Clearing Our Heads

I swear my cats choose exactly the part of the floor/carpet/house that needs cleaning most to have their pukitosis episodes.  Same applies to my subconscious when my rational mind goes completely unfocused and I shake the open container of almond milk in the messiest corner of the kitchen.

That’s my view on the optimistic days.  When the glass is not only half empty but full of something I didn’t want anyway, the cats find the carpet I just cleaned and I spill sticky stuff all over the new shirt.

On the optimistic days, if I’ve got a clear head, I can move on to lesson learned and make time to clean for improvement.  On pessimistic days, there’s the extra step of temper fit, a whole lot of bad language while cleaning and, eventually, lesson learned, when my head clears.

With a stiff neck and hunched shoulders, it’s hard to get a deep breath to feed the brain or enjoy the benefits of adequate circulation and nervous system communication.  The head is under siege.  Last month’s temporarily free video gave you a chance to loosen up your shoulders and re-align.  This month’s video – free through February – takes it to the next level.  Enjoy it in entirety or in bits and pieces.  If you miss the free version, it will still be available for sale.

And may all your messes be on the floor that’s easy to clean.

Shouldering burdens

Many of us are carrying extra burdens into the new year, burdens we may never have imagined having to take up.

Since our thoughts, emotions and bodies are interwoven intimately, we’re likely to be feeling those burdens in various places throughout our bodies.  If we can approach the physical level to lighten the burden, we can have an impact on the more subtle levels of the mind and psyche, as well.

One of the common places to feel the stress of extra responsibilities, cares, and worries is in the shoulders.  Physically, that means connections to the neck and arms, as well.

The 20-minute video above addresses tension in the shoulders.  It’s designed for anyone who is not currently dealing with an injury.  You can pick and choose from anywhere in the video if a 20-minute self-care segment isn’t within your reach right now.  The video will be available free throughout January; then it goes back to regular $5 availability on the website.

Relaxation to integrate

We’re not all that good at stopping to integrate life experiences.

Even when it’s not holiday season, we tend toward the future. What’s next?

Our relaxation strategies are usually escapism. Involvement in fantasy. Or someone else’s life. Or sensual indulgence.

Or hamster wheel-ism. Endlessly caught in thought loops, as if enough time there will lead us to . . . what? Comfort? Understanding? A way to be what we were before?

The more we deal with changes, the more we need time to integrate. And you’d be hard pressed to convince anyone that this year hasn’t been one for change.

A simple 15 minutes of intentional relaxation can help the nervous system move toward restoration and healing. Allowing ourselves to just be can foster integration at unconscious levels. Letting go of doing becomes a delicious indulgence.

The conscious relaxation video (savasana in yoga) is available for viewing through December at no charge. After that, it’s available on the website.

Enjoy your holiday season!

Staying Present

It’s amazing how much of life we miss because we’re busy time travelling.

We freak out over ‘what ifs’ in the future.

We berate ourselves to the point of abuse over the unchangeable past.

Staying present.  Being here now.  Ram Dassing it.

To a lot of us, it’s a foreign reality.  The good news is that it’s attainable, and it can become habit with practice.

When we’re time travelling, we’re not connected to our body.  Most of the time, our body is safe.  Reconnecting with it ‘grounds’ us into a safe space that minimizes the ill effects of anxiety, self-recrimination, blame, worry . . . the hamster wheel of circular thoughts and their emotional impact crater.  We’re brought out of the fight, flight, freeze part of our system into the relax and heal part.

A ten minute body scan meditation can help you in your journey to habitual presence.  Through November, you can use this one.  After that, it’s available for purchase on the Yoga Video page.

Pandemic Gateway Reading May 2020

The English Magic Tarot

It’s hard to know what to say when the energies of a spread for challenging times are not the sort of soothing, “it’s not as bad as it seems” response we’d like to see.  That’s the case with this Gateway spread I laid to help us get a handle on what we’re going through, as a global species, in this pandemic.  I promise, by the time we get to the end of this reading, there will be a vision worth the challenges of the journey.

The positions I chose are “what we must leave behind”, “the gateway we’re passing through”, “what we must activate to move forward” and “what’s in the background throughout”. The deck is The English Magic Tarot, one of the decks I enjoy using at RenFaires.  The deck itself speaks to the need to shut down as much auto pilot as possible, acknowledging that life has a new twist and requires fresh eyes.

We can see lots of rough, challenging change in the Fives of Swords and Coins.  King of Cups wants us to be emotionally mature during the transition (anybody else throwing up their hands here?), and VI The Lovers speaks of difficult choices.

If you haven’t already run away to hide under the blankets or eat a giant-sized portion of the ready-at-hand comfort food, let’s look deeper at what we’ve been thrust into.

