The Magic of the Dakini

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Tonight, I learned of being a Dakini:

“It is said that women make superior healers because they are able to dive into meditation much more easily than males, as males are afraid of dropping the intellect.  To be naked in the meditation experience is frightening for them, whereas women seem to be able to manage this naturally.

“A female embodiment of enlightenment is called a dakini in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit.  This translates, literally, to “sky-goer” or “space-dancer”,  indicating that these ethereal awakened creatures have left the confinements of our solid earth and have taken to the vastness of open space as their elusive playground. Dakinis embody a special female quality which has a quality of soft sharpness, and a fiercely radical, courageous yet gentle heart, and a clarity of higher mind that cuts through intellectual ossification by pure and cosmic intuitive force.

“On a secret level, this being is seen as the manifestation of fundamental aspects of phenomena and the mind, and so her power is intimately associated with the profound insights. In this, her most essential aspect, she is considered to be the formless wisdom nature of the mind itself. And on an inner, ritual level, she is a meditational deity, visualized as the personification of buddhahood. On an outer, subtle-body level, she is the energetic network of the embodied mind in the subtle channels of energy and vital breath of tantric yoga. Yet, even more so, she is also, temporarily a mortal, living woman.  She takes many forms and may be a mother, a guru, a yogini, a powerful teacher, or a woman who simply teaches directly through her own life example.

 “Dakinis are the most important elements of the Enlightened Divine Femine in Tibetan Buddhism.  They are the luminous.  Subtle, yet spiritually energetic.  They are, at once, the key, the gatekeeper, and the guardian of the unconditioned state. If we are unwilling to invite the dakini into our life, will simply will not and cannot enter these subtle states of mind on our own.

As such, in order to be awakened and enlightened, we need them, and they will appear to us as messengers, nurturers, protectors, lovers, and guides.

…Yet, no matter what form they take, they will appear, and they have one purpose and one purpose only:  To open your heart.”

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“Unseen Others”

When I was in grad school, I was introduced to the concept of “unseen others” by one of my professors. According my professor’s theory, we all have them. They are the people in the world that we choose not to see because our reaction to them makes us uncomfortable.

I would like you to take a moment and consider who your unseen others are. Is it someone of a different religion, race or ethnicity, sexuality, or socioeconomic status? Perhaps it is someone of a specific profession, age bracket, range of ability, or political belief? Or maybe there are certain appearances, interests, or personality traits that come to your mind.

Regardless of who these unseen others are or what it is about them that makes us uncomfortable, we all seem to have such reactions to a certain group of people. Most often, we avoid our unseen others because we are uncertain of how to relate to them, or we have made assumptions, passed judgments, or developed biases or prejudices against the type of person we believe them to be.

I find this to be such an interesting phenomenon. How curious it is that we have a hard time seeing people as real simply because they are different from us. How unfortunate it is that we short change people because we have unfairly made up our minds about them. What a disservice it is to everyone when we cannot look deeper into one another simply because we are unsure of how to relate to who we think they are. And isn’t it interesting that we tend to validate certain people based on their likeness to our own self-image?

If you have been able to identify your unseen others, I challenge you to consider what it is about you and them that makes them so difficult for you to see. Invite your unseen others to hold up a mirror to you, and take a long look at yourself in the reflection that you see. Ask yourself questions about what you see. Too, ask yourself if you are willing to challenge your beliefs about yourself and the people around you. Are you willing to learn from someone that you have always thought has nothing to teach you? Are you willing to allow them to touch you? Are you willing to reach out and touch them? Are you willing to venture out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons?

Although it can be difficult to deconstruct our personal biases, it is rather easy to approach people with curiosity, rather than judgment. To be kind, respectful, and accepting. It may be easier than we think to have a positive influence and be positively influenced ourselves, even when we least suspect. Just think about a time when you were surprised by someone. How good it feels to be treated as a whole person worthy of understanding and acceptance.

Take a moment today and think about what a wonderful thing it is see the goodness in one another. See that we are so much more connected by our similarities, our vulnerabilities, and our very human nature than we realize. Celebrate and embrace our differences as a source of richness, rather than a point of division. Give all people a chance, no matter who or what we assume them to be.

Hurt People Hurt People

If you have ever been a part of a relationship, I am willing to bet that you have also found yourself amidst an internal struggle that is, at least in part, due to something that has happened within that relationship. Something that was confusing, hurtful, or upsetting. Something that was difficult to let go of, move on from, or understand. As such, I am willing to bet that whatever it was that had caused you discomfort has also had a lasting impact on you in some meaningful way. Perhaps it has influenced how you approach people. Perhaps it taught you a valuable lesson. Perhaps it shaped you in some other meaningful way, for better or for worse. Rarely do we make it through such things without an impact being made.

