On Embodying Our Calling

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My favorite poet/teacher these days is Mark Nepo. No one helps me live more mindfully and deliciously than he does.

Today I feel I MUST share here this passage with you from The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have.

It speaks to me so beautifully about what is like to embody our calling. I’ve been contemplating the concept of embodiment for a few weeks now, but this is the first time I’ve seen it attached to callings.

What is calling to you? What do you feel called to do, to be, to experience? Often, we don’t hear any calls, but from experience I know that the calling is always there and it’s only through slowing down and turning down the volume of a busy life, that we can hear that voice calling to us.

May we make listening to that voice a priority.

Here’s the excerpt.

“To know God without being God-like is like trying to swim without entering water.” -Orest Bedrij

Underneath all we are taught, there is a voice that calls to us beyond what is reasonable, and in listening to that flicker of spirit, we often find deep healing. This is the voice of embodiment calling us to live our lives like sheet music played, and it often speaks to us briefly in moments of deep crisis. Sometimes it is so faint we mistake its whisper for wind through leaves. But taking it into the heart of our pain, it can often open the paralysis of our lives.

This brings to mind the story of a young divinity student who was stricken with polio, and from somewhere deep within him came an unlikely voice calling him to, of all things, dance. So, with great difficulty, he quit divinity school and began to dance, and slowly and miraculously, he not only regained the use of his legs, but went on to become one of the fathers of modern dance.

This is the story of Ted Shawn, and it is compelling for us to realize that studying God did not heal him. Embodying God did. The fact of Ted Shawn’s miracle shows us that Dance, in all its forms, is Theology lived. This leads us all to the inescapable act of living out what is kept in, of daring to breathe in muscle and bone what we know and feel and believe – again and again.

Whatever crisis we face, there is this voice of embodiment that speaks beneath our pain ever so quickly, and if we can hear it and believe it, it will show us a way to be reborn. The courage to hear and embody opens us to a startling secret, that the best chance to be whole is to love whatever gets in the way, until it ceases to be an obstacle.

Mark Nepo

When You Hate Your Job | How To Live Your Bliss

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Last week, someone sent me this email, and I thought I would share my response here, since it’s a question I get often. I hope it’s useful for you as well.

QUESTION:Mariela – you are someone who usually gives me good spiritual advice …. What do you do when a job/career brings you down & makes you feel like you can’t accomplish anything? I want to just quit but I have to support myself some way…. I have an idea to start my own business but then doubt creeps in … Any advice? I know you’ve mastered this many times.

ANSWER: Hello lovely! Sorry that took me a little bit to reply. I wanted to have time to sit and reply to your note with the level of attention it requires

First, know you are not alone on this. So many of us feel or have felt this way. I remember reading on Forbes in 2014 that more than have of all Americans are unhappy at work. There’s an epidemic in this society. Most of us feel this enormous emptiness inside, from doing unfulfilling work.

I adore this quote: “There is only one way in this world to achieve true happiness,” said William J. Reilly in 1949, “and that is to express yourself with all your skill and enthusiasm in a career that appeals to you more than any other. In such a career, you feel a sense of purpose, a sense of achievement. You feel you are making a contribution. It is not work.”

I think you need to create an exit strategy and stick to it, because you love yourself too much to stay in an environment that is bringing you down.

SHORT TERM: 1. As a short-term fix, I would do an exercise called: “The Positive Aspects Of.” During the day at work, focus only on the positive aspects of being there. Example: the paycheck, the nice desk, that one really lovely co-worker, the view from the window, the fast computer, the cold water in the cooler, etc… When I’m in situations or places that bring me down, I have trained my mind to become hyper-focused on the positive; I go out of my way to find the good, the beautiful, the useful… Or I think about someone I love, and I allow that love to spread through my body and bring a smile to my face. I can be stubborn that way, only focusing on the positive; it’s the best kind of stubbornness, IMO. smile emoticon But it takes practice.

2. The importance of self-care is something I’ve learned the hard way. I used to laugh at people who talked about it. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I literally didn’t have time, but I was forced to make time. And I have to admit, I also felt uncomfortably guilty about practicing self-care, and I’ve seen so many women feel the same. But the truth is, when we don’t practice self-care (which I describe as nourishing yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually) we have a harder time dealing with work situations and people, our minds aren’t clear on what steps to take next, and we don’t have the strength to leave.

