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Burning brightly

Is it necessary to make a commitment to study and practice within one tradition? When I first started meditating, I was introduced by Burmese meditation master S.N. Goenka to the old adage, “If you want to find water, don’t dig many holes. Dig deep in one place.”

And recently in a discussion with philosopher Ken Wilber, when asked this question in the context of a discussion about the future of spirituality, Ken responded by quoting a Japanese saying, “Try to chase two rabbits at the same time, catch none.”

But is this universally true? In our contemporary context, is it necessary to commit to studying and practicing within a singular spiritual tradition if one wants to radically grow and transform? Although I see the value in this perspective and the depth of realization it can bring, I am not convinced.

As an interviewer, I have now met some highly accomplished and wise teachers whose life experience tells a different story. I have spoken with spiritual teachers who have not followed any formal path at all and whose hearts seem wildly open and whose lives seem truly devoted to serving other people. I’ve also interviewed teachers who have simultaneously studied in several different lineages and who actually recommend such an approach as an opportunity for checks and balances (so to speak) as one matures on the path.

Having now met people who come from such a wide range of different spiritual backgrounds and paths of practice, my current view is that it is not the path that matters as much as it is the heart fire of the individual. What I mean by heart fire is the commitment and intensity of love and devotion that lives at the center of our being. When our hearts are lit up to the max—lit up with a dedication to opening fully and offering our life energy for the well-being of other people—there is a torch within us that begins to blaze with warmth and generosity. The real question becomes not are we on the right path but are we fully sincere in offering ourselves to the world? Are we whole-hearted (a word I learned from meditation teacher Reggie Ray) in letting go of personal territory? Are we whole-hearted in our desire to burn brightly and serve, regardless of the outer form our lives might take?

What I like about turning the question around like this is that now our finger is not pointing outward at some consideration of path or tradition or what other people say or have done or are doing. Now our finger is pointing directly to the center of our own chest. We can ask ourselves questions like: Am I hiding or holding back for some reason? What am I holding back and why? What would it mean to risk more so that the fire of life could shine more brightly through me? How could I live in such a way, right now, so that my heart is 100 percent available to love and serve?

My experience is that when we start investigating our own whole-heartedness in this kind of way, we don’t have the same need to judge and evaluate other people and their paths. There are a multitude of options, valid and viable. What becomes important is the purity and strength of the fire that is blazing within us.

candle

The Compassionate Brain … free online video seri...

Dear friends, we want to make sure you are aware of a truly wonderful free, online video series that we’ve put together here at Sounds True, in cooperation with our dear friend Dr. Rick Hanson, who serves as the host for the series. In each episode, Dr. Hanson is joined by a world-class scholar/teacher, including Richie Davidson, Dan Siegel, Tara Brach, Dacher Keltner, Kelly McGonigal, Kristin Neff, and Jean Houston, where they discuss different ways to use the power of neuroplasticity—how the mind can change the brain to transform the mind—to open the heart, build courage, find compassion, forgive oneself and others, and heal the world.

Watch or download the entire series here.

Here, Dr. Rick Hanson introduces the series and what you can expect. Over 30,000 people from around the world have registered for this groundbreaking series; we look forward to sharing these profound discoveries with you.

 

 

3 Ways to Welcome the Sacred Feminine This Holiday Sea...

3 Ways to Welcome the Sacred Feminine This Holiday Season (2)

If you are anything like me (and almost everyone I encounter these days), you are growing bored with the patriarchy and eager to reclaim feminine wisdom across the spectrum of human community: politics, academia, pop culture, and religion and spirituality. It’s not a matter of personal preference. The well-being of our Mother the Earth is inextricably entwined with our choice to either lift up and center the feminine or continue to bury Her. Here are a few ways for you to welcome the sacred feminine this season. 

Reclaim Mother Mary

With so much of the attention of the Western world focused on the legendary birth of a boy baby, we sometimes forget he had a badass mom. Mother Mary was anything but meek and mild. She was a powerful prophet, an unconditionally loving force, a broken-open heart on fire. She offered her divine YES (Hineyni, in Hebrew) and spoke truth to power with love. How can you soften and step up to the resounding call to be the instrument of peace you were born to be? Look to Mary as a guide.

