Loving the Whole Enchilada

Loving the Whole Enchilada

Enjoy this iRest guided meditation

Loving the Whole Enchilada

A colleague went to a Mexican restaurant and on the menu, he found what he thought was the perfect meal. It was called “The Whole Enchilada.” When the server took his order he said, “I would like the whole enchilada, but could you hold the cilantro, pico de gallo and red chili peppers?” Her response was, “Sure I can, but then you won’t be getting the “Whole Enchilada, will you?” This for him was really a teachable moment as he reflected on how judgmental we tend to be about what we want in life.

Most of us are seeking to experience the whole of life with nothing missing—that is except for what we don’t like. After all, who really has the desire for conflicts, problems, pain or illness? Surely peace, love, light, blue skies and green lights are what we long for. Yet, whether we like it or not, the menu of life offers us the whole enchilada—both the good and bad. When we try to eliminate what we don’t like, we are missing the parts that help link us to innate wholeness. How can we then be loving the whole enchilada?

A life  hat is perfect, whole and complete requires us to love the totality of whatever life serves us—without judgements. 

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Keeping Love alive in the darkness

Keeping Love Alive in the Darkness

Most holiday greetings include words like “joy,” “merry” and “happy” in their text. Yet, consider that we are called tokeeping love alive in the darkness celebrate cultural and religious traditions with family and friends – during the darkest time of the year. This darkness manifests in our lives in many ways that can not only make it a challenge for us to be happy and joyful, but also cause us to forget the essential teaching of this season--keeping love alive.

“Ancient traditions remind us that we have come to this world for one reason….to love and to find a love even greater than any known by the angels of the heavens.”
–Gregg Braden, The Isaiah Effect: Decoding the Lost Science of Prayer and Prophecy”

Legacy of love

Trees and plants go dormant or die in winter. Their essence is preserved in their seeds and roots for rebirth and rejuvenation in the spring. Whether nature or humans, we all have an essence that lives on after death in the energy of the cosmos, in nature and in the legacy we leave behind and pass onto others. This essence is love. Divine love permeates the Universe. It is the core energy that connects and holds everything together—the stars, galaxies, planets, moons, everything on Earth.

Keeping the charge of love alive
is an essential teaching of the holiday season.

Darkness and Diminished energy 

At this time of year the sun, our natural energy charger, is busy sending its rays to other parts of the planet, leaving us with short, dark dreary days. We in the North are supposed to be hibernating like the rest of nature. Instead, we’re typically out and about trying to be merry, stressing our bodies–and often our relationships. It’s not uncommon for heated arguments to ensue at family gatherings. Now with our current political climate and the continuing stress ensued from the Covid-19 pandemic, the charge of love has seemingly diminished.

keeping love alive in the darkness

Perhaps we can learn something from our earliest ancestors. They feared that the life-giving sun would disappear at this time of year. So they performed rituals they believed would prevent this from happening. Eventually, they came to embrace this season as a womb or seedbed of life to come. They saw the Winter Solstice as a time of death, a passing away of the old pattern of the year—the old sun, old habits, beliefs and structures—and birth of a new sun, new patterns and possibilities. It was a time of healing and transformation.

Changing traditions

Our traditions are filled with memories of the past and the love we’ve shared with others. But traditions change when people’s lives change. Children grow up and move away, relationships end and loved ones pass on–and even pandemics emerge. We keep love alive when we adapt to change, like nature, even creating new traditions and bringing new people into the fold. This helps heal losses and create new possibilities.

Keeping love alive: Winter Solstice ceremony at Jacqui'sEach year on the solstice, I host a gathering of special people. We sit in sacred darkness as I lead a special ceremonial ritual drawn from ancient native traditions. A friend plays the Native American flute which is accompanied by the soft beating of a drum resembling the heartbeat. Candles are lit and the flame is passed to another as we each share a story of how we moved from darkness into the light during the past or recent years, or something that lit us with joy. We end with a hearty laugh and a wish for new possibilities in the coming year!

