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Lately I have been thinking about some true life stories of women who have tackled the tough task of leaving it all behind and embarking on incredible journeys of self-discovery. I stumbled upon a book I once loved and it got me thinking that I’ve always loved these stories and soaked them up like great fiction. But in these cases, the stories are documented and real, and here are just a few I highly recommend.

on-the-way-to-satori1On the Way to Satori was written by Gerta Ital, a German-born actress who entered a Japanese Zen Buddhist monastery late in life. She recorded her experiences in two books, The Master, the Monks and I: A Western Woman’s Experience of Zen, and the one I read: On the Way to Satori: A Woman’s Experience of Enlightenment. Both books were published in German in the mid-1960s, but were not translated into English until much later. She recounted the physically and emotionally harsh conditions of being the first Western woman admitted to a Zen monastery.

sorcerers-crossingThen there is The Sorcerer’s Crossing: A Woman’s Journey written by Taisha Abelar with a forward by Carlos Castaneda. Abelar, an anthropologist, recalls the mysterious and mystical journey which took her on many leaps of faith into the world of sorcery. In the late 60s, she was sketching in the mountains around Tucson, Arizona when she met a Mexican woman named Clara Grau. With intensity, gravity and fortitude, Grau convinced Abelar to visit her house in Sonora, Mexico– right then, and right there. Facing her own feelings of being directionless and confused about her future, she went. What followed was a powerful entry into a family of sorcerers which produced powerful healers and wisepeople like Castaneda.

eatprayloveAnd more recently, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert hit a major nerve with women seeking purpose, meaning and real clarity in their lives. Though she didn’t shave her head or become inducted into a secret world of magic, Gilbert did have life-changing moment after moment in a global trek which spanned Italy, India and Bali.

The bottom line with all these fine reads is that the real experiences of these brave women have produced books that are as mesmerizing, surprising, enchanting and deeply inspiring as any novel you could crawl into. Check them out.

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My sister and nephew used to live in Italy and I had the pleasure of visiting them for several weeks at a time in my late 20s. Positioned just a few miles from the center of Pisa and only a five minute walk to the Italian Mediterranean coast, they lived in a huge and comfortable house in Livorno. But the first time I went, it took me about four full days to totally mentally disconnect from my cell phone, my voicemail, the internet and cable TV. I literally had to detox from the mechanics of my very modern life and fall helplessly into a pattern of living that seemed unusually slow. I thought the situation was disquieting, but I realized that I was approaching a quiet way of life that my soul desperately longed for.

When the plumber came to the house one day, he checked the pipes in a leisurely way and my sister had told me very specifically not to let him leave until the leak had been fixed. I thought it was funny she was so adamant about it, but when he turned to me and said “domani, domani” I knew he meant tomorrow or the next day and I had to block him from leaving. He laughed and found another way out, lighting a cigarette and gliding without a care in the world down my sister’s driveway. Though he did come back two days later, I realized that the leak was not so bad that it couldn’t wait and all was really OK.

That sort of attitude reminded me of my college years in many ways. Yes, I am old enough to say that the internet didn’t exist when I was in college. We did not have e-mail and absurdly cheap long distance plans. I didn’t even have a TV most of the time I was in college, and when I did it was basically furniture and a place to put my books. Like Italy, days and nights were for reading, walking, eating and being with friends. I profoundly enjoyed this sort of slow living which, in many repects, was not slow at all. It was colorful and rich, brimming with new conversations, experiences and people. You floated along in life with a wondrous sense that anything could happen at any moment. And life was meant to unfold and be discovered rather than worked to death and made into something else.

Now that I am a mother, I want to instill this sense of slow living into my son’s reality. Though Mom and Dad are crazy busy, there are several hours in the day that can be devoted to being with my son in a fun, conscious and totally random way. “So… what do you want to do?” I ask my little guy. Sometimes it is “park” or “store” or “walk in the woods” or just “play trains” and that’s what we do. Now I am understanding how life can be free again. How the wonder and randomness of life can be reignited at any moment through creativity, play and just setting the intention to have more joy in one’s life.

