Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sedona Sweat Lodge

My phone has been ringing and e-mails coming in with people’s reactions to the loss of lives and physical injuries people experienced at the Sweat Lodge facilitated by James Arthur Ray during a Spiritual Warrior Retreat at a resort outside of Sedona, Arizona. I used to live in Sedona, so you can imagine how many reactions this has stirred-up in the hearts and minds of people that live there, and for many of us.

First of all, my heart-felt condolences to the family and friends of those that crossed over. I can only imagine what a tragic and shocking loss this must be for them. My heart goes out to those that were involved at every level. For whatever reason(s) this occurred, the lessons cannot be easy.

I’ve been hearing a lot of assumptions and speculation about what happened, including from me. Let me suggest we all step back from what we do not know, and instead focus on what we can learn for ourselves, so that such an event does not happen for us…unless that is our conscious desire.

I speak of conscious desire because, as I shared with a friend this weekend, if I knew it was my time to cross over, I can’t imagine a more loving, Spirit-supported place in which to leave. It would be like choosing to cross over while in the church of your choice, surrounded by beautiful Spirits in prayer and in relationship with the Divine. That said, I personally would prefer it be a conscious choice.

Some years ago, a woman had been suffering for years, and when I sang to her I could feel and hear her asking me to hold space for her so that she could finally cross over. I was honored that she trusted me and found so much Spirit in my song that she could go, but I was not prepared to hold that space for her and asked her not to leave on my watch. There was a conscious interaction in the spirit-world that we both also consciously acknowledged in the physical world. Today, I might choose differently, but then it was the right conscious choice for me to make.

However, since then, as others I have known have laid dying in their beds, I have willingly sung their song to help them easily make their transition, with their permission, and all done consciously.

Whatever unconscious agreements were going on in that lodge that day, I can’t help but consider a lesson, perhaps for many of us, about becoming more conscious participants in our journeys.

Sweat lodge is a ceremony—a serious ceremony to be respected—and not taken lightly by the one that facilitates it. When I was invited to learn the ways of and offer sweat lodge in a specific Native tradition, I knew I would need to go to the lodge in my most humble nature, stripping myself of ego, and learning how to hold safe, yet powerful space for those that entered the lodge with me.

When I was invited to participate in lodges poured by elders, roadmen and water-pourers of various Native traditions, I made sure my own intuition was saying, “Yes,” to enter the lodge. If my intuition says, “No,” I don’t go, no matter how much I might want to, and no matter how well-trained or skilled the facilitator of that lodge may be.

I only sweated with people that had been trained and were deeply connected to Spirit, following Spirit’s guidance over their own will and desires. And, as I said, I only sweat when everything in me is guided to do so. If I don’t already know, I ask about their training—what tradition they were taught to pour lodge in, how long they have been pouring, perhaps I’ll ask about who apprentices them, or what kind of lodge they pour. I want to know if it is a healing, visioning, warrior, or purification lodge, for example.

There are many kinds of lodges, poured for different reasons and done in different ways, depending upon the tradition itself and the purpose of the lodge. Each can be powerful in its own way.

I ask what they expect from me. I want to know what clothing is appropriate in their tradition, how many doors they have (how often the lodge is opened for people to have a break and get fresh air and cool down). I’ll ask their guidance on when a person may or may not leave the lodge if my body becomes over-stressed (such as between rounds for example). I find out how many people might be in the lodge and ask if they recommend making prayer ties to take into the lodge. Water-pourers I have met welcome questions. It is best for everyone if you are clear about this as being the right place for you before you enter the lodge.

I know the pourer has responsibility for my journey while I am in the lodge. So if I have an existing health condition that might be exacerbated in a lodge, I let them know. If I have been fasting, I expect them to be able to hold space for me in that state of being. But I also know ultimately, I am responsible for me. The best time to make my decision about what I’m going to do is before I ever enter the space.

