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Science And Nonduality Conference – Impressions

Jeph and I attended and volunteered our energies to the Science and Nonduality Conference this past weekend. I am glad to have experienced it and grateful for the insights and food for thought/contemplation.

What resonated, through my lens:

All of us – people, creatures, elements, the whole earth, sun/moon/stars/planets – are connected. We Are All One.

Our physical bodies and primary communication mode, language, present both challenges and opportunities. We can get caught in labeling and separating ourselves from the world. And we can get caught in identifying only with what we experience in the physical realm, through our senses. But the opportunity exists, in every moment, to move beyond the physical and connect and communicate with what we’ve been led to believe is separate from “I”.

We recognize the opportunity when we are present in the moment. And in order to be fully present we must experience the moment, our be-ing, through all of our physical senses.

It’s all there for us. Really, really, look, listen, watch.

-Adyashanti

…and feel… Then we are grounded in the body – connected to the ground, the earth which graciously supports these bodies of ours (this would be a good time to pause and experience and express our deep gratitude for mother earth’s daily support of our life.)

It is not a mistake that we are here, now, in these bodies. That was a choice, too. “Moving beyond the physical” does not mean leaving the body behind, until it is time for that. Through embracing our earthly nature and loving and nourishing our body we will begin to sense the energy flowing within and through us. That energy is our connection to Universal Energy, our source. Again, We Are All One.

The more we choose to be fully present, in this moment, the more we will come to know our true, deepest self. The more we are here and now, the more we will recognize the interconnection of all life. And as we open up to that, the wisdom of the collective consciousness (and subconscious) will guide our life, our thoughts, feelings, words, and actions.

How do I help others? How do I help this world?

Answer: (silence and presence) and, because we are having a physical experience and are taught to communicate with words, “By just Being – being fully present, being here now, being comfortable in a healthy body, being aware of our interconnection, being accepting of what is – our influence and contributions will be positive.”

Peter Russell and Peter Fenner in dialogue, paraphrased

And as we return to the moment (and remember to Breathe – that’s one way to really love and nourish our bodies) and connect with Universal energy, we begin to see the infinite nature of Being. Because there is no beginning or end, there is a circle – the circle of life. Which means that time is not linear, though our human perception has led us to believe it to be. So, if this moment encompasses all moments, by being fully here and now, we can access there and then, too. It’s funny, because somewhere in the process of “growing up” we all get in the habit of thinking about the future and the past quite a lot, and guess what that does? It takes us away from the present. It’s a bit of a conundrum because, on the one hand, we can’t be fully here if we are there and, on the other hand, when we are fully here, we can be, and actually are, there too. Hmmm…The thing to remember is Start Here.

Non-local = infinite in space and time. Consciousness exists non-locally.

-Larry Dossey

When we are present, our consciousness naturally begins expanding. Infinite universal wisdom and our subconscious dwell beyond space and time and a regular meditation practice helps us quiet the mind and recognize their many forms and channels. When we are receptive to that guidance and observe the positive effects on our life (and rippling out far beyond “I”), we begin to trust gut feelings, intuition, synchronicities, and premonitions.

Premonitions are preventive medicine.

-Larry Dossey

In the world of dreams (entered through sleep and also through shamanic and other guided journeys), we leave consciousness at the gate. Here the subconscious and collective subconscious are leading our journey. The more we open up to them in waking life (through being fully conscious in the present and through meditation), the deeper our connection in the dream world, and the richer our memories upon awakening again.

The best ways to get in tune with, and strengthen your powers of premonition: keep a dream journal (and pay attention to it!) and meditate.

-Larry Dossey (parenthesized addition by me)

And as we think and speak and act with consciousness of the interconnection, the Web of Life, our thoughts, words, and actions will benefit our life and all life.

What we do is not nearly as important as why we do it.

-Loibon Le Baaba

So let us Wake Up when we are in waking life.

Be Present.

Slow Down – let the busy mind and heart come into focus.

Breathe in life.

Release all that is not helpful, productive, needed.

Let Go of the past (it’s still there/here – we needn’t cling.)

Watch the future as it unfolds in the present.

Recognize Infinity, and the circle of time

in each Moment.

Open to the innate Wisdom

and move through life

in harmony

in synchronicity.

See, really see,

and feel, really feel

your Self in every eye you look into,

every hand you hold,

every shoulder you touch,

creature you watch,

element you take in.

It is You.

The poetic moment is about breaking out of oneself.

