Good Lock

Recently, I got locked out of the house. It wasn’t my house so I did not know all of its little intricacies including the one about the front door bolt sometimes slipping down into the catch on its own. So I went outside to do a chore and when I came back the door was bolted shut.

At first I didn’t believe it. It was impossible. The bolt had to be physically turned from the inside to lock the door. In my disbelief I began to pull on the door shaking and rattling it to force it to open. It was definitely locked. Then I growled and noticed the panic rising. I had a full day that included a list of other chores before making my way to the airport to catch a plane.

Going around to the back of the house to see if I’d left the back door open was futile because I knew I’d locked it five minutes earlier when I’d let the cat out. I did it anyway. Then I checked all the windows and found one that could be opened if I forced it. I stopped trying when my arm began to bleed.

As I returned to the front of the house to escape the burning late-morning Florida sun I said a prayer. Well, barked one, actually. “Okay, what am I supposed to do about this?” Maybe I even said, “What the hell am I supposed to do about this?” I was highly aware of my resistance and lack of calm.

With that awareness I took a seat on the shady front porch and started to listen for the answer. I was locked out. What could I do? Not much. Did the rage help? Not a bit.

A lizard about the size of my hand sashayed out of the shrubbery and stopped a couple of feet away, watching me out of the corner of its eye, its tiny sides expanding and contracting rapidly with breath. That lizard did not have a big agenda. It moved again, stopped, moved again. Each time it stopped I stayed with it, with the power of its total presence, its utter lack of agenda. The lizard eventually moved on and I thanked it because it had brought me into the here and now.

Reflecting on my anger I saw that it had come from the fact that I was not going to be able to fulfill my agenda. My agenda had not only been meticulously planned (go inside, finish chores, accomplish tasks, eat some food, take a spiritual direction call, get to the airport and fly away), I was counting on the fact that it was all going to take place. I was upset because the future I’d planned was not going to happen. But that future was not my actual life. My actual life, my unfolding life in reality, was sitting on the porch, locked out of the house in +35C heat, learning life-lessons from lizards. There was nothing else. All the other stuff was just a bunch of thoughts that I had allowed to become expectations.

To commit to the spiritual journey means that when any challenge comes our way we stay open to the transforming opportunity being presented. I closed my eyes, went within and listened.

Let go. Wait. Trust.

Letting go of all my plans and seeing that the world would not come to an end by doing so, I went and picked some starfruit from a tree in the yard, thankful for the moisture it provided my thirsty mouth. With that action came an intuitive thought: Maybe I could knock on the neighbours doors? Fear rose up. I sat with it and then followed the prompt. Within minutes, two generous men were walking around the house with me looking for a spare key or a way to get in. Then one of them got a screwdriver and jimmied a window open. Hallelujah! I climbed into the cool, air-conditioned house, relieved and dripping with sweat.

As the rest of the day unfolded and the agenda got accomplished I kept meditating on a deeper question that came out of the experience: Where am I “locked out”? Or what am I “locking out” of my life?

Exactly one week later, while leading a retreat on the ashram in the Bahamas, I went to leave the little beach-side room where I slept to go to a yoga class. But when I turned the door handle and pulled, the door remained shut. I tried again. Nope. I was locked in. You know what I did? I smiled.

After trying a couple of tricks to jimmy the latch I pulled the screen off the window, lifted myself up over the sill, did a modified handstand to climb out, and went to reception to tell maintenance. Later, after the local man who repaired it explained that the salt-air had corroded the latch (happens all the time), I had the opportunity to do some more spiritual inquiry. Two episodes with locks in one week? Kinda hard to ignore.

Okay, so where was I “locked in”? Or what am I currently “locked into”?

There was temptation to go into shame. I’m doing something wrong. I’m being punished. This attitude will only keep me from looking deeper. A gentler approach prevailed: How did I respond to what unfolded?

My reaction to being locked out was rage, which came from being overly attached to my agenda. Fair enough, I had a flight to catch. But to assume I’m going to get to complete my plans at any given time is to deny the unpredictability of life. When I am attached to an agenda I am locked out of being present to life’s unfolding and I am leaping ahead of reality.

My reaction to being locked in was to smile. Made easier by some free time, certainly, but also by a willingness to accept what comes with an open mind and an open heart. When I am detached from my agenda I am locked in to reality. Life is unfolding before me and I am following with curiosity, presence and interior freedom.

Inspiring Message of the Day: May we all open ourselves to following the unfoldment of our lives rather than trying to leap ahead.

Willing to Live

Dearest Readers,

This post is for you if you are feeling overwhelmed, run down by life, paralyzed by fear, stuck in a rut, cynical, helpless, hopeless. I would like you to know that you are not alone.

