Book Study Delayed

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Hi there!

I just wanted to post a quick note out there in case any of you were thinking of doing my book study group for The Untethered Soul this month. I have decided to postpone this book study for a while. This has been a super busy summer and I haven’t been on the blog as much, so it really isn’t the time to do this book study. I will let you know when I decide to do it – probably late fall or winter.

Have a great summer, everyone!

I Ching #29 – Abyss

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This is the Chinese word for Water (K’an). I drew this with my Buddha board, then modified it in Photoshop. K’an also means danger.

 

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This post is #29 of 64 hexagrams in a series of posts about the I Ching, an ancient Taoist text that has many ties to the Tao Te Ching. For those of you new to this series, you may want to start by reading my post called “What is a Hexagram?” that helps to explain more about the general idea of the I Ching. If you are just starting this series, you may want to take a look at some of my other posts on the I Ching.

I’m not sure if I told you this, but I am memorizing the 64 hexagrams – at least the names of all of them – so that if I see a hexagram, I know what it is called. This one is a special one because it is one of 8 hexagrams that is doubled – water over water. I like to think of the Grand Canyon when I think of this hexagram, which aptly explains both the power of water and the potential for danger. You wouldn’t want to get caught in the bottom of the Grand Canyon during a flash flood!

I love the beautiful subtlety of the I Ching. This image of water, being one of the eight trigram images as well, is significant because it reminds us to stay true to the highest virtues. Water flows gently over everything in its path – it takes the low road and yet it is extremely powerful for this reason. Water stays true to itself because it holds no pretenses.

I especially loved what Deng Ming-Dao had to say about the potential of this hexagram:

It is indulgent when people claim that they cannot find the meaning of life. They can. They just do not want to risk danger to find it. And so they sit at the edge, never going into the darkness to seek the answers that will slake their thirst. 

The “Abyss”, as this hexagram is also known, is about seeking that depth of our souls. Are we afraid to go deep or can we be like water and be fearless enough to reach our lowest places?

I Ching #28 – Great Excess

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28: Great Excess (Ta Kuo)

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This post is #28 of 64 hexagrams in a series of posts about the I Ching, an ancient Taoist text that has many ties to the Tao Te Ching. For those of you new to this series, you may want to start by reading my post called “What is a Hexagram?” that helps to explain more about the general idea of the I Ching. If you are just starting this series, you may want to take a look at some of my other posts on the I Ching.

As I think of this hexagram, I think about my front yard – a gardener’s nightmare. It is completely overgrown from several summers of neglect! I took the photo above  in a cave in Puerto Rico.  It is a perfect example of my front yard and of this hexagram.

This hexagram is about being unbalanced. The other day I was having breakfast with a friend of mine and she was talking about housecleaning. She said if you handle things as you notice them, they don’t become a big problem. But if you ignore things, they quickly grow out of hand (like the weeds in my garden?)  You get overwhelmed and then you have trouble keeping up with it all. Isn’t that so true? If we are trying to keep our kitchen clean, the mess can quickly get out of hand if we forget about our commitment to our goal.

In Hua Ching Ni’s interpretation of this hexagram, he explains that it is important to stay on your spiritual path.  If we allow ourselves to get distracted by many of the myriad things life offers us, we will not achieve our spiritual goals. When I read this chapter a few days ago, I struggled to understand how this advice applied to my life. In my study of the I Ching, I have noticed that it frequently takes me several days to grasp a concept being shown to me. So I let it go and then came back to it to see what had come to the surface.

 

While my front yard is certainly not a spiritual path, per se, it represents the essence of great excess in my life. With Taoism, much of the practice is around seeing these sorts of patterns in your daily life. In Ni’s interpretation, he reminds us to stay flexible, soft, calm and patient. I need to practice this with myself when I get overwhelmed. I tend to be hard on myself sometimes because I feel like the spiritual path is supposed to be all the “important stuff” and keeping my sink clean or weeding the garden don’t seem to count. But this hexagram reminds me that they do.

