. As I listened, I had my doubts (any properly trained yogi would, as we’ve come to believe in such things as breatharianism and other radical forms of gaining sustenance), but, overall, I felt the sincerity of their words. They believed their bodies required meat for stamina and good health. Who was I to disagree? Who was I to judge? However, I needed to be honest with them about how I felt. As we unpacked our boxes and planned the details of our lives together, I told them about how disgusting meat was to me. I hated to look at it and smell it. So, we came to a compromise. They would refrain from eating meat on Saturdays, and, overall, try to eat less of it.

 

Now, here’s where the story gets interesting. For the past year or so, I’ve been actually having twinges of craving meat. I’d be out at Chipolte, watching the woman in front of me order a steak burrito, and my mouth would suddenly water. Whaaaat??? Really???!!! How weird???!!! Even though the thought of actually tearing cow’s flesh with my teeth made me want to mentally gag, some part of my deeper being seemed to ask for it. Very odd indeed. But I pushed these thoughts away. They were simply incompatible with my spiritual path.

 

But these little strange moments kept coming up. Like, I’d be at the grocery store, walking (quickly) past the meat aisle and then have the thought, “Get some meat.” The thought would feel so disorienting. I would shake my head and bolt away with haste.

 

Then, about a month ago, I made a new wonderful friend. His name is Ian. We were having a lovely time together, walking in the woods. He began to tell me about his carnivore diet—about how he used to be a vegan for a long time and how it was not compatible with his body type. I listened with intrigue. Had it been even a few months earlier (before living with my new roommates), I would have rejected his point of view…but I was, suddenly, that day, in the right state of mind to truly absorb his words. I was open to him.

 

As he shared his story, I was moved by his sincerity and suddenly felt my crown chakra opening. The world got very bright and time seemed to stop. What was this? His words kept flowing through me, until the message inside my heart was very clear. “It’s time for you to bring a little meat into your life, Anya.”

 

For me (the well-trained yogi, the highly-sensitive energy healer), these words came as a shock. I didn’t want it. They made zero sense to my logical brain…but on the level of heart, I understood. Maybe I needed to incorporate a little meat into my diet so that I could dissolve the judgments against my housemates? Maybe I needed a little more humility, a little more flexibility in my soul. Maybe, also, my body was crying out for some nutrients that simply doesn’t exist within plants. Or maybe I needed to stop floating in the clouds and get a bit more grounded? As Ian’s words washed over me, I recalled a few recent grocery store trips when I allowed myself to actually stop in the meat aisle, my eyes transfixed on a piece of beef, a feeling of desire in my bones. What was that all about, anyway? I had dismissed the few incidents as silly cravings of the ego…but were they?

 

I didn’t have all the answers. All that I did know was that the Universe was calling me to eat some meat now. I couldn’t ignore the message anymore.

 

So, dear friends, I’ve begun to eat a little meat. Yes, me. The proud vegetarian. The at-times haughty yogi. Of course, as you can imagine, I do it all in a very intentional way: as I prepare and eat, there are many prayers and words of humility and gratitude for the beautiful being that is becoming one with my flesh. So sacred, so intimate a process. And, of course, all meat that I eat henceforth will always be carefully, ethically sourced: free-range, organic, raised with love, etc.

 

As I ate my first forkful of meat in five years, sweet Ian by my side, I didn’t—to my surprise—vomit. It actually tasted rather good. And I noticed a deep sense of relief within my body. A kind of lovely gravity.

 

As I took a second forkful, I heard the spirit of that beautiful cow say to me: “Welcome back to Earth, Anya.”

 

After hovering somewhere outside my body for the past five years, hardly ever within it, this was an interesting message. That night I slept more soundly than usual, embraced by Mother Earth. I felt different, in a good way. I felt more human. (In a good way.)

 

It’s safe to assume that I’ll never become a heavy meat eater. Once or twice a week, tops. Maybe sometimes I will refrain from it for weeks or months if I’m in a fasting mood. But I can report that, right now, my body feels healthier and stronger. Maybe it’s the Ohio climate that’s causing me to need meat in my diet, or my shaky thyroid. Maybe it’s simply karma: it’s time to unravel lifetimes of uptight judgment against meat-eaters. Whatever the reason(s), I’m here, doing this. It feels really weird, but also really good. I like that I can change my mind and go with the flow of life. I like that I can listen to the Universe as it asks me to grow and change.
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Am I embarrassed about all this? Yes, a little. These days it’s much hipper to be a vegetarian than a meat-eater. But what the f*** does hipness have to do with spirituality? Zero.
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When I realized I was embarrassed about eating meat, that’s when I decided to write this blog. It’s been my practice to show myself, honestly, in my writing. To show all the dents and fears as they come up. To show myself as a spiritual teacher who is not afraid to rip off the mask and say, “I hurt, too. I get confused, too. Life is strange sometimes, yes, I know.”

 

My practice has been courage, even when I don’t feel it. My practice has been sharing, when all I want to do is hide. It works for me.
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What are your practices? How do you keep yourself accountable, to both yourself and the world? I’d love to hear about these things in the comments below.

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No matter our individual disposition, no matter our own unique practices and path, I feel it’s vital for each of us to continually listen to the whispers of our heart, ever-changing, as we are lead, day by day, toward our optimal wellbeing. Nobody else should unduly influence us as to what to believe or what to think, not even those who seem so pure. Everybody’s on their own gorgeous, weird, and confusing journey.

 

The heart will speak, guide.

 

The question is: Will we listen?

 


 

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The Healing Process of Cord-Clearing (aka, cord-cutting)

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The process of cord-clearing (aka, cord-cutting) is a simple meditation technique that frees you from harmful attachments to another person. Before I explain the process in detail, it is helpful to understand what cords are and why it’s a good idea to clear them.

 

What are cords of attachment?

 

From a spiritual perspective, a cord is an unhealthy attachment of energy that binds two people. These cords are based upon negative thoughts and emotions, such as jealousy, fear, insecurity, greed, anger, manipulation, and lack.

