Personal Practice

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!

Personal Alchemy

My Morning Practice lately has been largely a movement fusion of my own invention: DanYoCoGong (dance, yoga, core and qi gong). Here's a bit of the dance part to let the creative expression flooooow...

I had a mini Soul Map reading the other day with a new friend. One of the things that resonated most deeply was the confirmation she offered about letting the silly, funny and creative part of me shine through my work.

As I've been playing with this process of Personal Alchemy over the last several months, I'm noticing my internal objections that naturally arise. Historically, I haven't shown that side as much when it comes to my professional face. I think a lot of that has come from wanting people to trust me, think I am capable and qualified, and not too young to be guiding them through major life stuff (I started my business when I was 21).

However...

There is room for Divine Play in the healing process. There is room for laughter in the darkness. There is room for dancing and being funny, even when it feels like everything around you is heavy. It doesn't mean we're taking the work less seriously. It just means that we remember that all things are birthed from the void and that creation springs up where death has passed moments before.

It means we remember that we can exist simultaneously in grief and humor, rage and creation, heaviness and grace.

Let the creative expression flow.

Let the Alchemy of personal transformation unfold.

~~~

It's so easy for us to get stuck.

  • Have you ever taken a look at where you are in your life and had a sinking moment when you realized that you're in the same place you were a year ago? Two years ago?
  • Have you ever felt like you always get to a certain spot in your job, your life, your relationships... and then everything falls apart and you have to start over?
  • Have you told yourself over and over that you want to create a change in your life, but felt at a loss as to HOW that change was going to come about?

If you found yourself answering "yes!" to any of these questions, you might be stuck somewhere in one of the stages of the Alchemical process.

Alchemy is the process of change: even if we don't know it, we are moving through these stages in a continuous cycle throughout our entire lives. Most of us have no idea that we are living this cycle, and find ourselves washed around by the currents of change without any sense of direction or ability to consciously move through the process.

I have a gift for you.

I am offering eleven free one-hour sessions of Personal Alchemy! Here's the deal:

  • This is first come, first served: once they're booked, they're booked. No reschedules, no wait list. Yes, this is my gift to you.
  • We meet for one hour on my private conference line. I'll make a recording of your session, if you like!
  • We'll explore where you are in your life right now and discover which of the Alchemical stages you're currently in.
  • We'll look at the best way for you to get unstuck and continue to move through the cycle of Alchemy--get ready for personal practices and tools!
  • If it feels like a good fit, we'll talk about ways we can continue to work together in your process of change (I AM Alchemy or one-on-one with me).

Book your Personal Alchemy session here!

Last time I put out an offer like this, it filled within a few days. If you're interested, please book your session ASAP.

Once you're registered, I'll contact you with further details for our Personal Alchemy session! I look forward to diving in with you.

The Power of Subtlety

"Go big, or go home!"

"No pain, no gain!"

We're all familiar with these statements, and others that also glorify intensity, drama and suffering. I definitely used to be a member of the Harder/Better/Faster/Stronger camp. I think it was a combination of my desire for efficiency, my highly competitive nature and the need to receive instant gratification in knowing that my efforts had achieved some immediately measurable result.

It took me an embarrassingly long time, but I finally learned that healing doesn't work that way. In many ways, I almost felt exempt from the Universal Laws of subtle energy movements. See aforementioned competitive nature. "If anyone can heal overnight, it's me! I'll just do this one big ritual and I'll be good!" Then Spirit would kick my ass in some form or another and I would be forced to slow down, work on the subtleties and not try to rush anything or create some grand Hail Mary healing gesture.

There were times when I was moving through deep healing crisis, and the only thing I could do to work on myself was some mini personal practice, but I committed to doing it every day. One of the most gratifying examples of this took place a couple of years ago as I experienced the trials of the Portland housing market and had no idea where I was going to live. During a healing session, the practitioner told me that my root chakra was almost entirely shut down. I remember thinking, "That can't be right. I'm very grounded." But as I considered this information, I realized that I hadn't adjusted my personal practices to accommodate the destabilization I felt from losing my home. I silently promised myself in that moment to work on my root chakra and my sense of safety every day, even if only for five minutes.

When I saw this healer again a couple of months later, she noted that my root chakra was not only fully back online, but huge! Also, all of my other chakras were more balanced and aligned because of the work I had been doing on my root chakra alone. Aside from the measurable difference in my energy field, I emotionally felt safer, more secure and confident, despite the upheaval in my living situation. I had worked every day for a few minutes on internalizing my sense of safety, rather than having my safety be dependent on external circumstances.

I share this story about subtle personal practice right now because this exact phenomenon is coming up for many of my clients and people in my immediate surroundings. I have had more discussions about subtle personal practices in the last couple of weeks than I have ever had in my life.

