8
Jul 16

Personal Compassion as an Empowering Response

In the face of recent events, it is easy to feel hopeless, powerless and overwhelmed. This is especially so, if you are particularly empathic. Neurobiological research shows that when we feel empathy, our brains respond as the person who is feeling the pain. This can lead to empathic burnout. Ironically, it can also lead to distancing ourselves from one side or the other in a conflict, actually leading to a more divisive view of the world.

So many of my deepest hearted friends have tuned out or burned out recently, because of the overwhelming amount of hate, violence and anger in the press and social media. At a time when humanity needs every bit of loving kindness it can get, the most loving people become overwhelmed.

The answer, I believe (and science backs me up) is compassion. Empathy is feeling the pain of others. When we feel empathy we feel the pain. In contrast, compassion is feeling concern for another's pain, along with a motivation to help. The same research that shows how empathy creates a mirrored response to pain also shows that feeling compassion (via compassion-focused meditation) does not activate the same pain-associated brain pathways. Instead, the parts of the brain involved in social connection and thoughtful action are activated.the heart of the earth

In empathy, we can drown in the other's pain and emotion. In compassion, we sit in awareness of the pain but are not overwhelmed by it. We are connected and are in a much better place to help or make positive change.

In compassion, I am motivated to do my small part to heal the greater wounds of our world. For me, in this moment, that involves staying mindful of my own judgments, my own prejudices. It involves having the courage to speak up in love, not anger, when I see injustice or blindness. It means keeping in my awareness my human connection with both sides of every seemingly dichotomous issue.

What I am doing specifically to heal the world, in my small way, is to pledge 30 days of compassion meditation and mindfulness. Please join me.

 

 

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29
Jan 16

Mindful Falling

I fell off my horse. A half-somersault over the left side of her neck, landing flat on my back after a full 180. From canter to zero in one very long split-second. It was one of the most powerfully validating experiences I have ever had.

DSC_0388 (1280x853)

As a rancher and horsewoman, accidents and injuries are nothing new. Typically, I'm not a stoic, big-girls-don't-cry accident victim. I go into shock easily. And because I tend to hold a lot of emotion tied up in my body, a physical injury often triggers all the frustration, disappointment and self-doubt that I normally hold at bay.

What made this accident different was the way I experienced it. I really WAS the Zen Cowgirl. I stayed present in my body before, during and after the fall. I was present and aware; I didn't panic, even as the fall was happening. I don't even remember being scared. It was as if I was just observing it. After I landed, rather than catastrophizing, I objectively inventoried: I was winded but not in excruciating pain, the horse was standing by me patiently, all parts seemed functional for mounting and riding home (at a walk). I breathed deep and released the threatening tightening in my back and my mind. I was aware of pain, but somehow there was no judgment of it as bad; it was just information my body was sending me.

I was aware that if I could mount and ride home balanced and with my muscles relaxed, the natural movement of the horse would help to realign my battered spine and ribs. I consciously turned away all the negative messages that automatically popped up in my mind; "you're incapable, too old, stupid, etc". There was no fear, only acceptance. There was no anger; neither at myself for falling nor at the horse for 'causing' the fall. Later, I was able to clearly recall every detail of the fall and identify what went wrong and why it happened.

Several years ago, I began to make contemplative time a priority in my life. Each morning, typically at least an hour before I expect anyone else to be awake, I sit. I do some inspirational reading, I journal and since August, I have included some sort of formal meditation or contemplation (even if just 5 minutes).

More recently, as part of a new business venture, I have been researching the effects of various mindfulness practices on the brain and the corresponding benefits to a person's life. This whole experience validates my research. My daily practices of body awareness, breath, relaxation, non-judgment and acceptance were there, naturally, in this time of crisis! The positive changes in my daily life have been enough to keep me dedicated to my practice. In a rather dramatic way, this fall showed me the incredible power these simple daily practices bring to handling a crisis. I just hope I have learned well enough that I don't need to be shown quite so dramatically next time.

