Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Month: May 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

Reflections on Fearlessness and Best Links (May)

White Flower

Once a month I publish my favorite articles from around the web (mostly on personal development), books, and resources plus a mini-monthly review.

I share these links each month because I think it’s important to personally support each other as bloggers rather to rely exclusively on the big corporations that provide social media platforms for “free.”  I love writers who make me dig deep as well as those who inspire or provide useful practical information.

Outstanding Articles

Great Courses

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about myself as a writer and carousing with other wordsmiths in Tammy Strobel’s Writing in the Digital Age.  Tammy brings a large dose of creativity to her writing process, which pushed my boundaries in a positive way and gave me brand new ideas.  Registration will open for her next 4-week course on July 15th.

The Heart of May:  Exploring Fearlessness

Writing a brief monthly review helps me to celebrate my accomplishments and stay focused on what really counts.  Sharing my review may inspire you to be more intentional too.

Champagne Pond

Champagne Cove

We skirted the two private homes, walking down a narrow concrete and stone pathway to the inlet’s edge.  I slipped into layers of cool sea interspersed with lava-heated fresh water.

Being a holiday weekend, people lined the decks and docks alongside the inside of the cove.  As I paddled about puppy-style, one of the homeowners (or renters) started shouting and cursing.

“Don’t you have any respect for private property?  He’s trying to pull a rock out, don’t you see?”

“I didn’t touch anything,” came the retort, which accelerated the anger further.

The accusations heated up, the denials flew equally as strong.

I felt scared and vulnerable in the hands of a mild current, which held me, more or less, paddling in place. I wasn’t flooded with fear, but I began to worry about drifting too close to the “mad” man’s rock wall.

Another person might have thought, “What a jerk.”  Or, “He has every right to be angry.”  I zoomed in on the sense of unpredictability, which fed my mild apprehension.

I’m not inviting situations like this, but they do give me an opportunity to study my fear response. Leaning into fear, I’m learning, is the path to fearlessness according to the amazing teachings contained in the book Smile at Fear:  Awakening the True Heart of Bravery by Chögyam Trungpa.

I don’t think you will ever find another book quite like this when it comes to the topic of fear.  Trungpa says, fearlessness arises from recognizing basic goodness in yourself and others.  On the other hand, all fear stems from our terror of non-existence.

“We are constantly looking for padding so we don’t run into the sharp edges of the world.”  Chögyam Trungpa, Smile at Fear

Are you willing to live without the padding?  True bravery requires tenderness, gentleness, and sensitivity rather than aggression.  It’s the willingness to be raw, vulnerable, and open-hearted in any moment rather than seeking neurotic comforts to fill up any possibility of open space in which you might actually see yourself.  It requires the discipline to put your awareness into every situation without expectations.

This is my spiritual path, ratcheted up a few thousand notches in vivid technicolor.  These are profound lessons that need to steep, simmer, and be integrated with dedicated time and practice – magical, but not a quick fix.

In that moment of fear, all notion of basic goodness was lost.  But, I was aware of fear as it arose, and didn’t succumb to panic.  Awareness already begins to transform the pattern.  It is the essential first step.  In the days following the episode, I also thought of this “angry” man more than once, sending him love and good wishes.

Flavor of the Month:  Willingness

How was your May?  What’s waking you up?

I’m so glad you’re here!  If you liked this article, please consider subscribing for free updates by email. With love, Sandra

A Simple Way to Make a Dream Come True

cambodia1

4100 children will die today from water-related diseases.

As unbelievable as it sounds, almost a billion people on this planet don’t have access to clean drinking water.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to change that?  And, maybe even save a life?

We can!  And, here’s how you can help.

My friend Courtney Carver is giving away her 44th birthday to bring water to those in need.  Her goal is to raise $4,400 or more by June 5th.  She’s very close to the half-way mark.  If she reaches her goal, on her birthday, she’s going to celebrate by giving all her books away for free on that day, and other goodies too.

I just made my donation and it took less than a minute.   I would love for you to join me.  Whether you give $4, $44, or $144, it will make a difference because 100% of your donation will directly fund water projects.

Read about Courtney’s Campaign and then follow the link to donate.  Thanks very much for your generosity.

From a spiritual perspective, practicing generosity helps to alleviate  attachment, which is one of the main causes of suffering in your life. Thus, when you give with a pure heart, helping others helps you too.

May all sentient beings have an ample supply of clean water, and never suffer from water-related diseases again!

P. S.  Please don’t put this off till later.  If you’re like me, despite the best of intentions, it may not happen.  If you are inspired to help, just pop over and donate right now.

I’m so glad you’re here!  If you liked this article, please consider subscribing for free updates by email. And, please help get the word out by sharing this post.  With love, Sandra

 

Three Essential Elements of Personal Power

Monarch Butterfly

Last night, I went to an introductory talk on Sexual Shamanism and Conscious Sensuality.  Apparently, we’re so disconnected from our bodies, our senses, our sensuality, and our sexuality that many people will pay upwards of $3,000 to tune back in.

