Spiritual being having an academic experience

Something I’ve become aware of recently for myself is a sort of disconnect of different parts of me.  They feel as though they are beginning to be integrated but have a long way to go.  For example, in my life outside of school, I feel more at ease with myself.  I don’t really separate my spirituality from the rest of my life – to me, they are one in the same.  Thus, I have an easier time recognizing “where” people are, who and where I am, more concretely, the Oneness that we Are, etc.  But I’ve noticed within the past few weeks that my school setting is different for me (and I know that I make it so).  In the rest of my life, I recognize that the answers to the questions I am asking myself are found within.  In school, the feeling is different. And it’s not easy to articulate, so I’ll ask that you try to stay with me here because this could very well be incoherent or somewhat disjointed.

Because I have dedicated myself to learning about this particular field, I find a hard time integrating my overall Self with who I am as a student.  This results primarily in my looking to others for knowledge and guidance, instruction and opinion.  And to a degree, I think this is very necessary, so long as it relates specifically to what it is I am learning (the concrete material) and so long as I don’t forget my Self and what I bring, maintaining assurance in my capacity to take what I’m learning and integrate it with what else I Know.  And that seems to be where I’m getting tripped up.

One of the things I loved (and love) about my program is that it’s not one of those stereotypical academic programs where the professors think of themselves as gods and the students are mere peons.  My program is much more collaborative and honoring of students, their innate talents, and the life experiences they’ve had and skills they’ve acquired. But the line there seems to be pretty fine.  And since our society is all about empirical evidence coming from some laboratory or published in a scholarly journal is more significant than LIVED empirical evidence from one person, minding that line can lead to confusion.

Sera Beak over at Spiritual Cowgirl says that we are spiritual beings having a human experience.  I find myself a spiritual being having not only a human experience but an academic human experience which is a whole sub-variety with its own norms, and I’m trying to figure out how to maintain my Truth, stay in my program (though, as I mentioned to signmom, there are times when I just want to chuck it all away and take up my fantasy of living as the woman in the woods), and more fully integrate these different experiences I’m having and being.

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ABCs of me!

Signmom over at Cycles of Transition tagged me for this meme! While I’m quite proficient in quizzes and self-surveys, this is my first meme as a blogger. Red-letter day!

So, the legal/instruction bit:

“The instructions say that each player starts with some random facts/habits about himself/herself. As you are tagged you need to post the rules and your responses on your own blog. At the end of your post, you need to choose some people to tag, list their names and, of course, leave them a comment, telling they have been tagged and they need to read your blog for more information.”

A: Aramis – my baby furball. Currently the only man in my life.

B: Bourbon. I’m a big fan. In the sense that I genuinely enjoy it (in moderation, of course). It goes well with

C: Cigars. I enjoy them, too. I usually only smoke a couple a year on special occasions, but I love ’em. I also usually smoke them with my dad. It’s part of our bonding time.

D: Dentist visit. I really need one and my health insurance blows.

E: Exercise – my ultimate way to ground when I’m super charged with too much energy

F: Fruit. I don’t like it very much. Mostly, the textures of fruit bother me. The only fruits I like are: apples (and they’ve got to be crisp), bananas (just yellow – the green ones are too hard, and I don’t like the browning mushy ones either), raspberries (probably my favorite), strawberries, star fruit (cause it tastes like apple), and new additions that I’m starting to like are: blackberries, pineapple, blueberries, and mango

G: Grad school. It’s where I am right now and will be for, oh, the next 4 1/2 yrs…

H: Horribly addicted to buying books.  Seriously.  I put a book-buying prohibition on myself until I can read at least one more of the ones I already have and haven’t read (and also because I can’t afford to be shelling out all this money).  It’ll probably end in a week when I get paid.  I think I need to start a Book-Buyers Anonymous club.

