Author Archives: Donna Quesada

“Make Yourself a Vessel”

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I had been feeling anxious lately. Deep down, I knew why. It was because I had become slack on maintaining my daily connection with Source. Before, I could often channel words of comfort and wisdom from certain spirit guides during times when I was feeling deeply in need. I knew I was missing that connection and that this was why I had been feeling anxious and overwhelmed lately.

It had been many months… or maybe a year since receiving a channeled message. Besides St. Anthony, and one female, in angelic form, who I only know as “Niyah,” one of the spirit guides that I have been able to communicate with is Yogi Bhajan, who left his body in 2004 and was the teacher of my teacher.

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Tratakum Meditation Image

My teacher, Guru Singh, once told me that he uses the Tratakum meditation image of Yogi Bhajan to connect to him, on a regular basis. So, I decided to go back to this practice, and in the first session, I received a very clear message:

Make yourself a vessel.
Make yourself a vessel.
Make yourself a vessel.

Then, only a minimum of explanation…

You are taking on too much, energetically. You are making it about you and from you. That is why you are getting sick and anxious and tired. Let us work through you. We are infinite. In that way, you take none of it on, energetically.

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Ahh… like Krishna’s flute. When you make yourself hollow and empty, like his flute, the Divine fills you up with grace and infinite blessings. God’s breath blows through you. Your actions come from unlimited source.

In this way, life doesn’t have to be hard. The idea is to let grace work through us. Our work should be to align with God/spirit/the divine, so that we are simply the vessel. And like Krishna, who was known for his playful spirit and good humor, we too, can take care of things without it feeling like exertion and drudgery. We can learn not to take ourselves so seriously.

To use Esther Hicks’ expression, we go around “efforting” because we’ve been taught that we must toil… we must push our rocks, like Sisyphus, in order to reap any rewards and make life meaningful. Our well-meaning elders knew no other way.

In our continuing evolution, we can work in a more exalted way… let divine work through you.

Be playful, like Krishna!

The Appearance of a Yogi; A Story of Grace

Another story of miracles and grace. This one is relayed by Caroline Myss.

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I have often been asked whether I believe that grace can actually save a person’s life. There’s no way to prove that it can, of course, but I choose to believe it can from the numberless reports of people who testify to the intervention of Divine energy in their own lives. One vivid story I was told was about a man named Steven, who had developed a serious case of internal and external hives, brought about from taking a new medication to which he did not know he was allergic. The rash began as a small irritation on his skin and proceeded to spread all over his body. After several days, Steven thought he must be allergic to something, but it never occurred to him that it was the medication. Instead, he reviewed the food he had been eating, the soap he was using, and the fabrics of the various items of clothing he was wearing. As the rash continued, Steven developed more symptoms. He broke into a fever every evening and became weaker by the day. He swelled up, retaining fluids in his tissues. Soon the fevers were constant and his weakness so severe that he could not walk. His feet were so swollen that he could no longer put on his shoes.

One morning, at the height of Steven’s suffering, a voice woke him up and told him to get to a hospital because he was dying. Then the voice told him to breathe slowly and deeply, pulling his breath fully into his lungs. An image came into his mind of a yoga master leading him in this exercise. Steven was Christian, and although he was certainly familiar with yoga in an intellectual sense, he had never learned or practiced it. He phoned a friend, however, telling him that he needed to get to a hospital immediately. En route, he continued to breathe as instructed, and every time he closed his eyes, he saw the yoga master.

Steven arrived at the hospital nearly unconscious. He was rushed to the emergency room, where the attending physician immediately administered a shot of steroids. He informed Steven that he had developed a near-terminal case of internal and external hives, and that every organ in his body, along with his skin, was inflamed. He also informed Steven that if he had not arrived at the hospital within a few hours, he probably would have died.

“I had never given any serious thought to yoga, or to any teachings or practices from the Hindu tradition,” Steven later said to me. “As far as I was concerned, yoga was nothing more than a physical exercise, hardly a spiritual practice. And I never thought of the breath as anything other than what we have to have to stay alive. Now I practice yoga constantly, though I no longer see that yoga master when I close my eyes. I have a ‘normal’ and physical teacher, but I still wonder each day, Why did a Yogi come to me? I mean, I had no belief in that tradition at all. How did that happen? I’ll never stop thinking about that experience. It changed my life—actually, it saved my life.”

