Last August when I was interviewing a prospective student for our Spiritual Guidance Training Institute, he asked if I would mind if he asked a personal question. Of course, I said yes.
"What is your current spiritual practice?" he queried.
It didn't take me long to answer. It's easy. My beingness longs for silence. To sit in the deep quiet of the world, this is a gift; a time of letting go of the need to listen, or to take anything else in.
Of course, there will always a bit of subtle noise. The world is not a completely quiet place, but whatever silence is there for me, I'll take it. My body-mind, heart and soul thrive in silence.
One time I visited my friend Anne. She lives in an intentional community in the forests of northern Michigan. I stepped out of my car to face a sea of green fern fronds, and heard absolutely nothing. Nothing. No noise. The silence was deep and powerful. This took me by surprise. It was so quiet, in fact, that the quiet itself made a sound—the sound of nothingness.
My soul was supremely happy.
Seedlings rest in the moist soil of Mother Earth's womb
*Excerpted from Awakening the Spirit Within
The Buddha is said to have advocated this: “Friendship is not half of the holy life, but all of it” (Samyutta Nikaya, 45.2).
I have been blessed in my life to have many spiritual friends, individuals who are wise and true, who continue to point me back toward my true self. One of the most notable is my "forever mentor for life", Sue Patton Thoele.
Recently, I had the opportunity to have a wonderful conversation with her around the topic of "The Feminine," and specifically the "Sacred Feminine." I felt the pull of the Feminine in my 40s, knowing somehow this was going to contribute to my healing, as well as defining the future of my spiritual path. Sue was one of my way showers on this path and I am deeply fortunate that she was willing to serve as a mentor for me as I wound my way "home."
In these times when it feels as if The Feminine is trying to rise, to transform and heal us individually and collectively, I reached out to her to have a conversation about this. This conversation (which she agreed to do via video so I could share it with you all) was a series of sacred moments for me; a string of pearly wisdom which reminded me of deep truth—and hope—even in these difficult times. May it do the same for you.
As Sue points out in this video, we are at a "crisis point" in our global culture. We need to activate and harness the Feminine within EACH of us to turn the tide; to create peace, healing, and harmony on all fronts. I believe Sue's new book, Strength: Meditations for Wisdom, Balance and Power is a beacon of light in these times.
In this particular video we talk about:
The Shadow side of The Masculine
How we can begin to bring the world back into balance
Empowering The Feminine to “save the world”
Your “Core of Knowing”
What is meant by “The Feminine”
What is meant by “The Sacred Feminine” and what role does it play in our personal and communal life
Some reflection questions for you to consider:
1. Do you believe you have strength? Do you feel strong right now?
2. How can you own your strength in a complementary, kind way?
3. How are you empowering yourself and The Feminine within you right now?
4. Are you in touch with “The Sacred Feminine”? If so, what is it calling you to
Meet Sue Patton Thoele
... is the author of numerous books including The Courage to Be Yourself, The Woman's Book of Courage and The Mindful Woman. She is a mother, step-mother, grandmother, former psychotherapist, and hospice chaplain. Sue and her husband, Gene, live in Colorado
Her new book, Strength: Meditations for Wisdom, Balance and Power, is perfectly timed and oh, so needed for optimal growth and healing presence for ourselves, others and for the planet.
This very moment, this sacred moment, offers up a host of opportunities to walk in the world with eyes and ears wide open; to pay attention to WHO is here right now.
This WHO may be someone we barely know a complete stranger; a dear loved one or a difficult person. If we are awake and aware, moving more intentionally through our day, we will notice the individuals who cross our path and what they might be here to offer us, or what we can offer them as fellow sojourners; what we can learn from one another.
There are no random encounters in a divinely ordered universe.
It is easy to love those who love us,
**From Awakening the Spirit Within
Early spring sunset over the wetlands of mid-Michigan
I feel so blessed to live in a state with four seasons. It is this turning of the seasons, each with its unique splendor, that helps me stay present. Each day there is something new to notice and appreciate.
This week despite cooler temperatures, tiny crimson leaves are unfolding on the maple tree in our yard. The grass is greening ever so slightly. Canadian geese fly overhead, honking their way home to Canada. It is these small indicators of "holy newness" heralding spring that invite me to stay firmly rooted in the present moment because I don't want to miss a thing.
