Awake in the World

Awake in the World

Grow A Secret Garden

posted by debramoffitt

In France it’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “Keep that to explore in your jardin secret.” The secret garden is an ancient European symbol that grew out of the chaotic and troubled times of the Middle Ages. Sometimes called the Dark Ages,  it was a time of  wars, famine, drought and plague. People felt uncertain and fearful, and there seemed to be no place for beautiful, fragile things to grow.

Secret gardens sprang up behind walled enclosures. Here fruit trees, medicinal herbs, fountains and flowers were protected. They could grow unhindered by the madness.  Only those who had a key could enter. The garden became a safe, serene place where people planted and tended vines and harvested rare and precious fruits. Initially these places were associated with Mother Mary and probably reach back into ancient history and reflected a deep reverence for the Mother Earth with her mysteries and powers.

In Italy the phrase is the same, but in a different language: giardino segreto. These gardens existed in England as well. The garden is a universal symbol of a place where things can flourish and take root. It may appear in dreams to reveal the inner state of the soul. If a tree is withering it may reveal a need for more attention to the spiritual. If flowers are about to bloom or fruits are ripening, this may illustrate the results of good work on both the spiritual and physical level.

Take a moment and imagine your secret garden. Cross the threshold and enter inside. What does it look like? What do you find here? Are there trees or flowers? Are there people that need to be put out or others that offer guidance. If you’d like draw or collage an image to keep with you as a reminder of your secret garden. This is your sacred space.

Bio: Debra Moffitt is author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life. A visionary and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices at the Sophia Institute and other venues in the U.S. and Europe. Her mind/body/spirit articles, essays and stories appear in publications around the globe and were broadcast by BBC World Services Radio. She has spent over fifteen years practicing meditation, working with dreams and doing spiritual practices. Visit her online at http://www.awakeintheworld.com.

Soul Vitamins for Spiritual Health: Fast and Slow Down

posted by debramoffitt

Summer is a great time to fast. It feeds the soul and cleanses the body. This practice which has been common throughout cultures down through the ages has fallen out of use. But it’s being rediscovered for health benefits, as a way to detox, and as a means to explore one’s relationship to food and to one’s Self. Fasting traditionally means eliminating food for a given time period – half a day, a day or longer. For many years I fasted once a week as a way to clean out the body and give it a rest. It energized me and brought a sense of renewal. It also made me very aware of my relationship to food. Since food is easily available snacking was easy. But on the days I fasted, I observed my habitual urges to grab a coffee, pick up some chocolate or nibble some baguette. I noticed I wasn’t eating usually because of hunger, but out of habit.

On those days I usually kept silent, shut off the TV, tuned out the radio and Internet and remained with an inward focus. Sacred texts became my fare. Fasting was not only about not eating; it extended to what I consumed through my five senses. By cutting out newspapers, toxic news, unnecessary phone conversations and tweets, fasting brought me to an inner place of stillness. It slowed me down mentally and physically and moved the focus away from the material needs of the body and brought reflections on how to feed the soul.

A fast from food may not be right for everyone. If you choose to try it, it may be good to get some medical advice and learn more about the health benefits and whether it’s right for you. But almost everyone can benefit from a media/TV/Internet fast. If you dare, shut off the PC, tune out the radio and tune in to what’s going on inside of you. So often we become so caught up in the mental realms that we ignore our bodies and disconnect from our emotions; we stop nurturing our soul and the relationships that feed it. What soul vitamins do you need for spiritual health?

Bio: Debra Moffitt is author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life. A visionary and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices at the Sophia Institute and other venues in the U.S. and Europe. Her mind/body/spirit articles, essays and stories appear in publications around the globe and were broadcast by BBC World Services Radio. She has spent over fifteen years practicing meditation, working with dreams and doing spiritual practices. Visit her online at http://www.awakeintheworld.com.

