Body Sense and Decision-making Part 1

October 29, 2008

One of the great delights of working with the decision-clarity process is that it is a dynamic model that expands exponentially through connecting with the varied individual experiences of inner wisdom. The body is an amazing tool for discernment. Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher once said “There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.” Much has been written about the body providing information. Louise Hay’s books suggest that any physical symptom that our body creates will have a metaphysical interpretation. Muscle testing is another powerful way of using your body to assess what is right for you. This is a way of using the body’s reaction to verify its own inner guidance. Based on the concept of internal energy fundamental to traditional Chinese medicine, muscle testing is a non-invasive way of evaluating the body’s imbalances and assessing its needs.
It can also be directed to decision-making. During one of my seminars, a woman, who had constructed her own simple decision-making process, approached me. She would attempt to identify two alternatives that she clearly understood and then she would make her decision in the following manner. She would dedicate two days to resolve the impasse. For example suppose her decision was on whether to quit work. On the first day she would live that day based on the supposition that she was going to quit work. During the day she would note her bodies’ feelings and reactions. The following day she would live the day presuming that she was going to stay at work and again pay attention to her bodies’ response.  At the end of these two days she told me that she always had clarity on what to do. “My body always knows” she explained.
Recently a client with whom I was working was facing an agonizing decision on whether to leave her relationship. Needless to say there were lots of conflicting thoughts and feelings as her partner was entreating her not to leave. When she reached her decision to go and put it into action she noticed an amazing affirmation from her body. A sense of positive energy and release flowed through her system. She knew without any doubt that she was making the correct decision. Like a celebratory song chorusing from her soul, her body sense showed her the way. I encouraged her to conduct a ritual of completion where she celebrated the body’s response and associate the decision with it. In this way she could always re-create the energetic assurance that she was feeling and dispel any future uncertainty that may arise.

Whole Life Coaching

October 24, 2008

I was approached by a friend of mine to coach her through a project that was very dear to her heart. She even insisted that she pay me. I have never taken coaching training as I see myself much more as a soul guide or spiritual guide however her insistence overcame any initial reluctance and we made an appointment for a telephone session the following Thursday. She emphasized the fact that this coaching was to be specifically directed on the defined project and not spill over into other areas of her life. Prior to the conversation taking place, she e-mailed me the six specific commitments that she wanted me to focus on with the coaching. It all seemed so precise, ordered and organized yet I found myself suffering a vague sense of discomfort. It was though there was a very subtle alarm bell going off in my unconscious. I sat and reflected on what role I could play to support her and then observed that my antenna had been tweaked by her assertion that this should not intrude on the other areas of her life. I realized that I had a suspicion that the vehemence of her desire to keep this project separate from her life may indicate some attachment or resistance that had not yet surfaced. I also sensed that I did not want to be solely a project coach, I wanted to expand my assistance beyond the project into areas of her life that may be impacted by the project itself. From my own experience I knew that problems that manifested in achieving outcomes were often connected with issues other than the objective. We are fully integrated beings whose lives do not normally separate into neat little boxes.
The phone rang and she asked me without delay whether I had received the list. I confirmed I had so she leaped immediately into her priorities. I listened for a moment then quietly asked if there was any room for negotiation regarding assessing where this project fitted into the overall scheme of her life. She hesitated then agreed to go along with me. I asked her to identify what she considered the most important aspects of her life that may be impacted by the time she spent on the specific project. Her immediate response was her relationship was of greatest importance and her primary concern. We discussed how much time each week she wanted to devote to her relationship. She indicated that she and her partner were in negotiation to assess what would work for both of them. We then moved on to discuss other relationships in her life – her grand-daughter, her son and her friends. Then she mentioned something that she had wanted to bring up but was concerned it would interfere with her progress on the main project. She had recently had a business consulting opportunity open up which was both lucrative and rewarding but she was not sure if she had time to explore it. We reviewed the way that this opportunity had emerged, almost like a gift, and she realized that this must receive some time for investigation. We identified three aspects that became her commitments for the following week.
As we went through this process I started to see where it was going. I explained that the first thing we should try and do was identify what a balanced life may look like. We would create space for body, mind, feelings, soul and spirit and then allow the commitments to flow from there. This would ensure that any project became manageable relative to her life and not pull her totally out of balance. By now she was totally onside with the process and accepted that her first priority would be to develop a calendar that allocated time to all the other priorities in her life. We moved on to review other priorities. Building her practice – she still wanted to grow her client base by 40% however there was some reluctance to commit time to that because she did not feel inspired. However as her whole financial viability rests on a successful practice we identified a goal to focus on during the next week which was to write a summary on what ways could she enthuse herself to build her practice. Finally we looked at other key priorities. Time for her inner process to unfold, time to focus on physical activity, admin time, housekeeping time and play time. In addition there will always be the wild card – the unexpected that was not planned.
So our first session came to an end. We had barely discussed the initial reason for her call. One of her commitments remained but there were five additional ones which had been added. I assured that we would not lose sight of her initial goal however we would keep it in balance with the rest of her busy life. In this way she would start to avoid taking on too much then beating herself up afterwards.

