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Let’s talk about richness

There’s so much to be savored in the richness

In this new moon’s edition of Soul Notes, let’s talk about richness.  I’m not talking about financial riches. I’m not talking about material wealth.

I’m talking about a richness of life and living.  I’m talking about a depth of flavors and sensory pleasures, not unlike a savory pot of wildly aromatic boeuf bourguignon simmering on the stove on a cool autumn evening. Or, the richness of sipping ever so slowly from a cup of hot cocoa.

No, this hasn’t turned into a culinary blog.  Don’t worry –This is still Soul Notes. : )

For purposes of this article, though, again, I’m referring to a richness of being.  Living a rich life is akin to an acquired taste — something that you build up to, and appreciate, like dry red wine and strong black coffee.

Is there ‘such a thing’ as ‘too much of a good thing’?

“Oh, but, there’s always the risk of there being TOO much richness,” you may be exclaiming.  Maybe that’s true when it comes to food and beverages.  It’s not so true, though, when it comes to living a full and enriching life. A well-lived life means having a depth of experiences. It’s not best lived at the surface level.  A shallowly lived life is as bland as a soup without salt or pepper.

For your consideration:

I invite you to set aside a few moments to get quiet and listen for insights on where you’d like to bring in more richness, more fullness of flavor, into your life.

Take a stand. Claim it.

Finish this sentence for yourself:  “I’m choosing to call in more richness in my….”

Then, consider:

What would enhance your day-to-day experiences in that area?  What would it mean to you if you were to add more layers of depth to those experiences?  What one inspired action can you take, starting today, to bring more richness into that area of your life?

For me, I’m welcoming in more richness in my relationships, both in business and personally.  The one action I’m taking in that direction is by publicly proclaiming it here on this blog, with you!

Okay, your turn

What area of your life, would you say, holds the most richness for you right now?  In what ways has that served you, and those with whom you have been interacting?  How would you define a richly lived life?

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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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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Sandpipers dot the shoreline

Sandpipers

Dozens of them

dot the shoreline

as they scamper toward the receding flow of the tide

as it heads out

and back in again

while the ocean water

flows back toward the beach.

 

Symphonically

they keep in rhythm

with each other

and with the tide.

 

Barefoot

I press my feet and toes deep into cool wet sand

on a sweaty Summer’s day

as dusk drops in

 

With each stride

my head dips toward my chest

and I drop into reflection

and then I bring my head back up again

looking out into the setting sun’s light

 

Turning toward the Pacific Ocean

I survey the water

and take in the view

toward the west and the northwest

 

I see the trail of

sailboats

that are heading back toward and around

Marina del Rey’s nearby jetty,

And

I breathe in the view of

the Santa Monica mountains

and the coastal edges of Malibu

peeking out ever so slightly

off in the distance toward the right

 

All the while

I allow all that is

all that is

weighing heavily on my heart

and all that is

swelling my heart

and filling me

with

love

sorrow

sadness

grief

awe

mystery

devotion

reverence

revelation

serenity

solemnity

peace

calm

 

I am a body

and a soul

walking

my path

 

And it

Is

poignant

challenging

heavy and

light

and

dark

and

bright

 

Tragic

and

beautiful

and

joyful

and

in the end

as in the beginning

it is

all

divine

Okay, your turn:

What comes up for you as you read this poem?

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 honoring of union and unity: Are you in?

Oneness

Union and unity

or, at least the potential of it

exists

within ourselves

and with and among each other

and with the Divine.

We are more alike than we are different.

We are all made of the same ‘stuff,’ the same stuff as the stuff of the earth and the stars.

 

As we hear spoken at Mass on Ash Wednesday, from the Old Testament:

From dust we came and to dust we shall return.  (Genesis 3:19)

And, as set forth in the New Testament, we are reminded that:

A house divided against itself cannot stand. (Mark 3:25)

 

Also, as Americans we’ve often heard repeated this pre-revolutionary war era rallying cry:

United we stand; divided we fall. (“The Liberty Song,” by John Dickinson (1768))

 

Each of us has this one life to live – staying true to ourselves and our convictions, and with our own sense of right and wrong – while also living as members of our increasingly globalized society.

