Desires Gone Wrong

The bombing that happened in Manchester this week is a disturbing example of how powerful our desires are. The human heart is a furnace of desires and that is its power. Within the fires of the heart, there are desires for power, control, revenge, manipulation, and domination. These same flames within the heart inspire desires for love, compassion, creativity, and beauty.

Indulging in desires for domination, revenge, and control originate from a weak sense of self. When one feels less than, victimized, and insecure one faces two choices. The first is positive and proactive and that is the choice to get on the path of self-growth and self-development. The second choice is destructive and depleting, the path of blaming others and doing your best to victimize and diminish them in order to feel better. Indulging ourselves in this second choice will leave us empty and broken inside.

We are yearning for a sense of inner strength and that is natural. We can tap into a true sense of security, wholeness, and inner strength, it just takes some dedication and commitment. Fortifying a false sense of self at the expense of others eventually shatters and leaves us depleted. The young person behind the act was fueling his desire to terrorize and control through fear and destruction. A revengeful thrill that cost people their lives and their health. In the long run, this type of hatred ends up consuming and debilitating its source.

We have a choice which desires we’re going to fulfill and how. We should choose wisely.

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Very Poor, Very Rich

On our visit to Rio De Janeiro last month, I was stuck by the appalling gap between the very rich and the extremely poor. I was walking along the beautiful beaches of Copacabana, then Ipanema, and reached Leblon, the very affluent part of the city. Out of curiosity, I decided to visit the famous mall, Shopping Leblon. A place where all the famous labels claimed their stake and charged as much as the highest price on Madison Avenue if not more. The food court there could compete with some of the high-level restaurants in New York City. In short, you needed plenty of money to buy anything there

On the other hand, I visited one of the 700 Favelas (ghettos) where people live in crumbling huts 6-7 in one room. We walked the tiny, dark alleys that were mice and rat infested and flooded with sewer water. People who live at the Favelas don’t have addresses. They are the outcasts of society. Most of them do their best to work in town, earn money, and have semi normal lives. The drug lords are the lawmakers while the police show attendance and get paid to be quiet.

Knowing that this disturbing reality is present in some form almost anywhere throughout the world, I ask myself, “How is this effecting our existence, our wellbeing as people on earth?” Any extreme imbalance anywhere (physical, mental, social, political) ends up in eruption and disturbance. The natural order of life is consistently driving towards balance. Balance creates strength and unity. Nature is wise enough to know that.

What are we doing to ourselves? Why? What are some of the solutions we might look for to create a better balance politically, socially, and spiritually? I cannot say I have the answers; I am definitely in search for insights. Please feel free to write me your thoughts.

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The Travel State of Being

This last month, I visited Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
A town nestled within lush mountains and wide waters. An earthly haven, indeed, with beaches long, white, and clean (yes clean). A place with people who are true lovers of life and samba and people who have been used and abused by greed and corruption, generation after generation…more about that in another moment.

Being there, I was reminded of what I call “the travel state of being”.
One of my most favorite things in life is traveling to new places. The door to the world of freedom and adventure opens up. I am out of my usual routine metrics. We all know that habitual patterns can put us to sleep emotionally and spiritually. Traveling, one really needs to be present (since half the time, you need to figure out where you are and where you need to go).

Being in the here and now becomes a palpable reality.
All my senses open up. Colors are brighter. Sounds and smells are welcomed. New tastes are so amazingly interesting. Faces and shapes become delicious. I feel like a child in the playground of life.

All the spiritual and emotional guidance of the sages, is an attempt to take us to a place where we are one with life and people, allowing our spirit and soul to flow gently while exchanging loving creative play with others.

Years of spiritual work can be accomplished in one simple travel adventure, if we’re willing to embrace the opportunity.
I love communicating with people when we don’t speak the same language. I discover over and over again, the magic of communication. Yes, we can understand and enjoy each other without language. I love doing things I never did before, learning about other ways of living and being.

While in Rio, I visited one of the most poverty and drug stricken places on the planet, Favela. We were guided by a man who has lived there for the last 50 years. It was a delightful surprise to share his intelligence, knowledge, and joyful ease of being. Go figure.

Travel opens your mind and heart to experience the true essence and resilience of people. The true essence of you. A child of life here to love play and create.

