Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Alice finds herself quite confused in her conversation with the White Queen. As they discuss the possible benefits of being the White Queen’s personal attendant, Alice is told that she would receive “Twopence a week, and jam every other day.” As Alice probes further, she realizes that “The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday- but never jam today.” For Alice this makes no sense, and for your reading, it is equally nonsensical.
You might find that you are being preoccupied with the jam that awaits you tomorrow, or the jam that was so delicious from yesterday. And somehow, as a result, there never seems to be any jam today. Why? Because, my dear, you are never available to eat it. It is amazing, despite the absurdity of it, how much time we spend with our minds in the future and the past. It happens so much so that we are almost living there in these non-existent times, and yet there is little we can accomplish when we do this. The past is done and gone (even in the Looking Glass land where the future and the past are all available as memories, little seems to keep chaos and calamity from happening). The future can only be affected by what we do in the here and now (for our minds have the ability to travel through time and space via the imagination, but our bodies are stuck in the present). So, the only real opportunity we have to make an impact on the events in our life is to be as much in the present as possible. Body and mind work best as a team, so it seems most logical to let go of the past and the future and focus on what exactly is in front of us. Don’t be fooled. Even moments into the future is still the future, and what just happened a moment ago is still the past.
It would be really difficult in our world to always be in the present, but it is a good idea to bring some balance to things by spending some more time just being in the present. Besides, if you are constantly living for fantasies about what may lie in the future, or lamenting or longing for what has already gone, you are as silly as the inhabitants of all of Wonderland.
I will let you in on a little secret. I have a friend who is a time traveler. She mostly lives in the future. She says it is great there because this is where everyone puts their hopes and dreams (which is powerful manifestation energy). So, the future is genuinely rich with everything we could ever want, but only because we keep misdirecting our thoughts there. Since we don’t have the technology to get all of us into the future, we’re missing out on all of our hard work. If we could start opening our imaginations to where we really are, right here, right now, we’d have a lot more of what we want (and we’d quit providing for those lazy futurists who are living off of our thought-creations).
How does one go about living in the present? It seems like a simple thing to do from the outside looking in, but go ahead. Give it a whirl. See how long you can sit and just focus on exactly what is happening in the moment and see how long it takes before you are thinking about that conversation you overheard at the store yesterday, or pondering what you are going to say next time you see so-and-so. The mind somehow has a resistance to being in the present. Sometimes it is because there are things going on in our minds and our bodies, usually catalyzed by feelings, that are uncomfortable. Sometimes it is because we have no clue what deep bliss lies seemingly hidden in such an obvious place. No matter what the challenges are, the rewards are even better. It may not be jam, but Alice doesn’t like jam anyway.
Meditation: This meditation practice could easily take months to really develop, and I suggest you do it as long as you can, as frequently as you can, as it serves you. This one particular meditation has been the sole practice of thousands, for hundreds of years. Get yourself as comfortable as possible, and before you close your eyes and move into your practice, light a candle, asking for the light of the flame to help to hold your mind, body and spirit in the present. Set your intention to allow all distractions to leave, and to keep your mind focused on each moment. Now, just start noticing your breath. Notice how long it is on the inhale, and the exhale. Notice where it goes in your body. Is it deep? Are you breathing slowly? How does it feel to breathe in? Are you breathing through your nose or your mouth? You can also pay attention to your body. How is it feeling? This can get tricky, because the body’s complaints can quickly take us out of the present: “Ooh, my neck is still sore from not sleeping right last night,” or “If I keep sitting like this, my legs are going to fall asleep.” This is past and future creeping in. Don’t feel like you’ve failed if this happens. Just ask them to wait in their respective places, and get back to the present. How is your breathing now? It may take a long while, but it is possible, while becoming skilled at just living in the present, to find a deep sense of bliss. Once you feel that starting to spread, you know that you have nailed the exact point of present moment awareness. There may be some interesting gate guardians that will try to throw you off the mark, like phantom pains, or the notion that you need to get up and do something other than sit here. Continue to stay focused on finding that present moment, and you will make it. Just as sure as Alice returns from Wonderland and through the Looking Glass.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Do you recall the honey-making elephants in the looking glass world? They are there. Hard to imagine forgetting something so large and unusual (even for this strange tale), yet few people recall that Alice spies, what at first she believes to be large honey bees, yet turn out to be elephants.: “. . . why what are those creatures making honey down there? They can’t be bees . . .” Alice is drawn to this breathtaking sight, yet decides, mid-stream, to turn around and go a different way, offering “It’ll never do to go down among them without a good long branch to brush them away . . . “
Maybe Alice is heeding good, solid wisdom, or maybe she is just avoiding facing something fascinating and wonderful, out of fear. Either way, Alice seems to recognize that she might come back to this scene later on: “. . . and perhaps I may visit the elephants later on.”