 

An attachment is different from a connection. While the former is based on toxic, low-frequency energy, the latter is based upon healthy, high-frequency energy.

 

Connections are energetic flows of tenderness, respect, trust, kindness, inspiration, compassion, and other forms of love. Connections help bring people together in an uplifting, mutually supportive way; they are energetic flows that serve to support evolution.

 

In contrast, attachments are cords of dense energy that serve fear.

 

 

 

How To Do the Practice

 

We can start by practicing cord-clearing for five minutes every evening before bed. If we feel the process is helpful, we could increase the time spent to multiple sessions per day.

 

The first step is to find a comfortable seated position. You may sit on a chair or a comfortable couch. You could even sit outside in nature on the grass.

 

Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths. Say to yourself, “If there are any negative cords of attachment, please reveal them to me now.” Take a few more deep breaths. Relax. Slowly, you will begin to see in your mind’s eye some cords (usually dark brown, grey, or black) that link from your body to the other person’s body. You may see them attached to your belly, heart, head, or somewhere else. The cords may look like rope, wood, plastic, metal, or something else. Some will look shiny and some will look murky. How you see the cords will be unique to you.

 

The second step is to visualize yourself clearing away these cords. You can do this in a number of ways. In my practice over the years, I’ve used dozens of different visualizations: some have been inspired by fellow healers and some I’ve invented. The idea is to be exploratory, and select what works for you.

 

I’ll share some of my favorite visualizations. You can imagine that you are holding a comb or a hairbrush in your hand. Slowly and gently you swipe that comb or brush across your body, and also throughout your auric field (the energy that extends a few feet all around your body). Watch as the comb/brush breaks apart the cords.

 

I also really like using nature images. You can imagine that a soft, soothing waterfall is flowing down upon you from the sky. The water is gently washing away the cords. Another great nature image is that of butterflies or birds. You can imagine that these beautiful beings are flying all around your body and they are breaking through the cords. Watch the cords effortlessly fall away.

 

If, as you do the practice, the cords grow back or if they feel too thick to clear (this sometimes happens if you’re working with a person with whom you’ve had significant triggers), simply keep at it. Be patient. Eventually, you will feel lighter and more peaceful.

 

It’s important to remember that visualization is not simply a “nice” thing for you to do. It is real, actual medicine. Visualization is healing you on a quantum level. There are countless studies now in the scientific literature about the power of visualization to heal and bring about miraculous changes in the body-mind. A great example is studies done on athletes. When they visualize exercising or lifting weights, they grow more muscle mass without adding any additional movement to their routine.

 

Simply put, when we imagine something, actual changes happen in our physical world. This seems unbelievable because most of us have been taught in school that these things are “impossible.” But the new science of quantum physics is currently rewriting our old textbooks.

 

When we visualize something, this creates vibrational changes on the energetic/spiritual planes of consciousness, which then ripples out to affect the physical/material planes.

 

Thus, it’s important to understand that when you are cord-clearing, you are really clearing away actual cords! That is why the practice of cord-clearing is so vital for those who are wanting to heal their relationships and perform their caregiving/healing work more effectively.

 

 

Leaving Toxic Relationships

 

We can use cord-clearing in different kinds of relational situations. If, overall, a relationship feels light and full of freedom, trust, and mutual support, then it would probably be wonderful to maintain that relationship. The need to practice cord-clearing is a great tool to use when, occasionally, disagreements or other challenging situations arise.

 

If, on the other hand, a relationship feels incredibly heavy, violent, sad and/or traumatic, then we can utilize cord-clearing to help us end that relationship. Leaving someone is much easier when we have cord-clearing in our toolkit.

 

When we’re leaving a relationship, the key is to be incredibly mindful of the thoughts we’re thinking. Our thoughts are incredibly powerful! If we leave someone with hate in our hearts, we are then more likely to attract another person in the future who may have a different face, but yet they have the same underlying personality dynamics. Simply put, the Universe will put the lesson of forgiveness “on repeat” until we can learn to let go with love.

 

Make no mistake: Forgiving and letting go with love is an advanced lesson! Not everyone on this planet is ready for it. Only those who are willing to release their ego (identification with a separate self) can achieve this masterful state of being.

 

Angry, judgmental, and condemning thoughts directed towards another person will only serve to delay true healing for all parties involved. In the system of Reiki, a Japanese form of energy healing, the fifth principle is “Have compassion for yourself and others.” This principle includes everyone—even our ex-partners, ex-abusers, and those who have been catalysts for our pain.

 

To condemn, blame, or hate is a negative energy that poisons everyone, including the sender. Therefore, we learn to say goodbye with forgiveness and peace in our hearts. By ending a relationship this way, we take ultimate responsibility for our lives. We model a peaceful way of living.

 

Even though it may be challenging, the wisest thing we can do when we are leaving a toxic or abusive situation is to remember that there was (and is) an element of love that originally drew us to that person. There are no mistakes in this Universe. (When I use the word “love” in this context, I do not refer to the romantic sense of the word, but rather a spiritual sense of love: as a universal energy that wants us to grow, that wants us to evolve and find truth.)

 

When we leave an abusive relationship, we have the choice between falling into the victim role or rising into empowerment. We can ask ourselves: What did we learn from that relationship? What did we learn about our own strength and courage? What did we learn about how we want to be treated and how we want to treat others?

 

Feeling gratitude for the wisdom we acquired from a negative experience will transform that experience into a positive one.

 

Even though we may leave a relationship physically, there is still work to be done on an energetic level. That is why cord-clearing is so essential! The practice helps us to transcend the feelings of victimhood and to find a deep sense of worthiness. It also helps us break addictive patterns, as well. As we clear cords, the temptation to return to that relationship will dissolve. If someone still has their energetic “hooks” in us, they may be able to manipulate us to return. However, by clearing the cords, you are releasing those dense energetic hooks and freeing yourself to begin a new life.

 

We might need to practice cord-clearing with a particular person for weeks, months, or even years, depending on the severity of the situation. Take as much time as you need. Remember that grief is okay.

