Braving the Wild Seas


“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” 
 William Faulkner

As 2018 comes to a close, I’m left reeling from another year of growth and changes, both small and monumental. I feel pulled in so many directions, I struggle to remain centred. I’m, at times, overwhelmed and sad, but also inspired, empowered, determined.

I feel a deep longing to swim out of the safe and familiar harbour and explore the world with this newly recognised power, but find I am clinging to what’s safe and comfortable.

I’ve spent this last year cleansing, removing all that weighs me down and keeps me small. I’ve stood up for myself and spoken my truth. I’ve set clear boundaries that honour and nurture my spirit. I’ve surrounded myself with people who are growing and expanding. I’m inspired by those who are fierce in their dedication to raising their vibration and fulfilling their dreams, despite, sometimes, crippling fear.

Yet, I’m consumed by grief. Am I grieving the woman I used to be? That person who shrank so others could feel more comfortable, who kept quiet when sexually harassed or abused so as not to make a fuss, who stayed mired in distraction so I didn’t have to face the fact I wasn’t living up to my potential or doing the things that feed my soul?

Perhaps I’m grieving those I’ve left behind. The precious, frustrating, consuming relationships that once served me, but ultimately led to discomfort. I’m painfully aware that not everyone is meant to walk this entire journey with me for we all have our own higher purpose to fulfil. Some I meet at forks in the road and we happily skip along for a while, but then need to part ways in order to continue on our own paths. Others come along who resonate on a frequency that inspires expansion – challenges my fixed ideas about myself and the world around me. These are my tribe, my soul-mates.

So, 2019…. what do you have in store for me? What adventures at sea will you take me on that bring exciting new chapters to my storyline? Who will stand bravely beside me as we journey out to face life’s storms? Who will be lost at sea? Who will choose to stay behind anchored in the safety of the harbour? These unknowns both scare and excite me.

I love what Brene Brown says in her book, ‘Braving the Wilderness…’

Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness — an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. The wilderness can often feel unholy because we can’t control it, or what people think about our choice of whether to venture into that vastness or not. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.”

My affirmations for 2019: To bravely stand in the sacred; to continue to expand and challenge my spirit; to nurture the relationships with my fierce tribe of fellow seekers who have taught me about courage, loyalty and strength; and to always stand up and speak out for myself and others in the face of apathy and toxic ignorance.

What are your affirmations for 2019?

Namaste 🙏🏻

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BLISS IN SILENCE

I recently spent 9 days at a Buddhist Retreat in a magnificent part of New Zealand. It was hours and hours every day in meditation and listening to teachings. It was a fairly gruelling schedule that pulled me right out of my comfort zone. Sitting in lotus or half lotus for so many hours every day proved to be my biggest challenge. My knees, neck and back shouted at me pretty consistently, but I had set the goal to remain on the cushion throughout the entire retreat. It wasn’t because the cushion is the fast-track to enlightenment or anything. I could have meditated and received teachings in a comfy chair, but I was determined to achieve my goal.

The primary purpose of my goal was to sit with the discomfort and use it as an anchor for mindfulness… to keep me alert and present. Pain of any kind is the best tool for awareness that I know of. When we’re in pain, whether physical or mental, we are highly present and, usually, single-pointedly focused on it. So, I decided to use it as a meditation tool.

I sat dutifully on my cushion for too many hours to count over the course of 9 days. While I outwardly appeared to be peaceful and content, providing a source of strength and inspiration for a couple of my fellow retreatants, who were kind enough to tell me this, on the inside I was suffering. I felt obligated to let them know the extent of my pain, not to complain, but merely to let them know that looks can be deceiving.

And then came the instruction from Venerable Robina that we were to remain in strict silence for 2 full days. I actually welcomed this as I often engage in pointless chatter to fill the silence instead of embracing it. This proved to be so incredibly beneficial that I found coming back to my normal life difficult. I never fully realised how loud it is.

For a while before the retreat, I was feeling the pull to move toward peace and quiet and away from negativity and drama. I was finding the constant noise of others and my own mind to be too much and needed to reach inward to my monastic nature for refuge.

