Learning the art of Maitri, making friends with myself, more lessons from pain

Learning the art of Maitri, making friends with myself, more lessons from pain

There’s nothing like walking to get my thoughts going, join me as I reflect on how the teachings of the Buddha shape who I am, how I react, and who I aspire to be.

It;s been three months of pain from my kidney so far, and the new normal is that there is no new normal. Today I touch up Maitri, the Buddhist concept of making friends with yourself. It’s forever work for me-and you too I suspect.


Nothing like pain to nail us to the present moment and to bring us closer to who we really are and being with what we have rather than what we desire,

I’d love to hear what invitations pain and happiness bring into your life.
always in love
Sat nam
Shiv

Our bodies are a vase, our spirits are the flower. The weekend I made friends with my naked self.

Our bodies are a vase, our spirits are the flower. The weekend I made friends with my naked self.

It was late, and I was alone, when I pulled into Harbin Hot Springs for the first time. It was about a 3 hour drive from San Francisco, a little more with the Labor Day holiday traffic, but I didn’t care. I was free for 3 whole days. I didn’t know how long I was going to stay at Harbin, for once my plans were open and I was playing it by ear. What I did know was that I was not due back at the office until Tuesday, it felt like I had a lifetime ahead of me.

I had never been to a “clothing optional” anything before, and here I was at Harbin Hot Springs, a clothing optional hot springs resort. The keyword, for me, was “optional”, I was determined that I would not be getting naked whilst there, I would happily go topless, I am European after all, but bottoms, well, they get to stay on.

Earlier that afternoon I had stood in my partners corner office. Joined by the 5th year associate I worked with, they were taking bets how long it would take me to get naked. And I held the line that there would be no getting naked thank you very much.

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure of what I was doing. I had woken up two days earlier screaming to get out of my life. And there it was a holiday weekend coming up and for once I didn’t have a deal closing that needed me to work the weekend.

I was actually free! I booked a convertible rental car, I bought a pair of jeans, my first pair on over a decade-I was starting to lose some weight, I went to North face and bought a sleeping mat and bag to sleep out on the deck at Harbin, the only available space st such short notice.

And here I was alone, late on Friday night, alone but for all the people around me on the sleeping deck under a mass of stars.

I don’t know what I expected, it was pre everything internet so I couldn’t look up much other than the home page and a few photos, and they can never prepare one for what to expect in a place where people don’t wear clothes.

Within 10 minutes of arriving I was walking down to the hot and cold plunge pools, completely naked with my towel over my shoulder.

I don’t think I had ever felt as free as I did in that moment. Feeling the earth beneath my feet, nature all around, quiet murmurs of happy humans, and all overlooked by a blanket of stars.

It was a far cry from the city and the fast paced life that consumed my every waking moment.

Looking at the bodies that passed me on the path from the redwood deck to the pools, along with those in the big open co-ed changing room, I was struck by something I had never noticed before.

Here we were, all these bodies, so many different shapes, colors and sizes. And within each body is a spirit, our bodies are just the vases that hold our spirits, each one beautiful in it’s own right.

What I couldn’t know at the time was that this was to be a defining weekend in my life, one that would have me writing about it 16 years later.

I went to sleep that night listening to one of my first books on tape, After the Ecstasy the Laundry by Jack Kornfield. The moon was full and fat in the mountain sky. Little did I know the forces were all lining up and little would be the same by the time I would leave on Monday.

Once i got naked I would never look back. Something deep within shifted that weekend, and I will be back tomorrow with more of the magik that was to unfold.

I’d love to hear from you about how you feel about gettin gnaked around others, do you hide and cower like I used to do, or are you free to just be you in all your naked glory? I have to admit I am now in the latter category and I often winder what I did before I fell in love with my naked self.

It’s time for me to walk across the orchard to out bedroom under the stars, I will be back tomorrow for day 38 of daily writing.

Sending you so much love
Sat nam

On making friends with silence…

On making friends with silence…

The next N Judah train was 12 minutes away. It was a hot and steamy day in downtown San Francisco, and even at almost 10 pm the air in the BART station was still thick with heat.

I plonked myself on one of the round concrete slabs that serve as benches and pulled out my journal. I had just freed up half a day at the weekend and I had been aching for more free time. It seems I was scheduled to the hilt, and yes, some of it was for fun, but fun or not, I was tired and sometimes I just wished I had more time.

