Author Archives: Carol Iverson

Be Still

One of the most powerful practices you can learn in your life is to be still — that is, to meditate. You might think, immediately, that sitting around doing nothing couldn’t possibly be powerful. Not so! The ability to meditate rests on the ability to concentrate and concentration is the foundation of any effective human endeavor. Deep concentration, which evolves into meditation, has profound relaxation and transformative benefits for mind, body and spirit. It creates deep relaxation, internal integration and harmony and leads to greater effectiveness in life. It can bring you into entirely new states of consciousness.

There are numerous styles of meditation many of which have, in recent times, sailed west on the waves of migrating eastern gurus. In certain sects of Buddhism the practice is Vipassana meditation, very popular in the U.S. In Yoga Philosophy there is a system called the Eight Limbed Path of Raja Yoga. In Japan the practice is Zen meditation. In Catholicism there is Centering created by Father Thomas Keating and The Interior Castle of mystic St. Teresa of Avila among others. That’s the short list. Most styles or systems of meditation have one thing in common: drawing your attention away from your physical senses and inward to stillness to begin to know and connect with your self/Self; and to create the ability to direct your mental capacity by choice rather than by habit or default.

In a culture that is based on constant distraction through the senses, being still is not easy. Your energy and attention get scattered by the many daily – even hourly –issues that you encounter, the multitude of tasks that you have to accomplish, the never ending ads that make your senses crave everything you never knew you needed, and, maybe worst of all, never ending, repetitive thoughts. Your attention is fragmented like broken glass. You are unable to focus.

So how to meditate? Learn to concentrate, choose a focus point. Concentration is an art, the art of being able to direct your mind. The process is akin to learning to ride a bicycle – you get on, you fall off, you get on, you fall off, you get on, until finally, you don’t fall off anymore. Similarly concentration is intermittent – the focus point comes and goes until, at some subtle point, an unbroken stream of focus, called meditation, finally arises after much practice. This ability to focus is key to success in meditation and any endeavor. Einstein would vouch for that!

Meditation, or uninterrupted concentration, draws all of those scattered energies back into one integrated stream of consciousness that you can then direct at your choice. You too can cultivate genius! The trick is that it requires internal self-direction or discipline, the discipline that mastering any art requires. In this case, the discipline itself is a commitment to steadfastly bring attention back to a focus point. In Yoga Philosophy this practice is called one pointedness; in the bible, “If thine eye be single….” It is the ability to focus so deeply that you go right to the heart and pulse of life.

Draw your energies inward into one location by persistently bringing your attention back to your chosen focus point. As you master this, instead of thoughts and energies being scattered all over creation, you are learning to direct your full flow of attention and are no longer a slave to distractions. In this way you begin to enter the state of meditation. An internal synergy develops that might be compared to drawing water from a reservoir and sending it through a hose. The process of constantly returning to your focus point ultimately gives you complete control of where you direct your attention and your effectiveness in using it.

Get into a comfortable sitting position but don’t slump. Choose a focus point – one that is positive, beneficial, simple and doesn’t automatically lead into story lines but into deeper stillness, peace. That focus point can be your breath, the sensations in your body, a calming word or sound, a prayer, knitting, a piece of calming music, your heart beat, watching your thoughts pass, and sundry other supports that can help you to concentrate, to anchor your attention and direct it. Whenever your mind wanders, patiently bring it back to that focus point. Let go of judgment and expectation. What you need to attain the multitude of benefits of meditation is patience and an unwavering commitment to stay the course. Practice every day!

Which Way?

How do we navigate our lives? Which guiding stars do we use? In a lucid expression of insight, Renny Sherrow has clearly articulated the essence of two of the most profound dynamics of life – love and fear. She describes the substance of each, how to discern which state you are acting from and the probable consequences. Her wisdom grows from deep contemplation and syntheses of her own both joyous and painful experiences and the works of Gary Zukov. She encapsulates those penetrating understandings below.

“Energy from the perspective of your soul is very different than energy from the perspective of your five senses. Spiritual growth requires understanding the differences between these two perspectives.

