Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Step out of The Box!

Isn't it interesting how the human mind creates the idea of separation and how that physically manifests within our world as a box? Think about it... our life is full of boxes. Boxes of separation. Boxes of judgement. Physical boxes, emotional boxes, mental boxes, cultural boxes, ideological boxes. The list is long and not so distinguished.

The Box Teaching came to me in a flash of the typical day and here's what I witnessed:  We...

Wake up in a Box = your room / sleeping quarters / bed / sleeping bag / etc.
Live in a Box = house / apartment building / tent / etc.
Think in a Box = habits / judgements / ideologies / etc.
Worship in a Box = religion / religious or spiritual beliefs / etc.
Go to work in a Box = bus / car / helicopter / subway / etc.
Work / Serve in a Box = building / cubical / office / vehicle / etc.
Go home in a Box = bus / car / helicopter / subway / etc.
Come home to a Box = house / apartment / tent / etc.
Stare at a Box = microwave / tv / computer / etc.
Connect through a Box = MacBook Pro* / Skype / Facebook / etc.
Tuck yourself back into a Box = bed / sleeping back / futon / etc.

and all the while...

Addicted to a Hand-held Box - iPhone* / Blackberry / etc.
(huge fan; if it's not an apple, its DOS)

It's time to step outside of the boxes in life that separate us.  Make a human to human connection. Step outside of the box of your vehicle. Ride a bike, take a walk in your neighborhood, say hi to your fellow species passing by. Connect with the people, animals, natural landscapes, the wild nature that surrounds you.

Be present to that which you are unbreakably connected. 

Step outside of your home and welcome a new neighbor or connect with one you've lived next to for years.  Participate in community events that peak your interest. Say hello to the same person you see everyday at the local coffee shop. Challenge yourself to step outside of comfortable and simply connect.

Embrace the exciting potential that awaits you in the world. Don't be a silent witness to life, letting it pass you by while you sit and wait.  Waiting for the next big thing, the winning lottery ticket, the perfect spouse or perfect house.

Be an active and conscious participant in life.

Relinquish the boxes you wear daily.  Slowly undress yourself of this seemingly-protective armor.  Some boxes may appear to be quite heavy, nearly impossible to shed. Some may feel suffocating or restricting. Some may feel comfortable, like a broken-in shoe. You can, and must, transcend the boxes in order to live freely.

Ask yourself:
What boxes do I carry? How do they impact my life? 

Then begin to release the ones that do not serve you. Now does that mean you should get rid of your bed, house, job, car, computer, iPhone, etc? Absolutely not...unless it does not serve you. Release the boxes that cause pain and isolation. They cannot support you, they haven't supported you.

Take the risk and step into the land of Oneness, Wholeness and Unity. Bear witness to the magical mystery called life, a land where all things are possible. Trust others. Serve all. See all as a reflection of your Self. Unite with the Divine Cosmos in ceaseless, perfect action; the very Essence known as God Consciousness.  And lastly, never forget who you really are... "Thou art Divine, live up to it." ~ Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh India

