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

 

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

Faye Fitzgerald Header 1

Finding your Silence: A natural balance

Past Life Work and Healing

In Silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves – Rumi

“Inner silence” is a well-used catch phrase relating to the core of most spiritual practices. The idea has become so commoditized that we don’t blink if we see them on a cream cheese commercial and yet, what does it mean? How do we achieve it? For many of us, it is a tall order to stop life so we can find a serene mountain to hike, or shut off the world we don’t hear a sound. And even if we manage to be in a place without external distractions are we able “be” quiet?

As a meditation teacher, I’ve discovered it’s a lot more complex then people realize, a dance within our nature to find what we define as silence. People are often discouraged in early attempts to meditate because they can’t “turn off their thoughts”. In the Western world, we are cultured to value an active mind, based on stimulus. It can be very difficult for us to achieve the form of meditation that seeks to empty the mind. This doesn’t mean you can’t meditate. This means an active style of meditation is better suited for you, a discipline that fills the mind with purposeful activity.

So if we stop fighting the way our brain works, where do we go from there? First, start by acknowledging the intrinsic value of your inner world; it’s what makes you unique, where the treasure box of you is hidden. From there, foster time in your life to be still enough to become aware of what is actually going on inside. This in itself can be a tall order to fill, especially on a consistent basis. Part of the secret is to treat this aspect of yourself like a friend you want to be closer to, all the while knowing it’s you. This silence is yours, an inherent and beautiful part of your complex human nature.

As someone who has had a devoted meditation practice for over 15 years, I can easily say I am not a dew-drop serene picture of peace at all times. I live in a dynamic state, that is both driven and contemplative, riddled with the challenges of everyday life. What I’ve learned is that I can’t shut the busy, ambitious aspect of my nature in order to achieve calm. Rather I need to respect a balance between these two energies and work to make space for both of them: Active and Receptive, or as described in eastern medicine, Yin and Yang.

Think about how calm your body feels after a rigorous workout or how still your emotions feel after a good laugh or cry. It is our ability to move between action and reflection that allows us to live consciously, through building the inner awareness to enjoy the balance.

We need to move in order to be quiet. And we need quiet in order to move with a purpose.

One thing I’ve learned about inner silence is that you have to be present in order to notice it. You have to be present in order to call it forward. So connect with yourself and consider what you need to find your peace? Will movement or creativity bring you there? Perhaps a conscious walk in the park or listening to some music. Find your balance and then reach within to connect with yourself, take some time and foster an awareness of what this peace feels like to you, so it is yours and not someone else’s idea of what it should be. In a focused state, try this meditation:

Take some deep breaths and settle into you body. Connect to what you know as the divine. With this connection, acknowledge the truth that calm is part of your inherent nature, no matter how buried. Remember moments in your life where you felt the most quiet. Feel it, see it, smell and hear it. What stands out the most? Bring those feelings into the moment and then build on them. Create a new place inside you where you can find that peace. Give it an image, sound or color-tone you can remember and find again. Connect with the divine and know this feeling is your innate right.

The more you make time for this time with the silence of you, the less you will have to chase it. Be it at a coffee shop, in a meditation or while taking your daily run, your precious friend will come upon you and integrate more into your life. Remember it’s all about balance!

Elinor Svoboda

~ Level 1 and Level 2 Teacher

Anxiety and Depression: What is Your Spirit Saying to You?

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 counseled and worked with hundreds of clients over the years and recognizes the common struggles that many have with anxiety and depression. Recently she launched a day-long workshop regarding the topic in Toronto. We sat down with her to find out more about her unique perspective on anxiety and depression.

Anxiety and depression is something that most people, on a spectrum, deal with in their day-to-day lives. As a spiritual healer and teacher, what is your perspective on these two dynamics?

I think anxiety and depression are a call from the spirit, a call to be more and live more than just our human life. We may be successful in our human lives, but spirit must take precedent. It’s a tough go when we are not trained to even look to the spirit, other than maybe in church or something, and that’s just for when we are there. Sometimes, our sense of self is very compartmentalized. What starts happening is this flood of anxiety or depression can sweep through all those compartments, until those false divisions melt away and people start taking stock of what is actually going on inside themselves.

So when you say it comes from spirit, is that to say that anxiety and depression is caused by spirit? Or is it a symptom of a disharmony within?

It is treated as a symptom of disharmony, when we are not functioning optimally. We are then medicated and it’s called an illness and there is still no recognition of some of the deeper causes, which can be from dynamics of childhood that are of a traumatic nature.

When we are traumatized as children we are thrust too soon into our spirit, into that other side. It can come from being harmed and betrayed. Somehow there was a breaking of a greater divine Law toward the child. The child then becomes prone to the touches of the other side, which can cause both depression and anxiety as they go hand-in-hand.

While you say depression and anxiety go hand in hand, how would you describe either side of the dynamic?

The depressive side of things is the recognition that the only way to get over to the other side is through death, so it involves an element of death energy. The death energy then creates anxiety. If there is depression going on, then anxiety immediately follows. Most of us can’t go into a hospital without a little bit of a twinge of anxiety, so it is a natural response.