Just putting these two strategies in place have worked wonders for people in my circle… and for myself too.

LONG TERM:

3. At some point soon, I think you should find another job. I’m not talking about a permanent job; just one that pays the bills temporarily but is not soul-sucking. I’ve seen many people do that (although they had to make sacrifices, cutting down on expenses) but with a less-stressful job you’ll have more energy to dedicate to the long-term strategy of doing work you absolutely love, work that is authentic to you, fulfilling to your soul, and helpful to the world. Some of us get caught up with the ego saying things like: “that kind of work is below yourself, your skills…” “What would people say?” “You didn’t get a master’s degree for you to work at a flower shop.” When that happens, we must remind the ego that this is temporary, that we have a strategy in place for the life we want to create for ourselves. Following through with a dream is one of the most empowering things ever. You feel you can do anything after that, and according to, again, William J. Reilly “Life really begins when you have discovered that you can do anything you want.”

4. For going solo, I recommend, again, becoming single-focused on knowing yourself and your skills. Who am I? What do I adore to do? What does the world need from me? It takes time to answer these questions. I took me a long time (years) to figure it out, but, of course, it’s so worth the inquiry, and I still have half of my life ahead to do that work.

I really found the concept of Ikigai (attached here) very helpful. I would print it, spend some time playing with it, and put it on a wall where I could see it every day. It’s fun!

5. This last advice can seem less practical, but it’s my favorite, because it’s effortless. Several people have said the same in different ways, but I love how Tom Kenyon puts it: “following your deepest sense of joy will lead you to be in the places where you will most likely survive.” I believe that my joy will always guide me, even if the path ahead is dark. I believe that by nurturing myself and my dreams, doing what bring me joy daily, is the path that will lead me to fulfillment. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s healing. It’s the way!

I hope this is helpful to you. I’m sending you a hug. There’s nothing worse than spending 8 hours a day (40 or more a week) doing work you don’t love. Patience, courage and determination are needed now.

I’ll never forget the day I “woke up” and decided that something had to change. I continue to wake up to different areas that need change, and I give myself a strategy and time-line now, working daily toward that dream.

Much much love to you. Hope to see you at church one of these Sundays.

How We Resist The Blessings From The Universe

 

On one of the walls in my kitchen, I have the following quote printed on a piece of paper so I can see it several times a day:
 
Stop resisting reality. Life is trying to help you.  

 

I’ve been contemplating the concept of Resistance for a while now. Today (after talking to my mother), it dawned on me how I’ve resisted some of the biggest blessings the Universe has brought to me.

 

For example, I resisted, believe it or not, moving to the United States from Cuba in 1995. I was in my late teens when the process began, and I was by then the perfect communist young woman I had been groomed to be since birth by the system. So, when my family had the opportunity to leave the island as political refugees, I refused. It didn’t matter how suffocated I felt when thinking of my future there, how I only had one pair of shoes (they were sneakers and their soles were so worn that you could see through them) or how I was literally fainting from hunger. Every time my family brought up the topic, like a toddler, I folded my arms in front of my chest and said: “I’m not going!”
 
 
It wasn’t just stubbornness though, or the communist brainwashing I had endured that painted the most scary picture of America (drugs, violence, etc.). I was also terrified to leave our small town and be swallowed up by the enormity of American culture. 

 

I eventually said “yes” only because my mother was sick, needed treatment here in the U.S., and wouldn’t leave Cuba without me. I was already an adult, so she could have left without me, but she wouldn’t. And for that, I thanked her today, for the first time, because I can not imagine (I really can’t) who I would be today, if I had stayed 21 years ago, if I hadn’t had the opportunities, the teachers, the people around me, who’ve helped me become who I am today.

 

What separated that caged little bird, that starving young woman from a life of expansion and freedom was Resistance.

 

What separates many of us in the western world from the life we dream of is Resistance.

 

So, after talking to my mom today, I decided to go through some of the main events in my life and was blown away to realize how I resisted them as well, out of fear. We just don’t like change.

