The Illusion of Life: Balinese Style


“We are energetic beings with consciousness.”

The first time I heard that sentence was at a women’s retreat in Bali. Eleven women on a spiritual journey to find their own truth. Eleven women who traveled great distances to share a brief space of time to learn, connect and evolve.

Our group was diverse in age (the youngest was 34; the oldest, including me, were in their late 50s). Each one of us carried the deep desire to shed old beliefs, dissolve our limiting stories and become more authentic.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but my shedding began when I sat in the car on the way to the hotel from the airport. Chaotic traffic, hundreds of scooters and cars vying for the same spot on the pavement, all at the speed of life.

My fear of crashing was triggered immediately. My body tightened, my breath became shallow and I became my fear.

Until I looked at our driver, Nengah, and noticed how calm he was in the middle of chaos. His hands were gently resting on the steering wheel, his shoulders were relaxed and his focus was complete. He never reacted as a scooter zoomed past us, between our car and oncoming traffic. He never became angry or upset at anything that was happening on the other side of the windshield.

He was present, mindful and aware.

It was my first lesson on the illusion of Bali. I brought my Western awareness to this place and judged it based on my perception. But I failed to see that I was looking at the illusion, not the underlying reality.

“We are energetic beings with consciousness.”

The Balinese know this as a fact and they live from this place. They may describe it differently, but their presence in the present becomes obvious as you spend more time with them.

During the retreat, I also learned that we are conscious creators of our reality. Our reality begins and ends with our internal eyesight. What we see in our mind’s eye is what we will see when light is refracted off our eyeballs.

As creators, we change our reality when we change our internal vision. Meditation, visualization and gratitude are ways to stay centered. As you emerge into the world from these practices, your energy goes before you, almost like a magic carpet. You invite the same energy into your reality that you radiate.

Life becomes a beautiful dance.

It’s so simple but many of us have forgotten our own power to create our reality. We see the physical and interpret its meaning, based on our perception in that moment. The illusion becomes our reality, because we are on the inside of it.

We have forgotten that we are energetic beings with consciousness.

The Balinese live this way. They wake in the morning and give thanks. They create offerings and place them in the doorways, at the base of the shrines, and at the foot of waterfalls. Anywhere they see God’s signature on the world, they celebrate with gratitude.

My intention is to see beyond the illusion of the physical, to the energetic life force that supports and connects everything. To first clean up my own energy before interacting with others. And to consciously allow the essence of life to flow through me as loving energy.

It’s just another step in the Heart Dance!

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The Wisdom Path


The Heart Sutra is a treasured text revered by Confucius, Buddhists and Taoist. It forms the basis for the Wisdom Path that lies above the Po Lin Monastery.

During a trip to China in 1980, Professor Jso Tsing fell in love with the simplicity of the Heart Sutra. He was inspired to write it in calligraphy and dedicated it to the people of Hong Kong in the same year. His work is now transcribed in large scale wooden beams that form the Wisdom Path.

Each log is positioned to reflect the topography. When seen from above, the overall design is a sideways figure 8, the Infiniti sign.

The plaque which describes the Heart Sutra is at the beginning of the path.

It is a ten minute walk to the start of the Wisdom Path. I followed a group of students who were going to the hostel located further up the hillside. Their youthful energy was contagious and I felt young and free.

Walking the path, a sense of peacefulness and serenity washed over me. After my experiences at the Monastery, I felt removed from my self. I cannot claim to understand the Heart Sutra; I just know that I felt the space between my small self and the connection to something much greater expand.

Another Path

If there is another trail that beckons, I can’t resist its calling. At the base of the Wisdom Path was the trail to the top of the peak. Guarded by a rooster, it was a trail I had to explore.

The path quickly became step, rough and long. The humidity of the day seemed to fall on me like a blanket. No one was going my way; the cautionary voice inside my head started singing out what could happen if…

I took a deep breath and kept going. And was rewarded by this view of the Wisdom Path.

