About Alara K. Paragas

Alara is a free agent, sharing her stories, insights and discoveries as a life change artist. She supports individuals in getting clarity on their life issues and making purposeful changes that align with their passion, aspirations and intentions.

The many faces of Cinderella – is Cinderella relevant to the men and women of today?

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”                                                                          – The Elders Oralbi, Arizona Hopi Nation

ENCHANTING.

That to me describes the U.S. premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s  choreography of “Cinderella” last Saturday at the War Memorial Opera House, inspired by the Brothers Grimm’s darkly version of the fairy tale.  The project was co-produced by the San Francisco Ballet and the Dutch National Ballet, and the first Cinderella by the SF Ballet company after more than three decades.*  It was also my first Cinderella ever since I’ve been going to the ballet.

After experiencing the spectacular Cinderella ballet last weekend, I was inspired to re-examine the universal human qualities embodied in the story.  But lest the men among my readers think that this is all about women, take note.  According to Wikipedia, the early versions of the Cinderella story were not all about a young female being harassed by two jealous older siblings.  In the Arabian Nights, some of the tales that dealt with the theme were about male characters. **  So while, the Cinderella archetype is about women, I will also talk about personal transformational traits in this blog post, which should be relevant to all regardless of gender.

The New Feminine Ideal

Most of us are familiar with Cinderella’s story, no matter what culture we come from.  We’ve heard it from bedtime stories in our childhood, or watched the Disney musicals that abound on TV or DVD.  The Cinderella story has existed in various versions in olden times, even before it was translated to ballet.  Cinderella may have a different name in many countries, but the feminine ideal of the “Maiden,” which the Cinderella archetype embodies, resonates with us across cultures.

The theme of the story is all too familiar – the beautiful girl who is abused by her stepmother and stepsisters and is forced to live in the soot (cinder) but shows kindness in spite of such cruelty; how she wins the heart of the kingdom’s ruler by conforming to the expectations of society’s ideal for an ideal woman and wife: obedient, kind, beautiful, works with no complaint. These traits are juxtaposed with the stepmother’s and stepsisters’ qualities, aspects that are frowned upon by society: pride, greed and vanity.  The story is woven around these opposites — for example, the stepfamily had to be cruel in order for Cinderella (and the audience) to understand the importance of her kindness; the stepmother sends Cinderella to task at the kitchen, unknowingly molding her into the “ideal woman” that society wants and thus preventing her own daughters to experience the same and fall short of society’s expectations by being proud, greedy, and vain. At the end of the story, Cinderella steps into her rightful “shoe,” and transforms from ideal maiden to perfect wife. The “waiting” is over.

To most of us in the western world comes this question – is this framework still relevant? Excluding those who come from religious and cultural traditions that still adhere to the conventional roles of women and men, most women in the western world have come a long way from being the subservient, self-sacrificing  type.  In this light, the Cinderella model may no longer be relevant when it comes to developing a young woman’s mind (not excluding the adult) in today’s world. Most man in the western world won’t recognize, maybe not even expect, this type to be common.  Nonetheless, we still seek an ideal picture of today’s woman, with the desirable traits of kindness, grace, generosity and humility still in the mix.

Nowadays, it is common to talk about the feminine and masculine parts of ourselves, the yin and the yang, the active and passive sides in us. If you come from that persuasion, it’s a matter of embracing those two sides and using them to our advantage.

How does one bring balance to all these in a world that’s changed and still changing?

Cinderella’s Many Faces – Across Genders and Roles 

No matter what one’s gender is, the demands of day-to-day living in today’s world are the same.  In today’s world, men and women have exchanged roles; they have even swapped clothes. The woman could be the main “breadwinner” of the family, the man the “homemaker and house-band. The lesbian partner could be the “man” of house; the gay partner could be the “wife with the traditional female role” in the partnership.  The single person earns a living; he/she does her own domestic chores (including mothering and fathering of children) without a partner, thus embodying the two roles. And in all these permutations, the hats could be exchanged at certain times, creating even more blur in the roles.  Which is not necessarily bad, as long as the parties are aware of the exchange and their boundaries as individuals. This is where we do the balancing act, where we need to be aware about what we do and what our needs are, in order to be flexible and always open to the way our lives and relationships are evolving.

In order for our lives to evolve consciously, we need to be present with ourselves, in our relationship – which means being aware of what’s in front of us, at this very moment, enjoying what’s in the present, and living in the present moment. Yesterday has become now, so what we do today will be yesterday’s action and tomorrow’s dream.

