Chasing Cars…or was that Joy?

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Forget what we’re told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that’s bursting into life

~ Chasing Cars, Snow Patrol

Today I found myself thinking about all the crazy ways I’ve tried to chase Joy, in people, places & experiences – and this song by Snow Patrol came to mind…as I wondered chasing joy or chasing cars…is there really any difference? We’ve heard it often enough that one of the greatest causes of human suffering is our seeking of pleasure and aversion to pain, or joy and sorrow. This endless searching, grasping or aversion to things outside of ourself we believe will or won’t make us happy, whole, complete is a guaranteed path of suffering as we try to hold onto the impermanent.

In the busyiness of searching for Joy I overlooked the reality of the joy right here in beingness, that has never been about anything outside of myself. With a shift away from a corporate career and home ownership I celebrated no longer chasing after material possessions but it seems despite many warnings by teachers I accidentally slipped into the trap of substituting consumerism for spiritual materialism. Acquiring more and more experiences, spiritual teachings and blissful states but not really fully embodying the wisdom. I still chased after the bliss states – and foolishly labelled this as Joy. Along with the mislabelling of Joy was that anything other than those blissful states, particularly sadness, anger & confusion were relegated to the naughty corner where I demanded they be quiet and stop.

As I listened again to the Chasing Cars lyrics, what I heard was not a fairytale romance, but the immense longing that I believe we all have, not for one person – but to know intimately Love, Grace or the Beloved. To lay down and merge completely with Love. What has become so apparent to me is I don’t want to chase anything, I don’t want to try anymore.

” Do or do not, There is no Try”.

~ Master Yoda

I want to BE. What I sometimes forget is joy in it’s most simplest – the joy of being. Laying down the swords of inner & outer battle and letting go all the thoughts and ideas about what needs to happen or what needs to be done in order to belong. Instead letting energy be funnelled towards Allowing, Embracing, Accepting life exactly as it is and moving in harmony with life.

Does it mean I want to physically lay down and never move or do anything ever again – not at all – I love to do many things with many amazing people, but I’m attuning to the fact that sometimes laying down physically is in fact what feels aligned and I’m trusting that…and learning to go with it. REST is the opposite of contraction – and to me it feels that when we’re resting in our bodies it’s easier to drop into the Heart. It’s also an amazing practice to share with others, when was the last time you lay down with someone you adore and just shared that moment of laying there together in the sheer joy of just Being?

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Trusting there will come a time where laying down is no longer what the moment calls for – and there will be movement – action. Can we also begin to feel the stillness in the movement, to allow the movement to come from a place of emptiness. Free of our projections, free of the ‘me’ identity we’ve worked so hard to build up, free from the should’s and should nots. And full of the – this feels authentic and aligned and REAL and is for not just my own personal benefit, but for the benefit of all beings.

“We have a fear that if we give up our person then there is nothing left to have a life. When you give up the person there is nothing left to have a life, there is just life. You are life.”

~ Mooji

Real, raw and authentic – this seems to be my mission in life right now – what brings me alive – and the reality is this doesn’t always look like the bright chirpy version of Joy I’d hoped the journey of awakening the Heart would be. In fact real, raw & authentic means feeling everything that comes along – and it is sometimes messy. But learning to be with it all and not get lost in it has been the path of Joy.

Joy gets hijacked when I get caught up in ideas that I must do more, that I am not doing enough, or lately the most ridiculous of ever – who I’m Being is not Being enough. Or when I feel this building pressure to ‘know’ my purpose here in this crazy life. All of these things are grasping, and trying to understand with the mind – and they’re exhausting – they pull all of my energy into a black hole and away from Joy.

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What if my purpose is only to Love. How exactly would I explain that to anyone. What exactly does that look like? What tangible outcomes can you see from loving? How do I justify that all day every day that’s what I feel I am here to ‘do’ and to BE.

As I typed I thought woah Lani you’re sounding a little crazy here – are you sure you want to share this with the virtual world?! And this is when I realised another old inner battle has come to an end – the battle between my belief that LOVE is my purpose and the fear that LOVE is not enough. My unconscious fear has been part of the barrier I’d built up against love.

But I can see this fear that love is not enough, isn’t real for me right now. It’s old and outdated. And as I become my own inner authority, what feels true, real, authentic, aligned – Love IS my purpose. If I am loving I am joyful and if I am joyful I am loving, the two cannot be separated.

When I feel into why I share what I share, why I offer yoga classes, meditations & cacao ceremonies the very simple truth has nothing to do with any special teachings. I simply love to love because love loves to love. My main intention with every sharing is to provide a space where people feel deeply seen, heard, received and nurtured and a space where they feel safe enough to really reveal the fullness of who they are.

So all this time I’d been looking for Joy to look a certain way, you know bubbly and hyper and maybe even a little rambunctious at times. But in my grasping at this idea what I’d missed was this beautiful sweetness that rests in the Heart when I let go, when I’m resting in Being, when I’m not needing life to be anything other than the way it is in this moment. Even if that moment comes complete with anger, grief or confusion, when these are embraced & allowed to be seen and expressed – Joy is also revealed. The Joy of Being.

The irony is that as soon as I allow Joy to look however she wants to look – the bubbly, hyper and a little rambunctious often does make her appearance, but far more than that Joy is not an emotion – it is an inner attitude. An attitude to be cultivated in Love alone. It’s not something I can describe with words but if you’re reading this and we have a chance to sit together I hope we can share a moment of this Joy as we meet in the Heart.

