Imagine re-imagined

When John Lennon wrote “Imagine” in 1971, it was a call to peace and unity in a tumultuous time. Yet, here we are in 2017 and the song has never felt so relevant. Countless artists have covered Imagine, adding their own tone to the universal message of the song.

With the raw power of their voices, American group Pentatonix have done just that, using themselves as the example for what peace, harmony and acceptance looks and sounds like. Check it out in the video below and have the Kleenex box ready!

Survival of the sisterhood: working from the inside-out

Women’s march on Washington. Photo credit: IB Times UK

After the historic women’s marches that took place across the world on January 21, 2017, the global consciousness was reminded of what women, when united, can achieve. For those who participated, there was a palpable power, a healing quality to the experience. It was a macrocosm of what many of us feel when we come together as women on a day-to-day level.

This is the sisterhood, a timeless force that draws women together to build communities, nurture each other and stand up for injustice when the need arises.

Despite their power, sisterhoods are also vulnerable to infighting, division and attack from external forces. Since the January march, the question has been asked: how to we keep the momentum moving forward? How can the sisterhood continue to be an effective collective voice and not scatter or become distracted?

Divide and conquer

Studies have shown that women not only enjoy the bonds we form with other women, but they are intrinsic to our health and wellbeing. Yet, there are many pitfalls that are prevalent within female relationships that can make women cautious and mistrustful of each other. Competition, betrayal and soldier gathering are all part of bullying behaviours that occur in groups of women. There is no girl who hasn’t felt the sting of backstabbing friends in middle school or popularity contests that invite you into the ‘in’ one day and abandon you to the ‘out’ the next.

Some of these dynamics are a result of living in a patriarchy where, in the past, we would need a man to survive or have status. Women have been socialized to compete for male attention, stepping over our bonds with each other to secure a social position. While modern life, to some extent, offers us independence in our power, many of these attitudes prevail. Though we know ourselves to be free of the restrictive social rules on paper, many of them still run freely within us on a subconscious or semi-conscious level.

Internalized misogyny

In her bestselling book, Lean In, Sheryl Sandburg talks about how women have internalized the glass ceiling, we don’t even need the bullies to do the work for us! We have learned from years of subtle (and not so subtle) cultural messaging to second guess ourselves, hold ourselves back and not act until we consider ourselves to be ‘perfect’ or good enough. We are our worst enemies, keeping ourselves from success while our male counterparts climb the ladder in the workforce, confident and without any doubt that they have the right to do so.

In our work at the Training in Power Academy, starting with Level 1, we work by the philosophy “heal thyself, heal the world.” This means you can’t really start fixing the world, or anyone else for that matter, until you address your own issues. So when it comes to our relationship to each other, women have to ask some difficult questions of where we play out the negative relationship dynamics with ourselves. This could be defined as internal misogyny: where we dislike, mistrust, judge and malign ourselves because we are women. It may be so habitual and subtle, we are not even aware of it.

Love the woman in the mirror

Maybe it began with messages you absorbed from home or school about being a girl. Maybe it’s from years of viewing disempowered versions of women and their relationships in the media. Maybe the first time we are betrayed in a female relationship, you blamed yourself for being open to it in the first place. Where did you close yourself off and learn to be guarded and watchful of not only other women, but also the female portion of yourself?

Without having a conscious awareness of it, many women will walk into a group of women expecting to be judged. So the question would be, where do you judge yourself? When you look in the mirror, what tone of voice are you using? Who do you perceive looking back? Is your relationship with yourself, as a woman, a safe, nurturing place? Or is it something you struggle to uphold without self-betrayal, judgment and pettiness?

Because of the healing nature of this reality we live in, if we don’t address our internal dynamics, we will feel compelled to play them out with others again and again. So if we want the movement of the sisterhood to sustain and thrive, we must start by fostering a healthy connection within. We need to start honoring and loving ourselves as women and seeing our own innate value. We can use our community as a platform for this process, but knowing that we must be accountable for our own wounds that we seek to heal.

So I present this final question: What if the real fight towards the injustice that threatens our world starts by facing our internal negativity? Imagine the collective strength of a group of women who know themselves and love themselves. And then support each other to become even stronger! After centuries of being kept from our power individually and collectively, it’s time for us to become the resilient force that we know we can be. The world needs the sisterhood and the sisterhood needs each other, may we keep up the good fight and continue striving forward!

