About artemisia shine

Artemisia Shine is an Intuitive Healer, Counselor, Yoga Therapist, Reiki Master and coyote medicine maker. Love is one of her greatest superpowers and she’s here on the planet to find, be in and create more of that force of magic. Her professional focus is on being a transformational ally for other healers, empaths, givers, change-makers and highly sensitive people as they connect with their innate body-wisdom and power. She can’t wait to be your cheerleader as you come home to yourself and actively seek to live a better story. Her joy filled mission is to support the awakening of ever more sri (radiance, splendor and beauty) in the hearts of all those she encounters. In her free time she can be found trying to snuggle her teenage son, successfully snuggling her rattie-love Cinder, pedaling barefoot thru the streets of San Luis Obispo, bending her body into unusual shapes and falling madly in love with random animals that cross her path. At the time of this writing, she still contends with being human and has to put on her tights one leg at a time.

September 11th, Violence and Love

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September 11th, Violence and Love

lovemakeslifeI was pregnant with my love child just weeks after September 11th. I remember protesting US government violence in the middle east with a swollen belly and a broken heart. I’ve often wondered about the “American” children en utero at that time. How was it for them to grow cells, develop organs, to feel the collective fear, anger, morning and horror of that moment in history? My womb did not protect my son from the chemical warfare of my sympathetic nervous system.

And then I think of all the pregnant mamas and babies living in the world who wake up to the sounds of warfare every morning — for generations. Places where every child born develops alongside that fear, that violence, that despair – except that it is unrelenting. And it’s next-door, or worse it’s where your house and family used to stand.

I seek to uncover the violence, the anger, the repulsion, the fear within me that keeps me from acting in love. This morning I am grateful that my young son is still asleep in his bed. He is sick and it’s 10:00am. He has a warm bed in a quiet neighborhood where he can take the time to recover. We have privilege beyond our own awareness.

“Wanting to reform the world without discovering one’s true self, is like trying to cover the whole world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns…” — Ramana Maharshi

I love you this morning. I love you yesterday. I love you tomorrow, and it starts from within.

pregnantHobbit

2001/2002 – Growin’ a Bodhi Shine in my belly.

Love!

~ artemisia shine

Healing Breath

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Healing Breath

Source: Yoga Journal • Kate Holcombe • August 2012

Try these three simple practices to reduce stress, quiet your mind, and connect to your inner Self.

By Kate Holcombe

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A few weeks ago, my seven-year-old son, Hayes, told me he was having trouble falling asleep. He said that he was having “many thoughts” at night and couldn’t stop his mind from thinking. I told him about a breathing practice that I had taught his older brother, Calder, a few years earlier, and I suggested that Hayes could try it while lying in bed at night to help him relax and fall asleep. The practice was simple: a few minutes of diaphragmatic breathing followed by a few minutes of consciously and gently extending each exhalation.

“Maybe you’d like to try it?” I said to Hayes. “I think it was helpful for your brother sometimes, and maybe it will help you, too.” Just then, Calder, who had been passing through the room, announced: “You’re wrong, Mom.” I held my breath, wondering if he’d tell Hayes that my advice wasn’t going to work. “It doesn’t help me sometimes,” he said matter-of-factly. “It helps me all the time.”

I was pleasantly stunned. I hadn’t realized that Calder was still using the practice I had taught him three years earlier. As I knelt on the living room floor to teach Hayes the same practice, I was reminded that pPranayama, the fourth of the eight limbs of yoga outlined in Patanjali‘s Yoga Sutra, does not have to be complicated.

Pranayama, which literally means “to extend the vital life force,” or prana, is an incredibly rich practice made up of many breathing techniques that vary in complexity from ones simple enough for a child to do to those appropriate only for advanced practitioners. While the best way to practice pranayama is under the guidance of an experienced teacher, there are simple techniques—such as gentle diaphragmatic breathing and comfortably lengthening the exhalation—that can be used at any time to transform not only your breath but also your state of mind.

In my work as a yoga therapist, I treat people struggling with a variety of issues, including depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, chronic pain, and even life-threatening illness. Time and time again, I’ve seen simple pranayama practices reduce stress and anxiety; promote restful sleep; ease pain; increase attention and focus; and, on a more subtle level, help people connect to a calm, quiet place within so that they experience greater clarity and well-being on every level.

In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali describes pranayama as a process by which you can break your unconscious breathing pattern and make the breath long, easeful, and smooth. Most people’s unconscious breathing patterns are anything but easeful and smooth; they tend to be tense, shallow, and erratic. When we are afraid or hear bad news, we often gasp—inhaling and then holding the breath. These breathing patterns can activate the sympathetic nervous system (often referred to as the “fight or flight response”).

One of the primary reasons that pranayama techniques that foster a long, smooth exhale (like the ones presented here) are so beneficial is because, when practiced correctly, they can support the parasympathetic nervous system and activate what is commonly known as the “relaxation response,” reducing stress and its effects on your body and mind. As a result, your resilience in the face of challenge or adversity increases, and your mind becomes more focused and still.

A Quiet Mind

The eight limbs of yoga outlined in the Yoga Sutra are a path to help you reach a state of Yoga, or focused concentration. But this focused concentration is not the end goal. As Patanjali tells us, the result of reaching this state of attention is that you experience clearer perception and a greater connection with your true Self.

When you’re connected with your true Self, it becomes easier to see what is not your true Self—your mind, body, thoughts, feelings, job, and essentially all of the changing circumstances around you. This discernment allows you to act from a place of the Self, and when you do that, you experience less suffering.

Pranayama is an important tool to get you to this state of more focused concentration, leading you to clearer perception, a greater connection with the Self, and ultimately a happier life. In Yoga Sutra 2.52, Patanjali writes, “As a result [of pranayama], the covering that blocks our own inner light is reduced.” In other words, through the practice of pranayama, you can reduce all of the mental noise—the agitation, distractions, and self-doubt—that prevents you from connecting with your own inner light, your true Self. In this way, pranayama can have a profound effect on your life.

The Practice

Though practice of pranayama is safest and most effective when guided by an experienced teacher who knows your needs and capabilities, there are several simple techniques you can try at home as long as you’re in good health and you don’t push beyond your capacity.

The three breathing practices that follow—relaxed, diaphragmatic breathing; Sitali (or Sitkari) Pranayama; and gentle “extended exhale” breathing—are a good introduction to pranayama. Each supports the parasympathetic nervous system, quiets the mind, and helps to bring about a state of more focused attention. As you continue to practice these techniques over time, you may start to notice when you are unintentionally holding your breath or breathing shallowly. You also may begin to associate patterns of the breath with your moods or states of mind. This self awareness is the first step toward using the practices of pranayama to help shift your patterns and, through regular practice, create positive change in your life.

Try each practice daily for a week and observe how it affects your body, breath, and mind in order to figure out which is best for you. You can do them at just about any time of day, though preferably not immediately following a large meal.

Basic Breath Awareness

This gentle introduction to diaphragmatic breathing teaches you how to breathe more fully and consciously.

Benefits: Quiets and calms the entire nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety and improving self-awareness.

Try it: At least once a day, at any time.

How to: Lie comfortably on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart. Place a palm on your abdomen and breathe comfortably for a few moments, noticing the quality of your breath. Does the breath feel tense? strained? uneven? shallow? Simply observe the breath without any judgment. Then gradually begin to make your breathing as relaxed and smooth as possible, introducing a slight pause after each inbreath and outbreath.

Once the breath feels relaxed and comfortable, notice the movement of the body. As you inhale, the abdomen naturally expands; as you exhale, feel the slight contraction of the abdomen. In a gentle way, try to actively expand the abdomen on the inhale and contract the abdomen on the exhale to support the natural movement of the diaphragm and experience the pleasure of giving yourself a full, relaxed breath. Continue the practice for 6 to 12 breaths.

The Cooling Breath

Sitali Pranayama is often translated as “the cooling breath” because the act of drawing the air across the tongue and into the mouth is said to have a cooling and calming effect on the nervous system. To practice Sitali, you need to be able to curl the sides of your tongue inward so that it looks like a straw. The ability to curl the tongue is a genetic trait. If you can’t, try an alternative technique called Sitkari Pranayama, which offers the same effects.

Benefits: Can improve focus; reduce agitation, anger, and anxiety; and pacify excess heat in the system.

Try it: Twice a day, or as needed during stressful times. Sitali and Sitkari Pranayama are particularly supportive when you’re feeling drowsy in the morning or during an afternoon slump when you need to improve your focus.

How to: Sitali Pranayama: Sit comfortably, either in a chair or on the floor, with your shoulders relaxed and your spine naturally erect. Slightly lower the chin, curl the tongue lengthwise, and project it out of the mouth to a comfortable distance. Inhale gently through the “straw” formed by your curled tongue as you slowly lift your chin toward the ceiling, lifting only as far as the neck is comfortable. At the end of the inhalation, with your chin comfortably raised, retract the tongue and close the mouth. Exhale slowly through the nostrils as you gently lower your chin back to a neutral position. Repeat for 8 to 12 breaths.

Sitkari Pranayama: Open the mouth slightly with your tongue just behind the teeth. Inhale slowly through the space between the upper and lower teeth, letting the air wash over your tongue as you raise your chin toward the ceiling. At the end of the inhalation, close the mouth and exhale through the nostrils as you slowly lower your chin back to neutral. Repeat for 8 to 12 breaths.

The Long Exhale

This 1:2 breathing practice, which involves gradually increasing your exhalation until it is twice the length of your inhalation, relaxes the nervous system.

Benefits: Can reduce insomnia, sleep disturbances, and anxiety.

Try it: Before bedtime to help support sleep, in the middle of the night when you’re struggling with insomnia, or at any time of the day to calm stress or anxiety. (In general, it’s best to avoid practicing 1:2 breathing first thing in the morning unless you’re experiencing anxiety. The relaxing effects of the practice tend to make it more difficult to get up and go on with your day.)

How to: Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Place a palm on the abdomen and take a few relaxed breaths, feeling the abdomen expand on the inhalation and gently contract on the exhalation. With your palm on your abdomen, mentally count the length of each inhalation and exhalation for several more breaths. If the inhalation is longer than the exhalation, you can begin to make them the same length over the next few breaths.

Once your inhalation and exhalation are equal, gradually increase the length of your exhalation by 1 to 2 seconds by gently contracting the abdomen. As long as the breath feels smooth and relaxed, continue to gradually increase the exhalation by 1 to 2 seconds once every few breaths. Make sure you experience no strain as the exhalation increases and keep going until your exhalation is up to twice the length of the inhalation, but not beyond. For example, if your inhalation is comfortably 4 seconds, do not increase the length of your exhalation to more than 8 seconds.

Keep in mind that even an exhalation that is only slightly longer than the inhalation can induce a calming effect, so take care that you don’t push yourself beyond your capacity. (If you do, you’ll likely activate the sympathetic nervous system, or stress response, and feel agitated rather than calm.)

If your breath feels uncomfortable or short, or if you’re gasping on the next inhalation, back off to a ratio that is more comfortable for 8 to 12 breaths. Then finish your practice with 6 to 8 natural, relaxed breaths.

Kate Holcombe is the founder and president of the nonprofit Healing Yoga Foundation in San Francisco

Shots Of Awe

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Awe: by Jason Silva

Take a moment to remember that child-like quality of wonder that lives in you.  When’s the last time you let awe out to play?  Check out this short (0:2:45) inspiring video by Jason Silva on awe.

If you love this (as I did) you can subscribe to Jason’s weekly Shots of Awe: where science, philosophy, and inspiration collide.

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Transcript of video:

Awe: “an experience of such perceptual vastness you literally have to reconfigure your mental models of the world to assimilate it.”

So I think a lot about the contrast between banality and wonder,
between disengagement and radiant ecstasy,
between being unaffected by the here and now,
and being absolutely ravished emotionally by it.
And I think one of the problems for human beings is mental habits.

Once we create a comfort zone, we rarely step outside of that comfort zone, but the consequence of that is a phenomenon known hedonic adaptation.

Over stimulation to the same kind of thing, the same stimuli again and again and again renders said stimuli invisible. Your brain has already mapped it in it’s own head and you no longer literally have to be engaged by that. We have eyes, yet see naught, ears that hear naught and hearts that neither feel nor understand.

There’s a great book called The Wondering Brain*.
It says that one of the ways that we elicit wonder is by scrambling the self temporarily so that the world can seep in.

You know Henry Miller says, “even a blade of grass when given proper attention becomes an infinitely magnificent world in itself.”** You know, Darwin said “attention, if sudden and close, graduates into surprise; and this into astonishment; and this into stupefied amazement.“

That’s what rapture is.
That’s what illumination is.
That’s what that sort of infinite comprehending awe that human beings love so much. And so how we do that? How do we mess with our perceptual apparatus in order to have the kind of emotional and esthetic experience from life that we render most meaningful? ‘Cause we all know those moments are there. Those are the moments that will make final cut.

Only in these moments, we experience afresh, the hardly bearable ecstasy of direct energy exploding on our nerve endings.This is the
rhapsodic,
ecstatic,
bursting forth of awe that expands our perceptual parameters beyond all previous limits, and we literally  have to reconfigure our mental models of the world in order to assimilate the beauty of that download!

That is what it means to be inspired! The Greek root of the term means “to breath in.” (aaaaahhhhh!)To take-it-in!

We fit the universe through our brains and it comes out in the form of nothing less than poetry. We have a responsibility to awe.

* Bulkeley, Kelly. The Wondering Brain: Thinking about Religion with and beyond Cognitive Neuroscience. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.

** Miller, Henry. Henry Miller on Writing. [New York]: New Directions, 1964. 37. Print.

*** Darwin, Charles. The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. New York: D. Appleton, 1886. 278. Print.

On Being Real

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On Being Real

I’m down for being real! Thanks for the love, thanks for helping me be real… the hurt along the way has been worth it…

i love you all.

