Tag Archives: Self-awareness

AWAKENING TO OUR MYSTERIES

“I think on some level, you do your best things when you’re a little off-balance, a little scared.  You’ve got to work from mystery, from wonder, from not knowing.”  Daniel Dafoe

How do you feel about a mystery in your life?  Does it frighten you?  Does it ever reveal a new way to see your life?

Fall is always a reminder that times are changing.  For a while it is lovely with the colorful flowers and multicolored leaves on the trees.  The intense heat of summer has subsided and the air is cool and perfect for outdoor hikes with just a sweater or light coat.  For a while the mountains startle us with vivid colors like a Van Gogh painting.

And then – things drop away.  The flowers and leaves turn brown and fall.  The squirrels stuff themselves with acorns and pack more up for winter.  All of nature prepares for rest during the winter in order to return in the spring renewed.

Not only is nature in transition, humans are as well.  We are living through a mysterious time, daily discovering that our country is not what we thought it was, that our government may no longer be “for the people.”  Our health is threatened by a mysterious illness that infects equally and we have no cure.

A Time of Letting Go

Creation Spirituality, a spiritual community created by Matthew Fox, divides the year into four areas.  This time of year is known as the Via Negativa, a time of mystery, of letting go, of emptying, of sitting in the shadow, and experiencing the dark night of the soul.

Like the trees and flowers, it is a time to rest and renew our lives for the coming of spring and new life.  It is a time to explore who we really are in this time of change.  We may take the time to let the mysteries of our lives open to us.

What do we need to let go of?  Many people are cleaning out their closets and garages, letting go of things they no longer need:  books they’ll never read again, clothes they’ve outgrown, furniture that is broken, or tools they never use.  In my community there is a website where people post the free things they want to give away and the list is endless and surprising at times.

Looking Within

But letting go of physical things is the easy part.  Looking at our inner mysteries is more challenging.  Who are we really?  Even before the pandemic, were we living the life we really wanted?  Are we uncomfortable having to stay home most of the time because our family relationships are difficult?

When we experience a dark night of the soul, we often feel we are trapped in a shadow and have no idea how to find the light.  But this is the time when we must look inside and ask, “Who am I?”  Are we living who we really are?  While that may feel terribly uncomfortable at times, it may also lead us to discover parts of ourselves that are shut down and what we need to do to become more complete.

When I had to move from New Orleans, away from the rest of my family, it was not a choice I really wanted to make.  If I wanted to heal my Chronic Fatique Syndrome, I had to go to a dry climate, so I chose Albuquerque where I did have one New Orleans friend who had moved there.

We Are One With Spirit

During my time there, I discovered Religious Science church that became my spiritual home.  It was based on the science of mind philosophy, the belief that God is one with us and all that is.  The energy we create and express affects others, and what we express comes back to us.  Being part of a loving community and practicing this spiritual belief helped heal more than my body.

There have been many moments in my life when I felt depressed or confined by my circumstances.  As a single woman, making enough money to pay the bills was also a challenge.  Not being in a relationship for many years was a challenge.  Dealing with continuing health challenges that limited what I could eat was a challenge.

Lighting the Dark Within

Learning to adjust my thinking and meditate taught me that closing my eyes, moving into the darkness, could open me to the light within.  In that place, I could find peace and let the negative thinking and feelings drop away.  Clearing space within for the light to appear often brought solutions to problems I would never have “thought” of.

Many times, as I sit quietly, lie in bed dozing off, or just as I wake, a new thought presents itself.  What it means may be a total mystery.  Thinking about it may or may not reveal its meaning.  When I’m mystified, I write the thought down just as I do if I wake remembering a dream, knowing that if it is important, its relevance will be revealed later.

While we learn who we are by being with other people, by working or playing, it is our alone time when the deepest mysteries can open us to the deepest solutions.  Spirit is with us in those moments if we are willing to sit with the mystery.

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

DANCING TO THE MYSTERY OF LIFE

AWAKENING TO LIGHT THE DARKNESS

AWAKENING TO THE LIGHT

 

AWAKENING TO YOUR TRUE SELF

“Find out who you are and be that person. That’s what your soul was put on this Earth to be.  Find that truth, live that truth and everything else will come.”  Ellen De Generes

Are you who you want to be? If not, how do you need to change? Are you willing to make that change?

I recently finished reading “Ellie and the Harp Maker” by Hazel Prior.  It is certainly one of my year’s favorites, a story about a woman who discovers who she really is when she learns to play a harp.  The sound of the harp and the joy of playing it opens a part of herself that she had closed off to please her husband.  He didn’t like the sound of the harp and thought her wanting a harp was foolish.

While learning to play the harp and keeping it secret from her husband created many problems, her choice eventually led her to a life that allowed her to love herself and be loved for who she truly was.  It was truly an uplifting story and a joy to read.