From the perspective of the five senses, energy is the ability to do work, to get things done. The more energy you have, the more things you can accomplish. The important questions from this perspective are: How much energy do you have? Are you getting enough sleep? Worrying too much? Do you need more vitamins? Are your mitochondria healthy? People who worry about these things go to physicians, nutritionists and psychologists to get more energy. They don’t want to be sleepy or tired. The problem is physical or psychological. The cure is medicine or psychotherapy.

From the perspective of your soul, the important question is not how much energy you have, but what kind of energy you have. There are only two kinds of energy. Of course, anger, jealousy, resentment, stress, cravings, addictions and compulsions feel like different energies. Each creates its own kind of physical sensations in your body (they hurt) and acting on each creates a particular kind of consequence (destructive and painful). They appear to be different energies, but they are actually different experiences of one kind of energy: fear.

The other kind of energy is love. Different experiences of love can also feel like different energies, for example, appreciation, gratitude, patience, awe of Life and contentment. Each of these also comes with its own physical sensations in your body (they feel good) and acting on each creates a particular kind of consequence (health and joyfulness). So, even though these experiences feel like different energies, they are actually different experiences of one kind of energy: love.

Now the story becomes even more interesting. Some experiences of fear can appear to be experiences of love. For example, romantic love. You long for someone (painful), try to influence this person (painful) and, at last, attract him or her into your life (feels wonderful), but intense pain follows immediately when he or she leaves, dies or falls in love with someone else. The entire drama is created by fear appearing to you as love. This drama is painful and destructive because none of it is love. Love cannot produce pain or destruction.

There are many examples of fear appearing as love. Chaplains, clergy, hospice workers, medical-care professionals and numerous others may appear to be loving, and yet not act consistently from love. Some may act in order to feel better about themselves—to create a desirable self-image, for example, as a caring, patient, philanthropic or altruistic person. When their efforts are not appreciated or are rejected, they feel disappointed (pain), unappreciated (pain) or abused (pain), then resentment (pain) grows until it becomes anger (pain).

When the bottom-line, bedrock, can’t-go-any-deeper reason for an action is to benefit another, the energy beneath your action is love. When the bottom-line, bedrock, can’t-go-any-deeper reason for action is to benefit yourself, the energy beneath your action is fear. Only you can know your real intention, and you may not know it unless you have the courage and commitment to look for it and find it.

There is more energy in love than in fear. You might say it is the highest-octane fuel available. Not love for this person or that person—love for everyone; Love is tireless, healing and inexhaustible. It brings people together. It is powerful beyond measure. It is the Great Compassion that Buddhists speak about. It is the “love that surpasses all understanding” that Christians talk about.

Have you thought about energy this way? Have you ever looked at the things you do and say and asked yourself, “Am I doing this from love, or am I doing this from fear?” This is the most important question you can ask yourself because it brings you to the most important choice you can make: the choice between love an fear. Not only is this choice possible, it is the choice you were born to make each moment. Choosing to act with love no matter what is happening inside you (such as painful experiences of fear) and around you (such as a national or international crisis) is creating authentic power. Creating authentic power depends on your choice. Choosing fear almost always happens unconsciously. Choosing love always happens consciously.

What is your energy of choice?”

You can reach Renny at: renny@rennysherrow.com

Dreamtime

Up earlier than dawn on a cool, crisp Autumn morning, I quickly pull on my breeches and a long sleeved ‘T’, eagerly anticipating a ride into the richness of another morning. I can hear Morgan whinnying in the barn — music to my ears. She knows I’m on my way. Always, at my first sighting of her, I feel a thrill at her beauty. Dark brown coat with a striking black mane and tail, well-toned muscles rippling at her slightest move, head held high, she is a perfect portrait of magnificence.

My first task is to brush her velvety smooth coat. It’s a way of silent connection and conversation between us. Morgan’s soft, brown eyes emanate kindness – unless, or course, someone takes her by surprise. Then the iris periscopes in and her look might start you thinking that it’s time to leave and quickly. We’ve been buddies for a quite a stretch of time and long ago I made the decision that I would set her free from harness and collar and ride bareback.

We exit the smell of hay in the stalwart old barn and start slowly down a steep, rocky hill to the forest path. A multi-colored collage of autumn leaves covers the trail and muffles the sound of rhythmic hooves. The smell of sweet earth rises as the day begins to warm and time dissolves into mist. As we trot along in silence, my body begins to respond synchronously with Morgan’s movements. I become conscious of a symphony of birdsong, of the silent rhythms of the forest surrounding us and of the wind whispering through the leaves. Everything in the forest seems to respond to our movement with song and sound at surprisingly appropriate and syncopated moments.

