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From Darkness Into Light: Winter Solstice Edition

From Darkness into Light

This week, in the northern hemisphere, we are approaching Winter Solstice and the turn ever so slightly toward longer days and shorter nights. It’s a shifting out from the darkness and into more light.

Now is an ideal time to reflect on the year to date, and where you may be heading as 2018 approaches. In the quieter moments, what is emerging for you?

It’s a continuum, of course, just like the rotations of the earth, sun, and moon. Between the two polar opposites, or contrasts, lies the fluidity, the flow… It’s a rhythm and a cycle from the internal to the external, and back again. It’s a peeking out, and an emergence — from deep within the earth (ourselves) and out into the world above the surface (out into our external surroundings, relationships, etc.)

So, now is an ideal time to reflect on the year to date, and where you may be heading as 2018 approaches. In the quieter moments, what is emerging for you?

Three Soul Starters

If you’re in my tribe, you’re likely a woman attorney who has placed a lot of emphasis on your career, on your law practice, and on serving your clients. As the year winds down, and Courts too “go dark” for a few days around Christmas and New Year’s, I invite you to devote some sacred time and space to:

1. Consider where things are going well for you in your life and career
2. Envision where you’d like to see some things change, shift, or dissolve
3. Get excited about what your “Dream Theme” for 2018 might be (no need to commit right this minute…let your heart and mind wander for a bit and explore some possible themes that resonate for you)!

To set the stage, I urge you to put in your Calendar now a date and time during the next two weeks where you will allow yourself the opportunity to do this exercise. Rather than thinking that you’ll somehow wake up on New Year’s Day, amongst the typically frenetic energy of a New Year, and that somehow you’ll magically have your year ahead “all figured out” — take advantage of taking a few days off during the holidays to honor yourself and where you’d like to take your life and career the next 12 or 13 moons.

If drafting a yearly plan makes sense to you, feel free to try that on for size. Write it out, map it out…use one of the many “planner” systems available…if that helps you get started. There are all kinds of smart phone apps and digital reminder systems available now; and I remember the days of hard copy Franklin-Covey binders, and those hand-held Palm Pilots. What I know, from my own experiences, however – is that no matter what system you use they serve only as placeholders for your intentions and not as creation generators. Like any good tool, they are only as helpful to the extent that you use them, and use them consistently, and with frequent check-ins throughout the year.

Also, remember that any plans are simply that. They are not iron-clad. And, until you start taking action to implement them, you’re really only making guesstimates, anyway. And, that is more than okay! Be comfortable with knowing and trusting that you will likely, nee nearly always, need to make adjustments along the way. As when commanding a boat as it traverses the waters ahead, you’ll need to use the rudder faithfully and consistently to keep you on course. All systems go – push off from the shore. If you take the space to do so now, at least come January you will have gotten as clear as you can “from the dock” about where you’re ultimately headed. And you’ve envisioned whom you’d like to join you on the adventure, and you’ve packed a few appropriate provisions for the journey. Then, allow the magic of the adventure with all its joys and surprises to take its course!

This will help set you, your life, and your law practice up for success in the coming year. It will help you complete this year and ease into the next one, from a place of feeling calm, centered, assured, strong, and confident.

Illumination time!

Just as with the Winter Solstice, and moving forward from there, what is ready to be revealed? What needs to come out from the shadows and into the light? What needs to be released to lighten the load? What would make for a smoother, more secure, less encumbered voyage ahead? Revisit what you wrote down in response to the Three Soul Starters above, and annotate them now by incorporating into them your “illuminations.”

For your consideration:  What’s your DREAM THEME?

As you reflect on the year to date, and as you begin focusing on where you’d like to be heading as 2018 approaches — notice what emerges for you.

I encourage you to select what I’m dubbing a “Dream Theme” to serve as a guide post and to carry you through from now until this time next year.

You’ll be amazed at what you start to notice, once you select your Dream Theme. I’m curious as to what yours will be!

Your Dream Theme may change shape over the next several weeks…allow it to do so! Right now, mine is something along the lines of strength through vulnerability (or “vulnerable strength,” for short).

Okay, your turn:

What’s your Dream Theme for 2018? What have you come up with so far?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughtsfeelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All rights reserved.
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The Meaningfulness of Meaning: Living a Life Worthwhile

In this edition of Soul Notes, we explore the concept of meaning and what that constitutes in terms of a meaningful life.  In this article, I’ll make references to one of Viktor Frankl’s books, originally entitled From Death Camp to Existentialism, now more commonly known by the title: Man’s Search for Meaning.

A doctor of psychiatry, Viktor Frankl (Frankl) is the founder of the psychotherapeutic school of thought he named logotherapy.  In contrast to Sigmund Freud’s focus on human instincts and the human drive for pleasure, Frankl focused his work on man’s (humankind’s) quest for finding meaning in one’s life.

Part One of Man’s Search for Meaning documents Frankl’s personal experiences as an inmate in concentration camps during World War II.  In Part Two of the book, he elaborates on logotherapy and how his experiences in the camps provided the backdrop for himself to become in effect his own best patient.  Part Two includes examples of patients he treated outside of the camps along with scientific and statistical data to illustrate his points.

Prior to being captured, Frankl had already written the manuscript for his first book, The Doctor and the Soul.  He had tucked the manuscript into his coat before being forced onto the train for Auschwitz.  Once at the camp, he and all the other prisoners were stripped of their personal belongings.  Accordingly, the manuscript he had hidden in his coat was quickly confiscated.

Adding then to the already deep poignancy of Frankl’s observations made during the Holocaust, is the fact that he by necessity documented them all from memory.  He kept his mind sharp by reconstructing in his head the original manuscript of that first book that he would later rewrite and publish.  The only physical remnants of the original manuscript that he had been able to reconstruct while in the camps were in the form of key words and phrases that he would surreptitiously scribble on tiny scraps of paper.