I: Introverted. I’ve learned to be extroverted, and I’m more extroverted with my close friends, but as for how I process life and communicate, I am totally introverted

J: Jazz band. I was in it from 7th-9th grade. I played the alto sax. I still have my saxophone.

K: Kickboxing. Love it.

L: Love to travel and learn about other cultures and languages.  I lived in France for two years and ache to revisit it.

M: Marching band. I was in that, too, from 9th-12th grade. I was a section leader and first chair (alto sax there, too).

N: Never have I eaten at Taco Bell. Nor do I ever intend to.

O: Oneness: a concept I have just started to wrap myself around

P: Paris (France not Texas). That was one of the cities I lived in during those two years in France.

Q: I quit smoking a couple years ago but relapsed a little here and there and when I was studying for the GREs and completing grad school applications (though not to the point of buying my own packs). I’m not sure of the very last time I had a cigarette, but I know that I definitely haven’t had one since June 1.

R: Really stinky cheeses.  Love ’em. You can have your brie and cheddar.  I’ll take some Epoisse, Le Chatelain, Pont l’Eveque, and P’tit basque.  And a baguette, thank you.

S: Surprise party. I’ve always wanted to have one and no one’s ever thrown one for me.

T: Tiger. My masculine totem. I’ve always wanted to have one of those, too, for a pet, except for that potential hazard of it eating me.

U: Ukulele – I don’t think I’ve ever heard one played.

V: Valentine’s day. I have had a significant other on Valentine’s day just once I think. And when he and I were cooking dinner together, he sliced into my finger (accidentally) when we were chopping up veggies. Not fun.

X: xylography (the art of making engravings on wood – and yes, I had to look that up; btw – words that start with X barely make up one page in the dictionary, so no, I don’t feel bad about having to look one up) – a short-lived hobby of mine that I may or may not return to.

Y: Yellow cake with chocolate icing. My favorite kind.

Z: zucchini bread – my mom used to make it when we were little, and I absolutely adore it.

I tag carolyn at Goddess in a Teapot and  simplewitch from Greenwoman!

What is knowing?

There seems to be a process in which we experience things in our lives, whether they are events, emotions, thoughts, etc. and either let them go or integrate them into our existence. I’m less concerned with what happens up to the point of the actual processing of the experience and more concerned with what happens during and after. In my experience, I can know something on a superficial level without it really affecting me. For example, I can know that I am angry or upset about something without actually allowing myself to live those emotions, to submit to the experience of them, embrace them, really feel them in all their tart, bitter juiciness. It is when I live those emotions that they come to life and I can truly process what it is to feel them and what the situation that helped in part to provoke them (along with my own interpretation of that situation) means.

The same thing goes for lots of experiences. Difficult or traumatic events, thoughts, ideas, philosophies, etc. For me, superficial knowing (how I think most people regard the idea of ‘knowing’, though probably not most of my readers here because you’re all in a happy minority) is a static state. It does not require action. I can easily know I am in a dysfunctional relationship without feeling I have to do anything about it (and I speak from experience here). It isn’t until I embrace what that experience means that I am moved to live it and thus find myself needing to act. Living is the point of no return. Living is real knowing (knowing-what-you-know knowing). The kind of knowing you feel in your center that sits there with such intensity that there is no debating what it is that you know. You just know it. That level of knowing cannot be un-known, taken away, returned, exchanged for the previous state of not-knowing, and because of this, it is the impetus for action. If one does not act after knowing on this level, this living of the experience, serious problems arise.

This comes to mind for me today because although I have come to a point of knowing that we are all One, I’m still working out the everyday aspects of it all. I find it easy to see my Oneness with certain wonderful people in my life. In those cases, I get excited even about being One. I was in an emotionally-drained funk yesterday and one of my wonderful friends reminded me that I’m One with the Dalai Lama. Who wouldn’t want to be One with him? It is my Oneness with certain other people that poses a challenge to me and stretches my muscles of compassion to what feels like their limit. But even as I write this, I know they have no limits, that my capacity for compassion is infinite. And I also know that recognizing my struggle with these people is a wonderful thing because it can point me to my own shortcomings because more often than not, what drives me nuts in others is the traits and habits I’ve struggled with in myself. And if I can love those things in myself, gently massage them to the point where they melt away, then that will be mirrored on the outside, and I know that my difficulty with certain people will lessen immensely. That I will See them with new eyes.

