One of my dear friends and teachers says to never ask why. I've thought about this quite a bit and come to this conclusion;
As children, asking why is central to our learning and growth. We ask why out of curiosity. Why is the sky blue? Why do trees lose their leaves? Why do people have eyebrows? Why does Mom make me take cod liver oil in winter?
As adults, however, I have noticed our whys stem not from curiosity but from victimhood. Why didn't I get the job? Why don't I have more money? Why did my partner leave? Why did I get sick? Why can't I succeed?
Those questions do seem exhausting and lead towards fault-finding.
I have been practicing asking better questions. In fact, it is a major theme of this year for me. When a why question pops up I rephrase it into a better one.
Why is my back acting up today? becomes How can I relieve this discomfort? or What does my body need today? Why is there not enough time for everything I want to do? becomes How can I find the time I need for... Why is my friend so unhappy? becomes What can I do to support my friend? Why can't I get my head around this project? becomes Who can help me put this together?
Unless my inner child pipes up with a juicy why question stemming from pure, curious thirst, I shift my questions into How, What can I do, Where can I, Who can help me with...
This line of questioning takes me from fault-finding, which gets me nowhere, to finding solutions and empowered practices that lead me where I want to go.
Inner child or inner victim? Where are your questions coming from? How can you start asking better questions of yourself? Put yourself back in the driver's seat. It is what it is, now what can you do about it? Don't strain over achieving an answer, simply set out to ask a better question. Give the answer room to breathe. It may present itself in surprising ways.
The answer may not always be a doing but a being. Sometimes, simple awareness of your why question, your fault-finding victim question, and an intention to rephrase it - reposition your stand on it, re-empower yourself about it - releases the why me and clears the way for new perspectives and possibilities.
Is there something you want? Stop asking why you don't have it and start asking how you can cultivate it.
Now, how can you share this information with others so they, too, can start asking better questions?
I've heard repeatedly (and likely even said myself) that what you do naturally, effortlessly, is your gift. Perhaps. What if many of us left these natural gifts behind in childhood, never cultivated and long-forgotten.
In which case, revisited 30 years later, a gift may come quite unnaturally. But if something pulls at you, repeatedly, relentlessly, even though you feel little proficiency or ability in that area, do not discount it as a gift because it is not effortless.
Often we need to hone our crafts, practice and master our gifts. If this didn't happen in childhood it's not too late to start a practice now.
Try these 2 exercises to assist with exploring potential gifts:
Revisit what you enjoyed as a child.
What did you spend hours on end doing and what seemed easy and fun? Make a list, brainsketch it. Start with one and see where it takes you. How much can you remember of your childhood interests?
Then look for cycles in your adult years. Any repeating themes? Activities you return to yet abandon because you feel you aren't good enough at them or can't see a practical use for them? Themes in the type of books you read, articles you Google. Perhaps there's a latent gift that is ripe for developing into a delicious craft. Maybe the timing and conditions needed to be right, proper seasoning and maturity didn't exist before that exists now.
Remember Rumi's words, "What you seek is seeking you." If something is pulling at you, luring you towards it, don't let lack of confidence or proficiency stop you. Take time to still yourself and your thoughts each day to listen for what seeks you, to allow it to find you. Once united, commit to exploring it further, deepening your relationship with it.
As Michelangelo has been quoted, "If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful after all." Not all gifts come easy and often the insights are in the labour.
Say YES to what is calling you and commit time every day, a diligent practice, towards honing it. 6 months from now...2 years... what you will have learned, about your craft and about yourself, may nourish you in ways you never imagined. 10 years...15...what can you master in this lifetime?
Once you say yes to what is calling you, often all the support needed falls into place, not always at once, more like a string of mala beads, guiding you one by one to the guru bead...to go around again if you choose, limitless. How many gifts can you discover and what will they reveal as you explore and deepen them?
Move over Cadbury, here's a chocolate Easter egg treat with a boost, and not just for Easter!
You know I'm not one for measuring, the kitchen is where I play, so play with the amounts in this one. And play with the ingredients. You have the wet, peanut butter (or seed butter of choice), just add some dry.
About 1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup almond meal (or throw almonds in the food processor)
2 tbsp coconut flour
3-4 tbsp hemp hearts
3-4 tbsp sprouted chia seed powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp of maple syrup, agave or other sweetener if you like. I found this not necessary since the chocolate coating was already sweetened.
Melted dark, fair trade chocolate for coating and a pinch of himalayan salt if you like a tiny topping.
Blend the dry ingredients together and add the peanut butter. Mix until a firm consistency. Roll into balls and let chill in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.
Melt your chocolate in a double boiler and dip the balls.
I'm not exactly a chocolatier so dipping was messy (and fun). I took a spoonful of the melted chocolate and put the peanut ball on the spoon, rolled it around until coated then set it back on the parchment paper, taking up another spoon of chocolate for the next ball. It kept the balls from getting lost in the pan and wasting chocolate or warming the peanut butter too much.