I enjoyed Deng Ming-Dao’s interpretation of this chapter. He went further to explain that great excesses are our teachers if we chose to learn from them:

Great excess. Only the truly great can cope with it – and no one becomes great without being tested by great excess.”  ~Deng Ming-Dao, Hexagram 28, The Living I Ching

This reminds me of something that I learned reading Moonwalking with Einstein, a book I read recently about developing your memory. The author, Joshua Foer, was trying to become the U.S. Memory Champion from only a year of study and had come to a plateau in his training. No matter what he did, his ability to memorize cards did not improve. So he asked his coach and his coach recommended that he start tracking his own scores and to write down what he learned from his practices. It seems that, tracking your progress is a way of moving beyond these plateaus. Can we track our progress with our spiritual goals as well? I am curious to explore this idea further.

Deng Ming-Dao explains that the word Kuo in Chinese (part of the name of this hexagram) has an alternate meaning of “a crossing”. He likened it also to a snake shedding its skin. We become better human beings when we can surpass our own barriers. The “great excess” that we experience is sometimes represented by our outgrowing old patterns of behavior that no longer fit us.

The “great excess” highlighted in this chapter can also mean death. Like the Death card in Tarot, there are many ways to interpret death. Sometimes it is an actual death, but more often it is the death of an older, outdated part of yourself. Like another friend explained to me, death can also be about revisiting parts of your inner child that are not yet resolved.

As I connect this information about the extreme changes of death to Ni’s chapter on remembering your spiritual path, it occurred to me that his reminder to stay on your path is most important during times of extreme changes in your life, such as a death of someone close to you. While we cannot control the external circumstances of our lives, we can control our own behavior and choose what is best for our spirit in any given moment. Extreme changes are very difficult to navigate, but it is these changes that will challenge us to put our spiritual practices into action. But, unless we have been practicing improving ourselves on a daily basis, we will not have the strength to withstand these tumultuous times. We will crumble. Crumbling isn’t necessarily bad. Things often crumble to make way for a new beginning. And, like Deng Ming-Dao said, “no one becomes great without being tested by great excess”.

A Quiet June

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I have decided to do a media fast during the month of June. Basically, this means that I will not be on Facebook, browsing the Internet, watching Internet television or blogging. I am allowing myself communications such as Facebook Messenger (app) and texting and cell phone usage, because the goal is to experiment with my dependence on the Internet rather than to cut off communications with my friends and family.

I will not be responding to comments during the month. Just know that I appreciate your visit and I apologize for that. When I return in July, I will respond to any that need an answer.

For those of you in my Conscious Living Book Club, I have decided to make it a quarterly thing – which means that we will be studying The Untethered Soul in August instead of June as originally discussed. I will also be moving the group to Facebook (rather than GoodReads) so stay tuned for future communications on that when I am back to blogging in July.

I will be back to both of my blogs in July. Have a wonderful month, everyone!

Quotology

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I Ching #27: Nourishment

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Nourishment

This post is #27 of 64 hexagrams in a series of posts about the I Ching, an ancient Taoist text that has many ties to the Tao Te Ching. For those of you new to this series, you may want to start by reading my post called “What is a Hexagram?” that helps to explain more about the general idea of the I Ching. If you are just starting this series, you may want to take a look at some of my other posts on the I Ching.

This hexagram challenges us to look at what we nourish ourselves with. As with all things I Ching, this question is asked on many different levels. You could answer this literally, by looking at the foods that you are choosing for your sustenance. Are you choosing healthy foods? Unhealthy foods? Do the foods you choose match up with what you say is important to you?

You could look at this on another level and ask yourself, “What do I nourish myself with by how I spend my time?” Again, is there congruence between what you say is important and what you are spending your time on?

These are simple questions. The answers are simple, too. The key is not to beat yourself up about what is not congruent, but to notice these differences and make changes in your life to reflect that.

 

What about you? When I read this, I could think of all kinds of way that I am being incongruent. I am working on it, but I still have a ways to go. What came to mind for you as you read this post?

The Conscious Parent {Book Study}: Week 4

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We are in the fourth and last week of our Conscious Parent book study. This week, we are talking about discipline. Dr. Tsabary purposely left this topic for the end of the book because she wanted parents to focus primarily on becoming conscious before worrying about the behavior of their children.