 

If you no longer cry or feel anger or worry when you think about that person, then that’s a strong indicator that you no longer have a negative attachment to that person and you no longer need to practice cord-clearing with them.

 

 

Cord-Clearing in Professional Relationships

 

 It is very helpful to regularly practice cord-clearing in our professional relationships. For social workers, therapists, teachers, nurses, clergy, coaches, intuitives, and others in the helping professions, taking time every day to perform cord-clearing is absolutely vital if we wish to maintain a positive attitude and not succumb to burnout.

 

At the end of a session, meeting, class, phone call, or at the end of your office day, find a space alone. You can sit in your car or a private place where you will not be disturbed. Allow yourself the freedom to take five or ten minutes (or as long as needed) to clear the cords that may have attached themselves during your time with your clients and/or colleagues.

 

Often, as professionals explore energetic practices such as cord clearing, their intuitive abilities and problem-solving skills are heightened. This gives additional motivation to continue the practice.

 

It’s important to understand that performing cord-clearing is not an act of judgment against the person(s) with whom you’re clearing cords. Rather, it’s simply an acknowledgment of the emotional intensity of the situation in which you’re involved. Cords arise, and that’s okay. It’s normal. However, those cords are not for our ultimate benefit. We can live in a more beautiful way.

 

When we help someone else, there is a fine line between co-dependency and true empowerment. If we work as caregivers, healers, and wayshowers, our work is the most potent when we wish for our clients and patients to become empowered, wise, and committed to their own growth process. In other words, it’s best if they do not become addicted to our help, but rather to use us as a temporary diving board to leap off into their own journey. Or, another way of putting it is this: Eventually, we want our birdies to leave the nest. We want them to trust themselves and to be free. When we clear cords at the end of a session or class, we are simply reinforcing that basic intention. We do not want someone to need us forever. We want them to become their own guru.

 

Whether we are working with students, clients, or colleagues, it’s important to make (and re-make!) the commitment to honor their own innate ability to heal and guide themselves.

 

When we clear cords in professional situations, it’s helpful to repeat the following affirmation:

 

“I am grateful to you, dear one, for allowing me the honor of serving you, working with you. As you walk away from me now, you are fully free to explore your own path of life. It may involve me in the future, or it may not. Do what feels right for you, dear one. Be happy; be free.”

 

As you repeat this affirmation daily with all of your clients and colleagues, you will notice how the tendency to worry about them falls away. What remains is the good stuff: love, tenderness, and compassion!

 

The Immense Power of Words and Thoughts

 

You can find thousands of resources online about the topic of cord-cutting. My choice to use the term “clear” rather than “cut” is a significant one. As I’ve worked with thousands of people seeking healing, what I’ve discovered is that gentleness is always the most effective stance. There’s no need for a harsh cutting. We don’t need scissors or an ax. There’s no need for war or violence against anything.

 

To clear a cord with a brush or water or birds is simply to give the old way (fear) permission to leave in the face of a new way (love). There’s no need to force. Everything in this Universe wants to be healed. It is through our intentional choice of words and thoughts that we leave the dimension of victimhood and enter the realm of mastery. Through our thoughts and daily practices, we learn how truly powerful we are. We learn to wield that power in a gentle, compassionate manner.

 

Blessings to you, dear reader, as you empower others to empower themselves.

 

 

The Miracle of Not Getting What We Want

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed by love. Like most little girls in America, I was raised on a diet of fairy tales, romantic comedies, and the persistent idea that—somehow, somewhere—there was a knight in shining armor made especially for me. He would come along on his white horse and free me from the castle of the mundane, transforming my life into wonderful.

 

Thus, for most of my life—up until recently—I chased love and was chased by love. It was the most potent, intoxicating drug I knew.

 

In high school, I fell in love with a tall boy who had the most charming laugh. Holding his hand in the backseat of my mother’s car: my heart so tender, raw, and wanting. We wrote letters after high school, but after refusing to be monogamous with me, I burned his letters and vowed to forget him.

 

During college, I discovered I could fall madly in love with women. Their breasts intrigued me. I could lie in bed with them for hours and hours, feeling our skin together like satin, lace.

 

Later, it was the poet who always wore black.

 

Then the marine who proposed marriage to me, but then one week later proposed to someone else.

 

Right after college, I married my best friend. He was a lovely man with curly hair and a rotund belly. He worked at Starbucks and loved loud parties. He made me laugh and helped me forget what I wanted to forget. We loved poetry and wine. Five years later, to my utter shock, I found our conversations growing stale. We divorced.

 

While working on a PhD, I discovered that monogamy was not the only way to love. I explored a radical method of spiritual practice called polyamory. By transcending jealousy and allowing my lovers to love others, my heart opened by miles. I felt I was on the cutting edge of human evolution. At one point, I had four partners simultaneously, all of whom were known to each other. In time, each of those romances ended, for various reasons, but I never forgot how amazing it was to say to my partner, “Honey, I’m falling in love with someone else” and for them to say, “Wow, I’m so happy for you! Tell me more!”

 

In my mid-thirties I fell in love with my spiritual teacher. It ended in more confusion and heartbreak than can ever be described in words.

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♥♥

And then there was the man who lived across the ocean. This man, who loved me as deeply and as fiercely as I loved him. He made love to guitars with his hands. I could sit and listen to his music forever.

We remembered many of our past lives together and sometimes re-entered them by accident, finishing up threads of old conversations, saying our goodbyes and making amends for tragedies that had haunted our souls.

We loved to adventure together, to the wild places of sea and tree. Everyone said we looked like brother and sister. Sometimes, when I looked into his eyes, I saw my own eyes. I couldn’t not be with him. I had no control of it. Kissing him was a breathless, deathless experience of time and space melting. Sometimes we would Skype for six hours in a single day, watching in fascination as the afternoon sun slowly dissolved into dusk.

