Sunday, December 20, 2009

Playing With Maya

Life is a game, a dance, a play in which we are the willingly fooled participants, and as agreed, we have forgotten all of this so that we may play the game of remembrance.
Imagine the universe as a living entity.  You can visualize it as an actual deity, such as Brahma (the Creator), while you, the earth, and other aspect of our reality, are but a small part of this larger, living whole.  We are like the little finger of Brahma.  Is the little finger not a part of Brahma too? Yes, it can act independently and unaware of the greater body of which it is a part, but just because it does not know, does not mean it is separate.  This is us.  We are unaware of the larger consciousness of which we are an inseparable component, but that limited perspective does not create an actual separation.

Maya, my six year old, is home now on Christmas Break from school.  She is distracting to have around, and I told her she needed to go outside and play with our border collie Chloe, so that I can have a few minutes to write in peace.  I just heard the front door open and Maya say, "Come Chloe!" to bring her back inside after only being gone from my awareness for a couple minutes.  My immediate reaction was just to yell back, "Maya, stay outside!" And the door slammed shut as she retreated back out.  To me, this is a perfect example of how we live in our 3D reality.  The Maya, or illusion, is scurrying all around, but we want even the idea of it to be hidden so that we may get on with our oh-so-important tasks at hand.  But are they really that important, all that stuff we fill our time with?  No.  It's all just a game, with an end goal of awakening, with no winners or losers, or first place.  And how we play the game, the journey from start to finish, is completely up to us.  I'm going to end this diversion now; I've got a puppy and my Maya to play with.  This hand of Brahma is going to throw a Frisbee.

Friday, December 18, 2009

CONCIOUSNESS RISING: Autopoiesis, Yoga, and Psychotherapy for Personal and Global Healing

I will be on a panel discussion at the Association of Transpersonal Psychology's annual conference in February 2010 with Babalola Chris-Rotimi, PhD and Tina Benson, MA.
Our panel will be:


In this panel discussion you will hear from three different practitioners; a spiritual healer, a yoga teacher, and a psychotherapist about how these modalities can and are being used to create Self realization and bring healing to a world in crisis.  Babalola Chris-Rotimi, Ph.D., will briefly explore the concept of the Autopoiesis Theory of living systems, applying this theory to the idea of God as such a living system, share some thoughts on how God seems to be undergoing its own evolutionary process through the ages, and finally relate all of these to personal and global healing.  Marisa Smith, M.A., will share how as an ancient science of personal growth and the lived experience of spirit, yoga is helping to heal the Western psyche and the epidemic disharmony of life without inner knowing. Tina M. Benson, M.A., will be looking at the role of the pyschotherapist in guiding clients towards a transpersonal and transcendent experience of their own divinity.  She will also be showing a short film entitled, What Matters Most; a compilation of voices expressing the human longing for remembering each other and ourselves as expressions of the divine. 

This is sure to be an incredible event with many other inspiring speakers and discussions.  For more information, visit the ATP website.  

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Futuristic Love

Friend's of Bill and I, Karen and Jason, have created a monthly art collaborative here in Boise.  Each month two words are selected at random with which we budding artists use to inspire a creation in the medium of our choice.  For December, the words were Love and Futuristic.  Me being a writer, Bill encouraged me to write a blog using those words.   

Here goes...

Love Futuristic: Futuristic Love

Love is an energy, a felt sense, an experience of the present moment that opens us to the unknown, to the infinite, to the formless, compassionate feeling of unity and interconnection that is at the heart of our being.  Yes, our actual heart-centers.  If you were to pause now and bring forth a feeling of love, it wouldn't begin in your little toe, or in the core of your brain, though it can become whole body.  It would arise from the center of your chest, from your heart.  Close your eyes an breath into the love; feel its warmth melt the walls around your heart.

Love is singular, love is plural, an love is universal. Each is like a rung in a ladder, for it is impossible to realize universal love without first attaining self-love.  Loving oneself, or another, requires courage, forgiveness, acceptance, and a sense of humor.

Love is a verb, not a thing.  It cannot be possessed nor contained.  It is a process that we confuse with an object or event.  Life enlightenment, it may be realized, but it is not an end in itself.  It is the cocreative practice of making choices and acting from an open heart: to seek unity instead of division, to give freely, unconitionally, without expectations or boundaries, to see and be seen, as a mother gazes into a child's eyes for the first time.  

Love is our highest potential as human beings.  Feeling, deep , true, feeling is the challenge of our day.  So often we escape to intellectual descriptions because we truly o not know from experience the sense of embodying the explosive passion of this formless energy.  Return to the place before your birth, to the place of nonplace, nontime, free from judgment, where your soul merges with the infinite ocean of pure consciousness. 

