The Interspiritual Revolution

“Interspirituality points to the realization that although there are many spiritual paths, a universal commonality underlies them all.” ~~Wayne Teasdale, The Mystic Heart

There can be little doubt that traditional religious frameworks are no longer speaking to new generations as they have in the past, especially in the West. People are waking up, recognizing that what was the norm just a few years or even months ago is not that anymore, and feeling as if life is more uncertain than ever. Here’s where Interspirituality—a rapidly expanding, emerging global understanding—comes into the picture.

What is Interspirituality? Interspirituality is the appreciation and practice of spirituality centered on humanity’s most deeply shared values of the heart: interconnectedness, love, kindness, compassion, and service. “Interspirituality is at the heart space of all religions and spiritual traditions—of humanity itself.” It is an exploration of ourselves so deeply grounded in compassion and unconditional love that it dissolves any separation between human beings that stems from differences in beliefs, values, background or creed.

What is not Interspirituality?

Interspirituality is not about spiritual by-passing, a “head-buried-in-the-sand” approach to spiritual awakening. It acknowledges the reality of the numerous global threats surrounding us—resource scarcity and competition, climate change, environmental degradation, wars based on national and ethnic adherences, and economic and social disparities of various kinds. In fact, the environment and all living creatures are tended to with the utmost respect and important in interspiritual practices. As the next step in our evolution, Interspirituality embodies the ultimate understanding that we are simultaneously interconnected, independent and interdependent.

Finally, Interspirituality recognizes at the heart of every genuine spiritual path, there is a commitment to core values which honor peace, compassionate service, and love for all creation.

This December, we invite you to a new interspiritual experience in Central Coast California: Love in Flight Interspiritual Society (“LĪFĬS” for short). LĪFĬS is based on blending Interfaith teachings with Interspiritual core values and practices. Our vision and purpose is rooted in six core values: Authentic Connection, Consciousness of the Sacred, Inclusivity, Integrity, Lifelong Learning and Sacred Service.

Our Sunday services are bi-monthly: first and third Sundays of each month at 10 A.M., at the San Luis Obispo Library Community Room, 995 Palm St., San Luis Obispo. We are activating the connection and fellowship at LĪFĬS with a very special service on Sunday, New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2017! www.lifisslo.org

With Infinite Love,

Laura Grace, rev.lauragrace@gmail.com

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USING NIGHTTIME DREAMS TO AWAKEN YOUR GREATEST POTENTIAL

Aboriginal pic for blog

USING NIGHTTIME DREAMS TO AWAKEN YOUR GREATEST POTENTIAL

Did you know that your nighttime dreams and your daytime desires are completely interconnected? They seem to exist at opposite ends of the continuum which is why we tend to discount or ignore them. But indigenous people like the Aboriginal Australians embody a term called The Dreaming or Dreamtime which describes the web of life between the spiritual and natural world. In essence, there is no difference between being asleep versus being awake; it’s all one big dream. Similarly, Shamans believe the dream world and the spirit world are exactly the same and that we are dreaming the world into being. This is why for thousands of years indigenous people knew they could count on receiving wisdom from their ancestors, guidance from spiritual realms and valuable answers to mystifying questions.

Let me share a personal example of how dreams provide specific direction and awaken your greatest potential. Many years ago, I was a Human Resource Director for a CPA and consulting firm. Everything was about chargeable hours, money and power, leaving very little room for valuing people. As time unfolded, it felt like the life-force was being sucked out of my soul and I finally mustered up the courage to resign. I was newly divorced and had a ten year old daughter to raise. Instead of immediately putting myself back on the executive market, I decided to take a year off and do some significant soul-searching. So I withdrew my 401(k) and spent the next twelve months delving into spiritual teachings, journaling my thoughts and feelings, and working extensively with my nighttime dreams.

One night, before falling asleep, I asked my dreams for guidance, specifically: What was the best way I could harness my gifts, strengths and talents, create the work I truly loved and be of service? That night, I had a powerful dream:

I am sitting in the driver’s seat of my red Toyota which is sitting in a parking lot. Next to me in the passenger’s seat I see a dark blue book with “Bhagavad Gita” scrolled in gold across the cover. I open the car door and see several brochures that I have written lying on the ground and next to them are various silver and gold coins.

This dream was showing me that writing combined with spirituality were a definite part of my life’s work. As I followed my dream’s cues I began writing articles for spiritual and personal growth publications, something I had never done before. Then the following dream occurred:

I am guided to look under my bed and discover enormous diamonds in the shape of crystals. I am amazed by their beauty. After I am through looking under the bed I look behind me and on my bedroom floor, I see two or three similar stones, not quite as large as the one lying under my bed. I awake feeling happy and inspired.

These dreams affirmed that the work I was meant to experience would take me deeper into my authentic self while providing abundance. The fact that the diamonds were shaped like crystals revealed the multi-faceted potentials within me. Now, looking back over the past couple of decades, I can see how prophetic the dream truly was. The articles I began writing were published which led to my first book Gifts of the Soul. The book and articles inspired ideas for creating a successful course called The Self-Mastery Program which supported individuals in accessing their inner gifts and creating a soulful life. I taught The Self-Mastery program for ten years and in the meantime, I penned my second book, The Intimate Soul. I also created several other programs, began teaching courses on dreams and coaching people how to understand and utilize them. Further, I attended an interfaith seminary program and provided spiritual counseling. The “multi-faceted” diamonds represented skills I never knew I had, and didn’t have, until I began using them: writing, speaking, teaching and counseling.

