Last week I was practicing my very inconsistent back handsprings and I noticed something curious:

When I commit 100% to the movement, I land on my hands however when I commit 90%, I land on my head. And landing on my feet hurts less!

This reminds me of something my teacher, Ajari Jomyo Tanaka, once said (paraphrased)

Put your Spirit into what you do…this is best.

In today’s fast paced society, how easy is it to get sucked into the consumption mentality? Examples abound of quick fixes, magic pills, and entitlement. However, I am constantly reminded that anything truly worthwhile in life is usually on the long path. All of my proudest accomplishments took years and my latest acrobatic quest is going to take a while as well.

BUT, isn’t it the journey itself that is ripe with lessons, fun, and countless personal discoveries? Perhaps the ancients and their wisdom got it right…perhaps the most important investment in life is how and what we commit our body, mind, and spirit to…

Here is my very first attempt at a rings routine… naturally filmed at the end of a 2 hour session:

Part 2 in a series on creating abundance

When we go through intensely emotional experiences, usually in time they pass and we feel better. Oftentimes however that feeling of relief is more aligned with repressing the negative emotions than it is with actually transforming them and letting them go. Letting go can be one of the more difficult things in life as we seem to have a propensity towards holding onto the past. These repressed emotions can end up stored in the deep recesses of the unconscious mind (as well as physical body tissue) and direct and control our behaviors for a lifetime without us having any conscious awareness of why we are being compelled to think and act how we do. Even when we are aware of the “baggage,” it still can control us in ways that we do not even realize. It is natural for us to use our negative experiences to create walls and barriers that “protect us.” This is done with the benevolent intention of keeping us safe, however sometimes the maps we use to navigate the territory of our lives need to be upgraded. If you ever find yourself frustrated that your GPS doesn’t have what you’re looking for, you know what I mean.

A big aspect of moving towards the freedom of complete actualization is living from a higher state of awareness of both unconscious and higher consciousness aspects of our selves. When we do this, we can put aside our egos (For clarification here “ego” is not implied to be a bad thing but rather that aspect of our human selves that can keep our insight and vision limited) and move into harmony with higher universal vibrations which in turn draw more abundance and prosperity into our lives. Each emotion has a particular energetic vibration to it and the lower emotions of fear, sadness, defeat, anger, and jealousy cause us to make decisions from our ego/human self. We all do this, of course, however when we are willing to let go of the lower vibrations and align ourselves with love, compassion, mission, vision, strength, and purpose, our entire lives can shift.

Understanding and letting go of past baggage is a big aspect of this moving towards freedom and when we do this, we open the door to even better opportunities. Use the present to deal with the past in order to create the future which then becomes the present. All there really ever is is the center of now.

Now that I’ve delved a bit into the metaphysical, let’s get very practical.

Recently during the physical and emotional detox I underwent during my the first month of my 2012 self reconstitution project, (a few posts below on this blog) it became apparent there were a few things from my past I had to let go of in order to make room for far better opportunities. Based on my experiences, I offer the following advice to anyone wishing to or needing to let go of prior emotional traumas that are still with you on some level.

Decide you are ready and willing to do it at all cost and dive in with both feet. Commit. The power of commitment cannot be understated. When we commit to something, we block obstacles and hindrances.
Give your higher consciousness permission to heal it for you. Our bodies are built to heal when we get out of our way and allow it.
Realize that aspects of it will be difficult as you will be bringing up dark sludge that you had kept hidden within your shadow self. Allow yourself to be okay with that
Find a material object that reminds you of or is connected to the experience. Take this object and thank it for all it taught you. Tell it you are now releasing it and all negative associations and emotions with it back to the universe to make room for new and better opportunities.
Either throw the object off a cliff into a body of water or burn it in a fire. If you burn it in a fire, I recommend throwing salt on it. State that you wish that all negativity is thoroughly and completely purified.
Come up with a mental image of the situation you are holding onto and picture yourself letting it go. (For example…perhaps your image is of bags of rocks that are holding you back…you then just imagine cutting the rope that connects the bags to you)
Find a trusted friend or therapist to talk through the history of the experience. This will allow you to look back from a more detached perspective and disconnect emotion from fact and to understand why and how you held onto the negative emotions. Do this until the experiences no longer evoke negative emotions
Don’t spend too much time on it. Once the emotions process through, let it go and do not continue dwelling on or talking about it. It is not a part of your past. Take the lessons, leave the rest, and move forward
Don’t hold onto any items that are connected to the person or situation.
Give yourself permission to open to the even better opportunities that you just made space to attract.
And that’s it. It’s actually a pretty simple process though it can be difficult. There is no need to spend ten years in therapy. If you truly follow the above steps, you will have released the trauma faster than you might think possible. That was the case for me.