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Creating a Sacred Space

In Western culture we are rarely taught or encouraged to create a sacred space for our own spiritual well-being.  Most of the time we think of a "sacred space" as a church, synagogue or temple and rarely in terms of our own home.  In the East, a home altar is very common.  It is sacred space that gives you the right conditions for your spiritual life to thrive and a sense of inner balance to be achieved.
A dedicated home altar reminds you daily of life's "bigger picture", focuses your energy towards your spiritual goals and through association helps the mind move inward more quickly and deeply.  After you have established a home altar you are far more likely to meditate and connect with your Authentic Self than before.  It's like anything that we associate with, it impacts our life on a physical, mental and spiritual plane.  For example, if I have an empty room and put a coach and chair in the middle, my tendency is to want to lounge around.  If I put a big screen TV in the room, my tendency is to watch movies and television shows.  The same is true for a home altar, it inevitably conjures thoughts of inner peace and wellness while evoking the inspiration to do your practice.
First you must choose a place that can easily become your very own sanctuary - a quiet, private space protected from distractions.  You may even be fortunate enough to have a whole room dedicated to your spiritual practices, but if not, then a simple space in the corner of your bedroom works just great.  I had a student, single mom of two girls, transform half of her closet into a sanctuary.  It was gorgeous, private and the perfect sacred space for her to relax and rejuvenate... child-free.  Even using a oriental screen to block off a portion of your room is a wonderful "protector" of your space.  Be creative but be sure that it is a space that becomes your very own.
Secondly, you'll need to design your focal point.  Try using a small bench or bedside table, something that is eye level or slightly lower.  It can even come from a second hand store, just cover with a beautiful cloth and already the energy begins building. Traditionally, a candle is used to represent the Divine Light of Pure Consciousness (fire) as well as flowers (ether/space), fruit (earth), incense (air) and water to represent the five elements.
Choose a simple altar as an uncluttered space encourages a clear mind.  You may even choose to put items from nature walks to create a more "grounded" altar.  Each altar looks completely different and can be changed as you feel called.  It is not suggested to put photos of loved ones but photos of great saints to uplift the mind, open your heart and remind you of our own Divinity.
Lastly, you will need a proper meditation seat.  Make sure you have a blanket, pillows or meditation chair to encourage you to "sit."  The important tip is to be comfortable.  If you are uncomfortable, the mind remains agitated and meditation is impossible.  If you are comfortable, relaxed, and can maintain a straight spine (to remain alert) meditation is a natural result.
However you decide to design your home altar is up to you.  Just be sure to set an intention, have fun and follow your inner voice to create the perfect place that encourages you to cultivate and nurture a devoted Self practice.  Once you have your sacred space, establish a time daily that you can dedicate to your Authentic Self with gentle, loving kindness... even if only for five minutes.  You are worth it!

7 Tips to Healthy Holiday Eating

1.  Prepare simple organic vegetarian dishes - Not only will you reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding cooked meats but you will amaze family and friends with the delicious tastes of organic food.  Although slightly more expensive, organic food is much healthier for you, and the planet, tastes better, and is easier to digest so you won't feel so tired after eating.  The internet provides an infinite amount of vegetarian holiday recipes so just surf away and you'll find just what your are looking for...guaranteed.

2.  Use fresh herbs - Fresh herbs are a way to spice up your favorite recipes...especially if you can purchase them from a local Farmer's Market or natural grocery store.  Try substituting fresh herbs for dried herbs and taste a world of difference even in the most classic recipes.  Just remember, one teaspoon of dried herbs equals one tablespoon of fresh herbs.

3.  Sacred Cooking & Preparation - Often in our modern society we are so busy that when a holiday party potluck comes up we either buy it at the store on our way there or quickly throw something together at the house beforehand.  Remember, everything has and absorbs energy.  This year why not honor the process and the people at the party by taking your time making the dish with love, remembrance and gratitude.  Isn't that why mom's cooking always tastes the best, even when she may not be an award-winning chef?

4.  Lighten the Load - For whatever reason during the holidays, we tend to load our plate with heaps of food or even go back for seconds and thirds.  Remember, your stomach is the size of your two hands held together in a cupped position. Some say that your stomach is the size around one of your fists.  Although there are slight variance in the exact size of your stomach, be sure to stop eating before you feel full...and take much smaller portions.  A taste of everything is better by "heaps" and bounds.  smile

5.  Chew Your Food - Digestion begins in the mouth, not only with saliva excretion but also with chewing your food.  According to Macrobiotic eating principles you should chew your food until it is liquid-like in its texture.  This aids the digestion process, causes you to slow down and helps you remain aware when you are feeling full.  Food also tastes better when there is more focus and concentration on the process and act of eating.  After all, it is a sacred act and "we are what we eat."

6.  Take Fork Breaks - Throughout your meal, take time to place your fork on your plate and take a few deep breaths.  Engage in conversation or take a sip of room temperature water and when you feel ready pick the fork back up to resume eating. This allows time for the stomach to begin digestion and for you to enjoy the meal, and the people, you are sharing it with.

7.  Walk it Off - After you have delighted in a beautiful holiday meal and taken time to rest, it is a good idea to put your body into action.  Encourage others to join you and go for a nice, slow stroll outside.  The walk, and proper breathing, are great to aid digestion, just in case you over did it.  

Enjoy your holidays and remember to be present, positive and guilt-free.  May Grace bless you and yours during this sacred time of year.