In silence I more easily find my bliss. Creating a protective bubble of serenity was enabling me to move through the difficult changes I have been going through with much more grace and acceptance. Trying to tackle the bigger issues with so much negative energy swirling around me proved too hard. I had become increasingly discontent. My experience reminded me that I am much more effective in solving my problems, as well as being there for others, when I am in a peaceful and more balanced place. Joining others in their negativity and suffering doesn’t benefit anyone. It only creates more negativity and suffering. Working towards creating a stable mind became my calling, knowing it will bring innumerable benefits.

So, I continue to observe my mind and endeavour to embrace all its crazy story telling and habitual negative patterns so I may one day create a state of equanimity. I’m already feeling the benefits of moving away from negativity with an increased spaciousness and sense of peace. I feel more openness to and appreciation for all the profound gifts in my life. These past few months have given me a deepening gratitude for the abundance and joy all around me when I choose the higher vibration of blissful awareness.

I have a long way to go to remove my habitual responses, as I can still so easily be drawn back into my negative patterns. However, I already feel so empowered by the changes I have made so far this year, that I’m dedicated to continuing to study the Dharma, along with my mind in meditation, and to strive to repair my karmic debts, which block me from enjoying a long-lasting happiness. After all, I believe that finding sustainable joy, loving kindness and compassion is the whole point of our existence.

In the words of John Lennon:

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

Namaste 🕉🙏🏻💖

Change the Channel

“You cannot struggle to joy. Struggle and joy are not on the same channel. You joy your way to joy. You laugh your way to success. It is through your joy that good things come.”

~ Abraham-Hicks ~

Right now, I’m reading a great book called, “A Year To Clear” by Stephanie Vogt. In it she says, “If you’re trying too hard to experience freedom and joy, it’s probably because you got stuck on the wrong channel.”

I really like this idea as it coincides with the concept of pivoting that I’ve been working with a lot lately. If I don’t like the direction I’m heading in, I better pivot, or I’ll end up where I don’t want to be. If I’m running a negative storyline in my head that feels bad, I remind myself to pivot, or change the channel to one that feels good. If we don’t like a song on the radio, we change channels. We don’t even think about it. We just do it. So, it’s the same practice when we have negative thoughts, such as: “I’m overwhelmed, too stressed, too busy, too poor, too fat, too sick, not good enough, not brave enough, not loved enough, not smart enough, etc….”. We can pivot to its positive opposite.

Below are tried and true examples I really find helpful:

  • “Slow down and just breathe, in and out.” Do this all day, every day. It’s that simple.
  • “Everything that absolutely needs to get done, always manages to get done.” So much of our energy is wasted in trying to get everything done in the least amount of time. It’s like we’re in a race with ourselves that never produces a winner. We multi-task, which usually only produces half-assed results. If we do one thing at a time, and are completely present and aware, we will likely have a great end-result with far less stress. This is personally my biggest challenge. I’m a do-er, but am actively practising be-ing (I even wrote the word, “BE” on my wrist brace).
  • “Will this matter in a month, a year, 5 years?” Will we lie on our deathbeds and regret all the stuff we didn’t get done? Or will we regret all the time we didn’t spend with those we love and doing all of the things we love?
  • “I have everything I need today.” List everything we do have and are grateful for. This is so important! Seeing our world through the eyes of gratitude, as opposed to lack, is essential in finding lasting joy. If we focus on what we don’t have (money, health, love, time), we will have more lack in all these areas. If we focus on all we do have and appreciate, we will have more abundance in these areas. The Law of Attraction is not hocus pocus. I’ve personally experienced it over and over as absolute truth.
  • “Money is a useful tool to be of greater benefit to others and I welcome it in abundance.” Money is NOT the root of all evil. Greedy attachment to it is. If we have a negative association with money and/or “rich people,” we will never attract money or have enough of it. We are just cultivating poverty mind. Think of money as a person, named Cash. We constantly trash-talk Cash. We think Cash is bad…evil. We believe Cash is everything that is wrong with the world. We hate Cash. Yet, at the same time, we are always complaining we want and need Cash. We want Cash to come round and hang out with us. We wonder why Cash has abandoned us. We feel sorry for ourselves and are jealous of the people that Cash hangs out with. They don’t deserve Cash’s friendship, we do. Is it any wonder why Cash stays away from us? We’re fricken nut jobs as far as Cash is concerned. Cash would rather spend time with those that appreciate and welcome him/her into their lives with love and open arms. Wouldn’t we do the same?
  • “I am moving toward my perfect weight/perfect health.” We spend so much of our time obsessing about our weight or poor health, that of course we experience more weight gain and worsening health. If we spent just a fraction of that energy doing what we KNOW will create the conditions for weight loss and wellness, there would be far less obesity and illness. It’s no mystical secret what creates good health. We instinctively know what to eat, what to avoid, to move our bodies more and what we need to be happy and well. We’ve just been taught to override our instincts in the name of profit, but good, old-fashioned common sense can lead us back to balance.
  • “I am nurturing my body with nutrient-rich food.” This is a great reminder to eat for nourishment…fuel. Our bodies are these amazing, miraculous vehicles to be honoured and respected. Yet we abuse them by eating crap food, smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, taking drugs and even worse…. hating them. No wonder they eventually break down!
  • “I am nurturing my mind by keeping it open to new, positive thoughts and ideas and releasing the negative ones that don’t serve me.” Our negative self-talk is vicious and defeating. I do it, my friends and family do it, strangers I pass on the street are doing it. How do we escape it? Simple…. just stop doing it (oh, if only it was that easy…..). Our habits are created over lifetimes and are incredibly difficult to break. The only way I know of to move beyond the habitual patterns is to first become aware of them. Catch ourselves in the act and just notice that we’re doing it. Then, aspire to change and practise pivoting or changing the channel. I’ve found that, with practise, I’m catching it earlier and earlier, which has prevented a lot of the suffering that comes from following the negative storyline. As one of my fave teachers, Pema Chodron, says, “Stop kicking the wheel.”
  • “I am nurturing my spirit by surrounding myself with loving, vibrant, positive energy.” It is not only ok, but essential that we carefully select who we spend our time with and what energy we allow into our sacred space. If a person or activity lowers your vibration with negative or chaotic energy, reduce your exposure to them/it. Spend as much time as possible with people and engaging activities that raise your vibration and enhance your energy. And for those times when exposure to negativity is unavoidable, use it as a path to practise loving kindness for yourself and others by not getting hooked in. Joining someone in their negativity doesn’t reduce it. It only increases it and makes it stronger. I imagine a blissful pink bubble surrounding me with the negative energy bouncing off my bubble in an almost comical way. It really helps to keep it simple and light. You’re welcome to borrow my pink bubble anytime you want.
  • “I am enough, just as I am.” You don’t have to “do” to be enough. You are enough just by “be”ing. Any thought that says otherwise is a big, fat lie!
  • “I am brave.” Remind yourself of all the times you were scared and did it anyway. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” In other words, it isn’t brave if you’re not scared.
  • “I am loved and love others.” Picture all the people you love and bathe them in loving green energy. This practice will increase the love you carry with you, always.
  • “I am universally intelligent.” Think of all the times you made decisions or solved a problem that led to a great outcome. We all make mistakes and do stupid things, but the ability to recognise it and aspire to change, shows enormous intelligence. Albert Einstein said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”

So, when you catch yourself struggling to find joy, remember to just change the channel.

Namaste 🌈🕉

Thank you Jeff.

weddingPic

“I fell in love with you because of the million things you never knew you were doing.”   ~ Unknown ~

To my love….

Thank you for your eternal patience,

while I shift, shed, rage and morph into my true essence.

Thank you for your encouragement,

while I struggle to wash away ancient blood and wrong ideas about myself.

Thank you for your warm embrace,

while I cry and grieve the loss of my ego-self.