An aspect of the Unified Living Project is helping men find a path to authentic and balanced masculinity. The balanced man is both a strong visionary leader and compassionate caring person. In this article below, my friend Dr. Richard Sears addresses some of the common issues men have with understanding and accepting their emotional nature as humans.

Men, Emotions, & Mindfulness

Alexithymia is the diminished capacity to experience emotions. Some have half-jokingly said that all men have alexithymia. Growing up, many boys are taught that only two emotional states are acceptable: feeling nothing (social pressure to “be a rock”), and feeling angry (social pressure to “give ‘em hell”). Of course, biologically, men and women are both very similar (despite arguments to the contrary). Hence, men are born with the full range of emotions, but learn many ways to mask them. While it seems that times are changing, I hope the reader will indulge in a few generalizations to illustrate some common issues.

Emotional management is not often taught in schools. If anything, boys often learn from other boys not to show emotion. They may learn to erect a wall to protect themselves. This strategy works in the short term, but a dear price is paid – a great deal of loneliness.

Men are also often taught to be “fixers” and “doers.” If an unpleasant emotion arises, the typical man wants to “do something about it.” Women are often frustrated when a man continuously offers advice about fixing something. Men feel they are being helpful, but the woman tends to feel unheard. Men can have difficulty tolerating emotions, and in some cases, this can lead to problems with substance use.

One approach to learning how to tolerate and wisely work with emotions is through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness involves learning be with our experiences moment to moment, fostering awareness of our physical, emotional, and mental states. While this is best developed through systematic practice, the basic concept is simple.

One strategy is simply to sit with the emotion and say to yourself, “Whatever it is, it’s already here, just let me feel it.” Feelings are not concrete things – they come and go in waves. Mindfulness involves learning to surf the sometimes stormy sea of emotions, instead of trying to stand firm and be battered by the waves.

Mindfulness brings awareness. I once worked with a man at a residential clinic in a hospital who had lived a difficult life. He had been in the military, had been in prison, and had been homeless for several years. In order to survive in the tough environments he lived in, he learned to have an angry expression on his face. This expression basically said, “Don’t mess with me.” However, this face now prevented him from forming friendships, and made it difficult for him to secure employment. I once brought this to his attention in a psychotherapy session. Having seen him for several weeks, I knew we had developed some rapport, and I could be direct with him. “You know, I’ve seen you interact multiple times with the other residents, and I know you are a kind person, but right in this moment, I feel like you want to kill me. Your face looks very angry.” He was quite surprised at this, saying that he did not ever notice that about himself, and he even questioned if it was true.

At the next session, he smiled at me and said, “Wow, I looked in the mirror, and you were right! I did not know I looked so angry all the time!” From that point forward, he looked much happier around the unit. He now had conscious choice of when it was necessary to look angry, and when it was necessary to look inviting or happy, which served him well in his next job interview.

Learning to practice mindfulness throughout the day, turning toward our emotions and experiences, can be challenging at first. However, tearing down the protective walls and sometimes feeling vulnerable is can also open us up to hitherto unknown levels of intimacy and joy.

Part 1 in a series on creating abundance

In this series, we will look at several aspects of how to create abundance in your life. We’ll start with the mindset and then move on to actions.

Have you ever looked at someone else and thought to yourself “I want what he or she has…man, if I could just have that…that person is so lucky.” Maybe they have money, a great relationship, good looks, a lifestyle, a promotion at work, or anything else that you want.

And perhaps you feel jealous of or angry with that person. Hell, I have. Haven’t we all? It’s natural to crave the things we don’t have but desire in our lives.

In fact, I am often one of those people who is on the other end of the jealousy projection. I hear regularly “man, it must be nice to be you. You have it all.” (and the flattery goes on and on. And when that happens, I feel like I’m being put on a pedestal and someone isn’t taking the time to get to know the real me. I do have incredible abundance in my life but there is a lot more to me than just what I have. I suppose that is the guy’s version of what it is like to be a hot woman who is constantly being hit on for her looks and then puts up walls to men because her experience is that they do not look deeper at the person she really is.

So, I’ve been on both the jealous one and the object of jealousy as I’d bet we all have. Neither is as much fun as…well I can think of many things that are more fun than both.