If anxiety is the beginning and there is no sign of depression, then there is a touch from the other side that is a demand that you pay attention to your higher calling. You are somehow being called into service, toward your noble nature.

For those people who have anxiety come upon them during the day and they don’t know why, or those who wake up in a depression and struggle all day to get out of it, how would you advise them to find their way through it?

When those touches come, when anxiety comes, it’s when we know we are going to take a false step or we know we are going down a road we are going to regret. We know that we are not seeing the full scope, the ‘third choice’ if you will. Most people live in an either-or world. It’s pretty much in a demand-ultimatum and even if you don’t make a decision, the decision is often made for you.

Whether it’s conscious or not, people can put anxiety onto issues of their survival, like food, shelter or genuine human need, but that level of strife really isn’t true for most people. So we have to start looking at – what is the call? What is this anxiety? Rather than running from it, embrace it and really overcome it by facing it and becoming conscious.

You say, “OK I have anxiety, I’ve been triggered, is there something that is stimulating this extreme response?” If so, the more you are conscious of the initial trauma, the more you will heal. The truth shall set you free.

Your suggestion is ultimately, that anxiety and depression can be used as a tool.

It’s part of the grand design of who we are. You’re not really going to be rid of that mechanism, so it’s better that you understand that it’s sort of like a teeter-totter. The more you can come toward the centre of a teeter-totter, the more you are in balance. Lots of us used to do this as kids on the playground. We’d stand on either side of that balance point and run that empty teeter-totter up and down.

When we are way out on the extremes of anxiety and the extremes of depression, it feels much like that teeter-totter: when the depression is up then the anxiety is lowered, and then the anxiety kicks in because there is a death energy then the depression gets lowered. And it goes up and down and down and up, and so on. Until there is a non-understanding and you just feel overwhelmed, victimized, or caught.

The more you can really face these things, you’ll drive them inward toward that balance point, the fulcrum point of the teeter-totter. So you’ll stand there and you might feel a twinge towards depression or anxiety, but you’ve already got the mechanisms underfoot to balance you, so to speak.

Faye biz shot

Find out more about Faye and her work at www.fayefitzgerald.com.

An anxiety and depression workshop will be offered in Summer 2016 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Find out more at www.traininginpower.com.

 

 

Why is “Self First” so hard?

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One of the key concepts that we cover in our foundational course Level 1: The Prophet, is the Divine Law of Self First. Self-First refers to the fundamental importance of taking care of your self, before tending to others or all the other demands that come from the external world.

Simple, right? They even tell you to do it when riding on an airplane, if the oxygen mask drops down, you put yours on first and then help someone in need. I often use this example when I’m teaching and when I ask the students why, there is always a long pause.

And then…

“Because you can’t help anyone else if you can’t breathe?”

YES! Sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? Yet why does it feel so complicated when it comes time for us to apply Self First in our lives? Why do we often leave our own needs until last? Why do we wait until we are over-tired, over-extended or even physically sick to finally address what we need?

“Self First is selfish”

There is a big difference between Self First and being selfish aka narcissism. If you’re not sure, let’s look at the psychological definition:

nar·cis·sism

noun

Extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

Not taking a business call on your break so you can have lunch, arranging childcare so you can get a massage or taking a moment to decompress your own stress before hearing about your partner’s crazy day….is this really selfish? A desire for admiration? Yet, this message is engrained in us from an early age.

Of course, considering others is an important lesson that we must learn as children, when we think everything in the world revolves around us. And you may have been well praised when putting others first. But it is so easy for that healthy consideration to move into leaving our own needs until last, especially if you are someone who derives a lot of joy and satisfaction from helping others. It’s instant gratification when you give or fix something on the external, and yet the gesture will become empty if you don’t pause to recharge your battery.

So in truth, it is irresponsible NOT to tend to yourself first. If you empty your internal wellspring of love, joy and healing on another and don’t take the time to fill it up, then you’ll either burn out, or become needy to get it from others and THAT can seem, well…selfish. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

“I don’t have enough time”

No question, modern life is busy. It is all to easy to fall victim to what seems out of our control and get sucked into a life of schedules, to-do lists and unanswered emails. Many people don’t find a way out until they burnout, get sick or have a dramatic life event that makes them realize they need to start taking care of themselves. Then Self First becomes a monumental task that can take days, weeks and even years of focused repair work. If you leave it that long, then yes, Self First does take a lot of time.

But consider this: What if it were to be one minute of every hour, or even 10 minutes a day to tend to our own needs? Small bites, little moments that build into a sustainable routine which can connects us to our internal voice, who guides us to what needs attention before it becomes an issue.

In our work at TIPA, meditation is where we take the time daily to fill our buckets and replenish ourselves. We use that internal communion with the divine principles of love to deepen our relationship with Self. What might work for you?

Consider taking those moments to address yourself and watch what happens, see how life becomes less stressful and more focused. Notice how much more effecting and helpful you are to others when you put your mask on first. Oxygen matters! And so you do you!

 

~Elinor Svoboda

Level 1 and Level 2 teacher