bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: spirituality

I’m not Catholic, but you’d think I was based on the way I jog.

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I lace up my running shoes and open the front door, greeted by 39 degrees and spitting rain. It’s Saturday morning and I’m excited to hit the sidewalks after several weeks of snow and super cold temps. I took up jogging a few months ago — a real shock to the system as this meditation-loving lady is notoriously sedentary. I had come to realize that at age 41, the only way to keep my waistline from feeling like a jelly doughnut was through cardio. And guess what? I like it. Not because of the cramps or the sweat or the having to wash and blow dry my hair after — I like where I go, physically and mentally.

My destination is always the same: Mother Mary. There’s a statue of her tucked away in a small garden at St. Mary’s Catholic church, a mile from my house. Sometimes I take a creative route and sometimes I beeline for her. Today I choose a direct shot because of the rain.

Per usual, I find a kick in my pace as I near her. I leap over snowbank remains and charge past side streets. I can feel Mary’s energy. It’s like we both know a reunion’s coming and we’re giddy to experience each other.

I greet Mary with silence, then begin our private ritual, mother to mother. After a short time together, it’s time for me to get home, but I’m all jacked up on Love and decide to take the long, hilly way.

The hills are hard for me. My mind starts wandering, thinking about discomfort. I start silently chanting, Left. Left. Left-right-left, understanding for the first time that our military forces use a matra-based mindfulness technique to keep soldiers present, in the moment. I play with other chants, Fat. Fat. Fat-burn-fat, and then decide the military version is much more effective. The chant keeps me focused, but I’m jogging uphill at a good clip and I’m starting to lose confidence.

I consider ducking down a side street to avoid the climb. I know Prince Street is ahead — and it’s downhill. Whenever I pass Prince I think, Prince of Peace, so I decide I’ll take refuge on my boyfriend Jesus’s street in a few blocks.

I’m thinking about Jesus, the Prince of Peace. How good he’s been to me over the years, how supportive he’s been of my relationships with Buddha and Krishna and Ben & Jerry. As I arrive at Prince Street, a voice directs, Don’t use me as an exit strategy. Use me as your inspiration to keep going! (It’s so amazing, the things you can hear when you’re listening.) I find another kick in my pace and pass Prince. A block later, the road flattens out.

I pad past a few more side streets and reach the final turn toward home. Slowing down, tears suddenly roll down my cheeks. A big, bright love is swelling my my chest and I feel both Mary and Jesus with my full presence. Those words Exit Strategy are building in my mind. I’m sorting through messages about Salvation and Faith. The messages are beautiful, simultaneously simple and complicated. They’re about not hiding behind heaven, not waiting until then end to reunite with The One, but instead experiencing the Kingdom in ordinary moments, trusting that Salvation is not later, but NOW. I’m wiping tears away as a man walks past me with his dog. I smile and try to maintain focus on the loving, mighty voice in my head. Messages keep streaming — fast. Let me hold onto your words, so I can write them down, I beg in a whisper.

I start running again, then break into a sprint. I need to get home and write before the words dissipate, like wispy clouds on a sunny day. I burst through the front door, toe-heel my sneakers into the corner, abandon my hat and gloves on the kitchen floor, whip out my laptop, and write. But the messages are gone. They only existed for me on the wet road home, in that moment. In this moment, there is something else. There is gratitude.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

 

have compassion for the white guy: a woman’s thoughts on the 2016 election results

In the beginning, there was light. And not too soon after, came the white guy.

The white guy has been ruling the world ever since. The white guy always calls the shots. He’s the pack leader, the policy maker, the merchant trader, the lead teacher, the insider, the gatekeeper, the holy translator, the tax collector, the pulpit speaker, the declarative writer, the slave maker. People listen to the white guy and obey the white guy because he makes the rules… and enforces them by whatever means he deems necessary.

Times are changing, though, as times do, and the status of the white guy is changing with them. He is no longer the collective demagogue. His power recedes toward a more balanced place, as a diverse contingent of humans leans into American leadership — first inaugurating a brilliant man of color, and next a brilliant women of strength. The White Guy Only Club is quickly becoming irrelevant.

