Shadow & Grace. Contrast & Choice.
SPIRITuAl(l) Guidance Card Reading
for the Week of June 25-July 2, 2107:
You are ready to share your inner riches...your juice. ;-)
Check out the entire reading:
Just spent the past five days at a 5Rhythms dance meditation workshop in Philadelphia called "Cycles".
It was beautiful opportunity to honor humanity...to take the time to explore and investigate the Cycles of Life through movement and dance, and dance our stories about our own families and lineage.
In preparation for the workshop, I sat down with my Mom and Dad and created this family tree. I learned some pretty amazing stuff, including that my Great Grandmother Katie (who I am named after) was a seamstress and a fortune-teller.
The picture on the right is Katie's daughter, my grandmother "Nanny". Nanny was one tough Brooklyn broad. She died when I was in High School, but I've always felt connected to her...One day a Hawaiian woman working at the Hele gas station saw my Nanny's energy around me and told me she's always with me.
Im about 10 years old in the picture on the left with my parents, and it pretty much sums up my relationship with them: lots of love and care and they totally have my back.
I came out of this workshop with more compassion for my parents, a deep appreciation of my own story and really such a reverence for Being human.
We may all have different experiences of how Life unfolds, but we were all born and take a very special and specific journey through childhood, adolescence and maturity to death.
Life maybe painful at times, but it is certainly nothing less than truly beautiful.
The first big love relationship of my life was one that was never going to last. It’s not that this love wasn’t unrequited; it was just with a man who was unavailable, a man who was already committed to another woman.
The relationship took me to the depths of feeling like a woman on spiritual, emotional and physical levels. When it ended, I swore I’d never find someone I was that sympatico with.
I believed that I was destined to have a Soul Mate in this life who I ultimately couldn’t be in partnership with. I was certain that I’d be single and lonely forever…
Last month and over ten years later, I completed a romantic relationship with another Soul Mate. He was the first man I ever lived with. This man and I have been bonded for the past two years in a sacred contract that was written in the stars long before we both knew that “Time” existed.
We did not choose each other to be a couple forever. We chose each other to learn…
At one point in our splitting up process I sat in meditation and burst into tears when I realized how much being in relationship with this man has expanded my capacity to CARE. Nothing can change the intimacy that he and I have shared or the powerful lessons I’ve learned about Attachment from being together. Even though the relationship was not meant to last forever, this will forever be sacred and special and ours...
Someone once told me that Jewish spiritual folklore says we have 7 Soul Mates throughout a single lifetime. Since my first spiritual awakening, I’ve been blessed to be in relationship with multiple Soul Mates, each connection and attachment being completely transformative and wonderful (or tragic) in its own special way. Each relationship allowed me to know myself and what I want on a deeper level than before. And no matter how painful it is to look, each relationship has been a mirror reflected back to how I see myself in the world.
It wasn't until halfway between these two relationships that I really began to understand what Attachment is as a Spiritual principle as well as a theoretical framework for human connection.
My favorite class in graduate school as I was obtaining my Masters in Social Work was Attachment Theory. Even though my head was spinning throughout the entire semester and the information was very overwhelming, something inside of me knew how important the information was for me and my Life. Finally I felt able to organize and contextualize all the patterns I experienced within my closest relationships.
Around the same time I was processing what I learned in class, a woman who had become my first “official” Spiritual teacher taught me about Attachment by leaving our relationship and cutting off all communication with me. It was a devastating loss to me, and one that lasted for months. I sat on my couch and cried for hours at a time. The pain was so great that I would have to get up from my desk at work and go cry in the bathroom during several times throughout the day.
Because with Attachment, always comes loss.
Attachment comes from the yearning to return home to pure Oneness (a.k.a Love, God, Source, Spirit). While everything IS God, we currently live in a reality full of separation and duality, which allows us to stray from experiencing true Love.
When we were born into this lifetime, we encountered our initial separation from Source. Yet on some level, we remember what this Oneness feels like. We may experience it in “doses” throughout our life. It may come through orgasm, through a moment of Spiritual Awakening, or in a moments of deep connection with others, nature or ourselves.
