Nourishing Things: a simple practice for renewing yourself and your world

dreamstime_xs_11337147 bubbles on grass

When I was a child, everything spoke to me. I experienced my world with intense ecstasy, my body and senses absorbing the beauty of the natural world, its scents and sounds, tastes and textures, until they became part of me, streaming in my blood, singing in my bones. I blended with the jungles and mountains that surrounded our vacation home, and with the sea, crows, and sun-seared sky in the big city of Bombay, where I grew up.

Well into my teens, I was in ecstatic, loving relationship with everything around me. The natural world, yes — but also my bed and pencil-box, the statue of Saraswati in our living room, the chairs and couches I curled up in to read, the books I held in my hands, whose pages smelled of trees and ink, the clothes I wore to school.

When life got scary — when my family began to fall apart — the things around me offered comfort and consolation. They reminded me that I was safe, I was loved, I was blessed, and blessing.

Out of my heart-relationship with things, I developed a simple practice that remains part of my everyday life now, more than sixty years later.

Each time I encounter a thing or share a moment with it, I let it know how much I love and appreciate it. And, I feel its love and appreciation flowing back to me.

Each time I care for my body in any way — eat a meal, rub balm into my lips, take a shower, go for a walk — I extend my love and appreciation to whatever I am nourishing myself with. I bless the food, the lip balm, the shower water, the path beneath my feet.

Then, I ask it for its love and blessing. I ask the food to nourish and fill my body with joy and health, with sustenance & replenishment. I ask the shower to fill my body with love, with creative inspiration & delight. I ask the path to bless my body with grounding and support, with safety, beauty, provision.

I soften and let myself receive their love, take in their blessings, as fully as I can. I feel my deep, deep gratitude for them, for the love and tenderness they offer, for the beauty of their being. I feel my cells filling up with their blessings, with these qualities of soul so generously shared by everything in my world.

It only takes a moment, but when you do this with every activity, throughout your day, it changes you. It changes your body, your heart, and your relationship with the world.

Every breath becomes a reminder that you are in loving relationship with the very air you breathe. Every breath is an opportunity and a choice — to be in love, to take in love, to extend love. Each ordinary action of your day becomes a blessing, taking you deeper into relationship, deeper into incarnation.

You are cradled in infinite tenderness

dear one it's safe to grow

Giving & receiving, offering & taking

Today’s gift for your birthday-week gift basket is an e-book: Stories Dance on the Rainbow Bridge.
To download the ebook, click here.

I trust the twelve (true) stories in this collection will serve you in some way.
Each of them first appeared on my blog.

Writing them brought me delight, clarity and comfort.

Dip into them to nourish those qualities you want to cultivate in your heart.

Stories are soul food.
Share them with your beloveds.
Share your own stories, too.

Love, Hiro

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

This week, I had a visit from a dear friend who is in pain because the relationships in her family are fraught with anger and fear.

Power plays and the bitter stench of blame have contracted her heart.

She has a vision of family as sanctuary and support, as a safe haven of love and acceptance.
For much of her life, she has struggled to reconcile this vision with the truth of her relationships with her parents and siblings.

When she arrived at my home this weekend, her neck was buried in her shoulders, her body anxiously alert for any sign of disapproval or rejection.

That stance colors her world bruise-blue.
When she’s feeling not-enough, everything sounds, feels and smells like criticism to her.

She cannot receive love and acceptance, even though she longs for them — even though they are freely given.
She cannot take in simple pleasures — delight in a meal, a friendship, a quiet moment reading in the sun.

Armored against the shame and blame she carries in her body, every offering feels like an assault.
She is afraid to be herself.

She is afraid to take what’s offered because she fears it will hurt her.
She is afraid to receive what’s given because it might destroy her peace.

This isn’t always my friend’s relationship with her world.
She’s a playful, funny, creative woman who delights in art and music.
She dances a wicked salsa; she enjoys a wide circle of friends.

But that fear of disapproval, that jagged chip buried in her heart, makes her both needy and unable to ask for or receive what she needs.
It shrivels her self-confidence.
The ground under her feet feels unreliable.

We’ve all been there.
In that place of shame, we lose our discernment–
the clarity with which we know what serves us and what doesn’t.

What to say Yes to — those offerings that truly nourish our hearts.
What to say No to — gifts that diminish us into a truncated version of ourselves.

It isn’t always easy to tell the difference.
Not when your own pain distorts or inflames your vision.

Truth doesn’t come bearing dessert and roses.
It is more muscular — more nourishing.

We are interdependent beings.
Communion — deep truth, deep love, deep connection — is our sacrament.

