What If?

What if our religion was each other?
If our practice was our life?
If prayer was our words?
What if the Temple was the Earth?
If forests were our church?
If holy water – the rivers, lakes and ocean?
What if meditation was our relationships?
If the Teacher was Life?
If wisdom was self-knowledge?
If love was the center of our being?
~ Ganga White

New addition to my Favorite Quotes page.

Thanks to David Baker for sharing on Facebook. Yes. These are the questions to be asked.

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Note to self: remember this next time I get sick of myself

There’s nothing like it.

My mind can be going 1,000 miles per hour, worrying life like a dog worries a bone, oh so busy “figuring things out.” Making Plans A and B, sometimes C and D. Analyzing. Focusing on what is wrong: I should be making more money, should spend more time Continue reading

If you could experience enlightenment every day, would you?

Note: There are just a few spaces left in this workshop, which is limited to 30 people.

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I am going to be attending a workshop September 28-29 in Austin, and I’d love for it to fill up. This workshop is for people who are interested in enlightenment (or maybe just deeper well-being), Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), or both. No NLP experience is required.

Connirae AndreasThe teacher is Connirae Andreas. She’s got her own Wikipedia page here. If you haven’t heard of her, she’s a psychotherapist, writer, and trainer in the field of NLP whose impeccable and compassionate work has helped many thousands of people suffer less and enjoy life more.

She and her sister Tamara Andreas created, developed, and trained people in a process called Core Transformation (described in the book Core Transformation: Reaching the Wellspring Within) that can take you from a problem state to a state of expansion and resourcefulness. Many experience their spiritual core in this process.

I’ve enjoyed taking people through this process so much, I offer it for free. Contact me if you would like a Core Transformation session in Austin.  

Connirae has been working on a process for personal growth that she calls “the Wholeness Process,” after studying various spiritual teachings on enlightenment, translating them into a precise method that people can adopt into a daily practice, and then working weekly with a small group in Boulder (her hometown) to refine the method.

She’s presenting the workshop to teach this practice in Austin September 28-29. Click the link for details. Keep in mind that the class is limited to 30 people, so if you’re interested, reserve your space sooner than later. She may not be teaching this again, so this is an opportunity to learn in person from the source.

The practice reportedly has benefits such as:

  • resetting the stressed nervous system, inducing deep relaxation
  • increasing one’s sense of well-being
  • helping one relate to others with more ease
  • melting away issues that before seemed like problems
  • accessing natural wisdom more easily
  • increasing creativity
  • feeling more whole and congruent
  • healing difficult, raw emotions
  • becoming more adaptable and resilient

She’s also learned that the practice has been found to relieve insomnia. It can also be used to dissipate pre-migraine auras and help people deal with their emotional hot buttons.

She found that once learned, the practice can take as little as 5 minutes a day.

Connirae wisely doesn’t promise enlightenment, but she does say this:

…if you use the process, you will experience a natural shifting in the direction that we might call enlightenment. The class is practical and experiential, and no beliefs regarding spirituality or philosophy are needed or offered. However the experiences people have at times resonate with many mystical writings and understandings.

Part of “evolving” in this way, is getting more comfortable and “at home” with our vulnerabilities and “weaknesses,” which become increasingly a part of a felt love and acceptance.

I hope to see you there.

How to live a more satisfying life

The best first step towards changing the way things are is to fully accept the way things are.

Michael Giles has written a book called Action of Mind: Essential Steps Toward a Satisfying Life. Neatly divided into three sections — Open Mind, Focused Mind, and Big Mind — the book offers chapters on topics like intent, stillness, setting and achieving satisfying goals, the unknown, and your purpose.

He acknowledges that reading the middle section (Focused Mind) will help readers understand better how to achieve specific goals they’ve set for themselves, yet he recommends reading the first section (Open Mind) first to get better results by being grounded in the present moment. The third section asks hard questions and deals with some of life’s difficult-to-accept realities.

I’ve known Michael for the past several years. I met him through NLP. Michael is a master practitioner of NLP and a hypnotist (a term he prefers over hypnotherapist) and coach for the last 13 years. Now he’s a working graduate student in the field of social work, an active member of the Texas National Guard, and father of Reyna, with another child on the way. He’s worked hard on creating his own satisfying life, and in this book, he shares his wisdom.

I’ve known Michael also as a long-time practitioner of martial arts. Michael started studying karate at age 12 and holds multiple black belts. Familiar with the Taoism and Buddhism, he  practices and teaches tai chi. These practices, and meditation, have greatly influenced Michael’s perceptiveness, intelligence, and response-ability, which show up in his book.

