There’s Never Been a Better Time to Find Your Center…

 

 

These are unprecedented times.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are far reaching and complex, and no matter what your personal circumstances may be, it is easy to become overwhelmed by it all.

As always, but especially now, we encourage you to treat yourself with gentleness, compassion, and care. Take time to rest in simple silence, and consider the idea that any answers you seek are already inside you.

This resting in silence and finding the wisdom within is the foundation of Buddhist meditation.

If you would like to learn more about this timeless practice, then our new title, How to Meditate Like a Buddhist by Cynthia Kane, is a perfect place to begin this work. Backed by years of experience as a mindfulness and meditation instructor, Kane has crafted the ultimate beginner’s guide to Buddhist meditation. Straightforward and easy to read, this powerful book answers many common questions from first-time meditators, and offers clear instructions on how to begin a regular, lasting practice.

An excerpt from How to Meditate Like a Buddhist by Cynthia Kane:

Maybe you believe, like I do, that some opportunity, a signal flag marking a new path, will often appear in your life when you need it most. Mine came in the form of a note from a friend…when she forwarded me an email about a writing and meditation workshop at the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York. I had never been to the place, or even heard of it. But the idea of writing about my loss coupled with the meditation benefits they described felt like it might be a port in the storm for my hurricane mind.

That very first night at the Shambhala Center I began a meditation practice that, over time, would change my life. Today, I’m happy to report that I spend the vast majority of my days away from the path of the hurricane mind. I am calm, present, relaxed, joyful, and connected in a way I could only dream of before. And while I still have anxious and stressful moments, they are moments instead of days—and, most importantly, these feelings no longer paralyze or derail me. If you had told me eight years ago that I would find peace in my life, form deep connections with others, see beauty in the world, stop judging and evaluating myself constantly, and change my relationship to fear, death, stress, and anxiety, I would never have believed you. Yet, here I sit, writing this book to let you know that this is exactly what happened, and that beginning a meditation practice was the cornerstone to this new way of life.

The impact on me was so profound that in no time I became a certified meditation and mindfulness instructor. And for those I work with, meditation has had similar benefits, helping ease their social anxiety, insomnia, and stress. I’ve seen meditation help people tap into their creativity, be more productive at work, and find overall well-being greater than they have ever felt before. I’ve seen marriages grow more intimate and loving, and parents connect with their children and grow more peaceful within their families. I’ve seen people accomplish more with less effort, reduce their blood pressure, start sleeping better at night, and reset their relationship with food. Many say that they’ve started taking the worrisome thoughts that occur in their minds less seriously, which has created more joy, laughter, and adventure in their lives. Just imagine for a moment what any one of these benefits could mean for your life.

In addition to my own experience and that of my students, countless studies have measured the benefits of meditation on the body, mind, and spirit. In fact, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to find a scientific study that hasn’t concluded that meditation is good for you. A cursory internet search will deliver a variety of peer-reviewed studies showing physical, psychological, and spiritual results.

On a physical level, meditation can make you healthier:

On a psychological level, meditation can change the brain:

And finally, on a spiritual level, meditation can enrich your practice:

In addition to all of the above, there are some key benefits to meditation from a Buddhist perspective. We will go deeper into these in the chapters that follow, but for now I’d like to start with the idea that meditation helps you to rediscover the quietness that lies inside you, and provides access to an awareness and presence that is not affected by your past or the uncertainty of the future. Through meditation, you begin to connect with the inherent goodness within, or what Buddhism refers to as your Buddha nature. While you may be accustomed to looking outside yourself for answers from others, Buddhism contains the radical idea that you already have the answers you seek, and meditation is a tool by which you can access your own truth.

Buddhism also teaches that each of us has the power to relieve our own suffering. We are our own healers, and we have everything we need within ourselves. Suffering in this context refers to anxiety, discomfort, pain, embarrassment, shame, and/or self-loathing. Meditation is a way to change your relationship to this suffering, because it changes your relationship to your thoughts and your emotions. By practicing meditation you become a witness to whatever is happening, no longer attaching yourself to it or resisting it, but simply observing it. You are able to observe difficult thoughts and emotions and allow the sensations to be there, without letting them lead you. The more you observe and the less you judge, the more you heal.

Meditation invites you to find out who you are, and to be who you are, exactly as you are, without judgment. In my experience, meditation can help restore what stress, anxiety, and overwhelm has taken from you, by bringing back peace, tranquility, and meaningful connection with others, as well as ease, energy, and joyful living. During meditation, we learn to be with ourselves in the best and worst of times. We accept ourselves as perfectly imperfect, dynamic, and ever-changing. This in turn allows us to see others in the same way, bringing a sense of compassion and connectedness into the world.

You may not believe that the practice I will teach you in the following pages can bring the same to you. But if you’re willing to commit to it and stick with it, meditating like a Buddhist will change your life.

 

 

Ready to read more about how to begin your own regular meditation practice? How to Meditate Like a Buddhist will be released on April 28, 2020 in all major retail outlets and on our website.

 

The Transformative Power of Unconditional Love

February, despite its chilly weather, is the season in which we take some time as a culture to celebrate love…but what about the love of self? Much of the time it feels like the hardest person to love is the one we live with every second of every day of our lives…ourselves.

Below, two leading teachers of personal transformation share their thoughts on the importance of unconditional love for the self, which of course ultimately leads to the ability to extend unconditional love to others and out to the world!

Unconditional Love for Yourself

(Excerpted from The Mastery of Self by Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr.)

In the Dream of the Planet there are two powerful forces that shape all our agreements, attachments, and domestication. In the Toltec tradition, we call these forces the two types of love: unconditional love and conditional love.

When unconditional love flows from our hearts, we move through life and engage other living beings with compassion. Unconditional love is recognizing the divinity in every human being we meet, regardless of his or her role in life or agreement with our particular way of thinking. A Master of Self sees all beings through the eyes of unconditional love, without any projected image or distortion.

Conditional love, on the other hand, is the linchpin of domestication and attachment. It only allows you to see what you want to see, and to domesticate anyone who doesn’t fit your projected image. It’s the primary tool used to subjugate those around us and ourselves. Every form of domestication can be boiled down to “If you do this, then I will give you my love” and “If you do not do this, then I will withhold my love.” Every form of attachment starts with “If this happens, then I will be happy and feel love” and “If this does not happen, then I will suffer.” The key word in all of these statements is if, which, as you will see, has no place in unconditional love.we construct the Dream of the Planet, we have a choice to love each other unconditionally or conditionally. When we love each other unconditionally, our mirror is clean; we see others and ourselves as we really are: beautiful expressions of the Divine. But when the fog of attachment and domestication clouds our perception and we put conditions on our love, we are no longer able to see the divinity in others and ourselves. We are now competing for a commodity that we have mistaken as love.

At its core, domestication is a system of control, and conditional love is its primary tool. Consequently, the moment you start trying to control others is the same moment you place conditions on your love and acceptance of them. Because you can only give what you have, the conditions you try to impose on others are the same conditions that you impose upon yourself.

When you self-domesticate, you are attempting to control your own actions based on shame, guilt, or perceived reward rather than unconditional self-love…

Unconditional love is the antidote to domestication and attachment, and tapping into its power is a key step in becoming a Master of Self.

Purifying Your Heart

(Excerpted from Warrior Goddess Training by HeatherAsh Amara)

Your heart is the strongest muscle in your body, and it will beat 2.5 billion times over your lifetime. Energetically, the heart’s ability for giving and receiving is endless. However, for many of us the heart is usually one of our most guarded areas...

We protect our heart in numerous ways: physically by rounding our shoulders and sinking the chest in; emotionally by closing down our access to feelings for fear of pain; mentally by believing we can be broken or destroyed unless we stay isolated. This type of protection gives us the illusion that we are in control and safe.

