Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Tapping into the flow of cosmic kindness

Post by Nikki Starcat Shields for the Kind Kindred series.

image courtesy of Brandon Towne on Flickr

I was saddened to read a friend’s Facebook status recently where she wrote somewhat wistfully about her belief that the Universe didn’t really give a hoot what was happening in her life. Sure, on some levels, it’s completely true. A tornado or a severe thunderstorm, for example, doesn’t care if it disrupts or even destroys lives. It’s a powerful force of nature, cutting its path across the land.

But in a bigger picture, I believe that the cosmos really does care about each individual life. Despite the destruction and death we see here on the physical plane, I think each soul (and I don’t limit it to mean only the human soul) is held in light and love. When you step back and look at the very big picture, the huge canvas upon which everything is painted, the Universe is a kind place.

Yet it’s so huge, and sometimes scary, that we can have a hard time tapping into that font of cosmic kindness.

Over the past few months we’ve been exploring the mysterious power of radical kindness. We started with self-acceptance and have explored kindness in the realms of family, emotions, world events, and our planet. Now we’ve come full circle, back to where kindness meets cosmic consciousness, with the help of your inner child.

Say what?!

Stick with me here. I know, the very phrase “inner child” might conjure up bad flashbacks of 1990s New Age mumbo-jumbo. You might be afraid I’ll ask you to think back to some unpleasant incident from your childhood, or send you to a past-life regression.

But that’s not where this tale is going, I promise (and my apologies if you’re actually into New Age practices - I enjoy several of them myself).

I first encountered the idea of the connection between the inner child self and the cosmos in the writings of Starhawk, a Pagan priestess from San Francisco. She learned it from the Feri (or Faery) tradition, which posits that there are three parts to the human psyche.

The conscious mind, the part we are most familiar with, is known as Talking Self. This is the left-brain, analytical part of us, which uses words, numbers, and abstract concepts. Our inner child, or Younger Self, is the right-brain, intuitive, artistic consciousness. It communicates through imagery, symbols, dreams, and feelings. Since these two aspects of the psyche are so different, they have a hard time communicating directly with one another.

What then, is the third part of the psyche? It is known as Deep Self or God Self, and it is our essence, the Divine spark that is eternal, that will still exist after our physical death. It is our hotline to the entire cosmos. The Feri tradition maintains that Deep Self cannot be reached directly by Talking Self, but only through Younger Self, which is connected more strongly to divine energies through its love of mystical imagery, visions, and dreams.

As Starhawk writes in her book The Spiral Dance, “It is not the conscious mind, with its abstract concepts, that ever actually communicates with the Divine; it is the unconscious mind, the Younger Self that responds only to images, pictures, sensations, tangibles. To communicate with the Deep Self, the Goddess/God Within, we resort to symbols, to art, poetry, music, myth, and the actions of ritual that translate abstract concepts into the language of the unconscious.”

What does this mean for you in terms of tapping into the flow of cosmic kindness?

Quite simply put, it means you should play more.

Younger Self loves to play and immerse itself in magic. This is the side of you that is drawn to Tarot cards, vision boards, vivid colors, and the beauty of nature. Playfulness is a key part of life, one that is often neglected as we move beyond childhood.

A wonderful woman who runs children's activities at local festivals, and raises money to buy musical instruments for kids, puts it well. She told me how she goes to visit adult friends, and always looks around to see what she can play with. There might be one small box of crayons, but she’s looking around for the markers, paints, puppets, drums and shakers. “But where are all your toys?” she longs to ask. She looks at me, laughing, and confides, “No wonder I’m always hanging out with a bunch of kids!”

She’s very in tune with her Younger Self, and her love, connection, and kindness shine through in all her interactions.

Nurturing your child self aids your wholeness, as you become more connected with the Divine. This is an intrinsic part of spiritual growth. As you learn to love and accept yourself, your inner world opens up. When Talking Self isn’t quite so busy being mean and self-critical up there in your left hemisphere, Younger Self grows bolder and less timid.