The elephants have probed their way into your reading to ask you if you are truly heeding wise caution in avoiding a particular circumstance, or whether you are letting fear dictate your moves, leading you away from opportunities for growth and deeper appreciation of your internal land of wonder. There is an old story about a family that has an elephant in their living room, but no one wants to upset things by mentioning this, so everyone sits around with this enormous, ridiculous beast in the way, and no one does anything about it. This is a story used to describe denial, and apparently, it is a river that runs through Wonderland as well.
If you are heeding wisdom, it is good to take all of Alice’s advice . . . get those tools you’ll need when coming face to face with your elephants the next time (sometimes a good,long stick works, sometimes a really great handshake and eye contact do the trick). Most of the challenges we are given are opportunities for growth, and whether we are in the mood to deal with them or not, we usually end up having to meet our elephants head-on. Sometimes avoiding an encounter so we have time to truly prepare is perfectly reasonable. Sometimes it’s time to quit making excuses and see what honey-making elephants are really all about. One thing to think about is that, no matter how strange and hostile the circumstances, Alice seems to be able to get by unscathed. You too, I suspect, have all you need to face what’s in your corner. You just need to decide whether you face the elephants now, or later. If it’s now, allow yourself to explore with the eyes of a child in a fairy tale. Allow yourself to feel wonder and awe.
If it is later that you will face this crazy scene, make sure you take advantage of this time to prepare yourself for the time you do come back for this adventure.
If there is genuine wisdom and growth being offered to us, the elephants will circle around again and again until we are ready to face the music, so quit putting it off, and get to work on the skills you need to meet this challenge.
Distinguishing between genuine intuition that guides us away from needless or harmful contention, and fear that controls our moves and keeps us limited can be tricky at first. With practice, you will learn to decipher between that which should be left alone, and that which you can safely explore.
Meditation: Allow yourself to relax and just focus on your breathing. When you are feeling as relaxed as possible, allow your personal elephants or challenges to emerge. Notice how your body feels. Is there any contraction? If so, where do you feel it? Is it possible to send your breath and awareness to these contracted places? As you focus your breath and awareness on opening up these contractions, notice your thoughts. What comes to you as you breathe? Ask yourself if this is your time to be present with these elephants, and see what your body says. Maybe see yourself looking at the elephants in the distance, and notice if you are drawn to understand and explore them more, or if you are being repelled. Ask for your being to let you know what serves your highest good, and then just take a moment to listen. Sometimes it takes practice to be able to hear this particular voice. Allow yourself as much practice as it takes until you start to feel the difference between communication of intuition and the tantrums of fear. Usually, fear is accompanied by a sense of tension that has a hard time letting go. Fear usually doesn’t offer a point of wisdom. Wise intuition creates understanding and a way to connect with that which we are challenged by. Intuition can frequently be felt as a strong balanced point in one’s “center.” Fear gets in the way of feeling compassion for that which we are challenged by. Intuition helps us to feel closer to it. So, take time feeling in your body, and noticing in your mind, what comes up. Let yourself notice the subtle differences. When the time is right, you will know how to greet those huge pachyderms without any worries.