This is why I absolutely love the ladies at www.slowfamilyliving.com. They not only understand the deep need to live presently, but they’ve made a movement out of empowering families and individuals to take regular stock of the emotional life they’ve created. Just slow down. Be, you know, more European and student-y about it all. Know that this, right now, is your life happening right before your eyes. Savor it.

Let Yourself Feel Supported

Let Yourself Feel Supported

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For all the years I have spent with my spiritual practices, it seems there are still times when the whole system crashes and you fear you’ve lost everything on your metaphysical hard drive. Perhaps it’s one major thing that happens suddenly that can derail you, or a perfect storm of many areas of your life that seem to come to a head all at once.

For me, I’ve sort of experienced both in the last few weeks. I go through my journals, ask my guides, recall some great advice, meditate, connect with friends, read a book— all in an effort to understand not just why something happened, but how miserably I am dealing with it.

What I do know is that nothing is black and white. We are a society driven by consumption and turning to external sources to resolve or remove bad feelings. It’s all very extreme– we’re either inundated with negative outlooks, people, images and experiences or we’re struggling to always be “in the light”–in that zone of hyper positivity and gratitude in order to ward off bad vibes.

But we need that negativity and adversity in our lives (what Abraham calls “contrast”) in order to really understand what it is we want in our lives. We need to experience the full gamut of human emotions in order to grow– I believe that’s why we’re all here.

In that spirit, every person who comes into our isolated worlds can be our mirrors, our greatest teachers. I know this to be true, but in the midst of conflict it’s very difficlut to really embrace that. But I’m pleased that the time between conflict (inner and external) is collapsing quickly. This encourages me and makes me believe that the work I’ve done is having a positive effect on my life.

So what happens when things (relationships, finances, career, health) literally just fall apart? Some people theorize that when this happens, a soul is begging to grow and get to that next level of acceptance and clarity with oneself. There is an opportunity to go in the direction of fear and self-loathing, or go in the direction of faith and love. I believe we ask for these experiences on some level in order to reach the mountain top, so to speak.

But I think the key to moving through troubled times with grace, strength and compassion is to have support. This is a major lesson for most people… to learn to reach out and be with like-minded and hugely supportive people. This reinforces the universal code that exists in all people: we are one. And when adversity bears its teeth at us, it is the tribe of friends, family, support networks and spiritual guides that can shield and protect you from your own spiraling negativity.

So if you’re in a negative frame of mind, or something is appearing that causes you great pain and stress, it’s OK. It’s OK to feel that way and know that you’ve attracted these experiences into your life to ultimately help you. Don’t get me wrong– there is a huge difference between “causing” something to happen and simply “attracting” something. There is no blame or judgement when universal laws are at work. No one “deserves” to be in pain. Because it is everyone’s birthright to be joyful and free and totally in tune with the beauty that surrounds us.

So, yes, I definitely ask myself “why did I bring this into my life?” and “what the hell is going on?” But now, the work lies not in THAT anything happened but HOW I choose to deal with it. So how do I feel today? Not that great… but better since I began writing this post and reminding myself of the power of self awareness and self care. It’s Monday, and I have a million things to do– but nothing more important than being kind and gentle with myself and easing into the day.

I first discovered Ainslie MacLeod when he was interviewed on Oprah’s Soul Series last fall regarding his 2007 book, The Instruction. The interview series itself was relatively new, and I felt encouraged and excited that Oprah would extend her already expansive content repertoire of self-help, spirtuality and personal development into the realm of psychic awareness.

Certainly, many of us believe in intuitive abilities and connecting with guides (angels, higher self, universal intelligence, etc.). But to have Ainslie MacLeod sit front and center talking about how the text for The Instruction came into being as a result of direct communication from an army of guides– well, it felt like a turning point in how mass consciousness was softening to the idea that we all have access to small, still voices that are designed to guide us daily– if we choose– to our life’s purpose. Ask most people, and they’ll say there is something to it all– that personal experience directs us to find out more… carefully.