In observing the well-time cycles found in nature,
*Excerpted from Awakening the Spirit Within.
I've been doing a lot of traveling lately. And by my own admission, I am not the best traveler. I like my home and the comfort of familiar surroundings. Over the years, I've tended toward travel anxiety (after a few harrowing experiences), and so it's supremely important for me to feel present within myself wherever I am.
I also believe that each moment is sacred and when we are traveling, the Sacred Itself can rise up to greet us in unexpected ways. When it does, if we are not open and willing, we can miss wonderful opportunities to connect, dabble in wonder, or dive into beauty. One of the best ways to ensure this sublime state is to "be here now."
“Be here now” is a term that came to the forefront in the 1960s with the teachings of Ram Dass, a Harvard professor who traveled to India to study meditation. His book of the same title stirred the hearts of thousands of people who longed for a calmer, less frenetic, more meaningful experience of life. I have adapted this term to mean not only a mindset, but an actual practice that we can use when we need to be fully present, both to ourselves and to our current experience. When we are fully present wherever we are, we feel more at ease in our body and in our world.
To practice “being here now,” bring your attention to your physical form. See if you can cultivate a feeling of actually being inyour body, fully inhabiting it; tuning in, as mindfulness educator Jon Kabat-Zinn says, to “the envelope of your skin.” Feel yourself simply being a living, breathing body.
Begin a slow and methodical process of bringing your awareness to each major body part, beginning with your head and moving down to your toes.
For each organ or appendage on which you focus your attention, take a complete breath (inhale and exhale) and say to yourself, “Be here now.” Pause and rest into that body part before you go on to the next one.
For example, when focusing on your thighs, feel them pressed into the chair. When focusing on your hands, feel them open or fisted. When focusing on your feet, feel them resting on the ground. By repeating “Be here now,” you will more firmly inhabit your physical body and be fully present in the world. Take your time, moving gradually from brain to bowels to the bottoms of your feet.
The point is to be fully present to yourself in your body in this very moment with no other agenda other than to be more fully you. Feel yourself just as you are: sitting on the bleachers watching a football game, lying in bed, sitting at your desk.
With time, with practice, you can “Be here now” within just a few minutes. This practice, like any other practice, gets easier each time you do it.
For me, "Be here now" practice is one of the very best things I can take with me wherever I go—portable peace! It helps me minimize anxiety and stay attuned to the Sacred within me and all around me because I don't want to miss a thing ...
Adapted from Portable Peace: A Weekly Guidebook
©2015, Janice L. Lundy.
All Rights Reserved
I've just returned home from a busy time of travel, interaction and care-giving. There is nothing I love more than being present to my dear ones. I sit. I listen. I care. I hold presence for. I physically hold when it is welcome. For what purpose are we here if not to love?
And yet, after periods like these, I find it is it is important for me to rest in solitude; to take time to catch up with myself. Yes, even to comfort myself and apply tenderness to any worn edges.
Some writing about this from one of my retreat times...
When was the last time you gave yourself permission
Today, may you give yourself permission
to be alone,
to savor the silence.
May you find respite in your soul and be well.
Journaling excerpt from Awakening the Spirit Within,
©Janice L. Lundy (2000)
In last week's post, I spoke about being present, and how one of my silent retreat times along the ocean helped me understand and experience the gift of the present moment in beautiful new ways.
Here's another "awakened moment" from that sacred "time-in."
One day as I was sitting on a stone bench, tucked away from the eyes of the tourists who visited the Gardens daily, I settled into a state of "looking deeply." Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has written much about looking deeply and how doing so opens up awareness of our interconnectedness. For me, looking deeply draws me into a world of wonder, awe, and Mystery. Stilling one's thoughts, really looking at something's uniqueness—watching it, being with it—thins the veils, and we become acutely aware of how we "inter-are", as TNH teaches.
Considering that I have a great deal of aversion to insects, it was surprising to me that it was a spider who invited me to look deeply. Rather than recoil when I noticed him/her in a flowering bush just behind my shoulder, I was naturally drawn into wonderment. So I simply sat and watched the scene unfold. As I did, the spider taught me about life, and these are the words that came forth:
The spider weaves his web with glistening silver thread.