There are things in my life that I don’t have and want, of course. And while desiring to have more, to improve, to become better is healthy and important, projecting jealousy on those who do have more blocks our attaining more for ourselves as does dwelling on what we do not have

But there is a simple solution to quickly create more abundance in your life. Okay now when I share this with you, you’re going to think “DJ you’ve been spending too much time in San Francisco.” Perhaps, but hey I still like women!

The solution is gratitude.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the principles set forth in the Law of Attraction, right? Being grateful for what you do have does a few things in metaphysical terms:

It puts out positive energies to the universe which opens you to attract more
It affirms that you are moving in a direction you wish to go and opens the door for more to come in.
It shifts your state of mind to focus on creating more abundance
It lends to permanent happiness by blocking out the painful emotions of fear, jealousy, anger, greed, and craving. These 5 emotions create that familiar feeling of discontented anxiety. Just as benadryl instantly reverses misery from allergies, gratitude is an antidote to all the crap that causes us to suffer.
It stops the chasing and creates space. When you chase something you push it away however when you create space, you pull it in.
It counters ego and puts us in touch with higher awareness. This higher awareness opens the door to draw in more of what we want where ego can block. (this is fairly complicated and I’ll talk more about this in another post.)
On the other hand, craving and jealousy affirm lack to the universe. This closes down your opportunities to pull in more. If you are jealous of what someone else has, you are shutting the door to having that very thing yourself. Many people actually unconsciously enjoy being miserable and there are many reasons for this but let’s save those for another post.

For now, I invite you to do an experiment with me and let’s create more abundance together. Get a journal and each day take a few minutes to write down 5 things in your life for which you are grateful. And then take a few moments to reflect on them and affirm that you wish to have even more. Then repeat the reflection one more time during the day. Do this with me for 30 days. And let’s see what happens in a month. Feel free to report your results in the comments section.

Cheers to “super badass awesome” results and extraordinary abundance.

I have decided to begin a series of short stories of profound moments in my life. Some of these will be of time spent with my teachers, some will be solo, and some will be downright hilarious! In this series I hope to recall some of my profound lessons, funny moments, and embarrasing realizations as a student of life.

Memoirs of moments with Teachers 1: The most profound peace

It was a crisp October day in Vermont and I was visiting my teacher. When I first met this particular teacher, a Japanese monk, as a teenager, he was living for the summer months on a 70 acre old farm house in rural Vermont that he had adapted to a temple. The house was complete with a kitchen table that had been sawed down so that guests could sit on the floor Japanese style. I recall only seeing one chair in the entire house which, not surprisingly, seemed to be more decorative than practical as it was never used.

One of the highlights of being in Vermont in the fall is the spectacular changing colors of the mountain foliage. One side of Sensei’s house faced the mountains and the other faced a huge open field. It was mid to late afternoon (my memory has become a bit fuzzy) before dinner and Sensei, his wife, and myself were sitting on the floor in the guest room having green tea looking out over the field. This room had sliding glass doors and gave us a spectacular view. Green tea is almost sacred in Japan and is a nectar of relaxation and peace so to this day when I sip on hot Sencha green tea, I am transported to a place of gratitude and peace.

In those days most of our interactions consisted of me asking silly intellectual questions about spirituality and much to my dismay, Sensei retorting with questions of his own about how school was, how my sister is doing, if my mom is healthy, and how we would all wear neckties if Bill Clinton san visited his temple.

At some point, Sensei and his wife began to quietly sing a Japanese children’s song that began “Aki no yuu hi ni…” I did not know the meaning of this song however I listened as they sang while sipping tea and gazing out over the orange hues of the sun beginning to set captivated by the rainbow of colors that covered the trees in the field. At that moment, I was both gently nudged and fully shaken into nakaima the center of now..completely in the present moment. It was the most profound feeling of complete and magical peace I had ever experienced and remains so to this day.

After the singing was finished, I asked Sensei about the meaning of the song. Turns out it was about how the mountain wears a kimono in the fall as the leaves change. I remember thinking how our American nursery rhymes have children falling off trees in their cradles where this Japanese tune spoke of the mystery and beauty of nature. But that is a hallmark of Japanese culture – a perfect intermingling of the modern world and the wonder of nature.

I think often about that moment. And it’s likely Sensei doesn’t recall it at all which I think it so interesting – how what is just another moment in a teacher’s life can be such a powerful crystallized moment for a student. And it’s those moments that help us realize just how powerful, wonderful, and fully actualized an ascended master’s life truly is.