A horse is an amazing creature. Discipline along with freedom brings out their magnificence and their loyalty. I give her boundaries but don’t imprison her spirit. In such an environment, her unique and complex character has space to unfold at the same time that she learns to be responsive and dependable. That’s the reason I threw out her harness. It’s a sign of gut level cooperation between us. She is a faithful friend now, willing and happy to be a partner in any enterprise whether it be work or play.

We exit the forest into a softly rolling, flowered meadow. A sense of exhilaration begins the flow of adrenalin and Morgan’s pace quickens. I feel a cool river of wind flow over us as I braid my hands into her mane. I’m hunkered down on her back, legs gripping her sides, as if I were part of her skin and feel thrilled with the sense of both of us, now as one, flying effortlessly through the air. We rise together. Like Shamans riding the flying horse, Pegasus, Morgan and I enter into the mystery of worlds beyond worlds. I know where that myth comes from. I live it every morning.

Pet Rocks

A Psychic once suggested to me that I get my hands on a Shiva lingam — that it could change my life. I had never heard of a Shiva lingam so I researched. A lingam is a symbol and represents, among other things, the Hindu god Shiva, divine generative energy, the human subtle body and can be a catalyst for greater intuition and a Kundalini awakening. Dr. David Frawley, internationally acclaimed Yoga scholar and author says, “The Shiva linga represents the ascending energy of consciousness and life in nature.” It all sounded interesting so I went on a lingam search.

Apparently lingams can be a variety of different objects including columnar or oval stones or crystals. As a result of my search, I now have two ovoid stones. The first one I found was as smooth as a river stone, brown with gray, and gently piqued my interest. The second, a lapis lazuli, blindsided me with its beauty. Like trying on shoes, I enclosed each one into my fists. Each fit wonderfully snug into the palms of my hands. One felt like an egg, the other a sacred temple. Unexpectedly, the second felt alive – it really grabbed me. I’m told it might be a ‘talking’ stone. Who knew? The stones live with me now and insist that they belong there in my palms … as natural a part of me as my hands. They comfort me. I guess you could call them my ‘pet rocks.’

Stones can contain a lot of power and these two do! I hold the stones, one in each hand, each with the same shape and of comparable size. Although they are both similar, each has a clear-cut and potent affect on my hand and my gut. Travelling from my hand to my gut, I feel the laser like energy of a profound attraction or calling coming from deep within the center of the lapis stone. A far stronger calling than a piece of chocolate cake. I don’t know how this is happening but I can hardly resist this calling. I want to swallow the stone so I can own that power and it will radiate from within me. Quite an unexpected effect!

The lapis lazuli, my temple stone, is the deep dark blue of the sky just before night falls. Lapis has a reputation for conferring truth, enlightenment, intuition and inner peace. The mysterious, magnetic blue draws me to a part of my own being where mystic feelings reside in the mystery of silence and the upwelling energies of prayer. A sense of serenity pervades.

The other stone, which I think of as my river stone, is a warm earth brown holding soft, mellow energy with a shadowy subtle gray figure emerging — a happy Mexican spirit, a dancing figure with a sombrero. It reminds me of a carefree life in some unknown Paradise. I want to bask in it. I look at it and imagine sitting on the banks of a cool bubbling brook, my feet dangling in the healing waters of Mother Earth on a balmy, sunny day, just as the trees and flowers in Spring are beginning to blossom. All this from a rock? Hmmm…

Each of these stones is encircled with an oval ring. How curious! Does it mean anything? I don’t know. The Temple stone is ringed with a thin line of sparkling flecked gold, which enhances the splashes of blue-gray that live throughout its dark blue ocean of mystery. Within that ring emerges a vague figure resembling a whale ascending from the deepest ocean. The Mexican stone also has an oval ring, this one of gray that frames the arising, dancing Mexican. Perhaps the figures indicate the emergent Spirits of each stone and describe their essence, a certain vitality of consciousness. I begin to imagine that stones might be home to myriad creatures — angels, elves, owls, sleeping prophets. A cornucopia of beings emerging to talk with and advise me.