Because of this, it comes as no surprise that such lesson can be quite difficult to learn. That we may be rendered incapable of embracing a lesson until we are capable of approaching the situation from an entirely different perspective. A perspective that does not focus on the hurt and is instead driven by a compassionate empathy for all that are involved. A perspective that allows us to let go of what may otherwise hard to set free.

When you take a moment to think about the implications of approaching painful circumstance in such a loving way, it is no wonder that many of us undergo a transformation of sorts as we move forward. It is no wonder that we also begin to soften, forgive, and let go of that which has hurt us in the past. I say that this is no wonder, because I believe that when we are able to approach another human being from a point of compassion, we begin to see life through their eyes, instead of through our own, and in doing so, we often gain a better understanding of their true intentions and greater insight into their deeper experiences. Rather than being convinced that we have been hurt by their selfishness or deceit, we may see instead that they were driven by another force entirely. Or, rather than looking down upon them with disappointment, judgment, or condemnation, we may soften our gaze and realize that they are coming from a place that we otherwise may not understand.

And of course, as I say this, please understand that I do not mean to minimize any pain that has been experienced, nor excuse any wounds that have been inflicted. I only mean to say that it does seem to feel better, and therefore take us farther, when we are able to invest in love and compassion and allow our pain to be transformed, rather than submerge ourselves in negative and destructive emotions.

So today, if you find yourself revisiting a painful relationship, I challenge you to consider the alternative perspective. Attempt to understand what may otherwise be unfathomable. Reject the victim mentality and let go of blame. Instead, hold fast to your optimism in humankind and have faith in what you believe to be good.

Beastly Beings

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We, as humans, no matter how evolved we become, are animals. We were created to adapt, evolve, and thrive. So much of our existence revolves around drives that are so basic to every animal in the world: food and water, shelter and safety, learning and development, companionship and belonging. Of course, we were also created to have a life that is more advanced than other animals, but really, when broken down, that is what we are. We are primal beings, with primal needs, motivations, and desires.

We are instinctual beings, just like everyone else on this magnificent earth.

Think about that for just a moment. Think about the things that we just seem to know how to do. The things that we learn as we go through life, whether they are taught to us or not. The things that just come naturally to us as human beings. And while tuning into some of these intrinsic messages may be difficult at times, the bottom line, however, is the same: we are instinctual beings.

So, if this is correct and we are such instinctual beings that move toward that which feels good, and away from that which does not, why do we have such trouble trusting our instincts? Why do we often struggle to decide if we should listen to what our hearts are telling us, or if we are better off heeding the advice of our heads? Why do some of us feel as though we “lack” intuition or that gut-feeling that seems to inherently guide others?

…It is because our instincts are so often over-ruled by our intellect. So often, we are encouraged to trust our heads instead of our hearts. We give greater merit to logic and reason because they offer better evidence or proof than any other alternative. We tend to overlook the power and insight of emotion and intuition because these feelings are seen as less objective and therefore less concrete. We live in a society that undeniably favors the science of logic and discounts the science of emotions. Because of this, we tend to forget that there is a connection between the two. That each preference, tendency, or approach to life plays an equally important role for us as human beings. We forget that each is just as valuable, useful, and important as the other. That they are interdependent to one another and integral to our well-being.  That there is no reasn for the war between the head and the heart.  We have both for a reason.

On this day,  perhaps practice a bit of mindfulness and listen to your whole self, giving merit to all of the messages that you receive. Recognize the thoughts and ideas that dance through your head. Acknowledge your feelings and consider them valid. Tune in to your body and observes whatever sensations arise. Take heed of all these messages and integrate them into one.

Self-Worth

Imagine this: A two-year old girl falls down a well and is in danger of drowning. Without hesitation, the community invests incredible amounts of time, effort, and money into saving this young girl. And fortunately for everyone involved, they do. But why would they do this? Why would they save this baby girl, who has done nothing noteworthy in her life, and has contributed nothing to society? I mean, she has no money, she is often self-centered and naughty, and she doesn’t have many friends or loved ones besides her immediate family. So why would people even care if she is ok or not?