Beyond the Physical:  Love, Spirituality, and A  Life Mission

Physically separated from his wife in the concentration camps, Frankl didn’t know if his wife was still alive.  It was in his mind’s eye that he would hold onto an image of her.  Just as through love he would cling to an image of his wife –- through a sense of commitment to his life’s work and overall life’s mission –- Frankl with devotion clung to the hope and intention of (re)writing his manuscript and publishing his psychological findings, all to the benefit of his profession and mental patients worldwide.

According to Frankl, love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. Love finds its deepest meaning in one’s spiritual being, within the inner self. He also said that even during his time in captivity, glimpses of nature, music, and humor helped him and others to survive.  They were grateful, he said, for the smallest of mercies.

Frankl further went on to contend that by devoting oneself to a cause to serve or another person to love, that the more human and actualized one becomes. In view of the possibility of finding meaning in suffering, he suggested then that life’s meaning even can be potentially unconditional.

If and when conditions get tough on the outside, spirituality can play an even more important role from the inside:

“In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen. Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, page 36, emphasis added).

In other words, the type of person each prisoner would become resulted more from that person’s mental and spiritual state, than purely his physical state.  Profoundly, Frankl maintained that one can decide to keep (and benefit from keeping) one’s human dignity, even in a concentration camp.

The Meaning in Suffering

Frankl was not suggesting that to have a meaningful life, one must suffer.  He did profess, however, that if there is meaning in life at all, there must certainly be meaning in suffering.  According to Frankl, those prisoners who discarded their inner morals, and who concluded that their lives were pointless, and thus “gave up” psychologically, were those who “forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, page 72).

The Importance of Having Faith in the Future and the Power of Personal Choice

Frankl also understood the importance of having faith in the future. Without a belief in a better future, he said, a prisoner was subject to losing his spiritual hold, and thereby made himself more susceptible to mental and physical decay at a much more fervent pace.

So, what to do?

We may not be able to change every situation that we face in life.  We can, however, change ourselves and our approach.

Through our attitudes, choices and decisions we make and the actions we take, we can rise to any challenge and accept the opportunity to infuse any situation with meaning, even the most difficult ones.  Meaning is possible with or without (although perhaps most strikingly during times of) suffering.

Our lives are lived in moments.  And every human being, as exemplified by Frankl, has the freedom to change themselves — and their experience of any situation in life — in an instant.

 “[E]verything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, page 66).

Each of us gets to decide what our existence will be in any given moment, and what we will become in the next moment.

That is true freedom.

Freedom Plus Reasonableness

Freedom alone, however, is not enough.  Frankl makes clear that freedom to choose must be combined with responsibleness.  Otherwise, as a race, the human race, we are destined for destruction. Every person has both potentialities within us – to be either a swine or saint, he said.  Which one is actualized, says Frankl, depends on the decisions we make, and not on the conditions we face.

So the beauty and the promise of Frankl’s work and legacy I would say is this:

Each of us has the challenge and the opportunity to bring with us the values of our past, make empowered choices and take responsible actions in the present, and thereby create futures of the highest value to humankind.

With that, we find meaning.

All is not lost.

Much is gained.

 

For your consideration:

What makes life meaningful? Can there be meaning in suffering?  Is suffering required?

Okay, your turn:

What has helped you bring a sense of meaning into your life?  Was suffering a part of it?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Staying the course, and the value of course corrections

Staying the course, of course! Or, rather, is it time to make a course correction?

“Without paying close attention, it’s easy to get off-course.”

Sailing back home from Catalina Island

Years back, a friend invited me to join him and a few of his friends for a weekend of sailing.  We left the shores of Marina del Rey, California and sailed across the 33 nautical miles to Catalina island, spent the weekend on the island, and sailed back. There are several tales to be told from that weekend, some more wild and adventurous than others!  For purposes of this blog post, allow me to focus on one aspect of the trip – and that is our return sail from Catalina, across the Pacific Ocean and back home.

Upon the return, I took my turn at the helm.  Clearly, we knew our intention, and our destination –  to get the boat and ourselves back to the mainland and the port from which we had originally departed.  It was at that dock where we had left our cars, too – so we knew that’s where we needed to point the boat.

Steering wheels on a boat work pretty much the same as a car – turn the wheel to the left, the boat heads toward the left; rotate the wheel to the right, the boat points toward the right.  Sounds simple enough?  Yes and no.  Out on the open ocean, conditions are in a constant state of flux, from the weather conditions, to the wind speeds and direction, to the water currents and cross-currents, to the presence of marine life and sea animals.  Additionally, the faster the sailboat is moving, inversely the more precise and subtle the movements needed to adjust the direction of the boat.  (There are lessons to be learned here about momentum, too.  Perhaps that topic shall get its due in a future edition of Soul Notes?)

Other things are simultaneously happening on the boat, too.  While the boat’s wheel moves the rudder, the sails themselves are usually in need of their own tending in the wind.  And, that’s not even taking into account the sway of the boom upon ‘coming about’…be ready to duck, or you may be knocked over by a solid wood beam!  In other words:  pay attention to what’s happening.  Be aware.  You’re the captain!

A slight variance makes for extensive consequences

Without paying close attention, it’s easy to get off-course. Even a less-than-one-degree variance as you’re heading toward your destination, especially over the course of dozens of miles, can mean the end point is miles from your intended target!  That indeed would have notable and undesired consequences.

