Entering the Gateway

Do humans need to suffer? Why is there suffering? Mankind has been asking these questions for a long time. Here’s one outlook: Suffering is a great impetus for change. 

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If we were always cozy, secure, and happy, there likely wouldn’t be any inciting force driving us to look deeper. Whether the suffering is mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual in nature, perhaps it provides the perfect conditions for awakening, and consequently aligning with more ease, grace, and lightness-of-being. 

Suffering can be a gracious messenger and wise informant, one that may continue appearing until we invite it in, sit with it, and venture into the heart of it, coming to find out what’s at its root rather than continuing to shove it away as we may have become accustomed to doing. Our suffering isn’t usually ever satisfied with a band-aid, anyhow. 

When we can begin to navigate our suffering with a sense of acceptance, we become more aligned with the truth of what’s arising and what’s presenting itself — the truth isn’t always comfortable, but aligning with truth is certainly one of the keys to unlocking the prisons of half-truths, lies, attempts to bury what’s arising, distraction, and conditioning that has outlived its value or usefulness.

Sometimes it takes pain, discomfort, or suffering to impel us to take that pilgrimage inward and ask bigger questions:


What is all of this about?

Who am I really?

What is the source of this suffering?

What is the root?

What is really at work here?

How can healing begin?


Here’s what we may discover upon such inquiry:

We may begin to see that situations aren’t the cause of our pain and suffering, but it’s our resistance to the situations that is the root of our suffering. We may begin to see that there are ways we can better nourish ourselves and align more cozily with our own natural expression. We may see more clearly that we aren’t truly bound to our suffering and there may be more options present that provide us room to remove ourselves from restricting places, people, ideas, habits, and circumstances. 

We might become suspicious of thoughts we once identified with and took to be rooted in truth, and our thoughts in general may slow down over time. It’s possible that we may see more clearly and consciously old conditioning and programming that’s been playing out for many years but isn’t truly who we are; in becoming aware of our programming and conditioning, these old patterns, that may have been causing us to suffer, can begin to heal and dissipate in the light of that awareness. 

We may begin to discover that facing pain and journeying into the heart of suffering has a way of lightening the load. A kind of freedom that isn’t dependent on the absence of suffering may arise, and we might begin to see that beneath suffering is a profound stillness to which we can retreat at any moment (and from which we’ve never really left). 

Begin to toy around with this idea if you’ve not done so yet: pain and suffering aren’t always enemies to be combatted, but are gateways through which we can enter to learn more about ourselves, to come to love even more deeply and unconditionally, and to begin profound healing. Through heartfelt inquiry and a continuous turning toward truth and what’s present, a certain sense of liberation may also arise that informs of us of our true nature (which is beyond description and which I implore you to discover on your own). 

Keep turning toward what’s arising, even if it’s uncomfortable; you might find that this continued act of courage bears great fruit. 

With love,

Karisa

Old Patterns: Breaking the Cycle

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Addictions come in all shapes and sizes. Of course some are more destructive than others, but I see addictions and additive behaviors playing out all around me all the time in one form or another. I am not exempt from this.

Here are some common addictions I see: chronic TV watching, food addictions and disordered eating tendencies, drinking, drugs, tobacco use, chronic busy-ness, work addiction, and more.

For myself, I’ve dabbled in my fair share of addictive behaviors, but the most notable and recent was this: obsessive healthy eating. Now this might not seem like a big deal, but this became totally and profoundly imprisoning and uncomfortable for me. I realized this: I wanted to change.

The discomfort that would arise when I ate “off track” became an obvious indication that something else was going on besides simply a desire to be “healthy”. So I began to ask: what is (obsessively restrictive) “healthy” eating doing for me?

I pondered and pondered, went inward, and sat with this question. Here’s what I came up with:

Eating this way gave me a sense of control and security (i.e. I eat this way and know that I can maintain feeling “healthy” and being trim).

But it went deeper.

So I asked myself this: why do I desire a feeling of security and control? A bigger question. 

Perhaps I feel unsure about myself. 

Aha! Light bulb. But what’s below that? 

A desire for social approval and a desire for acceptance.

Below that:

A sense of unworthiness, a fear of rejection, a fear of criticism, and old shame.