These questions sound cold-hearted and harsh, don’t they?  They do, because as we all well know, it is because this two-year old girl, this loveable toddler, has unconditional human worth. Regardless of her age, her status, or her contribution to society, this tiny little person has inherent worth and value, and she is just as precious as any other person on this earth. Perhaps she has not done much of “worth” in her two short years, but she certainly has worth as a human being. Regardless of who she is, she has a core-self, and that core is worthy of love, respect, and positive regard. Just as everyone’s is.

…As it is defined by psychologists, self- or core-worth means that all people are indeed equal. It means that we are equal because we are human. This kind of value or worth is not comparable. It is not competitive. And it is not conditional. The worth or value of a person does not need to be earned, nor does it need to be proved. It just exists. It always has, and it always will.  And this worth is to be recognized, appreciated, and accepted.

So, if it so easy to say that must absolutely must save this sweet little girl, to see her value as a person because she just IS, I wonder why so many of us do not value ourselves in such a way. Why do so many of us struggle with self-worth and question our value, even while we are able to recognize the value of others? Why we might think that because we may not fit a certain mold, that we are not as worthy as those who do. I wonder why we are so hard on ourselves when they make mistakes, when something does not go as we had hoped, when people treat us poorly. Too, I wonder why some people assign more or less value to a person because of what they do or do not have, how they do or do not behave, the mold that they do or do not fit.

…Quite often, we allow ourselves and others to be defined by externals: by successes and achievements, families and friends, abilities and appearances, social status, material belongings, and the perception of other people. Of course, external things may influence many parts of our lives. They may impact our thoughts, our feelings, or our behaviors, and they may influence how we relate to others and the world that we are surrounded by. They may influence how we experience our worth, but they do not change our value in and of itself.

So what happens when such things do influence our core worth? What happens when we allow external factors to define or equate who we are, be it for better or for worse? When we undervalue ourselves, and overvalue our surroundings?

When this happens, when our core value is based on something extrinsic rather than intrinsic, we become unstable, conditional, and undervalued. This happens because we have allowed something outside of ourselves to trump the internal, most true parts of ourselves. We then lose sight of our core essence, of who we are and the beauty within us. We lose our authenticity and our security and we cheat ourselves of self-love.

…When worth is separate from externals, however, we experience life much differently. All of a sudden, we are much more resilient, much more stable, objective, and reasonable. Our perspective transforms and our thoughts and feelings become more positive. We are able to distinguish feelings about events from feelings about ourselves. We are kinder to ourselves, more patient, rational, compassionate, and loving. When we separate our worth from externals, we experience both ourselves and our world much more openly.

And so, my precious babies, look within yourselves and see your worth. Embrace your human core and the essence of who you are. Appreciate that which you are surrounded by and have gratitude, but do not measure your worth by these things. Instead, hold them tightly to your heart and revel instead in the beauty that is uniquely you. Remember that your core, your worth, is whole and complete, but it is not completed. That you are an ever-changing work of art of immeasurable value to the world, to your loved ones, and to yourself.

I Am My Own Problem

A few years ago, while still in yoga training, my son found me buried under a pile of books, pouring over my notes and typing away on my computer.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Homework,” I told him.

“Homework!?” he asked. “Now what for?”

“Yoga training,” I told him.

He watched me for a moment longer before saying, “Mom, remember when you were stressed out about everything that you have to do all the time?”

“Yes?” I replied.

“Well, no offense,” he said, “But you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself. It is kind of your own fault”.

…My son has this fabulous way of rendering me speechless from time to time. He makes these wonderful observations, and then he finds these incredibly simplistic yet profound and blatantly honest ways of telling me like it is. He calls it like he sees it, and far more often than not, he is right. He holds up a mirror for me to gaze in to just when I seem to need it most, forcing me to stop dead in my tracks and reconsider what I have been up to.

As I do so, I often find myself adopting a new perspective and approaching life from a slightly new angle. He tends to begin many of said statements of truth with the dreaded No Offense, saying “No offense, Mom, but…” and then the words that follow are some eye-opening observation that he has made. As I listen to him, it is as if I am dying to know what brilliant statement he is about to make, while simultaneously bracing myself for some tough love.

Yet, even if he does make me wince from time to time, his insight really is a beautiful thing. Because every time he demonstrates a bit of such wisdom, he serves as a reminder that “I am my problem, and I am also my solution.” He reminds me that it is I that am the one stressing myself out. It is I that has the tendency to take on the world. And it is I that am the only one who can do anything about it, whether I keep on keepin’ on, or I give myself a break. He reminds me that, for better or for worse, I am up to me, and I had better take responsibility for myself. No matter the problem I am faced with, I must bear in mind that I represent some part of the problem, if not the whole thing. And, I must care for that part of myself differently if I am to reach a resolution.