Keeping love alive

The holiday season typically ends with an appeal to make New Year’s resolutions to help us call in the light and create those transformational possibilities. Perhaps it’s to take better care of body, mind or spirit. But resolutions can be empty words unless we imbibe them with energy, passion – and love. As the sun shifts into a new pattern it invites us to do the same. I invite you to take a moment to light a candle before the New Year. Feel Divine love energy alive within helping you to create resolutions that you can implement with joy and ease in the coming year–even in dark times. You might ask yourself:

  1. What am I willing to release–habits, patterns, beliefs, or something else?
  2. How do I want to show up in the coming year? 
  3. How will I keep love alive this year? Keeping love alive imbibes you with the courage to stretch to new possibilities.

Check out my classes of Hanna Somatic Movement and iRest Meditation.

 

Islands: connection in the deep

Connection: Feel Supported, Valued, Loved

“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep,” wrote American philosopher and psychologist William James over 100 years ago. Modern science is now revealing how we are “connected in the deep.” We are born with the natural urge—wired in our brains—for connection, and this urge continues throughout our lives. Ironically, however, even though social media connections continue to grow exponentially, we seem to be more separate now than at any time in history, as loneliness, isolation, and alienation are reported to be on the increase.

ConntectionAs social beings, we crave to feel supported, valued, and loved. It is well documented that true social connection lowers stress and improves physical health and psychological well-being. Isn’t it time to get back to valuing true connection and learn ways to improve or enhance our connectedness to one another—and especially to ourselves?

Disconnection

Everything in life is about connection. When we leave the nurturing, loving environment of our mother’s womb, we are suddenly separated from our source. From that point on, we seek ways to reconnect and make new connections. But inevitably there are more disconnections. Our mother is not always available, there is no one to play with, etc. As we grow and move out into the world, life circumstances change. Losses, failures, and unfulfilled dreams leave us feeling isolated or even that something’s wrong with us. When a friend or confidant is nowhere to be found, the tendency may be to stuff our feelings. Our reaction might even be something we’ve witnessed in the adults who mentor us. Such a situation can turn into a lifelong conditioned response, and we lose the ability to trust others and share our true feelings.

In the May-June 2016 issue of Scientific American Mind, an article entitled “Friendships: The Remarkable Power of Our Closest Connections” revealed that 50% of American adults now report that they have zero close friends. This is down from two close friends reported in similar studies 10 years earlier. Yet, according to Brené Brown, professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, “We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong.” So, what is the disconnect here? We crave connection, yet we’re losing our ability to achieve it.

interconnected with natureConnectedness was an essential part of life for early humans. Not only were they connected to one another, but they also had an interdependent relationship with nature. Being social was just as essential as having food, water, and shelter. In today’s world we no longer have that deep connection with our tribe or environment. In our busy lives we have ready access to connection on demand that helps us surf the surface of other people’s lives but neglects the depth. We’re becoming emotionally lazy, as we’re drawn to connect via methods that are fast, easy, and always at hand—and that don’t require physical presence.

Genuine connection

According to Sherry Turkle, professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, “Genuine connection and companionship involves emotional risk—the risk of being authentically yourself, of being vulnerable, honest, and open.” Intimacy is what’s most essential. But human bonds take time and care to form and maintain. Intimacy involves trust with someone who can be a true confidant, who has our back, and who is not critical of our flaws.

connection

Mirror neurons

Human connectedness runs deep in our brains. Neuroscientists have discovered that we have the capacity to read other people’s minds. I’m not referring to psychic abilities. We are able to become attuned to another person‘s actions and nonverbal behaviors through a phenomenon called mirror neurons. When we tell a friend about a happy experience we’ve had, for example, neurons in our brain light up in all the networks associated with that memory. As we convey this experience through words and body language, the mirror neurons in our friend light up as well. In turn, our neurons pick up her signals that let us know we’ve been heard and accepted. This could help explain how and why we feel empathy for people when they are suffering.

Research has also revealed that whenever we finish doing something analytic or engage in nonsocial thinking, the network in the brain for social thinking lights up almost instantly, like a reflex. This spontaneous reaction prepares us for the next moment in our lives. We switch from taking in information to being ready to send it out. Our brain prepares us to be in the world socially.

