Spiritual Assignments

When a spiritual teacher accepts a student, a karmic bond is created. The teacher agrees to share their awareness, and the student agrees to complete the assignments given by the teacher. The assignments are designed to help students incorporate the new levels of awareness they are learning about into their lives. This process is facilitated by the teacher giving empowerments to the student, during which energy is transmitted from Eternity directly into the student’s subtle body.

Ideally, the student then uses this extra energy to follow through with their assignments, even when it is not clear to the student exactly how the assignment will help to stabilize this new level of awareness. Sometimes students get lost in their personal dramas and allow the energy to be spent in other ways. No matter how the student uses the energy from the empowerment, the assignment is still there to be completed. Fortunately, teachers are very patient. They have been known to wait lifetimes for students; as with all karmic bonds, death does not end the arrangement.

Near the end of his life, Rama gave the Kalachakra Empowerment and a special teaching to all of his current and former students who responded to the invitation. During this event, he pointed out that we could use this technique and teaching to dissolve in Samadhi within 6 months, and Enlightenment within 5 years. Rama took contracts very seriously, so it was with great kindness he merely pointed out the option to us, instead of making it an assignment. He knew not all of his students were genuinely interested in dissolving into Enlightenment, and that many of them simply liked the feeling of being around the Light.

Of course, interesting things always happened at group events with Rama. He had this incredible ability to speak to us individually, even in a room packed with hundreds of people. This empowerment was no different, and people walked out with different details about the teaching. So, it’s possible some heard this idea of Enlightenment within 5 years as an assignment, while I heard that it was only an option. Years later, I met someone who had been at the event who told her students this special door to Enlightenment would stay open for only 7 years. Perhaps she used it as a method to inspire her students to work harder, since it’s easier to give 100% if you know it’s only for a short time. Or maybe that was what she heard, because that was what she needed to devote everything to the practice. If you were there, then only you know what the message was to you.

No matter who you study with, if they are an Enlightened Being, then when they speak to a group, part of your job as a student is to listen closely to what resonates with you. These things we hear from our teachers are important to contemplate on our own, especially if it causes any type of confusion, guilt, or pain. Sometimes we get lost in believing what others tell us they heard, instead of trusting ourselves. Beneath that resistance to trust is our way to Truth.

Ultimately, the awareness all spiritual teachers share is the wisdom of listening to our own heart. While we can hear about the practices and techniques a teacher followed to dissolve into Enlightenment, there is no fixed, works for everyone, Path. Each assignment leads the student closer to understanding this truth, and helps to develop trust in both the Teacher and in one’s own highest self. In the end, we all must find our own Path home.

 

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Jenna

 

Desert Super Bloom of Love

The desert always has more to teach. In the past, I came to the desert seeking power. This time I asked to learn about Love.

The desert greeted me and my students with the sweet scent of wild flowers perfuming the warm air. Birds cooed and chirped while bees buzzed and kissed every open bloom. A blanket of green draped over the mountains, soft and inviting – a stark contrast to their typical burnt brown vegetation and sun-bleached stone.

We left the retreat house in the late afternoon and drove through the deep sand to a cliff tucked away in the folds of the desert canyons. The sun sank behind the mountains, turning the sky a fiery yellow and orange. Mars rose white and bright as the last rays of sun splashed pink across the sparse streaks of cloud.

Deep blue gave way to velvet black while Orion stood proud with his bow outstretched and his sword hanging at his side. All thought fell silent as the sky yawned wide, revealing the Milky Way and a million sparkling diamonds…so many worlds of Light.

In the loving arms of the desert, She let me play with the energy and twist our perception. Laying down our backs, we watched the stars dance above us. With a slight push of occult pressure, the world turned, and we felt as if we were standing, leaning against a wall in front of an open doorway to the stars. The students giggled, and shifting us once again, we flipped back and then upside down. We stared down, watching the ocean of stars, our bodies glued to the ceiling of dirt as the universe spun around below us. In these moments, the desert taught me the love of play and laughter.

As we packed up, one student had trouble standing. Two others rushed to helped her, and in that moment, I witnessed the love of sangha. Selflessly and without hesitation or judgment, spiritual friends lifted one in need and helped her down the steep hill.