Sexuality workships aren’t groundbreaking, however.  Research into the human sexual response began in the 50’s with Masters and Johnson, and people have been exploring ever since, and long before then too.  But, now there are new buzz words like “Shamanism” or “Consciousness” giving the topic a slightly different twist.

I took away some new perspectives from the talk, for which I am grateful, but I quickly tired of the overused lingo.  In particular, the repetition of the phrase “harvest your power” annoyed me to no end.

One of the listeners expressed a concern about harvesting one’s power.  She thought it might increase ego, the opposite aim of spiritual practice. The presenter reassured her that humility and integrity are essential to personal power. So no worries! But I wasn’t fully convinced.  Because, honestly, any approach can be used to bolster ego.  Ego is clever in its relentless attempts at self-deception.

As one way to harvest their personal power, people were encouraged to stand up in front of the group and share their most secret sexual fantasy.  If you’re an inhibited person, this exercise may indeed make you feel more powerful, at least momentarily.  Or you might just feel stupid or embarrassed and want to hide in a hole.

“Is this the true path to personal power?”  I wondered.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think this type of workshop serves a purpose, and can definitely increase your confidence, self-acceptance, sense of ease, and your ability to experience pleasure.  It just may not be the whole banana.

Three Essential Elements of Personal Power

All this talk about harvesting power stirred me to clarify my own definition of personal power.  Before you slap down several thousands dollars to learn how to harvest your power, wouldn’t it be smart to first know what personal power means to you?  Just to be sure you get the right thing?

My version of personal power is slightly different than standing behind a microphone and revealing your sexual secrets or what it feels like to be turned on to a group of 60 people.  These are three essential elements of personal power from my point of view:

  • A Boundless Wisdom that sees the world and the self as it is, ever-changing and inherently non-existent. This means recognizing there are two aspects of mind:  the essence of mind and the appearances of mind (thoughts and emotions).  Then choosing to rest in the essence of mind rather than becoming entangled in all the projections like hope and fear, negative emotions, stories and dramas.  Naturally, this takes time and practice.
  • Immeasurable Compassion, which expresses itself through the Four Boundless Qualities of love, compassion, joy and impartiality and extends to all living beings.  These are qualities that you too can learn to cultivate.
  • An Infinite Power or Capability to liberate others from suffering and delusion, once we’ve actualized these qualities to a greater degree.

Everyone of us is naturally endowed with these three profound qualities, but usually we are so caught up in the projections of mind we fail to realize or cultivate them.  The way to practice them is through meditation (mindfulness and awareness) and compassion practice.

When these three qualities begin to manifest, even to a small degree, your mind and life will begin to change.  You will find:

  • self-acceptance
  • an ability to let go of expectations and judgments
  • less negativity
  • a sense of being well in your own skin
  • confidence
  • kindness, love, compassion, and joy
  • a feeling of being more in touch with yourself and with others
  • a sense of responsibility for your thoughts, words, and actions.
  • feeling as though you are directing your life rather than being constantly swept into a rapidly running current
  • able to unfold into whatever experience presents itself in life
  • humor and spaciousness
  • integrity and authenticity

In short, wisdom and compassion are the essence of true power.  True power is embodied, in my opinion, by people like the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Aung Sang Sui Kyi, but their aspiration isn’t necessarily to achieve personal power.

True power is also expressed in everyday acts of kindness when our ego is not in the way:  caring for an ill or dying parent, helping an elderly person carry a heavy shopping bag, encouraging a child.

An incredible potential lies within you ready to be unleashed.  Are you ready to release the floodgates holding back limitless love and profound wisdom and discover a greater measure of personal power?

Writing Prompt:  Tammy Strobel

Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious!  Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra

How to Let Go of Your Books When It’s Hard

love-of-books

If you love books, trimming your library may be one of the hardest steps you take on your path towards greater simplicity.  But, think about it for a moment.  How often do actually return to a book in your collection?

After hauling all our books cross-country (20 boxes), my husband and I sold, loaned, or gave almost all our books away when we moved to France three years later.  We “loaned” around 500 books on Buddhism to a Buddhist Center, as I couldn’t quite bear to make it final.  I sold my other titles – an assortment of health, personal development, and odd topics – as used books on Amazon.

I loved having a vast reference library on Buddhism.  Ironically, sadness and attachment welled up in my heart as the truck with all “our” books on Buddhism – all about non-attachment and impermanence – drove away from our apartment.

It was just a temporary feeling.  Soon we set off across the ocean with our 50 remaining books in tow, a small collection of core Buddhist texts.  I didn’t have a second thought for all the books we left behind.

Three years and three months later, that heavy suitcase of Buddhist texts traveled with us once again across one and a half oceans with a continent in between when we moved to Hawai’i.  After a few years, this essential book collection has ballooned to include titles on health, happiness, and healthy house design – probably 150 or 200 volumes in total.  This doesn’t include my husband’s books, just mine.