Deeper connection

connectionIn this vastly changing world, I believe we are charting new territory in exploring what it means to be human. We can’t go back to living like our ancestors. But we also must not cast aside the basic elements of body, mind, and spirit that connect us with one another. Let’s explore some ways we can learn to enhance our connections.

Touch: What’s drastically missing in the connection-on-demand culture is physical touch. “To touch can be to give life,” said Michelangelo. When we touch someone, we strengthen bonds and give life to a relationship. A pat on the back, a caress of the arm, a hug—especially a big hug—are primary ways of expressing caring and compassion. Touch is fundamental to human communication and it provides incredible emotional and physical health benefits. A simple touch activates the vagus nerve, which can calm the body and stimulate the release of oxytocin, the “feel good” hormone. Even the sound of loving words can resonate in the body, touch the heart, and deepen connection.

Deep listening: Probably the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. Being fully present to another cannot be accomplished through a text or email. Physical presence is essential. It requires setting aside our own needs and agendas and not rehearsing what we’re going to say in response while the other is talking. When we become fully present, we open our hearts and minds to the deeper being beneath the words, and do so with curiosity and openness. This intimate way of listening is particularly powerful following a great loss or during a difficult change or transition. It can create space for compassion; when you lose yourself in another, feel what they feel. But it also exposes our vulnerability as we face the possibility of hearing disturbing truths we don’t want to hear. Ultimately, though, it can open the door for mutually experiencing a deeper sense of self-acceptance and self-appreciation.

Befriend yourself: It’s often recommended that if you want a friend, be a friend. What better place to start than with yourself. Believing in yourself helps you to enjoy your own company. This sense of “okayness” with yourself can transmit to others, conveying that you are a caring person whom others will want to be connected with. I can vouch for this approach; being alone doesn’t have to be lonely. It can actually provide an opportunity for your heartfelt life mission to be revealed and unfold. If you don’t have a partner, you can still feel connection to life. We all need to give ourselves a hug every now and then!

Connect to life!

Few have understood connectedness as well as Martin Luther King Jr., who said: “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tired into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”

Are you ready to take the challenge of finding ways to become more “connected in the deep”?

Whole-hearted living

Embracing Wholehearted Living

“In a full heart there is room for everything, and in an empty heart there is room for nothing.” —Antonio Porchia, Argentine poet

We commonly think of the heart as simply an organ that pumps blood through our bodies. Yet we use the word heart in myriad ways in our everyday language. We learn things by heart, have a heavy heart, are lighthearted, or have a heart-to-heart with someone. Our heart sinks or turns to stone, we suffer from a broken heart, or our heart goes out to someone. We follow our heart’s desire, give from the heart, or get to the heart of something. Clearly, our heart has many more functions in our lives than simply pumping.  These functions represent fragments of a greater wholeness of being we have a tendency to lose sight of. It’s at the heart of whole-hearted living.

Continue reading

texting

Relationships that Really Connect

Social has become quite the buzz word. But what does it mean in today’s digital world? Social media presents a myriad of opportunities to connect with friends, relatives, business associates, and the world at large. Photos and snippets of one’s everyday experience “go viral” every day. Texting is a new abbreviated language that requires neither correct grammar nor punctuation. But social has a vastly different context when it relates to our true happiness and well-being. Continue reading

heart

Embody The Five “A”s of Love

and embodying I was inspired to explore the five “A”s of love after attending a performance of Chicago’s Natya Dance Theatre’s new work, “The Seventh Love.” Based on the ancient Buddhist discourse known as “The Five Aspects of Love,” a narrative was brought to life through expressive East Indian dance and dialogue. The message: learning to embody these five aspects—attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowancehelps one attain a sixth, to embody perfect love. Continue reading

beauty in imperfection

Living the Wabi-Sabi Way–Huh?

We live in a culture that views perfection as the norm and youthfulness as beauty. We feel our best when life is going our way, and we don’t want this to change. We don’t want to experience conflict or suffering, or grow old–much less look like we are old. We want the whitest teeth, shiniest floors, and perfect family and relationships. We say we want to live in the moment, yet our heads are cluttered with a continual dialogue of stories related to the past and of longings for the future.