The glass barriers we put around our heart cause us to fear being shattered. But the heart is wise and strong beyond measure when we give it space to unfurl…

So how do you access your heart’s wisdom? At its core, your heart is a great teacher and friend. But around this core of truth is a gnarled web of mental lies and fears. When you bring your awareness into the light of your true heart, you can illuminate and release the mental stories that close your heart…

This journey of opening the heart wider than our fears takes time and perseverance, as you have spent years training it to do the opposite. The next time you notice your heart starting to close off or become scared, the medicine to feed yourself is compassion and self love. Following is an example of what I mean by this.

A friend was driving me to a workshop, and I was having a rough day. When she asked me what was wrong I started crying and shared all the ways that I was overwhelmed and scared about some changes coming up in my life. Her response was, “OK, Warrior Goddess, you know you always land on your feet. It’s time to step up and walk the talk.”

In the past my judge would have used my friend’s words to say, “Get over your whining and get a grip! What is wrong with you?” Result: closed heart to self, a pushing down of emotions, and attempting to bully myself into making the change.

Or I might have taken her words and said, “No one understands what I am going through. It is all too much and I can’t do this!” Result: closed heart to self, and feeling more victimized and overwhelmed.

I chose to take the Warrior Goddess path. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and opened my heart to me. From this openhearted place I let myself feel my emotions completely and witnessed what was arising. I felt the overwhelm. I felt my judge’s frustration and sense of being out of control. I felt my victim’s terror of not doing it right. Then I went inside and soothed the part of me that was scared. “Hi, scared part! There is a lot going on right now, but it is going to be OK. I’m here with you. It’s going to be OK.” I stopped judging myself and chose to just be present in this moment. This self-compassion created a release in my being, and I could then look for what was working and what were my next steps, all from a loving place. When I opened my eyes again, I told my friend, “OK, I’m ready to go!”

Being a Warrior Goddess does not mean you never have emotional meltdowns, or that you never have a difficult day, or that you avoid heartbreak. Being a Warrior Goddess is about falling in love with all of you: with your judge self, your victim self, and your wise Warrior Goddess self. You are worthy of love, and the heart healing comes when you stop looking outside for love and open to the immense love your heart has for you.

 

 

Eager to explore more about The Mastery of Self? This bestselling title is available from all major retailers, AND registration is open NOW for Don Miguel Ruiz Jr.’s three-day intensive retreat on the Mastery of Self in Sedona, AZ!

Intrigued by the invitation to become a Warrior Goddess yourself? Warrior Goddess Training is the first book in the series that has sparked a worldwide movement! AND registration is open NOW for HeatherAsh Amara’s three-day intensive retreat, Shamanism & The Divine Feminine in Sedona, AZ!

 

Don’t miss this incredible opportunity
to dive deep into wisdom and personal power
with one of these two amazing teachers this upcoming May, 2020!

 

 

Learning to Dance with the Natural World…

 

(An excerpt from The Medicine Bag, a new book by bestselling author Don Jose Ruiz)

 

Every spring my father, my brother, Miguel Jr., and I travel to Sedona, Arizona, for an annual event called the Gathering of the Shamans. Just a short distance from the Grand Canyon, the area that is now called northern Arizona is sacred to many Native American tribes, including the Hopi, Yavapai, Havasupai, and Navajo.

If you ever visit, it’s easy to see why. The red rocks of Sedona are a unique combination of beauty and power. Home to many vortexes (energy centers), Sedona has long been a destination for seekers to help accelerate inner exploration, meditation, and healing. The more well-known Grand Canyon stretches on for over 220 miles, having been carved into its breathtaking and dramatic shape by the movement of the Colorado River over the course of millions of years. The canyon leaves thousands of visitors each year speechless with awe in the face of the sweeping dance of earth and sky, and the immeasurable power of water to wear down seemingly immovable stone. Its sheer immensity is at once humbling and inspiring.

While seeing this magnificence of Sedona or the Grand Canyon can stop the thinking mind in its tracks, you don’t need to travel to northern Arizona to experience the beauty and benefits of communing with nature. Nature is all around us—it is the literal air we breathe and water we drink, and we are in no way separate from it. We are nature, and nature is us. To be human is to be a part of all life—complex, evolving, interconnected. To live in a way that reflects the truth that all life is fundamentally connected is to walk the path of the shaman.

Because it is life, the natural world is replete with power that both creates and destroys. Water may arrive in the form of life-giving rain, or terrifying floods. Fire may cook our food and keep us warm through winter, or it may decimate entire forests. A cooling breeze may be welcome on a hot summer day, but tornadoes and hurricanes wreak unimaginable damage every year. And earthquakes shake our strongest buildings, even as we depend on the stable earth beneath our feet every single day. For these reasons and more, nature deserves our gratitude and our respect.

Nature is also a great healer. Even modern science is catching up to this ancient wisdom in measurable ways. The New York Times reported in 2018 that a variety of small studies have suggested that exposure to trees and plants may strengthen the human immune system, and also lower stress hormones and blood pressure. This would be no surprise to the shamans of my family’s tradition, especially my grandmother, who taught us a powerful ceremony to tap into the energy of trees that she often used in her healing work.

She would point out that fallen branches and leaves, which are often considered “trash” in the modern world, are important symbols of the power of nature. They have grown through the power of Mother Earth and Father Sun; they have been caressed by wind and drank deeply of the water. The thinking mind very often takes for granted nature’s unmatched ability to create. Even the most incredible structures or fascinating technology built by humans can never compete in complexity with a single leaf. For this reason, I would like to begin this chapter on nature with a ceremony based on what she taught us.

 

Communing with Nature

Prepare and gather:

To begin, find a quiet place in nature where you can be alone and undisturbed for at least thirty minutes. While the more remote, the better, this can be done in your backyard as well. Collect two or three small branches that have fallen from the trees nearby, ones that have some leaves still on them.

Once you have gathered a few branches with leaves, place them in a small pile in front of you. Take a few moments to reflect on how these branches came to be and what they represent: it all started with a seed, which took root in Mother Earth, was christened by life-giving water, touched by the warmth and light of Father Sun, nurtured by the air, and grew up, extending toward the sky. Think of how important the leaves are in the process; they take in the water, photosynthesize energy from the sun, and pull in carbon dioxide from the air. Now they have fallen to the earth, where they will decompose and help fertilize the soil for new growth to occur. These branches are miracles, representative of the power of life and Mother Nature. These branches are symbols of life and its cycles.

Next, open your container of water and pour a small amount over the branches, including the leaves. Let the water soak in for a few moments, and then say the following mantra:

Let these branches embody this truth:

that all things in nature make their way in cycles,

transforming from one thing into the next,

forever and ever, for always and right now.

I thank them for their gifts, for sharing their energy and power,

and I return them to the earth they came from.

Next, remove some of the leaves and gently rub them up and down a small portion of your arms, inviting the power of nature into your heart. You are now communing with the branches, a symbol for all life, and welcoming their energy into you.

When you have finished rubbing the leaves on your arms, sit quietly for as long as you’d like, absorbing the sights, sounds, and smells of nature as you do so. This is your true home, the cradle for all life.

To close the ceremony, scoop some soil from the ground with your trowel and partially cover the pile of branches with it. In this way you are symbolically returning the branches to the ground. They don’t need to be fully buried, as nature will determine their best course. As you do so, offer a prayer of thanks and gratitude to these branches, and to all the elements of the natural world for making them possible.

You may choose to place a leaf in your medicine bag, and when you are in a big city or a place that seems far removed from the splendor of nature, it will be your connection. Or set it on your altar as a reminder of the awesome power of nature. One day this leaf will dry and crumble, and then you will know it is time to do this ceremony again.

 

 

 

Ready to read more about the healing and transformative power of ritual and ceremony?