Thank you for your support,

while I repeatedly and powerfully crash-land trying out my new wings.

Thank you for your tireless efforts to hold it all together,

while I anxiously search for a new life’s purpose beyond motherhood.

Thank you for your stability,

while I move between anger and bliss like a toddler.

Thank you for your generosity,

even when I’m wallowing in self-cherishing.

Thank you for your brilliance,

while I grope in the darkness before my dawning.

Thank you for staying diligently with me on this journey toward awakening,

even when we sometimes lose sight of each other along the way.

Thank you for having faith in my strength and courage,

even when I doubt myself.

Your extraordinary greatness inspires me to grow into my own greatness.

The strength of your love breaks opens my fearful heart.

The equanimity of your being quells my restless and anxious spirit.

I’m filled with deep gratitude to have found my greatest love and teacher in you.

To be able to spend my life living and growing old with you is a most precious gift.

Thank you.

All my love, forever and ever,

Jana

My Balance Checklist

For much of 2017, I felt drawn to the cocoon of darkness, self-reflection and solitude. During this period, a lot of sadness disguised as anger came forward. Another layer of old wounds was revealed. I followed the pain to see where it would lead. There comes a point where there is nothing left to do with it but put it down and leave it behind. There must have been something in the stars because a large percentage of social media blogs and posts were dedicated to this wave of pain and discontent. It seems a genuine feeling of angst was being collectively expressed all around the world.

So, here we are, a quarter of the way through 2018, and I still feel agitated a good portion of the time. I’m easily overwhelmed and quick tempered. I rapidly alternate between feelings of anger, sadness, restlessness and utter bliss like a toddler (or a woman going through full-blown menopause). I have developed strong aversions to toxic people and triviality. I feel a strong pull toward those that embody love and light and are on the path to awakening. My heart feels wide open to all the energy around me, which has been my goal for a while now, but the reality is tipping me off kilter. I know that practising patience and compassion will bring me back to centre and remove my aversions, but I have to say… it’s fricken hard!

I know from experience that I’m on the brink of a big leap forward in my awakening and am both excited and terrified of what will be revealed once all the dead skin has moulted off. What major life changes will take place? What will fall away and what will come forward to guide me through this next level? How will I integrate my old life with this new version of myself? I’ll be honest here, I find myself clinging to my old ideas and habits out of fear. I have gotten used to this way of being and the unknown brings up a lot of anxiety.

Balance will be essential and, as it turns out, that is my absolute weakest link! My greatest struggle in life is finding the midline. I’m far too stubborn to simply accept its location when told where it is. I have to go to both extremes before finding my way there. And even when I arrive, I doubt, question, challenge and push.

I know that I am 100% responsible for my suffering because I am 100% responsible for my mind. Mastering my crazy, wild elephant mind is my ultimate goal. Through this mastery comes awakening. I also know that although it’s important I don’t squander my time here strengthening the habits of anger and distraction, I must also cultivate gentle kindness and patience for myself on this journey. Again… much easier said than done.

So, my Balance Checklist going forward looks like this….

1. Speak up and tell the truth about how I’m feeling without worrying about how others are going to feel about my feelings. My job is to take care of my feelings and allow others to take responsibility for their feelings without taking it personally. I need to remember that not everything is about me.

2. Say NO to what I don’t want and YES to what I do want, without worrying about being labelled selfish. There are worse things than being thought selfish…. like, becoming so unbalanced I get hit with a catastrophic illness. If others want to make assumptions about who I am based on my choice to take loving care of myself, well, that’s just none of my business, nor my concern.

3. Slow the f*ck down! There’s no finish line. There’s no awards ceremony for those who die having the cleanest house, the longest list of accomplishments, the most money earned, being the most crazy-busy (often worn as a badge of honour as code for important and successful), or being the most well liked. Do one thing at a time and do it well; do it mindfully. Effective multi-tasking is a myth.