After five years of plane rides, never enough money, and endless confusions and questions, I finally met his parents. We planned to marry and live in America. I had visions of a pregnant belly and growing a garden. I could rest easy now. I could give up teaching (which still frightened me) and trying to do anything else. My heart had found completion.

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♥♥

And then, an ending came. Even for us. Even for us.

It was one terrible winter morning, torrential rains. Flooding in his village that stopped the trains. Nightmares that were driving me insane: The immigration system was not on our side. A lingering court conviction and one too many tearful airport goodbyes. Too many miles between us. Just too much. I held the phone to my ear, hand shaking, heart racing: “I cannot marry you.” My silver ring dropped to the floor.

 

The Coronavirus came next, and the world’s borders closed. Shadows and fear everywhere.

 

◊◊

 

Months pass. I am sitting on my back porch, enjoying a bowl of chocolate ice cream with fresh raspberries. It is the first hot weekend of the season: I’m wearing shorts and my arms are deliciously bare.

 

In a flash, everything becomes clear. I now understand.

 

All those past lovers, all of them … those beautiful, blissful, and seemingly tragic loves and losses … they were my destiny. My path of waking up.

 

The intensity with which I’d chased romantic love was the very same intensity of the Universe chasing me. My obsession with men and women, with people I could touch and kiss, was simply a craving for the Ultimate, which one can never physically touch but can also touch us deeper than any person, any situation, any thing.

 

I stare into my bowl of ice cream, loosening my grip on the spoon. Watching how the red of the raspberries blend into the deep, earthy brown of the cream.

 

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that anyone else can ever give to me that is not here already.

 

For here is love.

Right now.

This bowl of ice cream.

This breath.

These backyard trees.

No man or woman nearby.

Nobody to chase
or to be chased by.

Just love, living itself through me. Looking through my eyes. Feeling through my heart.

 

I slowly set down my bowl of ice cream, my vision swirling. Smells and sounds now heightened. I step out onto the grass, barefoot, and touch a tree. It’s covered with the most exquisite bright green moss. Tears now mixed with laughter. I’m free, I’m free, I whisper aloud. I’m free.

 

The miracle of not getting what we want. The miracle of failure, defeat, and wanting. The miracle of the broken, rapturous heart. Open, boundless, and free.

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Heal your Trauma with Loving Words

 

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Another world is not only possible,
she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing
.
—Arundhati Roy

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A few years ago, I had a wonderful dream. I dreamt that I was walking around my neighborhood and two brown squirrels scurried up my legs. One perched itself proudly atop my head, while the other one lazily draped itself across my shoulder. They made little happy squeaky sounds.

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For me, this was a moment of incredible bliss! Squirrels are my absolute favorite animals! They represent so much that I love: cleverness, playfulness, and intuition. I felt like an absolute queen with these two beautiful beings adorning my body.

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So, in the dream, I am walking around, asking my friends to take a photo of this amazing moment. I am trying to hand them my phone, saying, “Please, please will you take a picture?” But no one is saying yes. Everyone is shaking their heads, looking at me like I’m crazy. No one else understands the magic of the moment.

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After many failed attempts, I realize finally that no one is going to help me. So, I breathe and just forget about the picture. I settle into the present, feeling grateful. I know I will remember this moment forever—I don’t really need a photo of it anyway.
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When I awoke in my bed, I allowed myself to contemplate the meaning of the dream. I realized that it was a message about how to love myself. The truth is: No one else needs to believe my reality. No one else needs to endorse my viewpoint. The only viewpoint that matters is mine. This is not selfishness—rather, this is the ultimate act of self-love!

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In that moment, I bonded with the squirrels and was in total bliss…who cares what anyone else thought!!
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Similarly, when we are in the process of healing trauma, we learn to appreciate our own words as the most important words.

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At first, it’s a difficult lesson to learn. It seems very counterintuitive. We are raised in a culture that tends to say, “What matters most is what others think about you. What matters most is what the community says.”
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The truth, however, is that the deepest healing happens when we can tune out all other voices and tune into the loving words that we create for ourselves.
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When we talk to ourselves in a compassionate, generous, supportive, unconditionally-loving way, deep restoration happens. We reclaim the vitality that we seemed to have lost in the moment of trauma.
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There are many ways of practicing positive self-talk. One way that I particularly love is called Mirror Magic.

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When you wake up in the morning, before doing anything else, go to your bathroom mirror and look into it. Take a deep breath. Gaze into your own eyes. Then, begin to shower yourself with praise. Tell yourself all the things that your caregivers never told you (or rarely told you) when you were a child. Tell yourself all the things that you wish your past friends and old lovers would have said to you. Tell yourself all the beautiful things that you’ve longed to hear.
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When I practice Mirror Magic, these are some of the things I love to say to myself:

  • You are strong, Anya.
  • You are beautiful, Anya.
  • You are powerful and courageous, Anya.
  • You have so many gifts to share with the world, Anya.
  • You are wise, Anya.
  • I love you no matter what you do, say, or think.
  • I love you unconditionally.
  • You will always have my love and support.
  • I’ve got your back.
  • I’m your best friend.
  • It’s ok…You are doing the best you can.
  • You are perfect, just as you are right now.
  • I love to watch you grow.
  • You’re doing an amazing job, Anya.
  • I like you, Anya.
  • I love you, Anya.

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Please note that when you begin experimenting with Mirror Magic, it may feel very uncomfortable. You may feel like you are doing something wrong or even lying to yourself. Please know that it’s okay to feel this way…and, in fact, it’s totally normal to feel this way!

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When we have undergone trauma, our brains are wired to believe negative statements rather than positive ones. So, when we hear words of praise, we may feel—at first—like something is “wrong.” When we hear beautiful, life-giving words, we may get a stomach ache or we may cringe. We may even begin to cry.

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Even though it might be difficult at first, I encourage you to keep practicing. What you are doing is slowly and gently moving yourself toward a different accepted reality.

 

Through each affirmation, you are constructing a more positive way of viewing yourself and all of life.

