Inspiring practices

I could go on life smiling and giving love while driving, shopping, or walking in the street. Also, I could  go on life hating people because I think I am right and they do not. It is just a tinny decision.

I got to reflect on those tinny decisions I make after spending the entire weekend practicing Aikido. Kato Sensei, who is a 75 years old man and a great Japanese master, came to the ITP dojo* . He comes twice a year to train us further in the Aikido Art.

Every time, he comes, I feel inspired to be a better person and expanded for the next few days.

His presence is so powerful and peaceful. What a wonderful gift to have a presence like that! To me, it looks like he has a purpose every time he moves his body. He smiles and gently directs his energy toward his opponent, who certainly can be putting all his effort in the attack just to end up flying away from this sweet Japanese teacher. After an hour of training, most of us are sweating and Kato Sensei is still smiling and looking fresh. Of course we were smiling too, but not looking that fresh.

The big learned Aikido lesson for me, is that if I am not present and concentrated in what I am doing, it can be dangerous. During the session, we repeat one single movement several times. The whole Aikido practice is about learning how to move my body in the way that I am aware where is my center and how I am using my energy. I think that, like in Aikido, life also gives us several opportunities to practice the same movement over and over. Thus, the same rules that apply on the mat, are helpful in everyday life.

The difference for me is that in the dojo, I am more open to learn how my energy affects other people. The way I move and physically relate to others is something I can decide at every repetition. I get direct and immediate feedback from the Uke (or the attacker).  Every single movement counts. Every welcoming smile or gesture of rejection counts.

Then, I realize that in my life outside the dojo, every gesture or thought is my decision. I can also decide to see or not the impact in others. Therefore, I try to apply the earned Aikido knowledge.

Trough this and other spiritual practices, I am learning that, we all are interconnected, and we all affect each other. Ok, this is not a new discovery. You may say “I do not need hours of Aikido to realize that”. I suspect that we know that, we all know that. Maybe we have strong reasons to ignore that we know it.

What is your favorite way of knowing who you are?

Please share here or at comment@morningswithcarmen.com

 

May my Aikido practice and your practices make us a better people so we can positively affect each other.

Blessings,

Carmen.

*Dojo is the designed space to practice Aikido, which is covered with mats so the falling hurts much less.

 

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Under stress, who takes care of you?

After watching many Hollywood movies, I used to dream of a man in my life who would surprise me with a long vacation somewhere similar to paradise. Well . . . with the demanding graduate program I am in, I got no boyfriend, no free weekends and no . . . paradise. Ironically, I do not even have the luxury of time to watch any Hollywood movies either.

Because of stress, I cried as if something was dying inside of me for several days. As any other graduate student, I have deadlines and long to do lists. No, this overwhelming agenda is not a normal thing, at least not for my Mexican brain and body, much less for my spirit. Now I know that my freedom, motivation, and playfulness were terminally ill.

As my grandmother used to say, “to a big problem, big remedy.” Therefore, despite the pressure of having deadlines and classes, I invited me for a retreat at home (which can count as a personal paradise, why not?). I booked myself into a wonderful week to enjoy simple pleasures in life.

Still no boyfriend involved but that was ok because I only discussed with myself the itinerary’s details.

Anyway, I literally put on my calendar things that help me to remember who I am. I spent the week at home in pajama, slept a lot, ate chocolate, danced salsa, watched cartoons and movies, and told some stories by phone to my family and friends. I also went to San Francisco by train. Love it! I walked in the Union square for hours like a tourist. Of course, I stopped at the Macy’s marketplace to get my favorite sourdough bread and made myself a huge homemade sandwich. In addition, I spoke with my mother and sister for more than an hour, twice!

Yes, I did spent time in school assignments but after my meditation and yoga.

After this home-retreat, I can tell you now that I rediscover who I am. I AM a human being who is still choosing to get a PhD. I know stress will knock my door again soon, but I count on me to take care of myself.

How do you deal with stress . . . if you do? Share some other tips please. You can post your response here or share only with me at comment@morningswithcarmen.com

I hope you have a relaxed weekend!

 

 

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Baby steps to spiritual enlightenment: Gratitude

Few years ago, I made a self promise: I will be grateful for my life no matter what.

As a reminder I set up a simple ritual:  when turning on the light at my home I’d say “thank you light!”. I still like to get fascinated, like a little child, about how the light invade the room and allow me to move freely. Since I start having electricity at age 11, I can recall very clear memories of how is the life without this basic service.

