Monday, November 2, 2015

The Power of Choice

So there's this cartoon where there is a speaker standing at a podium in front of a large crowd of people. He asks, "who wants change?" Everyone in the audience enthusiastically raises their hand. Then the speaker asks, "who wants to change?" The entire audience is looking down, avoiding eye contact and not one person is raising their hand.

It seems we all want someone else to do the changing. And that we think that what needs changing is something out there, outside of ourselves. I want a new boss, a new job, a new house, different weather, a different relationship, I different congress or president. The ugly truth is that the only person or circumstance that we have the power to change is ourselves and so true change must begin with each one of us.

In his Meditations for Manifesting, Dr. Wayne Dyer says "I know at each moment, I am free to decide." What an amazing statement. At ANY given moment, I have the power to choose!

Much of my life, I felt myself trapped, without choices. I had some vague idea that life would blow me in the direction I was meant to go, without me having much choice in how my life unfolded. This is a classic "victim" mentality and I think very differently about this now.

Obligations often drive us, yet obligations aren't choices. They are something we feel compelled to do and that we have little choice in the matter. Obligations are a part of victim mentality. Allowing obligations to drive my actions is a choice that I make. I choose obligation over my own desires. I choose obligation over what is in my best interest. I choose obligation over taking responsibility for my own life.

I was at a birthday party once, standing with a friend beside the food table. We were talking about another friend of ours, one who seems to have the same issue for years, without taking any steps to help herself. She is a continuous train wreck. My friend with whom I was discussing this was saying that she was really struggling with the constant train wreck needs and I said, "well, why don't you just take a little break from her?" She grimaced and said, "I can't." That is the very picture of obligation. Let us review don Miguel Ruiz here: Love has no obligations. Fear is full of obligations.

What are your obligations driving you to do? Just sit a minute and think about that. Where in your life do you feel you have no choice? That is where obligation and/or fear is sitting.

I see people. I watch them wander, thinking they have no options. Yet, choices are myriad.
The idea that I am a victim of circumstance means that I am not asserting my power to choose. Because I aways have choices. If I do not choose, it is because I am choosing to not choose.

Personal freedom and personal power are in our ability to make choices. When we refuse to make a choice or when we want someone else to make a choice on our behalf, we give away our power.

Let's think about the throat chakra for a moment. This is the seat of personal power. It is our voice. This is where we make our choices and where we give away our power or assert our power. How many of you have had issues with the throat chakra? Asserting the will, making choices, these are the things connected with the health and well-being of the throat and include any issues with the ears, jaw, mouth, neck and shoulders.

What is it you're are waiting for? What is it you think you need in order to be happy. I see so many people waiting for peace in the form of the perfect relationship, the right job, the right location. These are what I call the relational solution, the vocational solution, and the geographic solution. And guess what? Wherever you go, there you are. We must always deal with ourselves. All of those things, the relationship, the job, the move, are things outside of you. The power of choice is about you. What do you want? What fulfills you? Who are you? How are you growing? Choice is about choosing you.

What is something that you want in your life:
This can be about finances, health, relationships, your job, how people treat you, how you treat yourself.
Choose one area. Now ask yourself, what are you actively doing to create that one thing in your life. This is the power of choice. It might be helpful to you to take pen and paper and write down your desire. Then, using stream of consciousness, write down one step you can take to make that desire a reality. Don't judge the idea or consider if it is viable. Simply make a list of single steps that you can take to create your reality.

When I was married, there was a lot of complaining in my home. So I tried to make a household rule. No complaining is allowed unless you are willing to do something about it. It turned out to not be very effective in my household because of what that cartoon is about. But this can be an excellent tool to use with the self. Am I complaining about something or wanting something different in my life? If so, what am I willing to actively do to change my situation? I have the power of choice at my disposal. How am I going to use it?

© 2015 Janet Tuck

Monday, October 5, 2015

Welcome to the Human Race

“I’ve always believed that there was a certain age after which I would be all well and I’d stop feeling as if I’d been abandoned here on earth with no explanation.” –Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually)

Growing up is a long, difficult process. I recall longing, as a child, to be an adult. The idea of freedom drew me, as well as the idea that I could arrive at an age when I would no longer be confused, when I’d have the answers, have life figured out. This magical time has yet to arrive. I’m fifty-two and I’ve given up waiting.

Once I gave up on the idea of arriving, I discovered a deeper freedom than the one I’d imagined as a child. What I discovered was a profound acceptance of my own humanity. The human condition is, by nature, confusing. “I don’t know” is my favorite saying. I don’t know and I no longer need to know. I don’t know everything, nor do I know nothing. We’re all somewhere in between. Rather than thinking I lack something because I get confused or have times when I feel inadequate or profoundly alone, I now welcome myself to the human race. “Welcome to the human race!” I say to myself. I don’t need fixing. And with that thought, surprisingly, I am free. 