Dreams provide inordinate amounts of intelligence. Where does the wisdom come from? Worldly knowledge flows from multiple sources including advisability from your ancestors, illumination from the spiritual realm, sagacity from your soul and significant insight from the natural world. All of this adds up to one major source of infinite wisdom!

Dreams may very well be the purest form of knowledge since they are not clouded by our conscious thinking and programmed beliefs. Being willing to remember them is the first step. Tapping into their goldmine of information is the second step. And the more you pay attention to your dreams, the better your recall will be. Tonight, before going to sleep practice the following steps:

1. Think about one situation you would like to create, change or improve in your life.

2. Ask your dreams for guidance and be specific about the situation and your question.

3. Set your intention before going to bed and affirm your willingness to remember your dreams and receive guidance.

4. Write down (or record) any dreams immediately upon waking, even “snippets” of a dream. Pay attention to the landscape, dream images, character and how write down how you feel about them. Also try to capture the “theme” of the dream.

5. Conclude by letting go of attachment to outcome so ideas, images and inspiration can emerge. Dreams communicate in myriad ways, so reflect on your dream gently throughout the day and watch what bubbles up from psyche’s cauldron.

If you are ready to explore your dreams and see how they are an invaluable tool for growth, please check out any one or all three of the dream programs I’m offering the beginning of 2016:
1. LIVE SIX WEEK DREAM COURSE AT CAL POLY, SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA, Dates: Thursdays, 1/28/16-3/3/16, Time: 6:00 p.m. — 8:00 p.m. For more information or to register, CLICK HERE

2. LIVE DREAM RETREAT, Dancing Deer, Templeton, CA, Date: 2/20, Time: 10 A.M. – 4 P.M. For more information, CLICK HERE

3. E-DREAM COURSE: “Dreams for Healing: Using Dreams as a Pathway to the Soul” at SelfHealingExpressions.com. Dream course lessons are sent directly to your in-box and you may complete them at your convenience. For more information, CLICK HERE

INTENTIONAL GRATITUDE AND THE BENEFITS ON THE BODY, BRAIN AND EVERYONE YOU ENCOUNTER

INTENTIONAL GRATITUDE AND THE BENEFITS ON THE BODY, BRAIN AND EVERYONE YOU ENCOUNTER

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.
— Kahlil Gibran

Thanksgiving is almost here. And though you might be looking forward to visiting family and eating a sumptuous dinner, holiday events can be stressful. Anxiety can trigger hormones that flood your body with powerful, sometimes harmful, hormones, keeping your brain on high alert and ramping up your heartbeat.

Well, that doesn’t sound like something to feel grateful about, does it? Let’s begin again…

There is another emotional route you can choose this Thanksgiving, something I call intentional gratitude. Recent neuro-science reveals that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude. Like happiness, gratitude doesn’t occur by itself, we must consciously choose it. And Thanksgiving is the perfect time to make that choice. As we mindfully focus our attention and intention on all that we have to be grateful for, we increase our well-being. Further, feeling grateful and expressing it to others increases our energy, positivism and empathy. In addition to experiencing more positive energy, studies show that those around you benefit just as much. That “pleasurable-glow” you feel throughout your body radiates an electromagnetic field touching those you encounter. The heart emits an electromagnetic field that extends several feet from our bodies and is approximately 60 times stronger than the energy emitted by the brain!

Could gratitude be the most important factor in relationships? Perhaps. The University of California-Berkeley published research that nails the power of gratitude in romantic relationships. Check this out: People who feel appreciated by their romantic partners are more likely to reciprocate appreciation and are more responsive to their partners’ feelings, needs and desires. And the real kicker is that those partnerships oozing with gratitude are more committed and more likely to sustain long-term intimate relationships.

Set your intention to experience the countless benefits of gratitude by trying these easy and quick practices:

1. Imagine the face of someone you love deeply, a partner, child, parent or beloved pet.gratitude-happiness-2
2. Think back to the last time you felt truly appreciated and savor the experience.
3. Notice everything—big and small—that you feel grateful for, don’t skimp. This is the art of cultivating radical gratitude which can lead to on-going happiness.
4. Tell someone “thank you” or “I appreciate you being in my life,” today, tomorrow, the next day and so on—keep going!

These practices sound almost too easy to be effective, but in reality, they have the power to open our hearts and the hearts of everyone we encounter. Gratitude is rewarding. Gratitude feels good. Gratitude boosts our mood whether we are the giver or the receiver. Place your intention on all that you feel grateful for, then watch how gratitude activates the pleasure-pathway in the brain and floods your body with all kinds of amazing, positive feelings.

Thank-you, from the bottom of my heart, for reading this blog and spreading good vibes. Happy Thanksgiving!

Laurasig

Authentic Feminine Power. A Blog for Women and Men.

“Feminine Power” is a term we’re hearing a lot about these days in the consciousness and evolutionary realms, but what does it truly mean?

My experience on the path of differentiation, growth and individuation has revealed a depth of awareness around this topic that I’d like to share with you.

First, it is important that whether you are majoring in being a male or female this lifetime, everyone possesses a feminine aspect. This part of us allows us to deeply listen to others, tap into our intuitive capacity and simply “be” in the present moment.