(From Why People Don’t Heal and How they Can, by Caroline Myss)

The Spiritual Dimension of Narcissism (& Narcissism in Relationships)

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Spiritual Ignorance—

What we call “spirituality,” in all its many guises and paths, is really all the same thing… getting closer to God. Or, better, realizing that we were never separate, in the first place. Hence the expression, “self-realization.” We can also call this “vibrating with source,” or “being twice born,” or “satori” … it doesn’t much matter what we call it, as it’s all about overcoming that sense of separation, which Buddha called avidya.

Although avidya translates as ignorance, it is not ignorance in the usual sense, rather it is the state of being unaware of the abiding connections between all of us and between everything (‘though there really are no “things”) in the universe. We can experience the feeling of connection in myriad ways, for example, through any creative endeavor, through deep encounters with nature, and through authentic connections with other people and animals.

Every spiritual path is built around the need to overcome ignorance and cultivate a sense of deep connection with all that is.

Why is it so important?

Because without it, we will have an ego-driven world, devoid of considerateness, and full of self-centered behavior.

Sounds a lot like narcissism.

Disclamer—
I wouldn’t be so bold as to say that the only difference between garden variety ego and diagnosable Narcissistic Personality Disorder is the location of where it falls on a spectrum, as there is still much to be learned about the brain and genetics and whatever else may be at work, physiologically and chemically, in producing psychological disorders. So, I will speak as an interested scholar, as a lifelong spiritual student and teacher, as well as someone who has been in relationship with others who embody and display narcissistic behaviors.

Narcissism and the Spiritual Path—
If the spiritual path is marked by the extent to which we become aware of our inherent divine nature, which the unchecked dominance of ego blocks out, then narcissism may be seen as a kind of chronic disunion. This is displayed as lack of empathy, which is always listed as its telltale, defining feature.

Without self-awareness, the narcissist will be oblivious to his/her behavior and how he/she is “coming off” to others. Thus, the narcissist will speak and act in offensive ways, and will be chronically lacking in thoughtfulness, due to the unchecked hyper-focus on his/her own needs, moods and whims.

This tendency may be displayed through disrespectful or inconsiderate communication styles, as well. For example, through a lack of ability to listen to the other, or persistent tendency to interrupt. This comes from either a conscious or an unconscious belief that his/her commentary is more important than anyone else’s, or a childlike lack of self-control.

Vulnerability—
The ability to be vulnerable is inextricably connected up with overcoming ignorance because without it, there is no true human connection being made. And without connection, there is no empathy.

A relationship with a narcissist is always described as one which entails unavoidable feelings of neglect and disappointment, since your needs, as the narcissist’s partner, will not be recognized. The lack of empathy bars this. This is why, besides “lacking in empathy,” the narcissist is often described as acting out of a “sense of entitlement.” This manifests when their need for comfort predominates, to the extent that the narcissist expects others to always accommodate them, eg, food choices, etc., without the genuine desire or ability to reciprocate and sacrifice for others, in turn.

In reflecting on the notion of vulnerability and its importance in cultivating authentic and safe-feeling relationships, I believe that the absence of it is an effect, rather than a cause of the existent narcissism. A narcissist is too afraid to ever let himself/herself be open and vulnerable.

And if vulnerability is by nature a spiritual quality in that it enables true closeness and connection, then without it, a relationship with a narcissist can never be spiritually fulfilling in an enduring and ever-maturing way.

In Summary—
The relationship with the narcissist will be chronically impaired because of the inability to compromise, make concessions and sacrifice for another.

Spiritually, if connection is our ultimate purpose and source of fulfillment here on earth, then the ability to be vulnerable is requisite. It entails the capacity, courage and emotional maturity to be truly open with another and further, to be in touch with others, in a way that reflects a true sense of concern about the other’s needs, comfort and well-being. The narcissist’s lack of maturity and insecurity, which lies below the gruff facade, keeps him/her stuck at the level of his/her own needs. This is avidya.