The contentious, winner-take-all Five of Swords is in the What We Must Leave Behind position.  Thank goodness for small favours there.  This is the energy that keeps us at each other’s throats, constantly re-fighting old battles until we’ve vanquished our opponent for good and all.  Which, of course, never actually happens.  In this deck, we also have a reminder of how useless it is to lose our heads over battles we cannot win.  The Red Queen’s go-to “Off with his head!!” must leave our repertoire.  It’s the fight to return to what used to be that is futile.  The very hard news is that we don’t have that option.

The Gateway we’re passing through is the challenge of insufficient resources.  Many are feeling the financial and material strain of the Five of Coins.  Most are aware of the low energy reserves; those who are dealing directly with the Covid illness, most of all.  We’re out of our “I know how to handle this” comfort zone.  Everything takes more effort than usual.

There’s a call here to help each other where we’re able, even though we’re all tired and strained.  Benefactors may appear, but they may often miss the mark, because their concern is more with their reputation or ego, than with the need surrounding them.  We need to make sure we’re not moving toward generosity with that attitude.  We’ll need to keep our eyes open to our fellow travelers through the portal, noting what they truly need to get to the other side with us.  We are all the walking wounded right now, doing the best we can.  Many of us may back through the Gateway, not yet able to turn from the past toward the door that leads to the future.  That door is not yet open, and we don’t yet know what’s on the other side.

(Brief pause for perspective. . . .  It would be wonderful if this were the sort of reading that was predictive.  Although my readings often appear that way, I don’t focus there.  I prefer to read the energies around us with an eye to helping us make use of what’s there, keeping us focused on the helpful dynamics and the signs and landmarks that mark our journey.  It’s more about recognizing the useful path and being able to stay clear of the dragons and thorns, than it is about being able to say “here’s what’s waiting, now let’s play victim to it, good or bad”.)

Thus far, we’ve talked about tough and necessary change.  We must leave behind the malicious energy of futile conflict (yay!).  Our journey asks us to give up resources we’re used to drawing on, moving through the Gateway even though we’re tired and don’t really want to go.

What We Must Activate to Move Forward sends us deep into our souls.  VI The Lovers is less about finding the meant-to-be relationship and more about recognizing how the choices we make impact our lives.  It asks for self-awareness and self-knowledge and self-acceptance.  It’s not about cutting off the parts of ourselves we don’t like; it’s about listening as deeply in the soul as we know how and making our choices from there.  Easy to say when choices aren’t bound by, oh, keeping a roof overhead or fulfilling responsibilities to family or work.  This is not about beating yourself up for not being able to see the way to follow your soul’s lead; it’s about tuning into your soul where you’re able, and not losing sight of what’s there, even when you can’t find a way to follow it yet.

VI The Lovers speaks to letting your inner drive, as well as your practical magic, have a voice in your daily life.  It considers options, recognizing that some opposites can coexist while others are irreconcilable.  Where does aggressive power and the subtle persuasion of natural cycles find a meeting point, a sharing of minds?  If this doesn’t sound easy, the reassurance is that it gets easier the more you learn the habit.  This is one of those growth energies where the Universe will be happy to help.  Dip your spoon in, and you may find you have a whole meal.  Dip your toe in, and you may find yourself caught up in the dance.

The most superficial layer of VI The Lovers is more obvious: how do we make time for those who mean the most to us?  Again, there are choices involved.  This one, not that.  Sometimes the ones eliminated are not the convenient ones.  Other times you discover that the choices you’ve made so far have already led you to a meaningful life built with a partner or family and friends.  The beauty of this energy is that, the more you integrate the various aspects of you, the more your outer life reflects who you are.

King of Cups is What’s in the Background Throughout.  At base, we won’t be able to get through any of this without being disciplined about our emotions.  Yes, there are lots.  Yes, lots of them are about tough stuff. No, ignoring them will not make us more effective.  No, dumping them all over everyone around us will not allow us to do the deeper work that’s required.  We’re going to have to be grown-ups about our emotions.  Sit with them, feel them. Recognize where they provide clues and impetus into the new lives we’re all discovering.  Feel them in the background of everything we’re dealing with.  And do the work – all that stuff we’ve just discussed – anyway.  When we have our mature emotions online, our creativity kicks in, in unexpected ways, at unexpected times.

This may not be an easy transition for any but the superheroes amoungst us – and even then!  Take a minute, though, to focus on what a new world would look like if we were all in touch with the empathy, compassion and emotional tolerance that the King of Cups represents.  What would the world be like if we were all able to live a life that represented the deeper aspects of our souls, if we were all able to make contributions to our communities that were meaningful to us?  The transition itself is temporary; the challenges of the Fives will pass.  The beautiful energies of the King of Cups and VI The Lovers have staying power.  We can grow into those potentials if we keep our focus on that vision.  This is truly an evolutionary giant step for humanity on planet Earth.  We can do this.  And we can do it together.

