Making Space for Beauty

A friend of mine remarked the other day that the owner of a local cafe gallery (popular here in Japan) had made the observation that there’s been a decline in gallery sales this year – as she saw it as a result of the decluttering mania that is sweeping the nation with its emphasis on reducing how much you own.

By this estimation it would seem that the concept of “decluttering” has turned into something akin to “downsizing,” and that in this new wave of minimalism the precedence is given to things that can define their value in terms of efficacy, practicality, function and utility; leaving little room for  anything else.

I have no idea if she is correct in her estimation or not, but if she is I think she’s put her finger on something of a misapprehension; not so much a “misunderstanding” as an “incomplete understanding” of what “danshari” (decluttering) is really all about.

According to my (admittedly somewhat subjective) understanding, removing the clutter from your life and then reorganising what is left are only the initial steps in the decluttering process.

It doesn’t stop there. Rather the space you have created by removing the things you no longer want or need opens up the arena for something different to come into your life; presumably something that – to use Marie Kondo’s words – sparks joy.

Now once again I’m advancing an entirely subjective opinion but, for me, things that are designed with only function and utility in mind rarely succeed in sparking joy.

Take my rice cooker and bread maker, for example. They’re wonderful inventions which I’m delighted to own because they serve a useful function in my life. But I don’t feel my heart being uplifted with joy when my gaze alights on them. (A fact which, admittedly, says a lot about the high standard of living we pretty much take for granted in first world countries).

I’m grateful for them (and other such modern conveniences) and the way they contribute to the ease and richness of my life. But the objects in and of themselves don’t have the power to gladden my heart and make my day. Any spark of joy they produce comes from the function they perform, rather than some quality intrinsic to themselves.

Things that combine function, utility and a pleasing aesthetic can sometimes instigate that elusive spark of joy – take my recently acquired MacBook Air for a start.

Now you must understand that I’m not a person who is particularly interested in technology. While most people of a similar age here in Japan are decked out with smartphones, digital TVs, tablets and other such phenomena of the digital age, I am content, for now, to use my old “garakei” mobile phone until it gives out on me and the only TV in my house is an analog one, kept in case I want to watch a DVD.

I do, however, extol the virtues of computers and the Internet – both of which are essential features of my working and personal life. Having spent years deliberating whether to stay with Windows or opt for a Mac, at the end of last year I finally decided I would never be able to make an informed decision without at least trying a Mac.

Now, as I mentioned, I’m not really into technology as it goes; but when I opened the box and saw the beautifully streamlined design of my new computer… Well, there was a spark of joy that quite surprised me in its intensity.

And now we’re getting closer to the truth of it; for me personally the objects in my life that spark joy are the ones that are, to my mind and eyes, beautiful.

Some of them combine attractiveness with utility; the Mac laptop is not only beautiful to look at but also pleasing to use. I’m also rather fond of the bamboo chest of drawers that one of my friends gave me from her mum’s old place which now contains my bath products; the hardly-30-centimetres-square small but elegant table that stands in my “genkan” (hall) – perfectly placed to hold a vase and a flower plucked as I walk my dog in anticipation of guests; and the simple white teapot that sits in my kitchen and is used every day, its gentle curves creating a pleasing graciousness of form.

Noticing these things as I walk through my days – the way they stamp their identity on the space; the way they interact with the room they’re in and the other objects in it to create a sense of a unified whole which turns the space I live into from “a house” into “my home” – gives me a sense of pleasure and a very real sense of belonging that uplifts; sparks joy.

But the things that spark the most joy?

Well, they tend to be the non-essential embellishments that are beautiful to look at and expressive of who I am, but are not really necessary in strictly functional terms.

I went through my own “danshari” process last year, (if you like you can read more about it here and here), and as I released years and years of clutter from my life and living space it was of the greatest importance to me that the space I created anew was one of beauty; one that evoked in me a response of joy.

I wanted to create a living space which reflects the essence of who I am, expressing my unique ideals of beauty – both in the way the space is laid out and in the objects with which I choose to surround myself. A living space that would uplift and enliven me, support me in being the best version of myself that I can be.

So what are these beauty-giving objects in my life that uplift my heart and expand my joy?

Well, there’s the candle holder I made that lay unused for years but now sits in pride of place on my kitchen table; its subtle off-white slip and the ash glaze’s tender green making it an attractive centrepiece whether it has candles in it or not.

There’s the one of a kind wall vase – for want of a better word – that looks somewhat similar to a partly rolled narrow scroll hanging on the wall and holds just enough water to sustain a wild flower for the best part of a day.

There’s the traditional blue and white tie-dyed “noren” (a piece of fabric often hung in doorways in Japan) that delineates the line between my kitchen (personal space) and the hall (the “public” space where I welcome guests) with a singular grace that still causes a warmth to spread in my chest, even now years after it was gratefully received from friends who no longer had a use for it.

There’s the perfectly imperfect flattened round vase made by a local potter that sits on the chest of drawers in my bedroom, a welcome sight each morning that helps me start my day on an uplifting note of beauty and joy.