So it was no surprise that MacLeod came clean to his readers from the get go. He was a reluctant psychic. So deep was his reluctance to accept the mantle of “psychic” that he actually ignored the tell-tale signs of his advanced gifts for many years.

But through intensive work and his eventual and total transition from commercial illustrator to psychic, his own life purpose came into crytsal clear focus: help others understand themselves. And he does this through his powerful and evolving work with his guides. Oh, and we all have them– and he helps the rest of us find them.

I recently asked Ainslie about how he helps people realize their life’s purpose.

CL: Initially you were sort of a self-described reluctant psychic who felt compelled by personal experiences to explore new spiritual territories. How did you make that transition, and how has it changed your life?

AM: I was definitely reluctant when I first started doing psychic readings. I was conscious that there were a lot of charlatans around and I didn’t want anyone thinking I was one of them. I felt like I was telling the world I was a freak.

the-instruction4What initially helped was going through the process I take my clients through now. It wasn’t called the Instruction back then and my spirit guides were not the same as the ones I currently use, but they steered me through the same steps to self-acceptance. They helped me to see that this really was going to be my life, and convinced me that since I’d eventually embrace my calling, I might as well start right away.

Being a psychic has certainly changed my life. I feel like a round peg in a round hole. That old reluctance has gone. I keep learning new things about the soul and how the spiritual world operates, and I get to meet great people through my sessions. I often say that once you step through the spiritual door, there’s no going back. That was very much how it felt to me when I accepted my own destiny.

CL: The Instruction describes ten doorways that readers pass through to understand their life’s purpose. Is it always important for people to identify their soul age and their soul type in order to get a firm grasp on what his/her life purpose is?

AM: I believe that if you’re going to understand your life, you need to start with the basics. Your soul age describes the source of your beliefs, and your soul types are how you can understand the core of your personality. Everything else follows from that. Knowing these two elements of who you are helps to do everything from finding the right relationship or job, to creating genuine self-acceptance.

CL: Some people might find that their soul purpose is in stark contrast to what they are currently doing as an occupation. What are some recommendations on how to make a successful transition to living your soul’s purpose?

AM: First of all, let me say that your life’s purpose may not be all about your day job. There are often many activities that can be considered your purpose. Raising kids can be as significant as anything you do during those eight hours in the middle of the day.

When it comes to careers, however, I’ve met many people who ended up in unfulfilling jobs because of other peoples’ expectations. It’s essential to consider your own desires, not those of your parents or teachers, for example. By taking the time to meditate, call in your spirit guides, and ask them for clarity about your life plan, you’ll be doing more than most people ever do. Sometimes spiritual acts, volunteer work for example, can be a great way of creating a stronger sense of purpose in your life, and can help the transition.

CL: In writing The Instruction you received information from your guides. Can anyone access information from their own guides? If so, how?

AM: Spirit guides are like opinions and certain body parts – we’ve all got them. The problem is most of us don’t actually use them. Asking a simple question is a good way to start working with your guides. Find a quiet spot, ask your spirit guides to be with you, meditate for a good ten minutes, then ask them a yes/no question. Pay attention to your gut feeling. Even if you don’t get words or pictures, you’ll get that simple intuitive feeling that something is right or not. It may be subtle, but practice will help you recognize the signs.

CL: Why do you think so many people have such a difficult time in understanding and living their life’s purpose?

AM: There are many reasons, but one common problem is that our lives are so noisy it’s hard to hear the small, still voice of our own soul. I’ve heard people say to me that they can’t hear their guides or their soul’s direction. It’s sometimes simply a matter of switching off the TV and getting some real tranquility.

Your soul is continually nudging and urging you to follow your life plan. To live the life your soul intended it’s essential to slow down, and pay attention. And if there’s one thing I hear from my guides over and over again it’s this: “Meditate, meditate, meditate!”

CL: Are you working on another book? If so, can you tell us about it?