To assume or not to assume that is the question?

October 23, 2008

A friend and I was discussing Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements with particular reference to the third one which is ‘Don’t make assumptions” Her response was to say that to not make assumptions was beyond human nature. It is an interesting practice to observe just how often we do make assumptions. Personally I suspect the suggestion regarding assumptions may not be realistic however what we can do is start to pay attention when we make them. I think the challenge most of us face is that we make assumptions but don’t see them as such. Steven Covey suggests “We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behaviors grow out of these assumptions.” My friend is in the early phase of exploring a relationship. Last week she had not heard from her friend even though she had e-mailed. She took off for a trip, occasionally checking her e-mail but received no response. She assumed that the person in question was no longer interested in connecting. On the surface this may appear a fairly logical assumption however the first thing to do is to assess why are we making the assumption. Many assumptions arise because we feel vulnerable or because our feelings are hurt. When someone I am close to doesn’t return a call I may assume that I am not important enough to be a priority in their life. Of course then our hurt feelings manifest as an assumption. So in the early stage of a relationship we are most vulnerable and therefore are most likely to leap to an assumption that reflects our anxiety. A good test is to substitute someone else into the situation and ask yourself if it was xxx would I make the same assumption? I use a friend who rarely responds to e-mails because of her insanely busy life so I never make the assumption that she doesn’t care about me. Often our assumption come from increased sensitivity.
What my friend didn’t know was that the prospective date had become insanely busy and rather than e-mail had telephoned to invite her to an event. My friend had not picked up the telephone message because she was away. Now of course we have the potential for a second assumption by the other party. “She hasn’t replied to my call so she doesn’t care about me.” Two assumptions like this if not resolved can lead to further estrangement. Of course Don Miguel goes on to say “Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama..” The challenge I see is that often we are left in a space where we crave an explanation and making an assumption is the way we fill that empty space. Yet if we don’t accept that the route cause of many assumptions is our own vulnerability and feelings then we can create a major issue from nothing. The first step is to see the assumption then we need to understand why it has power over us. Perhaps identify other possibilities and avoid leaping to conclusions until we have clarified the situation. Then perhaps explore what is coming up to be healed. Suddenly the assumption can be seen as part of the story of or life that has come to bring meaning to our soul’s journey. Alan Alda the actor once said “Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