The Medicine Bag is available now from the publisher (with free shipping!),
and will be available from all major retailers on February 4, 2020!

To learn more about this book, and to read the foreword, introduction and Chapter One for free click here.

 

 

What does it mean to write a successful book in today’s publishing environment?

(An excerpt from Think Like a Publisher by Randy Davila)

Writing a book will change you.

As a matter of personal accomplishment, it is unparalleled. My friend and fellow author Jacob Nordby says, “Holding up your completed book to the world is a watershed moment in your life.” I couldn’t agree more.

Creating a good book requires the intersection of four things: art, inspiration, craft, and marketing. Many of the writers I meet have a good start on the art and inspiration, but they need improvement in the departments of craft and marketing. If one of your goals is that your book reach as many people as possible, you will have to hone your talents on all four fronts. And if you want to make a living at publishing, you will really have to develop what I call the Author Business Model.

But before we delve into the nuts and bolts of the publishing world, I would like to thank you for picking up your pen, or more likely sitting behind your computer, and writing your book. You see, I have had the pleasure of working with authors from around the globe, both well-published and not-so-well-published, and the one thing they all have in common is that through this sacred craft of writing every one of them is attempting to make the world a better place (even if they may not realize it).

Whether you are writing a self-help book, a history book, a memoir, a novel, or a book in any other genre, the goal of a writer is to educate and entertain the reader, and in so doing contribute to the betterment of humanity. The world needs people like you, so I thank you for showing up.

Whether your book finds an audience here and abroad or you share it with just a few loyal readers, know that your writing will help at least one person—you. Writing is by definition a creative endeavor, one that energizes the mind and nourishes the soul. Although some authors don’t realize this at first, writing is one of those conscious creation activities that makes us feel alive, and that’s why we do it!

So by writing, whether you are conscious of it or not, you help others and yourself. This is why I often say that every book ever written, in some capacity and regardless of genre, is a self-help book.

A quick peek at history shows that what we are doing as authors does matter, that we are making the world a better place. We are privileged to live in the most literate time in the history of humanity, and literacy and education are inextricably linked. More people have the ability to read today than at any point in our past, and the collective education of this planet has never been higher. Undoubtedly we still have a long way to go, but much of our progress has been made through sharing ideas, and those ideas are recorded in books . . . books that would not exist without the authors who wrote them.

What a debt of gratitude we owe the authors who have come before us, who were brave enough to publish new ideas that expanded our thinking even when they were unpopular or posed a great risk to their reputation. While there are countless examples of this type of heroism in authorship, one example that comes to mind is Dr. Brian L. Weiss, author of the international best-selling book on reincarnation titled Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives.

With degrees from Columbia University and Yale Medical School, Dr. Weiss was the head of the psychiatry department at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach when he wrote Many Lives, Many Masters. Dr. Weiss had much to lose when he began writing about the subject of past-life therapy in the mid-1980s. Well respected by his peers in traditional psychiatry, by his own admission Dr. Weiss had no use for “alternative” methods of treatment like past-life regression therapy. But then something happened to change all of that. While using hypnosis to help recall traumatic childhood memories, one particular patient went back “beyond” her childhood, remembering a total of eighty-six previous lives over the course of her months-long treatment. Although Dr. Weiss was very skeptical at first, the healing benefits this patient experienced as a result of excising past-life traumas, combined with the knowledge she received about Weiss’s own life from “masters on the other side,” convinced him that reincarnation was real and that past-life regression therapy could be a useful healing tool.

Despite the objection of many peers in the mainstream medical community, Dr. Weiss made the bold decision to risk his credibility and his career when he decided to publish his findings in a book. No one could have predicted, least of all Dr. Weiss, that the book would go on to sell millions of copies, bring reincarnation and past-life regression therapy into the spotlight, and change so many people’s lives in the process.

In the genre of fiction, there are numerous examples of books that use storytelling to not only entertain readers but also challenge existing societal beliefs. Brown’s 2003 novel The Da Vince Code not only captivated millions of readers with its suspenseful twists and turns but also reintroduced the idea of the divine feminine and its influence on mainstream Christianity. The firestorm that ensued after its publication was notable, to say the least.

These are but two examples, and there are numerous others as well, that we authors are a courageous folk. We put our hearts onto paper, risking the ridicule of critics and sometimes even our financial stability all in an effort to share our ideas with the world. Now comes the challenging part, and the likely reason you are reading this book: What can you do as an author to help your book reach the widest possible audience and make the biggest impact on the world?

Well, the good news is that there are many, many things you can do to help accomplish this goal. And that is the purpose of this book, to educate you, the author, about the essential steps necessary to reach as many readers as you can. As you will see in the following pages, there is so much more to being an author than just writing a book and either submitting it to a traditional publisher or self-publishing. At the conclusion of this book, my hope is that you will understand why I often say “Being a good writer in one thing; being a well-published author is something else entirely.”

What Is Success?

If you notice, I have not yet used the term “successful.” I have not said, “do this and make your book a success.” Before I begin stating things such as “make your book successful,” the first thing I want you to do is evaluate your definition of success.

Many first-time authors define a successful book as one that sells thousands if not millions of copies and earns the title “best seller.” (We will discuss more about “best seller” claims and definitions in Tip #21.) And you can be sure that as a publisher my hope is that every book we produce will sell thousands if not millions of copies. But before we go any further, we must ask ourselves: Is the number of copies a book sells the only metric in determining if it is “successful”?

Not by my definition, and when you are done reading this, I hope not by yours either. I would like to offer you a different set of metrics for determining whether a book is successful or not. Defining success in terms other than number of copies sold means considering a few things. First, do you as the author feel good about the contents of your book? Will you be proud to see your name on the cover? I hope that is the case for you, and if it’s not, I would strongly encourage you to get your manuscript into the best possible shape before it goes to print, because once your book is “out there” it will take on a life of its own, one that you want to be proud of forever.

Second, does your book help or educate people? Does it add value to the lives of its readers? When someone is finished reading your book, will the information you have shared or the story you have told enhance that reader’s life in some way?

To me, these criteria are far more important when it comes to calling a book successful than the number of copies sold.

Now I will prove it to you.

Looking back over your life, there have undoubtedly been a handful of books that had a big impact on your worldview and your individual perspective. Dare I suggest that some of these books were even life-changing? On your list of favorite books I bet there is at least one, if not more than one, which you could hold up in the middle of a crowded shopping mall, scream out the title, and no one would have ever heard of it. In short, this book was important to you and your journey in life, but when compared to other books, it is relatively unknown.

At the same time, I am sure you can think of a time when you picked up a widely publicized best seller with great anticipation, only to find out that you couldn’t get through the first chapter. Yet this book has sold millions of copies, and by that measurement, it is clearly a success.

In hindsight, which of these two books was more “successful” to you?

I hope this little exercise illustrates that success should not be measured simply by the numbers of copies sold. Furthermore, my experience with authors, including the widely published variety, is that if your only metric of success is the number of copies sold then ultimately no amount of copies sold will be enough. So please remember when I use the term “successful” throughout the rest of this book, I mean far more than just the number of copies sold.

One of the best things you can do for yourself as an author is to become educated about the publishing industry. You will want to know as much as you can about the publishing business from the perspective of writer, promoter, and salesperson for your book. Because as you will see in the following chapters, in today’s publishing world, you need to be all three.

 

 

Are you ready to learn more about how to be a successful author? Think Like a Publisher is available now from all major retailers and on our website. To learn more about this book, and to continue reading the next few tips for free, click here.

PLUS, Randy Davila, author of Think Like a Publisher and President of Hierophant Publishing and Hampton Roads Publishing, will be offering his Publish YOU Masterclass online for authors who want to take their project to the next level. Registration is open now!