 

When I first began to do Mirror Magic on a daily basis, it was so beautiful and also so challenging! First thing in the morning, I would stand in front of my mirror, my hair a mess and my eyes still blurry from sleep. I would set an alarm on my phone for ten minutes. And then, for the next ten minutes, I would gaze into my own eyes, telling myself as many wonderful statements as I could. Another after another after another. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Sometimes spoken softly, sometimes loudly. Oftentimes, I would break down sobbing. As tears rolled down my cheeks, I would maintain eye contact with myself.

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In those moments, watching myself cry, I would feel such immense compassion for the little girl who tended to hear only complaints from her parents. I felt such warmth for the little girl who had few friends as a youngster and was often bullied in school. I felt such tenderness for the young woman who tended to cling onto toxic boyfriends out of desperation and loneliness.

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An important aspect to this practice is how we phrase our statements. In particular, it’s powerful to talk to yourself as “you.” When I say “I love you, Anya” (rather than “I love me”) it creates a powerful dynamic of connection within our brain. By creating our sentences this way, we are subtly tapping into the spiritual source within us.

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Who is the “I” that speaks to the “you”? The “I” is the deeper self, the wiser self, the self that already knows about unconditional love. And who is the “you”? The “you” is the frightened self, the part of you that has been traumatized and hurt. This “you” is like a child: it is longing for affection, warmth, and comfort.
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Through this kind of loving, mothering language, we are creating a sense of connection between the various parts of ourselves that have been disconnected. Yes, fear is a reality that all human beings feel from time to time. However, when we’ve been traumatized, we feel we are drowning in an ocean of fear. It’s too much fear.

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By offerings ourselves loving words, we are throwing out a life preserver for ourselves. It is something that will help us float in this world. It will save us. Even if it feels foreign or scary to do at first, we can learn to do it. And in time, the practice will become easy and even enjoyable. We savor our appreciative words. We thoroughly relish these moments of praise.
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The Gifts of Coronavirus

LisaWhen a dark night of the soul strikes, what do we do? Do we resist it and yearn for the “good old days”? Or do we allow ourselves to surrender, moving into a new depth of wisdom?

Today my lovely friend and collaborator Lisa Stearns, offers us some empowering guidance. In her life’s work of helping heart-centered women create successful businesses, she’s cultivated quite a toolbox for healing stress and overwhelm during challenging circumstances. In this interview, she speaks to those who are feeling anxiety due to being out of work or confined to the home. She also addresses creatives, coaches and healers who are wondering how to consciously align our business with the changing times. How do we continue to share our gifts with the world during shutdown? How do we love and support others in an era of social distancing?

I left this conversation with Lisa feeling renewed in what my gut has been saying all along. This dark night is not so dark after all.

Anya:  I love looking for hidden blessings.  I’ve noticed that seemingly terrible events actually have profound gifts to bear—if only we are open to receiving them.  I am curious if you could speak to that, Lisa. Are there any gifts that the Coronavirus situation is delivering to us? 

Lisa:  I LOVE the forced pause we have had to take.  Some will choose to fight it all the way, in everything they think and do.  Others, more accepting of the situation, will be experiencing an ability to view their lives in a new way, and take stock. What should stay; what should go?  Who and what is of service, or not? This is truly one of the rarest gifts one can receive.  Time for reflection.

For me personally, I have finally been able to put an end to my unhealthy drive to help.  I began this confinement like so many: feeling everyone’s pain, confusion, anxiety and fear.  I reached out every day in one way or another, sometimes several times a day, wanting to soothe.  Living in that heightened state for 2 weeks or more I naturally became depleted.  For the first time in my life I was forced to let it go. There was no choice in the matter. 

I decided I can be supportive to those who ask.  I can always love.  I can listen.  I can deeply care.  I don’t have to bleed compassion.  I don’t have to remain on heightened alert as though I am the only one on this planet that can be of support.  When I exist in a place of balance I am the best, strongest version of myself, for those I am close to, as well as the community I cherish and the world at large.  

Anya:   In your beautiful book, A List is Not Enough, you explore how to be more mindful in the face of being busy. Now that the world has slowed down during this pandemic, what mindfulness lessons are there for us to learn? How can lockdown help us on our spiritual path? 

Lisa:  In my most recent newsletter I talked about acknowledging what is: whether it is fear, anxiety, frustration, anger… whatever it is you are experiencing.  Acknowledge it fully. Cry, shout, stamp your feet, feel terrified. 

Next, notice that all of those negative emotions tend to revolve around dwelling on the things you can’t do… 

  • I can’t run my business the way I always have
  • I can’t leave my house
  • I can’t make money
  • I can’t pay my rent

As you can see, the I Can’t List is fraught with fear and anxiety.

After some reflection, move on to your next list: The I Can List.

The I Can List is filled with hope, opportunity, positivity and forward movement.

  • I can call each of my clients and ask how they are doing
  • I can focus on a re-launch once the world gets up and running
  • I can CHOOSE to enjoy this day and leave all the I can’t statements behind
  • I can devote joy-filled time to my family, loved ones, and friends

If it is possible to be open to a new reality, then all doors open.  Forward progress is possible even while in the maelstrom of a seeming disaster.  Is it hard?  Yes!  Are you unhappy, afraid, anxious sometimes?  Yes, again.  But, the rest of the time you can feel a sense of power over what you can control.

Anya:  How can people bring a sense of calm into their lives right now? 

Lisa:  I wish there was a magic answer.  But, having faced overwhelming anxiety in the form of PTSD, the best I can offer is that it starts with believing you can ultimately create a space of calm.  Here are 2 tips:

1.  Turn that Sh** off.  Seriously, step away from the news, social media and especially any nay-sayers in your circle.  Decide on a certain amount of time per day, preferably at the same time per day, to check-in. (Please limit this to no more than 10-15 minutes.)  Then, turn it off.  When the gremlin appears in your head that says, I need to find out if anything new is happening, you can say: “Thank you for that reminder.  I will check again at my prescribed time.”  Then, (this is important) choose something very diverting to engage your brain.  