“Love loves to love, it isn’t personal’

~ Mooji

In love, gratitude and service <3

Needs or Neediness

Ever noticed how the word NEED gets a bit of a bad wrap in spiritual circles, under the guise of Non Attachment? I’ve had friends & partners talk to me endlessly about their NEED for freedom and their repulsion to feeling needed. And I’ve struggled to marry that with my intuition that needs are a valuable and essential part of human existence. Oh the great irony of the masculine’s need for FREEDOM (fear of loss of Self) and the feminine’s need for SAFETY (fear of abandonment).

I hold both of these pieces within my self and believe that what true union or love is – is a balance between these 2 seemingly contradictory needs. As someone who has a dominant feminine essence my wounding has been predominantly around fear of abandonment, ie my need for SAFETY. A wounding magnified as a result of loss and trauma experienced when I was young and still developing emotionally and then exacerbated during my healing journey when I decided to join a high control group (aka cult) that did it’s very best to reinforce old beliefs that I must comply in order to stay safe/belong.

Thankfully my stay with the high control group was short lived – turns out I didn’t take too well to being dictated to on how to live my life. But my time with them and the self harm I experienced during this time became a catalyst for massive growth and healing. In my attempt to understand why I would abandon myself so dramatically to be with this group I began working with a therapist and together we uncovered the very young part of me who had developed a belief that if I reached out to have my needs met – no one would be there to reach back.

Through gentle exploration I discovered that over time the pain of having those needs go unmet as a young girl became too great and I decided it was safer to just stop reaching. And in time I just eventually stopped knowing I had needs because I’d gotten so good at doing it all myself, or going without. It however didn’t make those needs go away – it just pushed them further into the unconscious and had me unconsciously attempt to have them met by others.

Recently I did some intensive training around touch and consent with Betty Martin (founder of Wheel of Consent) and over 5 days our group explored the HOWs and WHYs of not asking for what we want. We looked at how humanity ends up in shadow behaviours because we’re not able to ask for what we want.

At a very simple level I see this all relating back to our ability to know our needs, AND our believing that we’re worthy of having our needs met. And it all starts with how grounded we are in our body – can we actually feel what it is that I actually want and need in this moment?

The more present we are with our own experience the more trust comes from know what I’m feeling, and from what I’m feeling I know what I need, and from knowing what I need I can use my voice to ask for what I want and to truly own my YES and my No.

So what’s the difference between Needs vs Needinesss?

NEEDS are a natural & necessary part of our human existence. They are present in everyone, they motivate us to take action when they’re not met and help us to feel content when they are. Needs are necessary to survive and thrive. In Maslow’s theory there is a basic hierarchy of needs – we’re really familiar with what we call ‘basic needs’ but there is a whole plethora of other needs that are normal and natural and a part of our evolution, growth and thriving. Our emotional needs are where we tend to struggle more with knowing our needs and having constructive, responsible ways to having them met.

maslow’s hierarchy of needs

If we struggle to know what our emotional needs are then the chance of us asking for what we want is pretty low. And still these needs will exist and will attempt to be met, but now they’re unconscious so we may slip into manipulation, projection, coercion.

Rather than taking responsibility and initiative for having your needs met and asking for what you want, have you ever hoped the other person would just know, or tried to convince them that they wanted the very thing you do, or maybe you actually didn’t even know what you wanted so you asked them what they wanted instead. Any of this sound familiar?

Fear of rejection, fear of being judged and not knowing what we want are huge factors in why we don’t just ask for what we want. And the sad part is when we don’t ask and our emotional needs go unmet, there is a sense of deficit or lack and we go about trying to unconsciously fill the void.

And if we don’t even know what it is that we’re trying to have met we become like a hungry ghost, where the needs become endless…enter NEEDINESS.

NEEDINESS comes from a place of lack, a sieve that tends to be empty no matter how much you put into it. Neediness is born from expectations and not leaving room for someone to say no. Neediness is when someone else is unable to voice what they want and instead demands attention in an unconscious attempt to fulfil their needs. Neediness is when I am unable to know my own needs or ask for what I want. Neediness is a contrast to having needs. Neediness often creates a sense of repulsion.

So let’s get a little more clear with the words we’re using – are we talking about NEEDS or NEEDINESS. The more we slow down long enough to identify what we’re feeling the more we’ll come into contact with what we need, and the more honest and transparent we can be in asking for what we want. And in asking for what we want we need to practice being OK with receiving a NO, to stop taking it personally and to realise our world’s don’t end when someone says no. Don’t believe me, give it a shot, it’s an amazing experiment to play with.

In my journey of self discovery and self love the first step of reclaiming my power was to first acknowledge & embrace there was a hungry little ghost/little girl in me who had a lifetime of unmet emotional needs and they were insatiable – because I was so unconscious to their existence.

Slowing down long enough to feel this, see this and viscerally experience the grief in my body of these unmet needs was something I avoided pretty intently. Until I was away on vacation in Bali taking time alone to do some creative writing…when my body realised oh finally we have space to do this…and it all began to unravel, I unravelled. The woman who in the past had travelled the world solo and needed no one felt the weight of all those unmet needs and desperately wanted to come home to be with loved ones.

I came home knowing I didn’t want to be an ‘island’ anymore, I didn’t want to be this aloof woman who practiced non attachment aka who pretended she had everything under control and could do it all herself. I wanted secure functioning relationships in my life and I wanted to offer that same security to others.

Armed with a new found commitment to knowing my needs and reaching out to others meant I now needed to practice asking for what I wanted. I knew it wasn’t graceful, I knew it was clunky, I knew I had absolutely no idea how to ask for the simplest of things. But I thought at least I’m in touch with what my needs are. Hilarious to look back and realise how little I knew at that point, and how scared I was of allowing myself to own my own needs but grateful for the unravelling that has continued over the past couple of years.

It’s a work in progress for me, but one I’m committed to in my own relationships and in offering support and guidance for the women I work with.