Read Women’s Poetry

There are a host of truth-tellers in the form of contemporary women poets & they are brimming with mystical treasures. Back away from the news for a moment and pick up a poem. Read it three times. The first time, you are knocking on the door of the poem. The second time, the door opens. And the third time, you are invited all the way in. Here are some recommendations: Marie Howe; Ellen Bass; Lyla June; Hashem Beck; Lynn Unger; Naomi Shihab Nye; Jane Hirshfield; Linda Pastan; Mohja Kafh.

Cultivate a Sabbath Practice

The tyranny of tasks that bosses us around most of the year can intensify around the holidays. Even as the mystical traditions invite us to turn inward & rest in stillness during this season, the larger culture demands that we engage in an endless array of duties and expenditures. In the Jewish tradition, a weekly observance of Shabbat, infused with the Feminine Presence (the Shekinah), is not only a requirement of the faith, but the sweetest blessing. Find your way to keep the Sabbath holy.

Mirabai Starr writes creative non-fiction and contemporary translations of sacred literature. She taught Philosophy and World Religions at the University of New Mexico-Taos for 20 years and now teaches and speaks internationally on contemplative practice and inter-spiritual dialog. A certified bereavement counselor, Mirabai helps mourners harness the transformational power of loss. She has received critical acclaim for her revolutionary new translations of the mystics, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila and Julian of Norwich. She is the award-winning author of GOD OF LOVE: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and CARAVAN OF NO DESPAIR: A Memoir of Loss and Transformation, and Mother of God Similar to Fire, a collaboration with iconographer, William Hart McNichols.  Her latest book is Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics. She lives with her extended family in the mountains of northern New Mexico.

The community here at Sounds True wishes you a lovely holiday season! We are happy to collaborate with some of our Sounds True authors to offer you wisdom and practices as we move into this time together; please enjoy this blog series for your holiday season. 

To help encourage you and your loved ones to explore new possibilities this holiday season, we’re offering 40% off nearly all of our programs, books, and courses sitewide. May you find the wisdom to light your way. Use promo code HOLIDAY10 and receive an additional 10% off your order.

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3 Ways to Practice You This Holiday Season

3 Ways to Practice You This Holiday Season

Practicing being true to ourselves is a delicate dance of knowing ourselves, then respecting and serving that truth. This requires cultivation of both internal stability and external ease. How can we do this when we are surrounded by cultural chaos as well as our own family dramas? Here are three ways to Practice You this holiday season.

Write It Down

Set a timer for five to ten minutes; write who you are and where you’re going. Note every label and defining element of who you perceive yourself to be, and then note your vision for yourself next year, in five years and in ten years. Coming to know yourself will help you be steady when confronted, soft when you’d normally get agitated, and more kind at just the right times.

Sit With It

Nothing changes in an instant, and we can continuously and simply ask to be shown what the next step might be. If prayer is when we speak to our idea of a higher power, meditation is a moment to listen for healing, becomes a respite, a break in the day, a time to heal ourselves. Sit with it. Sit with what you learn when you listen a few minutes more.

Move More Slowly

One of the simplest ways I practice being myself is to simply slow down. I’ve learned this from every moment of deep loss, grief, or heartache–if i move more slowly, I won’t break. I can see what’s useful, what’s nourishing, what’s holy about this moment. Slowing down for myself helps me refine what I’m practicing and choosing in my life.

 

Elena Brower is a Mama, author of Practice You, yoga instructor, designer, and artist based in New York City. Devoted to cultivating meditation as our most healing habit, she’s created potent online coursework and produced On Meditation, a film featuring personal portraits of renowned meditators. For more, visit elenabrower.com.

elena brower

Give Yourself a 10-Day Tech Detox

 

This tech detox is a 10-day sneak peek of the full 30-Day detox plan offered in The Power of Off. Here’s how to use your phone as an opportunity to wake up instead of a source of constant distraction. Give yourself the gift of being truly present during the hectic holiday season.