I am beginning to live my Truth. I think that I had had a silly notion that as soon as I discovered it, everything would become easier. But these things – these perceived difficulties and challenges – are the stones that pave the path to the One. And thus, I am very grateful for them.

What tarot card are you?

You are The Moon

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Moon is a card of magic and mystery – when prominent you know that nothing is as it seems, particularly when it concerns relationships. All logic is thrown out the window.

The Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry. This is a card that has to do with sleep, and so with both dreams and nightmares. It is a scary card in that it warns that there might be hidden enemies, tricks and falsehoods. But it should also be remembered that this is a card of great creativity, of powerful magic, primal feelings and intuition. You may be going through a time of emotional and mental trial; if you have any past mental problems, you must be vigilant in taking your medication but avoid drugs or alcohol, as abuse of either will cause them irreparable damage. This time however, can also result in great creativity, psychic powers, visions and insight. You can and should trust your intuition.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Growing into One

I remember when I initially learned a very little about Buddhism and the idea that what we call reality is really illusion, that to end suffering, we needed to recognize this illusion for what it is and thus let it go. At the time, this made no sense to me, probably because I was trying to pick it apart in my brain instead of massaging it with my spirit. When I took my first major turn on this spiritual journey of mine and read a fantasy fiction novel that led me to begin studying Paganism, I encountered this theme again, though in a slightly different shape: that everything is Divine, that we are One. At that moment in time, I was still holding tightly to my Christian upbringing and unable to fully recognize or understand this concept. It made me feel awkward and itchy like a wool sweater that fits too tightly. Again and again, this theme would resurface, looking up at me like an adorable puppy wanting to be cuddled and played with, asking if it was time yet, if I could put down the rest of the crap I was holding and sweep down to fully embrace it and play with it. Again and again, I have said, “No – not yet”, holding tightly to the things in my hands that seemed glued to them and that mirrored the illusions taking up space in my heart.

And then, maybe a month ago or so, I began seeing those things in my hands that were mirrored in my heart as not really necessary anymore. I started to think about putting them down but then thought that they were glued there – how could I even let go of them? And the more I thought about it and the more I looked into those puppy eyes of Oneness, the more I wanted to get rid of them. I started thinking about playing with that puppy and cuddling it. I somewhat painfully pried off a few things in my hands one by one, though still more remained. But my time of daydreaming about puppy playful Oneness was now tugging on my heart harder and the time of my daydreaming was growing longer and longer, my visualizations becoming stronger each time. And I remembered reading in 100 ways the Tao principle of only succeeding when we give up. Oh, how I wanted to give up but there was still a part of me that attached value to the things I was still holding in my hands. And then I came across the book I mentioned a post ago and read the following:

“Maya is all experience…constituted by, and follows from , the distinction between self and non-self…The perennial psychology declares all dualism to be not so much unreal as illusory. Cutting of the world into seer and seen, only apparently and not actually divides the world, for the world always remains indistinct from itself…The original dualism…is mythologically referred to…as the separation of Heaven and Earth, Male and Female, Sun and Moon; epistemologically, it is the separation of subject and object…; ontologically, it is the separation of self and other, organism and environment…Our Supreme Identity becomes not lost, but obscured, and thus is created “out of the Oneness of Mind” the next major level of the Spectrum [of Consciousness]: The Existential level…We might also mention that since this primary dualism separates the seer from the seen…it simultaneously creates space.

“As soon as one identifies exclusively with the organism, the problem of…life vs. death is created. The creation of the dualism of life vs. death is simultaneously the creation of time – for in the timelessness of the eternal Mind there is neither birth nor death…In other words, birth and death…are one in the eternal Now.”