AM: I’ve just begun working on my next book. In it, I describe my spirit guides’ view of why the world is the way it is, and how you can develop your spirituality to help you be part of the coming shift in consciousness that’s going to change our world. The publication date is sometime early next year. As with The Instruction, the publisher is Sounds True who have been terrific to work with.

CL: Are there any books that you particularly love that would like to recommend to our readers?

AM: I read all the time, so it’s really hard to choose. I love Dr. Ian Stevenson’s fascinating book, Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. He was a scientific researcher who traveled around India examining the stories of children who offered amazing evidence of their past lives.

In the introduction to The InstructionI tell how, many years ago, a psychic in Atlanta gave me a booklist that really helped to open me to the spiritual world. The list included The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, which jump-started my flagging creativity; Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss, which is an intriguing insight into past lives, as well as Life After Life by Raymond Moody and Anatomy of the Spirit by Carolyn Myss.

"If we penetrate deeply into all aspects and all areas of life, we will find that hidden behind everything is love. We will discover that love is the force, the power and inspiration behind every word and every action. This applies to all people, irrespective of race, caste, creed, sect, religion or of what work people do." - Amma

"If we penetrate deeply into all aspects and all areas of life, we will find that hidden behind everything is love. We will discover that love is the force, the power and inspiration behind every word and every action. This applies to all people, irrespective of race, caste, creed, sect, religion or of what work people do." - Amma

Amma is considerded a living, breathing saint in every corner of the world. Since 1987 she has hugged over 20 million people across the globe. Often called “the hugging saint” her message of deep motherly compassion has triggered profound responses from people of all walks of life and from every background. She believes that there are two kinds of poverty in the world: 1) lack of shelter, food and basic physical needs and 2) the poverty of love and compassion. For by first addressing the second, the first will rightfully be corrected.

Please visit her non-profit site…

Janet Conner, Author of Writing Down Your Soul (Jan. 09, Conari Press)

Janet Conner, Author of Writing Down Your Soul (Jan. 09, Conari Press)

A funny thing happened on the way to this particular installment of Well-being Q&A. I was doing a simple writing exercise where I was describing a very beautiful memory in extreme detail. As I was writing, I heard a loud inner voice which startled me. The voice said “divine writing.” I thought, “huh– what is divine writing?” My mind started really going in a lot of different directions and when I internally asked “What is divine writing?” another voice responded. It said “writing down the soul.”

The next day I kept thinking of this phrase “writing down the soul” and so I finally “googled” it and that’s when I stumbled upon Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Conner (Jan. 2009, Conari Press). I didn’t get the “your” part, but close enough. I quickly realized that the message I was receiving in my clear and positive writing state was simply giving me a cosmic book recommendation!

I was delighted to learn that the processes in Writing Down Your Soul were exactly the psychic prescription I needed to move forward in some creative endeavors that I had been considering for months.

writingdownyoursoulpc150The book details a process of deep soul writing that helps your brain move into a theta brain wave state which is a perfect environment for receiving messages and guidance from what she calls “The Voice.” Of course one can identify the source of this guidance as anything from God to Universal Intelligence to a thousand different names in a multitude of different spiritual traditions.

I recently asked Janet about the inspiration for the book and how it can help people (even writers) receive answers to the stream of questions that flow through our lives.

CL: What was the initial inspiration for Writing Down Your Soul?

JC: In the nineties, my professional life kept getting better and better but my marriage kept getting worse and worse. Finally, after 21 years together, I told my husband I wanted a divorce on Nov 1, 1996. All the pain welled up inside of him exploded. And suddenly I was wearing an emergency police call necklace. One morning as I was sitting in my living room sobbing, my puppy dragged my untouched copy of The Artist’s Way to me. What can I say, the universe will use any means necessary to get your attention! I started writing that very moment. I wrote “Dear God,” at the top of a page and poured my heart out. I felt better so I did it again the next day and every day after until my heart was healed, I’d forgiven my ex-husband, and I’d rebuilt my life into something far richer and sweeter than the one I lost.

CL: You talk about the Voice. How do you experience the Voice and how is that different from the creative mind?