Giving Ourselves Permission to Shift Our Perspective

For those who are still in the traditional model of the maiden archetype, or the traditional male-female model of relationships, only you can decide whether change is in the offing for yourselves. Change could be a dreaded word; some folks don’t even like to hear it.  But change is a phenomenon that has long been in the air, heralded by what’s happening in the world that we don’t have control of, and with fast speed, continues to transform events and people before our eyes every minute.  Consider these manifestations of change – in the way the weather that has been acting differently (hot weather has become hotter than we’ve experienced before and cold weather has become colder than ever), in the way we travel, in the way we exchange and handle information (via the internet, cell phone, video talk), even in the way we speak and communicate with each other (via texting, twitter, facebook).  Technology is transforming our lives in such a speed that even your child, one moment a baby, seems to have been transformed into an adult in what seems likes a fleeting moment. Many of us have grown older and notice that we are no longer as strong and as young as we used to be.  In the light of these external developments, I invite you to ask yourselves some crucial questions.

More often than not, the questions that we ask are more important than the answers to the questions.  Some of these questions can serve as a starting point for a small shift in perspective.

  • Where do I feel most uncertain nowadays?
  • What forms in my life need to change?
  • Where do I need to be open to looking at things from a different point of view?
  • In what areas of my life do I keep my peace to avoid confrontation or change?
  • In what area of my life do I need to speak my truth?
  • Where am I operating on outdated or past information?
  • Where do I need to be more responsible, and where do I need to draw the line?
  • Where am I ready to go to the next level?

The Waiting is Over

We’ve seen how the main protagonist (usually the female character) of the fairy tales that we’ve been fed when we were young goes through the process of waiting for that someone outside of herself to make changes in her life.  Princess Aurora, the sleeping beauty, waits for her Prince Charming to wake her up.  The damsel in distress from the Arthurian legends waits to be rescued by her knight in shining armor. Cinderella waits for the king to take her from being a slave in the kitchen to a queen.

Regardless of gender, who are we waiting for to make our dreams come true? Who are we waiting for to make us successful? Are we waiting for Dad or Mom to give us permission to be our own person? Who are we waiting for to give approval to what we want to do?

The Hopi Elders speak: we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  A truth spoken loudly.

Another spin to this comes from Mahatma Gandhi:  Be the change you want to see in the world.

The fact is this – we are already creating our life and we are good at it. Every thought that we think creates our reality.  When we are fearful, our fears create the very things that we are fearful about.  When we are determined to follow a course of action and think the thoughts of success and visualize what we most want to accomplish, our dreams come true. We are the authors of our life, no matter how much we deny it.   When you become aware of how you are creating your life, you can make other choices from that point that can transform your life, in small as well as big shifts.

Creating Our Own Reality

There are many technologies out there that teach us about consciously creating our own reality by understanding how our thoughts and feelings create the results in our life and how to change those thoughts.  The Law of Attraction course is one of them. NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) and the Star’s Edge Avatar course are also good bets.  One of my favorites is the process taught by Psychic Horizons, the meditation seminary of the Church of Natural Grace *** where I trained in energy work.  In their meditation guide and workbook, the school says:

Sometimes we like what we are creating and sometimes we don’t.  The key to taking charge of our lives is to understand how we create.  What beliefs and patterns are you creating through?  Whose energy are you creating through? Once you begin to find answers, you can change your beliefs, pictures and patterns.  This leads you to create from who you are in the present rather who you used to be.  You can create from your own energy.” (from Create What You Want: Meditation and Workbook.  Check it out at http://www.psychichorizons.com/toolbox/Meditation_Guide.pdf)

Namaste.  If you like what you read, I’d like to hear from you. Let’s continue the conversation.

Alara

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To watch a preview of the ballet, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=x51X2Hl4di4#!

* For a review of the SF Ballet’s Cinderella performance (2013 season), go to:  http://www.sfgate.com/performance/article/SF-Ballet-review-Cinderella-charming-4490182.php

**  For more on the versions on the story of Cinderella go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinderella

*** For a chance to try a one-minute meditation and more on creating your life, go to: http://www.psychichorizons.com

of get-away bags, and the wisdom of children’s books and stories

 

Of all the 36 alternatives, running away is the best.                                                                  – Chinese proverb

We all have ran away from something, someone, or some place at some point in our lives, and the reasons for “running away” and the tales of our “escape” could take as many shades and hues as the colors spun on a tapestry.

 get-away bags

This blog post is inspired by a 40-something friend of mine who now lives with her parents after years of living alone. Lately, she confided to me that she has secretly packed a get-away bag for those times when she could no longer take what’s going on in the house.

