All Things Become The Teacher

Maybe it was the lack of sleep or the weight of thousands of miles traveled, but I nearly cried when I saw Spam Fried Rice on the menu. The overwhelming sense of nostalgia came with that one uniquely Guam dish.

Even though it had been 25 years since I was last on Guam, the place felt the same. The individuals, the business names, and the political players changed. Roads have widened and beaches narrowed. Yet the essence that is undeniably Micronesia is perhaps stronger than before.

My trip to Guam in September of 2019 was a lesson in synchronicity and serendipity. For the 10 days that I was there, I only had one activity planned: the book launch on Wednesday, September 18. I went with an open heart and mind to let the journey unfold as it would and trusted a Higher Power to guide each step of the way.

The reason for the trip? Back in 1992, while attending the University of Guam, I was part of an Anthropology field school on Ulithi Atoll. Fast forward 20-some years, the professor retired and finally had time to compile a book about Ulithi. Papers myself and fellow students wrote as a result of the field school were part of the volume, Ulithi Atoll, Micronesia: Recalling the Past, Reaffirming the Future, along with more recent research from the 21st century.

Less than a month before the formal book launch, I was contacted by one of the book’s editors to inform me about the existence of this book. That was just one of a cascading volume of “coincidences” that were part of my Guam experience.

My former professor had tried to track me down me before. When time was running out, she asked the other editor to try. If this person had tried a week or two earlier, she would not have established contact.

The only reason she was able to reach me was that, merely a week prior, I had added the URL for this blog onto my Facebook page. If I hadn’t done that, I would have completely ignored the friend request and I would have absolutely no knowledge that this book existed, and hence, I would not have journeyed to Guam. As it was, she conveyed a message through the comments section on my blog, which comes straight to my inbox.

Guam is an island of connections. It seemed that everywhere I went and everything I did wove tiny threads of synchronism linking events, people, the past, and the future into a cohesive whole. I had such an overwhelming sense that I was exactly where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there.

The day I arrived, a two-day conference ended about decolonizing Guam. This is a topic I was actively learning about to inform the novel I’m writing. Turns out, a former classmate who I had been looking to reconnect with was very involved with the issue. When we met for dinner, it was as if no time had passed and we talked and talked, much to the annoyance of people waiting to be seated at the restaurant.

Another motivation for returning to Guam was to get more information about the Suruhana, the traditional healers on Guam. This was also to inform my writing. ‘Coincidentally,’ my friend was familiar with a number of Suruhana and an avid supporter of helping the tradition survive in the 21st century.

Oh, and so many more parallels. When I had been on Guam in the 80s and 90s, I knew my friend had grown up on-island. Little did I realize that she had gone to high school in Medford, Oregon, a rather small, rural town. At that point, I had never been to Oregon. After moving away from the island I had happened to go through Medford shortly after my husband and I married in 1995. We fell in love with the area and have lived there ever since. So, my friend and I also had Medford in common.

There were too many other coincidences and parallels to mention. I’ll just say that every conversation confirmed that I had needed to be on Guam at that moment, to have that conversation, to gain that insight.

Overall, a strong sense of “it is time” pervaded my consciousness. It was time to act. Time to show up in the world. Time to let my voice be heard. Time to move beyond fear and fulfill my purpose. Heady stuff? Yes. Yet all it really means is that I must trust myself and do what is in front of me.

I can’t help but believe that my meditation practice allowed my mind to be clear and to fully discover the joy and meaning of each moment. In Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche’s words, “As we grow accustomed to looking at the clear surface of our minds, we can see through all the gossip about who and what we think we are, and recognize the shining essence of our true nature.” (The Joy of Living, p. 132).

I believe that you can come to know your true nature through many different religions and paths. As my husband recently heard, when the student is ready, all things become the teacher. So whether you’re in a 12-step program, a devout follower of a religion or anything in between, my wish for you is that you come to know how amazing you truly are and can follow your passion to your ultimate fulfillment.

Reprinted fromI Am Many Things

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Easier Together: Group Meditation

Why do I find it so much easier to meditate in a group setting? I recently visited a local branch of Tergar: The Meditation Community of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. This group is from a Tibetan Buddhism tradition, yet is also heavily influenced by mindfulness meditation research.   I’ve only gone twice, but am excited about the teaching and practice I am finding there.