4. Put down the phone and connect and engage with the people right in front of you. Have meaningful conversations. Exchange ideas with an open mind and an eagerness to learn something new. Share your (often painfully) hard-earned wisdom. Stop engaging in silly dramas, negativity and tedious (and often hurtful) gossip. The best questions to ask yourself before speaking are: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?

5. And most importantly, know that we are ALL doing our best at any given moment. We judge ourselves and others harshly for actions we feel are “bad” and “wrong,” however, we all make decisions to act based on the beliefs we hold in that moment. Sometimes, if we have a little self-awareness, we realise later we didn’t have all the true and relevant information, or were reacting to some old wound that this present moment triggered, or were simply being dishonest or selfish out of fear. Regardless of the reasons why we behaved poorly, in the moment, it really was the best we could do. And rather than wallow in shame and guilt, we can perhaps recognise a more skilful way to handle ourselves in the future and strive to do better. In the words of Maya Angelou, “When we know better, we do better.”

Namaste 🌈🕉

The Space in Between

“The biggest thing I did is clear my schedule, leaving a few empty spaces in my days to do nothing. By making this space, everything has seismically shifted for the better. All because I started doing less. Resting more. Finishing one thing at a time. Don’t forget that the space between all the ‘doing’ is a wellness practice in itself.” ~ Dana Claudat

Up until late last year, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, busily ticking things off my endless to-do lists. I had gotten swept away in “doing” and had lost myself in the process. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I was hiding behind the busy. I had let go of many of my wellness practices because I just didn’t have the time. I had worn my busy-ness like a status symbol (as Brene Brown calls it). I was hiding from the revealing of self, from the changes this uncovering would require of me. If I kept up the 100 mile an hour pace, it wouldn’t catch me and I could continue to hide in motion and pat myself on the back for all that I was accomplishing. What was the “it” I was running from? I didn’t exactly know, but I was becoming increasingly unsettled, edgy, restless. I was finding mundane and pointless distractions tedious. It was becoming clear that a major shift was about to take place.

So, my monastic nature kicked in and I went into a period of solitude. To the outside world, it looked like depression, but it wasn’t. Sure, there was a mixture of sadness and anger, sometimes rather intense, but mostly it was about just sitting still. I was allowing all my feelings to run through me without the knee-jerk reaction of avoidance. I didn’t label them bad or wrong. I just let them be. I isolated myself quite a bit from the outside world and returned to my meditation practice with the renewed enthusiasm only suffering can induce. I observed my ego-mind and marvelled at how crazy it was. I listened to the compelling stories it told and became almost convinced they were true.

But then my heart-mind came forward and spoke loud and clear. It was time to stop resisting the shift that was going to happen, regardless of my resistance. It was time to show up for what was truly important in my life and stop hiding behind the busy-ness. I needed to release the story I’d been telling myself, which was that my value was tied up in my doing and accomplishments. So I cracked open the door and allowed a little light to come in. Each day I opened the door a little more. As more light came in, the ego-mind shrank back and eventually became small enough to hold in my arms. I kissed it goodnight and let it go back to what I hope is a good, long sleep.

The shift that finally came wasn’t a big lightening bolt… it was as gentle and quiet as a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. I felt a little disoriented and unsure of myself, but much lighter. I felt unsteady, insecure, out of place, but somehow more liberated. Will I find peace in this new version of my life? Which of my friends and family will remain by my side and who will drift away? What unnecessary baggage will I need to let go of to become truly open and free? Can I practise non-attachment and still be madly in love with my husband and kids? Can I practise groundlessness and still be grounded? Can I practise curiosity and remain open to new ideas without becoming fixed and rigid? Can I keep my heart open in the face of anger and fear? Can I be the calm eye in the storm, as my mother used to say?

I will endeavour to open up the space in between all the doing and be like the tree in the picture above. I will protect the space where my wellness practices live and let go of the idea that everything has to be done right now or the sky will fall. Of course, there is important stuff to do that when completed actually brings a healthy sense of accomplishment and reduces future drama and stress, like paying your bills on time and keeping your house tidy. But allowing myself to become mired down and overwhelmed makes me far less effective and efficient anyway, so what’s the point? I’m starting to see that multi-tasking is not the most effective path. Sure, I can do many things at once, but they’re done half-assed. I think it makes more sense to mindfully do one thing at a time and do it well.