"To meditate is to look deeply," offers Thich Nhat Hanh. In truth, anyone can meditate on anything, even the minuscule movements of a spider, and become aware that there is so much more to life than we had previously imagined.
Selection adapted from Awakening the Spirit Within by Janice (Forrest) Lundy. ©2000, Heart to Heart Press.
Without exaggeration, it's safe to say that a tiny yellow book titled, Slowing Down in a Speeded Up World, pretty much saved my life. At the time, I was operating like the cartoon character, Speedy Gonzalez, the Mexican mouse, living on overdrive. Author Adair Lara was the first wise woman who gave me permission to get off the fast track and begin to live in a way that was more grounded and slow.
In truth, everything is speeding up these days. Even time seems to race by. That speediness is definitely felt in our bodies as stress, in our minds as racing thoughts, and in our emotions as overwhelm or disconnection. I do not believe we are meant to live this way. Moving so quickly we miss the magic and meaning of life.
Moving quickly also sends constant messages to our body-mind to be on alert (hurry! move! get going!), and what this does is create a continuous stream of cortisol moving through our body. Cortisol is a hormone that is released into our bloodstream when stress is activated. In regular doses, it's necessary and good for body health. Too much cortisol, surging through regularly, is not a good thing, and will ultimately take its toll on us.
The bottom line is we can't be healthy (body, mind and spirit) when we are always struggling to keep up. More and faster is not better. It is up to each one of us to find the pace of life that suits us best, and, more specifically, one that truly nourishes us. Going slow is not a bad thing, it's a mindful thing, and one that, when fully embraced, will allow us to experience the world in a whole new way.
Author Robert Gerzon explains in his book, Finding Serenity in the Age of Anxiety, that our bodies are not intended, nor constructed, for such fast-paced living. As passengers on the train of life, we often move through our days at breakneck speeds. This speediness may be experienced in our bodies as anxiety and other stress-related disorders such as heart arrhythmias, headaches, and insomnia.
When we do slow down or come to a screeching halt, we immediately feel the difference. Our bodies and minds tell us so. If we could just listen more intently to the signals our body-mind sends, we would instinctively know what to do (or not do) to be well. But, first, we must slow down enough for inner listening to take place.
You can begin slowing down by actually changing your pace. You can choose to walk more slowly—from the car, through the parking lot, into the store. You can walk more purposefully by looking up at the blue sky or at the green trees, instead of robotically downward. You can do things mindfully, with full and present attention, instead of multi-tasking. As Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh advocates, when you are washing the dishes, just wash the dishes.
Any practice that roots you more deeply in the present moment will help you become aware of how quickly you are moving through your day. It will also help you discern how satisfying this feels and if the pace of your life needs to be altered to meet your deepest needs.
Adapted from Living Gently with Myself: A 30-Day Guidebook by Janice L. Lundy
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, voted the most respected political and spiritual leader of our times, often speaks about how important it is to cultivate both rational wisdom and heart wisdom. Without a true blending of “mind” and heart, we have no real ability to navigate life skillfully. If we lack rationality, we might make foolish choices. Without inner knowing and compassion, we may harm ourselves, or others. In Eastern traditions, a blending of both is encouraged. Some have called this cultivating the “heart-mind.”
How well do you know your heart-mind? In the West, we have a tendency to focus on head over heart. We tend to dismiss the heart’s wisdom, or, at the very least, consider it to be of secondary importance. Perhaps this is because we have not spent enough time tending to the landscape of our good, wise hearts.
In the words of Bhagawan Nityananda, "The heart is the hub of all sacred places. Go there and roam."
Right now, connect with your good, wise heart. Do this by bringing your awareness to your head. Become cognizant of all the thinking that is going on in there. Now, bring your attention to your breath, specifically where it enters you at the base of your nostrils. Feel yourself breathing.
Resting in your heart center, what do you notice? A feeling of inner peace? Of gratitude? A sense of homecoming?
Ask your heart, “What would you like me to know right now?” Wait. Listen for its wise response. Reflect on the answer that comes.
Adapted from My Deepest Me: A 30-Day Guidebook
by Janice L. Lundy. ©2015
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we can best live—kindly and compassionately with ourselves and others.
Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.