Challenging the Norms

Growing up in the 1940’s and 1950’s, I often lived with the conflict between who society thought I should be as a woman and who I thought I was.  In a way, hitting adulthood in the 1960’s did lighten the load and offer more possibilities on the surface.  But the reality was that I was still expected to be a devoted wife and mother and put my interests in second place.  My desire to be a modern dancer did not please anyone.

Those were the expectation’s Ellie’s husband had for her, so it was easy for me to relate to this story.  But how many of us – men or woman – are not being who we truly are?

How do we find who we truly are?  How do we feel about the work we do?  Do we enjoy it or do it only because it’s the only way we can find to make money?

Going Deeper

When we feel drawn to something like music, art, or running long distance races, or any pursuit that goes against our family or society’s concept of who we should be, it is a challenge.  Often, we begin to do it as something “on the side.”  With time, it may become more than a hobby.

When this activity or desire comes from deep within and nourishes us in more than an external way, it may very well be an expression of our soul.  Our soul is our core.  It is the deepest part of us and when we do not feed it, we are only a part of who we are.

While religious beliefs and activity may be at the core of our spiritual being, feeding the soul may also be experienced in many ways.  I suspect the runner, at some point, feels totally in the moment, allowing all worries to drop away, and being at one with all that is.

As a dancer I certainly experienced the feeling of going beyond just the pleasure of physical activity.  When I am writing, the room often drops away.  Words and ideas flow through my hands into the computer.  Many of them are not expressions I would have “thought of.”

A similar experience may also be experienced by mathematicians and scientists looking for a new solution to a problem or inventing a new device.  A new idea appears that the logical mind may have missed.

Seeing the Soul Beneath the Surface

When we are being who we truly are, we still have challenges, but we solve them based on who we are, not on who others expect us to be.  As we age, our challenges may make it impossible to continue a physical activity. There came a point where I had to stop dancing or undergo knee surgery.  I realized that without the stress of dance, I could live normally with my knees and repair the problem with physical therapy.  I had seen many other dancers go through the surgery, not once, but many times because it did not permanently solve the issue.

Fortunately, by this time, I had come to realize that I was not just a dancer. I was a creative, spiritual person.  I could express who I was in many ways.  I had already learned to be creative as a high school teacher and as a writer and found pleasure in helping others explore their creativity.  Having the surgery was unnecessary.  I was fine as I was.

Many years later, I now possess the energy and strength to ballroom dance, write, and walk through the forest.  That’s all I need.

Like Ellie, when we become who we truly are, we will make “music” from the soul.

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

RELATED ARTICLES:

AWAKENING TO DEEPEN OURSELVES

ART: A FEAST TO AWAKEN THE SOUL

AWAKENING TO SPIRITUAL CREATIVITY

 

AWAKENING TO OUR FREEDOM

“You will never be free until you free yourself from the prison of your own false thoughts.” Phillip Arnold

Are there thoughts that restrict your life? Why do you think this way? What has happened in your life that helped you let go of these thoughts?

What we think and the ideas we believe form who we are.  If the source of the information beneath our ideas is reliable, it can allow us to make reasonable choices and take sensible action.  If the information is flawed, we may make decisions that lead us down the wrong path.

During this pandemic, getting the correct information about the virus has been a challenge because  of conflicting viewpoints.  Who is more likely to understand a disease than a medical doctor or researcher despite what some politicians tell us?

If we want to eat healthy food, who is most likely to give us the most accurate information about the best vegetables and fruits to buy?  The producer who grows organic products or the farmer who uses banned pesticides on his crop?  When we understand the source, we can make the wisest choice.

Why Do We Ignore Facts?

But, what if our conclusions about a subject are based on something other than facts? At times, we ignore facts because we have already developed prejudicial attitudes.  For example, if we have grown up in a cult or a strict religious environment that taught us that only our way is right, we may reject others whose beliefs are different and consider them “unholy.”

We may also have political or racial biases because of the way we were raised.  In my family, I grew up with a mother who taught me that all people were created equal and deserved respect.  Her attitude came from her Christian upbringing.  My father, on the other hand, often made racist remarks.  Fortunately, I chose to think like my mother.

My parents were both Democrats and I’ve always been politically liberal partly as a result of being at college in the 1960’s when I became further aware of the nation’s inequities. But again, how I was raised without luxury contributed to my thinking.  My family never went without food, clothing, or shelter but we never experienced material abundance.

However, if I had grown up surrounded by luxury, attended a prestigious school, had a new car to drive to college across town, I might not have noticed those who did not share my wealth.  If my parents had taught me that poor people were just lazy, I might have closed my mind to their actual situations.

Releasing Our False Thoughts

So how do we release thoughts that are not based on reality—thoughts that limit our thinking and create an inaccurate picture of the world around us?