And suddenly, I saw that the things in my hands now as not having been glued to them but simply me keeping a death-grip on them, and all I had to do was let them go. I looked to puppy Oneness again and the warmth it radiated rushed over me in the way that sitting down by a warm fire in the cold night soothes and gently enfolds while revitalizing the body to its proper temperature. Now, I am looking at the puppy and seeing how wonderfully True it is. I have let go of the remaining objects I had held in my hands and sat down on the floor. My heart is suddenly de-cluttered from the illusions that were taking up space in it. Puppy Oneness is in my lap, licking my face, and I am hugging it with such ferocious compassion that I had known was deep within me all along but that I couldn’t ever really embrace because of what I was holding on to in my hands and heart. And soon, I will play.

Whew…shifts

What a busy past few days it has been!  Thursday, I was up at 4am, flying to VA for a conference for Thursday and Friday.  Then, Friday evening, I was flying back to Atlanta to arrive home around 11pm only to get up the next morning at 5:30am to go to an all-day conference for the Dalai Lama hosted by Emory University and The Mind and Life Institute (more on that in a bit).  I had originally intended to be done for the day then, at 4pm.  Except that I walked into the big tent the M&LI had set up as a Tibetan Bazaar.  I managed to get out of there with only a beautiful tapestry of the 8 auspicious symbols and a ticket to last night’s Mystical arts of Tibet concert.  Of course that meant I had enough time to go home, take a 25 min. nap, eat something, and head back out to the concert again.  I am so glad that I went, though. I have never experienced anything like it before, and it was beyond amazing.

I confess to not knowing a great deal about the “Free Tibet movement” and the little I do know I have only learned recently.  Because I imagine I am not alone in this fact and because I also think more people should know about what is going on in this section of the world, I’d like to provide you with some information.  The Drepung Loseling Monastery was established in 1416 outside of Lhasa and was one of Tibet’s largest monastic educational institutes.  At one time, over 10,000 monk students lived there who had come from not only Tibet, but also from China, Himalayan India, Mongolia, and the Mongol regions of eastern Russia.  In 1959 when the Chinese communist government invaded Tibet, they destroyed almost every single one of the 6,500 monasteries in Tibet and either killed or imprisoned most of the monks.  About 250 escaped into India where they were given refuge and a land donation by the Indian government.  There, they created a new Drepung Loseling monastery to preserve and pass on the ancient traditions.  Today their population stands at about 3,000.  This article indicates that immediately after the Dalai Lama fled Tibet, nearly 90,000 Tibetans died and that to date, the Tibetan government estimates at least 1 million Tibetans have died under Chinese rule.  The Chinese communist government continues to deny Tibet independence, and so, the Dalai Lama and Tibetan monks remain in India in exile.

Going to the conference yesterday was an awesome experience.  When His Holiness came on stage, everyone stood, and he took turns bowing to each person on stage with his hands clasped in front of him.  He also bowed to the audience in the same way. Numerous scientists were there to conduct mini-presentations of their research on depression, compassion training, meditation, etc.  Most are probably world-renowned experts in their areas.  And while the information they presented was indeed fascinating, it is not what I took away from the conference.  I took with me HH the Dalai Lama’s hearty laugh and radiant smile.  I took with me the vision of him sitting in a lotus position on his chair with his bare feet showing.  I took with me the sight of him putting the burgundy visor on his head after having sat down.  I took with me him laughing wholly at himself when he lost his train of thought and said “I don’t know!” I took with me the reverence the scientists held for him as each nervously presented their findings and tried to answer his questions.  I took with me the idea of ‘what would it be like if we were to all treat each other as reverently as the Dalai Lama treats everyone who he meets and as those scientists treated him.’  I took away his emphasis on compassion and that he first learned compassion through his mother; that mothers are always the first teachers of compassion.  I probably took away a great deal more that will continue to surface in my thoughts as the days pass on.

