Thursday, February 28, 2008

Morning has Broken and Oprah's Handing Us a Hot Cup o' Consciousness!

I was driving to the grocery store, yesterday, listening to Cat Steven's singing "Morning has Broken" and when I arrived, the spot I was going to park in had a cart in the middle of it. People not putting their carts away has been a pet peeve of mine in the past. Without even thinking about it I stopped the car got out, put the cart where it belonged and parked my car. There was no irritation in me, not even an echo of irritation. It was fabulous. Then I went into the store and shopped with total ease and joy. When I went to the check out area a cashier called me over with a friendly smile and it was so sweet. The funny part was that when I got home I found that he had placed a big bottle of juice on top of some rolls, squashing them! I was slightly irritated for about five seconds and then I just laughed and let it go.

I credit my great mood partly to the joy and gratitude that singing along with Cat Stevens inspired but mostly to the book that I've been reading for the past week, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. The book is about learning how to step out of ourselves, observing our ego and becoming more present in our daily life. It's actually not new information for me, I mean some of it is, but mostly it's stuff that I've been learning or hearing for a good deal of my life. But the fact of the matter is, as my cousin Kanti says, until we really get it, I mean truly get IT, we need all of the help that we can get! It is extremely well written and it offers some fantastic insights. It may be the final straw for this lil' camel's back, yay! Oprah is offering a free web course with Eckhart Tolle, about this book, starting in March. The world is a changin' and it's ALL good, baby! Thanks again Oprah, you truly rock!

I've listened to that song many times but for some reason I was inspired to create the design in the photo above for last night.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

God is my Skeleton

I use the word God... a lot. God means different things to different people and it came to me that perhaps I should clarify. I was born Episcopalian and then I met my spiritual teacher, who is Hindu, when I was about eleven. I am neither and I am both. I believe that nothing exists that is not "God". It could be called Atman, consciousness, Shiva, Zeus, Thor or by any word designated to the being that is all pervasive. I believe in unity and acceptance. I also assume that since we have different words in different languages for almost everything that it makes sense that we would have different names for that which is formless. A rose is a rose is a rose... Alrighty then!

So the other day I was japa walking through the snow when the poem "Footprints in the Sand" came into my head. I've always been rather fond of that poem. I suddenly felt a rush of gratitude for my life. I realized that, though my life has not always been easy, I have never really gone without. I've always had a roof over my head and food, usually very good food, to eat. I don't feel like God was carrying me or even walking beside me, I feel that God has always been my skeleton, holding me up when I couldn't do it for myself. The wave of gratitude became so strong that I actually had tears in my eyes. I am a big old sap, and that's just the way I like it!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

It's Just Your Japa Walkin'... Yeah!

Recently I've taken to going on vigorous japa walks. The spiritual practice known as japa is simply the continuous repetition of any *mantra (or the name of the Lord.) A japa mala, which is similar to worry beads or a rosary, can be used to help stay focused on the mantra while keeping a count of the repetitions. Typically Japa Malas will have 108 beads with a 109th bead, the Guru Bead, hanging separately to mark the beginning and end. The practice of Japa may entail hundreds or even thousands of repetitions. Japa walks are a great way to give your exercise routine a spiritual boost!

*If you are interested in learning more about mantras I just found this book and, though I haven't read it myself, the book sounds fascinating from the description and excerpt on the website. If you don't want to read the whole book there is an excerpt from the book explaining what a mantra is here;

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

Cala Lily in Hues of Pink from Youngman's Fancy

Spread love and joy and it will come back to you tenfold.
It works with everything that we do.
Whatever we put out, we will always get back.
So... I'm giving you all love, light and joy!

Check out GlamSpirit's Valentine's Day post, I loved it!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jeff Buckley's Wings Brushed My Face

Jeff Buckley, Gregorian Punk
Relief Block Print, 2004
Stephen Alcorn

A couple of weeks ago Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley played from my iPod and immediately after Fire and Rain by James Taylor came on. The combination was so appropriate that I suddenly felt very sad and it came into my head to write this post... So here it is.

