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The power of remaining calm

Calm among the chaos

As details continue to surface surrounding the rescue of the 12 young soccer players and their coach from miles deep within a set of interlocking waterways flowing between the jagged rocks of sea caves, we are learning that among other amazing aspects of this story, meditation likely played a key role in their more-than-a-fortnight’s survival under what were extremely perilous and life-threatening conditions.

This group having found themselves trapped miles away from their original entrance into the caves, it would be more than a week before anyone would locate them and provide food.  And it would be another several days before the first of three sets of rescues could be made, eventually bringing all the boys and their coach to safety — out from the deep darkness and into the light above.

The cave divers and the meditating monk

The flood waters and threat of the impending monsoon season had kept them held captive as a group, huddled atop a small ledge above the water line, with little air and little food or other basic life-sustaining necessities.  What they did have, was their Buddhist monk-trained coach who, it has been reported, led them through an ongoing practice of meditation. Meditation helped to calm their nervous systems and likely served to focus them on the possibilities of sustaining life rather than on the dread of extreme suffering or even possible death.  It allowed them to reserve and extend their precious, seemingly limited resources.

They had each other.  They had meditation.  And they had an unending access to a depth of another kind – that of spiritual sustenance.

None of this is to say, of course, that without the unparalleled coordination and carefully orchestrated efforts of the expert cave divers and other rescue volunteers and medical personnel, this group would have made it out safely.  All the individuals involved with their rescue (including one former Thai navy Seal who lost his life) are due a profound debt of gratitude, respect, and honor.  It’s beautiful to see all this humanity working together.  It is also, however, to acknowledge that more than physics, technology, and biology were at work here.  As the monk’s training and meditation exemplify, it was heart, mind and soul over matter. And it all mattered.

Hearing their story reminded me of the quotation from Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. In describing the importance of maintaining a strong inner strength while being held captive in the concentration camps during World War II, he said that in spite of the severe, primitive conditions, those who survived the best were the ones who “were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom.” (Page 36, emphasis added).

Thankful for inner calm

One time while swimming in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California as a teenager, I found myself facing a near-death experience.  Thankfully, the experience was quick and I emerged without any dire consequences. But, after swimming out in the ocean away from the beach, I was suddenly wrapped up in a set of cross-currents, and was being pummeled around under water pretty forcefully.  I recall thinking that eventually I was going to run out of air, and saying to myself:  “If it’s my time to die, this may be it.”

I thank in part my ability to remain calm and clear-headed.  Instinctively, I (or my body, rather?) knew to preserve my breath and my strength while submerged in open water. I was fairly confident in that moment, that I could probably make it back to shore, if I could only determine which way was “up.” I released any resistance to the oncoming series of waves, and surrendered as eventually a big curling wave scooped me up and carried me up to the surface. If I had allowed myself to panic, at best I risked flailing around wasting precious breath; and at worst, I risked swimming in the completely wrong direction, going deeper and away from the surface rather than popping back up to the top and catching a fresh breath of air.

My experience, although potentially dangerous, was nonetheless brief. The extended period of time that the young soccer players and their coach faced deep within that set of sea caves, however, and their ability to remain that calm for that long, is nothing less than awe inspiring.  It will be so illuminating to learn more about them as they fully recover in the days and weeks to come.

For your consideration:

If and when our conditions are suddenly such that we are stripped down to the barest of elements and a matter of basic survival, priorities become abundantly apparent.  Choices to be made are brought into sharp focus.  In those moments, it helps, I would say, to have a deeply contemplative practice already in place.

Okay, your turn:

When have you found yourself in a turbulent situation, and one where maintaining a sense of calm ended up serving you well?  Has there been any other time you didn’t remain calm and wish that you had?

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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Total Solar Eclipse Edition: Lessons from the Dark Side

The Great American Eclipse, Oh My!

It’s a particularly energetically charged time in the United States, as evidenced by recent politically volatile and even at times highly venomous and violence-infused protests, and counterprotests, resulting in understandable public outcries and feelings of despair and disbelief.

Perhaps then not-so-coincidentally, with this rare total solar eclipse, in the U.S. we are also witnesses to:

The sun’s shadow being cast upon the Earth, traversing along in a large swath forming an arc from West to East, across the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina.

In this edition of Soul Notes, we explore the need to rise above the fracas of duality and instead embrace a renewed commitment to bringing forth a new dawn – one of universality.  We truly are all in this together.  Our survival as a society and as a nation may depend on it.

Lessons from the dark side

“We have an opportunity to rebuild, from a strengthened foundation, together, rather than as separate and apart.”

