Work Aparent

I listen to my grown kids talk about their professions these days and wonder… will they ever find a profession they are passionate about? Is that even a thing anymore? You hear lots of stats that say we will change professions at least 4-5 times or more. I chatted a-bit with my daughter. She is thinking about making a change. After so much education involved in professions are we brave enough to walk away from the money and security to pursue something different? Do we owe it to ourselves to try? She said she is thinking about stopping renting her “self” out for labour. Hah, what a great way to put it. We all got to make a living but do we all get to make the most out of life? Someone mentioned universal income to me the other day. Should we have a society that pays us not to work when we chose not too? The world is such a different place these days. Maybe this is part of the shift and trend in thought? Time will tell.

As a parent, I have changed my views of traditional work theories for my kids. I have changed. Don’t just put your head down and do what pays your bills. Find something that gives you a sense of moving forward. Be brave and able to pivot even if you feel that you owe your profession something of yourself. You don’t, in fact the more the shift and change the more valuable you become to any company worth exploring.

What’s The Rush?

Our inner garden needs weeding and refinement as much as our outter one.

The balance between action and refinement

I have been enjoying reading and contemplating the Kundalini philosophy and practices. I strongly believe there is a lot I can learn from action and refinement in this area. The more I explore the more it becomes apparent that action without refinement is something I have mastered. I have always been a “jump in and get started” kind of personality. I believed I could pivot and adjust as I went but it was important to get going before I got side tracked doing something else or lost my motivation to continue down a path. It has served me pretty good in the past with work getting done and the quality being “ok”.

Now? I find myself wanting more quality over quantity. 

I have spent years building my external gardens. My yard is bursting with a variety of plant life and areas of interest. I push the growing season by planting early and extending out harvest as much as the weather will permit. This year was no different and yet it was. In the past, I would have taken the chance that it may or may not snow in my zone at the end of May. Zone 6 is notorious for being unpredictable or predictable in doing the opposite of what you expect. The weather over the past few weeks has been wonderful with highs in the mid twenties even as high as twenty-seven(80 degrees for us old timers) for a few days. Then a hint of cold weather appeared on the horizon and as is common the white stuff appeared out of nowhere. 

So why did I plant early and take the chance that everything might freezeTake the chance that I may have to start over later? I think it’s about taking calculated risks and refining goals as you go. For instance, through the years I have come to understand which plants are more likely to survive a snow fall late in the season and which aren’t. I have researched how to compensate for the low temps by covering plants and providing protection for those vulnerable. I have begun to filter my desire to have a longer growing season with a realistic expectation of what that might entail.

So what’s the rush? This exploration of balance and refinement relates to my desire for making the most of our short growing season (seems Southern Alberta’s growing season is getting shorter and shorter) and finding ways to expand what is possible to accomplish in the time given.

Can we transfer this exploration to our lives? The crystal ball that magically tells us how life will go is flawed. Most often, it doesn’t account for what happens when we are on autopilot. I find myself daily having to reset and find renewed motivation to get projects done or surrender to the knowledge that some things weren’t meant to be. I am working with a mind that has a desire to time travel through the past and leap into the future at any given moment, it takes discipline and resilience to keep it in check. To function from my centre while not giving into the flood of narratives that escape with a variety of emotion is a constant battle of will and surrender of control to a higher power. The garden that dwells within me is still being refined. The habitual paths(patterns) are well worn and maybe too comfortable to keep accessible. As I try to trench out new and healthier routes I become aware that rushing is not the answer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to start and continue to chip away at obstacles that constantly show up to distract us from our goals and purpose. What I am learning though, is refinement and checking in often with my inner guru helps me make sure I am awake and aware . It helps me to find a pace to live my life that keeps me healthy and whole while focused on what’s important for me to see to fruition at any given moment.

Namaste

Save Your Breath

Pranayama-The practice of breath control

If it’s true what yogis say “You only have so many breaths in each lifetime” then isn’t it worth paying attention to each inhalation and exhalation for maximum effect?

How do you consciously control your breaths?

Once you explore the wonder of something that seems to happen without any effort on our part you start to wonder if there isn’t more you can bring within your control.