To free ourselves, we have to accept the possibility that there is another viable way to see a person or situation.  While some people care about others because they are Christian and have been taught to do that as a core part of their belief, there are others who care about other people because they have chosen to place love at the center of their lives.

Learning From Diversity

One reason for being boxed in by limited ideas is that we simply haven’t been exposed to sufficient diversity.  In a country that is rapidly becoming more diverse, it is very helpful to join a group in which we interact with people who have different views.  It is easier to understand another point of view when we get to know the person who holds it.  By learning how and why they think differently, we learn to respect them and their differences.

By freeing our thinking, we free ourselves to love and respect all human beings, for it is love that heals all wounds, personal and societal.  Love to you all!

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

AWAKENING TO NEW THOUGHTS

AWAKENING TO OUR PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS

AWAKENING TO RACIAL EQUALITY

AWAKENING TO THE LOVE OF AN OLD DOG

“You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before the rest of us.” Robert Louis Stevenson

What experiences have you had with a dog?  Would you want another one?  Did you ever feel it was your best friend?

It’s not fun to be an old dog or an old woman, but our age is the main thing Susie and I have in common.  We can’t climb steep mountains anymore and we both have to eat a special diet although I don’t throw mine around on the floor like she does.  We need more sleep than we used to, but she naps most of the day.  I slip one in on an occasional afternoon.

I don’t chase guys anymore because I’m married to a great guy and couldn’t be happier.  Susie doesn’t chase rabbits anymore, just stares and lets them run away.  She goes out to do her business, finds sniffing every inch of the ground more interesting, and finally pees.  Then she returns to the house only to leave “the remains” of her day in the middle of the hardwood floor.  At least I don’t have to worry about that kind of confusion yet.

At times, she walks around in circles looking for something but can’t remember what it is.  She  stares at the wall, hoping the answer will be written there.  Like Susie, it’s not unusual for me to head to a cabinet or my desk and find I haven’t a clue as to why I’m there.  Words that disappear in the middle of my speaking a sentence take five minutes to appear.  I need to do a crossword puzzle every morning to awaken my mental dictionary.

Every Day Holds Surprises

Fortunately, due to two years of physical therapy after an injury to my back, I’m doing a thirty-minute walk every day and have gained strength so that I feel like myself again, energetic and curious about life.  Others talk about being bored during the pandemic, but I look forward to a boring day and having more time to read and write.

Surprises arise every day.  They test my patience.  I discover I am out of an item that requires placing an order on an unfamiliar website, which in turn requires learning a new technical trick.  Many items we use often have recently died: the iron, the toaster and my printer’s toner.  As for ordering food, it’s almost impossible to get good broccoli with a delivery, and we can’t live without that.  While I’m struggling with these challenges, Susie is snoring, asleep on her bed.

Age Brings Physical Limitations

But all these challenges are easier to deal with than Susie’s issues.  It’s tough to be an old dog when your back legs start giving out.  You slip when you try to climb the stairs or fall when you charge up them, forgetting your legs don’t support you anymore.

It’s confusing when you can’t hear the orders your caretakers give.  You look at them and dash in the opposite direction.  They fuss at you, but of course it’s nice not to hear them when you don’t want to obey.  Looking at them with eyes that still see well, you grin and continue sniffing the grass.

As a female, it’s not surprising that Susie is very fashion conscious.  Every morning when I’ve put on my jeans she sniffs my leg.  Her approval is important to me, and if she knows how I smell that day, since she’s only knee-high tall, she’ll be able to find me easily in a crowd and identify me apart from my husband who is more likely to feed her.

A Dog’s Love Is Always There

While her nose may carry her into the wrong bushes or into the deep ivy beneath the trees, cold and wet, it bumps mine when I’m sitting and lean down close to her face.  It’s her version of a kiss that says she loves me – a moment I always treasure.

Susie and I may not be able to hike the steep trails of the Appalachians anymore or race around the block, but we both still know how to love and hang out on the deck together.

Milan Kundera said it best:  “Dogs are our link to paradise.  They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent.  To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace.”

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

AWAKENING TO GRATITUDE

DANCING TO DIVINE ORDER

AWAKENING TO WALK IN BEAUTY

AWAKENING TO OUR PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” Aldous Huxley

Have you ever noticed a prejudice you have?  How did you deal with it?  Do you accept your preconceived notions as the only truth?

There is a street in my neighborhood that I use as a convenient cut-through from a major street onto the road that runs to my subdivision.  The street has modest houses on it and a small park.  Just before I reach the park is a house that always attracts my attention.