And there are the lamps – scattered around the house – joy-giving in the softness of the light they impart, as well as in the attractiveness of their well-crafted forms.

Most of these joy-giving objects in my life are quite small and easily overlooked. It has been my experience that although a few of the visitors to my house notice these things and the particular quality of beauty they impart, many more pass them by failing to notice they are there. If asked and forced to answer honestly they would call my old house in various stages of disrepair far from beautiful.

But to me these things and the way they are arranged in the space give the place I live in a beauty all of its own.

Many of them also have personal meaning for me, combining beauty with a deeper significance in the fabric of my life.

There’s the picture of a mother and baby elephant that I carried carefully cradled in my arms through two more countries and then safely home to Japan from Laos. Bought from a local artist with talent bigger than the town or village in which he was born, a beautiful reminder of a wondrous time and place.

There are the various lace and patchwork items my mother has made for me her only daughter; each stitch a symbol of her love.

There are stones and driftwood I’ve found on beaches and by rivers, and various shapes and sizes of pinecones and feathers I’ve discovered in my path.

All of these things add to the beauty of my surroundings and, in doing so, they incomparably enrich my days.

I’ve always been a lover of beauty. I remember as a child ornaments lined the top of my bookcase and the window ledge, the only available surfaces in my room.

When I first moved into this big, old house I took delight in creating a beautiful and welcoming feel – covering unsightly walls with throws, placing carefully chosen objects around. These things were still in place, but over the years I’d managed to accumulate an excessive amount of things and much of the sense of beauty was lost as the objects I’d so carefully placed lost their significance submerged in the sea of stuff.

As I progressively peeled back the layers of clutter and refined my space through my clearing process, the beauty reemerged. I began to delight in my living space again and this brought me moments of a pure and quiet joy.

Like many people who find themselves on the spiritual path, my year of space clearing coincided with a period of energetic clearing. The emerging beauty in my living space was a healing balm to my spirit as I went through what felt like a dark night of the soul – it was both a tangible representation of my own healing process and a physical presence that inspired a deeply felt tranquility and calm that supported my healing, assisting my return to wholeness.

In an act laden with symbolic meaning I gave away the plain white bowls that had come from the 100 yen store and that I was in the habit of using most days – knowing they were microwave-safe; unlikely to break and, on the off chance they did, easily replaced…

Out with the practical and convenient but notably uninspiring; in with the joy-giving, life-enriching, far more fragile few pieces of handmade pottery that I’d purchased over the years, one treasured piece at a time.

Purchased and then never used in some cases, waiting for that special occasion…

Well, I decided at some point during that year and more of protracted clearing and extensive healing that every day of my life is a special occasion; every day a day to celebrate the gift of being alive. That not only is it my right, but that I owe it to myself to surround myself with and interact with things that speak to me of beauty and spark my joy.

This is a simple but profound gift that I give to myself each and every day. Deceptively simple. For it is nothing less than a sacred act – when I connect with beauty I connect with my own divine nature, with the divine nature that is in all things.

The conscious creation of beauty in my space is an avowal of self-love, an honouring of myself, a pronouncement of my worthiness.

It is also an action of self-love for, as I surround myself with beauty, it impresses itself on me; inscribes the signature of its harmonic resonance on my cells; edifies me in the process.

Even in the midst of my year of darkness, as I consciously immersed myself in beauty (that of the natural world as well as the pockets of beauty I was creating within my home) I found myself taking on something of its nature. The world within me, doing what comes naturally to it, mirrored the world without and so the stillness, the order, the quietude of the beauty around me became qualities that I unearthed within myself, embodied and integrated into my life.

The simple acts of walking in nature; using cups, plates and bowls that were handmade and held a special significance for me; lighting candles and/or placing a wildflower in a vase to create beauty in my table setting as I ate my meals became a reprieve; rituals that brought some joy and equilibrium back into my life and helped me to know the world I lived in as one of goodness, joy and beauty again; even if that knowing sometimes only lasted for a few short moments.

It was the beauty that I responded to; hand in hand with beauty’s capacity to heal goes its ability to draw us wholeheartedly into the present moment. The conscious creation of and interaction with beauty urged me to be more fully engaged in the here and now. Who can look, really look, at a flower, the flame of a candle, and not be drawn into its beauty, forgetting everything else?

We may be complex creatures, but despite the fact that we have the word “bittersweet” in our language our experience in the moment can only be either bitter (characterised by pain and suffering) or sweet (characterised by life-affirming joy). It can never be both at the same time.

The presence of small segments of beauty in my life helped me to create small pockets of “sweet”  life-affirming joy in my days; my absorption in the here and now beauty in front of my eyes releasing me from my pain if only for a while.

Beauty’s unique ability to bring us fully into the present also helped me to ground and, in doing so, to come back to myself; to know, as the beauty without was mirrored as harmony within, myself as a calm and centered presence again. In those dark days when I’d lost sight of myself as anything other than fragmented and broken this was a much-needed lifeline; the pockets of beauty I’d created reviving in me the knowing that I was (am) whole.