~ artemisia

The_Velveteen_Rabbit_pg_25
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

– Margery Williams from The Velveteen Rabbit

Progress on the Spiritual Path: Krishna Das

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Progress on the Spiritual Path: Krishna Das ◦ Interview in New York

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“If you want to know if your making progress on the so called “spiritual path,” then see if you’re kinder to people. See if you’re a little easier on yourself. See if you obsess about your own self and all the stuff in your life a little bit less. See if you’re happier during the day in a simple way, more content. And see if you’re treating people more like you would like to be treated.  That means it’s working.”

~ Krishna Das
Come celebrate progress (not perfection!) every Tuesday and Thursday with me at Hatha Flow 11-12:30pm at Om Shala Yoga!

Ram Dass: Fierce Grace

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Ram Dass: Fierce Grace

I love this man. This beautiful movie is about Ram Dass’s experiences aging and the radically life changing event of getting “stroked.”

“Healing does not mean going back to the way things were before, but rather of allowing what is now to move us closer to god.” –Ram Dass

Rod Stryker on Tradition

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Eight Pearls of Wisdom from Rod Stryker’s Tradition Talk

Rod Stryker shares some compelling and controversial thoughts on the role of lineage and tradition in the study and practice of yoga. Below are eight peals of wisdom I gathered from the 1 hour dharma talk.  Watch the video below to gather your own favorite insights!

  • yoga is waking to the essence of being, the essence of life – the hight of becoming
  • you can do asana and not be established in yoga and you can be in yoga and not do asana…
  • asana is the adjunct, a tool that we use to achieve a greater freedom but we can have the freedom without the asana
  • you can only go so far as the quality of the thing you’re paying attention to
  • if you have that hunger then do the work of getting ready – when you are prepared the teacher will come
  • mentor-ship is an extraordinary model based on mutual love and respect
  • your teacher’s job is to turn you to your inner guru to give you the boat to get to the island that is your teacher
  • for those of us who have been practicing yoga for a while, we can’t ultimately reach the destination if we’re practicing in a one dimensional way

Enjoy the video!
Love!
~ artemisia shine

To schedule a private yoga session contact Artemisia Shine at 707.234.5411 or shine@artemisiashine.com / www.artemisiashine.com

p.s. Also check out this sweet short video “Is Tantra a Religion?” from Rod Stryker’s teacher and founder of The Himalayan Institute, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD – “Find freedom in the world, not freedom from the world.”

Is Tantra a Religion? from Himalayan Institute on Vimeo.

Taking a moment to answer a few questions received from facebook and Twitter, Pandit Tigunait discusses some interesting topics, such as:

  • Is tantra a religion?
  • What is tantra?
  • How does yoga intersect with tantra, and how does tantra differ from yoga?
  • What advice do you (Panditji) have for yoga practitioners interested in studying authentic tantra?
  • What do you (Panditji) mean when you say: “Find freedom in the world, not freedom from the world”?

If you are interested in learning more about the Living Tantra Series, visit http://www.LivingTantra.com

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Tradition: Modern Yoga’s Missing Treasure or Obsolete Relic?
Rod Stryker at the Wanderlust Festival Speakeasy – Colorado 2012

Source: Wanderlust Festival You Tube Channel Rod Stryker • March 2013

Published on Mar 11, 2013

The sacred teachings of yoga have thrived from time immemorial thanks entirely on lineage—-the unique relationship between master and student. Yet, modern yoga is practically devoid of it. Why was this ancient paradigm for study considered so precious? Moreover, can the most elevated understanding of yoga (in the modern age) be realized without it?

Join Rod Stryker as he explores the concept of “Tradition: Modern Yoga’s Missing Treasure or Obsolete Relic?” at the Wanderlust Festival Speakeasy in Colorado 2012.

Rod Stryker is the founder of ParaYoga and the author of The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom. Rod is widely recognized as one of the West’s leading authorities on yoga, Tantra, and meditation. His teaching weaves a profound breadth of knowledge and experience, along with his unique ability to make the deepest of the ancient teachings accessible to students of all levels. Rod has taught for more than 30 years and leads retreats, workshops, and ParaYoga Master trainings worldwide.

For more information on Rod, you can visit his website athttp://www.parayoga.com/. You can also dig deeper on his writings by exploring his book “The Four Desires” or his meditation CD’s, “Meditations for Life” and “Relax into Greatness”, available in his online store here: http://parayoga.com/store/. Follow Rod on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/RodStryker and keep up with his tweets here: https://twitter.com/RodStryker108.

