Awareness

Beauty as a Spiritual Practice: The 29 Day Taurus Challenge

What is the "Beauty Way?" How can the Taurus magic of beauty, embodiment and sensuality support our healthy personal practice?

The guiding principle of Taurus magic is, "Beauty as a Spiritual Practice, and Intimacy as an Art Form."

I first began my conscious initiation into the Taurus mystery school about 4 or 5 years ago. This exploration came around the time of my recovering from an abusive relationship and its associated wounds. Practicing the Beauty Way was enormously supportive of my healing path.

But my investigation went much farther than that: as I delved into the Taurus mysteries, I felt my way through a new way of being embodied in the world. For the first time, I allowed myself to fully receive in all ways, and experience visceral pleasure and enjoyment.

Taurus is the magic of the body, and how we experience the world through our senses. When Taurus magic is expressed and healthy, we allow ourselves to live fully in the body, experience true sensual pleasure (sensual=gratifying to the senses), and walk the Beauty Way. Taurus is the magic of receiving and devotion to the Self, simply for the sake of enjoyment.

As I explored the Taurus mysteries, I opened myself up to receive more and more beauty from the world around me. I savored delicious food, I dressed in soft fabrics, I enjoyed full belly laughter, I cultivated rich friendships and I explored Tantra and new practices of intimacy. I indulged in pleasure simply for pleasure's sake. I established my worthiness to receive compliments, affection, money, respect and affirmation.

Walking the Beauty Way has influenced all aspects of my life. Now, I look for beauty not only in the apparent (nature, poetry, love) but in the not-so-obvious: the art of running a business, the musicality of skillful conversation, the taste of learning new words and the texture of new ideas, the elegance of a well-organized home, the beauty of a still mind in total presence... you get the idea.

Artwork by Chani Nicholas

Artwork by Chani Nicholas

How can we witness more beauty in ourselves, in each other and in the world around us? How much can we open ourselves to receive?

Last year, I gave myself a personal challenge to practice the "Beauty Way" during the Taurus lunar cycle. Every day, I made it a practice to find, appreciate and share something beautiful. This led to so many rich discoveries and new layers of gratitude. I was delighted by taking pleasure in my life in a new way! The more I opened myself to receiving Beauty from the world, the more I found myself receiving in other ways, as well.

This year, as we approach next week's New Moon in Taurus, I am inviting you to join me in this challenge! What happens when we look for that which brings us pleasure? How much can we open ourselves to fully receive beauty? I challenge you to practice the Beauty Way with me!

Beauty as a Spiritual Practice: The 29 Day Taurus Challenge

Challenge guidelines:

  • The challenge starts at 4:59am on May 15 (Taurus New Moon) through 12:45pm on June 13 (Gemini New Moon).
  • Join the Facebook group here.
  • Post every day! Or as much as you like.
  • Share a photo or brief paragraph of something beautiful you witnessed or experienced, and what you received from it/how it contributed to your personal practice.
  • To be eligible for prizes, photos must be accompanied by a caption/takeaway. Paragraphs do not need to have a photo (but it is highly encouraged).
  • You can post multiple times per day if you like, but for contest purposes, I will only count 1 entry per day.

Prizes!

  • The person with the most eligible posts (most days walking the Beauty Way) will win one FREE 1-hour session of your choice with me! ($250 value)
  • The person with my favorite Beauty as a Spiritual Practice post will win one FREE 1-hour session of your choice with me! ($250 value)
  • The runner-up participants in each category will each receive one FREE 30-minute session with me!

I will offer examples leading up to the beginning of the challenge! Stay tuned for updates, ideas and start walking the Beauty Way!

Ready, set, GO!

Your Intuitive Birthright

“Wow, you are so intuitive! You must have just been born with that ability.”

I regularly hear some variation of this comment from clients, students or people who get a taste of my work for the first time. My answer usually begins with, “Well, yes and no…”

We are all highly intuitive beings. Each one of us was born with the ability to access this innate knowing.

When you first entered the world as a tiny human, you arrived with no filters in place. You experienced everything as a clear channel. Completely open to all sensory input, you made no distinction between how this information came into your awareness. Touch, emotion, sight, thoughts, taste, energy, sound, vibration… you experienced them all without any preconceived notion of what was “real,” or any hierarchy of some senses being more valid than others.