The next day, I saw self-love as she chose to stay at the retreat house while the rest of us ventured out again. She went within at the house where she could learn from the desert while respecting the limits of the body.

Upon heading back to our secret spot, this time late at night under the star-filled sky, we found a tent pitched. We sat silently on the cliff, not far from the tent. The desert continued to teach the theme of love, this time of a couple engaged in idle chatter, waiting for us to leave! After a few minutes of meditation, the desert reveled to me a new place where we could sit, and each group could have their privacy.

After driving through the sandy canyons and washes, we came upon the spot I had seen. The wash opened wide, and we sat on a hard shelf of sand that formed a type of sidewalk to keep us off the road. The first area we had been was one of seeing and third eye vision. This new site was all heart: expansive yet protected, spacious yet full. The desert washed us with pure love, as we sat in Her and with Her, merging mind with Eternity.

The next day, my students left. I had hoped my husband would join me in a wild flower hunt, but tired and sore from hockey practice, he stayed home. I recognized the love of relationship, where we respect each other’s needs and wants.

Alone in the retreat house and in the wide desert, I saw that was not the end of it as an old samskara arose within me. I had asked to learn about love, and the desert delivered once again.

I love adventure, and I love sharing adventures with others. The pattern from the past is to always take someone with me. I’ve broken this pattern many times, and many times it has returned. This time, in the stillness of the desert, I saw beneath the pattern. I witnessed the loneliness of not having someone to share the beauty with, and the loneliness of not having another actor in the story.

Sitting with full awareness of this sadness and loneliness, I realized in each moment it is enough to enjoy the beauty and connection with Eternity. And I realized alone, I am enough, always and in all ways.

As Eternity washed away the remnants blocking my heart, vulnerable and small, I opened deeper. I see how my will pales against Her might, and once again I see I am not the doer; I am being done.

On the last morning, I walked along a trail at the base of a mountain I had discovered on a solo adventure the previous day. I found the perfect boulder for meditation, where I could sit above the ground fully supported. Bees buzzed all around, like the hive upon Kali’s head. In this place, there is no fear. There are only beings doing what needs to be done, collecting the sweet nectar. A dragonfly danced around me as the clouds alternated sun and shade. And the birds continued their cooing and chirping.

I dissolved once again into Mother Earth and melted into the Sun. I am loved and I am love. Even in my forgetting, my heart knows I am being done.

*Please note: Going alone into the desert or any wilderness is dangerous. Be smart by staying near populated trails and checking in with park rangers before and after your adventures. You don’t want to break your leg in an accidental fall and become ant food because no one knows where you are!

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THANK YOU!

Jenna

 

Magic on Maui & Kauai

Between adventuring and resting, there was not much time to write while on retreat in Hawaii. On the plane ride home, I wrote until my hand could write no more as I tried to capture all the magical moments of this retreat. Traveling with a chronic illness is never easy. However by respecting the body’s limits, pacing, and with the silent power of meditation, not only is travel possible, it’s fun!

I thought about sharing excerpts from my journal, but instead I decided to share the posts and pictures that landed on my Facebook page during the trip. I’ve incorporated those posts into this blog, and added a few more photos and videos that didn’t make it on social media. On this most recent retreat, I’ve learned some important lessons that I plan to take with me into all aspects of life. I hope you can use them too. Enjoy Hawaii!

Like stars, we shine
for anyone who wants to look.

Progress – our own or that of others –
is none of our business

Our job is simply to shine.

July 18, 2016

Live above the clouds…

AboveTheClouds

July 19, 2016

Cloudy on the mountain, but loving Hawaii!!

SmilingOnCloudyMtnCloudyRoad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We left the summit clouds of Haleakala for the Lavender farm, where we found sunshine and Buddhas! If we are flexible, then life gives us wonderful surprises when things don’t work out as planned.

LavendarGardenBuddha
OM MANI PADME HUM

StupaInPaia

In Paia, we walked inside this little stupa, turning the prayer wheel. At first, my traveling companions started walking faster and faster until I felt I was about to break into a jog! (Apparently one of them was trying to get the bell to ring more often!) I had to ask them to slow way down, and remind them this was an opportunity for walking meditation. Once we slowed our pace, we began chanting OM AH HUNG, which was painted on the inside wall along with a majestic mural of various Buddhas. A little girl watched us with curiosity, so I invited her in when I reach the doorway. She walked with us as we turned the big prayer wheel. There’s always room for another friend on the Path. The acoustics in the tiny building were amazing. We all left there feeling the beauty and Light of all the Buddhas!

