Posted on May 22, 2017
I have never been good at meditation. I have tried it on a few occasions, but I have struggled to steady my mind for more than a moment or two. As soon as I calm my brain it starts making lists of all the things I have to do later, regretting that thing I said to someone 8 years ago, or contemplating what dark matter is actually made of. All things that of course must be resolved immediately.
The only time I’ve actually enjoyed meditation was when I spent 10 minutes overlooking the canyons of Malibu after climbing to the top of a waterfall last week. The serenity of the sound of the falling water against the beautiful backdrop made it easy to let go of everything.
Although I have struggled with meditation in the past, this project is as much about pushing myself to do things that make me uncomfortable as it is about doing things that are exciting.
I was intrigued when I first saw a post advertising sound immersion mediation. The session was held at The Hot Room Yoga and Wellness Studio and was hosted by Massood Taj and Robin Barnes. The description of the event read:
“As the sounds of singing bowls, frame drums, native flutes, gongs, vocal overtoning and other sacred instruments wash over you. It invites you to move into a deep meditative state. Cellular vibrations can unlock unhealthy, stuck emotional tension held within our cellular memory, boost your immune system & cultivate a heightened awareness of your inner world and intuition.”
Here is an example of what it sounded like:
Massood and Robin had a multitude of instruments laid out on blankets surrounded by salt lamps and rope lights, which provided great mood lighting in the dark. They used water drums (a bowl is placed upside down in a larger water-filled bowl and then stuck for a percussive sound), frame drums, Tibetan signing bowls, crystal singing bowls, a handpan, energy chimes, a wooden bamboo flute thingy (that was made with bamboo that grows naturally in Tennessee), a Quena (Peruvian wood flute), an african talking drum, a kalimba, and an array of other fascinating instruments. A nice summer storm added to the soundscape.
The best way to describe it was that it felt like I was being treated to a live version of the music they play while you get a massage. It was extremely relaxing.
I was just as unsuccessful at clearing my mind as my previous meditation attempts, but I did have a few moments of zen when I pictured my view from my Dominican rainforest tree house. The music was beautiful and I loved the experience. If I ever hit the Powerball I plan to hire Massood and Robin to provide the soundtrack to my life.
Posted on November 14, 2016
Well, this has been a hell of a week, hasn’t it? Regardless of your political beliefs, or expected or desired outcome, this election has been tumultuous. Like most of America, I needed a break. In order to inject some joy into my life I reached out to laughter yoga.
Laughter yoga surprisingly has no yoga in it. Instead, laughter yoga is a class that promotes prolonged voluntary laughter. Laughter yoga was developed by the Indian physician Madan Kataria and is based on the belief that voluntary laughter provides the same physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter. Some studies have indicated that laughter yoga can reduce pain, stress, and blood sugar, and can help with short-term memory. I can’t speak to the validity of these studies, but I can say that it lifted my spirits.
Our class was filled with silly laughter. It was like improv combined with children’s playtime. We started with pretending to be squirrels, running around eating imaginary acorns and giggling wildly. I immediately realized I had no idea what I signed up for. The absurdity continued from there. We were tittering trees, cackling mad scientists, chuckling penguins, and snickering sandpipers running into the ocean waves. We also tossed around an imaginary ball, that would send the person who caught it into a fit of laughter. The goofiness of the class meant that I did not need to force my laughter. It was real and infectious laughter. Each activity is concluded with childlike clapping of your hands and shouting “Very good, very good, yay!”
When I first told friends I planned to go to the class, many said they were not up to it after a very stressful week. However, once I described how fun and uplifting it was (and how they didn’t actually have to do any yoga) many expressed a desire to try it out in the future.
I immersed myself in the class and therefore did not take any photos or videos of my experience. However, if you are interested, here is a sample of what the class was like:
Posted on February 8, 2016
It has been a while since I have had time to do something new, let alone blog about it. My lawyering gig keeps me busy 7 days a week, but this weekend I was able to sneak away for a few hours to cross something off of my To Do List.
I’ve wanted to visit a psychic for a while, just to see what it would be like. About a year ago I came across Krista Kaine‘s name when I was researching psychics in the area. She came with rave reviews so I decided to make an appointment. However, due to several factors, I could never connect with her when she had appointments available. This weekend I was aching to do something new and remembered Krista happened to be visiting Nashville for a few days. She was completely booked, but about an hour after I reached out to her and asked to be put on the wait list she had a cancellation for the next day.