As you grew older, you started to become aware of how you received information, and maybe felt that you “weren’t normal.” Maybe your family was afraid when you told them that you saw beings that “weren’t there,” or when they found you having conversations with thin air. Maybe your sensitivities were dismissed as invalid, or no one believed you when you shared what you intuitively knew to be true. Maybe you were diagnosed with anxiety, or ADD/ADHD, or some mental health condition. Maybe you were medicated.

You still felt the vibrations and were sensitive to the thoughts and energies of other people, but without the consistent validation from those around you, you began to let this intuitive awareness fade into the background. You built your understanding of the “real world” based on the commonly understood five senses. You allowed yourself to become numb to your intuition.

But these hidden parts of ourselves don’t always stay quiet in the background. Maybe you always knew that this innate sense was still there, waiting to be revealed. Do you find yourself knowing things that you couldn’t possibly know? Are you seeing, feeling and sensing things you can’t otherwise explain?

Is your intuition waking up and demanding that you claim that which has been yours since birth?

Join us for the ongoing Sensory Intuition class series (first class takes place on Sunday, March 26th) and learn tools and techniques to reawaken your innate intuitive abilities. Now is the time to cultivate the knowledge and skill to easily and gracefully access your inner wisdom. There are no prerequisites for this class, and all levels of energetic experience are welcome. Whether this is your first foray into the magic of your intuition, or whether you have been a professional psychic for years, there is something for you in this class series to further grow and refine your abilities. Register now to reserve your space.

Non-Circumstantial Equanimity

Some musings from last week...

What if Pain isn't something to be processed or moved through, but something simply to be felt? Just as we don't rush to hurry up and process our Joy, what if we get to just experience our sorrow without trying to move it, or change it or fix it?

As I sprawl in bed and feel my ribs being squeezed by the bone-crushing ache of loneliness, I notice myself coming up with all sorts of strategies to alleviate the sensation of being pressed like a tube of toothpaste. Instead of following the impulses to distract myself by reaching out to friends, scrolling through my feed, listening to music, reading a book or even actively trying to shift my vibration by meditating, chanting or offering myself healing work, I just lie here and feel.

Is this some form of emotional masochism? I don't think so. It doesn't feel as though I'm punishing myself. It feels more like I am simply allowing myself to have an experience without squirming away from suffering.

What if the only reason these "negative" emotions hold any power over us is because we just don't like being uncomfortable?

What if, by learning that it's okay to feel uncomfortable, we empower ourselves to stay present in an experience without trying to impose our desires upon it and transmute it into something more palatable?

What a great way to practice awareness and peace, regardless of the situation. I welcome the opportunity to cultivate non-circumstantial equanimity.

The Tao of Carrying Groceries

...or, "How a Simple Chore is Helping Me Become a Better Person"

If you’re like me, rather than dividing the collective load into smaller, more manageable trips, you would rather heave eight bags of groceries from the car into the house in one go. Sling one bag over each shoulder, two bags in the crook of each elbow, clutching the last two in one hand as you fumble your keys in the other and pray you don’t smash the more delicate produce.

I exhibit this same inability to take baby steps in other areas of my life as well. If I wish to cultivate a skill, I pour myself into practice so that I can master it as quickly as possible. If I need to prepare a dish for a party or gathering, I choose the most complicated recipe to try. When confronted with a new idea or concept, I obsessively spin it around my consciousness until I have seen it from all sides. All of this as quickly as possible, of course.

However, the area where this “carry-all-the-groceries” attitude appears most notably is in the context of my own personal growth. Since I work in the field of personal development, energy healing and Spiritual mentorship, I love nerding out over the minutiae of human consciousness, and I am my own favorite subject. Plumbing the depths of my own psychology, emotional intelligence and mindfulness absolutely fascinates me. Why do I make certain choices in my words and behavior? Why do I respond to triggers in a certain way? What, truly, constitutes free will? How am I living as a sovereign being, as opposed to demonstrating the cumulative effects of decades of social conditioning? You know, the easy questions.