 

After dinner, a magical moon came out to play…
What do you see in this picture?MagicalMoon

(I see a pyramid!)

July 20, 2016

MoonBright

There was a dog howling at the moon in the middle of the night near our room at the Kula Lodge. The wild roosters have begun to crow. And I know it’s going to be a wonder-filled day!

 

 

 

Amazing gift today…

SmilingAt10000Feet

The weather cleared this morning on the volcano so we could see all the beauty of the alien looking landscape of Haleakala. The sun warmed the air to an unusual high of 62 degrees at 10,000 feet!

OceanAndObservatory10000Feet

Yesterday we had to put on rain ponchos and heavy coats and we couldn’t see 5 feet in front of us! Now we can see the Observatory and the ocean 10,000 feet below!

HaleakalaCrater

 

When we went walking and it became too warm, a light misty rain cooled us. When we became chilled, the sun would come back out to warm us up again. So magical to have the weather respond to our every thought! More proof that Eternity always gives us exactly what we need, when we need it.

 

We sat in silence on a grassy patch at the side of a trail at 8,000 feet while the insects buzzed and danced. The mist and sun continued to keep us comfortable.  While in that little grassy field, we made a short video to share a wonderful story of the Aloha Spirit in action that we had witnessed in the parking lot.  You can watch it below:

As we headed back, important decisions of whether the need to pee outweighed the need to rest were made. For one of us –not me, but I’m not saying who – the need to pee won forcing this person to make a dash to the bathroom in the parking lot, while two of us remained resting on the trail. When we got back to the car, the rain clouds had rolled in, completely obscuring the view.

SmilingAtTheSummit

So blessed to have the opportunity to see this and be here!

I am thankful I didn’t have to wait for a healthy body to enjoy the transient nature of it all! If you are out there waiting, know you don’t have to either. Get out and enjoy this amazing world in whatever way you can.

NeneBirdsGazing
Nene birds gazing out at Haleakala

July 21, 2016

We left the Maui mountains and are now enjoying the Garden Island of Kauai. We are thankful for the pre-retreat clearing on Maui, and are ready to meet the others for the full “Touching Aloha” retreat!

LeavingMaui
Goodbye Maui

I want to mention a note of gratitude for the kindness from the TSA workers at the Maui airport. My travel companions were TSA pre-check, but I wasn’t, so they left me at the security check point. I didn’t think the security line was very long, but when I got to what I thought was the end, I discovered it went farther than I could see, and snaked back and forth three times. The heat and humidity washed over me, and my muscles complained from the previous day’s walk on the volcano. I started heading for the back of the line and realized my body was not going to make it without severe consequences. The previous week I had read an article on the Mighty, which gave me the information that there is help at the airport for those of us with physical challenges (even if we don’t look the part) and the courage to show the TSA agent my disabled parking card. Without making a big deal of it, she pointed me towards the unmarked handicapped entrance, explained the procedure of showing the next agent my card, and saved me from what would have become a grueling increased pain flare that could have ruined the rest of the trip. We need to be willing to ask for and receive a reasonable accommodation when we need it. (The old me would have waited until the pain had become too intense to handle before talking to the TSA agent.)

HelloKauai
Hello Kauai

 

 

 

 

 

The birds are chirping and the wind is dancing with the palms as the sun begins to rise.

KauaiCondoView

May your day be as beautiful as the ocean kissing the sand!

 

July 22, 2016

We hiked up this trail, very slowly. A big Thank You to Lakshmi for helping me keep the correct pace! She used walking sticks, and her deliberate placing of each pole and each foot allowed me time to rest in between each step I took. My walk up the mountain was step step rest. This proves once again that going slow allows me to go far.

NapaliCoastOverlook

When we sat in meditation on the side of this sacred trail, I felt the energy of the land growing within me like an ivy vine, slow, strong and vibrant. Later when we talked, Lakshmi, our guide for this retreat, said the island of Kauai plants the seed of truth within us.