I found the root.

Though this wasn’t a quick and easy process, it was actually a relief to discover and admit. This meant that a new possibility had emerged: change was possible.

The question then became this: do I continue to try to cover up those uncomfy feelings with addictive behaviors and distractions (because this seems to be creating even more discomfort and the pacifying of these feelings is so temporary, anyhow),

(or)

Do I FINALLY sit with shame, insecurity, fear of rejection, and unworthiness for the first time? Can I bravely acknowledge these things, show them love and compassion, forgive myself for all the discomfort that I may have caused others and myself trying to keep them buried, and finally finally be a bit lighter?

I didn’t want to feel trapped in a pattern of rigid and uncomfortable behavior anymore so I braced myself for the potentially wild ride of getting down with my demons and all that I’d been brushing under the rug. Unworthiness, shame, insecurity, sadness — the thought of letting these feelings exist was originally terrifying, but I discovered that it was profoundly liberating to admit their presence, acknowledge them, embody them, and hold them oh-so-lightly.

Here’s where I’m at now: I wanna be sure that my behaviors, endeavors, and interactions aren’t being governed and tainted by old patterns and repressed emotions, and I don’t wanna give up eating well or nourishing my body, but it feels a whole lot better, lighter, and simpler. There is far less at stake when I’m not desperately trying to cover up vulnerabilities.

Vulnerability = Beautiful & Liberating.

Still and in Awe,

Karisa



Leading with the Heart

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For me, living from the heart wasn’t easy when I was a kid. I learned very early on from the adults around me that emotions weren’t that safe to show and that it wasn’t acceptable to be really vulnerable. I don’t blame my parents or wish that my upbringing was any different; on the contrary, I’ve absolutely loved the journey of growing older, growing (hopefully) wiser, and learning to open up my heart and live more from there and less from old, conditioned thought-patterns.

The process of courageously opening myself up, shedding old defensive thought-patterns and beliefs, and becoming more vulnerable (and subsequently more authentic) has put a pep in my step and a rhythm in my soul. I’ve had the fire in me all along — I just had to remember how to use it, claim it, love it, and present that open-hearted flame to the world.

All of this being said, it isn’t necessarily easy to examine shame, insecurity, and low self-esteem in the spotlight — these feelings, for most of us, are usually kept swept under the rug. When we allow ourselves to greet shame and feelings of low self-worth for the first time in years (or ever), this means that we do have to feel these things in their raw, unfiltered fullness. However, really and truly feeling these shadow-bits is the key to freedom and a lightness-of-being.

The only way out is through.

Then, when I become totally (well, mostly) okay with these “non-happy” feelings, the light tends to sweep in and fill these cracks with compassion, grace, and (yes) love. With two lovely kids, a business that I love, clients that I dig, and a really dope husband, it’s now that I am oh-so-ready to present my best self to the world — a self that is authentic, whole, down with my demons, and leading with a wide-open heart. I want to be my best self for others, and this requires an initial self-love process that begins with venturing bravely into the dark places, greeting old uncomfortable feelings with an open heart, and daring to dig deep to acknowledge and uproot weeds that have been hanging around for, well, a bit too long.

So, then, here’s what I know:

A wide open heart + a powerful vision = unstoppable.

Cheers to that.

Still and in Awe,

Karisa

Zen and the S%$! You Hate Doing

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I f#$%&!# hate laundry.

Please — excuse my expletive, but let me repeat myself: I f#$%&!# hate laundry. Let’s put it this way: It’s all-together miraculous if I can get my butt to the laundry room, put in a load of laundry, remove it when done to throw it in the dryer before the mildew sets in (which happens, oh, 50% of the time) and then promptly take the clothes out of the dryer for folding (folding — my nemesis), and get it all done in one pop.

This gets extra complicated when the “environmentalist-hippie” and the “money-conscious-budget-mom” in me scolds the “but-this-is-so-much-easier” me and demands I go hang the clothes on the clotheslines instead of doing the whole dryer thing.

