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I’m Sorry, Forgive Me

Usually when we speak of forgiveness, it’s about forgiving someone else for a wrong they have done to us. It makes us feel good about ourselves, that we are “bigger” than whatever they did, or at least more at peace internally. We say “I know you did that outrageous thing to me, and I’m still reeling from it, but I want to stop repeating and repeating it in my head, I want to move ahead with my life, so I am willing to forgive you.” But what does it mean to ask forgiveness of someone for a wrong you have done to them?

Are you looking to be forgiven so you can put an end to your own pain and regrets, or because you want the other person to feel better about you since you were willing to apologize and ask for forgiveness? Or does it mean that you sincerely repent for whatever thoughts, words, or actions you directed at that person and you are making every effort to clean up your karma?

When you are the one who has been wronged, forgiveness means you have decided to let go of your resentment and anger and bitterness over past deeds and you are letting go, however reluctantly, of fantasies that revolve around revenge. You know the ever popular “I’ll lose 20 pounds and show up at the event wearing a sexy black dress and he’ll be sorry we’re not together anymore!”

But what about when the shoe is on the other foot? When you are the one who made the mistake, did the horrific deed, had the dark thoughts? What if you slept with your best friend’s husband? Do you think you should be forgiven for that betrayal? “Oops, I must have been out of my mind” doesn’t quite cover it. What if, in a past life, you really cursed someone because you wanted their power, wanted their things, wanted what they had and you didn’t? What kind of karmic retribution might you be calling forth?

Unfortunately, your negative thoughts, words, and deeds follow you life after life until you have “paid” your debt—balanced out the scales in some way. By being a “good” person, you learn to examine your actions and your beliefs; by offering up your errors in a sacred way to the Great Mother and asking for her mercy, you improve your karma. There has to be some process of transformation. The energy you waste trying to assure yourself that whatever you did just wasn’t so bad can instead be used to create positive change.

As you know from energy medicine when you hold onto dark emotions, when you bury them deep in your subconscious and deep inside your body, things can go wrong in your life. Relationships falter and fail, money issues pile up, your health can take a nosedive. So it really does matter that you do something to acknowledge, at least to yourself, what you have done, so you can erase the negative tape loops in your head.When you acknowledge what you have done to someone else, even inside yourself, you can use a shamanic technique to cut the cords to that person and free up your energy.

Forgiveness can be a bit tricky. It doesn’t imply forgetting what you did. You don’t even have to formally ask forgiveness of the other person, make peace, and both go happily along your respective ways. It’s more a matter of persistent internal work, done with focused intent. You have to look at yourself really honestly, step back from the image you usually display to the world, and acknowledge the darkness within you. You can go back to childhood and see how your patterns of thought and behavior emerged. You can go deep in meditation and ask your spiritual guides and angels for help. You can ask for help from counselors, therapists, or learn about energy healing so you can start to get your energy flowing in a positive direction.

Mark Twain once said, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Know that beauty can emerge from pain, and redemption can arise from the ashes of your transgressions.

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Vanity Sizing

Vanity. A lot of emotion gets packed into that word.  Even as a spiritual teacher, with my sights focused on energy healing and raising consciousness, I fret about my pants getting tighter. When I was in college, I was a size 2 model. In order to maintain that image of perfection, I lived on cigarettes and vodka. Food? No way.

Just yesterday I was having a one-on-one with a Level 7 student  and I gently pointed out to her that her recently gained 25 lbs. that she was bemoaning might be “her new normal.”  Who among us women over 40 hasn’t had to deal with a weight gain and a clothing size increase? While teaching a few weeks ago at Turks and Caicos, I asked the audience a rhetorical question: what are we going to do when we aren’t on an island and over-shirts aren’t in style?

So what does any of this have to do with being spiritually inclined? For one, you may think that if you’re trying to be more spiritual, you shouldn’t be concerned about what you look like. Not true. You need to care about the image you are presenting to the world. You want to make a good impression— at a business meeting, at the ashram, at the family reunion. You want to be desired, to be liked. (Unfortunately, you also want to have your chocolate ice cream, your lattes, and your pizza.)