Second, in order to embody the fullness of our lives, to live life from a developed and authentic feminine consciousness, we need:

1. Innate Confidence: A deep knowing that you are living from the center of your deepest purpose and are the person you were born to be. This manifests as authentic confidence and capacity to show up fully which leads to the pathway of individuation (self-actualization). It also triggers the ability to create whatever you truly desire while knowing that synchronicities, resources and support will arrive when you need it.

2. Authentic Relationships: You feel fully supported to be yourself and to be seen and heard in ways that you feel secure. This emerges as an unshakable bonds that allows you to thrive in every area of your life.

3. Recognizing Your Gifts: You are able to share the gifts and talents that you have developed with the world in a way that they are recognized, received and are regenerative.

4. Creating Money: You are able to produce the money necessary to support a lifestyle that aligns with your values. You have created, or, are in the process of creating, the appropriate external structures which allow you to be congruent with your gifts and values. Too often, we are dedicated to the path of growth yet “split” between sharing our gifts in one way, and then earning money in an entirely different manner. Genuine authenticity and individuation means lining up your inner wisdom with reciprocal external structures that support your gifts and talents.

5. Health and Energy: Although you may be dealing with a health challenge, it doesn’t prevent you from sharing your gifts and fulfilling your soul’s destiny. You are taking care of yourself and have exactly the energy you need to create, share and reap the rewards of your effort.

6. Connection to Spirit-Soul-Soma: You are embodying what I call the ultimate “triune”: spirit, soul and soma (body). For centuries we have been programmed to disconnect our mind from our body and soul. On the spiritual path, particularly the metaphysical path which means “above the physical”, I have witnessed this tendency over and over again. It leads to an over emphasis on the ascension upwards, toward spirit where we feel “light”. Yet, we can become blinded by the light and not see the value in moving inward and downward, toward soul. Soul thrives on the mucky-ness that accompanies growth and transformation, and finds solace in the dark places that we tend to want to avoid. Soul also needs connection with soma where feelings from past experiences, dream images and deep desire and love reside. To heal, evolve and experience individuation we must embrace the entire triune.

7. Play!: You know when you need to have fun and you create the space to do so. Carl Jung discovered that when a project or life experience began to feel a little “too much,” it was time to play. For him that entailed playing with building blocks or creating some art which allowed an “imaginal space” to open in his psyche. As the space opened, he found ideas and creative juices emerging from Self and noticed that the ego stepped aside from its relentless attachment to outcome.

8. Your Legacy: You are contributing to something larger than yourself. Sharing your gifts and talents is effecting others in a meaningful way and has the capacity to lead transformation, both yours and theirs.

May you experience the authentic, empowered and numinous existence that is your birthright.

Namaste.

Laura V. Grace

The Brain in Love: Three Attributes for Maintaining Long-Term Partnerships

We humans are hard-wired for relationships. Yet, very often, we find ourselves struggling to maintain long-term partnerships images1that feel loving, supportive and healthy. Numerous factors play into the partners we are attracted to and the dynamics that ensue. But recent neuro-science shows us that more is going on and can be seen in various centers of the brain.

Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D., specializes in understanding the neuro-science of relationships. When asked if her brain scanning projects on people reveal anything about long-term happiness in relationships, Fisher replied with a resounding “Yes!” She explains that neuro-scans reveal specific patterns of brain activity among those who are in loving, long-term relationships and here are the top three winning attributes:

1. Overlooking the Negative and Accentuating the Positive. First and foremost, activity in the frontal cortex empowers a person to look for the good in his/her partner instead of focusing on what he/she dislikes or finds irritating. The psychological term for this is “positive illusions” and with lots of practice, it truly works.

2. Expressing Empathy. Brain activity occurs in the mirror neurons and aligns with empathy, the ability to relate, understand and share the feelings of others. Your facial expressions have the ability to trigger a strong emotional response in your partner. Mirroring openness and understanding are part of the empathic process and is a critical factor in connecting authentically and lovingly.

theme_relationships3. Controlling Your Own Emotions. The amygdala is shaped like an almond and is where we feel emotions like fear, anger, love and sexual desire. It is the area of the brain associated with the ability to regulate your emotions and is essential in maintaining well-being and harmony in relationships.

If you are interested in receiving some support in improving and/or healing your relationships, I provide guidance to individuals and couples. My approach embodies Depth Psychology (the unconscious, archetypes and dreams), spirituality, somatics (the body) and neuro-science. My areas of expertise includes:

Significant Life Changes
Overcoming Fear and Anxiety
Relationship and Family Issues
Women’s Spirituality and Empowerment
Spiritual Direction (for more information on this form of guidance, please CLICK HERE).
Dream Based Counseling (for more information on this type of counseling, please CLICK HERE).

Or visit: www.lauragrace.net, laura@lauragrace.net

Conscious Death, Dying & Dogs

PART ONE

One is moved to conclude that the heart is the most poetic organ of the body and may exceed the moon and stars in use as a metaphor…You can know of heartache, heart yearnings, heart shapes, heart renderings and heart feelings. ~Mike Denney, M.D., Ph.D.

As I wrap up the second year of my doctoral program in Depth Psychology, I just finished a term paper for my Conscious Death and Dying course that has stretched the shape of my heart. Some of the required readings for this course include Mortality (Hitchens, 2012), The Alchemy of Illness (Duff, 1993), Intoxicated by My Illness (Broyard 1992), and Good Dog. Stay. by Anna Quindlen (2007). I had heard of the last title but had never read it until my heart-felt professor stated: “If you only had to read one book, this is the one”.