Giving and receiving are the threads in which the pattern of our relationships is woven–
the silk of offering, the gold of taking.

To know how to choose, and what, and when
to give, to receive — freely and fully
to offer without demand, to take without shame or obligation–

this is the wholeness we seek.
This is the wholeness we are.

The Birthday Week Giveaway # 1: Finger Painting – A Handful of Poems

To celebrate my birthday, I am offering a series of gifts on my blog this week.

Each one has been created with love, to remind you that you are a miracle.
That your business is a miracle too.
That you and the world belong together.
That you are a joyful blessing, and so very blessed.

Todays gift is a mini-ebook of five of my poems, titled Finger Painting: A Handful of Poems.

Click this link to download.

Save it to your computer, download it onto your e-reader, print a copy.

Share it freely with the people you love.

Love to you, and happy, happy birthday to all your creations!

Hiro

Notes from a velvet womb: In praise of rest

A little less than a month ago, I moved to my new home, which is lovely, and perfect for what I want to do in my life and my business right now.

The move happened easily–I had lots of help. Professional packers and movers did the heavy lifting.

And everywhere I look, I am surrounded by the love and labor of my son and my friends, who helped me unpack; who moved things around until they found their rightful place here.

It wasn’t until the last cushion rested gently in the crook of the last armchair that my body decided enough was enough. It let me know very clearly that there was no more labor to be had, no more juice to be squeezed from it.

For me, this translates as a deep fatigue-of body, mind and heart. I can’t think. Or write. Or do anything except stop. Enter into the womb of holy rest.

So I did what I always do, when I arrive at the borderlands of Depletion.

Through the magic of synchronicity, I had just two things I absolutely had to do this week.

So I booked the week off. Canceled all plans. Checked to make sure there was plenty of good, nourishing food in the house.

Then, I turned off the ringer on the phone. Turned up the heat in the fireplace. Snuggled into my favorite, silky blanket on the couch in the family room.

And watched movies. And ate. And napped.

I went to bed at eight each night, and read for a while before falling asleep. I woke early, as always, and stayed in bed until I was truly ready to be up.

The first couple of days, I felt emptied out-a shell whose occupant had moved away, leaving its fragile husk to the vagaries of sun and wind.

The first couple of days, I went for my usual morning walk. But my heart didn’t stutter with joy when the sun splashed its radiance on yellow forsythia, on creamy magnolia blossoms quivering in the wind.

So for the next couple of days, I surrendered entirely to my need to live in Flatland, to be horizontal rather than vertical.

Sleep. Eat. Read a little. Watch movies. Nap. Early to bed.

Slowly, the Devas returned. Or, I returned to the Wholeness which they never leave.

The Deva of Love, the Deva of Compassion.

Of Rest. Safety. Home. Belonging.

Surrender. Innocence. Faith.

Forgiveness.

Slowly, the empty shell of my body began filling with their presence, and with mine.

I’m not there yet.

Yesterday, I ventured out for a walk in my neighborhood. And my heart lifted in delight as the air around me shimmered with birdsong, crackled with the screeching of gulls.

The sweet breath of Spring on my cheek. The flush of early morning sunshine on my neck. O, this beautiful , beautiful world!

I had lunch with an old friend at my favorite restaurant downtown. And suddenly, I was exhausted again–a tired child who wanted nothing more than to lay my head down on my pillow and sleep.

So I’m still on mini-sabbatical. For as long as it takes. Or, until I teach my next class on Monday.

When I surrender to the sweetness of rest, it fills me. It nourishes my heart, restores my spirit, soothes my body, relaxes my mind. It restores me to myself.

This spaciousness, which meets me with such love, which requires nothing of me other than my own well-being, is deeply healing.

And the Deva of my business assures me that all is well-that my business is sturdy enough to do without me for a while. That my wonderful Alexandra has things in hand. That the systems and structures I’ve created cradle and hold my business while I sink into sacred rest.

One thing I know for sure: When I surrender to the flow, it carries me when I need to be carried. It carries my business too.

Eventually, this shell will fill up with all that I need. My body will be my sacred home again.

The time to act will come on the current of Divine Flow.

Until then, it’s time to be.

How about you? What do you need most, right now? How do you meet your own need?

Closing the Circle

My 95-year-old aunt died last night, peacefully, in my sister’s home, where she had lived these past few years. She was my mother’s older sister, and the last remaining member of her generation of our family.

She was also the mother that my own mother wasn’t able to be, for my sisters and me.

She was my first model of a truly sovereign woman. She took exquisite care of herself, and of the many people in her life whom she loved.