So, why do we so often seem to be hell-bent on finding ways to emphasize our differences in such a way that, rather than uplifting each other, threatens to cut each other down, and keep us separated?  Why must we do so in ways that are disrespectful and even dare I say dehumanizing?

To do so, is to forget an important spiritual principle, as so eloquently set forth in Yogi Bhajan’s First Sutra of the Aquarian Age:

Recognize that the other person is you.

I have this sutra, included in the list of all five sutras, posted on a wall right next to my bathroom mirror.  It reminds me of the mirror, if you will, that each of us is of each other and for each other.  (For more on this First Sutra, go here.)

How We Express Ourselves To One Another

On social media, I find it challenging.  I may not always, and may not ever, truly get it ‘right.’  I do approach it with the intention, however, of striking some sort of proportionate distribution among: raising awareness and shining a light on issues that matter to me in this world, and doing so without inflicting harm, shame or blame on another – especially on anyone in the private sphere.  Elected and appointed officials, in my opinion, are subject to a bit more scrutiny, although there too I do my best to raise awareness, clarify facts, and share my point of view in a way that’s not focused on shaming the person on a purely personal level.

For the most part, I look for examples of what I’d like to “see more of” in the world.  By contrast, I suppose that in so doing, I’m also pointing out what I’d like to see “less of” in the world – and yet, why give extra mileage to those things, is my thinking?  Haven’t those negative things already gained more than enough traction?

Sometimes, by design, I take a moment to reflect, and refrain from posting anything at all. It’s not that I don’t care.  Sometimes, I feel maybe I care too much?  Is there such a thing as caring too much?  I don’t know, really.  I do know that often there is much more to be learned from listening than from telling, and certainly more to be gained by showing compassion rather than by “making a point” in a way that’s browbeating and berating to another.

As I write this, I’m reminded of the proverb: There but for the grace of God, go I.

We never fully know what another person’s experience or conditions may be.  We can only hope to heed even but the briefest moments and garner but the slightest glimpses of understanding.  What would we do if we were in their particular situation or living within their particular circumstances?  What if the roles were reversed?  I am not suggesting that I have it all figured out.  I do know, though, that at least I’m trying to be conscientious and expressing myself with a certain level of decency while also maintaining my sense of advocacy on behalf of those values and ideals I hold most dearly. It’s an ongoing, day-by-day, invocation.

For your consideration:

With friends, colleagues, and even strangers, can we aim to be more compassionate, and less quick to dehumanize?  Have social media “won” the game — in terms of reducing us to online bullies and to showing up as web-based wielding knife-throwers? Can we change the rules of the game?  I say we can.

Are we up for raising the level of discourse? I’m game! Are you in?

Okay, your turn:

Where do you feel we’ve gone astray with regard to how we treat one another, and why? How can we improve our discourse? From a loving place, and not from a place of vindictiveness, harshness, or shame or blame, are there any examples you’d like to share?

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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Reclaiming our Six Minutes: Infusing Time with Moments of Joy and Sessions of Solace

Six-Minute Increments: Redefined

Recently, I was doing a little spring cleaning and decided to dive into a filing cabinet that I hadn’t opened in years. One of the first several file folders I pulled out contained a copy of one of my daily time sheets from my first year as an associate at a 100-person law firm in Los Angeles. Also in that file folder was a print-out of the year-end time tally sheet from my full first year at that firm. In defense practice (aka, “big law”), as is typical, my time was measured in terms of one-tenths of an hour — you know, those seemingly endless strings of six-minute increments. There they were – every billable and non-billable time segment all tracked and tallied.

In big law, no matter how many hours one puts in during a given day or evening (and there are often many), it is back to tabula rasa the next morning. Without or even sometimes with a strong center, that tends to do a number on your psyche and your overall sense of well-being. It can take a noticeable toll on your physical health as well.