Lessons from a New Toy

October 21, 2008

I have a new toy. It is an exquisitely beautiful piece of technology. Slim, colourful, versatile, advanced, I could go on and on. It is an Apple iPod touch. I have lusted after one of these for many months. My iPod mini is still functional but oh so passé. All it does is play music while my new “touch” has wi-fi, a disc that is four times as big,  can do e-mail, my calendar, tell me the weather, show me the way – its functions seem unlimited. I delay the moment where I give it life. It sits in its minimalist Perspex case, barely larger than the palm of my hand waiting on me to synchronize it. I delay the moment by twelve hours luxuriating in the expectancy of what is about to come. Finally the time arrives. It is a Wednesday morning. My gratification is delayed as invisible sealing tape prevents me from accessing my new charge. At last it nestles in the palm of my hand and I press all the buttons I can see. It glistens into life – “take me to your computer” it instructs or some such verbiage. Eagerly I take it upstairs and plug it into my iMac. Things start to happen. I follow the on-screen instructions – registration, syncing my music, pictures, internet bookmarks, e-mail, my calendar, wi-fi connection. It is all happening in front of my expectant eyes. All is ready. I notice the excitement as I start to experiment with the different keys. I send my friend Philip its first e-mail. It felt like a christening. Should I wet the baby’s head? Perhaps not – a wiser voice prevails.
I set off for an acupuncture session my baby in my pocket. I plan to buy it some birthday gifts, perhaps a protective cover and a travel charger. I share my newborn with Melissa my TCM. She is impressed perhaps even a wee bit envious. “I want one” she says. Just the thing every proud parent wants to hear. After my session I coolly enter my next appointment into my calendar and head off to buy gifts. A little later I emerge from the store with my purchases in hand. I can’t wait to get home so I decide to give my baby its new clothes. I slip it into the calfskin leather protector – only the best will do. I press the activation button curious to see whether I can access an Internet signal. To my alarm the button symbols start to gyrate as though they are being impacted by a mini earthquake. Then the screen suddenly goes blank. No warning – just Kaput. Oh no is my baby sick?
I walk rapidly home deferring my plans for a walk. I don’t feel comfortable delaying treatment for my ailing offspring. I plug it in to recharge the battery and check the battery symbol indicates there is a charge. Perhaps it is something more serious than a flat battery. I go on line to Apple and download the user’s manual. I review trouble shooting, then battery and nothing seems to cover what had recently transpired. I unplug the itouch and for a moment all seems well. Perhaps I imagined it and had just pressed a default button in error. I get ready for my walk then activate the device. And then it happens again, right in front of my disbelieving eyes, everything blanks off the screen leaving total darkness. I am crushed. I can’t leave without taking some action. I get on-line and try and access Apple Support. It checks out my warranty and advises me that I do not qualify to speak to a person. How weird I only purchased it yesterday, it has a year warranty but I can only work through a machine. Somewhat resigned I start to follow the on screen instructions for on-line support. Gradually my frustration level increases. First it won’t accept my password that it had accepted less than three hours before when I registered the iPod. Then it tells me my customer identity is incorrect, next it allows me to set a new password but immediately afterwards refuses to recognize it. Like the cork in an open bottle of champagne I feel the pressure rising. I want to shout my annoyance at the machine but what good would that do. I spend what seems like an age to try and find some way through this “catch 22” I can’t get on-line support without logging in but the system will not allow me to log in. Finally I find a contact e-mail for customer suggestions. Angrily I fire off an e-mail which just shouts out “I am mad as hell” Finally I go out for my long delayed walk and coffee.
It takes quite a while before I finally even observe how off balance I have become. Only after my coffee is almost finished do I notice myself. My racing thoughts, my unreasonable attachment to outcomes and finally the laughing realization that I have become trapped in my own drama. I start to switch my attention from dwelling on my iPod drama to my breath. Five deep breaths help to move me into the witness place and realize the absurdity of the whole thing. I walk on with the following refrain in my mind “breathing in I calm body and mind, breathing out I am at peace.” I relax. I gain a sense of proportion once again. In hindsight I can’t believe how enmeshed I got into the experience. For something that is so relatively unimportant. What a fascinating journey and how slow I am to learn. What really matters is what is going on at deeper level. I resolve to draw a rune when I get home to see if it throws any light on the affair. I can now see the obvious about getting attached and off balance, trying to fix things and attempting to plough through the obstacles without bringing myself back to centre. It is so easy just five slow breaths but I have to remember to take them. Suddenly I laugh. This morning I had been journaling about what to write about in my blog. I had written ‘Where will I go for material if not from my own life story?” I guess I had created my source once again. I draw a rune. Sowelu or Wholeness. “Practice the art of doing without doing; aim yourself truly and then maintain your aim without manipulative effort.” Good advice!