The same centeredness and a peace and stillness in my heart come about whenever I’m engaged in the active appreciation of beauty, whether the beauty of nature or the consciously created beauty of a physical object or space – a picture, a piece of furniture, a room, a temple, a cathedral, a museum.

I’m stopped in my tracks and brought forcibly into the present. In that moment the things I carry around with me – the worries, the fears, the doubts, the suffering, the pain, the regrets… – ebb away and I find myself suddenly naked without my stories, face to face with the now moment and beauty as a physical presence – one that has the power to heal.

When I am weary or discouraged; tormented by my thoughts; drained of energy after injurious interactions with others, I seek solace in nature.

What I am seeking in part is the healing presence of beauty.

Beauty soothes the troubled mind and quiets the troubled soul.

Beauty replenishes, aligning us with a natural order and harmony that revives, revitalizes, restores.

We have an unfathomable affinity with beauty. It captivates our souls, drawing us in with its mysterious pull.

And beauty, like nothing else, allows us to experience for a fleeting moment a sense of our divinity as, in that moment of surrender, as we lose ourselves in rapture, the grip our ego stories hold over us is loosened and we are free, for that moment, to experience our connection to Source, to know ourselves as one with All That Is.

As we yield to beauty, submerging ourselves in it eyes and senses wide open, beauty yields its offerings to us. We are nourished by it; nurtured back to wholeness; receive into our lives its gifts of peace, calmness, serenity, equilibrium.

This is the transformative power of beauty. Its ability to touch us to the core.

It is a transformative power that I want to consciously harness. If beauty has this power to seep into our heart and cells, to inscribe itself there, to impart its peace and harmony creating a sense of relaxed joy, a tranquility within that mirrors the beauty without and is what we then reflect back out into the world through our interactions with others; then surrounding ourselves with beauty not only enhances our own well-being and joy and enriches our lives, it also empowers us to embody the highest expression of ourselves. It hones our hearts so that we can be more loving and compassionate, more harmonious in the ways we interact with the world. It liberates us from the bindings we have put on ourselves and inspires us to shine more of our light in the world.

Imagine how differently we would think, speak and act if we made a point of consciously nurturing ourselves with beauty; inviting its gifts into our lives.

Imagine what different people we could be and how different – because as each of us transforms the world around us is also inevitably transformed; our light, as it impacts the people around us, changes our corner of the world for the better in some small way – how beautiful our world could be.

When we lay it out like this the advantages of creating more opportunities in our everyday life to interact with and consciously appreciate beauty are persuasive. And there are a multitude of ways in which we can: spending more time in nature; filling our homes with harmonious music and sound; spending an afternoon watching children play; a weekend appreciating art in galleries and museums; enjoying the play of light as it comes through our window and the rich and burnished look it gives to everything it comes into contact with… Beauty is all around us; the opportunities to appreciate it endless.

What I’m choosing to focus on here, (the missing piece to decluttering being the impetus behind this post), is bringing more of the healing presence of beauty into our homes. This really brings beauty into the everyday spaces we inhabit, makes it a part of our day to day life.

Meaningful as this is – and I truly believe that the sheer physical presence of beauty can rejuvenate, inspire harmony, heal – this in and of itself isn’t enough if we really want to harness the power of beauty.

The impact that beauty can have on our lives will be determined to a large extent by our capacity to open ourselves up to it, to receive its gifts. Even a living space that is in perfect integrity with our soul will only be able to support us in embodying our highest vision of ourselves if we actively create the time to be present in it, to absorb its vibration and receive its gifts – the “consciously nurturing ourselves with beauty” I mentioned before.

This conscious creation of and appreciation of beauty, though it may require an effort of will at first, soon becomes a labor of love; a pleasure-filled ritual that can create moments of awe and wonder in even the most drab and lacklustre day.

And it’s so easy. We don’t have to go anywhere, study anything, or ask the advice of anyone in order to be able to start.

We can begin right now, right where we are.

One surface cleared of clutter with a few things attractively arranged on it can make a difference to the feel of a whole room. The same goes for a beautiful picture on the wall, or a single flower placed in a vase.

Pockets of beauty that transform a space, strewing joy and harmony in their wake.

And it oh so doesn’t have to be perfect.

However many times I clear it the far corner in my kitchen has a tendency to descend into chaos again as it takes on the overflow from my cupboards, and I have a chair in my living room that I have to take something off practically every time I want to sit on it.

Heck, I have a hole in my wall that’s stuffed with newspaper and a dip in the hall floor through which weeds grow every summer.

But my eyes don’t linger on these things; they stop instead on the things that captivate my heart, call to it to silently sing with joy.

Notions of beauty aren’t constant – my ideal of beauty is without a doubt not minimalistic enough for some people, too simple for others, not colourful enough for many more – and that’s kind of the point; all that is required is that you ask your heart and do what “sparks joy” in you.