The future never arrives.  You are always right here, right now.  At least, your body is.  Your mind is the ultimate time traveler, never lingering too long in the present.  It races from memories of the past to desires, hopes, and worries for the future, Out of a fear that it must always be prepared, to be on-guard.  Out of a disconnect from the ground of being, it creates the grand illusion of control.  We must learn to be comfortable with the unknown, for it is all we can truly know.  Let go, and be free.  In the free fall our wings expand.  Taking ourselves lightly allows us to soar.

Futuristic is that which might be, a vision for the future, an ideal projection from where we are to where we are going.  In the future we can hope to love more, to give more, to be more accepting and with open arms embrace from our authenticity the authenticity of another, shadows and all.

Compassion comes from knowing oneself at a core level.  From witnessing one's own shortcomings, errors, misdeeds, and disappointments can one know the struggle we all go through in living.  We are courageously doing our best...for what?  To be loved.

As Albert Einstein said, "A human being is part of a whole, that we call Universe - a part limited by time and space.  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something seperate from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.  This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us towards our personal desires, and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embreace all living creatures and whole Nature with its beauty.  Nobody has been able to achieve it completely, but striving for such an achievement is a part of liberation and the foundation for inner security."

Plant the seeds of love now, in the tilled soil of your soul which yearns to connect.  The future will bear the fruits of your efforts, for love is never wasted. 

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Teotihuacan ~ The Place where Humans Become God

I have just returned from Teo...had another wonderful journey into the heart of my being.  Everytime I travel I remember again and again, here I am.  We can fool ourselves into thinking that a place, or person, or circumstance, will change us, that somehow we'll be different because of external forces.  And though that may be true on a subtle level, it is our internal being that is the real filter for our Self in the world.  For me, going to a place like Teo is an opportunity to embrace my shadow side, because there it still is.  I see the challenges that are triggered by my shadow as opportunities for growth.  Will I choose a different response this time?  Or will I react? Or will I just witness.  This time I was a witness.  "Ahhh, there you are my old companions: Anger, Self-Righteouness, and Jealousy."

That's not to say that those emotions are the norm of my personality by any means, but they rear their head in my dreams and in my assumptions.  And I take note.  I know soon there will be chance to embrace their energy and select a higher road, one of love, humility, compassion, or forgiveness. I am grateful to Teo for being a mirror.  For being a place where I can know my Self, let go of the past, and put my old beliefs to rest.

Returning from Teo I feel a lightness of being.  I have been awakened and transformed on a deep level, in more ways than I know now.  With a satisfied smile, I breath into life.  I love myself just the way I am.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Retreat Sweat Lodge Disaster

I was on retreat myself when the tragic sweat lodge deaths occurred in Arizona.  Shocking and saddening, the details that describe the event are unlike any that I have experienced in the sweats I've attended over the past 8 years.  Beginning with my initiation on the Fort Peck Reservation with the traditional Sioux and Assiniboine natives, to the deserts of Utah with only three of us non-natives in the lodge, to the sacred womb of Donna Emma's lodge behind the Pyramid of the Moon in Teo, I have experienced sweat lodges in a wide variety of settings.  Besides one exceptionally hot sweat with the Lakota in Bozeman, all pushed my limits but were tollerable and highly transformative.  All were safe. Even with the hottest sweat, those who needed a rest, including myself, were respectfully allowed space.

My heart goes out to all involved in the tragic sweat lodge deaths.  For an insightful article about the recent catastrophe, see Carl Hammerschlag's article on Reality Sandwich: Sweat Lodge Tragedy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ascension, Entheogens & Inter-Dimensional Exploration

Hiking Wolverine Canyon - photo by Mike Quinn

Down the Rabbit Hole

I'm pretty certain that most who attended The Supernatural: Exploring Other Dimensions -- the retreat held at the Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch in Southern Utah this October -- didn't quite know what they were getting themselves into (or out of).  I was one who, as the fool, has stepped merrily off the cliff a nd glided down the rabbit hole without any expectations but to enjoy the desert and get to meet the Reality Sandwich crew.  What I got was so much more.

With three main presenters at the retreat, the participants could just about be divided into three equal camps: those who love Graham Hancock, those who love Lisa Renee, and those who love Daniel Pinchbeck.  Though Daniel is what motivated me to drive 11 hours into the desert, all three inspired my journey home.  I floated away with renewed energy and inspiration, feeling awakened on a deep level, alert, and armed from the heart-center for mastering the 2012 transition.

The Supernatural Retreat was billed as an exploration of "dimensional shifts, veiled realms a ccessed through altered states of consciousness, ancient myths and sacred sites, and intergalactic communication." Um, OK, whatever that means...perhaps to keep from  fully freaking out my left-brained, rational, quantitative partner who was holding down the fort while I took passage into the unknown, I didn't even begin to consider where the creators of this adventure might be going with that statement, nor suspect where it might lead me. "I'm going to network,  Sweetie, I'll  see you in a few days. Ta-ta!"