If you’ve had your own journey with embracing Needs or growing out of Neediness I’d love to hear from you, comment below or send me a message. Together we learn. Together we grow.

In kindness

The power of vulnerability

Art project displays the naked truth about human vulnerability

This one word, vulnerability, comes at me again and again, from every possible angle as undeniably one of the most important words I’ve ever contemplated…it walks side by side, hand in hand with Love, and Intimacy. Of course as they say, ‘where your focus goes the energy flows’ so considering I believe vulnerability is a key to human connection and exploring human connection is what this life feels to be all about…it’s probably not that surprising that it is regularly the star of the show of my life.

At one point I noticed that my social media feeds had become flooded by incredible men & women using their voice to support consciousness, wellness, mental health and suicide awareness. One campaign #itsokaytotalk highlighted suicide as one of the major killers of men around the world. I’m not going to pretend to be on top of statistics but when I started to look at the research it was pretty scary.

in 2015 deaths due to suicide in Australia were reported at 3,027 and 75% of those were men. That’s 8 people every single day and that seems like a very huge number to me.

Other research suggested that 41% of men who contemplated suicide felt they couldn’t talk about their feelings and I know from the men who have touched my life, that this is a very real issue they’ve grown up with..and now in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s are trying to reconcile.

A university lecturer during a counselling course I attended once said that  we may need to avoid asking people how they feel, particularly men, so as not to send them into a panic. He wasn’t in any way suggesting the expression of feelings was bad – just a recognition that after so many generations of emotional suppression – it can be confronting and potentially traumatising to be asked to feel again, and the fear of how we will be judged for expressing feelings can be very real. As an embodiment teacher I almost fell of my chair at the idea of not asking people to feel, while I understood where he was coming from it gave me a real taste into just how unwell our culture is.

The reality is that the cultural norm has been to rule crying or the expression of feelings or confusion as a sign of weakness, of being a ‘sissy’ – sayings like ‘dry your eyes princess’ or ‘toughen up’ are pretty common in my home town. Or fear of bringing others down, being a downer, or killing others buzz kicks in too. Tears have somehow been attached to emotional instability and along with this label a whole lot of stigma and judgement has come with it. The word vulnerability was placed in the naughty corner and has only recently started to be given permission to come back to play in all of it’s wonderful glory and power.

Now lets be super clear – this is a very real issue for women too so I’m going to step away from the idea that we need to split this into a male or female issue. We ALL carry the burden of the unhealthy masculine within each and every one of us.

The unhealthy masculine I’m talking about here is the fear and suppression of feelings and emotions (or you could say the suppression of the feminine). Because the shadow in all of this is that just because you don’t want to feel a darkness arising within you, doesn’t mean that it goes away. It doesn’t (no matter how much you might want it to), it just becomes a part of your shadow, following you everywhere waiting for moments where it can sneak it’s expression into your life to give you a momentary release from the pressure that has built up.

A standard in our culture has formed that we shouldn’t express parts of ourselves we deemed to be ‘dark’ – emotions like fear, sadness, grief, anger and rage. I know I’ve hidden away elements I thought I would be judged for, fearing their expression would make me ultimately unsafe or unloveable. In order to hide away these parts of myself I built up a barrier around myself.

And in building that barrier, to apparently protect myself I inadvertently squashed any possibility of vulnerability. I toughened and closed myself, at least in part, to life. Vulnerability being our capacity of receiving, of being open to life and it’s complete expression, of allowing our Self to see and be seen in our wholeness. So not surprising that I didn’t particularly lively or vital in my life but I didn’t really know how to do anything else – I’d not learnt another way yet.

The scary thing is when you look for the commonly accepted meaning of the word vulnerability you’ll find all sorts of descriptions like capable of wounding or injuring – or things suggesting vulnerability is a disease or weakness. The word comes from the latin root vulnerare – capable of wounding. Did you know that vulva (female genitals) also came from the same root….and yep I really did just make a connection between vulva and vulnerable. To show a point – capable of wounding – is that really what the vulva means to us? This meaning has been so distorted, a female’s vulva isn’t capable of wounding – it is however capable of penetration. An opening for receiving and giving of creation. It is not a disease or weakness but an incredible gift and expression of life. In the same way so is vulnerability.

Anyone else start to feel where our words have steered us down a slippery slope of misinterpreting vulnerability, and women’s sexuality, as a disease rather than its true essence, creation? The capacity of receptivity, of allowing, allowing our Self to be witnessed, penetrated by presence, to be seen and heard. Isn’t this at the very root of our capacity for human connection? To allow ourselves to be fully seen, to allow the presence or gaze of someone to penetrate through our veil of ego completely – and to allow ourselves to receive their presence and love completely.

Vulnerability is the prerequisite to intimacy – or, as I really love to hear it put in-to-me-see.

When I don’t feel the love and presence of those around me, I feel disconnected, and experience the ultimate illusion of separation. Thinking I am separate from others, when actually I’m feeling separated from myself because I’ve hidden away all of these pieces of myself I thought were not OK. But at the very core it was really a separation from Source, Grace, Love that I was experiencing because by shutting down my vulnerability I’d blocked  life from expressing itself in all of her divine creation.

So in my opinion it seems the very thing that we do in order to meet the collective view of what makes us strong – also keeps us from receiving fully the gifts of this human experience – connection, love and presence. To fill the void left by this lack of human connection, we turn to vices, addictions – those things that give us the momentary burst of dopamine, oxytocin, seratonin or any number of other hormones within the body that leave us feeling good and alive…sport, food, sex, social media, alcohol, drugs…even yoga & meditation. The problem is that these vices also only offer a temporary solution – we receive the burst of dopamine and oxytocin and then when that burst fades we’re again faced with the underlying feeling of disconnection.

