a familiar tension in my stomach alerted me to the facts. anxiety, present again. it’s been a frequent visitor these past days, months, years...tight belly, shallow breath, tense muscles in my neck, face, shoulders, like i want to squeeze my hands close, grip reality, shape it to a safe, controllable form. but it’s like squeezing water, it always slips from my grasp. i can’t control things, and that seems like a terrifying thought, like life is this weird flying dream, and i’m suspended in midair, with no idea how to keep from falling.
so often, i will slip into distraction. pick up a book, turn on the tv, get a snack...turn on the laptop, browse social media. not now. it’s time to face this fear. i sit down to meditate, focusing in on my belly, center of the energy of fear in my body. i listen to myself, very closely. then i can hear it, a low murmur, like the sound of whispering voices in the wind, or a quiet river in the distance. i bend closer to myself, and i hear what the voices are whispering.
“you will fail.” “you will fail, and you will always be a failure.” “you will end up miserable all your life. you will not be fulfilled.” “you will have to work at walmart and never find meaningful work.” and with the voice I see images, of dismal futures, and of young girls and women, myself, at younger ages, curled up into fetal position, terrified of life, of its wild, uncontrollable nature. i hear these young ladies, so afraid of failing, and i recognize something. they are telling stories. just stories, and i’m so surprised i murmur this aloud to myself. “stories!”
i let go of the stories, because i know stories aren’t real. they are like dreams. then it is just the frightened young women and girls in my deep self, and i start to tell them a new story. “you never failed,” i whisper to them. “you are learning and growing. this is a beautiful journey. we are creating our own story, though there are many things we cannot control, we can always choose what our story is.
so, here is our story. "i can, and i will.” i repeat that phrase, and it seems to sink deep into my belly, echoing around the frightened fragmented younger parts of myself. then i sink into body sensation, and the fear is just an energy, just tension and pressure and movement, and all at once it is moving, releasing, and i am laughing and crying, both at once, as sometimes happens when a big release occurs. i can, and i will is moving deeper and deeper within me, weaving itself into my being.
since this day, i have taken "i can and I will" as the powerful tool that it is. this affirmation helps me to fight my anxiety, to push back against the inner critic, that terrible bully that is always trying to keep me small. but that's not who i am anymore. i am someone capable and powerful (thanks Nahko, for another of my inspirational phrases.)
when i have the patience and the compassion to really be there for myself, i have the ability to release the old negative programming, and to replace it with new, loving thoughts. this practice feels like it is empowering my life! i feel a surge of beautiful hope, even in the midst of anxiety, expanding my heart mind, and helping me to let go of my fear stories, when i remember to replace negative self-talk, with mindfulness of the emotion, coupled with positive, loving affirmations. i encourage you to experiment with using affirmations. I think you will be as glad as I am to have this helpful tool to work with anxiety.
What's your experience? Have you ever tried affirmations? If so, was it helpful?
So much love,
I wasn’t planning to re-open this website. Then, yesterday, I was sharing a meal and a conversation with a dear friend. She’s a fellow blogger, and we were speaking about my website. “I’m not going to open it again,” I told her. “My inner critic has a party telling me that nothing I publish is good enough.” “Why do you write?” she asked, insightfully. “What was the reason you wrote your blog in the first place.” And just like that, I remembered. I reconnected with the mission that had urged me to launch this blog, this business, in the first place. It was clear, and simple.
“To help people,” I said earnestly. “I learned so much that helped me on my healing journey, and I wanted to share that with people.” “That,” she replied, very wisely, “sounds much more important than what your inner critic has to say.” And I knew she was right; and I felt inspired to relaunch, inner critic be damned. (Right now the inner critical voice is whispering, “this is pointless. No one will read this anyway. It’s too long, not riveting enough. I tell the voice to hush, I am writing...)
Just over a year ago, I closed this website to embark upon a journey into the dharma. I began as a working guest, living and volunteering at the Insight Meditation Society, in Barre, MA, close to my hometown. After this beautiful interlude, I travelled to the West coast, and spent seven rigorous, exhausting, amazing months living at Great Vow Zen Monastery in Oregon. This time to practice meditation and mindful living in community has been an incredible gift, opening and touching my heart in ways that I can’t truly convey. All I can tell you is that when I think of the blessing this has been to my path, I’m overwhelmed with tears of something like pure joy and gratitude.