Spiritual discipline is based on renunciation—you give up some portion of your ego (where I-me-mine is the center of the universe at all times) for the realization of unity consciousness. You concentrate on being mindful, being here now, instead of finding new ways to escape your reality. You start to recognize the ways in which your chakras and personal energy field are impacted by your thoughts and feelings instead of thinking every problem in your life is due to external circumstances.

So why is it so hard to give up vanity about the way you look? I think of it as “vanity sizing” in the mind. The manufacturers of the cultural obsession with physical appearance have made you feel that you have to be as thin as all those photo shopped models in magazines and actors on the screen. Yet everything in your life conspires against you being able to reach that goal. And the older your body gets, the harder it all is. Plus, what good is an hour in the gym when it’s followed by a quick stop at Starbucks? How can you even get to the gym when you work all day and pick up pizza on the way home because you have no time to cook a decent dinner for your family before you deal with your kid’s science project? Or you’re stressed out over paying your bills, or your health, or your lack of a love life, or the fact your pants are too tight—which certainly deserves another chocolate chip cookie.

When you find yourself caught up in this type of thinking—the size 16 reality of your day-to-day life versus the size 4 fantasy ideal your vanity would like you to achieve—what should you do?

Call upon your Higher Self.

Your Higher Self is who you really are. She encompasses all the virtues that stem from higher consciousness. She knows your higher purpose in life—the reason you incarnated in your particular body, with all its seeming faults. She’s the one who is with you lifetime after lifetime. So relax. Be who you are. Sit quietly and pull down the bright white/gold light from above your head (your Higher Self is really quite lovely) into that fabulous body of yours. It’s fabulous because it is the vehicle for getting to know your own divinity.

With the way things are going these days—with toxic chemicals turning rivers orange, with icecaps melting and oceans rising, with fierce typhoons, fires, and floods, with fracking causing earthquakes, with oil spills destroying habitats—maybe we all need to pay more attention to Mother Earth’s body than to our own.

Until then, buy pants in the next size up!

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Time for a Nap!

I’m all in favor of naps.

I get up very early, in the wee hours before dawn, so I can do my meditation and set my intention for the day before the phone rings, the texts ping, and the emails come flooding in, before meetings and more meetings, before teaching energy medicine and shooting videos on energy healing.

I’ve found that a brief, 15 or 20 minute “cat nap” can reset your physiology and allow you to start the day anew. Especially if taken not too late in the day, preferably before noon.

I’ve got really good company in thinking that naps are, indeed, the cat’s meow. Winston Churchill would often get into bed, and take a nap in the afternoon. He said, “Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.”

John F. Kennedy used to take naps after lunch for an hour or two. He was very particular about keeping his room dark and making sure there were no distractions. He was also famous for taking 10 minute naps on the run, between engagements. Other presidents with the nap habit were Lyndon B. Johnson, who called it the key to his “two-shift day,” and Ronald Reagan, who laughingly said that his cabinet chair should have the inscription: “Ronald Reagan Slept Here.” Bill Clinton was able to fall asleep while leaning against a wall if necessary. He said that fifteen minutes to a half-hour nap made a huge difference. As First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt took naps before speaking engagements to give herself an energy boost, while Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, had a regularly scheduled hour-long nap every afternoon.

Thomas Edison had a few bright ideas while napping, such as the light bulb, the phonograph, and the video camera. Naps were a necessity as he usually only logged about three or four hours of sleep at night. He proclaimed he slept “as sound as a bug” during his naps.

The list goes on: Napoleon Bonaparte often went days without a good night’s sleep, and so relied on naps. War is disruptive to sound sleep. Stonewall Jackson was able to take a nap anywhere at all during the Civil War. He was also known to take five minute breaks to “rest his eyes.” And Captain of Industry, John D. Rockefeller, napped in his office every afternoon.

