bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

another fab retreat: yoga, meditation, mediumship

do-1.php

Yoga, Meditation & Mediumship Retreat at The Stone Barn, October 21-23, 2016

I couldn’t be more excited about hosting a second retreat here at The Stone Barn in gorgeous Newbury, New Hampshire. Expect beautiful, restorative yoga with Harvard University’s resident mindfulness instructor Kate Harrington; deeeeelicious vegetarian food by gourmets Linda West RN MS of Sunapee View B&B and Denise Costello RN MS of The Energized Body and Chrysalis Meditation Center; insightful mindfulness instruction by yours truly; drumming by the ever-joyful Julie Corey of The Village Drum; and finally crystal bowl healings that’ll make you cry by musician Michelle Marie Sawtell of Sound Goddess Healing.

But that’s not all….

The reason I’m especially jacked up about this retreat is because 1) the last one was fab, and 2) this one features acclaimed spiritual medium Lauren Rainbow. You may recognize her from her spots on Hay House Radio or her work with John Holland. And if her name is new to you, it’s your lucky day! Learn about Lauren at her website LaurenRainbow.com or just come book your weekend getaway at The Stone Barn. Seven bunkbeds and three private rooms left. Visit InsideTheChrysalis.com and book your room TODAY! Do it before September 12 and save $100! Woah!

Love,

Vanessa

sound healing seriously works

13512038_1049236545151927_6036216588655199472_n-1

This is Brian working on my earth angel BFF.

Every Tuesday evening after I teach my meditation class, I stick around the studio for an hour to receive sound healing from Brian Russo. I’ve been doing this for a few months now. Every week. And let me tell you.

This shit works.

Get ready for a little TMI. Last month was very stressful for me and I ended up with a hemorrhoid. Incredibly attractive, I know. I did not tell Brian before the healing because that would have been embarrassing. (And blogging about it isn’t??) During the healing, he came over to me and put a big bowl on my belly and did something that sounded a lot like an elegant, beautiful, birdsong exorcism. During this enchanting ritual, I felt that sore on my tush move to the left side of my butt and work its way straight out through my hip. I went home to check it out and it was GONE. Yes. GONE.

Okay, so that’s a one-off, right? A mere coincidence.

The very next Tuesday, I dehydrated myself by accident. Hot days, lazy with water, we’ve all been there. To add to it, I wore a high ponytail all day and my head was POUNDING. Nausea, fatigue, the works. I drank and drank and popped Advil (something I rarely do) and went to work to try to meditate my headache away with no luck. Brian came in with his bowls. I told him my head was screaming at me and he put the bowl on my head and sang his beautiful song and gonged away. Guess what? Headache GONE. Gone again.

A two-off. That’s all. This couldn’t be really working. It’s just sound, right?

I went away for a couple of weeks. Spent some time getting trained in Chakra Psychology at Kripalu, stayed a week in Maine with family. By the time I came back to town, I had a white deposit on my left tonsil that looked a whole lot like tonsillitis. Now, this is really disgusting and I am sharing way too much about my body, but I feel like I need to explain this completely so you understand the strange and wonderful power of sound.

So.

The reason I knew it wasn’t tonsillitis is that I have had an open pore on that left tonsil for years and it frequently gets filled up with grossness and turns white. This has been happening for a very, very long time. So I went to work on Tuesday night with this white thing on my throat. It hurt. I told Brian and he said, “Okay, we’ll work on that.”

He did work on it. A mini birdsong exorcism – like the last time but quieter and shorter. While this was happening, a woodpecker came to me and pecked that white nugget right out of my tonsil and swallowed it. This actually happened in my mind but it felt super real. And weird.

The next day, that white nugget on my tonsil turned into a glob. WTF?? It was supposed to go away! My biz partner Denise suggested that the sound healing may have been drawing everything up to the surface so that it could heal permanently. I liked that theory so I decided not to panic. That night, Wednesday night, the white thing was GONE. Gone again. Gone AGAIN. No soar throat. Nothing. Third time in three weeks.

So you may be wondering about the woodpecker. When I was in Maine on vacation, a gorgeous bluish-grey woodpecker flew into the glass windows at our rental. It made such a loud noise. We all went out to look as the stunned woodpecker writhed on the ground. I fired up my hands and gave it Reiki, praying for it to keep breathing: “I invoke the divine light of the creative source within. I am a clear and perfect channel. I am light. I am love. Please live. Live. Live. Fly. Live. Breathe.” I chanted those words over and over to this beautiful creature and finally watched as it passed away. I smoothed its wings and admired its perfect, soft feathers, then carried it to the woods where I laid it on a bed of leaves. It was very emotional for me. I couldn’t shake that bird. Kept thinking about his beautiful shape and feathers and softness. I think that night in my office with Brian and his bowls, the woodpecker’s spirit came to me to thank me for loving it while it was dying. Maybe it was attracted to Brian’s beautiful birdsong.

And maybe I’ll see you tonight at 7:30.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

Vanessa Gobes is a mom, writer, and meditation teacher. She co-founded Chrysalis Meditation Center located at 28 Church Street in Winchester, Massachusetts. 