 

The Indian Woman at the Coffee Shop

What follows is an excerpt from a book that I have been compiling notes for, throughout the last few years. It chronicles many true stories of synchronicity and divine blessings. This story is my own and from my own experience.

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When I arrived at my local coffee shop, to write on the topic of prayer, I parked next to a car identical in year, make and color, to the car I had just before this one. I glanced through the windows and saw that it was loaded with clothing, as well as various and sundry random stuff, including a dog bed. It was this last item that moved me the most. It was as if someone was living out of the car, and they had a dog.

As I gathered my computer, and started toward the door of the coffee shop, I saw a thin thirty-something, Indian woman, walking near the parking lot with her senior dog. It touched my heart because the dog was arthritic. Then after a few moments, I saw them turn around and go toward the parking lot and toward the car that was identical to my old car — it was hers!

I paused for a moment, wondering about her situation. She left her dog in the car… it was a cool morning, so there was no problem with that. I could tell that she took good care of him, by the way she placed him in his little doggy bed, among all the other stuff, which was piled high all around him. And then she walked into the coffee shop before me.

I was moving slowly that morning, and ended up entering just as she was exiting. She asked me if I knew a lawyer. It was indeed, an unexpected, and out of the blue request, to be sure, especially, since we had not already spoken or been introduced in any way. She must have felt an openness about me. She then proceeded to give me the run down of her current life situation and challenges. She was in the middle of a difficult divorce and in transition, and without a stable place to live.

(As an aside, I couldn’t have known, that less than two years from then, I would also find myself in the middle of a stressful divorce.)

Through her rushed and frazzled words, I could sense her stress and fear and anger. And I could tell she had been crying. I told her that unfortunately, I knew of no lawyer. But I could feel her frazzled energy and I told her to breathe… and I breathed with her. And finally she stopped and breathed in a moment of calmness. It was likely her first calm moment in many days.

I told her to take her power back with that breath. And I told her that while she googled attorneys, I would pray for her. I gave her a hug, and after she apologized for being “gross” and un-showered, she went to drink her coffee outside, while I set up my laptop in my usual spot inside, by the window. I did pray for her, heartily… at that very moment, before ordering my usual bagel & tea.

Interesting that after going to this local coffee shop for 10 years, I never saw her there.

About a half hour later, I looked out the window and saw her engaged in a big conversation with a man, who I never saw before. This conversation went on for the next 45 minutes. As I was leaving, I stopped next to them, and said, “I see this man is helping you.” To which she said, with obvious relief and gladness in her tone, “yes!… it’s an incredible coincidence! He’s an attorney and he just happened to walk by and talk to me and he’s been giving me wonderful suggestions.”

She thanked me as I left, but I was thankful too. What really mattered was that she now felt that she had options and hope. A prayer had been answered… just like that.

I never saw either one of them again.

Simplest Relationship Advice, Ever

If you’re happy and satisfied within yourself, you’ll find any reason to be happy while in the company of anyone else. Your perspective will be shaped by your state of mind, and thus, you’ll see only the good in them and all around you.

But, if you aren’t happy and satisfied within yourself, you’ll find any excuse to be disappointed by what the other does or does not do. You’ll notice the offenses readily and will be quick to spot the deficiencies everywhere.

The latter sets up a kind of neediness, in which, you’ll look constantly to the other person to do certain things or stop doing certain things, so as to fulfill the fantasies in your mind and your idealized vision of how things should go.

This is what Esther Hicks refers to as “looking for love in all the wrong places.” It is why self-care and your relationship with yourself is at the core of all other relationships. Like a healthy heart, it keeps everything else around it healthy and happy.

I know it is tricky because… “what about when the other really does display intolerable tendencies and inappropriate patterns?”

In response to this all too realistic objection, I am thinking of Alain de Boton, a fellow philosopher, and his successful Ted Talk called Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person. In a humorous way, he suggests that we are all… well… a bit crazy. We’ve all got surprises and hidden neuroses that make us all challenging to be around. And to expect to find someone who doesn’t require some tolerance and patience and forgiveness is fanciful. Even foolish.

It’s not to say that there is never a time when walking away is the right thing to do, but when it is, you’ll know so surely and confidently, that you won’t need an article or a Ted Talk to tell you. You’ll feel the answer in your bones.

