Tag Archives: Awakening

Lost & Found: The Birth Of A Shaman

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The following story, “Lost & Found: The Birth Of A Shaman“, was first published in February 2013 in Inspired Voices: True Stories Of Visionary Women.  The writing of this story came through my participation in a 9-month Heal My Voice program.  The mission of HMV is to: empower and support women and girls globally to heal, reclaim their voice and step into greater leadership in their lives and in the world.” (www.healmyvoice.org)

Since that time I have written several other stories found in Heal My Voice collaborative books including:

“I’m Okay, Really!” in Harmonic Voices: True Stories by Women on the Path to Peace

“Afterword: Becoming Peace” in Harmonic Voices: True Stories by Women on the Path to Peace

“Foreword” in Tender Voices: True Stories by Women on a Journey of Love

“Recovery Is Possible” in Feminine Voices: True Stories Of Women Transforming Leadership

In addition to writing these stories, this program has helped me to step forward as a leader and share my voice with the world.  I am excited to share my first Heal My Voice story, Lost & Found: The Birth Of A Shaman, with you here.  Later this year, I will be co-facilitating a program with HMV Founder Andrea Hylen called “Recovering Voices: True Stories of Women & Men Healing Grief“. We will also be leading some local workshops and virtual teleseminar classes on Writing To Heal ~ Transforming Our Grief.  Visit www.healmyvoice.org for more details.

In my story, I talk about how my life experiences, particularly those of trauma, loss and grief, led to my path of becoming a shaman.  I mention my teacher, Ross Bishop, who I came to meet a decade ago; he helped me to understand and integrate what I had experienced as a child in a profound and healing way.  This led to my apprenticeship as a shaman; and this work has become a foundation in my life and my work with clients today.

Ross will be arriving in Maryland tonight to spend some time offering healing space in my community.  If you are local to the MD/DC/VA area, I invite you to join us on Saturday for a Community Talk and Sunday for a Half-Day Workshop at The Zen House in Annapolis, MD.  To learn more visit azenhouse.com or Ross’ website, www.rossbishop.com.

 

Inspired Voices Book Cover

Lost & Found: The Birth Of A Shaman

By Beth Terrence

Dedication:

I write this story in honor of my inner children, the ones who were willing to travel into the darkness to find the light. The ones who walked through fire and instead of emerging charred and burned, transformed themselves into the light of illumination which carries me through this life, allowing me to be happy, whole and filled with love.

It has been 10 years since my mother died. My life has transformed so much in that time; I might not even recognize myself if I passed the former me on the street. So many blessings and journeys have emerged since then that were unimagined. Around that time, I didn’t know it but I was about to experience what I consider to be my first soul retrieval, the return of a soul part that has been lost through life experiences. Looking back, I now view this part of my life journey as the gateway to stepping forward on my path as a shaman.

Prior to ten years ago, I had spent a good part of my life exploring spiritual and holistic practices. This was both through a deep sense of calling and also, in response to the struggles that came from dealing with anxiety, depression and the physical condition of fibromyalgia. In retrospect, I can see those imbalances were due to the effects of the severe trauma I had experienced as a child growing up with a mentally ill parent. I had made tremendous progress by the time of my mother’s death. I felt a sense of health and well-being that I previously never imagined was possible. Still, I felt something was missing.

For as long as I could remember, I had felt such a sense of extreme loss. Like there was a hole inside of me that could never be filled. It felt so deep and vast. When I was willing to look at it, all I could see was the darkness of an infinite abyss. Most of the time, I tried to pretend the abyss wasn’t there. Sometimes, I attributed it to the loss of my mother to her illness and to the wound of not really having a mother. Even stronger was the nagging and recurring feeling that some part of me was missing. I truly believed that a part of me was lost to the past and I doubted that it would ever be found.

From a shamanic perspective, it is believed that a portion of the human soul is free to travel and leave the body. Our souls are thought to travel during our dreamtime or as we enter into a shamanic journey. Also, a soul part may leave the body to protect itself from potentially threatening or dangerous situations whether they may be mental, emotional or physical. In situations of trauma, the soul fragment may not return to the body on its own and a soul retrieval or other healing process may be needed to assist it. However, a soul part may return on its own once a sense of safety has been established.

As I invited the story for this book to emerge, I found myself waking early one morning thinking about Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Telltale Heart”. As I imagined Poe’s story, I began to feel my own heart beating and pounding so strongly. It felt like it might shoot right out of my chest. That was an old and familiar feeling that I had known for much of my life. Living in fear and intense fear – fear of the unknown, fear of the unseen, and fear of the unpredictable was something I had experienced on a daily basis.

Although the memory I was having could have been many nights of my life, I realized it was the first night I spent alone in my mom’s house after she died that felt reminiscent of the Poe story. This was the house I grew up in, often a place that people cherish and love to return to, but for me it felt more like a house of horrors. I hated to go there for even for a few hours. I went as infrequently as I could, always feeling a sense of guilt for not going there more. I hadn’t slept there in over 15 years; one of the last times I had to be rescued by the police.

My mother had died very unexpectedly. I was shocked and really not sure how to feel. Energetically, she had been gone for so long. I felt like she had died when I was a child. I had mourned that loss in many ways. There was this woman who was my mother; she was not a real part of my life. Yet, she profoundly affected it. I longed for a mother to turn to for guidance, support and sharing; sometimes I still do. My mother was not that mother. Even if some part of her wanted to be that mother, her mental illness prevented it.

I found myself inheriting my mother’s house, my house of horrors, a place that still truly terrified me. Soon after I got the news, I had to go up there to deal with legal paperwork, go to the courts, and become the representative for my mother’s estate. There was no will, no instructions, just a mess, a big mess and a lot of pain emerging. I had the daunting task of cleaning and preparing the house to be sold. It felt utterly overwhelming even though I had a lot of support from friends and family. The house was in total shambles and filled with clutter in almost every room. I felt so much shame about that house, about my mother and about all of the memories surfacing as I merely thought about going into that house, let alone actually walking through the door and spending time there.

Surprisingly, I found myself feeling a need to spend a night alone there. I needed to know that the house and my memories couldn’t kill me. That’s how it felt for so long, like if I went in there and spent time there, it would kill me. I imagined going in and never coming out. I felt like it could just swallow me up whole never to be seen again. I believed it was a miracle that I had made it out of that house before.  Going back seemed like going into the lair of a dragon whose breath of fire could annihilate me in an instant. This house was the place that terrified me most in this world and yet, I knew I needed to return.

I had to sleep on the couch in the living room that night because there were no beds left in the house. My mom had died in her bed. I imagined my mom dying in her bed, lonely and alone. Just her and Percy, the sweet, sweet, loving Percy; the cat who had blessed our lives in so many ways. My mother dying lonely and alone isolated from the world at only 62. It seemed like that house had kept her prisoner, too.

As the sun descended and night arrived, my fear began to crescendo. My heart started beating like it used to, harder and harder until it beat so hard it felt like it would jump out of my chest, possibly even explode. I sat on that couch. I lay on that couch. I tossed and turned. I knew that sleep wasn’t going to be possible. I lay there hoping and praying for the night to come to an end.

Many memories began to surface. The knife fight. Locking myself in my room, again and again. Barricading the door. Hiding in the closet. Crawling under the bed. Sleep walking. Hearing the voices. Seeing the entities and not knowing what they were. Knowing my mother was gone and finding this being who seemed like a monster in her place. Constantly, fearing for my life. Hearing those familiar words that played, over and over again, in my head for so many years – “I will kill you, I will kill you, I will kill you”. Again and again. And, knowing that for so long those were not voices in my head, but words my mother would say to me, over and over again.

It truly felt like the words “I will kill you” came not from my mother but from some part of her that was not her true self. And eventually, it felt like it was the voice of the house. Every time I thought of it, whether I imagined being there or actually was there, I heard that voice. It was like it was captured in the structure or the energy of the house, just like the heart beating in Poe’s story. And, when I thought of those words and those memories, my heart would beat like Poe’s, too.

As I lay on that couch, I could feel that energy, hear those voices, and see those memories playing like a horror movie in my mind’s eye. I knew I was me now. I knew the house couldn’t kill me. I knew my mother was gone and she couldn’t kill me. Still, my heart continued to pound. I felt a full on flight or fight response arising.