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The 4 Magic “R”s

Joel Goldsmith is one of my favorite writers/teachers. In his book, Beyond Words and Thoughts 8 (Goldsmith, 1998), Goldsmith states: “… we receive certain facets, realizations, and principles of truth which are continually flowing in, in proportion to our receptivity and openness.” Silence helps us create that open state of receptivity. When we visit the realm of inner silence through a state of meditation, we open our soul’s mind to the truth that lies beyond the world of the senses and the thoughts. We learn to feel and know the truth within the heart. Slowly, we find a way to trust and surrender to it until we become it. We come to realize that we are the truth, a breathing, living expression of Spirit, beyond our body and mind. We accept the infinite as the being of every being, and we can let it function and express through us. We gladly allow its power, abundance, and grace to flow through our lives. Our prayer becomes a grateful receptivity, a listening and a communion. The only thing that’s left is to become a clear channel through which grace flows and truth expresses itself.

Your Expanded Self is the individual channel through which divinity and wisdom are heard. As we learn to lead our daily lives from the spiritual understanding of our Expanded Self, we come closer to our God-like nature. Eventually, the truth begins to dawn in our consciousness.We understand that we are not the doers but the vessels of all that is true.

I’d like to introduce the Four Magic “R”s (Relax, Release, Receive, Rejoice). These help us replenish and expand. The Four Magic “R”s are deliciously refreshing and there is not much to explain about them.

1. Relax
We all know the importance of relaxation.

2. Release 
What are we releasing? In this case, we are releasing worry, anxiety, over-planning, and over-thinking.

3. Receive 
The ability to receive, be receptive, is as important and maybe more so than being active. We want to be open to receive love, abundance, healing, insights, ideas, inner guidance, and so on.The Hebrew word kabbalah (the Jewish mystical teaching) means “receiving.” We are vessels of consciousness, and if we are open to receive, we can know the truth and be transformed.

4. Rejoice
Not much explanation is needed. It is nourishing to feel joy in living. Whoever can rejoice and appreciate all of life’s experiences—the difficult as well as the sublime—has mastered the art of living.

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How Meditation Changes Your Life

Last week we talked about stillness and mindfulness. This week we’re going to focus on how mindfulness works in tandem with meditation to positively effect your daily life.

Mindfulness is one way of cultivating a meditative state.
There are many forms of meditation: sitting, lying down, moving, drawing, writing, breathing, chanting, creating, and so on. In my practice and workshops, we experience all these forms of meditation, and more. The two common threads present in all these forms of meditations are (1) dropping the “Monkey Mind” and (2) being in the moment.

Dropping the Monkey Mind
The Monkey Mind refers to the obsessive, compulsive currents of thoughts that race across our minds. They are called the Monkey Mind because, as the name suggests, they are restless and jumping. When we are in the throes of the Monkey Mind, it is as if we are tied up and dragged around by the monkey’s tail, pulled helplessly to places we don’t even wish to go. There is very little respite or inner quiet in that place. Meditation teaches us to disengage from the Monkey Mind and detach from its frantic pace. Slowly, we learn to free ourselves from its grip. Underneath the Monkey Mind lies the creative mind, and beneath that lies the Zen Mind, or the True Mind. The True Mind is still, accepting, and observing. It is nonreactive. It is peaceful. Needless to say, it is a great relief to abide in that mind. It is just that it takes practice and mindfulness to get there.

Being in the Moment
Being in the moment is the ability to be fully engaged and focused in the present moment, whether we are in the midst of an activity or at rest. When we are in the moment, we are enjoying, accepting, and flowing with what is. We all long to experience our moments and enjoy them, but hypnotized by a sense of urgency, we frequently forget how. We feel we must be [better, prettier, smarter], must do [more, less, different], must have [a bigger house, a nicer car, a new job], and everything needs to happen right now. We stress ourselves out, and many times overwhelm ourselves, with our lists of “musts.” It is difficult to simply smell the roses when we are jogging breathlessly on the treadmill of self-imposed, and at times unnecessary, expectations and demands. We long to live peacefully within our skin, challenging ourselves, but from a place of love and self-acceptance. We long to be, to breathe, to take in life, to smile with it, to gently flow and feel the rhythm of nature. Meditation helps us learn the art of being.

Don’t Resist the Moment
Why do we resist the moment? The simplest explanation is because we resist ourselves. I have heard this over and over from clients: “I don’t feel that I am good enough.” “I am not capable enough.” “I am not talented enough.” This sense of not being “enough” drives us in an unhealthy way to “fix” ourselves. The truth is that there is nothing “wrong” with us, other than thinking there’s something wrong and living with the continual fear and stress that this belief evokes. Yes, we all have lessons to learn and growing up to do, but that does not mean that there is something bad, missing, or wrong with us. We’re just human beings in progress. We are evolving. If we accept ourselves, lessons and all, we can accept others, and life. We can stop the fault-finding and the criticism that we torment ourselves with, and in so doing, we can stop the judgment we spill onto others, and life.