Reclaiming Our Time

So, what to do about it? While I realize it’s naïve to think that billable hours will suddenly disappear altogether as a common metric, it is definitely within each attorney’s control to “reclaim their time” (to borrow a now-gone-viral phrase used by Rep. Waters during a congressional hearing last year) in ways that are more sustaining and rejuvenating, and from a place of strength and empowerment.
Now I can hear you asking: “But if I’m already packing in so many hours on cases, building a book of business, and attending continuing legal education seminars, how could I possibly squeeze in any other time for myself or any other more life-sustaining activities?” To that, I say, consider this: a lot can be experienced in six minutes or less. Ask any downhill skier or 1,500 meter runner (or person looking to catch the last remaining flight)!

You’re already capably putting in time well spent on behalf of the best interests of your firm and your clients, so why not do so for yourself? Without getting into the metaphysics of how to bend time (although that is definitely a fun topic to discuss with a friend or colleague over a glass of your favorite beverage) – let’s explore creative ways to “take back time,” and make it yours, at least once in a while.

Alternative Ways to Use Time

You can weave a number of short activities into your work day, throughout the week, or on the weekends. Here is a list to keep handy, of some examples to try, that are easy to do up to six minutes at a time:

  • Deep breathing in and out, slowly and deliberately
  • Looking out a window and focusing on an object in the distance such as a tree or the horizon
  • Standing quietly in a comfortable yet grounding and centering yoga position (such as mountain pose or archer pose)
  • Tapping your feet or dancing to an upbeat song (such as “One Love” or “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley, or “Say Hey” by Michael Franti & Spearhead – heck these songs are only 3-minutes each, so in six minutes you can listen to any of them twice!)

These won’t transform your world or your law practice in an instant.  They will, however, likely shake you loose from any overthinking, fuzzy thinking, frazzled nerves, or just plain fatigue and burn-out…if even but for a little while.

What’s to be gained

The benefits to be gleaned from these brief and empowering uses of time are many, and include:

  • Giving your mind a rest
  • Giving your body an opportunity to move and change positions
  • Allowing your breath to slow down and become more even, and less erratic
  • Granting yourself the gift of returning to your law practice more refreshed and less strained
  • Seeing your case strategies from a fresh angle or perspective
  • Gaining clarity around a perceived roadblock in a particular case or cases
  • Ultimately effectuating more creative, surprising strategies and potential outcomes for your clients

A Respite from the Frenzy: Six-Minute Saturdays

To help get you started, I’m creating a series of short videos that I’m calling “Six-Minute Saturdays” (SMS).  Feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel to be among the first to receive notifications of these videos as they are released on…yes, you guessed it: Saturdays.  You can view them of course whenever it’s convenient for you.  (I figure this way, you’ll be encouraged to devote at least one six-minute time segment a week completely,100%, to you!) The kick-off video for SMS is available for viewing now: To watch it, go here.

For your consideration:

What will you do for six minutes that are “all your own,” devoted solely (and soulfully) to your own well-being, starting today?  Pick one from the list above, or come up with one of your own, and let me know how it goes!  As the saying goes, there’s no time like the present.

Okay, your turn:

When you find yourself feeling stressed and unable to focus, what do you tend to do?  What’s your default ‘coping’ mechanism?  Does that help…in the short run or the long run? If that hasn’t been working well for you, what would you like to choose to do, instead, if even for a brief six minutes?

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 Intelligence of Joy: from Fun to Flow to Form

The Creative Process Best Begins by Embracing Fun & Excitement

We’ve all heard the phrase, “be in the flow.”  What is it exactly, though?  And, how do we get “in” it?  This new moon’s edition of Soul Notes is devoted to the creative flow of life.  If you’re game (pun intended), let’s go!