The house and yard are similar to those around it but it is quite different in one way.  It has lots of “junk” in the yard including a group of shovels, hoes, pitch forks, and other items surrounding and tied to the mailbox.  Other miscellaneous items are grouped in different areas of the lawn – not just dumped there, put arranged in a somewhat artistic order.

I know there is at least one man who lives there because I’ve seen him working in the yard in his jeans and hat.  As I drive by, I scan the yard to see what new items may have been added.  I think, “A ‘red neck’ must live here” and smile to myself as if this is a joke.  “Still, he is rather creative.”

Perceptions Not Based On Reality

But yesterday as I approached the house, I saw the heaps of things on the lawn and thought, “I bet he’s a “red neck.”  Then I hit the brakes.  Hanging underneath the mailbox was a sign, Black Lives Matter.  I was stunned.  Clearly, I had made a very wrong judgement about the man who lived there.

Then I realized that I was perceiving “red necks” as racist.  I was shocked.  I’m not a racist.  Even as a child growing up in the South with a racist father, I had a mother who taught me to care about all people and see them as equals.  I’ve taught Black and Native American teenagers and loved and nurtured them when dealing with administrations who couldn’t have cared less about them.

Defining People Who Differ From Us

But this time the sign’s message slapped me in the face so that I could not avoid the reality that my perception of a person I had never met was tainted with cultural prejudice.  What did I mean by “red neck?”  Well to be honest, I see that as a person who is rural, uneducated, very conservative and narrow-minded.  But of course, I’m not prejudiced!

I explored my thoughts further.  In my mind “red necks” were white people who attacked black people, carried guns, and wanted to fight anyone who disagreed with them.

So what did I know about the man in the house with the Black Lives Matter sign?  Mary Browne once said, “Preconceived notions are the locks on the door to wisdom.”  I had decided who this man was when I had only my perception to guide me and I had clearly gone down a back alley.

I think of myself as a liberal, open-minded person, yet my perception had veered into a place that shocked me.  As I continue to think about this incident, I feel humbled by the experience.  I’m not so different after all.  I have a weakness for imagining another’s life with only superficial information.  How often do we all do that?

Changing To Create Equality

Now is a critical time.  How many of us who are white think we know what racial justice looks like when we have never been racism’s target?  Fortunately, the present protests and actions around racism have taken on a new power to educate us and hopefully will change the structures of our nation to create true equality.  It is a potent time for us all to explore in depth our own thinking and clean out the muck!

As Mary Browne suggested, it is time not to judge so that we can open the locked doors of our preconceived notions and allow wisdom to enter.  It is time for us to find peace and experience love for all humans, knowing that there is a reason why people feel as they do based on what they have experienced in life.

I will probably never meet the man whose sign stunned me, but I don’t have to.  I just have to remember to open my mind to all possibilities so that wisdom can enter.

©2020 Georganne Spruce

Additional Readings:

DANCING TO THE DANGER OF ASSUMPTIONS

AWAKENING TO RACIAL EQUALITY

AWAKENING TO LIVE HONESTLY

 

 

 

AWAKENING TO IMPROVISE OUR LIVES

“Life we all know is of course completely unpredictable and is constantly changing, and the way we navigate through life is simply by improvising.”  Niels Lan Doky

When you don’t know what to do, how do you approach that situation?  Do you create a plan or improvise?

When we don’t know what to do, we often improvise.  Sometimes that works out well, sometimes it doesn’t, but at least we may have learned from the experience.

This pandemic time is especially stressful for those who want life to stay the same and have a set plan to live by, but it requires some change for virtually all of us, and that can lead us to do things that we don’t usually do.

We can create new games for our children, bake bread, work on the novel we’d put away, zoom with friends we rarely have coffee with, and we wear masks when we go out rather than just wearing them at Halloween.

We Can Learn About Life From Jazz

While changes in life create some discomfort for us all, the ability to improvise can make all the difference in what comes next.  In Niels Lan Doky’s wonderful video How Jazz Wisdom Will Change Your Life,” he says, “You can always create something out of anything.”  Really? Why not?

I hope you will watch  Doky’s video because it is profound.  He states that you can apply the principles of jazz technique to your life.  They are the ability to adapt to change, the ability to be creative on demand, and the ability to treat your life as a work of art.

Following the Unknown Path

When I look at my own life, I can honestly say it has not followed a planned path.  I’ve had to improvise.  As a result, I’ve been exposed to situations that helped me grow.  I would not have thought to create them.  For example, I’ve moved many times, each for a different reason.  Things just happened.

I was living in Denver working at an art school and teaching modern dance part-time when the economy in the 1980’s bottomed out.  I lost my full-time job and couldn’t live on part-time work.  I didn’t know what to do.  I loved being close to artsy Boulder,  was exploring Buddhism, and had a meditation community that supported my spiritual growth.