But that night in the station I noticed something that had passed me by until that very moment. Time was so precious to me that I had the idea if it wasn’t put to good use it was wasted, and I did not like to waste what little time I owned.

Within 5 minutes of the half day being freed it, it was full again. And that is where I had a bog fat aha. There I was yearning for free time but as soon as I got it I filled it up again.

I went from workdays filled with meetings and conference calls to weekends filled with brunches, dinners and get togethers-sure the latter were (mostly) fun but at the end of a long day, or soul crushing week, all I wanted was some free space.

And the words just tumbled into my journal:

In the chaos we yearn for it
Yet in the solitude
we try to fill it
as we afraid of silence.

This would be just the beginning of my journey to befriend and come to love silence, it seems there are myriad ways to fill in the silence, but on this day, waiting for the N Judah train to arrive, me and silence began a journey that would reveal so many treasures along the way I should have started it a long time ago.

It didn’t happen overnight but my relationship with silence and solitude took a new turn that night, one that has led me to come to love both silence and solitude but we will talk about that in future posts.

For now, I would love to know your relationship to silence, do you try to fill it so you can “make the most out of it”, or do you know that silence truly is golden in more ways than one?

Just two more days of this 40 day challenge, I must say that most days I would not have written had I not made this commitment to myself, got to love the power of 40 day practices to get our butts into action.

Good night dear one, it is dark and time for us to walk across the orchard to our bedroom under the stars, and for the next couple of days we have our favorite four legged, Zola, staying with us.

Until tomorrow, hugs n love
Sat nam

There is so much I want to share, and I’ve often thought i don’t have the time, but what I am realizing is that it has nothing to do with time, in the same way losing weight has nothing to do with diet. Yes, it as everything to with time and then again it has nothing to do with it. Just the way the losing weight has nothing to do with what we eat and yet can have everything to do with it.

Ok, I am writing myself into a circle here, it makes so much sense in my head, let me see if I can translate that to the page.

When I released 85 lb, I initially stopped dieting and going to the gym, and I released 25 lb in 40 days. Oh and I ate more than I usually did. I just ate different things, the amount I ate, actually increased as I lost weight, but the types of food changed, so you see in one way it didn’t have anything to do with the amount of food, often the first thing cut on any diet after all the fun stuff is portion size, but had everything to do with what those portions were made up of.

This may not be news to you, but it was to me! It was a “Oh my effing G*d, why did I not this before” moment. So much made sense. All the diets that didn’t work, starting with the first at aged 11, followed by 24 years of going between starving myself and binge eating. And then there are all the ones that did, but only for a while, and only for as long as the deprivation of continuing with the diet that got me there, and invariably it came back with a few extra lb just for the fun.

I kept thinking I needed to eat less and exercise more, that I was weak and just lacking willpower and motivation. Ugh so many years spent thinking I just needed more willpower and motivation. But it turns out that as I started to eat more and move less, and the weight starting coming off.

So it was everything and nothing to do with the food, if that makes sense to you :). No worries it won’t be the first time I don’t make sense, and it won’t be the last (smile).

The sharing, and I am really talking about the writing, is the same principle, the sky is parting and I am seeing this clearly now as I approach the culmination of this 40 day writing (self) challenge.

I am also coming up on week 13 of being in (kidney) pain. It has been a long haul, and truly i thought this was a 2-3 week ordeal, and it has (so far) been a season long. Argh, what lessons this summer of pain has whispered into my life. Including ones around writing and sharing. It’s been a laser like season getting clear about what I really want, and what I think I want but don’t really.

Pain gives us a lot of time with our minds, In the past this was not necessarily a good thing for me, but today, after 19 years of meditation practice, it’s been a gift to spend time in my mind.

It’s time to plunge into my pool of self doubt and loathing, the days of toe dipping are done, it’s time to go in, but, and here is the meat of (my) lesson, I don’t have to plunge in. It doesn’t have to create a big splash. And of course these are the lessons standing out for me right now, perhaps you are going through similar so don’t think these just belong to me.

Some people like a big splash, I personally do not, I really hate (a word I used very rarely) water splashing in my face, so the idea of jumping into something with a big splash is like some form of aversion therapy for me, it makes me want to run for the hills and never return. I like my encounters with water to be slow and graceful.

