Shhhh. Do you hear that? It’s your soul speaking. Leave a reply I have had some great Adventures in my life thus far! Swimming into an enormous crashing waterfall in order to view it from behind. Climbing, rappelling, skiing, biking and snow-shoeing up, down and through mountains. Running and biking for miles and miles. Swimming in mind-altering, potential heart-stopping, freezing-temperature waters. Hiking out of the Grand Canyon in the middle of the night underneath the most vast, never-ending, star-filled sky I have ever witnessed. (I have never felt so small.) All that and I haven’t even begun with the animal encounters! Spotting mountain lions. Discovering leeches (already affixed to my body). Avoiding snakes. Facing a territorial javelina (commonly mistaken for a pig – with large tusks resembling a warthog). And having the shit scared out of me by spooked wild horses in complete darkness. Oh yah, and then there was that one time – when I survived 36 hours of labor! But my biggest, grandest and most challenging life Adventures have definitely been when I’ve traversed the inner workings of my own mind. Sitting in stillness. Paying attention to what comes and goes. Or more specifically, letting go of paying attention. I have been exposed to and sought out guided meditations, walking meditations, Transcendental Meditation, silent meditations, breath meditations, eating meditations, meditations for hours upon end (some which I snored through), Yoga meditations, group meditations, movement meditations. You get the idea. What can I say? I like exploring forms of meditation! I am far from what one might consider to be an expert or a master, though. I’m not sure I could even be referred to as “good” at it. Instead, I would say that I’m more of an insatiably curious dabbler. I’ve previously revealed my seeking nature, which also includes the rituals, practices and stories of religion (not any one in particular, just in general), along with all things considered spiritual and mystical. There’s nothing more Adventuresome to me than exploring that which we will never have answers to, really. That which no one can define, no matter how hard they try or how good they can make it sound. That which is impossible to prove per se – but also doesn’t necessarily need to be. At least not for the individual having the experience. I was not raised in a religious household. I would even say it was not particularly spiritual. My parents were good people with simple, kind, Midwestern values. Despite my lack of religious dogma – or maybe because of it –I feel so fortunate to have had my upbringing. I wasn’t told what the “answers” were or what to believe. I’ve always had the privilege of being given the freedom to explore. The journey has been spectacular. And my answers are my own. They involve inclusion, humility, exponential potential, guidance, freedom and grace. In fact, any attempt at defining what it is that I believe, or understand to be true, feels like it would be an injustice. Like I’d just be offering a description of a small crack in the sidewalk that runs alongside the magnificent, never-ending, blindingly sparkling yellow brick road. There are no words really. And let’s face it, that’s saying something, coming from somebody who is rarely at a loss for them! However, because I grew up in the Heartland of America, I discovered that I innately inherited belief systems heavily influenced by Christianity. Always curious, I visited and attended many different church services and events throughout my childhood. Primarily with my friends and their families. I loved going – probably because I didn’t have to go. Getting dressed up. Hearing stories from the bible – whether they made any sense or not. Witnessing rituals – ranging from simple to extravagant. Experiencing the feeling of community. I even decided to be baptized at the age of 15. I wasn’t really sure why. It was sort of a public declaration I guess. But something inside of me felt like it was more for everyone else and not really about me. I wanted to be accepted. Seen a certain way. Saved maybe? But honestly, I never felt a deep resonance with any of the affiliations I was fortunate enough to taste-test. I always felt like an outsider. Not worthy. I wasn’t supposed to take communion. I didn’t like singing hymns. I hadn’t been confirmed. I sat when everyone else was kneeling. I wasn’t really sure how to pray. I felt uncomfortable and put-on-the-spot when asked, “Have you accepted Christ into your heart?” “Sure, why not!” What the heck else was I going to say? If I said no, I might burst into flames, after all. Or so I feared. My mother and I started regularly attending a church after my parents divorced. I think we were seeking refuge – and a place where we had an excuse NOT to talk and would not be allowed to strangle each other. That was a difficult time in both of our lives. We were both “finding ourselves.” My mother newly divorced after twenty some years of marriage and living on her own for the first time in her life, dealing with betrayal, unknowns and financial stress – not to mention a “difficult” teenage daughter who was confused, sad, angry, scared and hormonal. After I moved away and went to college, my mother continued to be active in the church. One day a couple of years later, she called me, holding back tears. She was re-marrying and wanted to be married in her church. Some “ladies” of the church had decided that was an abomination and were causing an uproar. An abomination, really?! I had witnessed my mother’s pain over the disbandment of our family firsthand. The lies she endured. The betrayal she felt. The way she fought to hold herself together when all she really wanted to do was disappear. The opening of her heart to love again, eventually, despite how vulnerable she felt. And for someone, anyone – as a fellow human being, let alone in the name of God – to claim that my mother not be allowed to heal. Allowed to love again. Allowed to be worthy or acknowledged. That was confusing to me. It didn’t seem to make ANY sense. Isn’t that the polar opposite action from the teachings