Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fast Forward Into Spring!

Spring represents a time of regeneration and renewal, and offers an opportunity to get rid of the old and to usher in the new. Many people use this time to do Spring-cleaning. Most people associate Spring-cleaning with the external, but what of internal Spring-cleaning or fasting? The warmer weather and longer days offer us a time to go to the local market and exchange our heavier winter diet with fresh fruits and salads. The abundant variety of tropical fruits and local berries, along with the wide array of greens that are available all year around, but become cheaper as the weather gets warmer, all offer a chance to go on a fast and to cleanse our bodies on an internal level.

Fasting is an age old practice that is usually associated with monks, nuns and monasteries; the belief being that denying oneself food and drink took ones mind away from all things worldly and brought ones focus closer to things Divine and therefore closer to God. Now, people fast for a variety of reasons. Some fast to lose weight, others as a show of solidarity with a particular social or political movement, others fast as a way to cleanse the body and to give the digestive system a break. It all is a matter of personal choice, and should be approached carefully and with proper knowledge of the potential side affects and health hazards. For example, women who are pregnant or those who have diabetes or hypoglycemia should consult a physician or a holistic health care practitioner to receive guidance on what type of fast would provide all of the nutrients that their particular case requires.

There are a variety of fasts that people engage in. There are fasts that call for no intake of food or water for a prescribed time. This is the most radical form of fasting and can lead to serious health issues and even death if done for too long. There are juice fasts where people only drink the juice of raw fruits and vegetables for a prescribed time. There are also fasts that consist of a completely raw food diet, where the person only eats raw fruits, vegetable as well as raw nuts. Some fasts require that a person cut out meat, dairy or all carbohydrates. It all depends on what the person in trying to achieve. Since I have a very high metabolism and burn calories very quickly, fasting for long periods of time doest not really suit me, as weight loss is rapid and my energy level tends to wane. My favorite type of fast is one that allows me to gradually build up to it. I begin by eliminating certain foods; for example all meat and all cooked foods. Then I work my way to only eating raw fruits and vegetables. It is certainly a test of one's will, especially if you are fasting alone while others in your household continue to eat a regular diet. You will find that you are sometimes subject to smells wafting from the kitchen that include foods that you are refraining from eating. It is all worth it in the end as the body has been given a chance to detoxify itself and the digestive system is given a break. I find that after a fast that my body is more energized, that my system functions more smoothly and that my skin exudes a clarity and vibrancy that was not present before. Also once you fast, even if it from sun up to sun down, for a few days or for weeks at a time, each time it becomes easier.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Reiki As a Way of Life

About three years ago, I was initiated into Reiki. One of my mentors, had encouraged me to look into learning a similar healing modality called Pranic Healing which is another form of energetic healing, but I never pursued it. I felt that I needed to do more self-healing before I could really consider becoming a conduit for healing others. Then I was introduced to Reiki. Reiki is a Japanese form of energetic healing, which means Universal Life ( "Rei"), and Energy ("Ki"). Reiki was discovered by Dr. Mikao Usui in Japan in in the early 1900's. Dr. Usui was the head of a Christian Monastery, and his students approached him about continuing in the tradition of Jesus by healing those who were sick. The story goes that Dr. Usui climbed a mountain where he meditated and prayed for 21 days, and was given the gift of Reiki. Of course there are those who would argue that the practice of laying on of hands in order to impart healing is nothing new; but this particular form as was rediscovered and developed has spread worldwide, and grown in popularity, as people seek to utilize this very gentle, yet powerful form of healing.
For those who are serious, Reiki becomes a way of life.

There are three levels of Reiki, Level I, where the person receives their first attunement by a Reiki Master and learns the basic hand positions and how to beam Reiki to a persons aura, where it believed that illness and disease first manifests. This level is designed to introduce the student to the energy of Reiki, and allows them to practice on themselvesas well as family and friends. After the first attunement one may experience a cleansing or sorts for up to 21 days, mirroring the 21 day time period of Dr. Usui's first encounter with Reiki. Level II involves learning to use powerful symbols that are used in conjunction with the energy of Reiki. These symbols are energetically fused into the Reiki practitioner's hands. The symbols are used to help guide and focus the Reiki energy toward certain areas in need of healing (physical as well as mental and emotional). Then there is the final stage-- Level III/Mastership, which is the teaching level. A Reiki Master is given more symbols that increase the impact of the Reiki energy and is able to teach/initiate others.

Once initiated into Reiki at level I and so on, Reiki can be used for self-healing, sent over long distances to heal those who are far away, can be used to heal traumatic events of the past, and even be sent into the future to energize upcoming events. It is a powerful healing modality that never depletes the practitioner, as the energy of Reiki flows from the practitioner to the person who is receiving the Reiki back to the practitioner in a affirmative energy exchange. Those who practice or receive Reiki, experience an increased sense of inner peace as well as profound healing. Since being initiated into Reiki, I have experienced a groundedness and sense of calm as well as a fierce dedication and love of serving and helping to heal others. Reiki has truly changed my life, as well as my approach to healing myself and others.