While notions of beauty may not be constant, its healing and transformative power are.

This is what I encourage you to make space for in your life – decluttering’s unsung anthem that has the power to transform both our inner and our outer worlds.

Welcome the gifts of beauty, invite still more of them into your life.

 

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In This Moment

Image from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/37735/37735-h/images/illus235.png

Just as my worry

rises, threatens to consume…

four sparrows – darting

back and forth, bending boughs at

dusk – remind me all is well.

The Beauty of Beingness

In one moment of

presence, our Beingness known.

Now is all that is.

purple-flower-close-up-with-text copy2
Picture credit: http://images.forwallpaper.com/files/images/2/2708/27084ad5/163396/purple-flower-close-up-blurred.jpg

I came into contact with the peace and stillness of Beingness long before I had any idea what it was. In my twenties, caught up in the world of work and relationships, focused almost entirely on ‘doing’ as opposed to ‘being,’ its presence in my life was still powerful enough to make a lasting impression – a footprint in my soul that marked a sacred space.

I have my friend and ‘Japanese mother’ Hitomi to thank for this. I’ve found it to be a funny thing that it’s when we’re at our lowest ebb that we become more open and receptive to the non-visible and indefinable presence of subtle energy in our lives.

I had met Hitomi soon after I first came to Japan, and would sometimes visit her on the weekends. We enjoyed a sense of heartfelt connection from the start, as, with little more than a dictionary and our strong desire to communicate, we somehow managed to make ourselves more or less understood.

As my Japanese language skills grew I came to appreciate Hitomi’s wisdom as well as her kindness and generosity of spirit. But it was only when I was physically, emotionally, mentally and, (though I didn’t know it at the time), spiritually tired; worn down by frequent storms in a turbulent relationship and not enough sleep, by trying to squeeze myself into the box that (I thought) would make my then-partner happy, that I really felt the healing nature of her presence.

It wasn’t that we talked about any of ‘my stuff.’ But it was as if her presence alone was a balm to my soul, and I would leave her house with a calm and peaceful spirit – feeling replenished, stronger and somehow returned to myself.

Being with her brought a sense of solace, but I didn’t really look into the whys and wherefores. If anything, I put it down to our mutual pleasure in each other’s company and the natural beauty that surrounded her house, tucked away in the mountains.

Soon after that I had the privilege of living with Hitomi for the best part of a year while I looked for the house I still live in. By that time I was out of the relationship and in a job that demanded long hours and working weekends. Again, Hitomi’s presence was like a restorative balm in my life.

Crazily busy as I was, there was a sense of time slowed-down time that seemed to imbue our hours together and enabled me to return to and feel like myself again. When we spent the odd morning or afternoon together, it was like I was going back to a simpler time; a time when work deadlines and modern day stresses didn’t exist. A time when the simple pleasures of the warmth of the sun on my skin, the beauty of a single flower and the taste of the chai that she would make for us to drink together prevailed.

It was as if I stepped Narnia-like through the wardrobe into a different world. One in which I was free to just ‘be.’

I wasn’t aware enough at the time to realise the sense of liberation inherent in this; or that it could become a state of being that was lived all the time, instead of just the odd afternoon.

What I could see and appreciate was the inherent dignity and beauty in the way Hitomi both presented herself to and interacted with the people and things in her world. Her movements as she went about her day were slow and deliberate, infused with a simplicity and beauty reminiscent of the Japanese tea ceremony or Ikebana.

She would give whatever she was doing her full attention, focusing only on that and the conversation that flowed back and forth between us without effort. And it was this concentration of her focus and energy on the task at hand that gave her movements their effortless beauty and grace.

Compared to my double and triple tasking filled work days, in which my energy was scattered tenfold, the time I spent with her was a time of quiet and stillness. And it was this quiet and stillness that was such a solace to my soul.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, I was in the presence of Beingness.

Several years later, (at the suggestion of Hitomi), I joined a tai chi class, which we both still attend to this day. Our teacher talks of how it is when we bring our mind, body and breath into unity that we find the deep-seated peace and calmness for which we all yearn.

To me this is what Beingness is – the acute present-moment awareness that illumines all that we are and all that we do when we still our minds and focus on the Now moment, bringing our awareness to both our internal and our external realities at the same time; simultaneously placing our attention on the inner world of our heart-space and breathing and the external reality of our interactions with the physical world.

This act takes us outside of all time and brings us profoundly into the Now. As we come into the Now our breathing seems to slow; our heart naturally expands its sense of peace and well-being; and the world around us is more keenly felt as our awareness of minute details is enhanced – it’s as if things come into sharper focus; and light, sound and colour intensify.

This is the state of Beingness. It’s a state in which we know and experience our humanity and our divinity in a single moment – the stillness in our heart and each life-giving breath reminding us that we are spawned of and connected to the Source of all that is; the intensified awareness of the things in our external world reminding us that this eternal part of us is housed in a temporary physical body, experiencing itself as part of an ever-changing physical world.

