Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Edible Bliss



Inspired by all the free-flowing love and generosity today, I decided to share my recipe for bliss! I have taken to making these "bliss balls" on a regular basis. People have come to depend on me. Last night I brought them to my yoga class to share with everyone after a sweet, heart-opening set. People invariably ask for the recipe once they've taken a bite and chewed for a few seconds. It is an experience you immediately want to repeat. 

I created this recipe after savoring Shine Apsara's "Buddha-Full Bites" at a music festival this summer (http://www.shineapsara.com/page04.html). The chocolate sauce for dipping comes straight from the twins at pure2raw (http://www.pure2raw.com/2011/11/mini-raw-bon-bon/). These tasty treats are all raw, all vegan, all bliss! 

Make a double batch and share the love!

Bliss Balls:
1 1/2 cups dates, pitted & chopped
1/2 cup cacao butter, grated
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup raw cacao powder
1/4 cup maca powder
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
1/4 cup coconut flakes
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 T. agave syrup
1 tsp. vanilla or 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp. orange essence
Pinch of sea salt (preferably smoked!)

Melt cacao butter and coconut oil on low heat in double boiler. Place dates, melted oils, and agave syrup in food processor and blend well. Add remaining ingredients and blend until it forms a homogenous mixture that holds together well. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for half hour. Form into little balls, place on a baking sheet, and place in freezer for at least 15 minutes. Dip them in chocolate sauce (below), return to freezer. Once chilled, store air-tight container in freezer or fridge.

Chocolate Sauce:
1/3 cup coconut oil (melted)
1 tsp. vanilla
3 T. agave syrup
6 T. cacao powder

Mix all the ingredients well.

ENJOY!


Friday, January 27, 2012

How psychotherapy can save the world!

A close friend of mine, who grew up in New York, told me about the first time she met a tree, at the age of twenty-five: "I had seen trees growing on the sidewalks and in parks, of course. But I'd never been to a real forest. I just ran up to a tree and hugged it. Then I hugged another and another."

Her story struck me as deeply disturbing. Growing up I had spent plenty of time in forests, and I could hardly fathom being deprived of what I consider to be a basic human right: to know the wild Earth and to be intimately connected to Nature.

But her story was more than just disturbing; it was incredibly hopeful. Her recognition of the trees-- like a meeting of old friends-- was immediate. She knew instantly that she belonged to the trees, to the forest, and to what the great Nature poet, Mary Oliver calls, "the family of things."

Her story reminded me of my first experience with yoga. I was also a young woman at the time, eighteen years old. Near the end of the first class, the teacher guided us in a simple meditation. My mental chatter fell away and I found myself in a vast, spacious moment that I recognized as "home." It felt totally new and yet completely familiar, just like my friend entering the forest for the first time.

Meditation and Nature offer the same thing: a direct encounter with the One. We recognize it because it is who we are. The illusion of being separate dissolves and we reconnect to the web of Life, if only for a brief moment. It is this reconnection that I believe is critical for the well-being-- and outright survival-- of the planet and all its inhabitants, including us!

I care deeply about the fate of the Earth and I need to know that my work (as a psychotherapist) makes a difference. So, how can psychotherapy save the world? After reflecting on this question, I realized that when people heal from the limiting beliefs that keep them feeling separate from the world, then at that moment they remember that they belong and that they matter. When this shift in consciousness occurs, love blooms: love for self and love for others. A person who feels connected to the whole will act out of consideration for the whole.

It is my passion and purpose in life to help ignite this shift in consciousness in as many people as possible. Yes, I have a desire to save the world, and I am not afraid to admit it! I know I can't do it alone; I want everyone to connect to this feeling of wanting to save the world! There are as many ways to approach this task as there are people alive.

How does your work help save the world? I invite you to explore this question for yourself. I believe that we all care about saving the world, and when we allow ourselves to connect our actions to the fate of the planet, we can be motivated to make more enlightened and ethical choices.

As women in our thirties, my friend and I frequently walked together through the tree-lined streets of Palo Alto, California. She would often stop to hug a tree, pausing mid-sentence, and unselfconsciously wrap her arms around its trunk and press her cheek to its bark. I would stand and watch this unabashed display of love, and for a precious moment, I would be carried with her to that vast and cozy place of Oneness.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

bliss


This post is dedicated to Shirley.

When I was around fifteen years old, I came across Joseph Campbell's teaching, "Follow your bliss." I remember holding the magazine article, printed beside an image of two people paddling kayaks. I tried to show it to my brother, but he was not too interested. For me, however, it was as if something had just been shown to me, as if something had just been revealed. Upon receiving this information, my teenage worldview cracked, and opened a little wider. I stared at the kayakers, wondering, "Where are they going?"

What does it mean to "follow your bliss"? The three words speak for themselves.  

Follow. This is an action word! It presumes we have choices, choices about what to follow, which way to turn, and when to stop. In any given moment we have infinite possible choices because we always have the power to choose our thoughts, and all actions begin as thoughts.  

Your. This possessive pronoun implies you are someone, someone who has something. You have a truth, your true self. It is unique to you and it is yours. 

Bliss. What a word! Beyond pleasure, beyond happiness, bliss dances in the realm of ecstasy. It is a breadcrumb trail leading to your highest destiny, your fullest potential, your truest self, your essence, the One. 

