Tag Archives: stillness

The Power of Deep Stillness

treesnlight

I’m having a hard time integrating back into the cacophony and anxious energy of Los Angeles after a contemplative weekend deep in the Northern California redwood forests at Ratna Ling Buddhist Retreat Center. Here I am yesterday saying goodbye, feeling completely refreshed, on my deck enclosed by lush woodland. The stillness and silence and peace ran deep this past weekend—at first surrounding me, embracing me—then sprouting from within. Just listen to the sounds of life sustained by these ancient trees. Maybe cut off the TV, close your door, put in earphones, shut your eyes and listen again.

 

All weekend, I became more reflective, less talkative and deeply relaxed. I meditated, took silent walks, sketched, read, wrote, and yes, did amazing daily yoga classes with soulful Gloria Baraquio. (For those who wanted more, there was a sound bath with Lauri , essential oils workshop, sacred texts talk, sacred art class, FOOD (and more delicious FOOD), a library full of Tibetan literature and art, as well as a variety of massages and therapies to indulge in at theMandala Wellness Center.) For me, however, this weekend was mainly about reconnecting with nature. As a little girl who was raised in the South on property jutting against a horse farm, I used to sneak into the woods, the pre-Civil War trails, and lean against the trunks of huge pine trees with roots softened by emerald and sage moss and icy white lichen. I’d listen to the wind make shushing sounds through the branches above, as winking bursts of sunlight pierced through. Sometimes a deer might wander over curiously, just as they do here at Ratna Ling.  This past Memorial Day weekend I welcomed a relief from the intensity of LA. As a child, however, I sought nature as a refuge from the loudness of our house with its large family. older siblings who’d fight, or parents fighting, or TVs and stereos on simultaneously, teenager phone conversations, usually drama of some sort. The energy was too charged for my sensitive ears. The sounds in those southern horse trails were similar to those of the redwood forest, and just as calming, yet still vibrant with activity; a celebration of life. In Ratna Ling I could hear mocking birds, wood peckers, sweet singing Wrens, bellowing toads, screeching crickets, scurrying geckos—all creating a mesmerizing chorus. On my birthday I sat on the rustic deck of my cabin reading, and at one point, a huge butterfly landed on my book. Another moment, a large turkey vulture landed on a branch a few feet away. I watched as a momma mocking bird dive bombed it over and over, likely protecting a nest, finally bothering the vulture, 5 times its size, to spread its mammoth totem pole wings, shading my chair on the deck, as it flew away. The energy felt in this forest was calm, peaceful, purposeful, relaxed. My mind cleared of distractions. I focused. Thank goodness there was no cell reception. I needed this mental clearing.

treecircle2

treetops

Perhaps that’s why returning to Los Angeles was especially hard. The high-pitched beeps and announcements at the airports, then screaming tourists at a local fair, loud intoxicated fiesta goers in my beach town, neighbors blaring music and TV news that wafted through my window like toxic gas—all creating a stunned anxiety within me. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t relax. Even talking with a friend, at first, was jarring as I could heard her blender going, her TV on, her dog whining, then barking, the dish washer sputtering to a start, some more water flowing in a sink, all as we spoke on the phone. Am I like this? I worried. And the answer is yes. Yes I am. I expect that most Americans juggle. We rush, do, do more, multi-task, barely listen fully, worry, pile on more commitments that we can’t complete and keep going—while allowing ourselves to be bombarded by anxious news announcements, or negative talk shows, eliciting a fight or flight response within us and amping up our cortisol. It’s no wonder we can’t hear our intuition. Our center for calm and knowing and creativity.  It’s no wonder every-day life that is hectic creates confused, interrupted thinking. It’s hard to finish projects in this state of mind. It’s hard to prioritize and focus on what’s really important, what your Dharma is, rather than seeking object referral or approval. We have to clear out the noise, sweep away the distractions, center ourselves and listen without judgement to what comes up. Our frenetic life, especially for many parents who are frazzled by over-scheduled activities and interruptions, can feel the drain. I didn’t know how drained I was, until it all stopped and sat still and I breathed deeply. There is another way to live.

Today, I miss the woods. I miss the simple focus. I miss going to sleep with the sounds of crickets and waking to birds singling as the sun rises, illuminating redwood limbs reaching toward each other, like fingers making an ink stain on my window. I thought a yoga class would help me integrate, but the music was too loud, the thumping music was too loud and a teacher was screaming over it. I wasn’t relaxed when I walked home.

So I guess it’s a good thing I was asked if I’d like to come back to Ratna Ling to host a yoga and writers retreat later this year. I get to return and I get to take some dear writer friends with me. I can’t wait to introduce them to this haven that will allow them to get centered, ignore their fears and focus on their writing, their unique stories they all are compelled to share. We’ll flow to vibrational yoga, breathe deeply, take meditative walks in the woods, enjoy Tibetan meditation movement with an expert … and write from a place connected to Source. Stay tuned, as I work out the details. Proceeds will go to Dharma Publishing, created by Ratna Ling’s founder, Tibetan Lama Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche, who has spent more than 45 years preserving sacred texts, literature and art. I’m honored to support such a worthy cause, while helping fellow-writers tap into their inner voice, find peace, calm, stillness, confidence. I’ll write more later when details are sorted. 🙂

In the meantime, maybe you’d like to join me this week as I meditate with the intention of re-claiming stillness, letting go of distractions, and finding mindful focus while at work, while at play. Here’s to a week where we can feel calm, peaceful, playful, free, content, loved, secure, safe, inspired, centered, clear, balanced and compassionate.

Love & Light,

Laura xo

Advertisements

Finding Light Within Loss

light

Photo by RickyLesser.com

It’s nearly impossible to find the light, any light, when lost and in pain. Any platitude will ring untrue, like a well-intentioned stranger who says, “It’s God’s plan, dear,” or “Let Go & Let God.” Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is really mis-understood. What a person ‘intellectually’ and ‘spiritually’ understands, is not felt within the body of someone who has been traumatized. Ask any veteran. Ask any survivor of horrific abuse. It leaves a water mark that I believe melts into our muscles and settles into the deep subconscious within our bones that whispers in another language—but one that triggers our insecurity, our doubt, our sense of not belonging, our sense of not being enough. One yoga class, one therapy session, one confession, one psychic healer isn’t going to fix it. Post traumatic stress is something triggered by the body, from something buried deep within. And sometimes, we aren’t even cognizant of what that is, if it’s been blocked out.

Think of the person who ducks every time she hears a car backfire because she was a young child in a war-torn area where her parents were shot. Her heart is racing, palms sweating, and she might manically race to get away from the noise—to the point of running into the line of cars. She isn’t conscious of why she is fleeing, but the noise has triggered a buried memory that she never processed fully and her body is forcing her to feel the fear, feel the anxiety, feel the terror. The problem with PTSD is that, if not treated, this flight or fight mechanism repeats over and over until a sane person is no longer sane. The woman who has been attacked, for instance, may try to shake it off. Years later, she may have a full-blown panic attack in a parking garage when her car door won’t open. Her body, reliving a time when someone grabbed her, will start an internal revolt until she is bent over, throwing up, or passes out. This same woman may begin to suddenly leave restaurants or night clubs if her friends don’t return from the bathrooms on time because her heart is racing and she can’t look other men in the eyes. Her body is forcing her to feel—but it isn’t from a healthy sense of intuition. It’s from blocked pain that has nothing to do with the reality of the present moment.

No one likes to feel pain, or relive pain. Some people may have even disassociated with what they were going through, like a child who was abused, in order to survive. Years later, she may not understand why she won’t allow men to touch her. Again, it’s the body’s memory. It’s the body echoing out through our senses to force us to feel, in order to heal. But feeling sudden panic and reactivity, spurs insanity.

That person becomes paranoid, makes bad decisions, is untrusting and desperately seeks a way to end the torture—which can make alcohol, or any escape, alluring. When trying to kick the escape habits, that person can start to isolate, become severely depressed or even suicidal.

When we can grow compassion for someone suffering from PTSD, then we can foster forgiveness for whatever escapes that person sought out—even those that caused our own suffering. Because it isn’t personal. He or she was in severe pain they couldn’t endure anymore. Period. End of story.  It wasn’t about you or me. And they didn’t mean to hurt us.

For 5 months I’ve lived every day wondering if my sister was still alive. It’s been excruciating. We both lost our mother last May and one of the last things I remember her saying at our mother’s funeral is how mom always reminded her: “there’s someone for everyone dear.” The someone my sister found hurt her badly, beyond comprehension. And she just got lost in the trauma. I won’t go into the details.

Two weeks ago I was convinced my sister had died. I grieved the loss. I cried so hard. But I also remembered her light. It’s so bright. It shines all over my house in every room with some bizarre trinket, picture or perfect gift, (usually an exotic frog of some sort, long story) that she has given me over the years. I recalled the way she played piano and sang. How rebellious and creative and genius she was. How compassionate she was: always rescuing animals and strays of any kind, lol. After two days of grieving, I found out she was alive! And I spoke with her for the first time in nearly 5 months too. She’s now getting the treatment she desperately needs.

She may think that she’s lost everything, but she hasn’t. Her eternal light is burning so bright. Her future can actually be strengthened from this, if she lets it. As a therapist, she’ll be able to help even more people, especially those going through PTSD, because she’s been there. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing.

Those who blame, shame, or ridicule anyone who has lost their way, due to PTSD, are heartless bullies. Compassion requires that we all take a moment to think about what someone else has gone through—to imagine their pain, their anxiety, their stress—and to think about ways to extend a hand, lighten their load, lessen their pain. Once we do this, even if it is a prayer we say, a candle we light, or a note we send saying we are thinking of that person, we return to love.

Compassion always returns me back to the amazing power of love. I can no longer stay mad at you, if I love you. If I love you, and realize that nothing you did was intentional to hurt me, than I can forgive you and fill my heart with love and acknowledge your light. Whenever we are back in that space of love, that space of light, there is no room for the ego or blaming or shaming or criticizing or ridiculing. And in that light, we are one, we are equal.

This experience, like others when I’ve lost loved ones or friends from sudden tragedies, reminds me of how fragile we all are. Even so, we all have an eternal light with lifetimes of knowledge and grace within us. If we allow ourselves to feel the pain, bless it, acknowledge it, enter stillness, and risk asking for help when we need it, we can actually feel our light as bright as the sun.

May we all find our way to loving each other, as the sun loves the Earth, without asking for anything in return, except for the blossoming of our potential, like wild flowers on a hillside.

With so much love and gratitude,

Laura x