© 2015 Janet Tuck

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Open-hearted attitude

The open-hearted one finds peace, contentment, happiness. It seems counter-intuitive because our instinct is often to shutdown, to close off the heart, to protect. But that leads to disconnections and isolation. It is the open heart, she who is vulnerable, who finds contentment in any situation. Vulnerability isn’t just about sharing ourselves with others. It is about connecting deeply with who I am, understanding myself, engaging in life authentically, with no masks, no pretending, no hiding. It is to bare one’s soul, first to self. When we thoroughly understand our own thoughts and emotions, there is no danger. All is already secure. Vulnerability is more about living true than about any danger of being hurt.

A few months ago I was in the parking lot at Trader Joe’s, looking for a space. The Nashville Trader Joe’s parking lot is an exercise in an effort to squeeze far too many vehicles into too small a space. It is frustrating on the best days. The day I visited, the parking lot was its usual chaos. I spied a space on my left and put on my blinker just as a car approached from the opposite direction. The driver approached the empty space and stopped. She didn’t put on her indicator so I gestured to her, trying to question her intention and didn’t get a response. Then I turned into the space and parked my car. When I got out, heading toward the store she pulled up beside me and said, “you took my parking space!” I spoke to her, letting her know that I didn’t understand her intention while she continued to try to argue with me in this very busy parking lot. I leaned into her window, looked her in the eye and said, “I really don’t want to argue with you here in the parking lot and I also really hope you have a lovely day.” Then I proceeded into the store.

In that moment, I felt fully present, fully myself, and my heart was open. Able to stay present with myself, I didn’t fall into blame or defensiveness, paths I have too often followed. It could have gone another way, if I’d felt defensive or taken things personally. But for some reason, on that day, I was able to remain open. This is why I practice meditation and other spiritual disciplines: to stay with myself. These practices enable me to no give myself away in the moment. I can show up under any circumstance. This is an everyday miracle, what I consider a gift of grace, one available to each of us, daily, if we can stay open-heartedly present.

© 2015 Janet Tuck

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Lotus and the Star

Now we turn our attention to the seventh and eighth chakras: the lotus and the star.

The seventh chakra is the crown chakra. It is located on the crown of the head. Colors associated with this chakra are violet and white. This chakra is the locus of divine connection. I like to think of it as the power source, where we can fill our tank with loving divine connection or energy.

The symbol for this chakra is the lotus flower. Think of a lotus bud, opening and blooming at the crown of the head. It is open to receiving divine love and funneling that love down through our bodies, through the other chakras, through our energetic channels. That's why I think of it as the power source. We receive divine energy through our crown and it fuels the rest of the system.

The lotus blooms, the chakra opens, through prayer and meditation. As divine love opens and enters this chakra, it affects our self-esteem, our inner peace, our sense of well-being, and our capacity for happiness.

"The more love we allow into our lives through opening our awareness to the source of life, the more love we will then have to give out in all areas of our life." Ambika

It is through opening in this chakra that we begin to lose the judgmental mind. We begin to accept self, others, what is. This is a state of surrender. We give up trying to control situations, other people, ourselves, and surrender to what is. This surrender comes because we connect to the universe. We are profoundly, deeply connected to all that is through the power of this chakra opening. And because of this sense of "oneness" we release the need to judge self and others. We are all one, after all.

Seventh chakra energy pouring into us pushes us to find divine connection in all that we do. This is very different from connection to religion, which is more of a first chakra function. This is motivation to have a deep, ongoing connection with the divine.

The sacred truth in this is Live In The Present Moment. For it is only in the present moment that we actually experience the divine. This can be profoundly unsettling, as we leave the tribal experience of religion, which defines God for us, and embrace our spiritual truth as we experience it, day by day.

This is seeking union with the divine where we experience the truth that we, as a part of all that is, are a part of God.

When this chakra opens, awakening begins. This can trigger a spiritual crisis where a person becomes aware that their life lacks meaning or purpose. This, in turn, can trigger new fears, such as feeling one is losing oneself. Finally, a person begins to feel an urge to be devoted to something greater than themselves. These three things are symptoms of profound spiritual awakening and a clue that the crown chakra is opening.

Some stirrings might include:
What questions have you asked that seek insight into your life's purpose?
What fears do you have related to your understanding of God?
Have you judged your life as meaningless when you evaluate it within a spiritual context?
These questions can be found in "Anatomy of the Spirit" by Caroline Myss.

A journey of meditation and contemplation lead to opening and new understandings of the divine and of the self related to the divine.

Now the eighth chakra, called the Soul Star and the Seat of the Soul. Color is said to be magenta or white. Located six to twelve inches above the crown chakra, this is where divine light and energy filter down and into the crown chakra. This chakra is related to infinite energy, spirituality, supreme divine wisdom and spiritual compassion. It is the origin of enlightenment, ascension, and the idea of transcendence.