Set them back on a baking sheet, sprinkle a bit of salt if you like, and into the fridge until set. Transfer to a container with a lid and store in the fridge.
Extra melted chocolate? Toss in any nuts you have on hand, candied ginger or fruit, or dip bananas and roll them in crushed nuts for a chocolatey tropical treat.
If you play golf, you're probably familiar with this particular etiquette of the greens.
It refers to getting your little divot repair tool and fixing the mark your ball made on the green, leaving it as if you had no impact there at all. While you repair your own mark, you also repair that of someone who played before you.
This morning I ran 10 flights of outdoor, wooden stairs. An invigorating start to my day. As I ran, I noted the various pieces of trash either dropped by a pedestrian who had the energy to walk the stairs but not get to the garbage bin 20 feet from the staircase, or blown under the stairs by our signature chinook winds.
I picked up the trash on my 10th flight and dropped it all in the bin before heading home.
It's a practice I've observed for a few years now, while walking my kids to school, hanging out at a playground or hiking trails, I pluck the odd pieces of trash and pop them in the bins or my pocket until I can find a garbage.
Last spring a walk around my favourite community pond and place of personal meditation inspired me. Well, more honestly, ignited me. I got annoyed with the locals. From where I stood on the path I saw strange, colourful balls floating near the opposite bank. When I got to that side of the pond, I leaned over the bank for a closer look. Tennis balls, ball hockey balls, rubber balls, plastic balls...great gobs of dog fetch balls!
As I quickly counted up over 20 balls within reach, other debris caught my eye: construction materials, plastic bags, pop cans, water bottles, lids, even a paint brush (seems a bit heavy for even the wind to carry)...the list goes on. After muttering some choice words for my fellow neighbours, I decided to return later that week with a few tools and a mission.
With a large garbage bag and a long rake I dredged the edge of the pond, retrieving as much trash as I could reach. I took my son to help. He ran around the pond's path. And my husband. He took pictures of my butt while I scooped. Ok, well a cheering section is always helpful.
It was my mission, one I did not do for the community but for the pond, the wildlife I enjoy on my walks and the nature that surrounds and supports me. For the trees who listen to me rant on a tough day, chant on a beautiful one and create shade for spontaneous summer yoga. For the muskrats who play hide and seek with the ducks and provide endless entertainment on a cloudy day. For the sandhill cranes who show me grace and stillness, the coyotes who sit as silent company (at their own safe distance) and for the red-winged blackbirds who share their song as they poise themselves on the swaying reeds. I cleaned the pond for them and for me.
I think of this outdoor etiquette much like that of golf; if everyone picked up their own trash and someone else's, you would not see the marks that we or those before us left behind, only pristine greens.
A little Earth etiquette to keep our planet clean and our members happy.
I received an email from a lovely friend today, asking about meditation for getting in touch with inner wisdom and where to start.
"...that's a broad topic."
Her question is not a new one. Many clients come to me unsure how to tap into the elusive intuition and inner wisdom. We all have it and it proves to be our most powerful guidance once we connect with it.
All meditations will lead to inner wisdom. Some just work better with people's personalities, habits and schedules.
I help clients with meditation, length and timing depending upon what stage they are at in life, their unique personality and what they need at the moment.
We are not monks in caves, we are car-pooling, clothes-washing, grocery-shopping, meal-making, working and bedtime story-telling busy people. Which is the exact reason a regular meditation practice is so important as our busy lives too often drown out the sound of our own guidance.
For those starting out, 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening is an effective place to begin.
The most important aspect is daily. So whatever you choose, pick something you can sustain every day and feel nourished by.
If you need help focusing, I always enjoy the global sadhana's offered by Spirit Voyage. The kundalini meditations provide videos to chant along with. Their current 11 day practice, sat kartar, is a kriya for opening heart centre and expanding into love.
Otherwise, I suggest starting with a simple mantra; repeating a silent "so" on the long, slow inhale and "hum" on the full, relaxed exhale. Or affirmation "I am" on the inhale and "relaxed" on the exhale. You can use any word you like for your affirmation exhale. My meditations often involve helping people identify a personal affirmation for their current circumstances. Try a few on and see which words feel yummy and right for you... "calm, at peace, in the moment, whole, intuitive".
Let your shoulders drop, unclench your jaw and feel your body relax for the full meditation, deeply surrendering to the practice of no-time, no demands, no requirements, no expectations. There is no where else to be other than wholly-present in your practice. If your mind wanders, bring it back to your mantra or simply take a long, slow, deep breath and continue.
Pranayam, or focused breath work, is also a method I enjoy sharing with clients, particularly the very busy ones.
You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day - unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour. - Old Zen adage
Everyone has to find their own personal process of meditation. It matters less, the meditation itself, and more that it is authentic for the individual. Sitting on the front step breathing with a tree or soaking up the sun's rays...equally beneficial... you are simply in pursuit of quieting the chatter of the mind and hearing the soft, whisper of your own inner guidance.