710zmyvR8PL._US230_ In the 90s, I used to use John Robbins’ book, Diet for a New America, along with the PBS special that went along with it, in my classroom. I loved his heart centered presentation of the benefits of a plant-based diet, at a time when the word “vegetarian“ was still far from being accepted as a normal, not to mention better, alternative, for the animals, the environment, and us.

Last month, more than 25 years after his book came out, I had the pleasure of interviewing this man for Awaken.com. Here is an excerpt of the written transcription. Follow the link below, to watch the first part, on Skype:

In all the Baskin/Robbins stores, there used to be large photographs on the back wall. Brown and White of Guernsey and Holstein dairy cows grazing in beautiful Wisconsin pasture. They were gorgeous and they spoke of closeness to nature and you see these cows living a beautiful life. And as a kid, working in the stores, I thought those pictures were beautiful. I believed them. Surely, that is where the milk comes from, that makes the ice cream that we are selling and manufacturing… And then, one day I went to a farm with my dad where we bought a lot of our dairy products. It was nothing like the pictures. Nothing. First of all, there was no grass anywhere. Second of all, the cows are all in confinement. They are basically imprisoned and they have very little space. And they are standing knee deep in their own manure. And they are feeding out of a trough, and I go towards the trough.

Im a kid now, probably 13 or 14 years old, and I walk towards the cow with love in my heart. Im a boy. And Im hoping, I suppose, to pet the cow. Or at least look into its eyes. I just want to make contact. And I approach slowly, and as I approach, the cow gets really frightened and agitated. And Im thinking, cows are placid creatures. What has that cow endured, that it is frightened when a small boy approaches it? What has it endured? Whats been done to it? And I investigated that. And I found out how these animals were treated and it was so opposite to the images portrayed in those pictures. And that type of green-washing or humane washing continues to this day.

https://www.awaken.com/2019/08/awaken-interviews-john-robbins-pt1-alignment-with-spirit/

Beautiful Sky (How Does Presence Heal?)

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How does presence heal?

Not as an idea, it doesn’t… and won’t. Because as an idea, it’s just one more thing to work on. One more thing to master and inevitably, get wrong. And so, it becomes another project, another item on the list: Meditate for 15m

But on this day, as I was taking my early morning walk with the dogs, grey clouds were stretched across the summer sky. The first sunbeams of the day were searching out any cracks they could find. I gazed up at all of this, while the dogs were sniffing around, and a few drops fell on my face.

The welcome contrast of a cloudy morning in the middle of the hottest and driest month took my thoughts back to the summers spent with my Italian grandmother, in Las Vegas. I remember going with grandma to the market very early, on many mornings, just to “beat the heat.”

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But one morning, we were lazing about as a sweet rain cleansed away the swelter. The coolness that stood in, on that day, awakened new scents and sounds. The strangely pleasant smell of wet asphalt filled the room where we were lying together. And chirping… “It sounds close!” … “Must be very close!”

So, I hung the upper part of my nimble, 12-year old body down, to investigate. Peering into the darkness under the bed, something jumped right up at me, grazing my cheek. I yelled out and in a lightening flash, jolted back up again. We laughed and couldn’t stop laughing. We laughed at my silliness and at the surprise of the moment. We laughed at the delight of it all. And at nothing in particular. And then we laughed some more.

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And at that moment, this morning, while my dogs continued to sniff, I was jolted back… but, differently this time. Away from the to-dos and toward everything that matters. Like a cosmic reminder, a mute meditation bell, a dramatic call to nothing at all, it silenced the busy-ness of the mind, and made room for the bounty in front of me.

Was Woodstock the First Postmodern Event? (excerpt with link)

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Here is an excerpt from today’s post on my other blog. It’s a sizeable read, but a fun one. And, I broke it down into highly readable sections. I’ve been working on this one for a while. It taps back into my college interest in postmodernism—actually, I wrote my Master’s thesis on the subject—as well as my love of the late 60s. In this article, I argue that Woodstock was the first postmodern event. Yep! Here is an excerpt and a link to it. Please follow me over there, too!