If we were to veer that far off course, without course corrections, we’d find ourselves facing one of two situations: either we’d end up hitting the shoreline at a point where there’s no place to dock; or, we are able to dock the boat and yet are miles and miles from where we parked our cars.  (The same thing can happen upon leaving your car near the foot of a mountain, and trekking up one of several available hiking trails.  If you take a ‘wrong turn’ on the way back, and end up on a different trail at or near the top – without a course correction, you’ll likely find yourself hiking all the way down the hill only to arrive several miles away from your starting point. Hill bottoms by nature are substantially wider than are hilltops!)  So, the scope of error increases exponentially, unless and until you notice you’re veering off course and make the necessary course corrections along the way.

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”  — James Dean

During this time of Summer Solstice, it’s wise to take another inventory of your life, your dreams, and your aspirations. Here’s a reminder from last Winter Solstice’s edition of Soul Notes:

“Review and Replenish
Every 90 days or so (you can use the solstices and equinoxes as an easy guide from the natural world) examine — not only your luggage and passport, but your life’s dreams and ambitions.  Not unlike the natural world, your life is dynamic and fluid.  Quarterly review and replenishment is about right – any more often than that, and you may be disallowing your aspirations their full due.  Your life is worth it – no short-changing or robbing your priorities the opportunity to fully settle in and calibrate. Throughout the year, consider:  How do you feel?  How do you wish to feel? “

For your consideration:

Is it time to course correct?  If so, what areas of your life are in need of calibration?

Did you keep notes in a journal near the end of last year, heading into this year?  Did you review it during the equinox three months ago?

What has emerged or changed for you since then?   Are your desired destinations the same, or have they shifted?  Has something or someone in your life changed in terms of your priorities, and what’s important to you?  Which ones may have veered a bit off track?  What steps will you take to get them back on track?  Make a commitment to yourself to do so, lest you find yourself miles away from your intended destination.

Okay, your turn:

When in your life have you noticed you’ve veered off course?  What, if any, course corrections did you make?  How did that impact the result?  Are there times when you didn’t notice you were veering off course?  If so, what if anything could you have done differently to increase your awareness?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

 © 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Breaking through and bursting forth…

This is a powerful week in the cosmos!  We’re within the arc of a new moon along with an annular solar eclipse (where the sun appears to create a ‘ring of fire’ around the moon).  We’re also within the Chinese year of the fire rooster.  Wow – that’s a lot of heat!

In this edition of Soul Notes we explore the concept, and the reality, of emergence from the dark out into the light.

Breaking through and bursting forth…

As seeds germinate in the soil, they seem to be dormant.  Are they, though, truly dormant?  Before sprouting, seeds are drawing nutrients from the ground, and from oxygen, and water and other natural elements.  Along the way, they are also building up their strength.  It takes power to sprout up through the soil.  It also takes durability for a seed to break through its outer coating or “shell.”  So, it’s in essence an active, deliberate process.  Once that seedling’s toughness has been established, it’s ready to emerge from under the ground and out through the surface. From there, it is ready to grow into its fullest expression.

So, too, with each of us on our own spiritual journeys.

Are you ready to break out of your shell?

NO LONGER CONCEALED: In plain sight.  For all to view.  To see and be seen.

As nature continues to turn toward more sunlight in the Northern hemisphere, what in your life is ready to emerge into the light?  Sometimes this may seem so ominous.  It needn’t be.  Take a deep breath, and think smaller.  Smaller?  Wait a minute, why smaller?  I thought this spiritual stuff is all about ‘bigger is better’?  Yes and no.  Smaller is on the way to bigger.

It’s in the smaller increments of our spiritual growth where we can build our confidence, our strength, our resolve.  It doesn’t need to be all parts of you, all at once.  Take a few moments to inventory what you set out as desires for you to bring into fruition this year.  Or, consider whether there are any “roll-overs” from last year that have been slowly building strength and are ready to burst forth?

Rising and shining:  Emerging from the slumber

As with each daybreak, each sunrise, each of us has the opportunity to awaken from our slumber.  What would you say has been slumbering for you?

For Americans, it may be the very core principles of democracy and its values as a republic that are being held up to the light, and are awakening from their slumber.  (See, for example, last moon’s blog about the March Heard ‘Round the World.)

The phrase “Rise and Shine” likely originated in the bible, later to be adopted by soldiers.  Some say that the “shine” part for soldiers refers to their shining their boots each morning before heading out.  My personal favorite is the British’s usage of the catch phrase “wakey-wakey” as a precedent to invoking “rise and shine” each day.

There’s also the phrase “shake a leg,” and “wiggle a toe.”  This brings awareness from your sleeping state into your waking state. Again, it’s incremental.  It’s not all at once.  Isn’t that a relief!

A yoga session often ends with savasana – a final resting pose which often results in deep meditation.  In bringing you back from savasana (aka corpse pose), the instructor will ask that you begin your ‘return to the room’ by wiggling your fingers and toes.  Then, you’re likely to be prompted to rub together briskly your hands and feet.  This brings awareness (and warmth) back to your body.  You may then be prompted to turn into the fetal position on your right side (allowing your heart to rise first and for your heart to be positioned above your other organs).

This too is done in stages.  And, I love learning the reasons behind why such things are done in a particular way.  As in nature, there’s a purpose to the sequence. It’s a deliberate progression.

All right then:  Are you ready?

Wiggle, wiggle.

Wakey, wakey!

Okay, your turn:

What is emerging for you in your life?  What have you been building the strength for, that is now ready to rise to the surface?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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What does it mean to live and lead from the feminine?

Marching to the beat of a resurging drummer

This edition of Soul Notes is devoted to the seemingly ever-emerging resurrection of feminine leadership.  By this, I mean not only the women (and men) who are stepping into leadership positions where they embody feminine principles (creation, co-creation, cooperation, and the like); by this I am also suggesting that each person has the opportunity to “lead with” and from a foundation of feminine principles in their own lives, in their families, and in their communities.

