Continuous Learning

I am really enjoying Reflections' current book study of True Love by Thich Nhat Hanh. Although my personal practices are quite rigorous, I am always looking for ways to improve, deepen or invigorate them.

Sometimes when I hear about the practices of others, I find myself wondering if maybe my practices have become too shallow or hollow. But when I read mystical texts or sit at the feet of teachers both great and small, I discover instead that maybe I have reached a plateau in my current practices and perhaps it is time to deepen them.

Deepening a practice does not have to equate to dedicating additional time, or attempting more exquisite poses. Often it is the slight adjustment coming from a differing perspective or a new teacher. My yoga instructor Carrie replaced our previous long-loved instructor Sara. Sara, realizing that many of us were not progressing out of her class because of our love for her, raised the level of the class. And Carrie, oh my goodness, provides not only a rigorous training but also a wealth of yoga philosophy and eastern wisdom. We are all progressing in our yoga practice in ways we could not have imagined with Sara.

And it is similar with Hanh. My already laborious shadow work practice has deepened considerably. Just the notion of caring for your pain like a mother cares for her crying child has opened me in ways I thought unimaginable even late last year.

So I am stunned when I hear of folks eschewing further study as if there is nothing new under the sun. What planet do they live on? Everyday I am faced with such newness, such raw potential, how could you ever shut yourself off from this beauty, from this majesty?

My spiritual practices are not a replacement for study, as study is not a replacement for practice. As a Marxist-Leninist, I embraced both theory and praxis. And now almost 35 years later as a warrior mystic I am advocating much the same.

Study is in fact one of the threads of my mystery school. We are building spiritual scholarship alongside spiritual practice. And reaching outside of our comfort zone is one of the prerequisites for continuous learning. That is why I assigned such texts as Covey’s First Things First, Palmer’s Intuitive Body and Cameron’s Artists Way. And this year we turn to Buddhism to challenge our notions of what it means to open our hearts.

As a mystic, I can find truth almost anywhere, so I want my students to be familiar with truths outside their own. Like my beloved teacher Sara, if my students get stuck, I raise the level.

What is *your* practice? What do *you* study? And are *you* too comfortable?

Om, Namaste, Ashe, Amen and Blessed Be

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Thu, 04/16/2009 - 11:36am.

Lights On - Doors Open

I have been quiet as of late because so much was going on within me that I found it difficult to put words to the tumult within. These past several weeks have been filled with reflection, journaling, dreams, meditation, prayers, revelation and despair. And then suddenly as if the fog lifted, there is clarity.

I have been picking at a particular scab for months. Digging deeply into the shadowy realms of my unconscious searching … searching for an answer to an age-old question – Why *do* I shrink from the light?

When I started, I did not even know what the question was much less having an answer. All I knew was that something felt off, out of balance. As I reached new levels of physical health, my incrementally increasing serenity revealed a fundamental imbalance within.

The weekly readings of Thich Nhat Hanh helped tremendously. By returning to the text day after day, the revealed discomfort became more and more palpable. Until it could be denied no further and I was forced to face a well of pain, fear and rage.

I was not surprised to find these emotions, what surprised me was that I was not able to discern their source. Normally I can attach the emotions readily to either something occurring in my day to day life and/or a resurfacing memory of an incident from my past being triggered by something in the present day.

But this time, I was at a complete loss. So I prayed, meditated, recited mantras and allowed myself to wander in the darkness longer than I am accustomed. And wander is a good description for the meandering path I followed—the serpentine path of the snake.

And sitting in a recent Touch Drawing class, I felt the serpent rising slowly, gradually – she was taking her own sweet time. An image from that class became a calming practice as I drew it again and again in my sketchpad. Spirals on spirals revealing the shape of a woman wandering on a path strewn with eyes.

At some point, it dawned on me that I was in a completely opposite mode from last fall. I had far too little to occupy my time – and this was very upsetting to me. I fought the decline of busyness, throwing up fears and rationalizations one on top of another – till even I knew it was a lie. Even my intuitive healer noted a strand of terror laying in wait just below the surface of my skin.

What I feared was a revelation surfacing from deep within. Dream after dream revealed a deep, dark discomfort, a disquieting revelation just at the edge, peering maliciously into my intimate quarters. In dream after dream, I pushed away this malingerer, closing the doors against him time after time. Finally I said out loud, “What are my dreams trying to tell me?”

And then it happened.

I awakened to find all the lights on and all the doors open wide. I jumped up startled, it was dark out and here was my house lit up and open. I ran to the front door turning off lights quickly as I shut then bolted the door. Outside I could see dark shadowy figures walking along on the sidewalk.

Across the street was a firehouse, a part of my mind stirred but I ignored it. But seeing the firehouse reassured me a little. But I was still in the state of sheer panic. I ran toward the back the house turning off lights as I went.

Reaching the back door, again my mind stirred. I was in the kitchen trying to force the back door closed. But it was stuck, the door was hanging just a little off its hinges. So as I lifted and pushed to finally close the door, it finally dawns on me – this is not my house! This is the house of my childhood!

But the panic refused to subside, even though I now … finally ... realized it was all a dream. I raced back toward the front to find two small lights still on, and even these I shut off. Till finally …I felt safe and secure … back in the dark.

And it hit me – visible and accessible => panic and sheer terror.


Then I woke up.

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Submitted by katrina on Sun, 04/12/2009 - 2:28pm.