I found this exercise very helpful to improve my spiritual life. For instance, this week, during the emotional turmoil, I went trough, I experienced sadness, anger, rage, and frustration. However, I am grateful I need to turn light on every night literally and metaphorically speaking.

Thanks to my simple ritual, I realized that my bitterness and gratitude were hard to match and that I forgot the good feeling of being grateful. As I observed my behaviors, my reactions, and my interactions with others, I noticed I passed by without answering some smiles, leaving anger around, or spreading sadness into the room. We all do it . . . I guess. However, the difference this time is that I did constant check-ins with myself.

In reality, I have much more to be grateful than to be concern in my life. I could be grateful for my health, the health of my loved ones. My well being, arriving safe at home every night. Having a comfortable bed to sleep. You know, all of the things that I usually take for granted.

Therefore, I am ready to start this new week. Tonight I’ve armed myself with a lot of gratitude and I am curious to see what will happen. The challenges are still there, but my approach can be different. Let’s see.

Do you have any rituals to help your self to live better life? I’d love to hear them. You can comment here or send me an email to comment@morningswithcarmen.com

With love and gratitude,

Carmen

 

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Temptations of anger

I came pissed off from school today and ready to drop any intention of becoming an American psychologist in this lifetime. The Mexican license counts as a good accomplishment so far.

As much as my wonderful teacher this weekend tried to explain that, besides course work, giving 3,000 hours practice, plus this and that and more of that is a form of enhancing my soul and be fully prepared for my future Californian clients. I still see this as a process with no ending and many non-sense jumps. I spent few days winning around about the state requirements in California.

My usually powerful slogan of “one hour at a time” seems very week when I see my present and future with student loans, old cars and little tiny places to live for the next years.

My feelings of abundance are somewhere having a great vacation and my sense of humor maybe hanging out with them. I am afraid they did not leave a note about where to find them. I have left with pain, uncertainty and doubts about my commitment as a graduate student: “maybe is just too much for me”, “maybe I can be a happy person just blogging the rest of my life”. “At least here nobody ask me for any license . . . I hope”.

The truth is that I have the wonderful practicum place in mind and hope to get accepted in the near future and I know I’ll love my clients. Nevertheless, the goal of this post is to share my evening insights about experiencing anger and still be able to take care of myself. Two hour ago, I could not stop crying at the school library. One Carmen said, “lets go forever and hide in a cave” while other Carmen said, “Just clean your face and keep working, one day you will laugh about it”. It was tough to hide my face from others while running into my cave car. This time, I resisted the temptation of sharing my misery with people who cares about me; it is not their fault. I survived the temptations of inventing reasons to argue with whomever I would encounter, it is not their fault either. I also resisted the temptation of rage driving. (Ok, not very wise driving while sobbing but did so with extreme caution). I do not need to put others and myself at a risk, I thought. I also passed over the temptations of eating for the sake of eating, watching TV, ignoring my feelings or ruminating my complaints against the board of psychologist, (well, this last one is harder). I also refrained myself from any self-blame for having such crazy dreams of becoming psychologist again!

After I passed of those options with a conscious effort, the only ideas left were to write on my journal, pray, or share on this blog.

So far is working, I feel relaxed now. I know I saved myself from so many other negative consequences out there. None of the angry temptations is helpful to decrease any of the required 3,000 hours but they could increase my chance of never getting a license.

Well, I am going to pamper myself with a bath and a nice nap. Please manage the temptations of your envy, or better, pamper yourself . . . until the next post.

 

 

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To meditate or not meditate? This is the dilemma!