By any measure, she had a wonderfully successful career. One that didn’t make her rich, but that provided her with a life both independent and comfortable. And that offered daily opportunities to help people grow, learn and become themselves.

She never married, but she mothered thousands of children and young people in the boarding school she founded in the wilds of Western India when she was 21 years old and fresh out of university with a brand-new MEd degree.

She grew up in pre-Independence India, a woman–in many ways–visionary and at least a generation ahead of her time. She was cultured, a historian and lover of literature who read widely, and then traveled widely in her later years.

In a photo of her, taken when she was just 20 years old, she is beautiful–her warrior spirit evident in the fearless way she faced the camera, head-on, unsmiling, her brown eyes determined and bright with dreams.

We called her the Little General. She was less than five feet tall, and fierce, and funny, and very, very intelligent.

She loved gardening, beauty, and nature. She listened to music at deafening volumes, shattering the early morning silence with devotional music loud enough to wake the entire mountain village where she lived and worked.

Full of curiosity about the world around her, she was of the generation who believed in doing the right thing without making a fuss about it. She cared for her parents until they died, then for both of her sisters as well. And for various nephews and nieces, kids whose parents were in trouble, or who were trouble for their parents.

She did all this without a whiff of martyrdom or resentment.

She was demanding, impatient, imperious, and dictatorial. And she kept a stash of candy and goodies for the littlest ones-the kindergarten kids-who would flock into her room after school each afternoon for a snack, a hug and a visit. They adored her. So did my sisters and I.

She left the world more radiant for her passage through it.

I will miss her.

Her gifts to me were many–chief among them, the model of a life well-lived. A life in which caring for others was a natural extension of caring for herself.

Her giving flowed from a full, creative heart and an unwavering sense of inner freedom.

I wish this for all of us.

Fee-ee-lings

dreamstime_xs_27951716 feelings
May has been a month of slippery emotions. For me, and for so many of my clients. Like spring weather: sunny one moment, then sudden thundershowers. Or hail. Sleet. Wind. More sunshine!

Confusing? Sometimes.

Yet learning to dress for emotional weather is an essential skill, both for understanding our selves and for being in right relationship with the world around us.

So why does it sometimes feel like you’re slogging through a rain forest without an umbrella? Why do we spend so much time obsessing about feelings, resisting them, or drowning in them?

Feelings are the language of your body. This is how your body tells you about how it experiences situations in your life, how it responds to the places and people you encounter, the choices you make. Feelings keep you connected with your body, when you listen to them, when you let yourself experience them fully.

All feelings are energy. Energy is vibration–in its natural state, it moves freely. When feelings are stifled or suppressed, or when you cling to them or make up stories in your head about them, you run into problems. (Emotions are feelings with a thought or thoughts attached.)

So let’s explore the world of feelings today.

Which feelings do you allow yourself to feel fully? (Start with the basic four: sad, mad, glad, and scared.)

Which feelings make you cringe? Which ones do you judge or push away?

Which feelings do you cling to? Which ones do you make up stories about?

Playing the Feelings Game

Tune into a feeling you’re feeling right now. You may experience it as a sensation, or as a feeling.

Close your eyes, and explore the cavity of your body, as though you were looking down inside it. Take your awareness inside your chest and belly, your back and buttocks, your hips and legs and feet, your neck, shoulders, and head.

Notice where this feeling is located, in your body. What is its texture? Its flavor or color, its density, its shape? Does it feel prickly or cold? Small, hard, lukewarm? Like a jelly bean? Is it sour or dry, juicy or squishy?

Notice the qualities of this feeling, meeting it with curiosity and openness, exploring it as though it were a life-form from another planet. Set aside, for now, your beliefs or stories about it and simply discover it as if for the first time.

All energy–including feeling energy–consists of vibrating particles. And the spaces between those particles are almost entirely empty. Even an atom is an energy eco-system of protons, neutrons and electrons held together by an electromagnetic force within mostly empty space.

Bring your awareness–your soul’s vibration–into the empty spaces inside the feeling in your body. Expand your consciousness into it.

Notice if any part of this feeling isn’t yours. The part that isn’t yours may feel dramatic or hysterical, over-the-top. Or you may experience it as a dullness or numbness–an inability to access your own feeling-vibration.

It may be someone else’s feeling that you’ve absorbed, or a larger energy field of feeling that’s floating around in the world.

Your body and your energy field are your personal space. No-one else belongs here, except by invitation.

Ask the feeling-energy that is not yours to leave right now. Move it all the way out beyond the boundary of your energy field, and release it there. You can also release it down your grounding and into the earth, asking the earth to take care of it.