2  Find a quiet space and allow for a PAUSE.  Sit comfortably and observe your breathing.  You can’t do this wrong.  It is not a competitive sport.  You don’t need exercise clothes or candles.  It is just breathing. 

Notice where you feel the breath entering and exiting your body.  That’s it.  Just notice.  (For some, observing breath might raise anxiety levels.  If this is the case for you, choose to instead observe where your body is coming into contact with a solid surface.  Simply notice all the points of contact.)

If your mind wanders, and it most likely will, guide your mind gently back to your breath or points of contact. Notice your anchors.

Practicing this for as little as 30 seconds will dramatically improve your ability to lower anxiety and fear, even anger, levels.  Do it more than once a day and you will be amazed!

Anya:  Is being calm a necessary foundation for self-love? 

Lisa:  WOAH!  That’s a powerful question. 

In my life, the answer is absolutely YES.  Before I found my calm I couldn’t get out of the tornado of my negative thoughts, old ugly stories and doubt.  It was all just really bad noise.  Once I learned to cultivate calm, the old stories and negative thoughts became independent threads, yarns I could unravel, hold up for inspection, see the fallacies and put them behind me. 

Calm allowed me to create new truths and new stories that cultivate self-love.

Anya:  Having fun seems to be a repeated theme throughout your work, both as a business coach and author. Any suggestions for having fun during lockdown and social distancing?

Lisa:   I believe that having fun helps you experience your authentic self.  For this confined time, I created a Break the Routine Jar filled with slips of paper.  They include things like:

  • Play music really loudly and dance with wild abandon
  • Jump on the trampoline and fall down a lot
  • Bake cookies in funny shapes and decorate them to look like something funny… or not.

This jar can also hold things that bring you joy and peace.  It doesn’t have to always be laugh-out-loud activities.  For example, I love to use meditative drawing to put me in a peaceful frame of mind.  So, I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.

Anya:  What advice would you give to self-employed healers, coaches, and entrepreneurs who are in the midst of drastically re-thinking how to share their gifts with the world? 

Lisa:  Be open to something new.  During the early stages of shutdown, I had a session with a client who is a massage therapist and energy healer.  She has a couple of big corporate clients.  Obviously, when they were forced to shut down, she couldn’t serve their workers. 

Here’s what I explained to her.  People who regularly see their massage therapist, hairdresser, chiropractor or acupuncturist (or any of the various helping professions), look forward to their typical established response. They think: “When I see Suzi, (my massage therapist), it’s my time.  No distractions, no interruptions.  It’s my opportunity to shut the world off.”   That response happens automatically as they walk through the door and hear you say “Hi, what’s going on today?”

I explained to my client that she can still offer that gift.  She can offer a 15-minute Calming Session. This can include leading them through breathing, helping them create a retreat at home, or if nothing else, allowing them 15 minutes to close the door to their bedroom and tell everyone Please Do Not Disturb.

My client quickly created a package that included calming breathwork and Reiki to de-stress in troubled times.  About 10 days later she emailed me, her joy and excitement absolutely jumping off the screen. Both companies loved and accepted the idea and some of her clients took advantage of the offering.

Think of what you give to your clients in conjunction with your regular service.  Do you reduce stress, encourage and inspire, provide quiet?  Whatever it is, create an offering.  

Finally, now is the perfect time to learn a companion skill. For example, if you are a massage therapist, you could study the basics of mindfulness and breathing.  When we go back to work, you can then include tiny pieces of your new skill in your sessions.  As always, if you think of your Can Do List, new opportunities will present themselves.

Stay well.

 

Healing our Trauma, Healing our World

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“Our spiritual journey occurs not in spite of the ambiguous
and problematic experience
of our actual life,
but because of it.” -Reggie Ray

 

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Trauma is a universal experience. It’s something that unites us.
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As human beings, we all have some amount of unprocessed tension, fear, or grief stored within our bodies. This is the challenge of incarnation, the challenge of physical life.
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There’s trauma because there’s immense suffering happening on our planet. Wars, economic inequality, destruction of ecosystems, and racial prejudice are only a few of the most pressing matters. We all feel these horrors, to various degrees: their ripples are felt within our own bodies, as somatic sensations of discomfort and anxiety.

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On a smaller scale, in each of our lives, there’s also the countless moments of heartbreak and shattered trust. For example, emotional neglect from parents is a subtle, often hidden form of trauma that many of us do not even recognize as being trauma. Childhood bullies also leave the wounds of trauma. Even being subjected to a competitive grading system in school can leave a deep, negative imprint, a profound sense of “I’m not good enough.”

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As adults, coping mechanisms serve to hide our unresolved trauma. We drink alcohol or use drugs. We’re constantly texting or on social media. We overeat. We buy lots of things we don’t need. These activities seem normal because everyone else does them. But are they healthy? Are they the most conscious way of living? As we progress on our spiritual journey, we begin to see that we can become more aware of these shadowy coping mechanisms and find alternative routes.

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We can find freedom from the patterns that used to enslave us. We can find joy.

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On one level, it’s quite sad that trauma is a basic human problem. On the other hand, though, it’s a situation that unites us. No matter what country we live in, no matter what language we speak or religion we profess, we all have to deal with grief, sorrow, and pain. We all need to learn how to cry. We all need to learn how to process our emotions and express our needs in a healthy way. So, in a sense, we can feel gratitude that all of us are in this together. We can have empathy for each other and do what we can to help each other.

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We are truly living in ascension times. More people than ever before are waking up to the fact that they are a spiritual being. More people than ever before are realizing that the old-paradigm values of violence, greed, and competition need to die, and we need to be reborn on a planet that values peace, compassion, and sharing.

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We all desire healing. We all hope for a better world. So, how do we get there? A powerful way to move forward is to challenge our stories, our ingrained ways of thinking that have led us to this point.
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To heal our trauma, we must question the stories we have been told by others.
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We can ask questions such as: Is violence really an inevitable part of being a human? Is scarcity the truth of life on this planet, or is there, actually, enough for everyone? Does it feel better for me to compete and “win” over others, or does it feel better in my heart to share?