So today I’m grateful to have met many men & women who are speaking up to support each other, saying they will no longer keep their voices quiet, no longer keep what they’re feeling locked up inside. That it’s no longer OK for us to collectively hold onto the misnomer that to be human you must hide your emotions and that to talk about the way you’re feeling somehow makes you a lesser human…or too complicated..or brings people down. IT DOES NOT. IT IS OK TO TALK. And more than that IT IS OK TO HAVE FEELINGS, AND TO NEED TO EXPRESS THEM, AND TO NEED TO BE HEARD EXPRESSING THEM.

Not only is it OK..it’s healthy, normal and natural.

The relevance of this word vulnerability, in this moment, seems palpable. To recognise the courage it takes to stand together, to use our voice. This is strength, power, beauty and for me personally, incredibly attractive to witness people opening up to the intuition of their hearts and allowing these pieces of themselves to come out and play.  

Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart….Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.” ~ Brene Brown

The more we move away from viewing vulnerability as a weakness, and instead a natural consequence of expressing the Heart, of being real, of being capable of being seen, of being penetrated by the gaze, the presence and love of life, the more we move into a space where expressing our feelings and emotions can occur naturally, organically and authentically.

Maybe then we’ll stop fighting so hard to defend and hide pieces of ourselves, we’ll stop judging and fighting ourselves and each other and start loving instead.

To be vulnerable doesn’t mean to not feel the fear of being judged, it simply means allowing our absolute vitality, beauty and strength to be expressed inspite of the discomfort. And remembering that who we are at our very core, is unwoundable, unwavering, unchangeable.

“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.” ~ Brene Brown

So in the end I have no answers, only experiences which have shown me again and again and again again the moments of the sweetest connection to life, to Source, to Love – arise only in moments when I allow all of the ideas I have about myself to be penetrated. Allowing true vulnerability, revealing all of who I am so that I in all of my wholeness is able to connect with others in all of their wholeness. As together we begin to understand we are so inextricably connected. 

FEELING. HONOURING. GROUNDING

To my highly sensitive sisters and brothers out there. I see you. I feel you.

If you’re feeling the intensity of this wild period of life…please know you’re not alone. I know many people (including myself) feel things deeply and are moving through massive periods of inner & outer change while also feeling the heartache of our country on fire.

Please remember this is not personal, you have not done anything wrong to be feeling life as deeply as you’re feeling it, and you’re not alone. Your capacity to feel and BE with your feelings is a gift. It is BEAUTIFUL. It is BRAVE. And it is what makes you so special and needed in these times of massive change. Even if others don’t feel quite like you do don’t add shame and comparison to the heart ache you’re already feeling. Research shows it is approximately 20% of the population that carry the highly sensitive trait and we serve our own unique purpose and place in this life.

GROUND in your body through belly, heart & mind. Come home to all the sensations, even if they’re intense. You’ve got this. And mother earth has you. Breath. Listen. Slow Down. We are being asked to feel our roots deeper into the earth, to remember our connection to her, to each other and to let love guide.

TRUST there is great wisdom and purpose in our willingness to feel and to not cover things up. And know there is a tribe of sensitive heart awakened souls holding your tenderness in their hearts.

CONNECT Reach out to your trusted people when being with other people feels right for you. Listen to the wisdom of your heart & body and only when it feels right gather with others who are feeling the waves of heartache. Your feelings are not a burden and compassion researchers suggest that when we gather together in times of crisis our systems can often better attune and digest traumatic experiences.

COMPASSION Offer your support and compassion when and how you can. If you’re feeling compassion fatigue (overwhelmed and as if there’s nothing you can practically do to help), stop feeding your own inner war/shame shit storm for a moment by comparing yourself to others, rest, disconnect from social media, reconnect with your heart and let self compassion be your practice for now. Trust your needs are important and that this has it’s own way of rippling out onto others. When the time is right you’ll be ready and able to extend that same compassion to others.

I choose to take this time to find quiet within myself, to be really intentional about with who and how I spend my time, I’m trusting life’s greater plan and am using my daily practices to pray for relief from suffering for all. And I write, because writing helps me make sense of the feelings that flood my system each and every day and I hope the words that flow through me may offer love and support wherever it is needed.

Spiritual Seeking…the darker side Part 1

33 Guatemala - 33 copy

In the spiritual circles there’s lots of talk about the ways of seeking for truth, love, naturalness. In a climate of what I perceive as a lot of new age hype, coping mechanisms and manipulation I often wonder how open are we to sharing & bringing awareness to the challenges & darker side of Spiritual Seeking? You know the part where it’s not all rainbows and unicorns and where the beauty of life can easily get eaten up by the incessant clambering to be somewhere other than where we are. When it comes to more traditional spiritual paths people are quick to judge the ways new age spirituality can actually cause more damage than good – but I don’t hear so many talking about the damage that can be caused by the obsessive search for enlightenment.

Enlightenment for me is to simply shine light upon life. It’s not some mystical magical faraway destination to arrive at. But for many years I didn’t know that – I thought it was somewhere I had to work really hard to get to. In the interest of wanting to encourage, inspire and focus on what’s truly important I’ve not shared much about my experience on the darker side of spiritual seeking but as I’ve reflected on all the crazy shit I’ve done in the last 10 years in the name of ‘finding myself’ I thought it was time to share a little more.