For the full article visit Reality Sandwich:


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A New Path

The past few months I have witnesses many changes in my life: a move from Seattle to Boise, being a first time homeowner, teaching a new yoga class, becoming a dog owner (Chloe Dot the Thunder Dog!), and getting engaged to be married, plus lots of travel and adjusting to Maya's new school schedule and Bill's new work schedule. Lot's happening! To say the least, I am a Householder like I never have been before.

I finally feel pretty settled into our new home (which I absolutely love, so that makes it kinda easy) and am ready to get back on track with writing and my personal practices. The practices have certainly taken a back seat during all of this transition. Though through it all I don't know if I've ever felt more connected to spirit or my personal strength. These are powerful times we are living in, full of impetuous and hope. It seems that almost as soon as an idea comes into my head I see it manifest in the world.

But I'm learning patience too, something, as those closest to me can attest to, I'm not always the best at. Is there something about being in the now that makes you want it all now? I have to remember that just because I can see it in my mind's eye doesn't mean that it's ready to awaken in the world. I have a quote over my dresser that reminds me that life needs to bloom at its own rate: Its a card I framed of a beautiful purple flower with the caption "Joy surprises the patient soul." Indeed it does.

Looking back at how much my life has transformed over the last year, its almost hard for me to believe how many seeds have come to fruition. I still have bigger dreams that are yet to manifest (like getting a paying job...)but I'm not worried because I'm taking active steps towards them. And that's what we're here to do: to dream, have clarity of vision, then be commited to climbing each rung of the ladder towards the goal. And one day you're there and the view is magnificent.

At the same time, I am trying to remain open to unforeseen twists and forks in the road. Often the events and circumstances in life can be even greater than you had hoped or imagined, but only if you're willing to let in the unexpected. This is where patience comes in, and a little bit of trust. And there's the paradox too: to be open yet focused, to have clarity while allowing for the mystery. Does this lead to the best possible life? I can't say so for certain, but I sure am pretty happy. I can feel settled with the knowledge that this new path that lies before me is of my own creation, and deep gratitude for the grace that has allowed me to experience it.

Where could you allow more of the unknown in your life? And where do you need more to put more concentrated effort?

Remember...Joy surprises the patient soul!

Toltec & Yogic Retreat in Teotihuacan, Mexico

Soar with the Angels - Merging Hearts with Spirit
With Lee McCormick, Dr. Sage Breslin
and Marisa Smith, MA

November 12- 17, 2009

There are 27 Continuing Education units offered for this journey, as approved by the NASW, NAADAC, and the BBS of California (MFT, LCSW)

It is almost 2010..two years from the 2012 Consciousness Shift. If you are awake and alive you are aware that life as we have known it is shifting and what we once took for granted as the way to do things is not working very well.

This is a great time in our history and our personal lives. This is the time to let go of trying to figure it all out or control life to whatever seems like success and allow the Light and the greater aspects of ourselves to create from our deepest integrity. All we need to make this transition is already within us.

Join us in November in Teotihuacan. Teo is one of the places of Consciousness on our planet that has held the frequency of the New Awareness and journeying there will only open you to an alignment with yourself and your Divinity.

The choice to be proactive is the choice to be free....We have made this trip as inexspensive as possible so take advantage, JUMP! DO IT NOW!

Dr. Sage Breslin, Psychologist and Intuitive Consultant, will enable you to address the obstacles that have presented in your life, express and release stored emotions, and embrace the life you’ve always dreamed of.

Under the gentle guidance of Marisa’s yoga teachings, you will learn to truly honor your body as the temple of your spirit and to adjust to your new-found energy.

The perspectives offered by these guides, as well as the vibrant energy of Teotihuacan, will enable you to let go of the beliefs and fears that have held you back from manifesting all that you can be. Come remember who and what you are.

Join us for the sweetest of experiences through the ancient powerful city of Teotihuacan where for 3,000 years humans gathered for healing practices and sacred ceremony.

This journey will free your mind, body and spirit, to clear, connect and commune in ways you have not yet been capable of. Your journey will be the greatest gift to yourself and those you love! Open your life to the grace and ease of the angels and come soar with us!

Accommodations provided by the beautiful Dreaming House.
Price of $795 double occupancy, $995 single, includes delicious meals and transportation to and from the airport.

Day trips to ancient sites including The Citadel and The Temple of Quetzalcoatl, The Avenue of the Dead, Pyramid of the Moon, Quetzalpapalotl Palace, Patio of the Jaguars and one of the world’s most magnificent sites, The Pyramid of the Sun. You will have the opportunity to see beautiful murals and carvings in the site’s two museums in which you can explore the city’s fascinating history.