Hand off the kids, take a break

We hope to see you here in gorgeous New England! Visit http://www.insidethechrysalis.com for more details.

Peace!

Vanessa❤

Yoga & Meditation Retreat / New England

do-1.php

Hi New England yogis and meditators!

Chrysalis Meditation Center is hosting a weekend long retreat in the Sunapee Lake Region of New Hampshire and I would love to see you there! You can come for a weekend of yoga, meditation, energy healing, and nature loving… or just come for a day. Retreat takes place at Well Sweep Farm’s stone barn. It’s beautiful! Check out the schedule online at www.insidethechrysalis.com. Here is the overview:

Kate Harrington and Lara Wilson, both of Harvard University, are teaming up with the co-founders and teachers of Chrysalis to deliver compassionate guidance in both yoga and meditation.

If you’ve ever taken one of Kate’s classes at Prana Power Yoga, you’ll know what a treat her Metta-infused sessions are. Kate indulges retreat goers daily in gentle yoga and Metta practice.

Lara’s three decade journey into meditation and masterful use of words (written and oral) will surely inspire and empower. She explores eastern healing practices and the practice of stream-of-consciousness writing.

Co-founder Denise Costello, corporate wellness expert and food goddess, is directing the entire weekend and taking some time out from her organizational duties to provide yogis with nutritious snacks and figure-changing food tips. Her partner Vanessa Gobes sits with the group, taking on mindful meditation and mindful communication.

Chrysalis welcomes special guests to the retreat experience: Healer Julie Corey leads a drum circle on opening night, Naturalist Dave Anderson leads us on a full moonlight hike through The Fells, and Sound Healer Brian Russo delivers Tibetan bowl healing.

Expect to fill up on delicious vegetarian food provided by the gourmet team at Sunapee View B&B – farm fresh and locally sourced. Yum!

Cost for the weekend includes all meals and snacks and special guest programming – spa treatments offered by Sunapee Lake Massage and ropes course at Mount Sunapee are both optional and at an additional fee.

Commuter Guests $545

One Day Pass $250

Tibetan Bowls (Only) $30

Overnight Guests $665 – $920 (see price menu at www.insidethechrysalis.com)

Call the center with questions – 781.729.2000 and book today if you can. There are only 3 rooms left “on campus” but there is plenty of availability at area inns and B&Bs.

how to make miracles

unnamed

You are not a person. You are a radio receiver wrapped in a skin suit, tuning into different frequencies, downloading messages from source. You might have fancy knobs and dials that look an awful lot like fabulous hair and great legs. You might be a little bit of a thing with a broken antenna, making it hard to be taken seriously. You might be connected to speakers with amplification that could fill a stadium, your voice heard by millions. Regardless of your aesthetic, perceived ability, or reach, you are designed and built to receive information and broadcast information.

The type of information you receive depends upon which frequency you select.  

Miracles are manifestations of Source – call this God, collective conscious, emptiness, or just good juju. The frequency you select points you toward those miracles. You have access to infinite wisdom at all times, if only you tune in and listen carefully. Millions of people can tune into the same frequency at once, receiving similar information and inspiration.

We see evidence of this through trends in fashion, technology, science, literature, politics, and just about every other expression of creativity and passion out there. Fanny packs, zombies, and universal health care aren’t “hot” just because one leader decides they are. They’re hot because people around the world are tapping into source together, pulling from from the same frequency and interpreting that frequency through their individuality to create and broadcast unique experiences for their respective audiences to experience.

In order to receive this type of inspiration, you have to listen.

The challenges you face in receiving these messages depend on what kind of listener you are.

There are four kinds of listeners.

Loyal Listener: You listen to one channel all the time. In fact, you listen to it so much sometimes you forget it’s on, and only half-way listen. Your friends know you love this channel and sometimes you try to get them to listen to it, too.

Up and Down the Dial: You compulsively seek, tuning into one frequency for a little while before getting bored or distracted, changing channels. You may feel unsure, unsettled, or frustrated that you’re not more productive with your work or passion. You may give up easily.

Another Day, Another DJ: A person of multiple passions, you select your frequency according to your mood, exploring a new message each day. Sometimes you even try to tune into them all at once. With so many interests, it’s hard to choose just one frequency and expand fully. You may feel confused, undisciplined, overwhelmed, or like you have too many unfinished projects.

Non-listener: You tune out completely. You choose not to listen and instead rely on your mechanics and wiring. If there’s a glitch, you panic. You may feel lonely sometimes, like it’s you against the world.

(Confession: I am somewhere between Loyal Listener and Another Day, Another DJ. I tune into one frequency obsessively, typically for about two years, then turn the channel and hang there for another two years. This makes me a half-manifester of many things, which is simultaneously exciting and disappointing, fascinating and annoying.)

The clarity of that reception depends upon your ability to finely tune out the static. 

Regardless of the channel you select, it’s impossible to fully appreciate a particular frequency when you can hear murmurings from nearby stations, or when the message is muffled by static. Think of those murmurings as self doubt, as tired old stories, as perceived limitations. Static is your sink full of dishes, your favorite TV show, your bills, your knee pain, your kids hollering in the next room.