That night, I opened the book, glanced through the pages then immediately set it down. It is a poignant love story about a woman and her beloved dog, “Beau”. Quindlen describes the immense affection she has for Beau and the lessons she learned just by observing him: how to accept things as they are, to measure herself not through the lens of the past or future but of the present. Her story continues as Beau ages and reaches the hands of death. Quindlen unflinchingly remains in the moment until his last days on earth, “Each morning I used to check to see if the old guy was actually breathing, and each day I tried to take his measure—was he hurting? Was he happy? Was the trade-off between being infirm and being alive worth it?”

Like Quindlen, I have a Beau but his name is “Guru.” And like Beau in the book, Guru is the same age, fifteen years old as of July 10, 2015. Due to severe arthritis in the elbow of his front left leg, Guru gets around by hopping on his three working legs. He sleeps more than he is awake, yet he still loves to go for a daily “joy ride” in the car, resting on my lap as we travel up and down the street. At one-hundred and five human years old, he can still smell the fresh salty, sea air and this daily ritual is the highpoint of his life, as well as mine.

Guru's 11th birthday

Guru’s 11th birthday

Guru is a black Pomeranian, pure alpha and not sweet as Quindlen describes Beau. No one would consider him to be a “good” dog; he can be affectionate one moment then without warning, snap and bite in the next moment. People think it is because of the pain he is in from being old. Sometimes I let them believe this is true but it isn’t; Guru has been a very difficult dog since he was four months old. After receiving his vaccinations, he began having seizures which we learned to control with Phenobarbital. And though his seizures calmed down, his behavior did not. Guru sought to keep everyone together, like a herding dog; every time my husband or I would leave the room, Guru would spin counter-clockwise, barking, “Get back here, don’t you dare leave, we’re all meant to stay together!” Obedience training didn’t seem to help, nor did all of the Dog Whisperer CD’s that we watched. A caring and concerned friend once pleaded, “Why don’t you just call the Dog Whisperer and invite him to work with Guru?” We never did contact Caesar and after fourteen years of Guru spinning counter-clockwise, his left elbow became so crippled with arthritis that he drags the leg next to his body while he hops around on the remaining three.

Guru is possessive, demanding and has an anxiety disorder. His behavior, at times, has strained my relationship with my husband. I have been over protective of this creature who appears in my night-time dreams, lives in the depths of my heart, and reveals all of his feelings and secrets when he looks at me with his dark brown eyes. I know this dog better than I know myself. Surely, we must have been together before. As strange as this may sound, in a desperate attempt to understand the dynamic between Guru, my husband and I, we once contacted a well-known “pet psychic” who confirmed this idea. She told us the most amazing story: in a past life Guru had been my partner and Thomas (my husband) had been his rival and the issue was never resolved. As hard as it was to believe and as reluctant as we were to admit it, Thomas and I both sensed there might be some truth to the psychic’s vision.

As my death and dying class unfolded, I kept avoiding reading Good Dog. Stay. It was too painful and hit too close to the heart. Guru’s fifteenth birthday was quickly approaching and I noticed that his eyes looked glassy and he was limping more than usual. Was it time to let him go? Was he in pain and if so, did the physical pain outweigh my desire to have him stay? My heart was aching and reluctantly, I re-opened Good Dog. Stay. I read ten pages, not the first ten, but the final ten. Quindlen’s courage and ability to embrace Beau’s death was inspiring. While reading it, Guru laid next to me on my bed. I remember crying as I turned the final page and asking Guru if he wanted to move on. I told him that he was a good dog despite the challenges over the years and that I would let him go if he was ready to leave. He listened then licked my left hand reassuringly. He was definitely trying to communicate something.

That evening, my husband and I decided to take Guru to the vet and have his matted hair—once shiny and glorious—shaved off for the last time. We also decided to have his teeth cleaned and his nails trimmed—all of the grooming that I used to love do for him but now required anesthesia because he would bite. We knew we were taking a risk, that he might not make it through the process. Yet we believed we were giving him one last chance to feel a bit better. Two days later, Thomas drove the car to the vet’s office while I cradled Guru in my arms, swaddled in his favorite red blanket. After we dropped Guru off, I sent him light from my heart and envisioned him feeling strong. My prayers of love and gratitude traveled to him as I hiked along the beach then worked some more on my Conscious Death and Dying term paper. At 3:00 p.m. the vet called to report that Guru was doing well and was ready to go home. Despite feeling groggy from the anesthesia, Guru’s enthusiasm and aliveness was evident and we knew we had made the right decision.

That was three weeks ago. And now, as we reach the end of July, Guru is still doing well but I know we are nearing the end. Each morning when I awake and check in with Guru, I am reminded that one more day of living for me is an entire week of living for him and his aging body. This helps me maintain perspective about the fragility of life and the incredibly short duration of a dog’s life. It also emphasizes how important it is that I remain present with Guru and be fully alive, now, more than ever.
In the meantime, I am profoundly aware of Guru’s impending ending inching ever so closely. It is no longer “years away”; it could be next month, tomorrow morning or even tonight as I lie sleeping. Good Dog. Stay. reminds me that my growth lies in my ability to embrace Guru’s deterioration while remaining most alive during this ending. Sartre was right: You have to live each moment as if you’re prepared to die.