I mentioned my pending visit to a friend, and much to my surprise she said that she visited Krista a few months ago to resolve some issues with her deceased mother. My friend had a very emotional experience and said Krista mentioned a few very detailed comments (such as a specific Christmas decoration my friend wanted to keep) that really blew her away.
I haven’t mentioned it on the blog before, but I lost my mother last year, my dad the year before, and a sister a year or so before that. I also lost a brother when I was about 11. I entered the session unconvinced, yet open to possibilities. I really had no expectations at the outset; I was just hoping for a new and unique experience.
The session had two parts, the first where Krista talked to “Spirit” and supposedly gave me messages from my parents, and the second where she talked about my path in life. I won’t get into our hour-long conversation in too much detail because it was very personal. The oddest moment was when she asked me if either my dad or I had a coin collection or whether there was something specific involving large coins or quarters. Krista said my dad was sending a message that I should pick up and hold onto coins I find. During the session I said that it didn’t really ring any bells, but it was poignant for two reasons. One, my dad always spotted coins on the ground for me to pick up when I was little, it was a bit of a game for us. I think he would even lay coins around for me to find. Two, because I have bag tucked away filled with $50 worth of bicentennial quarters, half-dollars, and silver dollars that I have had since I was a teen. My dad would always bring me bicentennial quarters to add to my collection. His message to me, through Krista, was to hold on to the coins.
There was also some funny moments, like Krista saying that my dad said that no guy I’ve ever dated was good enough for me, which sounds pretty typical for him (or any father for that matter). She also told me that my parents’ dog was with them. She commented that she didn’t know where cats go, but dogs seem to always come through, which seemed appropriate since we already know all dogs go to heaven.
I am happy I had the session. I still don’t know if I am a beleiver, but, if nothing else, it was nice to have someone to talk to about my parents and my life. Who doesn’t like to talk about themselves for an hour? After our talk, Krista gave me a copy of her book Standing Between the Worlds, which I am looking forward to reading and learning more about what she does. I definitely got what I bargained for in a new experience and have broadened my horizons . . . which is exactly what this journey is all about.
Posted on July 15, 2014
According to Angela and Justin, the wonderful owners of Golden Wings: “The sweat lodge is a Native American purification ceremony. The Spirit can pick up some ‘rust’ along the way with the experiences of physical life. This rust is all the beliefs we carry that keep us in fear and judgments. The sweat lodge (Inipi) is symbolic of the womb. By returning to the womb, we leave each lodge with the opportunity to begin life anew. In this sacred experience, we are purified and cleansed. The focus is towards the future: once we let go of that which no longer serves us, we can begin to enjoy the blessings and new beginnings ahead of us.”
The sweat lodge was made of a round wooden frame approximately 10 feet in diameter and was draped with dozens of blankets. In the center of the lodge was a circular pit dug for the hot stones. Outside of the lodge was the alter and ceremonial fire (which was heating the stones).
There were about 25 of us in the tiny little lodge; it was very close quarters. We either sat on towels or directly the ground. I elected for a towel, despite being advised that the dirt would be cooler. I’m just not that earthy. The steam ended up making things quite muddy so I think I made the right decision. Once everyone piled in, 7 glowing red hot stones were placed in the pit. A prayer was said and they closed the flap on the front of the lodge so it was pitch black on the inside. I was not expecting this. The darkness made me really uncomfortable. It was disorienting and I felt out of control.
Once the water started being poured over the rocks the heat became oppressive. I was expecting something like a sauna or hot yoga (which I love), but instead it was like being hit by a train and the humidity made breathing difficult. I was shocked at just how quickly sweat began to pour down my face. I spent most of my time sitting there telling myself that it would be over shortly and that my inability to breath was just in my head. I longed for fresh air. Fortunately, we were only in there for a few minutes. We were in there long enough for some prayers and a song and then, happily, the door was opened allowing some of the heat to dissipate. Some people stayed inside during the break. I, however, chose to get out and stretch my legs and enjoy, what felt by comparison, a very cool 90-degree day.
We then piled back in for round two. This time 7 more rocks were added to the pit and the flap was shut again. I didn’t think it could get any hotter in there, but it did. This time when the water was poured and the steam started to rise it felt a bit like I was drowning. No matter whether I took deep or shallow breaths, I felt like I was under water. Finally, when I just couldn’t sit there an longer, I shouted “door!” This was the signal for them to let me out. I wasn’t panicked or afraid to stay in there, I’d just sat in there long enough to realize that it wasn’t for me.