I frequently lapse in my regular meditation practice. Weeks (months?) go by with no ‘formal’ meditation, but merely moments throughout the day when I pause and take a quiet, reflective moment. When I do set actual time to meditate, sometimes even 15 minutes can feel like an eternity. I was using a meditation app for a while, but soon after was feeling constrained by the guidance.

When I joined the group in meditation, it felt like almost no time went by before he rang the bell at 20 minutes. I felt so refreshed. This group also has a discussion period focused on different themes. There is so much to learn! I’m looking forward to learning more, meditating more, and experiencing more joy in my life.


I originally posted this on my blog, I Am Many Things, in February of 2019. Fast forward six months, and I’m still going to those weekly meetings. It has changed my life. For the first time, I am meditating regularly, even daily. I’ve only missed a couple of days since April, and I can’t describe how much freer I feel.

While this is definitely not the only form of meditation or Buddhist teaching, I have found that it uniquely fits me. I love how Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche connects cutting edge neuroscientific research with this ancient practice. Also, the focus on practical application, consciously using the techniques in everyday life, has definitely improved my attitude, which in turn greatly benefits my family (and eases their suffering)!

Since this initial post, I’ve undergone more formal teaching in this tradition and am looking forward to continuing my journey. I believe that, at 53 years old, this student was finally ready to listen to a teacher.

Like a Dry Sponge

There are days when I feel empty, rudderless, and godless. At moments I can feel so completely sure of a Higher Power working in my life, and other times I feel terror, like I’m fumbling, lost, a child in a grown-up world.

At those uninspired times, I need to break it down real simple. As long as I don’t take a drink or drug, there is hope in my life. When I get confused, I remember that AA is my spiritual path. Part of that spiritual path is to seek through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with Spirit.

I had a profound experience during meditation recently. I had been feeling completely drained, exhausted, like my skin was a collection of raw nerves. I remembered to take quiet time and sit in meditation.

I started off with my usual mindfulness meditation app. But when the app ended, I remained sitting in silence. Then  I felt, with each breath, that I was drawing up energy from the core of the Earth. I was soaking up energy like a dry sponge soaks up water. Immersed in Spirit, I drank until my nerves were calm, my mind was at peace, and I felt renewed.

Just remembering that feeling helps me at this moment feel “OK.” We are still unsure of where we will be living a month from now. There are so many pros and cons of every house we have looked at. I don’t trust my own judgement. I know that if you give me 5 possibilities, on my own I will pick the worst possible situation.

I do not know what will happen next month, next week, or even later today. I have to trust that there is as energy above and throughout that guides me… when I keep my mind open and listen. As I prepare to go about my day, I must remember to stop, pray, and seek guidance in my every step and action.

**previously posted on my personal blog, I Am Many Things.**

Mindfulness Meditation With an App

Last year I made a commitment to start meditating regularly. Well, that didn’t work out so well. Soon I was caught up in the daily frustrations and flashes of anger and completely forgot about trying to meditate. Peace of mind can be so elusive.

Then, a couple of months ago, my son asked to go off his ADHD meds. When he takes them, he doesn’t eat all day. By the end of the day, when the meds wear off, he is crazy hungry and out of control. We decided that if he was willing to commit to a regular meditation practice we would be willing to let him stop his medication.

I read a lot about meditation for kids and one idea kept repeating: the best way to help kids develop a meditation practice was for the parents to also practice meditation. I realized there was no way around it. I *had* to start meditating.

I decided to try a meditation app. Unfortunately, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of them. They range in price from free to almost $100 or more. I started downloading and trying the free ones, but found most of them to be incredibly annoying. You know those syrupy-sweet voices that are almost a whisper? I hate those. Where I live, they call that “airy-fairy.”

I asked people about apps they used and stumbled across an app called Smiling Mind. I downloaded the Smiling Mind app (it’s available for IOS and Android.) The dude is Australian, and I found his voice to be remarkably non-irritating.

This particular app is completely free. There are no parts that you have to pay to unlock. I really like that. None of the dealer’s ‘first taste is free’ thing.

Smiling Mind has a number of different programs. They have programs for kids in different age ranges, programs designed for teachers, and a number of programs designed for adults with different focuses such as sports or for the workplace.

Each program comes in several modules which are designed progressively to help you develop mindfulness and increase the time, gradually, that you spend in meditation. Each module consists of meditation sessions, but they also include activities to enhance your mindfulness.

I’m averaging about 3 times a week, but hope to increase that. You can set daily reminders on your phone or to tell  it to notify you when you haven’t been on the app for a few days.