DAY 1

Pay attention to and internally note every time you feel the impulse or hear the thought to check one of your devices or computer. When you notice this, ask yourself, “Am I checking out of habit?” and “Is this checking necessary right now?” (For example, is it necessary for work?) If the answer is “Habit” or “Not Necessary,” then repeat to yourself, “Stop” and do just that. Simultaneously, designate three times in the day when you are allowed to check your device, whether necessary or not.

DAY 2

Refrain from any tech use when socializing or otherwise interacting with people (except at work, if needed). This includes everyone—shopkeepers, waiters, and service people, as well as your family and friends.

DAY 3

Refrain from holding your device in your hand or keeping it in your pocket when it’s not in use. Store it out of sight elsewhere.

DAY 4

Refrain from using any of your devices during the first hour after you wake up in the morning. If your smartphone is also your alarm clock, treat it as such. Turn it completely off as soon as it’s sounded your morning wake-up.

DAY 5

Refrain from using tech devices during the last hour before you go to bed.

DAY 6

Turn off all alerts and notifications on your device. If your cell phone is your alarm clock, leave only the alarm notification intact.

DAY 7

Refrain from using your devices on public transportation or in taxis.

DAY 8

Write down four activities or experiences that nourish your spirit. Keep these simple and accessible—not the climbing-to-the-summit-of-Mount-Everest sort. Give yourself one of these experiences today, and get one on the calendar for each week to come. This practice should continue weekly after your detox as well.

DAY 9

Refrain from using your devices while waiting in line—any kind of line.

DAY 10

Refrain from using technology in the car, except when you need GPS assistance.

 

Looking for more great reads?

 

Excerpted from The Power of Off by Nancy Colier.

Nancy Colier is the author of The Power of Off. She is a psychotherapist, interfaith minister, author, and veteran meditator.

 

 

 

Holiday Help for Those in Grief

There is no doubt that the holiday season adds an extra measure of pain to people already bearing more than they can, more than they should ever have to. Death, illness, massive life events — they all sour the season in ways those outside your loss can’t understand.

Whether you’ve always loved the holidays or avoided them as best you could, the first several seasons after a death or massive life event are always difficult. So many people want to make this a “good” holiday for you, but first and foremost, you need to understand what is best for yourself during this rough time. Understand how to find a comforting place through all the chaos:

 

Say no a lot. Really. Other people will tell you you should say yes to things, get out more, be social. But if “being social” gives you the hives, why on earth would you do that? Remember that “no” is a complete sentence. You can say “no, thank you” if you must say more.

Choose your gatherings. If you do choose to attend something holiday-ish, choose wisely. Sometimes a big crowd is easier than a small one because you can slip out un-noticed as you need to. While a small gathering might have been most comfortable in your life instead.

Find ways to be alone-together with others. Musical offerings, candlelight meditations or services — check those little local newspapers and see what’s going on in your community.

Volunteer. If you are feeling stressed by family obligations, choose this as a good opportunity to get some space and serve others who may need some lifting up too.

Have a plan. Before you go to a party or an event, be sure to make your exit plan clear — with yourself. Give yourself an out, whether that is a specific time limit or an emotional cue that lets you know it’s time to go.

Check in with yourself. This is true not just for events and gatherings but for every single moment of life. Take just a minute to take a breath, one good inhale and exhale, and ask yourself how you’re doing. Ask yourself what you need in that moment.

Leave whenever you want. Stop whatever you’re doing whenever you want. Please remember that this is your life. You do not have to do anything that feels bad or wrong or horrifying. Even if you agreed to participate in something, you can change your mind at any time.

 

The holidays are going to hurt, my friend. That is just reality. Whether you are missing someone who should be part of the festivities or someone who shared your love of quiet winter evenings over raucous partying, this season will add some to your grief.

Companion yourself. Care for yourself. Listen. Reach out where it feels good to reach, curl in when that is what you need. Make this season as much of a comfort to you as you can. And when it is not a comfort, know we’re here. All of us who are grieving over someone we lost: We get you. We understand.

 

Looking for more great reads?

 

 

Excerpted from It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine.

Megan Devine holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology. Through her many articles and speaking engagements, she has emerged as a bold new voice in the world of grief therapy. She recently released her first book, It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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