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Emerging from a slumber: Lessons from nature this time of year

Emerging from a slumber

As we approach Winter Solstice in the Northern hemisphere – I honor that it is a time when nature nears its completion of its turn toward what we experience as the “shortest” days of the year.  The days are not actually shorter; we simply experience them as shorter because we “see” less daytime, and observe more evening time during a 24-hour period.

As Winter Solstice comes and goes, we tend to say that the light returns. May we all remember that the light never truly goes away.  It’s always there. It’s only that during certain portions of our planet’s orbit around the sun, we experience fewer hours of daylight.  Physically, on the earth, the more north we are, the more extreme the disparity between the total hours of lightness and of darkness.

Not unlike the planet, we, too, as humans are turning and rotating through the seasons…through the seasons of the year and the seasons of our lives.

What is it about slowing down, lying dormant, by nature’s design, only to be later awakened from our slumber – that sometimes seemingly troubles us? Why is it that in modern day society, we tend to choose overindulgences over what is more meaningful and is more apt to sustain us? Typically, we tend to go for the immediate gratification. Silly humans!

We can take a lesson from the great grizzlies who “den” in the wintertime, seeking refuge from the severe weather conditions. Hibernation affords them an opportunity to preserve their bodies and life force energy when the natural resources on the outside are less readily available and more difficult to come by. It’s a time when the wind picks up, and the temperature drops. The grizzlies forage and bulk up during the weeks preceding their hibernation; they re-emerge leaner and yet just as strong as when they entered.

How does this parallel our own lives as spiritual seekers? Does this open up an opportunity for us each year, to “go inside” and take refuge from the outside forces?  For me, that means surrendering into the natural rhythm of the seasonal shifts, rather than fighting against them.  I used to express disdain for the wintertime.  I saw it as an inconvenience to drive home from work in the dark, and to have fewer hours of sunshine to enjoy the beach and other outdoor activities.

While I’m still practicing my surrendering into the darker times of the year, each trip around the sun I get a little closer to full acceptance. Turning inward, this time of year, I make an even more concerted effort to slow down and tap into my own inner light, my own soulful center.  We all have one.  And, yes, like the sun, it’s always there, too.  Sometimes it’s a flicker; other times, it’s a full glow. It may appear dark and stark from time to time.  I remind myself that it only appears that way. The source of the light remains the same: constant, steadfast, reliable, and true. I have much to receive from it, much to sustain me.  I appreciate it now.  I’m thankful for all that it offers.  And, for you?

For your consideration:

As individuals and as a society, have we been slumbering too long?  Or, to mix metaphors:  Have we been asleep at the wheel?

From a spiritual standpoint: Are we now emerging from our slumber and stepping into a higher level of consciousness?  I would say yes, for many, this is indeed the case.  That’s what’s been the challenge as well as the opportunity…for growth, for a remembrance of what’s pure and true, and for paving a renewed path: a path that honors us, our sacred institutions, and our precious planet and all those who inhabit it.

For me, the recent political landscape in the United States has served as a powerfully potent catalyst that has reawakened me from my own slumber and reactivated my political and legal activism. The misuse of power across many sectors of our federal government, coupled with the blatant disregard for the United States Constitution hurts my heart.  And, at the same time, it fuels my passion. If you’re a regular reader of Soul Notes, then you’ll recall some of my chronicles of such matters the past two years.  I’m feeling into what that means for me, heading into 2019.

Okay, your turn:

Where in your life would you like to take temporary refuge, and regroup, so that later you may re-emerge lean and strong?  What needs shedding or letting go?   What lessons can be found in the darkness?

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

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Protection from untoward forces affords access to the deeper wisdom: aad guray nameh

The power of sound and word

Mantra is a form of sound current meditation, and as such serves to clear the mind, and balance the brain hemispheres.  For millennia, yogis have chanted mantras for a variety of purposes.  All of them provide an effective way of controlling and directing the mind’s thoughts and a beneficial set of focus points.

One of the most powerful mantras in kundalini yoga (and one that is often chanted right after an initial tuning in with a chanting of ong namo), is the aad guray nameh mantra.

The mantra of protection

Aad guray nameh (I bow to the primal wisdom) is known as the “mantra of protection.”

By chanting this mantra, you bring about a field of white light of protection surrounding you. It also stimulates your mind and sharpens your alertness to avoid crashes, collisions, and other physical mishaps.  It has been said that by chanting this mantra three times before embarking on a mode of transportation, it brings nine seconds of time, and nine feet of protection around you and your vehicle.