I take comfort from knowing that I have been able to love this dog in ways I never knew possible. The love I feel for Guru has been the closest thing to unconditional love that I might ever know: he can growl and bear his teeth at me, and yet, I still love him; he can bite me, and though I scold him, I still feel love in my heart for him. I feel his fear when he struggles to sit up, I feel his excitement when we go for a joy ride, and I feel his love when his pale tongue weakly licks my hand.

Guru on 3 legs July, 2015

Guru on 3 legs July 2015

As I finish crafting this blog, Guru is lying on the floor next to me in his old lumpy bed with his favorite tattered red blanket. I feel deep gratitude for being able to process some deep emotions while writing. I held off from writing this blog because I was resisting the feelings that illness and conscious dying might elicit. I look over at Guru as I craft this final paragraph and he opens his eyes. He can still see me so I inquire: “Are you comfortable? Are you happy? Do you want to keep on going?” not expecting a response, and yet, his eyes widen. I am reassured by Quindlen’s last words in the final chapter of Good Dog. Stay.: “And when the time comes to ask myself some of those same questions, at least I will have had the experience calibrating the answer. Sometimes an old dog teaches you new tricks”.

I would love for Guru to stay and stay and stay…but I am acutely aware of his mortality, as well as my own. So I am grateful for all that Guru has taught me: patience, tolerance, perseverance, real love, remaining conscious and connected as a loved one ages, fades then dies. And though Guru, nor I, will live forever, I am reminded that the name “Guru” can be broken down into: “Gee, You Are You”, perhaps the greatest teaching we can learn from a dog who challenges us, a true guru.

My favorite Guru and Me

Part Two of the Heroine’s Journey: Evolving Partnerships

BE THE HEROINE OF YOUR OWN JOURNEY (Part Two)
EVOLVING PARTNERSHIPS: THE CORNERSTONE OF THE HEROINE’S JOURNEY 5410985156_e1162028ed_m

In Part One of “Be the Heroine of Your Own Journey,” we discussed what the American journalist and playwright, Nora Ephron, meant when she declared: “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” We explored how the hero strikes out on a solo mission to conquer his demons, while the heroine recognizes that stepping into her feminine power entails aligning with a collective field of support. She is not meant to trek solo as empowered support is vital when she travels.

In this article, we are going to examine the power of partnerships—not just any partnership—but an evolving partnership.

In her groundbreaking book Sacred Pleasure, *Riane Eisler—an internationally known human rights activist, best-selling author, social scientist, women’s advocate and macro-historian—shares a historical perspective on what men and women have gone through for centuries as a result of religious dogma and scientific jargon. She reveals how brutal patriarchal beliefs have been to the psyche and soul of both women and men. Eisler takes the reader through the “pain to pleasure shift” which is a blueprint for the future of authentic, loving, spiritual partnerships.

I refer to these more enlightened connections as “Evolving Partnerships.” It’s one of the core principles of the **Relationship Wisdom™ workshops my husband and I teach. Women are inherently relational beings. We want connections that are fulfilling; emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually. Having a social network is vital to many of us and we thrive in relationships where we feel validated and supported. Of course, there are men who flourish from these types of connections as well.

However women identify with their relationships in different ways than men. For example, women are more apt to conform in social circles in order to avoid losing the connection, or, women may feel compelled to agree and validate someone’s feelings without challenging the underlying perceptions. While our intention is good, this type of conformity weakens and disempowers us.

How many times have you validated a close friend’s reactions without challenging her assumptions? How often have you made yourself “shrink” in order to fit in with others? How frequently do you avoid the difficult conversations? How many times have you, or someone you know, used humor to divert the attention away from something that may feel awkward or uncomfortable yet needs to be addressed?

Too often, we dim down our light to keep the peace. Instead of inviting someone we care about to rise to our level of awareness, we drop down to their playing field. This is because women identify so strongly with our relationships.

The old paradigm for relationships is based on the belief that: “You take care of me, watch my back and agree with me and I will hang in there with you, no matter what.” We often see this behavior exhibited in our family systems. This is outdated tribal thinking based on loyalty to the tribe versus empowerment and authenticity.

Things are changing.

Strong women need strong partnerships; partnerships that are real, where both people have the courage to speak their truth with kindness and respect, where the commitment is not to comfort, but to holding each other accountable.

If a close friend or partner has the inner strength to be honest with you, to challenge some of your assumptions, thank her! It demonstrates she cares enough about you and the integrity of the relationship to speak her truth.

In my own life, when I’m willing to have a difficult conversation with someone, I know it’s because I really care about the evolution of our connection. There have been times that the truth was more than she or he wanted to hear. And those connections drop out. But I’d rather be honest than conforming which inevitably leads to resentment. There’s nothing authentic about validating everything someone feels. That’s called the “Destructive Cheerleader” syndrome; we say “Rah, rah!” to what someone believes just so we don’t lose that person’s support.

Below is a model of the old relationship structure versus evolutionary partnerships.