I know what you’re thinking — this isn’t really that big of a deal and there are far more complicated endeavors (like trying to fold a fitted sheet or do your own taxes), but I f#$%&!# hate doing the laundry. Yes, hate is a strong word but, hey, the seemingly simple task of laundry-doing gets even trickier when your job description includes constant contact with sweat (personal training, anyone?) and your two kiddos are dirtying a new outfit every 15.5 seconds (please, for the love of God tell me that’s chocolate…) and the laundry load appears to be an ever-growing monstrosity.

So, where am I going with this? This nice little story is leading me here: how the hell can we be Zen while doing the things we f#$%&!# hate doing?

I would argue that in fact the best times to practice our “zen” is while doing the s%#$ we hate doing and let’s be real: life will always be asking that (sometimes) we do stuff we just don’t wanna do, so best to find a good ol’ “ommmm” while we do.

Here’s what I’ve tried to practice while I do the [annoyed grumble] laundry:

1. There will inevitably be a voice in the brain that wants to unendingly complain from start to finish. Instead of humoring only this train of thought, I give the voice a nod and some mad respect (dang this DOES kinda suck), and then turn my attention elsewhere.

2. When I turn the attention elsewhere deliberately, I’ll do a “sense” meditation — what smells are present? Oh my god that wasn’t chocolate. What can be felt? What can be heard? How does the fabric feel in my hands? How does the laundry soap smell? This creates a new possibility: I don’t just have to bitch and moan — I can enjoy and engage the senses, too.

3. I become the laundry. No, this isn’t just some woo-woo spiritual hype — it is totally possible to become “one” with what you’re doing even if you don’t dig it. This means being fully present with each step, engaging the senses, noticing the boundary-less-ness of me and the activity at hand. This takes practice, dude, particularly if you f#$%&!# hate laundry.

4. Mindfulness and breath. You knew one or both of those words were coming, didn’t you? You’re onto me. Give the effing laundry or (insert sucky task here) your full attention, breathe deeply while you do, and just be with it. It’ll be over soon.

Boy oh boy — the laundry and me may never be besties that frolic off into the sunset together to drink margaritas by the beach, but I can certainly do each task mindfully, with a little bit of lightness-of-being, and with the presence required to get ‘er done and get ‘er done well.

Don’t take my word for any of this. I double-dog-dare ya to employ some good ol’ Zen in your day-to-day task list and you might find that things you really, really, really don’t like doing become, well, kinda sorta okay.

Good luck

Being Truly At Peace

You don't have to wait for external circumstances to be perfect for you to be at peace.

True "peace" is an unwavering feeling of stillness that is present even when storms arise, even when the circumstances of life are challenging, and when heavier emotions like sadness, despair, or grief arise. 

Peace is the screen on which the movie is played -- no matter what hardships the characters endure, the screen remains unscathed. No matter what happens in the movie, the screen holds it all with perfect lightness and equanimity. 

Peace is the foreground of objective experience and is a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any moment -- it is always available to you even when it seems miles away. "Peace" is knowing that even when times are tough, everything is a fleeting experience and the storm will eventually subside.

Peace isn't a "doing" and requires no effort on your part to attain. Peace isn't something that's had when external circumstances are perfectly aligned or when more tumultuous emotions aren't present. Peace is who you are -- peace is the fabric of your existence. 

Return to the stillness; peace is within.

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Wildly Alive in the Here and Now

I was once a fierce happiness-chaser. Happiness, health, wealth, and peak experiences of pleasure were sought endlessly. I was living for a fictitious, glorious tomorrow-land when finally that ‘something’ would arrive to leave me in a permanent state of happiness.

I wanted so badly to arrive.

However, when I managed to fulfill an aim, achieve something I’d set out to do, made some decent money, had that peak experience, or came to know a sliver of ecstatic happiness, eventually it all lost its novelty and I’d be back to seeking once more. The underlying feeling behind this seeking and constant quest for fulfillment at some future date was that this present moment simply wasn’t enough.

What I was most after, though I didn’t see it then, was the feeling of actually being alive in this present moment — totally and wildly alive in the here and now, right in the midst of it all. What I was really after was the experience of ecstatic presence, of witnessing this glorious humanness in its fullness and marveling at the divine mystery.

So I see now that right Here I am full and complete. I have breath in my lungs, the ground beneath my feet, and the starry sky above; I look now to this experience as a curious, divine mystery.