I love life & make a real effort to focus on the beauty & grace but I have also suffered immensely over the years of seeking. There were the moments where life didn’t quite go to plan – divorce, death, projects ending, breakups & a gazillion other experiences that broke my heart. But these are a part of being human and suffering is optional. Where suffering really came to life for me was every time I thought I wasn’t where I should be spiritually, mentally, emotionally – when I watched the inner peace I longed for slip out of my reach. In these times I felt like a failure on my spiritual path – in my head I thought if I was doing it ‘right’ I wouldn’t be feeling the pain & discomfort of broken relationships, a hurt heart or the loss of a dream. I developed a wonderful habit of comparing myself against the textbooks, the spiritual teachers and the stories of my fellow seekers, finding all the ways I wasn’t quite ‘there’ yet – wherever there is!

But that was a misunderstanding on my part – a fairytale that developed somewhere along the lines that life would be nothing but pure bliss if I just did the ‘work’ I needed to do to transcend my human conditioning. What a load of crap! Life is pain and pleasure – both equal parts of our human experience – the yin and the yang – neither right nor wrong, better or worse – just simple parts of the duality of life.

It’s not the pain & discomfort of life that creates suffering – it’s the resistance to allowing the pain to be there. The second arrow as Tara Brach calls it. That arrow you shoot into your own heart – if it’s not bad enough that life didn’t pan out the way you’d hoped – now add to that the angst of self judgement, self loathing & self criticism for not being where you think you should be.

Can we experience pain & discomfort without suffering – absolutely – but only through acceptance rather than pushing, love rather than judgement. And I genuinely believe a commitment to gentleness, compassion & kindness needs to be the first thing we cultivate on our path. Otherwise the odds are really good that we’ll end up substituting suffering for suffering.

And this is where I want to get real and share more of my own journey – I transitioned from suffering in the stress & depression of my corporate & married life to suffering in my resistance of my so called failings on the spiritual path.

In 2012 I stumbled into spiritual enquiry a little by accident – fed up with superficial connections I craved for something but I didn’t know what it was. I started out super green, super curious, super open, super naive and super desperate for radical change after some post divorce fun but seemingly aimless travels.

I had my first real taste of freedom during a plant medicine journey & a silent meditation retreat. I felt like I was seeing life through fresh eyes & I wanted more. I spent years jumping from spiritual experience to spiritual experience – the intense out of the body kind. Everywhere I looked someone promised they had found the key to real healing & awakening to our truth. And I wanted to believe them, I really really wanted it to be true because I wanted my suffering to end. I was motivated and had money in my bank account so I tried everything on the smorgasbord of spirituality that resonated with me.

I attempted to transcend the ickyness of my human messiness so I could know freedom permanently. I experienced moments of blissful but elusive states of pure awareness & consciousness. I dabbled in all the things I could to alter my state – plant medicines, dark retreats, psychedelics, silent retreats, sacred sexuality, fasting, meditation & cult community living. Embracing the many dark nights of the soul that arose  – purging, cleansing, letting go all the things I believed stopped me from being in a constant state of bliss.

I took my path as spiritual seeker seriously and I went hard at it for 7 years. Full time non stop – this was my job, hobby, relationship & purpose for life. I spent every cent I had (in excess of $150,000!) because once I tasted freedom the suffering that came when I was caught in lower states was excruciating – my desperation for freedom grew and my search became habitual. I became addicted to the experience – experience junkie as a teacher once put it. In hindsight I now understand my nervous system was so completely fried from all the experiences I hadn’t integrated that I was in an almost constant state of overwhelm and just doing whatever I could to try and feel safe again.

A kidney infection in Guatemala & appendix removal in India slowed me down a little but even once I staggered home to Perth the intensity continued. Searching for somewhere I could unravel completely I knew I needed to rest, I knew I needed to stop but that was no longer something I knew how to do. The only thing that seemed natural to me was to keep searching, so I found myself inside a community that poked and prodded every day at the edges of wounds and unconsciousness. So desperate for a place to belong and to feel safe I stayed even though it was the furthest from resting I could possibly have found. I resisted every step of the way never able to fully surrender or trust the teacher – in my heart I knew this wasn’t the path for me but the promise of community and freedom had me stay for 9 months, short in comparison to some of the other residents who had been there for 10+ years but long enough for me to reach a new low point in my life.

Physically unwell, emotionally unstable and financially beyond broke I was miserable and I’d isolated myself from anything outside of the community including all the people and things in life I loved and that were important to me. I started to see the way trauma in others was being pushed to it’s edges in the name of healing and how counter it was to my belief in the feminine way of healing. I realised I was actually traumatising myself on this quest to purify my human messiness (more in my next post on this!). I was making myself sick pushing, poking, prodding every day of my life – and putting myself in situations where others also pushed & poked & prodded all of my apparent wounds so I could ‘transcend’ them and be of greater service.

Where was the self compassion, the gentleness, the kindness? Where was the patience & trust that life would unfold in her own time & that if I had wounds that needed to heal they would unravel & heal in the their own time. It was time for the shadow hunting, ego destroying, encountering, judging & shaming to stop. And I walked away from the community, a little shell shocked and unsure of where to go but blessed to be held by gentle loving hearts.

A willingness came to slow things down & feel how over frazzled my nervous system was & an understanding landed that I had been practicing the very opposite of self love – letting shame, unworthiness and my inner critic run amok. I had failed to acknowledge how sensitive I was and that the last thing I needed was to be opened up energetically – what I really needed was to ground, draw awareness back in and land back in my body. From this point on compassion, kindness & self love took on new meaning and a new resolve to not force change or give my power away to anyone who told me they would heal me, save me, fix me or knew what I needed better than me. In essence this was the moment where I genuinely began to slow down and trust myself.

I stopped the incessant workshop, retreat & spiritual teacher merry-go round I’d been on and began listening more to my intuition. I listened to the wisdom of my heart & it’s sensitivity, gentleness and craving for slowness and I began to focus on my strengths instead of just pulling apart perceived weaknesses.