Making Changes

At the same time, my brother, my only sibling, lived in New Orleans, with his wife and kids.  Since I didn’t have kids, I liked the idea of being near him and experiencing his children going up.  My parents also lived there.  There was much I didn’t like about New Orleans, especially the humid weather, but it was also an artsy place, so I thought, “Why not?”

During the twelve years I lived in New Orleans, my world greatly expanded.  I loved knowing my brother’s children as they grew up, being close to family, and enjoying the arts.  I worked as a full-time high school teacher in two excellent situations. I taught multicultural literature in a private Catholic girl’s school and later taught in a public school in the African-American community.  As a result of this second position, I was one of several teachers who traveled in West Africa for six weeks on a grant.

The Value of Choices We Prefer Not to Make

Unfortunately, after twelve years in New Orleans, I became ill with Chronic Fatique Syndrome.  My doctor was adamant that I needed to live in a dry environment in order to get well.  I had no idea what to do.   Then, that summer, a close woman friend of mine decided to move to Albuquerque to be near her family.  After she moved, she invited me to visit.

During that visit, I fell in love with the colorful art I saw throughout the city and in Santa Fe.  For the first time, I saw art on the side of buildings.  Art and brilliant colors were everywhere!  Amazingly, when I applied for a teaching job for the new school year, I was hired.

Although I never felt at home living in the desert, I liked being near mountains, and the sunsets were stunning.  Teaching in one school with mostly Native American students taught me about the reality of their culture, its beauty and its challenges.   Again my cultural awareness was expanded.  After four years in New Mexico, I was cured of the Chronic Fatigue and ready to move on.

By this time,  two of my friends from New Orleans had moved to Asheville.  I had previously visited them several times and loved being among the mountains and forests.  It felt like my soul’s home and similar to the land in Arkansas where I grew up.   So I improvised again.

The Values of Improvisation

Perhaps I could consider these changes because I had learned the value of improvising when I was a modern dancer.  When  a dancer improvises, she never knows where the dance will go or what the outcome will be.  Each moment, the movement changes.  The interaction of the dancers shifts.  Often the result is a beautiful phrase of movement one could not have imagined.

Life can be like that too.  When we are confronted with a new situation, how we choose to respond may take us to places we never dreamed we could go and awaken us to a new dance of life.  I am grateful that I found the courage to improvise, for that decision has led me to a richer life.  May you find the courage to improvise too.

Be sure to watch Doky’s video and see how your life is like jazz.  Cool!

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

TRANSFORMING THE FEAR OF CHANGE

AWAKENING TO THE POWER WITHIN

AWAKENING TO UNEXPECTED FEAR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AWAKENING TO OUR STRENGTH

“Strength does not come from winning.  Your struggles develop your strengths.  When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”  Arnold Schwarzenegger

What part of you is the strongest? The Inner? The Outer? Which helps you to face what appears to be the impossible?

All the children of my nephews and niece are active in sports: soccer, gymnastics, basketball, and anything else that catches their eyes.  I’m so happy for them because physical activity was absent from most of my childhood due to many illnesses and a heart murmur.  When I began to play a little baseball, it was a huge challenge.

We Win When We Don’t give Up

I suspect most sports participants know what Arnold means about struggles and hardships.  It isn’t always easy to become good enough to be on a team, especially a professional one.  It requires years of dedication, losing many times, and struggling to overcome our weaknesses.  It isn’t the physical strength that always makes us the winners.  We win when we don’t give up.

This is certainly one of those times when we are experiencing many struggles: how to survive without a job and income, how to work and stay safe from the virus, how to keep the right distance when we shop for food even when others don’t do so.  It’s a long list and dealing with all these challenges may depress us and make us want to stop trying to take care of ourselves.

But as Arnold reminds us, when we decide not to surrender, we struggle to go on and find our strength and that is what sustains us through this pandemic and the major challenges of life.  The only winner we need to be in this situation is the one that goes on making our lives the best we can under the circumstances, letting our struggles feed us with resolve.

How To Deal With Our Challenges

So how do we do this?  I think Francis of Assisi has some good advice.  “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Now, just doing what’s necessary can be challenging because so many stores are closed and even food markets don’t always have what we need.  This week, two of the vegetables we get every week were so bad they weren’t worth taking home, but they were the only ones the grocery could get.  To stay healthy, we need to eat vegetables every day, so if the fresh aren’t available, we’ll have to eat the canned or frozen ones.

If we have a problem with our backs and need acupuncture or massage, we’re taking a risk even if we find a practioner who will do the work.  Otherwise, we pull out the heating pad or massager at home.  If we need to see a doctor, it will probably be a telehealth connection, definitely not the normal experience.

When what we usually do can’t be done, we have to consider what is possible and perhaps be more creative like some of the people who are creating vegetable gardens in their yards.  It’s more challenging for those who aren’t urban farmers or who live in a high-rise although some apartments do have gardens on the building’s roof.