Self-acceptance is Key to Inner Peace and Relaxation
Mindfulness helps us accept the moment and what is. I remember thinking as a young person that accepting meant giving up. It took me a while to understand that it is quite the opposite. Acceptance is the courage to sit with what is and appreciate it. Out of that wisdom, right choices and right actions emerge.

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The Surprising Benefits of Stillness

What is silence? The answer is seemingly simple: the absence of noise.
Sometimes in the middle of the night, one might wake up and hear silence. The world is quiet.

What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the art of attention and awareness.
It lives in the present moment, which is the only moment we have. It is a form of nonjudgmental, relaxed awareness. When we are mindful, we are paying attention on purpose to the contents of this moment. We are noticing feelings and sensations. We are taking in the details of our external environment as well as the emotional and mental currents flowing within us. It also means cultivating a relaxed acceptance of what is. We learn to allow what happens to just “be” and observe it with compassion. We are witnessing rather than resisting, controlling or fixing.

Sounds easy? Not at all.
Mindfulness takes tremendous practice since we all are, to various degrees, anxious and reactive. We tend to live in the past, or in the future, going back and forth from one to the other in an effort, mostly unconscious, to manipulate life and outsmart it.Just being in the present moment feels very open and vulnerable. Most of us are too restless to fully relax into the moment. As a result, we end up being absent in our own life, a guest rather than the host.

Over the next 3 weeks, I will be going over the positive impact that 5 minutes of mindfulness, stillness, and meditation can have on our lives.
Isn’t it interesting that we forget that we are here in this life temporarily? We might not be here tomorrow. Our moments are precious, but we’re not living them fully. We are doing things automatically, half asleep, taking life for granted. Mindfulness reduces stress and enhances our ability to enjoy and appreciate life. It opens our hearts and minds to an expanded experience of life, and relaxes our tendency to contract away from what is.

Many books have been written about mindfulness. Many lectures and discussions have been held. None will truly convey to you the actual experience. Much like words cannot fully describe the experience of oneness, which is beyond words or thoughts, the experience of life through mindfulness is a personal one to be discovered and felt through practice.

Have you ever observed someone or something in a neutral way, without judging, rejecting, or analyzing but simply accepting?
No commentary, interpretations, or expectations. If you did, then you know what witnessing is. The experience of witnessing is rare unless practiced diligently.

Our monkey mind is part of our Defensive Self and is relentlessly commenting on everything we come in contact with. We file things in drawers according to our perceptions and categories. We have the “good” drawers and the “bad” ones; there we collect our likes and dislikes. While going through life, we are constantly hoarding emotions, ideas, information, and memories, putting them all in our overstuffed inner drawers. We are constantly bouncing between rejection and attachment.

We reject what we think is bad and put it in the bad drawers, and we get attached to what we judge as good.
It’s as if we need to know, on a moment to moment basis, what to discard and what to cling to. This reactive way of being does not allow for observation, awareness, or witnessing.

When we are driven by a sense of survival steeped in duality and fear, our mind can feel like a zoo and life like a circus. However, our inner witness, the cosmic “I Am” within our consciousness (the essence of our Expanded Self ), is the real ringmaster of the circus, and it does not identify with the shifts of the body-mind, the various dramas, stories, and interpretations flowing through.

So by cultivating our witnessing ability, our perspective widens, our mind relaxes.
Eventually the whole universe becomes our home, or to put it differently, the whole universe comes to live within our mind, and we can observe it peacefully, in a nonreactive way.

– Nomi

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Violence: A Look Within Yourself

I watched with shock and terror, the videos that have been released of a man being forcibly “re-accommodated” or thrown, injured, and dragged out of a flight. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the disrespectful, unprofessional, and cruel conduct of a company a large as United Airlines. If you cannot feel safe as a passenger on an airline, why would you want to ever fly with them? The aggressive behavior that is manifesting in so many areas of life is deeply concerning, from police brutality, to school bullying, to terrorist attacks, and social/political verbal aggression. Are we forgetting that violence brings violence? Are we forgetting that if we are instigating violence, it will inevitably affect us in some way since we are living in the environment? We’re not going to escape violence if it is what we are producing.

Every day while watching the news, I ask myself what makes people, nations, and groups violent?

Groups are made of individuals. Each one of us can contribute to either violence or peace. These contributions can be very subtle; every thought, word, or small action can elicit anger or joy. I would like you to take an honest look at yourself and ask yourself the question: what causes me to feel violent?