Can you imagine how scared and vulnerable the white guy must feel? If he doesn’t rule the world, what is his purpose? How does he define himself? Does he lose his place on the inside? What then? Who is he? Why is he?

He doesn’t know how it feels to be us. He doesn’t know the frustration or the fear, the dependence or the desperation, the lack or the limitation. The white guy only knows how to rule.

So what will the white guy do in response to his release from autonomy? Willingly share his white guy power by welcoming women and people of color into the fold with open arms? Abandon his role completely in frustration? Or take up arms and battle his way back to complete control?

Life happens in the transitions — those times when we humans show the best and the worst of ourselves. I pray that the upcoming transition is one of peace and fairness. I pray that the white guy thinks beyond his traditional status. I pray for love and forgiveness and perspective and radical acts of sanity (JKZ). I pray for my kids. I pray for your kids. I pray for women and men and light people and dark people. I pray that each of us who lives by faith acts in accordance with it. I pray for Americans to see one another as brothers and sisters. I pray for kindness, for surrender, for pause.

And I pray for the white guy. Because life happens in the transitions – and transitions can be really hard.

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Vanessa Gobes is a meditation teacher and workshop facilitator, focusing her work in Greater Boston. She co-founded Chrysalis Meditation Center in 2015 in Winchester, Massachusetts, where she especially enjoys introducing mindfulness techniques to women and children. Vanessa continues to write about mindfulness, motherhood, and mayhem with humor and truth for a long list of online publications.

 

yes, thank you.

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Today is the day, the day I say yes.

I say yes to dreams.

I say yes to inspiration.

I  say yes to joy,

yes to love,

yes to hard work,

yes to perfect health.

I say yes to risk

and yes to faith,

yes to full expression

and alignment

and pennies from heaven.

Today, I say Yes, I am that.

I say yes to God’s divine love and yes to my unmistakable connection to it.

Today, I say yes to it All.

Yes, yes, yes!

From  mine to yours,

Vanessa

another fab retreat: yoga, meditation, mediumship

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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

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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

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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.

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

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.

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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!

mindfulness: don’t buy it, try it. if it doesn’t work, try something else.

Have you noticed the hard sell on mindfulness lately? “Step right up here! Step right up! Start meditating today and watch your troubles will melt away! Sit here, sir, sit on this cushion – have you ever felt so peaceful and healthy? Get your mindfulness today!”

Okay, okay, the traveling medicine man reference is a little dramatic, but you get what I mean. Mindfulness is being called the future of healthcare and I don’t disagree. I teach meditation and mindfulness because it has helped me personally and I have seen how it helps others. But buyers beware – Mindfulness is not a miracle cure and should not be “sold” as one.

A recent study out of the University of Exeter says that prescription drugs and mindfulness are about equally effective in longterm recovery from depressive episodes. The relapse rate over 2 years was 44% for mindfulness practitioners (weaning themselves off meds) and 47% for those taking antidepressants with no mindfulness support.

Between the lines of this report there is a thread of realism that I appreciate because it is often missing in articles and lectures touting the power of mindfulness: Mindfulness works for many, not all; and the practice does not guarantee a lifetime of sunshine and rainbows. Practicing mindfulness does not protect us from from the loneliness, from the fear, from the crazies, from the pain. After all, no one is exempt from the human experience. We all hurt. We all suffer.

The biggest hurdle to suffering is that we typically wrestle our problems on the surface of our lives – complaining about our jobs, arguing with family, hiding behind clutter, drinking too much, wishing for a different life, feeling tangled in the frustrating experiences we’ve woven for ourselves, which we mistakenly believe to be the reasons for our suffering. But these situations are superficial manifestations of something happening much deeper, generated from a shock of pain in the root ball of our lives. That pain pulses all the way up to our point of contact with the world, to the Now, and here the pain is triggered easily by people and circumstances surrounding us.