Many years ago, when I lived in Manhattan, I had the amazing good fortune to spend a night hanging out with Jeff Buckley. At the time I lived a couple of blocks from Grammercy Park, I loved it there. One evening I was home alone and feeling a bit bored when my roommate's best friend called to try to get Jared to go out and play with him. Jared was an aspiring actor, a handsome young man who was working at The MercBar that evening, if memory serves. I don't remember Jared's buddy's name but, no matter, we'll call him Jack to make the storytelling easier.

Okay so... Jack was terribly bored and since Jared wasn't home he decided that I would have to step up and take my roomy's place. It took some convincing but finally I gave in. I figured, Monday night, free drinks at Beauty Bar... Why not? I quickly pulled myself together and walked the few blocks down to Fourteenth Street where Jack was waiting at the bar. We'd been sipping our drinks for only a short time when Jack gestured to a guy sitting by himself at one of the tables and said, "Jeff Buckley's here." At the time I had no idea who Jeff Buckley was and Jack spoke quite casually, so I assumed that he was a friend of Jack and Jared's. I looked over at the lonely looking guy and felt a little sad for him so I asked Jack to invite his friend to come sit with us. He gave me a funny look and then smiled and said, "Sure, why not..."

At first glance Jeff had seemed quite ordinary but when he came over to join us and I looked into his eyes... Yikes, that boy was gorgeous and his eyes were full of light. He and I spoke about fashion for awhile because I was a fashion stylist at the time and he really enjoyed fashion. I remarked immediately on his intense presentness. Conversing with him was a pleasure because there was not one iota of distraction in his eyes. Often times in bars or clubs people's eyes are wondering around looking to see who's doing what with who. Jeff Buckley's gorgeous brown eyes looked directly and deeply into my own as we spoke and his energy was intoxicating to be near. He didn't seem at all surprised that I had no idea who he was, although I still didn't know so I can only say he seemed very relaxed and comfortable in himself. At one point when Jeff went to the bathroom Jack tried to tell me that Jeff Buckley was a famous musician but when you've never heard of a person it's kind of difficult to really get it. I thought perhaps he was exagerating a little bit.

Jeff and I were discussing our concepts of spirituality and we somehow got onto the subject of the Crusades. At the time I was just getting over being very unhappy with the Catholic Church because of it's adverse effect on a man that I love very much. (Growing up Catholic had turned him away from all things spiritual.) I'd just finished reading *The Mists of Avalon several months before and it had helped me to start to overcome my bitter feelings and come to terms with the change that Christianity brought to the world when it suppressed the Earth Religions. Jeff was extremely disturbed by these things too and we discussed this for quite some time. A couple of hours and several subjects later the bartender decided that we three were not enough for him to justify staying open so we were given the boot.

I suggested that we go down to this crazy Aussi bar that I liked on Ludlow Street called Barramundi. When we arrived one of the bartenders was pulling the gate down over the door. I said something about what a bummer that they were closing and the bartender was like, "Yeah, sor..." but as he turned he saw Jeff and said, "Hell, I'll open up for Jeff Buckley!" and immediately pulled the gate back up and let us in. I turned to Jeff and was like, "Who the hell are you?" He laughed and shrugged.

The bartender called the owners of the bar and soon we had a small crowd of people around us. They all seemed to think that Jeff was my boyfriend and I didn't play with it but I didn't correct them either. We had a lovely time talking until the wee hours of the morning. Finally one of the Aussi bartenders came over and told Jeff they had some food prepared for him in the back. He got up to follow her and suddenly I realized that I was exhausted and decided it was pumpkin time for me. I told him so and the bartender smiled and said that the food was for me too, of course! I thanked her but said it was time for me to be off. Jeff asked if I was certain, I told him I was and I gave him a hug and turned to leave. As I was walking out the door he called out to me from across the bar, "Jen, I'll read The Mists of Avalon, I will!" I laughed and waved goodbye.