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair wasn’t just a multi-name concert. It was an expression of widespread dissatisfaction. Like the Warhol Brillo boxes, it was a statement. It was social activism. In a way that had never been seen before. It was a critique of the status quo. Although the impetus was Vietnam, it was a call for the wholesale readjustment of all social and political elements that were seen as oppressive.

Finish here:
https://fiftyyearsafter.blog/2019/07/17/woodstock-the-first-postmodern-event/

Do Your Eyes Work? What’s So Special about That?

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From my recent interview with Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, on the question of… What’s so great about now?

What is says in the great Mahayana teachings, the Heart Sutra… there is no place to go. This is the first thing people misunderstand about meditation. Now, I have to sit down and experience something cool. Something found. Something transcendent. Healing… that is better than my ordinary this moment, which is so boring and stressful. And of course, that is getting off absolutely on the wrong foot. It’s not about getting somewhere else. It’s actually allowing yourself to be where you already are.

So, you say, “what’s so special about where I already am?” Nothing, except everything. Do your eyes work? What’s so special about that? Are you breathing? What’s so special about that? Can you think and feel? What’s so special about that? Only everything. So, we take everything for granted, until we lose it. Until our eyes don’t work. Or we can’t catch our breath. Or, it feels like life is falling apart. Or, the body is falling apart.

Donna: I love that metaphor. It’s almost like, dropping in is turning our whole body and mind into a big sensory organ, like the eyes.

Jon: Which it is. The whole body is…

* The Whole Skyped Interview will soon be available to watch, on www.awaken.com (other interviews include, Dr. Dean Ornish, Byron Katie, Caroline Myss, and many others)

Why Gratitude Works

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My goal in this post is to say, as precisely and concisely as possible, why gratitude is a good thing. Because in spiritual parlance and self-help guides of all sorts, we hear it, and it sounds intuitively correct, but I’d like to be able to understand why gratitude heals, rather than have it feel like a dogmatic commandment.

The two teaching concepts I’m putting together here are Buddha’s Four Noble Truths and the Yogic model of energetic anatomy.

Buddha has famously pinpointed our attachments as the source of our chronic, self-inflicted, emotional  angst, in the second Noble Truth. He called it Trishna, which means thirst, but refers to any number of tangible and intangible attachments that we carry, at any moment in time. While this idea is often erroneously translated so as to make desires themselves the bad guys, it is rather, our attachment to them, that causes anguish. To make this less abstract, an attachment is any rigid preference. Any mental insistence that things have to be a certain way, or take a certain form.

We all have many of these attachments running, at any time, like open apps in our iPhones. For example, that I’ll never lose my money, or my job, or my car… that I’ll get the call back, or the publishing deal, or the award… that others understand me, that my peers respect me, that my family approves of my decisions, and on and on. Now, imagine if those attachments took the form of energetic cords, reaching out in all directions, plugging into those imaginary situations, out into the surrogate world, where fantasy exists… (see my drawing, above).

From the point of view of energetic anatomy, our life force, or prana, comes into our bodies through the crown of our heads. Like money given to us, it it now up to us, to manage it. If that energy gets siphoned off into myriad attachments, through energetic tendrils, reaching out into a hundred various and sundry fixations, then we’ve invested poorly and the result will be exhaustion at best, and illness at worst.

This is where gratitude comes in. Gratitude quells the inevitable discontent that comes from the endless reaching and grasping. If trishna is thirst, then gratitude is what quenches it, at the root level—from the inside, before those insatiable energetic tendrils even have a chance to stretch out and place their suction cups on anything, on the outside.

So, closing with the analogy of having open apps in our iPhones (something I didn’t know was a problem, until my grown kid looked at me aghast, while swiping them all up and making them vanish… how was I supposed to know?) Our attachments, like those open apps, sap our energy and drain our batteries. So, harnessing and managing our energy, as martial artists and Yogis have always known, becomes the whole game.

This stands from the point of view of healing and feeling better, which are really one and the same. Because the minute we find something to be grateful for, which is how to start, we instantly feel content with what is, rather than anxious about what isn’t. At that very instant, the inner struggle recedes, as we bring our focus on what we have, which feels good, rather than on lack, which feels bad.