 

 

 

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1
Jan 15

New Year's Visioning

With Mother Mary as my role model, I open to the year to come. May I be a worthy vessel for what is given me to carry. May I hold it humbly and willingly and birth my small part in God's time, not mine. May I nurture the lives I touch to the best of my ability, staying open to divine guidance, keeping a clear and conscious connection to Grace.

I invite Jesus to walk with me, whispering of faith and acceptance. May he stand beside me in all my little dyings. And after, reach his hand to me, drawing me into each resurrection of my spirit.

I look to the Grandmothers to remind me that each choice is merely an alternate path along the Good Red Road. Each echoing ramification just a swirl or eddy in the great river of existence. None can alter the ultimate flow toward truth and wholeness.

From this place, I can be thankful in advance, for all that this year will bring. Being held by my sacred guides, I envision how even my worst-case scenarios carry me further on my journey. I see joy, and growth and abundance un-looked for.

I look back on the past year in humble awe of the growth that has occurred, at the truths to which I have come just a little closer to understanding. My blessings have multiplied, my soul has expanded.

Life is good.

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7
Dec 14

Advent: A Time of Longing and Tears

I shed lots of tears this time of year.  Not for what I don't have, but in longing for what is actually already mine, and what I am in the process of becoming.

Beginning around Samhain (Halloween), when tradition holds that the veil between the physical and spiritual worlds is thinnest, my awareness of what lies beneath my consciouness begins to heighten.  Like tantalizing wisps of eternal fragrance, I sense the Wholeness that is just beyond my grasp, yet surrounds me.

Advent is a season of Longing.  I feel a homesickness that no change in location can remedy.  A sweet ache of desire to dwell in unity with All of Creation.  There lies my home.

This is a season of Love.  Each relationship a flawed, but precious reflection of the Great Love that is our Life, our Soul.  I shed tears for the unfathomable beauty of that Love, and in humble recognition of how limited is my ability to reflect and channel it.

My tears are cleansing, like the winter storms of my Midwestern childhood.  In their wake, they leave peace; crisp, quiet and fresh. My Christmas heart lies open and expectant.  O come, Emmanuel.  Live in me, Light my way.

 

 

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18
Dec 12

A perspective on human-created tragedy

Many ask "How can God let something like this happen?" We are God's Children.  We have been given free will.  Unless we consciously and willingly turn our free will over to Him, our actions are our own.

We humans are on an evolutionary path.  Like all creation, we originated in a blessed state of unconsciousness.; being part of All, but not aware of our part.  Becoming sentient (aka 'eating of the tree of knowledge') was our birth into self-awareness.  Evolution is, in general, a gradual process.  As baby sentients, our consciousness was not developed enough to grasp our true state of being of, from and with the Universal Spirit.  Our brains developed egos (aka 'original sin') as a defense against feeling lost in our new awareness of being.  Our connection to God was never lost, but our egos created the illusion of separateness.  From this state, we do much 'evil' in an effort to protect what we see as our fragile existence.

It is critical for a child to learn through trial and error, through making mistakes and experiencing consequences.  So do we evolving humans make mistakes, individually and collectively, as we evolve to consciousness and re-unification.  Paradoxically, as we evolve as a species, so does our ability to do great works of either harm or reunion.

Remember that nothing eternal can be harmed.  Our core being, our spirits and our connection to All is eternal.  Weep for the losses of the families, for the rent in the fabric of our society.  Be comforted in that the souls of those whose earthly lives were lost could not be, and were not harmed.

All energy is ultimately of the same source.  Our human suffering pushes us further down the evolutionary path by causing us to pay attention.  How many have had to hit bottom before being awakened?  God is not acting through us when we commit atrocities, but He is still present.  There is no thing so evil that it cannot be turned into fuel for our individual and collective growth.  From our worst acts, goodness can emerge as the Light transforms the darkness. As we consciously participate in each transformation, our human evolution back to our spiritual home proceeds.

So weep, but do not despair.  One person has released his individual and collective pain into our awareness.  Our prayers, acts of love and refreshed gratitude for our own blessings manifest Light.  Together, of, from and with God, we transform and triumph over this darkness.  Let us make of this a gift that takes us one step closer to living Awake.  One step closer to home.