Gurmukhi:

Aad Guray Nameh
Jugaad Guray Nameh
Sat Guray Nameh
Siri Gurdayvay Nameh

Translation:

I bow to the primal wisdom

I bow to the wisdom that has existed throughout the ages.
I bow to the true wisdom.
I bow to the great, divine wisdom

What do we mean by protection?  It’s energetic in nature, and can have direct positive effects in the material world.  Some think of a protective field as a “shield.”  I like to think of it more as a screen rather than a shield.  While a full-on shield tends to be hard and impenetrable, a screen has permeability.  By design, a screen lets in some things, while keeping out other things.  Envision a screen on a door or a window, or a screened-in porch. These house screens allow in light, while at the same time keep the bugs out. They are a filter.

By design, we too, have the ability to invoke a screen that protects us from what may harm us, while allowing in what helps us.  We may exercise our right to choose at any time.  We may open the door, or close the door, as well as put up or remove a screen, at any time.  Mantra simply helps us get centered and into a place of focus and access to our deeper wisdom and to a place of precise decision-making.

Affords access to the deeper wisdom

In the specific case of aad guray nameh, we are ensuring the screen of white light is in place. Once protected, we are able to feel into and hear the deeper messages we are meant to hear.

May we each draw from the divine wisdom held deeply within each of us, so that we may bring our best selves and our greatest gifts out into the world, from a place of higher consciousness and with humility and grace.  And, may it be in service to our planet and to all of humanity.  The times such as these require it.  The time is now.

For your consideration:

Before engaging in any meditation (and again, mantra itself is a form of meditation) – decide for yourself:  what type of ‘screen’ am I invoking and putting on the door to my heart, mind and soul?  Is it one of protection?  If so, then honor and appreciate that, and act upon it accordingly. It’s a matter of intention, and awareness.

And, as we turn the corner and head toward the September equinox in the next two weeks, it’s an ideal time to “check your screens.”  Just as you would with home maintenance and repairs – take a look at your energetic screens and see which if any need adjusting.  Equinox is the time, twice each year, when the hours of light and dark are nearly equal, and it’s a time of balance.

As you take a look at your life and your current state of affairs, ask yourself:  What’s in balance?  What’s out of balance?  Are your protective screens strong and steadfast?  Or, are they flimsy and weak, tattered, or threadbare?  What’s getting into your energetic field that you’d rather keep out?  Conversely, what’s currently missing from your energetic field that you’d consciously like to invite in?

For me, I’m inviting in more love and support, while screening out distractions and feelings of heaviness and doubt.

Okay, your turn

What in your life right now is calling for your attention and intention?  What is it that would most benefit from a white light of protection?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

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The wisdom of the sages

There’s sage and then there’s sage !

Sage, as we know, is a type of herb. The sage plant has been used by a number of cultures for thousands of years.  It has been used in Chinese medicine.  It has been used by Native Americans in various ceremonies and for medicinal purposes. Some have even suggested that it leads to immortality!

In China, sage tea has been called the “thinker’s tea.” Along with its anti-inflammatory properties, it has been known to help improve memory and overall brain function.  Perhaps that is why the word “sage” also is used to describe a person who is wise.  It can also be used as an adjective (as in “sage advice”).

The title of this article is a deliberate play on words.  Sages and ages. They both connote a harkening back to ancient times as well as serve as a current example of ancient traditions put to good use in the so-called modern age.  Has there been a resurgence, or have these practices been put to good use all along?  Are we perhaps simply more aware of them now, due to the internet, globalization, and social media?

Sage has even become a somewhat trendy baby name, at least in the United States.  I wonder if it’s part of the ‘Apple’ craze?  (Referring to the celebrity’s baby’s name, not the computer company.)

We all remember being asked the question when we were young: What do you want to be when you grow up?  Me:  a philosopher.  I didn’t hear anyone around me saying that they wanted to be that.  It wasn’t exactly listed anywhere as a possible career track.  That didn’t matter to me.  If it was needed, and served a purpose, why couldn’t it be an occupation?

I wasn’t even exactly sure what all a job as a philosopher would entail. I knew in my heart, though, that it was a role that would be important and one that would be of service to others.  In my imagination, philosophers were the wisest people in their communities.  And, as such, they had a responsibility to answer seekers’ questions and provide helpful suggestions, recommendations, and solutions.