I’m really enjoying working through the basic adult program. Eventually, I’ll be able to do longer and longer meditation with little to no vocal guidance. Of course, you don’t actually need an app to meditate. Simply following your breath can help you return to calm.

I feel like this app is helping me develop mindfulness to instill a deeper sense of peaceful contentedness. Try it! You might like it.

**previously posted on my personal blog, I Am Many Things.**

 

Why Secrets Keep Us Sick

It’s pretty common around people in 12-step programs to hear, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” Honesty is stressed. Telling our secrets, even if it’s just to one other person, can set us free. But what is it about keeping secrets that keeps us sick?

Humans need connection. Keeping secrets make us feel separate, disconnected. If I’m keeping a secret about something I did or something that happened to me, I’m actually believing that if you knew this you would know how sick and disgusting I am and I would be alone.  Therefore, I will bury this secret so deep that even I will forget about it. Denial can be a life-saving coping skill at times, but eventually, it will kill us.

It makes me wonder if the ’cause’ of many people’s relapse is the secrets they are keeping. See, secrets are usually about shame. As Brene Brown puts it in her TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability,” shame is believing that “something about me, that if other people know it or see it, I won’t be worthy of connection.”

So the key, it seems, is learning that this thing, however bad it is, does not make me unworthy of love and connection. It is letting go of that thing that makes all the difference. Letting go of the shame and accepting this thing as part of me is how I become whole. I accept all parts of me, all of my experiences, all that I am.

If it’s that simple, why do we still keep secrets? For the most part, it’s fear of being vulnerable. When Brene Brown talks about vulnerability, she describes it as doing something even when there are no guarantees.

When we are vulnerable, we feel connected. Doing the 5th step is all about vulnerability.  But sometimes, we need professional help to be vulnerable. Even people with a lot of time in the program often find the need to seek outside help.

If we’re afraid of vulnerability, speaking without knowing what the reaction will be, then often a therapist can help. It is their job to hear you and be accepting. It is their job to help you through it. When you talk to a therapist, it’s like side-stepping vulnerability because you have a guarantee that you will be OK even if you tell this horrible secret.

And that is how we become whole.

So, my message is this: If you are keeping a secret that you swear no one will ever know, please find a way to let it out. You are worthy of connection. You are worthy of love and acceptance. Otherwise, your secret could very well kill you.

*This was originally posted on my blog, I Am Many Things.

Practicing Compassion

I went to an amazing women’s AA retreat this weekend. It was at a modern Catholic monastery. The grounds were impeccable, complete with a walking labyrinth and sacred grotto and numberous water features.

During the weekend, we had an exercise to determine our deepest values. At the end, Compassion was what I chose as my highest value. To me, it seemed that with compassion, I am connected to every other creature on the planet. I see the other as myself, and myself as the other. There is no judgement, just a spiritual acknowledgement of the value of each person, wherever they are.

I felt pretty damn spiritual, I’ll tell you. Then I went home.

Resentment, fear, and frustration all reared their ugly heads within 24 hours of being back. He needs to change. She needs to do things different. Why isn’t everyone as god-centered as I am!

Yeah, there goes my humility and sense of peace right out the window.

Practicing compassion at home is perhaps my greatest difficulty. I want things done my way, and with that attitude, there is no room to allow others to be exactly as they are. Most of the weekend was spent in a meditative state. Home now, I want to immediately fill every waking moment with one of the many games on my phone or computer. Watch TV. Do anything except just be where I am.

I have to remember to live with a compassionate heart. I must remember who I really am and to listen to my heart. I must be like the fish in the ocean when a storm blusters above. The fish don’t fight the current. They stay deep, in the calm waters, just flowing back and forth until the storm ends.

Everything Is Awful, Everything Is Broken

Put your fears to rest
You know it’s for the best
As a choir of angels sings:

…everything is awful.

—Lyrics from “Everything is Awful” by The Decemberists.

I heard this song on the radio the other day, followed immediately by Bob Dylan’s “Everything is Broken.” It was a gorgeous early spring day. I was happy.

Yes, I was happy even though it is true, everything is awful and everything is broken. For me, it was like a message that what the world *looks* like is not necessarily what matters. Sometimes things have to get awful and things have to break for new things to take their place.