 

Reclaim, Recover and Reawaken…


 

What’s the difference between a friend and a lover?

Sex.

The distinction is so simple, yet we often don’t consider all that it entails.

Past lovers, whether they were with you for a night or for decades, leave impressions that can linger long after the relationship is over—and in many cases dramatically affect your self-esteem, your capacity for future intimacy, and your emotional well- being. Whether we like it or not, there is rarely, if ever, such a thing as casual sex.

In the current cultural climate, where sexual relationships swing between careless impulse and overly moralized repression, our society has lost the pulse of what truly healthy and vibrant female sexuality is. We no longer know what to do when a sexual relationship falls apart, leaving the wreckage of betrayal, abandonment, neglect, or even abuse in its wake. So many women are suffering—from mild discomfort to full-blown anxiety, from depression to total sexual shutdown; from desperate loneliness to recklessly empty promiscuity.

As women we are capable of so much more, but we are rarely, if ever, shown the way.

Female sexuality is a unique weave of physical energy, emotional connection, mental engagement, and spiritual communion. Sadly, this weave has been ignored, invalidated, or even demonized by much of our society over time. As a result, the mysteries of female sexuality are buried under mountains of oversexualized cultural patterning, dismissal of the rich heritage of deep feminine reverence and power, and ignorance of the vast inner terrain that lives within women.

In simple terms, this means that female sexuality is both powerful and vulnerable, and it is unique in a way that almost all healing modalities, therapies, religions, and even spiritual paths don’t fully recognize. For as necessary and potent as such practices can be, they have gaps in their understanding about some very core concepts related to women. Those gaps become unbridgeable chasms when it comes to reclaiming our female sexuality, caring for that nature, and understanding and clearing lingering sexual experiences.

If you are like so many of the women I work with, you picked up this book because you are carrying heartache, grief, pain, and unmet longing—all of which can be traced back to one or more past lover-ships. These experiences may also have resulted in the formation of sexual habits that don’t fulfill your deepest needs, such as shutting down your sexuality, or overgiving to your partner. For so many of us, after enough heartbreak and disappointment, the desire to love deeply, securely, passionately, and with integrity ends up either dimmed almost to extinction or enflamed with a frustrated anger that burns almost everything it touches.

We must remember and honor the fact that we were created to be sexual creatures, freed from the pendulum swing of oppression and reaction to that oppression. Liberated from all that push and pull, we have the opportunity to recover and know the radical truth, wisdom, and sexual wholeness that    is our birthright. This is not a cultural, social, or personality-based liberation. This is a recovery of deep feminine power and knowledge that will free you regardless of circumstance.

Think of “breaking the grip of past lovers” as code for freeing yourself of deeply unconscious limitations and misunderstandings you have inherited about what it means to be a woman—particularly a woman of sexual desire, longings, emotion, and passion. The breaking free process will require you to be more vulnerable and more sensitive with your- self. The good news is that the freedom that awaits you is vastly more powerful and healing than you can imagine.

My Story

In my case, the journey to shed the residual impact of past lovers was not a well-intentioned choice toward self-improvement. It was a necessity born of devastation.

When I was in my mid-thirties, my marriage of seven years (my second), was falling apart. After enduring multiple betrayals, I had accumulated a convincing distrust of intimacy—both with my husband and with anyone else I might be romantically close to after that. I was lost inside a tangle of grief, depression, longing, and isolation that was coloring everything, stealing the passion from my life, and relegating me to the kind of subtle despair and unmet longing that I had witnessed in so many other women. I was exhausted from the pressure of single motherhood and shattered by the experience of witnessing what had once been touching love devolve into chaos, dishonesty, and heartbreak.

Despite all of this—and because I didn’t want to lose the relationship we had built, because I was afraid of being financially on my own, and mostly because I came to deeply feel that receiving his full attention and sexual fidelity was how I would feel whole again—I ended up staying despite my partner sustaining an intimate dynamic that eroded my sense of self, my trust in men in general, and my hope of ever finding a full and honoring sexuality. As a result of that relationship, I shut down emotionally and sexually. I became jealous and paranoid. And I came to believe that I was not (nor would I ever be) “woman enough.”

I also lost important time and presence with my son in his younger years because I was emotionally distracted. I got further and further from my own sense of my beauty, my worth, my fullness, and my pleasure. I had panic attacks most nights, and significant depression. I can remember countless experiences of finding myself crumpled up on the floor crying, fighting, in desperate emotional pain. And then the terrible confusion created by all of our “good” times, when I would remember how much we loved each other and believe again that we could make it . . . only to be shattered by more dishonesty. On top of it all, I was so deeply ashamed and humiliated by what was going on in our relationship that I hid the truth from all of my friends. They would have loved and supported me, but in my state I could only imagine feeling humiliated and exposed. So I isolated myself from their support and fell even deeper into my sense of unworthiness. I was so desperate for the relationship to work out that I was hiding the truth from anyone who might call it what it was and hold me accountable to either radically change or to be brave enough to leave the dysfunction that I was tolerating.

Before this unhealthy dynamic, I had generally felt very nourished by my sexuality. Not perfect, by any means, but I had come to a place in my life and my sexual expression where I was free of insecurities that had plagued my younger years. Yet by the time I finally ended our marriage, I felt fractured and unworthy of love or fidelity. My light had dimmed, and I was deeply suffering from maintaining and allowing an intimate relationship that was very much in opposition to my core values.

My pain and shame, mixed with an almost forgotten hope that I would one day have the kind of honoring and passionate intimate relationship I deserved, led me to explore esoteric teachings on the sacred nature of female sexuality. I fell in love with what I found, and over a period of years I walked myself through the disentangling of my relationship and the restoration of my deep feminine nature. It was then that I began a commitment to personal cultivation practices in this area that continues to this day.

Because of the transformation I experienced, I began teaching and supporting other women to do the same, and, lo and behold, I discovered an unspoken epidemic of unresolved intimacies that most women were just tolerating or muddling through. It was stunning how similar our stories were, how devastating and confusing past sexual relationships continued to be, and how much we were all feeling compromised, stuck and lost to ourselves, some- times years after a relationship had ended. What I learned in my own journey and from helping other women recover is what you will find in the pages that followed.

When I look back now, after metabolizing the residual impact of my past lovership and recovering my sense of self, I see that what I experienced was a type of initiation. It was not one I would have ever chosen, but it was one that taught me the importance of honoring my personal power and commit- ting to never relinquishing my sexual sovereignty to the control of someone else again.

In one sense, my failed relationship had cost me a version of innocence. But as I moved through the initiation, I gained a state of personal power that now never leaves me. It was as if losing my power and reclaiming it were necessary steps on the journey to true sovereignty.

The gifts of this, including a present relationship that meets me in my values and takes them even further, have been abundant in all aspects of my life. I would never say it was an easy road, as I spent years feeling lost before finding my way back home, but as I moved through the initiation and stayed commit- ted to it, not only did I clear all residual impact of my past loverships, but I discovered that finding my freedom gifted me the ability to hold reverence and respect for myself regardless of the circumstances that may arise.

Your Story

As you consider what you have experienced in past relationships, can you sense a golden thread of initiation

running throughout them, no matter however difficult they may have been? For instance, on the other side of betrayal may be the gift that you will never again betray yourself. On the other side of neglect may be your commitment to never again neglect your own essence. On the other side of manipulation may be a radical cultivation of discernment that will never again let you ignore your intuition when it signals that something isn’t right or you are not safe.

I invite you to take a moment—let the costs of past relationship choices serve as fuel for your commitments to what you will choose  now and how you will advocate for yourself so that you never lose power like that again. Initiations born of past loverships change us forever, but the full fruit of these is greater love, greater power, and a fierce commitment to our own feminine essence. In my experience, this type of self-commitment actually needed an initiation born of loss and challenge in order to fully evolve. When you complete this type of initiation, you become a sword so tempered by the fire of life’s passages that you cut through any habit of self-rejection and become the greatest friend and ally you have ever known.