This interference gets in the way of your frequency’s clarity. But it’s also the mud from which the lotus emerges. Mud, lotus… you mindful types know where we’re going with this. Meditation, or focused, intentional, compassionate awareness, is a way to hear messages on a particular frequency with clarity.

A meditation practice may:

  • keep the Loyal Listener engaged, preventing the message from becoming mundane or turning into background noise
  • strengthen an Up-and-Downer’s ability to stay on one frequency for longer, giving you more time to interpret and master messages that download into your brain
  • help the DJ-a-Day accept that her natural diversity is a gift; if managed properly, its randomness becomes synchronous, easing the completion of works-in-progress
  • inspire the Non-listener to release control and open up a flood of creativity

Your ability to manifest ideas downloaded from your frequency depends on your courage to take action.

Once you’ve established yourself as a receptive channel, creating miracles is up to you. You were divinely designed with everything you need to succeed in manifesting miracles. You are equipped. You are gifted. You are ready. Now all you need to do is believe it.

Taking action might be as simple as a Google search. It might be a phone call or an informational interview. It might be asking for help or taking a class. It might be writing quietly in your room at night. The real question is, what are you waiting for? Time, money, and connections are invalid answers. Resources are available to those who ask, to those who listen, to those who prioritize. So seriously, what’s the hold up?

Remember, if you don’t do it, someone else will. Don’t forget, there are thousands – maybe millions – of people receiving the exact same information you are, from the exact same Source. Even if someone else beat you to the first punch and is successfully pursuing “your” dream, rest assured that there is still space for you. This is a big planet and you are the only you living on it. So while that other guy may be interpreting Source one way, your interpretation is unique to you. And people want to experience your interpretation. They do. For reals.

The volume at which you broadcast that information depends on your purpose.

I tend to download a lot of creativity. For several years, I have been downloading images of solar shingles from Source. They look a lot like ordinary shingles, but they capture solar energy to power ordinary houses. They’re not ugly so people want to buy them. I’m pretty confident that other people are downloading pictures of these solar shingles, too. In fact, a quick Google search landed me on a company right here in Boston that’s manufacturing early versions of them.

Do I think I should be manufacturing solar shingles? No. I’m not following this lead actively because, while I would love to invest money in a company like this, my will is urging me to stay focused on my current work. So I keep the volume on solar shingles turned way down low, and instead, I focus on teaching mindfulness and writing essays like this one.

Teaching and writing are funny things. When you’re excited about a message, you want to holler it at the top of your lungs so the whole world can hear. For many years, I would write and teach and write and teach and wonder why I wasn’t getting “discovered” by the masses. My audience remained tiny and I felt frustrated until I finally realized that my audience is not limited, it’s just specific.

My sweet spot is interpersonal communication. I like people. I like to understand, to be vulnerable, to connect, to go there. Crowds overwhelm me. I feel self-conscious on stage. In other words, I am well-suited for small scale. With this awareness, I can stop judging my success based the size of my audience, or even worse, judging my success on the size of other people’s audiences.

Not everyone can or should be a celebrity, a CEO, a guru, or a best-seller.

We all have aspirational peeps whom we admire from a distance. A painter  might aspire to Georgia O’Keefe. An executive to Bill Gates. A civil servant to Nelson Mandela. As a meditation teacher and spiritual junkie, I love Thich Nhat Hanh. He seems to be without ego, constantly tapped into the Lovingkindness frequency. Being an open channel is a discipline that not everyone has or can maintain. It’s constant sacrifice.

Once, I got to sit with TNH. He gave a dharma talk at Trinity Church in Copley Square. I felt lucky to be front and center, just feet from the edge of his cushion, breathing in whispers of his good juju. But even Thay – beloved, kind, open, intimate, and instrumental in broadcasting the lovingkindness frequency – is physically inaccessible to everyday people, like me.

So instead I read Thay’s books – and books by other gurus. I attend retreats, sitting shoulder to shoulder with 437 other seekers. I watch YouTube videos and listen to podcasts alone in my kitchen. I’m grateful that technology and travel can provide me with these teachings, but it cannot provide me with the emotional intimacy or personal connection I long for. And this is why accessible teachers are so important. Why small businesses are so important. Why town newspaper reporters are so important. Why parish priests are so important. Why local farmers are so important.

We all long to – we are made to – connect with people intimately, in an impactful way.

When comparing those who serve millions with those who serve dozens, we must know that one is not better than the other. They are both necessary. What is a CEO without sales people connecting to buyers? What is an author without bloggers to recommend their titles? What is a principal without teachers to work in the trenches with students? Our passions and purposes are interwoven, interdependent. Each of us must play our unique role in order to create a masterpiece or a movement.

I began teaching mindfulness in response to a longing to be part of the greater peace movement – first in my home, then to children in schools, and now at Chrysalis Meditation Center, just north of Boston. I have noticed that, since opening Chrysalis, the clarity of my frequency has improved tenfold and miracles open up to me daily.