You can almost make out the infinity sign, can’t you?

The path beckoned upward. I must have been an explorer in another life. It’s the only explanation that explains this desire to see around the next bend.

And then I discovered why I took this way. I was integrating my experience at the Monastery and on the Wisdom Path. Forced to pay attention to this moment, careful where I placed each foot, I was meditating in a waking state. No thoughts or judgments; no plans for the future or regrets about the past.

Just breathing (and sweating) in the here and now.

I paused on a flat part of the trail and took a sip of water. My emotions were calm and my thoughts silent. And then I turned and saw the confirmation of my experience.

It’s just another step in the Heart Dance!

Moment by Moment


christian-holzinger-433986“Welcome to another moment in life.”

The rustic sign hung a bit crooked on the cracked wall, having seen many years of wind, rain, and sun as it faced the ocean. The outdoor restaurant in Key West was also weather-worn, much like its regular customers.

I sat by myself at a table facing that same body of water, not as sculpted by the elements as I was beaten down by myself.

I was taking a holiday to get away from the muddle I had made of my life. Only to discover that it still lived inside my head, playing over and over again in full technicolor.

A young man with a messy man bun walked up to me, casually holding a pen and a pad to take my order. At first, I didn’t see him, because the view of the beach, palm trees, and the ocean had entranced my attention. It was only after he said, “Ready to order?” that I turned toward him.

“Oh hi!” I said, brightly. My life had fallen apart, and I was still trying to look put together. “I’ll take the shrimp tacos and iced tea.”

He nodded and started to walk away. That’s when I noticed the other signs that hung over the bar, the doors and any spare space on the walls.

“Be who you are. Everyone else is taken.”

“Knowledge is learning something every day. Wisdom is letting go of something every day.”

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult; we just need to remember to do it.”

I stood up abruptly, motioning the waiter to come back over to my table. “What is the name of this place again?”

He looked at me a bit warily and pointed to the large sign over the bar. “Now and Zen,” it said in large, simple script.

I nodded and sat back down, remembering why I had come to this island at the southernmost tip of the United States. It was to rediscover who I was before I became who the world told me to be. And coming to the Now and Zen restaurant was the starting point back to myself.

“Is Henry here?” I called to the retreating back of my server. He glanced over his shoulder and pointed to the kitchen.

Suddenly, a face appeared in the small opening between the kitchen and the restaurant. A muffled yell and then…Henry burst forth like a comet, tail blazing with light.

I was enveloped in Henry’s arms, the hug so tight that the air burst out of my lungs. I hugged him back, laughing at his exuberance. He rocked me back and forth, saying over and over, “Oh Mia, Mia! I am so glad you’re here!”

The sadness that I carried with me like an extra layer of clothing disappeared in that embrace. I let myself go and absorbed his love, knowing that it would fill me up like nothing else. My healing began in those few moments of complete acceptance.

Finally, we pulled apart.

Henry looked deeply into my eyes, touching my soul. My initial reaction was to break the contact, but I forced myself to stay still as he took his assessment of my emotional and spiritual condition. Much like a doctor takes the pulse and listens to her patient’s heartbeat, Henry was taking my spiritual pulse.

He pulled me into another embrace and whispered in my ear, “I have to keep cooking, but let’s talk later.” He hugged me one more time, kissed my forehead and went back into the kitchen.

Sometime later, Henry sat down at my table, bits of food stain on his shirt and shorts. His weathered face showed his age, but not his eyes. Deep blue with a calm, penetrating gaze, Henry could look deeply into another person’s eyes and touch their soul.

He reached across the table and grabbed my hands, smiling as he squeezed them affectionately. His low, gravely voice hummed a sea-faring tune that was calming and poetic at the same time. He waited for me to begin speaking, silently granting permission and creating the safe space for me to become vulnerable.

I took a deep breath and nodded, looking down at our hands. His, dark brown and worn; mine, lily white from lack of sun.