Allow me to clarify that this is not in any way intended to discredit the masculine.  It’s merely an observation that the time has arrived where we’re seeing an uprising toward “tipping the scales” back a bit more toward symbiosis.  The yin yang symbol itself, for example, represents this well, in my opinion.  It’s a swirl of two mirror image shapes of the same size, embracing each other within the one circle.  They complement rather than compete with one another.  They hold each other in balance and securely in place.

So this is what leading from the feminine looks and feels like

As I joined hundreds of thousands of other marchers in Los Angeles on January 21st, it struck me how much this experience represented for me what leading from the feminine looks and feels like.  I found myself coining my own phrase for it – what came to me was:  power humanified.

Power humanified

Although I anticipated that discord and perhaps even violence may erupt on the day of the March, especially in a large urban center, and during such a highly charged political climate right now – I was filled with a reassuring contrast, from start to finish throughout the day.

I found myself immersed in a completely peaceful, collaborative, supportive, and nonviolent expanse of humanity.  From the trains to the roadways to the downtown street crossings, to security officers to the marchers, to the weather even (!), all seemed to be cooperating.  Now, I wouldn’t say that this type of energy is at all limited to one particular gender.  And, I realize that this day may have been an isolated occurrence whose energy and peaceful activism may not last in the coming weeks and months.  Regardless, I can say that at least it is possible; I was there; I witnessed it; I experienced it.  It happened.

It was striking to notice, too, that the men who attended seemed to feel ‘free to let down their shield’ so to speak – the stereotype of men having to be forceful, stoic, and nonexpressive, truly seemed to fall to the wayside.  I watched as the men among us enjoyed being supportive and feeling supportive and supported themselves.  They were welcomed into the fold, and walked side by side, not charging ahead or showing dominance in any way.  This was equal footing.

And let me say a few words about American privilege, whether you are a man or a woman.  Yes, I am an American, born and raised.  I’ve traveled to other countries and other continents, and yet I do not presume to understand fully the experience of women (or men) who have been raised outside the United States.  I do recognize that I’ve been able to travel by way of means and access not readily available to women in many countries. What I find a bit difficult to accept, though, is the suggestion posited by some that because women in some non-American countries suffer unimaginable violence and abuse, that this somehow diminishes the need to increase awareness of the injustices and inequities in our own land.

While twenty-two countries from Argentina, to Chile, to Croatia, to Denmark, to Germany, to Jamaica, to Norway, for example, have had women leaders in recent years as their head of state (Presidents or Prime Ministers), America still has had none.  For a century and a half after the nation’s founding, the women in the United States had no legally recognized right to vote.

Is it about ensuring that any  woman attain the highest office in the land?  No.  Unequivocally, I say no.  I would suggest, though, that a woman who brings abundantly more experience and depth of knowledge than the other frontrunner (man or woman) running, then yes.  I say yes.

Words, and symbols hold power in them

In response to the proliferation of pink hats worn during the marches, a friend of mine posed the following question:  “Isn’t that merely perpetuating gender stereotyping?” My response to his question is this:  When you’re a member of the stereotyped group, there’s power in taking back the words or symbols that have been misappropriated by those who are not members of that group.  There’s strength in reclaiming those words or symbols that have for generations been used to demean, belittle, or make dismissible the members of that group.  So, to that end, I say yes, pink is ours…you can have it, too, thank you kindly, if you would please do so with honor and reverence, and not with arrogance, disgust, or power-over.

Many women, and some men, each have their examples of being “put down” for their gender.  I’ll share one here.  As a civil litigator working for a defense firm in Los Angeles, I was a young associate and member of a three-attorney trial team (myself, and two male partners).  We had just returned from a successful day in court.  I was pleased that we advocated well for our clients, and had emerged victorious.

As the three of us rode back up the elevator together from the underground parking lot to our firm’s office suite, after returning from our day in court, this transpired:  The managing partner, in front of the other male partner, turns to me and says:  “You did a nice job in there today…for…a girl.”  A few minutes later, the two partners then took off to have a celebratory dinner on their own, leaving me to stay at the office to continue working that evening.

Women are “girls.”  And, men are well, men (or ‘dudes’ when leaning toward the more casual).  And, they’re held to different standards of what’s acceptable.  [There’s a case in Northern California, for example, where the judge has issued sanctions against the male attorney who made accusations that the female opposing counsel had purportedly displayed “unlady-like” behaviors during a deposition.]

Even the word “guys” has been blurred to include men and women in ‘mixed company,’ because, well, its true counterpart “gals” doesn’t seem to stand on equal footing, either.

Often men are referred by their last names, while women are referred by their first names.  Women themselves often perpetuate this disparity in usage.  Many have come to accept it simply as commonplace.  A way too subtle, picky difference over which to make a fuss, you may say?  Maybe.  It’s the very subtlety of it, though, that makes it that much more able to escape scrutiny.  It’s not as blatant as “bitch” or “chick” (both of which are animal references, and as such are used as a way to dehumanize).   So, it’s sometimes easier to let slide.

Nonetheless, this pervasive belittling, whether overt or covert, brings with it a price.  That price is the ability of all people to embrace and exhibit all of who they are, with authenticity and dare I say even wild abandon.  Society as a whole suffers.  Repression costs us all.

Vibrating resonance

Despite what some may contend, I vote for the continuation of the conversations that have come to the forefront during this recent election cycle, and its aftermath.  I’m suggesting that the marches worldwide on January 21st were not an isolated moment in time.  Although a powerful day on its own, I’d say it started a “reverb” like no other, at least since perhaps the Civil Rights movement.  As with strumming a guitar, the sound continues its vibration well after the first chord or note is struck.  January 21st was a strong strum heard ‘round the world.

May we continue strumming.  And may we lead from the feminine.