I remembered all those nights, lying in my bed, begging and praying for God, for the angels, for someone or something to come protect and save me. Many nights, I wondered if I would make it to see another day. I wondered if this was the night she, my mother, would fulfill her words and kill me.

I longed for someone to hold me, to rock me, and to tell me it would be okay – I would survive. I wanted to cry for my mother, my mommy to come and save me, but she was the one I needed saving from. I was scared and terrified all the time. I was confused and lost.  I felt totally lonely and alone.

So often, I wanted to run. I wanted to run from that house. Or scream, scream really loud. When I heard those voices, when I awoke in the middle of the night to my mom’s paranoid ramblings and to the one voice that always wanted to kill. “I’ll kill you”. He’d say it, over and over again. I say he even though the voice came from my mother. I don’t know why, that’s just how it felt. I knew the voice wasn’t really my mother, but some other energy or entity that possessed her, encased her and suffocated the beautiful, loving being that she was inside. Even then, as a child and later, as a teenager, this was something I knew, something I saw and something that would lead to me to the shaman’s door.

So many nights I awoke to her standing over my bed, staring at me and saying those words, over and over again. “I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you”. I’d try to remain perfectly still and invisible, because that seemed like the safest thing to do. Eventually, I knew if I did that it would pass; she would return to her bed and usually not even remember what had happened during the night. In the morning, she would sleep late, often into the afternoon. When she finally awoke, for a short time, she might actually seem like the sweet mother that I knew before her illness took over.

It was scary and tricky. I didn’t know when to trust. On the occasion when she was a sweet loving mom, the one I longed for and wanted to share my life with, I was guarded because I knew in an instant she could turn. Just one wrong word. One funny look. One thing said that she didn’t like and KABOOM! Explosions, rage, anger, attack. And those words – those vicious, hurtful, and terrifying words, “I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you.”

I wanted to run and I wanted to scream. But my legs seemed to always be frozen or not even there. My voice was gone or frozen, too. Even if I would open my mouth to scream, no words would come, just silence. I told myself over and over again, “Just be still and be quiet and maybe, we will survive.” I know it was on these nights that I learned to travel or journey within. I found places I could go inside that felt safe and secure, where I could hide parts of myself for protection.

However, in the world of people, I came to believe that silence and invisibility were the safest places. And, having a voice and being seen were very dangerous places. I learned to put on a cloak of invisibility that was nearly impenetrable. I learned to silence myself even when I was crying inside. Even when I was screaming at the top of my lungs inside for Help! Help! Help! no one but me could hear it. And, when I wanted to run, all I knew to do was to stay. Stay frozen and stay still. So I stayed. As my life went on, I stayed in many situations when I should have run or at the very least, walked away.

Spending the night in that house alone changed me. I am not sure if I slept a wink that night. So much fear arising; so many memories swirling around. I feared I might not make it through that night. But I did! When morning came, I was still alive! I finally knew that house could not kill me, my mother could not kill me and memories could notkill me. I was alive! I could get up; I could walk or run out of that house and still be alive! I could take the part of me who thought we might die if we went into that house and begin to create a new life. And I did! I could finally live my life. I didn’t need to stay. I didn’t need to be invisible. And, I didn’t need to be silent anymore.

As I look back, I view that day, in the morning as the sun rose when I “woke’ on that couch, alive and well, as my first soul return. I had lost myself there in that house and that it is where I found myself for the first time in this lifetime. I had survived that night and that life. As I walked out of the house that morning, I walked into the sunshine of a new life. I was awake enough to know that I was safe, supported and whole.

It would be a few years before I fully entered the shaman’s path. My own healing continued and eventually, led me to apprentice with a shaman. I finally came to understand on a deeper level what I had experienced. I came to know and view my childhood experiences as an initiatory process. I had learned to journey on those terrifying nights, to find places within that were safe and secure. I had left parts of my self in those secret places and it was in learning to journey with my inner children that I became whole.

I learned that loving myself is the key to healing. And, honoring and embracing the inner ones, the soul parts, who carry the memories, pain and traumas of the past, is what brings them home. As my healing progressed, I learned how to support others in reconnecting with their lost soul parts and in healing their core wounds. I consider this the gift of my past. I now know that it was those experiences that opened the door to a deeper understanding of life, one that allows me to walk between worlds with an awareness that is grounded, centered and open to the beauty of life as it unfolds.

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If my story speaks to you in some way and you’d like to explore Shamanic Healing, feel free to contact me for a Complimentary 20-Minute Consultation to explore what’s possible!  I am available for Shamanic Healing and Integrative Holistic Healing Sessions both in person in Annapolis, MD or virtually by Phone/Skype?  Learn more at www.bethterrence.com.

Finding My Way Into 2014

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“The beautiful journey of today can only begin when we learn to let go of yesterday.” ~ Steve Maraboli

Today, I attended a workshop called Revolutionary Resolutions.  I’m not too big on resolutions or the idea that we need to use the beginning of the year to create change in our lives.  I believe any day can be our “new year” and really every day needs to be that to be a conscious, authentic and evolving human being.

I understand the importance of goals and goal setting in terms of achievement and success.  This year for some reason, I was inundated with folks offering their new program to help me meet my goals in 2014.  It felt like anyone and everyone had spent most of 2013 planning for this rollout and quite honestly it felt pushy, plastic and inauthentic.  I found myself more than ever wanting to avoid the mass movement toward “resolutions”.

You may wonder, then, why had I signed up for this workshop?  Overall, it was kind of a feeling thing.  But, I do like to gather with others to explore and I was hoping I get some different insight into how to begin this New Year.  For some odd reason, I was feeling a bit like doing nothing for most of the holiday season.  I am usually quite proactive and so was just observing this in myself throughout December and into the New Year.

I was happy when I arrived at this workshop and found that there would be a burning bowl ceremony.  I find Fire Ceremony to be a powerful way to honor our transitions.  There was a focus on identifying what we needed to let go before we began to explore what we would bring in for 2014.  One of the things that had happened during my time of “non-doing” was that I got clearer on some of the feelings, patterns and beliefs I need to let go of and work to transform.  So, when the time came to write down what you would let go on little slips of paper, I was ready to release!

Later on in the workshop, the facilitator mentioned that she wasn’t starting her new program until February.  I thought that was interesting.  While I was “doing nothing” and thinking about all of what I “should be doing” to prepare and put things out for the new year, I found myself feeling very strongly to not start anything in January but wait until at least February or early March to begin my new groups and offerings, too.

The subject of the Chinese New Year came up and we discussed that this is the last month of that cycle.  This year is the year of the Snake according to the Chinese cycles and the energy of the snake is all about letting go, releasing and as they do “shedding” their skin.  The facilitator mentioned that this was a factor in her postponing her beginnings and as she shared that, I realized this is exactly what I was feeling.  Now is not a time to be birthing new things, it is still a time to be clearing and letting go.  It is also a time for spiritual discoveries, creativity and a desire for inner truth, what better energy to support a foundation for new beginnings!

I have been very focused on clearing my space – outwardly in my home and my office, inwardly in feelings, patterns and beliefs, which are no longer serving me.  Over the last week or two, I kept butting up against the massive movement to be rolling the new out, to be done with letting go and clearing, but I just wasn’t feeling it.  I considered that it is still the height of winter, a more inner time, but hadn’t consciously considered the energy of the Snake.  This potent energy has brought a lot of turbulence to this past year, which many folks have been experiencing emotionally and energetically.  It feels so important to take this last month and really allow what needs to be released to go.

According to the Chinese calendar, the coming year will be the year of the Horse; this begins on January 31st, 2014.  The Horse brings an energy for movement and power.  This year will carry the element of Wood as well, which is all about growth and new beginnings.  It feels like there is an intensity to this shift and taking time to be present with ourselves is key.  Clearing and releasing creates the space for more of ourselves and our deeper intentions to become manifest.  This is more important than any resolution or goal – this is life!  What greater resolution is there than to create space to allow our essence to emerge and our light to shine out into the world.

It is possible that I am feeling this all the more because I was born in the year of the Horse; I’m not totally sure.  What I do know is that it is important to listen to our own inner rhythms, to connect with natural cycles and to find ways to harmonize our being inside and out.   A big part of this comes from just being willing to be still and listen to our own inner voices.

I hope you’ll take some time this week and over the next few to listen your inner voice and to explore what you are ready to release and let go of.  Perhaps you have already set your goals for the New Year or maybe you are like me and still considering them; either way, take some to ask what you are holding onto that may keep you from achieving your goals and what can you do to let that go?