When we are in this state of Beingness, dualities cease to exist. The human self and the divine self are known and experienced as one. There is no separation, there is only life. All is life. And as life, all is divine.

A life lived in this state of Beingness is a life lived in meditation.

Not the sitting crossed-legged on the floor kind of meditation that may come to mind; but a meditative state in which we carry the peace and stillness of the Infinite in our hearts and minds throughout the day, reminding us of our connection to and oneness with it. A meditative state in which we observe our thoughts and emotions as they come and go, returning our attention to the present moment each time it drifts away; bringing the full force of our attention to whatever we happen to be encountering in our life in the Now moment. A meditative state in which we are aware of both our inner and our outer realities, integrating them successfully so that we are able to experience and express the wholeness of our Being.

This is the kind of Beingness that Hitomi was presenting for me. And I now see what a gift it was. It was thanks to the powerful strength and presence of Hitomi’s Beingness – the calmness and stillness of the Infinite at the core of her being which was reflected in the way she interacted with her world and me as a part of that world – that her energy field (read ’emotions’ ) was able to have such a profound and healing effect on mine.

This power to positively affect others through our state of being is one that belongs to us all. As energetic beings our emotional state sends out vibrations that affect the people around us and prompt them to respond to us in various ways, as we have all seen in our relationships with others.

Negative emotions send out a low vibration; usually attracting a low vibrational response in return. So if you shout at someone, they are likely to go on the defensive and respond to you in a negative way. As you move up the emotional vibrational scale you should find that people respond to you more favourably. So when you treat others with respect and compassion, you usually find that they respond in kind.

There are various different scales around, but the highest vibrating emotions are generally presented as being those of love, peace, joy, gratitude, appreciation, freedom…

What is of particular relevance here is that, as with electricity in which lower voltage currents are absorbed by higher currents, if the energetic field of the person holding the higher emotional vibration is strongly held the “higher frequencies or vibrations can absorb lower ones and turn them into higher vibrations.” (Hans Liszikam in The God Code in the Seven and Its Effect on Our Physical, Mental and Spiritual Lives).

Seen from this perspective, the power of Hitomi’s presence and its ability to affect me positively – in such a way that my stress and worries seemed to recede and my heart and Spirit felt more at ease – lay in her strongly held field of high-vibrational energy from which emanated the love, peace, serenity and joy of the Infinite that she embodied at the core of her being.

This is the power of Beingness.

The peace, calmness, joy and love that we are when we are connected to the Infinite part of ourselves and living in the Now moment ripple outwards, coming into contact with the energy fields of others and leaving healing footprints in the souls of everyone we meet.

People find themselves restored, rejuvenated, more at peace, more in touch with themselves and their inner wisdom; feel somehow more themselves without quite being able to put their finger on why, when they are in the presence of Beingness.

This restorative power is a gift in the life of anyone; but for those who are hurting, weary, worn down by life and disconnected from the very essence of who they are, it literally has the capacity to call back home the splintered parts of their soul and reconnect them to beauty, to love, to wonder, and to a magical sense of awe at this miracle that we call life.

At the same time as our Beingness is a gift to others, it is also the most precious gift we can give to ourselves. It is when we connect to our own Beingness that we really discover the peace of the Infinite that resides in our hearts and the profound joy that is available to us in the present moment. When we’re experiencing vibrationally low emotions, we can consciously choose to return to our own Beingness and drink deeply of its restorative power in a potent act of self-healing. Our Beingness is also the gateway to unexplored realms of self-discovery and a felt connection to Source, for we can only know that which we are able to be fully present with.

During the few months we lived together, Hitomi often spoke of cultivating a profound peace and stillness in your heart that is so complete it can’t be disturbed by the things that life throws at you. She likened this sense of peace and stillness to a tranquil lake upon which the reflection of the moon lies unbroken. This is the quality of Beingness that she was reflecting for me during those times we spent together, and this is the quality of Beingness I would like to embody and share as my gift to myself and to everyone and everything I encounter in the world.

This is a lofty aspiration that may take me some time to reach, but I can at least allow any ripples in my emotions and energy field to pass through me swiftly and easily; making a conscious choice, as I notice them, to return to the sacred space of my own Beingness. And as, in the core of my being, the peace and stillness of that tranquil lake with its unbroken moon is restored, I can hold the intention that it is these qualities – the reflection of the Infinite inscribed in my heart – that ripple out from me into the world.

A Lived Connection to Source

We are all of the same Source copy

In last week’s post I asked, “How can we feel (our) connection to divinity… so it becomes something we know experientially; a subtle but living presence within that we live and breathe in everything we do?”

Taking as my starting point an understanding of the divine as the Source energy and consciousness behind all that is, the key things that came up for me from delving into this question were that it is when we are heart-centered and fully present in the now moment that we tangibly experience this kind of felt-connection to our Source.