Contact Gretchen at (615) 557-5245
or email

* Trip cost includes double occupancy at the beautiful Dreaming House Retreat Center, all meals and transportation to and from Mexico City airport. Space is limited, prices based on double occupancy, airfare to Mexico City not included. Private upgrades available for an additional $200.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Ramble

We're hearing it over and over again, in the news and print media, all over the web, in lectures and teachings new and old: These times, they're'a changin'. But are you taking the time to integrate just what this message means in your own life and to the world around you? Yeah, we all can agree that life is blasting through the spin cycle, that time feels like its accelerating, that things (from lifeforms to fads) are here and then are out with a poof ! but are you, and I, really grasping the import of all this or are we merely drafting on the backwind?

I'm asking myself these questions, and I don't feel like I can immediately shout an enthusiastic "Hell Yeah, I'm working for change!" I've struggled over recent years with the idea of balancing changing the world by changing myself versus being an agent for change by being involved in local, national and global initiatives. I know voting for Obama was important and all, but besides that I can't honestly say I've invested sweat and tears into a cause. And this is where I get stuck, because so many of the life teachings I align with tout that what's most important is how we are in our individual lives, on a daily, consistent basis: The Butterfly Effect, the Golden Rule. But in today's environment, is that enough?

I also struggle with the idea that where we focus our thoughts and energy is in turn what we manifest in the world. If I believe in the "good" or "righteous", by those very thoughts do I create the "bad" my good is against. I wonder if my siding with a cause only makes its opposition stronger, or more of a reality. Not that I would want to live with my head in a hole and ignore the world, but does me being for something only give it's opposite more power? Does my attention increase it's presence? If I were to be in the world, simply doing the best I can in my daily life, but not paying attention to something like the war in Iraq, would that somehow lessen the impact of it's reality? Perhaps it would lessen its impact on my immediate surroundings (for the time being), but for those that can't look the other way, like those who live in active war zones, or in poverty and oppression, my looking the other way does nothing to alleviate the actuality of the suffering they experience. And though our lives may seem to exist in unconnected dimensions, we are still part of the same whole.

Another thing is that I don't know if it's possible to be alive in a state of only good. Human-beingness is in many ways defined by the interplay of opposites. Great minds and philosophers across the ages, such as Jung, Lao Tzu, Buddha, Osho, Holmes, and Plato, have all stated that life is the weaving together of light and dark.

But going back to change. What I know for sure is that the only thing I have the ability to control and effect is my internal world. I believe that being in touch with one's internal nature is a key to a happy, satisfying life. Research, and common experience, has told us that wealth, fame, beauty, or material possessions and all of those other externals aren't the source of contentment, joy or peace of mind. Plus, a recent study has finally "proven" that having gratitude can increase your happiness by as much as 25% (and it can also help with chronic health problems). And in relation to my last post on community, expressing gratitude has the power to help build community, because "Thanks begets thanks."

How does this all fit into having awareness around the state our society and world is in right now? I'm not sure; I just felt compelled to get these thoughts out there. To be continued...

I would be grateful for any comments or feedback!


Thursday, May 28, 2009

What the World Needs Right Now

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of seeing the poet Mary Oliver speak at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. After delighting the crowd with a few poems, Mary amused us by responding to inquiries from the audience. When posed the hard-hitting question, "What does our world need right now?", she let out a heavy "Whoa," then paused, swallowed, sighed then answered.

"Community is what our world needs right now."

I couldn't agree more, Mary. Community, unity, harmony, compassion, global vision, integral values, what the world needs is to be included in the mind, the heart and soul of humans. Mary Oliver went on to explain that she believed that only through creating tolerant, kind, supportive local, national, and global communities will we as a species be able to begin to heal ourselves and our planet. We can no longer afford to look upon each other as enemies to be dominated. Now is the time to mature into secure, aware, integrated beings. I hope we can do it. I think many of us are.

I also recently heard author and philanthropist David Eggers say during his TED speech that the goal of his work at the non-profit 826 National is to create happy communities and thus a happy world. Through the 826 writing and tutoring centers, where kids receive free one-on-one homework assistance, they can then go home and enjoy themselves and "that makes a happy family, a bunch of happy families in a neighborhood is a happy community, a bunch of happy communities tied together is happy city, and a happy world, right?'


It relieves me to think we can start at home. Sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking on the huge, worldwide scale. Thinking I need to be fighting the big fight makes me feels like I'll never be doing enough to help create the change that is needed to redirect our collision course with ourselves. Acting here, where I am, feels good, feels possible. And the small things do matter: biking to work, buying local, eating local, growing a garden, volunteering at a local school or non profit, giving a smile when one wasn't needed or expected, generosity of words, thought and action all make a positive difference. That in turn ripples across our planet.