Last night’s performance of sacred music and sacred dance was astounding.  I have never heard people make the sounds those student monks made or heard instruments like the ones they played.  And everything they did was dances or songs or chants of healing and prayer.  Sacred movement and sound.  My favorites were the debate and the snow lion dance.  The monks travel around the country performing.  I found some pictures of a performance at Carnegie Mellon that are almost exactly like what I saw last night.  By the time the performance finished, the audience was in love.  We gave the performers a standing ovation which appeared to have really tickled them.  Their faces beamed as they stood listening to our clapping and seeing us all on our feet.  They emanated joy and compassion.  I wanted to wrap them all up in a big hug.  But since that wasn’t possible, I bought one of the tree-friendly journals and a small poster of a sand art mandala that blows my mind.

In reflecting on all of this, I think back to the key note speaker at the conference in VA who greeted everyone with direct and intentional eye contact and a warmth I had not seen or felt before.  It was the same feeling as His Holiness the Dalai Lama imparted.  The revering and celebrating of others’ being.  The only way I can think to describe it is like having someone hug your heart.  I notice that we don’t do that anywhere near as often as we should, and so I am going to change that by changing me.  I am going to start by focusing more on loving myself unconditionally and by greeting three people a day in that way.

Ahhh…

One of the tasks counselors-in-training should do (but aren’t required) is to choose a theoretical orientation from which to base their practice.  Theoretical orientation provides a basis for conceptualizing being, including how we develop, how problems come up, how we can solve them.  Basically, it comes down to how you view the world and that man-made construct called “mental health.”  You’re more familiar with the works of theorists than you realize, seeing as how they’ve come to shape our culture greatly.  The concepts of the unconscious, of the great significance of early childhood events in shaping our personalities later, and a whole host of other things (some good, some pretty damn terrible) are thanks to Freud.  If you’ve ever used the terms introvert/extrovert, anima/animus, or collective unconscious, you can thank Jung.  If you’ve ever identified someone as having an inferiority complex or said “ahhh…that explains it” and nodded your head when you found out someone was a middle child/baby of the family/eldest child, Adler’s your man.

Right now, I’m taking a class on all these different theories, and it’s by far my favorite of the semester.  However, I’ve been getting a little antsy because I don’t really mesh with any of the theories we’ve gone over so far.  I mentioned this to a professor I’m working with, and he mentioned to me again a theory (not in my syllabus) called transpersonal theory.  Well…after emailing a few professors in the department to try to hunt down some good, basic literature on what this is, ordering a few books from Amazon after practically having an orgasm when I read through the table of contents of one of them, and getting halfway through the introduction of the one book, I can pretty safely say (though I plan on reading more than 10 pages before I commit) that I found my theory.  My general grasp on it so far is that it’s all about Oneness.  Separation is just an illusion.  And while that’s something I’ve been turning around in my head for a couple months now, it is finally starting to mesh and breathe within me to the point where I can begin to truly grasp what it means.

You know the famous line from Jerry McGuire “You had me at hello”?  Transpersonal theory had me at, “…transpersonal psychology enables human beings to discover their inseparability from all life and their appropriate place in the great chain of being.  Central to this unfolding awareness is the rediscovery of the power of ancient methods to achieving altered states of consciousness, such as meditation, yoga, shamanic journeys…”  The first part of that quote was the set-up, the ‘shamanic journeys’ was the clincher.  I can’t tell you how excited I am to be stumbling upon this.

One interesting fact that the authors point out in the preface is that (at least in 1993 when the book was published) there were few women publishing work on transpersonal theory.  Immediately, I thought to myself, Well, boys, I’m happy to help you out there.  After I discussed this with my professor, he opened up some new ideas for me.  Of course women hadn’t published first.  Because if they had, more than likely, it would have been laughed at, scoffed at, brushed off, ignored, etc.  Within the patriarchy, men had to publish first to validate it before it could be safe for women to come forward and advocate for it.  And that just fucking blows.  I don’t know if some of those men were smart enough to realize that women probably have been doing this and practicing it for years and years, more than likely in some proverbial closet and to know that men were not the ones to “discover” this type of viewing the world.  I’ll find out and keep y’all posted as I read more of the literature.