So, today, I challenge you, readers, to take such a look at your life. And as you do, reflect on how you have become your own problem. Of course, do not be hard on yourself, but rather, acknowledge the tendencies you have that might perpetuate issues in your life.

And most importantly, ask yourself what you can do differently to become your own solution.

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{YAM} Heart-Openers and Back-Bending:

These poses, hence their name, involve the opening and blossoming of the heart. Which inevitably exposes the most intimate and vulnerable parts of our internal and external self.

And not surprsingly, this can feel scary, uncomfortable.  Yet, it can also feel beautifully and incredibly naked and raw, as these poses gently encourage us to peel away our protective layers and let the magic of our hearts shine.  They force us to drop our head and mind back into the unknown behind us, expose our neck and throat, drive our chest forward, and allow our heart, soul, and intuitive gut lead the way and journey blindly into the unknown before us.

Yet, as scary as this may be, we need not move in the direction of fear, or we will forever be stagnant.

Instead, move in the direction of your heart. Let it open. Expose yourself. Be authentic, raw, and naked. Liberate yourself. Dance with life. Open up to the cosmos.

Redefine Struggle

My sister recently sent me an article entitled, “Struggle for Smarts”. The author opened his article with a story about a fourth grade classroom in Japan. In this story, the teacher was teaching his class how to draw three-dimensional cubes. As he observed the class, the author noticed that one of the boys was struggling with the concept and appeared unable to draw the cube correctly. The teacher noticed this as well and invited the youngster to draw the cube on the board in front of the class. Doing as he was instructed, the boy went to the front of the class, and drew the cube to the best of his ability, but he still could not complete the cube correctly. After his first try, the teacher asked the class, “How does that look?” The class confirmed that it was drawn incorrectly, so he tried again. Every few minutes, the teacher would ask the class if he had gotten it right, and each time, the students would look up from their work and shake their heads “no”. As the hour went on, and the boy had still not completed the cube correctly, the author realized that he had begun to perspire as he watched the boy anxiously and worried that he would become discouraged and begin to cry.

But, to his surprise, he did not. He diligently persisted, drawing his cube incorrectly each time. Try after try, he continued to draw his cube until, he had gotten it right. And when he had finally drawn the cube with mastery, the class broke into applause and he was able to return to his seat with pride.

Like the author of this article, many of us become uncomfortable when we imagine this young boy struggling in front of his peers in such a way. We think, “Why would the teacher do that to him, knowing that he was unable to draw the cube correctly? That poor boy! I feel so badly for him!” Yet, while this boy was struggling to master the task of drawing the cube, it does not appear that he was struggling emotionally. So why is it that we assume that he was? And why is it that we ourselves shift uncomfortably and feel badly for this boy who struggled to learn something new? It seems that many of us tend to view struggle as an indicator that we, or someone else, is lacking or “less than” in some important way. That we are not as intelligent, not as capable, not as resilient as we “should be”. That because we do not have it figured out yet, we are missing a skill or trait that we should otherwise possess.

Yet, if we were to adopt a perspective that is similar to the Japanese classroom, we would realize that struggle is an inherent and predictable part of life. It is part of learning, part of mastering a skill, part of figuring things out and finding our way. As this classroom knows, to struggle is not a sign of weakness. Rather, to struggle is to be presented with yet another opportunity to overcome challenge and to learn. To struggle is an opportunity to be proud of ourselves and satisfied with our efforts as we work through something difficult and overcome an obstacle.

You Will See It When You Believe It

 

A belief, as defined by the dictionary, is the psychological state in which an individual holds a premise to be true. 98-367

To have beliefs, or a belief system, is very human. Our beliefs, in part, help us conceptualize the world, and make sense of our experiences. Beliefs may be based on evidence, personal values, and convictions. They may stem from socialization, or they may be deeply personal. A belief may be quite accurate as defined by reality, or it may be entirely untrue when measured by the same standard. Beliefs stem from personal convictions, thought processes, and feelings, and they vary greatly from person to person. Beliefs are not right or wrong, valid or invalid. They are beliefs. And they are deeply personal, and very valid and true to the person that deems them to be so.

Take a moment, if you could, and reflect on your beliefs. Do you tend to form your beliefs based on factual information, or are your beliefs more difficult to prove as “true”? Do your beliefs stem for your background, upbringing, peers and society, or do you hold them contrary to popular belief? Do your beliefs incorporate religion? Spirituality? Moral values?  Human nature?  Are they based on your perceptions, judgments, schemas, or experiences? How are your beliefs representative of your thoughts and feelings?