So far this year, I’ve managed to create space in between work, appointments and family activities to nurture myself. I meditate every morning. I journal. I exercise. I get a massage. I take a cat nap if I need one. I spend time with my family and friends. I make time for listening to and learning from my teachers. I read. I don’t make excuses when I don’t want to do something… I just say, “No, thank you.” I tell the truth because it’s easier to remember. And you know what? All the stuff I’m not getting done as timely as I would like, is not throwing the Earth off its axis. It’s still sitting there in my in-box and patiently waiting for me. I’ve found if something really needs to be done, it will get done. If it doesn’t get done, well, it must not have been that essential in the first place. On my deathbed, I won’t regret all the crap I didn’t get done. I will regret all the time I wasted trying to get everything done instead of spending my precious time loving my tribe and taking better care of my heart, mind and body.

So, my new mantra is…. “Serenity is found in the space in between.”

Namaste 🕉

Healing the Hungry Ghost

When I am triggered to engage in an activity that is harmful to myself or others, to do the habitual thing that always leads to suffering, how do I refrain?

First, I need to identify the trigger. For me, it’s usually an impulse, a thought with a juicy, seductive nature that lures me in. I call her my hungry ghost. She wants poisonous foods, or to be angry, to be perfect, or to engage in a loop of negative self-talk and toxic judgement.

First, I need to pause and breathe; be an unattached witness; bring mindfulness in….turn to my star.

Where is my star?

My star is within.

What will bring me toward my star?

Being fully present.

What is my real need that’s not being met? What do I really want in this moment?

Be a witness…. What am I really feeling underneath the impulse?

I’m feeling bored, lonely, tired, overwhelmed, sad or angry.

Will engaging in this harmful activity really satisfy my underlying needs?

No, it never does.

What will satisfy my needs?

To feel connected, loved, purposeful, engaged, worthy.

How is feeding my ghost going to bring that about?

It won’t.

What is the inevitable result when I feed her?

The continuing loop of shame and self-loathing.

How do I break the loop, the habit?

Embrace my hungry ghost. Meet her with loving-kindness and compassion. Hating my hungry ghost only strengthens her power over me.

Be a witness. Be present. Take a moment to breathe and ask myself the questions above.

Then go do something else.

Take a walk, meditate, tell someone I love them, eat something alive with nutrients, get off social media and pick up that book I’ve been wanting to read, take a nap. Do anything that truly feeds my soul.

This is the practice to heal my hungry ghost. I vow to nurture myself this year and to find balance.

What is your vow for the year to come?

Blessings. 🌈🕉

Note to self….

Note to self:

This past year has kicked your ass, ripped you open

and left you bleeding in the street.

Fear has left you feeling unloveable,

unworthy and overwhelmed.

You’ve been unkind to yourself

and allowed anger into your heart.

You’ve been manipulated and lied to by your ego.

Forgive yourself for all the mistakes you’ve made;

for unfairly judging yourself and others;

and for all the times you didn’t stand up for yourself.

Forgive others, even when they’re not sorry.

See the best in people,

even when they show you their worst.

Believe in yourself.

You have been through worse times than this

and came through them wiser and more resilient.

Believe in others and risk being let down and hurt.

A BROKEN HEART IS AN OPEN HEART.

Remember….vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness.

Strong Back, Soft Front

“All too often our so-called strength comes from fear not love; instead of having a strong back, many of us have a defended front shielding a weak spine. In other words, we walk around brittle and defensive, trying to conceal our lack of confidence. If we strengthen our backs, metaphorically speaking, and develop a spine that’s flexible but sturdy, then we can risk having a front that’s soft and open, representing choiceless compassion. The place in your body where these two meet – strong back and soft front – is the brave, tender ground in which to root our caring deeply.” ~ Joan Halifax ~