Since my first visit to Harbin Hot Springs 16 years this very weekend, I have come to love sitting in cold water pools, preceded by wither a hot plunge pool or sauna. I do not plunge into the cold water, I move slowly immersing myself more and more until my shoulders are under water, and then I become a rock.

It is a most magikal feeling, and the clearest of meditations, ha, try thinking of much else but adjusting to the cold water when you find yourself immersed in a cold plunge pool.

So, I don’t have to suddenly commit to writing every day for 3 hours. This too will have me wanting to run for the hills, but I am also ready to take the next steps.

I had no idea this was coming out tonight, ha, the lessons just tumble out every time we take a step. There have been many days in these past 38 days that I have either not wanted, not had time, or lacked the motivation, to write, and yet, I have. Every single day.

I’ve had so much resistance along the way, and then once I decide and open the laptop, it comes out. Perhaps not as I want them, perhaps not even about what I want to say, perhaps perhaps perhaps, but whatever perhaps crop up along the way, I have pressed publish every single day. And there have been lessons along the way. So many lessons, and some blessings too, but I digress too far, that’s another post in the making.

So writing (for me) is like my weight loss journey (which continues to my last breath), it has nothing to do with actual time, and everything to do with how I spend that time, or more accurately, what I share in that time.

Everything is a process, and none more than our own evolution. So here I am, stepping one more step in my own evolution, thank you for being a safe place for me to share this, even though it always makes my heart miss a beat to get so raw, immediate thoughts of what if I fail come up, and of course, it might not happen the way I see or plan it, but to listen to my own words, nothing I do is a failure, and certainly no one failure defines me as one. At least my head knows this lesson, my heart takes some reminding.

And all along I am reminded of the Rumi quote above

If all you can do is crawl, start crawling_Rumi

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I am sitting here or rather laying here, in my underwear, on the sofa, fan circulating warm air (it has been triple digits for the 3rd day), and I am three days away from the lithotripsy treatment to blast this stone that is causing so much pain. It’s been a journey of staying present and not getting ahead of myself.

Me, the sofa, and my heat pad, have been an inseparable trio these past 13 weeks, sometimes the car feels good, and Cemaaj makes ma a hot water bottle, it’s different strokes for sure. But during all of this, and with the (self) challenge to contend with each day, I have time and space to re-set my compass, to sift through what really matters and what does not.

I don’t have to make big leaps, I did that the day I walked out of the life I thought I was supposed to live to step into one completely unknown. Today I can move slowly and gracefully toward the change I want to make, and make no mistake, there can be tremendous force harnessed in slow and graceful, and like losing weight, writing and just about everything else in life, it’s not what we do but the way we do it that matters.

It’s not big huge bangs that I (we) need to make along the way, celebrating small steps win every time when combined with time, and getting up when we fall down, over and over again. Falling down is part of the process, and every fall is one step closer to success.

Where this leaves me tonight is open to seeing what is next in this sharing journey. After making over 700 YouTube videos, I recognize the process of evolution that starts off resistant and awkward, and with time becomes much more graceful, and even fun,

I’m in the awkward, toddler falling down phase, of this side of my journey. This is perhaps my deepest desire and also the one I am most afraid of.

Even typing these words makes me want to ask ,my fingers to stop what they are doing and press the back button until…until what…until I put them all back down inside again…I don’t think they are going to let me. They are making their moves on me, this is how they do it, they come tumbling through my fingers, and now we have blogs and social media, this often means they tumble themselves out in public.

And amidst all of this thought I come to rest in the present moment, it’s been a season of learning how to (best) get through the day and pain that came along the way. So tonight I am laying here, in my underwear, my penultimate post post, a little awe-struck by what I have shared, whilst also being quite fine with it, Right now my priority is my kidney and listening to the messages along the way.

As the Chinese proverb reminds us, be not afraid of going slow, only of standing still.

How about you? Where do you want to step forward but think it’s not possible, for whatever reason? Chances are your mind has you in a wrangle, just like mine did, and often still does. And it likely has you thinking you need to have it all figured out to take the next step. But that’s not true.