We use breathing exercises for so many things: 

Just breath(calm from stressful situation)

Don’t hold your breath (release tension) or hold your breath(stop hiccups, absorb intentions)

Deep breaths (build up oxygen levels)

Count your breaths ( to help with sleep, to meditate, to focus)

These are just a few reminders of how we already use our most basic instincts to help us daily.

I have been reading about the Fourth Cakra-Anahata and the practice of pranayama. I hadn’t, in the past, got very specific about the process when meditating with breath control. In the book, Kundalini Yoga For The West, Swami Radha talks about the “Triple Process”: the inhalation, suspension and exhalation. The practice is recommended to awaken the dormancy of the Kundalini energy. You are encouraged to contemplate that you only have so many breaths in a lifetime. Using those breaths on emotional outbursts or trivial endeavors could shorten your lifespan.

So next time you become aware of your breath stop and contemplate the value it has. It’s not like you can stop and save your breath for another time or opportunity. I realize I can, however, gain control over the maximum benefits of each inhalation and exhalation. Take advantage in the pauses between each to absorb the positive energy and release back into the cosmos an excess I may have stored up.

Namaste

 

What Is Enough?

Thoughts on lifestyle through retirement years

I am about half way through my “66 weeks to find myself” adventure. In January I have to choose to “officially” retire or find a job. I have been exploring how I could maybe manage both scenarios at once.  In my previous life, I used to give advice about budgeting, investments and living within your means and now I find myself in a place of decision.

How much monthly income do I need to be comfortable?

That’s a tricky question. I use the  word “comfortable” on purpose. You can get by with minimum funds. I see seniors whose only source of money is Canada Pension and Old Age Security. They get by and if they are resourceful they can manage with some support.

I have a philosophy on this topic I want to share with you. Have you ever tried one of those “How much do I need to retire” calculators? The outcomes are usually very depressing and, in most cases, out of reach for people. It usually tells you that you will need to invest thousands of dollars a month to keep up your current lifestyle into retirement. What it doesn’t tell you is to think about how you see yourself aging. I am active at age 56. I do some lite hiking, I went on 2 (pre-COVID) trips a year most years. Our house is paid for, my kids are grown and moved on with no financial support from us, except for gifts. I spend money on plants, garden things, my spiritual practices (classes and tools). I have saved a bit, not as much as I probably should have but I have some funds put aside. I have a pension to look forward to which I am grateful for.

The literature I have read says you should plan for about 70% of your pre-retirement income to ensure you can still maintain your quality of life. Most articles don’t talk about how long you should look at sustaining the 70%. I think the key is that while you are in good health, young enough to want to explore and travel you should plan to have a larger amount of available funds. I am pretty sure that if I am lucky enough to live into my 80s or 90s that I won’t need the same amount of excess cash that I might in my 50s or 60s. The high pressure sales that exist saying that you need to support a lifestyle that you don’t have now doesn’t make sense to me. I found that when working with seniors and discussing their finances they did in retirement  the same things they did in earlier years. If you saved most of your life you were unlikely to start spending all your money when you stopped working. If you spent thriftly you didn’t start going on shopping sprees in your 80s. We are creatures of habits and we tend to stay consistent no matter what age we are. I would rather maintain a healthy balance of starting to draw from my income resources in my late 50s. Use up my retirement funds to give me the best scenario of quality of life while I can. Then in my late 60s and through til my late 70s I can start to reduce my spending. I believe I won’t require as much to live on then as I do now. I know you think there are some holes in this plan. Also, I should mention that I am a two income family and my husband does plan to work until 65. If the place where he works is still around until then we will have health benefits that are not “out of pocket”.

So, the question remains: How much money is enough to sustain a comfortable existence in retirement?

If you have been lucky enough to have saved for retirement in your younger years and you have a pension to look forward to, I say retire as early as you can. Use the 70% of your income as a guideline but remember you probably will only use that amount for the first maybe 10 years of retirement then slowly reduce it as you get older. When that magic factor (80 in my case) is reached, push the button. I am going to take the maximum allowed annual withdrawals and then reduce them as I get older. Supplement my income with my registered funds and then take early CPP (Canada Pension Plan) at age 60, then activate OAC (Old Age Security) at 65. Even if my husband’s plant shuts down before he is 65 there are many insurance plans we can explore for health benefits. 