Embracing Impermanance: Lessons from Sand Mandalas

posted by debramoffitt

“It is amazing that something so beautiful will be destroyed. But then again, that is the story of our lives.” — Woman who watched the creation of a sand mandala

Tibetan Buddhist monks spend days creating exquisite sand mandalas only to destroy them. They draw out elaborate geometric patterns on a platform then tap out tiny, vibrantly colored grains of sand to create masterful works of art. Their work requires days and sometimes weeks to complete with several monks usually working together. Once the art is completed, a ceremony is performed to consecrate it and then with the sweep of a brush it is ceremonially dissolved. The sands of the mandala are swept into a gray mass and taken to a river so it may be carried to the sea.

When I first saw this, the power of it astonished me. How could someone who has spent days and weeks creating something so beautiful destroy it? The message to me was clear – it represents the process of life and the mandalas are powerful tools that teach about impermanence. In the West especially, we shun aging and decay. We hide things that appear old and put them in closets, throw them out – and if they’re people we put them in homes out of the public eye. We worship youth, but we have a hard time accepting the process of change which includes dissolution and decay.

These sand mandalas can be ways of teaching us to accept and help us to grieve loss and to heal. After the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Loesling Drepung monks from India who stay periodically in Georgia, were encouraged by the Dalai Lama to create a healing sand mandala. The Sackler Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. hosted them and there was an outpouring of appreciation from visitors. They remarked on the healing power, the patience, the depth and how they were brought a deep acceptance of the nature of life as it takes us through birth, life and eventually death. It was all beauty – even the dissolution.

The ways the monks with their sand mandalas encourage us to embrace change can teach us much about acceptance and understanding of life. If you’re inspired, create your own healing mandala in a drawing, in sand or in your imagination. Honor it and then offer it to the Divine. If you feel moved to, dissolve or destroy it later.

Bio: Debra Moffitt is author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life. A visionary and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices at the Sophia Institute and other venues in the U.S. and internationally. Her mind/body/spirit articles, essays and stories appear in publications around the globe and were broadcast by BBC World Services Radio. She has spent over fifteen years learning meditation, working with dreams and doing spiritual practices. Visit her online athttp://www.awakeintheworld.com.

When I Am Here and Now

posted by debramoffitt

Zen Buddhist author, Natalie Goldberg teaches a form of walking meditation in her writing workshops. She instructs people to coordinate each step with a breath as a way to become more aware and present. The pace of walking slows significantly and becomes a moving meditation. Meditation at its best and highest is conscious living in action where mind, body and spirit are in harmony. It brings awareness not only during moments of silent sitting, but also begins to permeate all aspects and areas of life. It’s a concentrated effort to tame and train the mind to be present, awake, alert to the possibilities.

When Tibetan Buddhist Lama, Sogyal Rinpoche taught meditation he often spoke of meditation as a training practice. At first the mind resists, but little by little it becomes accustomed to being here in the present. It’s a bit like training for a race. Like the body, the mind works up to longer periods of silent sitting. In an early period of practicing presence, I sat at the kitchen table looking out at the sea. As I ate one spoonful of tomato soup at a time, working hard to be in the moment and not read the newspaper, tears started to well up and pour down my cheeks, drop off of my nose and into my tomato soup. I wanted to ask my teacher then and there, “What’s so great about being in the moment?”

The quiet presence left space for all of the pain and suppressed hurts and fears to surface. At the time my heart was heavy with unconscious pain and I wanted to keep my mind occupied to avoid feeling it. But as the pain surfaced and tears flowed, I felt lighter and happier than I’d felt for a very long time. The grief of so many losses began to dissipate as they were released through tears, writing and allowing them to surface into the light of full consciousness.

For an instant today, if you will, be completely present to yourself, for yourself. Listen to what your heart’s calling you to do. Feel your emotions. Observe the mind. Be with yourself without judgment – in love with yourself and the precious moment.

Bio: Debra Moffitt is author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life. A visionary and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices at the Sophia Institute and other venues in the U.S. and internationally. Her mind/body/spirit articles, essays and stories appear in publications around the globe and were broadcast by BBC World Services Radio. She has spent over fifteen years learning meditation, working with dreams and doing spiritual practices. Visit her online athttp://www.awakeintheworld.com.

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