Sometimes we picture “wise ones” sitting on a mountain top, or living in caves in the Himalayas.  In my mind’s eye, I pictured them more along the lines of a wise man or wise woman in Ancient Greece sitting quietly in a town square, as the local villagers would stop by whenever they were seeking an answer to an inquiry or when wrestling with a concern that was weighing heavily on their soul, or when struggling with a conflict they couldn’t quite resolve.

I pictured philosophers dispensing wisdom not unlike a modern day pharmacist dispensing medicine.  And, I did truly envision “philosopher” as an actual vocation, and a paid position, for sure.  I even had a specific annual salary in mind.  I thought that a philosopher should make $300,000 a year.  Here was my reasoning:  At the time, the President of the United States’ annual salary was set at $200,000. Knowing that, accordingly, I figured that philosophers should be paid at least 50% more than the President, as they would be at least that much more wise and valuable to the country and citizenry!  Apparently, I really had put a lot of thought into this (grin).

While Philosopher or Sage may not be a job title, certainly there are modern day professions where others seek their guidance and advice.   Lawyers fall into that category (hence, the term “counselor at law”).  As with some other professions, within law, there are rules of professional responsibility.  It is part of the licensing process, and continuing legal education requirements as well.  And, as covered in this week’s Six-Minute Saturdays episode, many lawyers including myself were drawn to the law as a career because of a deep desire to be of service.

Admittedly, not all legal advice is the sagest or the wisest. I would suggest, though, that the profession is at least designed to serve that purpose, and with that intention.  And, ultimately, the client retains control over whether to heed that advice, ignore it, or even to seek additional opinions.

For your consideration:

So, with that in mind then, allow me to pose this question: Upon whom, ultimately, do we need to rely, for the sagest advice of all?

Are we not, each of us, deep down, our own best philosopher?  We simply need to access that inner wise sage.  That’s why meditation is important.  That’s why getting quiet and still is wise. By listening to our own inner guidance and messages, we each hold the power and divinity to reach the most appropriate conclusions and answers for ourselves.  And, that is valuable beyond compare.

Okay, your turn:

What’s been the sagest advice that you’ve ever received?  What’s the sagest advice that you’ve ever given? What’s the best advice that your inner-sage has revealed to you?  What made it so?  Did you act on it?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply 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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There are messages in the water

What about the water?

Varying to some degree only by age and gender, our human bodies are approximately 70 percent water. Water is the primary building block of human cells. And, water covers nearly 71 percent of the Earth’s surface.  It’s vitally important to our existence, as individuals and as a species. And yet, or perhaps precisely because of its prevalence in our world, we tend to take it for granted.  You’d think it would be difficult for us to ignore, but somehow we do?

What if we pay more close attention to the water?  What can we learn from the water?  And, what can the water learn from us?  What impact, if any, do we have on each other?  Is it unidirectional or bidirectional?   In this edition of Soul Notes, let’s dig a little deeper, and dive beneath the surface, if you will!

The truth is in the water

“There are messages in the water.”

During a quiet, self-reflective meditation session not too long ago, I distinctly heard these words:  “There are messages in the water.”  I didn’t know what that meant.  What I did know, however, is that I would be looking to the water, in all its many forms, for clues.

And, as I sat down to outline this blog post, I was reminded of the set of water crystal experiments conducted by Dr. Masaru Emoto.  I decided to look up his written works, and smiled as I discovered that one of his volumes is entitled, “The Hidden Messages in Water.”  Not one to overlook a good cosmic coincidence, I quickly ordered a copy of the book and devoured it before sitting back down to finish writing this article.  The book is replete with high-speed photographic images of frozen water crystals, observed and amplified under a variety of conditions.

The Emoto experiments

By putting bottles of water on a table, and then freezing them while exposing them to a number of pre-set conditions, and then taking high-speed photographs of the resulting crystal formations, Dr. Emoto was able to test for certain variables such as: exposure to chlorine in the water (common in some communities’ tap water); exposure to music, including Beethoven and Mozart’s symphonies; and exposure to written words such as “Thank you” compared to “Fool”.   Each resulted in specific shapes and formations, some beautifully complete, and others blurred, ill-shapened, or even completely fragmented.

From these experiments, Dr. Emoto concluded that our thoughts can influence water and that words have spirit. Water definitely responds!  We can impact the very structure of water – to our betterment and to our detriment.  That goes for each of us, and for the planet as a whole.

So, what does that mean, if and when we hear the universe whispering to us that “there are messages in the water?” What if the opposite is also true?  Can the water influence our thoughts?  Can the water affect our mind, body, and soul?  What about its potential to impact our joie de vivre, our very experience of life?  Or, how about its effect on our next course of action?  Maybe it’s not only what we say, but what we hear? I would suggest that both propositions are possible.  It’s a magical, mystical dance in which we, with consciousness, shall benefit from being willing participants.