OLD RELATIONSHIP PARADIGM

  • Motivation is to feel safe, secure and comfortable
  • Dependent and/or Co-Dependent
  • Conforms to protect the security of the relationship
  • Bond is based on colluding and a sense of victimhood
  • Agreeing with the other person shows loyalty
  • Support negative or limiting behavior
  • Avoid conflict and difficult conversations
  • Validates emotions without questioning assumptions
  • Masculine approaches to decision making is valued more highly than those considered “feminine” (i.e., intuitive, perceptive, nurturing)

EVOLVING PARTNERSHIPS

  • Motivation is growth
  • Interdependence and equality is key
  • Authenticity and being true to one’s deeper self is essential and the relationship adjusts accordingly out of mutual respect
  • Bond is based on true empowerment
  • Able to see and discuss things from multiple viewpoints supports growth
  • Hold each other accountable for creating a future based on integrity and evolution
  • Commitment to honesty and openness based on the intention to deepen the connection
  • Looks at possible meaning and challenges perceptions
  • A feminine approach to decision making is valued equally both personally and professionally

Steps for activating evolving partnerships:

1. Notice the looking glass through which you relate to others.

2. Practice connecting with others without an agenda.

3. Commit to cultivating relationships based on a mutual commitment to growth and that have a shared “agreement” to this commitment. (Note: The people in your life who are not interested in growth are not candidates for this kind of agreement. There are people for whom we shift our expectations accordingly and learn to accept and love them the way they are.)

What kind of advice might a true heroine give to you about fulfilling your destiny? She would invite you to share your highest vision for your life with those who will join you in an evolving partnership. She would ask you to let them know what you are committed to and invite them to share their potentials and future they wish to create. Finally, she would encourage you to give them permission to hold you accountable as you become the heroine of your own journey.

Enjoy the journey!

Namaste,

Laurasig

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*Riane Eisler will be our keynote speaker at the Central Coast Annual Women’s Symposium in San Luis Obispo, CA, on March 14, 2015. www.spiritualcircle.org/symposium

**Relationship Wisdom™ is offering a workshop on The Five Pillars of Successful Relationships on October 18th & 25th in Arroyo Grande, CA. www.spiritualcircle.org/events

BE THE HEROINE OF YOUR OWN JOURNEY (Part One)

BE THE HEROINE OF YOUR OWN JOURNEY

women

Currently, I am involved in a feminine empowerment program. It is a program I chose for the continuation of my spiritual, soulful and emotional evolution. Although the course is founded in wise feminine leadership principles, the curriculum is challenging me to seriously ponder the true meaning of what American journalist and playwright, Nora Ephron, once declared: “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

It’s clear what it means to take 100% responsibility for our lives, but what exactly does it mean to be the heroine of our own lives?

Most of us are familiar with Joseph Campbell’s teaching of the “hero’s journey.” Like the main character in the film “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” the hero ventures forth from the world of common life into a region of supernatural wonder. There he encounters fabulous forces and a decisive victory is won. The hero returns from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

Although I have always been fascinated by the hero’s journey, I often felt something was missing. That “something” was revealed to me in 2012 when I invited Dr. Jean Houston to be the keynote speaker at the Central Coast Annual Women’s Symposium. While giving an impassioned speech based on her book The Wizard of Us, she asserted, “By the way, the heroine’s journey is very different than the hero’s journey.” Now that caught my attention. For as much as we have sometimes tried to emulate men, we women are very different.

In fact, neurobiology reveals that women’s brains are hard-wired in a uniquely different manner. Dr. Daniel Amen, who’s written over 30 books including Unleash the Power of the Female Brain (2013), shows that women’s brains are very active; the amount of blood flowing into our frontal lobes hard-wire us for collaboration, appropriate worry, intuition, self-restraint and good judgment. And most importantly, we intuitively know when something is wrong and are willing to shift gears before the Titanic hits the iceberg and sinks.

This isn’t about whether a feminine approach to life is better than a masculine one; we need a balance of both energies in order to thrive. But the heroine’s journey does differ greatly from the hero’s journey. And one of the greatest variances is how we choose to travel.

Unlike the hero who strikes out on a solo passage to conquer his demons, women recognize that stepping into their feminine power requires aligning with a collective field of support. Many of us have been trying to do “life” on our own which can only take us so far. How many times have we felt alone in trying to share our gifts with the world, overwhelmed, or unsupported by life? In order to shatter our inner glass ceilings—the limiting beliefs and behaviors that sabotage our success—we need to activate a new culture of empowerment which necessitates a shift into a collective quantum field.

It’s a known fact that geese fly 75% farther and faster when they are flying together. Solo passages cannot carry us the distance. When we are soaring as a self-actualized woman, we must activate a field of unprecedented support. This is, perhaps, the most essential part of the heroine’s journey.

We begin to create a unified field when we affirm:

I AM ALLOWING LIFE TO SUPPORT ME ON MY JOURNEY. THIS INCLUDES ALL OF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE OPEN TO RECEIVING THE GIFTS I DESIRE TO CONTRIBUTE.

I AM FULLY PRESENT IN HOLDING THE SPACE FOR OTHERS TO EVOLVE AND TRANSFORM.

I AM LETTING GO OF OLD STORIES OF REGRET, SETBACKS AND DISAPPOINTMENT AND CHANNELING MY ATTENTION, INTENTION AND ENERGIES ON WHAT IS AVAILABLE FOR ME TODAY.

I invite you to step into your own heroine’s journey by bonding with others inside your identity as a powerful and resourceful woman. May we join together in support of our highest potential for loving relationships, physical health, emotional well-being, financial abundance, creativity and friendship. May we birth the seeds of our potential forward as we journey together and answer the call to our souls’ deepest purpose.

Namaste,

Laurasig

Opening, and Staying Open, to Love

Opening, and Staying Open, to Love
 

Open Heart Image

So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s gonna be really hard. We’re gonna have to work at this every day, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day…. — Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

We are offered no greater opening to know the truth of who we truly are than in relationship. Relationships are such powerful catalysts because they mirror the aspects we most need revealed for our soul growth. What we strongly react to in another, we possess within ourselves. This is projection of our shadow. Both the fear and love we see in another is the reflection of both our own humanness and divinity. Even during the most challenging times we are being given the opportunity to grow since our encounters with others are our greatest opportunities for growth.