We yearn to go back to the blissful feeling that came with unending Oneness and Love. As a result, we attempt to re-create the experience of Oneness by clinging to those things in life that feel good and resisting things that don’t. This is why we live in a reality full of duality. We crave the sensations that feel good (and avoid the sensations that don’t) in an attempt to return to Source. This repeated craving creates attachment.
The things that feel good that become our attachments could be people, food, behavior/actions, or outcomes.
Many Spiritual teachings show us that the path to Enlightenment means a certain non-reaction to things that we crave (or avoid).
Yet, I believe there’s a big misconception in the “Spiritual culture” right now that the answer to living a non-attached life is to avoid any relationship where an attachment exists.
I’ve tried this myself. While it makes life easier, it is like treading on the surface of a lake. It may be pleasant to keep your head above the water, but you can’t ignore that all of the mud and muck still lies deep within the lake. There is no growth in going around the obstacle like the “Tragic Protagonist”. To grow, you must go through it.
Baba Ram Dass tells a delightful story of trying to avoid a person in need of his love because he was afraid of his attachment to them. Maharaj-ji (his Guru) tells him that being non-attached doesn’t mean cutting yourself off to love. It means loving fully, learning and then moving on when the loss comes.
To truly know ourselves we must engage with the muck, dig up all of our old emotional wounds and gain the awareness of how we re-enact them over and over again until that awareness naturally shifts us into a state where can relate beyond our old dynamics and style of Attachment in the psychological sense and we can also learn release our attachments in the Spiritual sense.
This week I'll moving for the second time this month...
I'm feeling a little beat down.
But the Truth is that I'm in this predicament
because I didn't follow my Heart.
I wasn't TRUE to myself.
I was trying to control my situation,
fulfill my expectations and desires
instead of seeing Reality for What it IS.
If there's anything I've learned
these past couple of years on this magical island
in the middle of the sea,
Is that sometimes Life twists and turns in a different direction than you thought.
Sometimes things happen that you don't want to happen.
And sometimes things don't happen that you do want to happen.
But if you resist what's happening in any which way,
What I'm going through right now is nothing.
There are hundreds of millions of people struggling
much more than I am in this moment, in much worse ways.
Maybe you are struggling, too.
So here's to us all remembering,
that whatever it is that we may be going through,
at any given time,
We will ALWAYS
(P.S. There was a chicken that was yelling because he was stuck on of the MacNut Trees behind me...but he made it out by the end of the song. ;-)
Keri Ilisa Sender-Receiver
To get right to it, the Vipassana course was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done and it was a huge accomplishment to complete it. It was basically meditation boot camp. About 100 of us, varying in age, size, ethnicity and all those identity politics, joined two teachers and about fifteen volunteers to meditate every day for about ten hours a day, for ten days. The first bell rung for morning meditation at 4am followed by meditation in 1 hour, 1.5 hours and 2 hour increments throughout the day until 9pm. We rested only for a few hours each day for meal breaks and listened to a one hour discourse each night from the head teacher, S.N. Goenka, who is responsible for bringing this Vipassana technique from Burma into the West.
Gobi, the Hindu doctor from Fresno who was kind enough to drive me to pick up my rental car when the course ended, told me all about Indian politics and the history of conflict between the Hindus and the Buddhists. He was pleased that the teachings of the course were not Buddhism and told me that I was fortunate to receive the teachings void of any prior knowledge of the religious controversy. It seemed obvious to me from the first time the teacher gave his discourse that this wasn’t a religious experience.
Instead of learning about Buddhism, we were taught the Buddha’s (Siddhartha and his friend Gotama’s) meditation technique from over 25 centuries ago. Goenka told us that Siddhartha discovered this technique at age 5, while sitting under a tree. He sat under that tree for 30 years and meditated until he reached enlightenment and died peacefully in his 80s and under the same tree, teaching the technique to anyone who was open to learning it.