I’m grateful for the lessons & I deeply value the tools I’ve accumulated over the years but holy shit I’m very clear it’s not necessary to walk such an intense path to live a life of love and connection – which is really all I’ve ever wanted. And as a highly sensitive person the constant out of body or intense energetic experiences did nothing but destabilise my sensitive nervous system – making it harder for me to ground and be present in the here and now.

So if you have ever attended an event or circle with me & wonder why we take things so slowly & gently & why I’m not encouraging big cathartic releases or out of body experiences this is it. I encourage you to stay in your body, here and now because I think what many of us more sensitive folk need more than anything is to learn to arrive here, land in our bodies and love every piece of ourselves exactly as we are – embracing life as it is – this is unconditional love 💛

I believe the greatest gift we can give ourselves & each other is acceptance of where we are. If you are a seeker and you love the out of body experiences & intense journeying please know I mean no judgement on the path you walk. I speak only for my own path as a highly sensitive person who has now spent 2 years unravelling layers of re-traumatised trauma – contentedly embracing gentleness, slowness & self compassion.

Photo: Antigua, Guatemala 2012, fresh out of my first silent retreat.

#gentleness #spiritualseeker #trauma #innercritic #healing #wisdom #highlysensitiveperson #unconditionallove #compassion #innocence

Inner marriage. Reuniting & honouring all the pieces of me

In recent years I’ve read beautiful writings about the awakened man apologising to woman for her suppression and abuse. In particular I think of this one:

“We have burned you at the stake, bought and sold your bodies for sexual pleasure, barred you from religious and political office, relegated you to subservient chores, forced you to hide your faces and even cut off your organs of sexual pleasure.

Although I may not have done these things personally, I am aware of the forces in the masculine psyche that are responsible for dishonoring the feminine.

As a man, I feel sorrow that women and feminine energy have been suppressed for so many thousands of years on our planet.

I take responsibility for those forces and choose no longer to be run by them….

I commit to treat your heart as the sacred temple it is, and I commit to celebrating the feminine in my intimate relationships as well as in my relationship to all life.

I honor your pathways of spiritual awakening, and I commit to the celebration of feminine spirituality. I honor your deep connection to the earth.
I honor your intuition and your ability to feel.
I love the beauty of your body.
I honor your capacity for peaceful resolution of conflicts.
I honor your capacity to listen to your body and its needs for food, rest and playtime.
I honor your sense of compassionate justice.
I know that together we can co-create in bringing forth the wisdom of sufficiency” ~ Based on the Manifesto for Conscious Men

These words ring deeply in my heart and every cell in my body. But more and more these days I contemplate the incompleteness of it and recognise how important it is for me to own my piece in both the suppression of the feminine, and the wounding of the masculine.

For years I longed to meet a man who would honour the feminine aspects of me that I felt had been shamed and suppressed for many years, I was frustrated when partner after partner fell short in some way…where I felt unseen, unheard, and not honoured.

But the truth is I was never going to meet a man like this until I was willing to truly look inside. Until I was ready to ask myself some tough questions. Do I see these things in myself? Do I honour these parts of myself? Do I really truly see and love the beauty of my body? Do I honour my connection to the earth? Do I really listen to my body and it’s need for rest and playtime?

For so many years the honest answer is No. For so long I didn’t value rest, I didn’t listen to the wisdom of my body. I didn’t value or respect my capacity to feel. I didn’t honour my heart or body as the sacred temple that it is. It’s only when I have began to truly honour the feminine within me have I attracted a beautiful man in my life who is ready and willing to walk this path of healing, growth, love, play and service together.

So this is just a little reminder that this love thing, is completely an inside job people. While seeing the divine in each other is of course a beautiful and pivotal part of this journey to reunite masculine and feminine to work together, this only becomes possible when we are ready and willing to explore this marriage inside of ourselves. Are we ready to love and accept ourselves as we are, and to honour completely the divine feminine and masculine?

Acknowledging that inside each of us we have the essence of both masculine and feminine is the first step if we want to stop projecting our wounds onto our loved ones. Working on these parts of ourself with loving compassion and awareness to remember what it is to feel at home, whole and reunited with every piece of who we are.

Alchemical Union.jpg

To me it also feels like a key step in owning our wholeness is to also acknowledge it’s not just the feminine essence that has been suppressed and dishonoured. Our masculine is hurting too, both the inner and the outer. Carrying the weight of the feminine wounding, the guilt of past acts, so much shaming and blaming. But more than that our masculine has been tempted by the promise of love and adoration only to find in moments of revealing himself authentically & vulnerably he has been shamed, manipulated and dominated by the feminine nurturer who chose fear over love.

Some years ago I sat in a cacao ceremony where as a group we were guided to work with our inner masculine and feminine and invite them to come face to face. What I experienced in this journey continues to touch me today because I feel how true it is. When I saw my version of divine feminine in all her glory – she was this beautiful strong but flowing woman radiating love and purity and by her side was a black panther, beautiful but clearly powerful….

At the time I understood how distinctly separate I was experiencing my light and shadow, that’s a whole other story but what touched me most is the mistrust I saw in my divine masculines eyes, the protection he had around his heart and the heaviness on his shoulders. Because time and time again he had been wounded. He had opened himself to this promise of love and purity and then at his most vulnerable the panther had struck and mauled him, beating him into submission or destroying him completely.

I’ve progressively been laying down my sword, the sword I once wielded against myself and against the masculine (inner & outer). And I’m blessed these days to have a beautiful man walking with me on this path, a man who continues to do his own work, and can own his piece in the past, who can express his heart ache over the suffering and suppression of women & who chooses to now rise together. Together we choose to work through relational wounding when it arises, we actively choose to not get stuck in blame and shame, we choose to do it a different way, to cultivate trust, gentleness and intimacy and to focus on love and gratitude. And we choose to practice forgiveness when one of us forgets and falls.