Then tune in, once again, to the feeling itself. Invite it to move in any way that it wants to. Simply keep your awareness in the empty spaces inside the feeling-energy, and follow the trajectory of its movement with your attention and awareness.

Notice if the feeling wants to move upward or downward or sideways. Diagonally, or in a parabolic arc or in a spiral. Notice if it moves quickly through some areas of your body, if it slows down in other areas.

When the movement feels complete, check to see if there’s any more of that feeling-energy left in any other part of your body. Repeat the process described here.

If the energy gets stuck somewhere, and doesn’t move, breathe into the place where it’s stuck. Bring your consciousness into the empty spaces inside it.

Ask if the energy in this feeling is yours. If there’s any part of it that isn’t yours, move it outside the boundary of your energy field.

If the energy still remains immobile or stuck, talk with it. Ask it to tell you or to show you what it needs in order to flow naturally, to move in whatever way it wants to. Let the flow of the feeling itself dissolve any blocks to its free passage.

Feelings: The Musical

Feelings are like musical notes: each one has a unique tone and frequency to it. You can make more complex, interesting music when you use all of the notes in the musical scale. (Unless you’re Phillip Glass or John Cage, in which case, call me and we’ll talk!)

You’ll have a richer, more creative inner life when you allow yourself to feel the whole range of your feelings fully and freely.

Since feelings are energy, they are fluid; they change. Once you let them flow, and feel them fully–without hanging onto them or chasing them away or running from them–they change to some other form of energy.

So play with the energy of feelings. Be curious, open to surprise, and discover your own relationship with the full spectrum of your feelings.

Laps, Sailboats, Surfboards and Tides…

As I sit here at my desk, writing this post, the room beneath my study is full of boxes. Most of my library is packed in sturdy, brown cardboard containers, scavenged from the liquor store in the village where I live.

I’m moving house again.

And even though the move is still a couple of months away, I’ve begun the process of withdrawing my energy from this place that’s been the home of my heart for the past three years.

My ancestors made the perilous journey across the Arabian Sea from Persia to India nearly 1300 years ago. Something of their peregrine spirit must live in me, because I’ve moved so many times during my life.

First, from India to North America, when I was just 21 years old.

The shadow of that first leave-taking is imprinted in my body. These past few weeks, I’ve dreamed repeatedly of my childhood home. And woken confused by the chitter-chrreee of eagles instead of the caw-caw-caww of crows.

The spirit of transformation is my guiding star.

This means that I choose life at the tideline. Right there, on the shifting shore. Welcoming the incoming waves. Knowing I’ll soon wave goodbye to the outgoing ones.

A rhythm as constant as my breath.

There’s a reassuring constancy to the rhythms of change. And an art to living improvisationally, responding to the tides without being swept away.

Surfers know this in their bodies.

For me, transformation happens most effortlessly, with the least amount of resistance, when I give myself safety, stability and support.

This is not the safety of a battleship or an aircraft carrier. It’s the safety of a sail boat. Or a surfboard. Something small and light and responsive enough to ride the waves without capsizing. Something as fragile as the coracles in which my ancestors sailed east, to India and freedom.

My sail boat is made of sturdy, durable materials. Daily rituals and routines that sustain me.

Lighting a candle each morning to welcome the spirit of my home. Invoking the spirit of grace. Invoking the qualities that add buoyancy to my life.

Paying attention to my feelings.

Eating consciously. Going to bed early.

Choosing presence and nourishment. Choosing connection, soul, heart.

Choosing what I truly love.

These practices are a boat when I’m on the sea. And when I return to shore, they form a lap.

A lap formed by the simple act of sitting cross-legged on the sand.

A lap that is an invitation to be held for a while, in safety and comfort. A lap doesn’t impose or insist–it’s just there, an available and loving support.

The cat or child who visits a lap curls up in it easily, with no thought of “should” or “ought”. The familiar warmth of the lap offers comfort, a place where we’re loved, accepted, restored to our selves.

It is, by its very nature, a temporary resting place, not a permanent dwelling.

When the refuge of the lap has worked its magic, the cat stalks off to chase seagulls across the beach; the child runs out to play in the shallows.

The lap reminds us that we are held; we are loved; we are safe. Visiting a lap restores us to the essential friendliness of our world.

So I’ve been contemplating laps. And turbulent tides. And how I can–simply by sitting with conscious intent–make a lap. Right here on the shore of the restless sea.

A lap for each of you to visit for a while. To restore yourself to your Self, whenever you choose.

How about you? What are some of the ways you make a lap for others? What are the laps that shelter you?