Creativity is intelligence having fun. –Albert Einstein

Creativity, at its core, is creating something from nothing – or at least something different from that with which you started.  Remember as a child, making up games, and scenarios, right on the spot?  Remember being with a few of your friends, and deciding who would play whom, and assigning characters and roles to play out – straight from your imagination?

Remember how FUN that was?

Fun first. Flow next.  Then, and only then, can the mind come into the picture and serve its (important) purpose of evaluating, tweaking, remolding, editing, finishing to bring into being the final product.

The writing process can be like that.  Creating from a fun, imaginative, flow state allows deep(er) access to what wants to come through you and out into the world.  It emerges in a more fluid, natural, pure state that way.  Once it’s out in the open it can be refined.  If the mind (instead of the heart, soul, and spirit) goes first, then what emerges oftentimes can be overly structured, stilted, and less pure.

What happens to the creative process, and innate ingenuity, as we get older? Several things.  Key among them is that along the way we accumulate and store experiences, and related memories.  And, it’s how we learn.  As adults, we tap into a virtual storage closet of occurrences to draw from.  It’s how we end up using metaphors, similes, and analogies, without even thinking about it!  (See what I did there…without “thinking”!)

As a corporate trainer in the legal market years ago, I studied, learned, and became certified in, ALPs (adult learning principles).  As a trainer, I used metaphors and analogies to serve as educational short-cuts for the adult learners. It facilitates their grasping a new concept, if it’s put in terms of comparison or contrast to something with which they are already familiar.  When training sales reps, I used these ALPs often — to help the sales consultants be able to learn the technical aspects of our product lines, and in turn then be able to explain those to the personnel at the law firms we served.

I find myself doing this in my writing process as well.  I’m not really conscious of it until I go back to review what I’ve written so far.

This comes in handy when writing anything, including legal briefs, crafting opening or closing arguments, and whether in front of a judge or jury.  It also helps when you are conveying information, strategies and counsel to your own litigation clients.

It’s like the phrase “toying with an idea.”  It’s your intelligence at play.  That’s creativity, as Einstein suggests.  (Notice that I didn’t say that it is your intelligence at work.  Work suggests thinking, and mental fortitude, which carries a different energy altogether.)

Fluidity Requires Surrendering

Fluidity, flow, “in the zone” – it’s often described in the context of playing sports.  (Again, notice that we don’t say “working” sports).  This is perhaps the ultimate in nonresistance. To use another metaphor, that of a river or stream:  Allowing yourself to go with the natural flow, downstream, and with rather than against the current gets you farther and with the least amount of effort.  It’s the most efficient use of energy (and time).  This allows for the best results with the least amount of taxation on your body, mind and spirit.  Time flies as do you (okay, that one is a mixed metaphor…grin.)  This involves surrendering.  It requires a suspension of the mind – it’s the opposite of “thinking too hard” about something.

I’ll give you two examples from my own experience.

One:  Rowing.

I was a member of a four-person recreational sculling or “crew” team. Including our coxswain, five us in a boat would row back and forth along the stretch of ocean in front of Marina del Rey, California.  There are a lot of elements at play when rowing, even in a one-person boat let alone one with five!

The boats themselves are sensitive to even the slightest imbalances, and are extremely easy to tip.  The hulls are only about four inches deep, and you’re sitting practically right atop the water. The water has its own currents running underneath you, and the winds above may be calm or blustery. The external conditions vary from moment to moment. The sun may or may not be in your eyes. Plus, the seats slide back and forth along a narrow center track inside the boat; and the individual oars (on each side) all move independently.  Oh, and did I mention that you’re rowing backwards?  So, you cannot see where you’re going.  Keeping the boat straight and clear of obstacles is a big part of the job of the coxswain, who is in the boat with you, facing the other direction.