Living the wabi-sabi way offers an entirely different perspective, Continue reading

Doubt and Be Happy!

be happyLive, Love, Doubt and be Happy? Really?  How is it possible to be happy with a doubting mind? Isn’t happiness synonymous with contentment? Perhaps for the moment. But we live in a world of constant change, and it is inevitable for doubts to arise, which can rob you of happiness–if you let them. Yet the paradox of “healthy doubt” can coexist with happiness, enabling us to live a life of harmony in ultimate freedom. Let’s explore how.

Beliefs and the mind

Our culture values certainty over doubt–no doubt about it! Uncertainty is for cowards. Yet, not long ago, the view that the stock and housing markets would only continue to rise seemed a certainty. What if a healthy dose of doubt had been heeded by business and government leaders? Think of the different trajectory our economy would be on right now.

Doubt is a mental state where being uncertain can create fear and anxiety. Doubt is expressed in questions like “Am I marrying the right person?”  or “Do I really trust him?”

More intrinsic doubts deeply affect our self-confidence, leading us to question “Can I do this?” and “Am I good enough?”. Doubting thoughts can zoom out of control, ultimately affecting our health and well-being. The result is a life poisoned by doubt.

be happyUnderneath all this doubt is the thinking mind. The ego is our self-image, based on our conditioning. It wants us to believe that we are the center of the universe whose happiness is dependent on outside circumstances and objects. Since life doesn’t revolve around us and we can’t always have what we think we need, doubt arises. Our ego is happy only as long as it feels in control and acts to maintain its powerful rule over our lives.

Power of doubt

Research has shown that our brains react almost instantaneously to statements that contradict our values and beliefs, causing us to stop listening, become angry, and start arguing. Yet research has also revealed that those injected with doubt can become stronger advocates for their own beliefs. Healthy doubting can produce increased tolerance, self-confidence and deepen intimacy in relationships.

An enthusiastic advocate may appear certain in their convictions. Yet, their advocacy may unknowingly seek to convince themselves as well as others. A peacebuilder can encourage opposing parties to find a common middle ground by acknowledging their doubts. When opponents acknowledge where each side may be vulnerable, they are likely to deepen their understanding of themselves and each other.

Shakespeare said, “Modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise.” Keeping the door open to doubt, probing uncertainty, and questioning everything are the very foundation of science. Think of Thomas Edison, who conducted over 10,000 experiments in order to invent the light bulb. At the core of his motivation was a love for invention. His unceasing doubting served as fuel to keep him going.

Many things in life can never be fully understood. John Patrick Shanley, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning play, Doubt: a Parable, wrote in the introduction, “doubt requires more courage than conviction does…because conviction is a resting place,” while doubt “is infinite.” Certainty can be blinding, while doubt can reveal a deeper sense of our true nature.  

Unprocessed doubt can result in paralyzing fear. But using doubt to question yourself can strengthen your beliefs and free you from fear. Instead of hiding doubts about your beliefs, welcome discussions with others. 

Core of happiness

We are taught that happiness is dependent on circumstances and objects: a toy, a lover, a job, money. Yet joy and happiness are in fact our birthright. They are at the core of who we are. They’re always present, like the sun behind stormy clouds, though mostly hidden underneath our divided, thinking mind.

True joy, including desire, happiness and equanimity, is independent of objects, beliefs and circumstances. It doesn’t need the ego to find fulfillment. The fearful ego puts up red flags of doubt to help it remain in control. But doubt can’t rob you of happiness. Humor the ego, make it a friend, and take it along for the ride.

happinessRichard Miller, PhD, founder of the Integrative Restoration Institute and yogic scholar, has written “Our desire for happiness is taking us away…. Each moment reveals the great Mystery that joy and happiness are already the case.” When we search for something outside ourselves to bring lasting happiness, we always miss the mark. When we tune in to the heart and examine what we care about, our purpose and heart’s deepest desires, we create the opportunity to engage our deeper passions.