Adventures in learning

How are you at learning?  Are you hungry for new information, but you don’t always integrate and use it?  Are you like my partner, who tells me his brain is full, so he’s not accepting anything new?  Are you an “old dog” who bought the “no new tricks” lie?

Whatever we may think, learning is not optional, throughout life. If you are 92, sorry, you still have learning to do.  If you’re 62, yup, more learning in store.  If you’re 36, you’re not even close to done learning.  24 and just graduated college?  You only wish you were done learning.

We do best when we have a safe space to learn.  A lot of the responsibility for a safe space is completely up to us.  And the biggest threat to that safe space is our own thoughts!  Those nasty negative filters, some of which we don’t even recognize because they feel so much a part of us.

One of those filters is the “I’ve got to be good” voice, that voice that’s always grading us.  The problem is, we have to go through “not good” to get to “good” at anything.  The grading filter can encourage us to give up because “you’re just not good at this”.  As if that were the permanent state of affairs.

As a species, we favour the worst case scenario.  Back in the day (when I was a child and dinosaurs roamed the earth), if we weren’t good at a skill set – spear throwing or tree climbing or running fast, for example – being “not good” might very well have meant the difference between survival and being someone’s dinner.  Very little of our lives is that way now, but our mind is still easily led down that path.

“If you don’t get good grades, you’ll never get into college and you’ll spend the rest of your life just scraping by while you work the night shift at 7-11.”  Anyone remember a version of that one?

“If you don’t show the boss what you can do, you’ll get passed over for the new hires, who will eventually force you out and you’ll have to make do with a cardboard box under a bridge for the rest of your short and unpleasant life.”  Is that part of your zeitgeist?

“If you’re not good socially, all the cool kids will laugh at you.  You’ll be culturally ostracized.  Even the dweebs won’t want to hang out with you, and you’ll die alone and forgotten.”  Ummmm.   (By the way, let’s hear it for the dweebs and weirdos and their endless surprises and creative moments.)

In our household, as a child, we had a 2 year commitment rule on anything we wanted to learn.  That was about enough time to go through a whole bunch of troughs with some enlightenment moments and, if we were lucky, a couple of glittering successes.  We learned that there were ups and downs in the learning process.  We learned that we could go from absolutely, painfully, sucking at something to being not half bad with, at least, a limited skill set.

We also learned that “being good at” could have very little to do with why we would do something.  It was more about becoming familiar with an aspect of ourselves than about getting a literal or metaphorical grade.  Sometimes that aspect of ourselves was the realization that, hey, I really like doing this, even if I’m on the “failing grade scale”.  (And who are these cosmic scale setters, anyway?)

As a yoga instructor, I never run out of opportunities to point out chances for my students to just notice what they’re doing, rather than waste time assessing based on expectations.  And certainly not assessing based on comparisons with others in the room.  A student who has just had an aha! moment in a posture that s/he’s not yet very “good” at is being brilliant at learning.  That enlightenment moment can carry over into other postures or aspects in life, which is certainly exceptional learning.

Can you let go of your inner headmaster and just be aware while you’re learning, rather than try to judge and grade your standing? Can you stand by the part of yourself that’s struggling to understand and change?  Can you minimize the impact of your judgmental self and create a safe space to continue the learning adventure?

You can, if you’ll let that be a learning adventure in itself.

Keeping the Faith

It was a little tough believing in spring this year.  It’s been way below normal for a month and an half and it snowed on 17th April, long past the usual end of snow season here.

It can be even tougher to keep the faith when it comes to our personal lives.  Things go awry in ways or areas we’ve never had to deal with before and we don’t have a sense of natural progression to help us expect better days.

In reality, we’re always keeping the faith.

If we continually expect the worst, our faith is in that end of the spectrum.  If we always hope for the best, that’s where our faith is placed.  Most of us move around on the spectrum, depending on the issues and our experience in that area.

Can we choose where we place our faith?

Yes, although it sometimes takes some work.   That’s where understanding the basis for our faith helps.

Start with recognizing whether you’re an externalizer or an internalizer.  Is your faith in something outside yourself or do you have faith in your own abilities?

Externalizers believe in “the system” or in a higher power or in other people (yay, for family and friends).  Some externalizers believe that money will solve everything.

Internalizers look to their own abilities and strengths as the stuff they most rely on.

Again, most of us are a combination.

Once you understand where you’re placing your faith, you can ask yourself whether you’re limiting your toolbox (yes, Virginia, you need more than a hammer).   That’s related to doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

And, if you are, you can then decide where you can expand your faith options.  Are there people who would love to come through for you?  Are you leaving a part of yourself out of the solutions to life issues?  Have you been deluding yourself about what money or the system can do for you?

Once you understand what’s going on with your faith, you can make choices to keep the broader positive faith.

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