At this view point the wind was so strong it pushed me back on my butt right after this picture was taken!

The beach you see below is where we snorkeled with the fish and floated in the healing water.

“Can I push your feet?” asked my friend when we were in the water. The current was too strong for me to keep swimming against to keep my place next to the fish and coral reef and I was about to head out of the water. She pushed my feet while I steered, and we had a hard time not laughing with our masks on as we followed the fish around and attempted to avoid collisions with others enjoying the water. Accepting help from others allows us to explore much more than we can reach on our own.

 

July 23, 2016

We were able to visit the local Buddhist Temple, even though it was closed, thanks to our BuddhistTemple-Smallexcellent retreat leader Lakshmi. She was able to find the caretaker and asked permission for us to sit in the Temple. It was such a blessing to be allowed to sit inside to meditate. After exchanging business cards with the Buddhist priest, we went outside to put our shoes back on. The temple priest came outside and gave us all books describing their particular path of Soto Buddhism.

In the parking lot, one our retreat members flipped open the book to a page with the Japanese character for Sangha. No matter the particulars of our personal Path, we are all connected in the community of Light.

 

After shopping, ice cream, and a great meal, we found ourselves somewhere over the rainbow…

OverTheRainbow

There’s nothing quite like floating in warm ocean water as the waves rock you beneath a full spectrum, half-circle rainbow. Not that we needed it, but it was yet another wonderful reminder: Magic is real. The rainbow lasted for over an hour, giving us a chance to take pictures!

There’s also nothing quite like aggressive chickens on the beach!chicken-small

 

 

 

July 24, 2016

Today I felt like I was in India. My first time at a Hindu temple for puja filled my being with endless bliss. The rain washed us clean before and after the ceremony. While listening to beautiful chanting by the monk, I easily slipped into meditation and Ganesh appeared before me as I sat in front of a huge statue of Lord Kartikeya!

At the temple entrance, Ganesh stood watch over a pavilion with a bowl designed to let you burn a piece a paper on which you write an obstacle you’re facing. Thank you Ganesh for removing the obstacles in my Path!

HinduTempleGanesh

Photos inside the temple were not allowed, but I found this friend waiting at the end of the Banyan Tree meditation path. (see video below) The exact moment I rang the bell in offering a prayer, a small branch from the tree tapped my third eye. Very playful!

On our last night on this magical island, She cleared the clouds and showed us the stars! This retreat has connected me to the Fire element like never before. I feel the flames of love, and the joyful activity that is to come upon my return. So thankful for all the blessings on this journey!

July 25, 2016

Mahalo Kauai for all the magic!

KauaiFromAirSmall

And Mahalo to my dear friend Lakshmi of Integrated Meditation Studies for organizing the Touching Aloha Retreat to Kauai for Dharma Center Members and sharing this beautiful treasure with us.

 

 

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THANK YOU!

Jenna

Dissolving Attachments

Attachments are dissolved by becoming aware of the suffering they cause. We are naturally inclined to want to feel good, so when we know something causes pain, we stop doing it. However, we must actually know and be fully aware of the painful consequences of an attachment; an intellectual understanding is not enough.

Once we know, beyond a shadow of doubt, the hot stove will burn us, we automatically flame-580342_640pull our hand away once we feel the heat. There is no extra effort or will power required; we simply do it.

The same is true when we become fully acquainted with our attachments, and we know, beyond a shadow of doubt, the pain is caused by the attachment. At that point, the attachment naturally falls away.

As you practice mindfulness, you’ll become more and more aware of your many attachments. You’ll know you’ve hit one when you get knocked off balance. Set aside some time to contemplate the recurring patterns that cause suffering in your life. Dig deep until you see the underlying attachment. Keep looking, and allow yourself to know what that attachment is costing you. Once you really know, you’ll change without further effort; the attachment will dissolve.

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THANK YOU!

Jenna

PS. Please also join me for a FREE Live Teleconference: “Using Karma to Your Advantage” on Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 11:00am (PST). This one-hour class will be based on the chapter by the same title from my book, Peace with Pain.
For call-in details and the March meditation tip, please visit Dharma Center’s website. (They have a separate mailing list, so if you like the tip, please sign up for their list, even if you cannot get to San Diego for class.)