Oh, and remind me to share the story sometime – the one about when I showed up on the lot at Paramount Studios to be an extra in a movie, and ended up playing a suffragette who marched in the streets during a President Wilson campaign rally.

Yep, that happened.  And, so did the marches this past weekend, millions of people strong, worldwide.

Power humanified.

Okay, your turn:

What, if anything, did you take away from the recent marches around the globe?  To what extent do you feel there’s a resurrection of the feminine?  Is this merely spiritual mumbo jumbo, or evidence of a real shift, rooted in practical reality?  What would you like to see more fully emerging in our world going forward?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Traveling light

As life is a daring adventure or nothing at all (thank you, Helen Keller), have you felt into where you are traveling next in your life’s journey?

Coming around the bend into a new season after last week’s solstice, as well as into a new calendar year, it’s a good time to reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re headed. Reflecting on your own spiritual path, how well would you like to “travel” into the next trip around the sun and during the next thirteen moons?

This edition of Soul Notes is devoted to traveling light.

Carry on baggage, or checked baggage?

Maybe it’s a good thing that airlines make you pay for extra baggage. “Whaaat?,” you exclaim.  Well…We’re paying an energetic price anyway  for extra baggage: in our travels, in our relationships, in our lives.  Adding $25 or $50 or whatever it is the airline charges only makes it all that more apparent.

When airlines first invoked those extra charges several years ago, I did feel disgruntled and rather taken aback by the new policy.  How affronting that they were going to charge us for something that had always been included within the price of our airfare? I’m beginning to appreciate, however, that the extra-bags policy has brought to my attention the benefits of packing light.

I now value the ‘selection process’ inherent in choosing what I need or desire most to bring on a trip, and deciding what items really are better left behind.   I read somewhere (or did I imagine this?) that just as with portion control on your dinner plate, it’s helpful to lay out what you think you may wish to pack, and then reduce it by half.

Doing so requires prioritization.  It’s an exercise in discernment.  It’s living life consciously.  What really matters to you?

Traveling light means paring down

Heading into the new year, how about we take a little inventory of our lives?  Maybe it’s time, by design, to travel light.  Release what is weighing you down.  Let go of what is holding you back.  Finally recognize and cast off that which has been making things take longer and unnecessarily draining on you rather than sustaining?

I’ve decided that there’s a reason luggage is called that – it’s because you lug it around with you. When traveling abroad, have you ever found yourself dragging a suitcase all around — on and off trains, up and down stairways, and from hotel to hotel?  Unless you have your own private valet, this quickly becomes a direct and obvious reminder of the value of traveling light.  Keep this vision in your mind’s eye when packing for your next trip!

Additionally, while on your next trip — business, vacation, either or both – be aware of what, if anything, you actually wish you had  in fact brought with you. Or, maybe some things for you have shifted in their priority or meaningfulness?  Is it time to reprioritize?  If so, make the appropriate notations and adjustments for next time.

Time for an inspection and perhaps a refresh

Now is a wonderful time, in another sense, to “check” your bags.  Give them a good once-over. Any rips, tears, or frays?  Any broken zippers?  Are the wheels wobbly and about to fall off?  Maybe the bags are still functional, yet have long lost their luster?

Is your passport up to date?  Better to take a look and determine that now rather than later.  Some countries require a passport to be at least six months away from its expiration date, when you are visiting.  Again, what may be an annoying policy, I have come to realize, actually serves a useful purpose for us as well.  It helps us to take our travels seriously.  There’s a discipline to it; a consciousness to it.

Don’t think this is all about stodgy planning.  I’m all for spontaneity, too.  I’d say having the passport up to date ahead of time actually allows for precisely that!  You’re ready to go at a moment’s notice (especially if you’ve gotten in the habit of bringing only what fits in a small carrry-on bag…see how this works?)

Review and Replenish

Every 90 days or so (you can use the solstices and equinoxes as an easy guide from the natural world) examine — not only your luggage and passport, but your life’s dreams and ambitions.  Not unlike the natural world, your life is dynamic and fluid.  Quarterly review and replenishment is about right – any more often than that, and you may be disallowing your aspirations their full due.  Your life is worth it – no short-changing or robbing your priorities the opportunity to fully settle in and calibrate. Throughout the year, consider:  How do you feel?  How do you wish to feel?  Lighter?

For your consideration:

What are you carrying into 2017?  Lay it all out in front of you.  Now, consider cutting it by 50%.  Be selective.  You get to choose!

For another practical example, and one I did myself after Solstice:

Clear out your refrigerator. Okay, before you groan about this one, first put on some of your favorite music and spray something pleasingly fragrant in the air. Next, dedicate no more than 55 minutes at a time to:

Taking one shelf a day for the next (however many shelves are in your fridge) days to clean it out.  Wipe down the dividers. Remove the cruddy crusties from jar lids.  Check for items well past their expiration dates.  Put in a fresh box of baking soda.  Toss out old condiments that you barely ever use (how many different types of mustard do you really need?) What about that small jar of maraschino cherries hiding behind that other small jar of pickled relish – can you even remember why you bought either of those – was it for a party you hosted back in 2011?

When you’re done at the end of the week, cherish a clean fridge, and consider how it’s a metaphor for entering the new year lighter, freer, and more refreshed.  And, if the metaphor doesn’t work, at least you can now find the almond butter!

Okay, your turn:

What are you ready to leave behind from this year?  What are you excited about and energized about bringing with you into the next one?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2016 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
 
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Every time a bell rings

At this time of year when the veil between the physical world and the spiritual world is at its thinnest and most transparent, I’m struck by the emergence of seemingly non-coincidental coincidences.  In this edition of Soul Notes, allow me to share a story of what happened a couple weeks ago.