“I couldn’t help her,” I whispered. The shame and pain of helplessness overcame me, and I began sobbing quietly. Henry moved his chair around to sit next to me, holding me in his arms as I grieved.

When my crying jag was finished, I looked up and understood why I came. My mother’s only brother was the one person who would know why I was punishing myself about her last days.

Henry smiled gently and handed me a napkin. As I cleaned up my face, he spoke softly. “You loved her to the end, Mia. She crossed over knowing that you loved her.”

I nodded miserably, but the shame of old grievances was still there. As I took a breath and looked out to sea, I realized that only I could release this shame that threatened to engulf me.

“I should have been there sooner,” I offered as proof of my guilt.

Henry shook his head. He sat up straighter in his chair and looked at me directly, all comfort and care transformed into a laser focus. He wanted me to hear his next words, and his body language was like a neon sign, pointing to this moment.

“Close your eyes and take a deep breath.”

I did as I was told and waited. After a few deep, calming breaths, Henry continued.

“You are here, right now, searching for answers to a question that has no answer.” His voice was soft but insistent. “Regret keeps you locked in the past. Let it go now.”

I nodded and took another deep breath. I could feel the tension leave my body and I smiled at the relief found in the release. A spark of hope became a flame as I breathed in the salty air, held it and then released it in time with the ocean’s pulse.

We sat that way for several minutes. The ocean was soothing, the breeze cooling and I was loosening. All because I trusted Henry and allowed him to open a space for my healing.

Suddenly, I felt another presence near me. My eyes and mouth flew open at the sight of a seagull perched on the railing, about 2 feet from our table. The bird was staring intently at me, while it fluffed its wings and settled more firmly on the wooden perch.

Henry laughed and nodded. “That’s how you know you released something,” he said with a slight tease in his tone.

I glanced at him but kept my attention focused on the bird. It was still staring at me. It was a bit unnerving.

He added slyly, “When a bird comes to visit at just the right moment, you know it means more than it seems.”

This time, I looked at him directly. “You mean…?”

He nodded. “That’s a sign from your mom that she’s O.K. She’s telling you to stop punishing yourself and accept what happened. It was all in divine order.”

As the words fell from his lips and the meaning entered my consciousness, the seagull stretched its wings, preparing to fly. But just before it lifted off, it did something astonishing. It winked…at me!

“Did you see that?” I exclaimed with wonder in my voice. I could almost hear my mother laughing with me. I stood up and raised my arms wide, receiving the gift she had just given me.

The sun warmed my face and arms as I said, “Thank you!”

Henry grinned and joined me in the celebration. His arm hung around my waist as his other arm raised up. Together, we stood in open gratitude.

He turned and smiled into my shining eyes. His next words were simple, yet profound.

“Welcome to another moment of life!”

 

 

 

 

You are Never Alone


lyndsey-marie-438682My life has changed dramatically. Our only daughter is in college, I left my part-time job to work from home, and I now find myself by myself more than at any other time in my life.

Before this stage in my life, being alone was never a problem, mostly because it rarely happened. Between a busy career, raising a daughter, all of her activities (school, sports, etc.) and our family, being alone was usually not an option. Others came first, and I willingly played my part.

But now all of that busyness is over. In these quiet hours, working from home, I face loneliness. I’m afraid that I will discover myself as less than. Now that I can’t hide from myself, I can either jump into another job or see where this path leads.

I choose to stay…(read the rest of this post inside Medium).

(Medium is a great platform for bloggers to get noticed. If you liked this post, please clap. Leave a comment below if you posted an article in Medium and share the link, and I will return the favor).

Fake News


Dear Fake Forgiveness Human:

Fake news has become quite the topic of conversation. It has entered the conversation and tends to stir up strong and passionate feelings.

Did you know that there is also “fake forgiveness”? It’s been around a lot longer than fake news and is just as destructive.