Following your bliss happens each time you choose the path of truth, the way that feels right to you. No one else can tell you the way, as each person's path is unique to them. That is the beauty of it. There is no wrong way to follow your bliss. As you strengthen your relationship to yourself, you will know when you are off-track. And the path always welcomes you back. In fact, it may seem as if "invisible hands" are supporting you. As Joseph Campbell remarked, "Follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be."
 
I have been following my bliss since the day I came across that article. My parents always told me that I could do "whatever I wanted to do," a message that gave me tremendous self-confidence. And, of course, I had heard the societal motto, "Follow your dreams." The problem, for me, was that I did not know my dreams because I did not know myself. One of the most frustrating things for me at that time was not having a means to get to know myself. I had no tools or guidance about how to look inside, how to assess my feelings, or how to intuit my destiny. Since I did not know what I wanted, I had no way to proceed. Once I was given the message, "follow your bliss," I suddenly had a map, a strategy for discovering my dreams. I began to listen to the voice in me saying "Yes!" and to follow its lead.

Twenty years later I now know that my bliss resides in helping people and the planet in my own small ways. My  bliss lives in creativity and play: dance, collage, and photography. My bliss dwells in sharing teachings that bring people in touch with their own bliss!



Saturday, November 20, 2010

guidelines

There are many teachings that lead us to the One. I call them guidelines.

I collect guidelines, the same way I collect stones, feathers, and bones.

I started my collection at around age fifteen. Life kept confronting me with questions I was completely ill-equipped to answer. Why is there suffering? Why are we here? What is the right way to live? I felt lost without a map. So I started looking for directions. (This was way before Google Maps).

I discovered that no one had definitive answers to these questions, only helpful guidelines, like signposts and painted arrows along the journey.

Here's a good one: my first yoga teacher taught me that discernment begins with self-knowledge. She explained that we can know ourselves as a vibration, kind of like having your own ring tone. When you want to evaluate someone or something, (e.g. "Should I believe this?" or "Can I trust him?"), you simply tune into the vibration of the person or the thing, and then notice if it clashes or harmonizes with your own. I still practice this today when I am trying to make a decision about something. I compare ring tones.

Here's another: "Love is the answer." It's my bumper sticker. I bought it at a retreat with Ram Dass. Love is an easy-to-remember value to fall back onto. For example, having this slogan as a bumper sticker tends to keep me in check when I feel a bout of road rage coming on. Struggling with an urge to retaliate in some way, I will remember that my bumper sticker is publicly declaring me as a devotee of non-violence, and in order to avoid being seen as a hypocrite, I will opt instead to take a deep breath and relax.

"Peace" is touchstone word for me, as is "Light." Swami Radha, founder of Yasodhara Ashram, taught the Divine Light Invocation, a meditation which affirms:

"I am created by Divine Light
I am sustained by Divine Light
I am protected by Divine Light
I am surrounded by Divine Light
I am ever growing into Divine Light."

Looking once more at the photo, I allow my eyes to be drawn to the light. The many faces of my spiritual teachers float through my mind, and I feel gratitude swell up in my heart. By their grace, my collection of guidelines is now plentiful. And now I pray that I may follow them!

Friday, November 19, 2010

flow

I took this photograph in a forest in Oregon. I had stopped on a little bridge to savor this creek and the warm touch of sunlight that stretched through the trees.

When I look at this image now, I can't help but take in a deep breath, through my nose, as if I could once again smell the fresh, moist air alive in that spot.

These days I don't allow myself to breathe deeply through my nose very often. It isn't safe. Here, in the Silicon Valley, I live under a lens of perpetual smog. When my nostrils first encountered this grimy air, they promptly filled with mucous. Two years later, they're still clogged, and I'm glad. I figure the mucous protects me, like an air filter.

The longer I am deprived of Nature, the more I appreciate its healing powers. Just to walk into a forest is to be restored. There is a natural rhythm to life, like a song. When we are in tune with this rhythm, we flow with the current of life. Spending time in Nature is one the easiest and most enjoyable ways to attune oneself to the rhythm of life, to the flow.

One of my personal goals is to promote wellness through Nature. I envision leading groups of people in the wilderness, supporting them in their re-connection to Life. This vision excites me because I can imagine that it would increase wellness in myself and others, as well as to help heal the planet.

As we rediscover the glory of the Earth, we increasingly care about her well-being. We are motivated to take actions small and large to heal the wounds we have inflicted, and to protect her from further harm. In this way, our healing and the healing of the Earth are intertwined, or simply, one and the same.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

friends


I call this image "friends" because it's their togetherness that stands out to me. These two were hanging a little lower than the rest, and they were catching that late afternoon sunlight just right.

As the mid-November sun sets perceptibly earlier each day, I seek more comfort in the warmth of my friends. We seem to be laughing a little longer these days, a little louder. As the light dims, we draw instinctively closer.

When we relate to others, we engage in a process of reflection: the mirror of me reflects the image of you, and vice versa. Our friends, families, coworkers, strangers, and the precious beings of the more-than-human world all provide us with this gift of reflection. They give us the chance to see ourselves, and to experience ourselves in relationship to another. Experiencing oneself in relationship to another provides more than a sense of connection, it opens the heart to feeling our interconnection: not only do I reflect you, I am you. And when we experience ourselves as interconnected with any and all members of creation--even if only for a moment--we experience the "One," or "God," or simply, "Love."

My intention in creating this blog is to reach out and share of myself. I humbly offer the forthcoming images and words as an expression of my love of the One.