You have a life to live, love to share, children to raise, pleasure to experience, and so many gifts still to explore, but if you haven’t cleared the residual impact of past lovers, you are losing time, energy, power, and joy. Tens of thousands of women have now worked with the process in this book,  and  their stories are full of hope and full of compassion for themselves, for their past lovers, and for you as a woman who must also find her way through the tangled devastation of a broken sexual relation- ship. They are healing fully and finally from emotional neglect, betrayal, infidelity, mistreatment, and vicious manipulation, and so can you.

No matter how bleak or stuck you feel when you think about your past lovership or how deep the cost of a past relationship may have been, there is some part of you that can and will create pure gold from the anguish of it all. This is the spirit of a queen who knows her worth, and who has matured through hardship into a woman who will never abandon her throne again.

This is what you were always meant to be and what you are destined to become. You are both powerful and vulnerable, and by reclaiming both your beauty and your pain, you will free yourself to know more of your own happiness, fulfillment, peace, and pleasure than the world has told you is possible. As women of these times, we are turning the tide from habitual dysfunction to grace-filled empowerment, from collective amnesia to full remembrance of our own mysteries. I am honored to be on this journey of liberation with you. So let us begin…

 

 

Break the Grip of Past Lovers compassionately addresses issues of regret, remorse, low self-esteem, and broken trust, while guiding the reader in healing from betrayal, neglect, and manipulation, as well as from experiences that were so beautiful they have left grief and irreconcilable longing in their place.

Are you ready to explore more of how you can reclaim your personal sovereignty? This powerful book by author, healer, and priestess Jumana Sophia is available now from all major retailers and on our website. To learn more about this powerful book, and to continue reading the first chapter for free, click here.

 

Has Science Proven the Ego Is an Illusion?


Stop thinking, and end your problems.

-Lao Tzu, The Tao Te Ching (Stephen Mitchell translation)

 

Who are we? Why are we here? Why do we suffer?

Humans have grappled with these questions since time immemorial. Philosophers, spiritual leaders, scientists, and artists have all weighed in on them. In Western philosophy, the best answer to the question of who we are is that thinking is the defining characteristic of humanity There is no more concise example of this than philosopher Rene Descartes' famous statement cogito, ergo sum, or, "I think, therefore I am."

This reverence for thinking is in stark contrast to the tenets of Eastern philosophy found in traditions such as Buddhism, Taoism, and certain schools of Hinduism. These traditions at best advocate a distrust of the thinking mind and often go further to claim that the thinking mind is part of the problem rather than the solution. Zen Buddhism offers us the saying, "No thought, no problem."

The brain-powered individual, which is variously called the self, the ego, the mind, or "me," lies at the center of Western thought. In the worldview of the West, we herald the greatest thinkers as world-changers. But who is this? Let's take a closer look at the thinker, or the "me," we all take for granted. This definition will be essential throughout our discussion.

This "I" is for most of us the first thing that pops into our minds when we think about who we are. The "I" represents the idea of our individual self, the one that sits between the ears and behind the eyes and is "piloting" the body The "pilot" is in charge, it doesn't change very much, and it feels to us like the thing that brings our thoughts and feelings to life. It observes, makes decisions, and carries out actions-just like the pilot of an airplane.

This I/ego is what we think of as our true selves, and this individual self is the experiencer and the controller of things like thoughts, feelings, and actions. The pilot self feels like it is running the show. It is stable and continuous. It is also in control of our physical body; for example, this self understands that it is "my body" But unlike our physical body, it does not perceive itself as changing, ending (except, perhaps for atheists, in bodily death), or being influenced by anything other than itself.

Now let's turn to the East. Buddhism, Taoism, the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism, and other schools of Eastern thought have quite a different take on the self, the ego, or "me." They say that this idea of "me" is a fiction, although a very convincing one. Buddhism has a word for this concept-anatta, which is often translated as "no self'- which is one of the most fundamental tenets of Buddhism, if not the most important.

This idea sounds radical, even nonsensical, to those who are trained in Western traditions. It seems to contradict our everyday experience, indeed our whole sense of being.

This book will explore strong evidence suggesting that the concept of the self is simply a construct of the mind, rather than a physical thing located somewhere within the brain itself. Put another way, it is the process of thinking that creates the self, rather than there being a self having any independent existence separate from thought. The self is more like a verb than a noun. To take it a step further, the implication is that without thought, the self does not, in fact, exist. It's as if contemporary neuroscience and psychology are just now catching up with what Buddhist, Taoist, and Advaita Vedanta Hindu­ ism have been teaching for over 2,500 years.

This may be a difficult point to grasp, chiefly because we've mistaken the process of thinking as a genuine thing for so long. It will take some time to see the idea of a "me" as simply an idea rather than a fact. Your illusionary self-the voice in your head-is very convincing. It narrates the world, determines your beliefs, replays your memories, identifies with your physical body, manufactures your projections of what might happen in the future, and creates your judgments about the past. It is this sense of self that we feel from the moment we open our eyes in the morning to the moment we close them at night. It seems all-important, so it often comes as a shock when I tell people that based on my work as a neuropsychologist, this "I" is simply not there-at least not in the way we think it is.

On the other hand, this will come as no surprise to those who have studied Eastern religions and philosophical movements, since all of these take as a basic premise the idea that the self as we most commonly think of it does not exist. If this is true, one might then ask, what is left? This question is definitely worth pondering, and we will look at it later after we approach the idea of "no self' through the landscape of scientific findings that point to the unreality of the self and the possible presence of a different model of consciousness.

As I mentioned in the preface, the great success story of neuroscience has been in mapping the brain. We can point to the language center, the face processing center, and the center for understanding the emotions of others. Practically every function of the mind has been mapped to the brain with one important exception: the self. While various neuroscientists have made the claim that the self resides in this or that neural location, there is no real agreement among the scientific community about where to find it-not even whether it might  be  in the left or the right side of the brain. Perhaps the reason we can't find the self in the brain is because it isn't there.

Yet even if we accept as true that there is no self, we cannot deny that there is still a very strong idea of self. While neuropsychology has failed to find the seat of the self, it has determined the part of the brain that creates this idea of a self, and we will examine this in detail.

Why does all of this matter? In much the same way I found myself deep in suffering after the loss of my father, each of us will experience plenty of mental pain, misery, and frustration in our lifetimes.  Mistaking the voice in our head for a thing and labeling it "me" brings us into conflict with the neuropsychological evidence that shows there is no such thing. This mistake-this illusory sense of self-is the primary cause of our mental suffering. What's more, I contend that it blocks access to the eternal, expansive thread of universal consciousness that is always available to us.

To be clear, mental suffering is different from physical pain. Pain occurs in the body and is a physical reaction - like when you stub your toe or break an arm. The suffering I speak of occurs in the mind only and describes things such as worry, anger, anxiety, regret, jealousy, shame, and a host of other negative mental states.

I know it's a big claim to say that all of these kinds of suffering are the result of a fictitious sense of self. For now, the essence of this idea is captured brilliantly by Taoist philosopher and author Wei Wu Wei when he writes, "Why are you unhappy? Because 99.9 percent of everything you think, and of everything you do, is for yourself-and there isn't one."

The Structure of This Book

We will start by looking at the brain, its left and right side, and its effects on human cognition and behavior.3 There are certainly other ways to organize and divide the brain that are important to the process of cognition, such as the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex mentioned in the preface, but it is my aim to make this topic understandable and enjoyable for everyone. For simplicity's sake, we will mostly talk about the left and right sides of the brain and how they affect our thoughts and behaviors.