You find yourself drawn to playfulness, laughter, and joy, just for its own sake.

As Mr. Miyagi quipped in the movie The Karate Kid way back when, “never trust spiritual leader who cannot dance.” All too often we get very serious about our spiritual growth, which can lead to dogma and rigidity. When you allow yourself to play, to dance, to touch the mysteries with a light heart, you become more in tune with cosmic kindness and love.

Your cup is filled, again and again. You have plenty of kindness to share. You’ve tapped into the mysterious power of radical kindness.

The circle is complete.

Nikki Starcat Shields is a published author, Mom, Reiki healer, and licensed priestess.
She blogs at Starcat's Corner and shares her callings at Feline Dreamers.
Get your copy of her book "Cultivating Self-Love: Your Path to Wholeness" on Amazon.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Start where you are

photo by Jenny Ingalls Nelson

When I lose 10 pounds, then I'll start running.

When I get a new job, then I'll start saving money.

When I have more time, I'll get organized.

When I have a partner, then I'll start going out more.

Do any of these sound familiar? They do to me. Long lists of things we tell ourselves to avoid doing the things we really want...the things that scare us...the things at which we may fail. These lists keep us safe, or at least we think they do. They also keep us stuck.

On Wednesday, we will be exactly half way through 2015. How are those New Year's resolutions? A distant memory? Something you don't have to think about for another 6 months?

What if you started today? Right now. Without any qualifiers or a special date on the calendar; without any excuses. Where would you be in 6 months?

The truth is, you don't need a special date on the calendar to make a change. All you need is to make the choice and to start where you are. Make your own special date on the calendar.

In 2002, I did just that. I was 3 months away from getting married and something, somewhere inside me knew it wasn't right. On January 5, a very average day, I came home from seeing a movie with friends and broke up with my fiance. I had no plan, no apartment waiting for me, and no idea what was next. I did what I could and I used what I had. It wasn't easy, but it was possible. Had I taken the time to go through the whole "when I have the money, or the apartment, or the plan" conversation in my head, I probably would have just married the guy and continued to be miserable.

Change starts when and how you want it to. It can start right now, or in 10 years...but just imagine what could happen in 10 years if you start right now...

Thanks for being on this journey with me.


CLICK TO TWEET Start where you are.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Practicing Kindness Toward Conservatives

Post by Pace Smith for the Kind Kindred series.

image courtesy of iiwiiemporium on Etsy

I'm a liberal. I like peace, civil rights, and helping out those who are less fortunate. I used to believe that conservatives were ignorant, selfish idiots.

This is the story of how I opened my heart, how it changed my life, and how it can change the world.

A blog post changed my life

How often can you honestly say, without exaggeration, "a blog post changed my life?"

That's what happened to me when I read Red Family, Blue Family by Doug Muder. Here's how he built a bridge between my worldview and the conservative worldview.

First, he pointed at the ground I'm standing on. He pointed out one big assumption I'm making about how things work in the world:

I choose my obligations.

I choose who to marry, and together we choose what that commitment means to us.
I choose what kind of relationship (close, distant, or none at all) I wish to have with my parents and my extended family.
I choose how I want to raise my children, or whether to have children at all.
I choose what religion or spiritual path feels right to me.

Conservatives have a different assumption:

You inherit your obligations.

Marriage is the way it is; you don't get to choose what it means to you.
You are obligated to your parents, and it is wrong to choose to shirk that obligation.
You are obligated to raise your children right.
You are obligated to practice the right religion.

Building a bridge

The assumptions we make are background noise. By pointing at an assumption and naming it, you can bring it from your subconscious to your conscious awareness, where you can think about it and imagine, "How would I feel if I saw the world differently?"

When I imagined how I would feel if I believed, "I inherit my obligations," I stepped into the shoes of a conservative.

In that moment, I didn't become an ignorant, selfish idiot. I became exactly who I was a minute ago, but with one important belief changed. I felt the change in my body. I felt the change in my heart.

And I felt compassion for those I had once reviled.