Michael draws on NLP, hypnosis, martial arts, his own personal history, and story-telling to share his insights and exercises for living a more satisfying life. Here are some excerpts from his book, little nuggets that hint at the wisdom that follows, written in a style that suggests a coach talking directly to a client:

Nothing will guide you as wisely and creatively as your shadow. Your deepest feelings of hurt, fear, or doubt can serve you when you sit with them.

Visualization can be a very helpful element of hypnosis, self-development, or just getting over that threshold into the success that you want. In my experience, it is good to see yourself doing what you want to do and being what you want to be. I have found that affirmations are most helpful for receiving and achieving while visualization is most helpful in the doing and the being.

Whenever a problem is solved, it is because we have received a gift from the unknown. A more prosaic way of stating this is that solutions are pieces of information that we were ignorant of until we found them. If we know the solution to a problem already, then the problem is not really a problem. It is only a problem while we do not know the solution. It travels from the category of “unknown” to the category of “known.” Therefore, the unknown is the source of all our problem solving, positive change, and personal evolution.

Michael has done a great job of communicating his insights and teaching readers about something that really matters to all of us, living a life that is satisfying.

Each moment, life as it is, the only teacher: quotes from Joko Beck

I posted this originally on June 16, 2011. Needing to remind myself of her wisdom, I thought you might want to (re)read her words and appreciate her wisdom too.

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Charlotte Joko Beck died yesterday, very peacefully, at the age of 94. She was a Zen teacher who made a major impact on American Buddhism.

Here’s a quote from article that puts her work into perspective (no longer available):

The Ordinary Mind School was among the first Zen communities to consciously engage the emotional life and the shadows of the human mind as Zen practice. The late Charlotte Joko Beck and her dharma heirs adapted elements of the vipassana tradition — a relentless inquiry into the contours of the human mind — as unambiguous Zen discipline.

Here are some quotes from her:

With unfailing kindness, your life always presents what you need to learn. Whether you stay home or work in an office or whatever, the next teacher is going to pop right up.

Caught in the self-centered dream, only suffering;
holding to self-centered thoughts, exactly the dream;
each moment, life as it is, the only teacher;
being just this moment, compassion’s way.

Enlightenment is not something you achieve. It is the absence of something. All your life you have been going forward after something, pursuing some goal. Enlightenment is dropping all that.

Wisdom is to see that there is nothing to search for. If you live with a difficult person, that’s nirvana. Perfect. If you’re miserable, that’s it. And I’m not saying to be passive, not to take action; then you would be trying to hold nirvana as a fixed state. It’s never fixed, but always changing. There is no implication of ‘doing nothing.’ But deeds done that are born of this understanding are free of anger and judgment. No expectation, just pure and compassionate action.

Practice is just hearing, just seeing, just feeling. This is what Christians call the face of God: simply taking in this world as it manifests. We feel our body; we hear the cars and birds. That’s all there is.

Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru.

So a relationship is a great gift, not because it makes us happy — it often doesn’t — but because any intimate relationship, if we view it as practice, is the clearest mirror we can find.

Practice can be stated very simply. It is moving from a life of hurting myself and others to a life of not hurting myself and others. That seems so simple — except when we substitute for real practice some idea that we should be different or better than we are, or that our lives should be different from the way they are. When we substitute our ideas about what should be (such notions as “I should not be angry or confused or unwilling”) for our life as it truly is, then we’re off base and our practice is barren.

We have to face the pain we have been running from. In fact, we need to learn to rest in it and let its searing power transform us.

We learn in our guts, not just in our brain, that a life of joy is not in seeking happiness, but in experiencing and simply being the circumstances of our life as they are; not in fulfilling personal wants, but in fulfilling the needs of life.

Meditation is not about some state, it is about the meditator.

Zen practice isn’t about a special place or a special peace, or something other than being with our life just as it is. It’s one of the hardest things for people to get: that my very difficulties in this very moment are the perfection… When we are attached to the way we think we should be or the way we think anyone else should be, we can have very little appreciation of life as it is…whether or not we commit physical suicide, if our attachment to our dream remains unquestioned and untouched, we are killing ourselves, because our true life goes by almost unnoticed.

Waking up quote

“Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.” ~ Alan Watts

“The 5 rhythms are a contemporary shamanic Zen practice” ~ Gabrielle Roth

Okay, so science has recently showed us that dancers have genes for transcendence and social connection. (And if you don’t dance, maybe you have these genes too and don’t know it yet. And consider this: if stress turns on the bad genes, maybe the opposite of stress — joy? contentment? — turns on the good genes! Just sayin’….)

In this interview, Gabrielle Roth explains the connection between ecstatic dance, Zen, and shamanic practices.