Despite the physical effort, crew is probably the only sport I’ve done where I’ve ended up feeling lighter and more refreshed after a long (one or two-hour) stint, than before I started!  I came to realize that the primary reason for that was that when I am rowing, my brain can’t help but take a rest.  There’s virtually no room for mind chatter with so many other moving parts going on!  There’s too much subtlety for your body to pay attention to, that if you think too hard, you’ll lose the rhythm and disrupt the pace set by the coxswain.  You’ll also likely throw off the synchronization with your fellow rowers.  Then you’re subject to toppling the boat and everyone in it – right into the sea!  (We actually did do that once – and we hadn’t even left the dock. That’s another story for another day…smile).

Two:  Hitting a golf ball.

Golfing is a unique sport in that the ball doesn’t move.  Well, at least not until you make contact with it, by hitting it with a golf club.  Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?  That’s what I thought, until I tried it.

I mean, I grew up as a baseball player, hitting 70-mile an hour fast balls (and even 90-mile an hour ones, if I was at the batting cages) coming at me.  So, how hard could it be to hit a golf ball that’s just sitting there?

Well, in short – to have success, you simply cannot “think” about it.

When you’re hitting or fielding a swiftly moving baseball, there isn’t time to think.  You need to allow your body to move into position and trust that it will adjust accordingly as needed.  You put your body in motion, and then you let your body take its natural flow toward hitting or receiving the ball.

In golf, it’s really the same thing – it’s just that the timing is different.  The golf ball starts out stationary. Whether you’re in the tee box or out on the course – in the fairway, in the rough, on the green, or in a sand trap – time is suspended.  (Unless you take a really long time to hit the dang thing, and you hold up other players, then you risk admonishment from the golf course marshal).

This “extra time” is exactly what provides perhaps the biggest challenge.  It allows you to think about it too much.  You cannot successfully think your way through a golf shot.  Sure, you can think beforehand about the distance, what club you want to use, survey the wind conditions, and the like.  And, as with any sport, it helps to have at least learned the basics of the mechanics of the game. But when it comes time to making clean contact with the ball, just like with rowing, you need to put yourself in motion and allow and trust in your body to make a natural, fluid movement.  You need to relax and allow your body to do what it is designed to do.

It’s generative in its nature.  It comes forth from your body and not from your mind.

So, today’s lesson? Give your mind a rest!

Are you game?

Okay, your turn:

When do you find yourself most easily “in the flow” and not overly thinking? In what type of situations do you find the opposite to be true?  Do you start out in one mode, and end up in another?  If so, what helps or hinders your success?

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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An Ode to Love (aka, ‘not your usual’ love letter)

February, the month of love.  Oh, how we love (and sometimes don’t) love thee, February!

This new moon’s edition of Soul Notes is dedicated to love.  May love find you and you find love in all the divinely inspired ways possible…this month, and always.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Dear Love,

Thank you for sunsets

and sunrises

Thank you for moonrises

and moonsets

 

Thank you for rainbows

and moonbows

and mountain tops

and mountain bottoms

And landscapes

and horizons far and near

and seas to cross

and seas to see

and salty wind sprays

off the ocean

And unswept beaches

with crawly sand crabs

and scurrying sandpipers

 

Thank you for the crunch of gravel

and the scent of pine needles

and the shape of pine cones

and the sweetness of pineapples

 

Thank you for fireflies

and hummingbirds

and macaws

and geckos

 

and the clippity clop

of Clydesdales

 

and the sounds of drumming heard from the drum circle

down in the valley

 

Thank you for heart beats

and heart swells

and heart warmings

 

Thank you for goodbyes

and hellos

 

Thank you for touch

and taste

and ecstasy

and bliss

 

Thank you for stretches

and stretching

and growing

and restoring

and

Thank you for the

remembering

 

Thank you for new levels

and old reliables

 

Thank you for healing

and healing space…s

 

Thank you for being there

even when I don’t seem to notice

 

Thank you for seeing me

Thank you for hearing me

Thank you for listening

 

Thank you for knowing all the things

The secret secrets

and the not so secret

 

Thank you for the holding

and the mystery

and the understanding

and the hope

and the reassurance

 

Thank you for the reason

and the unreason

of it all

 

I am with you

We are with you

I am you

We are you

And it is…

divine

Okay, your turn:

What does this poem bring up for you?  What is love?