My parents passed away in their 80s, my sister passed away at 62. Mortality puts things in perspective. I am not saying working is like dying because that’s not true. What I am saying is that by setting myself up with enough income to sustain my lifestyle I can choose when and how to work. Look for projects and work that brings me fulfillment. I know many seniors that are working into their late 70s even early 80s. The world has changed in this regard. As long as you are productive and have a sense of contribution to a community or company then why not enjoy it.

There are so many scenarios and options available when it comes to finding a mix that works best. I wish I would have started to explore it more in my 20s. I know that the options are greater now though when it comes to working virtual or online as opposed to when I was 20(there wasn’t an internet for the regular population when I was 20).

Next time you look at the retirement calculator and the result says you need to invest 10K a month to meet your goals, remember that it is not taking into account your resourcefulness. Plug in the worst case scenario for yourself then explore how you can supplement that amount through other means. It helps to calm the anxiety attached to not having enough. 

Maybe the commercial is true? You are richer than you think. The more you think the richer you become as an active mind has the ability to create the best possible outcomes.

Namaste.

PS-These thoughts are my own on retirement and may not be your scenario. Find a financial advisor that can give you good advice based on your circumstances.

This Is Home, Where I Belong

What makes a house a home? Listen in to get our version of being comfortable in your space.

Sharon is moved into her new home, Selena has purchased her first home less than a couple of years ago and me? I have been in my current home for over 35 years. What makes a space feel like home? As always our chats are unfiltered, genuine and can get a bit off topic so grab your favorite beverage or plan your walk and let’s dive in.

Making our space feel like home

Time Machine

Time is a subjective thing. If you are like me, you measure it in milestones and experiences that happen, are happening or will happen in your life. My time at the ashram is coming to conclusion next Friday. As I reflect, I try to stay present without looking to far into the future.

The ashram has a constant ebb and flow of people coming in, existing here and leaving all at once. I can see myself in each situation and marvel at the opportunity to travel with others in time both backward and forward as we navigate our collective and individual journeys.

Traveling Backward

One of the offerings you take part of is to become part of the food delivery service for the “newbies”. It’s an opportunity to welcome them and reassure that they made the right decision to come here. Being isolated with limited contact to those living here can be a source of anxiety and a test of resilience. You emerge from isolation to an active community. It can be quite the adjustment to be bombarded with multiple types of personalities, work ethics and behaviors. You quickly learn how you relate to others and how they relate to you. I recall those early days when the previous group of yogis was delivering food to me. I have a better appreciation for their interactions and willingness to pause in their busy days to reassure me that it’s worth the wait. Living in a dorm with 7 other females has its trials and yet has its wonderful moments too. I have learned that there are a variety of types of mechanisms in which to turn on a shower. Some are well hidden and the secret has to be passed on from one who knows to one who needs to know. Preferably before you are naked in the tub trying to figure it out. Thank you ladies of Buddha Loka for showing me the way. I am grateful to be able to observe the progression of those coming out and compare it to my own experiences as I progress.

Watching the present…

I am in my body and spirit as closely engaged as I can possibly get. Aware of my surroundings, my place and actions and the nuances and moods of others around me. I have never experienced anything like this before. Even living with my family that consisted of 9 of us in a 4 bedroom home, didn’t seem this intimate. I can sense the moods around me here. When some are stressed, content, agitated or distant thinking about other things. I find myself questioning why it’s easier to tune in so deeply here compared to my “other”life? I guess I will find out when I go back to that world.

The sense of accomplishment is mind boggling here. What can be done with limited resources, manpower and funds is amazing. A chicken coop for 50 chickens is being constructed where once stood a big pile of dirt, debrie, rocks and bramble bushes. Trust me, digging out boulders and cutting back thorns isn’t that much fun but seeing the ground being leveled is rewarding. The logs for the outside run were cut, shaved and shaped from trees on the property. The building is made out of wood from other projects. The paint, which is pest resistant, is made from a mixture of limestone and water. It looks like a whitewash. The coop is almost done and the chickens are coming this weekend. I am excited that I will be here to celebrate not only Easter but their arrival after contributing to their new home. I have used my video skills numerous times to create videos of traditional dances, interviews of Humans of the Ashram and documenting the many experiences. It’s been a pleasure to serve here.