The truth is, I never intended to leave the monastery, at least, not yet. I arrived at the same time as two other amazing women, Chloe and Christy. After seven months of practicing together, the three of us all decided we were ready to make a year-long commitment to live and practice at Great Vow. At the monastery, such commitments are marked by formal ceremonies, performed in front of the whole community. On the very eve when the three of us were to take our ceremony, I received communication from my mother. She had fallen, on the ice. She had broken her hip, and was unable to walk. As she lives alone, please, could one of her daughters come home to care for her?
I have two sisters, one of whom is a long-term resident and magical unicorn fairy princess at the monastery, aspiring to one day ordain as a Zen priest. The other, a powerful, loving healer, lives in Portland, OR, and our loving mother lives in our childhood home, in Massachusetts. The three of us called a meeting, and we decided that I would be the one to return home and care for our mother. As I am the eldest, and had the least commitment to be on the west coast, this did make sense. Still, I had mixed feelings as I watched my two friends take their commitment ceremonies the next day, and then made the long journey back east.
I still thought that I would return to the monastery after mom got back on her feet. There’s an ache in my chest at the fact that I never got to properly say goodbye, say thank you to the community, to the roshis, to the grounds. I will go back, one day soon, but only to visit. Ah, it’s such a marvelous place, full of magical beings of light and love and brave warriors facing incredible personal pain and physical discomfort, chanting the bodhisatta vows day after day, offering reverance in the zendo with the act of silent meditation...
But I have a dream. I don’t want to be separate from the world. I want to be a help to the world! There’s a deep part of my soul that wishes to find meaningful work. I’ve been so focused on myself, on my practice, my healing. Now, I want to offer back. and it feels joyful! so, I’m here again, in Massachusetts...and I am looking for a job where I can be of benefit. The process is bringing up many fears and anxieties about the future...and I’m using my meditation practice to work with the fear, turn towards it, instead of away. Zen practice taught me that I do have the strength to face myself. So I am facing my inner critic, and writing anyway, and putting it out to the world, with the intention and the hope that it will be of benefit. May my words be a blessing to you, and may you be well, and peaceful, and find ease and know deep joy.
So much love,
As 2012 began, I had just finished a 3 month meditation retreat at IMS in Barre. For those months I practiced silent meditation, trying to gain insight into the nature of the mind. The experience shifted a lot of things for me...and I realized my number one priority was healing. I started to study energy healing, beginning with reiki, and it resonated so deeply within me...shortly after that I became called to work with the crystals, and a soul deep healing began for me...a cycle in my life that has lasted these four years.
I began my aligning with wholeness business two years ago this spring...hoping to share the healing I myself was receiving. And, I never feel more alive than when I am working to help a client...it truly lights me up inside. Yet I have decided to give up the online business...it is not the right thing for me anymore. Synchronistically, my website will expire the last day of this month, March 31...and aligning with wholeness will close its online doors for good. I will still offer in-person healing sessions...of course. But April 1, I am going back to IMS...coming full circle. I'll be volunteering there for one month...and I'm humbled and amazed by the way things really have spiraled back...but deeper in this time.
Thank you all so much for being a part of this amazing journey...I hope I have offered some inspiration or light in some small way by being part of this Facebook community...and the Facebook page will be closing in March. Feel free to keep in touch via my personal page...
Namaste, my friends...I bow to you, each and every one, that has liked, read, supported my page or business...<3
So much love to you,
Pema Chodron famously said that you are the sky, everything else is just the weather. She was referring to the quality of the mind that is simply aware of what is happening, without being attached to any particular outcome, or in judgement that events are "good" or "bad". This is a natural state of being that we can all learn to tap into. Meditation is one classic way to train the mind and allow this quality to come to the forefront.
She says you ARE the sky, not you could become the sky. You already possess this quality...this open, generous, expansive state of awareness....in fact, it's your natural state!
So the practice is simply finding ways to pull this quality to the forefront...What is the weather? The weather is what is arising and passing, arising and passing. Much of the time, we do not control the weather. Do we ever control it?
Here is a metaphor. It is a rainy day, and I hate the rain. I wish it would stop. I am grumpy and miserable all day. The next day, it is sunny, and I love the sun, and I am so happy! But, I wish it would never end...I'm so sad when the sun sets on that glorious day.