The technique makes perfect sense to me. In fact, I find it to be brilliant. Just as Freud theorized in the constancy principle that the way to keep the mind in a state of peaceful Zen (Freud also called this space ‘zero’) was to expel all negative affect and thoughts, this technique works to bring an awareness to the negativity that gets contained in the body as well as the mind. The technique creates the space for someone to realize that they are often generating sankara - a craving reaction to a pleasant sensation or an abhorrent reaction to something that the mind/body does not want.
The idea of the Vipassana is to learn through the meditation practice not to react to either pleasant or unpleasant situations and to remain unattached or equanimous to whatever sensations arises within the body (and by extension of course, the mind). Since everything in life is aneecha, or impermanent, if you remain unattached in each moment you can always find comfort in what is, because what is will forever be changing.
Think about how much peace and love there could be in this world if we could truly accept what is and never generate disappointment or anger towards others, and towards ourselves…
I digress. The Vipassana technique brings awareness to the sankara. With practice and the awareness that comes with it, one can be mindful to stop generating negative sankara (and not cling to positive sankara). Furthermore, to keep practicing is to eradicate old sankara until the old pain that has manifested throughout one’s body gets resolved. This takes dedication, commitment, persistence and will ultimately lead to enlightenment. During enlightenment, the body will be felt as the pure energy source that it is, one with the Universe and all that is.
It was amazing to feel the technique working. I was able to witness a thought and the way that thought affected my breath or my heartbeat (negative thoughts speed up my heartbeat and make my breath shallow).
The longer I sat, the deeper I went into the body to work through old negative sankara. The longest discomfort I felt was in my shoulders, where anxiety is stored (not to mention too many years of carrying a heavy bag throughout the streets of New York City) and in my lungs (with 12 years of smoking sadly under my belt). With my lungs in particular, it was incredible to feel myself work through the discomfort from the top of my lungs down to the bottom. I could almost feel the smoke releasing my body.
At one point during the course, I felt discomfort inside my nose only to revisit mentally the trauma I experienced when I had rhinoplastic surgery at age 16. I cried from the memory’s emersion and then moved on with the psychical discomfort dissipating in tandem. Thus, this past experience became complete in both body and mind. It was amazing.
While I practiced the Vipassana technique, I became more and more excited as my mind connected the experience to my professional interests. In my world, it was not a coincidence that right before the course Somatic Experience re-emerged as a therapeutic practice that I am interested in (for those of you who were with me in Costa Rica, this is the type of therapy Barbara’s sister travels all over the world to practice).
Somatic Experience is used with survivors of trauma. It is a form of talk therapy where the therapist helps the client to become aware of the bodily sensations they experience while they share about their trauma. Just like the Vipassana technique, the idea of Somatic Experience is that the trauma will be released from being stored inside the body, thus helping to provide closure both within the body and the mind. An infusion of the constancy principle and Vipassana, if you will!
As I will soon begin to work with survivors of trauma at Safe Horizons in NYC (yep, not time to leave NYC yet!), I look forward to deepening and implementing my experience, knowledge and understanding of the mind/body connection into the mental health field to help others heal.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
With Never Ending Love,
Why It feels so Hard to Move Forward
by Keri Sender-Receiver, LSW
I don’t know about you,
but it feels really hard to move forward these days.
I mean, I know it’s coming. I know it’s allll coming.
A part of me wants to just give up.
“It feels too hard.”
“I don’t want to do all of that work.”
(MY version of my fear).
And a part of me isn’t entirely sure how to Be Fully Me.
Maybe she’s too mean or too smart.
What if she causes some serious damage?
And then I get it --
she’s already been created anyway.
It’s already said and done.
So just Unlock Who You Really Are.
There’s nothing to do but Unlock Who You Really Are…
I write this as a reminder to myself and to all of us.
It is a time of great change and the answer is
to be Who We Really Are, to love and accept ourselves fully.
This is what will move the planet forward.
It’s not about protests,
or constantly reading about politics on your News Feed,
it’s about changing the outside by changing within.