The Future

The future is wide open. I like that. I have the basics and I am eager to put the knowledge and practices into play in my life back home. I have been invited to join the local group that will start connecting again in the fall. One lady has mentioned that she has been asking the divine for someone with musical skills. I laughed and replied that she must have some pretty powerful connections as here I am and I am very willing to share anything musical I can. I haven’t quite figured out how to predict what the future will bring and yet, I am more than content to not know what’s around the corner. I have interviewed Karma Yogis as they are leaving the ashram and added their learnings to my index for later processing. I am excited to get my hands dirty in my own gardens and enjoy the coming spring and summer with renewed energy and light. My husband is waiting for my return, I am not sure how that reunion will play out. I am hopeful we can find common ground and mutual understanding of how to “be” together and how to “be” apart. I would encourage anyone who has ever thought to experience the ashram life to “do it!” The accelerated learning about yourself, about what’s important and what you can let go of is one of the most selfless things you can do for you.

Thank you to all of those who have traveled with me through this incredible journey of the past, present and into the future. Thank you to the wonderful beings who reside at Yasodhara Ashram.

Light

W.A.I.T.

There is a badge you can get in the gift shop here at the ashram. It says Speech Awareness on it. Silence and speech awareness are part of the daily practice here. Meals are taken in silence and karma yoga is practiced with limited chatting if possible. At first, I was a bit taken back by not being encouraged to talk while we work. I then started to read the Kundalini writings.

Why do I need to talk? Is there a purpose to my words or am I enamoured with my own voice? Hmmm. The text talks about those that feel the need to fill the silence with chatter and equates the behaviour to being an infant or full of self importance.

Why Am I Talking? W.A.I.T for short. For many years I have got paid to talk it’s a hard habit to break. My daughter and I took a rode trip from Vancouver to Seattle and back one time. On the way back, she told me I talk too much. I love my daughters directness. We drove in silence for a while and then she couldn’t stand it and told me to start talking again.

I have been practicing speech awareness here and to reduce my need to contribute often to the conversation. Its a hard habit to break and yet it feels warranted. Do I really have something worth saying or do I feel the need for attention? Wow, taking a closer look at ones own ego trips is revealing. How many times have I felt the need to add in my own experiences instead of sharing in others with the gift of just listening? The more I make a conscious effort to restrain myself the more I am aware of my speech.

So where do I go from here? Just stop talking? No, I don’t think that is the point. Be comfortable in the offering of silence. Be generous with my ability to listen. Become more present and speech aware. Practice W.A.I.T. when opportunities are available.

W.A.I.T.

On A Path To Awareness

Moments of reestablished balance exists between steps

I have always been a fan of walking meditations. They are used in silent meditation workshops I have attended to help break up sitting for hours and hours. You walk with purpose. Usually in a small space in any pattern you choose. The point is to focus on the breath and the senses. Some points I have been given in the past are to try walking with your eyes partially closed in order for the other sense to become more tuned in.

The meditation assignment today has added a new twist. It asks to compare the motion of walking to your life and see what comes up for you.

When you stand still you feel balanced, weight evenly distributed and your equilibrium is solid. Think of your life. You are perhaps standing still, it feels solid and balanced on the surface. Trouble is, it probably isn’t possible to stand in one place forever. You get stiff, get bored, maybe grow roots that become hard to pull up or weeds grow to impair your view of what’s really going on. Your body is meant to be in motion and your body and soul want to grow outward.

Life is motion,development and change.

In order to move, you need to decide to upset the equilibrium. Change your situation. Change your life. That can be frightening and cause unbalance. When you shift your weight or change your direction, you become off balanced. Take another step and what do you observe? Your weight shifts, balance reestablishes itself. In that moment between two steps is an opportunity to once again find equilibrium. Moments between two steps, between two events and between two thoughts are all opportunity to connect with present. Recognize the moments exists and use them as opportunities to rest and renew.

The key is in the recognition of the moments. They can help you to unlock the door to your life. The path on the other side leads to freedom.