When this is open we are capable of a state of complete surrender and of allowing the pure white light of God to enter our life. Access to this chakra can be quite confronting because it allows one to release old attitudes that may otherwise hold one back. It may be a powerful aid to allow one to make momentous changes in life, in one's way of thinking, and in how one experiences this universe in which we live. If one truly experiences profound connection with all that is, things like the mass shootings become inconceivable and completely intolerable.

Some claim this is the deposit for karmic residue from past lives and the repository for lessons learned related to soul purpose.

I see it as the place where our soul's truest nature radiates outward from us. Our essential essence as spiritual beings. Thus, the symbol of the radiant star.

© 2015 Janet Tuck

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cosmic power centers

I’d like you to visualize a pendulum with a blue crystal on the end of a silver chain. Now imagine that pendulum swinging in a clockwise direction, enjoying the gentle energy of the swing. Now see the pendulum swinging inside your throat, allowing that clockwise swing to activate your throat center. Let’s sit with that for a minute. What does that feel like?
This is the throat chakra, the fifth chakra. If the third chakra is about a sense of self, the fifth chakra is about being true to self. It is the center of personal power, action, and our voice.
This fifth chakra is the most delicate and vulnerable in the human energy system. Think of how often we get sore throats. People who are “off” in their fifth chakra have everything from stiff necks and shoulders to TMJ and earaches. These aches and pains are all connected to that fifth chakra where we can so easily get shut down by holding back.
When we stuff our anger we feel it in that stiff neck. When we hold back our tears, we get that “thick” feeling in our throat.
This is the expression of our personal will. When we make choices for ourselves and take full responsibility for our own decisions, our throat is supple and healthy. And so are our ears, jaws, necks, and shoulders. If our will is not developed, the throat can easily become congested with emotional energy. Some ways this might manifest:
All addictive habits: smoking, food issues, alcoholism, drugs. There is some fear related to expression of the self.
Negativity in the form of gossip, criticism, cursing, and boasting can all impair the healthy throat. Think of how tight your throat feels spreading gossip. Or, for me, when I’ve been criticized, how that tends to shut me down.
The throat is the center of self-expression. It is where our desire to create, centered in the second chakra, gets put into expression. This fifth chakra is where our individuality is strengthened and fortified.
I express myself through writing, teaching, and using my gifts for intuitive counseling. I also enjoy drawing, knitting, and gardening. These are all creative forms of expression that “tell” the world who I am.
The more we allow ourselves a form of personal expression, the more we have evidence of who we are and what our purpose is in being here.
What are some ways you express yourself?
What are some avenues of expression you might like to explore?
Here is where we find the importance of the words we speak. When we speak with respect and love, our throat is open. When we speak with derision, our throat shuts down. This is about choosing right speech. And also about choosing what we allow into our world, the right speech of others. And here we find the power of choice. We always have the power to choose. Do I like the way someone treats me? I choose to spend my time with them. Do I not like the way they treat me? I choose to speak up. The power of choice is centered in the throat.
And now let’s turn our attention to the sixth chakra, known as the third eye. It is located in the center of the brow, between the eyebrows. This is the “eye of the true self.” It is where we have our truest “knowing.” And our clearest “seeing.” The third eye is an “etheric” organ.  It is the organ of psychic perception, it sees beyond the physical world, bringing added insight. You ever know something but didn’t know how you knew it? That is the third eye at work!
The third eye reacts to light, it conducts light, is part of light. It transcends time and space. Light as energy connects with all time and place, therefore, all that is.
This is about seeing. The physical eye sees by focusing. With the third eye, it isn’t so much the “eye” that sees but the mind’s eye. It is not matter that we perceive but light, or energy, which is a way of being.
When I pray for others, I often visualize them being bathed by a column of pure white light. I see the light pouring down over their heads and surrounding their bodies. I visualize the light coming into their bodies through the crown of their heads and moving down through their energetic channel. All of this is an action of the third eye.
The most significant aspect of consciousness at the level of the sixth chakra is the development of psychic abilities. Clairvoyance is “clear seeing.” Directly related to the third eye. When you meditate, if you see lights and colors, or shapes, this is an activity of the third eye. I often feel my third eye vibrating.

What are some of your third eye adventures?

© 2015 Janet Tuck

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Listen to your gut. Follow your heart.

The chakras are our internal navigation system. We gain valuable information by paying attention to what we are experiencing in these energy centers. During my last post, I wrote about the root and the sacral chakras. Now we focus on the solar plexus and the heart.

The solar plexus is the third chakra. It is located between the navel and the sternum. This is the chakra that illuminates the consciousness, the sense of self, our sense of power in who we are. Who am I? The purpose here, as we claim our authentic selves, is transformation.