In a conversation with a friend of mine last week, we got around to talking about energy clearing. I perceived that his field was a bit "dusty" and asked him what he did for a clearing practice. "You mean like a sweat lodge?" He asked. I answered that a sweat lodge was a good way to do some bigger clearing, but asked again what he did every day for himself. "Oh. Nothing," he answered. At this point Spirit started poking me with a very direct message, so I asked him, "Do you believe that subtle daily practices actually work?" He looked a bit taken aback as he thought for a moment, then, almost sheepishly, answered, "I guess not."

We all like magic fixes. We like thinking that there's one golden gem of a ritual or practice that we can bring in to clean up our energies and erase all the wounds. That's why there are so many "Intensives" out there in the healing and coaching world. There are plenty of retreats, ceremonies and other ways to experience a supercharged dose of healing. There is absolutely incredible value in dropping into your process and doing nothing else for one day, three days, five days, a week, but unless your awareness of the subtleties and your established personal practice is there to back it up, it is not sustainable and the energies won't stick around. While much less sexy, the subtle consistency of your daily personal practice is going to be the thing that saves your ass and creates the solid foundation for all other healing work to take place.

I guarantee you that the subtle work that you do every single day will be one of your greatest tools. This is what will allow you to become intimately acquainted with your energies, your process, your intuition and help you cultivate a strong energetic foundation. It is this foundation that will provide a clear container for whatever intensive healing/coaching/ceremonial work you do, and give you a place to channel that infusion of new energy.

I tell people, "Doing a subtle practice two minutes every day for 30 days is more powerful than doing one hour of practice once a month."

How can you harness your own power of subtlety? Check this out:

A Personal Practice Primer

Congratulations! You're ready to begin your subtle personal practice. Here are some things to consider:

Support

It's a good idea to receive some support in the form of healing work or coaching to help you determine the best direction for your personal practice. What energies would you like to develop?

Time

How much time can you commit EVERY DAY to this practice? I tell my clients to choose something in the range of 30 seconds to 1 hour. Choose the amount of time that you confidently feel you can commit to every single day. If there are some days where you do more than that, that's great! But at very least, you are setting aside that minimum amount of time.

The Practice Itself

So, what are you actually doing during that timeframe? Part of what dictates your practice is the amount of time you allot. For example, if you give yourself an hour, that's enough time for some journaling, breathing meditation, embodiment practices and affirmations. If you give yourself 10 minutes, maybe a brief visualization and affirmation practice would be more appropriate. If you give yourself two minutes, you can create a brief, but rich practice of silence, gratitude and simply being present in your body.

Here are some suggestions of a few things that you might want to weave into your personal practice:

  • Self-healing work (Reiki, chakra balance)
  • Breathwork
  • Meditation
  • Gratitude
  • Affirmations
  • Journaling
  • Embodiment practice (gentle movement, stretching, yoga, exercise)
  • Silence
  • Gardening

It's important also to change up your personal practice every now and then so it doesn't become stagnant. But for now, just get started!

Full Moon in Capricorn: Foundation and Freedom

Foundation and Freedom.

Are these two ideas mutually exclusive?

How are the energies of structure, support, grounding, nourishment and community related to those of freedom, expansion, passion, growth and the wild pursuit of dreams?

They're actually deeply intertwined, especially under this powerful Full Moon in Capricorn.

This deep Full Moon container encourages us to evaluate the sources of structure and support in our lives. What is the state of the bedrock of your earthly existence? Is it stable enough to support the rocket launch of your wildest dreams? If not, how can you adjust and call in what you need to construct a more solid foundation? If your foundation is rock-solid and ready, how can you use this amazing framework to support the free, explosive expansion of your joy and purpose in the world?

I've been asking myself a lot of these questions over the last week leading up to this lunar container. Especially over the 4th of July, where the topic of "Freedom" comes up a lot... but what does Freedom actually look like?

For me, Freedom means easy and graceful flow. It means my body, mind, heart and spirit are clear, balanced, healthy and expansive. Freedom means that I am safe, my earthly needs are well-met and I have plenty of space and tine to devote myself to my joy. Freedom means doing plenty of the things I love the most: spending time with dear ones, being active and doing my work. (For real, I'm not just saying that last one because this is a business blog post--my healing, mentorship and teaching work lights me up in a way that few other things do and sets my soul on fire.)

The foundation that allows me to experience deep freedom in this way includes my nurturing home, my flourishing business, my amazing family and community, my health and personal practices devoted to nourishing my well-being. The structures I have created for myself provide a framework for me to be, do and have all the things that light me up. In short, my truest freedom comes from structure.

I invite you to consider these things in the context of your life. What does Freedom look like for you? What Foundation do you have in place to support your continued growth and expansion? Now is the perfect time for these inquiries. Align your energies and intentions with this powerful Full Moon container to build a firm foundation for your greatest freedom.

(For more information on working with the Lunar Cycle, check out my LUNAR ALCHEMY course beginning September 12!)

From one free spirit to another, you look great out there.

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.