Journaling about your progress and where you feel fear versus where and how you feel intuition will deepen your experience.
Friday, March 12, 2010
The Red Queen: “Where do you come from? . . . And where are you going? Look up, speak nicely, and don’t twiddle your fingers all the time.”
From the moment she crosses her path, the Red Queen shoots a string of commands at Alice so fast she hardly has time to take them all in. To top it off, some of the Red Queen’s maxims are sheer nonsense altogether. Though the initial interaction seems a bit silly, harsh, and condescending, the advice is offered as genuine guidance for Alice. As the two continue to engage, it is obvious that the Red Queen’s intention is to help Alice become a queen herself.
Despite the pushiness and the egotism, “I don’t know what you mean by your way . . . all the ways about here belong to me . . .” the Red Queen is a helpful ally for Alice, and is adept at this new and unfamiliar world that Alice is working so hard at navigating. In the company of the Red Queen, Alice finally makes it to the top of the hill she’d so desperately been trying to reach from the looking glass house, and the Red Queen shows her competence in being able to run incredibly fast without so much as breaking a sweat. Yes, the Red Queen is an accomplished matriarch, though somewhat imperious. The Red Queen offers Alice the key information she needs to become a Queen herself, including the inspiration to become a queen in the first place.
The Red Queen has marched her way into your reading as a symbol of some sort of mentorship or help in becoming something amazing. There may be some old-fashioned values or hegemony involved, and you might not be in complete agreement with it all, but you are being offered an opportunity to learn something important. It might just be worth swallowing your pride and letting those tyrannical orders pass without letting them get you all out of sorts. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn just because the teacher might be dictatorial. Take a moment to think what you stand to gain by submitting to this discipline before you pass it by.
When it comes right down to it, even though it can be a bit harrying, the Red Queen is really here to ask us to be mindful. The coat of arms at Cawdor Castle in Scotland (the home of Macbeth) bears those sage words: Be Mindful.
Alice still manages to voice her opinion and doesn’t lose a sense of self-worth in the process, which is important to remember as you proceed in your apprenticeship. Arguing for the sake of it is a waste of time, but maintaining your personal beliefs and values as you grow is the way to become a master. Your unique self is essential to this transformation, so hold onto it despite the challenges. Simply allow in the underlying advice: stay present with what you do and how you move through the world.
Parents, teachers, and mentors all have beneficial information that we can learn from if we can only see through the challenging and sometimes downright tyrannical personality that is wrapped around it. Don’t get caught up in a battle of egos or personalities. Focus on receiving the gift inside, and toss out the extraneous which doesn’t serve you.
Meditation #1: Settle into a comfortable seated position and breathe into your belly. Allow an image of your inquiry to emerge and become clear. See the player(s) who is/are bossing you around or acting tyrannical. If you take away the harsh delivery method, and your emotional resistance to this iron-handed experience, can you find any valuable wisdom or opportunities? Focus on what it is you want. Don’t let the packaging it comes in dissuade you from receiving this powerful and helpful gift. Imagine unwrapping the valuable education and experience, and let the delivery method that surrounds it go into the trash, like old wrapping paper. Imagine holding the important learning in your hands like a precious gift. Take the gift with you somehow (absorb it, eat it, rub it on like lotion, put it in your pocket . . .). Now look at the situation. Does it feel easier to deal with? Can you see any positive attributes to your circumstances now? Staying focused on the valuable gifts being offered will make this discipline more palatable.
If the gift that awaits you isn’t worth the difficult packaging, then say so. Your voice is valuable and you might make a positive impact on this situation.