Everything on earth is an energy system. Every material and non-material item has an energetic frequency. Stones do, electricity does. Some have chaotic energies, others coherent. Some are higher frequency and obviously alive. Others are lower and appear dead. But everything has intelligence and is alive. Stones are very alive even though they appear to be inert. Whether we are aware of it or not, each human system is affected by the frequencies of other energy systems. As someone once said, when a butterfly flutters its wings, the whole world is affected. A Shiva lingam could change your life.

The Body Speaks

The living, incarnate human body is a plastic, elastic, radical verb. Every minuscule movement, every cellular activity and pulsation, every muscle twinge is an expression, a physical articulation that conveys the meaning of you to anyone who is awake and aware. It is a neon sign flashing the unspoken, the covert, to the world.

The movements and expressions of the body transmit a silent language. “A University of Pennsylvania study reported that the majority of communication is transmitted non-verbally. 70% of communication is body language, 23% is voice tone and inflection, and only 7% is your spoken words!” (http://www.marquette.edu/hr/documents/the-art-of-communication.pdf). Imagine that, words hardly matter.

Every cell of your physical form gives data. In Oriental diagnosis, a good practitioner can tell you the state of your emotions and internal organs by the signs they see and feel in your body. That paradigm describes how the functions of each organ organize the various aspects of your physical, mental and psychological being. Author Alex Jack describes in, Profiles in Oriental Diagnosis,” how Leonardo da Vinci, who rarely finished his works of art, was diagnosed with digestive issues because he constantly emphasized the first, or pointer finger, in his paintings.

Digestion is about seeing things to completion. The pointer finger is the point where the colon meridian – a meridian being a river of functional energy — transforms or comes to an end. This piece of information clued researchers to understand that da Vinci’s digestive issues are what prevented him from ever completing his works of art. “Pains, aches, unusual motion, or other abnormal problems or movements associated with this finger are a sign of developing weakness of the intestines.” Body language – so much info in the tip of a finger!

The body always speaks from the present as the flesh and bones of your physical being register the steady stream of on-the-scene senses, feelings and thoughts. That’s the radicalness of it. It’s all genuine, in-the-moment, uncensored information. The body doesn’t lie. Because the feelings and thoughts that manifest in flesh are in the moment, these articulations are more crucial and surely more genuine expressions than words – each of which also contains the meanings of our own personal history.

Can you control your body language? Some people can consciously do that. Actors and actresses have a talent for and are trained to express the most subtle of thoughts and feelings. They consciously manipulate the muscles and motions that manifest and project certain emotions, qualities, characteristics and body shapes. Shapeshifting!

Masters of energy can control their body language in many ways. For instance, by becoming completely still inside, moving past thinking to being, and drawing their energy inward, they can actually seem to disappear. Really every individual controls energy. For example, when you deny your feelings – you mask them. Masking blocks energy. But even that gets recorded as a lack of aliveness consequently giving clues.

When you have time, try this experiment. Watch a movie or TV show with the volume off and see what you notice in the performers’ body language. You might get the whole plot, with additional levels of understanding, without ever hearing a word!

What would happen, if in our every day activities, we spent significant time in silence with each other, simply being present to, and mindful of, the other? We might get to know one another in an authentic, profound, holographic, and comprehensive way. The ramifications are enormous.

Weeds *!*!*

The ever pulsating power of Mother Nature is unrelenting in her glorious lust for life. Her magnificent greenery, so much of which is known by humans as ‘weeds,’ daily increases unremittingly, growing up toward the scorching sun inches, and seemingly, feet, per day; spreading swiftly over acres and acres, smothering out any human efforts to grow our specifically chosen crops.

For hours and hours a day, I drip sweat in sweltering heat, in the butt-up position, blood rushing through my brain, pulling out weeds called lambsquarters, stinging nettle, amaranth, millet, milkweed, purslane, pigsweed, thistle — the list goes on and on — stem by stem by stubbornly ungiving stem I pull. At days end, I crash, exhausted, unable to bend over one more time, looking at a never-ending list of undone chores that are snuffed out by the ever multiplying hordes of invincible weeds. “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower, drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees is my destroyer.” Dylan Thomas knew. I wonder how I will survive this astonishing onslaught of Life?