Whether young or old, the urge or dilemma to run away seems not to be age-bound or time-bound.  Having a get-away bag ready for such escape is truly a wise strategy.  I told my friend that running away of this sort could be healthy, a kind of retreat to get a new perspective, and a catalyst for change, whatever form that may take.  I also revealed that I too own a get-away bag that’s stashed in the trunk of my car, packed with travel essentials for my unplanned, spontaneous overnight escapades. When I was single and living alone, my get-away bag had been witness to  many capers, the ones that I took to escape from routine or boredom, to leave the ordinary in search of the extraordinary in my life, or just for the plain excuse of escaping. Since I got married, my get-away bag has been gathering dust but it’s still in my car, for those just-in-case moments.  After all, I’m a girl scout at heart, and I live by the motto, “Be prepared.”

the wisdom of children’s books and stories

After giggling over our “get-away” bags with childlike amusement, I decided to re-read the story of Claudia and Jamie Kincaid’s running away adventure in the beloved children’s book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler penned by E. L. Konigsburg (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c 1967).  I first read the book when I was still morphing into adulthood, but no longer as young as the book’s characters. I told my 40-something friend I am giving her a copy of that book as a gift and a reminder to be childlike and adventurous in the ways of the world.

I so love to re-read children’s books and read the ones that I didn’t get to read as a child, and ruminate in the wisdom they contain.  If I understood the book’s message when I was a child, I would get a sense of another flavor as I re-read them as an adult, depending on where I am in my journey in life.

We all get caught up in the pressure cooker that seems to describe the days of our lives that we forget the simple things that made our hearts flutter when we were young.  Such as the character in our favorite book, the one we lived and breathed with while reading under the bed covers with a flashlight, or the one we couldn’t part with until we learned what happened to her or him next, so much so that we had to give up precious recess time in favor of reading.  As Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling once said, “the stories we love best do live with us forever.”

As a young reader, I identified with Claudia Kincaid, a twelve-year old straight-A sixth grader and “English grammar police” who feels unappreciated at home. She recruits her younger brother, Jamie, to run away with her because Jamie is good with money and has a stash of saved money, a miser at best in contrast to her love for comfort and penchant for spending on such comforts. Like her, I also love to go to art museums and elegant settings. As an older reader, I recognize the corporate president Claudia in the making, her executive ability to recognize and use talents and resources to achieve an end.

Claudia is also an astute planner.  She planned their get-away to the Metropolitan Museum of New York, where they can be run-aways settled in a comfortable setting, a place of elegance and importance.  Their get-away bags were a result of careful planning too. If I were to run away from home at that age, as she and Jamie had done, I would have planned the escapade as organized and well–thought out as she did. Of course, a sidekick like Jamie would be a welcome bonus, like a Dr. Watson to Sherlock Holmes. I thought their tactical operations were amazing: hiding in the bathroom at closing time to avoid the museum staff who inspected the rooms to make sure that all the patrons have left; blending with the perfect school groups on tour to escape detection and learn at the same time about the exhibits; and bathing in the fountain, whose “wishing coins” provide them with spending money or “income.”  However, I didn’t particularly relish the idea of “sleeping in an antique bed.” For some reason, even at my age then, I shied away from getting enmeshed with other people’s “energy” and smell, and shivered at the thought of sleeping with the bed’s owners who have long been dead.

Re-read your beloved children’s books.  You’ll be surprised to find other gems there that you might not have discovered before. Or simply relive those happy days of reading from a child’s eyes.  C.S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia series, said, “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

the case for running away

While adventure is intrinsic to the concept of “running away,” our reasons for doing so could be as minor or as major as we choose them to be.

In the case of Claudia Kincaid, she wanted to feel different when she went back home.  As the story progressed, she also wanted to solve the mystery of who created “Angel,” the statue that the museum purchased at an art auction: Angel was believed, but not proven, to have been sculpted by Michaelangelo.  Claudia and Jamie research on the statue at the library and end up in Mrs. Frankweiler’s house, the wealthy previous owner of the statue. Mrs. Frankweiler recognizes them as runaways from a newspaper article and sends them to research the Angel in her long row of file cabinets containing her mixed files. Through Claudia’s wise approach to the research, they discover the angel’s secret. Mrs. Franweiler cuts them a deal: in exchange for a full account of their adventure, she will leave the decisive file to them in her will, and send them home in her Rolls Royce.  The story goes well and ends well. Claudia is transformed; she would go home “changed” after all and she now has a secret to treasure and keep. Another possibility also surfaced: Mrs. Frankweiler’s impossible dream to have kids could come true: Claudia and Jamie plan to visit her in the future as if they were her own grandkids, but of course, they won’t tell her that; it will be their secret.