Some people talk about being “called” to do certain activities. Something just speaks to them and says “today you should walk on fire” or “today you should take part in a sweat lodge ceremony.” Well, that day I definitely felt called to go sit in a refreshing cold creek bed rather than sit inside of a pitch black sweat lodge. One of the things I love most about Golden Wings is that it is isolated from outside world and I can spend a few hours technology free. There was something very peaceful about spending a Sunday afternoon with nature.
I can definitely say that the sweat lodge is not for me. I’m glad I tried it and got to have the experience, but it wasn’t spiritual for me the way it is for many others. That said, I can’t wait to back and attend more events with my Golden Wings family because it is definitely my favorite place to keep trying new things.
Posted on April 14, 2014
A few weeks ago I visited the Golden Wings Center for my first glass walk. It was an empowering and inspiring experience. When I had the chance to return for a fire walk, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.
In my previous post I mentioned that the Golden Wings Center was a bit secluded and required traversing a one-lane dirt road to get there. This time I followed my GPS, rather than their directions, and in doing so I took a wrong turn that took me even farther out into the middle of nowhere. I was still heading toward the Center, I was just going the back way and driving several extra miles down same the scary one-lane dirt road.
At one point I reached a flowing creek that covered my path. I was concerned about the depth and backed up. A toothless man with 5 cats was sitting on the porch of a nearby house. I asked for directions and he said that the Center was just on the other site of the creeks. Yes, apparently I had to drive over more than one. He assured me that the water wasn’t too deep and he thought I could make it. I should note that my car is very small and not designed to ford creeks like in the Oregon Trail. But, I’ve learned that country boys know what they are talking about and will not lead you astray. So, I went for it. I put the pedal to the metal and made it across the creek! I was so excited when I go to the other side that I shouted “I did it! I did it! I did it!” even though nobody was around to hear it. I was thrilled when I finally saw the Golden Wings Center sign.
There were a lot of familiar faces there for the fire walk and it was really wonderful to see everyone I met at the glass walk. We started out in the yurt and talked about what we wanted to get out of this experience and what we wanted to let go of. There is a great deal of meditation and sharing at the Center, which is why it feels like you are part of a big family.
We went out to light the fire before sunset. The stack of firewood was huge. It was made of cedar and stacked so it would burn properly for the walk.
We used candles to help light the fire. But it didn’t seem to need much help, within a few minutes the wood was completely engulfed.
The fire was gorgeous and the flames leapt at least 15 feet in the air.
After we lit the fire, we went back into the yurt to talk. We paired off with a stranger to talk about our deepest secrets and fears. The purpose of was to release any negativity we were holding onto before the walk. Discussing your inner thoughts and fears with a stranger might sound intimidating, but the older you get the more you realize that you aren’t alone in your experiences and there are a surprising number of people who have been through the same things.
We followed our talks with an arrow breaking ceremony . . . but that is a story I’ll share with you another day.
Fire walking has been around for over 3000 years. It has been used as a rite of passage, a spiritual ritual, and a test of courage. And yes, it is hot. It’s fire. It was a very festive atmosphere with a lot of singing, dancing, and cheering.
I made 3 passes over the coals. I burned myself once, but it was pretty minor. My foot hurt on my drive home, but it felt much better by the following day. I preferred my glass walking experience to fire walking because I enjoyed the quite meditative aspects of the glass walk. However, that said, I am really looking forward to to doing another fire walk.
The Golden Wings Center has a wide variety of wonderful events. I already have plans to return in the coming weeks, so you’ll hear more about it soon.
Posted on February 17, 2014
It’s been a while since I’ve done something adventurous and it has made me a little stir crazy. Moreover, after posting about bingo last week, I felt a need to counter it with something that was actually interesting. I first heard about glass walking while looking for places to walk on hot coals. Unsurprisingly, you can do it at the same place.
I went to the Golden Wings Center in Bon Aqua, Tennessee. If nowhere had a middle, it would be in Bon Aqua. There was no cell service (which was actually quite nice) and part of the drive included a one-lane dirt road. The Golden Wings Center is a 30-acre retreat that has fire walks, glass walks, a sweat lodge, and a plethora of other activities and features. You can even spend the night there.