Wanderlust Festival is also endebted to Hay House (http://www.hayhouse.com) who helped us realize the entire 2012 Speakeasy Lecture Series across all four festivals (Stratton, VT in June 2012; Copper Mountain, CO in July; Squaw Valley, CA in late July; and Whistler, BC, Canada in August). With Hay House’s amazing roster of speakers (which you can witness in person at their incredible “I Can Do It” events), it’s no wonder that they helped elevate the conversation at Wanderlust’s Speakeasy this summer. We encourage you to stay tuned to the Hay House FB feed to make sure you know the next time one of their authors is speaking near you (https://www.facebook.com/hayhouse).

Speakeasy Series Realized in co-operation with Hay House
Speakeasy Video Production by C3 Presents & Greenheart Creative
Speakeasy Series produced by Karina Mackenzie
Makeup services provided by Dr. Hauschka
Music in introduction by MC Yogi “Sita Ram”
Motion Graphics by Victoria Nece

The Practice Of Love

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The Practice Of Love

Source: Shambhala Sun • John Welwood • May 2000

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“By allowing yourself the space to be as you are, you discover a self-existing sanity that lies deeper than thought or feeling,” says John Welwood. “For many of us this may be the hardest path of all—opening our hearts to ourselves.”

Freud once admitted in a letter to Jung that “psychoanalysis is essentially a cure through love.” Yet while many psychotherapists might privately agree that love has some kind of role in the healing process, the word “love” is curiously absent from most of the therapeutic literature. The same is true for the word “heart.” Not only is this term missing from the psychological literature, the tone of the literature itself also lacks heart.

My interest in the place of heart in psychotherapy developed out of my experience with meditation. Although Western thought often defines mind in terms of reason, and heart in terms of feeling, in Buddhism heart and mind can both be referred to by the same term (chitta in Sanskrit). Indeed, when Tibetan Buddhists refer to mind, they often point to their chest. Mind in this sense is not thinking mind, but rather big mind—a direct knowing of reality that is basically open and friendly toward what is. Centuries of meditators have found this openness to be the central feature of human consciousness.

Heart and Basic Goodness

Heart, then, is a direct presence that allows a complete attunement with reality. In this sense, it has nothing to do with sentimentality. Heart is the capacity to touch and be touched, to reach out and let in.

Our language expresses this twofold activity of the heart, which is like a swinging door that opens in both directions. We say, “My heart went out to him,” or “I took her into my heart.” Like the physical organ with its systole and diastole, the heart-mind involves both receptive letting in, or letting be, and active going out to meet, or being-with. In their different ways, both psychological and spiritual work remove the barriers to these two movements of the heart, like oiling the door so that it can open freely in both directions.

What shuts down the heart more than anything is not letting ourselves have our own experience, but instead judging it, criticizing it, or trying to make it different from what it is. We often imagine there is something wrong with us if we feel angry, needy and dependent, lonely, confused, sad, or scared. We place conditions on ourselves and our experience: “If I feel like this, there must be something wrong with me… I can only accept myself if my experience conforms to my standard of how I should be.”

Psychological work, when practiced in a larger spiritual context, can help people discover that it is possible to be unconditional with themselves—to welcome their experience and hold it with understanding and compassion, whether or not they like it at any given moment. What initially makes this possible is the therapist’s capacity to show unconditional warmth, concern and friendliness toward the client’s experience, no matter what the client is going through. Most people in our culture did not receive this kind of unconditional acceptance in their childhood. So they internalized the conditions their parents or society placed on them: “You are an acceptable human being only if you measure up to our standards.” And because they continue to place these same conditions on themselves, they remain alienated from themselves.

The Dalai Lama and many other Tibetan teachers have spoken of their great surprise and shock at discovering just how much self-hatred Westerners carry around inside them. Such an intense degree of self-blame is not found in traditional Buddhist cultures, where there is an understanding that the heart-mind, also known as buddhanature, is unconditionally open, compassionate, and wholesome. Since we are all embryonic buddhas, why would anyone want to hate themselves?

Chögyam Trungpa described the essence of our nature in terms of basic goodness. In using this term, he did not mean that people are only morally good—which would be naive, considering all the evil that humans perpetrate in this world. Rather, basic goodness refers to our primordial nature, which is unconditionally wholesome because it is intrinsically attuned to reality.

This primordial kind of goodness goes beyond conventional notions of good and bad. It lies much deeper than conditioned personality and behavior, which are always a mix of positive and negative tendencies. From this perspective, all the evil and destructive behavior that goes on in our world is the result of people failing to recognize the fundamental wholesomeness of their essential nature.

Meditation, Psychotherapy and Unconditional Friendliness

While studying Rogerian therapy in graduate school, I used to be intrigued, intimidated and puzzled by Carl Rogers’ term “unconditional positive regard.” Although it sounded appealing as an ideal therapeutic stance, I found it hard to put into practice. First of all, there was no specific training for it. And since Western psychology had not provided me with any understanding of heart, or the intrinsic goodness underlying psychopathology, I was unclear just where unconditional positive regard should be directed. It was only in turning to the meditative traditions that I came to appreciate the unconditional goodness at the core of being human, and this in turn helped me understand the possibility of unconditional love and its role in the healing process.