What might be a reason for running away at this time in our life?  Perhaps it’s the boredom or routine of our everyday life. Or our lack of courage to express what we would like to say for fear of burning bridges or hurting other peoples’ feelings. Or could it be that we want to break away, temporarily or permanently? Perhaps we just need a breather, so we could look at what seems to suffocate us. Or, might there be a missing piece in us that needs finding?

the missing piece

“The Missing Piece” is one of my best ever children’s books by Shel Silverstein. (Harper and Row Publishers, Inc., c 1976).  It’s one of those children’s books that I read as an adult.  Actually, one might consider Silverstein’s children’s books as poetry for the adult.

The story is about a round animal-like creature that sets out on a grand adventure to find its missing piece.  Imagine a slice cut off from a round cake; our main character is like that incomplete round cake with an empty wedge.  Our creature-character goes about seeking for its missing piece while singing and enjoying the scenery; for instance, it would stop to talk to a worm or smell the flower as it rolls slowly. Finally, it meets the exact wedge to fit it, but soon finds out that now that he has the perfect piece, it could no longer sing (no more mouth to the round shape), nor roll slowly to enjoy the sights.  So it gently releases the missing piece and continues on its way, happy again.

For me, the story is about finding answers to the quest for happiness and fulfillment, and that perhaps we don’t have to find the answers all the time, that it’s okay to have loose ends and embrace our rough edges.  When an artist stops painting, he doesn’t really “complete” the painting.  It just pauses in interesting places.  Life can be that way, too.

Our life can be perfect in its imperfection. We need only to pay attention to the moment at hand, to stop where we need to pause and re-think, feel and breathe, maybe linger at the stop, and then move forward again.  When we take a breather, we allow movement and space, so we can see with new eyes. And maybe we are able to find some missing piece that enhances our view.

As usual, I leave you with these thoughts:

Take the time to come home to yourself everyday.” – Robin Casarjean

Him that has control of departure, that has control of coming home, return, and turning in, that shepherd do I call.” – Atharva Veda

The most effective way to cope with change is to help create it.”  – Anonymous

If you enjoyed reading this blog, please leave a comment.  Let’s continue the conversation.

Namaste,

Alara

P.S. If you are curious about what happened to the missing piece in the story above, I invite you to read “The Missing Piece Meets the Big O,” Silverstein’s sequel (Harper and Row Publishing, Inc., c 1981).

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Note: If you are a young person reading this blog, living in the U.S. and are in a situation that provokes you to run away from home, or have already ran away and ready to come home, or have a friend who wants to run away, call 1-800-RUNAWAY (the National Runaway Switchboard) or contact The National Youth organization at http://www.nn4youth.org for help.

7 Extra-Ordinary Ways to Delete Your Fear

                                                Talk me out of it!                                                                               -Cowardly Lion, from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Like most of humankind, I’ve been absolutely terrified of many things in my life.  Some of those times I wasn’t even aware that I was being afraid, because I was simply not in touch with my body. For instance, I didn’t pay attention to the numb feelings inside and carried on with whatever I was doing because I didn’t want anyone to notice that there was something wrong, let alone myself. Other times, I would take “control” of my external environment to simulate control of that which I fear.  Still, there were many times when I knew what was going on as if another part of me was just observing.  Those moments took me to many, many hours in my adulthood of seeking who I am, why I am, how I am, why the hell I am afraid. It was just in my nature. I might say I was born to do it. And from my eclectic training and experience, I am sharing these extra-ordinary ways to delete fear and gain clarity about your experience.

Our Own Hero’s Journey

The process of self-unfolding happens in endless time and space. We don’t see ourselves in one full swoop.  Rather, the unfolding happens in small parts, one tragic flaw at a time, one glorious strength at another. They can be discrete, isolated, or one whole rude awakening.  At any rate, they reveal that side of us that has been hidden from us up to that point of awakening, an unfamiliar territory in ourselves that we haven’t navigated, or a part that has been gradually moving into the light for us to finally see. This process of self-unfolding is a journey – the journey of the hero within.

In his The Hero with a Thousand Faces, author and mythologist Joseph Campbell expounds on the monomyth (a term coined by James Joyce in his Finnegan’s Wake) – a composite of the tales of “the hero and his journey” synthesized from cultures all over the world. These common tales link us all human beings in a thread of universal experience as we go through life: the cycle of birth and death, resurrection and redemption.