This kind of honest self-examination needs to become a daily awareness.

It is necessary to cultivate the understanding of what causes us to react violently. By saying that, I don’t mean an outward attack, such as hitting someone or throwing something. I mean a violent feeling within.

I found that when I feel victimized by somebody (that somebody could be me) or something, a fit of anger surfaces. I dedicated many years of my life to eradicating a sense of victimization. What empowered me to move away from the victim state of mind was taking full responsibility for everything I create in my life. Establishing myself as the creator rather than the victim shifts me out of anger into loving action and constructive communication.

It is extremely empowering to stand in the position of being the cause and the generator of your life.

Look at situations in your life in which you feel at the mercy of or at the effect of “powers” outside of yourself. Meditate on the ways that you participate in the situations that are unhealthy or upsetting for you. Ask yourself how you contribute to the circumstances of your life.

What can you do to shift your ways of being, doing, and communicating so that you can establish yourself in a place of conscious choice, integrity, and responsibility? This equals inner peace.

– Nomi

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Spring Clean Your Life

Spring Clean Your Life

Every Spring, I look for the moment that the buds start to bloom.

I love the magic of it. It always reminds me of my mother. She was born in Greece in the midst of war. She told us that she was born in the 7th month of her mother’s pregnancy, while fleeing the town. They had to cover her with cotton to carry her around; there were no hospitals or incubators. So obviously, no one recorded her date of birth. She didn’t have a birth certificate until later in life. From what she members, she was told she was born on the first day of the cherry blossoms blooming.

So to me, Spring and my mother are one and the same. When I think about my mother, I think of a heart full of joy and childlike curiosity for life. I think of laughter, poetry, kindness, and true expression. Our house was always filled with people who would come to see my mother; they knew they would have fun filled moments with her and real sharing. She would be the person to talk to about things or to just be silly with. My mother lived each day like it was a new and exciting chapter and that is what spring is to me, a new and exciting chapter. It is an opportunity to open up to life, love, and joy even further.

Spring gifts us a new beginning, a moment to celebrate renewal.

Renewal comes only when we can willingly release and let go of all that is no longer necessary. Are we ready and willing to do a total “spring cleaning”, inside and out?

It takes a choice, a commitment, and a discipline to get ourselves unstuck and to undue our self-imposed stagnation. As strange as it might sound, we are attached to our contraction; it feels safe and familiar, even though it is unpleasant. We hold on to our fears and pain because freedom feels dangerous. We simultaneously long for it and distrust it.

We can take ourselves out of the protective box and claim our aliveness.

We can take risks, open up, and express. Living with a passion for the truth and the courage to discover it, connects us to the power of transformation. This power lives within us, guiding our journey.

Spring is a time that we are reminded of our ability to renew. Nature gives birth to herself and we have an opportunity to open our spirit to new dimensions. The two spring holidays, Passover and Easter, are powerful symbols of this renewal and freedom. They are possibilities.

What are you willing and ready to say goodbye to? What new ventures and experiences are you willing to step into?

This is a great moment to reinvent yourself and your life. Go for it!

-Nomi

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10 Surprising Benefits of Getting Older

10 Surprising Benefits of Getting OlderLast month, I was asked to participate in a performance project called, “Maiden, Mother, Matriarch.” I was one of the women/performers in the Matriarch group. In preparation for the performance, we had a few heart-to-heart discussions about our experience of getting older

We spoke about health challenges. How do we keep ourselves joyful and active in spite of them? We spoke about the challenge of looking older. How do we maintain a sense of beauty in spite of an aging face and body? We spoke about the spiritual and emotional benefits of getting older

I shared that to me, the best and biggest benefit is a sense of inner freedom; freedom to be me, to express my truth authentically and be relaxed within my skin and my life. This sense of freedom was hard-earned.

Since a young age, I have been dedicated to the process of shedding fears, masks and unnecessary efforts to get love as a validation. Peeling these layers one by one can be painful and uncomfortable, but I have kept going.

It feels great to be free to be. Getting older isn’t anything to fear, the older you get, the more you celebrate your ageless spirit.

You Like Yourself

The older you get, the more you embrace and know who you are and you like yourself.You go through a lot and learn to turn trials into treasures. It took a little while to appreciate me being me. Emotional and spiritual vigilance helped me become my powerful self. I know you can/will be able to say the same.

You Appreciate Internal Beauty

You appreciate your beauty more as an internal one that shines through your appearance. Somehow, despite any accumulating wrinkles, you look at yourself and smile. You like the face you see in the mirror.