One thing that stood out to me in this section of the book was about making mistakes. I have talked a lot about making mistakes on my blog. The Tao Te Ching has a lot to say about mistakes. Why should our children’s mistakes be treated any differently than our own? When I first read this chapter a month or so ago, I was a bit taken aback when I read about treating our children’s mistakes as we would want someone to treat ours. While it makes perfect sense, it is not at all what I have been doing. As a parent, I always felt like I was supposed to help create learning moments for my daughter. When she made a mistake, it was my job to point it out and recommend other ways of doing whatever it was that she was doing wrong. After reading the chapters on discipline, I struggled when I envisioned how I would feel if I made mistakes and my friends or family treated me like I treated my daughter when she made a mistake. It was difficult to accept, but she was right. I could see it.

I am not perfect, but my goal is to practice treating my daughter’s mistakes as I would want mine to be treated. It may not be perfect, but it’s a start.

 

What’s Next?

For those of you who are participating in our Conscious Living Book Study, I want to let you know that I have decided to wait until August to study our next book – The Untethered Soul. I have decided that one month per quarter is a good pace for studying books together. I have also decided that Facebook is a better medium for building community and participation so I will be creating a new group there for studying books together. I will let you know when it is ready to go – but it will probably be some time in July.

The Friday 56: #228 – May 22, 2015

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This photo was part of a blog meme I did with Naomi Wittlin at www.poeticaperture.com.

My friend Deborah Weber has a way of introducing me to things that lead me to things, that lead me to other things. In my latest Alice-in-Wonderland romp through the Internet Looking Glass, I found this meme called The Friday 56. It’s apparently been going for some time as it is at #228 and it’s a weekly meme.

Anyways, you can learn more about it here but essentially the instructions are to pick up a book, any book, turn to page 56 and post a quote from somewhere on that page. I cheated a bit and went through a couple of books before I found a good one for you:

Nevertheless, his suspicion that plant tissues could pick up human thought and emotion slowly became more concrete in the light of Backster’s achievements. Lawrence was reminded that years previously Sir James Jeans, the British astronomer had written that ‘the stream of human knowledge is impartially leading toward a non-mechanical reality: the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter. We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as the creator and governor of this realm.’ (Page 56, The Secret Life of Plants, 1989.)

Eckhart Tolle has said, “The future is a thought form. No one has ever encountered it, except as a thought.” (Along similar lines.)

So, really, most of what we spend our mental energy with – past and future – are just thoughts. We create our entire reality around what is either behind us or in front of us and most of us spend very little time in what is here in this moment.

Part of the beauty of plants is that they live forever in the present moment. A flower does not worry about its life being so short. It just is. How would our lives be different if we did that? What does it mean to live in the present moment? Plant tissues pick up human thoughts and emotion simply because those are the energetic stamps at that moment in time. Each moment, we display an emotional field. What is that field like? Some might say, “he carries around a dark cloud”. This is what the plants are sensing. This is what everyone is sensing. The energy is palatable. Even though the thought forms that this person is thinking about are in the past or the future, what is in the right now moment is this dark energy, this “cloud”.

This cloud comes along with the thought forms, but is not reality. Reality is that everything is just fine right in this moment. Even in the very worst of situations, if you chop it up into tiny bite-sized bits of reality, you are fine. You are going bankrupt? Fine. What is happening right now, at this very second? Nothing. The not-fine part is from thoughts of the future but has nothing to do with the right now.

Our job is to bring it back to this moment. We will undoubtedly stray. We may get very caught up in many emotional or psychological games with ourselves, but we are free at any moment to just BE. The more you practice this, the better you will get at it. The more you practice it, the more it will become just the way you live your life. That is Tao.

I hope you will join us for this Friday 56 next time or perhaps you would also like to join me for our weekly #whatareyouworkingon series where we share what we’ve been working on… either way, it’s fun to connect with other bloggers! Thanks for stopping by!

The Conscious Parent: [Video] with Marie Forleo & Dr. Tsabary

Since we are studying The Conscious Parent through this blog, I wanted to share this video that Michele Bergh sent me today…enjoy!

If you want to read more on this, check out the COMMENTS that were generated when Marie Forleo posted this video discussion on her blog!