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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Savasana and the power of sweet surrender

Restore and Replenish

Ultimately, this practice helps “ready and steady” you for success as you return to the world refreshed and more available to handle its opportunities, challenges and stresses.

During this time of year, as nature slows down and takes a quiet breather to restore and replenish, it’s a good time to revisit our daily practices and employ simple yet effective ways to follow mother nature’s wisdom.   As nature turns inward, I invite us to do the same.

Heading into the holiday season as well, this can be a time of year that may heighten our nerves and trigger deep emotions.  This too makes it an ideal time to implement consistent daily practices to ground ourselves,  and help us “settle everything down”.

In this moon’s edition of Soul Notes, we explore the ancient practice of savasana, and a technique called 4-7-8 breathing.

Turning Inward

So often in our fast-paced world, we seemingly forget to relax! Even low-level activities which we may be thinking are ways to relax often serve more as a mental distraction, and aren’t truly relaxing at all (watching television news, anyone?)

What if we were to allow ourselves to drop into a state of quiet neutrality, where all of our hurried, harried, frazzled parts can come back together and rest?

Savasana, or “final resting pose”: This asana (posture) is typically reserved for the end of a yoga practice.

After a revving up of the body, nervous system, organs, muscles and blood flow during yoga exercises, savasana serves many blissful purposes, including:  reintegration, restoration, and a letting go of any mental chatter, agitation, or “gripping.”  It’s an easing into the floor or ground upon which your body is placed – on your back, with legs comfortably apart, arms opened, palms facing upward.  Eyes are closed.  Breathing is calm, slow, and deep. Savasana is typically done for 5-10 minutes, and may even be done for up to 30 minutes at a time.

By engaging in savasana, you more easily become aware of your breath and your mind state.   Ultimately, this practice helps “ready and steady” you for success as you return to the world and all its many challenges, opportunities, and stresses.

Another way to “turn inward” and combat the day to day stresses we all face, is to combine savasana with a 4-7-8-count breathing technique made popular by Dr. Andrew Weil. As with other yogic breathing, it’s best done with your tongue placed up and against the inside of your upper front teeth.  1. Take a slow deep breath in, for a count of four.  2. Hold the breath for a count of seven.  3. Release the breath out for a count of eight.  In one session, repeat this 4-7-8 breath cycle four times, to complete “one round”.

Start out breathing at a counting pace that’s comfortable for you, and over time you’ll find yourself being able to slow down your breathing and elongating each count.  The sequence, however, remains the same:  4-7-8. In total, a round of four breath cycles takes no more than two minutes, tops!

It will help you relax any time of day.  And, it will help you fall asleep.  Train yourself to do this to help you get centered, grounded and calm before you react to any stressful situation.

Although savasana is usually done at the end of a full yoga set, I’m inviting us all to try it on its own, as part of our daily practice, especially between now and the end of the year. Both savasana and the 4-7-8 technique have compounding positive effects when done consistently and over the course of several weeks and months.

Savasana and the 4-7-8 breathing technique — each of these practices are whole and complete on their own, and need not be done together.  You actually don’t usually see them done in conjunction with one another. I’m suggesting, though, that they make for a powerful combo pack!  I invite you to try them together, at least once a day.  Do a ten-minute savasana, followed by a four-cycle round of the 4-7-8 breathing.

Sweet Surrender

Both of these practices serve as forms of physical and energetic surrender, in all the best ways.  It’s a conscious and powerful choice to grant ourselves devoted time to recharge and receive the bliss that comes with sweet surrender.  Look at the image of the child above, so pure, so relaxed…so open to all of life’s joys, triumphs, and love!

For your consideration and “extra credit”:

In addition to doing one savasana daily*:

Several times throughout the day — and especially right before going to sleep – do the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. Remember this practice takes only a minute or two to complete.  You will serve you and your overall health and well-being tremendously by doing so!

*For a refresher on daily practices, go here.