We are here for each other. United we evolve.

Snow Geese ~ by Mary Oliver

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
to ask
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.
One fall day I heard
above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was
a flock of snow geese, winging it
faster than the ones we usually see,
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun
so they were, in part at least, golden. I
held my breath
as we do
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us
as with a match,
which is lit, and bright,
but does not hurt
in the common way,
but delightfully,
as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt.
The geese
flew on,
I have never seen them again.
Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.
Maybe I won't.
It doesn't matter.
What matters
is that, when I saw them,
I saw them
as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Householders Unite!

My new article as featured in Yoga Living Magazine

Yoga teachers hear it all the time, as if the student needs them to bear witness to their sin. “It’s been two weeks since my last class.” “I haven’t been able to make it to yoga in over a month.” “I’ve been so busy, it’s been waaaaaay too long.” When students apologize for not attending class it reveals layers of self-doubt and criticism. But are you really a slacker? Or are you simply doing the best you can to balance the life of a Householder with your interest in the discipline of yoga?

It is helpful to step back and remember that you are not the only one struggling to shoulder a full outer life with a calling inward. Often, though we go to bed with the best intention to wake early to spend time on the mat or cushion, or we vow to find time after work or before the kids get home to head to the studio, we don’t do it. Days, weeks, months go by and as each pass our inner critic becomes louder. We tell ourselves, “I’ll never be good at yoga. Everyone else is a dedicated student but me,” or the ultimate blow, “I’ll never be enlightened!” We begin to believe that there is something wrong with us at our core, that we are flawed for not being able to make the time to practice.

Indeed, Patanjali states in the Yoga Sutras that laziness, carelessness, and fatigue are among the obstacles along the path of yoga. But are we truly lazy when we are managing children, a home, family, a career, hobbies, and a path of practice? For most of us, our lives are far from those of the renunciates who have given up worldly engagement for spiritual devotion; nor are we those with privileged amounts of time and resources to spend our mornings in meditation, our afternoons on the mat and our weekends on retreat. We are those who are simply striving to understand the Self while having both feet firmly planted in day-to-day demands. We are Householders.

In Hinduism, the culture from which yoga emerged, there are four distinct stages of human growth and development. These stages govern the flow of the maturing being and provide a guideline for advancing through the inner and outer worlds.

These Stages, or Ashramas, are:

1. The Student Stage - Brahmacharya
2. The Householder Stage - Grihastha
3. The Hermit Stage - Vanaprastha
4. The Wandering Ascetic Stage - Sannyasa

The Student Stage lasts until roughly the age of 25. It is a time of learning and study during which you prepared for a future profession and begin to understand the social and spiritual beliefs of your culture.

The Stage of the Householder, which lasts from approximately 25 – 50 years of age, is a period of being an active member of the community. You may be a partner, raise a family, support important causes, and pursue a career, all the while continuing to foster your relationship to spirit. Except for those who embark upon the life of a monk, nun, saint or saddhu, spiritual pursuits are not expected to be the central focus. All societies need productive, active Householders. You are laying the groundwork for the culture that will support your needs as you age, as well shape the world your children will inherit.

In the Hermit Stage you withdrawal from the material world into retirement. Here you are a grandparent and mentor, and are free to further deepen your bond with God or the Absolute. It is a time when a person is in this world but not of it. Today, this may not happen until the age of 60 or later.

The Fourth Stage is one of complete renunciation. Here, all efforts are turned towards uniting the individual soul, jivatma, with the universal Godhead, the paramatam. Only once a full life has been led do you concentrate solely on your spiritual path.

Though your soul longs to merge back into the spiritual ocean from which it came, it doesn’t all have to happen now. What you can do and control is how you feel about where you are. The next time you begin to beat yourself up over not having enough time on the mat, rest assured that all is coming. You are exactly where you need to be, doing exactly what you need to do.

Remember to be compassionate with yourself and have patience with your process. Your true Self is eternal, and you are destined to return there. Instead of wishing away the demands of everyday life, feel gratitude for the enlivening variety of experiences they offer. Each moment we have a choice to see the beauty before it passes, and when we do, we are truly living the path of yoga.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Artist's Dream

Next week I'll be attending The Artist's Dream in Teotihuacan, Mexico, a journey which is hosted by the remarkable artists and healers Iva Peele and Emily Grieves. Teotihuacan, the "Place Where Humans Becomes God", is an ancient Toltec site outside of Mexico City that was once a bustling center of spiritual wisdom and transformation.