(For a refresher on the importance of listening, click here for the previous edition of Soul Notes, entitled, Trust what you hear when you listen. In the Jap Ji, the 8th stanza translates in part as: “All my pain departs listening to my heart.”  Your heart in the physical sense also benefits from water, as it is a major component of what flows through the blood in your veins and arteries.  Blood is 92 percent water by weight.  Water is our life blood.)

“I have no doubt that water crystals will become a common focal point for people all over the world who are trying to make sense of chaos.” 

— Dr. Masaru Emoto

The truth is in the water.  It is such a fundamental element of our existence, how can there not be wisdom in it? I say we pay attention to it.  Why?  Because as Dr. Emoto posits:  It, like many aspects of the natural world, is a way for us to make sense of the chaos in our human existence.

The self-organizing nature of nature

In its natural form, water when frozen forms into hexagonal (six-sided) shaped ice crystals.  The details within the outlying formation do vary (you may have heard the expression “no two snowflakes are exactly alike”) – but what remains constant in nature is the self-organizing pattern of six-sided frozen water crystals.  There’s lots to explore with regard to sacred geometry (beyond the scope of this blog post), many aspects of which have been observed and studied over the past many centuries. It’s not merely a coincidence that many parts of nature, left to their own (divine?) devices, fall into recurring patterns.   It’s the intervention of humankind that threatens to, and often does, however, disturb these naturally occurring patterns – as the Emoto experiments demonstrate.

So, the invitation is to observe the water, and to listen for its messages, as well as reflect on ways we can enhance the experience of those around us – by the ways we interact with one another.  As everyone is comprised mostly of water, think of the impact we have on each other, physically and spiritually?

What have I heard?  I’m still listening.  And, listening.  I listen in my morning and evening practices.  I listen in the ocean.  I listen in the shower.  I listen in the bath.  I listen in the rain.  I listen in the garden. One thing I heard clearly was this:  “Make water the next topic to be explored in Soul Notes.”  And, so it is.  Welcome to the conversation!

For your consideration:

We tend to bless our food.  How about we remember to bless our water, too?  We each have that choice, and we have good reasons for making that choice.

Okay, your turn:

What lessons are there for you in the water?  Is it time to start paying attention?  Is it time to start paying more attention?  To what end?

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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Special moments in time

Now is all we have, and it’s a lot!

One oh so enchanting evening

In this edition of Soul Notes we explore what it means to capture those special moments in time. 

Sitting in front of my casita, from atop the cliffs high above the smooth sea, along the central coastline of Mexico:  I am joined by two other caring souls as we look out at the nearly black night sky snuggling the horizon and the calm ocean waters a few hundred feet below.  Directly centered in front of us, along with a canopy of stars above, we see the moon slowly setting over the water.

As the moon descends, its reflection of sunlight forming a crescent shape, it turns with solemn power from a bright white to a warm and welcoming golden hue.  After several magnificent minutes, without even a whisper, the moon’s silhouette slips behind the horizon line and out of view.

We gaze out at the ocean in awe as we humbly appreciate the beauty and magnitude of this moment. We are reverent witnesses to nature and the cosmos, and to all that is.

Okay, so I may wax poetically like this from time to time.  How can I not?  Moments such as these beg for quiet reflection and invited rapture.

As posed by the French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

To be human is to live with a certain level of consciousness, awareness and appreciation for all that our senses, well…sense.  Our human experience is indeed a sensual one.

In the film “City of Angels” starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan, there is a scene in which Seth (Cage’s character, who comes to Earth as an angel), yearns to know the taste of a pear. He asks Maggie (Ryan’s character) to describe it for him.  A bit perplexed by the question, Maggie takes a minute to find the words to convey how the pear tastes to her. Seth later in the movie experiences for the first time, the bodily sensations of hot water hitting his skin while taking a shower.

Simple moments perhaps.  Things we often take for granted.  And, yet they can be profoundly beautiful as well.   This is when our hearts and bodies serve our minds, and not the other way around.

“Where words fall short, experiences stand tall.” –Lori A. Noonan

As a writer, I’m quite fond of words.  Heck, right now you’re reading a blog article, I do realize (grin).