In some instances, it simply isn’t possible to get what we want or need, so obtaining the impossible isn’t always about doing.  Just accepting the reality can make us stronger, and not letting disappointment become depression that takes over our lives.

We Must Rely On Inner Strength

The strength that will sustain us through difficult times lies within us.  When we face a disappointment, it is wise to take a deep breath, meditate, find the stillness within, and remind ourselves that essentially we are fine.  In that stillness we find the light within that allows us to accept the situation or that presents a solution that has not occurred to us.

Years ago when I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatique Syndrome and told I had to stop eating gluten and dairy, that seemed impossible.  There was virtually no prepared food like that and anything baked had to be made from scratch. Despite the challenge, that diet became my norm. Because I chose to do what was difficult,  that decision  resulted in good health.

Many necessary changes in life are not easy, but when we find we can make those changes, other changes seem more possible.  We simply need to embrace the seemingly impossible and refuse to surrender.  Therein lies our strength.

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

AWAKENING TO THE POWER WITHIN

AWAKENING TO ACCEPTANCE

AWAKENING TO STILLNESS

AWAKENING TO TRUST YOURSELF

“TRUST IN WHAT YOU LOVE, CONTINUE TO DO IT, AND IT WILL TAKE YOU WHERE YOU NEED TO GO.” NATALIE GOLDBERG

University of Nebraska at Kearney dance students 1979

Do you trust yourself to make good decisions? Do you listen to yourself? Do you trust life to guide you where you need to go?

Last night I watched a video of dance performances that I choreographed when I taught dance at University of Nebraska at Kearney. I had forgotten how good the students were, considering that most of them had never studied dance. I also felt rather proud of myself for creating choreography that made them look graceful and talented, rather than like beginning dancers.

Watching the tapes was a joyful experience. It reminded me of a time when I loved the work I was doing and of the wonderful lessons that I learned from dance. Having been often sick as a child, I grew up not trusting my own body because of its weakness.  I felt insecure doing physical activity except for the hikes my family took when I always had someone to help and guide me.

Strengthening the Body Develops Confidence

In high school, I had modern dance one day a week, and as my body changed, my confidence improved. I developed muscles and strength. I felt stronger. I liked my body which I had previously not liked because I thought it was too skinny.  I began to trust myself more socially.

Dance Can Be A Spiritual Practice

The more I trusted myself, the more I loved studying dance and dancing.  As I matured, dance became a spiritual practice.  It took me where I needed to go, to a place where I learned to trust my body and my creativity, to moments of silence, to a balance between opposites, and to the expression and moderation of boundless energy.

Silence Takes Us Deeper

I learned to trust silence, to stand quietly, to be okay with doing nothing, to use silence to mindfully prepare for action. I no longer saw silence as time wasted. It allowed me to explore my inner richness and value what deeper thoughts rose to the surface to guide my life and movement.

Balance Requires Being Open

Learning to balance was a basic aspect of movement.  In class one day with Jenny Scanlon, a member of the Jose Limon company, teaching, we practiced balancing on our toes with our feet apart in second position. I was struggling, trying to decide what muscles to contract to keep my rocking body in position when Jenny said, “To balance you have to stretch – reach out into space.”

At that moment, I suddenly realized why I was struggling. I was contracting inward toward my center. I took a breath, lifted and opened my chest, stretched out into the space with my arms, lifting my spine toward the sky as I pressed my feet into the ground. Balance! Perfect balance!  I had to open in order to balance.

Confidence Allows Us To Take Risks

Most of all dance changed me from being a person who was afraid to take a risk to one who was often fearless.  Like all risk-takers, I had to learn when it was wise to take the risk and when not, but even trying to take a risk was a huge change for me.  If I could run across the stage, jump into the air and trust that my partner would catch me, which he usually did, I could learn to do other things in life that scared me.  And in those times when I jumped and my partner and I both fell from the force, I learned how to survive the fall without injury.

This taught me to put more energy into what I wanted in life—to go for it! I learned to choreograph my life.  To create moments of silence between my energetic expressions, organize what activities were most important, and venture into areas where I was a novice all took me to new experiences that broadened my life.  I learned to trust my intuition, my instincts, and my desire to live life more fully.

Dance Connects Us With Nature and Trust

It was never the applause or costumes that I loved about dancing—it was the earthiness.  I was a modern dancer and loved the feeling of my bare feet on the wooden stage.  It grounded me. Eartha Kitt once said, “I’m a dirt person.  I trust the dirt.  I don’t trust diamonds and gold.”  After all, the earth is our home, our foundation, the abundance that feeds us. After loving nature all my life and spending my childhood hiking and swimming in lakes and streams, despite my infirmities, I needed to feel in touch with nature.