The time of finger pointing, blaming, shaming and turning our backs away is done. It’s time to sit together. To be willing to do our own inner work and talk to each other with openness about our hurts, accepting responsibility for our own feelings and be willing to listen without defending, attacking or closing. I truly believe that when it comes to our core relational wounds there comes a time where the inner work needs to also transform into work in real time relationships with loved ones.

So I am eternally grateful for relationships to some incredible men who have helped me see and heal so many old wounds that continued to play out in my life so unconsciously. Like many I found it difficult to see the person standing before me as they are, instead I saw them through the filter of my past experiences, and my past hurts…with old wounds triggered and my desire to protect myself strong I lashed out at them. I forgive myself for these acts because I won’t let shame and guilt weigh me down. But I’m clear on the laying down of the sword, and I’m clear that I need to remind myself again and again that there is a new way of walking this path together that is only possible when I’m ready to let the other come close enough to join.

Have you ever considered where you still wield a sword? Against pieces of yourself? Or against those you say you love the most? Are you ready to lay down the sword?

Reach out if you need any support in this process. I work 1:1 with women and in small groups to cultivate Emotional Freedom. Through yoga, mindfulness, movement, nature, cacao and community we learn a new way of Intimacy, Wholeness and Juicy Aliveness.

hooponopono-meditation

Much Love <3

Magic Beans of the Ceremonial Cacao kind

You’ve heard the stories of the magical beans in Jack and the Beanstalk, well our very own version of the magic cacao bean has arrived in Perth. Keith’s cacao is now shipping their magical hand peeled cacao beans to Australia and we have received our first shipment!

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These are the original form of the cacao paste we use for ceremony but they can be used in a slightly different way, a few beans gives a nice little pick me up or refocus for creative & productive works. They also add a delicious crunch & heart burst to breakfast bowls and smoothies so I’m super stoked to have access again to this deliciousness.

I get asked regularly why is this cacao, or these cacao beans different to the cacao powder or cacao nibs you can buy in the supermarket or health food store. Well first and foremost this is cacao that from sourcing to production is done so with the purpose and intention of helping you to “open your heart, focus your mind, and energize your spirit to Bring on Your Magic! words taken directly from http://www.keithscacao.com 😉

Once you’ve heard that little whisper that says it’s time to explore this magical thing called cacao I suggest people always trust their intuition and heart’s calling as to which cacao is right for them. I choose to only work with Keith’s cacao because this is where my heart has guided me but there are also more tangible and practical reasons for my choice.

One is taste, out of all the beans I’ve ever tasted (and I tasted more than I can even remember when I lived and travelled in Guatemala, Bolivia Peru, Mexico & Bali) Keith’s is the smoothest, nuttiest and least bitter, making it by far the yummiest I know.

Another is that I truly value the heart centred business structure that has now been created around Keith’s cacao Keith that allows for the sourcing and shipping internationally of this beautiful product so that I (and many other practitioners around the world) can continue to offer you such a heart connected and consistently amazing product that is also supporting the local community in the small village where Keith lives in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

Here’s a little excerpt from Keith’s website telling you more about the sourcing and production of the cacao:

“Kaqchikel Mayan women from 20+ local families earn an independent income, while working at home, at their own pace, preparing our cacao beans. There are few employment opportunities for women in our community. As we grow, we will create jobs for many more local, indigenous women, providing them with good pay and flexible hours. We are proud to help our community grow in this way.

The women give our beans a quick, light toast over a wood-fired stove. They are highly skilled because the toasting process for cacao and the locally grown coffee beans is very similar. Their experience getting the “perfect toast” with coffee goes back many generations. This light toasting assures that the complex, subtle flavors of the cacao are not masked by a burnt taste.⠀

Next, the women hand peel and inspect each bean. The process of hand-peeling allows for the moldy beans to be discarded -and NOT incorporated into our products. They give the inferior beans to the chickens, who love them and lay very rich eggs! We don’t want to eat mold, and we don’t want it in our cacao. We are proud of our traditional approach; making cacao as the Cacao Spirit directs and as shamans have made it for thousands of years. We are delighted that this magical cacao adds so much to our community, financially and spiritually.

In our workshop, a team of local indigenous workers hand inspect every bean a second time to remove any remaining low-quality beans or other contaminants.  Some of the nicest looking, mostly whole, beans are packaged to be sold as our “Hand Peeled Cacao Beans”.  But most of our beans are milled to create the smooth, magical cacao paste that we use in our ceremonies and drink every day.

We are proud of our traditional approach; making cacao as the Cacao Spirit directs and as shamans have made it for thousands of years.  We are delighted that this magical cacao adds so much to our community, financially and spiritually. ~ Keithscacao.com”

For all of these reasons I know that not all cacaos are made equal and it really is a process of following your heart and asking questions about where the cacao you’re drinking came from, how was it sourced? and how is it processed?

If you’re in Perth and would like to order some of Keith’s magic beans or a block of ceremonial cacao paste contact Lani on 0434 748 758 or lani@heartofrest.com.au. Not in Perth, no problems you can order directly online from Keith at www.keithscacao.com and receive a 5% discount on your order.

May your heart be touched by the spirit of cacao, may she be there with you as you remember your magic!

Much Love

Lani

Settle in the Here and Now

Settle in the here and now.
Reach down into the centre
where the world is not spinning
and drink this holy peace.

Feel relief flood into every cell.
Nothing to do.
Nothing to be
but what you are already.
Nothing to receive
but what flows effortlessly
from the mystery into form.
Nothing to run from or run toward.