The glass walking ceremony was held in a yurt, a circular tent-like structure. When we first walked in, the bed of glass was in the center of the floor and covered with a blanket. I could not see what lied beneath, but I could see the peaks and valleys of glass shards several inches deep. It was a little intimidating.
We started with a guided meditation practice, which I am inherently bad at. I don’t possess the ability to turn off my mind. I usually don’t even bother to try. Then came the big reveal. The blanket was pulled back unveiling the remnants of 125 broken wine bottles.
Each person had two people by their side for support. When it was my turn I asked Angela and Justin, the owners of the Golden Wings Center and all-around awesome people, to guide me. I placed my hands on their forearms, closed my eyes, and took my first step. I shifted my left foot until it felt comfortable on the glass. I made sure no shards were pressing directly into my foot and shifted my weight onto it. I lifted my right foot and again tried to find a comfortable spot in the glass that would support my weight. The second step was scarier because it meant that I was solely supported by the glass.
With each step I could hear the glass popping and feel it breaking beneath my feet. It was a bit unnerving. I decided to do the walk with my eyes closed because I wanted to be completely in the moment and only focus on what I was doing. I’ve had a lifetime of my brain telling me that walking on glass is a bad idea, by closing my eyes I was able to shut that out and rely on what I was feeling and trust myself and my decisions.
Believe it or not, I made it the entire way without a single cut. I am really glad I did the glass walk. It was a very empowering experience. I am looking forward to returning to the Golden Wings Center soon for fire walking and the sweat lodge . . . stay tuned.
I’ll leave you with a song that has been stuck in my head all week. It has nothing to do with my glass walking experience, but you can’t go wrong with Annie Lenox.
Posted on September 30, 2013
As I was looking for something new to try this week I came across free Chakra Cleansing and Reiki at the Center of Symmetry. I’d heard of it before, but I didn’t know much about it. I never want to make a judgment about something before trying it, so I thought I would give it a shot.
Chakra is Sanskrit for “wheel” or “turning” and they are are points in the human body that are centers of life force or energy. Apparently, this energy can actually be detected by something called a Superconducting Quantum Interference Device. There are seven major chakras in a human body: the root chakra, sacral chakra, solar plexus chakra, heart chakra, throat chakra, third eye chakra, and the crown chakra. Some believe that the chakras can affect a person’s physical and mental health.
The group was led by Dan Craft and Becki Baumgartner. There were about a dozen people present to attend the class, the majority of which were trying it for the first time. Dan and Becki started by having you lay down on a massage table and relax. First, Becki held a chakra pendulum over you. The one she used looked like it was made of rose quartz, which apparently is used for understanding emotions, love, and emotional healing. If she held the pendulum over your chakra and it was still, that meant the chakra was closed, if the pendulum spun (preferably clockwise) it meant the chakra was open. If the chakra was closed, Becki would spin a clear feng shui ball over you (which looked like a tiny disco ball) until the chakra opened. She explained that the way the ball reflected light had something to do with how it worked.
When it was my turn, I laid down and closed my eyes. I didn’t want to see what was going on because I didn’t want it to alter my perception of what was going on. Some people said they could feel where Becki was holding the pendulum, but I could not. When she held the pendulum over me, she said that I was already incredibly open, apparently it was spinning like crazy. She asked if I did yoga (which I do), and said that yoga was really good for opening the chakras.
Once our chakras were open it was time for Reiki. Reiki means “universal energy” and is the art of healing through touch and the adjustment of life force energy flow. Studies have shown that Reiki can lower blood pressure, reduce pain, and lessen anxiety.
Because there were so many first timers there, they gave us short sessions to try to fit everyone in. Dan cradled our heads in his hands while Becki placed her hands on our chests; everyone else formed a circle around the table and placed their hands on our arms and legs. I laid there for a few minutes doing a breathing exercise with everyone’s hands on me. After a few moments I started seeing vibrant hues of green and purple like a kaleidoscope on the inside of my eyelids. I can’t really explain it, seeing swirling colors isn’t something I normally experience when I close my eyes and when I closed my eyes in the same room at other points in the evening all I saw was darkness. When my session was over I felt incredibly dizzy and I took me a few moments to regain my balance. It seemed like about half of us experienced the same dizziness.
I can’t really say what I believe yet, it’s too soon to tell. However, I will say that I felt incredibly relaxed and peaceful after the session. If Chakra Cleansing or Reiki is something that interests you, then it is definitely worth giving it a shot. If nothing else, you’ll spend an hour learning something new . . . and that is never a bad thing.