First, I will explain the idea that the left brain is an interpreter or story-maker. Pattern recognition, language, mapmaking, and categorization are all located in the left brain, and the evidence suggests that it is exactly these types of functions that collectively lead to the sensation of a self and the strong belief in its absolute truth. We will explore how the unique functions of the left brain give rise not only to the sense of self but also account for why it is so difficult to see beyond this illusion and why this sensation creates so much suffering in the human condition.

Once we understand how the left brain operates, we will take a closer look at the  right  brain and how  it works, which includes things such as finding meaning, our ability to see and understand big-picture ideas, expressing creativity, experiencing emotions, and spatial processing. These are all functions that rely on the right brain. After we have examined both sides of the brain and the processes associated with each, I will speculate on what this information may mean for consciousness and how it could also point beyond the ego illusion and toward the mystery of who we really are.

At the end of each chapter, you will find a section called Explorations. These are exercises or simple thought experiments that provide a chance for a deeper, more hands-on understanding of the concepts dis­ cussed. Through these Explorations, I hope you will be able to access the central ideas of this book in novel and exciting ways that go beyond merely thinking about them.

What we discuss here will show that specific studies in neuroscience and psychology strongly suggest what Eastern philosophies have been saying for millennia: namely that this idea of "me" or the "self'' that most of us take for granted doesn't exist in the way that we think it does. This may be a new idea for you, and before we begin, I want to make clear that I am not simply trying to convince you that your ego is an illusion by heaping mountains of research on you. Rather, I want to guide you to new experiences and open pathways to using different parts of the brain so that you can determine for yourself whether all this is true or not. Einstein said that a problem cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created it. In this way, the sense of self created by the left brain cannot be unveiled by hammering away at it with even more thinking from the left brain. My wish is to guide your consciousness to a different way of looking at your experiences and, in so doing, allow you to go beyond the thoughts of the left brain. I believe this can greatly reduce your mental suffering, as it has mine.

As the ancient Zen axiom states, "No self, no problem."

 

 

No Self, No Problem shows how findings in neuropsychology suggest that our sense of self is actually an illusion created by the left side of the brain and that it exists in the same way a mirage in the middle of the desert exists: as a thought rather than a thing.

 

Intrigued? This title will be released on September 10th and will be available from all major retailers!

 

It’s Not About the Stress…or the Stuff

(Excerpted from Your Spacious Self by Stephanie Bennett Vogt)

No one would argue that most of us do too much or have more possessions than we need. Or both. With our lives swept up in a swirl of attachments, worry, and endless, mechanical “doing,” our minds become fuzzy on what stays and what goes, what matters and what doesn’t. As humans, it is in our nature to experience clarity and spaciousness all the time. The problem is that we lose focus, get off balance, and forget how.

So how do we dial it back or even begin to reduce the noise, release the stuff that doesn’t serve and support us, and connect with that which makes our hearts sing?

One minute at a time. In present time.

No matter how miniscule the task or effort, the fact is that clearing anything consciously and gently, as this book teaches, creates an energetic opening – a spaciousness – that will work on you slowly and surely to soften your attachments to things, beliefs, and outcomes.

Whether your clutter challenge is the stuff spilling out of the closet or the noise spinning around in your head, or both, here’s what I know for sure – distilled to its bare essence:

Let me explain.

In the end, it is not about tackling the unsightly messes, the boxes of who-knows-what mildewing in the basement, or the clothes that don’t fit.

It’s not about the mountain of mail, the emails that invade your inbox, or the pile of medical bills that the insurance company refuses to cover.

It’s not about the care that needs new tires, the crazy-ass housemate who won’t turn her music down, or the neighborhood dog that barks all night.

Nor is it about “fixing” yourself.

It’s not about the despair you feel over the dishes that no one bothers to was and put away, the to-do lists that get longer by the second, or the fact that you have zero time for yourself.

It’s not about the hopelessness you feel, your inability to say no, or the fear of someone discovering your dark secret.

Clearing is not about any of those things. It is how…you…relate…to…them.

It is the space between the problem and the solution where the real juice is, where the real clearing happens. And the only way to release what isn’t working for you is to enter that sometimes-scary zone called feeling.

Feeling the overwhelm, resistance, attachment, guilt, sadness, worry, despair, shame…

Feeling it all- without judging it as good or bad or taking it personally.

We do not need fixing. The core of our being is not broken. We humans are simply out of touch with our true selves and out of balance. And, by extension, our homes and world are out of balance because we are. Not the other way around.

When you can allow feelings to arise in all their messy glory without fixing or judging or personalizing, tat is when the clutter you experience “out there” – in your home and life – magically melts away.

No matter what your clutter challenge is, as you practice clearing in this way, you’ll begin to notice some shifts taking place in your life. Who knows what that might look like for you. It might start as a tiny peephole of space that wasn’t there before. An ah-ha. A kindness. A quieter dog. A surprise check in the mail. Less junk mail. Fewer pounds. A job offer. Fewer buttons getting pressed. Better sleep. More energy. More joy.

More you.

More real, spacious you.

Support the Journey

In this journey, there are two things you can almost count on: First, there is no way to predict what will happen as you clear; and second, no matter how good your intentions may be, if there is a monkey mind lurking in your head space, it is easy to fall off the wagon, get discouraged—or plain lost.

For that reason I am including these reminders to help bring you back. Write them down in your journal or on a Post-it note. If you can remember to adopt these guiding principles as part of your daily practice, I can almost guarantee that you will clear more stress and clutter than you ever imagined possible.

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Are you ready to learn more about how you can cultivate Your Spacious Self? This title is available now from all major retailers!

 

Also, stay tuned for space clearing expert Stephanie Bennett Vogt’s latest book, A Year for You, forthcoming in October, 2019!

 

 

Cultivating the Silent Knowledge at the Heart of True Wisdom…

from The Wisdom of the Shamans

by don Jose Ruiz

 

In the Toltec tradition, we have a concept called silent knowledge, and cultivating your connection to it can help you find the truth within yourself.

Silent knowledge is a knowing that is beyond the thinking/discerning mind. It is difficult to write or talk about, because language is the main tool of the discerning mind, but I will do my best to explain.

Silent knowledge is the deep, innate wisdom that is in all things. It comes from the interconnectedness of all beings and creatures. It is the wisdom of the universe. For instance, if you’ve ever simply known the answer to a question without any logical way that your brain could have discovered it—like when a mother can feel that her child is in danger or when you know the moment a relative transitions into death—this is all silent knowledge. It is the universal wisdom that has always been at our fingertips, but that we often neglect to tap into, either because we don’t know or have forgotten how.

Being able to see the next right action in any given situation, disregarding the mitote (the noisy voices that clamor for your attention) in your mind—this is silent knowledge, and as you begin to unravel your domestications and live in a way that feels authentic to you, you will find yourself in touch with it. When you develop an awareness of silent knowledge, you begin to shift your attention to it more often, especially when faced with an important choice or decision.

The insights that you get from silent knowledge can come to you in the form of an inspired thought or even an energetic feeling in your body. In either case, when a message comes to you from silent knowledge, you sense a “knowing” that the insight you are receiving is not from your thinking mind.

Furthermore, silent knowledge never carries the energy of hate, resentment, or revenge. If any message you get originates from this type of energy, then you know that this is not silent knowledge, but coming out of the mind’s addiction to suffering instead.

Another means for accessing silent knowledge is to pay attention to your emotions. When it comes to making decisions, our emotions can sometimes be better indictors that our discerning minds.

For instance, let’s say you are trying to make a decision about a situation and one choice may seem correct logically, but you have a nagging feeling that something isn’t right. Let’s say you’ve been offered a new job with better pay, but when you visit with your potential employer, you get a negative vibe inside that you can’t explain.