One step at a time does it every time. If you;d like or support on a deeper level to get you moving, check out our online community of change-makers who make up Get Your Happy Back 40 Day reSet for Body, Mind + Spirit. Season by season, we not only make change together, we do it having fun and learning about how our unique minds work when we are trying to change our habits.

Sending love to you always in all ways. Carpe diem my love, but before you do make sure you;re doing what you really want and not what you think you should want, they could be oceans apart. Love love love.

Sat nam

There was no denying it, what I thought I knew I didn’t, and yet there was still so much I didn’t know. Life would never be the same again.

There was no denying it, what I thought I knew I didn’t, and yet there was still so much I didn’t know. Life would never be the same again.

It was Labor Day, 2001. Feeling restless in my life, I had bolted from my life in the city to Harbin Hot Springs, a clothing optional paradise in the Northern California mountains.

Even now, 16 years later, it is hard to put into words the change that happened within me that weekend. Like Pandora, I had opened a box full of all sorts, but there at the bottom, before the box closed again I caught a glimpse of hope.

I drove home that day feeling like a different person had emerged from just three solo days in nature. I spent my days outside plunging in the hot and cold pools, and then slept under the stars on the communal redwood deck.

My soul found me that weekend. Never had I felt so free and now I had to drive home back to the life that killing me softly, the very life I had worked my ass of to achieve, the life that looked so good from the outside yet churned up my insides.

It wasn’t news to me that my life wasn’t working, I just didn’t know how to make a change, where to start, or how to do it all, after all, there wasn’t one area of my life that didn’t need an overhaul.

All I knew is that there was so much more I did not know, there was more to experience in the world than the things I was experiencing at the time.

And here I was, in nature, walking my naked body around the pools, making peace with every step I took.

I sit here today and so much of that weekend is now what makes up my life, living and working in nature, teaching and sharing Kundalini Yoga-it was 16 years ago yesterday that I did my first Kundalini Yoga practice as the sun rose over the mountains in front of us.. I saw and heard the djembe drum for the first time and fell in love, this would be the piece that four months later would lead me to meet Cemaaj at the Hippie Hill Drum Circle in Golden Gate Park.

Turns out there was so much more I didn’t know.

I was a square peck being pushed into a round hole, I didn’t want to leave this newly found piece of paradise, who knew people lived like that? Certainly not me.

Drive home I did. Life would certainly never be the same because I had changed, and this was just to be the beginning, everything I thought was important in my life was about to be turned upside down and inside out, and the next seven days were to be the most profound in my life to date.

There is little I could have predicted about what would happen in the ensuing 16 years to today. What I do know is that the weekend at Harbin was the catalyst for so much more change to happen in my life.

All I know today is that the more I get to know the more I realize there is to know. I strayed off the path laid out for me and found something I could never have imagined.

That’s the thing about straying off the path, we never know what treasures await. Turns out that inside of that exterior me there is so much more inside. And outside of the endless career progression there is a life that can make a difference in a different kind of way.

How about you, what path of life are you taking and how does it fit who you are?

Sending you love always in all ways.

How changing my habits changed my life, and how you can change yours too

How changing my habits changed my life, and how you can change yours too

This past weekend marks 16 years on the other side of the “should” life. Like most of the world, on this day 16 years ago I sat and watched the World Trade Towers tumble. I was on my friend’s mum’s couch, having been burned out of my very own bed just two days before this news hit the TV screen I was now sitting in front of.

It had been a weekend of big events, my friend in England died on the Friday. We used to party and do (recreational) drugs together when I practiced in London. His liver finally failed and he slipped over to the other side.

The following morning I was scheduled to meet my running group to train for a marathon to raise money for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. I had found trying to do something for myself was futile, so I was trying to make change for something bigger than me.

I wouldn’t make the training session that day. A homeless man walked out in front of me on Market Street, it was drizzling and the road was slick. It didn’t help that the tires of my friends SUV (loaned to me to get to training) went over the MUNI tracks, also slick from the rain, causing the car to spin out of control. No-one was hurt, though the car needed $600 of repairs.

On Sunday, my home burned down with me in my bed and my roommate in his. The phone rang at 6 am and thankfully he got up to answer it. There was no-one at the other end of the phone, the Fire Inspector later suggested it was an Angel-we tend to agree! The front of our house was completely on fire. So much so that I couldn’t get out, I couldn’t find the door to let myself out. The noise was deafening as fire worked her way through all our belongings leaving nothing but ashes.