Over two thousand years ago, the Toltecs were known throughout Mexico as men and women of knowledge and artists of spirit. As artists, they owned the power and responsibility of being the creators of their world. A Toltec is not defined by belonging to a race of people, but by the common practice of continually transforming personal belief systems and honing awareness in order to experience heaven on earth. Through the Toltec's exploration of their inner and outer world they came to realize that living a life of happiness and love is a personal matter, one that can only be created from the inside. With the acceptance of our partnership with Creation, we are the quintessential Artists. How beautiful we want the canvas of our lives to become is up to us.

Toltecs live with clear intentions about themselves, the world and their place in it. It is a practice of ever heightening consciousness that allows one to live a joyful life filled with integrity and meaning. A Toltec is a Spiritual Warrior whose quest is for personal freedom. Personal freedom is attained when one gains mastery over the beliefs of the mind. It is a state that is simply described as living with gratitude, unconditional love, and respect for all of creation.

In our modern era, Toltec teachings have been popularized by Carlos Castaneda's The Teachings of Don Juan, which he wrote in 1968, and by Don Miguel Ruiz's best selling book The Four Agreements. The teachings of the Toltces are united with the same wisdom and truth of all the world's spiritual paths. It is a transpersonal way of life.

To live the Artist's Dream is to voyage into the mystery of being with an open heart and clear mind. Being an Artist calls us to have the courage to live with passion and embrace our divinity.

As the poet Marianne Williamson said so well:

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us;
It's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we're liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Transpersonal Psychology

That blank look. It's what most people give me when I mention Transpersonal Psychology. I can almost hear the voice in your head saying, "Transpersonal psychology? What the heck is that?"
I know its the word transpersonal that's got you hung up, so to simplify matters I quickly add that its like spiritual psychology. But since I've got your attention, let's turn towards, not away from, the transpersonal...

The word is easy enough to break down: "Trans" is a Latin prefix meaning across, over or beyond, so attaching that to the word "personal", whose definition includes arising from personality and involving persons and human beings, we arrive at the concept of reaching beyond or transcending the individual or personal.
And I love the real definition of psychology. Its not the study of the mind, like most think, but the study of the soul. We all know "ology" refers to the study of, but did you know that "psyche" comes from the Greek word psuche meaning breath, life or soul:

"The breath of life, (the vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing life, in which there is a living being, a living soul) the soul (the seat of feelings, desires, affections, aversions [our heart, soul etc.]...The soul as an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death (distinguished from other parts of the body).

Yes, technically, psychology as we know it in our culture is the study of the mind and behaviors, but let's consider for a while this idea of the study of the soul, the essence of being. From that perspective, it makes considerable sense to study the soul through a lens which includes the transpersonal. Transpersonal experiences are characterized by non-ordinary states or shifts in consciousness that are beyond rational thinking. Doorways to the transpersonal include: near-death experiences, meditation, mystical experiences, ritual, trance, dreaming, the use of psychedelics & other medicines, yoga, dance, music, art, contemplation or even spontaneous gnosis. Such experiences are described as moments of awakening, ascention, samadhi, enlightenment, illumination, opening, liberation, or union.

It is interesting to me that native and Eastern cultures do not even have systems of psychology. For them, an understanding of the soul, and the evolution of consciousness or mind, is built right into their society. Instead of specialized psychologists and counselors to help people find their way out of themselves, they have monks, yogis, shamans, healers, priests, sages, and seers to guide the course. It is an invention of the modern mind to view the ego as the seat of the Self, as the highest authority, and one look into our rates of suicide, depression, anxiety, illness and neurosis will give you an idea of how that's been working out for us. Without a sense of something greater we are without meaning and feel lost.

Paradoxically that which gives us meaning is itself impossible to define. Yet, as my beloved colleague Russell Park PhD once said, you know you are close to truth when there is a paradox. Transpersonal psychology is the study of all paths to Truth, their methods, causes, effects, and the disciplines and practices they inspire. The human personality is not an end in its self, but a vehicle for the soul to navigate through the world. Through the application of spiritual techniques the highest levels of human potential may be realized and our pure essence of being remembered.

This is Transpersonal Psychology, and I find it fascinating.

“The treacherous, unexplored areas of the world are not in continents or the seas; they are in the hearts and minds of men.” - Allen Claxton



I honor that place in you in which the entire Universe dwells.

I honor that place in you which is of light, of love, of peace and of truth.

When you are in that place in you, I am in that place in me,

We are one.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Lesson in Tapas

I lifted my head from child’s pose and glanced across the studio at my Mom. She was lying outstretched on her back, collapsed in a disheveled sivasana. Her head rolled towards me and our eyes met. “I suck,” she mouthed silently. I shook my head and we both giggled.

At 51 years old, having never experienced an Ashtanga class, Mom decided to build her upon her five years of yoga teaching by enrolling in a nine-day Ashtanga Teacher Training. I tried to caution her about the style’s vigor, but as I didn’t want to be discouraging my warnings were too subtle and she was not dissuaded.