that so many of these religious institutions stand for and were supposedly created to uphold and teach in the first place? That was it. I was out! All my faith in organized religion went out the window. Earmuffs! So who would have guessed some 20 years later that I would find myself inexplicably drawn to the doorstep of The Des Moines Zen Center. My life-long curiosity surrounding spirituality, connection and religion was still a spark inside of me. My spirit had been wounded, bruised and lost at times. But my soul could not lay dormant. It was still searching. Still seeking. I have to stop here and once again acknowledge my gratitude. The fact that I live in a place where there is enough freedom, culture and diversity to even be able to have access to a religious/spiritual practice that was created centuries ago in a country clear around the world is pretty amazing. As I sat cross-legged on my square black pillow, hands in lap, the room filled with an eclectic group of around 20 seekers like myself – most of whom were wide-eyed, maybe a bit nervous and very curious – I was surprised by how oddly familiar and comfortable I felt in my surroundings. Eido, the Head Priest at the Des Moines Zen Center, led the evening’s introductory talk and sample Soto Zen Buddhism mediation (zazen). He answered any and every question in his own personal, mindful, non-rushed, relaxed-tone, no-pressure sort of way. A young man raised his hand – pen and paper ready – obviously a student from the local university just up the road. Imagine his disappointment when, prepared to scribble down the profound answer he was receiving from a Buddhist Priest, he got the answer that was given. The exchange went like this: Question from student: “So how do we mediate? How do we do it? What do we do exactly?” PAUSE. PAUSE. PAUSE. INHALE. EXHALE. Answer from Eido: “We just sit.” (half-smile) SILENCE. I laughed audibly. Ok, loudly. Maybe on the brink of obnoxiously. Not because I didn’t like Eido’s answer or thought he was trying to be funny, being what I like to refer to as a Buddhist smart-ass (they do exist). But because his answer resonated in every cell in my body. His answer was remarkable. Perfect to me. Music to my ears. This was it. I was home. You mean I don’t have to take a class? Pass a test? You’re not turning me away? I’m not doing it right or wrong? I don’t need to feel guilty? Or afraid? Instead, what I heard, ever so gently, was this: Just sit. Be. Breathe. Find your own answers. Just sit. Know what speaks to you. Listen. Be comfortable or uncomfortable. Whatever comes up. Just sit. No matter what. Sometimes it will feel good. Sometimes it will feel bad. Sometimes it will go slow. Sometimes it will go fast. Just sit. Nothing is required of you. You don’t need to be special. Or need to have earned the right. Or need to be a member. It doesn’t cost you anything. You don’t have to do it this way or else. Just sit. So what does all this sitting do for me? I’ve narrowed it down to four main things: POWER: It helps me practice mind control. My own. Not others. (That’s a different thing entirely, and I want no part of it.) I find great power in being able to determine what I’m going to allow in my head at any given time. (Let’s just say this one is a work in progress.) CALM: Calming brain activity is proven to have calming and healing effects on the physiology of the body. There are scientific studies out there that prove this. Google “Transcendental Meditation” if you’re interested. FOCUS: I’m a doer. A multi-tasker. High energy. Multifaceted. Some might say complicated. So let’s just say it’s not in my nature to stay on one topic or doing one thing for too terribly long. That trait can deny me the joy of presence in the here and now. Staying focused on the task at hand or what is right in front of me allows me to “suck the juice” out of the experience. For me, this requires practice. VISION: Spending time in stillness offers me potential for clear vision. Allows me to hear my own voice, free from distractions and outside influences. I refer to my soul as my Doppler system. It’s the part of me that connects to what I like to call Source Energy. It’s the part of me that can detect, decipher and translate the bigger picture. It’s a resonance, a knowing that’s always there, but is often muddled by the demands of my day, drowned out by the noises and voices (thoughts) in my head and over-shadowed by the pace of life. Sitting in meditation allows me to lessen or eliminate interference and tune-in, so I can “get the message” loud and clear. “Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there – buried under 50,000 thoughts that the average person thinks every day.” —Deepak Chopra So I suppose someone could argue that I’ve found my religion. But for me, really it’s more like I’ve found my ritual. My soul’s support center. And it’s called The Adventuresome Life. It includes what works for me. What helps me feel connected. What helps me feel clear. Supported. What grounds me. Lights up my path. Helps me cope, flourish and expand. “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. Buddhas only show the way. —Buddha In walking my path, I’ve adopted Eido’s, “We just sit,” as my Life Motto – or in the spirit of meditation, “Just live” as my Life Mantra. Life involves up and downs, highs and lows, openings and closings, wins and losses, summers and winters. It’s all part of it. Just live. LIVE. Sometimes we live through things, holding on by a pinky finger. Sometimes our arms cannot stretch wide enough to hold all the abundance coming our way. Usually, we’re living our day to day somewhere in between. Sometimes we go from one end of the spectrum to the other, several times, in a single day. But it’s all part of life. So how do we do it exactly? Just live. LIVE. “A work of art is above all an Adventure of the mind.” – Eugene Ionesco “Your life is a work of art. Make it beautiful!” – Dana Shane Did this blog resonate with you in any way? Have a comment? Have a story of stillness, adventure, or beauty – possibly all three rolled into one? I want to hear it. Share below.