Just this breath,
Awareness
Knowing itself as embodiment.
Just this breath,
Awareness
Waking up to truth.

~ Danna Faulds

sunrise-bird

Finding peace within the expansion and contraction

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.” ~ Rumi

Embracing all the colours, all the flavours, all the delicious variety of life means also recognising that both expansion AND contraction are important and healthy parts of being human.

I spent the most incredible weekend guiding a group of women on a 3 day Cacao Yin retreat. Together we journeyed into what it felt like to come home to ourselves, to feel safe and connected, to show up in our truth and share with each other. It was powerful, deep, joyful at times and incredibly touching to watch these beautiful women dare to bump up against their edges, gently, with compassion, with love for themselves and each other and to soften into the tender places in their wombs and hearts.

After a weekend like this, immersed in nature and flying high with the sweetness of ceremonial cacao I should feel amazing yes? Well actually when I arrived home I was tired and tender. In amongst the sweetness, the resting and the nurturing a lot of energy moved, a lot of tender places were touched, a lot of edges massaged and a lot of wounds given space to heal. It’s not so crazy then to understand space around this process might be needed to allow full integration.

We all process and integrate differently and some need more time for the body to catch up. I’m one of these people. After periods of real transformation I really value a little bit of time alone to let the wisdom of the experience anchor into my body and beliefs.

For me this is when the real work begins…we all love to have the big bang, high of a retreat experience (it was wisely pointed out to me last year that I’d become a bit of an experience junkie so trust me I do know how great these highs are). But after the retreat finishes what happens now? After the expansion – what then?

Can I integrate the insights and wisdom that come through during retreat?

Can I rest in this new moment where nothing is happening and not start grasping for the next step?

Can I trust the things that fall away, fall away for a reason?

And what happens when the next contraction comes?

Can I accept not only the expansive high joyful part of me but also the parts I deem to be slightly less than shiny – the contracted, tired, tender and a little raw?

Hence the purpose of this blog post 🙂 For me retreats are an opportunity to let the daily routines fall away and offer a little space for the magic, the mystical and the intuitive to be deeply felt and embodied. It’s an invitation to peel back another layer of an old outdated mask and when we no longer have the mask to hide behind it can feel vulnerable. Without vulnerability true intimacy is never possible and without intimacy there is no real connection so vulnerability for me is a sign I’m growing and living life fully.

There’s no magic pill, no one path suits all solution to unravelling years (or lifetimes) of tension, over-thinking, self judgement, low self worth or whatever it is that you’ve been holding against yourself. But for me the real magic seems to unveil when I can let feelings just be feelings. To watch them as sensations in the body moving through. They come they go, expansion, contraction, expansion, contraction – just like the breath, let them come, let them go. Can we drop the judgement, drop the expectation, drop the labelling of right and wrong and let the feelings just be feeling.

Tiredness is just tiredness, grief is just grief, tenderness is just tenderness – they’re not a sign I’ve done something wrong. They’re not a sign that you’ve done something wrong. Can you receive their gifts as readily as you receive laughter and joy? How can we exercise this muscle of expansion (physically, mentally, emotionally and in consciousness) if there were no contraction to begin with?

Could it really be as simple as Being gentle. Being kind. Just BEing.

On being slow and empathic in a fast world

Sometimes I look around this world and a great and ancient sadness moves through me.
Everything is so damn fast here.
I feel like an alien, often.
A slow, mindful, present alien.
I watch people rushing from experience to experience, barely stopping to contemplate the fucking miracle of their existence. Hardly ever taking time to let the wonder in.
Going for days and days without ever telling the truth or feeling their feelings.
Running from themselves. Running towards imaginary futures. So mesmerised by the ‘there’ that they forget the miracle of here. So identified with the ‘doing’ that the most precious thing is lost. Being. Life itself.
Comfortable. Popular. Fabulous and successful, perhaps. On the path towards a better and exciting tomorrow. Yet so afraid to slow down. Afraid to rest deeply. Afraid to stop and invite in whatever lurks in the deep. The repressed terrors. The anxieties.
Unmetabolised childhood yearnings. Unlived lives, unfulfilled potentials, unspoken truths.
Loving the light yet afraid to touch the darkness.
Abandoning the cosmic love that was pushed down in order to survive.
Forgetting the natural joy that was squashed so we could become ‘grown ups’.
Neglecting the playful aliveness that had to be numbed in order to ‘fit in’.
And now, content with surface pleasures. Success. Popularity. Looks. Achievements. The things that matter but don’t truly matter in the end.
Satisfied with a limited, conditional version of happiness. The kind you can post on Instagram. The kind that you can buy and sell. The kind that has an opposite.
The kind that looks good.
It’s sad to see our great potential forgotten.
Nothing ‘wrong’ with any of this unconscious activity, of course. I do not sit in judgement. I love our vulnerable humanity, and understand the mechanism of running, and we are all only doing our best, given our conditioning.
I used to run. But I had to break down. For the love I sought could never be found in the future. It was always here, buried in my own Heart, closer than breathing.
I only wish that everyone could truly find the courage to stop. Rest. Break, if they need to. Cry, if they need to. And finally feel the abandonment, the grief, the shame that was unconsciously running the show. Finally stop pretending. Finally sacrifice the addictive surfaces for the living truth – the scary, disorienting, thrilling truth.
There is no shame in the breaking and in breathing through the mess.
To be slow and empathic in a fast world, it is a challenge for sure. To be sensitive in a world that has gone mad with ‘things’. To be a lover in a world that has reduced love to a commodity and a passing feeling. To be awake in a world that tries to numb you.
Yet you cannot be numbed.
For you know your path now.
And your sensitivity
is a great gift
to this fast world.
– Jeff Foster