Become Your True Self

As time goes on, you learn to be true to yourself. You speak up and stand up for what matters to you. You earn your assertiveness and find your voice.

Know Your Worth

Knowing your worth and not letting people or situations compromise your happiness and peace of mind becomes second nature. You will find and embrace the knowledge that you deserve happiness and peace and will protect these unapologetically.

Recognizing How Precious Life Is

When you see time slowly slip by quicker with every passing year, you find that life is precious and is getting shorter. So, you become passionate about being in the moment, enjoying life to the last drop. You learn not to drown in the past or obsess about the future and are grateful for each day (You event start to look forward to enjoying it).

Being Open to Love

Getting older allows you to be open, to give and receive love, and to do it so much better. Loving yourself helps you give and receive freely. Each day is an opportunity to experience love.

Having Contributions to Make

That dedication you’ve always had to make a difference and to make a contribution becomes tangible and real. When you are rich in experience, knowledge, and compassion you are far more effective at making the world a better place.

You Go for It

When time is a treasure, you make sure you experience all you have dreamed of. You fiercely chase marking events off of your bucket list. No more ifs or buts; you just go for it.

Using Your Power for Good

You grow to understand the power you hold within the world and your circle of influence. Knowing and harnessing that power for good is a great feeling.

You Still Turn Heads

Surprisingly enough, you still feel sexy, sassy/charming, and love it. Your sex appeal simply evolves, rather than diminishes (contrary to how the media makes it seem).  The truth is that you still turn heads.

Look at the list and if one or more of these benefits is still a work in progress, know that you can take yourself there. You are only growing into your prime of power and wisdom. You are becoming an open, flowing river of love and creativity. Let yourself be.

What benefits would you add to this list? Is there a particular one that you have embraced? How has it let you be free to be? I invite you to write your own reflection about your experiences of getting older and sharing with me on social media @GatesOfPower

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10 Ways to Make Work Fun

10 Ways To Improve Work RelationshipsCommunicating constructively is not always easy. Even when we have the best intentions, we are not able to express them in a positive way that would inspire and engage the other. We all need to sharpen our communication skills, so that our relationships are enjoyable and fruitful. When we are honest with ourselves, in the silent moments, we recognize that life without positive relationships is empty, cold, and barren.

One of the most important areas of our lives is our work. We spend a major part of our day relating, creating, and cooperating with our co-workers. Our interactions with them can make a huge difference in our productivity, creativity, and daily enjoyment.

Investing in positive relating yields the highest emotional and practical return. If you want your work life to be effective, enjoyable, and passionate, you need to cultivate your relationships in the workplace.

One of the most important elements in cultivating positive relationships is communication. Most of us struggle to find our voice, sometimes it’s because we are too scared to speak from our heart, at times we don’t know what the heart wants, and at other times we get stuck in our pride and defensiveness.

Positive communication is the most nourishing and life affirming exchange. It is the spiritual currency that makes the world go round. I would like to suggest the following ten-commandments to help you communicate better, whether we are dealing with co-workers, parents, friends, or mates:

  1. Know yourself.

Find out how you feel, what you need, and what you believe in, so that you can communicate.

  1. Commit to creating connections.

Take responsibility for the success of your communications. Be the cause, the initiator, and the giver.

  1. Avoid reactivity.

When faced with strong emotions and intense reactions, take a minute to figure yourself out. Clear your mind and strive to create a constructive way to communicate.

  1. Cultivate empathic listening.

Extend that to yourself and others. Empathy helps you understand and accept. It enhances transformation and change.

  1. Be clear.

Be authentic and expressive and use the 4 “Magic I’s”: I think, I feel, I need, I want. When you communicate with another, express your feelings rather than pointing the finger. Avoid blaming, dumping, judging, or telling others what to do.

  1. Show appreciation.

Do whatever you can to validate your partners. Use listening and mirroring skills to show respect and consideration, at the same time, you can still maintain your beliefs. One has nothing to do with the other.

  1. Be reliable.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. Integrity cultivates mutual trust.

  1. Learn to negotiate.

Create win/win situations. It is best for all involved.

  1. Tap into your humor and playfulness.

Bring enjoyment into your communications.

  1. Let go of the need to be right, in control, or on top.

Having authority doesn’t mean we need to be controlling or righteous. Interpersonal connection and the exchange of understanding are so much more fulfilling and yield better results.

Communication is an art. Keep experimenting and go through the trials and tribulations. You will come to enjoy it. Isn’t that the goal – to be happy, open, and expressive?

– Nomi

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