Then, though I still accomplish and do, it springs forth from a place of connectedness, harmony, and joy rather than anxiety, stress, and fear. I see the perfection of the present even when it seems imperfect and I walk the path with this knowing.

Know that wherever you stand, it’s all worthy of awe. Heaven is here and now.

 

Still and in Awe,
Karisa

Rooted in Presence I Flow

Take care of the moment and the moment will take care of you – right here, presently, one can know a deep sense of aliveness, vitality, and richness. There isn’t anything to find, here. There isn’t anything to procure, here. There isn’t anything that you’re lacking, here. Presently, you are complete.

To know presence, one needn’t journey far, meditate endlessly, or attain any new knowledge. Presence is what’s here – it’s the ever-present witness of experience. Even when we’re busily distracted or engaged in the thought-stream, that steady, unchanging witness is still there – you’re still aware.

So, then, when we identify more with consciousness – that subtle, ever-present witness – the ever-changing forms of experience are like clouds passing through the sky and can be held lightly and observed as temporary forms coming and going, moving and changing.

Right here, in that presence, we can experience what it’s like to be fully alive and fully human – when we aren’t busily and anxiously seeking for peace, completion, and satisfaction outwardly, we can rest right here where we are. We may find, then, that the feeling of bliss we were seeking outwardly is always within and it’s found here, right in the midst of it all. Then, though we may be feeling deeply, we’ll hold it lightly; sadness, fear, craving, desire, joy, sorrow, pain, peace, excitement, or grief become fully known, deeply felt, gently held, and totally embodied. This is the feeling of being totally and wildly alive – nothing pushed against, just a gentle easing into what is and into what is arising right here and now.

The difference between heaven and hell is one millimeter – you, presently, are totally and completely part of the whole, undivided, and moving with a divine and intelligent flow. Knowing presence has a way of making that stream more obvious, and heaven becomes something we can experience here and now.

Maybe what we’re seeking is that experience of being fully alive – know that it’s right here, available to you at every moment, has never left you, and is simply awaiting remembrance.

-Karisa

Remembering Your Eternal Nature

When we identify with the temporal – that which is subject to change – rather than the eternal, we’re prone to suffering. By its very nature the temporal is in constant flux, always moving, changing, rearranging, and being lost; always coming and going, emerging and dying, appearing and disappearing. This is the nature of life.

For instance, identifying strongly with the body may cause us to suffer when the body becomes diseased or when it ages and subsequently changes shape and size; when we think of that body as “us”, we attach a certain permanence and fixedness to something that isn’t either of those things.

If we identify strongly with the thought system, we’ll suffer when the mind imagines past hurts and creates future tensions and anxieties by projecting that thought-self into a potentially stressful future place; likewise, we’ll suffer when the mental projection of “I” tries to cling stiffly to identities or beliefs, both of which are tenuous and subject to change as time moves on.

So, instead of clinging to the temporal (clinging to that which is naturally subject to change) quite possibly we can join the flow of change, floating easily and gracefully along the river of life’s many twists and turns, while also coming to remember our eternal nature, which neither comes nor goes, moves nor changes. You can say that we are all consciousness manifesting in various forms – the consciousness that types these words now is not separate from the consciousness that grows the leaves on the trees or that moves the deer through the forest; consciousness illuminates form. Human beings, however, have the seemingly uncanny ability to become aware of being conscious – you can say, then, that unlike other sentient beings, we have the ability to become aware of that underlying, never-changing awareness that is peering through our eyes, feeling with our hands, and creating through these human vessels. This is magical.

The realization that we are akin to the movie screen on which the movie is being played is true freedom – different characters, dramas, hardships, joys, and circumstances will be projected onto that movie screen but never actually touch that screen at all. The screen does, you can say, hold all changing forms with equanimity, without judgement or attachment. No matter what hardship is portrayed on that screen, the screen remains unscathed.

One can love the temporal mightily, but an overinvestment can create tensions, divisions, and fears – remembering our eternal nature is the key to watching the play of form with a deep sense of presence and nonattachment and with a new sense of compassion for what appears no matter its content, all the while knowing that what you really are never changes, never has changed, and is always here in one form or another.

This is the remembrance.