For more information on Reiki, visit the following sites:

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Monastic City Life

As the Spring Equinox approaches, I have been preoccupied with trying to maintain a balance between being a deeply spiritual person who values long periods of solitude, and who often seeks that solitude by retreating from the constant, bustling activity of the outer world, with that of the part of me that exists as an extremely social being, who loves to network and be part of a community. It is a continuous act of going within and remaining in tune with my psyche and spirit and allowing my soul to dictate which part of me needs nurturing at any particular given moment. Usually I can gauge by the seasons which part of me is going to take over. For example; During the winter months, like many other people, I find myself spending more time indoors, and will often spend my weekends curled up under a huge duvet with a good book, or watching a movie with friends and family, while cooking a big pot of soup. During the Spring and summer months, I am out and about attending outdoor concerts, festivals, eating at outdoor cafes with friends and spending as much time as possible soaking up the intense heat of the Vitamin D filled rays of the sun, that my melanin rich, African skin so sorrowfully and sorely misses during the cold weather months.
Those of us whose existence is based closer to and more in alignment with the spiritual side of living, know that the urge, or inner prompting that we receive that tells us to retreat from the outer world can pop up at anytime during the year. If you are like me, you know that not following the prompting of your soul can lead to trouble in the form of illness, sudden mishaps, accidents or whatever is needed to get you to pay attention. Surrendering to Spirit is never an easy task, especially because we live in a culture where everything is action oriented and you are constantly being judged, and your existence is continuously being scrutinized using criteria that is solely action based-- In other words, by what you are actively doing and what you produce materially. There is very little value placed on the care and the feeding of one's soul. Those of us whose values run counter to that of our society, know that unless we retreat for a few days, weeks or even months to meditate, fast, pray, detox, or whatever it is you are called to do, is that we will not really be able to serve humanity or live our lives in alignment with our true nature or our life's purpose. I have always valued my moments of solitude, as well as periods of deep reflection. I see it not only as a service to my own spirit, but also as proper preparation for those who I came to serve. What good am I if I am out and about in the world, seeking to help others, if I myself have not taken the time to do the necessary self- healing and self-examination that it takes for me to stay spiritually focused and on point? It is challenging though, because we do not live in a society that seeks to incorporate spiritual life with secular living. So those of us who walk this path have to come up with ways of honoring that part of ourselves that is crucial to our mental, emotional as well as our physiological well-being. Try fasting when you are in charge of events and have to hire caterers as well as choose the food that will be served at the event, and then have to hob-nob with folks who are all eating the delectable food that you yourself picked out. Or stopping to pray during a certain time of day while buses, trucks and sirens create a frenzy around you. It ain’t easy folks. One of my favorite authors, Caroline Myss, calls it being a mystic without a monastery. I call it the challenge of being a spirit living in a modern and very material world.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Martin Prechtel on Grief and Praise

Recently I was gifted with a CD of a lecture given by a Tzutujil Mayan Shaman named Martin Prechtel titled "Grief and Praise". Pechtel, a half-blood Pueblo Indian, trained in the Tzutujil Mayan Shamanic tradition, gives a delightfully engaging and and surprisingly humorous lecture on how the inability that many people have in our culture to grieve (weep) properly for the dead, is deeply linked with the inability to give praise to the living. In our society, grief is something that we usually experience in private, alone and without the support of a community. Prechtel explains that this is the reason for much of the social and cultural maladies that we are currently experiencing. According to Prechtel, "When you have two centuries of people who have not grieved the things that they have lost properly, the grief shows up as ghosts that inhabit their grandchildren." These ghosts, he says inhabit our children, and can manifest as disease in the form of tumors, which the Mayan refer to as solidified tears, or it can show up in the form of behavioral issues and depression. He goes on further to suggest that this collective, unexpressed energy is the long held grief of the Ancestors manifesting itself, and much work has to be done to free up this backed up energy. While listening, a sense of knowing filled my soul as I recalled countless times when I wanted to mourn the loss of something or someone, but held it in for fear that I would be viewed as weak or overly emotional. In our culture, tears make people feel uncomfortable, and we work hard to cover up such emotions and train our children to do so as well. According to the Mayan as well as the Dagara of West Africa, grief and tears cleanse the soul and make way for life to be fully expressed in light of who and what was lost. Grief and grieving allows us to express our great appreciation for the dead, the life that they lived and the contribution that they made. In his opinion, such an outpouring should never be repressed and in fact is healing in of itself. Martin talked about the women in his village that he referred to as "professional weepers." These women, and sometimes men, who are known throughout the village because they are "sensitive to life", come and listen to the story of the departed. These professional weepers begin to tap in to the collective grief of the community and help usher in the process, by recounting the life of the person(s) who has died, thus opening the gateway for the community to grieve. For the first time I felt a sense of validation as a sensitive soul and a self proclaimed empath.I know that if I lived amongst the Maya, I would be (and many other people I know) one of these women!

He goes on to talk about how in the Mayan culture, grief is inextricably linked to praise; in fact according to Prechtel they are different sides of the same coin. In the Mayan worldview, being able to grieve properly which quoting Pechtel means, "Looking bad after you are done" shows the human ability to show appreciation for what was lost. Just as praising someone is the ability to show appreciation for who they are and the gifts that they bring into the world. Often, in our culture people go unappreciated for the gifts that they bring into the world and even for their accomplishments. According to Prechtel, people who carry a huge amount of unexpressed grief are those who were not praised properly for something worthy when they were small. Again, in order to praise someone properly, it takes an entire community to acknowledge the person’s contribution, as the contribution benefits the entire community. How many little ones go without communal praise for their worthy achievements? Achievements that are not based on a spirit of competition, but on ones uniqueness, beauty and strength. To have a community praise someone when you create something wonderful, achieve a goal, even give birth to a wonderful idea, shows that they value your life and want you to continue to live! A large number of or youth learn the opposite about themselves, are shunned for seeking acknowledgement and act out this feeling of invisibility in their homes and in our society. As I witness the violence and destruction that many of our youth are expressing, I liken the extreme behavior as a cry for acknowledgement and praise (the reason why they are giving us so much grief!).

We have much to learn from the wisdom of our Mayan brothers and sisters as well as many other indigenous cultures such as the Dagara of West Africa, on the "Dignity in grief and the nobility in praise".

For more on the work of Martin Prechtel and to learn about obtaining a copy of the CD titled "Grief and Praise":

Also a link to a an interview titled "Saving the Indigenous Soul visit: