Category: Living Outside the Lines (Page 1 of 4)

Reflection Prompt

Here’s a reflection prompt, culled from evolutionary astrology forecasts. The prompt is meant to engage the iterative processes through which we create our mindscapes. These reflection prompts stimulate self study (svadhyaya).

We meet a new moon in Virgo on September 9.

The vibe of Virgo, the archetype of the goddess, is here to play the heartstrings of memory, remind us that we are whole as we are. We are perfect as we are. We are pure. Our Virgoan qualities are here to process, clean up, all parts of us that are fragmented. Our broken-ness. Our pieces.

A friendly reminder: you are everything, even when you feel not good enough.

Remember, too, that all the planets now leaving their retrograde placements from the summer might leave pieces of you in the wave of their movement. Perhaps it feels like you have been left in pieces after the summer. Gather them.

Know that it’s prime time to sit with all of them.

Use the lack of external light during this dark moon and feel for spaces outside and inside. Activate your own line. Shine. Picture yourself in the inside and outside spaces. Shine. Your brilliance will melt away impurities. Shine. It’s OK if it the your light suddenly illuminates how messy everything is. Shine.

In this window of time, you have the power and Virgo fierceness. The goddess in you can clean, clear, and create–

A clear slate.

So you are back to wholeness.

And this whole-ing process might give you insight into your next project–getting the best version of yourself out there today.

REFLECTION PROMPT: What will you do now? 

September 9, 2018

Direct experience at PAIONs

I value my role as a communications professional because I have the ability to be a gatekeeper around the words, information, ideas, and stories that enter the world. I think it’s awesome to experience a narrative space as it opens up! Right now, I am helping to facilitate the narrative space around psi (psychic) experiences.  That’s one of the reasons I write for the Parapsychological Association (PA). I was especially excited for the PA’s conference at The Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONs; and together, PAIONs) in Petaluma, California, which happened this summer in August.

The PA exists as a professional organization to further the study of psi experiences. IONs exists as a place where science and the direct experience of the interconnectedness occurs. It was a smart match—PAIONs was itself an opportunity, an experiment to look at science and spirituality together. This conference was my journey into a place aka language-scape where science and spiritual ideas meet. I imagined my idol Freya Stark, a woman travel writer who in the early 1900s went to Middle East and brought back stories of being the first Westerner in some of the places; the conference was my place to enter the intellectual valley.

The IONs campus exists as a solitary space high up on the hills. A gated, windy road upheld a boundary to the rest of the world. I used this to my advantage; a perceived isolation allowed me to go deep into the experience and focus on language-ing the experience of psi phenomena. Listen to what people were saying. How they were saying things. What was happening as I listened. Words creating reactions in me.

And there’s a lot of messy-ness there because of the relativity through which the world can be perceived, the language that conveys the perception, the ways that things can be languaged and not be languaged. Psi experiences don’t follow the dominant idea of timelines being linear, so I am super aware of grounding abstract experiences in words and time. I believe that finding ways to do this—even if the narrative doesn’t always follow an arc, even if sometimes the poetics of the experience precede it, even if no one reads what I write—is crucial. If I can figure it out in me, then I can help other people figure it out. It’s all part of the word experiment and opening up this narrative space.

The main presentation hall plus the accommodations were grouped at the bottom of a steep hill at the IONs campus. There were a few small chalets and barrack-style dorms, whereby most of the conference attendees stayed in the dorms. I found an equanimity through this arrangement, knowing that researchers, academics, scientists, healers, and the curious who had arrived to discuss psi phenomena were all sharing close quarters. It felt like an organic language incubator. It felt like a nouveau summer camp for post-modern geeks and thinkers who tinkered with spiritual-mechanical stuff and the ones who did psychology and philosophy. It was direct experience with the folks shaping the sources of narrative and information exchange.

One afternoon, as I was leaving my room, I bumped into Everton de Oliveira Maraldi, a Brazilian psychologist as well as the conference chair and a person whose work explores cultural interpretations of extraordinary phenomena. He bridges  social sciences, anthropology, psychology, and parapsychology. We shared a brief conversation on cultural relativity, and something that he mentioned echoes for me: psychology has an assumption that phenomena are experienced in a universal way. This might not be true.

The conversation was the point at which the forging of a new thing out of two separate things, science (those words in their container) and spirituality (those words their container) happened in me. A “Eureka!” moment.

Here is how the exchange opened up in me: I thought—felt like I went back to two days before (that moment), when I had arrived to the conference, and my first impression of the grounds was that, “California was on fire”—and then I saw smoke from the hills of IONs’ campus. The grass on campus was yellow and dry, and the strong winds provided a constant buffing of wind against my ears. The dryness mirrored a perceived fire and dryness in me, an exciting beginning time: something being birthed in the heat and being ushered into existence.

I felt lightness.

And so standing there hanging on the conversation, I picked up on the land again during the moment of our conversation, the diligent, objective observer—The wind hovering at the edge of my ear: a fleeting moment of being when the boundaries between me and the Earth dissolved; between my mind (shaped by culture) and the collective mind (that was being shaped by the new narrative space opening up); between my role as a gatekeeper and the larger community who would benefit from more conversations like this.

And then there was a pause in the conversation.

And the transcendent moment left.