I love the miraculous story of Sister Bernadatte. She was a simple French nun who tuned her human radio dial to Mother Mary. When she was 13 years old, Mary led her to unearth the healing springs in Lourdes where she and her community benefited in miraculous ways. Bernadette devoted the rest of her life to Mary. She died young, in her 30s, over a hundred years ago. A few years after she died, the church exhumed her body and found her corpse uncorrupted, smelling of roses. Her body is encased in glass now, peaceful and perfect and still very much perished.

The miracles that I experience are quieter than Bernadette’s, but no less impactful, because they benefit me intimately. My miraculous moments include things like perfectly timed songs on the radio; angel-shaped clouds; fortuitous run-ins with the just-right people; and meditations that deliver a sweet little nugget of inspiration.

Regardless of your preferred frequency or your stage in miracle-making, remember this: the late, great Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics is local,” and I’ll expand on that by saying, all miracles are local, too. There is a collective, connective source that holds all of this beautifully mysterious stuff together, and the miracles that truly inspire us to greatness are the ones we channel ourselves, amongst our own people. They are the messages that change our lives, our minds, our bodies, our homes, our hearts.

Listen closely.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

Visit http://www.insidethechrysalis.com to learn about meditation classes and whole-being wellness programs offered in Greater Boston.

 

Meet your best friend and worst enemy.

image

Say hello to cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone secreted by your adrenal glands, two triangular-shaped organs that live just above your kidneys. At the risk of oversimplification, cortisol is the reason you are here today. If not for this quick-acting hormone, your primitive ancestors would have been gobbled up by bears and tigers thousands of years ago.

Cortisol, also known as “the stress hormone,” shuts down nonessential bodily functions and provides the body with everything it needs to fight, flee or freeze. Cortisol overrides your immune and reproductive systems (you’re not worried about healing a cut or making babies when you’re about to be someone’s lunch) and temporarily disables bone and muscle growth. It increases gastric acid production in the belly and stimulates sebum oil production in the skin. (Maybe if you taste really disgusting you’ll turn off that predator.) Cortisol raises blood sugar and insulin levels for a big burst of energy. It sends lactic acid to your muscles so you can pump those arms and legs, and it forces the oxygen you inhale into your lungs so you can run top speed. All of this and more happens in milliseconds, without any conscious effort from you. Pretty amazing, right?

 

Cortisol is designed to hang out in your body for short stints. If you walked around jacked up on cortisol all day long you’d look and feel absolutely INSANE. Can you imagine feeling stressed all the time? Feeling like you’re always running away from something or chasing something or hiding from something?

 

Hmmmm… Come to think of it, this is exactly how your life may look some days. Traffic, money, terrorists, deadlines, relationships, work, sordid pasts, kids, over-scheduling… all stimulate cortisol production. And those are just the obvious stress triggers. Your life may be filled with other complexities that people couldn’t even imagine! If this describes you, cortisol may overproduce in your body a dozen times a day or more. This is not good. Here are just a few reasons why:

 

1. When cortisol floods your hippocampus (the part of your brain responsible for memory and emotional responses), it kills brain cells. Fortunately, the hippocampus protects itself with something called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, or BDNF. Unfortunately, when cortisol secretes chronically, BDNF cannot keep up with demand and your brain cells bite it.

 

2. Cortisol thins the skin by depleting it of hyaluronic acid, a moisture retainer, stripping it of elasticity and suppleness. Additionally, it triggers inflammation resulting in damaged skin cells. The stress hormone also produces more sebum in your skin. Sebum is an oily substance that mixes with your dead skin cells and clogs up hair follicles. Clogged follicles leads to… you guessed it. Acne, pimples, cysts. Ugh.

 

3. Cortisol interrupts the production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that relays messages in the brain, including messages about mood, sex drive and function, appetite, and memory among other things. Serotonin is called the “feel good” hormone, and an imbalance may severely influence your mood and drop you into depression.

 

4. One in ten people experience the discomfort of a peptic ulcer. While ulcers are believed to be caused by a bacteria, stress aggravates them. Remember that increase in gastric acid production provided by your friend coritsol? Yup. Not helping. Especially when it’s triggered multiple times daily.

 

These conditions are often self-induced or self-exacerbated. They’re created through habitual negative thought patterns, unreasonable expectations, and unhealthy lifestyle choices.

 

You may think that tolerating stress is necessary for your survival: it makes you feel needed, important, alive. And if so, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans interpret stress the same way. The fact is, stress is toxic and has become America’s number one killer.

 

Here’s the good news. It’s not too late to reverse some of the chaos you’ve created in your body and mind. Those dead cells in your hippocampus? They’ll grow back. Those pimples and cysts? They’ll go away. That ulcer? It’ll heal. Depression? You can get through it. But not if you keep doing the same harmful things you’ve been doing. In order to create beneficial change, you need to change your stressful conditions or learn how to live above them. This begins with intentional, compassionate awareness of self and surroundings.

You may have heard of this thing called mindfulness? It can reduce your active cortisol production by 30%. Meditation researcher and expert Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” He also calls it “a radical act of sanity,” and never before have we needed such a radical act. This planet is suffering, threats of terror and destruction pierce daily life, and you don’t have time or resources to fix the problems created by the entire human race. Instead of taking on the burden of healing this collective disaster, you have permission to just work on healing yourself.