The first chakra is all about the tribe and security. The second is about expanding relationship to the outside world. This third chakra is about identity, about knowing the self, and being able to embrace the self, be in relationship to the self.
Transformation comes as we claim who we are. This happens by the breaking of old patterns and the forming of new ones. We break the patterns of consciousness and behavior that dismiss our self-worth. Our culture focuses on self-worth grounded in achievement, looks, the accumulation of goods, and superficial power. All of these values are based in ego-driven accomplishments. When we look to these external standards, we actually give away our sense of who we are, our self-worth, and our personal power to things or to others. “When natural gifts and talents become subverted into socially acceptable behavior, energy gets locked away and may find instead an unacceptable channel of expression as one either demands to be seen or is afraid to show the self,” writes Caroline Myss in her inspiring book, Anatomy of the Spirit.

For me, it was fear of showing the self that lead to deep depression, self-loathing, and suicidal thinking. When I began to heal this part of myself, transformation happened, and I blossomed in energy and personal power.

Alternatively, when we experience ourselves as we are, we find we are whole, complete, and perfect, just as we are. You are complete as you are. In this moment. This is the moment of transformation. I don’t need to be thinner, wealthier, healthier, less judgmental, more active, or kinder than I am at this very moment. I am fine, just as I am. In this moment. Now.

What would happen if I, or you, started living that way? You are just as you should be right now. Perfect, as you are. I’m fine, just as I am. Sit with this idea for a moment. How does it feel, in your belly?

This is a balanced solar plexus. When this chakra is balanced, we cease giving away our power. We own who we are. We take full responsibility for our lives and cease feeling a victim. And this is a process, this transformation that is riddled with fear. It involves moving past tribal, parental, or familial support, to seek our own truth.

When the solar plexus is blocked, it can manifest itself in disturbance in the digestive system.
Overeating: protecting yourself
Undereating: self-loathing; starve the self
Constipation: holding back, refusing to let go of old thinking or ways of being
Ulcer: eating away at the self
Vomiting: violent rejection of ideas or self

A sense of self, centered in the third chakra, is about a sense of personal power. When we are “in it” we are confident, assertive, proactive, disciplined, excited about life.

When our sense of self is off balance, we are filled with doubts and self-judgment. Our energy drains away and we are in shame. Then we are in a self-esteem and energy drain. This is the feeling of worthlessness and it is centered in the belly.
What do you notice about your solar plexus? Does it feel hollow? Churning? Placid and even?

So, now, the heart. This fourth chakra is the bridge between the lower chakras (the more earthy chakras) and the upper chakras (higher consciousness). It is included in both categories, both the lower and the upper.

This is where connection happens. The third chakra is about connection to the self, about love of self. The fourth chakra is about connection to and love of others, not just people but also animals, the planet, the universe. This is where that feeling that all is one is centered.

This is where joy, bliss, love, and compassion are located. It is where we find release from judgment and where we dwell in forgiveness. It is where we take emotional and spiritual pleasure.

The heart chakra is the pathway to the realm of spirit in which all God’s creatures are one and where love is eternal and unconditional.The heart is cut off when we feel the need to protect ourselves, when we resist connection, when we are in judgment.When the heart is open, relationships, possessions, and work take on a new lightness and perspective.

We become the source of love in our lives, rather than making our outer reality responsible for the love we need. The flow of divine love is in us and through us, in our heart chakras. It is all we really need, after all. The divine source is love. All is one. We open ourselves to the relatedness of all life when we center in our hearts and allow love to flow through us. This is why our relationships, our friends, our job, our living situation cannot give us what we need. We want to look to those things for our happiness. But it truly is the divine connection, this great love, flowing through us that gives us the connection we seek.

People who are blocked around the heart chakra tend to be suspicious, critical, fearful, and negative. They struggle with judgment. Fear is present. And they shut down and cut off.Physical symptoms include heart disease, angina, blockages, fluid. All things that cut off.

Heart opening happens when we spend time in nature, when we choose courage and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, and in meditation when we focus on the heart and the energy that flows through it.

For heart opening meditation, I suggest you place a hand over your heart-space. Take several deeper than normal breaths. Allow your mind to focus on the heart space, resting in the gentle, clock-wise motion of energy you find there. As you continue to breath, keep your focus on that movement of the heart, relaxing into it, allowing your heart to open more and more. You may enjoy listening to quiet music as you do so.