In the words of a great band called Shinedown, “The first step is the one you believe in. The second one might be profound”

I have loosely adapted the above from the writings of Yoga Path to Awareness. I hope you find it as meaningful and useful as I do.

Namaste

Day 3 Set Your Intentions

In yoga it is customary to dedicate or set your intentions for a practice. It helps with focus, purpose and direction. Today at the Ashram we had orientation. We went for a walk through the woods and eventually navigated down to the beach. We formed a circle, more loosely than pre COVID and were asked two questions:

  1. How did it feel when we first arrived at the property? Our first impressions, feelings for day 1 and 2?
  2. What is our intention as we immerse ourselves into Ashram life and practice? What do we want to get out of this experience?

I shouldn’t have been surprised by the responses from the group. As I listened to confessions of being overwhelmed, exhaustion from traveling, relief at getting here. A sense of isolation from the community due to quarantine restrictions. It all rang true and familiar for me also. You know that feeling when you step into a church or a holy/spiritual place? I don’t think it matters whether you believe in a deity or not. There is calm energy there and you find yourself sinking into a warm, liquid comfort. You can’t help but weep a bit. A necessary purge of pent up emotions that can no longer be denied. Surrendering to a higher power? I also felt welcomed and oddly more connected than if I would have been part of a physical group packed into a room.

The second question is an interesting one. I have been to lots of retreats, workshops and meditation groups. We are always asked to set an intention. I recognize that the person walking into the Ashram will be quite different than the one walking out. I can feel the shift even in the very short time I have been here. Physically, I have never ate so healthy…lol. My body is craving the opportunity to get started in Karma Yoga activities. I know, from what some of the guides have said, I may regret that. There is always lots of manual work to do on a self sustaining compound.

So, what is my intention for now?

As I think about it, I can start to almost see it forming in front of me. Memories are coming up of the being I had intended to formulate into the body I currently occupy. What parts of the dream still ring true for me? What parts no longer fit?

I am drawn to the pursuit of divine light. We have enough cynical, cruel, me first people in the world. Consumerism is a drug that I have been guilty of taking. As I let go of all the “stuff” I am feeling lighter and lighter.

For now, my intentions is to dedicate my time here to being present. Noting the changes, opportunities to learn and unlearn, don’t talk so much( some of you will be relieved to hear that one…lol) and learn to listen with my heart and intuition. I think it’s a lofty place to start and who knows as the weeks pass by it may evolve and clarify.

I am making necessary connections that feel right and good for now. Connections aren’t just about interactions with others, they are a recognition of patterns and opportunity to rewire your internal engine.

I had the opportunity to explore the property and shoot some video. Hope you enjoy the view…I know I am.

Namaste

Missed Connections

February is about connections for us at midlife arises. Ever heard the saying that “what you don’t say it just as important as what you do?” I think that’s pretty accurate. I am sitting at my kitchen table in the Yasodhara Ashram looking out the window at the most incredible view of Kootenay Lake. It’s my first night here and the peacefullness hugs me like a friend. I am feeling truly blessed and at the same time hurt by moments of missed communication between my husband and I over the last few weeks. He has never been a man to express his feelings. Especially ones that involve being vulnerable. As he holds onto an argument over an electric grill staying in a kitchen cupboard the moment to talk it out, as rational adults, has passed.

We have created a negative pattern of exchanging concerns years ago. We used to argue and talk back and forth for days to try and resolve issues. There were some tears, some words and a night on the couch sometimes. Now? There is silence. When we get mad at each we just stop talking to each other. The trouble is that neither person gets heard or understood. It resolves nothing and if left, it leads to more division than devotion.

Accountability to speak up is crucial to a healthy relationship. To be heard and mutually understood is extremely important. You must be wondering why I am opening up about this here? As adults we are always being watched. Our kids, young relatives are always looking at our relationships and trying to figure how to communicate. They watch us, mimic us and repeat our patterns whether they are great examples or bad ones.

Let’s not live a life of unsaid feelings, suppressed emotions and missed connections. Regret happens for what we don’t do more often than for what we do.

I am excited about opportunities for personal growth over the next few months and learning more about how I express how I think and feel. It’s healthy and key to finding happiness.

Namaste