Live What You Read

Fortunately, the Kindle (affiliate link) came to my rescue a few years ago.  The Kindle represents an excellent solution for me because I’m sensitive to must, mold, dust, and printer’s ink (though better than before). Frankly, a library is a far better answer in terms of the environment, but it itsn’t a good option for me.

Despite having this electronic wonder, I don’t buy books willy-nilly for the Kindle.  I limit my book purchases because I think it’s important that I try to practice and live what I read instead of simply reading more and more.  And, in fact, all the wisdom I truly need is contained in a handful of books.

When I started my simplicity experiments last year, I reluctantly looked at my current library knowing most of it would have to go.  I began by attempting to divide my books into three categories:

  • Must have
  • Maybe
  • Give away, sell, or throw away

But, I didn’t make much headway.  I ended up with about 10 books in the give away pile and another 10 in the to be sold pile. Everything else was in limbo.

Go At Your Own Speed

This is what I discovered.  At least for book lovers, letting go of books is a process that takes time.  It won’t necessarily happen the first time you give it a shot. As time moved on, I became acclimated to the idea.  I found a few more to move over into the good-bye pile.  Then, a few more.  I promised myself that I could repurchase a book on Kindle if I really needed it.

When I recently moved into a 450 square foot studio with my husband, I allocated two shelves for books.  I’ve made a big dent into paring my books down to fit on these two shelves.  I’m a bit of a trickster though as they are wide shelves that can accommodate two rows of books.  I’ll probably end up with about 75 books.

Is this a failure or a success?  I consider it a positive step forward.  I can envision letting go of a few more of these books as time goes on, but I don’t feel I have to right now.  Downsizing is individual.  You make the rules that work for you.

Here are a few lessons to take away from my experience:

  • You won’t necessarily miss most of  your books when they’re gone.
  • You can repurchase a book if you really need it.
  • You’re library will just grow bigger and bigger unless you’re intentional about it.
  • Downsizing is a process.  Go at a speed that works for you.
  • Downsizing is individual.  You don’t need to go to an extreme – like zero books – unless that truly suits you.
  • Most importantly, live what you learn instead of mindlessly devouring more and more.

If you decide to downsize your library, I wish you the very best.  I hope it’s a positive learning experience for you as well.

Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious!  Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra

Are Your Fighting or Flowing?

Tree in Storm

I felt hit by a bolt of lightning when chronic illness came into my life. I fought the change with all my might.  I wanted this new distress to have a name so I could fix it and make it go away.  I spend untold hours and dollars exploring solutions from doctors to healers, vitamins to herbs. All these remedies, the ones that work for everyone else, only made me worse.

I didn’t look within to consider how I could elegantly adapt to the new circumstances.  I didn’t consider lifestyle factors that might be contributing to the situation, or deeply seated, stale patterns that might be influencing my way of being.  I was stuck in place, running like mad, and suffering more and more.

This was primarily due to fear.  I clung to the belief, “There’s nothing wrong with me beyond the physical issues.”  So naturally, all I had to do was figure it out.  I couldn’t look within because distorted brain messages originating in my childhood made it shameful to do so.  I refused to see the interconnection of body, mind, and spirit.

The Opportunity to Shift Your Perspective

When circumstances change in your life, your are presented with an opportunity to shift your perspective, and possibly transform your life.  Changes, small or big, soft or dramatic, are heaven sent gifts if you are able to see them that way.  Most importantly, they can enhance you spiritual perspective inspiring you to use your time wisely, learn to quiet your mind, open your heart, and reflect on the true purpose of life.

I’m embarrassed to tell you how long I kept fighting!  It was a very long time. But everything shifted when I stopped fighting, and started accepting and flowing.  I could have saved a huge amount of time and energy if I had stepped into the center of change instead of struggling against it.  But, I know better than to indulge in regret.

Question for Reflection:

Is there something you’re fighting against in your life?  Can you imagine seeing it in a different way?  What might it be saying to you?

Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious!  Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra

How to Grow Genuine Compassion: Begin with Impartiality

640px-Flowers_arranged_to_ALOHA,_Hilo,_Hawaii

Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty. – Albert Einstein

Discovering true happiness and freedom depends entirely on developing an all-encompassing compassion.

Genuine compassion is said to encompass four qualities:

  • Love (sometimes called “loving kindness”)
  • Compassion
  • Joy
  • Equanimity

When these qualities are developed to their fullest, they are known as the Four Immeasurables or Four Boundless Attitudes, meaning that we extend them to all without bias.

As you cultivate these qualities and make them more immeasurable, negative emotions like anger, attachment, jealousy, and partiality will gradually diminish. In their place, you will uncover your kind heart and a more enduring sense of happiness.  At the same time, your relationships with others will come to be characterized by greater warmth, friendliness, and clarity.  Sounds good, don’t you think?

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