A Mystical Moment in Sedona

October 17, 2008

On the map I received from the Chamber of Commerce, it highlighted a church to visit. I was not in Sedona to visit churches however on my second day I felt drawn to follow a sign which led up into the red hills. My first glimpse of the church was this startling cross which appeared etched into the red rock of the cliff side. It stretched the whole length of the church but somehow this ancient symbol of pain and death seemed oddly peaceful. I drove up further to visit the interior of the chapel and found the drama of the exterior was strangely off set by the simplicity of the interior. I sat and mediated for a while enjoying a peaceful and calming moment. The chorus of sacred chants was uplifting and I notice a moment where my heart engaged in a way I had not felt at the vortex I had just visited.
The Chapel of the Holy Cross was designed by architect and sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. The chapel is built on Coconino National Forest land and it required a special act of Congress to get it built. The inscription outside the church suggests that the late Senator Barry Goldwater was instrumental in arranging the special use permit on public land.  Wikipedia states that the American Institute of Architects gave the Chapel its Award of Honor in 1957. In the sculptor’s words, “Though Catholic in faith, as a work of art the Chapel has a universal appeal. Its doors will ever be open to one and all, regardless of creed, that God may come to life in the souls of all men and be a living reality.”
As I was leaving I noticed an unusual statue of St. Francis and snapped a memento however later that evening I realized that I had cropped off his head. The next day I decided to visit the chapel once again to correct my error. I climbed once more to the beautiful space and felt drawn again to meditate. Once again I had a powerful reaction, It is hard to explain the ineffable nature of a moment where peace, joy and sadness merge together and the heart opens bringing tears. It struck me as bizarre that my most powerful spiritual experience in Sedona is in a catholic church. A friend’s name emerged into my consciousness. “Michelle” I sat reflecting on her journey, which has been somewhat challenged of late and I realized I wanted to light a candle for her and her son. I said a brief prayer, lit my candle and left but not without thanking St. Francis for being instrumental in this moment of beauty and compassion.
Upon my return to Vancouver I e-mailed my friend to tell her that I had lit a candle for her. Her response was immediate and intriguing. “So Sunday walking at Port Townsend I thought, “I really must go to Sedona.” In fact I thought about it for quite a while, dreaming of red rock and the intense rarified atmosphere of that blue, blue sky, nightfall cool air, incredible stars…… So obviously, I received your message ” She had also been told by a psychic friend in February “I see you sitting there, that wise old native American woman on the rock in Sedona.”  What strange connections exist between us. At times we believe we are acting entirely independently but then it all seems to be part of a greater whole.
So I was not surprised to read that in fact the chapel itself is considered to sit on a vortex. In fact one web site I connected to suggested that it was one of the most easily experienced in Sedona. It suggests “The feeling within the walls of the chapel is one of inspiration and joy. The energy of this vortex site also includes love, harmony, unity and oneness with all that is.” I’ll second that opinion.

Visiting the Vortexes of Sedona

October 16, 2008

So what is a vortex? Well the dictionary suggests that a vortex is a whirling mass of water, energy, air or fire. In the case of Sedona the vortexes are believed to be different kinds of energy – magnetic (masculine), electrical (feminine), and balanced. I didn’t really know much about vortexes other than they are supposed to be energy centres and one of my friends had a bizarre unnatural energetic reaction when she was in Sedona. I went with an open mind but also not so open that my brains would fall out. I entertained various possibilities that I may see something, feel something or hear something. The map that they give out at the Tourism office shows little spirals where the vortexes are supposed to be but when you get there are no arrows or anything pointing the way. I set off on my quest first to Airport mesa vortex. I found a couple of people sitting cross legged and sat near them and meditated for a while. The views are so beautiful of the red desert that it is easy to be overwhelmed however in all honesty I could not hear. feel or see anything unusual energetically. I suspected that I just wasn’t suitably evolved or perhaps I wasn’t sufficiently susceptible. I spoke to a couple of women about their experience but I sensed they were as uncertain as me. My primary experience at this vortex was to be stabbed twice by beastly prickly pear cactus when I stepped too close to the edge of the trail. Smarting from the numerous spines still evident in my elbow I set off for the second vortex at Boynton Canyon, stopping at Safeway for a pair of tweezers to extract the invading needles from my arm.
Boynton Canyon is a delightful hike. Relatively flat and with a limited vertical climb it did however seem longer than the 2.4 miles they suggested in the guidebook as it took me an hour and twenty minutes to get to what I presume was my destination. It follows a dry path around an extremely exclusive resort with large signs that promise wayward hikers they will be prosecuted if they dare trespass. Initially the trail passes through the stunning red desert with dramatic canyon cliffs and mesas on all sides. Then it moves into the shade of the pine forest and actually became quite cool. The final scramble up some rocks took me to a small clearing of solid rock which I took to be the vortex due to the beautiful lady meditating on a rock and the small cairns scattered around. I took my place, stilled my mind and sat breathing and noticing. This vortex supposedly “encompasses both masculine and feminine energies and are ideal for balancing these energies within oneself and for harmonizing relationships with others.” This time I did notice a strange harmonic sound like ringing in my ears but saw and felt nothing else other than having my meditation disrupted by a  fly that insisted on sharing my space. As I walked down I took a picture of the beautiful woman and asked her what she felt. I loved her response that she just gazed at the surrounding rocks and saw the spirits of the many beings encoded there. This seemed like a lovely way to experience a vortex so with that possibility to inspire me I wended my way down to the parking lot.
My trip down was somewhat eventful and contained one of those timeless moments that occasionally break through the order of one’s normal consciousness. As I strolled down the trail my ears noticed something out of the ordinary. The next microsecond still seems frozen in time. Time expanded and the moment seemed endless as my brain processed the sound, my eyes registered the interloper, and my body reacted as the sympathetic nervous system responded with no apparent prompting from me. At first I thought I heard a hiss then I thought perhaps it was a rattle then my eyes scanned the trail and observed the greenish/brown coils of a serpent about six inches from my right foot and the word “rattlesnake” erupted like a mine as a conscious thought. I found myself taking this enormous stride with my left foot to safety before running ten more before I could actually fully embrace what had happened. After I stopped I decided that it would make a wonderful picture but I think I had descended further than I had realized because although I crept slowly back up the trail there was no obvious sign of the snake and I was not going looking for it.
The third vortex was Bell Rock and I tackled this the following day. It could be accessed by what was described as an easy bike trail. So I parked my van at the edge of Sedona and cycled up the brand new bike lane for about three miles to the parking lot and start of the trail. This is an exquisite locale. The vistas are dramatic sculptured red sand mesas – some rounded, some square and massive. I visited Bell Rock twice; once by bike and once by foot. The second time I climbed higher on the rock itself which was quite steep and slightly beyond my comfort zone. Why is it so much easier to go up than to come down? I meditated in two different places one at the base and the other higher. Each time I felt the strange aural phenomenon but nothing more. I say nothing more but in reality the view was so spectacular that in itself the dramatic panorama was a spiritual experience. My final vortex was Cathedral Rock where I again climbed beyond my comfort zone before my meditation led to the same response. I have never visited anywhere quite as visually stimulating as Sedona but energetically I did not notice anything extraordinary.
Funnily enough my most powerful experience was not one of the four supposed vortexes. It was at the Chapel of the Holy Cross perched up high above the town on the red cliffs. What is it about this little chapel that so impressed me? Well that deserves a story all of its own.