Rather than dismiss those sensations, it would be wise to recognize them as clues from the realm of silent knowledge. This doesn’t necessarily mean the answer is a “no” and you shouldn’t take the job, but rather that you should do more investigating before making a final decision.

Silent knowledge is available to you right now, and one helpful step to finding it is to practice outer silence and meditation. Meditation is a powerful tool for many spiritual practices. For the Toltec, meditation is used in a variety of ways, but one of the most important benefits is that in meditation we are able to see past the mitote of the mind. Doing so creates an environment within ourselves that allows us to better connect to silent knowledge.

Meditation Exercise

For this meditation, our goal is to open ourselves to silent knowledge. To begin meditating, find a quiet, comfortable space where you won’t be interrupted for the next several minutes. This could be on the back porch while the pets are inside, in the bathtub because the bathroom door is the only one that keeps the kids out, or in an armchair in the study. There is no wrong place or posture for meditation, so experiment and find what works best for you.

Our goal will be to simply open your mind and allow universal wisdom to be present in your awareness. As you become more familiar with meditation, feel free to ask or meditate on certain questions that you need to have answered. By taking questions into your meditation, you will be bringing them to the source of all wisdom and may receive your answers in the form of silent knowledge.

Once you find a quiet place and a comfortable position, close your eyes and take a few moments to settle in. For this meditation, I want you to just listen. Listen to any sounds happening outside of you without putting too much importance on any of them. What do you hear? The wind rustling in the trees? The hum of the refrigerator in the other room? Take it all in, it’s all welcome here. Now I want you to listen to the silence that is just behind the sounds you hear. The silence is there: it’s the space which makes hearing the other sounds possible. Hold that silence in your mind as you find it.

Next I want you to bring your attention inward—listening to the silence that is inside you. Like the silence on the outside, inner silence is underneath all the other sensations you find. The mind will wander and begin to think—because that is the nature of the mind—but when it does, gently try to release those thoughts and find the silence again, and again, and again.

When you first start meditating, you may not be able to hold this silence for long, and that is okay. The key is to judge nothing, but just listen. When the mind wanders, you simply bring it back to listening to the outer world, then the silence on the outside, and then the silence on the inside. If you are new to meditation, begin by doing this for just five minutes at a time. If you like this practice, try to go a little longer and then a little longer each time, building up to thirty minutes or more. Your mind will still wander, but you will find it easier to bring it back to the silence the more you practice.

If you would like to take a question into meditation, ask the question once at the beginning of the meditation and then begin your meditation listening to the outer world and then to the silence behind all the sounds, both without and within. It’s important that you ask your question and then let the question go. In these moments of stillness found in meditation, silent wisdom may come to you regarding your question, or you may find through meditation that the question is unimportant and no longer needs an answer.

 

 

Ready to explore more of how The Wisdom of the Shamans can help you find your own inner wisdom? Now available in paperback with a new foreword by Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements and the father of don Jose Ruiz! This title is available from all major retailers and on our website. To learn more about this powerful book, and to read the introduction for free, click here.

 

 

To the Son I Never Had: A Love Letter to Men and Boys by HeatherAsh Amara

 

Last year I wrote a blog called “To the daughter I never had” where I shared my experiences spending time with an ex-boyfriend's budding-into-teenager daughter (read that blog here).

I received so many emails from women who were deeply touched by the writing and message of that blog and were so grateful to share it with their daughters. I also received several emails from men asking, “can you please write a blog like that so I can share it with my son?”

So here are my thoughts on what I would want my son to know as he grew into adulthood.​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​This is also a love letter to all men who are on a path of healing and working toward dismantling the old paradigm of domination, patriarchy, and repression. I see you and am grateful for you. May these words help clear the old structures and wounding so that we may all step beyond the shackles of harmful gender-based roles and agreements.

An important reminder: there are many beings who do not identify with the limited and binary definitions of men and women. These people are the visionaries and leaders of a new way of being, the vanguards helping us all to move beyond the stereotypes and false simplicity of masculine vs feminine. I'm not meaning to exclude anyone from this blog. “My son” is for anyone who is male-identified or gender fluid.

------------------------------

Dear One,
​​​​​​​

We live in changing and exciting times. We are in the midst of a paradigm shift, and you are a part of that new wave. And while this time brings new possibilities and ways of being it can also bring confusion, mixed messages, and a sense of not knowing where you fit in or how to respond.

In my parent's lifetime, your grandparents, the world was very different. Roles for men and women were highly segregated and formulaic; men were supposed to make the money and take care of all the finances and women were supposed to stay home and take care of the children. Men were seen as superior; women were seen as inferior. Men were taught not to have feelings or get too attached; they were supposed to be stoic, solid, and always in control. Women were seen as overly emotional, needing of protection, and weak. And women were believed to be good at housekeeping and child raising only, except when we were at war and women were brought into the workplace.

Of course, there were exceptions even 50 to 60 years ago; women became pilots or doctors, men stayed home and took care of the children. However, it was extremely rare, and there was a lot of pushback whenever someone stepped out of those old designated roles.

I'm telling you this because it is important to understand where we have been, in order to know how to step more mindfully into where we are going. The attitudes and beliefs of your great grandparents, your grandparents, and your parents will continue to be carried forward by you in many subtle ways unless you very consciously choose to change them. Many of these old beliefs are still held in obvious and subtle ways by our culture and by the people in power. And you also need to understand, so you are not surprised or confused by people's reactions to you, why there may be times you get very strong messages from your elders or your peers to be different or “toe the line.” You might be called “sissy” or “pussy” or “just like a girl.” You might be harassed for being too “feminine” or for “being pussy-whipped.” But these insults only work if you believe that being likened to a girl is bad. And that is what the culture is still trying to use to keep men and women in boxes and behaving “as they should.”

Being a man does not mean you have to be tough or unemotional or responsible for everything. Growing from a boy to a man is about finding your center, living from your heart, and fiercely loving.

Whether you are sexually attracted to boys or girls, how you choose to dress, what you are passionate about, and how you want to show up in the world is part of the adventure of learning who you are. Please don't let anyone outside of you tell you that you should be different. There will always be people who will tell you that you are doing it “wrong” or who will judge you because of your choices. I will always stand by your right to choose. That is your birthright. And your choices are precious and powerful and I will support them unconditionally.​​​​​​​

Know, however, that not everyone will. If you stray from the invisible line of what is “proper” according to someone else’s standards, you may find they demean or even actively try to hurt you. But there are also so many role models that can inspire you to be fully yourself. These are people who have gone against the old rigid definitions of “masculine” and “feminine,” people who step outside of those fixed and tiring gender lines, and have blazed a new trail. You will also be blazing a new trail with your being.

In regards to your sexuality, which is a beautiful and powerful part of you...

Get to know your own body. Everyone is different, and as your hormones come on line you'll find lots of things changing with your body. It is natural and beautiful to feel desire and to feel turned on by some of the people around you. And it can be confusing to know how to be in those relationships. Start by getting to know how you like to be touched, where your body is sensitive, and what makes you feel good. Pleasure is one of the greatest gifts of being human, and your body is a buffet of sensations and experiences, from learning what textures, smells, and colors you like, to learning how to bring yourself to climax using your hands while being connected to your heart.

Take your time being sexual with others. There is no rush to connect sexually with someone else; no end goal as to what it should look like. Go slow. Listen to your own body and heart. Learn to “court” lovers by getting to know them: what they like, where they struggle, what they dream about. Share who you are. Be vulnerable. The best sexual relationships come from intimacy, though there is nothing wrong with being sexual with a willing partner that you don't know... this can be a wonderful exchange of energy and passion! But always remember there is no rush. Savor the moment of touch and connection.