 

So, here’s my prayer for tonight: May we realize life is always trying to help us. May we have the wisdom to recognize resistance and the courage to overcome it. 
 
 
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What is Freedom? A Story| Perspective from Living in Cuba

I was 20 years old, living in Cuba, and for several months, an hour before the alarm clock went of, I would wake up in a panic. It was hard for me to breathe and for the next hour I would lay there — eyes wide open, mind spinning — trying to find a way out of the life I was destined for.

At the time, I was in college in Havana City, finishing my undergraduate degree in teaching. Once I graduated, I would have to return to my small hometown and teach, by myself, a classroom of forty-five students. I loved children, always had, and they liked me back, but I simply wasn’t skilled at teaching a class that large. I could barely raise my voice back then, and I had never been a disciplinarian. Teachers didn’t have supplies or materials to keep the students entertained, so classrooms were loud and hard to control, even for seasoned teachers. They were going to eat me alive, I feared, and I just couldn’t picture that life: day in and day out.

I never really wanted to be a teacher but that was the only option I had coming out of high school. My aspiration was to be a writer or at least study philosophy. At the time, the Cuban government needed teachers, not writers or philosophers, so I figured I would take teaching (better to have a degree than none) and I would deal with the consequences later.

Five years of fun and freedom in the fabulous city of Havana were coming to an end, and I would be forced into a very small unhappy life, living with my mother and abusive/alcoholic stepfather, in a town where my friends and I were now the latest subjects for people’s cruel, cut-throat gossip. There was no art, no culture in that town; I couldn’t bare it.

Were there really no other options for me?

None that I could think of. No aunt in another city that could take me in, no other jobs, nothing. I was stuck!

___

That was 20 years ago, and every time I’ve felt stuck in my life ever since, I compare that “stuckness” to the one I felt at 20, and then I realize I’m not really stuck.

I’m either: afraid, being lazy, or lacking imagination, because there are possibly a million options here in the US that I didn’t have in Cuba.

And THAT — having that vast number of options — is what I call FREEDOM. And it is my absolute favorite part of living in the United States.

_

This post is for the the #10DaysofFree Instagram Challenge! Today is Day 1: WHAT IS FREEDOM?

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HOW TO FIND YOUR ORIGINAL MEDICINE

About ten years ago, my husband, Dean, and I went to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park in Boston (we were probably around 30 years old at the time), and I’ll never forget what happened that day. We were sitting behind the third-base line, and in front of us was a Puerto Rican woman, close to 60 years old, in a wheel chair. She seemed very angry, snapping constantly at the teenager who was with her. Being the extroverted person I am, I tried several times to talk to her in a friendly way (in English and Spanish), but she just looked at me with an irritated face, as if she were saying, “do I look like I want to be social?” So I got the message and left her alone. Eventually, I went to the bathroom, and when I got back, Dean was sitting next to her, and her son had taken Dean’s place next to me. I sat down and watched, in fascination, how Dean and this woman interacted, talking and laughing. She even punched him lightly on his arm every once in a while, cracking up at his jokes.

That is Dean’s “Original Medicine.” He makes people drop every piece of armor in front of him. Within a few minutes of being around him, people relax and become filled with a child-like joy.
What exactly is Original Medicine? It’s a term some indigenous people use to describe the invisible healing power everyone is born with, to help the world. I learned about this term a few years ago, and I’ve been reading about it and observing it on others ever since.

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You might know your Original Medicine as:

:: Your superpower

:: Your genius

:: Your unique ability

:: Your special gift

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Original Medicine is something you excel at that is helpful to people around you. And it’s very easy and natural to you. In fact, it’s so effortless, that you probably don’t acknowledge its power and take it for granted.

When we give our Original Medicine to others, even though it’s in the form of emotions, we are making their body chemistry change. Sounds crazy, right? But it’s actually similar to what music does to us.