Meditation #2: Imagine yourself speaking clearly about what it is you want out of this mentoring relationship. Without reactionary emotions, without defensiveness, and without judgmental language, make your case for what it is you would like to see happen. What is your teacher offering you? What value do you see in this learning opportunity? Recognize the gifts along with the challenges, and you are more likely to be really heard.
Maybe it is you who is being asked to be a guide for someone else. In this case, pay attention to how you go about it. Are you falling on old and outdated hegemonic methods because you feel a need to be revered? Is ego getting in the way of really making an impact on someone’s life? It is time to be real with what it is your intentions are: helping someone to learn and grow or to be admired and rewarded? It is likely that, if you teach from a place of openness and compassion, the admiration and reward will naturally follow. Coercion and hierarchical homage yield temporary and inauthentic merit.
Meditation #3: Sit comfortably and focus on the breath. Once this feels natural, allow yourself to feel into what it is you want as a mentor. It’s okay to be honest, even if the answer isn’t completely laudable. If you find yourself needing an ego boost, see if you can offer that to yourself instead of relying on external sources. Take a moment to give yourself recognition for what you are offering. How does that feel? Is that enough? What other rewards are possible if you let go of the need to be exalted? What are the benefits of holding onto titles and formalities? What is best left behind? Is there a fear that you will be taken for granted if you don’t force your sense of superiority? Can you feel into the difference between respect and fearful obedience? Which has more value to you? When you have looked at these elements and made your decisions, take a moment to imagine how you truly want to mentor. Take your time until you can clearly see it in your mind. Continue to hold that image and revisit it throughout the mentoring process. Notice if it has an impact on your experience. Journaling might be helpful during this time.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
The Cook stands over her cauldron of soup, not unlike a witch over her magic brew. She continues to add pepper to the pot, which is causing a great deal of sneezing. And at one point, she starts violently hurling dishes at the Duchess and her baby, however fails to make any apparent impact on either of them. Her direct assaults are completely ignored, however, her peppered soup seems to be the right recipe for getting under the skin and working things loose.
The Cook has been delivered to your kitchen to cook up what might seem to be a bit of trouble, but pay no mind to the feelings of attack. Instead, focus on what is bubbling up. This apparent annoyance is helping to bring old injuries and unresolved issues to the surface so they can be seen, understood, and released, kind of like a sneeze that takes a while to finally expel itself. It feels so good once it’s finally gone!
The Cook is only dishing up what you can take, so instead of getting caught up in the back and forth of self-defense, use this opportunity to look at where your sensitivities lie and how you can learn to become more resilient. The Cook doesn’t mind the pepper because she is used to it by now. If you can really absorb what is being served up, you too may find yourself impervious to the attacks, and able to enjoy the provoking soup. And you know what they say . . . if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. When it comes right down to it, it's your choice to stick around in all of this powerful peppering.
So, it seems as though some thing or some one is stirring things up in your life, (of maybe you are the chef du jour) and there are a lot of eruptions happening as a result. Now is the time to take a moment and recognize how valuable it is to be able to see these parts of yourself and your experience that would have possibly gone unseen and misunderstood otherwise. It is easy to know oneself and ones community when the tea party is fun, but when the Hare upsets the teapot and the Hatter won’t stop raving, deeper truths often rise to the surface. Take this opportunity to skim them from the top and enjoy it as the sweet cream from the buttermilk.
Meditation: Sit as still as you can, and just start paying attention to your breath, and when you are really able to just focus on your breath, think about your inquiry. What is the catalyst that is stirring things up? Is it possible to see this stimulus as a welcomed messenger bringing you important information? Take a moment to connect with this imagery and how it comes together. Then ask yourself what is being stirred up? What is erupting and coming to the forefront? Is it possible to let go of labeling it as an irritant? Can you see it as a part of yourself that needs some attention and understanding? This may be all that is needed to be free of this pesky agitator. It is easy to blame the cook for making our circumstances miserable, but if we focus on that, then we’ll miss out on figuring out how to enjoy the soup that’s been offered to us as nourishment.