This week I have been reading a lot about the brain and the impact of meditation in our physiological functioning.  Most of these research findings made sense to me in my experience as a meditator. No, do not worry; I am not going to torture you with boring facts and reports. I trust you can choose that on your own if you ever want to get a PhD. I rather this morning share the benefits I experience.
Four years ago, I got tired of being miserable and bring misery to others. I also knew I am not good at obeying blind rules of religion or any other organization. I wanted to experience freedom with no harm to others. I wanted to be loving and compassionate with myself. After a careful search, I discovered that there were people that seem to have fun in this world and accomplish even more that others and start looking into their daily habits. Most of them have a spiritual practice whether is meditation, praying, walking the dog or riding their bike.  They seem to live in a better place that I did.
Now, if somebody asks me to exchange for one hour of my time every day as the rent for me to live in the same beautiful and safe area of the city, I would quickly ask where I could sign the contract. Despite my busy life I could find the time to give one hour in my schedule. 
Well, ever since I meditate on regular basis I feel like I moved to this better “neighborhood” of this world. This is a neighborhood where everybody can have a house of the size they want. Literally, I feel like my life got much easier because I encounter more compassionate and peaceful people everywhere. The days when I was struggling to find a parking spot, having upsetting encounters in traffic, on the market or with my colleagues are far away from my memory. 
The days I meditate, a lot of wonderful synchronicities, smiling faces, quick services and hidden shortcuts appear easily. I can overcome challenges faster because I emotionally flexible. Of course, I get angry, sad or worried, the difference is that I give myself permit to feel it without poisoning my thoughts. I do feed my ego and my misery. I chose what to think and how to process my emotions. 
The days I do not meditate I come to visit my old “neighborhood”.  I get to witness road-rage drivers, people fighting, accidents and all kind of stressful situations on top of dealing with my own. 
After practicing seriously silent meditation for the last two years, I can say that this world is a beautiful dance room where I get to choose the music. Moreover, I have learned that strenuous and violent music does not suit my soul. 
Hoping you too, move to a better “neighborhood” . . . I’ll find you in the next post!
Carmen
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Have you stopped lying to your self?

For the past few months I had the opportunity again of corrupting myself. I had the opportunity of lying to myself. I realized that certain weaknesses and false dreams will be with me forever; the difference is what I do with them. I realized that others could lie or present illusions as much as they want, but it is up to me to believe it or not.
There are some promises and sweet statements that I would love to believe blindly. Sometimes I wish I could still be the naive and candid girl I once was. “Do not worry about bills, I’ll take care of it” “I am coming to love you forever” “I’ll take care of it, honey” “Here is your check, you just won the lottery” and many other sweet illusions that I like to entertain in my mind.
Life’s experience has taught me that shortcuts are not the best way in the long run. For instance, I got married once for the dream being love by a man and having a family; at work, I hide my opinion afraid of losing a job; in social interactions, I ignored my physical needs to attend other people demands.
In other words, I have forgotten who I am to receive love, attention or economic stability. I did that with family members, friends, institutions, etc. I had abandoned myself to receive something from others.
It is taking me almost 40 years, to learn that: NO . . . LIFE IS NOT LIKE THAT.
I declare my own independency. I am free. I think and act freely. I am the only one responsible to provide me with safety and happiness.
I respect myself and I am committed to protect my divinity. I can do fair exchanges. I can negotiate better because I know my value. I have discovered a personal agent who is a compassionate inner self.
This inner self has not hidden agendas or charge emotional prices.
Thank you to those liars, oppressors and demanding people for those gifts. I know you were dealing with your own challenges. I ask forgiveness for the times I did the same. I send blessings to you all.
Maybe is true that we are all interconnected and we are all together in this world to learn from each other.
I wish you a lot of learning and inter connective insights . . . until the next post.
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Do you dare to dream?

I am not wealthy, but I feel very abundant.  My economic circumstances are way different than they were when I was born. I am proud of my parents because they are hard workers. They taught me integrity, honesty and self discipline as main values. My mother is a very positive person and taught me also the power of hope. When a child I used to spend so many hours day-dreaming with a better world for me, my family an my community. Probably it worked in some ways.
I dreamed of a house with a complete roof, with electricity, a TV, a normal toilet. . . you know this kind of toilets that you can flush the water. Aaah!. . .  I remember how much I cried when I needed to wash my clothes by hand at age of 17 and running water was a luxury. Therefore, my dream for my family was a refrigerator, a washing machine or a normal living room.  No, I am not 100 years old as you may be thinking now. I am only 39 but still some parts of Mexico and many other countries struggle to have the things that we take for granted in the USA.
In my twenties, I learned that hard work is very important but having clear goals is indispensable. I found a small book called Visualizacion Creativa (creative visualization). This book was a easy step by step guide about how to manifest abundance and blessings. According to this book our brain works with images rather than words. If you put the same images over and over, the brain will look for it out in the world.
Well, I made my personal ritual to do a vision board (collage) that appears in front of my eyes every morning. Every January 1st, since 1995, I light candles make a prayer or meditation and ask for blessings in my year. I get several images from old magazines and put together into a new collage. I am getting better at it. I worked with clients who wanted to do it. I worked with groups or just my dear friends who want to explore vision boards. And if nobody wants to join me, I do not care because it is about my year, and my blessings.
As the years passed, I learned to have a lot of respect for the images I put there. Most likely I will get what I am asking for and this can be scary. For instance, I remember one year that I put a woman traveling in high heels. This was the year that I got several presentations in other cities and I needed to travel. . . in business clothing and high heels! I can tell you, it was exhausting. Other year I put a lot of couples with children in kindergarden age, well, I got married and got a four year old stepson.
I could share so many examples, most of them wonderful miracles. The point is that dreaming is important, making them visible is important also. Overall, taking the lead in shaping our life is a very effective way of not only working hard but telling the intuition, the universe or God what we need and how we need it so they can help. Trust me, they do help!