As always, please feel free to stop by to share your experiences, thoughts and reflections.

Namaste.

The Heart Of Awakening is an online resource for transformation and healing written by Beth Terrence.  Beth offers Integrative Transformational Healing Tools For Individuals, Groups & Organizations.  To learn more, visit www.bethterrence.com.

Top 13 Posts Of 2013 On The Heart Of Awakening Blog

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It’s hard to believe that it’s not even been 2 years since I started The Heart Of Awakening Blog.  It’s been a joy to journey and explore with folks from all over the world who are interested in transformation and healing.  This year, I have found much more of a community forming here on HOA and I have some new ideas to expand that in 2014.

I have so much gratitude for all of you who have been a part of HOA this year.   The mission of The Heart Of Awakening Blog is to support:

Living from the Heart

Embodying Awareness, Authenticity and Purpose

Integrating a Holistic Approach to Being

Embracing the Interconnectedness of All Things

Honoring and Respecting the Sacredness of Life

As we are moving toward to close of the year, I just thought to share the top 13 posts from 2013.  This year marked the third annual May Is For Metta virtual sangha (2 years on HOA) and I plan to continue this in 2014.  I’ve also added some new features this year including the Bach Flower Of The Month post and a Poem Of The Week.  As you can probably tell by now, I live on spirit time and so my week’s and months may vary! but I hope you have enjoyed these additions.  My intention is to share resources, tools and inspiration to support The Heart Of Awakening mission.

Also, if you have any personal favorite posts or topics that you’d like to see more of, please stop by and drop a note in the comments so I can know.  I have some special events planned for 2014 including teleseminars, group discussions and more.  If you’d like to stay up to date,  you might like to sign up for my Discover The Healer Within E-News where I share information on Upcoming Events, Transformational Tips, Integrative Transformational Healing Programs, Holistic Resources and more.  Sign Up Now!

The Heart Of Awakening is an online resource for transformation and healing written by Beth Terrence.  Beth offers Integrative Transformational Healing Programs For Individuals, Groups & Organizations in the MD/DC area and virtually.  To learn more, visit www.bethterrence.com.

Bach Flower Of The Month: Star Of Bethlehem ~ The Remedy Of Comfort

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Star Of Bethlehem

“Grief is a most peculiar thing; we’re so helpless in the face of it. It’s like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it.” ~ Arthur Golden

I have been feeling to bring Star Of Bethlehem into the monthly posts and now is the perfect time as the energy and support it brings can really be of benefit this time of year.  As I shared in my recent post, Autumn Tips For Happy & Healthy Living, this season is one that can bring feelings of sadness, loss and grief to the surface.  Dr. Edward Bach, creator of the Bach Flower Remedies, referred to Star of Bethlehem as “the comforter and soother of pain and sorrows”.   It is one the five remedies that is part of the well-known Rescue Remedy®, which is the only pre-made composite Bach Flower Remedy designed for use in emergencies and for acute stress and it is an essential part of any holistic medicine cabinet.

In the Bach Flower System, there is a category of remedies that are indicated for Despondency and Despair; Star of Bethlehem is in that group.  This can also be defined as remedies that may support “depressive feelings”.  I say “depressive feelings” because in the Bach Flower System and other holistic modalities, we do not treat a specific disease or condition such as depression or diabetes, but we focus on the whole person.  As Dr. Bach would say, “We treat the person, not the disease.”  These types of feelings or traits are an indicator of where a person is experiencing some type of imbalance or disharmony that needs to be addressed.

In determining what Bach Flower Remedies would best support a person, the practitioner and client work collaboratively to identify emotional states and personality traits that are present at the surface.  It is by addressing this outer layer of experience – i.e. what is at the surface or being experienced on a daily basis that we begin to access where a person is out of harmony with their soul and ultimately, the greater whole.  The remedies help to soothe our imbalances and like beautiful music, bring in vibrations that harmonize our being.  As we address one layer, then another will surface, bringing to light others areas that are in need of attention and healing.

In my own healing journey and my work with others as a practitioner over the last 15 years, I have found Star Of Bethlehem to be one that is often needed.  Star of Bethlehem is indicated when there are feelings of sorrow, grief, sadness or loss at the surface as well as when there are old losses coming up that we have not grieved.  Also, as the remedy of shock and trauma, Star Of Bethlehem is highly beneficial for anyone who has experienced trauma, and although it is this can occur in varying degrees, most people have experienced some shock or trauma that has gone unresolved in their lives.

Trauma can exist on all levels – body, mind, emotion and spirit.  And, it is something that creates an imprint in our being that often stays with us until we attend to it.  Some traumas resolve themselves naturally, however, it is not uncommon for those energetic imprints to remain and lie dormant until something triggers a re-awakening signaling it is time to be resolved.  This is often experienced when we have a loss occur and the new feelings arising tap into the great pool of unresolved loss we tend to carry within ourselves.

We may think of this only in terms of emotional trauma, but this can even be seen in the case of physical traumas or injuries when suddenly the pain or restriction of an old football injury or childhood accident resurfaces.  And, from many of the case studies of Dr. Bach, it was seen that unresolved shock and trauma on any level might later manifest into a physical condition.  Star Of Bethlehem is the remedy indicated to help resolve these patterns that may be affecting us on many levels.

Dr. Bach shared the following words about the Star Of Bethlehem remedy:

“For those in great distress, under conditions which for a time produce great unhappiness.  The shock of serious news, the loss of someone dear, the fright following an accident and such like.  For those who for a time refuse to be consoled, this remedy brings comfort.”

Here are some questions to see if Star Of Bethlehem may be beneficial for you at this time:

  • Are you experiencing feelings of sorrow, grief, sadness or loss?
  • Have you had a recent loss or one from the past that you are still struggling with?
  • Do you have a tendency toward feeling despondent?
  • Have you experienced trauma or abuse?
  • Are you working to resolve the effects of past trauma or PTSD?
  • Are you in a state of shock or numbness?
  • Do you feel a sense of agony that comes from what you have experienced?
  • Are you in a grief period or in the process of healing or grieving prior losses?
  • Do you feel like you carry a thread of sadness that won’t leave?
  • Are you experiencing a seasonal type of depression with feelings of sadness, loss and grief bubbling up?

Star Of Bethlehem has many benefits that support our ability to move through shock, trauma and loss.  Here are some of the ways this remedy can provide support:

  • Neutralizes shock in any form, current or past, from bad news, accidents, losses, etc.
  • Helps to clear and release trauma
  • Eases feelings of sorrow, grief, sadness and loss
  • Supports inner child healing
  • Brings us a deep sense of comfort
  • Helps to bring us back into the body and awaken us after shock or trauma

In thinking about losses, we tend to focus on the loss that comes through a death.  It is important to consider that there are many types of losses that can affect us – the loss of relationship, a job, a home, or a phase of life.  Even when we have an experience that is positive, such as getting married or having a child, it is possible that we feel some sense of loss due to the change in our lives.  It is natural to need to give some time and space to the feelings of loss that may arise in response to the constantly changing aspects of our lives.  In these cases, Star Of Bethlehem can provide a support as can Walnut, which helps us to ease through our transitions.

Also, I’d just like to mention that Star Of Bethlehem can be highly beneficial for animals that have suffered any type of abuse or trauma.  In my work with Rescue animals, their histories are often uncertain.  Whether they have experienced abuse in their prior situation or merely the trauma of being moved from one situation to another, Star Of Bethlehem can support them.  Rescue Remedy is always a good starting point for “Rescue” animals, but treatment with Star Of Bethlehem can be a great support in the resolving the trauma an animal may be carrying and can help them to settle into a new situation with greater ease.

I’d love to hear your experiences with Star Of Bethlehem or any thoughts, reflections or questions that may arise in response to the post.

Poem Of The Week: Ode To The West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Ever since I wrote my last post, Autumn Tips For Happy & Healthy Living, which included a quote by Percy Bysshe Shelley, this fascinating poet has been on my mind.  His words in “Ode To The West Wind” speak so beautifully to the energy of the season, the journey of life and our connection to nature and spirit.  It was interesting to learn that his writings and actions provided a strong influence on Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi and the principles of non-violence.  He also was a proponent of vegetarianism as well as social justice for the lower classes.  He saw the need to fight for the rights of all living creatures that he saw being treated unjustly.