© 2015 Janet Tuck

Friday, June 12, 2015

The first and second chakras: foundation and pleasure

One’s body is a field of energy. Within this energy field are energy centers, referred to in ancient traditions as chakras. There are many energy points throughout the body but there are seven main centers running in a column through the center of our body. By bringing awareness to these centers, and by seeking to maintain their healthy balance, we bring greater health and balance to our lives overall.
Today I focus on the first and second chakras. While two separate chakras, I find that their issues often overlap and that they can both affect the same areas of the body such as the lower back. They also powerfully connect with our family of origin issues.
The first chakra is located at the base of the pelvic floor. I like to think of it as the “foundation” of the chakra system, much like the foundation of a house. This is why it is considered the “root” or “grounding” chakra. Here we find the earth element, with the sciatic nerve running down our legs and connecting with the earth. We feel this earth element when we are out of doors and the color associated with this chakra is red. This chakra is associated with basic survival.
When we are small children, we are most vulnerable to our basic needs. Helpless as infants, we depend upon our tribe for food, shelter, rest, hygiene. Our earliest sense of safety and security is “rooted” in the first chakra. This is the home of the survival instinct, the fight or flight reflex, centered in the first chakra. And when that fight or flight instinct kicks in, it takes over everything, we can’t think through what is happening because that instinct is overriding every thought.
This instinct overdrive is one of the reasons that our relationships can become so challenging. When a family of origin issues comes up, it can touch that survival instinct. When that happens, and the fight or flight kicks in, we can either find ourselves lashing out or retreating. Neither response is conducive to harmony in our intimate relationships. We will “survive” but intimacy pays the price.
However, when we are well grounded, when this chakra is open and flowing, we are not bound by those fight or flight fears. Rather, we know that our security is stable, grounded in the resilience and strength of who we have become. We are our own tribe, able to take care of our self. This doesn’t mean we are isolated and alone. It means we have learned to trust our own judgment, able to ask for help when appropriate.
Those chronically struggling with survival issues—financial problems or health issues, or both—are caught at the first chakra level. Look for some unresolved conflict associated with the first tribe, the family of origin. These are issues that bubble up around one’s right to be here.
The second chakra, or sacral chakra, is located between the navel and the genitals in the pelvic area. This is the center of creativity, sexuality, emotions, relationships, and the ability to generate income. This chakra is all about the pleasure principle. Beauty, taste beyond the basics, the enjoyment of others, pleasure in both body and soul.
In our culture, we are often taught to repress our need for pleasure, there is a puritanical mindset. Or a value that goes too far in the other direction, bordering on the absurd (think celebrity culture). Yet, we cannot truly connect with ourselves or others if we don’t allow ourselves to know what brings us pleasure.
Too much self-sacrifice, and there is no true relationship to self or others. Too much focus on meeting my own needs, and there is no true relationship, either. When we understand truly what brings us pleasure, we are free to authentically show up. And I find that the simplest of things, connected with both body and spirit, connect me to self in the deepest way.
I know I’ve shared this story before but it just seems so appropriate. When I was in the midst of divorce, there was a lot of confusion in my life. It had been years since I’d had a true sense of happiness. One day I went walking at Radnor Lake, and after walking I sat for a while on one of the benches that look out over the lake. As I sat, enjoying the light on the water, the breeze, the trees around me, I became aware of the sound of birds. I looked up and saw dozens of tiny, half-dollar size birds, hopping about in the trees above my head. In that moment, I felt a bubbly feeling in my chest and I thought, “I think I might be happy.” When I next saw my therapist, I told her the story and she said, “That’s joy, Janet.”
I connected with joy that day as my body and soul were both stimulated by simple natural beauty and peace. I connected richly with pleasure.
When we are cut off from what brings us joy, it is difficult to connect with others.
These chakras and their functions affect our relationships. When we are centered, empowered in these areas of our bodies, our connections with others flow. When these energy centers are blocked or drained of energy, we are reactive or protective or just shut down. This is the great disconnect. We need to bring awareness to these centers and take care of them.
One way to do that, to nurture these centers and make sure they are open and healthy is to meditate on them. I like to use an opening meditation that focuses on bringing light to these areas. You can do this by engaging the colors that correspond to each chakra. The root chakra color is red and the sacral chakra color is orange.
As you relax and breath, picture red light radiating from your root and orange light radiating from your sacrum. Work with this color and light for a few minutes for each chakra. See if you can feel the difference!