Perhaps the most unusual napper was Salvador Dali, whose naps were as surreal as his paintings. While sitting in a chair, he’d hold a heavy metal key between his thumb and forefinger. There was an upside down plate on the floor under his hand. As he fell asleep, the key would fall and clatter on the plate, waking him up. He was sure his best ideas came at the edge of sleep, and this practice increased his creativity. He claimed that this “slumber with a key” had been learned from Capuchin monks. Albert Einstein also “napped” this way. Today, this is called a “hypnogogic” nap, which means that before Stage 2 sleep sets in, the mind can unlock the free flow of creative thinking.

Leonardo da Vinci—how in the world did he do everything he did? By taking 15-minute naps every four hours. This pattern is known as the “sleep of genius.”

But what about grabbing a nap in your crazy, hectic, life? You can do it! For being more alert, a 15 to 30-minute nap is ideal. It can be a planned nap, especially if you know you’ll be up later than usual that night; emergency napping, when you are so tired your eyes start to close (especially important—if that happens while driving, pull off the road and take a quick 5- to 10-minute nap); or habitual napping, like those famous people who scheduled naps as a regular part of their day.

If you have a cat at home, you are very familiar with cat naps. Actually, more than 85% of mammals are “polyphasic” sleepers, which means that they sleep throughout the day for short periods. I know we humans were meant to do the same.

So take a nap. It will help you be more alert, decrease accidents, enhance your performance, raise your happiness level and make you look and feel younger. A NASA study on military pilots and astronauts found that their performance improved by 34% after a short nap. Just think what it can do for you!

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Connecting to the Divine Feminine

All around the world, in all traditions and cultures, there have been female figures who embody the qualities of the Divine Feminine, although until quite recently these goddesses, priestesses, and wise women haven’t had much expression in Western culture.

Not many female Western deities or saints have had their moment in today’s pop culture, with the possible exception of Mother Mary’s advice to “Let it be, let it be” in the Beatles song, which resonated with their fans across a wide spectrum of faiths. Why does Mary have such a hold on Western consciousness, even for those who are not Christians? Because she is the representation of the Divine Feminine that is most accessible to Westerners.

Mary is held in the hearts of women especially, who see her as the link between being human and our ability to connect with the Divine. Look at her history: Mary was birthed miraculously by the elderly Anna, had to flee with her newborn, loved her son and was an active participant in his work, and endured the pain of watching her son be killed. She had so much joy and pain in her human life that she understands the human plight and has overflowing compassion and mercy for those who are suffering and in pain.

I often use Mary’s energy in my energy healing work; she is the most recent incarnation of the Divine Feminine—the personification of the ancient myth of the Divine Mother who gives birth to the Divine Child during winter solstice, when the light “wins” over darkness. I’m thinking of her these days since August 15th is the Festival of the Assumption, when Mary is celebrated as entering bodily into Heaven.

Today the archetypes of the Divine Feminine are re-emerging as the planet shifts from masculine domination and aggressiveness to the nurturing and intuitive feminine. In ancient times, many different peoples around the world had priestess cults (where energy healing was taught) In the desert of the Middle East was an Essene religious community with ties to the Egyptian mystery schools, especially the cults of Thoth and Isis. This Essene community, according to recent researchers, was focused on birthing an enlightened being (one of Christ Consciousness) who would help humankind to evolve. There must have been a reason Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt with their divine son, and why the teachings of Jesus include Essene teachings (as shown by the Dead Sea Scrolls).

The Divine Feminine may be seen as a Goddess, as has long been the case in Hinduism with its vast array of goddesses—Durga, Uma, Kali, Radha, Sita, Saraswati, and so many more—each representing particular aspects of the divine, such as dynamic energy, creativity, victory over negativity, and love and compassion for all. We haven’t had goddesses in the West since those of ancient Greece and Rome, and they are sorely needed!

The Priestess archetype is another way to envision the Divine Feminine. The Priestess is connected to intuitive awareness, the secret knowledge of the spirit realm. Women who connect to the Priestess archetype are calling forth their mastery of spiritual realities, and the knowledge of how to transmute and transform the powerful energies of the chakras and spiritual bodies. The High Priestess is the Shekhinah, the feminine form of the indwelling presence of the divine, attuned to information that comes from within.