I hope you enjoy the poem.  Feel free to share you thoughts, feelings and reflections.  Happy Autumn!

Ode to the West Wind

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I.
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear!

II.
Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky’s commotion,
Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine aery surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge

Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh, hear!

 III.
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams,

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave’s intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers

Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know

Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: oh, hear!

 IV.
If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
And then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne’er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.

V.
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O, Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

Poem Of The Week: The Journey By Mary Oliver

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Poetry has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a child I wrote short poems and that evolved as I grew into a teen and adult. I always loved to read poetry, too. Some of my favorite poets include Wordsworth, Dickinson, Cummings, Naruda, Rumi, Stafford and the list goes on and on. That is part of the inspiration for sharing a poem each week.

As a writer, I find reading poetry to be such a powerful inspiration. And, as a seeker and healer, I find the words expressed in poetry often open a doorway to deeper feelings and insights that may be difficult to access on our own. “The Journey” by Mary Oliver is one of my all time favorite poems and one I tend to bring into many of my classes and workshops as it really speaks so beautifully of the journey of life, of stepping out of old paradigms and of moving more fully onto the path of authenticity and self-empowerment. I hope you’ll take some time to explore it in the moment or as a prompt for writing and for life over the coming week.

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

ForestLight

One day you finally knew


what you had to do, and began,


though the voices around you


kept shouting 
their bad advice–


though the whole house
 began to tremble


and you felt the old tug
 at your ankles.


“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.


But you didn’t stop.


You knew what you had to do,


though the wind pried
 with its stiff fingers 
at the very foundations,


though their melancholy
 was terrible.


It was already late
 enough,

and a wild night,


and the road full of fallen
 branches and stones.


But little by little,
 as you left their voices behind,


the stars began to burn
 through the sheets of clouds,


and there was a new voice


which you slowly
 recognized as your own,


that kept you company
 as you strode deeper and deeper
 into the world,


determined to do
 the only thing you could do–


determined to save
 the only life you could save.

Five Steps To Becoming Your Own Agent Of Change

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Butterfly

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” ~ Alan Watt

1. Accept responsibility for your own change or healing process.

The most common definition of the word responsibility is “the quality or state of being responsible” and sometimes this is seen as a burden.  I had an Aha moment with this word when I attended a college psychology class with a friend.  Oddly, I had dropped out of school at the time but while visiting went to class  and heard his professor define responsibility as “the ability to respond”.  I can’t even tell the exact nature of that lecture or the class overall, but hearing those words impacted in a way that has shaped my life.

Interestingly, part of the reason I had dropped out of school at that time was because I had been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and some of the symptoms such as fatigue and severe muscle pain caused me to be unable to attend classes consistently.  At the time, Fibromyalgia was a relatively new diagnosis and there weren’t a lot of treatment options available.  I learned quickly that if I were to regain my health and return to college, I needed to take “responsibility” for my own healing process.

Having that alternative definition of responsibility opened a door of possibilities for me as I began to explore holistic and alternative modalities so that I could become better able to respond to what I was experiencing and create change in my life.  “Being able to respond” is a core concept  in my personal work and in the work I share with others and I view it is a key to becoming your own change age

 2. Be curious and open to exploration.

As I began to explore alternative and holistic modalities, I began to learn and grow in ways I never imagined.  Carrying a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia for a young aspiring 20 something seemed like a burden, even a curse at times, and yet, this burden, led me to a path of self-exploration and discovery that defines who I am today.  This burden ended up being one of greatest blessings in my life and has led me to a life path I feel passionate about.

Some of the tools I explored were very beneficial, others not so much, but either way, I was building my toolbox and getting to know myself on a much deeper level in the process.  We don’t know what will help us in creating change until we try it and what works for one person may not work for another.  Being open and curious is such an important part of any change process.  In meditation and other spiritual practices, it is often suggested to come to it with a Beginner’s Mind.  This is a great way to approach life and change as well.  When we come to our explorations with this type of openness, new possibilities emerge that we may not have been able to see if we hold the “I already know” paradigm.

3. Track your experiences and build your personal transformational toolbox.

By now you are probably getting tired of me talking about the importance of journaling as a transformational tool, but without somehow tracking your experiences, it is difficult to truly identify what is working and what is not working in your change process.   Also, one of the keys to becoming your own change agent is to build a transformational toolbox that can support you in the changes you are currently making and in future changes.  Having some type of journal, log, and list becomes your personal guide to change.  And, no one can truly write this book but you.   In Five Steps To Mastering Anxiety, I share an example of some ways to track your experience and begin to build your toolbox that may offer some ideas to explore.

 4. Be willing to be uncomfortable and roll with the resistance.

This is a step that most of us don’t like and it is often where we tend lost our steam in the change process.  Being willing to roll with the resistance that arises as we initiate change is a vital component of any transformational process.  If we approach change with some of the above steps, we can be more conscious of our resistance and awareness as it is arising and this s a key to working with it.  Also, often doing some deeper work, such as an inner child process, can help to create safety and security within, which is often where our fear of change arises.  Developing practices that support being present with what is arising, such as meditation, can help.  Also, be sure to develop a good support system and use it

5. Recognize the need to continually adapt.

In the words of Greek philosopher Heraclitus,

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change.”

We are constantly changing, as is our world.  Our cells our changing, our relationships are changing, nature is changing and yet, we somehow long for things to stay the same.  This is where much of our suffering arises.  By acknowledging that we are always changing and that we will continue to change and by recognizing that as a result, we need to continually adapt, we truly become agents of change.

At times, it may feel like we need the majority of people to change for our world to change, however I feel much like Margaret Mead,

“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world.  Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Each step we take toward change in our personal lives and in our relationships creates the potential for transformation to occur in a greater way in our world as we are all connected through the beautiful, amazing web of life.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and reflections and most of all, enjoy the journey!

Poem Of The Week: The Guest House by Rumi

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Dervish

THE GUEST HOUSE

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond. 

– Jelaluddin Rumi,
Translation from The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks

7 Ways to Cultivate Love and Compassion for Yourself

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Learn to trust your
Feelings and, most of all,
allow yourself to
grow;

Perpetual expansion
is the way of the
Heart and the Soul
.

– Maria Lucia

One of the earliest posts on The Heart Of Awakening was “7 Ways To Cultivate Love And Compassion For Yourself”; this continues to be one of the most popular and what I feel is one of the most important posts found here. In my personal journey of healing and transformation, learning to love myself was the key that opened the door for new possibilities to emerge.  Although I had tried to work on this on my own in various ways, I had not had tremendous success as the patterning and critical voices I carried overpowered any voices of self-love I might have tried to develop.  Even having focused for years on the heart as a focal point of my spiritual practice, I still felt like I wasn’t worthy enough of my own love and compassion.

In 2003, I had the blessing to connect with a teacher of the heart, Maria Lucia Picaza and spent a year devoting myself to the heart as guide through her program, School Of Spiritual Heart Studies, aka “Heart School”.  This year was a turning point in my life. Interestingly, I was in the beginning of a period of tremendous change – relocation, the loss of my mother, separation, financial stress and a lot more was to come over the next few years.  I call this a blessing because had I not begun to devote myself to the heart and to loving myself at that time I don’t really know how I would have made it through that difficult time.  I continued to have intense major losses for a period of about 3 years and much of that stirred up old traumas and patterns I had not resolved.

Being gifted with the tools that Maria Lucia shared in addition to my spiritual practices and a number of other heart-centered guides in my life, I was able to consciously work to let go of old patterns, feelings and beliefs that were no longer serving me and to move into a new way of being – one of love, compassion and acceptance of myself and others.  If you explore, you may be able to find a copy of Maria Lucia’s book, The Heart’s Unraveling: The Birth of a New Evolutionary Directive, which offers a foundation in shifting our consciousness from a mind based directive to a heart based path.

The post “7 Ways To Cultivate Love And Compassion For Yourself” developed out of an essay I wrote that summed up what I learned about the heart during that year of devotion to the heart.  As I mentioned, even though I attended to this in various ways, previously, this was the first year I totally devoted myself to the heart and it has become my path ever since.  These steps have become a foundation in my personal life, in the work I offer to others individually and in workshops, and in my writings.

I hope you enjoy the post and as always, feel free to share your thoughts, feelings and reflections.