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As we ask questions and create new stories, we tap into an inner courage. If some others don’t understand us, that’s okay. If others mock us, that’s okay too. We let them go their own way, trusting that they will discover whatever they need for their own journey.

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Healing does not happen overnight. It’s an awakening process that takes time. For many of us who have undergone unspeakable events in life, that process may take many years. (For me, I’ve healed my PTSD, but I still have some very difficult, anxious days.) It can be tempting to want to rush the process, but the key is to allow healing to unfold at its own pace.

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As you heal, know that you have good company along the way! You have community. Mental health professionals, humanitarians, climate activists, and spiritual teachers of all creeds are talking more and more about the amazing potentials of healing trauma. Solutions are being found. Progress is being made. We are coming together. We are doing it.

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Indeed, in the collective healing of trauma, it all begins with conversation. Opening up to each other about things that may have, previously, been too terrifying to discuss. Being vulnerable. Listening.

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Along those lines, let’s open up some dialogue here now. I’d love to see your comments shared below. What’s your definition of trauma? What traumatic event(s) have you healed or would you like to heal in your life? What tools or techniques are helpful for you? What insights have you learned along the way?

This Goodbye is Different (A Story of Love)

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Part One:

 

It’s the middle of the night. My brain is a warzone. In just two short days, my Beloved will be on a plane yet again, heading back through the clouds to his home country—more than three thousand miles away from me. I groan, turning over in bed. Right now I wish so many things. I wish I could go back to sleep. I wish artificial and archaic things like borders didn’t exist. I wish we had more money. I wish we had conventional careers—like the ones that look good on immigration paperwork. I peek out from under my sleep mask to see if there’s daylight. No. I bring my hand to my chest and notice a slight wheeze. My asthma is flaring up again.

 

Since our instant connection four years ago, the intensity and razor-sharp lightning of our love has left us both confused. What to do with this these giant feelings? How to withstand the mirror of our love? Sometimes, we have buckled under the pressure and ran away. (The revelations too heavy.) Other times we’ve sworn undying devotion and spent last dollars on a plane ticket. Sometimes five hours will go by, speaking on Skype, and it will seem like five minutes. Sometimes we haven’t spoken for months.

 

The silver engagement ring I feel on my finger now does nothing to cheer me, as I toss and turn in bed this morning. I am pissed. What a relentless, heart-harrowing situation! Other couples don’t know how good they have it. To just live in the same city—let alone the same country—is a privilege we’ve never had. What terrible luck.

 

My back feels both cold and sweaty. My pale pink sheets twist around my limbs, as I struggle to find a comfortable position. My heart feels exhausted.

 

A few minutes before my alarm goes off, I suddenly hear a very clear message. The words seems to be my own voice, yet they’re not. It’s something else. There’s a tinge of the angelic to it, a certain flash of light. Wings. Shimmer.

 

Open your heart.

 

By the time my alarm goes off, I’m already doing much better, having breathed deeply into my heart. I feel less shaky now. As my eyes adjust to the soft morning light, I embrace the coming day. I smile and think of all the things I’m grateful for. I’m teaching yoga to a group of wonderful students today; I’ve got a refrigerator full of healthy, nourishing food; I have a circle of loving, supportive friends. So many things to be grateful for.

 

Open your heart, Anya, Open your heart…I shower and prepare my morning tea…Open your heart Anya, Open your heart.

 

Part Two

 

I climb into my pale gold, two-door Honda Civic. My yoga class just went beautifully. There was a distinct eye-shine for a few of them, as they rolled up their mat. What joy; what blessed work. I pull out onto the road and sigh. Just a half-hour drive and then I’ll be back in my Beloved’s arms again. I look forward to telling him about the class. Maybe later we’ll jog out in nature together, or maybe we’ll just spend the afternoon snuggling in bed. I’m both grateful and impatient to get home to him.

 

Normally, I turn left out of the studio parking lot. But today, for some odd reason, I’m curious about the other direction. There’s a highway not too far away…maybe there’s a different route? I love variety in my drives. I turn right and flip on my GPS, allowing the computer to guide me into unknown territory.

 

My plan seems to backfire, though. The monotone voice doesn’t lead me toward the highway but rather down some random-seeming side streets, into a quiet residential area. This is clearly not an expedient route! I notice some tightness in my shoulders now. Damn. Only mere hours left before the dreadful flight and I’m wasting it by driving around in circles. I feel a bit of my morning anxiety return.

 

Within a few minutes, though, I’m back out onto a main road. Oh, good. My body relaxes somewhat. I look up at the bright blue autumn sky. A few wispy white clouds here and there. Lovely. The autumn trees, boasting their red leaves. I’m driving on narrow, two-lane road. Barely any traffic. I settle back into my seat. I’m coming home to you, I’m coming home to you. I feel both grateful and impatient. If I could snap my fingers and be back there in his arms, I would.

 

I’m driving westbound, and a black car coming eastbound suddenly veers directly in front of my car. There’s no time to think—I slam on my brakes and scream. As our cars collide, a thought flashes through my mind: I’m about to die. After an unidentified space of time, I open my eyes. There are almonds scattered around my feet. Items that were in the back seat are now in my front seat: a purple folder, a bag of candles. Everything’s blurry. There’s a woman standing next to my car in a hooded sweatshirt. I roll down my window, fumbling with the buttons like a clumsy infant. “I’m so sorry” she says. “I swear, I didn’t even see your car.” I slowly unbuckle my safety belt and stand up, asphalt like jello under my feet. “My name is Michelle,” she says. I offer her a hug and hold her in my arms. There’s blood on her forehead and I am suddenly aware of pain in my neck and back.