In the same post I very briefly touched on some of the morning practices I do that allow me to access this sense of felt-connection. Today I’d like to explore some other practices I’ve put in place that I feel are key in helping me to experience connection with Source as a real and tangible presence in my life.

While my morning practices help to frame my mindset for the day, I’m of the opinion that setting aside a specific chunk time for our ‘spiritual practice’ does not really serve us. Sure it’s better than doing nothing at all; but by doing so, even with the best of intentions, we may create a separate ‘spiritual self’ – and this can unwittingly result in the division of our day into times when we’re being that ‘spiritual self’ and times when we’re not.

As the reality of our connection to Source is ever-present, why would we choose to ‘tune into’ it only at set-aside times when we could instead choose to experience a felt-sense of that connection all day long?

Seen in this light, whether we have a longer period of time also set aside or not, short and frequent bursts of ‘connecting in’ throughout the day seem to me to be the way to most consistently experience a sense of felt-connection to Source; as well as a means of bringing about the integration of our ‘spiritual nature’ into our ‘human nature,’ dissolving the false dichotomy.

Doing a yoga pose or sitting in the traditional meditation posture in the middle of the office might not cut it in today’s secular world, so I’m choosing to focus on practices that can be easily incorporated throughout the day without drawing unwanted attention to oneself.

One of the things that came up in last week’s post was that felt-connection will be experienced as a reality more readily when there is a sense of two-way communication with the Universe, so I’m choosing to first focus on the speaking and listening sides of communication in turn; then on connecting in with the soul – our bridge to Source; and to end with some ideas for bringing yourself fully into the present moment.

While I hope the concrete nature of the practices will be useful for some – giving specific ideas for practices that can be integrated into your days and weeks right away, I’m very conscious of the fact that just because something works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you.

My suggestion to anyone who wants to open up into a deeper sense of felt-connection with Source would be to ask Source to show you the optimum way of connecting in for you. Take some or all of these practices as a starting point and try integrating them into your day or week. Also try out variations and other practices you’re drawn to. Observe how the practices work for you – which ones give you the sense of felt-connection that you’re looking for and which ones don’t?  Keep what works for you and discard the rest. Our connection to Source is experienced differently for each of us and the only things worth spending your time and energy on are the ones that work for you.

I believe that Source responds in kind to our intentions. When we show our commitment to connect with Source the path opens up before us and the tools and resources we need flow into our lives, leading us to what works for us. All we need to do is to have an open heart and mind, be ready and open to receive what flows into our lives, and to follow the signs; always trusting that we’ll be given everything we need to grow and expand in just the right design and timing for who we are.

As we experience this to be true, our trust and belief expand into knowing. Not only do we know, on an experiential level, the truth of our connection to Source; we come to know ourselves as Source in human form. Only with this understanding can we truly know ourselves as the sole authority in our lives. And it is when we embrace this that we open the door to conscious co-creation with the Universe.

I leave you today with some of my favourite practices…

Opening up a connection:

  • Ask for the connection you desire. I like to say quietly or silently to myself, “I’m now connecting to the divine within and the divine without, which are one and the same and all that is.” These words open me up into a space of conscious connection with Source and can be said at the start of a time of prayer or meditaiton, or, simply, in a brief moment of stillness in a busy day. They serve the dual purpose of reminding us of the truth of who we are, and making our intention to connect in known to the Universe.
  • Take this one step further and ask for the specific answers you desire. Open up a space of conscious connection in whatever way works best for you, and then make your question known by speaking it aloud or in your heart. The answer might not come to you straight away, but trust that is on its way. (More thoughts on how we may receive these answers below).
  • Use your breath to bring yourself into the present moment and activate a sense of felt-connection to the Universe. By far the most effective breath work I’ve found to do this involves imagining your body as a tube that is open at both ends, connecting you to the Universe in the form of the earth below and the heavens above. On alternate inhales breathe the supportive energies of the earth and the heavens into your body – it helps if you visualise yourself drawing this energy into your body. On your exhales imagine these energies merging in your body and filling your entire energy field with their supportive presence. In this way you not only connect with Source, but invite its supportive energies into your life.

Being on the receiving end of the connection:

  • Be on the lookout for signs and messages from the Universe. This one is ongoing throughout the day, but doesn’t require you to do anything other than cultivate an openness of mind that accepts that the Universe can and will communicate with you, and bring a heightened awareness to the things that are happening around you. Pay particular attention to things that you notice coming up twice or more, and things that appear to be answers to questions that you have asked.
  • Learn to recognise and trust your intuition, which is said to be the superconscious (otherwise known as Source) directly communicating with us. It’s easier for our intuition to communicate with us when our left brains are quiet and still; so meditation, nature walks and other activities that help reduce brain chatter are all good practices to incorporate into your day; but equally your intuition may speak to you when you’re naturally relaxed and open without you having even tried to create a conscious connection, such as when you’re daydreaming, in the shower, or completely focused on doing something you love.  ‘Listen’ for what floats up to the surface when you are in this quiet space – again, pay special attention to anything that seems like it might be an answer to a specific question you have been asking.
  • Get in the practice of pausing throughout the day to listen to your heart and connect in with its desires. Acknowledge them all and act on the ones you can. It is said that the divine speaks to us through our intuition and our most heartfelt desires. Rediscover your true nature by looking deeply into your heart and having the courage to be fearlessly honest with yourself; what is it that awakens your passion and makes your heart sing? What is it that brings a sense of peace and contentment to the innermost place within your heart? These are the things you want to be doing more of. As much as you can, release the rest from your life.