It’s about doing the work, whatever that looks like for you.
And only you know what that is…
This beautiful box is from Varanasi, my favorite city (so far) in India.
It carried a vile of sweetgrass essential oil that a young local named Mogley gave me after he be'd with me at the outdoor crematory along the ghats in this most holiest of cities, explaining how death is not taboo in India...that only us Westerners think it's distasteful to see someone's head melting over a fire in the great wide open, or the local pack of stray dogs fighting over human bones.
It is - as Mogley pointed out - the natural order of things...
Even though the vile of oil has been long gone, I can still smell the sweetgrass on the box.
I can still see Mogley, sitting with me on the floor of his family's tiny apothecary, him explaining what oils would be best for me and me giving him energy-work, clearing some pain from his heart, in exchange for his warm and trustworthy hospitality. Both of us smitten with gratitude...
I can still feel myself getting lost and happily surrendering to his leadership as we weaved past cows and around piles of shit down the thin back streets of the City, where parades of mourners carrying their loved ones' coffins towards the ghat to be burned and I seemed to be the only tourist around...
I can still see the lassi shop that Mogley took me to. I can feel my ambivalence to the shop owners' offer of some Bhang.
As I stopped tonight to marvel at this beautiful box, I can feel India stir in my blood.
I can feel the level of aliveness that I felt in each and every moment there...Always something new to see or experience, always a little on edge because I was traveling alone and therefore always so present with everything and everyone around...
There is a certain level of trust in the chaos of India. A deep knowing that Spirit's got it covered there...and tonight Mogley's box is a beautiful reminder that Spirit's got it covered Everywhere.
Sometimes being with family can be hard. I recall the Ram Dass quote -- "you think you're enlightened? Go spend a week with your parents..."
Yet being in relationship is our best access to transformation - our best access to Love - because others act as our mirrors reflecting back to us all that we offer the world...the good, the bad and the ugly.
And who better to be our best mirrors than the people who we are closest to...
This weekends' lunar eclipse highlighted family and romantic relationships...and it just so happens that my parents are here visiting in Hawaii.
We've shared stories, had laughs, eaten great meals together, went a wonderful talk-story event last night with Hawaiian music...but it hasn't been a walk in the park the entire time. We've argued, got angry, triggered, hurt. We all had our "stuff" come up.
For me, I realize how easy it is to get caught up in the 'blame game' and I how much I've been blaming my parents for all things I don't like about myself.
When we make our parents (or anyone!) "wrong", we're really just expressing our own self-hatred.
And when we attempt to control another's behavior, it's a futile attempt to control Life.
This visit hasn't been pretty 100% of the time...but at least I can use the hard times as an opportunity to look at myself and make the changes that are necessary to love ME more...and as a natural extension, to love THEM more.
Our parents gave us Life. They took care of us and loved us to the very best of their ability.
Forgive yourself for all the times that you didn't realize that Truth, and be grateful for the opportunity to remember.
#LOVErevolution #therealdeal #Cycles #ho'oponopono #Mirrors #Truth #unlock #unlockwhoyoureallyare
When I was a teenager, my self-image was completely distorted so I had a nose job because I didn’t think I was attractive enough.
The surgery was so painful and traumatic…it wasn’t very long before I completely regretted and resented that I had the operation.
And I still thought that I was ugly.
It wasn’t until I ‘woke up’ at age 28 that I realized how beautiful I am.
And when I finally realized it and declared that I was beautiful, the strangest thing occurred…
Like magic - and for the first time ever - people and strangers EVERYWHERE starting approaching me to tell me I was beautiful: the guy at the corner bodega who sold me coffee every morning, a stranger on the subway, others walking down the street…it was a complete breakthrough.
I had always looked to others to tell me that I was attractive (or worthy, or good enough), but it wasn’t until I realized myself how beautiful I actually was, that the outside world started to tell me too.
We all have emotional trauma that acts as a block in our lives. What's your emotional trauma? For assistance releasing it: https://snapappointments.com/listing/2LG or email: firstname.lastname@example.org