This Live Teleconference is sponsored by the Rama Meditation Society. To learn more and to find more virtual classes, please visit Rama Meditation Society and/or sign up for that list as well!

3 Reasons to Retreat

Many people in our society work themselves to the breaking point, and then they seek an escape from their stressful lives. This escape is usually in the form of a vacation. However,CathedralLight they often spend most of their getaway feeling just as stressed as when they were working. The only benefit seems to be the addition of pleasant memories that serve as a virtual means of escape until the next vacation.

On the path of spiritual practice, retreat does not mean running away. Rather, a retreat is a strategic withdrawal with the intent to return stronger. As we work in the world, we use our mindfulness practice to stay aware of how we are doing on all levels, and we plan our step back consciously so we avoid losing all perspective in what can quickly become a life and death struggle.

The practice of retreat has three reasons behind it, each one working in concert with the others.

Relaxation

The first part of any successful retreat is relaxation. We must be willing to detach from the world, from all of our struggles on the playing field, and from everything that defines us. There’s an assumption this happens automatically, hence the popularity of vacation. However, you’ve probably already noticed how when you step away from work and the struggles of daily life, they stay with you in your mind. When we plan a retreat, we factor in time to allow both the body and mind to relax. Part of this time is spent tying up loose ends before leaving – this is the strategic withdrawal. For example, making sure the bills are paid, putting up an out-of-town notice on your email, and making sure you have clean clothes ready for your return to work in your closet. Once you’ve arrived at your retreat destination, consciously let go of everything, trusting that your preparations will hold all the aspects of your life together while you are away. Relaxation purifies our being, creating within us a sense of inner detachment that allows us to see the path before us with clarity.

Rejuvenation

Once you’ve relaxed, rejuvenation is possible. For many people, this is the favorite part of a retreat, and they try to jump right into new experiences. Relaxing creates a space for those new experiences to be explored without the stress of the past getting in the way. Others get stuck in the relaxation phase. Instead of stopping with the clearing away, we can fill ourselves with Light by embracing all the present moment has to offer. On a retreat, we may visit new places, meet new people, push ourselves into higher brighter mind states through meditation – or do all of the above. Part of the fun of retreat is figuring out what will provide a sense of renewal, right now. Rejuvenation rebuilds our being from the inside, creating a sense of excitement about life and our place within it.

Reconnection

Rejuvenation gives us the energy required to reconnect with our highest, deepest Self. While living and working in the world, it’s easy to lose our way and become bogged down by material concerns. We start looking outward and attempt to fix the world, forgetting that all we experience is a reflection of our inner being. Our perception as a separate individual tricks us into thinking we are alone, and the world rests solely upon our shoulders. That weight can cause us to doubt ourselves and make us feel as if we can accomplish nothing. By communing with Spirit, God, Source, or whatever your Word of the day is, we remember what we are: pure Light. Reconnection with this wisdom provides the strength to return to our work in the world.

For those of us serious about our spiritual practice, making time to retreat is not an option, it’s a necessity. Even when we cannot disappear for several days, we can still create a retreat whenever the need arises. All we need to do is remember these three reasons – Relaxation, Rejuvenation, Reconnection – and carve out time to step away and experience all three. We may only be gone for a few minutes or an hour, but this conscious retreat can make all the difference in our inner life.EyeArch

If you would like to experience a longer retreat, join me in May 2016 at Arches National Park in Utah. Please visit DharmaCenter.com/power-trips to learn more.

 

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THANK YOU!

Jenna

 

Sitting in Judgement

It’s easy to sit in judgement of things we know nothing about.

I loved my work as a computer consultant designing software, coding, testing, and training the end users. I also made a ton of money and was able to pay off all my student loans and credit card debt. I even bought a vehicle straight off the assembly line. That was fun, to get exactly what I wanted.

But life doesn’t always give us what we think we want.

My body went haywire, and slowly everything I built was destroyed. I lost not only my job, but my career and identity as a computer consultant. I lost friends, and I nearly lost my boyfriend. But he stuck around and our relationship grew into something new, something stronger. (He’s now my husband.) I lost an entire decade – my 30’s – to spending the majority of my time being sick in bed.