Before I go on, I would like to preface what I am about to say by telling you that I have a great life. I am young, healthy, talented, loved, and pretty cute. AND I struggle with anxiety and fear. So despite the fact that I have enormous amounts of abundance and opportunities for joy in my life I go to bed some nights and wake up some days in cold, naked, fear.

Last night was one of those nights and this morning was one of those mornings.

When I went to bed last night I told myself that when the cat pounced on me at 5:30 the next day I would not go back to bed after getting up to feed him. I would do the morning routine and embrace the day. I was determined because I knew that if I didn’t, if I let the fear plague me it would end up driving the bus of my day and I would sink deeper into the mire.

So this morning at 5:30 a.m., right on schedule, “Pounce!” The cat jumped on me and began his mournful sing-song to waken me. Guess what? I ignored him. I pulled the covers over my head and stuck a finger in my ear.

Fear: 1, Celia: 0

Now because I am aware of my shortcomings, because I am aware that I rebel against my Highest Good, because I well know that I get in my own way more often than I care to admit, I did not stop there. I did not let the fear win.

Despite myself, I began to ask for help. Buried under those covers with a finger in my ear listening to the cat cry for his breakfast I began to pray like a motherlover.

“I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to face the day. It’s too much. Please help me. Please forgive me. Please give me the strength and courage to pull my covers off and sit up and get up and feed the cat and start the morning routine and live the day. I don’t want to because I’m afraid but I’m willing. Give me the courage, please, I need strength, please help me.”

I kept on like that for some time. I just kept on. Then out came the finger. Off came the covers. I sat up. I got up. I fed the cat. I splashed water on my face and drank water. Life-giving water. I felt relief.

Celia:1, Fear: 0

I began the morning routine, entering into deeper prayer and meditation. I did a yoga practice. I WENT FOR A JOG. IN THE RAIN. When I got back I picked raspberries from the bush in our yard for breakfast.

Miracles all.

Somewhere around the five-minute mark into the jog (those of you who have been following this blog since the beginning will be most impressed for I began hauling myself up an outdoor staircase two years ago to build cardio activity into my life and nearly had a heart attack) I began to feel better. The fear began to lift and I could feel my energy changing. Hallelujah.

For a person who is gripped by fear or anxiety the most difficult thing in the world to do is to get up off the proverbial couch. And yet it is the absolute solution to the problem. We must get up off the couch and step into our lives for the fear to lift, for things to change, for the miracle of thankfulness to overtake the dread. And yet how? How do we do that when we are paralyzed?

Ask. Ask for the strength and courage. Beg for it if you have to. It will come. It. Will. Come.

Inspiring Message of the Day: I am willing to live despite my fear. I am willing to move forward with love in my heart. I’m terrified of what lies ahead and life feels too big for me to handle. But I’m willing because I trust the shift will come and when it does I will be returned to thankfulness and inner peace, which is my true state of being.

Thank you, Moses

Dearest Readers,

This morning I feel like singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. I feel like the Red Sea has parted and I’m walking along the cleared, dry path to freedom. I’ve had a breakthrough.

There is still some processing I need to do so I won’t get specific and the details are not actually what’s important. It’s not about what happened as much as it is how it happened.

Stick-to-it-iveness. Perseverance. Talking it out. These are some of the tools I employed to find my way out of the mire and into the clearing. When I felt like giving up I didn’t. When I wanted to withdraw I put myself out there. When my fear told me to isolate I told someone about it.

These inspired actions coupled with some pretty deep prayer and meditation kept the process moving forward and eventually afforded me the “a-ha moment” that I had last night.

A very short time ago I was in emotional turmoil. My energy was really blocked. I didn’t know why and I simply could not figure it out in my head. The confused mind cannot solve the problem. It’s confused!

The answer must come from a Deeper Place. The Heart. The Gut. The Great Spirit. Anywhere but the mind, where the difficulty originates.

So, my friends, the words to a sweet, sweet song by Van Morrison are swirling around inside me today. “Yes, it feels like a Brand New Day.”

That and Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Halle-lu-jah!

Inspiring Message of the Day: When I am confused or my energy is blocked I will not try and solve the issue by thinking about it. I will use the Greater Methods of the Spirit to make my way to the other side and I will trust that Clarity will eventually come.

Burning Desire

Dearest Readers,

Yesterday I was telling my Spiritual Director about the burn and recounting the story of how it happened and as I described to her the subsequent events that arose from the incident I remembered the absolute grounded Presence I felt on that day.

Talk about the Power of Now.

With first and second degree burns covering most of my thigh I was rocketed into the Present Moment where I remained for the rest of the day until I fell into sleep that evening.

The only other times in my life when I have felt that connected to Reality was when I was on hallucinogenic drugs back in my wild child days. And lemme tellya, the day of the burn was wild. (Right, SP?)