Living a soul-centered life:

  • Deepen into your relationship with your soul. Our soul is the bridge between us and Source and, if we can learn to listen to it, is always guiding us home to the truth of who and what we are. A practice I have found very helpful is to ‘dialog’ with my soul to feel into my most deeply felt desires. I like to do it on a Sunday night or a Monday morning, so I’m clear on my focus and intentions for the week ahead. I get quiet and consciously connect in. Then I ask my soul what its priorities are in different areas of my life; ranging from my relationships with others to my living space, and a whole host of others in-between. I write these in a notebook. Then all I need to do is read them through a couple of times during the week to quickly and easily bring myself back into alignment.
  • Stay soul-centered by setting your intention to be in alignment with your soul’s desires at the start of each day.

Being present in the now moment:

  • Simply and literally focus on your breath. Pause in what you are doing for a moment and bring all of your attention to your breathing; consciously slowing down both your inhalations and your exhalations. We can only breathe in the present moment, so focusing on the breath is a sure way to bring ourselves there.
  • Deepen into your experience of the now moment through your senses. I love this practice because it doubles up as a gratitude ritual. I simply focus on each of my senses in turn and notice what, in the present moment, is giving me pleasure. For example, if I’m out walking my dog, I might notice/bring my attention to the snow-capped mountains for the sense of sight; the bracing fresh air for the sense of smell; the sound of the river for the sense of hearing; and the feel of the wind in my hair for the sense of touch.
  • Look at your world with eyes and a heart that see. Really look at and notice what is in the physical environment around you; you can only do this when your mind is still and you’re present in the now moment. Imagine sometimes that you’re seeing everything with ‘fresh eyes’ and look at it as keenly as you would if you were seeing it for the first time; when you do this you can’t help but notice the wonder, mystery and miracle of life of all that is around you. Another variation I like to do is to remind myself that I am one with all I see; a unique expression of the beauty and perfection of Source just as everything around me is. Doing this not only brings me into the present moment, it also affirms that I am one with Source and in an ever-present state of connection, reminding me of the truth of my being.

Have you tried any of these or similar practices before and how have they worked for you? What are your favourite ways to deepen into a felt-connection to Source? How do you experience your connection to Source? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Wishing you a day of deeply felt connection.

Our Connection to Divinity

door-and-key

My ‘Stats Page’ revealed to me last week, that somebody had found and read my blog post Being In The World, But Not Of It (https://delvingdeepwithin.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/being-in-the-world-but-not-of-it/) via a search engine. While it was a nice surprise to learn that friends on my Facebook page and the occasional blogger here are not the only people to read it, the search terms they used – “maintaining your connection to divinity in the world” – did make me wonder if they had found an answer to their question in my post or not…

I thought probably not.

It was one of my more reflective posts. And I’m pretty sure that if I were to put something like that in a search engine, I’d be on the lookout for practical ideas that I could apply in my own life. So that is my hope today – to explore some tangible ways we can maintain our connection to divinity as we walk in the world. And in doing so I also hope to open myself up to receive greater understanding.

Before exploring how to sustain a connection to divinity, I feel I first need an understanding of what divinity actually means to me.

Trying to express this in words is in itself a challenge – the divine is, by its very nature, limitless and therefore beyond our limited conceptions and understanding. For me, at this stage in my journey, ‘God’ or ‘the Divine’ is Source energy –  the creative life-force energy and consciousness behind everything in the Universe; the creator of all that is. We have been birthed forth from this creative life-force energy and it is what now in this very moment animates and sustains us; so we also contain this divinity within. It is both the stuff we are made of and the divine spark of life at the centre of our being; and so we are always not only connected to but actively embodying divinity, whether we are conscious of it or not.

From this understanding the question becomes not so much, “How can we maintain our connection to divinity in the world?;” but “How can we maintain our connection to divinity more consciously?”

As we are sentient beings who create our experiences of the world through our thoughts and feelings, for me the question also becomes, “How can we feel this connection to divinity as intensely as the sun’s warmth on our skin, so it becomes something we know experientially; a subtle but living presence within that we live and breathe in everything we do?” A purely intellectual understanding of our connection to all that is can never awaken this kind of ‘knowing’ within us – and while we don’t need to feel the connection for it to be true, it is true that doing so deepens our experience of it.