The Buddhist counterpart of unconditional positive regard is loving-kindness (maitri in Sanskrit, metta in Pali). Loving-kindness is unconditional friendliness—a quality of allowing and welcoming human beings and their experience. Yet before I could genuinely express this kind of acceptance toward others, I first had to discover what it meant for myself. Meditation is what allowed me to do this.

Meditation cultivates unconditional friendliness through teaching you how to just be—without doing anything, without holding onto anything, and without trying to think good thoughts, get rid of bad thoughts, or achieve a pure state of mind. This is a radical practice. There is nothing else like it. Normally we do everything we can to avoid just being. When left alone with ourselves, without a project to occupy us, we become nervous. We start judging ourselves or thinking about what we should be doing or feeling. We start putting conditions on ourselves, trying to arrange our experience so that it measures up to our inner standards. Since this inner struggle is so painful, we are always looking for something to distract us from being with ourselves.

In meditation practice, you work directly with your confused mind-states, without waging crusades against any aspect of your experience. You let all your tendencies arise, without trying to screen anything out, manipulate experience in any way, or measure up to any ideal standard. Allowing yourself the space to be as you are—letting whatever arises arise, without fixation on it, and coming back to simple presence—this is perhaps the most loving and compassionate way you can treat yourself. It helps you make friends with the whole range of your experience.

As you simplify in this way, you start to feel your very presence as wholesome in and of itself. You don’t have to prove that you are good. You discover a self-existing sanity that lies deeper than all thought or feeling. You appreciate the beauty of just being awake, responsive, and open to life. Appreciating this basic, underlying sense of goodness is the birth of maitri—unconditional friendliness toward yourself.

The discovery of basic goodness can be likened to clarifying muddy water—an ancient metaphor from the Taoist and Buddhist traditions. Water is naturally pure and clear, though its turbulence may stir up mud from below. Our awareness is like that, essentially clear and open, but muddied with the turbulence of conflicting thoughts and emotions. If we want to clarify the water, what else is there to do but let the water sit?

Usually we want to put our hands in the water and do something with the dirt—struggle with it, try to change it, fix it, sanitize it—but this only stirs up more mud: “Maybe I can get rid of my sadness by thinking positive thoughts.” But then the sadness sinks deeper and hardens into depression. “Maybe I’ll get my anger out, show people how I feel.” But this only spreads the dirt around. The water of awareness regains its clarity through seeing the muddiness for what it is—recognizing the turbulence of thought and feeling as noise or static, rather than as who we really are. When we stop reacting to it, which only stirs it up all the more, the mud can settle.

This core discovery enabled me to extend this same kind of unconditional friendliness toward my clients. When I first started practicing therapy and found myself disliking certain clients or certain things about them, I felt guilty or hypocritical. But eventually I came to understand this in a new way. Unconditional love or loving-kindness did not mean that I always had to like my clients, any more than I liked all the twists and turns of my own scheming mind. Rather, it meant providing an accommodating space in which their knots could begin to unravel.

It was a great relief to realize that I did not have to unconditionally love or accept that which is conditioned—another’s personality. Rather, unconditional friendliness is a natural response to that which is itself unconditional—the basic goodness and open heart in others, beneath all their defenses, rationalizations, and pretenses. Unconditional love is not a sentiment, but a willingness to be open. It is not a love of personality, but the love of being, grounded in the recognition of the unconditional goodness of the human heart.

Fortunately, unconditional friendliness does not mean having to like what is going on. Instead, it means allowing whatever is there to be there as it is, and inviting it to reveal itself more fully. In trying to help clients develop unconditional friendliness toward a difficult feeling, I often say, “You don’t have to like it. You can just let it be there, and make a place for your dislike of it as well.” Similarly, letting myself have my whole range of response and feeling toward my clients allows me to be more present with them. The more maitri I have for myself, by letting myself be, the more I can be with others and let them be themselves.

This of course holds true for all relationships. For instance, it is only when we can let our fear be, and hold it in a friendly space, that we can be present with our loved ones in their fear, or when they are doing something that stirs up our fear. We only react to others with blame and rejection when their experience mirrors or provokes some feeling in ourselves that we cannot relate to in a friendly way. In this way, developing loving-kindness toward the whole range of our own experience naturally allows us to have loving-kindness toward others.