Believe me, I am not asking for more pain and suffering but there was something so profound about that experience, the awareness I felt, the sense of feeling utterly connected to the moment and totally fused to Life’s unfolding, that a part of me wishes I could return there.

The good news is I can. In fact, I’m already returned there. Because there is Here. This is the Teaching of the Burn. This is what Eckhart Tolle is talking about. It’s Now. It’s always Now.

So why is it so f’n challenging to live in the Now? What is so difficult about Be-ing? Shouldn’t it be the easiest thing in the world? After all, we are. Why can’t we just be?

Well, there’s that baggage we carry. It’s heavy. And there’s that damage we experienced. It’s hardcore. And there are those wounds we suffered. They’re deep. And don’t forget the wrongdoings we committed. They’re shameful. And then there’s the Intellect. Why this, why that? Figure it out, analyze it. Let me understand.

Sheesh. It’s a wonder we make it through the day sometimes!

The day after the burn was the day I flew out of New York to Montreal. I was leaving my good friend, who had been with me throughout the whole experience, and I wanted to extend my time with her for as long as I possibly could. I began to plan the day according my my wishes, going hither and thither, busy as a bee.

Well. “Make plans, God laughs.”

Before heading out, my friend and I did a little meditation session to start the day and thank goodness we did. Taking the time to get quiet and go within was the best thing I could have done for myself. This is what I heard: “Listen to the Burn.”

I changed my plans. My friend and I said good-bye and I went early to the airport where I could sit and rest and take care of my leg.

Listen to the Burn. In other words, live in the Power of Now. Connect to the Great Reality. Embrace the Experience of Being.

Start now. Or now. Or now. Or now. Or now. Or now…

Inspiring Message of the Day: When I forget that Life is Happening Now I will bring myself back Here. I will listen to the burning desire of my heart, which is always longing to Be with Great Presence.

Swami Sense

Dearest Readers,

This morning I opened a message from the Sivananda Yoga Retreat and contained within was a quote from Swami Sivananda.

Here it is:

“Though surrounded by pleasurable or painful objects to disturb your equilibrium of mind, remain immovable as a rock, receiving all things with equanimity. Be always cheerful. Laugh and smile. How can a mind that is gloomy and dull think of God? Try to be happy always. Happiness is your very nature. This is termed cheerfulness. This spirit of cheerfulness must be cultivated by all aspirants.”

Exactly what I need to hear. So challenging to do!

My surroundings are currently jammers with pleasurable and painful objects, my equilibrium of mind most definitely disturbed.  I am doing my utmost to remain immovable as a rock and practicing diligently the art of receiving all things with equanimity. Some moments are better than others.

Happiness may be my very nature but self-centeredness is my default operating system. It’s all about me all the time and when things don’t go my way or when I’m trying to make things go my way I have completely forgotten about cultivating cheerfulness and the trusting the Higher Path. Gloomy and dull, indeed.

What if it really were that simple? “Be always cheerful. Laugh and smile.” I actually think it is. I make it complicated. But this and but that. I like my misery thank you very much. Perpetuate the suffering. Prolong the winter of discontent. Reject glorious summer.

Old BS (belief systems).

Am I willing to let go of them? Am I willing to allow new ways of thinking to come in and take hold? Am I willing to surrender my old ideas? Yes, yes and yes.

Back at home I have a photograph of Swami Sivananda in the meditation room. He is smiling serenely with the look of pure love on his face. The embodiment of cheerfulness. The True Nature of Happiness. I’m practicing it right now, Swami S. See me?

Inspiring Message of the Day: I am willing to practice cheerfulness despite my disturbed mind. I will remember the Great Teachers who have come before me to show me that my True Nature is Bliss Divine.

Post 611

Dearest Readers,

In yesterday’s post I wrote about having a grieving session for all the pain and sorrow in the world. Last night, a woman I’ve come to know over the course of this last week on the ashram gave me the gift of one her hand-painted cards as a token of our new friendship. The card depicted the image of Guan Yin.

On the back of the card it reads:

“Chinese Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. Her name means ‘She who bears the weeping of the world.’ She takes away our anguish, our sorrow, and our pain. She watches over the children of the earth and answers our prayers.”

When I was crying so deeply the other day I was experiencing the strangest sensation of bearing the weeping of those who could not weep. By doing so I felt as though I was somehow helping to take away their anguish.

Now I am in no way suggesting that I am Guan Yin but perhaps I was channeling her Energy. When my friend handed me that card it certainly felt like something Greater than a simple Celia sob session had taken place.

The ashram is like that. Things happen  to make you go “hmmm” all the time. The Yogis would say, “Of course.” The Vibrations are very high here. Makes sense.

Does it make sense to think that there is a Chinese goddess watching over us and answering our prayers? Perhaps not. But who needs sense when you have Guanyin on your side?