 

Elinor Svoboda

Level 1 and 2 teacher

 

Solstice: A Universal call to the Light

picture1Solstice is coming.

I get so very excited these days when the great wheel of time swings around to mid-winter’s eve. Let me preface by assuring you that I was once a tremendous humbug about Christmas time. I felt like there was magic happening but somehow the stories I was being told about the reasons for this magic fell short for me. So I started to research the origins of Christmas.

That’s when I discovered this amazing thing. This amazing truth that binds us all in an undercurrent so powerful that we are swept out of our routines by it. All the seasonal traditions – wreaths, candles, bells, bonfire, gift-giving, gathering with your loved ones – all of them are born of ancient rituals once used by our ancestors to call back the sun.

I do say ‘our’ ancestors, and I do not need to know who your ancestors are to say that. Look it up. I don’t care if you are Lebanese or Latvian, Irish or Icelandic, Japanese or Javanese…look into your myths for the story of the departure of the sun, for the waning of the light… and you will find it. Look into the history of your peoples and you will find that they did this.  Jewish folks may be thinking that Hannukah is a celebration of a historical event so does not fall into this category, but many scholars believe that this holiday of light replaced an older Solstice celebration in the Jewish calendar.

Sunwatchers or stargazers of ancient times saw the sun stand still. That’s what Solstice means: “Sun stands still”. Y’see, as the year goes along the sun can be seen rising and setting in a southerly trajectory along the horizon.  Ancient astrologers and sunwatchers marked that passage so they could predict when to plant and when to harvest. What they saw, all of them, in every country, was that during the 6 days around winter solstice, the sun stops travelling along the horizon. It stops in one place, rising and setting there for nearly a week. And every one of those days, the sun rises lower in the sky, making the daytime shorter.

Our ancestors worried that the sun was losing some celestial battle for its life, or that it had lost interest in caring for the people of the world. Every culture on the planet created a plan to call that sun back. Among many Aboriginal peoples,  the Raven was called upon to steal the sun back from the evil wizard Tupilak once again. Goddess Beiwe was summoned by the Saami to bring back the sun and the sanity and hope of light. Mesopotamians took to the streets to act out the eternal battle between their god of fertility and the dragon of the underworld. In Japan, Ameterasu had to be coaxed from the cave of her self-imposed exile. The Bushmen of Africa tossed their Sunman into the sky so that all could share his light. The Kachinas were called back from the sacred mountains to bring the magic of all life to the Hopi.  The Oak King rose to kill his brother, the Holly King, and take back the throne in their eternal cycle of rising and falling to each other at the solstices. The Incans tethered the sun to specific ceremonial stations to keep it from wandering off.

Think about it. Before there was even any contact between these ancient cultures, each one of them performed some kind of magic to call back the support of the sun. From isolated pockets of civilization, this magic of hope and renewal stretched up from all corners of the earth, in unknowing synchronicity, to pull the sun back from the brink.  This simple magic of Solstice united every human on the planet, at a time when some did not even know there were other people. I can get pretty verklempt about it when I really imagine that unified intention.

I often think, if only everyone knew this.

We really have an opportunity to take down some cultural walls here and join together knowingly in this old tradition.

That’s my Solstice wish for all… a sense of unity and belonging to something greater than your human self.

As the Romans used to say,

“Sol Invictus”

(Hail the Return of the Invincible Sun)

Shaughna Born is an author, storyteller, researcher and spiritual teacher. She is a longtime member of the Training in Power Academy Faculty where she specializes in the Archetype and Alchemist classes. If you live in the Vancouver area, you can join Shaughna at the Secret Lantern Society’s festival as Solstice Historian at Granville Island to hear “Solstice stories- a sample of myths from all around the world”. Take a look at Shaughna’s website The Solstice Lady to see how our ancestors marked this time and read some of those myths for yourself.
Shaughna will be doing an online presentation of her talk “Return of the Light: One Woman’s Journey from Christmas back to Solstice” on Monday Dec 19th at 7 pm PST. 10$ per person. Email her at Shaughnabis@gmail.com for more info and to register.

Finding the Yin-Yang balance in relationships

Be it romantic, friendship, family or business, relationships are a cornerstone of the human experience. We are all made up of male and female energies, described in the East as Yin and Yang. We reached out to Faye Fitzgerald, founder of the Training in Power™ Academy to chat about how we can better understand Yin and Yang to bring more health into our relationships.

yin-yang

The Eastern concept of Yin and Yang is a well-known method of explaining the two opposing energies in nature and in ourselves. It is often used to describe the unifying or polarizing forces of female and male energy. What is your perspective of these two energies?

Yin is of the non-matter position or spirit frequency and the Yang is the matter position. This includes the bio-matter, which is your own physicality. So you are always both.

We have the symbol of Yin and Yang: Yin is dark because it encompasses the unseen portion of things. Consider the Buddha who described our thoughts as being ‘subtle matter’. This unseen portion is the area of will, which forces our existence to produce or manifest.

This concept of Yin and Yang can easily be applied when dealing with relationships. This includes a male-female dynamic as well as same-sex relationships. The ultimate goal is to find a energy balance between the two individuals.

Sometimes when you have a partner who is only on the Yang, then you’ll have them coupled with someone who is only on the Yin. A classic picture might be a huge, loud guy and she will be small, quiet female. He just finds her lovely and everything she wants to do is just fine by him because she’s Yin and he’ll never understand her because he’s so Yang.

You have counselled many couples and have developed 2 ground breaking relationship courses. What has been some of the key observations you made with how Yin and Yang plays out in relationships?

Every person is a mixture of both energies, but when you have two predominantly Yang people together it can be dramatic and often stressful. That’s because they are butting heads and they act everything out on the external level. For example, a Yang man would be wise to not compete with a Yang woman, but rather give her room to pursue her ambition. She in turn would benefit from not being overbearing or controlling with him. The best position for the Yang dominant relationship is if they join forces and support each other in their respective intensity.

On the other extreme, you can get two Yins together too. That is interesting, because they are both full of ideas, but they keep waiting for the other to take the action. If they don’t take action they will lose respect for each other and it can build resentment between them. If they decide to work together on a creative project and go into action-mode, they are often very sensitive in their approach and can be very successful.

What are some classic archetypes that you feel describe a healthy Yin and Yang placement?

Apollo and Artemis, by Gavin Hamilton (c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Apollo and Artemis, by Gavin Hamilton (c) Glasgow Museums; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

I think Apollo is a wonderful Yang archetype. He shines the sun and brings fertility and love. He is the beauty of the creative male who understands himself and doesn’t need to berate or belittle anyone to be strong. He is the Yang who comprehends his aggression is for protection, not to harm the beings he supposedly loves.

I would choose Diana, the Goddess of the moon for a healthy archetypical Yin. She is known as Artemis in Greek mythology. She is the huntress and a warrior. She is independent and connected to the mysteries of the universe. Her internal motivation creates a sense of trust and self-sufficiency, so she is not at risk of submitting or buckling to anyone else.

How would you then describe a healthy relationship dynamic?

I would describe it as mannerly, polite and formal. This means being mutually supportive and willing to divide areas of strength and cover areas of weakness. The 100% required for a relationship is required from each party. If you’re only willing to give 60% that leaves 140% on the shoulders of the other partner and there will be a gap. When there is a gap, it tends to widen as time goes on. You can’t owe, otherwise you’ll have resentment and cheating, so it’s best if both parties find a way to give equally to the relationship.

How do you counsel people to get in touch with their Yin and Yang in a healthy way?

An imbalance of Yin and Yang will often show up as the need to control. If people are over controlling on the external, chances are they feel out of control on the internal. The Yang controller will focus on a need for dominance and their behaviour will be visibly dominating.

In contrast, the Yin controller is the one who will “tsk tsk” under the breath. They will give you approval only when they get what they want and there is a passive aggressive dynamic rather than the aggressive of the Yang.

On either side of the spectrum, they’ve got to move out of their fear and find the courage to go inwards. That is a lot of what we teach in our training – the journey inward – where all the answers really are for your life. Of course, if you are busy having all the answers for everybody else’s life, you might be missing out on a couple of things on your own. You’ve got to be conscious, which is what we try to offer our students, a clear path to that conscious living.

Faye Fitzgerald is the founder of the Training in Power Academy, a spiritual education system that offers over 20 courses in meditation, spiritual healing and self-empowerment. She has been teaching and counselling people to their spiritual wellness for over thirty years. Find out more at www.fayefitzgerald.com

 

 

 

 

 

A new world vision: School replaces detention with meditation

A Baltimore elementary school has been getting a lot of praise and web-traction lately for their use of meditation instead of detention. For the past year, children are sent to the “mindful moment room”, when they have misbehaved or need to wind down. Here they are coached to breathe and reflect on their feelings and actions. The school has also integrated Yoga into their holistic program and as a result of their new approach, there have been no suspensions in over a year.

 

This news led me to reflect, how would have things been different for me if I had been given this knowledge as a child? What if punishment was replaced with an opportunity for self empowerment?

While I was generally a well-behaved student, I was a very sensitive and high strung child. I dreaded going to school most days. I had a hard time sitting still in class. Eventually, my mother sent me to school with a “doodle book” every day to keep my hands busy, where I would scribble and draw while the teacher spoke. This habit followed me all the way until university, until I learned to meditate.

As I learned to be comfortable in my body, present in the moment and focus from a greater part of my mind, the need for constant distraction disappeared. That’s not to say I stopped drawing, this was a constructive outlet that eventually enriched my creative life, but I stopped needing it as a coping mechanism.

In many ways, I believe children are naturally built for meditation. Although most kids are busy and sometimes frenetic, if you watch them when they becoming engaged play and imagination, the same kind of focus is engaged as we use in meditation. Clinical psychologist Dr Lee Pulos has done extensive research on brainwave patterns and has proven that young children live primarily in the Theta and Alpha brainwave patterns, until they are adults when they move more into the logic-based Beta pattern. These Theta and Alpha patterns are the same states that artists, well-practiced yogis and practitioners of meditation achieve in their practice.

If we can catch children early on and give them the scientifically proven benefits of meditation, then imagine what kind of foundation of emotional health, inner wisdom and personal strength they could develop! If we did this as a society, what kind of world might we build? Something to meditate about, no doubt.

Read the full article about the Robert W. Coleman Elementary school here.

Creativity Meets Vulnerability: Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert and Brené Brown

image copyright: Trisha Harrison
image copyright: Trisha Harrison

I was taking a solo road trip to visit a friend and decided to accompany my journey with a handful of new podcasts. First on my roster was “Magic Lessons”, a podcast by Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, which accompanies her new book on creativity, Big Magic. In the podcast, Gilbert speaks with a variety of artists, writers and progressive thinkers on the concept and practice of creativity. I waited until I was rolling on the highway and launched into episode 12, her conversation with the deeply insightful writer and speaker Brené Brown.

Like many, I was introduced to Brown through her TED talk on the power of vulnerability. A researcher who has extensively profiled the role of vulnerability, shame, courage and worthiness in the human psyche, she had some profound comments to share on the topic of creativity. Needless to say, this half hour of my highway stretch became a pocket of insight and inspiration that has continued to ruminate with me since.

Before you dismiss the topic of creativity as not being relevant to you, I beckon you with Brown’s introductory statement on the topic:

“The only unique contribution that we will make in this world will be born of creativity.”

Boom. Right out of the gates. She then follows this up with something she has discovered for herself in the last few years through her research, “there is no such thing as ‘non-creative people’, there are only those who use it and those who do not.” She describes unused creativity as the being opposite of benign, meaning, it remains active. What that means is if it’s not used it builds up and festers into negative emotions like resentment, grief and ultimately, pain and depression.

As someone who has pursued a creative path most of my adult life, these statements gave me the shivers. I could feel them penetrating the places where I still devalue my creative ideas, where I suppress my creative state out of a fear of it disrupting my life and making me look silly or stupid. And yet, I know how painful it is if I don’t listen to my inspiration or ignore my inner innovator. It’s thanks to all of the spiritual development that I’ve done that I’ve come to know that my creative voice is the voice of my spirit. This is why her first statement about our contribution being directly related to creativity rings so true to me. When we can listen to learn to hear or know that voice, then follow its call, it will inevitably lead us to something connected to our uniqueness, to our mission here as spiritual beings.

It’s important to specify that being a creator isn’t only for those who paint or dance or write poems. Elizabeth Gilbert’s whole thesis in Big Magic explores the idea of ‘creative living’. This means living from a state of inspiration, play and creation. This can be in a business, your home, on a canvas or a garden, whatever resonates with you.

Check this podcast out – Season 1, episode 12 – and let us know what you think in the comments below. You can grab the other episodes here. I hope this podcast brings some creative fortitude to your day as it did to my road trip and the days to follow!

Resistance: Know your Enemy!

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Waboom! The epiphany descends, a glorious new creative idea. In a Technicolor flash I see the spectrum of my next great screenplay, sure to be success, the best I’ve ever done. I scribble down the first few lines and resume my day, satisfied I’m still on track towards my dream of becoming a filmmaker of fame and fortune. Then, as usual, life gets busy. A few days pass, I keep telling myself I’ll wait for the right moment to sit down with the project, to devote some real time to developing it. A week passes and then another, I start to doubt that the idea is even worth it. A month later, I find the scribbled page of my notebook with the original flash. Damn, this is an awesome idea. I’d been had, and it wasn’t the first or the last time…

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance”.

Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art

You’re too tired, too busy, too distracted. The idea is so good that you need to just do one more thing before you really really start. It’s too noisy outside, you’re suddenly hungry, the fridge really needs to be cleaned and oh wait, your pants are too tight.

Sound familiar? These are all symptoms of resistance, and you are wise to get to know your foe before it totally derails you from ever knowing the feeling of realizing your potential.

Resistance is an unconscious mechanism that will do anything to stop us from achieving our evolution, be it spiritual, creative or making our mark on the world. Stephen Pressfield’s creative handbook, “The War of Art” goes into great depth of exploring where and how this nemesis plays out. He describes creativity as a war, and as his 5th century predecessor, military strategist Sun Tzu states in “the Art of War”, it is always wise to both know your enemy and yourself before going into battle.

The Many Faces of Resistance

Remember, Resistance is unconscious. Would we stop ourselves from achieving our true potential? Nevertheless it is a worthy opponent and is often fueled by our underlying fears. The antidote? Do it anyway! Call the job lead, go to the event, take the singing lessons. No one is immune to resistance; those who succeed in achieving their goals have often built the strength to forge ahead, to know the many faces of their enemy.

Procrastination, self­doubt, fatigue, drama (getting pulled into yours or others) are all familiar tropes of resistance. It can get tricky sometimes, like when resistance often tells you that it would be easier NOT to do the task at hand, which is probably true. But is life most satisfying when it is easy? Do we grow and thrive when everything is a mouse click away?

And how about when reality doesn’t behave? You finally psych yourself up to go to the gym and a massive rainstorm comes down as you go to catch the bus. Or your computer crashes when you sit down to write the first draft of your book. Is this the universe giving you a sign that it’s not meant to be, or is it resistance? The answer: Get wet and start your first draft on paper. i.e. Do it anyway and see how good you feel on the other side!!

Get Smart

We all have our weak areas that the opponent will seek out. Get to know how resistance shows up for you and what it feels like when you are in it. I know that resistance comes in as fatigue and even physical pain for me. My strategy: take little bites everyday. I won’t let resistance take a day of writing from me, even if it’s just 20 minutes at a time. And if I miss one, I am more ruthless to make up the time the next day. Know your blind spots and make a plan. I had a friend who was always late for her meditation classes. Her approach? Leave an hour earlier.

Ultimately consider Pressfield’s suggestion to “use it as a compass.” When resistance shows up, it means you’re onto something really good. If it persists, you are really going strong! As you continue to build up your ability to face it and conquer its temptation, the more you will be able to feel your Genius and follow her guidance.

For more tips on living spiritually strong, check my post The 5 keys of the Spiritual Warrior.

Elinor Svoboda

~Level 1 and 2 teacher

 

 

Sensitivity? In this harsh world? Why?

Students who are drawn to spiritual study often find themselves to be coined “too sensitive”, which can feel like both a blessing and a curse. We reached out to Faye Fitzgerald, founder of the Training in Power Academy, to gather her unique perspective on how to manage our sensitivity while opening up to our greater gifts.