 

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25
Nov 12

Purpose Prayer

To heal
To grow
To let go of fear

To be embraced
To bring forth

               Channel

                        Weave

                                    Plant

                                                Share

 

What gifts I've been given!
What glory I know!

Take me, Lord
Use me
Shape me
Let me see and be my Purpose

Fill my hand with Joy
My heart with Love
and my vision with true Sight

I am yours

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14
Oct 12

Suffering Evolved

  • That which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger
  • Pick up your cross and follow me
  • All life is Dukkha (suffering)
  • Be One with your trials, for they bring you gifts of learning
  • Be One with the brother who causes you strife, for he is your greatest teacher
  • To be born again is to accept the gift of life consciously and with humility
  • Enlightenment is Living as part of a greater whole
  • Grace is those moments when God works through us, in spite of ourselves

The preceding phrases have resonated with me this month, through meditations, daily inspirational readings and prayer.

This moon cycle is the third month of a major translation: From introspection and concentrating on self-healing and growth over the past 7-8 years toward living consciously as a contributor to humanity’s spiritual evolution.

My view of suffering has evolved significantly.

Previously, in therapy to work through prior spirit and life-threatening experiences, I envisioned myself as a Monterrey Pine; one of those real-life bonsai trees, shaped by the salt winds and hard-scrabble existence on the cliffs over the sea. I value these experiences as the forces that have shaped me into a person who embraces life and understands love. Suffering is the clay from which our lives are shaped

In present life, I strive to see daily trials as learning experiences. Each encounter with less-than-perfect situations, people or myself  is one more opportunity to practice being present, to stay centered. Suffering is a Gift of learning

Raised a devout Catholic, I was taught to carry my cross, to bear my burdens. What if our Cross is not our burden, but our Purpose? Should not one’s life purpose be big enough that sometimes we might stumble beneath it? But how much easier it is to carry our cross as Purpose rather than burden! Not suffering, but Purpose

One of my favorite mantras is “Nothing real can be threatened, nothing unreal exists” (A Course in Miracles). It reminds me that at our core, we are Light, we cannot be harmed. I envision darkness as encountering that bright light and being transformed. There is nothing so bad, that it cannot be transformed by the Light of Creation. Darkness is transformed by Light

Over the past few years, I have gradually gotten better at living the perspectives above. All of them have been fluttering through my head these past few weeks. I have sometimes experienced Grace; times when I responded to situations from my core of light and not from my small self.

At the end of this cycle, a new perspective made itself briefly apparent. I have trouble putting it into words, as I Knew it only briefly. It has since faded to a shadow of words and memory that do not do justice to Truth: For an instant, I was aware that there is no real suffering, only Oneness. There is no bad, no suffering, for all springs from the same Source. All energy is part of Creation. It is our own small self’s perceptions that cast the energy into shades of dark and light. When we are not afraid to transcend our small selves, we become co-creators.

Grace is God acting through us in spite of ourselves. Amazing Grace is losing ourselves in God.

 


 

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16
Sep 12

Becomes Her Vision

The Blue Moon cycle has just concluded.  It is a time to reflect on where we are, a pause in the normal progression of cycles.  

What lays before me is a time of care, a time of caring

I sit with my spirit guides in my safe and sacred place
Jesus on the left end
Buddha on the right
Flanked left by She Who Heals, who Serves the Truth
Flanked right by Sunset Woman, who Lives the Truth

Where is Becomes Her Vision?
Her place is between
She is here, with me
I feel the vibrations of Being as I hear her voice

"You have the tools you need to do the job you need to do.
What you need will be there when you need it.
You are not done learning and growing, but you have learned and grown enough
to move out, move beyond
and take your place among the sharing.

With each cycle, the wisdom you need will present itself.
You have learned to nurture yourself,
to look within.
There, you will find your strength, your wisdom.
Each year, you will revisit and refresh your access to all
the medicine the Grandmothers have to teach,
to remember again how it touches your whole self.
We are here, all of us,
with you and within you always."

And with that, I begin to hear soft murmurs,
humming sweet and low, the sound of soft summer rain.
I feel the souls of my extended wisdom circle and many whom I have not yet named
Surrounding me, supporting me, part of me.