On the third day of the training, I was allowed to attend the morning’s Mysore practice. As I moved through the Primary Series I witnessed Mom struggle with each posture. She was so sore from the previous two mornings that each movement was heavy and raw. The kind, gifted teacher David Garrigues nursed her with encouragement and modifications, even suggesting that she take a break. But through the aches and obvious struggle she continued on.

Tapas, a Niyama of the Eight-Fold Path of the Yoga Sutras, is understood to mean purification through heat as well as discipline. Looking into her exhausted eyes, I felt privileged to behold a person focused enough to transcend limits of the mind, heart, and body. This was not a woman who sucked at yoga, but one who through the purity of her efforts was true tapas in action.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Who Am I?

When you read that phrase I want you all to think of Derek Zoolander asking this profound question of his own reflection in a puddle, whose reflection responds, "I don't know," right before his face is splattered with mud. Why do I want you to think of Zoolander? I don't know. Maybe because it takes the pressure off such a big question. If Zoolander can have the insight to ask it, so can I right? And argument can be made that by the end of the film he did indeed get an answer, so there's hope for us all.

The journey of Self-realization, or as Jung calls it, individuation, is the process by which humankind tackles the universal question, "Who am I?" At one point or another most of us go through this questioning, though we often feel like the only one who is uncertain. Across the ages, cultures and societies have had stories, myths, or rituals that give guidance to this ubiquitous archetype. Examples range from the Vision Quests of the Native American to the life of Siddhartha to the quest of Frodo, and to even our beloved Zoolander. This wish for wholeness is not of just a few, but all of humanity.

Well, then, who are you? Often people begin to answer the question with labels such as name, occupation, relationships: "I am Marisa. I am a mother. I am a yoga teacher. I am an American. I am 30 years old. I am a sister. I am a daughter. I am a friend." And those things I correctly am, but then, who is this "I" that I am referring to? Where does this "I" originate?

Further inquiry reveals that my sense of "I" comes not from my my mind, because the mind is the producer of thought, and though I can think about "I", this "I" is beyond ideas. When I let go of names and forms there is a subtle energy, a sense of presence, of being, of I-Amness. Trying to capture this sense with words is like trying to raise water from a lake with a giant net; nothing sticks.

I have come to know my "I" as an energy of the heart because this limitless sense of being, this witness, feels loving and kind and open. When I reside in my heart I feel connected to something vaster than my opinionated personality. Oh yeah! I remember now, that's the union of yoga! The union of self with God, the Absolute, the Universal, the Self, or whatever you want to call it. This is not to say that Self-realization is a religious experience, though it is certainly one that the conscious ego finds itself grounded in something deeper to, prior than, and more foundational than the self.

It isn't simply within the writing of this blog that I have come to understand the task of individuation... My journey began years ago, and continues everyday. Through the adoption of cross-cultural tools such as yoga, meditation, Toltec journey work, art, travel, Vision Quests, sweat lodges, dance, and more, I have learned to love, to forgive, to question, to accept, to challenge, and to release into the core of being. Greatest of all, I have learned from my own leaps of faith into my path of heart, sometimes getting my face splattered in mud.

"There has got to be more to life than being really, really ridiculously goodlooking."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Keepin' It Real

During these nationally, globally and personally unsteady times it would be easy to lose sight, for reality to lose its luster. I could reflect and say to myself, "I'm unemployed, our economy is in shambles, we are in multiple wars, the earth is being destroyed...we're doomed, what's the point of it all?" I could become overwhelmed with anxiety, depressed, and stunted by fear.
Yet, I'm not.

I don't feel that I am calm and hopeful because I live in the bliss of ignorance. I think I am informed and alert, and at the same time am vigilant to what I allow into my awareness, and how I spend my energy. I acknowledge the negative and instead of feeding it, I try to focus on the light and see myself and the world through a kind and forgiving lens. I believe I have a choice in how I understand reality, and that the impressions in my own mind are capable of effecting great change. Intentional thought can create more harmony and healing than trillions of dollars.

When I face the Darkside I feel gratitude for its existence, for only through knowing what I don't like am I able to know what I do. If there were only white the radiance would blind us. Next to black, white is perceived, and then we have a choice. Choice is consciousness, and these define our humaness.

The Taoist philosophers guide me with their wisdom:

Who knows what is good and what is bad?
If you think you can have order without chaos, you understand nothing about the laws of the universe.
Flow around obstacles, don't confront them.
The acceptable and the un
acceptable are both acceptable.
Without desire or fear every dilemma spontaneously arrives at its natural solution.
All things appear as they truly are to those who are not blinded by their own self-interest.
Life is a great dream.
By changing ourselves we change the world.
Every end is a beginning.