The Dalai Lama says, “World peace begins with inner peace.” He’s saying, Listen, y’all. You just do you. Fix your life. Deal with your drama. Everything else will fall into place around you. So say “no” to work. Say “yes” to play. Make time for silence. Spend time in nature. Hug someone. Care for an animal. Eat real food. Listen to your breath. Truly be with your children. Smile at strangers. Forgive your mother. Do nothing and be okay with it. Connect to yourself and others with full presence and compassionate awareness, and see how your world changes.

And when and if you feel compelled to engage a formal meditation practice, your friends at Chrysalis Meditation Center are here to support you. We are intimately familiar with your friend cortisol, because cortisol is our friend, too. In fact, we are so intimate with cortisol that we can see it before it arrives, and a lot of times we can even lower the gate before it floods in. Not because we are especially talented, but because we’re watching it closely. On purpose. Right now. Without judgment.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

http://www.insidethechrysalis.com

Headshot Vanessa 3

Vanessa Gobes has been researching, reporting, and writing for 20 years: from spotlights on war heroes for her local newspaper, to the history of women’s golf fashion for 19th Hole Magazine, to mindful parenting for Mallika Chopra’s Intent.com. No topic has enthralled her more than mental and spiritual health. In response to this passion, she cofounded Chrysalis Meditation Center, Winchester, Massachusetts in September 2015.

Welcome to Work-Life Balance!

If you’ve subscribed to my blogs over the years, you’ll know that I jump on YouTube from time to time to explore various topics through mindfulness. The content of this channel is shifting and in this video I share its new direction. Thanks for tuning in, for liking, for commenting, for sharing.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

when your meditation practice is a disappointment

Do you ever feel like your practice is letting you down? I do. Sometimes I feel like I’m just dialing it in – a getting-it-done-to-say-I-did-it sort of thing. A chore. Sometimes I’m super bored, especially when I’m sitting for long periods of time. Sometimes my mind scatters in a gazillion directions and then returns to focus: scatter-return-scatter-return-bored-return-antsy-return-blah-blah-blah-return. Sometimes I get really hungry and can’t stop thinking about cookies. Sometimes I don’t think I can sit another nanosecond but I do. Sometimes I don’t think I can sit another nanosecond and I don’t.

Sometimes I sit in meditation and nothing happens and then I wake up in the middle of the night with what I call a “spiritual brain dump,” receiving some sort of revelation that helps me better understand the world as it is. Sometimes I see and talk to Jesus; we hold hands or hug. Once he told me to keep chanting “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.” (Jesus loves Buddhism. He’s so Badass.) Sometimes I feel like I’m floating but I’m not. And sometimes, not often, I see gorgeous colors and patterns – colors I’ve never seen in real life. And it’s wonderful.

I’ve been meditating formally for 7 or 8 years, consistently for 5 or 6, and I’ve got to say, for me, it’s 90% relaxation, boredom, and stick-to-itiveness. The 10% of wonderful that comes through makes it all worth it, as does the self-awareness that seeps into existence when not in formal sitting.

If Forrest Gump were bu-curious like me, he might say, “Meditation is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” When you meditate, try to release expectations and trust that you’ll get what you’re supposed to get. Going into meditation with a particular outcome in mind can lead to the following:

1. Disappointment. Last time you meditated you felt buzzing all over your body. It was awesome. You felt like you were finally “doing it right” (ha) and are eager to get back to that feeling of full presence again. But this time you drop in and wait for the buzz, and you just can’t get there. You’re bummed.

2. Frustration. Since you’re not achieving the particular outcomes you’d intended to achieve, you are convinced you must be “doing it wrong.” In actuality, the only thing that’s getting in the way of your practice is your expectation that it should be something else. Remember, whatever happens, that’s what’s happening. The whatever is the sweet spot. Just eat the chocolate, Forrest.

3. Limitation. While the buzzing (or blue lights or numbness or gap) may be totally captivating, by wishing and willing yourself a return visit to those places, you are limiting yourself to those experiences and perhaps closing yourself off to other experiences that could serve you in ways you never imagined.

4. More limitation. Setting expectations for your practice is giving in to the human brain’s need to constantly create metaphors that spin out of the familiar. We can only describe objects, feelings, and experiences based on objects, feelings, and experiences we already recognize. Expecting to experience something you understand may be the ultimate limitation. Opening up to a pure wonder may allow you to experience that which you cannot explain and never could’ve expected. The Kindgom of Wonder is home to mysteries and colors and sounds and wisdom infinitely deep and wide, so try to notice when you’re hoping or expecting a particular experience or outcome and loosen up your grip on it.

And after all this is said, just as a wandering mind is a crucial part of meditation (if the mind doesn’t wander, we live in the now and meditation is obsolete), so, too, is expectation. It helps us better understand the nature of our minds and our habits, leading to a fuller awareness of self. So when we notice that we are engaging in disappointment, frustration, limitation, and more limitation, we can open up to the greater mystery by cutting the cord between our practice and our expectations.