The Gifts of Retreat, the Comforts of Home

In my twenties and early thirties–my life Before Kids–I spent a lot of time in retreat. Three or four months of intensive, formal meditation retreats each year, where I sat in a little mud hut at a retreat center in India, or a meditation hall at a monastery in Nepal, and meditated in silence for fourteen hours or more each day.

I’d emerge from these retreats feeling deeply connected to my inner world. Peaceful, quiet, as still as a mountain. Unshakeable. Until I disembarked into the neon wild of JFK airport and my breath became ragged, my heartbeat uneven and jangled by the sight of security guards with guns, by the clamor of lights bouncing off shiny stainless steel surfaces.

I realized then that I needed to find a way to be present, open, loving and peaceful in my daily life.

Back home in Canada, I experimented with ways to keep the gifts of retreat alive in my everyday world of work, friends and play. Sundays were retreat days for me.

I’d follow the rhythm of a silent retreat. Up before dawn. Meditation. Yoga. A light breakfast. More meditation. One-hour sessions of sitting with my mind, with my breath. Followed by mindful walking in my back yard.

Sitting. Walking. Being. No phones, no reading or music, no distractions of any kind. Just me, my body, my mind, my breath. And the vast universe behind my closed eyes.

By the end of the day I’d feel restored to my self. Slip into bed feeling deeply rested. Sink into dreamless sleep. Wake the next morning, ready for my week. Which unfolded with a greater sense of calm well-being because I’d taken the time to return home to myself.

Once I had children, Sundays became family days. I still sat in meditation each morning for an hour or two, but anything more than that was an unimaginable luxury.

Now, my life has come full-circle. My children are grown and off living their lives. My time is my own. And technology has changed the face of retreats, as it has changed so much else.

No Self Left Behind . . .

Over at the Comfort Queen blog, Jen Louden is hosting Freedom from Self-Improvement Week, with loads of giveaways, free downloads, and other goodies. Check it out.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about inner wholeness. What makes us who we are? There are many selves inside me. They encompass every age I’ve ever been, or ever will be. They include my most tender, vulnerable, wounded selves as well as my most powerful, radiant, creative selves, and everything in between. Between them, my selves carry all of my life’s experiences, as well as the experiences of my ancestors, my culture, and my species.

One of my daily practices is to call a circle of selves into my heart and to make room for the necessary conversations between them. These conversations explore different ways of being and belonging. They deepen my commitment to being all of who I am, leaving no part of my self behind.

We don’t attempt to resolve differences so much as articulate them. The truth of each aspect of my inner being, when it’s fully expressed, listened to and respected, brings my disparate selves into harmony with each other. Or at least, holds them in a space of love and safety, where they can be at peace with each other.

Like a family gathering that may start out with loudly stated or silent discontent, but that ends in convivial laughter (and sometimes tears) around the dinner table, these conversations deepen the relationships between my selves.

When every part of myself supports and contributes to the life I’m shaping, that life becomes infinitely richer. Creating it becomes a coherent activity, rather than one in which my selves are pulling in different directions. The result is simplicity, wholeness, ease. From this place, I can contribute to my world by the quality of my being, rather than simply through the things I do.

How about you? Which selves are you most comfortable with? Which ones need your love and attention at this time? What healing conversations await you?

  • You are a sovereign being,
    a fractal of the Sacred,
    a fractal of Wholeness.
  • The flow of your life.
    The soul of your business.
  • Grow your business.
    Grow yourself.
  • Expand your life. Evolve your business.
  • The art of alignment. The miracle of action.
  • Trust in the power of your perfect unfolding.
  • Permission to grow, to flow, to know.
  • You learn about freedom by experiencing what it feels like to be bound.
  • Beyond your beliefs, beyond your drama — the truth of your life.
  • Success is becoming the person who can ask for hugs and holding when your own strength has deserted you.
  • Embrace the mystery at the heart of creation.
  • Your soul sends out tendrils of light and fragrance into the world.
  • You are the gift — and the giver.
    You are the Love, and the lover.
  • At the heart of all things — even limiting beliefs and painful programming — is wholeness.
  • Surrender is an act of will. It is aligning your will with the will of the Sacred.
  • You learn about sovereignty through the experience of being dethroned.
  • Love transforms.
  • Your soul's purpose is to participate in wholeness, to express wholeness.
  • True Desire is a messenger of your soul.
    It leads directly to your soul’s purposes.
  • Unfold the miracle of your life and business.
  • Business = Love in action.
  • Everything you need is already within you, waiting to unfold and express itself.
  • Your inner world shapes your outer world.
    Success is an inside job.
  • You are the story, and the story-maker.
    Your life is yours to shape.