I lost all my physical strength, and sometimes even my brain would shut down, causing me to have memory lapses and confuse words, like saying black when I meant white. My husband repeatedly deals with me insisting we’ve never watched a movie, only to have to me say: “Oh! I remember it now!” at the last scene. (I just did that to myself yesterday!)

If you’ve never had severe pain and fatigue, you cannot imagine what it’s like to be on the couch wanting a glass of water and not being able to get it. Until you experience it, you cannot know the frustration of having the wrong word come out of your mouth, and knowing it’s wrong, but not being able to do anything about it except try to back-peddle and try to explain what you really meant, with words that – yes, you guessed it – also come out wrong. Until you lived it, you cannot know what it’s like to have an unpredictable body that may or may not cooperate at any given moment.

There was no car accident or sudden incident to point to…this illness came upon me gradually, like being hit by a truck over and over. At one point, during one of my early collapses, I argued with myself about calling Rama for help. I had the number to his answering service, so I could have easily gotten a message to him.

But as I said, it’s easy to sit in judgement of things we know nothing about. I thought the pain and fatigue were temporary. I thought I was being weak. I convinced myself it was nothing to worry about, and that I needed to exercise more and work harder. In short, I ignored my body’s cries for help and tried to force it to perform despite the collapses.

Two weeks later, Rama died.

After Rama left the body, I spent a lot of time beating myself up over the decision not to call him. He could have healed me, right? Or he could have at least spared me a great deal of suffering.

When he was gone, I decided to honor the commitment I made during the teaching empowerment he gave me. Even though I was barely getting through the day, I decided to teach meditation publicly. (I had taught privately for years, but my students were sparse.)

Going through all the basics with new students turned out to be the most amazing gift. I relearned everything, and found not only did it work for the students, it worked for me.

During my lost decade, I found incredible support as we created and built Dharma Center. (Thank you – you all know who you are!) My faith in the Teachings grew exponentially.

Of course, I would still torture myself from time to time. One day I did the math and figured if I had stayed in the tech world, I would have been on track to have earned well over a million dollars by that point. I would have been able to buy a beautiful house near bday-sunset-4webthe ocean that would provide a buffer from the world. I would have been able to write large checks to support the Teachings. And the bright minds I would have been able to mentor…Oh wait, I get to do that now!

I’ve spent nearly 20 years being poked and prodded by doctors with lots of labels but no answers. I’ve tried hundreds of remedies and diets and treatments. I still play in that world from time to time. But what has helped the most is learning to listen to my body and give it what it needs, when it needs it. (To learn more of what works for me, check out my book Peace with Pain.)

I also learned to fall gracefully, keeping in mind what my Aikido teacher showed me so many years ago: “Don’t fall, just relax and sit.” I’ve accepted that my body is high maintenance.

During all of this, I’ve also somehow learned how to look good even when I feel like crap. Apparently that is my special siddha power. So unless you spend a great deal of time with me, or if I tell you, you’d never know the condition of my body.

When I finally let go of the judgement – of everything – the most amazing thing happened. I let go of who I thought I was and who I thought others were and realized I know nothing.

I began to have timeless moments where I lived above the pain. But always, I would come tumbling back to the apparent reality of suffering. Even with these ups and downs, the illness I had judged as life-destroying and the body I had judged as weak turned out to be exactly what I needed to wake up. Once yet again, it’s easy to sit in judgement of things we know nothing about.

I don’t recommend this method of pain as a means to self-discovery as it is fraught with the pitfalls of self-pity and anger. Instead, look honesty at whatever Life has given you to work with and stretch to see what is beyond your self.

The coming and going into samadhi continued for I have no idea how long. Then one day, quite unexpectedly, it stopped – or I stopped. The doubt was gone. The suffering was gone.

TurrentArchStairs-sm
I was standing on a rock my body should not have been able to climb in its exhausted state. (I pushed my body to do it because my student wanted to see the other side of the arch, and something surged within me to make it possible.) I stood there, in my unpredictable body with all of its pleasure and pain, knowing inner peace and unconditional joy beyond all of this. To borrow from Shankara, both the rope and the snake were gone. To this day, It remains. There are no words to adequately describe it; I can only call it Grace.