Welcome doubt

So, don’t see self-doubt as a negative. It can be the door that opens us up to receiving messages that can enhance our lives. Invite doubt in for tea or coffee and have a doubt-filled inner dialogue. We don’t need to know things for certain. We can make peace with our doubt.

We have a choice. If you challenge beliefs that rule your life, you’ll be able to dip into the wellspring of your True Self where love resides. Let doubt—and your ego—be your powerful friend, not your controlling enemy.

Find happiness. Be love. Be your true self.

Join my free iRest meditation groups held weekly on Sunday mornings and Thursday afternoons where you’ll find space to rest and explore this further.

Getting High on Life – Again

In my last article, How to Get High on Your Life, I wrote about the “Givers High.” Performing acts of kindness elevates our sense of well-being and contributes to a longer, healthier, happier life. Let’s explore how some people discover ways to integrate this high into their lives.

natural-antidepressants-2Natural anti-depressant
Acts of giving take you outside yourself, beyond the troubles, pains and challenges of your life, and can pull you out of the doldrums of isolation and loneliness. The brain is a social organ wired for empathy. When engaged in helping others, we experience their joy and suffering as though it were our own. Yet the giving also produces a positive emotional high pushing away our negative emotions. The old adage, “When you’re feeling down, go out and help someone,” really works.Continue reading

How to Get High on Your Life

Will the economy ever return to providing the good times we once took for granted?  Greed and mismanagement have shown their ugly face and, as a result, millions in our nation are suffering. Those who can still afford the high life are a privileged elite.

getting-highActually we can all live the high life – in a natural humanistic way – with the “Givers High.” The good news is that the means for experiencing this high, in terms of body-mind health, better relationships and spiritual well-being, is available to virtually everyone. Plenty of research studies support how performing acts of kindness contributes to a longer, healthier, happier life.

Getting the “givers high” doesn’t require money, drugs, material possessions, or expensive entertainment. In fact, even if you’ve had to downsize, minimize and simplify, you can still enjoy a richly rewarding and meaningful life. This elevated state can be easily realized by showing concern for others, being a good empathetic friend, reaching out to help a neighbor, mentoring, or volunteering in our community.

Change of heart
|I sense that our society may very well be at a tipping point for positive change. Perhaps this is a time for cleansing and moving from a society enveloped in secrecy, power and greed, to one that recognizes the basic human values of truth, transparency, compassion and interdependence. We are, after all, social beings here on Earth to help one another.

This change is evident in a new breed of humanitarian warriors. A remarkable journey is portrayed in Eric Greiten’s book, “The Heart and the Fist: the Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL.

Before becoming a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, Greiten volunteered in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Bolivia serving war-affected children. Integrating his studies and experience with deployments as a Navy SEAL fighting terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, he learned that without courage, compassion falters, and without compassion, courage has no direction. Returning home, he started Mission Continues, an organization to help empower wounded and disabled veterans start new lives as citizen leaders here at home.

Our wired nature
Lots of research shows we are hard-wired to commit acts of kindness and generosity We are all natural born givers—it’s a primal urge. As early as a baby’s first birthday, she demonstrates the need and ability to empathize, connect, care and share. Her soothing and caring expressions melt our hearts, reigniting the joyful, caring child within us. Hanging out with babies can bring out the best in us.

The Dalai Lama says that “our primary purpose is to help others.” He believes that a major paradigm shift of this millennium is from the belief that “parents raise children” to one in which “children raise parents.” There does seem to be a trend among younger people toward getting high by living more consciously, as vegans, protectors of the environment, doing good deeds and finding new ways to connect. Whatever negatives may exist with social networking, the younger generation is living with greater transparency and interconnectedness than previous generations.

This natural givers instinct undeniably blossoms most clearly in the roles of parent, friend, mentor, worker, teammate, and creator.  Similar to the “runners high,” Greitin sees that, in the process of giving, the brain releases natural opiates, endorphins and calming hormones such as oxytocin.

In our next article we explore more benefits to “getting high on giving,” and inspiration for giving of your best self.