I had always thought that I would see him again but I never did. The crazy thing is that I never knew until after he passed what an incredible musician he was. I didn't listen to his music until after he was gone, I don't know why. I was at Puffy's Tavern, down in Tribeca, when I heard the news of his drowning. I cried for the loss of the world when he passed. There was one thing that I did recognize about Jeff Buckley when I first met him, the moment I looked into his eyes I could see that his soul was deep and beautiful and when he looked into my eyes I felt truly seen by him. Jeff Buckley was an angel walking this Earth.

Who knows, perhaps I will see him again.

* "The Mists of Avalon" is a great book by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

She's Going the Distance. . .

This post is not about Oprah but I just want to start by telling you that I am in utter awe of her commitment to the enlightenment of the world! She just did a second follow up show on "The Secret" and it was just perfect for me and what I was needing to hear. Settle in gang, I have a lot to say today. Where to begin... Okay I've got it. I have had the great good fortune to grow up with a spiritual teacher who told me, repeatedly, that the most important thing in the world was to love myself. I've always known the Truth of this in my heart but the experience of it is another story. I am not saying that I have terrible self esteem, my self esteem is not too bad. I've done a good deal of intensive therapy to overcome some out dated survival techniques that I learned as a child. Like every person I've ever met, my childhood was less than ideal and I picked up some issues along the way. I would say that in some ways I've had better than average self esteem and in others I've had less. Anyway, my point is that I've been learning for almost thirty years what it means to truly love myself. It has been a fantastic and terrible journey and it's left me baffled more than once.

A couple of years ago I was at a low point in my quest. I was depressed and truly felt like I was drowning. And then I had a conversation with a man who'd just returned from Brazil where he'd visited a healer that I had wanted to see for several years, John of God (Joao de Deus). We spoke for some time as the man described how his heart had been healed. I knew his words to be true because he had been a notoriously angry and hateful man in the community and he was the father of a friend of mine as well. When I met him he was an extremely kind and gentle soul. His son had told me that his father was a changed man, and the change was unbelievable. So, on that day, I made a promise to myself that I would go to see John of God within the next couple of years and that I would ask for him to heal the deep sadness that I'd lived with for most of my life. The moment that I made the promise to myself I felt the weight on my chest lighten.

Several days later I went to see my Nurse Practitioner and I told her that I'd been feeling pretty depressed and how, simply making a decision to do something about it had greatly lightened my load. She suggested that I get a dvd that she'd seen called "The Secret". She was the third person to suggest this to me and so I decided that it was time to check out this amazing dvd. So I went onto the internet, found the site after some searching and purchased this strange looking dvd. At the time "The Secret" was only available from their own site and it was not very well known so it was a little hard to find. I watched it the moment that it arrived and then I watched it every day for a month and a half after that, sometimes several times a day. (I am obviously a huge fan of "The Secret".) The information was not new to me and, in fact, I had actually done a two day seminar with Esther Hicks several years before, but it came at just the right time and it had exactly what I needed. Also it was a fantastic tool for me because I needed something that I could get into my bones and what better way than watching a movie that is fun and exciting and uplifting and... The Truth?

People who say that it is too focused on obtaining material possessions apparently did not watch the entire film or perhaps they saw what they wanted to see. The teachers in "The Secret" clearly state, a number of times, that; money and possessions will not bring happiness, and that manifestation will not work if you are simply focused on getting a lot of stuff. The fact of the matter is that to get to the point where one has the ability to manifest, one generally must first become a happier and more balanced person. So if a person starts the journey because they want more stuff, they will probably not be that same person when they achieve the goal of manifestation. In my opinion it doesn't really matter why a person is motivated to work on themselves for the work to bear fruit. If you ask me the more the merrier and apparently Oprah feels the same way;

No matter any criticism for The Secret, Oprah says she still believes it's valuable. "I'm grateful that for so many millions of people the door was at least opened to the idea that we are each responsible for the quality of our lives,"

I love you Oprah, you truly rock! So, moving along, it's been about two years since I first started watching "The Secret" and I am a totally different person, I am actually quite used to change though, I grew up with constant change and very little same. Even so it has been an amazing two years and I have done A LOT of work on myself. I started keeping a gratitude journal, meditating and exercising regularly again, which I hadn't been doing for quite some time. I started two blogs and writing for a couple of content websites. I found and discovered that I love to create designs, and from people's reactions to my designs I am apparently quite good at it. So now I have two websites that sell my designs, one for spiritual designs and one for silly and funny designs.