Fanciful Financials

This year for me has been one of self empowerment – in my outlook on life, my relationships, and in my money matters. Among other things, I’ve been taking a more active role in creating and stewarding my wealth.  Along those lines, in reviewing my credit card statements this month, I discovered multiple charges on one of my accounts, that I did not authorize.

If you’re anything like me, calling an 800 number and working through a myriad of voice prompts and being put on hold for great lengths of time is not high on your joy list.  Even lower on the list is calling a credit card company to challenge hundreds of dollars in charges.  So, I took charge (pun intended!) of the situation by allowing the experience to be a lot more pleasant and perhaps even fanciful.  Fanciful financials, why that would be wonderful, wouldn’t it?

I set the intention that, instead of taking on my usual dread of calling a credit card company, I would first make a call of a different kind.  I took a deep breath, got quiet, and called in the angels.  Not any ol’ angels mind you – I called in angelic helpers of a certain variety, namely those looking for a specific type of assignment.

My spiritual call went something like this:

 “Hello…any fanciful financial angels available in this moment?  Especially ones who are good at facilitating the resolution of billing disputes, so that I may remain calm and patient throughout, and get this resolved smoothly, today, if possible?”

Okay, if you’re thinking that this blog post is getting way too hocus pocus for your taste, stay with me.  My wish is that this lil’ story serves as a heartwarming respite from the otherwise heavy news you may be reading elsewhere today.

Wonderful Wonders

Remember the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”?  Originally released during the 1940s, it’s now considered to be an all-time favorite holiday classic.

Jimmy Stewart plays the protagonist George Bailey who at the beginning of the film, we find out,  considers himself to be a failure.  He wishes that he had never been born.  The film continues to weave between two “realities” – one where George’s life and the lives of those around him take a certain course; in the other, without George, those same events transpire in an entirely different way.

It is through the intervention of a visitor in town, a messenger named Clarence, that we and George see the true value of George’s life, and the vivid impact his life has had on everyone around him.

Near the end of the movie, George is seen standing next to his wife in front of a Christmas tree, with his daughter in his arms.  George looks down to find a book gifted to him by his friend Clarence, inscribed with prophetic words, and ending in: “Thanks for the wings!”

At that moment, a jingle-jangle is heard, and the camera zooms in on a small bell hanging on the Christmas tree.

The daughter points to it, and says:

“Look Daddy!

Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

George says to her, in response:

“That’s right.  That’s right.”

Looking up and winking, George says:

  “Attaboy, Clarence!”

~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Now, back to my credit card story.  After I had invoked the fanciful-financial-spirit-helpers-on-assignment, I took another deep breath, and dialed up Bank of America on their customer service line.  With renewed faith and an uncommon-for-me dose of patience, I followed the multiple recorded voice prompts, and then waited calmly on hold, when eventually a person came on the line.

“Hello,” she says.

“This is Angel.”

What the what?  Come on, you’re kidding me, right?  I say this to myself, and then smile as I realize what’s happening…Well, of course her name is Angel.

I feel a gush of glee and satisfaction, and think to myself:  Well, this truly is fanciful financials!

Angel couldn’t have been more helpful.  She carefully reviewed my account and the disputed charges, and assured me that she would do what she could to get the charges removed.  To do that, she said, she would need to call the merchant.

Rather than hanging up with me – or giving me the usual “we will look into it and you may or may not see any changes reflected on your next statement” – Angel did something that in my experience was a first:  she offered to call the merchant while I was still on the phone, so that we could get everything taken care of in one fell swoop.

A Three-Way Call

Here’s how the next part of the conversation went:

Angel:  “I have the merchant’s representative on the line, Lori.”

Lori:  “Angel, will you stay on the line, too, or are you transferring?”

Angel:  “Yes, I’ll stay on the call with you.  Here he is…”

I listen for his voice, and he says:

“Hello, this is Clarence.”

We worked it out, and all disputed charges were removed.

Jingle.

Jingle.

Jingle!

For your consideration:

Now is an ideal time to invite in clear communication and assistance from behind the veil. So, I leave you with these words from Train’s “Calling All Angels”:

“I need a sign to let me know you’re here
‘Cause my TV set just keeps it all from being clear

… And I’m calling all angels
I’m calling all you angels”

Okay, your turn:

What messages are coming through for you in your life?  Are you calling in any angels?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2016 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Trust what you hear when you listen

“Trust what you hear when you listen.”

— This is a line repeated in the Japji (Song of the Soul), as translated from the original Sanskrit.

What does it mean to truly listen? And, to trust what you hear? In this new moon’s edition of Soul Notes, we dig into this spiritual concept and practice.

Truly Listening

Truly listening — to the sounds of your soul, and to the souls of others – is what allows trust to develop.  It cuts through the egoic, often times camouflaged or staged fronts that come from the mind.  It’s a matter instead of tuning into the heart.

“Trust what you hear when you listen.” – Japji

Trusting what you hear when you listen means listening for and trusting your intuition:  Your inner truth will sound beautiful, satisfying, and fulfilling – you know, “the nodding your head, ‘uh-huh’ ” kind of truth.  It will ring true – it will be harmonic and resonant.  With practice, you’ll notice and KNOW the difference.

When you’re truly listening, your truth will be recognizable by its purity. It will sound and feel loving and expansive.  In contrast, your inner untruth will sound false, faulty, and anything but resonant.  You’ll feel yourself contracting or worse yet fleeing from your peaceful, respite place.  It will seem as if someone suddenly changed the serenity channel to something that grates on your nerves, throws you off-balance, and disrupts your inner harmony.  That, dear one, is the critical mind calling – don’t pick up that call!  Let it go to your spiritual trash bin to be discarded and composted away.  There’s no space for it in your inner sacred harmonic energy field.  Say to it, “No Thank You — There’s no room for you at THIS inn”!