JC: The Voice is a paradox, a mystery. It is indefinable, unknowable, and yet your perfect guide and truest friend. To help readers answer that question for themselves, I wrote a chapter called “Who or what is listening?” I walk readers through a fun review of a few hundred names humanity has attached to the divine over the centuries. Then, I leap into what science has to say about that unlimited field of knowing. The chapter ends with Rumi’s sweet poem about asking Spirit for a personal and private name and a writing prompt to help you do just that. Everyone in a Writing Down Your Soul workshop gets a name, and invariably it’s quite a surprise.

From then on, you address the Voice by that special name whenever you write. Quickly, you will discover that you are having an intimate conversation. People experience the Voice many different ways. The handwriting may change, the language may change, the tone of the words almost always changes into something deeply loving, gentle, and wise. Some people feel a shift in their hand or body when the Voice takes over. When I am deeply deeply connected, my pen moves quickly across the page without me pushing it. Many people have had the same experience. It’s as if the pen is doing the writing.

Can I separate my experience of the Voice from “creative mind”? During my scientific research into what happens when you write this way, I learned that deep soul writers are in the theta brain wave state. Well, that’s also where you have to be to access new information, real creativity, breakthrough solutions. I view the Voice as my source for ALL wisdom, all creativity, all grace. Writing down your soul is simply an easy way for everyone to access that limitless source.

CL: Is writing down your soul similar to channel writing or automatic writing? If so, how?

JC: I don’t think so. I’ve seen demonstrations of automatic writing and it’s tough to decipher. You have to guess what’s there or what it means. Writing down your soul is a daily conversation in plain English (or whatever language you choose to write in). You ask; you receive. And if you don’t understand, you ask for clarification. Once you become comfortable with deep soul writing, you have no doubt that you are connected and that you are receiving clear guidance and direction. My guess is that automatic writing is an attempt to break into that theta brain wave state but it isn’t as effective or clear as writing down your soul because it isn’t a fully developed system and habit.

CL: Are the practices in Writing Down Your Soul designed for people interested in developing better ways to receive answers to life’s important questions, toward writers interested in honing their craft, or both?

JC: My intent is to share this incredibly simple, reliable wisdom habit to anyyone who wants guidance and direction. And right now that seems to be everyone! People who pick up the book or come to a workshop do not have to have journaled before or have any kind of writing experience. This practice is not actually about writing, and it certainly isn’t about writing correctly or well. In fact, trying to write “well” just gets in the way.

Having said that, professional writers do love this practice because it gets you so quickly out of conscious mind and into the theta brain wave state where all art and artists dwell. When I got the contract for Writing Down Your Soul, I started every morning writing by hand and received all the direction I needed for the book.

I invite anyone interested in knowing more about writing in the theta brain wave state (whether professionally or personally) to subscribe to the newsletter at www.writingdownyoursoul.com because you’ll receive a free e-book on writing in theta.

CL: You’re very specific about trying this process for thirty days in a very ritualized way. Why is it important to be ritualistic about Writing Down Your Soul? Can journaling encourage connection to the Voice as well?

JC: Thirty days is important because the science clearly shows it takes thirty days to build new neural pathways and it’s those new pathways—new thoughts, beliefs, emotions, words, and actions—that produce the new and improved life you want. So if you want to see change in your life, you need to build new neural pathways.

I recommend creating a personal writing ritual that includes building a special writing space and saying a blessing that sets your intention to connect with the Voice because the more you surround yourself with a system that supports and sustains your new habit, the more likely you are to experience the full benefits of the practice. People who come to this or any practice sporadically don’t receive the full benefits. Consider changing your eating habits, for example. If you only eat healthy food once in a while, your body can’t really improve. The same applies to deep soul writing. If you only pick up a pen occasionally, you’re missing the opportunity to build a relationship with the Voice that you can count on for wisdom and guidance.

Writing down your soul is not journaling. It’s much much deeper than that. There are many differences between writing down your soul and journaling. At the back of the book, there’s a chart of 18 significant differences. I recorded a video on http://www.writingdownyoursoul.com that explains what writing down your soul is and how it differs from journaling.