Headshot Vanessa 3

Blog post written with love by Vanessa Gobes. Vanessa is co-founder of Chrysalis Meditation Center in Winchester, Massachusetts, a place where people can develop or deepen a spiritually-based mental health practice. Located 15 minutes north of Boston, Chrysalis supports people of all ages, genders, races, abilities, and incomes in their journey to peace. To learn more about the programs offered at Chrysalis, visit http://www.insidethechrysalis.com.

time of transitions

fall-foliage

Fall is a time of transition. Here in New England, we are lucky to witness evidence of this all around us. The autumn winds rise, the temperature drops, and nature knows just what to do to protect itself, to refuel, and to grow. The results are an exquisite landscape of color and beauty.

Just like the trees, we humans need to protect ourselves, to refuel, and to grow. In mid-autumn, our eyes adjust to dark mornings, our skin dries out as thermostats crank up, our noses run when we step into the crisp air. So we try to go to sleep earlier and slather on creamy lotion, we dress warmer and walk faster.

Unlike the trees, we humans have complicated lives, unhealthy habits, and unrealistic expectations that need to be managed in addition to the transitional changes. This can make it hard for us to easily incorporate new routines into the day. (You mean on top of everything else I’m doing I have to rake leaves??)

Transitions, even one as simple as a new season, can cause our best selves to become elusive. The mind becomes focused on the uncomfortable effects of change rather than the simple practice of living; it becomes focused on the busy-ness of surviving rather than the joy of accepting. We don’t notice our quiet presence whispering: You need a good night’s sleep tonight; Don’t drink that martini; Stop talking; or Pare down your schedule. Through meditation, we can listen compassionately to that quiet voice – the voice that only wants the best for us.

Engaging mindfulness, especially during times of transition, can help us maintain composure mentally and physically. The practice helps to slow us down a little, wedging awareness between impulse and action so that we have a brief moment to think clearly before engaging in habitual behavior. As a result, we begin to make decisions that protect our peaceful center, refuel our bodies, and grow into healthy relationships. Through meditation, we see more clearly. We argue differently. We feel energized. We cough and sneeze less. We say “no.” We accept more easily. We feel braver.

Try meditating twice a day, especially leading into transitions like the coming of a new season. Twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the evening is ideal. But very few of us are ideal. So 10 minute bookends to the day would be amazing. And if that’s still too much, try five minutes. Still too tall an order? Try what my friend Dina Proctor, author of Madly Chasing Peace, calls “3 X 3 Meditation” – three quite minutes, three times a day. This simple practice is a truly perfect preparation for a life in flux, and a way to see the unchanging color and beauty of the internal landscape.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

Talking to dead people, snuggling with Jesus, and other strange, spiritual happenings that just sort of make sense

It’s a hot night in August and I’m heading into Boston to visit my very cool friend, AT. To add to AT’s coolness, she is a talented spiritual medium who does “table tippings.” Have you heard of this? You sit at a table with a medium. The medium calls upon your spiritual A-team, and the next thing you know, the table comes to life. Spirit guides, angels, and ascended masters fill the table with their energy and the table starts bouncing around, hugging you, spelling out words… it sounds crazy until you experience it.

So back to summer in the city, I’m in AT’s apartment with another one of our spirity girlfriends, JC, and we are sitting around this regular old side table, our hands placed lightly on the surface, and our fingertips begin to buzz. The table is vibrating. And then it’s full on moving. It spells out a name by rocking back and forth. One rock is “A,” two rocks is “B,” and so on. It’s wicky-woo equivalent of a flip phone. Next thing we know we’re welcoming some dead dude named Peter into the room. He is there for JC and they have a lovely chat. AT’s grandfather comes through next and he is hilarious and adorable. I mean, he’s in a table, but he’s still adorable. Funny and caring and charming.

Soon after, my mother’s mother makes her entrance. Pauline. I’ve never met her – she died before I was born – but I have always felt a deep connection with her. She is excited and begins spelling things out quickly. She wants me to know that “NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW” is the time for me to open a business. (I opened a meditation center with my neighbor in September – YAY!!!) Pauline wants me to know that everything’s going to work and that the business will be a great success. She’s hugging me. I mean, the table is lying on my lap, but somehow it feels like a warm embrace. She gives me some more business advice and then she is gone.

Spirits take turns entering the regular old side table, talking to AT and JC, one at a time. (Very polite, these spirits, I must say.) My Gram, my father’s mother, appears on my next turn and she has big hugs for me. (I start bawling.) Gram died in November of 2005. I was pregnant with my daughter SG. Gram tells me that she held SG in her arms the whole time I was pregnant. (Did I mention I’m bawling?) They have a special connection and Gram will always watch over her. (Bawling.)

It turns out, Gram is really into eastern medicine – which is a total surprise as her earth family is traditional Irish Catholic. She schools me on my chronic back pain. “It’s stuck energy,” she says through the regular old side table, and I should seek out alternative healing like acupuncture. (Not scoliosis? No. Not my crappy diet? No. Not my messy house? No. Not my poor exercise ethic? No. No. No. Go to acupuncture!!!) We talk about other things and when we feel fulfilled, she makes space for the next spirit.