But let me give you a few more examples of Original Medicine in the real world.
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Madelin’s Medicine: Healing Harmony

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My friend Madelin has the medicine of Harmony. She walks into a room, and everyone in it exhales deeply and relaxes. She’s been a massage therapist for years and has healed hundreds of people, not just from her touch but from that medicine of harmony which she gives to others with her mere presence. People associate her with an angel, because of her loving, kind, light nature. I’ve been fortunate to “drink” Madelin’s medicine for 15 years. Every time I needed peace and balance in my life, Madelin was there to give me her healing energy, for free. If I were to guess, Madelin’s medicine makes us release oxytocin, which is known as the hormone of healing, love, and calm.[/dt_call_to_action]
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Maria Cristina’s Medicine: Nourishing Presence

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Maria Cristina is another friend of mine, and her medicine is her nourishing presence. I assure you, you’ve not been seen/heard—in your life—unless you’ve had someone around you with a medicine similar to Maria Cristina’s. The way she takes you in with her full undivided loving mindful attention…well, it just heals whatever areas of your life where you had felt abandoned, insignificant, unseen, unheard… Being held with such loving acceptance nourishes you at every level. I really feel that being in her presence is a transcending experience.[/dt_call_to_action]
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Mary’s Medicine: Courageous Strength

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I had an experience recently that left me shaken up. I am not a confrontational person, but I felt I had to stand up against an injustice committed by someone much bigger than me, who was abusing power. Although I was proud of myself for literally standing up, I was sick to my stomach and weak on my knees after the confrontation. Instinctively, I knew to call Mary, who, in my opinion, has the medicine of Courage and Strength… I see her like a courageous warrior full of stamina, and just talking to her on the phone, I feel like she had given me a shot of that Strength; within minutes, I felt deeply rooted in my own inner power.[/dt_call_to_action]
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Mariela’s Medicine: Motivating Enthusiasm

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It took me a while to recognize my Original Medicine. Though people have been telling me all my life, I took it for granted. I never thought it could be of value to others. I believe I was given the medicine of Passion/Enthusiasm/Ebullience to inspire and motivate others. The words people have used over and over to describe what they get from me are: Energy and Light. They say they feel fully-charged with positive empowering energy after spending time with me or hearing me speak; some have even said it’s like a shot of good/fun adrenaline, an oomph that can last all week… Every time I hear this I, naturally, feel humble, and I hope to continue feeling that way for the rest of my days.[/dt_call_to_action]

So, you see why this is such a big deal? I mean, imagine a world where everyone knows his or her medicine and uses it to serve others. But some of us have been so beaten down by life, so domesticated from our wildness, that we don’t even know who we are, much less recognize our medicine.

In the book The Big Leap (which I highly recommend because it was a life-changer for me and for others I’ve recommended it to) author Gay Hendricks says that the key to success is to spend 70 percent of our time in our Zone of Genius (his term for Original Medicine). Amazing things happen when we operate from that zone, because it’s so easy for us, and it fuels us with energy, so we can do more and more good, which brings more satisfaction and joy.

If you’ve been struggling to find what you are supposed to be doing to make a difference in the world, like I struggled for years, a good place to start is by examining how your Original Medicine has shown up throughout your life, especially in childhood, before you were molded by society. Ask friends and family members what they remember about you. When I reconnected with childhood friends on Facebook, many of them told me what they remembered about me, and their comments served as confirmation for where I was on my journey.

Below are a couple of resources (paid, unfortunately) that I hope can offer you some guidance. They were extremely helpful to me.

But first, just so you can see how accurate these assessments are, in StrengthsFinders 2.0, my top two strengths are: Positivity and Activator (“You use your contagious positive energy to motivate others to take action.”). In How to Fascinate, my archetype is The Catalyst (“People gravitate towards your energizing personality. You know how to captivate an audience. You are named The Catalyst because you add value by starting action.”)
Makes sense for a motivational writer and speaker, doesn’t it?

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FIRST RESOURCE: THE STRENGTHSFINDER 2.0 ASSESSMENT

This assessment is the 2.0 version of the classic book Now, Discover Your Strengths. “The theory behind the book is that each adult individual possesses a certain number of fixed universal personal-character attributes, defined by the authors as ‘talent themes,’ which, together, result in an individual’s tendency to develop certain skills more easily and excel in certain fields in a sustainable way.”[/dt_call_to_action]

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SECOND RESOURCE: HOW TO FASCINATE PERSONALITY TEST

This one is a personality test that can determine one’s personality archetype out of 49 options. It was created by Sally Hogshead. In her own words: “Once you know what makes you valuable to others, you’re more authentic and confident, and more likely to make a positive impression. It all begins with understanding how the world sees you, at your best.”[/dt_call_to_action]
So, that’s a lot for you to munch over.