The Heart of Awakening

Perhaps one of the hardest and most healing things we can do for both for ourselves and for the world is to cultivate love and compassion for ourselves.  In the Buddhist practice of Metta, or loving-kindness meditation, it is taught that in order to have love and compassion for others and the world, we must begin with offering those energies to ourselves. In the practice, we begin by generating the feelings and qualities of love and compassion and then repeating phrases like these: 

May I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be free of suffering. May I have ease of well-being.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It is understood that without a strong foundation of compassion for ourselves, we will not have the ability to truly embody those qualities in the world and extend them to other beings.  For many of us, who have grown up in western culture, it goes against…

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Dancing With My Inner Critic

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Transformation

One of the themes I have been working on this year in my personal work, workshops and in my writing is Transforming You Inner Critic Into Your Inner Cheerleader.  Actually, this is a piece I have been working on personally for a long time.  My mentor, Shaman Ross Bishop, author of Healing The Shadow and a shaman of almost 40 years, actually certified me as being one of his hardest cases in this area.

I have progressed tremendously and as a result, I am able to help others in shifting this pattern.  I continue to work on it on my own.  And, it continues to show up – sometimes stronger and more often, with less fierceness than it used to.  It still shows up but it’s no longer paralyzing or totally self-sabotaging in the way that it was when I was younger.  I have found the key is to cultivate love and compassion for myself; this is at the heart of my life, my work and my writings.

Why am I focusing on this today?  Well, we’re on Day 6 of the Blog Challenge today and I am just writing my fifth post.  I was packing and traveling yesterday and beginning my vacation.  I thought once I got settled in that I would write it, but didn’t.  In the evening, I spent time with friends, staying up later than usual and having fun.  Missing a deadline for fun – this is somewhere my inner critic would have gone ballistic in the past.

Also, historically, I would have beaten myself up so badly that it would have been difficult to get back in the saddle again.  In giving instructions for the 31 Day Blog Challenge, facilitator Lesa Townsend offered that if you miss a day it’s best not to worry about it, just write two the next day or make up for it somewhere along the way.  That sounded reasonable and yet, I could feel the expectations percolating within myself to not have that happen.  And, now to encounter this so early on.  What an opportunity to explore and grow!

I share this because I know I am not alone in it.  I can see even more clearly how this pattern keeps me stuck and in a cycle of perpetual pain and suffering.  And, I now know that I can transform it.  It’s still going to come up but by working on it in a proactive way and in the moment it is arising, I am able to create a paradigm shift in my life.  Just like any part of life, it’s a dance.  So, in approaching this aspect of healing in a willing, present and creative way, the door is open for healing and transformation, both personal and collective.  That’s what The Heart Of Awakening is all about!

In my workshop on Transforming Your Inner Critic Into Year Inner Cheerleader, which I have offered several times this year, I share five steps to working on creating change in this area.  Additionally, I offer a variety of tools and experiential practices to support this transformation.  There is no magic formula – each person is different and needs to explore and find the tools that support them and their individual journey.  However, one of the tools that I find most beneficial in the process of creating change is journaling.

Journaling is a powerful way to develop self-awareness, track our experiences and cultivate change in our lives.  There are many ways to journal and it’s important to find a way that works for you.  For some it’s hand writing, for others on the computer, jotting notes on your phone or even recording a voice note.  In the process of transformation, the important thing is to develop a method that helps to you to track where you are, what tools you are exploring and what changes you maybe noticing.  Also, lists are a wonderful way to develop clarity and have beneficial resources at hand when you need them.

In working on transforming the inner critic it can be helpful to explore the following:

  • How your critical voices show up, e.g. guilt tripper, taskmaster, shamer, etc. Be creative – describe them, what they look like, feel like, you can even draw them to have a visual – this is part of bringing what is unconscious into our conscious awareness where it can begin to transform.
  • When you’re critical voices show up, e.g. work, relationships, family, etc.
  • Triggers you may become aware of e.g. paying the bills, public speaking, etc.
  • What tools/interventions are you exploring?  Do they help?
  • How do you feel after using a specific tool?
  • What are you noticing overall as you work on this pattern?
  • Are you willing to stay present with your exploration even when it is uncomfortable, knowing this is part of the process of change?  If you get thrown by your inner critic, are you able to come back to your practices when you notice?
  • Are you able to become a good friend to yourself?  What are the challenges with this?  What would you say to a good friend who is feeling as you are?  Would you keep a friend who speaks to you the way your inner voices speak to you? (Just consider that!)
  • Identify people in your life who are outer cheerleaders/good friends/mentors and ask for their support in this process.
  • Work with affirmations in your journal practice and in your life.  You may wish to create your own affirmations in response to your specific critical voices. This helps to bring in a positive energy but can also help to surface our negative or critical voices, which tend to come up in response to positive words being offered to ourselves.  This dual aspect makes affirmations a very powerful tool in transforming the inner critic.
  • Do Mirror Work and journal about what comes up.
  • At least once a month, do something to celebrate yourself.  Create a list of things in your journal that you would like to do and that will support your inner cheerleader in emerging.

There are several posts on The Heart Of Awakening that may be helpful to explore:

Transforming Your Inner Critic Into Your Inner Cheerleader

7 Ways To Cultivate Love & Compassion For Yourself

Bach Flower Remedy Of The Month: Pine

Bach Flower Remedy Of The Month: Rockwater

From Comparison To Compassion: From Perfectionism To Gentleness

Actualizing The Power Of Intention

May Is For Metta (I have found the Buddhist practice of Metta to be one of the best tools for this work.  Not only is it an amazing spiritual practice, offering an opportunity to create loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves, it can also stimulate those critical voices as we begin to practice.  This is where our work lies and so Metta can really help to peel away the layers while at the same time we are creating a new foundation.)

I also really recommend Ross Bishop’s book, Healing The Shadow.  The new 2nd edition was published last year and offers even more insight and tools to support transformation and healing.  I have found this book to be an incredible guidebook for life on earth and it’s one I come back to again and again.

Stay tuned for most posts on this subject.  And, I may have another post today or I may save the missing post for when there is a burning topic that wants to show up.  My affirmation for today is, “I am gentle and loving with myself.”

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, feelings and reflections.

Have a beautiful day!

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Poem Of The Week: A Ritual To Read To Each Other By William Stafford

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The Way of Council

It’s only Day 4 of the 31 Day Blog Challenge and although my list of ideas is growing, I am finding the writing is slow going.  One of the things I have wanted to do is share more poetry as regular part of the Heart Of Awakening Blog.  So here goes with the first official Poem Of The Week Post.  I can’t guarantee how things will unfold but look forward to seeing weekly poetry posts and if you have suggestions or favorites please feel free to share your comments.

Today is our Independence Day here in the U.S. and there is a lot of focus on Interdependence as well.  There are many benefits that we experience here in America.  I know as a woman I have had many opportunities and privileges that I may not have now, had I grown up in another country.  For that I am grateful.  And, there are certainly many areas for growth and change as well.  As we are existing in a more global system, it feels so important to focus on connection today and how we relate with one another in our own countries and in the world.

So, the poem that I felt called to share is one of my absolute favorite poems.   It speaks of the need to be open, honest and authentic as we relate with each other.  It is called, “A Ritual To Read To Each Other” by William Stafford.

A Ritual To Read To Each Other

by William Stafford

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

As I Began To Love Myself: Reflections On A Self-Love Poem By Charlie Chaplin

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Charlie Chaplin
It’s so interesting how when one journey completes a new one emerges.  On the last day of May Is For Metta 2013, I was preparing to lead a workshop on Transforming Your Inner Critic Into Your Inner Cheerleader the following day at a women’s recovery retreat.  One of the points I share in that workshop focuses on loving ourselves as a key to healing and transformation, which is at heart of my personal journey and my work.  It is a major focus here on The Heart Of Awakening Blog as well.  I often like to close my workshops and gatherings with a poem and although I had one in mind, for some reason, I felt to google “self-love poems”.  I was surprised to find a poem by Charlie Chaplin on this subject, but as I read it, I was just amazed and inspired.

I ended up sharing the poem with my writing group a few days later and we were all really touched by it in a deep way.   What emerged was the idea to use this poem as a practice.  So for as long as it takes, we will be working with one stanza a week as a prompt for writing and for life.   We are just coming to the end of the first week and I have found this prompt to be a great catalyst for self-exploration as well as writing.  The focus of the first stanza is on Authenticity and is as follows:

“As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth.  Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.”