Fake forgiveness is all about you – it circles back on itself. It never releases the hurt or upset; it only ties it up with a big bow so you can pull it out and show your friends.

Real forgiveness is also about you, but it springs from a yearning to learn from the experience, grow and expand into something bigger. It comes from a heartfelt desire to heal as quickly as possible.

Take a moment and look at this chart that shows the differences between fake forgiveness and real forgiveness.

33-Fake vs Real Forgiveness

Consider the times in your life where you thought you forgave the other person, but the hurt and resentment were still there. Can you see now that you were not really forgiving? Tomorrow I will share the secrets that dogs learn at the foot of their mothers.

Tail wagging furiously,

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P.S. Why not check out my book, Drop the Leash: Let Go of the Past and Love in the Present? It makes a great Valentine’s Day gift for the dog lovers in your life.

Everyone Has a Backstory


Dear Back Story Human:

No one knows the other person’s backstory 100%. And most of the time, we never know the details of that person’s perspective or how they perceive the present moment.

Dogs don’t have this problem because we see the best in the person and don’t worry about their past. Humans hang onto their past and don’t see the person, as they are in the present moment.

That is why forgiveness is so important. You never forgive because the other person deserves it. You forgive because it releases you from the past and allows you to be present, right here. When you don’t forgive, you remain anchored to that painful event, and you miss all of the beauty and grandeur of the present moment.

Humans have been called “meaning making machines.” When something happens, you will create a story about that event. A story is the meaning that you assign to a situation, person or event about what it means to you. That story becomes the filter for the next moment.

Dogs love unconditionally, in the here and now. Dogs don’t know forgiveness, because to a dog, there is nothing to forgive. To a human, everything is a call to forgiveness.

Dogs stepped into the light of the campfire all those centuries ago to remind humans of a grander vision of life. We know how to live in bliss, happiness, and joy. Humans have forgotten, but with our help, you can remember and join us in the Heart Dance.

I know

You can be the person your dog thinks you are.

Love you tons,

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P.S.  If you have never started or been able to practice a daily meditation and journal ritual, I may have the solution. Click over to 21 Day Heart Dancing Challenge and join their email list. You will receive a daily email with a short lesson, a meditation, journaling prompts and intention setting tools. It could be the start of a life-long journey!


Dear Stubborn Human:

I am called the “Drop the Leash Dog” because I teach a simple concept to humans, that dogs know instinctively. And the leash is the metaphor that fits.

When you walk your dog, you have a physical connection with him. The leash is attached to his collar or harness and you are on the other end, holding on and directing the walk.

Humans don’t live with leashes around their necks. Instead, they place a leash on their minds. Habitual thinking about past events erupt in the present moment, coloring what is happening right now. When humans assign a meaning to the event or to themselves, that acts as a filter on the current moment.

Don’t believe me? When was the last time you thought to yourself, “Oh, there you go again! You are so clumsy (or stupid, fat, a waste, etc.).” A past memory was triggered and the meaning that you assigned to yourself was used in the present moment to confirm the meaning.

Are you starting to catch a glimpse of who is holding your leash?

Dogs don’t hold onto the past. If my master steps on my tail because she didn’t see me, I will let her know that it hurt, but not one second later, I will be loving her again. I am back in the present moment almost instantly.

Which approach is happier and more peaceful? The human trait of stubbornness holds the leash in a death grip, determined to prove that the meaning given is correct. Who does that hurt the most?

Take a look in the mirror for the answer.

I may sound as if I am berating you for being human. I know that humans and dogs are different in so many ways, but one thing I know for sure. Dogs are Masters at staying in love…in every moment. It’s why we’re here, living with you. To remind you that you can choose to do the same.

Remind You

You can become the person your dog knows you are.

Love you tons,

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P.S.  Why not check out my book, Drop the Leash: Let Go of the Past and Love in the Present? It makes a great Valentine’s Day gift for the dog lovers in your life.