CL: What sorts of life changes or successes have been reported by those who have gone through the Writing Down Your Soul process?

JC: There are so many beautiful stories. Sharing them is one of the great joys in Writing Down Your Soul classes and teleclasses. You can read a few at “Testimonials” on the website.

Deep soul writers have received miracles, profound insights into why things happened as they did, final and complete healing of past traumas and relationships, new career directions, and guidance to make changes in their lives.

Sometimes the stories are small and sweet like the woman who asked for a sign that she could trust the Voice. Her yellow tea kettle had burned and she wrote, “Show me a yellow tea kettle.” She went to Target and on the shelf were ten white tea kettles, five red tea kettles, and one bright yellow tea kettle.” Standing in the aisle, she started to cry. A small sign, perhaps, but for her it was huge. It was the breakthrough she needed to really plunge into a relationship with the Voice.

Another woman needed to find a home to rent. She talked it over with the Voice and came up with the specifications: four bedrooms, large fenced yard for the dog, neighborhood, price, etc. Later that afternoon she saw an unusual picture of a tiger with half a white face and half a black face on the front of a real estate magazine. She took it home thinking she’d like to paint that tiger. That evening, her husband turned down a street they’d never been on and there at the end of the block was a lovely house with a “for rent” sign in front. They walked around, discovered that the back door was open, walked in, and there in a back bedroom was the painting of the black and white tiger. When she told that story in class, everyone gasped.

A young woman in graduate school started writing and realized within days that she was in the wrong program for the wrong reason. A fifty-five year old teacher worked out a totally new career on the page. When I saw her a few months later, she said for the first time in her life, she’s truly happy knowing she’s doing the work she’s here to do.

One of the most stunning stories is of a minister who received guidance on the page that it was time to retire and move back home. He argued with the Voice on moving. After all the real estate market is a disaster. But the Voice was clear and his home sold in two weeks at full asking price. Everyone in class considered the sale of that home nothing short of a miracle. But here’s the real miracle. Within days of getting back home, he was diagnosed with stage 5 cancer. He said, “Now I know what the Voice meant by ‘home.’”

Everyone receives guidance and direction when they write down their soul. The guidance is rarely as big as change your career or move to Michigan. Often, it’s how to shift your thinking—and THAT guidance can be the richest of all.

CL: Do you have a few tips for writers experiencing difficulty in starting or completing a project (novel, memoir, screenplay, etc.)?

JC: I’d start with learning how to write down your soul so you can slip into theta on a regular basis. Writing in the theta brain wave state is effortless. And amazing. When I read what I wrote in theta, I always wonder, “Who wrote this; it’s so good!”

I know writing in theta works because I had to complete my book in less than 3 months—which I have since been told is technically impossible. But I used the theta brain wave state day and night and finished it easily. And my editor said I’d done something that had never been done before: “a self-help book that’s a page-turner!” (Trust me, I don’t take credit for that!)

CL: What are five of your all-time favorite books that you enjoy recommending to people?

JC: Well, if I could have only one book, it would be The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, the Great Sufi Master by Daniel Ladinsky. I keep it next to my bed. Number two would be Love Poems from God, also by Daniel Ladinsky. I’m a huge fan of mystical poetry. If you’ve seen the book, you know I scattered snippets of mystical poetry throughout Writing Down Your Soul. I also love David Whyte’s poetry in The House of Belonging. If, like me, you’d like to know what Jesus really said, I highly recommend Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus by Neil Douglas-Klotz and Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg. Those two books will alter your understanding of that great teacher forever.

But please don’t think I only read spiritual stuff. Paul Auster is at the top of my literature list. The New York Trilogy, especially The City of Glass is beyond superb. Writing like that isn’t human.

And I read The Return of the Osprey by David Gessner once a year when the ospreys return to the nests near me. I’m a little obsessed with ospreys. When you read Writing Down Your Soul you’ll see why.