Miller's Law

You can apply this to anyone whose actions or words don't make sense to you. Apply Miller's Law:
"To understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true and try to imagine what it could be true of."

In other words, "How would I have to see the world for this to be a sensible thing to say?"

These questions shift your perspective from judgment to curiosity. Curiosity leads to understanding, and understanding leads to compassion.

Why compassion is selfish

This isn't just a nice, altruistic thing to do when you've just gotten back from your yoga class and you're feeling open-hearted.

This is a necessary thing to do if you want to avoid burnout.

Outrage weakens your heart. Judging others harshly wears down your soul.

If you want to create change in the world, or even just live a life of peace and happiness, you must first create peace in your own heart.

The war inside your heart

If there is anyone, or any group of people, you feel you are unable to understand, unable to feel compassion toward, then there is a war inside your heart.

Make a peace offering. Offer a parley under a flag of truce.

Sit down across the table from your enemy, and ask, "How would I have to see the world for this to be a sensible way to be?"

Pace Smith (The Pathfinding Coach) helps sensitive spiritual nonconformists live wild crazy meaningful lives. She's also a teacher, a speaker, a writer, a Sufi dervish, a bi poly trans gamer geek, an open-source Reiki healer, and a tournament-level Dance Dance Revolution player. Download her free eBook, Find Your Path Now, to STOP living on autopilot and START living the wholehearted, unconventional life you were meant to live.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Kerri Welch sat curled up in her favorite stuffed chair at Hava Java, staring at the words printed neatly and neutrally on a small yellow Post-it.

She’d left a copy of The Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge on the small end table to hold her spot, along with her favorite orange cashmere blend sweater (the air conditioning was always a bit intense, she’d noticed), while she waited in line behind fellow loiterers and caffeine junkies. Settling in with her steaming cup, Kerri had discovered the note that awaited her on page 176, the single page dedicated to bohemian weddings, and she wondered if this was merely coincidence.

Kerri had cancelled her own wedding six weeks before; had walked into this very coffee shop, hiding red-rimmed eyes behind Jackie-O sunglasses, desperately seeking solace. She discovered instead that she could simply disappear; sink into this cozy leather armchair with a book and a warm mug and vanish into the background. Or so she had believed anyway. Now she wondered if someone had surmised her current state of affairs.

Impossible, she chided herself. She shook the thought from her head. Kerri was a stranger here, even to herself now. She had moved here for Luke, who had been her life until she surprised him at work one Thursday afternoon and discovered the paralegal hiding under his desk.

So much for her life.

She peeled up the square of paper and examined it closely. The careful block letters were printed in blue ballpoint pen – no loops and flourishes to give the writer away. She peered around to study the faces of other patrons, watching for a blush, a sidelong glance or possibly a smile, but the room only confirmed her obscurity. Women in tennis skirts laughed and chirped over iced teas. New moms chugged coffee and commiserated as they bounced infants on their knees and rummaged through diaper bags in search of binkies and keys. An elderly man sat reclined and cross-legged in the corner taking leisurely sips of espresso as he read his paper. And then there was “Crazy Eyes” who showed up each day with his drawing pad and his disheveled black hair. Today he scribbled madly, his Charles Manson stare fixed on the tennis ladies. Kerri looked away and hoped to God it wasn’t him.

As she completed her scan of the room, Kerri’s favorite barista caught her eye. An uncooperative cowlick bounced above his left brow as he hummed along to “My Sharona”. She bit her lip to stifle a giggle - there was something so irresistible about the uninhibited. He glanced up as he finished placing a dollop of steamed milk on a cappuccino and flashed her a disarming smile. Kerri looked away, flushed and flustered. He’d caught her staring.

This was crazy. She laughed at herself for even wondering. They’d barely spoken. And what was he, 28 at the most? But still. He had discovered her unusual method of coffee selection, the way she used each opportunity to taste some beautiful part of the world that she longed to see. Today he’d even recommended the Brazil Peabody.