The hero’s journey is a story of transformation. We all are heroes in our own personal story, maybe not as dramatic as that of Luke Skywalker of Star Wars, or Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz.  But the good news is that we are the authors of our personal opus and we can write the script the way we want, including the ending. We create it with each choice we make on our journey, including co-creating it with Source (God, universe, Yahweh, etc. depending on the persuasion you follow).  In our unique stories, FEAR is a character that almost always presents itself along the way.

What hero’s journey among the stories in the popular genres can your relate to? Being the hopeless romantic that I am, my personal favorite is Yentl, a Barbra Streisand movie based on Napolin and Springer’s play of the same title. Yentl is the story of a Jewish girl in 20th century Poland.  Yentl is secretly instructed by her rabbi father in the Talmud (Jewish law and theology), despite the tradition that prohibited women in her community from doing such study. When her father dies, she fearlessly defies tradition by entering a yeshiva (Jewish religious school) disguised as a man named Anshel (her late brother’s name). Yentl meets another student, Avigdor, and his fiancée, Hadass.  The story gets complicated from here – Hadass’ wedding to Avigdor is cancelled by her family due to their concern over Avigdor’s family’s history of insanity. The family wants Anshel to instead marry Hadass, who develops romantic feelings for Anshel aka Yentl. Meanwhile, Yentl finds herself falling in love with Avigdor and trembles with fear over the consequences that await her.  The tension is resolved with the reunion of Avigdor and Hadass, and Yentl leaving Europe to go to the U.S. where she envisions a life with more freedom to do what she wants to do and be her own woman.  I have watched this movie countless times, not only for its music, but also because I get a glimpse of yet another facet of my humanity and the pain and joy of “becoming me” each time I watch it.

The Hero is Within Us

The hero is within us, the self that goes on a journey from separateness to wholeness. In the hero’s archetypal journey, there are three phases: departure; initiation; and return. The hero departs from his familiar surroundings (mother, family, marriage, community, country, religion, sexual orientation, an old belief, etc.) and then is initiated into a different world where he/she meets all sorts of trials, demons, gods, mentors, other parts of the self, and finally returns with the reward, or wisdom. (*For a summary of the steps in Campbell’s hero’s journey, check out the link at the bottom of this blog.)

Each one of us can tell our own hero’s story from our individual unique experience – we can modify the template as we see fit, according to our experience, culture and beliefs. Our story could be: a journey of the mind, such as from loss of faith to firm believer; a journey of relationship, such as from being married to becoming divorced; an immigrant’s journey from chaos to freedom; a physical trip from one location to another that transforms us; or an inward journey of the self. The list is endless. That’s why Joseph Campbell called it “hero with a thousand faces.”

Into the Cave We Go

In my own personal hero’s journey, the process of self-unfolding still continues. But I’ve been down through mini cycles and back several times, and have emerged a new person all the time. We are never the same everyday.

In our everyday journey, we need to constantly remind ourselves to look at what’s in front of us, or challenge ourselves to face whatever is before our very eyes that we don’t like to see. Underneath our desire not to look, or pay attention, is a level of fear that we have probably not acknowledged; or it’s so huge that we’ve convinced ourselves it’s not there, at least temporarily.

Particularly in the initiation phase of the hero’s journey, we can be challenged by fears.  We could be like the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, who believes that he lacks courage and ashamed that, as King of the Beasts, he is inadequate.  He decides to join Dorothy on her journey to Emerald City to ask the Wizard of Oz for courage.

The second phase of the hero’s journey is where we are initiated and that’s where we usually meet FEAR face-to-face. How do we, the hero, muster courage to go inside the cave to tame our fears?

7 Extra-Ordinary Ways to Delete Your Fear

The world has come up with many answers that we can adopt to confront FEAR:  Just do it!, you’re not alone, no guts – no glory, crisis means opportunity, etc.