But comes a pause in the driving beat. I stop and listen. Walk the paths through the rolling, flowered, multi-colored meadows. Flowers of brilliant orange, soft, sunny yellows, cobalt blues, subtle mauves, pure whites: raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, mulberries, elderberries, all proliferate. Leaves of deep green, light green, waxed green, pointed, rounded, crowded, sparse, reaching, receding into the densely packed, raucous communities of an exuberant, exultant Mother Nature. Where the beauty is stunning. Ineffable. And healing.

Trees Have Brains!

The Dakota Indians have a relationship with trees. It is cooperative and responsive. They feel with and understand the trees. Trees are companions on this Earth and they deserve respect. Dorothy Lee writes in Freedom and Culture,

“As I look out of my window now, I see trees, some of which I like to be there, and some of which I intend to cut down to keep them from encroaching further upon the small clearing I made for my house. The Dakota Black Elk Indian, however, saw trees as having rights to the land, equal to his own. He saw them as the ‘standing peoples, in whom the winged ones built their lodges and reared their families.”

In the perspective of Dorothy Lee, trees are objects to be controlled and manipulated, while the Dakota look at trees as ‘people’ that they relate with. They live with trees as treasured beings and treat them with appreciation. They have equal value with humans.

What would cause the Dakotas to give so much status to the trees that they experienced trees as ‘standing peoples.’ They obviously had a concept of and understanding of trees as more than western cultures do. Recent scientific studies substantiate a far greater intelligence capacity for trees and all things green and has provided some mind-boggling information about the green world. Trees have intelligence. They not only have intelligence, they have ‘brains.’ Trees communicate. Based on a scientific analysis of learning and memory, Stephen Buhner comments in Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm that: “In short, plants possess a highly developed root brain which works much as ours does to analyze incoming data and generate sophisticated responses.”

Who knew?! But, Buhner goes on to say that not only do they have a brain, but they also have social networks due to the fact that their brains, or neural networks extend out, sometimes for hundreds of acres, and communicate with all other plants! “…all plants are intelligent (just as are all mammals). They are all self-aware. They all engage in highly interactive social transactions with their communities.”

You are out walking in the woods. You are standing on the brains of an entire community of plant intelligence. They know that you are there. Through vast and intricate underground neural networks, they are communicating with each other about you! What do you know about them?

 

Who We Are

Who we are, the energy we bring to any endeavor is vital to the outcome of that undertaking. I was once sitting on a log in a quiet, shaded area of a city park, just enjoying the day when I noticed that a not fully-grown squirrel was approaching me from the end of the log. I was delighted! But then I had the sudden fear based thought, “What if it has rabies?!” Immediately the squirrel turned and ran away. I hadn’t moved a muscle, made not one sound. The thought took a millisecond to pass but the energy of the thought was enough for the squirrel to pick up and understand.

When you are engaged in something, no matter what, your energy is affecting your entire body and everything around you. Animals are the barometer of the kind of energy you have – the proverbial canary in the coal mine at an energetic level. For the past two years, I have been working with chickens in different capacities. Recently, a small group of them has come entirely under my caretaking. Chickens are fascinating, curious and friendly creatures and I love taking care of them.

My favorite part of the day is in the morning when I open the coop and the birds enthusiastically rush out to greet the day. Although I don’t do anything overt — outside of standing there and watching — that tells them how much I enjoy them, they know. After a few months of this morning ritual, the kingpin rooster, Big Mike, now comes over to give me a personal greeting every morning – a peck on the hand – to let me know that they are glad to see me too. He even ran all the way down the hill the other day to greet me when he saw me coming. Animals are intimately aware of all of the energies around them.

This is true of anything. Your energy affects everything inside and outside of you although you may not be in the least bit conscious of that. Remember this if you are trying to make change in yourself and in the world. Are you approaching change with mindfulness, compassion and empathy for yourself and all concerned, or are you infusing negative energy into whatever endeavor you are undertaking?

Quiet People…

Whoever decided that talking all the time should give one social status or is even intelligent? Quiet people does not equal stupid people! It does not indicate rigor mortis. There are all kinds of reasons why some individual might be quiet: ‘Still waters run deep,’ shy and intelligent, drugs. You’ve probably met many people who fall into this cluster. Some people enjoy listening and it would be quite an unbalanced and chaotic world without them.