Times like these are an opportunity to remember of what we are made and to establish where we are headed, and where our head is. The choice is mine and right now I choose a deep breath and a soft smile. You?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Yogini Infinity?

Yogini Infinity is a tag I came up with a decade ago when I was beginning to see my yoga practice as a defining characteristic of who I was becoming. Today, it feels a little childish and fluffy for me to don this assumed name, especially since I've given it to myself. When I read it the voice of my own mind switches to that of Buzz Lightyear and says, "Yogini Infinity...and Beyond!" Then I see myself taking flight, fuchsia sequin cape flapping in the wind behind me. It's silly.

Yet, there it is, right up at the top of this page. "Por que?" you ask, as I have asked myself many times. Because when I break it down, I continue to relate to the meaning of it, and can apply it to that being I am still becoming.
Here is how my logic goes:

Yogini: A female practitioner of yoga.
Yoga: Union; in particular the union of matter & spirit, of the individual self with the Divine.
Infinity: The state of being infinite.
Infinite: Limitless or endless; impossible to measure.

It's interesting to further note that the word infinite comes from the Latin infinitus, where in, 'not' + finitus, 'finished' = not finished.* By those definitions, when I refer to Yogini Infinity what I am getting at is that the act of joining the self with Cosmic Consciousness is one that cannot ever be truly completed. Since change is constant, the act of getting there, of being unified, is continual. There is no lasting moment of "finally making it." A Yogini Infinity is one who is constantly engaged in remembering their core Absolute state while dancing in the boundaries of the here and now. It's the both/and, to use Angeles Arrien's term, of the paradoxical state entered when one is fully awake. As is often quoted, you are in this world, but not of it; you are not seeking to escape but to embody.

And to me, the most beautiful part of all is that this state can't be measured. No quantitative research data will finally prove that the Divine is out there (or in here). No journal article will ever appear in JAMA highlighting the statistically significant rates at which people who enter a unified state of being become more fully alive. Not to say that the effects of yoga cannot be studied, because they can and are, on top of it's thousands of years of time-testability, which I hold as proof of its value and success. (It speaks volumes that something can continue to thrive and grow for centuries without the use of war, coercion or manipulation to create 'believers'.)
The internal, the qualitative, the experience which is subject to the subjective, and is ever changing, cannot be bottled and replicated. That truth is the beauty & poetry which the yogi or yogini lives.

To think that I will never "get there" inspires me and I feel the preciousness of every fragile moment. That all, any, of this is is miraculous. Hope becomes boundless. To have no beginning and no end is the ultimate prize. These ideas empower me with accountability and foster compassion for all beings. Life feels like a magic carpet ride fueled by unlimited potential and possibility. In moments large and small, from a quiet sunset over the ocean to the birth of a daughter, the exhilaration leaves me speechless. When I just am, I am Yogini Infinity. Even in times when I am spastic, chaotic, depressed, lazy, confused, sad, angry, fearful or lost, I am too.

So, I've decided I'll keep the label. It may be hokey to some, and at times to me, but it's a fruitful reminder of an aspiration I still consider worthy.

Thanks MacBook Pro Dashboard Dictionary.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My 4th Decade - Ready or Not...!

My stepdad, Roman, wryly informed me in the birthday card from my family that I am now in my fourth decade. Thanks, Roman. I hadn't thought about it that way before...

I turned 30 years old just a few days ago, and though I am very accepting of this new era of being, (the 30s! oh my!) the thought that I am entering my 4th decade carries with it a slight to moderate increase in weight. But once I considered it, he's right. Though I am just at the cusp of that 4th decade I'll remind you!

Heading up to the big day I often pondered how I felt about it. The message from society and American culture was that it was something I was supposed to dread, to feel remorse about, to go into kicking and screaming, as if its all down hill from here. And I tried to adopt that attitude, I really did. I'd look at Bill, my beau, with my most pouty and concerned face and with a big sigh say dreadful things like, "But I'm turning 30..." as if that fact alone was a life sentence. But try as I might, I feel great. Even that vendor at the Portland Saturday Market who we bought those magnificent photographs from didn't dampen my spirit when he asked, "Do you have a sister here? There's a woman, she must be in her 60's, and she looks just like you." I smiled sweetly, and replied, "No...and my mom is only 50."

Yes, I am excited about this next stage of being. As I assess my 20s, they feel full and complete. I've taken the inventory and there is no unfinished business or regret. The adventures, blessings, and lessons were plenty and stimulating to say the least. I have been faced with challenges of the heart, of the mind, of the financial, and overcame tests of my integrity, character and dreams, and though I stumbled and faltered at times, I feel wiser and stronger today.

I am filled with gratitude for all of life's dance: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the exquisitely beautiful. It is all the same soil from which we grow in soul.

I am ready, 4th decade... Bring it on!