 

Maybe three lifetimes pass before the police arrive. First one car, and then another. There seems to be confusion because our accident happened on the border between two cities: whose jurisdiction? I call my Beloved on the phone and he reminds me to exhale. Michelle’s friend (who must live nearby?) suddenly arrives. She holds Michelle’s hand and buys me some filtered water from a nearby shop. I slip off my socks and stand on a patch of green, praying to Gaia for help and trying to shake off the trauma like I’ve seen the birds do. I gaze at the damage to my car in total awe. Somehow, only my right headlight is busted and the hood’s a bit bent. How? I look up at the sky. I remember to exhale. Michelle comes to my side. “It’s just one bad thing after another,” she cries, anger in her voice. Her eyes stare at the ground. “My husband was shot and killed six weeks ago. It was all over the news. September fifth. I’ll never see him again.” Her hands are trembling as she smokes a cigarette. I gaze at her, heart-pounding. There’s an audible click. Something is happening here. Something important.

 

 

Part Three

 

Two days later, my Beloved Ben and I sit by the river, our favorite bench. A loving willow tree to our left, its dangling branches curl over our heads like a protective mother. A heron waits for her breakfast: she’s so still that she’s become the water. We notice that the leaves are falling down in the gentle wind: red, yellow, bursts of bright orange amidst the lingering green. “I love feeling the seasons with you,” he says, and my eyes blur with tears. Last moments before the plane…so precious, so precious.

 

I look inside my heart. I search. Where is the typical, pre-airplane panic? Where is the doom I felt two mornings ago, as I tossed and turned in bed? I search, but can find only a soft melancholy. It’s almost sweet. This moment is happening in slow motion and I am savoring all of it. The white in his beard. The creak of the swing under our bodies. The still-warm wind, dipping under my scarf and reminding me of love. His body will be gone soon, yes—but we still have prayer. We still have meditation and phone and Skype and song. What luck; what beauty. Michelle will never see her husband again. His face will never hover over the bed; his hands will never offer her steaming coffee.

 

I will see Ben again, in three months. Snow will be on the ground. Our story is not over, not even close. In fact, the miracle is this: at middle age, we have just found each other, have just begun our journey together. Some people call this a Soulmate or Twin Flame relationship. Others might call us Tantric Consorts or Abler Souls. There are many, many names for what we are. And yet, in this particular moment, all possible names dissolve. I know what we are and words aren’t needed.

 

I search my heart again, breathing deeply. In a little over an hour, his feet shall carry him from my body and toward an airplane. But…this time…it doesn’t feel like a tragedy. This goodbye is different. Something has been healed.

 

As we work together, deepening and strengthening our sacred bond, Ben and I prepare ourselves for the ultimate departure. The day when we release these faces…the way things have been…these blessed hands that have touched…these yearning, ecstatic lips that have kissed. We will move into the wild unknown. Who can say what it is, but death comes to us all. What good practice we are getting.

 

We kiss and kiss, smiling and tears. “See you soon! Have a safe flight!” My hands touch his cheeks and the skin is infinite.

6 Tips for Yoga Newbies

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Is this the year you’re getting into yoga? Congratulations! What a wonderful beginning!

 

So…being a newbie might mean that you sometimes feel a little confused, hesitant, or self-conscious about your practice. You might be asking yourself: “Am I doing this right?”

 

Working with yoga newbies is my passion. I love helping people find relaxation and confidence, as they step into the yoga world.

 

Here’s my list of 6 tips to help you get started on your unique yoga journey.

 

1. Breathing is the most important thing. 

If you’re confused about how to move or how to position your body, that’s okay. Understanding the poses will come in time. For now, simply set the goal of paying attention to your breathing throughout your yoga practice. Conscious breathing is the cornerstone of yoga. When we pay attention to our breath, there are innumerable benefits to body, mind, and spirit.

 

2. Yoga is pure love.

When we practice yoga, we say YES to a world that is full of more beauty, more love. When we practice yoga, we say yes to a world where people take care of themselves and each other. At the end of a yoga class, when we bow in namaste, we are saying “I see the goodness in you, which is the same goodness in me.” When we unite our intentions in this way, we usher in a new world—a world of love.

 

3. Five minutes is better than no minutes.

If you only have five minutes today, then why not roll out your mat and do some yoga? Getting into the regular habit of doing yoga is so amazing for our wellbeing. When I hear my students complain that their lives are too busy for yoga, I remind them that if they have five minutes, they can practice. I’d rather see someone doing five minutes every day than doing one long session per week. Each time you roll out your mat, you are building new neural pathways that reinforce the feeling that yes, you do indeed like yoga, that yoga is fun. And who knows? You just might develop a pleasant “addiction” to yoga—if we skip a day, it just feels incomplete!

 

4. Yoga is not a competition.

When you’re in a class, the aim is not to do “better” than the other students. The goal is not comparison. Rather, yoga is all about community and collaboration. When we see the woman on the mat beside us holding a beautiful, complex pose, we can compliment her after class (Instead of getting jealous that we can’t yet do that pose.) When we see the man in the back of the class struggling to attain a posture, we can mentally send him warm thoughts. After class, we can strike up conversations with our classmates. “It’s so great to see you today. How long have you been practicing yoga?” Through these simple gestures, we can actually assist our teacher in co-creating an environment where we are a supportive community, rather than merely individuals taking a class.

 

5. Yoga is not a race.

Ultimately, our practice teaches us that time is not important. In fact, we enjoy our practice most when we relax and let go of timelines. We are not trying to get somewhere by a certain date. There is no rush. Our yoga practice teaches us to breathe and surrender to the wisdom of the Now. We realize that everything we need is right here, in this moment.

 

6. Explore different classes.

There are many, many styles of yoga and many, many different teacher personalities. There are yoga classes that make you jump and sweat and there are yoga classes where you sit completely still for many minutes. There are yoga teachers that make you laugh hysterically or cry tears of relief. They are yoga teachers who are more like personal trainers and seriously kick your butt. Try different classes to get a sense of what’s out there. No need to rush the process. In time, your perfect teacher will appear. For me, when I discovered my teacher, it felt like coming home.

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Hope you enjoyed these tips, dear friends! If you’d like more inspiration for your yoga journey, please feel free to drop me a line and I’ll add you to my FREE weekly newsletter. Namaste.