The 5Rhythms are a contemporary Zen, Shamanic practice. Zen, in that they are a map to an inner journey for seekers of wisdom and freedom, the wisdom to know who we are and the freedom to get over ourselves. Shamanic, in that they address the Great Divide, the divorce of spirit from flesh that has created the loss of soul, which haunts us. We’ve rendered the soul homeless, it can’t breathe, exist, or move disconnected from the body. The body is the womb of the soul, a begging bowl for spirit, like Aretha when she sings….

The fastest way to still the mind is to move the body. All the profound spiritual teachings in this world don’t mean anything if they’re not embodied. Feeling totally high and connected to the divine mystery while sitting on a meditation pillow is fine, but how do we put the rubber to the road? As Charlie Parker said, If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn. So I take refuge in the 5Rhythms practice to keep my horn in tune.

There are videos of Gabrielle as well on the site. Check ’em out!

The questions of the heart; seeking the sound of a normal heartbeat

I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.

Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now.

Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

I have a friend who just had a second surgery on his heart in two weeks. His heartbeat has not had a regular rhythm for some time now.

I’m searching the internet for a sound file or an iPhone application that is just simply the sound of a normal heartbeat. The longer the better, and if he can loop it to listen to all night with headphones as he sleeps, fantastic.

At a minimum, it will be soothing, because if you can imagine, heart surgery is a pretty nerve-wracking big deal, especially when the problems aren’t fixed the first time.

At best, listening to the sounds could entrain his heart into a normal rhythm, which he did experience briefly after the first surgery.

If you know of anything, please comment or email me. Thank you.

Meanwhile, remember that besides the brain in your head (headquarters for the nervous system that runs throughout your entire body), you also have two other centers of intelligence: your heart and your gut.

I believe Rilke is onto something about the intelligence of the heart.

I have learned to sit with the questions in my heart and let them transform me, and I am a much better, broader, deeper person for it. I get perspective on my own fear-driven behaviors. I get insight into the behaviors and possible motivations of others.

I don’t know that I have answers. Perhaps the only answer is to be willing to sit with the feelings that are unresolved and allow them to change, not forcing or judging, just allowing and noticing.

It does seem to me that gradually healing occurs. Gradually forgiveness comes. Gradually lightness replaces heaviness. Gradually clarity replaces confusion. Gradually …

This is another rhythm of the heart.

Please say prayers for Marco. Thanks.

When the teacher is the teaching: Tom Best.

I figure I spent a thousand hours with Tom Best between 2007 and April 21, 2012, three days before his death.

I took NLP practitioner training as a student in Austin. Then evolutionary NLP in Dallas. Nightwalking in Wimberley. NLP master practitioner as a student, Austin. evolutionary NLP in Maui. NLP practitioner as a training assistant, Austin. Nightwalking at Buescher State Park, Smithville. NLP master practitioner as a training assistant, Austin. The Tom Best and Steve Daniel workshop using sound, Austin.

Several times I attended the first weekend and last day of practitioner trainings when I wasn’t a student or training assistant, to see him and Bobbi and my friends who also assisted, and to meet the new students and lend my support, and to re-experience “beginner’s mind” with NLP.

On April 21, I took a day of evolutionary NLP at Alma de Mujer, and he died three days later.

He was my teacher, and he was the teaching, my heart realizes now, after he left.


He was not really my friend, in the sense that we didn’t hang out in our off time and let our hair down together. Outside of teaching, he was a private man, a little shy and reserved, already giving a great deal of himself, a world-traveling teacher seriously devoted to spending his non-teaching time at home with his wife Bobbi and their dogs and cats.

But he was friendly from the start, and I felt love for him and from him.

Who knows how he saw me? I don’t think I can even begin to see myself as he saw me in 2007 or how he saw me on April 21. I can tell you that I changed, that his teachings transformed me, and others witnessed that. Among my long-time friends, I am known for having changed.

I have had many teachers in this lifetime. Many were teachers who did not even know they were my teacher because I read their books or watched them on video. Many many many more didn’t know they were teachers — they said or did something I learned from, sometimes what to move away from, and sometimes what to move toward.

I signed up for in-person lessons and cracked myself wide open to take in Tom Best along with his teachings more than I have to any other teacher, besides my parents, in this lifetime. I poured myself into the NLP pot, and he cooked me.

He was at the front of the room, talking, waving his long fingers around, drawing the VAKOG face, telling the Lake Conchas story and so many more, demonstrating a technique, explaining concepts, giving instructions, telling us to take an 11 minute and 17 second break, then ringing a bell to bring us back together…

When I started pract training, I quickly figured out that the academic learning style (dissociated, conceptual) that I had experienced so much of in school and college (and done well with) was not going to work. This NLP required experiential learning, and the only way to do it was to learn with my whole self — to take it in as much as I could, ask for help when I needed it, and then just do it. And then do it again, better. And again and again and again. And to later, to offer my help.

I can hear Tom’s voice right now, explaining the journey from unconscious incompetence, to conscious incompetence, to conscious competence, to unconscious competence.