Another aspect of the Divine Feminine is the Wise Woman, who, like the Shaman, has the ability to access the higher spiritual realms in order to bring down practical solutions that aid in the survival of the clan or community. In the past, she was the one who knew how to use herbs and natural remedies to help women with fertility and birthing, and to set others on the dharmic path to “right action.” She was the one burned as a witch during the patriarchal pinnacle of the Inquisition. Today, she is a woman who may very well be engaged in the practice of energy medicine.

Who comes into your mind as the representative of the Divine Feminine that you feel closest to? Open yourself in meditation to receive your personal connection to the feminine aspect of divine wisdom, and let it be.

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Catch a Falling Star

One of my favorite parts of sleeping outside during the summer is watching meteor showers in the night sky.

When a meteoroid enters Earth’s atmosphere, the trail of light it emits as the tiny bits of dust and rock burn up is a called a meteor. We call the meteor’s visible path a “shooting star” or a “falling star.” At certain times of the year, you may see a lot of shooting stars during meteor showers, which happen when the Earth passes through the debris left by a comet as it orbits around the Sun. There are two annual meteor showers that happen in July and August: the Delta Aquarids and the Perseids.

At its peak in mid-August (this year on the 11th through the 14th), the Perseid meteor shower shows off about 60-100 meteors per hour! It comes from the debris trail left by the comet Swift-Tuttle, and it’s been around a long long time—at least 2,000 years! So August is peak time for seeing a lot of shooting stars . . . and perfect weather for sleeping outside, thus strengthening your connection to nature.

Often, you’ll see the most meteors either on a dark moonless night, picking up steam after midnight, or in the wee hours just before dawn. They fly all over the sky in many different directions. So get out a blanket or recliner chair and look up at the dark sky, as far away from artificial lights as possible.

The Perseid shower is named for the constellation Perseus, the son of Zeus, an ancient Greek god, and Danae, a mortal. As the myth goes, Perseus visited Danae in a shower of gold. There is a fascinating modern study that indicates a major cataclysmic meteor shower took place about 3.9 billion years ago, when Earth was in its infancy, which delivered gold and various precious metals to Earth.

What can watching the night sky do for you? First, it expands your mind as you gaze out into the universe. You can feel not only that you are a small speck in the vastness of space, but you can also recognize that your consciousness is made of the same substance as that of the stars—that we are indeed one with it all, as we learn in energy medicine!

Here is a meditative exercise to do while being outdoors at night. Almost all tribes around the globe use some version of this meditation, from the Mayans to the Hopi, to the Maori and the Aboriginals.

Sit quietly, on the earth if possible. Breathe in . . . and breathe out . . . slow, deep breaths.

Feel your body relaxing completely. Let your thoughts go and just follow your breath.

Visualize the area in which you are lying. Are there grass, trees, and rocks around you? Wide open plains? A body of water nearby? See the land around you as beautiful. Feel your love for nature, for beloved Mother Earth. Let this love grow and grow until you feel this love in your body.

Now take your love for Mother Earth and gather it into a ball, the size of a tennis ball, and use your focused intention to send this ball down into the center of the Earth so that Mother Earth feels your love for her.

Wait for a short while, until you feel Mother Earth send her love back to you, her child. Let her love move throughout every cell of your body and into your subtle bodies, your own personal energy field. Let yourself rest in the Divine Mother’s arms.

Without losing your connection to Mother, turn your focus to the Divine Father. Look up into the night sky and see the vast multitude of stars that form our Milky Way. You are gazing at the beauty of all Creation. Feel your love for the Divine Father, gather this love into a small ball, and send it with focused attention into the Heavens. You can send it to our sun, the way most indigenous people do, to the Great Central Sun, and to the sacred grids around the Earth.

Wait for the Father to send his love back to you, his child. Let this love enter your cells and your personal energy field.

You, the Divine Child, are now being held in the arms of both the Divine Mother and the Divine Father. It is from within this Holy Trinity that you can experience the Creator and Creation. You are one with Source.

Finally, align your chakras and make a powerful wish on the next shooting star you see!