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.

 

BEING with Stress

Stressed womanThese days the media is full of news about the impact of stress on our health and well-being. Modern society pushes us to be astronomical, Type A achievers while juggling work, home, family, and other activities. Then there are those who struggle to make ends meet. Still others are living without direction, passion or purpose in life. And the media and our myriad technologies themselves add stress to our lives.

We experience stress when we response to events that threaten or upset our balance in some way. How we choose to experience stress determines its impact in our bodies and lives.

Rather than trying to eliminate stress or reduce it by self-medicating, we can coexist with stress by BEING engaged with all the healing processes that enable us to live moment to moment with more peace, harmony and equilibrium.

“Tension is who you think you are, relaxation is who you are.”
~ Chinese Proverb

Brain reactions to threat

The brain’s defense mechanism is the limbic system. It has served humanity from the earliest of times when one had to navigate around saber-toothed tigers and the like. It provides an alarm signal to other parts of the brain to prepare the body’s fight or flight reflex. Whatever the danger perceived—a hot stove, an erratic driver, an approaching deadline, an angry boss—an alert signal is transmitted. Physiological functions, such as heart and breath rate, blood pressure, circulation, release of stress hormones, heighten.

Another part of the brain, the medial prefrontal cortex (MPC) or conscious rational brain, helps you think through actions. While the MPC regulates the limbic system, when you are experiencing extreme stress or threat, the limbic system “hijacks” the MPC so your primary attention is on survival and getting through the immediate situation. Consequently, the potential exists to overreact or make poor choices when the situation may not actually be a threat.

stressEmotions and stress

Under extreme stress conditions, the primary emotions that surface are anger and fear, especially when we are consistently experiencing various life pressures. This constant pattern strengthens neural pathways that govern the body’s rigid fight or flight preparedness. Over time, a kind of rigid inner and outer armor forms that plays havoc with the body’s organs, systems and tissues, resulting in tight muscles, disrupted digestive system, etc.

War veterans often find it difficult to shut off this reaction which is heightened when memories and feelings are triggered. In the workshops I present to the unemployed on managing stress, the common response to their job loss are feelings of guilt, shame, regret and humiliation. Many ask, “Why me?” Feelings of abandonment, self-rejection and unworthiness surface in clients who have lost relationships.

Our minds are filled with thoughts, beliefs and memories from our past that continue to surface and can be triggered by a word, image, sound, smell or taste. These triggers spontaneously evoke feelings and emotions from past experiences that are often difficult to understand.

No matter what brain pathways or patterns have been created as a result of how you’ve handled stress in the past, the brain has a resilient a plasticity that allows it to re-pattern neural pathways and create new ones. You can learn how to BE with stress, as opposed to allowing stress to ruin your life.

 

rocks and greenBEINGness

Underlying all of life is a natural state of BEINGness. This ground of Pure Being is where we connect with our True Self and our Source. Here we find peace, contentment, and an equilibrium that is our birthright. Here, there is no judgment, of self or others. Forgiveness and gratitude are the guiding forces opening us to the realization of compassionate love. Here you connect with your purpose, your soul’s calling and what is authentically true for you.

The understanding here is one of perfect health, wholeness and deep peace. When you are aligned with this state of BEINGness, you are no longer swayed by past thoughts, beliefs, emotions or images that trigger unhealthy stress in the body and psyche. The more you access this state of being, the more it becomes a part of your daily life enabling you to meet life situations and circumstances with the perfect response.

How does one go about bringing BEINGness into one’s daily life? By adopting practices that incorporate deep relaxation, breathing, one-pointed concentration, emotional and cognitive healing. We can learn to witness, release attachments, witnessing and practice meditative inquiry. Let’s explore each of these techniques.

Deep relaxation

iRest practiceThe body is filled with information that can transmit as messages creating sensations of pain, stiffness, fatigue. While we are caretakers of this wonderful body temple, we tend to ignore these messages until the symptoms become acute. Within the brain is a holographic-like map of the body. When we systematically bring awareness to each part of the body through progressive relaxation, research has revealed that this not only brings healing to physical abnormalities, but also decreases depression, panic attacks, phobias, and more. It also helps to restructure neural pathways in the brain that support our overall well-being.

Breathing

Stressful situations tend to produce shallow rapid breathing controlled by the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response), while deep breathing stimulates the opposing parasympathetic reaction that calms us down. Practicing various mindfulness breathing techniques brings your awareness to subtler levels of energy flowing through the body. Then, when stress shows up, your body automatically responds with deep breathing and calmness, accessing the rational brain to help you with the perfect energetic response.

Begin by taking a few minutes to experience BEING with my  video NOW!Tranquil scene

Invest Your Soul Currency

Ernest Chu

Ernest Chu

When I heard the word “Taoism” mentioned on the evening news one night, my ears pulled me in front of the TV. A former Wall Street investment banker, entrepreneur–and ordained minister–was talking about achieving abundance and fulfillment using spiritual principles. Was this yet another sign that the world is changing, that there might even be hope for Wall Street?

Destiny prevailed a few months later with my introduction to Ernest D. Chu’s book, Soul Currency: Investing Your Inner Wealth for Fulfillment & Abundance. The author was the same person from the news clip.

As a life coach and student of spiritual teachings, I found this book a compelling and profound guide for how to create purpose and fulfillment for people in all walks of life. Chu cleverly weaves familiar jargon from the world of finance with spiritual concepts. Inspired by Chu’s book, I decided to teach a course based on these concepts and am sharing the essence of what I will cover there.

sunset-over-roadLove: the soul’s spiritual currency
Chu uses the word currency in two ways: 1) As a medium for exchanging value of spiritual energy that is shared, donated, or invested and 2) Flowing like a stream, air, or electric current. What’s intriguing is that the current can flow effortlessly and abundantly toward you, or it can require great personal effort and arrive as a trickle. Yet the capacity of this same infinite Divine force is available to everyone–for positive, intangible outcomes as well as material things.

The soul’s true currency is love, the creative force that connects all of life. It is accessed when you respond and act authentically. It requires a shift of consciousness from the duality world of haves and have-nots, good and evil, into one that acknowledges that everything comes from one Source. This Source always responds to authenticity and the openness to receive, flooding you with the creative flow of inspiration, imagination, and insight.

True abundance can be yours when you acknowledge your spiritual assets; move beyond lack, limitation or greed and learn how to properly invest your soul currency. Such flood of inspiration have graced me many times throughout my life. When it arrives, I sometimes feel like I’ve been taken over or possessed by a powerful force. These creative inspirations may not always have made me fortunes, but have resulted in an abundance of growth and fulfillment.

scale of life assetsTaking stock of assets
Every investment strategy begins with an examination of your unique assets, inner resources and investible capital. Chu asks you to examine them within the context of the following categories: 1) intuition and guidance, 2) higher personality traits, 3) creativity, and 4) cultivated skills and knowledge.

You can place a dollar value on such assets as wisdom, optimism, and communication skills as if you were going to sell them on eBay. When you add up the dollar value of your inner resources and add them to your financial balance sheet, the overall assets you have to invest in life are viewed from a whole new perspective. This adds greatly to your self-worth!

What is your soul calling you to do with your life? It’s a yearning within that comes from the heart. Those callings can be accessed through devotions such as prayer, meditation, or being in nature. When you come to a place of focus, listen deeply to your heart for what truly fulfills you. There you will find love, the creative force behind all life.

Let yourself be silently drawn by what you really love.”
~Rumi

Every creative thought, when focused, sends a powerful intentional current that flows into the Universe. The Universe is always ready to respond, especially when that intention is connected to your true inner resources and is emotionally charged with compassion, and/or enthusiasm.