My own approach to it is as follows; do it in the sequence described below:

  • Acknowledge the fear. Breathe and say the word “Afraid.” Acknowledging the fear is the first step. It’s like going through a problem-solving process – first acknowledge the presence of the problem and proceed from there.  Remember to breathe; breathing with awareness will relax you and give you more permission to go through the process.
  • Where do you feel the fear in your body?  Is it in the chest, in your stomach, in your legs? Feel the fear in that part of the body. Say a big “Hello” to the feeling of fear in that part of your body. This is another way of acknowledging the fear. Many times after doing this, you get more clarity about your experience and the fear subsides. Breathe and flow.
  • Ask yourself: “Is this fear mine, or is it someone else’s?”  We can pick up these sensations of fear from other people and we unknowingly think they are our own. We also pick these up from media sources, such as TV, computer, or radio, especially during a crisis or shocking event. If the fear is not yours, imagine the fear going back to where it came from. Just postulate that the fear is leaving your body; after all, it’s not yours. Thoughts are powerful and when you shift how you think, the fear goes away. Breathe.
  • If the fear is yours, own it! Saying “this fear is in my space” makes a lot of difference.
  • Then declare: “I am bigger than my fear” – this brings you to a new level of personal power. When you own it, you’re reclaiming your power over the fear.  You are bigger than the fear. Then create a picture of the fear disintegrating before you. Remember to breathe.
  • After visualizing the fear disintegrate, wash your hands. This signals your body to switch to a neutral level and detaches you from the experience.  It’s physically and symbolically washing away the energy of the fear.
  • Breathe and relax.  You can now move around freely and look at your experience from a fresh perspective. Continue to breathe and flow.

We Are Hero and Are Meant to Shine

On the way to Emerald City where the Wizard of Oz resides, the Cowardly Lion unconsciously displays many acts of bravery. For example, he carries his companions on his back, one at a time, and leaps across a chasm on the yellow brick road to bring them over to the other side.  On another part of the journey, he holds off two Kalidahs (monsters with the head of a tiger and a body of a bear) so that the Tin Woodman has time to cut a tall tree that would enable them to pass through another chasm.

The Cowardly Lion is thus not a coward, as he perceived himself to be. The Lion realizes he is brave after all, remembering who he really is.

Our hero’s journey seeks to remind us who we are. Through the journey, we seek to remember who we really are inside, and shine.

I leave you with Marianne Williamson’s beautiful words from her book, A Return to Love. This passage has been quoted very often everywhere on the internet and has been erroneously attributed to Nelson Mandela, who used it, and very appropriately so, in his inaugural address.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.                                                           – Marianne Williamson, from A Rerturn to Love

How do you address the fear in you? Try the approach above and see what happens. Let’s continue the conversation.

Namaste.

Alara

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* For a summary of the phases in the hero’s journey, go to:  http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/smc/journey/ref/summary.html

 

 

inquire within: mining the gold from your “what if?” and “if only…”

                                               Unscrew the locks from the doors!                                                    Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

“You must go.”                                                                                                                 The Literary Book of Answers on my bookshelf beckoned to me, and my fingers intuitively opened the page to the heavenly answer I was seeking: “You must go.” (W. Somerset Maugham, “The Verger”)*

That was last Friday.  Two months earlier I learned about a writing conference where Wayne Dyer, one of my favorite authors, was to be the lead speaker and teacher. The cost was high (at least, according to my pocket book) and I wasn’t sure if it would really make an impact on my fledgling writing career.  I put the idea to the back burner and came back to it last Friday, one week before the conference. To my surprise, the price rose even higher because the cut-off date for early bird registration was over. If only…. What if…..I miss that Big chance of winning the book advance and getting my book published? I pondered over that little big word – IF.

Creatures of Habit and the Familiar                                                                              We all are creatures of habit and find comfort in what is familiar and tried.  For many of us, there comes a point when we are forced by default to do what we need to do. For some, divine discontent disguised in various costumes creeps in.  What do we do?  What can we do?

THE BEST PLACE TO START IS WHERE YOU ARE, RIGHT NOW.                             Not yesterday, not two years ago, not tomorrow.  Right now.

Many times, the questions are more important than the answers.                              Inquire within: What do you feel right now?  Mine it for the gold you’re seeking.

                      The mind’s first step to self-awareness must be through the body.                                            – George Sheehan

Most of us have lost touch with our bodies, and with our natural ability to live in the moment. Our bodies are like our cars – they are the vehicles by which we accomplish what our mind wants us to do; they transport us towards our goals.  In order to be transported, we need to be present in body.  But most of us are constantly in autopilot, not realizing that we have eaten a savory meal without having enjoyed its flavor, or have driven our SUV past our freeway exit, or walked like a zombie to work.  For most of us, our daily lives have been taken over by technology and information. More and more people are losing the ability to focus on, albeit see, what’s in front of them – at home, at school, on the street, perhaps even at work.  It’s become common to see people talk or text on their phones while walking or driving.  It seems that multi-tasking has become synonymous with efficiency.  The question is: are we being efficient by multi-tasking, or are we slowly losing ourselves to technology and the habits that we form around it?