But here’s my wish for you:

   May you have the courage to search, discover, claim, and use your Original Medicine to heal those around you.
and
May you always know and trust that your essence is vital to us.

ABOUT THE ARTWORK:

My daughter loves to make “potions” by mixing food color, glitter, oils, etc. with water, then she puts them in little bottles or vials. When I saw what she was doing, I thought that I wished everyone could wear one of these around their necks, as a reminder of their essence, of the Original Medicine they carry within.
Original Medicine

Intention for 2015 : F L O W / W U W E I

   Instead of doing resolutions, which puts a lot of pressure on me, at the beginning of each year I choose an intentiona themeto focus on for the next 365 days. Picking the word is never a rational process, something that comes from the ego mind. It’s more of a checking-in, listening to suggestions on what I need more for spiritual growth.

   So, the theme for 2015 is: Flow-1

   I’m very excited about it, because this practice will lead me to my ideal way of being: where I’m both, blissfully free and intimately connected with the universe as a whole.

   F L O W doesn’t mean inactivity.

   It doesn’t mean “going with the flow” of busyness that make you squander your energy on projects that do not nourish your true nature, nor “going with the flow” that sends you down predictable paths with old patterns and behaviors, and definitely not unauthentic/forced currents that strips you of your very essence.

What is F L O W then?

  • Flow is unhurried ease.
  • It’s the art of not trying, of letting things happen (or the art of getting out of your own way).
  • Flow means “effortless action,” what in Taoism is known as Wu Wei (pronounced “oooo way”). It has its roots in the Tao-te Ching (The Classic of the Way and Virtue) by the philosopher Lao Tzu, who believed that beings who live in harmony with the Tao behave in purely natural, effortless ways. A common example of this is the planets revolving around the sun without any force; it’s a spontaneous movement. Effortless action means being who you truly are, doing what sprouts naturally from within.

   Flow requires trust in Life/God/The Universe which nourishes every/thing. Just look at the perfection, order, beauty of nature. It means trusting even during dark situations, like a divorce or a mid-life crisis (I’ve been through both). We need to trust it’s the best thing for us at that stage in our lives. I, personally, needed to go through that divorce, needed to go through those dark years being lost, in order to get to this place of peace and clarity where I am now.. This trusting that everything happens at the right time, in the perfect way, is what some call Divine Order.

   To live in a state of Flow, we need to realize our essential unity with Life/God and learn to cooperate with the flow of the universe, instead of going against it. In other words: we must be at one with life. So, no more fighting, no more struggle.

 

This year the practice of Flow for me will include:

  • rejoicing in spontaneity.
  • taking inspired action instead of forced ones, because when I make things happen in my life, I become disconnected from the divine. When I strategically plan my daily actions, I feel suffocated, forced, inauthentic.  Choosing  F L O W as this year’s word means that I will be guided by the spirit of life within me. I trust that it will tell me when it’s time to stay still and when it’s time to launch.
  • connecting with my inner instincts to discern between the different currents and possibilities to follow. The current I’m interested in is unfamiliar but inviting and exciting… and it leads to the core of myself.

   Other than practicing FLOW, this year I’ll also be educating myself on the concept, by reading more on Taoism as well as the research on the subject done by psychologists and neuroscientists for decades.

   Although Flow will be the main focus for this year, I’m not new to it. I’ve been practicing it for a little while, and from that experience, I can say that something shifts at a cellular level that brings you such peace, you question whether you are still alive, because you didn’t think that kind of peace was possible on this earth. And things begin to unfold perfectly, almost magically. And you, at last, fully relax, because you know you are being supported, and you know you’ve found a treasure no one, ever, can take from you. And when you feel the current rising within you, pulling you toward the shore of your destiny, you are no longer afraid to sing the tune you came here to sing, because like the poet David Whyte eloquently describes, you know that:

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