Why consent is so important. This is hard to talk about, but it is so very important. There are as many as 1 in 3 girls and women who are sexually assaulted at some time in their life, and as many as 1 in 8 boys and men. There is a tremendous amount of wounding around sexuality for many people, both intentional and unintentional. Women are especially wired to “freeze” if they feel they are in danger. There is an old belief that women should be sexual even if they don't want to be. It can be easy to overstep boundaries if you fail (even unintentionally) to communicate clearly with your partner. First, never be sexual with someone who has been drinking or doing drugs and cannot truly give consent, because their normal functioning brain is impaired; they may not be acting from their most centered place. If you are not sure, ask. If you feel there is a wobble or a hesitation, ask more questions or wait until your partner is clear headed and they tell you they are really ready and willing. And always check in with yourself about whether or not you are wanting to be sexual; never let yourself get pressured to do something you do not want to. Honor your body.

Learn to hold your desires and respect others. Being sexually turned on by someone does not mean that you must be sexual with them! You will be excited and lit up by many people in your life, whether you are single or in a committed relationship. This is one of the lovely things about being in a body, feeling that sense of desire and yumminess around other people. You don't have to repress it or pretend you are not turned on, and you also do not have to act on it or share it with others. Learn to feel that inner fire and use it to fuel your joy, creativity, and passion for life. If you are in a committed relationship take the energy that sparks you and share it with your partner (I mean share energetically, not necessarily verbally unless your partner is very open!) Don't be ashamed of your sexuality or feel you have to deny that life force moving through you. And know that you get to decide how you run that energy through your body.

Get to know your partner's body. In movies and books, people effortlessly and passionately fall into each other's arms and know exactly how to please each other. That is not always the reality! Sometimes it takes time to learn how to pleasure your partner, and to show them how to pleasure you. Be an open-minded and open-hearted student of each person you connect with sexually, as all bodies and people are different. Ask questions, try new things. Variety and exploration are the spice of sensual connection. And know that especially for women, you can do something one day that will drive her wild, and then do the exact same thing the next day and she will hate it. Women's hormones change so drastically from week to week that you will need to learn to read where she is in her cycle and how she likes to be touched or held, for example when she is ovulating vs when she is menstruating. There are books and videos that can help you learn how to pleasure a woman or a man to have multiple orgasms, to ejaculate (woman), or to orgasm without ejaculating (man).

Lead with kindness and compassion. The old model of “manhood” is tied up with always being strong and never showing emotions. Many men have not been allowed, or have not allowed themselves, to connect with their emotions and inner needs. Because this is modeled so strongly by many men in business, in the movies, and in the media, the old model can be easy to slip into. Always remember that knowing your emotions and being vulnerable is your superpower. When you are in touch and fluid with your emotional body you are connected to your intuition, your wisdom, and your heart. Emotional intelligence is a kind of literacy that you can learn; it will serve you well, so don't be afraid to get the support and resources you need to connect and work with your emotional body.

Many thanks to the women and men I've talked to who have raised or are raising boys, who are not afraid to be their full selves. It makes me cry every time one of my students writes to me to share how her son is saying things like, “I don't mind if you call me a girl, girls are powerful” (from a young boy with long hair who is called a girl by a stranger) or “Yes, I'd like the pink shirt, mom. I'm not insecure around my masculinity” (from a young man whose mom double checks his choice of shirts). The paradigm is shifting, boy by boy, man by man. Yes!

High five to everyone raising conscious boys, and to all the men reparenting themselves and healing their wounded inner child. We need you. We see you. We love you. Thank you.
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Blessings,

P.S. If you are a woman who has a male-bodied or gender fluid partner, friend, or sibling, share your love and appreciation with them today.

Resources for boys or for raising boys:

https://www.fatherly.com/parenting/teach-young-kids-consent-respect-sex/

http://rolereboot.org/family/details/2018-01-teaching-boys-consent-needs-start-earlier-think/

https://goodmenproject.com/families/the-healthy-sex-talk-teaching-kids-consent-ages-1-21/

Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys by Cara Natterson

It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris

Resources for men:

Fire in the Belly by Sam Keen

The Superior Man by David Deida

The Mask of Masculinity by Lewis Howes

Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson

The Hidden Spirituality of Men by Matthew Fox

King Warrior Magician Lover by Robert Moore

To Be A Man by Robert Augustus Masters

The Mankind Project: https://mankindproject.org/

The Good Men Project: https://goodmenproject.com/

Ask Men: https://www.askmen.com/

Lewis Howes' podcast: https://lewishowes.com/podcast

HeatherAsh Amara is the bestselling author of the Warrior Goddess Training books as well as the recently released Big Freedom: Discover the Four Elements of Transformation, and the coauthor with Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. of The Seven Secrets to Healthy, Happy Relationships. You can find out more about HeatherAsh’s powerful work here.

 

 

Ready to experience Big Freedom? Discover the four elements of transformation…



What is Big Freedom?

The word freedom can mean many things: the ability to say what we want, to go where we want, and to be with whom we want.  However, even with these important freedoms available, many of us still feel trapped by our own inner judgments, fears, and expectations. Instead of being our own best friend and biggest supporter, we often treat ourselves in ways we would never treat anyone else.

How can we live life as authentically and powerfully as possible? Is there a way to release the burdens of negative thinking, self-criticism, unhelpful fears, and crushing expectations? These are questions that Hierophant Publishing author HeatherAsh Amara has set out to answer, and for her, the four elements point the way.

The four primordial elements, air, fire, water, and earth, are with us every day of our lives. The wind that blows the trees, the water we drink, the solid earth we move over, and the fire that lives in the life-giving warmth of the sun, are the building blocks of the world.

No matter how far from nature we think we are, we are still only a heartbeat away from the elements. They exist in our very bodies – in our breath, and in our energy.  HeatherAsh views these elements as allies in our search for wholeness, authenticity, and meaning, and she believes that each has unique gifts that can help us along our path to experiencing Big Freedom in our daily lives.   

Air: The Art of Clear Perception

We all know that a closed room will become stale and stagnant, and that merely opening a window and inviting the fresh air in from outside can make the room feel fresh and alive again. In a similar way, the element of air is a symbol for the need to clear away judgmental and fear-based thinking that can accumulate when our minds are closed, when we have forgotten the immense power that resides in each one of us.

Fire: The Art of Cleansing

Fire is the element of action. Like the powerful cleansing flames of a natural forest fire, you can call on the spirit of fire to burn away what no longer serves you, making room for new growth. This kind of cleansing is a powerful tool that can be used over and over again, helping you to go deeper into a sense of newness and peace each time you call upon this primal element.

Water: The Art of Opening

A rushing river flows over rocks, under floating leaves, and through narrow sluice gates; the water can be stopped by accumulated debris or dams, but its true nature is to flow. So it is with our emotional bodies. Like the river, we may have created blocks to the natural flow of our emotional selves, and we will need to relearn how to clear away those blocks and remain open. Opening to our emotions means accepting all that comes to us in our lives, whether positive or negative. This is not a passive act, as it requires courage and trust. The element of water to help you find the place of freedom in yourself that allows what is to be. 

Earth: The Art of Nourishing

We are all children of the earth, and we are sustained inside and out by the miraculous nourishing power of the planet. The element of earth not only grounds and strengthens us, but it also teaches us the importance of nourishing ourselves. What actions in your life make you feel exhausted and worn down? What makes you feel refreshed, energetic, and alive? By calling upon the nourishing power of the earth, you can learn to support your physical body in ways that also feed your soul and bring peace to your heart.

Are you ready to find out more about how these powerful elements can change your life and lead you down the path to your own Big Freedom?

A Little Book on Big Freedom: Discover the Four Elements of Transformation by HeatherAsh Amara will be available April 9th, 2019 at all major retailers and on our website! To learn more about this powerful book, and to read the introduction and first chapter for free, click here.