She stuck the note to the arm of her chair and tried to redirect her focus on all things bohemian. She reminded herself that she’d checked the book out of the library nearly a week ago; a failed attempt to revive the woman she once was. The note probably wasn’t even for her. She had caught a glimpse into a luckier life and it was time to return to her own.

But someone had anticipated her skepticism and another message awaited her on page 189.

Yes, you.

This page had no words at all. It was a watercolor illustration of a man standing at an easel painting a nude woman. Oh shit, she thought to herself as she glanced apprehensively at “Crazy Eyes”. He appeared to take no notice of her, but she didn’t trust his oversight. Too many things had not been what they had seemed to her lately.

She clapped the book closed and collected her things. Clearly, she’d been spending too much time here if she had to worry about the possibility of attracting potential serial killers. It was time to take a walk and clear her head.

On her way out, the barista shined that winsome grin as he asked her how she liked Brazil.

“Brazil was delicious,” she smiled.

He winked at her. “See? I know what you like.”

Her voice caught in her throat and she could only nod and smile as she waved good-bye. She remembered flirting. And that felt like flirting. Cute coffee guy was back on the suspect list.

Strolling through town, anonymous once more, Kerri smiled to herself. Someone thought she was beautiful. Maybe someone she didn’t even know. It could be a scary guy who drew portraits of strangers, or a man, a boy really, who carefully selected coffee just for her. And maybe it didn’t matter. Even if it was the old guy in the corner, someone had noticed something beautiful about her. And whether this person knew it or not, the compliment had come just when she had needed it most.

Since the split, Kerri couldn’t stop creating the story of her demise. In her mind, it had started with the 8 pounds she had put on since she’d moved to Chatham and the pathetic way she’d be there waiting for Luke with a beautifully prepared meal at the end of the day. Of course he strayed. She’d reduced herself to a matronly cling-on before they’d even picked a caterer. Not that she hadn’t tried to create a life of her own: she had initiated conversations after yoga classes, had even joined a book club, but nothing had clicked. So she spent her days alone. She ran out of things to say. And she shrank back into herself until she’d effectively disappeared.

But now, finally, someone had seen her and found something worthwhile.

As she walked, Kerri noticed her painted toenails framed by her favorite strappy sandals. She liked her slim ankles. Her ankles and her clavicles had always come through for her. They were proof of her daintiness, 8 pounds be damned. It was time to stop staring down at her feet. She straightened her spine and held her head up a little higher, the serene line of her mouth curling almost imperceptibly.

A middle-aged man huffed a smiling hello as he jogged past her on Orchard Street. Two blocks later, a pair of women engaged deep in curbside, dog-walking conversation, stopped to compliment the embroidered green silk blouse that she’d worn dozens of times before. Kerri began to glow. Something warm and vaguely familiar surged through her. It felt something like…her. Kerri Welch before she was Luke’s girlfriend. A girl who prompted smiles. Or at least a girl who noticed them.

Something had returned to her. Kerri felt her spark again. Electric. Magnetic, even.

She did an about face and headed back to the coffee shop. There was a bounce in her step now and she felt almost giddy. A passing driver tapped his horn and gave her an enthusiastic catcall out his window as he went by. I’ve still got it, she told to herself. I am beautiful.

The door jingled as she followed the aromas of Brazil, Guatemala, Hawaii and Tanzania to the counter where her suspect wiped a pitcher dry. His face brightened as she approached. “Back for more?”

Kerri took in a quick breath and strengthened her resolve. “You’re the friendliest person I’ve met here so far and I could use a friend,” she began, watching his face for signs of horrified panic. But there was only the softening of his expression. She continued, “I was wondering if you could join me for lunch one day? Or maybe catch a movie?”

She could see he was taken aback. His jaw had slackened, his eyebrows raised. It was clear to her now. It hadn’t been him. He was just a friendly guy making the bests of his days at the local coffee house. Kerri’s face began to feel hot. She lowered her eyes, afraid to look.

“Sure, Kerri. That would be great!”

Her head snapped up. He knew her name. “Really?”

“Definitely,” he grinned. “I would have asked first, but you always seem so, I don’t know, preoccupied.”