The health of living organisms is maintained through the free-flowing circulation of energy. We see this in the endless cycles and flow of water, the cradle of life, which purifies itself through circulating, rising from the oceans, falling on the mountains, and rushing in clear streams back to the sea. Similarly, the circulation of blood in the body brings new life in the form of oxygen to the cells, while allowing the removal of toxins from the body. Any interference with circulation is the beginning of disease.

Similarly, when loving-kindness does not circulate throughout our system, blockages and armoring build up and we get sick, psychologically or physically. If we fail to recognize the basic goodness contained within all our experiences, self-doubt blooms like algae in water, clogging up the natural flow of self-love that keeps us healthy. But if we can extend unconditional friendliness toward our own or another’s whole range of experience and very being, this begins to penetrate the clouds of self-judgment, so our life energy can circulate freely again.

This understanding allowed me to approach psychotherapy in a new way. I found that if I could connect with the basic goodness in those I worked with—the underlying, often hidden longing and will to be who they are and meet life fully—not just as an ideal or as positive thinking, but as a living reality, then I could start to forge an alliance with the essential core of health within them. I could help them meet and go through whatever they were experiencing—as frightening or horrifying as it might seem—just as I myself had done on the meditative cushion. Orienting myself toward the basic goodness hidden beneath their conflicts and struggles, I could contact the deeper aliveness circulating within them and between the two of us in the present moment. This made possible a heart-connection that promoted real change.

I was inspired in this approach by the example of the bodhisattvas in Buddhism, who, in their commitment to help all sentient beings, join compassion with the discriminating wisdom that sees through people’s suffering to the embryonic buddha within. For me, seeing the buddha in others is not a way of denying or minimizing their suffering or conflicts. Rather, in the words of Robert Thurman, “A bodhisattva sees simultaneously how a being is free from suffering, as well as seeing it with its suffering, and that gives the bodhisattva great compassion that is truly effective.”

When bodhisattvas engender this kind of all-seeing compassion, according to the Vimalakirti Sutra, they “generate the love that is truly a refuge for all living beings; the love that is peaceful because free of grasping; the love that is not feverish, because free of passions; the love that accords with reality because it contains equanimity; the love that has no presumption because it has eliminated attachment and aversion; the love that is nondual because it is involved neither with the external nor the internal; the love that is imperturbable because totally ultimate.”

Honoring Our Experience

The poignant truth about human suffering is that all our neurotic, self-destructive patterns are twisted forms of basic goodness, which lies hidden within them.

For example, a little girl with an alcoholic father sees his unhappiness, and wants to make him happy so that she could experience unconditional love—the love of being—flowing between them. Unfortunately, out of her desire to please him, she also winds up bending herself out of shape, disregarding her own needs and blaming herself for failing to make him happy. As a result, she ends up with a harsh inner critic and repeatedly reenacts a neurotic victim role with the men in her life. Although her fixation on trying to please is misguided, it originally arose out of a spark of generosity and caring for her father.

Just as muddy water contains clear water within it when the dirt settles out, all our negative tendencies reveal a spark of basic goodness and intelligence at their core, which is usually obscured by our habitual tendencies. Within our anger, for instance, there may be an arrowlike straightforwardness that can be a real gift when communicated without attack or blame. Our passivity may contain a capacity for acceptance and letting things be. And our self-hatred often contains a desire to destroy those elements of our personality that oppress us and prevent us from being fully ourselves. Since every negative or self-defeating behavior is but a distorted form of our larger intelligence, we don’t have to struggle against this dirt that muddies the water of our being.

With this understanding, work with our psychological blockages becomes like aikido, the martial art that involves flowing with the attack, rather than against it. By recognizing the deeper, positive urge hidden within our ego strategies, we no longer have to treat them as an enemy. After all, the strategies of the ego are all ways of trying to be. They were the best we could do as a child. And they’re not all that bad, considering that they were dreamed up by the mind of a child. Realizing that we did the best we could under the circumstances, and seeing ego as an imitation of the real thing—an attempt to be ourselves in a world that did not recognize, welcome or support our being—helps us have more understanding and compassion for ourselves.

Our ego itself is testimony to the force of love. It developed as a way to keep going in the face of perceived threats to our existence, primarily lack of love. In the places where love was missing, we built ego defenses. So every time we enact one of our defensive behaviors, we are also implicitly paying homage to love as the most important thing.

As a therapist, meditation was my aikido teacher. As I sat on the meditation cushion with a whole range of “pathological” mind-states passing through my awareness, I began to see depression, paranoia, obsession and addiction as nothing more than the changing weather of the mind. These mind-states did not belong to me in particular or mean anything about who I was. Recognizing this helped me relax with the whole spectrum of my experience and meet it more inquisitively.

This helped me relax with my clients’ mind-states as well. In working with someone’s terror, I could honor it as the intense experience it was, without letting it unsettle me. I also took it as an opportunity to meet and work with my own fear once again. Or if I was helping someone explore an empty, lonely place inside, this gave me a chance to check in with that part of myself as well.