With words, we do our best to capture what our senses innately feel.  We have sensory-based phrases such as:

“In my mind’s eye”

“Touching moments”

“Hot blooded”

“Cold hearted”

“I hear you”

“I see you”

“I feel you”

“Tastes like freedom”

The senses – sight, smell, taste, hearing, touch, and even a “sixth sense” of intuition and innate knowing -– all provide us an opportunity, in so many ways, to experience life in all its richness and supreme depth.  It’s up to us to tune in and be all that it means to be human.

Our lives are a string of special moments in time.  Let’s be aware of what makes them special; and: feel them, cherish them, and share them with others.  That is my wish for you today, and always.

Okay, your turn:

What examples come to mind or heart when you remember a beautiful moment in time?  Where were you?  What made it beautiful?  Did you take any pictures?  In what other ways did you memorialize that moment?

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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From idealist to lost in the practice of law

From idealist to lost in the practice of law

I set off to the University of California at Berkeley as a budding journalist.  What better place, perhaps, than at the home of the Free Speech movement?  Along the way, I spent two college summers in Washington, DC, living in Georgetown, and interning in the nation’s capital.

And, by the end of my junior year, while I enjoyed writing and reporting and broadcasting (I was a news reporter for the campus radio station) – I came to realize that a career in law was what was really calling to me.  One of my majors was in Political Science, and I knew that I desired an advanced degree and was eager to learn more about Constitutional Law, and in particular the First Amendment.

I headed off to Boston University School of Law, where I had been accepted into their joint JD/MA program in conjunction with B.U.’s School of Broadcasting.  Overwhelmed, though, by the high cost of living and at the time even higher interest rates on my law school loans, I made the difficult decision to try to get accepted to another law school in a more affordable town.  I ended up transferring to a law school in Sacramento, California where I could save money on rent.  And, I was able to apply for and did receive an academic based California Graduate Fellowship to help fund my education.  Nonetheless, lacking any proverbial ‘rich uncle’ to assist, I still remained financially challenged.  I continued to incur tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.

The topics in law school, though, sometimes thrilled me. I learned even more about the First Amendment, including artists’ rights and other constitutionally protected forms of expression.  I was ‘in the zone,’ thinking I could advocate on behalf of principles that I truly felt passionate about.

If you knew me back then, you would have called me an idealist.  I was also, though, a pragmatist.  I couldn’t end up helping anyone if I couldn’t afford to complete my law school education and pay off my law school debt. Accordingly, I found myself “chasing the almighty dollar.”

I went into what attorneys refer to as “big law,” by taking a job as an associate at a 100-lawyer civil litigation defense firm.  Unlike the plaintiffs’ side, on the defense side, your “worth” is measured in terms of billable hours.  Our time was broken down into one-tenths of an hour.  Each morning, I arrived at the office with tabula rasa – a blank time sheet to be filled out.  It didn’t matter how many hours I had billed the day before.  Each day, I was expected to prove my value to the firm, by racking up another 10-12 hours for that day, and so on, and so on.

We represented large corporations, mostly with regard to breach of contract disputes.  Why did I end up at a large firm, doing something pretty much polar opposite to what I really wanted to do? In a nutshell:  Because it paid well.

My first year as an associate, I brought in a salary that surpassed any dollar amount that my parents ever made. I bought my first-ever and only “brand new car,” right off the lot, with only four miles on it. The firm had a courtroom built right into the center of one of the two floors we occupied in a Century City high rise. It had its own jury box, and two-way mirrors, and we were provided acting classes where we could hone our trial advocacy presence and skills.

Admittedly, at times it was kind of intoxicating.  Parts of it did feed my ego as well as my pocketbook.  That feeling dissipated, though, within a short period of time.  While grateful that I had landed a well-paying job, I became increasingly disenchanted with the practice of law.

Whatever work that I didn’t complete before I left the office at 7 pm, I often finished back at my apartment, sometimes up to 1 o’clock in the morning before needing to rise a few short hours later and beat rush hour traffic downtown to appear at the courthouse in time for an 8:30 am court appearance.

My energy, my enthusiasm, and my eager idealism – the very zeal I initially brought to the practice of law – was waning, and waning fast.  Where did I go astray?  The money’s nice, I kept telling myself, but I also kept thinking that “this can’t be all there is”?  Like a line from that Talking Heads song, I kept saying to myself, “How did I get here?”  This was not my beautiful life; not really.

What was unclear then, and has become readily apparent to me now, is that I was so focused on paying off my law school debt, that I was paying a steep price of a different kind:  I was paying with my sense of purpose, my spirit, my health, and my overall joie de vivre.