Awareness of Impact

I have always considered the virtue “Awareness of Impact” as a sign of maturity. Children do not initially notice the impact they have on their environment. They don’t notice their parents’ exhaustion as infants and toddlers. Or that their aunts, uncles, grandparents and neighbors quickly and silently remove harmful items from ground level when they visit. Those of us who are childless often imagine that parents lose this awareness concerning their children in public places. And adults everywhere wonder about this lack of awareness among adolescents. But for the most part, we as a culture expect adults to have this awareness. The reality however is that most adults in this culture are blissfully unaware past some arbitrarily low limit.

This lack of awareness struck me just now as I moved my car in anticipation of the street cleaners. Every Tuesday and Wednesday here in my urban neighborhood, my neighbors and I engage in a well rehearsed dance – moving our cars from one side to the other to escape a parking ticket. And so I had to move my car from the side of the street that will be cleaned today. So I started up my car, checked for traffic, and pulled into the alley in preparation for backing into the space in front of my house. I have done it a thousand times. I normally can do it so seamlessly that several of my neighbors have commented that they wished they could drive like me.

But today something happened. A single car, when I checked in both directions, was just about a block a way when I began backing into the street. But he was driving so fast that by the time I was slipping into the space, he was right up on me. He was driving so fast that I stopped completely. I stopped to make him stop. I wanted some wiggle room in case I needed to pull forward again, and he was already too close already. So once I was sure he would stop, I continued backing up, but as I backed up he drove forward just as fast. So by the time I was in the space he was beside my car. We each stopped and looked at each other.

I was annoyed, but I was not really angry. That is when it hit me. He was looking at me the way I was looking at him. After a short pause, he pulled off and I pulled forward to straighten my wheels.

Then I sat there for a moment. I reviewed everything that happened and then it hit me. He thought *I* had done something wrong. He may very well have thought that he was completely in the right. Oh okay, now that made me very angry. Then another thought entered my mind, he then had no idea what the impact of his actions had on me.

What if I had been like those neighbors of mine, and needed to pull in and out a couple of times to completely park? What if the space had not been big enough for my car and I had needed to pull up to another parking space? What if I had panicked and hit one of the cars on either side of me? Now the anger passed and I was back in amazement.

And what was my impact on him? I made him wait as I parked my car. In fact if I had not stopped, I would have been out of his way by the time he reached my car. Maybe he had timed it just right for that eventuality? So in effect, I was as completely unaware as he.

So I came back inside and sat a bit before returning to my work.

Where else am I blind to my own impact? What if all the things that bug me about life, about people and about this entire freaking culture was the result of this lack of awareness on all our parts?

I lit some incense and turned inward with prayer. I pray that the gods increase my awareness of the impact of my actions on myself and on those around me. And I also pray that I slow down enough to become aware of others as I travel on my journeys and wanderings. And I thank that fast driving man for showing me a slice of my own blindness. Ashe. Blessed Be.

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Submitted by katrina on Tue, 09/16/2008 - 1:04pm.

Runaway Child, Running Wild …

This is part four of an exploration into how I navigated a recent difficult period. The first in this series is, Distorted Nostalgia.

girl in pink

"Runaway child, running wild …
Better go back home … where you belong …"

Temptations, 1969

From my journal …

My niece, wearing a pink outfit, is throwing up and running away ... from me. She has a bruise on her forehead. We were traveling together, and at some point she returns from the bathroom without her jacket – also pink. When I inquire, she said that she had thrown up. “On your jacket?” “Yes.”

Later she is upset at losing all that was in the jacket pockets – especially a photo of a young boy. The photo had been worn and creased, but it was all she had left and now it was gone.

At a restaurant, the staff helps her to escape. At first I say fine and leave. But at home I looked over all I had acquired for her. They were all inappropriate for a fun loving child. They were weights and tools wrapped up to look like gifts. I realized that I wanted her back so I went back and demanded her return.

I sit with the first message from this dream. My child self is not happy with what I have been feeding her (throwing up) and giving her (weights and tools). She was mad about what she had to give up and finally ran away. And I was fine with it until I looked at what I had been offering her. Then I realized what I had done and what she really meant to me.

The second message in this dream was where she chooses to run away -- a place filled with food. Aha! My runaway child is placating herself with food.

There is definitely a pattern here. My fire self, [the one who interrupts my quiet moments with the flame of anxiety and tension] is overbearing and pushy. My water self is rebellious and running wild. Ai yi yi, something has to give.

They are each overreacting, one to fear, the other to hunger. My fire self takes over at the first sign of chaos, loss of control and stress. I am afraid of losing ground to the chaos, the ten thousand things of life that haunts introverts like myself.

And whenever I succumb to the fear, a second reaction spills out due to my hunger for life itself. My water side rebels and starts me to binging to compensate – as if there will never be a chance again … to enjoy life.

Ah! The message of the dream I ignored comes dancing back before my eyes. I do not want to lose any more time, I feel like I have given up so much already, I do not want to miss out on the passion of living in the moment, not again, not anymore. I have been so sick for so long, enough with all this working hard all the damn time. And it does feel like a family curse, now that I think of it.

I sit with these realizations as tears well up and fall to my journal obscuring the words. When I can talk, I say out loud, “Please don’t leave me again … we will get through this together … I promise.”

Next … a dialogue … finally

Posted in

Submitted by katrina on Mon, 07/28/2008 - 9:00am.

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