Or, it may not sound critical per se – yet, it may nonetheless still sound or feel “off,” meaning that it’s not the sound of your own voice calling, but that of someone else.  What you’re hearing may be their truth, but not what’s true for YOU.  This takes discernment.  With practice also comes discernment.

As with most things worth your devotion and attention, trusting what you hear when you listen takes consistent, ongoing practice.  Fine tuning your listening skills and hearing what your intuition has to say — to reveal, and to divulge to you from your innermost being – that wisest part of you —  gets stronger and stronger over time and with frequent repetition.  Accordingly, leaving it alone too long between sessions, without engagement, results in it becoming out of tune just like a piano, guitar or violin. So, keep at it!  It’s worth it.

The benefits and ways to get started:

 

To be able to trust fully in what you hear when you listen, it helps to get quiet, still, and free from distractions if at all possible.  Dedicating even a few minutes a day to this practice will engender worthy results.  Bring your full presence to the moment at hand.  Engage your mind, body (your heart) and soul.  Tune into the silence, and be open to hear what comes through the quiet solitude.  Treat this as your own soul session, your own meditation, just for you! Listen for the voice of the DIVINE WITHIN yourself!

Allow words, images, symbols, or even just a ‘hunch’ or a ‘gut feeling’ to come through.  Some messages will gain further meaning afterwards, maybe even hours or days later.  What’s important is setting the scene so that you truly hear the messages.  You can decipher them over time.  There’s no rush, only devotion, dedication, to spirit, and the messages and meanings that are intended for you.

Feel free to journal what comes through – or draw, or compose a poem or sing a song…whatever feels best for you to express what you heard.

Listening this way is what truly allows divine messages to come through.  Deep understanding results.  Then, you can take action from THAT place, and not from a place of disruptive self-flagellation, and nasty untruths.  Inspired action feels enlivening, and uplifting, and not disheartening.  Heart engaged?  Check!  All soul systems go!  Use THAT as your energetic and spiritual launching pad.  That is: Divine Lift-Off.

Your soul and the divine are available to you “24-7” – you just need to connect via the proverbial wi-fi.  It’s one of the special, beautiful technologies uniquely available to us as human, spiritual beings.  It’s already encoded within you.  Embrace it.  Enjoy it.  Welcome it in all its glory.

Given any situation you may be contemplating, or for which you seek clarity: Surrender yourself to the experience.  And, be prepared to and do, take inspired action based on your new, finely tuned, receptivity. As from a stone skipping across a pond, circles of understanding will continue to ripple outward from within.

For your consideration:

I leave with you these words, from the Japji:

 “Trust what you hear

When you listen,

And bring all your loved ones

Along.

Trust what you hear

When you listen,

You will swim across

All difficulties

And your very presence

Will carry others

Across as well.”

Okay, your turn:

In what ways have you been tuning in and listening for your own truth?  What do you notice when you get still, quiet, and really listen?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2016 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Ready to VOICE it?

“What’s the matter, the cat got your tongue?”

“Don’t you have something to say?”

These questions may sound familiar.  Do you recall a time when you were asked to speak up, and you didn’t?  Or, perhaps you felt the urge to voice your opinion, and you refrained from doing so?  Or, how about those times when you started to speak, and then you held yourself back in some way? Often, we may have lots to say, but we withdraw, for fear of being misunderstood, disrespected, or not even truly heard at all.

Have you been feeling stuck in one or more areas of your life?  Shutting down your self-expression may be a big reason why. In this edition of Soul Notes, let’s dive into the need to express ourselves, and the consequences for not doing so.  We’ll explore some ways to open up the channels, too, so that you are feeling free to express yourself, open, balanced, and unencumbered.

The body and our energy centers give clues

Within the chakra system, the fifth chakra (“vishuddha”) is the throat chakra, and represents the embodiment of communication.  It’s the Messenger, the Grand Communicator of the chakras.  Up the chakra “ladder,” it is considered the first of the three higher or spiritual chakras.  What’s the significance, you may be asking?  The higher the messages, the higher the creativity, and the higher the impact! Strength of our personal will — this also comes from the throat chakra.

It’s important to note that the throat chakra serves as a transmitter and as a receiver.  The messages may be internal as well as external. When out of balance, this chakra shows up in such tell-tale signs as a sore throat, a pinched nerve in your shoulders, or yes even as a real “pain in the neck”!  Alternatively, a balanced throat chakra opens you up to psychic insights, and higher guidance and wisdom.  When we are listening to “that voice of reason,” our throat chakra is clear, and receptive to what our intuition is telling us.  Correspondingly, it is the throat chakra that is most associated with our dream state.   A balanced throat chakra sets the stage for powerful and informative dreams.

Authentic expression

The throat chakra is also the truth center.  Speak your truth! Say what needs to be said, without harsh judgment, without malice.  Speak up for yourself and what you desire to express.

Say you what you mean, and mean what you say.  The more you invoke this process, the more your fifth chakra will open.  You’ll notice the tension in your neck, if any, will lessen, and your body (and overall demeanor) will feel more free, clear, fluid, and in the flow.

Conversely, deceit violates our body and our spirit.  Insincere communication thwarts our divinity.  Equally as damaging as keeping quiet and suppressing our truth is being overly critical, bitingly caustic, or engaging in gossip or idle chit-chat. It is important to speak our choices with our authentic voices! Expressing from our spiritual essence means exuding kindness, understanding, and compassion.

Listening and being heard

Accordingly, as mentioned above, listening (receiving) can be as important as expressing (transmitting). Like breathing, it’s an exchange of going inward as well as expressing outward.

Effective communication often begins with hearing, with listening – in the physical sense as well as the metaphysical. As with speaking from a place of compassion and understanding, so, too, it is with hearing and listening – to ourselves and to others.  We all have a basic need to be heard.  (For more on this topic, go here).  To fully listen means to devote your undivided attention.  If you’re not 100% focused on listening, then you’re not truly hearing the messages.  Accordingly, you’re not in alignment: you’re off-centered, off-track, and likely leaning toward that place of  being “stuck” and “blocked”.  Plain and simple!