Feeling as if my life had been reduced to six-minute increments, even standing in a post office line seemed stressful.  “I could be billing my time, instead of standing here,” I found myself thinking.  Day to day errands had become a source of dissonance and tension.

And the work that I was doing wasn’t fulfilling.  While everyone deserves zealous representation, and I maintained my dedication to doing quality work for our corporate clients, my heart wasn’t in it.  Instead of fighting the good fight to protect journalists, artists, and others deserving of First Amendment protections, I was drowning in the minutiae of whether certain conduct or conditions were considered breaches of contracts, and whether they would withstand judicial scrutiny.

And I was doing so in largely male governing, patriarchal law firm environments, where there were few women partners and no women serving as managing partners.  There was no attention paid to bringing anything remotely akin to a “holistic” approach to running the firm or the practice of law.

While my brain and analytical abilities were put to good use, my consciousness, like a faucet, was shut off.  All in pursuit of a paycheck.

Then even the paychecks stopped.  That firm ended up going bankrupt.  I was one of the few high-billing associates that survived the firm’s earlier lay-offs so that I could help keep the boat afloat.  One fateful Friday, the office manager came into each attorney’s office, one-by-one, and let us know that even though our paychecks had been issued – it would do no good to cash them, as they would bounce.  The bank had cut off the firm’s credit line, and there was no chance of a rebound.  Stunned, and angry, I soon also felt the sting of having to look for another job.

Ever in pursuit of an income to keep my debt from swallowing me whole, I took a job at another, smaller, law firm across town where another attorney friend of mine had headed.  I left that firm within a year.  That firm had all kinds of partner in-fighting.  And, among other things, this is the firm where one of the paralegals one day brought me into his office to show me the handgun, stashed away in his briefcase, that he’d been bringing with him into the office. The firm later fired him.  Throughout, I was billing out at a rate of 2,400 hours/year.  Walking into the office, on most mornings, I couldn’t even make it from the front desk to my office down the hall without someone at the firm needing to tell me about the latest shenanigans going on “behind the scenes.”  I couldn’t stand it any longer.  Practicing law was stressful enough, let alone working in such a turbulent and toxic environment.

One morning, after spending those middle-of-the-night hours breaking down in an emotional heap on the front steps of my local Catholic church (one of those dark nights of the soul, for sure) – I decided to give my two weeks’ notice, and to the shock of the male partners there, set out to find a more promising work environment.  I ended up leaving the practice of law, and never went back.

That was a couple decades ago now,  and I’ve since paved my own way through a creative career path that I’ve carved out for myself, and while not always quite as lucrative, has definitely been more fulfilling.

Upon leaving the practice of law, it was about at that same time that I started to revisit and deepen my spiritual practice. And, recently, through expert guidance and tuning into my own intuition, I’m now discovering that I am fully committed to helping other women attorneys stay in the practice of law.

What if, yes, what if  I had the type of heart centered support from other women attorneys, mentors and role models available to me now, back then, so that:  I didn’t feel so alone; didn’t feel so dismissed for my ‘feminine qualities’; I was valued for more than purely the number of hours I billed; and I was able to cultivate a culture that not only helped transform “big law” firm environments – but in doing so ultimately created more meaningful, heartfelt environments and results for litigants, too?

As a bit of an aside (yet, it’s relevant here!):  Little known fact about me – I’ve coordinated and participated in the painting of murals on walls of buildings all over Southern California.  One of the murals that I helped design and paint was a children’s mural in a room down the hall from the Family Law department in one of the local Superior Courthouses.  Our purpose was to create a welcoming environment for the children to have as a safe waiting room and play area, when their parents (and sometimes themselves) were scheduled to appear in court. Now, THAT was fulfilling.  My heart swelled with every paint stroke as I brought fun pictures of farm animals and cute meadow scenes to life on those walls.

As I write this, I’m remembering and recapturing that which is the true essence of me.  As I continue to listen closely to what my soul is calling me to embody next, I pledge to keep stepping forward to help serve those whom I’m most meant to serve.

Stay tuned!  I’m heading off to a remote setting, and will be “off the grid” for a vitality retreat led by one of my trusted spiritual advisors.  I’ll be taking several days to discern and envision what the “whole”-istic approach to law may look like.  And, I’m designing a program to help women lawyers do exactly that.

My idealism is back, front and center. I look forward to bringing it, and my new programs, to you!

Okay, your turn:

Where or when has your life path taken a sudden or surprising turn?  What would you like to do differently going forward, given what you know now, that you didn’t know then?

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.