Some fun things to come as I swim through the waters of this book: meditation and psychotherapy, lucid dreaming and dream yoga as a means of achieving enlightenment, consciousness, healing and wholeness, science and mysticism, compassion and conscious love, the Tao of personal and social transformation and much more…authors include His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ram Das, Ken Wilber, William James, Roger Walsh, Frances Vaughn, and others.   Yeah for learning!

I, uh, well, there’s this….

I’ve been wanting to write more recently, but when I sit down to do it, nothing comes.  It’s like everything that’s going on right now, everything that’s coming together, building, birthing, is all just so fantastically awesome that it’s all I can do to breathe it in. I feel like I’m nowhere near being able to reproduce it or articulate it in a way that would do it justice or be remotely coherent.

 So in the mean time, here’s a picture of Aramis sleeping.

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Time to slow down

I woke up yesterday feeling refreshed and lovely.  As the day wore on, especially as I started experiencing more school-related stress, I noticed things – patterns of thinking, behavior, etc. that I was not entirely aware I had before, but that I now realize no longer fit with who I wish to be. I keep finding myself starting to “down” myself because I am not some of the other people in my life, don’t have their gifts.  Each time, I gently tell myself that it is okay that I am not them.  I am who I am.  And then the most wonderful feeling comes over me as I can cherish these people more deeply for the gift that they are in my life.  Aren’t I so lucky!  I have the privilege to have all of you in my life!  And I feel truly blessed. 

 One of the other significant themes that has cropped up is how often I rush.  I rush through everything.  I rush through getting online, I rush through looking at all my favorite blogs, I rush through reading (even things I enjoy!), I rush through mundane, routine tasks like unloading the dishwasher or washing dishes, I rush when I’m in my car, I rush when I eat, I rush to try to help friends fix problems when fixing isn’t what they necessarily need or want, I even rush through all these wonderful changes I am experiencing.  I rush just about all the time.  I became aware that I tell myself I’m being efficient with my time, but that isn’t accurate.  In trying to cram everything into as little time as possible, I’m not respecting or valuing the things I am doing or experiencing, and I am almost trying to trick time.  That last bit is silliest of all.  So, I am deciding to slow down.  I am intentionally doing things more slowly so I can savor the experience of them even more.  Even the mundane things.  Especially the mundane things. 

 Everything is sacred.  Those three little words pack quite a punch.  They seem so simple, and yet, when I take the time to really think about every one of those ‘things’ that is sacred, I find myself becoming dizzy.  Everything is sacred because all of life is sacred, and there is nowhere life is not. 

 I was walking the brief walk from my apartment down the two flights of stairs and 200 some feet to the pool patio area the other day, and I was thinking about the composition of things.  I felt the cobble stone walkway beneath my feet and recognized it as hardened earth.  I lifted the knob and opened the wrought iron gate to get into the patio area and again saw earth, this time combined with fire, and cooled by air and water to maintain its shape.  I began looking around at everything, seeing the basic elements represented in all these objects I usually don’t think twice about, let alone hold as sacred or am truly thankful for.  My laptop is a fascinating combination of the elements – plastic and metal pieces, electric signals sent between and received by circuits and chips, ink labels on keys to designate functions, fan whirring to keep all the parts from overheating…

 For me, slowing down means being able to see all these sacred details of my existence that surround me every day and to learn to appreciate them and be thankful for them in the most heartfelt of ways. I feel lik embracing everything as sacred is a small way of reaching out into the universe because all of those elements are within me as well, and my embracing that, I connect more fully with the rest of existence.  And I am.