Inspiring Message of the Day: When we allow ourselves to experience real grief we are allowing a Greater Power to work through us. Often, this Truth will be revealed in the aftermath through a coincidence. I will allow these moments of Mystery and Connection to deepen my trust in Higher Guidance.

Pass It On

Dearest Readers,

My time on the ashram is fast (slowly) coming to a close. I will lead the final Cultivate Your Courage workshop this afternoon and once again, it has been a powerful experience for all who participated.

One of the things that never ceases to amaze me when I lead this course is how many of us are living with fear, how much it controls our lives, and how desperately we need the support of others to walk through it.

Yesterday I had to have a private grieving session for all the pain I have encountered in the last little while. There are so many broken people in the world. Some of us find a way out and begin to walk the Healing Path. Some of us do not. Releasing tears remains one of my favorite ways to accept this Truth and then let it go.

Whenever the negative voice in my head says, “By what authority do you dare to lead this kind of workshop?” the Higher Voice (thank goodness) always answers, “By Divine Authority.”

The world needs Wounded Healers. We’ve been there and we’re walking through our fear one breath at a time. It’s my honour to support you all on this Journey.

So the sign on my door now says, “Celia McBride, D.A.”

Inspiring Message of the Day: My own wounds and fears are my greatest treasure today because they have given me real experience to share with others. I will participate in my own Healing knowing it will benefit others seeking the same Path.

Grace Full

Dearest Readers,

These posts of late have been short and (hopefully) sweet because I’m writing them on an iPhone and because my days here on the ashram, though relaxed, are quite full. But if I had a little more time I could tell you some pretty amazing stories.

They’ll have to wait.

For now, I’ll share with you my thoughts on the topic of Grace, which was the subject of last night’s study discussion.

We were told that Grace is an unmerited gift. One does not have to do anything to receive Grace. Grace is everywhere. Grace is always present. Grace is all there is. Grace is, in fact, the true definition of God. So Grace simply Is.

Though we can better receive Grace by becoming fit vessels (through prayer, meditation, right eating, right living etc.) the Nature of Grace is such that one does not have to be a fit vessel to receive It. Grace does not discriminate.

Because Grace is all there is, the unfit vessel is always receiving Grace just as the fit vessel is also. However, in order to better experience Grace, one must become open and willing.

With these qualities the individual will come to know Grace intimately and the Gift will have true meaning.

If I had a million years I couldn’t tell you of the Grace I am now experiencing. Well, maybe I could. With a laptop.

Inspiring Message of the Day: My desire is to know Grace. Because this Gift is mine by birthright I will accept its offer by being open and willing to receive it.

We Shall Receive

Dearest Readers,

One of the challenges I have faced in the past is learning how to receive. Coming to believe that I deserve a gift has been a process which has involved a great deal of healing work.

It has paid off.

Yesterday a woman on the ashram who has been attending the Inspiring Sessions I’ve been leading offered me a free Reiki session with her. She is a healer and invited me to receive her gift in thanks for the healing work I’ve been doing throughout the week.

While in the session, I began to think of how I could pay her back. I could offer her a free Inspiring Coaching session!  But something stopped me. What if I didn’t have to do anything to pay her back? What if I could just accept her gift unconditionally? What then? Then I would be affirming that I am worthy of the gift of healing.

When the session was over I said nothing but thank you.

Inspiring Message of the Day: The open heart receives. Today I will allow myself to receive a gift that is offered to me and I will give nothing but my word of thanks in return.

Don’t Get It

Dearest Readers,

This morning I attended a Puja in one of the temples here on the ashram. A puja is a ceremony that involves worshipping the deities of the Hindu faith. The altar is cleansed and purified, the statues of the deities are washed with milk and water, chanting and prayers are sung and spoken and then the statues are dressed in fancy cloth and prayer beads are hung around their necks.

As fascinating as this ritual is I have found it rather strange and difficult to understand. But an open mind is the aspirant’s best friend and so I have done my best not to judge.

At this point in time, without having done the real homework (asking someone to explain it to me), I have deduced that the real meaning of the Puja lies in the action of the thing. By spending this kind of devoted time in worship the aspirant is not only expressing her thanks but she is also given an opportunity to experience Oneness with her Creator.

As I began to let go of my judgment I started to appreciate the patience and focus the ritual required. I was then invited up to the altar to participate in the ceremony. As I assisted the monk in the washing of Lakshmi I felt strangely honoured to be a part of this service.

When I returned to the meditation cushion where I had been sitting my heart felt full and I was moved to tears. Why? What had taken place?

Maybe it’s best not to try and figure it out. When I do that I tend to miss the point.

Inspiring Message of the Day: I do not need to understand everything. Sometimes when I just let things happen the understanding comes all by itself.