Or should I say the next Archangel? So, I never knew this guy Archangel Michael, but holy kapow. Michael is amazing. He guides and directs “Light Workers,” people whose purpose in life is to raise the earth’s vibration. He also protects all policemen and will help and protect anyone who calls on him. A “Yo, Michael!” is all it takes.

So Michael gives crazy juju to all three of us, as we are all considered Light Workers. The table is bouncing around and tilting to the side, “shining light” on us, and the room is getting hot. Really hot. We’re actually sweating. We’re sitting right in front of a blasting air conditioner but the temperature keeps rising. Michael has messages for each of us. For me, he has some intuitive gifts and he wants me to get to know him better. So I promise I will.

And then I ask, “Michael, is Jesus there with you?”

The table becomes still and the room is flooded with heat. More heat. Jesus announces his presence in the room through the regular old side table and the room is on fire. I’m asking questions and AT is like, “Vanessa, he’s not here to answer your questions. Just take what he’s giving.” So we get quiet but we’re all freaking out a little because his energy is HUGE. AT is giving a running commentary on the crazy shit happening in her body. My solar plexus feels like it’s burning up. It’s a fireball. Then the whole table flips upside down on top of our girl JC and it’s got her pinned to her chair. Jesus is dousing her with love and she’s, like, totally overpowered by it. OVERPOWERED BY A REGULAR OLD LITTLE SIDE TABLE.

The table eventually dismounts JC and starts bouncing around the room. I shit you not. I know this sounds so weird. But it’s bouncing and we’re trying to keep up with it and finally we’re all drained and AT closes the session. My solar plexus is still burning.

I drive home and wake up my husband at midnight, “Hon, wake up! Feel my solar plexus. Do you feel that? It’s burning, right? Jesus did that to me!” He mumbles something that sounds like, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, but sure, I guess it feels hot,” and rolls over. The next morning I make everyone in my house feel my solar plexus BECAUSE IT’S STILL HOT! And my back feels like new (at least for a couple of days).

So it doesn’t end there. AT comes to the new meditation center. (It’s called Chrysalis Center in Winchester, Massachusetts. Super cute. You should come visit.) She clears the office and the meditation room with sage and crystals, and we decide to try out her new spirit board – like a Ouija Board but fancy. She pulls it out of the box, sets the board on the rug and the box in a bag and leans the bag against the wall nearby. We are chit-chatting about crystals and new age nonsense and suddenly the box jumps inside the bag. AT and I stare wide-eyed at the box, “OMG that’s weird. The box just jumped. We need to start.”

All of our grandparents come through the board and, as it turns out, they knew each other in life and have been orchestrating our reunion from the great beyond. Lovely. Pauline couldn’t be more excited about Chrysalis. She says she has anchored herself to the center and she is living her dream out through me. It’s amazing how connected I feel to her. How supported. Family bonds are truly unbreakable and undying. She promises that she is always right behind me, at my back.

Gram comes through again, too, talking about crystals and energy and ways to bring good vibes into the center. She is incredibly wise. We talk about some other things and then everyone is gone.

That week, following Gram’s sage advice, I have an amazing acupuncture appointment. I invite my spiritual team into the room to help me heal. Jesus is the first to answer my call. My eyes are closed and I’m lying on my back on the table and I feel Jesus scoop me up in his arms. My body is on the table. But my essence comes right out. He holds me like a baby. My arms wrap around his neck and my head rests on his heart. His love is huge and true. I find that instead of fully surrendering to the love in the moment, I’m anticipating its end with sadness. He laughs, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m here for you.” And I relax into his embrace. After some time, he moves to release me and I squeeze my arms around his neck like my kids do to me when I try to put them down. He laughs and holds me a little longer. I hear him say, “Keep chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo,” which makes me smile. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is a Japanese Buddhist chant that means “I surrender to mystical law,” and I chant it regularly. I love it. And I love that Jesus wants me to chant like a Buddhist for no other reason but it works for me. When he (He) puts me down on the table, Archangel Raphael, who has a talent for physical healing, enters the room in the form of an emerald green mist. The mist takes the shape of my body and settles into me while I lie on the table. It’s a beautiful experience, and again my back feels great for the next few days.

A week later, AT and I sit together again, this time for another table tipping with my business partner DC. As usual, the spirits take turns coming around to communicate. Each being who comes through the table has a unique energy. They communicate at different speeds, move in different ways, offer different things. Pauline loves my partner and hugs her. She wants us to visualize our desires wrapped in gold. She urges us to visualize several times a week so we can manifest wonderful things for the center. Gram comes through full of energy. She loved to dance when she was here on earth so I ask her if she could dance for us. And gosh darnit she does! The table is hip-hopping around the floor and I laugh. She is so adorable. I know it’s a regular old side table, but her energy brings it to life and makes us all giggle.

When Gram is done dancing and hugging us all, she says that we should look to Mother Mary for guidance. Mary is happy we are doing this work at Chrysalis Center. She is here for us as we teach children how to meditate and find peace. “Can we talk to Mary or Jesus?” I ask. “Not today,” AT says and I feel disappointed. “You get who you need,” she assures.

So a few minutes go by. Archangel Michael lights up the room with his amazing energy, confirming that DC is also a Light Worker. He blesses her and us. And then a new energy enters. He gives us the first letter of his name – G – and I yelp, “Gabriel??” He keeps spelling. G-A-U-T-A-M-A.