Although the concept that Chaplin shared is not new to me, by holding that awareness in the forefront of my consciousness, I found was more able to recognize when I was in a place of alignment and when perhaps, I was going against my truth.  I wasn’t focused on changing anything specifically at this time, rather, my focus was just about noticing when I felt anguish or emotions arising and what that was about.  It was almost like the breath in meditation.  Each time I felt something, I checked in with myself.  I believe one of the great “dis-eases” in our modern world, and perhaps, one that causes many of our illness and imbalances both individually and societally, is our disconnection from our feelings.

It is a very common experience to learn or be taught to suppress and override our feelings and it takes practice to begin to allow them to just be.  I found this exploration really helped with that practice and in a way that I was not attached to changing or working with the emotions but just noticing.  That’s all it really takes to allow one’s feelings.  I shared a bit about this exploration in a guest blog post on the Heal My Voice Blog.   Here is a link to that post, “A Journey Into Awakening”.

I’ll be sharing more as this exploration continues.  Feel free to join in as you feel to and as always, your thoughts, feelings and reflections are always welcome here or on HOA’s Facebook Page, too.

Here is the full poem for you to read:

As I Began To Love Myself By Charlie Chaplin

As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth.  Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me.  Today I call it “RESPECT”.

As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow.  Today I call it “MATURITY”.

As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment.  So I could be calm.  Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.

As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future.  Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm.  Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.

As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself.  At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism.  Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.

As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time.  Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.

As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future.  Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening.  Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.

As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick.  But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally.  Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.

We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know “THAT IS LIFE”!

Countdown To May Is For Metta 2013

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Quanyin

                 

                 “When we practice metta, we open continuously to the truth of our actual experience, changing our relationship to life.”- Sharon Salzberg

We have one more day until the beginning of May Is For Metta 2013 which will happen from May 1st to May 31st.  This time offers an invitation to explore changing your relationship to yourself, others and the world through a 31 day practice of meditation and self-reflection.  My intention is to create a container for people to explore in a way that is accessible, user-friendly and opens a gateway to transformation on many levels.  The mission of The Heart Of Awakening Blog is to support:

Living from the Heart

Embodying Awareness, Authenticity and Purpose

Integrating a Holistic Approach to Being

Embracing the Interconnectedness of All Things

Honoring and Respecting the Sacredness of Life

I have found Metta meditation to be one of the most beneficial practices in supporting this vision on a daily basis both in my own life and in my work with others individually and in groups..  In order to become more conscious and awake, it is vital to find a practice that you can work with on an ongoing basis.  Additionally, creating a foundation of living from a heart-centered, open and compassionate space is a key to all transformation and healing.  The practice of Metta meditation fulfills both of these foundational needs and as we will learn through our practice, many more.

Metta, or Loving-kindness meditation, is a Buddhist practice that involves the repetition of phrases, similar to mantra, that help to generate the energy of loving-kindness and in a sense offer blessings to ourselves, to others and to the world.  Although we work with the phrases as the anchor of the practice, the essence of it is the generation of the energy of loving-kindness and compassion.  There are variations on the phrases which focus on cultivating happiness, safety, and ease of well-being.  Here is one of the simplest versions:

May I be safe.  May I be happy.  May I be healthy.  May I live with ease.

The Buddha offered 11 benefits of Metta meditation, which included peaceful sleep, a serene mind and protection from outside influences.  The greatest benefit of Metta meditation seems to be that it tends to increase our happiness.   For those who wish to participate, this May will offer a time to come together energetically, wherever in the world we may be, to begin to plant seeds of loving-kindness and compassion and to cultivate them in our daily experience.   We will begin gradually, building a foundation of loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves and the Metta practice and then extending it out to others and the world.   There will be an opportunity to practice as a formal daily practice, to integrate Metta into  your life and work experiences and to share with others in community.

Our first lesson in Loving-kindness is that we must cultivate loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves as a foundation, which can then be shared with others.  This can be an obstacle for many of us who were taught to love others first and ourselves last.  This is an opportunity to shift our paradigm.  I hope you will join us and gift yourself with this time to create your own foundation of loving-kindness and compassion so that you may become a conduit for these energies to flow more deeply in our world.  Imagine if each of us does that, and if all beings were to take this time, what our world might be like.  Let’s explore what’s possible together this May!

Here are some of the ways to participate:

1. Join in the daily reading and practice, which will posted on here on the Heart of Awakening each morning from May 1st to May 31st.  If you sign up to “Join The Heart Of Awakening Blog Community” in the top right column, you will receive email updates of posts, which will be daily during the month of May.  Or,  you may prefer to bookmark the homepage and just check in for daily posts.

2. I also share posts on Facebook on The Heart Of Awakening Facebook Page.  If you “LIKE” the page and also, add to your interested lists, you will get daily posts there or can check that page for updates.

3. Explore Metta meditation and cultivating Loving-kindness and Compassion on your own, with your family, at work and in the world.  Resources will be posted here and on Facebook to support your exploration.

4.  Share your experiences, thoughts and reflections on your practice here on The Heart Of Awakening Blog or on our Facebook page.  My hope is for us to learn and grow together as we support one another in our expansion of loving-kindness and compassion.  Feel free to comment or drop a note as you feel called to.  Also, if you have questions or difficulties, feel free to share and ask for support.

4. Attend a May is for Metta event live in the MD/DC area or by teleconference. Details TBA.  Currently, I will be offering a May Is For Metta Community Gathering on Tuesday, May 14th at 7 PM at Wellsview Cottage in Annapolis, MD.  I will be also adding some tele-gatherings and will include details on the blog and Facebook soon.

5. Consider creating your own gathering or practice group with folks in your area or if you are in a meditation group or sangha consider bringing Metta meditation into your circle this month.

6. Invite others – friends, family, co-workers, community groups – to participate in May is for Metta 2013.

Looking forward to exploring together in the coming month.

May you be happy.
May you be peaceful.
May you be free of suffering.
May you have ease of well-being.

Love and light,
Beth

Animal Totems & Archetypes, Part II

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“A human being is part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.  This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole [of] nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein

Bear Drum

You may have noticed by now two themes that come up on The Heart of Awakening Blog are Animal Totems and Archetypes.  Until recently, I have not done too much exploration in the similarities and relationships of the two.  In January, I met Janet Roper of Talk2TheAnimals, an animal communicator, advocate and host of Talk2TheAnimals Radio.  Through our conversation, the idea to explore this topic arose.  I wrote my first guest blog post for Talk2TheAnimals last week and will be joining her tonight at 8 PM EST on Blog Talk Radio.  The topic was Animal Totems & Archetypes: A Shaman’s World.  You might like to drop by and read that post, as this one continues from that exploration.

Lascaux+Cave In many cultures around the world, Animal Totems or Power Animals are a way to connect with the  wisdom of animals and the natural world.  This can be seen in artwork such as cave paintings, jewelry, and statues as well as many legends and stories.  Animal wisdom helps us connect to our innate being and to access our inner wisdom and strength.  In earlier times, there was no sense of separation between human and animal and it was understood that we were connected to animals and to all of creation through the web of life.

Shamanic traditions carry this awareness forward and offer a way to bridge the separation we have created through our modern world.  If we just look at the treatment of animals in our world today, it is evident that we are most often moving from a place of disconnection.  Working with Animal Totems offers an opportunity to reconnect with our place in the natural world and to access a spiritual connection that can help to guide us into a more balanced way of being.  At this time in our evolution, this is something that is much-needed as evidenced by the chaos, turmoil and toxicity of our world.

There are a number of ways to connect with an Animal Totem.  Sometimes a shaman will do an animal totem retrieval for a person or an animal will come as part of a soul retrieval process.  Also, one might be guided in a shamanic journey or facilitate their own journey in which they connect with a power animal.  Traditionally, animal totems come when one takes a vision quest, a ceremony to find spiritual guidance and deep understanding of one’s life purpose.  Also, power animals may likely be ones that repetitively appear in our lives and that we feel a strong sense of connection to.

There is so much to be learned if we are observant and aware of the natural world around us.  Animals can speak to us in so many ways.  Often by observing their behavior or actions, we can receive guidance.  Connecting with an animal totem helps us to connect with nature and to access aspects of ourselves, which may be lacking or hidden.  They can help us to find our strengths and qualities that can bring us into a place of wholeness and greater peace.