I wish you a 2011 full of wonderful images and. . .  dreams that transform into realities.

P.S: This is the link to the book in spanish:
http://alarealidad.com/libros/Shakti%20Gawain%20-%20Visualizacion%20Creativa.pdf

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Love It or Leave It!

As this this year is ending is inevitable, at least for me, to evaluate my life. Last year, I worked hard to the point that I forgot about my health. The only thing I did for the last four months in 2009 was writing and reading 20 hours a day. I abused my body, and the obvious result was back pain, headaches, and a lot of stress. I did not enjoy the holiday season and the accomplishments seemed unimportant since I still had a long to do list. This 2010, my goal was to make a more pleasant use of my time.
My personal rule, since I was 18 years-old, is to love and have fun in my current occupation or leave it. So far, my rule brought me to wonderful job places related to my mission. Because money is not my priority when choosing a job, usually it comes naturally and in abundance.
Well, this time, I am the one who is paying an abundant tuition. Because, I love the PhD program I am in, I came all the way to California just to do it. Classes and teachers are great. Hence, last January, I seriously considered whether to quit or to deal in a loving way with the intensive workload that a graduate program requires.
I thought, it is not fair to have  PhD in transpersonal if there is no Carmen, the human being, at the end.
 
Therefore, I formulated a plan to stay healthy, happy and still be a successful student: I would meditate, talk to family and friends, cook, eat slowly, watch movies, and take walks with my friend Ma Elena around the block several times a day. I scheduled myself at least one of physical activities a day like yoga, swimming or Aikido. I made my priority to talk by skype with my nieces and nephew who shared their infant challenges like getting a boyfriend in the kindergarden and losing it the next week or how difficult life can be when you are three years-old and your Mom is mad at you because you loose your shocks somewhere in the house. And of course, I signed myself to an online dating service.

I know, it looks like instead of lowering I increased my to do list. Well, it worked!
As soon as I took my life back and start smiling again, I could accomplish everything easier. Now, I write or read for a one-hour period at a time. I can concentrate better and have a better performance. I have fun with my program and my life. The most important thing is that I learned I can trust myself. I can work hard for some days knowing that I  can be relaxed and playful in the same day, the same week or why not within the same activity. I can stand up and dance the outline of my paper, I can sing my ideas or draw until the inspiration comes. The workload is still hard but I am achieving a more balanced and healthy life with discipline. At least I can laugh about it.

I wish you a balanced and joyful life . . . until the next post.

Posted in English |

Is loneliness one of your guests this holiday season?

Last night I had a small christmas party with my “brothers” Jeff, Ron and their family.
I know they throw a big party every christmas but I asked for my private one since I will not be in this town on the 24th. They happily agreed. Ron took care of the dinner while Jeff prepared drinks and presents. We ate, drank, and laughed while exchanging pictures of our ancestors. For couple hours I got to enjoy being part of their wonderful family. Thanks Jeff and Ron!
Every year I found very hard to deal with the loneliness and sadness of being alone in this country. There are no work or classes to keep busy my brain, therefore I need to face the fact that my family is far away. Hence, the pictured happy family in the TV commercials becomes difficult to ignore.

However, I am a strong believer that being happy is a decision I make everyday. Thus, in this christmas time, I usually take some private time to acknowledge, embrace, and welcome my christmas loneliness. I open the door to the sadness and all the negative thoughts that want to come in. After all, they are a sign of my humanness . . .  I guess. Anyway, every year we greet each other and make some agreements. We agreed that my “real” family is in Mexico and I we have the option to celebrate with the wonderful new families I got in this country for the last five years. My loneliness is free to send friendly reminders about the sadness I suppose to feel and I will take care of the rest. We have been doing a pretty good team for the last few years.