I burst into ugly tears. I knew Jesus could see me. While I was moved to tears by his appearance at AT’s apartment weeks prior, I wasn’t surprised because I had felt his presence in my life for many years. But Gautama Buddha? I never imagined that he was with me, too.

That he would acknowledge the work we are doing is more than I have words for. His energy bounces the regular old side table around like it’s a rubber ball. He says “thank you” to us for our work. (He thanks us? Humbling.) He tells us to keep going and buy more mala beads. People will want to buy mala beads.

So that week, we buy more mala beads (Gautama, you totally nailed it. Great call.) and I also buy a few books about Archangel Michael. I fall in love. He’s a hot blonde hunk with golden wings, a huge protective shield, and an enormous sword that cuts away negativity. What’s not to love? I start asking Michael to protect me several times a day and believe it or not, an electrical fire catches in the dry mulch bed in front of my house. I dial 9-1-1 just before it lights up my house. The divine part is that I’d been working at the office every day that week and I decided to work from home this day. Coincidence? No way.

But like I said, he does more than protect. He cuts away attachments. For example, you just had lunch with your mother-in-law and she spent the entire time making you feel inadequate because you work instead of staying home with the kids. Your jaw is clenched, your heart is beating fast, you are ready to blow. Instead, though, you offer to pay the bill, kiss her goodbye, get in your car, and say, “Michael, cut any cords connecting us.” He will do so immediately and you will feel better immediately. I swear it works. Try it.

The other emotional cords that he can cut are the ones that manifest pain in the body. Say you have a big presentation and you need to be in front of an audience in 5 minutes. As the seconds tick down, you realize you’ve got to poop. Your face flushes and you try to decide if you can make it to the bathroom before the spotlight goes on. As your tummy cramps up, you take a deep breath and ask, “Michael, cut this anxiety away. It’s not serving me. I don’t need it.” I’m telling you, you will feel the relief.

What Michael is cutting away is the delusion of dis-ease. We humans are very good at forming attachments – to fear, to anger, to resentment, to pride. But none of these feelings are real. They’re creations of the ego mind. A Course in Miracles calls them “miscreations.” But delusional miscreation or not, emotional pain can manifest in the physical body if it’s not kept in check. And it sure feels real to us.

This weekend, I become convinced that that regular old side table had been giving me a sneak preview of the ways Michael and Buddha would work together in my real life. I attend a Metta retreat – 8 1/2 hours with 50 Bostonians at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center. We practice Metta all day. The specifics of this Buddhist practice vary from person to person, but the idea of Metta is first offering safety, love, peace, and joy to oneself, then offering it to others. It can be done this way:

May I be happy.

May I be safe.

May I be loved.

May I be joyful.

May you be happy.

May you be safe.

May you be loved.

May you be joyful.

The teacher begins directing us: “May I be safe and protected.” As she says these words, I almost immediately feel Archangel Michael’s wings wrap around my shoulders. It is lovely. I am so focused on Michael that the rest of the sitting blows past in a haze.

The teacher invites the bell and encourages those of us on our first Metta retreat to join her in the library. When she asks me directly about my experience, I choke my way through explaining what happened with the angel wings. She leans her head to the side and squints her eyes a little, “Well, you’re on a different path so I can’t really help you with that.” My face flushes and I recover by asking her how to better embody the “May I be safe and protected” part of the prayer. She says that it is not about safety from external stimuli but protection from the chaos of the inner landscape. She digs deep into this idea before we return to our cushions for round two.

I close my eyes gently and examine this idea of needing protection from my own thoughts. The way stress makes me sick and depression makes me lethargic and anger gives me a headache. I think about my chronic back pain. I think, This pain exists for no diagnosable reason. It’s got to be emotional residue piling up. May I be safe and protected. May I be safe and protected. May I be safe and protected. I feel Michael with me. When the sitting ends, I open my eyes and look to the teacher. She sits in front of a wooden altar carved with images of the Buddha. The first one I lay eyes on is of the Buddha holding a sword (below). Just like Archangel Michael.

IMG_0091

After the retreat, I ask the teacher about this carving and she tells me Buddha uses the sword to cut away attachments. “I knew it! Just like Michael!” I announce. “It’s all the same! How beautiful!” There is no one-or-the-other. Heaven doesn’t conform to our limited vision. Our guides and masters and angels are working together with common purpose. Collaborating. Cheering us on. Guiding us toward ideas and people and practices that meet us where we are. We awaken to spirit in countless ways because the Universe, knowing how diverse we humans are, has purposely made countless ways available to us. A Buddhist monk named Shunryu Suzuki once wrote, “Everything is the path.” Ain’t that the truth.

I scoop up my new pieces of awakening and bounce out of the Insight Center, excited to see how Jesus and Michael and Buddha and dead grannies and new-agey-wicky-woo all fit together perfectly in this amazing, crazy, weird, synchronistic, spiritual world we live in.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

p.s. Apologies for typos. This is long and I’m out of practice! Thank you for reading despite the imperfections!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 926 other followers