For a few years, I had the privilege of serving as shaman and holistic practitioner at a residential holistic addictions treatment program.  One of the main tools I used in our shamanic healing group was a power animal journey.  It was always amazing to see what animals came and how easily clients were able to reconnect with lost aspects of themselves, finding new strength by connecting with their totem animals.  The sense of protection and support that came from this connection was so beneficial for clients, especially in early recovery when their sense of self and the possibility of change was quite limited.

One client found himself encountering an alligator, which was actually an experience he had when he was a teenager.  He was amazed that this animal came to him in the journey and he was able to reclaim a part of himself that he felt was long-lost.  This is a great example of how an animal that is present in our lives may be a totem animal and yet, the beauty of the journey is that we never really know who will show up.  This is where the magic lies!

Archetype&TotemPsychologist Carl Jung defined an archetype as “a universal and recurring image, pattern, or motif representing a typical human experience.”  In a sense, archetypes are an encoded energetic structure that lies within our unconscious but may be accessed as a tool for transformation and healing.  It is relatively modern phenomenon that archetypes have been labeled or identified and yet, just as with animal totems, they have been present in many cultures through artwork, stories and mythology since recorded history began.  Another way they have shown up is in the Major Arcana of the Tarot deck, which can be a great way to explore these patterns.  Archetypes tend to have a human or sometimes divine form.

Based on our personal life experiences and even, our astrological charts, we may hold the pattern of certain archetypes more strongly than others.  We may also have work to do with a certain archetypal pattern during our current lifetime.  Examples of this include the Victim, Hero, Divine Child, Visionary, etc.  Also, archetypes are collective and may be held in common by a social group or culture.  As we consciously work with archetypes, they have a vitalizing power and help us to access more of our potential, supporting our soul purpose and empowering our universal experience.

As we consider power animals in relation to archetypes, we can see that both serve similarly in helping us to access deeper aspects of ourselves and provide symbols to guide us.  They may connect to us personally or culturally as in a tribe that has a certain animal as its totem or a certain mythology that is present.  As we connect with our animal totems, they reflect to us own innate qualities and help us to better understand our connection to the web of life and the natural world.  Perhaps this differs from archetypes, which seem to have more to do with our human or spiritual connections rather than the natural world.  Clearly, both animal totems and archetypes can serve as spiritual and energetic symbols that convey wisdom, understanding and a treasure map for life on earth.

All of this is just the beginning of an exploration on the subject of Animal Totems and Archetypes.  I see many similarities and some differences to consider.  I look forward to exploring this more in coming posts and dialogues.  From my shamanic perspective both serve as spiritual resources for awakening consciousness through accessing energies and qualities that are inherent in our nature and yet, often remain dormant until a conscious connection emerges.  When accessed, these gifts of spirit can provide a path to greater personal awareness and understanding as well as a gateway into our collective consciousness.

A major intention on The Heart Of Awakening Blog is to help to uncover our authenticity and truth as we explore embodying the big picture in daily life.  I view this as a key to creating change in our own selves and in the world.  By coming from a place of connection and wholeness, anything is possible.  I find actively working with animal totems and archetypes to be a powerful part of creating wholeness and living the big picture in daily life.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, insights and reflections on this subject.

Listen to my conversation with Janet Roper, host of Talk2TheAnimals Radi on Animal Totems & Archetypes.  Here is a link to the replay:

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Are you looking for a speaker, radio show guest, or someone to write a guest post on your blog?  I’d love to explore with you!  Feel free to contact me through my website, www.bethterrence.com.

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Discover The Healer Within Teleseminar Series Starts of Monday, February 18th

Join us for an exploration in discovering the healer within.  Everyone has the potential within them to become their own agent of change.  This 4 part series will focus on experiential tools and techniques that support cultivating the healer within and stepping forward in one’s own process of transformation.  Some of the tools that will be explored include shamanic healing, meditation, energy awareness practices, self-reflection, journaling and connecting with the heart as a gateway for healing.  See below for specific dates and topics:

Part I: Connecting With Our Sacred Space – Monday, February 18th at 12 PM EST

Part II: Energy Awareness Tools & Techniques – Thursday, February 21st at 7:30 PM EST

Part III: Transforming Limiting Patterns & Beliefs – Monday, February 25th at 12 PM EST

Part IV: Reclaiming Our Essence – Thursday, February 28th at 7:30 PM EST

Preparation: Participants will want to be in a comfortable and quiet place as we explore together, somewhere that you can be sitting and/or lying down.  You may wish to have a journal on hand as there will be some writing exercises and time for reflection.

This is a free event.  Registrants will have access to all parts of this series and links to replays.  Call in phone number and instructions will be sent prior to the event.

For additional information, visit www.bethterrence.com.

Shamanic Healing: A Journey of Reconnection

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Souls wander the universe
Lost or stolen
Cut off from loved ones
Split off from love
Gently, carefully
We call them back to us
Searching for them in dark corners
Blowing them to life
With our breath
We welcome
them home
– Ellen Jaffe Bitz

Shamanism is an ancient method of spiritual practice, perhaps tens of thousands of years old.  It has been a foundation spiritual and physical healing as well as a tool for self-awareness and understanding in many tribal cultures around the world.  Today, it is experiencing an awakening in modern cultures as well.  It is understood that in the shaman’s world everything in existence has a spirit and is alive, and that all of life is interconnected through what is called the “web of life’.  It is through cultivating this deep connection with Nature and all things that we learn how to bring harmony and balance into our lives.

In traditional shamanic practice, one enters an altered state – often by using drums or rattles to create a sound field that changes consciousness. This altered state, called a shamanic journey, is used to access help and wisdom from within.  In the journey, the shaman or practitioner encounters helping spirits or guides.  By shifting into this altered state of consciousness, we are able to access guidance and insight that is beyond the physical or mental levels.  We can also reconnect with aspects of ourselves, which we may have been wounded or become lost through our life experiences.  Through this process of reconnection, we can begin to integrate all that we have experienced and open to a sense of wholeness we never thought possible.

By utilizing auditory stimulation such as drumming or rattling techniques, the shaman or practitioner is able to induce a natural altered state of consciousness.  Recent research studies indicate that shamanic journeying practices that include drumming and rattling can help to:

  • Reduce tension, anxiety and stress
  • Create a sense of connection with self and others
  • Release negative feelings, blockages and trauma
  • Produce deeper self-awareness
  • Help experience resonance with natural rhythms of life
  • Access the entire brain supporting retraining and integration
  • Help control chronic pain

Additionally, when we access the journey world, we are able to access deeper parts of ourselves and find our strengths.  Some of the overall benefits of Shamanic Journeying include:

  • Problem solving
  • Deepening of creativity and self-expression
  • Developing a regular spiritual practice
  • Healing of childhood wounds and trauma
  • Developing a sense of personal power, integrity and authenticity
  • Connecting to spiritual guidance and support
  • Developing a personal relationship with Nature and the environment we live in
  • Cultivating a sense of place and purpose in life

From a shamanic viewpoint, everyone dissociates some part of their vital essence or soul from their physical body in order to cope with major experiences of life.  These experiences can include surviving physical and emotional abuse as well as other traumas such as accidents, illness, surgical operations, and loss of loved ones and other important relationships.    This can also occur from less severe experiences that cause repression or avoidance.  Essentially, when a child has not received the support is needs or has suffered in some way, it can shut off that part of itself as it does not have the resources or support to resolve the emotional material.  In many cases a natural reintegration may occur over a period of time such as when someone goes through a grief process due to loss of some kind.  However, in other cases some intervention is necessary.  Often, shamanic healing is the most effective way to bring about reconnection as we invite our “missing” parts to come back home.

Signs of soul loss can include:

•            Physical or psychological trauma and/or PTSD like symptoms
•            Experiencing feelings of dissociation, particularly in otherwise functional people.
•            Feeling disconnected from life or feeling like you can’t connect to things or people
•            Feeling a sense of numbness or disconnection from your own body
•            Feeling a lack of wholeness or that some part of self is missing.
•            Feelings of depression and/or anxiety
•            A feeling of being incomplete or empty inside
•            An inability to move past an issue or certain feelings
•            Low Self-Esteem or feelings of insecurity
•            Feeling stuck or unable to create desired changes in your life
•            Having memories or experiences that have caused you to feel you lost a part of yourself or some part has died
•            Needing to return to a relationship or a situation that is unhealthy even when you know it is unhealthy for you
•            Lost or missing memories, like a part of your history is “missing”
•            Patterns of addiction and co-dependence
•            Having a sense that shamanic healing may be beneficial for you

One of the main practices to treat soul-loss is soul retrieval, during which time the shaman supports the client in reconnecting with their lost parts that are ready to return.   After a shamanic healing session, people typically report such things as, “I feel more alive”, “I feel more positive about life” or “I feel a sense of wholeness.”  Shamanic Journey work can provide a vehicle for continued self-healing and growth.  Working with an Inner Child Journey process allows for clients to become their own loving parents.  By learning to listen, care for and respond to one’s inner children, we create a foundation for a new way of being – one of wholeness.  This type of experience can be very beneficial and supports each person in becoming their own facilitator of healing and personal growth as they begin to find the “shaman” within.