Perhaps one of the most well-known among Pink Floyd’s albums, The Dark Side of the Moon contains a song with that phrase within the lyrics of the album’s final song entitled “Eclipse.”

That song describes a descent into madness. While symbolic and figurative, the song is also based in part on what actually does happen in the natural world.  Due to tidal locking, the moon rotates on its axis in nearly exact correlation with its revolving around the Earth. (This is known in the science world as synchronous rotation.) Accordingly, from Earth we always see only the same, one side of the moon.  The opposite side remains dark to us, hidden from view.

So, too, is the case with our own sensibilities, upbringings, cultural orientations, and pre-judgments of ourselves and others.  What is our part to play in all this?  As citizens? As voters?  As participants in our political system and in our legal system?

Unless we challenge the “usual orbit” of love and hate, we will always be seeing only the one side or viewpoint – as it’s the only one we’re willing to see.  What if could do an “about-face” and take a long not so easy look at the dark side of our own beliefs?  What if we were to shed light on the shady undertones of our prejudices? I dare say that’s the golden opportunity afforded to each of us as we experience these seemingly insurmountable (perceived) differences among us.

If each of us chooses to be driven by love and not by fear, and not by unbridled anxiety and distrust, then we can take conscious action and effectuate positive change. We can choose to evolve rather than devolve.  As a society, we have an opportunity to rebuild, from a strengthened foundation, together, rather than as separate and apart.

Scientifically, we know that the universe is expanding.  This time of tumult affords us all the opportunity to expand with it, rather than contract or constrict.

It’s Time to Invoke Our Collective Imagination Over Mind

As with a solar eclipse, when the light appears blocked out, we can then better feel into what’s been lying in wait — what’s been hidden in the shadows.

As the divine feminine reemerges, and ethnic equity and gender equity gain more ground, the apparent  threat to the outdated patriarchy becomes all the more real.  Are we reaching a cosmic collision point?  As a nation, are we going to come out the other side of this stronger, more unified?  Or, will we end up even further divided?  Are we moving forward, or regressing?

The conditions are ripe for creative, imaginative solutions to emerge.  Not unlike the financial downfall of the Great Depression serving as a great catalyst and driver for an unprecedented influx of innovation -–the time is now for the collective imagination to become the order of the day.

What if duality were no longer how we positioned things?  What if we were to approach these political divides from a place of universality, instead?  As humans, after all:  We share the same air, bleed the same blood, shed the same tears.

Dualities keep us in a power struggle.  It’s as if we’re each sitting on opposite ends of a teeter totter, competing with each other to fling the other one up and down off the same, single fulcrum.  What if both sides were to step off the teeter totter altogether, and join together on common ground?

Polarities, Dualities and the Opportunity for Growth:  “A Justice of Wholeness”

As Celtic mystic John O’Donohue suggests:  As humans, having a mind “means we’re always confronted by dualities.”

During an interview with Krista Tippett, he went on to say:

“And, I think this is where the beauty of the imagination works.  I think the imagination is committed to what I’d call a ‘justice of wholeness’ and bringing these [polarizing sides] together.”

“The mind separates. And when the mind separates and draws barriers in the heart of these dualities, and the barrier becomes a real barrier as there are [sic] no longer space for breathing, then you have dualism.”

Prophetically, O’Donohue concluded:

“And then you have things cut off that should belong together.  And that’s the heart of all fundamentalisms and fascisms.”

His solution?  He offered this:

“I think that keeping one’s imagination alive always keeps you in vital conversation with the ‘othernesses’ that you tend to avoid or neglect.” (Emphasis added.)

Vital Conversations

Now is the time to reflect on how we treat each other — not only face to face, but on social media as well.  As we covered in last moon’s edition of Soul Notes, Dr. Emoto’s water experiments demonstrated that water’s exposure to written words such as “Thank You” resulted in dramatically different results than when exposed to the word, “Fool.”

So, what is it that we’d like to amplify?  The hatred or the love?  How far apart we are, or how closely we can come together?

It’s time for us to have those vital conversations.  Try having the first one or two with someone who is more likely to lean into the conversation with you from a place of respect and willingness to listen, rather than the urge to berate or cajole.  It’s time to be consciously selective, and with the intention of healing hearts.

It’s going to take all of us: Meaning all of me; all of you.  Are you in?

For your consideration:

We need to adjust our eyesight to examine what we have been conveniently avoiding, or simply keeping in the dark altogether.  And, from that place, we can take compassionate action.  This is the true power of love.

Okay, your turn:

In what ways have recent events brought out into the light for you new insights?  Are you ready to have a vital conversation or two?

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.