And I know, just for a moment
what it is to be part of ALL
And I know that to heal is to bring that Joy of connection
to what must be healed.

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12
Jul 12

Yin my Yang

We went fishing tonight, to catch catfish for tomorrow's dinner.  The catfish only begin to bite as dusk descends, so we fished until we couldn't see our bobbers any more.  I tripped on the way home in the dark and skinned my knee.  Prescription:  A soaking bath in eucalyptus, tea tree oil, grapefruit seed extract and Patchouli    Considering that we had just caught and killed 7 catfish, it was fair payback.  Blood for blood doesn't seem like an unfair trade to the Universe.  Creation always finds a way to balance herself.

When I started my Circle of Self  journey four months ago, a search for balance was one of my primary goals.  My bath was a good time to find it.  About fifteen years ago, in a book by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, I read that every person has a Word which summarizes their mission in life.  I immediately knew my word was BE.  I have come to know the indivisible shadow of that word is Balance.

I recently returned from a vacation with my extended family.  Three generations spanning almost 70 years, made possible by the financial foresight of our deceased parents.  I confess to being a typical self-employed entrepeneur; I took my computer, self-improvement material, documents to review and "projects" to work on.  I participated in one corporate conference call and  finished one macrame bracelet.  Shamelessly, I spent the rest of my 7 days enjoying sun, surf, sand, sons and siblings (as well as grand-siblings and siblings-in-law).

When I came home, I had to fight the primal message that I must "pay" for the time off.  That somehow my good times must now be offset by bad (suffering).  Instead, my morning meditations show me a vision of discipline leading to peace.  At the start of this month's moon cycle, my focus was on working with my creative self to create balancing among financial, work and leisure aspects.  I am experiencing how love and nurturing feed productivity and growth.  The best self-discipline is fueled by love and Love knows the fruits of discipline.

My image of the traditional Yin and Yang symbol is dynamic, not static.  I envision it as constantly swirling. The light or dark contra-point in each half growing to subsume the original.  Then a point of the opposite aura immediately appears in the center of each color to repeat the cycle.

The yin-yang symbol is central in my life-imagery.  I've rendered that image in tie-dye, macrame, window art and doodling.  In my life, my creative drive leads me to leave things before they are finished.  Then the unfinished things fester until they swamp me and I have to deal with them.  Soon, all work and no play make Jill a cranky wife and mother, and I need some horse-time to get me back in balance.

I have spent much of this month facing and embracing my constraints.  Tonight I can see how they are interconnected with my talents.  The blossoming of one part of my life pulls behind it the seed of its counterpart.  Recognizing it as an ebb and flow; the swirling yin-yang,  I can utilize the balance that is inherent in the cycle of life.

I realize how my constraints and struggles are also the source of my greatest feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment.  I am coming to value the effort I put into daily accomplishing tasks such as bookkeeping or housekeeping.   Doing so gives me peace of mind for playing with my horses or playing my guitar.  Each time I experience that small dot in the center of either side of "creativity" or "productivity" growing and cycling through, I know I have grown.

After all, work without creativity is not truly productive and creativity is only wind without work to bring it to life.

Well, Yin my Yang:  This cowgirl just might be on to something.

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6
May 12

Spirit Drives the Bus

When spirit fuels the mind, the mind can be trusted

When spirit rules the mind, the body's wisdom will be heard

When spirit guides the mind, the mind will have insight

When spirit drives the bus, the journey reaches dreams.

 

Which came first: the need for spiritual connection or the need for a clear mind? I see a swirling yin/yang symbol of how these two elements interact.  My mind is powerful, but being powerful, is also a cause for derailment, distraction and destructive patterns.  My spiritual essence ebbs and flows, much as our moon does.  Sometimes pulling so strong as to direct oceans of movement in my life.  Sometimes lying quiescent, allowing the mind to create the waves and eddies in my life.

A life work to create balance manifests now, as opportunities open and the web of connections in my life seems to be expanding exponentially.  If my life's calling is to BE, then spirit must be the underlying force that guides my more mortal aspects.  When I am being guided by my spirit, my mind sees and manages body, emotions and circumstances with wisdom, compassion and clarity.

 

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