Think now, for just a moment, about how your beliefs serve you. How much do you rely on your beliefs to guide you through this world? How flexible or rigid is your belief system? Do you compare them to those of others, or label beliefs as right or wrong, better or worse? How well do you know and understand your beliefs? How much consideration do you give to the beliefs of others?

And finally, I would like you to consider what you believe to be true about yourself.

As you do this, perhaps you will become aware that your beliefs about yourself are secure, reassuring, positive and empowering. That you are able to accomplish anything you choose to do. That even while you have both strengths and limitations, you are a uniquely beautiful and  gifted individual. You have worth. You are valuable. I hope that as you reflect on your beliefs about yourself, you feel self-love, self-awareness, and self-efficacy.

But what if you do not? What if, when you reflect on your beliefs about who you are, you realize that your beliefs are quite limiting? What if you believe that you are a lost cause? That you are not good enough. What if you believe that you cannot make a difference in this world, that you are dispensable? What if you believe that you are faulted, or at fault, when things go wrong? What if you believe that love is conditional, that you must fit a mold in order to be loved, accepted, cherished?

What happens then, if you realize that you are harmed by your very belief systems?

If you come to the realization today that you are the victim of limiting beliefs, I will tell you that you are in luck. You are luck, because you have the power to change those beliefs. You are in luck because the first step to changing your core beliefs is to identify them. You are in luck because you have made a self-discovery, you now have greater self-awareness, and you are now closer to making positive changes in your life. If you have identified a belief that is not working for you, you are able to change it. You are able to combat the negative self-talk, and replace it with positive dialogue. And as you practice doing this, you will be able to shift your perspective, changing how you look at the world, and slowly but surely, changing your beliefs about yourself. And once you are able to do this, you will instantly change your reality.

Today, my cherished birds, take a moment to examine your beliefs yourself and the world in which you live. I hope you notice that these beliefs are positive and empowering. But if any part of them is not, remind yourself that they do not have to stay this way. Remind yourself today that while your beliefs do define your reality, you may change them. You may do anything you so choose to do, whether you believe it or not. You may change your reality by changing your beliefs.

Spread your wings just a bit wider today, my birds, and challenge your beliefs. Sing songs of praise to yourself and cherish your beautiful individuality. Revel in who you are, and believe that you do indeed hold the key to the life of your dreams. Believe that you may fly, spread your wings, and soar.  But only if you believe that you can.

The Silver Lining

2015 was a tough year for many.   We each in our own way have struggled with adversity.  We have experienced pain, suffering, and hardship in one way or another.

We have been put to the test, we have questioned our beliefs, and have challenged our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.  We have questioned our identities, struggled to remain well, and persevered in any way that we could.  Our hearts have ached, and our heads have searched for answers that may not exist.  We have adapted to change, overcome adversity, and done everything in our power to remain positive.  In many ways, we have felt that life has fallen apart all around us.  And in many ways, it may seem that it has.

But you know what? Whether or not we have been through tough times such as those described above, our lives have not fallen apart completely.  We still have so much for which to be grateful, so much to hold on to, to love, and to live for.  We have our friends, our families, our passions.  We have a purpose, our health, our spirituality.  We have sources of strength.  Sources of joy.  Sources of hope.  We have our lives to live.  And it is my opinion that we have the responsibility, as well as the opportunity and the pleasure, to live our lives as fully as we are able.

As tempted as we may be to reflect back on the struggles that we have been through, I believe that it is even more important to consider how things will fall back together, even after they have fallen apart.  There may have been times when we ourselves have crumbled, and yet even when that happens, it seems that things always have a way of coming together again.  Sometimes we may watch the pieces fall together right before our eyes.  Sometimes it may take us time to realize what has happened.  And other times, we must take control and put the pieces back together again.  But no matter how it happens, it seems that most things in life usually do fit back together again somehow.   They may not look or feel the same as they did “before”, and that might be painful or it may be a pleasant surprise.  Yet whatever this new picture looks like, it is up to us to find new meaning in it.

It is up to us to influence or change what we can, have the serenity to accept what we cannot, and to make the most of the gifts that have been bestowed upon us regardless of the situation at hand.  It is up to us to keep searching for the light, even in the face of total darkness, and have faith that “this too shall pass” and brighter day will come if it hasn’t already.