Thanks to those reminders, I put honest efforts in enjoying the time I have with each person. The results are exciting. I get to have several small christmas parties everywhere. For instance, last November I took presents for my family in Mexico, I got to enjoy the faces of my nieces and nephew opening their presents and had several dinners with my sisters and parents. I also spent a entire day with my Mexican friends where we told each other how important we are in our lives. I am having christmas parties this week in South Dakota. Additionally, on the very christmas day, I am planing to visit the 10 and something mothers I have in California.
Ever since I took the decision of building my Holiday-happiness, I learned that people enjoy being cooperative and playing this game along with me. I have found my perfect way of  dealing with these season. At the end of this game, we all win. We all celebrate each other and enjoy having extended families where christmas loneliness is a very important guest. I can tell than in my journey I have found many other people who deal with the same issue.

Have Make Happy Holidays . . . until the next post.

Posted in English |

Pure love comes in various forms

Today December 16th, I am celebrating the four anniversary of my inner transformation. I am writing from the room I lived in four years ago, in a small and snowy town of South Dakota. Back then, the cold weather outside did not matter to me as much as the coldness I felt in my heart. After a recent divorce, I was alone in this country, in a deep depression, living in a women shelter, with no money at all, and homeless. I taught I was worthless. I could barely remember those shiny days in Mexico when I was a successful therapist and speaker. 
In the emotional condition I was, I was positive I could never be helpful to myself or anybody else. For several days, Virginia, a new friend, prepared me a bath with color, bubbles, and nice smells. She insisted that taking a bath is the best and fastest way to restore the soul. I was not in the position to to argue with her about soul restorations and humanistic theories. Virginia is not that much into theories anyway, she is always proud to say that her only school is life besides her middle school diploma. I did not explained to her either that water is scarce in the place I grew up and baths are a luxury. Deep inside I did not believe that my very damaged soul could restored by bubbles. Thus, the bathtub did not see my naked body or soul for several days.
On Dec 16th, 2006 I decided to accept the invitation to come and live in her home. I decided to take the risk of being pampered and loved. Virginia, her boyfriend Jay, her dog, and cats adopted me as a new family member. Of course, the dumb and bubbly bath was ready and I knew it was inevitable. I went into the bath for ten minutes and quickly got out of there. Virginia, my friend and angel smiled and said “one hour my dear, is the minimum you need”. She is not a therapist, she is not a teacher and yet she knew about the magical “one hour”. Why one hour? Is one hour a magic number for healing baths or therapeutic talks? What I knew those days was that one hour of love and care for myself was a very long time. 
Four years ago, Virginia designated a room in her home, prepared the bath every day for me, listened to me, and put a warm blanket every night. I could only smile, cry, and sleep twenty hours a day. Dog-dog, Virginia’s dog, played with me in the snow and taught me how to ski. Marbles, Virginia’s cat, spent with me all day and night providing love and company. And Jay, her boyfriend, guided me in my financial recovery plan. I used to lay down in the sofa among cats and dog, listening to Jay’s readings and watching Virginia playing with her cats. I also received the love of the several people that visit this home. Nobody asked anything in return. They just loved me and nourish my soul unconditionally.  Every time I apologize to them for not being productive, Virginia smiled and affirmed that one day I would pay forward. She also assured me that I had a lot to give back. Besides my family and friends in Mexico, she believed in my dream of moving to California and became a PhD student and therapist in this country. It took me five months to recover and fly on my own. In 2007, I left Virginia’s home with little money but a huge amount of love and dreams. I departed to California knowing nobody but myself. All I had were the blessings of my parents in Mexico and my new family in South Dakota.
After four years, I am here in this house again enjoying Marble’s company. Jay is shaveling the snow outside and Virginia is still sleeping in her room. I am just enjoying my self in my new pajamas and the smell of the bubbly bath that, of course, Virginia prepared for me last night as a welcoming gesture. Now, my heart is content and my soul restored. I am a strong, independent, and a happy Californian woman, but I can still indulge myself and receive the love of my family in South Dakota knowing that I have been paying forward at any opportunity I had. For now, I just will huge Marbles and go back to sleep. 
I wish you a bubbly and loving December 16th!
Carmen
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