Because many of us are not familiar with sweat lodge, or are entering one for the first time, we might be inclined to neglect our responsibilities in taking care of ourselves, thinking the water-pourer knows better what we need than we do. And in terms of facilitating lodge, some of us assume that because we have been to one or a few, we understand how to pour a lodge and don’t need help or instruction. In either case, we are not assuming personal responsibility and this is where and how such harm can occur.

May I suggest that we learn from the deaths and injuries of this lodge, and with greater awareness of our responsibilities, approach this powerful ceremonial space with the full respect that it and we deserve.

A Sedona Sweat Lodge Prayer.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Keep Your Inner Friends Close and Your Inner Enemies Even Closer

The concept of keeping your enemies close to you intrigued me greatly the day I read about Nelson Mandela’s practice of having his rivals over for dinner. He believed that breaking bread together broke down barriers. “No wonder his life has been such a positive and powerful influence in the world,” I thought as I finished reading the article in Time magazine about his views of leadership.

During my recent retreat in days of deep meditation and visioning, I took with me a haunting thought about someone I perceived had approached me as an enemy. Conceptually, I knew from previous experiences that when someone approaches you from an antagonistic position it does not necessarily mean you can never find your peace with each other. It simply means you must find greater understanding.

My mind remembered this concept, but my heart ached from the inaccurate assumptions that had been made about me. And so, my inner struggle accompanied me into my retreat.

After settling into compassionate sacred awareness and knowing that the external world is a reflection of the internal, I welcomed the image of my perceived rival into my sacred space. My rival came and there I sat in complete compassion and willingness to understand the perspectives of another, because those perspectives were reflections of my own doubts.

It did not take long for me to understand, and for the seeming weight of being unaccepted to be lifted. In its place, I found acceptance of another and myself—as we are—doing the best that we can in the moment.

I realized that in the end our fears were the same. We both feared unacceptance and simply had different ways of expressing the very same fear. In compassion, I could not only hold my own fear of unacceptance, but I could hold that same fear for another. In the end, we were more similar than we were different.

Before the day was over, a sweet voice from the other side of the veil whispered in my ear, “Enemies are those who come to help you define who you are.”

Isn’t it true? Is there anyone like a rival, a person with a different view point or belief, to help you define who you really are? And isn’t the bottom-line challenge an opportunity to decide whether or not you will use this fear to become your greatest self, or that which you fear?

In my case, I could either become compassion or I could become the very unacceptance I found so unacceptable. It was my own inner rival—unacceptance—that longed to know acceptance, and that was achieved through loving understanding.

Yes, during my days of silence I also held my kindness, humor, tolerance, and many more qualities in my loving embrace. I held them in love, so that they could become more of how I walk in the world. Yet, the one that needed most to be held dear was my own inner enemy. That is where I made the greatest difference. Mandela was right. Breaking bread together does break down barriers.

For a moving prayer on this topic, visit: Universal Prayers

Friday, October 09, 2009

Remembering The Forgotten

This meditation was profoundly deep, yet my mind was focused. I was asking how I could best serve the people I am here to support. In reality, I discovered I had known all along. In truth, I needed confirmation.

The sacred pulse was strong and familiar. It did not have to be spoken to me in words or shown to me in vision. Though I had forgotten it for most of my life, every moment of every day has been bringing me to this realization.

I’ve been a student of energies—specific energies most of my adult life. When my daughter asked me if the baby in her womb was a girl or a boy, I didn’t get it right, but I knew whether the essence of the child was more yin or yang. I know how to support my grandchildren as I experience their essential expression of feminine or masculine energies at any given time in their development.

For years, I have looked at the world in ways many do not. Even as a business consultant, it has been my tendency to see businesses and organizations as fundamentally masculine or feminine in nature. I see their energies.

Masculine organizations tend to be goal-driven (not just goal-directed), have strict top-down management structures, with little opportunity for employee or customer input. They are highly efficient businesses, productive, and tight to their numbers. However, they lay-off employees a bit too easily and are sometimes out of sync with current market trends and needs, causing them to lose market share.