Okay, your turn:

What daily practices, if any, have you been doing throughout the course of this year? Have you tried any new ones?  Are you open to doing something a little differently throughout the holiday season?

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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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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From the core: the power and promise of equilibrium

Where there’s heat there’s power: Right from the core

During this week of the new moon and the equinox, it’s a powerful time to feel into where you may be out of balance in your life, and to consider ways to bring yourself into a state of equilibrium.

From the core: the seat of equilibrium

“Have you ever noticed that the stronger your core, the easier it is to maintain your equilibrium?”

I used to think that I had fairly good balance. Tree pose in yoga? Although not perfect, at least decent, I would tell myself. Once I steadied my mind, my body for the most part followed suit. My first time on one of those “balance boards” in the gym, though?  Woah, I felt as if I had suddenly lost all sense of balance.  One of the trainers had introduced a balance board to me, and she ‘spotted me’ a bit to help me step onto the board.  Within moments, I was wobbly.  She had the wise forethought to set me up near an interior wall, and recommended that I reach out to gently touch the wall if I needed a little extra support to regain my balance.  That did the trick.  That got me to the point of balancing.  Retaining my balance?  I immediately discovered that took core strength. And focus. And commitment.  Anything less would result in an abrupt dismount at best, or a turbulent tumble at worst.

It got me to contemplating about how much a strong core serves us overall in life as well.  There will always be external, and sometimes internal, factors that threaten to throw us off balance.  The stronger we develop and maintain our central strength, the greater the opportunity to live our lives from a place of equilibrium.  It’s not passive.  It’s active.

A strong core:

It helps you get into balance – into a state of equilibrium.  It also helps you to maintain and sustain that equilibrium for longer periods of time, with less effort and little to no strain. Additionally, the next time you step on the balance board, it is easier to get into balance and into a state of equilibrium. It’s important to notice that nimble, subtle movements and adjustments render large differences, impact and consequences.  May this serve as a reminder that small shifts made repeatedly and consistently make for lasting transformations.  Remember:  Ultimately, adjustments can only truly be made once you’re on the board!  You still need to step up and onto the board!  You need to get into the game.  You cannot make positive changes from sitting on the sidelines. Commitment to a daily practice helps bring this concept into physical reality.  (For a refresher on the importance of a daily practice and a list of examples, go here.)

From the core: the seat of power

A primary energetic center in our bodies, the navel center is considered in kundalini yoga to be the heat center, or fire center.  As such, it’s also considered to be the seat of our personal power.  Physically, the navel center is three fingers’ widths below your belly button and is situated between this point on the front of your body and your spine.

Distinct from yet akin to the navel center, is our third chakra.  It is considered to be the energetic center of the kundalini energy or “fire energy.”  It is the energetic source of self-empowerment.

By tapping into and strengthening our navel center and the third chakra, we are able to fuel how we show up in the world – as strong leaders in our own lives, and in service to others.

It all comes full circle.  By cultivating a physically strong core, we generate our spiritually strong fire and heat – from a place of solidity, groundedness, centeredness – from a place of equilibrium!  It’s stable, not wobbly. We each hold this potential within us.  It’s simply up to each of us to take notice, take heed, and take action. It is what is especially needed now, during these turbulent times.

 

For your consideration:

Into your daily practice, bring a consciousness around the specific actions you can take to counterbalance any resistances you may be having to living your best life.  Be curious about what it is that may be throwing you off-balance; next, list out and take one, two, or three simple actions designed to bring you back into a state of equilibrium.  Remember, these are not large, sweeping gestures; these are subtle adjustments.

Still feeling wobbly?  Then seek out support!  Like I did in the gym that day, reach out to a nearby wall, so to speak. A quick gentle hand out to the wall may be all you need to steady yourself, and then you take it from there.

Okay, your turn:

When have you felt the greatest sense of equilibrium?  When have you felt most off-center?  What, if anything, has helped bring you into a state of balance or equilibrium?

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.