Quiet people are not necessarily half-wits or dim wits. There are stupefied, full-of-themselves people who talk continuously until you feel like you’ve been pecked to death by a duck. Then there are people who are so full of life that their discourse bubbles with intelligence and can completely entrance another individual with the vistas of knowledge and experience that the other’s dialogue open for them.

There are people who don’t feel a need or see a reason to interact verbally all the time. They find peace in silence. They find wisdom in silence. They find relationship in silence. They find entire realms of knowledge in silence. They are cautious about who they want to interact and spend time with because of that wisdom. Who are any of us to judge. Understanding another individual is a lifetime process. Each living being, human, animal, plant, rock, water, the Earth itself is a complex and fascinating spark of a divinely ordained creation. Appreciate!

Thinking About…

I’ve been thinking about thinking. What if you could unroll the entire lifetime of your brain, word by word, like a ticker tape? What a shock and an education that might be! What is thinking? How does it happen? Here’s what I came to. Thinking is a way of sculpting and arranging energy — your own individual energy. The process of thinking assembles and organizes the elements of our lives, both conscious and not so conscious elements, into something intelligible.

Thinking happens by virtue of the ‘mind,’ which is composed of thoughts. But what is ‘mind?’ Sally Kempton, author and Meditation instructor says, “…the phenomenon we experience as “mind” is actually a particularly vibrant and subtle kind of energy. An ocean of energy, in fact, in which waves of thoughts and emotions arise and subside.” The mind is a tool that individualizes energy by engaging the process called thinking.

The mind is the most important tool that we have. Think of it as a horse. You can leave a horse out in the field to wander, or you can train a horse so that you can ride it, enter it in races or shows, or do work that you can’t do yourself. Just so, you can train the mind to consciously serve your purposes or allow it to wander endlessly and waste away all of your energies and talents.

What do you spend your time thinking about? Is your mind enthralled constantly by all those pre-taped messages that go through it over and over and over (a form of self-hypnosis) – broken records of past unresolved events, ungrounded fantasies, bland repetition of who knows what? Does that accomplish anything beneficial for you or anyone else? Is that really the process called, “thinking”? Let’s hope not!

You can use the mind in countless ways. Think about it! Some of the synonyms for thinking are reasoning, rationalizing, discerning, intellectualizing. You can ruminate, ponder, reflect, cogitate, meditate, deliberate, muse. Within that framework, thinking can be many things. It can be a response to internal feelings or external stimuli. It can be your way of creating representations of your world and your life – your particular perspective. It can be a way of directing your thoughts to resolve problems, put together information in a way that clarifies and brings deeper understanding. Or you can use the thinking process to create — in the sense of someone having an idea and then thinking through the process of designing a city, house, a rocket, whatever.

How does ‘thinking’ come about? Each of us has impulses towards certain activities; moods or attitudes that come from feelings – feelings of depression, curiosity, anger, love, harmony, discomfort, etc. Each of those impulses or moods draws to it a certain constellation of thoughts and behaviors. Out of that constellation of thoughts, you can take what you want and ride the wave in that particular realm. That wave — for instance, curiosity — can be creative, coherent, expansive, or it can be negative and destructive– ie., depressive thinking.

The power of directing your thoughts is called concentration. Concentration draws all of your energies into one coherent stream — called one-pointedness in Yoga philosophy. In Christian terms, it could be said: “If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light,” lighting the way to greater understanding and action; bringing flow to your life. One-pointedness, singleness of mind, can direct that inner stream of energy into something that is organized and powerful. When you learn to concentrate, you learn to use your energies to your greatest, and possibly everyone else’s, benefit.

Begin the practice of concentration by choosing something that you love to do – learn to knit, do woodworking, dance, research a certain subject, etc. — and put your heart and soul into it even when the going gets rough. In this way you are learning to direct your energies, to be single-minded-one-pointed, and train your thinking processes. You’ve made a decision to choose and use your thoughts instead of letting them use you or wander aimlessly. You’ve trained your horse – the mind – to take you where you want to go. That’s what brings empowerment, satisfaction and a rich, wholesome life.