I work with clients to help them get comfortable with a regular practice then, once comfortable, we begin to infuse it into other aspects of their day, creating a deeper sensory experience. The more we do this, conscious awareness, the less mind-chatter we experience and the more the inner whisper becomes familiar and recognizable and we can hear it amidst the carpool, the laundry, the meals and work.
Once tapped into, we can use our inner guidance to answer questions, provide courses of action, reveal solutions and assist us in feeling deeply connected to ourselves, our global family, nature and spirit.
Clients are always welcome to work with me via phone or in person to create a meditation practice, a personal mantra or be guided through a meditation to meet their inner guide.
Inner wisdom is a funny thing. It exists in us all yet we must search it out, all the while knowing the less we seek it, the easier it is to find. Clear as mud? Meditate on it.
I received an email for a one day retreat in December; yoga, meditation and didgeridoo healing. Each one equally delicious, together they presented a buffet of delights for me to enjoy. I had one issue; my commitment to completing the first draft of my manuscript. How could I retreat while I was supposed to be writing? I made myself a deal - if I completed the manuscript, I could attend the retreat.
I booked my space and put my writer's cap on. 11:15pm, the night before the retreat, sitting cross-legged atop my kitchen island, I typed the words The End.
The next morning I sank into the warmth of the retreat space as the small group prepared their places with yoga mats, cushions and blankets, and Edysha Ee prepared to guide us through morning meditation.
Eyes closed, I was led through a deep swan dive into a depth of rest I had yet to experience. Edysha's soft voice offered intentional cues which coaxed my mind and body into a complete state of ease.
Within the first few moments I acknowledged an awareness of just how tired my mind was from the years of my regular meditation practice. A lover of kriya, mantra, visualization and chant, I often employed one or more in my daily practice. In the space of rest, as my mind came to not only settle, but cease, I knew my regular meditation practice as yet a further extension of seeking, an attempt to gain something through meditation.
What my regular practice lacked was the space to allow complete surrender with no agenda and no attachment to outcome. A letting-go more complete than any I had known until that morning with Edysha.
In a state of deep rest, of no-thing, I handed myself over to an innate higher wisdom, my own inner guru, higher self, inner pharmacy, ultimate intelligence. I let go of control, of conditioning, of the reigns and expected nothing.
Quite a process; releasing myself to myself. Surrendering my mind and body to inner wisdom. Trusting my higher wisdom to restore balance, health and optimal functioning, my natural state once I got out of the way.
Deep rest must happen in order to hand the reigns over to higher self. All the times I believed I surrendered in meditation, in yoga, in sacred practice, I saw the flaw once I felt the deep state of rest. I made an effort to surrender, and in that effort I continued to control and to drive. With Edysha's words natural surrender simply happened. It was a stopping but not stopping, as that, too, would be driving.
I realized how tired I was from focusing diligently and intently for so long. Many years of disciplined practice now required rest to further the meditative and manifestive process.
All the work over the past few years; planting seeds, nourishing and cultivating new crops, needed space and time for the soil to rest, to recuperate and restore, replenishing the rich nutrients to further the growth of new seeds, new plants, ideas, intentions, creativity.
Winter is the time for a deep resting of body and mind. Allowing a deepening of the connection with source self. Allowing a new to emerge, a crop, perhaps not yet conceived or imagined.
During the meditation, I received expansion of the concept of rest, that when struggle comes in a day, in life, to rest and trust a higher wisdom that resides within, the natural order of the rhythms of life, to attend to the details and restore balance.
It is similar to remembering a name or detail. Sometimes it seems on the tip of your tongue but you can't retrieve it no matter how hard you try. In fact, the harder you try, the more elusive it becomes. Yet once you move on and forget about it, allowing the mind to rest and do what it does naturally, the name suddenly appears moments later.
Or how an hour in the gym, walking outside or spent in yoga, allows creative solutions to emerge and feeds new ideas. Edysha continued the practice of rest as she guided us in yoga asanas, reminding us to drop out of mind. As my mind rested, my body came to life, not from a place of increased effort but from a natural spring that seemed to feed it.
The 16 hours I spend awake in a typical day is filled with mind and intent and details and planning. If I remember even 30 second periods of deep rest during times of struggle or strain in my day, added to my daily meditation practice, the mind still winds nearly 15 hours each day. No wonder I savoured the morning of rest with Edysha. Her 1 hour meditation felt like 15 minutes to me.
Allowing the mind to settle, in meditation or any time during the day, particularly when struggle or strain emerges, with no expectations of outcome, restores natural balance. Simply allow the mind to rest and the body to follow. And in that space you lean on your higher self, allowing nutrient-rich soil to replenish. Truly getting out of your own way and restoring balance, naturally.
Edysha Ee lives and shares her gifts in Vancouver, BC.