Feminine organizations tend to involve their employees and customers in their planning and have fewer layers of management. They are goal-directed, but not driven and will often “go with the flow” rather than hold to plans and projections, and are usually very much in sync with current markets. However, they have difficulty releasing non-performing employees, prefer not to lay-off anyone and will risk lower performance and profits rather than hurt anyone.

Can both energies exist within an organization? Actually, to be a truly healthy and vibrantly functioning organization, they must. When I was a more active consultant, I privately analyzed the business’ energy and then guided them to a more balanced state. A business needs to have clear direction, have management that can make difficult decisions in the moment without input from others and needs to have enough structure for everyone to understand their role and responsibilities. It also needs to have a pulse on the market, develop customer and employee loyalty and, when necessary, be able to move with the trends.

This planet aches and groans under the pressure of too much masculine energy without an adequate balance of feminine energy. We make decisions for the sake of profit or power without considering the short- and long-term effects on our planetary community. We wage war for immediate gain, and consider the outcomes and impact of those decisions after the fact. We will stick to a profitable plan, even when it is no longer working for the greater good.

We say things like, “The end justifies the means,” which is a great way to justify just about any action you want to take, even at the expense of many members of our planetary family.

All this said, masculine energy is fabulous. It has taken us out of the stone age into the comforts of modern civilization. The energy is directed and on purpose. The Divine Masculine energy is a vital and exciting aspect of creative force. But without its partner, the Divine Feminine, the creative force is out of balance, and we suffer from the repercussions of half creations.

For many years, I have said that in order for us to develop spiritually as humans and for the planet to evolve to its next potential, like the businesses that prospered in balance, we need to find ours. While I adore both energies, I know which one needs attention, across the globe, and that is the Sacred Feminine. She has been oppressed and forgotten for too long. It is time for us to remember her sacred nature within us.

So it was no surprise to me and probably no surprise to those of you who know me, that my blessed work and privilege is in supporting us all in remembering and honoring Her essence within us, so that She rises from the status of forgotten to the Sacred Partner of the Divine Masculine within us. When She is in balance within us, all of us and the world will prosper in ways we have dreamed and hope to experience.

For information about a beautiful retreat to open your heart in the power of the sacred feminine, visit Women Water and Spirit

Friday, October 02, 2009

Sweet Endeavors

The energy was practically yanking me into seclusion. “But I have so much to do!” I kept thinking, and I did.

I’m the Spiritual Director of a foundation, run my own business providing healing assistance and consult with a couple of small business owners. My plate is usually overflowing. When was I supposed to find time to take a retreat?

But the pull was insistent. Finally, I surrendered. I notified the volunteers that so generously support me in all of my work, set up out of the office messages, and secluded myself in our guest room for 3 days and nights.

The energy was pulling so hard, I didn’t even feel like I had time to create a special retreat event. I was just plain going inside, and going right then.

My desire and intention was simple. First, I wanted greater clarity about my purpose and how to fulfill it. Second, I wanted to go more deeply into my infinite heart. You know, expanding through breath and heart beyond the limits of my current capacity to love—using a similar process that meditation New Dream members recently received.

Within seconds of sitting down before the Mother Bowl filled with water, and beginning my meditation, my mind was quiet and my heart bursting. The days of meditation were rich and sweet as I breathed lovingly into my infinite capacity to love.

Throughout the days, I cried and laughed. My heart expanded and clarity came. I found great focus for my work and you will see this reflected in changes at New Dream during this coming year. (I don’t want to tell you now because it might spoil the fun of New Dream’s re-dedication and unveiling of new ways to support you.)

Once again, I fell in love with my calling and I fell in love with you. When I asked to see who I was to serve and support—you were there. And you are so BEAUTIFUL!

You inspired me to hold in love more than I have ever held before. In that realization, my plate-full of activities is more than a flurry of to-do’s with a few moments of awakened passion. Each moment richer. Oh, I’m still challenged by everything I have committed to do; however, after my retreat, each one of them feels like a sweet endeavor.

To stay current with the new developments happening at New Dream to support you in your journey of spiritual awakening, register for our brief and inspiring, Weekly Meditations