Here is a comment that was left at the website Genius,

On a few occasions, Colin has referred to this song as a Trump-era “state of the union song.” The pessimistic nature of the lyrics is contrasted with the jovial “la la la la la” refrain and the gang chorus at the end.

These songs also reminded me to not take everything, especially myself, so seriously. Folks in recovery might know this as “Rule 62.” All I can do is what is in front of me. I do what I can, each day, and if I live today well I will be OK.

I cannot give in to the pessimistic, defeatist attitude. There is a higher order, whatever your religious/spiritual/philosophical beliefs. Everything is connected. Everything is One.

If you have ever walked a labyrinth, you know that there is one path in and one path out. It is all the same path. It *looks* like people are ahead of you or behind, moving toward you or away. Yet it is all one path. We are just at different places, constantly moving. No one place is better or worse than another because it is all one path. Just keep moving.

My Heart Hurts

My heart hurts for Syria today, for the people living each day with such an uncertainty that I will never know.

One thing I enjoy about travelling and taking Ubers is talking to the drivers. In San Diego, I had a driver from Syria. He had a certain sadness about him, yet was friendly and upbeat. This was shortly after Trump initiated the first travel ban. It almost made me ashamed to be a white woman from the US, but I know I am doing everything I can to resist giving in to fear and hate.

I asked about his family. He was so grateful that a brother and his family had arrived in the US mere days before the ban. Of course, he still had a lot of family in Syria. Talking with this man, he was maybe in his mid-60s… it was just one human talking to another. Sometimes the only thing I can do is listen, to hear their stories.

If only those in power would just take the time to talk, and more importantly, listen to people different than themselves. Everyone has a story that needs to be told.

On this day, today, when Syria is being bombed, again, from outside forces, all I can say is that my heart hurts. I pray for peace to come to that war-torn land, that the people are allowed to worship however they wish, that they may be educated as much as they wish, and that they know that they are loved.

The people in power do not always represent the people they rule over. Probably anyone who reads this will understand already. I just needed to raise my voice, to put into the universe the fact that I believe we have more in common than we have differences. When one person has a change of heart, the whole world changes.

Barn Bliss

This originally posted on my personal blog, I Am Many Things. I felt so much lighter and calmer after writing this that I wanted to share it here, too. May it remind you of the beauty and pleasure in simple things and moments shared.

Yesterday I got to go to the barn and spend time with one of my favorite horses, a black Tennessee Walker named Dillon. The day was warm and dry, and while the uneven ground was a bit painful on my still-healing ankle, it felt glorious to be outside.

I brought Dillon out and spent maybe an hour with a shedder lifting masses of itchy, irritating, shedding hair. It was quiet, as my daughter was out in the pasture working with her horse. I hadn’t done more than said “Hi” to Dillon since my car accident in August 2017, nearly 8 months ago.

It took him a while to warm up to me, but soon we were nuzzling cheek-to-cheek as I scratched out the loose hair under his forelock. It seemed we both were relieved to be able to spend that time together. I had forgotten how calming it is to grok with a horse.

The moment was over too soon, yet I carried that Bliss into the rest of today.

Now, as I relate this to you, I’m getting a taste of that enhanced state of tranquility again. The past few months I’ve been aggravated, agitated, and finding myself wanting to isolate and escape into Xbox and playing games on my phone. Why am I turning away from this world?

I don’t know why, but I believe that meditation is a key to re-integrate into my life. I’ve been busy meeting with a new sponsor and working with five women in recovery, but I have been neglecting some key things. I haven’t wanted to sit with myself.

Sitting with myself, without external stimuli, is critical for my well-being. It is in those moments that I let God’s light shine into my darkness. Those moments give me clarity and strength and motivations to carry on. May you have a blissful day.

They Key to Your Greatest Good

I posted this on my personal blog today, but though I would share it here, too. Namaste.

Accept that God is guiding you to people and circumstances that will bless you. No matter how great the need, God is the answer. Know and affirm that God is the true source of your supply and that God always provides for you. Give thanks that this is true for you now. –From Golden Key Ministry e-newsletter for Feb. 4, 2018

Do I need to say anything else? I will anyway.

Sorry to sound a little preachy, but this really struck me this morning. This is how I try to live my life. It doesn’t mean that I just sit back and let a higher power do all the work for me. It means that I walk forward an do what is in front of me. I can let go of fear and anxiety, trusting that, even though I cannot see a solution, I know that one is there.

If you want to learn more about this philosophy, check out the More Prosperity for You website.