Ways to open up the communication channels

When feeling blocked, or unable to express yourself, here are a few effective, tried and true ways to open up your fifth chakra:  Engage in reading aloud, singing, chanting, and humming (in fact, not-so-coincidentally, the mantra sound for this chakra is ‘hum’!)  For a particularly restorative experience, you may wish to try sound healing.  At yoga centers and other gathering places in your area, for example, you may check their calendars for upcoming sessions where gongs, drums or singing bowls are used.

Listen to what your intuition has to say, open up to receiving divine messages, and speak your mind (and from your heart and soul) with compassion and understanding.  From a loving place, express yourself and share your truth and wisdom with others throughout your day, your week, your lifetime.  Now, I’d say that’s effective communication!

For your consideration:

Take the bold inspired step to ask yourself this soul searching question:  How honest am I being in my communication – with myself, and with others?

Okay, your turn:

In what situations do you find yourself holding back from fully expressing yourself?  What are you open to doing differently next time?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2016 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Seed from the seat of creation!

As we welcome in the increasing light at this time of year, and upon embarking on the lunar new year — on this February new moon, I invite you to consider: What seeds are you planting? — in your life, in your life’s work, in your relationships, in your surroundings?

With this edition of Soul Notes, we take a sojourn to the lessons of nature. Many cultures historically have lived in step with the natural seasons, and have survived by way of carefully planting, nurturing and cultivating the sustenance provided by mother earth. Let’s take a closer look at how this applies to our day to day world right now:

The seed (and seat!) of Creation

It all sprouts from a seed that’s planted: In nature’s acts of creation, as in ours. Everything stems from that! (There’s no coincidence here, that flowers have stems.)

To germinate, all seeds need oxygen, moisture, and a certain temperature. Until these conditions are met, the seed remains stagnant, dormant, lifeless. With the right conditions, the plant inside a seed starts to grow. As it gets bigger, it pushes open and through the seed coat. (Envision a chick hatching from an egg.) Leaves start to appear and push out from the soil.

Seeding puts into motion a series of events, consequences and possibilities. You are in charge of what you seed in your own life – through your own mind, body and soul.

So, the question to consider is this: Metaphorically, what are you seeding these days? Correspondingly, how much care are and will you be taking with what you are planting?

Reaping What You Sow: The importance of Nourishing, Nurturing and Cultivating

Mind, Body and Soul

It matters what we “feed” our plants. And, of course, it matters what we feed ourselves, our mind, body and soul.

This week I’m completing a 40-day practice of chanting each morning the 38-stanza poem or prayer known as Jap Ji. Jap (“repeat”) Ji (“soul”) dates back to the 1500s, and has been nicknamed the Song of the Soul. Reciting the Jap Ji (or Japji) is believed to awaken one’s soul to its destiny.

As a seed grows in soil, sprouting from the inside through and out its original coating, so too does our consciousness and our soul. One of the many lessons to be gleaned from Japji is this: With each challenge in life, our evolving up and through it, and out the other side, brings with it a new level of challenge AND possibility. With each challenge comes the opportunity to grow our trust, faith, and ability to learn from a new level of wisdom and understanding. As we expand, it is the “pressing against” the new coating, the new shell, which fosters yet again even further growth.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” — Anaïs Nin

For the seedling, the energy required to “bust through” the original coating is much greater than at later stages. The initial growth spurts are fast and furious! Ever wonder why puppies are perpetually nodding off in their dinner bowls? As with seedlings, it takes a LOT of energy for puppies to grow so much and so fast! The energy expelled and the corresponding growth is so concentrated. So, too, as it is with our personal development and spiritual growth.

Among spiritual circles, you may be hearing the good news that across the globe we’re experiencing a rise in consciousness. Despite (or because of?) the ever-intensifying use of technology, instances of widespread violence, ongoing struggles and strife, and an overall prevalence of crises worldwide, there is at the same time an emerging collective devoted to the return to simpler times, and to a more centered, grounded way of living.

Is it any coincidence that among the vast morass of options for “fast meals,” “rapid weight loss,” and “crash diets,” we’re also seeing an increasing number of crate-to-plate restaurants popping up around town? Folks are looking to eat locally grown food again, and steering clear of processed substances, shipped in from faraway food factories.

And, for many, we’re taking time to make our own meals, or at least to settle in and enjoy our meals at a more leisurely pace, whether at home or while dining out. I’ve always admired the Italian way of embracing la dolce vita (the sweet life) that includes among other things, the slow deliberate enjoyment of a meal. In Italy, it is generally considered a disservice at a restaurant for the wait staff to rush you. Once seated for dinner, for example, you are granted the table for the duration of the evening. You’re not likely to find Italians looking up from their plates, impatiently pleading for someone to “bring the check.”

It is the care and attentiveness which brings an almost lyrical movement to living our lives. It cultivates the soil so to speak for our dreams and desires to take root, and for our creations to come into fruition. Matching the pace of nature, rather than overriding it, is SO rich. Nature has so much to teach us!

Without planting and nurturing our own ideas, dreams and desires, we run the risk of them laying dormant. They neither come into fruition nor flourish. In short, nothing gets created. The world then misses out on each of our own uniquely beautiful contributions to the world’s landscape.

So, I leave you with this:

Plant those seeds

Provide them due care

Sow and sow

Grow and grow

Again

and

Again

 

Embrace the challenges:

Create

Contribute

Rise

and

Shine!

 

Okay, your turn:

What are you seeding in your life this year?   What is calling within you to foster, nurture, grow?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2016 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.