After all this time, I finally get the joke when Rama sang with Zazen: “Why did the Zen Master become a Zen Master? Because he couldn’t get a job doing anything else.”

 

 

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My work is entirely funded by my readers – by you. If you like what you have read, if you find insight or inspiration in these words, please visit my Support page to learn how you can help keep the work going with a one-time gift, or as an ongoing Patron.

THANK YOU!

Jenna

 

Perfection in an Imperfect World

Life is beautiful. It is a dance of Perfection: An endless play of intelligent Light, appearing and disappearing in every possible formation – yet Light is never affected by any of this.

Most people cannot see this; it is beyond the scope of their experience.

Watching this world is like watching a person holding their breath because they truly believe they cannot breathe. As they hold their breath, they experience all the suffering that comes with suffocation: The lungs burn, the muscles ache, the head hurts, and the mind races with anger and sorrow and self-pity. Finally, they pass out, and the body breathes.

They wake up, for a split-second, but then their sense of individuality returns. Their belief of not being able to breathe takes over, and karma carries them through the experience all over again.

We who are awake cannot make someone breathe. We can show them they are not in control of the breath, but they don’t believe it. And even if they do believe it, belief is not enough; it must be experienced. So we play games; we teach them how to control the breath.

We say: “For just one moment, take a breath in and release it.” Trusting students will do this, and thus begins the spiritual journey.

Over time, the student becomes adept at telling the mind and body when to inhale and when to exhale. We laugh at their “achievement” because we know no one controls the breath. Some students become frustrated at our humor and fall back into holding their breath until they pass out. Others keep going, playing more and more games of self-discovery, full of confusion yet willing to trust.

Even with all of this breath-holding going on, life is perfection. Let’s switch metaphors for a moment. Think of existence as an ocean, and awareness is restricted to a small area on the top of the ocean. On the surface of the ocean these waves of restricted awareness waves-water_640tumble about, and some parts of the ocean are cold enough where the water freezes. When the surface is turbulent, the waves and chunks of ice smash into one another. This is life for most people. A few are so moved by all of this pain they dive below the surface, where they discover they are much more than they ever imagined.

Even if in our wave formation, we find our way to the warm Caribbean Sea where the water is calm and we gently rock back and forth, we suffer. This restricted awareness knows there is more. We feel restless, a sense that our skin is too tight, or that there is something missing. This spiritual suffering motivates us to seek beyond our self.

All of the perceived imperfections reveal the restrictions upon awareness. Life, in its own perfect way, teaches us we are more than this.

We let go of controlling the breath, we let go of the wave formation, and we become the breathing, we become the ocean. As awareness expands, we explore endless experiences, each an example of perfection.  We dissolve in a timeless time as the play of Light, forever dancing.

 

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3 Short Poems

Rain Storm

Rain dowses the earth
The ground is unsettledmistymountain
Quakes, floods, mudslides
Disrupt the routine of human life
Mother is clearing away the stale energy
Wind tears through blockages
Leaving us and the trees bare

 

Loss

A friend fell over in the mud
He was long dead but stood like a sculpture
Branches framing the driveway for years
The dried wood cut and carried away
All that remains is a hole
Surrounded by petunias

 

The Endless Question

The endless question
The only question
What is Dharma?
Or, put another way:
Who is asking questions?

Awareness aware of Awareness
Playing with consciousness and perception
Feeling all there is,
All at once.
Stretching infinity into infinity
Yet within this tiny form
Of bone and blood and skin
Muscles pulsating with each breath
Existence breathes.

 

In case you don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter, here’s a couple more with photos I took. Enjoy!

DoorToEnlightenment    RainHaiku

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jenna

Masks We Wear

Sometimes it’s fun to don a mask and explore what it’s like to be a particular person or Fairy-2015-10-31_2creature. On Halloween, I had a great time as a fairy behind a feather mask and shiny wings that glistened in the sunlight. Although it was early in the day and not many others were in costume, expressing the whimsical, magical part of being, complete with a pink wand with lights and sound effects, felt freeing.

These are the most wonderful types of masks we wear; the ones that free us.

