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Embracing the Benefits of Fall: Learning to Let Go October 29, 2022 14:06

A silhouette of Teresa standing in a leaf covered yard holding a large sycamore leaf.

If you would prefer to listen to this month's blog offering, please click HERE for the audio link. 

 

This autumn season is blazing with color in Indiana. The maples and oaks are letting go of their leaves in brilliant red, orange, gold, and sepia colors. Nature is throwing a party, and everyone is invited.

While I'm enjoying this colorful season, I'm also grappling with an undercurrent of anxiety. A few factors are contributing to this mild, but steady uneasiness.

1. I have a trip of a lifetime coming up in mid November. A group of dharma friends and I will be traveling to India in a few weeks. We'll be attending an important ceremony at a monastery in South India, and then we'll be headed to Dharamshala to attend a live teaching with H.H. the Dalai Lama.

I have been fussing with the details and preparations for this trip for months: securing a visa, arranging for required vaccinations, thinking about what to pack (for two climates), downloading necessary travel apps, etc. I have been navigating feelings of anticipation and excitement as well as the worry of uncertainty.

2. This trip occurs during a time when I usually attend an important event as a vendor. Because my mala biz is online, and I don't have a brick and mortar shop, attending events like Indy Holistic Hub's Wellbeing Fest in Indianapolis helps to boost my success and sustainability, and it also allows people in the community to see and purchase my malas in person.

As a result, I've been grappling with uncertainties about my business. I've been questioning and ruminating about whether what I do is relevant. I've been worrying about where I can find those who appreciate what I do--and where they can find me, so that they can use these malas to not only benefit their own personal practice, but they can also be of benefit to others.

I've been grappling with feelings of doubt and of not feeling worthy or relevant.

3. I recently attended an event earlier this month hosted by Shades of Becoming a Mom, Inc. It was a wonderful, meaningful ceremony dedicated to women and families who had experienced pregnancy, infant, or child loss.

In preparation for this event, I had created several quarter malas made with gemstones suited for dealing with grief and healing from loss. I was grateful to sell a few of them, and I was also very grateful to be invited to participate as a vendor at this event. I met some kind-hearted, gracious people.

However, those seeds of doubt and worry surfaced again. I was comparing this event to the Wellbeing Fest from last year, which is not a fair comparison at all. The audiences and intentions of these events are completely different--and making comparisons only makes me spiral into hopelessness and dread.

4. I am still trying to overcome my conditioning to believe that being busy and productive are marks of success. I taught English at a large high school for nearly twenty years. In this environment, I was frenetically, frantically busy--too busy, really...

too busy to think

too busy to enjoy what I was doing

too busy to have time with my family

too busy to have any kind of restorative personal practices

too busy to effectively take care of myself

This level of chaotic effort was not healthy or helpful for me or anyone around me. In many ways, I felt like a useless failure during this time.

Thankfully, I transferred to a smaller school in the same district, and things did improve, at first. I wasn't as stressed, and I felt like what I was doing (teaching young people to think and write and reflect) mattered.  Even though I was teaching in a smaller school, and the work environment was more healthy and supportive, it didn't take long for the commitments and pressures of teaching--the endless initiatives, the daily meetings, the constant stream of collecting data and proctoring various standardized tests--all the things that interfered rather than enhanced teaching--all of these things took over like kudzu--and I felt that stranglehold pull of stress, anxiety, and doubt once again.

About ten years ago, I transitioned to a part-time tutoring position at this same small school. Once again, things improved.

I had more time to help students one-on-one. Because this is a part-time position, I also had time to take care of myself. I had time to read, to spend time with my family, to practice yoga and Feldenkrais lessons, to travel to Bloomington for dharma talks, to create malas--and to start my mala business. For the first time, my life felt balanced.

____________________

Fall is a season of facing and celebrating change. Each year, month, day, moment is different from those that came before, and I have a choice about how to approach these constant changes.

Instead of planting seeds of doubt and worry about traveling to new, exciting places, not selling malas, missing an event that I can attend next year, I am taking inspiration from these beautiful fall leaves and giving myself permission to let go of expectations, attachments, patterns, behaviors, and thoughts that no longer serve me.

I don't need to be so busy that I can't think clearly or take care of myself and others.

I don't have to sell X number of malas or put unnecessary pressure on myself to  feel as though I matter.

I don't need to do more or exert unnecessary effort in order to feel productive or relevant.

This fall season is speaking to me, and the trees in my front yard are modeling what I need to do--to let go--to rest--to restore.

They are encouraging me to recognize and acknowledge the wisdom and confidence that I already have within me--and to have faith that a new growing season is coming.

They are reminding me to trust that the right people will find me and the malas on my online shop.

They are validating that what I do matters in a quiet way--and that what I do will encourage others to find their own paths as well.

Creativity can't be forced, and endless effort is not productive. It often leads to burnout and exhaustion. This fallow time is necessary, and it's giving me more time to devote to other interests and adventures.

I am embracing change during this beautiful season. In a couple of weeks, I will be going to India. I have never been there before, and I don't have any expectations or comparisons. I am open to having an adventure with my dharma friends and receiving any benefits that may come our way.

I am leaving my worries, doubts, and neurotic musings behind. May they drift to the ground like dry leaves and drift away with the wind, or sink into brown grass and nourish the soil underneath.

I look forward to sharing more details about this trip with you soon.

In the meantime, if you feel compelled to purchase a mala from the online shop, now is actually a good time. I am more than happy to send them your way before I depart.

May you reap the benefits of this beautiful season as well, and may these words and malas be of benefit.

 

Take care--

 

Teresa 

 

 

 

 


Bruce Lee and Butterflies: Absorbing What Is Useful June 30, 2017 17:04

I have entered my fifth decade, and yet I still occasionally struggle with self-acceptance. I wonder if I’m doing life “right,” whatever that means. Even though, on an intellectual level, I know it’s important to honor what resonates with me, when I observe others or hear them speak about their yoga or meditation practices with such confidence and authority, it can stir up questions and doubts.

This morning, I saw my favorite type of butterfly in our garden. I don’t know what it’s called. It’s not fancy or famous like the Monarch or the Tiger Swallowtail. This butterfly is very small, and it flies around in a very haphazard and erratic way—almost as if it’s surprised by its own ability to defy gravity. Its wings are white on one side, and pale blue on the other, so when it flies, it looks purple, lavender or lilac, really.

Even though it’s small, and a wobbly flyer, it’s still a butterfly, and it serves its butterfly purpose.  It’s not trying to be the Monarch, the Cabbage White, or the Blue Morpho. It’s in the garden, hanging out with the lilies and hosta blooms being true to its quirky self.

I have deep admiration for people who do this, too. People who can embrace who they are unapologetically—who can “absorb what is useful,” like badass Bruce Lee, and integrate it in such a way that they still honor and maintain their own individuality. Even if they wobble or teeter a bit, they have the courage to stay on course, their course, the path that best suits them.

I tend to descend into doubt and second-guessing when I hear a yoga or meditation practitioner singing the praises of his or her own personal practice—elaborating on how great Iyengar or Ashtanga is…hot yoga…goat yoga…or some complex, esoteric sadhana found in an obscure, scholarly text.

If Ashtanga resonates with you…great. If you can achieve Samadhi by practicing yoga with hooved livestock…awesome. If reading complicated, philosophical texts resonates with you and enhances your meditation practice…fabulous. By all means, rock on with your enlightened self.

I prefer a slower, gentler practice. One lineage is not enough for me—I like variety. Diversity matters…a lot. I like reading meditation texts that are clear, concise, practical, and…well… a little funny (thank you, Brad Warner).

So, why do I feel prickly and antsy when I hear about other people’s practices? It can feel a little jarring to me—it can make me feel like my path is inadequate somehow…less than. During these moments of doubt, I offer myself tenderness and permission to question, investigate, and reflect—to explore these practices and texts objectively, whether up close or from a distance—and then decide if they’re appropriate for me or not.

 I’m not a Monarch or a Tiger Swallowtail. I’m more like that nameless lilac butterfly haphazardly zipping around the yard. I’m still learning to navigate this life with ease, grace, and acceptance. I'm still figuring it out. I’m still learning to be gentle with myself, but strong enough to keep going and growing in my own way, even if I teeter and wobble a bit. I'm still learning to absorb what is useful, and to adapt and apply it to my own life in an authentic way...to be compassionate (and patient) with myself, and with others. Whether it's on the mat, on the cushion, with or without a mala, this, too, is the practice.


Using Malas and Mantras to Deal with Energy Bullies March 30, 2016 08:40

We've all had to deal with energy bullies at one time or another, and we have all been someone's energy bully as well. They can be family members, friends, colleagues, partners, and spouses.  Energy bullies have difficulty being accountable for their own behavior.  They are prone to blaming, complaining, judging, and playing mind games in order to protect their own egos or to manipulate others.

Being around an energy bully can deplete our own energy and erode our self-esteem.

There's good news, though.  Toxic people give us opportunities to transform ourselves and grow, and using malas and mantras can help foster this transformation.

Energy bullies are especially astute at honing in on other's vulnerabilities and blind spots. That's their hook--and if you let them--they latch on and drain you of positive energy and confidence.  So, how do you effectively deal with energy bullies?

1. Identify the Root Source

What is the Achilles' heel, trigger issue, or soft spot that they have targeted with you? It may be a behavior pattern, an issue that you are sensitive about, a belief, characteristic, or specific situation.  Identify why and how they push your buttons.

2. Pause

Once you take note of who pushes your buttons and which situations elicit strong reactions or energetically drain you....PAUSE.

Give yourself permission to allow feelings of anger, resentment, fear, exhaustion, and doubt to surface.  Sit with these feelings--invite them to tea for a few moments. Open your heart and make space for these feelings.  Then,

3. Healthy Detachment

Let them go! Strong reactions of anger and resentment only entrench us more deeply in the toxic relationship with an energy bully. Once you've identified the source and held space for the feelings surrounding it, detach from it emotionally (THIS IS EASIER SAID THAN DONE, and IT TAKES PRACTICE). 

Gently offering yourself compassion and acceptance during this process will allow you to empower yourself and bolster your strength and confidence.

4. Malas and Mantras:Tools of Empowerment

Using a mala and incorporating a mantra practice can be a very useful tool to disengage from an energy bully.  This practice can act as an antidote to the source issue.

Choose a mala and a mantra that will embody the qualities that you would like to cultivate.  

Need strength and protection? Call on Durga to help: Om Dum Durgayei Namaha

Need spiritual wisdom and maturity? Shiva can offer assistance: Om Nama Shivaya

If you're quick to anger and need peace, Kwan Yin can help: Namo Kwan Shi Yin Pusa

Need an all-purpose mantra for balance and equanimity? Om Hum So Hum 

There are thousands of mantras to choose from, and a Google search and listening to your own intuition can help you find one that's best for you.  Make time each day to chant, sing, whisper, or think this mantra while using your mala.  I recommend a 40-day sadhana, or practice, if possible. Keep note of your progress in a spiritual journal or log.  Before you know it, you'll reclaim your power and help prevent future energy bullies from sabotaging you.