Chu’s formula: Focus + Intention + Spiritual Assets multiplied by Love = Spiritual Currency.

Vna Gogh- Old Man in Sorrow

Vna Gogh- Old Man in Sorrow

Convert counterfeit currency
Counterfeit currency is a fraudulent story you’ve told yourself; a story rooted in fear, isolation, limitation and pain. When you invest in thoughts and feelings such as unworthiness or feeling the world is against you, you accumulate spiritual debts and add liabilities to your balance sheet. Yet the jury, or inner critic, that convicted you of these untruths was simply pointing out places where you’ve felt wounded.

The conversion process consists of changing your story from lies to love, from untruths and judgments to one of spiritual assets. Find a friend or coach who champions you, and align yourself with real people who do the same. Create affirmative statements with beliefs that fit your purpose and carry words of empowerment, like abundance and love! Use Chu’s formula for attracting people, situations, and opportunities that match the call of your soul. And practice, practice, practice.

What brain science reveals
Researchers are finding that thoughts and feelings change the structure and functioning of the brain and consciousness through processes called “neural resonance” (NR) and “neural dissonance” (ND). Read Andrew Newburg, M.D., and Mark Waldman’s book, How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist.

Each of our thoughts are either attracting (NR) or repelling (ND). With negative thoughts and feelings, the brain sets up a repelling field over time. The surprising thing is that the brain prefers negative thoughts because it is pre-programmed to handle fight-or-flight situations, perceiving them as threats. Chu’s formula on focus and intention produces powerful results in such situations.

neurocircuits 2We are attracted to people and situations who hold underlying values similar to our own.  According to Newburg and Waldman, as you embody positive thoughts and feelings and begin to visualize what you want, you build neurocircuits that help you attract more of the same.

New strategy, new story!
Make 2011 the year you take account of all your spiritual assets. Look at your liabilities. Examine each one for its truths. Convert these into assets with the filter of forgiveness and the currency of love. Write a new story for yourself based on an investment strategy composed of love of self, self-forgiveness, an openness to give and receive, and connection with others. The outcome: an abundance of the Universe’s soul currency!

Soul Currency course at Harper College in Palatine:
Starts Feb. 14

Let’s audit our Soul Currency together and invest it well!

Put Your Soul’s Calling into Action

(Part 3 of a series. See also: Follow Your Soul’s Calling and
Soul Reflections on Long Winter Nights

In this articles series we’ve explored how to uncover your soul’s calling by tapping you’re your sky-1spiritual GPS system. This soul-searching process is not a one time shot, but an ongoing process. Each time you enter into this process you can go deeper and achieve more clarity.

You don’t have to wait for the low energy season of winter to do this, however. Each month at the time of the new moon (opposite the full moon) the lowered energy is conducive to doing spiritual introspection.  But just like the season of winter turns into the action oriented growing seasons of spring and summer, you have the opportunity to ride the tide of nature and put your soul-searching into action so you can fulfill your soul’s calling.

When you’ve done your inner work you are ready to take the next step in deciding how you want your life to look and what you need to do to make that happen in 2010. Engage your GPS to design an overarching theme that speaks to your soul’s calling for what you want to accomplish in the coming year.

Anchor your calling
Create a phrase, like an affirmation or mantra, to describe the essence. My phrase is, “I find passion and meaning in life – and celebrate the “real me”!” This mantra describes how I live and the meaningful work I do in coaching, teaching, writing, and interviewing and recording people’s stories. Yours might be, “I bring passion and creativity to my work and my family.” “I care for my spirit with healthy eating and yoga practice.” “My work helps make the world a better place.” “Everyday I find meaning and love in my life.”

You may want to strategically place an object, photograph, or the phrase itself as a reminder to keep you focused on your calling. Start and end your day with this phrase and think of it periodically during the day, especially when handling challenges, to help you stay focused on your dreams and goals.