She nodded. “I guess I have been kind of absent,” she conceded. “But I’m back now.”

“Good. So, how about Friday?”

She scribbled her number on a napkin and handed it to him. “Friday, then.”

Outside the store, she pumped her fist triumphantly. Her unhappy ending had just changed course and rerouted her into endless possibility. So little had changed and yet she felt entirely different.

She headed next to the library. She no longer needed The Bohemian Manifesto to remind her of who she was. She’d trade it in for some good beach reading.

As Kerri approached the counter and slid her book through the return slot, she noticed a young boy sitting beside the librarian, working diligently on whatever job he had before him. He looked to be about 10 years old, but with the soul of someone much older and wiser. It was unusual to see a boy his age so engaged in his work. Kerri watched as he placed a book on top of a small stack to his left and reached for another from a formidable pile on his right. She released a quick gasp as she watched him let the book fall open and placed a yellow Post-it on the page.

The librarian looked up at her. “Are you ok?”

Kerri nodded, still watching this very old, very young boy. “What is he doing?”

The librarian followed her gaze. “Oh, that’s David. He’s my library angel.”

“Excuse me?”

“My library angel,” she repeated, “He likes to leave notes for unsuspecting readers.”

“That’s very sweet,” she acknowledged, letting go of her foolish fantasy.

“Yes, he really is. He and his grandmother used to leave notes for the folks in her nursing home and they really loved finding them. After she passed, he asked if he could do it here.”

Kerri smiled to herself as the woman picked up the book she’d just returned. She flipped through the pages until she came across the yellow slip of paper.

“You are beautiful,” the woman recited.

Kerri’s lip began to tremble. She blinked back tears, surprised to find how the words, spoken aloud, moved her. It had been a long time since she’d heard them.

“Yes. You.” she asserted, placing a hand over Kerri’s. “Angels don’t make mistakes.”

Ann Tomoko Rosen is Co-Founder of the Center for Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine in Westfield, NJ, and an enthusiastic proponent of positive self-talk and random acts of kindness.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

What the journey within really looks like

photo by Jenny Ingalls Nelson

It's an interesting thing, the journey within. 

This week, I chose some retail therapy to take the edge off a stressful period of time. On the surface, that seems like the exact opposite of the journey within, but allow me to explain...

First, I use the word 'chose' very deliberately. I was fully aware of my actions. I knew that I was feeling stressed and I chose to buy something to make myself feel better.

Second, I shared this knowledge (and the way I was feeling) with a couple of people close to me.

Third, I have no judgement against myself for buying a $25 shirt (which, BTW, I wore to dinner Friday night with the hubbs and felt great in!).

This is what the journey within REALLY looks like. It's not about walking around with some glowing light coming out of me, it's real, everyday, examined life. Life with much less judgement. Life with power and courage and accountability to myself. Life where I'm aware of my feelings and choose to feel them.

There's that word choice again...

Choice is a big part of what made this week different. I wasn't blindly shopping, trying to fill some unknown hole. I was aware and I made a choice. That's the real journey within.

Thanks for being on this journey with me.


CLICK TO TWEET Awaken to the journey within.

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Reflection Past

The stark reflection on the road
Lost in the stars that never shine
In steps returns the hollow sight
Unheard, to thoughts unthought of lights
Not lit beyond the mirror dark
Where dreams asleep drowned in
The soul that burns within the sigh
Of time
Which never was by random might
Alight –
To break the silence of the sky
The night recalls this life of mine.

Adriano Bulla, a servant of Calliope, was born in Italy and lives in London. He has been publishing books since 2005, when his first collection of poetry, Ybo' and Other Lies hit the shelves; he has since published a surreal and unusual novel, The Road to London, which mixes poetry and prose, a collection of short stories, Tales for the Free Mind and Open Heart and a second book of poetry, Queer Poems, he has also published a study on Dante and Coleridge and a grammar book. His constant search for new and innovative forms in Literature, intense and unusual imagery has been accompanied by a growing awareness of social and psychological issues.
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