-Drew Dellinger

Mindfulness and Lovingkindness

I volunteered for a daylong at Spirit Rock this past weekend. It was my first time volunteering there, first daylong, first time doing walking meditation, and first time practicing lovingkindness. A lot of firsts in one day! I am so grateful for Spirit Rock and the opportunity to assist in exchange for participating in classes/events.

The day was led by Donald Rothberg and our morning session focused on mindfulness. There was some instruction on the basics of getting comfortable in your posture, tuning in to your breathing, and bringing your awareness back to the present, which is where mindfulness occurs. And in the second half of the day we learned about the practice of lovingkindness, phrases to personalize and silently repeat, and the different groups to direct this positivity towards. Both sessions alternated between sitting and walking meditations, and questions and guidance.

Mindfulness is not a new concept to me, in fact, cultivating it every day, every moment is my goal. I have been aware of the power of being present for quite a few years and that awareness is evolving into more and more of an active practice versus just a passive realization. In other words, I read ‘Be Here Now’ by Ram Das, and many other books of spirituality, eastern philosophy, etc, which taught mindfulness, back in my twenties, but continued to be somewhere besides here and now almost every moment. Really just within the past three to four years have these teachings started to dawn on me in a new, deeper way. I am gradually putting all of this wisdom (thousands of years worth) into practice. And that is the key to so much in life – doing the work, the practice.

I enjoyed Donald’s patient and lighthearted approach and the affirmative effect of all these people coming together to learn about slowing down, tuning in, and being present. It was nice to be a part of that and to have the time and space to dedicate to it.

Walking meditation is interesting. It’s a nice chance to stretch your legs and get outside. It requires concentration in different ways. I found, as did others in the class, that balance was trickier the more I slowed down. The positive effect was that being challenged to find balance brought my thinking and feeling back to now. And as is often the case with physical, tangible lessons, it made a lasting impression:

You need to be present in order to be balanced.

The afternoon was harder for me. I’ve found through observing my natural daily rhythms and patterns (and thank-you to Mark McGuinness’s Creative Pathfinder course for the prompting), that as the afternoon progresses, my concentration diminishes. And lovingkindess requires another level of concentration beyond mindfulness (which we still need to be practicing.) It was well worth the effort and very rewarding, though. Again, to give myself permission to sit quietly and cultivate positive, loving, patient, and kind feelings towards myself and towards the people, and creatures, of my world – if we all did this on a regular basis the world would be a nicer place. So much negativity could be dissipated by taking the time slow down and be kind and loving.

Donald provided some suggested phrases and this is how I personalized them:

May I/he/she/they be safe, secure, and comfortable.

May I/he/she/they be happy, healthy, strong, and vibrant.

May I/he/she/they live with ease and grace.

And May positive energy flow to and from me/him/her/them.

Thank-you, Donald, for your generous teachings.

What I find most interesting is that the following day was a hard one and three days later I am just starting to feel lightness and awareness return. I didn’t recognize what was happening on Sunday, just that my energy (physical/mental/emotional) was quite low. It was hot and Saturday had been a long day (and also hot) – that’s what I attributed it to. But on Monday I began to examine my thoughts and feelings and recognize that they were primarily self judgement, insecurity, doubt, and worry and in the past or future. At some point it hit me that I was being challenged in the very areas we had practiced on Saturday: being present (not caught up in analyzing the past or worrying about/imagining the future) and being loving and kind, starting with ones self. Hmmm…

The only way to really learn is by Doing and the most powerful learning, and growth, comes through the biggest challenges. So, little by little, moment by moment, I have been able to see the opportunity in this challenge of focus. And there is a gift there, too: I have the choice of what to focus my attention (thoughts/feelings/energy) on at each moment. Starting with mindfulness, the more I am fully present, in the here and now, the more I can recognize and release negative thoughts/feelings/energy and cultivate positive and productive thoughts/feelings/energy, including lovingkindness towards myself and the world around me.

I spent some time with ‘Be Here Now’ last night and like this description of mindfulness meditation:

The southern Buddhists (Theravadin) practice a form of meditation called Satipatthana Vipassana (Application of Mindfulness). It starts with the simple exercise of Bare Attention. All that you do is register thoughts, states, etc. in the present. This process slows down the transition from the receptive to the active phase of the cognitive process. You don’t think about your thoughts. You merely note them. This produces “peaceful penetration.” You transcend conceptual thought.

So I will start there (for a week is Ram Dass’s recommendation) and once I’ve gotten good at Bare Attention, I will move on to the next level of the practice.

Learning to Meditate

I made my first visit to Spirit Rock last month with the intention of getting a feel for the place and community and seeking guidance on my spiritual path. Jack Kornfield spoke for a few moments and then everyone settled into their seats and began to, collectively, Let Go.