We flourish the most when we are willing to be fully present. And yet, why is that we frequently divert onto other things when we’re around the people we love the most? How often, after many years of being together, do people simply grow apart? While counseling couples, I’ve witnessed a common theme when the woman has attended to the home and children (and, often worked), while the man has focused on earning a living, only to discover that when retirement rolls around, they no longer know each other!

People have sometimes assumed that my relationship with my husband is so good because we’re “fortunate” or just “really compatible,” when in reality, we work hard at it. We’re actually very different in many ways but we make our relationship a top priority and always have.

When our relationships become stale and predictable, it may be because we are not honoring them for the temples of healing that they are, or, we may not be delving inward toward our soul where our passion runs deep. This reminds me of a conversation I had with a woman who was complaining that her life was lacking in pizzazz. “The 1960’s was a period with a lot more excitement. The peace marches were really something. Today’s demonstrations are boring in comparison,” she stated.

Yes, the 60’s were a time of great upheaval and change. There was a lot of trail blazing occurring which was necessary to get us where we are today. Revolutionary thinking was key during that time, but evolutionary thinking is required today. And that’s a good thing. While there was much being done on the outer planes during the 60’s, there is much being created on the inner planes today. We now understand the staggering power of our thoughts, which for many, has led to an entirely new way of being, taking action and living.

Could it be that the woman was feeling bored within her relationships including the relationship with herself? Not because there’s less excitement in the air, but simply because she may be playing it safe and not stretching beyond her comfort zones?

Abandonment, rejection, betrayal—these kinds of wounds can easily cause us to shut down emotionally. And for a period of time while we’re grieving, learning to set strong boundaries and healing, this may be exactly what’s needed. Yet if we continue living this way, we minimize our capacity for experiencing joy and intimacy.

Our deepest pain stems from withholding our love. Yes, someone may have done or said something that hurt us, but we hurt ourselves more deeply when we withhold our love. This reminds me of a beautiful quote I once read from an anonymous source that affirmed, “You can never lose by loving; you can only lose by holding back.”

Notice your relationships, especially those with people you’re closest to. Are they a priority or do you allow diversions keep you from connecting with them? This includes your family and “family” is any group of people that has joined together out of mutual respect and support of one another.

Many years ago while studying A Course in Miracles, I learned something that blew me away: What we’re most afraid of, is love. Amazing isn’t it? So many of us are longing for love and yet, at the deepest level, love is the very thing that scares us the most. This reminds me of a beautiful passage that Robert Perry, the founder of the Circle of Atonement based upon the principles of A Course in Miracles, once wrote:

Because I believe love has limits, I have come to be afraid of it: afraid it will be withdrawn, afraid of its conditions, afraid that what seems to be love is only a tease, a tantalizing promise that threatens to disappear if I misbehave. That fear, that constant anxiety over love’s potential for disappearance is the source of my lack of joy. How can I be joyful, even when things are “good,” if love may be withdrawn at any moment? This is the error of our minds we are practicing to uncover, bring to the light, and let go of. Right now, in this moment, I am encircled by Love’s embrace. Right now, without a single thing changing, Love radiates to me without limit and without reservation or question. To know this is happiness, and it is this I seek today.

The heartfelt wisdom of these words is a powerful reminder for each of us. Despite all of the “stuff” we may experience with another, only the love is real, it’s all that remains when everything is said and done. Dare to go beyond your fear and embrace the love available to you with all of your heart and soul. The power of love is staggering; it has the ability to heal addictions, cure disease, transform past pain into present happiness, and dramatically shift the situation that exists within the world today. Love is the glue that holds our universe together and is the reason we exist. Never underestimate its potency or presence; it’s inside of you, it’s inside of me, it’s everywhere.


© Copyright 2014 Laura Grace. All Rights Reserved.

Dreaming Your Way to Rebirth and Transformation in the New Year

Dreaming Your Way to Rebirth and Transformation in the New Year

Butterfly emerging from the planetThe New Year has long been associated with renewal and rebirth. In a number of North American Indian languages, the term “world” means “cosmos” and is also used to describe a new year. The Yokuts (native to Central California) might say that “the world has passed,” meaning “a year has gone by.” The cosmos is seen as a living entity that is born, evolves, then dies on the last day of the year, only to be reborn on New Year’s Day.

This time of the year has always been very special for me since my birthday falls at the beginning of the year.  As December unfolds, I harness my strongest manifesting skills by paying particularly close attention to my night-time dreams. Working with my dreams creates a powerful space for change and transformation to occur in the New Year.   

This winter I am working with a dream that has been most compelling. It is a snake-dream. The same snake has appeared in three different dreams the past few months.  Because I’ve always been afraid of snakes, the first one was troubling and frightening, and this makes sense considering that through the ages, “snake” has received a very bad rap. In fact, the snake is one of the least understood Biblical symbols.  Snake has frequently been depicted as evil and the cause for our human desires and temptations. For heaven’s sake, the snake was even blamed for tempting Eve which led to the downfall of paradise! Unfortunately, the shadow aspects of sexual repression, temptation and sexual guilt have tainted the deeper meaning of this amazing creature.