Other masks are not so obvious. Names are a mask. To some, I am Jenna Sundell, and with that name comes many sub-masks: an author, a teacher, a wife, a friend, a daughter, an aunt, and a chronic pain patient. The name is a mask of perfect humanness that allows others to easily relate and converse with me. To others, I am Isis – a spiritual teacher and expression of Enlightenment. This mask lets me shine Light into this world and acts as a mirror where students can see that they too are Light.

We also use causes and careers as a mask. Many years ago, I was a computer consultant. It served as a powerful mask that not only allowed me to earn an income, it also boosted my confidence and self-esteem. I’ve met many others who are wonderful crusaders for worthy causes, and they have created very detailed masks that help them succeed in their missions.

There are also masks we put on unintentionally, perhaps because we believed someone else’s opinion over our own. Or sometimes the mask provides a short term benefit by letting us get something we need. In wearing the mask, we become the victim who needs to be rescued, or the employee who has been taken advantage of, or the jilted lover, or the angry customer.

Whether the mask drowns us in misery or elevates us to ecstasy, it is still just a mask. And masks, like all things, are transitory. There is great power in a mask in that it allows us to interact with others, but at the same time there is great danger in that we easily forget we are wearing a mask.

The good news is we can choose what masks to wear, and when we tire of one or it no longer brings us joy, we can swap it out for a new one.

And when we’re ready, we can let go of all masks and dissolve into the pure Light. Ultimately, behind the mask, there is only Awareness aware of Awareness.

 

What masks do you wear?

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Enlightenment Is Our Natural State

There are no words to describe Enlightenment. We can use concepts to allude to the state of Awakening, to God-Realization, to Self-Realization. That last one, Self-Realization is rather ironic since it’s realizing there is no Self. We can say it is a state of Unity, of ultimate bliss and peace; that it is freedom from suffering. Enlightenment is the end of Ignorance, the end of attachment to senses, and the end of coming to any state of Being.

Liberation from suffering is probably the closest we can come in words. It does not mean pleasure and pain are no longer felt. In reality, they are felt more deeply since there is no resistance. But a particular sensation doesn’t hang around very long because there is no self to cling to it. Beneath all the waves that arise, there is that indescribable sense of peace, but even the word peace falls flat in reality.

Enlightenment does not mean everything in your life works out. It doesn’t mean that all money problems and relationship issues and health challenges suddenly disappear. What it does mean is that the human drama does not block the endless Bliss that is the play of existence. Even Gautama Buddha had to eat, manage relationships, and deal with back problems that would cause him pain. When the back pain became intense and his body could not sit up straight, he would ask one of his disciples to give the discourse while he laid down. You may have seen statues of him in a reclined posture; now you know why he was memorialized in that position.buddha-relaxing

Why didn’t Gautama just heal himself, or ask one of the many gods, goddesses, or healers who came to him to hear the Dharma to fix his body? Having a perfect physical body was unnecessary for him to accomplish his task of teaching. When you know you are the Dharma-kaya, what difference does the temporary physical vehicle make? On another level, his physical pain also served as a teaching for his students to let go of their attachment and worship of the body.

Enlightenment does not mean you are a Saint. There are Enlightened Saints, but not all Saints are Enlightened and not all of the Enlightened are Saints. As long as the body exists, there is a sliver of ego and a variable personality that interacts with the world, complete with its own quirks and eccentricities. The difference between one who is Awakened and one who is not is that there is no clinging to the ego or personality. The Awakened changes to fit the needs of those around her, to show them Light in a way that they have the possibility of seeing It, to aid in the Awakening of those they meet. Or, sometimes their job is simply to meditate alone and let the Light shine through them, so they may chase people away. Their actions don’t always make sense to those who are watching from the outside. To the average person, the Enlightened may appear aloof, fickle, sometimes cold, and sometimes extremely loving. None of these words adequately describe Enlightenment. It is everything and nothing all at once.

All I or anyone can really tell you is the struggle to Awaken is worth every moment. Each experience you have in this world contains within it the seed of realization. While it is certainly not easy to let go of every last attachment and lay yourself bare before the Light, it is what we were made for. Enlightenment is our Natural State.

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THANK YOU!

Jenna