© 2015 Janet Tuck

Monday, June 1, 2015

Everything from the chin down

Mindfulness is the practice intentional, non-judgmental awareness. When in meditation, we practice by bringing awareness to the breath, the sound-scape, or, in my case, I often focus on the color display that I see as I meditate. When I become aware that my mind has wandered, I return my awareness to the gentle bursts of indigo blue, purple, or magenta unfolding before my closed eyes. The wandering mind is the friend of the meditator because it allows us to notice that our mind has wandered, and to return our attention to the point of awareness.
This activity of wandering, noticing, and returning builds a stronger, healthier brain. This is the activity that creates brain differences in meditators found in all the neurological research being done with those who meditate.
We can bring this same practice of awareness to what is happening in our bodies. When we begin to take notice of what we are feeling in our bodies, we get a lot of helpful information. I’m not thinking here of, “my knee hurts.” Although that gives us a certain kind of helpful information. I’m more interested in what happens when we bring our awareness to the chakra system and the information it is constantly sending to us, if we will bring our awareness to gather the information.
The chakras are not simply a bunch of woo-woo stuff that the new age community likes to talk about. There is actually some science attached to this. These centers run through the middle of our bodies, a central energetic core, if you will. The third and fourth chakras, the belly and the heart-space, have the largest nerve networks in our bodies outside of the brain. We are truly wired to sense through these energy centers. This is ancient wisdom, recognized in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
I’ll write more about each chakra in upcoming posts. For now, here are some brief descriptions.
The first chakra is the root. Located at the base of the pelvic floor, it deals with material needs, like a foundation. Are we safe? Do we have a community? Enough to eat? Shelter?
The second chakra is the sacral chakra. Located in the pelvic area, this deals with money, creativity, relationships, sexuality.
The third chakra is the solar plexus. It is in the belly and relates to the ego, personality, and self-esteem. I like to say that this is where our sense of self sits.
The fourth chakra is the heart chakra. It is the center of love, forgiveness, and compassion.
The fifth chakra is the throat. Think of this as the “voice.” It is related to the will, self-expression, and personal power.
The sixth chakra is the third eye, located just above and centered between the eyebrows. This is the seat of wisdom and intuition.
The seventh chakra is the crown. It is located at the crown of the head and is the divine connection. Often when in meditation the crown of my head is tingling. Once when I was praying for my son he texted me to ask if I was praying for him because the crown of his head was tingling while he was studying.
I strongly believe that we receive powerful guidance through our chakras. The western way of being is all up in the mind, particularly the analytical left brain. We have to figure things out. Most of our decisions are based on mental evaluation. But I strongly believe that our body never lies to us, that its guidance is clear, and that if we lived from that guidance we would have greater abundance in every area of our lives and more peace.
We have to listen to our bodies to glean that wisdom found there. You’ve heard of “going with your gut.” Or you’ve heard people say, “I just knew in my heart.” They are talking about third and fourth chakra guidance.
A few years ago I was planning to go to nursing school. I’d been accepted into Belmont University’s program, done all the prerequisites, and went to the day-long orientation. Well, through the whole orientation, my stomach just felt in a swirl. I’m not talking here about an actual digestive upset. Rather it was a subtler feeling, a “churning” that was my body’s way of letting me know that I was on the wrong path. I’d been making the decision completely from my head, that day my body caught my attention. This was a different sensation from fear, which I primarily experience in a constriction in my heart-space. This was in my third chakra, my sense of self, telling me that nursing school is not “me.”
Consider for yourself times when you have said “yes” to something you really wanted to say, “No” to. How did your stomach area feel?
The heart is our guide to love. When our heart space is open and humming along, we are feeling happy and have a flow of love in the fourth chakra. Fear, being the opposite of love, sits in the heart-space. Think back to a time when you were afraid and recall the constriction you felt in the fourth chakra. Now think of someone you love, freely. The heart feels open and warm.
Happiness and satisfaction can join as we feel a warmth creep up through our third chakra and into our heart.
The practice of awareness of these two vital chakras can give us great guidance, just as it did the day I decided to not go to nursing school.
This awareness can be beneficial in many ways. When we are struggling, this type of awareness can guide us, even when we are having heavy feelings. A friend of mine is going through some changes in her relationship with her mother. Patterns are changing and my friend is making strong choices on her own behalf. But this is hard work and my friend is very uncomfortable. She wants to feel better, which takes time in these circumstances. These are the times when we can use food, alcohol, shopping, etc., to feel differently. And she noticed yesterday an impulse to shoplift. She didn’t do it, of course, but because she has the ability to bring awareness, she can tune into her gut and her heart and ask herself, “what am I really feeling and what is THAT about?”
This takes practice. Meditation practice trains the brain to tune-in. We can take that ability to bring awareness to our bodies to guide us in both small and large decisions in our lives.

When have you been guided by your gut or heart? When have you ignored this guidance?