There was not a lot of instruction, just enough to help us connect with the breath, recognize our wandering minds, and return, again and again, to the Present. As I sat there, breathing steadily, tuning in to my body and energy, and consciously letting go of any tension I was holding, I realized what a gift it is to simply Be, to allow ourselves the time and space to slow down, breathe, and release.

There is so much wisdom and power and love and potential in each one of us, and the way to connect with it and work with it, for the good of all, is through this stillness, this letting go, this emptiness.

I’ve read a lot about these concepts/approaches over the years; this was my first time sitting in meditation with some guidance, and surrounded by others doing the same. It was nice to have that gentle support, and to feel a connection to the community around me, while also allowing myself to be fully me.

I returned tonight and  think I am hooked!  And that’s such a good thing, for that guidance and sense of community on the spiritual journey is something I have desired for a long time. I have been keeping myself open to it, but not actively seeking it, because my instinct was that the place and time were not yet right.

Appropriately, Jack Kornfield  spoke of the teachings of impermanence and redemption,

“No matter what, it’s never too late to start again.”

Now that we have finally found a home base that feels right, the place and time have arrived! And how interesting that Spirit Rock is in our back yard.

Falling Down, Waking Up

Yesterday I fell down, and it hurt. But it also woke me up a little bit, and that’s a good thing. J and I were on a Sunday bike ride, tooling through downtown and as we passed the First Presbyterian Church, we both remembered, at the same time apparently, that I wanted some photos of the church bells – because they’re cool looking and I want to paint them. So, J crossed 5th Ave to get some up-close shots and I pulled over to the other side, thinking we would get shots from there. Once I realized he was across the street, I put my foot out to balance on the edge of the sidewalk and wait for him. But, apparently I misjudged where the sidewalk ended, my foot missed it and kept going down (the road dipped down), I lost my balance, and went down with it, landing on my wrist, ankle, and hip. It was a split second of traveling down, reacting, landing, regaining focus, and realizing I was OK, just a little sore. I wiggled out from under my bike, checked out the damage – just a little scuff on my ankle and palm and a sore wrist and hip – paused for a moment to regain breath and balance, then pulled myself up, dusted myself off, and assured J (and the nice older couple passing by in a car who asked if I needed help) that I was fine.

I recognized it as a teachable moment – teaching myself: Pay Attention, Be Focused and Present. It immediately brought to mind one of my favorite pieces of life guidance, as taught by Baron Baptiste:

We are either Now Here or No Where

The choice, as always, is ours. We can either choose to be really, fully Now and Here, or, by not actively choosing, we are somewhere else and, therefor, missing out on the power of Now and Here.

I believe this is one of the most simple, yet profound, lessons of human existence. We are born fully present in the Now and Here and exist, naturally in the moment, as babies and young children. But, as we develop, gradually our attention is pulled away to the past (memories) and future (desires/anticipations/plans.) So, as with many of life’s greatest lessons, we can re-teach ourselves, through awareness, and practice.

The Universe is there to assist us in awakening (enlightening) and uses a variety of tools and methods. Sometimes a little tough love, like falling down onto the sidewalk (I liken it to a zen master whacking a disciple), is big help. Just prior to the fall, I was distracted by a cool looking building and, not being Aware of what was in front of/below me, ran over a pretty deep manhole which could have thrown me from the bike. I thank the Universe for choosing a gentler teaching moment and I commit to living in the Now and Here with Awareness.

Another element of this lesson is that it happened while looking at the church bells. I see the bells as a symbol of spirituality, faith, the path of connecting with our true self and the higher powers of the universe. And I see my falling down, while looking at them, as a lesson that in order to learn and grow spiritually, we need to slow down and focus. First Presbyterian follows a Christian path, and refers to that universal power as “God”, which is not my chosen path (much more on that later), but from the writings on their website, I like the open-mindededness and, open-heartededness of their approach and will close with a quote from their site. I really, really like this reminder that the direction/guidance/answers we seek can be found Within. That is one of the best reasons to be fully present in the Now and Here: this moment is where we can connect to that infinitely wise and abundant inner power – our true self.

The guidance one seeks in spiritual direction comes…from the wisdom inherent in the seeker. Most of us have not been taught that we have within ourselves an “inner compass” of wisdom which will leads us into a life that is harmonious with God’s desires; that leads to creativity, peace and communion with God, self and others. As we learn to trust the “true North” of that interior compass, a sense of being companioned from within by One who loves us unconditionally is gradually strengthened.

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