As I became more in touch with my own body, I also became more aware of the earth on which I danced. When we dance, we interact with gravity.  We rebound from the earth.  We suspend in the air. The physical activity is basic to life.  Dance nourishes the body and soul.

Instead of being fearful of life, I learned to trust myself and life’s twists, turns and detours.  I learned to trust that whatever happened, I could handle it, and I learned to risk moving on when I eventually needed to stop dancing.  I risked becoming a writer and sharing my voice.  I learned that trusting what I love would take me where I needed to go.

What will you do today to become more trusting of yourself?

© 2017 Georganne Spruce

Related Articles:  Limon Company – Psalm (excerpt), Awakening to Release Our Fear, Three Ways to Develop Self-Trust

AWAKENING TO WHAT YOU SEE

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

Do you see what is front of you or do you see what you want to see?  How accurate is your perception of things?  Do you seek out information on a topic before forming a judgement?

Look at the picture above.  What do you see?  It appears that the woman is balanced on the edge of a log, but living intimately with gravity, as we all do, is what we see here really possible?  What is really happening?  Did the camera simply catch her in the split second she touched the log before falling forward to the ground?

My first perception is that she is off balance and will fall.  On the other hand, maybe she is leaning back far enough to balance on the edge.  Or perhaps the picture was photo shopped. What do you see?

We Constantly Interpret What We See

On a daily basis, we are faced with situations that are not clear, and we have to interpret what we see or hear. The conclusion we reach is very much based on our previous life experience.  For example, my first response to the above pictures is based on having been a dancer and dealt with balance, weight, and movement.  As a result, I believe that the picture was taken a split-second before she would fall.

Gustave Flaubert said, “There is no truth.  There is only perception.”  We can collect facts about any topic, but what we experience usually affects how we think and feel about that experience.  For example, since the last U.S. election, we never know when we can trust the president’s comments because they are often his emotional response to a situation not based on facts or reality.

He sees virtually everything in relation to how it makes him look powerful or weak and ignores the way his actions affect many of the people who voted for him.  Twisting facts to support one’s political agenda is not unusual, but it is clear he cannot see beyond his own emotional needs, and they are based in his fear of not being powerful.

Negative Thinking Is the Result of Fear

Negative thinking is created by underlying fears and may cause us to think that we are facing a problem when it is simply a challenge that can be easily solved.  If we choose to see it as a serious problem, we create an emotional block that may prevent us from seeing a simple or easy solution.  Realizing that fear is getting in the way and letting it go will help us see the solution.

Look at this the picture above:  rose petals on a keyboard.  What do you think has happened here?  When I first saw it, I thought of the roses I’ve received from my love on Valentine’s Day and how reluctant I often am to throw them out even when the dry petals begin to fall.

As I continued to gaze at the picture, I thought of other scenarios.  A couple had a fit and someone threw a rose at the other and it hit the piano instead.  Or the couple has broken up and the roses have been left to die like the relationship.  Or the rose is lying there because it fell from the vase on the piano and no one has picked it up because the pianist is no longer in that house.

What We See Is Based On How Carefully We Look

How we see a situation is often based on our past experiences.  It is also based on how carefully we explore what has happened.  Look at the following nature photo.  Glance at it quickly, then away.

Now go back and study it for a moment.  Do you see more than you did with a glance?

This is a bit like reading articles on Facebook.  If you only skim the titles of articles, you may have missed the real point of the writing because most titles on Facebook are created to catch attention, not to inform. So the topic that you see in the title may have little resemblance to the information in the article.  This is why it is important to fact check our own perceptions.  Is what we see at first really the story?

Informing ourselves about major issues that affect us can shift our perceptions to what is real rather than just what feels good. For example, why did people think Trump would help those most in need just because he said it.  There was no history to support these promises, but so many people trusted what he said without looking further. They never looked beyond the surface.

Knowing Ourselves Helps Us See More Clearly

When we develop the consciousness to look at our own perceptions and prejudices and be aware of what they are, we are able to make better choices. If a friend makes a comment that reminds us of our mother’s criticism when we were young, we can think, “Ah ha,” and choose not to lash out at that person because we know the anger we feel arises from the past, not the moment.

So, were there moments in your day when the past or your predictable thoughts side-tracked an exchange with another?  Did you “blow off” reading an article because it was written by a journalist you label as too liberal or too conservative?  Did you discount your teenagers ranting about the unfairness of a teacher because the kid is always too emotional?

Getting more information and looking deeper helps us see more clearly.  What have you seen today in a new way?