Naturally, when a challenge arises in the area of “how can Michelle be a better person,” I throw myself into it with the same determined vigor as I would hauling my eight shopping bags into the house, regardless of whether or not this is actually the best approach.

I discover some hidden emotional wounding from a random event in my past? Unpack all that baggage and sort it out immediately! A challenge arises in my relationship? Jump in and fix it right away! Getting together with my family brings up old dynamics and pushes everyone’s buttons? Let’s all sit down right now and create space to share until everyone feels heard and gets along again!

Based on my extensive self-analysis, the best hypothesis I can offer as to why I must accomplish things as quickly and efficiently as possible comes from a variety of personality traits that somehow add up to me staggering under the burden of a carload of groceries, when any sane person would take two trips. The first of these traits is sheer optimism in my ability to accomplish the task at hand. “Only eight bags of groceries? Of course I can manage that!” cries my inner decision-maker with complete confidence. The second trait is that I love being right. Once the eight bags of groceries are slung around my body, there’s no way I would ever admit to picking up more than I could handle. Reevaluating, taking some off and trying again would mean that I was wrong in the first place. The third trait is the hardest for me to admit, but I am secretly very competitive. This trait has softened over the years, so I am no longer ubiquitously competitive, but if there is a skill that I feel that I SHOULD be good at, I hate being anything less than rock-star caliber. In terms of my own personal development, my competitiveness is of epic proportions. I am well aware of the irony there.

One of the worst parts of my “carry-all-the-groceries” attitude is my own ridiculous hypocrisy. I tell my clients without hesitation to take baby steps as they work through personal challenges. “Be gentle on yourself as you move through your process,” I assure them. “Everything happens in its own space and time. Practice patience and presence, and give yourself permission to not get it perfectly the first time.”

Right?

I have finally decided, after years of not following my own advice, to give myself some credit as an expert in my field and treat myself like a client. Don’t I also deserve to be gentle on myself as I move through my process of growth and development? Bringing patience and presence to my journey of self-discovery sounds great!

So, in true Taoist fashion, I am practicing carrying my groceries in two (or more) mindful trips. Rather than holding my breath to ensure the stability of a carton of eggs perched on top of a precarious pile while leaning just far enough to the side to ensure that fourth bag doesn’t slip off of my shoulder, I will instead take the space and time to carry a manageable, comfortable amount. It might take 30 seconds longer, but isn’t it worth the grace and peace of mind? Instead of worrying about satisfying the competitiveness, the need to be right and the blind, unrealistic optimism of my inner perfectionist, I actually get to take my time and feel more relaxed.

Giving myself permission to practice carrying groceries in multiple trips has offered me opportunities to cultivate patience and ease, and treat myself more kindly through unfolding the facets of my very human psyche. In short, I am finally taking the advice that I have long been offering my clients. Personal perfectionism notwithstanding, I deserve to grow in my own space and time, just as I deserve to bring presence and peace to all aspects of my life, including carrying the groceries. Even a simple chore can be a wonderful teacher and opportunity for growth.

Love and the Beauty of Pain

Love is NOT easy. Somebody WILL get hurt.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

I’m not talking about creating suffering for the sake of suffering, or inflicting our Shadows on others because we don’t know how else to bleed off a bit of the inner tension. I’m referring to the healthy kind of pain that squeezes your heart enough to point out your wounds and blind spots, but that ultimately lives in a safe container where it is welcome to be held and examined properly as a gift and learning tool, rather than an enemy.

I got dumped this afternoon, which was mostly a surprise for me. My wonderful (now ex) boyfriend and I have been experiencing some challenges lately, but I was fully prepared to gently and compassionately work through them together. I was under the impression that he was on board to do the same. In this case, no one is the bad guy. No one is the victim. Instead, we are two people who care deeply about each other, love spending time together and had some challenges come up, as they always do in relationship. I was ready to say yes to working through them. He was not.