Meditating on the Road

October 14, 2008

I have a love affair with a VW Westphalia that I picked up in Germany in May 1991, drove around Europe with my girlfriend Karen and finally shipped back to Canada. We have been trusty companions for the past nineteen years and have taken many long distance adventures including Ontario, Kansas and numerous trips to California. We have an agreement that the VW will never strand me and in fact for the past eighteen years breakdowns have always been within relatively easy reach of assistance. And there have been a few problems including voltage regulator, fuel flow regulator, cracked cylinder head, numerous exhaust systems amongst others. On one occasion I drove over a thousand miles to my friend Alicia’s place in the Eastern Sierra of California to have my front axel break in her driveway. I shuddered at the potential for this to happen during the many miles of deserted road I had just completed but so far I have been protected for the 282,000 km we have driven together.
I have just returned from such a trip to Sedona in Arizona. I drove over 5,500 incident free kilometers. I may write more on the trip at some other time but this particular story concerns developing a meditation practice on the road. I have always found long distance driving somewhat meditative particularly in open desert or quiet forested countryside and in my quest to open my heart I like to focus positive energy in those who are a part of my intimate circle. On this last trip the form seemed to coalesce and I would like to share it.
I start with centering myself and on the in breath sense a flow of energy through my crown chakra down into my heart. Then on the out breath I feel the energy flowing out through my heart directed at someone I want to support. The words in my mind follow this refrain “Heart to heart, soul to soul, I hold you in love and light. May the loving power of the cosmos flow through me to you.” I repeat this a number of times continuing to focus my attention on the chosen one before repeating a loving kindness meditation that goes like this:
“May you be happy, may you be free from suffering, May you be free from anxiety, fear and stress. May you be loving, joyful and at peace. May you live in perfect radiant health. May you be divinely guided. May the universe fulfill your deepest desires. May your soul find its highest expression. May you be fulfilled.”
Then I sigh through my heart to complete before I start with someone else. I have no idea whether anyone ever realizes that I am thinking of them but I can drive for miles focusing on this practice. I usually place my left hand on my heart while doing it and notice a warmth that seems to flow through my heart by the end of the session. Miles fly by in a wonderful way.