We finished the short walk to the dining hall, and I was left to consider what I wanted to write about his words and my experience and the way that this fleeting moment moved me—I felt the internal response happening to the external setting. Experiential conversation? That the words stimulated a moment of my conscious attention? That the setting supported this dialogue? Holistic thinking systems emphasize the awareness of context and qualities. This was a direct experience of the saying “As above, so below” except “As outside, so inside.” But there was so much to explore, too, as I wondered what these experiences are like for other people.

Do many people experience that? And then I remembered my job as a communications consultant and why it’s important to open up this narrative space and facilitate the sharing of the multidimensional human experience.

I imagine, too, Freya riding a camel through the desert. I wonder if she might have felt something similar, a sense of excitement, responsibility, curiosity, as I consider how to shape and convey this direct experience, or, the lack of boundary between the land, the ideas, and me.

I only have more questions: How will this narrative space continue to open up and how will this (my) relative experience inform a universal, extraordinary human opportunity—the ability to transcend with/through/in words?

Patience with meditation practice pays off

I started a meditation practice during my teens. It wasn’t (initially) a way to connect with my mind. It was a novel opportunity. Then I learned how powerful meditation can be.

I was seventeen, going to school in Germany, and the opportunity to take a field trip to a monastery came up. The student trip was billed as a meditation retreat. I thought, “Wow! A real LIVE monastery with monks and all!” The surface level excitement drove me to take the field trip to a place where a bunch of doods in robes chanted and had beautiful, ornate, jewel-covered statuary. The monks followed a strict routine of mass, contemplation, and service-work. “Who does that?” I remember thinking. “Isn’t that a boring life?” I expected to show up, chill out, and get some good pictures, that was it.

Little did I know just how much the trip would change my life.

I went, and I got sick. I mean, puking my guts out sick. Any time I closed my eyes, drew attention to my mind, I had a cacaphony of images rush in. Dizzying influx of mental information. My first day of contemplative meditation led to fits of vomiting throughout the night, and a general malaise for the rest of the trip. It felt like my insides were coming out. It seemed like if I tried to get off the dizzying thought train, my physical body went off the rails. I didn’t understand. The other students weren’t having the same reaction. Was it the food? No one else got sick. Was it the intention? I showed up with a superficial appreciation for the powerful technique. What about what everyone else was doing? My classmates were reaching a zen-like state of chill, and I was getting sick.

While I was self-conscious about my physical experience with meditation, something really moved my spirit. I felt a call. When I left the monastery, I vowed to keep at the meditation practice (even if my body went puke wild).  I was so intrigued at the experience I had with my mind that I resolved to keep at it. I wanted to reach that zen-like state that I saw others achieve, that the monks created in their routine of mass, contemplation, and service-work.

That was twenty years ago.

I’ve since started studying Ayurveda, the divine teachings from Vedic culture, aka the way to looks at individuals as individuals. We are different combinations of humors, energies, materials. Ayurveda also teaches the mind is a sensory organ, a part of the body-physical experience that acts as a sort of extension of the central nervous system. I’ve learned that spiritual practices have effects based on the individual person, not the expectation of what would happen. Information goes in. Brain gets input. Body acts.  It’s just like your ears, eyes, skin, mouth and nose—think of all the things those organs do! Now cc: your mind.

The lingering memory of the experience of the experience at the monastery, plus the information from Ayurveda (which freed me from the comparison and empowered me with the consideration that I reacted in a different way to the practice, not bad and not good), started to shift my thinking to recognize that my mind was capable of creating physical reactions. It’s an experiment. How do you react to practices?  I learned that the mind expels toxins just as real and tangible as toxic thoughts. (Yeah, I’m no stranger to negative thinking. I can think of a lot that needed to purge.)

I kept at the meditation practice, although it admittedly wavered in strength and duration over the years. My practice depended on my motivation, my ability to sit still, and my ability to show up despite so many perceived reasons not to (show up). I thought of the monks often, those men who dedicated their lives to showing up, contemplation, and service work.

There was one day not too long ago (and keep in mind that it’s been nearly twenty years of meditation PRACTICE) that I was sitting at my desk in my home office and an odd feeling descending in my mind. Not in my brain, not in my body, not in my physical space, not in my “being,” but in my mind. It was a feeling in the filter, as if I had put on rose-colored glasses. Things felt different, like I was receiving them (in my mind) in a way that was new and novel. That’s actually what made me realize the shift—I looked up from my desk, noticed Post-its stuck on the file cabinet immediately next to me, the evening light coming in the window, the disarray of papers and craft supplies. I looked at them and I felt calm in the way that I received the image of them. The sight of that stuff usually triggered mental to-do lists, and inner critique about having stuff everywhere, and resignation that it was the end of the day and not the beginning.

I finally had a moment of zen. I experienced that chill state.

Just as soon as it came, it left. It was at that moment I felt validated, that my long-term meditation practice really got me out of my mind enough to create real change in it. Remove some baseline negative patterning. Let me feel soft in my mind.

I’ve learned that clearing your mind needs to happen before you actually feel your mind. I’m big on experiencing the mind, encouraging you to become really aware of it, especially during self care. (It’s part of cultivating The Witness, but that’s another post.)

When I started my meditation practice, I wasn’t even aware of how much there was to clear. And there’s still more! But consistent meditation practice has helped me feel the softness in my mind, and that softness feels like zen (right now). Cheers to patience and persistence!

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