Being told, “I don’t want to hurt you,” by a partner as part of a breakup speech feels simultaneously very sweet and completely clueless. I say that without judgement or pointing fingers, but as someone who has experienced my fair share of pain in relationship and knows the difference between healthy, constructive, growth-inducing pain and heart-splitting, destructive, damaging trauma. This relationship had already poked one of my deepest wounds and caused me some significant discomfort, but I was still willing to say yes to it because I knew that, by working through that pain with a compassionate partner, I was showing up in the world as the kind of person I want to be, and ultimately moving toward healing. I knew I was signing up for more painful teaching moments by continuing to say yes to being with this person, and I was still happy to do so because I know the richness that comes from such experiences. (Not to mention the sheer joy and beautiful connection that comprised the majority of our relationship.)

Pain is a great teacher—one of the most powerful and blatantly misunderstood allies for someone who seeks to truly know themselves. When we are children, we learn from pain. We learn that we can run, and when we fall and skin our knees, we learn to run more gracefully. As we grow, we learn all sorts of amazing skills that allow us to move us through life, and because of pain, we learn to do them well, respecting the potential for danger. We know that living in the world involves exposing ourselves to harm, but if we do not wish to let the potential pain dictate our actions, we learn how to move through our lives with awareness and grace and do those things anyway.

Relationship and the pain that comes with it is one of the most marvelous teachers and catalysts for unfolding the infinite beauty of one’s consciousness. Pain teaches us where our edges are so we can look at them, hold them with tenderness and gently lean into the wounding. When used with care and awareness, pain teaches us compassion, honesty, surrender, and how to love ourselves and our partners more deeply. Creating opportunities where pain can be welcomed as an honored teacher, rather than pushed away in fear, is what allows a relationship to build a solid foundation based in trust and the lived experience of working together through a challenge. Couples who hold each other’s pain lovingly and allow it to transmute into growth and learning cultivate a relationship dynamic that is much more likely to weather the storm of an unexpected life trauma (accident, sickness, family catastrophe) because they will have the tools ready to meet that pain with awareness, compassion and grace.

I cannot blame this man for wanting to avoid causing me harm, and for wanting to avoid being hurt, himself. None of us want to inflict suffering upon those whom we hold dear, and yet, love and pain are two sides of the same coin. Only through fully understanding and embracing both of these energies can we ever hope to know the true depth and beauty of our hearts.

As I shepherd myself through this process of closing a chapter with someone—a beautiful, compassionate man with whom I was just beginning to fall in love— I will gently examine my wounds and edges. I will say yes to this squeeze in my chest. I will invite pain in as a beloved ally to teach me the depth of my own heart and my capacity to love.

I will tenderly hold my own pain and know that it’s a beautiful thing.

Advanced Empathy: Moving Energy for the Collective

Originally published on Eagle Song October 27, 2015.

I began writing this article exactly two months ago. I set it aside for awhile, but since then, new insight has come forward to lend itself to greater understanding. Here is the original portion of the article from August 27th:

I had one of those Universal “Oh, duh!” moments today about an idea that feels so important I can’t believe it hadn’t consciously occurred to me before. Or rather, it probably has, but never in such an obvious way that highlighted its perfect truth.

My day today was full of experiences which contributed toward a feeling of hypersensitivity–I had a fantastic long run this morning in which I felt strong and present in my entire body, I enjoyed a very expansive meeting with a client, and I drank a lot of tea (a somewhat psychedelic pu’er) while talking for hours with a friend about communication, connection, Spirituality, interpersonal dynamics, etc. All in all, by the time I got home this evening, I was in a heightened state of awareness and receptivity.

So when I discovered that an acquaintance of mine had taken her life a few days ago and witnessed the outpouring of grief from those close to her, I felt myself immediately get swept into an intensely emotional space. I recognized my natural empathic response and started the process of identifying “What is mine? What is not mine?” in regards to the cascade of feelings. Like always, as soon as I put a name to “I am channeling the collective consciousness of grief on behalf of all of these people,” I felt better. I have spent many years practicing emotional and energetic boundaries so I don’t take on other people’s stuff.

And yet, it occurred to me that maybe having solid emotional and energetic boundaries is only part of what it means to use empathy in a healthy and constructive way. As soon as I delved into this thought spiral, I felt a deep resonance with the idea that someone who has practiced grounded and self-aware empathy will be able to use their gift to move and transmute massive amounts of energy on behalf of others.