Shamanic practice offers a powerful form of healing and transformation.  It is also a way of life.  Living in conscious awareness of the interconnectedness of all things supports the embodiment of wholeness and authenticity.  It offers a gateway to greater acceptance, respect and honor of the diversity of all life and fosters living in mutuality.  This supports individual well-being and collective well-being.  Shamanic healing supports the awakening of the healing presence which exists in every being.  As each one of us connects with our own inner ‘healer’, we begin to create a shift in ourselves, our relationships and our world.  In the words of the great medicine man, Albert Schweitzer:

“The shaman succeeds for the same reason all the rest of us (doctors) succeed.  Each patient carries his own doctor inside him.  They come to us not knowing this truth.  We are at our best when we give the doctor who resides within each patient a chance to go to work.”

Recommended Reading & Resources on Shamanic Healing

Healing The Shadow – Ross Bishop (www.rossbishop.com)
Soul Retrieval – Sandra Ingerman (www.sandraingerman.com)
Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner’s Guide – Sandra Ingerman
Conscious Dreaming – Robert Moss (www.mossdreams.com)
The Way of the Shaman – Michael Harner (www.shamanism.org)
Shamanism as a Spiritual Practice for Daily Life – Tom Cowan (wp.riverdrum.com)
Healing the Luminous Body: The Way of the Shaman DVD – Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D. (www.thefourwinds.com)
Shamanic Meditations CD/Audio – Sandra Ingerman
Shaman’s Portal Resources For All Things Shamanic – (www.shamanportal.org)

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Shamanic Healing includes a variety of tools and techniques. These are some of the techniques I utilize in my practice:

Soul Retrieval

​Inner Child Process Work

Guided Journey Work

Ceremony & Ritual 

Ancestral Healing

Energy Clearing & Extractions

Shadow Work

Crystal & Plant Spirit Medicine

Space & Land Clearing

Power Animal & Spirit Guide Retrieval

To learn more about my work with Shamanic Healing and other Transformational Resources, visit www.bethterrence.com.  Sessions are available in person, by phone or Skype.  Also, visit my Events page for information on Shamanic Healing, Meditation and Bach Flower workshops in Annapolis, MD  and the MD/DC/VA areas.  I am also available to travel to other areas if there is an interest in sponsoring a visit for workshops and/or individual sessions.

Two Birds In A Tree: Knowing Our Essence

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One of my favorite spiritual stories is Two Birds In A Tree which I first read in a book by Swami Vivekenanda.  Vivekenanda was the first Hindu saint to bring India’s ancient spiritual wisdom and Yoga practices to the West at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago.  He had a major influence on many of India’s modern spiritual leaders including Gandhi, Nehru, Aurobindo and Tagore.  He shares a message of Oneness and universality in a way that is profound and accessible.  Here is the story of “Two Birds In A Tree“:

“Upon the same tree there are two birds, one on the top, the other below.  The one on the top is calm, silent, and majestic, immersed in his own glory; the one on the lower branches, eating sweet and bitter fruits by turns, hopping from branch to branch, is becoming happy and miserable by turns.  After a time, the lower birds eats an exceptionally bitter fruit, and feeling miserable, he looks up and sees the other bird, that wondrous one of golden plumage who eats neither sweet nor bitter fruit, who is neither happy nor miserable, but calm and centered in the Spirit.  The lower bird longs for this condition, but soon forgets it, and again begins to eat the fruit, which makes him once again feel miserable, and he again looks up, and he tries to get nearer to the upper bird.  Once more he forgets, and after a time he looks up again, and so on he goes again and again, until he comes very near to the beautiful bird and sees the reflection of light from its plumage playing around his own body.  He feels a change, and as he comes nearer, he seems to melt away, and everything about him melts away until as last he understands this wonderful change.  The lower bird was, as it were, only the shadow, the reflection of the higher; he himself was in essence the upper bird all the time.  This eating of the fruits, sweet and bitter, this lower little bird, weeping and happy by turns, was merely a vain dream: all along the real bird was there above, calm, and silent, glorious and majestic, beyond grief, beyond sorrow.  The upper bird is God, the Lord of this universe; and the lower bird is the human soul, eating the sweet and bitter fruits of this world.

Now and then comes a heavy blow to the soul.  For a time, he stops eating and goes toward the unknown God, and a flood of light comes.  Yet again the senses drag him down, and begins to as before eat the sweet and bitter fruits of the world.  Again, a hard blow comes.  Again, his heart becomes open to the divine light; thus gradually he approaches God, and as he gets nearer and nearer, he finds his old self melting away.  When he has come near enough, he realizes that he is no other than God, and he exclaims, “He who is the One Life of this universe, as present in the atom as in the suns and moons – He is the basis of my own life, the Soul of my soul and I Am That.

This is what Jnana Yoga (The Yoga of Knowledge/Wisdom) teaches.  It teaches us that we are divine.  It shows to all humanity the real unity of being, that each one of us is a manifestation on earth of the Lord God Himself.   All of us, from the lowest worm to the highest being – all are manifestations of the same God.”

The story really embodies the concept of the shadow, which is a core component in transformation.  (We will explore the concept of shadow more fully in future posts.) It also describes the journey of life, of reaching for the light and falling back down, rising up again and again.  Many traditions speak of this concept of coming back to our infinite nature, which is that light bird at the top of the tree.  It is something that is always there, always a part of us, but often when we get mired down by the experiences of life, we lose sight of our inner essence.  The Sufis speak of polishing the mirror or stone until it is clear, shining and reflecting our truest essence – our self.  The Buddhists speak of the mind being like a sky and clearing of the clouds or obscurations so that we can return to our true Buddha nature, which can be seen as clear sky.

It is an ongoing process.  One of the main lessons I have learned along the way is that the journey of life itself is the path.  Being willing to accept what is and to continue to grow and to reach for the top of the tree, is a lifelong journey.  In many traditions, life on earth is seen as a school or a place of learning; we come here to awaken and to know our true essence even in the midst of maya or illusion.   We forget who we are and where we came from, but as we journey, we begin to remember.  And, then we forget again.  And, then we remember, just as that lower birds does in the story.

Will we ever reach the top of the tree?  We know some incredible beings such as Buddha or Jesus have found a way to hold and embody that light.   In focusing on living the big picture in daily life, it is helpful to remember that the journey is the path.  We cannot know where it will lead or when we might awaken, but we can keep working on becoming more aware, authentic and an embodiment of that light, which is our true nature.  And when I say working, sometimes, for myself this ends up meaning efforting.  However, it is important as we do both our inner work and our outer work to allow.  Life unfolds in it’s own beautiful ways and all the opportunities we need are right before us.

By allowing and staying present in the moment we are able to access the gifts that are already before us.  If something is arising in our life, we know we have work to do with that experience, feeling, person, etc., or it would not be there, it would not be showing up.  Remembering this and embracing the experiences of this very moment with love, compassion, and acceptance are how we move up that tree, one branch at a time.  And, even when we fall back down, we can pause and seek the light within, which is our true essence.

I hope you will take some time to reflect on this story and the journey of life as it is unfolding for you today.

Namaste.

Meditation On Actualizing Intention

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I hope you had a chance to read my last post, Actualizing The Power of Intention.  Today’s post offers a guided meditation to support actualizing intention.  It is the first of a series of audio posts I will be offering.  A main intention of The Heart of Awakening blog is to offer inspiration and resources to support the shift into a new paradigm.  My vision is include practical tools that can support transformation.  This meditation is a heart centered practice for actualizing intentions that emerge from deep within ourselves.  It supports moving into greater alignment energetically with our essence and our intentions.  Explore what’s possible!

Click Here to Listen to Meditation on Actualizing Intention.mp3