I got to experience the feeling that I was about to die when I couldn’t find the door that I used every day to leave the apartment, and then poof, I was naked from the waist down running up my quiet neighborhood street. It was 6 am on Sunday morning, most of our neighbors were sleeping as the raging flames spat out from our living room window bringing power cables spurting in the street like demonic serpents.

My friend’s mother took me in and gave me shelter. My roommate’s brother bought us some clothes and shoes to leave the hospital. It was still only Sunday night, the weekend was one I would never forget, and little did I know more was coming.

Not much happened on Monday, I was in shock at the loss of my home, almost everything I owned and the empty feeling inside that I couldn’t shake off.

On Tuesday morning my friend’s sister rang from Texas. She told us her to turn on the TV, “America is at war” she told my friend.

Every channel had the same news, the World Trade Towers had come tumbling down. I had worked in those towers, my first firm had offices there.

Stop the world, I want to get off. Those five days were my ultimate wake up call. I had no idea what lay ahead of me but I was pretty damned certain it needed to be different.

Upon closer introspection I realized that it was me that needed to be different.

[Tweet “Yesterday I was clever and wanted to change the world, today I am wise and want to change myself.” Rumi]

And that news was terrifying. Where would I begin? What would I change first? How would I make the change when I had failed for so many years? How could I do something different when being a lawyer is what I trained for? What kind of mad woman gives up her career when she’s at the best of the best and the world (so they say) is at her feet?

I didn’t have the answers to these and many more questions but there was thing I did know, things had to change, radically, drastically, and there was no time for my (then) plan of leaving law at the age of 40, still another 7 years away.

I couldn’t stand being in the office after my Spirit almost got called home. It felt there was more to be had in life but was clueless as to where to start!

I was still here, precious life force pumping through my veins, and I wanted more. I would not live quietly in my pain anymore. I just couldn’t. And here we are, many lessons and blessings later.

It’s been a journey with its own unique challenges and pitfalls, no one gets out of this one, we all get challenges and pitfalls along the way, we call it picking our challenges.

They’ve been a wonderful 16 years, even in the most challenging of times, and there have been and continue to be, many of those.

I’ve spent more and more time in nature with the one I love, and I am building a business sharing the tools that have helped me create a life that feels better for me, bugger what everyone else thinks I should be doing.

It didn’t happen overnight, but my body, mind and life changed so much that the old life is barely perceptible these days. And it’s all down to changing my habits-which it turns out has nothing to do with motivation and willpower and everything to do with my (and your) habits which, it turns out, all start in our

mind!
Is there something you want to change something in your life?

Perhaps like me, losing weight is part of the change? Maybe you’ve tried everything. Some probably worked, for a time, but chances are if you are here the weight came back on, perhaps with a few extra pounds for good measure. My gain backs always came with a little more. Know it’s not about diet and it’s not your fault.

Maybe your weight is fine but you feel hollow and empty inside, the worst kind of lonely a soul can feel. And to make matters worse, it looks like you have it all, so what is there to complain about? And you try to embrace it all but in the darkness of night with just you and your soul you find yourself feeling empty and hollow inside. It’s not you, and it’s not your fault.

Perhaps you’re in a relationship that you know is killing you softly but you can’t see how you’d ever make it alone. Or maybe that’s just the problem, you are not in a relationship and you so desperately want to be love and be loved but the ones you date are not the ones you want to keep around for the long haul. Again it’s not you and it’s not your fault.

The big news here is that none of this is your fault. It is not your fault but it is in your control. And this is where change truly happens. When we release ourselves from the blame train and become the co-pilot in life we were born to be.

So not it’s you, but it is your habits. Check out this free, no opt in, content rich class Change Your Habits, Change Your Life with me. I share the tools that got me started with making and sustaining the changes I wanted to make. It can be easy to make change for a year or two but this is now almost two decades that I have been using these tools to get to know my mind so I can work on doing anything I set my mind to and say adios to willpower and motivation as the key players on my change team.

There’s nothing to lose, the class is an hour and I think you will be so happy you tuned in, today is a great day to start anew and I will be here every step with you, alone we can do so much, together we can do so much more.

Always in love

Sat nam 💕💕💕💕💕