This is where the “Oh, duh!” moment occurred. In fact, now that I think about it, a few examples immediately come to mind where I have done mass-consciousness-level healing in the last year by channeling the wounds of the collective through empathy.

Let’s look at the layers of understanding around empathy (and here I use “sadness” as an example, but it could be anything):

  1. Unconsciousness: I have feelings! Sometimes I feel sad and I’m not sure why.
  2. Awareness: Other people have feelings! I feel sad when other people feel sad.
  3. Identification: That feeling of sadness does not belong to me.
  4. Separation: I am holding my emotional and energetic boundary so I can witness your sadness in compassion, but not feel it myself.
  5. ***HEALING*** (this is the new idea): I recognize the sadness and wounding of this individual or collective group of beings and, knowing and trusting in my capacity to let it flow through me, I give permission for it to do so in order to transmute this energy on behalf of these people and for the benefit of all beings.

When I tuned in to Spirit for any guidance on the subject, I received confirmation in a big way. Yes, this is part of the purpose of empathy.

That is where I left the article at the time. Fast forward to this morning (October 27th), when a close friend of mine tells me about a profound healing experience she had over the weekend. This healing allowed her to release the energy of shame around sexuality that she had been holding onto since her childhood. She told me about what it felt like to process this shame for herself and to let it go, and then went on to describe how she felt the sexual shame of all women flowing through her to be transmuted and released in the same way.

I told her the ideas I had about “Advanced Empathy” and how someone practiced in holding their personal boundaries could move a step beyond the separation and allow the energy to flow through them to offer healing for the benefit of all. She was intrigued by the idea and agreed wholeheartedly, I remembered this forgotten article, and here we are.

Let me note that I call this idea “Advanced Empathy” for a reason. Both my friend and I are extremely practiced healers who have spent years cultivating healthy boundaries and learning how to safely move powerful energies. Most empathic people, when they discover that their capacity for empathy makes them susceptible to the feelings of others around them, take steps to learn how to protect themselves from being overwhelmed (Separation: #4 on the list above). This is both a totally reasonable and completely necessary tool for forming constructive boundaries. I remember learning in my late teens and early twenties that having solid energetic boundaries was the only way for me to comfortably live in the world.

But what is the true purpose of empathy? Humans evolved as a cooperative species in which the survival of the group depended on each individual feeling connected to the community, cared for and invested in the well-being of others in the tribe. We’ve moved beyond some of the nitty-gritty aspects of survival, but still, feeling other peoples’ emotions is essential to the human experience. It is when a person doesn’t have empathy for other beings that they are capable of unkindness, inflicting pain, cruelty, murder or genocide. The purpose of empathy, then, has to do with not only sensing the feelings of other people, but with using it as a means of connection and healing, rather than as a cause for separation.

And it is only through “Advanced Empathy” that we can go about healing some of the massive wounds that exist in the collective consciousness. When I learned about my acquaintance who ended her life, I used empathy to offer healing not only to her, but to all those who grieved for her passing. And really, to all those who needed help moving the energy of grief. When my friend experienced her healing and release of sexual shame, then felt the energy of the sexual shame of all women moving through her, she was using empathy to heal the feminine collective consciousness. When I channeled Joan of Arc a few months ago and felt the energy ripping through me, I was offering healing by holding empathy and transmuting the wounds of all those who had suffered, who had lived in fear or who had been killed for revealing who they really were. That’s another story in itself, but there’s the short version for now.

Where do we go from here? Learning healthy and constructive boundaries is always a good thing. People who can hold a safe energetic container and who have practiced a high degree of self-awareness will be in a great position to take empathy to the next level. There are so many wounds that exist in the collective consciousness, and the more that we can transmute this energy into healing, the better. The times I have worked with channeling empathy for healing of the collective, it was pulled out of me unconsciously. My personal goal is to move into a place of conscious empowerment around empathy, when I can use my healthy, grounded boundaries and say, “I recognize the wounding of the collective consciousness and, knowing and trusting in my capacity to let it flow through me, I give permission for it to do so in order to transmute this energy on behalf of these people and for the benefit of all beings.”