Create an action plan

1.    Start with the end in mind. Write down what you really want. Be specific – desired weight, income, job description, debt-reduction plan, vacation, etc.

2.   Put in time-frames for achieving your goals or dreams.

3.   Use visual and auditory cures to keep you focused: anchors, motivational or spiritual CD’s. Sharing with supportive friends.

Accountability factor
Most people never achieve their goals and dreams. The real challenge is in maintaining accountability. Who or what will help you stay true to your goals so you can welcome opportunities and live true to your inner guidance? Most of us need others to provide support and cheer us on. A spouse, partner, sibling, friend, coach or counselor can help you stay on course.

When you work with your spiritual GPS system to connect with your heart’s desire for your soul’s calling, you create an inner accountability. You think it, feel it, breathe it and live it.When you follow your soul’s calling, you know that you and your life matters and that you make a difference every day.

Let 2010 be the time you choose to start anew. You have a clean slate to make a fresh start. You are the inventor of your life. What do you aspire to this year? May it be true to the real you!

Questions to ponder

*   Do you know your calling?

*   Hare you anchored it?

*   Do you have a plan?

*   Have you established a support/accountablity system?

If not, let’s talk. Your future begins NOW.

(Part 3 of a series. See also: Follow Your Soul’s Calling and
Soul Reflections on Long Winter Nights

Follow Your Soul’s Calling

Part 1 of a series. See also: Soul Reflections for Long Winter Nights
and Put your Soul’s Calling into Action

It’s not just a new year but a new decade as well. Life is waiting with new opportunities for you. Soul heartYou have a choice to live more aligned with the real you and what your soul is calling you to do, or stay on the same course as before. This is an important checkpoint to ask: What’s happened for you over the last decade? What have you accomplished and what have you missed?

It’s also a time to ask what do you really WANT for your life? What’s the REAL story? What’s your DREAM? What are you doing with your life? These are questions I want you to consider as you read this series of articles.

In the vast immensity of the universe, our existence is like a mere spark – hardly noticeable. Yet there is a Divine spark that animates us all. In the words of Jane Goodall, You make a difference every day. You matter and life is important.It’s never too late to make a life course correction or even move in a whole new direction and make a difference in your small part of the world.

What is your Soul’s calling?
Metaphorically speaking, your soul holds your deepest truths. It’s your authentic self that often lies beneath layers of excess baggage that weighs you down and holds you back from realizing an abundant life – a life that is true to your dreams. It’s the part of you that cries out to maximize your gifts and talents. It’s the expression of your deepest purpose and your heart’s desire. It’s also home to your spiritual GPS.

Tap your spiritual GPS
You have an inner guidance system, your spiritual GPS,  that holds the truth about who you really are at your core. This system connects to your Higher Power and provides instructions and guidelines for making better choices that will lead you down rewarding pathways. However, it can’t really speak to you if your dark inner closets are cluttered with unfulfilled dreams, unmet goals, long-lasting hurts and regrets. Brush off the cobwebs of those dreams and goals and examine them in the light for future potential.

Hurts and regrets can require an ongoing process of forgiveness work – for yourself and others. The more you do this work, the easier you are able to adapt to future situations. Adaptation is an important trait for navigating our modern, changing world. I was in a very loving relationship for several years, one that seemed destined for life. Then suddenly it was over. This experience challenged me to walk my talk. After all, if I teach others to live every precious moment, then I must do the same. Within a remarkably short time, I was able to restore myself to wholeness — with cherished memories and no regrets. Doing the inner work frees you to live a fuller and more meaningful life.

Questions to Ponder

*    Do you want to discover your soul’s calling in 2010?
*    Have you cleared the clutter of unfufilled dreams, unmet goals and long-lasting hurts?
*    Are you ready to use your spiritual GPS to gain guidance in discovering your heart’s desire?

Read next in series: Soul Reflections on a Long Winter’s Night