Let’s start from the very beginning.  Where is our attention focused on – is it a troubling conversation in the past, that event we are excited to attend tomorrow, or the food in front of us? What are we feeling right now?

Our Cache of Emotions                                                                                                   Our feelings are the representatives of our Guidance system, says The Law of Attraction.  It also says, the way we feel is the true indicator of our alignment with Source (God, Almighty Spirit, Universe, Allah, Yahweh). You’ve heard of the saying “we create our own beds,” regardless of the spiritual persuasion we might follow. We create our reality, according to our beliefs and emotions. When our emotions do not match our desire, we do not manifest that desire – a simple concept that is ironically difficult to practice, maybe even grasp.  For instance, “your desire for an improved financial condition cannot come to you if you often feel jealous of your neighbor’s good fortune, for the vibration of your jealous feelings (and your desire for improved financial condition – itals mine) are different vibrations” (Esther and Jerry Hicks, from Ask and It Is Given). In other words, if we share in the “feeling – e.g., the joy – of being wealthy” that our neighbor has, instead of feeling jealous, then we put ourselves in a better position to attract the likes of our desire. Esther and Jerry also say: “Every thought, every idea, every Being is vibrational…..The more you think about it, the more you vibrate like it; the more you vibrate like it, the more of that which is like it is attracted to you.”

This brings us back to the point of starting where we are. How do you feel right now?

Mining the Fear, etc.                                                                                                       Yes, Virginia, there’s that word again – fear. But first, let me invite you to do this little exercise.  Visualize the word “fear” and see in your mind’s eye how it looks.  Does it have colors, or is it black?  Does it feel warm or cold?  Are the letters straight or are they crumbling?  You can ask your own questions to tease your brain to take notice. The answers are not as important as the questions. What ever you see is just a picture.  And fear is only a picture in your mind’s eye.  It is not bigger than you.  You are bigger than it. So take back your power.  And let go of that picture of fear that you just created; it was just an exercise. Explode it and it’s gone. You can actually do this exercise with any feeling that you want to pay attention to.  Try it.

What If, If Only – past, future or present tense?                                                         Let’s face it.  We’ve said these words at some time in our life, maybe more times than we would have liked. What do these words really mean to you?  What opportunities did you miss, or deliberately pass up?  What circumstances would you have liked to have happened, or not have happened?

I venture that what if and if only are words in the past tense, if they express regret.  They would be in the future tense if they represent a vision and visualization of possibility, a picture of what we desire.  But can they be in the present tense?

I believe they could be in the present tense if we pay attention to what they represent right at this moment.  I also believe there are no mistakes in life – just choices that looked perfect for us at the moment of choosing. In this context, regrets have no place. So we can look at our what if and if only in present time without judgment.

As my nephew, Ronald, stated rhetorically after reading my first blog:  “I need to go back to the hills!”  Get back to where you are right at this moment, the only point of meaningful beginning.

Mine the what-if’s and if-only’s in your life by paying attention to what is, in your present moment.

Mind your business, and mine your business.  One moment at a time. One gold nugget at a time.

Mining My “What If and If Only”                                                                                   After I drew the serendipitous words of W. Somerset Maugham from my Literary Book of Answers, I decided to register for the conference, the live video streaming one, and with a discount yet. Yay!

It took me two months to make that decision, because I was concerned with the cost and the return of value for me. But really, the bottom line was more about looking beneath the surface of that feeling of concern – that of not believing that I could make a living as a writer, of doing what I love to do and living a life worth living at the same time. That has been a tough concept for me to practice and live.  Although I haven’t yet earned anything from writing, the truth is, I have mined gold from my moments of indecision and faithlessness just by shifting to a different point of attraction, such as: Be playful and stay open; don’t limit yourself – the possibilities are endless; see what happens and correct your course as you go.  And best of all, I received these precious words from my Inner Guidance: “You have been offered the freedom to follow your heart; do not let the opportunity go by.”

What does your inner guidance tell you?  Where are you being led? Take a chance: let serendipity take you by the hand and see what happens.

Let’s continue the conversation.

Alara

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* For the full story of “The Verger”, go to http://www.sinden.org/verger.html

honoring the “fool” in us and choosing “beginner’s mind”

Hello world.  Welcome to my first blog.

I was born on April 11, and I thought it apropos to post the first installment of my blog the Monday after my actual birthday. It seems customary for the bloggers that I’ve followed to write something special for their birthday.  So here goes.

