• Enlightenment for Anyone?

    “Tina, how is your enlightenment journey going?”  It is confirmation time for me in the Methodist church at the magic age of thirteen. I imagine the pastor (my dad at the time) casually asking me the question while simultaneously moving things around on his desk and looking at me…. like it was a usual question to ask one of his conferees. Then, he would curiously ask another question. “Are you ready for a wild ride?”  I imagine my response; an engaged discussion filled with laughter and colorful ideas as he shares a story of how he remembered the beginnings of his spirituality. He had walked the enlightenment path and was aware of its pitfalls and the infinite value in one’s life – especially, his daughter’s. “Can we dance, play guitar, be cool and have fun? “Of course, he would say, “That is all part of it. The other part is learning to listen and tune into God and our soul’s purpose in life.”  This would be a similar topic of conversation with my peers as we started our 2-year confirmation journey.

     The reality of my life then went something like this. I remember an emphasis on reading the Bible, going to Sunday services, doing lock-ins in the church and pizza parties. Of particular interest was the new “pop” machine that required a quarter to fandangle a bottle out of the cooler. I was a member of the interpretive dance group.  We wore white robes and moved along with the spiritual songs such as one of my favorites, The Lord’s Prayer.” I also sang in the youth choir during one of those years with a director (the high school choir teacher) who I could not feel inspired with. One Sunday my musical brother and I took our guitars and played Love is All Around to the congregation. I wanted to feel inspiration and acceptance during this period but that was the only time I had the courage to share music from my heart.  It felt as if I was active in the church youth group, yet trouble was brewing.  A fellow confirmand talked me into my first cigarette in the basement of the church.  My journal documents this fateful day when I decided I had “too good” of an “upbringing”, and this would signify my emergence into the real world. 

    One Sunday, the church decided to give everyone $10 to do whatever they wanted with it while holding the intention of expansion as reflected in the spirit of the old Bible stories of creating abundance and generosity from your resources. I folded it, put it into my jeans side pocket and pondered what to do with it. I did not have any golden ideas of how to multiply it is worth so created a story of how I needed it more than the church. I tried to forget about it but here we are so many years later. What would an enlightened person do in a case like this. Let us re-create this story.

    “Dad, why did you give everyone money? It seems so hard to come up with ideas on how to use it. I think you need more money for all the work you do here. I see the worry and stress you feel sometimes.” He would openly acknowledge my opinion. “Yes, I often wish I had more money and the freedom it would bring to the family. I don’t  want to appear greedy, but it is hard to be at the lower end of the pay scale compared with other professions.”  Continuing the dialogue, I would ask him what kind of life would really make him happy. He would be honest with me and thank me for the enlightening discussion; that he will discuss these ideas with Mom and see where things go. Then he would circle back to the $10. “Any ideas now about what you want to do with that money?”  “Yes, I would say, I want to give it to you. “I can imagine a smile and a warm feeling in my heart as he accepts it with a hug.

    Conscious parenting is evolving in today’s world. Years ago, I listened to Dr. Shefali Tsabary talk with Oprah about the power of tuning into each child and parenting with clarity and acceptance. My work as a psychotherapist has revealed the necessity of this shift and the negative consequences of living in our status quo survival conditioned mindset. Of course, I bought the book The Conscious Parent, said YES in theory yet still had little idea how I was going to master this. I had one teenager in the home at that time and an adult child struggling to find her own clarity and love in adulthood. Power struggles, worries and frustrations were common. I was caught up in the external world struggles of life and love relationships, yet the desired, visionary wheels were in motion.

     Krishnaji and his wife Preethaji authors of The Four Sacred Secrets focus on the essential aspects of conscious parenting – Awareness, tuning into and healing your own wounded child and developing a deep trust for life.  I gradually started the process of doing the inner work I needed, motivated by my desire to heal myself and be the best person I could be. My prayers were being answered; just not in the way I was expecting!

     Is it too late to be that conscious parent I envisioned? The Dalai Lama sees this consciousness through the lens of compassion and kindness between a parent and their child. Jesus resonated this unconditional love in human relationships. The born into sin aspect of ancient teaching may be seen as born into the negativity of survival living. It is never too late. This is one of the great wisdoms of life. You can be on your last breath and choose the enlightenment path. I want to experience it now. The love of that decision to be awake to all parts of yourself ripples and makes a difference, clearing the way for others to live from the power of their heart vs. the ego mindset. What does it mean and what are the benefits of making this choice to be conscious to yourself and with others? More importantly, what are the best tools to use to make this choice?

    Living from the power of your heart means having the ability to tune into your original blueprint and purpose you came into the world with. There are many factors that influence how much baggage we choose to carry around. It comes in forms of negative emotions, physical issues, family dynamics and sometimes just bad luck/karma. Whatever the philosophy or background you have, the truth is that we all have old beliefs, fears, traumas, and genetic patterns that come along with us. These factors can cloud up our soul purpose and make it difficult to feel free and happy with ourselves. For many years, I carried an expectation of great accomplishment in my work and family life. I measured these goals the old way – intelligence, family, prestige in my field of work and relationships. When life would take a turn and let me down (think divorce, job satisfaction, physical injury, body image etc.) I would tend to deny, distract, and feel anxious, distracted or one of the many negative emotions.