© 2017 Georganne Spruce

Related Articles: Awakening to Peace and Wholeness Beyond Fear, Awakening to Where Kindness Has GoneThe Destruction of Hillary Clinton: Sexism, Sanders, and the Millennial Feminists

 

 

AWAKENING TO LIVE WITH CHAOS

“We focus so much on our differences, and that is creating, I think, a lot of chaos, negativity, and bullying in the world.  And I think if everybody focused on what we all have in common – which is – we all want to be happy.”  Ellen DeGeneres

Snow Bird Lodge 063What do you do when confronted with an angry person?  How do you find peace when confronted with chaos?  How do you find happiness when there is too much negativity in your life?

CHAOS SEEMS TO SURROUND US

It is a time when keeping chaos at a distance is more difficult than usual.  The news is filled with natural disasters like the fires in California or the floods in Louisiana, with the insults Trump and Clinton hurl at one another, and with the wars in the Middle East that are making normal lives impossible for millions of people.  In addition, racism and misogyny have raised their ugly heads in a way that makes them impossible to ignore.

How do we find happiness in the midst of this without totally withdrawing from society?  The secret lies in how we experience our minds and emotions because the thoughts and comments we hear lodge in our mental spaces and become part of memory.  The more negative ones feed the ego that is always ready for more drama.

Because this is a presidential election year, we have a particular challenge.  We want to learn about the candidates so that we can make good choices about whom we vote for, but the particularly negative nature of the race this year makes that a challenge.  Whether or not we believe what the candidates say, their words and emotions, especially Donald Trump’s, affect our “pain body,” an aspect of the ego.

LEARN TO CALM THE “PAIN BODY”

Eckhart Tolle, in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose defines the “pain body” in this way: “The remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted, and let go of join together to form an energy field that lives in the very cells of your body.” (p. 142) He also points out that people who have active pain bodies tend to attract hostility and conflict. Others can feel the negative energy that is so strong in them and will react to it by lashing out or avoiding that person.

So the pain body is that part of the ego where we store the emotional pain we have suffered throughout life.  It is always hungry and feeds on drama, so negative feelings and ideas activate it easily.  We start to feel angry, hurt, or offended in some way.  We want to react quickly without thinking, and so we easily find ourselves embroiled in conflict or self-pity and at odds with the person offending us.

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DO WE ALWAYS CHOOSE UNHAPPY STORIES?

What is at the core of these unhappy feelings?  Tolle says, “Only emotion plus an unhappy story is unhappiness.”  For example, why are so many people attracted to Trump’s negative remarks?  Because he activates and supports their unhappy stories.  He feeds the pain body.  So instead of speaking to what is good in us and our society, he convinces us that our lives are awful (and some truly are) and only he can fix that.  Like many politicians, he speaks to people’s emotions and ignores any contradictory facts.

ONLY WE CAN FIX OURSELVES

The reality is that no candidates can fix us.  We can only fix ourselves by not attaching to the negative stories they perpetuate.  We must find peace in the midst of chaos by going within and centering ourselves.  Then we are able to see healthy solutions to the problems that haunt us and are able to differentiate between the candidate who has real solutions to the country’s problems and the one whose ego promises whatever will make him look powerful.

Becoming aware of the pain body, releasing our unhappy stories, and learning to be present and accept what we are feeling will allow us to be happier because we can then feel who we truly are.

By observing our own reactions, we can become aware of the kinds of events or comments that set us off.  When we are more conscious, we can choose a different path of behavior.

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BE CENTERED IN THE MOMENT

In those moments when the pain body is activated, we need to be in the moment, feel what we are feeling, and release our need to react.  Having practiced meditation, I know how peace feels and I try to release any need to react.  I want to simply be in the moment and observe the story that is emerging.  If I can choose not to attach to the negative emotions and ideas being expressed, I can choose not to experience the unhappiness inherent in the reaction of the pain body.

Every time I feel my pain body activate, I ask, “Do I really think this?  Do I really feel this?  Do I really need to respond to this?  Should I just let it go?  Then I affirm only what I believe is true. Each time I learn more about who I am.  Whether we like it or not, working with the pain body and letting go of our unhappy stories, can change our lives—and maybe our country.

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As Ellen DeGeneres said, “We all want to be happy.”  So, in addition to learning to live in a healthy way with our pain body and not letting it run our lives, we need to focus on what is good in our lives.  What do we have to be grateful for?

GRATITUDE ALSO LEADS TO HAPPINESS

Personally, in this divisive time in our country, I am grateful that Hillary, a well-qualified woman, is running for president and has a good chance of winning.  I wasn’t sure I would ever see that in my lifetime.  Despite all the negative things that are said about her, the fact is that she has worked to help others, especially women and children, all her life.  She has demonstrated she knows how to get things done that help people, and she doesn’t segregate people by race or gender.

When we focus on gratitude, we support what is good in our lives, what we have together and in community as well as in our individual lives.  That is our greatest source of happiness.

©2016 Georganne Spruce

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