Before moving on, why do I call myself a “life change artist?”  The term comes from Fred Mandell and Kathleen Jordan who wrote the book Becoming a Life Change Artist, c 2010.  When I read the book, I felt they were talking about me and the process I go through to navigate life’s changing courses, change gears in midlife, and create a joyful life. The term spoke to me, myself being an artist, a creative intuitive and a maven/connector as well. Essentially, the creative process used by great artists is the same process as in making a life change, including the creative skills needed in both. These creative skills can be learned, as I have found and will share through my stories and compendium of resources in the blogs to come.

New beginnings. Set intentions. This is my first shot at blogging and putting out my message out into the global sphere. The period in which my birthday falls is a very important period to everyone, according to my astrology teacher and friend, Stephanie Austin. It’s the first in the twelve spokes of a spinning wheel that represents our never-ending life journey. From the culture where I grew up, people from my mother’s generation would start new phases in life (such as a wedding or a new project) when the moon is waxing.  I have been following this tradition, a legacy from my mother, with a few tweaks of my own. This current period is particularly crucial this year due to huge planetary alignments and the new moon. Stephanie states in her April new moon forecast: This is a very important time to set intentions and to hold “Beginner’s Mind.” We’ve never been here before. Like the Fool card in the Tarot, like the hero in Avatar, we step into what looks like thin air and find new ground beneath our feet. Letting go of our preconceptions and “shoulds” enables us to find new solutions to old problems. We are surrounded by boundless possibilities. Embrace the mystery of the present moment. Take one step at a time. Be willing to not know, and remember that there is no failure, only learning. *

The archetype of the Fool (trickster or clown) has received a lot of flack from us because it represents the idiot side of us, the one that uncannily exposes our ignorance, lack of finesse, shams or lies due to its instinctive, crude, self-centered or mischievous conduct. Here’s what author Tony Crisp** has to say about the fool archetype: “The undeveloped, idiot side of this symbol may have a type of clear-sightedness due to lacking the complications and contradictions of thinking and intellectual values. It also may be creative in a serendipitous sort of way. Because it doesn’t seriously hold onto a purpose or idea, this side of our nature may lead us to something new, a change of direction.”  In most parts of the world, April 1st has been designated as the Fool’s day; it’s no wonder that we celebrate the fool during the astrological period of beginnings and initiation. Charlie Chaplin is a modern image of this crazy, unpredictable yet wise clown.  It’s a state of mind that can benefit us. Read on.

There is an adage espoused by the Zen masters, which has been adopted by so many modern traditions and modalities, that speaks to honoring the fool in us: Beginner’s Mind. Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki aptly sums it up: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are a few.” Many times we dread to start over even when we know that there is a need to. For instance, our tower of past accomplishment (e.g., career) has fallen and we fear starting from the bottom again; or we believe we are an expert and we can’t be go back to the first rung of learning (duh), until we’re forced to by uncanny circumstances.  Adopting a beginner’s mind could then be easier said than done, but once we understand how we can achieve the state of mind, we pass the first hurdle.  Take a look at the simple tips below offered by Mary Jaksch, a Zen Master, to achieve a Beginner’s Mind.  I have taken the liberty to summarize them here (no copyright permission required from blogger Leo Babauta for this). ***

  • Take one step at a time without worrying about the journey.
  • Fall down seven times, get up eight times.  Celebrate falling down as well as getting up; it’s all part of learning.
  • Use “Don’t Know” mind. It leaves room for intuition. Letting go of knowing is real wisdom.
  • Live without “should.” And own your life.
  • Make use of experience.  Utilize your native wisdom and experience.
  • Let go of being an expert. It enables you to keep learning.
  • Experience the moment fully. Live to the full – one moment at a time. Disregard common sense. And become creative.
  • Discard fear of failure.  Immerse yourself in your actions and forget the watchers.
  • Use the spirit of enquiry. Focus on questions, not answers.

Easy?  Some of us have done one, two, or many of the above at one time in our life.

With this, I leave you with my favorite quote from Marcel Proust: “The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

How does changing how we see things honor the fool in us and open the door to beginner’s mind? How does having “new eyes” change our life, or help us make a purposeful change or a wiser/informed decision?

Let’s have a conversation.  If you like what you’ve read, I invite you to share your thoughts and comments. (Click “Leave a Reply” below or click on the comment bubble beside the blog title).

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*For more on Stephanie Austin, check out her website http://www.ecoastrology.com

** For more on Tony Crisp: http://dreamhawk.com/dream-encyclopedia/archetype-of-trickster-clown-and-the-fool/

***You will find the full script of the Beginner’s Mind tips in http://zenhabits.net/how-to-live-life-to-the-max-with-beginners-mind/