Because my Dream Tending™ teacher, Dr. Stephen Aizenstat, Co-Founder and Chancellor of Pacifica Graduate Institute, taught me to always ask the dream image: “Who is visiting now?” I felt drawn to inquire the snake about its presence. This charged question implies a familiarity with the dream image, as though it has appeared myriad times, dressed in different forms, with a similar assignment: Something very important is about to happen—or—is happening so WAKE UP!

Taking this urgency to heart, I journaled about the snake, my snake, which wasn’t just some boring brown common snake, but the green diamond back rattle snake. I thought to myself: Good grief, are you “visiting” me because of repressed sexual desires or fears, some generational sexual wounds that several women in my family have suffered from, or, are you here to reveal the plight of the unresolved sexual issues of the collective unconscious? Isn’t everyone in our culture suffering from some form of Puritanical sexual guilt?

As my confusion escalated, I recalled that some ancient cultures frequently refer to the serpent as being the most universal and auspicious archetype, one that symbolizes rebirth and transformation. I found solace in reading Mary Ellen O’Hare-Lavin’s review of The Practice of Dream Healing: Bringing Ancient Greek Mysteries into Modern Medicine, where she discusses the healing, light-filled image of the snake: asclepius-god-of-medicine-thiras-art

The chthonic serpent image is an ancient one, utilized even earlier than Asklepius. Our healing ancestors were less interested in a “Higher Power.” The serpent image was used to represent a connection with both the upper world and the underworld. The serpent is a shape shifter and it journeys below the earth’s surface (a.k.a. underworld) as well as bathes in the sunlight of the upper world. In the Asklepian tradition it represented the healing and shedding of old skins for new ones. 

As I continue to delve into the snake dream image via journaling, drawing the image, and through a process called Embodied Dream Tending™, my snake dreams are evolving. The snake has shape-shifted itself from scarily circulating itself around my shoulders (Dream number 1), to sliding up next to me and laying still as I rest my hand against its head (Dream number 2), to transforming itself into a beautiful, verdant plant (Dream number 3).

Just as we are familiar with the serpent wrapped around the staff carried by the ancient Greek healer, Asklepius, snake now appears in my dreams symbolizing light and dark, spirit and soul, rebirth and transformation. Gone is the old fear based on some much distorted Biblical and societal perceptions. 

In fact, Marija Gimbutas, a Lithuanian-American archeologist, excavated hundreds of figurines from around the world and discovered a snake goddess figurine from the Palm of Knossos, Crete that dates back to 1,500 B.C.E.  This powerful female figure holds a snake in each hand demonstrating healing traits: fertility, rebirth and 010transformation.  Such a positive perspective can be seen throughout the ancient Greek’s view of how they regarded snakes as sacred. Instead of fearing them, they were used in restorative rituals and even the venom was used for healing. Not to mention the way snake represents Kundalini, a Sanskrit word meaning “coiling like a snake.”  Kundalini or “serpent power” can rise during deep meditation, up through the chakras, bringing a devotee to full spiritual awakening.

It’s not surprising that the snake has been visiting me lately during dream-time. I started a doctoral program in the field of Depth Psychology and Somatic Studies a few months ago and to say it’s been life-changing is putting it mildly. It’s been forcing me to face all aspects of myself, especially my shadow-side.  And like the snake, I see how all images—like all people—possess both dark and light. Dream images are gifts that our psyche is offering us.  Marion Woodman, a mytho-poetic author, women’s movement figure and Jungian analyst reminds us that honoring our dreams and their images creates a life-changing relationship with the unconscious and our psyches.

Dream images have the capacity to pave the way to your transformation. As you create a vision for the New Year, your dreams can reveal beliefs and perceptions that are limiting you. These may appear as “shadow” dream images, yet they are meant to help you, not frighten you. The snarling dog or fanged snake is calling for your attention. In fact, the more disturbing the dream images may appear, the more powerful they are. James Hillman, in his book Dream Animals once wrote:

Our dreams recover what the world forgets…The dream animal shows us that the imagination has jaws and paws, that it can wake us in the night with panic and terror or move us to tears…and see their living forms so that we respond to them with the gift of intelligence.

Further, not only do dream images possess the power to help us grow and transform, they have the ability to be our “daimon,” an ancient Greek word for “protective spirit.” In his book The Dream and the Underworld, Hillman states: “Each life is formed by its unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny. As the force of fate, this image acts as a personal daimon, an accompanying guide who remembers your calling.”

As I continue to connect with the snake during dream-time, my fear is transforming into trust and faith.  The snake who now visits has shifted from something disturbing and scary, to being my daimon, a protective escort who is more than happy to guide me on my journey. This hasn’t happened easily nor has it happened over night. It has taken months of committed effort to embrace the snake and open myself to its deeper meaning. True growth and transformation requires persistence and patience and dream work entails the same stamina. But it’s worth it, it’s worth every bit.

What might your night-time dreams be telling you? Are there any specific images that call to you? Dreams unfold in what is called the “imaginal” realm. The Sufis speak of the imaginal realm as alam al-mithal. In Hebrew, it is called the olam hamashal. It is the realm of imagination, archetypes and dreams.

May you find soulful guidance from your dreams as you journey through the New Year. In Numerology, the year 2014 reduces to “7” which represents spirituality, science and solitude. It’s a wonderful time to reflect on what matters the most to your soul, psyche and spirit. It’s also the perfect time to set your intention to remember your dreams, to write them down and allow them to reveal their gifts of wisdom.