Were you a sensitive child? What was that like for you?

I could see energy flows and I knew things, though I couldn’t always explain why or how. And then people began to know I knew things, like my 4 older brothers would be fixing something and if they couldn’t figure out what was wrong they’d say, “Go get Faye”. And I would come out and say, “It’s that” and point at something. I didn’t know the thing-a-ma-gig’s name, but it was a thing-a-ma-gig! (laughs) I think I’m still a bit like that.

It’s very difficult for those of us who work in what would be considered Law or Power to live without Truth, even as children. You can’t walk around lying to people so you just learn to be quiet and I was extremely quiet. I had a stepfather who made sure we had no opinion, so I didn’t talk for years. I cultivated my own inner world and grew up in a very tough environment. So while I was very sensitive, on the flip side, I would say I was numbed, dumbed down and broken in so many ways, including a broken skull. I lost certain abilities to feel other people’s feelings because it was so violent and dangerous. The irony of it is as a psychic, I don’t think you can avoid knowing things, but do I have to feel everybody’s feelings to know that? I don’t think I could.

So I don’t think one can afford to live a life of being sensitive to the point of breaking yourself. Because I believe that has already been done to us for the most part, or else the world would be more sensitive. I think you have to get to the point where you recognize that sensitivity is a tool and a powerful force of intuitive knowingness.

What I’m hearing is that you’re talking about a balance of not collapsing into the sensitivity, but being able to navigate it.

That’s right, finding a balance rather than being overcome with emotions and feelings to the point where you are paralyzed and you can’t function. I see this with people who deal with anxiety, depression or phobias where they’re really just stopped because the emotion is so magnified. People become so angry because they really think they should be able to control everything from their intellect. What I try to teach them is that there is a correct message in all of these feelings; they just need to learn how to interpret the information.

How did you find that balance for yourself? Coming from the extremes of your upbringing?

I went to God. We refer to that force as Source and I’m starting to call it the ‘Source Dimension’ now because I understand the vastness of this area of sensitivity. I looked at the tough love of this area and the level of sensitivity to feel all and know all, and I learned. I learned to embrace the power of seeing all and knowing all and I also learned how to manage that sensitivity.

I don’t know that humanity really understands how vile humans can be to each other, and it’s always a big shock when that awareness comes home. When you see the concentration camps of World War II or the killing fields of Cambodia, it’s a sickness that pervades our species that I believe we are attempting to cure. I sometimes refer to this earth as the ‘hospital plane’.

What have you built into the foundational course work you teach in order to help people come to their sensitivities in a healthy way?

We are in the business of souls. We work with people at a soul level, that they will come on board and start to get well. By that I mean that they start to perceive the areas where they really are dysfunctional. This occurs when people start to realize who they really are and that they are not the patterning or trauma that has been imposed on them.

From here they start to recognize they have a nobility of nature and that puts them in a position to be able to heal themselves. With that, they come into a Lawful position of Self First. Some think this sounds selfish, but what we mean is that one must tend to their own self before helping another, so you are not a leaky bucket anymore.

Once you are filling yourself with light and power, you are going to learn how to wield this power and heal with it. So as you go along you heal more and you have more power and light, which gives you more power to heal. This creates a great strength and wellness in an individual who is willing to do this work.

How can we be more sensitive to each other as on this ‘hospital plane’?

There can be a double standard sometimes, we look at our artists and we expect them to be sensitive and then we look at someone like a truck driver with the expectation that they’re not. And they get mad, because they want to be treated with sensitivity and respect and yet they have to put on this obnoxious show that they’re not sensitive. It’s a delicate ride through humanity.

I’m very loving with people, but I tend to be very formal. I’m very respectful and honoring of people and I’ve never gone wrong with it. This means there is no contemptuousness or people taking advantage of each other and respecting each other’s differences. Formality, sincerity, respect and honoring are all signs of you honoring and respecting yourself, which is important. Give it to yourself and then you can give it to another. That is the key to guarding the sensitivity of others.

Faye Fitzgerald is the founder of the Training in Power Academy, a spiritual education system that offers over 20 courses in meditation, spiritual healing and self-empowerment. She has been teaching and counselling people to their spiritual wellness for over thirty years. Find out more at www.fayefitzgerald.com

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