    In the process of drafting this essay, I had a serious hiking accident and broke my kneecap. This was complicated as I had gone through the same experience 18 months earlier on the same hiking trails, breaking the same kneecap. Could it be that I was in the same ER witnessing the drama of the news; that this one was a little more serious yet thankfully  not require surgery. I felt thrown back into a dark tunnel with the realization that I would be back into a brace and off the walking paths for an indefinite amount of time. I felt stunned, my body was in shock. There was a period just after the fall that I could not see anything other than black. I stood up attempting to reassure my husband I was ok. The fall had knocked my breath from my body, and I gasped to regulate myself. It was like I consciously fainted – like I was watching the movie of my drama.  The enlightened state of mind I desired seemed now like a dark wispy cloud in the sky.  My mind replayed the thud of the fall into suffering. What did I do wrong? I questioned my potential for what I desired most – to live life consciously with an abundance of gratitude, joy, and vitality. I sat and cried, feeling ashamed, exhausted, and sad.

    Then one day, the seeker within my soul nudged me forward and I came back to my life.

    When we experience any type of suffering, we need to listen to that nudging and tune into what we need to do to change that. One of the Buddhist Four Noble truths states that Life carries the suffering of dissatisfaction. It seems like this dissatisfaction is the norm of this culture, to go bigger, find more ways to self-medicate, create, or avoid drama and the list goes on. In the past, my perception of enlightenment was exclusive to the spiritual greats or special monks. Yet, within my heart I always carried a light of joy manifested as a child running through a beautiful meadow filled with wildflowers. I assumed it was simply a fantasy. Now, my life picture has expanded, and I am able to see it as authentic soul connection.

    The Toolbox: The seeds that were planted then are bearing their fruit now. My life is different on many levels. It has developed form and direction. How does it feel? Awesome! How much time has my old self needed to make this shift? For me, the road has been “twisty” just as my back got twisted in trauma it is now becoming straighter. Physical pain is met with compassion, practices to care for it, and a much better attitude. I have wrestling episodes with my body when I am fatigued or triggered but the page has been turned from the old to the new. Here is a selected resource list that I have used since 2018.

    Joe Dispenza – Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself book and meditations. I attended a conference in Sedona in 2018. I practiced his meditations for 90 days prior to it. It was an experiment. In addition, I met with intuitive and spiritual healers at this conference to help me learn and clear away some of the layers of family and ancestral energies I no longer needed to carry.

    Synchronicities from that conference – My husband’s retirement from the VA in Fargo, ND. Life opened for us to move out of North Dakota and into the beautiful Verde Valley of Arizona. My kids both moved to different states.

    Louise Hay – You Can Heal Your Life books and resources. I discovered Louise around this time.  I was aware of her prior to that but had not been drawn to explore these incredible wisdom teachings. I continue to do her mirror work exercises and refer this tool often. 

    Amy Weintraub Yoga and Mood management – Spending a week with Amy, we experienced the potential of yoga with meditation and breath practices.

     Bessel Van Der Koch, The Body Keeps the Score- body work, physical therapy, and massage.

    Kristen Neff –Self Compassion author about the importance of developing this self-compassion and inner power.  She has many resources available on Youtube and her website.

    Ekam meditation practices and participation in several experiential workshops and groups. This began as a small meditation group during covid where I could experiment and practice with support. Finding an in person or online meditation group is important. For more information go to:  www.EKAM.org 

    Gene Keys and Human Design – Concepts for understanding our presence and individual map of self understanding in the world based on ancient wisdoms and teachings. For more information check out www.genekeys.com  

    Center for Universal Light – This inter-denominational spiritual center opened in Cottonwood, AZ to provide a place to gather, share, create and support one another in the path of spiritual development. It was housed in a refurbished theater and center for performing arts for the community. I was inspired to do a presentation with my husband there about our lives and how we have integrated our quite different spiritual histories. It is important to find a spiritual community you feel comfortable with.

    Qigong – I started studying Qigong, got certified as a Spring Forest Qigong Practice Group Leader and started a practice group last year, something I would never have envisioned myself doing. I avoided academia for a reason – traditional teaching was not my passion. As a therapist my passion was in the emotions and relationships and helping others resolve problems in the therapy office. Then, various physical challenges showed up in my life, including injury, an autoimmune issue and chronic pain. How was I to resolve my own problems that seemed overwhelming and exhausting? We have often heard the figure of speech about turning lemons into lemonade. How about a strong lemon drink? Regardless, these challenges gradually began to evolve into life transformations and created opportunities to share what I had learned.  

    One of the brilliant pearls of life’s journey has been finding my passion for Qigong and connecting with the Spring Forest community of practitioners. Does it bring me prestige, money, and position? Better, it brings happiness and the joy of working towards my own enlightenment. It has transformed some of my old negative beliefs, healed body ailments and my psychotherapy work has never been better. I found out that being an expert is often subjective and I do not have to analyze everything. I can help by teaching what I know in my heart and let my brain be my helper. That creates an expanding focus, awareness of feeling and the self -forgiveness for any perceived failures. This a magnificent work in progress.

    “Dad, do you think you have had a good and happy life? And Dad, what do you think of enlightenment?

    In a real conversation with my father, he went around the block with this question. The bottom line was, “yes, I have had a good and happy life. I have done many things and been a part of many lives. I enjoyed my retirement years on the strip. I have happy memories.” (The strip referred to is in Las Vegas where he married 1000’s of couples over his 15 years of work. Yes, Elvis would drop in from time to time to sing a love song.)

    Imagined answer: “Enlightenment? Do you remember when you were a teenager and asked me what life what was all about? I said it was a wild ride but really, it’s all in the everyday choices you make and finding the best practices to help you build your faith in God.  But most of all it’s about love…of self, each other, and your relationship with your Divine. I love you so much for your questions and being who you are. I would reply with a big smile and give him a hug knowing that I would strive to live each day more fully, embracing my wholeness, perfection, and potential. Problems?  One thing at a time.  Interestingly, my dad is showing up for life every day at age 94, reminding me about his version of living from his heart….

    Will you join me on this path of transformation and enlightenment?  It’s time!