There are a lot of ways to expose that root source – clinical therapy, medication, prayer, time, experience, revelation… the list goes on and on. And of course mindfulness is included on that list.

If you’re like me and mindfulness is the healing practice you buy into, bringing our fullness of presence into thoughts, speech, and actions provides us with useful insight into the sources of our struggles and allows us opportunity to soften pain at its root.

Once healing begins below ground, it permeates the surface and those difficult, superficial experiences take on a new look. They aren’t so all-encompassing. They’re not so unmanageable. They’re not so friggin’ annoying.

This takes practice. Life can present us with a crisis at any time and establishing a solid mindfulness practice today can prepare us to manage chaos *when* it comes.

Crisis can be a tiny trip-up or a whopper shocker – from locking keys in the car to losing a job. Typically it creeps up on us when we’re not expecting it. And when we are entrenched in its immediate magnitude, peace of mind feels suddenly inaccessible because we default to survival mode. Panic, knee-jerk reactions, and the like.

Mindfulness helps us recover to composure so we can think clearly and make good decisions.

A major crisis – like we might experience during a depressive episode – is not an ideal time to begin a mindfulness practice for the first time. We could engage little bits of mindful awareness, for example, trying to maintain focus only on what we are doing at the present moment. But the mind has been hijacked by fear so emotional composure is most likely unavailable. Our thoughts are bouncing around wildly so that the stillness required for productive healing is absent. We feel so lonely and stuck that the last thing we want to do is examine the roots of our pain. Heck, we barely want to get out of bed.

There will eventually come a break in the pain, be that through antidepressants or psychotherapy, a natural lifting of the burden or a Moses-style burning bush. That break is the right time to engage in wholesome, compassionate self-awareness. It’s time to begin practicing mindfulness.

Begin practicing WHAT? What really IS mindfulness? You might ask. People talk about mindfulness all the time but how do you actually DO it??

Personally, I define mindfulness as spiritually-based mental health. Western medicine has watered down the Buddhist practice of mindfulness to make it acceptable in our secular society; but political correctness aside, mindfulness is a heart-opening practice, a spiritual practice, a practice that provides us the vigilance required to remember we are more than skin and bones – “we are spiritual beings having a human experience” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin).

It’s also an incredibly practical practice. We start by watching our thoughts and trying not to judge them, remembering to breathe. Slowing down. Saying no to relationships and projects that don’t align with our goals. Saying yes to people and places that make us feel good. Meditating. Having honest conversations. Serving people who need help. Asking forgiveness of the people we’ve hurt. Forgiving people for hurting us. Forgiving ourselves for the million things we’ve screwed up. Doing what we can to make our lives easier. On purpose.

As we fill our lives with experiences that are happy and wholesome, forgiving and accepting, we find that there is less time for their opposites – negative and destructive, regretful and blaming.

Next, or maybe simultaneously, we remind ourselves to just notice. We form good habits like taking a deep breath before we speak. Like eating at least one healthy meal a day. Like making eye contact with with people on the sidewalk.

These little things draw us into presence and toward gratefulness but sometimes we forget to do these things so we can also surround ourselves with gentle reminders. Here are some fun, practical examples. Start with one:

Let the color yellow engage your practice.

When you see yellow, take a breath.

Draw a heart on the back of your hand with a Sharpie. Smile when you notice it.

Wear your watch on the wrong wrist. Feel it and make a good decision.

Put an neon collar on your dog. Remember to feel loved.

Paint your kitchen light switch turquoise. Flick it and turn on your inner light.

Once you get used to responding to this one thing, start adding more things. Within a few months, you’ll be breathing and smiling and loving at multiple triggers – or maybe you’ll be noticing that you’re not breathing or smiling or loving. And if that’s the case, you may find yourself ready to understand why you’re not, at which point you can try meditating on the roots of love and pain in your life.

It’s a beautiful and effective practice for many, but mindfulness is not a magic pill, it’s an open door – inviting us to be okay with the process of healing no matter what that looks like, to examine the wounded place at its source, to find a little sanity in this crazy world.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

http://www.vanessagobes.com