It became clear that there was only one mind, though it may appear in many guises. While this might sound strange and mystical, I mean it in a very practical sense: The client’s awareness and mine are two ends of one continuum when we are working together. Fear is essentially fear, self-doubt is self-doubt, blocked desire is blocked desire—though these may take on a variety of forms and meanings for different individuals. Realizing that I shared one awareness with the people I worked with allowed me to keep my heart open instead of retreating into a position of clinical distance.

Whenever two people meet and connect, they share the same presence of awareness, and there is no way to divide it neatly into “your awareness” and “my awareness.” This basic fact—that other people’s experience resonates in and through us, whether we like it or not—is why other people can grate on our nerves and “drive us crazy.” Yet this “interbeing” is also what allows us to feel genuine empathy for what someone else is going through. Before we can truly embody this vast space of empathy and compassion for others, where we can totally let them be who they are, we must first be on friendly terms with our own raw and tender feelings. For many of us this may be the hardest path of all—opening our hearts to ourselves.
JOHN WELWOOD, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist in San Francisco, associate editor of the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, and author of seven books, including Journey of the Heart and Love and Awakening. This article has been adapted for the Shambhala Sun from his book, Toward a Psychology of Awakening: Buddhism, Psychotherapy, and the Path of Personal and Spiritual Transformation, published by Shambhala Publications. © 2000 by John Welwood. 

The Practice Of Love, John Welwood, Shambhala Sun, May 2000.
To order this copy of the Shambhala Sun, click here.

 

Bodhi’s Banana Barley Muffins

Aside

Bodhi’s Banana Barley Muffins

(Vegan/Wheat Free)

by Artemisia & Bodhi Shine

These delicious muffins may not inspire opera but they sure do make my belly tap dance! This is a co-creation of healthy culinary love offered from my son Bodhi Shine and your truly.
 

  • 8 tbsp. cold pressed organic coconut oil
  • ¾ c. organic raw coconut palm sugar
  • 4 tbsp. organic ground flax seeds (+ ¾ c. warm water) = 2 “eggs”
  • 1 ¾ c. organic barley flour
  • ¼ c. organic brown rice flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. Himalayan pink salt
  • 1 – 2 tbsp. pure organic vanilla extract
  • juice from ½ lemon
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ – 1 c. golden raisins
  • 1 banana (overripe is best)
  1.  Preheat Oven to 375ºF
  2.  Mix 4 tbsp. ground flax with warm purified water to make “eggs” or binding agent.
  3.  Cream coconut oil & sugar w/ “egg” mixture. Beat well. Mix in vanilla & lemon juice.
  4.  Mash banana with a fork then add to wet ingredients.
  5.  Sift flours, baking soda, salt & cinnamon together. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Once well mixed, fold in golden raisins.
  6.  Mix well
  7.  Pre-grease muffin tin w/ coconut oil & spoon in batter to the top of each tin.
  8.  Bake 15-20 minutes until muffins are slightly golden brown and springy to the touch..
  9.  Enjoy! Yum. 🙂
  10. Feel free to send Bodhi a pic of you devouring your masterpiece! shine@artemisiashine.com

Besides being bomb diggity,
why is this good for me?

Barley: has a rich nutlike flavor and is a great source of fiber and selenium, and a good source of phosphorus, copper and manganese.

  • Dietary & Insoluble fiber: provides food for the “friendly” bacteria in the large intestines, lowers cholesterol and fights heart disease.
  • Selenium: cooked barley provides 52% of the your daily value. Selenium is critical for cancer prevention, thyroid hormone metabolism and immune function.

Flax: helps the cardiovascular system, lowers cholesterol, reduces antioxidant stress on the body and supports cancer prevention. Flax is the best food source for Omega-3 fatty acids and lignins and is a very good source of mucilage (gum).

  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids: “good” fats that have been shown to have heart-healthy effects. Each tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains about 1.8 grams of plant omega-3s.
  • Lignans: which have both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities. Flaxseed contains 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods.
  • Mucilage (gum): water-soluble, gel-forming fiber coating on the flax seed. Mucilage supports the intestinal tract by improving nutrient absorption in the small intestines. The high gum content also makes flax a great egg-replacer!

Cold Pressed Organic Coconut Oil: helps combat candida and yeast in the body, reduces cholesterol, supports immune function, encourages weight loss & improves the digestive system.

Organic Palm Sugar: delicious deep rich carmel flavored natural sweetener from the nectar of coconut flowers. Coconut palm sugar is low on the glycemic index so it won’t spike your blood sugar like refined white sugar and its rich with minerals to boot!