Saying that I had never been very good at "creating abundance" in my life would be a gross understatement. I grew up in a family and community where money was not the goal of life. Don't get me wrong I had worked since I was eleven, I enjoyed working, but never with the goal of having a lot of money. Stuff was not my thing and I pretty much always had enough anyway... just enough. As years went on I had more and more difficulty with this and eventually I just kind of gave up on abundance. It suddenly became a huge issue in my life when I started feeling like a failure because of my handicap... my self esteem plummeted. Luckily I have a guardian angel who whispered "The Secret" into my ear three times. So for two years I did everything that I learned to create abundance in my life but to no avail. I definitely brought a lot more joy and peace into my life but abundance continued to elude me. My self esteem managed to climb out of the gutter and clean herself off only to look around and find that the fear of failure was standing and waiting for the right moment to push her down again. And then along came Oprah and some friends to save the day!

I came away from Oprah's latest follow up on "The Secret" with valuable insight. I've watched it twice, to firm it up, and I'll probably watch it a few more times. What I got was not new information, as with "The Secret", but the timing was right and I was ready, nay desperate, to hear it. After a ridiculous number of years I was finally able to penetrate the freakin' armor around my heart! These tips will, perhaps, sound simple and silly but they are working for me, so here you go;

1.) The key to everything is to love yourself. Even if you think that you do love yourself try this anyway and see what happens. Look at yourself in a mirror and say "I love you, I really, truly love you." Look into your eyes when you say this and try to mean it, even if you feel silly. Try to feel it. When I say love I mean the kind of love that a mother is meant to feel for a child. The love that God feels for us. Unconditional adoration with a healthy dose of comforting affection. It felt great to me... after the initial weirdness wore off.

2.) Figure out any hidden resentments that you may have in your life and just let them go. Find it in your heart to forgive the transgressor no matter how horrible their offense. This is just good advice, regardless, but sometimes these resentments can feel justified. Holding onto resentment will keep you from fully achieving your goals so "justified" or not only you are suffering. I found some that were eking out an existence in my soul and I am working on shooing them out. It's not always easy but it sure is necessary.

3.) Figure out how to let go of any fear or feelings of needing whatever it is that you are wanting in your life. When you visualize, do it with joy and then offer it up to God or the universe or whoever and then move along. Give the decision of the how and even the what to your higher power, do not feel that you are manifesting but instead that you are simply putting it out there and then getting on with the business of loving yourself and choosing to be joyful.

After watching the Secret Follow Up for the second time I ran a bubble bath to give myself a boost. I got into the tub and as I leaned back I noticed that the bubbles had formed into the shape of a perfect heart. For a moment I just smiled and laughed. I have been finding heart shapes all around me for well over a year. I have written about them and I have photos of some, like this one of the heart cloud that was over my house. It was better before I ran inside to get my camera but it's still pretty cool. It happens so often that my friends and family just laugh now when I point them out. So... back in the bubble bath, the reason for all of the crazy hearts suddenly hit me like a bolt of lightning. The Universe had been trying to tell me to actively love myself for over a year! I looked towards heaven and said, "Thank You!" out loud and then tears of gratitude streamed down my face. I couldn't believe it. If you could see all of the amazing hearts that have formed around me you would be too. ( A couple of them are here. The dog pee one is very funny.) And as the steam from my bath hovered around me a list of people that I was grateful to streamed through my head as though I were giving an acceptance speech of some kind... "I want to thank my mom and dad. Thank you to my teacher and her teacher and his teacher. Thank you Esther Hicks and Abraham. Thank you Cealo...." and the list went on and the tears flowed.