© 2015 Janet Tuck

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Shame free living

I have a long, deep relationship with shame. Childhood trauma made shame my close companion; it ruled me for most of my life.
Shame is defined as “the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.” I find this definition so interesting. Shame is defined as painful. And can be brought on by either one’s own actions or the actions of another.
In my case, the actions were those of my abuser. But the feelings I had, of being deeply flawed, unworthy, and unlovable were a way of being. These deep-seated beliefs were part of my very being, something I constantly carried with me. Shame then, is not so much about doing something wrong or inadequate. It is more of a feeling that “I am wrong.” “I am inadequate.” This is toxic shame. Brene Brown says that guilt is the feeling that you made a mistake, while shame is the feeling that you ARE a mistake. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
The only relief I found was in accomplishment. Perfectionism became a way of life. I felt I had to be perfect to be beyond fault, to be acceptable. So, on top of the weight of shame, I laid the weight of perfectionism. My energy was consumed in figuring out the right thing, instead of living joyfully as myself.
By my late thirties I found myself trapped in an oppressive marriage, not pursuing my career for fear of what it would do to my already shaky marriage, worried about what my choices might do to my children, I allowed shame, and the resultant fear, to paralyze me. I had allowed shame to completely drive a wedge between my authentic self and who I thought I should be. I was fragmented by shame.
I limited my own choices for fear of making a mistake. My desire to be seen as perfect caused me to hide my true self, keeping me from expressing myself. As Christiane Northrup writes in Goddesses Never Age, “shame can get us stuck in every sort of emotion and behavior that can hold us back. Because we’re often afraid of being shamed for not being a “good” person, or for being disloyal, we don’t prioritize our desires and instead focus on pleasing everyone else.” We may even do this, put everyone ahead of ourselves, to the point where we don’t even know what it is we want or need.
So how did I release this burden? Much of the relief I found through a therapy called EMDR, which is a trauma therapy first developed to help veterans suffering from PTSD. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Using eye movements similar to REM sleep, the therapy deals directly with traumatic memories. The eight step process transforms the meaning of painful events on an emotional level. My understanding is that this is not only an emotional transformation but also a physical transformation of the brain. The nervous system itself becomes healthier.
I did EMDR therapy after some intensive talk therapy and after practicing meditation for a few years. My feeling is that the combination of these things lead me to tremendous freedom from the burden of toxic shame I’d carried for years.
Last week I encountered a shame bubble. This wasn’t the “I am in a complete pit” kind of shame I used to suffer. At first, I couldn’t even name the emotion. This was different so from TOXIC shame that I failed to recognize it as shame. I felt restless. The situation was triggered by an unkind comment from someone else. In the aftermath of the comment, I was having a hard time connecting with compassion for her and began telling myself I should be beyond this by now. Whenever I “should” myself I find self-judgment and shame not far behind.
My feelings of shame were so vague, so dull when compared to the tidal wave I used to feel that I didn’t know what was going on. It was confusing to me. Then I spiraled a little. One day I was irritable, the next day I was having sinus problems, the next my whole back was tight and sore. I was like “what is going on?”
Christiane Northrup talks about a direct link between shame and body health: “the more critical and unforgiving we are toward ourselves, the more miserable and sick we’re apt to be. The body has a remarkable ability to manifest shame as illness or physical problems, because the hurt of shame registers in the brain in exactly the same way physical pain does.”
My self-judgment, that I should be past judging others, created a shame response—far milder than the toxic shame I lived with for so many years so that I didn’t recognize it—which created physical discomfort. My lack of compassion for another lead to a lack of compassion for the self. The solution is, of course, a practice of self-compassion. Compassion for my own humanity, for my limited nature, for the fact that I am still learning and growing and will for the rest of my life.
Kindness toward self can lift that shame. A metta, or loving-kindness meditation, practice brings relief.
What are you afraid to change in your life because you think you might be shamed for making a mistake? Is the desire to be seen as perfect keeping you from expressing yourself?

Finally, here is a loving-kindness meditation practice you can do on your own behalf. Traditional metta practice offers meditation first for the self, then for someone we are close to, followed by practice for an acquaintance, and then for our “difficult” person, ending with another round of practice for the self. Petitions for each person are done three times. When dealing with painful issues on behalf of the self, I suggest limiting your loving-kindness practice to the self. Focus only upon yourself, repeating the series three times. Then rest in your quiet heart-space for a bit before ending your practice for the day.

May I be filled with loving-kindness.
May I be healthy and strong.
May I feel calm and at ease.
May I know peace.

© 2015 Janet Tuck

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Winter blues got ya down?

Another winter storm has moved through Nashville. The city has slowed to a crawl. Downtown is a ghost town, schools are closed, Kroger is out of bread and milk. It's March 5 and still winter. In this part of the south, we are accustomed to seeing daffodils by now and some days with warm sunshine. This ongoing spell of winter can be hard to take.

I've had some clients recently asking me what's wrong with them. Here are some issues causing them concern: low energy, a desire to stay home, craving more sleep than usual, wanting to eat carbohydrates, general desire to cocoon. People are concerned that they are sinking into depression, taking the path to weight gain, or that they have a disorder.

My feeling is that this is a normal response to winter. I think it is hard-wired into humans to want to hibernate a bit when it is cold outside and warm inside and the daylight hours are in short supply. American culture seems to be a little obsessed with wanting to find the cause of changes in behavior. I think, however, that we move with the seasons. We naturally adapt to changes in weather, the natural world, and light. Our ancestors slept more during winter months because it was dark and sources of light expensive. Likewise, they worked longer hours and slept less during summer months because there was more work to be done and the light lasted longer.