I think two of the keys that open the door to this kind of felt-awareness of our connection to divinity are the desire to have the experience of it and the belief that it is possible. Not just for those who we feel are further along the path of enlightenment and somehow worthier than us of such aspirations; but also for me, here, now. We are all equal in the eyes of the Universe – life makes no distinctions between us. This means that if it’s possible for someone else, it’s also possible for me. An experiential connection to divinity isn’t reserved for spiritual gurus and leaders; it is the birthright of us all. All we need to do is to step up and claim it.

This is where desire comes in. Everything is born of our desire. What we desire to experience in our lives and keep our focus and attention on is what we receive. So simply by having a genuine and heartfelt desire to consciously sustain a felt connection to divinity, we open up the gates for this to happen.

Focus and attention are another two keys – they help us keep our desire activated so that it doesn’t waver and falter and end up resigned to a wishy-washy ‘one of these days’ backwater of our being.

I’m sure you’ve heard it said as often as I have that what we put our focus and attention on grows. So when we make the conscious choice to think, speak and act in ways that reinforce our connection to divinity – both the divinity within and the ‘all that is’ that comprises the divinity without – it’s only natural that this connection is more experientially felt and known.

As to the practicalities of how to hone our focus and attention in this way, I think different things work for different people.

I like to have some practices in place as they help me be more consistent – and consistency is the  next key. How can we expect to maintain a felt sense of our connection to divinity if we aren’t consistent in the affirming of it through our thoughts, word and actions? Although this connection is ever-present, if we rarely do anything to “tune in” we limit our ability to experience it – much as we can have wi-fi throughout our entire house, but are only able to know this experientially when we use a device that initiates a connection to it.

I like to take time to consciously ‘connect in’ on waking – it helps me start my day in the way I wish to go on. I start with an offering of gratitude – for the fresh new day and for the life that I am in it; and also do a grounding exercise, some breath work and a short meditation-like exercise to fill myself with the purest essence of me. I also set my intention to receive the wisdom of my higher self throughout the day and to be in alignment with my soul’s desires. Setting intentions is yet another key that helps us consolidate our desires and communicate them to the Universe; thereby opening ourselves up to receive its support. After breakfast I walk with my dog, absorbing the beauty of the nature all around and affirming my oneness with it.

These things help me feel centred; part of something that is both greater than I am and yet that somehow simultaneously I am; and connected to my heart. And it is from this heart-centered space that I’m more able to consciously embody both my authentic self free of any masks and the qualities that we commonly associate with the divine – such as love and compassion for self and others, gratitude, wisdom and kindness – as I  move through my day.

I feel this heart-centered state of being is a large part of what we mean when we speak of ‘maintaining our connection to divinity.’ Revealing as it may be as to how we still locate our sense of self in terms of polarity, we are voicing a genuine (and worthy) desire to express the highest qualities of our being, and to interact with the people and things in our world from this heart-centred space.

I think another part of what we mean when we talk of maintaining our connection to divinity is our yearning to be in a constant state of communicative flow with the Universe – the kind of two-sided communication where we’re not only expressing our gratitude and desires; but are also on the receiving end of communications as well. Again, I think this is something that is open to all of us. It is my belief that the Universe is communicating with all of us all of the time – through the voices of the people we meet; the words we read in books or on the Internet; the repeating patterns we see in our lives; the signs and symbols we see in nature; the synchronicites we encounter as we move through our lives… Also through our heart-space – through the desires that bubble up unbidden; the peaceful feeling of quiet and stillness that tells us that we are on path and all is well; the quiet intuitions and knowings that we feel deep within our hearts… If we can only open up our hearts and consciousness into a more expansive awareness, we become more receptive; and the more receptive we are, the more of these communications can get through.

So another key to maintaining a connection to divinity seems to lie in our being able to maintain a heart-centered consciousness.

Until we are far enough along our path that it becomes our natural state of being to be present and heart-centered in this way it is helpful, I believe, to create some time each day without distractions when we can consciously ‘connect in’ with ourselves and all that is and come into this heart-centered space. I use my morning practices to do this, but countless variations exist – gardening, journaling, time spent with pets, tai chi, contemplative reading, painting, meditation, time spent in nature, running, yoga, time spent absorbing the beauty of a piece of art… all of these things and many more offer a way to ‘connect in.’

I don’t think there is one right answer or even one ‘correct’ way of connecting in – sometimes I like to do something that makes me feel vigorously alive and grateful for the life that courses through my veins; and other times I like to do something that takes me to a place of deep peace, quiet and stillness. Both of these states of being awaken in me a state of heart-centeredness and bring me fully into the present.

I think that what is key is that whatever our practice is it helps us to set our mind free for a while from the constant barrage of thoughts, and brings us fully into the present moment. It’s only in the present moment that we can fully connect to anything, and it is in this experience of our beingness that our connection to divinity is experientially felt. As we release all thoughts of past and future and focus on the now we naturally come into our heart space and are reminded of all that we are – alive, present, complete; the eternal breath of life in human form.

A Walk by the River on a Winter’s Day

The mind stills, silenced

by the presence of beauty.

I am free to be.

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