What is happening here? I am identifying with the weather...letting my happiness depend upon it. Just so, if we look to external things to make us happy or upset us...then we will always be at their mercy. And of course the outer world will, to some extent, affect us. We have our natural preferences.
But...if we can hold that sky-like quality, and be more expansive...and let things simply be as they are, without wishing for them to be different...on a rainy day, just letting it rain and not needing it to stop to be happy...on a sunny day, enjoying it without wishing it would never end...we can learn to be much more centered, much more content to simply watch the changing flow...
because just like the weather, just like the sky, existence is in a constant state of motion, of change...Buddha says this is the way things are, and that our suffering as humans arises from the way that we cling to the things we want, and push away the things we don't want. Can we learn some wisdom from the sky, on allowing things to be as they are? Can we find equanimity in a constantly changing, often challenging world? yes, we can, if we practice!
So much love,
I used to hate myself. I mean, flat out, look in the mirror every morning and tell myself, "I hate you, you fat, ugly, worthless piece of refuse. you are nothing, and worse than nothing. you are a pathetic little..." STOP! You probably don't want to hear that, right? because it is depressing, it is painful, and it is just plain awful.
I can't believe i used to do this to myself! and yet, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. because i just plain didn't like myself. i didn't feel comfortable in my skin. i didn't want to be myself--I wanted to be someone else! I had it all figured out. I knew just who I wanted to be. Someone thin, and beautiful, with a lot of friends--because my younger self thought that happiness was an external thing. Like, it depended on how you looked, or how many friends you have. I feel so much compassion for that self, now. She was looking for happiness in all the wrong places.
And when I stop to reflect on where I am now, in a place where I am so open to spirit, so madly in love with the person that I am today, and the world around me, I feel awed. This is an unbelievable transformation. I feel so grateful to be here, today, able to share with you my experiences.
But this is a big story. A spill-your-guts, talk your ear off story, possibly. How do you go from one extreme to the other? I'll tell you. Gradually. One step at a time. It takes time. A lot of deep shifts had to happen. And yet, all those little steps added up to one colossal transformation.
What were the steps? you wonder. How did it happen?
I can remember the exact moment that I first began to release my self-loathing and negative beliefs. they were so deeply ingrained! i didn't even know they were there. it's like having dark glasses taped over your eyes, and thinking they are a part of you. suddenly they were lifted off, and i could see, so clearly, with eyes of love.
it was at a meditation retreat. i was in my early twenties. I had graduated college, not out of any real passion, but because it was expected of me, and i didn't know what else to do. a passion for travel had inspired me to spend a year living in france, and a year backpacking around Europe. I was looking for something, though I didn't know what. my boyfriend of seven years, my first love, had just left me to join the peace corps.
it was one of the low points of my life, though it was going to get worse soon. i didn't know that, though. i just knew i yearned with all my heart for inner peace, and a release of all my suffering. my mom suggested i try a meditation retreat. i was like, sure, why not? when i got to IMS, i was taken aback by the realization that i was not allowed to talk for the next seven days. i had committed to spend 7 days, in silence, with my thoughts and feelings. scary. very, very scary. but i'm a stubborn one, so no way was i backing out. i sat with it. i breathed in, breathed out. i cried, and i felt like i was going to go crazy, and i did not.
i stuck with it some more, and on the fifth day, after all of the inner turmoil, i remember sitting in my chair, and suddenly i could see this light entering my body. was i going crazy after all? if so i did not mind, because that light--it was so beautiful, glowing brightly golden, and so comforting, and loving. it sank in to my chest, and ran all through my body, till i was illuminated, glowing from within. i didn't realize this at the time, but it was the Universal Life Force, which i had somehow released, since i am a natural healer. the light brought me to a state of calm and clarity that was such a relief! i realized that all of my bad thoughts and feelings about myself were in my power, and i could choose to let them go.
i remember being flooded with tears, as i released the reality of self hatred. when i went home, after the retreat, everyone told me how different i seemed. so happy, and at peace with myself. and i was. it was a true breakthrough, and it stayed with me. however, this was far from the end of my healing journey. looking back, i see now that it was the beginning.
opening myself up to the possibility of change, going deep, and accepting the light of grace that the universe sent in that moment--that's what opened the door for me. i'm so glad i decided to walk through.
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Hi, I'm Jessie A...
I'm an energy healer with a passion for compassion, a sparkly love affair with crystals, and a deep commitment to evolving awareness.