Please stop with the winter self-judgment. You don't have a disorder. You're human, responding to the natural cycles of the earth. Cozy up with a book, a cup of tea, and a blanket. Slow down and take a nap. The sun will be out soon and you'll feel re-energized for the long growing season. Your energy will rise, you will get outside, and eat more salads and fewer potatoes. All is as it should be. You don't need fixing. Let yourself be.
© 2015 Janet Tuck

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Connections Open the Heart Space

So, as those of you who are regulars know, I’ve been unable to shake this cold I came down with about a month ago. I’ve been coming in here on Tuesday evenings with my hot lemon water and my tissues, trying not to disturb meditation with my coughing. I strung it along, using the neti pot and ignoring everything until Saturday morning when I awakened with fever. I got to the doctor’s office and on the intake the nurse asked me if I had any mucus! By that time I’d let the thing go to the point where everything seemed involved: sinuses, ears, throat, lungs. Where didn’t I have mucus?
I think I used to be pretty good at being sick, it gave me a chance to hide from the world and my fears. Now, not so much. I want to feel well all the time, to be out walking, to be seeing clients, and focus on what I hear the angels saying. Instead, as I couldn’t sleep, up coughing, feverish and worn out, my fears preyed upon my mind, causing me to question my work, my goals, my ability to make a living, what I have to offer, just everything.
Once I got to the doctor, got the medicine I needed, got to bed, I rested. That was what I needed; rest and loving support and I received both. By Saturday evening, I was feeling physically, spiritually, and emotionally better. And by the next day, this talk was in my mind, along with some clear action I need to take regarding my work.
What changed? I asked for help. I asked people who love me to help me. And I asked my spiritual companions for clear and direct help. By reaching out, I found myself connected. When I am sick, tired, and/or afraid, I often find myself feeling alone. I felt that way on Saturday morning – so very alone and my mind began to take a negative spiral, focusing on what is lacking rather than the abundance I have.
For me, these things often go together. Fear/fatigue/illness leads me down that path of isolation. And isolation often feeds itself. I begin, I head down the rabbit hole, and then I feed it. At times this feeling of self-pity, of sadness, of loneliness is one of those old familiar feelings that I can actually take comfort in, I kind of like it, I recognize it, I can work, in the worst way, with it. The further I go, the further I go and it is a perpetual downward spiral until I decide to stop.
My spiritual practice has given me some ability now to observe what I am doing, observe the pattern I form, observe the spiral. I’ve learned that I need to reach out and connect with someone who loves me. That is what I did on Saturday and it helped me focus on what I needed to do that day. Then, everything looked different to me that day.
This pattern of connection/disconnection can create a lot of ups and downs in our days. For me, the great disconnectors are fear and judgment. When I am in fear, I can isolate, I imagine things that aren’t real, that feed the fear and further isolate me. That’s what happened to me on Saturday morning.
Judgment, that feeling of being superior and the need to be right, is really driven by fear but feels a bit different. It cuts me off from others because I’ve decided something about another and that judgment sets me apart, better than, in the right. I find this rearing its head most often when I’m driving. Oooo, I am quick to judge when in the driver’s seat! A few nights ago, I was headed out somewhere when someone began tailgating me. I really hate this. My story line goes: “you don’t have time to stop if I need to brake. You clearly don’t understand how much time it takes to stop, you don’t get the basic physics involved, and you must be stupid.” I’m afraid I’ll get hit but more than that, I feel I have no control over the situation. This feeling that I need or want to control a situation is often at the center of my judgmental mind.
Back to my tailgater—the lane split into two lanes as we approached a light. I pulled up in the right lane, preparing to make a right turn. My tailgating friend pulled up in the left lane beside me. I looked over and was surprised to see a young woman at the wheel of the car. She glanced over at me and I mouthed to her, “You follow too closely.” She responded with an obscene gesture. I blew her a kiss in kindness and made my right turn.
She just looked so young and vulnerable and angry, sitting there and I thought, “She really doesn’t have any idea what she’s doing.” Her youth and her vulnerability really touched me, whether the mother in me or the young and very confused woman I once was, I don’t know. But when I glanced at her, I saw a person, not a story line.
The truth is we’re all afraid. We’re afraid for ourselves and for our children and for our neighbors and for our homes and our pets. We feel vulnerable and confused and afraid. So we pull back or we lash out.
No matter how hard I try, I have these humbling, terrifying moments. Sometimes they strip me bare, I feel so exposed. Sometimes, they bring me some clarity. They always give me the opportunity to let people I love in, or let a young tailgater in. They give me the opportunity to see my vulnerable humanity or to see the tender humanity of another. And then I receive the opportunity to hold myself gently. Or to offer a small gesture of love to a stranger.

This takes practice (that’s why we call it “practice”)! It takes awareness. It takes the hard work of spiritual discipline. But the rewards are limitless. They are acceptance, peace, and love. And I always want more of that.
© 2015 Janet Tuck