You can also check out my other posts on this topic for more about this book.

 

The Conscious Parent {Book Study}: Week 3

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We are in the third week of our Conscious Parent book study. This week, we are talking about creating a conscious environment in our homes for our children.

Throughout this book, the focus has been on us parents working on ourselves rather than trying to do or say anything that “fixes” our children. In this area of the book, more than any other, it was obvious that children very naturally have staying in the present (AKA: being conscious) figured out already and it is our culture and our parenting that messes it up.

Case in point: The Family Calendar. I think that our family is unusual in how little we actually have scheduled. Most families have a plethora of sports for each child, parents have meetings of whatever sort or sports of their own and of course there are the social gatherings. I was talking with a friend of mine about our calendars and I mentioned that I try and only schedule ONE thing per weekend. She was surprised by this. “How can you fit it all in?” Well, the truth is that I like my life to be quiet and calm. I don’t want to spend every weekend running around everywhere here and there (it often is filled with that ANYWAYS!) Because of this system, I chose my social engagements very carefully. I have many dear people in my life and I try to focus most exclusively on that small few. I may only see many of my friends once every few months, but this is OK. Our time together is precious and meaningful.

I cannot even imagine it being busier. My daughter is not in any sports or any after-school activities. I would actually like for her to be in something since she is an only child and this is one way for her to work on her social skills, but her preference is to just be at home like ours is.

All that being said, I have a lot of work to do when it comes to being present for my daughter. Just as I was putting together the topic for this post, she walked into the living room and I shooed her out. I want to write, undisturbed. I rarely ask for this sort of space to do my own thing so I felt justified – I normally write in the early hours of morning before anyone is up so that I can spend time when I am with my family being WITH my family, but this is definitely not how it always goes. This weekend was very busy with taking her out to a movie with her friends and hosting a sleepover so I guess I am not doing TOO bad, but still – I felt kinda bad for shooing her out to write about parenting her consciously! LOL.

Then there’s dinnertime. Ideally, I would ask Tatia to help me in the kitchen to cook something. This serves a multitude of purposes: 1) it helps me to spend some time helping her with her cooking skills and, God knows, this generation could use it! 2) it gives us time together. Even if we are measuring out flour and chopping veggies, we are being together. 3) it shows that what is IMPORTANT to our family is spending time to prepare and eat together.

What actually happens most days? I don’t think about dinner until oh, about 4:30 or 5 PM. Nothing is prepared, I have no idea what’s in the fridge and so we go out to eat. For us, going out to eat means a 20 minute drive to the nearby restaurant. Once there, we do have a rule that cell phones are not to come out at the table which is followed the majority of the time but on the way to the restaurant, Tatia’s nose is often in her phone browsing websites like Cracked and who knows what else. We don’t talk much with her on the way there.

In The Conscious Parent, Dr. Tsabary talks about how all this scheduling is based on the idea that the parents just are not able to sit still. I think that this is true for me. Even though I do not have a ton of things scheduled, I have a very difficult time quieting my mind and, if you’ve ever visited my #whatareyouworkingon posts you know how much I am working on! My mind is constantly either in the past worrying about how I did on something or in the future, wondering how I will accomplish all these things I want to do in my short little life.

“Worrying is a mask for fear of being present.”  ~Dr. Tsabary, author of The Conscious Parent

Dr. Tsabary also talks about how anxiety (in the form of “busy-ness”) is due to our fear of death, ultimately. I think that she has a really good point there. She says that if we are able to face our death, we realize that we should stop wasting time. How many times have you heard stories of people who were faced with a near-death experience and they totally changed after that? If you were faced with death, what would suddenly fall off your “to do” list? What people would you stop hanging with? What activities would seem irrelevant?

Living our lives consciously is a HUGE undertaking, but to me it is one of the most valuable things I could do as a parent. I am in no way perfect, but I feel good about trying. Every day, I make little steps forward on being more conscious. They are little steps, but if I keep doing them every day I will be at least moving in the right direction.

What about you? What do you think of this? In what ways are you trying to be more conscious in your life? Tell us about it in the comments or join the discussion over on GoodReads.com!

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