It all boiled down to this in my head; The Truth is that there is nothing that exists that is not God (or whatever word you choose to call that), and the key to life is to simply, or not so simply, LOVE YOURSELF! No matter what, for no other reason than because you exist and with a whole and joyous heart. Go look in the mirror and say "I love you, I really, and truly love you!"... and then believe it. In the immortal words of the Nike Corporation, "Just do it."

Oh yes and, by the way, one of my best friends is taking me to Brazil with her to see John of God in April. (As a thank you gift but that's another story.) I will be there for my fortieth birthday, which I personally find to be quite auspicious. Et Voila! If that's not manifestation than I don't know what is. Go forth and manifest! Oh, and check out Oprah's web page about the follow up to "The Secret".

Thank you Oprah. Thank you Louise Hay. Thank you God, Buddha, Allah, Vishnu, Shiva, Zeus, Jesus, Thor and Mother Earth!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Holy Valentine Batman!

If you follow my other blog TempleGreen you know that I lost my Chihuahua, Mae, last Sunday. Even though she was very old, 16ish, it's really hard to let go, the loss was devastating. My mom sent me an email with these photos this morning, in an effort to cheer me up. The email included the following explanation;

A PUPPY has been born in Japan with a large, clear, love-heart-shaped pattern in his coat. The Chihuahua was born in May as one of a litter to a breeder. Shop owner Emiko Sakurada said it was the first time a Puppy with the marks had been born out of a thousand she had bred. She had no plans to sell the puppy, which has been named 'Heart-kun'. The long-coated male Chihuahua puppy was born in Odate, northern Japan.

Oddly enough I have been finding hearts in some very strange places over the past year and this puppy is not the craziest one... but certainly the cutest! I wrote about some of the crazy hearts I found in the post "Love from Above and Below" in TempleGreen. I've found a bunch of hearts since I wrote that post last February, including a fried calamari heart floating in marinara and a big heart of bubbles floating in my bath tub! If you think I sound crazy go check out the dog pee heart, fluff heart and cloud heart on TempleGreen and judge for yourself.

Happy Valentine's Day little Heart-kun, you are most certainly loved!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The God Who Stood on a Brick

Awhile back I wrote about chanting Vitthale! in a post titled; Allowing . . . Accepting with Love. Since then several people have been curious about the meaning of Vitthale so I decided to write a lil' post of explanation. The chant is Vitthale! Vitthale! Vitthale! Vitthale! Jai Jai Vitthale! Jai Jai Vitthale! It's a chant of devotion to Vitthal, aka Lord Vithoba who is a manifestation of the Hindu deity Vishnu. The names Vitthale and Vithoba are derived from the word "vit" which means brick. So the name means "God who stood on a brick". The short story of how this name came to be is as follows;

A young man, named Pundalik, who had treated his parents very badly for quite some time had a vision of the sacred river goddesses washing their sin stained clothing through prayer in the hermitage of the sage Kukkutswami. (Their clothing was stained with the sins of the pilgrims who bathed in their waters seeking redemption.) In the vision the river goddesses told him that his sins were the most terrible of all the pilgrims. He was devastated by this and so he was inspired to repent his bad behavior and he became an incredibly devout son. He changed so completely that it came to the attention of Lord Vishnu who was very pleased with him. So pleased, in fact, that he decided to pay him a visit. When Vishnu arrived at his door, Pundalik was tending to his parents. He knew Vishnu was there to see him but he did not want to disturb his parents so he threw a brick outside for Vishnu to stand on while he finished taking care of his beloved parents. The street was very dirty so the brick gave Vishnu a clean place to stand while he waited. When Pundalik finally came out to greet Vishnu he asked the Lord to stay on Earth and bless his many devotees with his presence. Vishnu agreed to stay back as Vithoba, the God who stood on a brick.

You can read a more detailed version of this story by following this link to Wikipedia or you can click on the photo of Lord Vitthal above.