I can hear him saying, “There’s no such thing as failure, only feedback.”

He gave us permission and encouragement to put ourselves out there, on the line, and do the techniques imperfectly. Just do it. I learned to accept doing something imperfectly, to forgive myself for being less than perfect, and to recognize that repetition creates mastery (along with tape editing).

I now see that that’s what made him such a great teacher, putting himself out there, on the line, over and over again, for years, around the world. He just got better at it, so that on Saturday, April 21, he almost seemed to consist more of pure energy (the energies of his intent, presence, attention, clarity, and love) than of matter or ego.

Some of my notes from that day:

Intention is of the tonal. It’s about your desired outcome.

Intent requires no thought. It is gratitude, alignment, participation, connection. (It is of the nagual.)

“Intend to align with realization,” I wrote.

That is so him! He was that teaching. See what I mean about him being the teaching?

Learning NLP the NLP way was exhausting. I went home from each day of practitioner training drained, needing to do something that didn’t require thinking, like watch a funny movie or just veg out.

When I assisted, some other students experienced that too.

I realize now that NLP training required my focused attention for hours at a time in a way that not much else had required. In school, I had learned quickly and then stared out the window, lost in my own private thoughts, while others struggled.

In the NLP pract classroom, I was not an A student. I struggled and was lost sometimes, which challenged me to become a training assistant so I could take it again.

Little did I know that I was building attentive stamina. 

Energy flows where attention goes. — Huna wisdom taught by Tom Best

I was also practicing intent, aligning with realization. Gratitude, alignment, participation, connection.

I’m very grateful that I served as a training assistant so I could take pract training again. It was much lighter and less exhausting, and I got even more out of it the second time around. I integrated the concepts and experiences more deeply. I was both student and training assistant for master practitioner too.

I had wanted to assist at each level one more time.

So for a thousand hours, my attention was on him, watching him speak and move, hearing his voice, taking him in with my whole self. His skinny, graceful, long-fingered, elegant, story-telling, teaching, sly, aligned, humble, gracious, personable, receptive, gently challenging, channeling, funny, quirky, fluid, congruent, trance-inducing, masterful, realizing self.

Wisdom is knowing where to put your attention. — Tom Best

I put my attention on you, Tom, over and over again, and it’s like in the grief process where you bring the person into your heart, instead of feeling their absence. You are in here, man. You are so present in my mind and in my heart as I absorb your life and teachings even more and make meaning of it all.

And then you did something a bit surprising and very human. You died. You lived your life well and fully, and then you slipped away, in your sleep, painlessly, quickly, easily.

So I just need to say this one more time, or a thousand more times:

You modeled love, love, love. Mahalo for showing the way.

Thanks to the Facebook group The Grace of Tom Best for all of the photos except the small blue one where he’s seated (that’s mine from April 21).

Being a Five, reading, writing, and what works

Part of my journey as a Five on the Enneagram has had to do with my attitude about information.

As a child, I took to reading like a duck to water. I soon became an indiscriminate reader. Comic books, school books, the classics, storybooks and novels, poems, my parents’ books/magazines/newspapers (they were avid readers too), cereal boxes, food labels, trashy magazines, entire menus, every sign that I encountered, billboards, and so on.

My eyes and my mind were very attracted to the written word. (I wear contact lenses now, but my glasses were as thick as Coke bottles.)

I behaved as if I believed that if I read everything I possibly could, at some point I would understand everything. Life, the universe, my purpose, the answers.

This was an unconscious belief, as so many are.

The irony is that I missed out on some important aspects of living because I had my nose in a book!

On the plus side, I was a very good student in school and have gotten many jobs because I could read and write well. (Being an avid reader is the basis for being a good writer, in my opinion.)

I’ve become more discriminating with age, I’m happy to report. I don’t read everything any more. Whew. That wasn’t a very good strategy, was it?

In fact, these days if I start reading a book and if it is not compelling from the start, I put it aside. Maybe I’ll finish it later, maybe not.

Of course, much reading is simply required — road signs, food labels, homework, text messages, deposit slips.

I’ve become more conscious about why I read. Now it’s more of a choice about what information or inspiration will broaden or deepen my journey. 

The reading I most treasure these days is finding new and useful information, information that makes a difference in people’s quality of life. I guess you could call this kind of information insight or wisdom. 

That kind of reading and discerning gives direction to this blog.

I love discovering what works, and I love to share what I find. When I think of what “the truth” means to me, it’s useful information that works or that serves quality of life. Like how to prevent insomnia or a particularly useful way of phrasing an idea, for example.

I’ve also become more attracted to the questions. More on that to come.

Heck, maybe this is one of those things that you know about me already. If so, please rejoice that I’m becoming more conscious.