I particularly love what he says: “As you sit here is it possible for you to simply watch what’s happening around you without adding any intrepretion to it… to just be present with what is?”

I just stumbled across a nice little article by Cheryl Richardson on Oprah.com which gives you five easy steps to finding your true passion in life. Read more…

Zen Master Seung Sahn

Zen Master Seung Sahn

Back in the mid-90s, I was in my mid-twenties and living in Hollywood. For the most part, I had no idea why I was there or what I was going to do. All I knew was that my mother had just passed away and most of my friends from Emerson College were working in one capacity or another in the film business. So I made the decision to drive my seafoam green Mazda from Austin to L.A. to find out what to do next.

I ended up living two blocks from Melrose Avenue in a very quaint “Melrose Place” type efficiency apartment. I did some PR, read screenplays and took temp assignments at various studios. It was fun, but somewhat silly at times and definitely at odds with my aspirations to be a serious spiritual student and creative. I was always very unclear about my creative path, but crystal clear about the need to find meaning and purpose in my life.

Then one day I did something very simple. I picked up the phone, dialed 411 and asked the operator for the number for Dharma. And you know what? She gave it to me. She gave me the number for the Dharma Zen Center which happened to be a few blocks away from me. Now, if you know anything at all about Los Angeles, having a convenient drive anywhere is a miracle in and of itself.

So the next evening, I went there to sit. I was not prepared for the enthusiastic and complicated Korean chanting, but I fell in love with it almost instantly. This began a very intense and joyful chapter of my life. It was also a strange and wonderful backdrop to working in a city that sort of chewed up and spit people like me out. The irony of my peaceful evenings juxtaposed against my super-stressful days of being “the assistant” or “temp” or “reader” was certainly not lost on me. In fact, I felt like this place provided a perfect balance to what I was trying to accomplish in the material world.

I was then introduced to the teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn. To me, his pictures made him look like a kindly grandfather, a very happy Buddha. He was not intimidating at all, but radiant and joyful. I had the opportunity to mediate, sit and eat with Dae Soen Sa Nim and I consider myself extremely privileged to have been among such a enlightened and pure soul, however brief.

But what impressed me most about the Dharma Zen Center was the people I met and practiced with and the intense loving care that everyone put into deeply connecting to their true nature. It was refreshing.

The inner journey can seem very scary at times, and confusing. But within the walls of Dharma Zen Center, there was friendship, reality and safety. I enjoyed being a layperson among monks and nuns and I actually lived in the center for a few months sharing house duties like cooking and cleaning the altar. By the time I left I knew every chant by heart, and many of the customs of this very rich tradition. I thought I would learn a lot, but I suppose what really happened was that I remembered a lot.

I found out that my body was strong (108 prostrations every morning at 4:30 a..m. sure helps); that my mind was strong (I could sit for two hours and look at the floor without freaking out); my spirit was strong (I could sense a deep connection with people and sounds and the natural world which I had never experienced before); and my heart was strong (I knew love was the center of it all and that the way of compassion was a deep truth I had been longing to understand).

Here are some books by and about Master Seung Sahn, the champion of “I don’t know.” What a beautiful thing to let go of needing to know it all and moving in the direction of being.

Dropping Ashes on the Buddha

Only Don’t Know: Selected Teaching Letters of Zen Master Seung Sahn

And there is a wonderful documentary about Dae Soen Sa Nim called Wake Up! On the Road with a Zen Master. Here’s a clip:

Where were you when you first learned about the Law of Attraction? For many of us, The Secret brought perspective, familiarity and organization to a universal principle that was somewhat elusive and undefined. It was an exciting starting point which introduced a new generation of seekers to the power of deliberate, positive thinking and the undeniable abilities we have to manifest whatever is in our highest good. In The Secret, we were delivered a variety of teachers offering personal experiences and perspectives to help people begin to put into practice this powerful law in practical and unexpected ways.

Dr. Joe Vitale was featured in The Secret and is a world-renowned motivational speaker, author, teacher and entrepreneur. He is the author of the international #1 best-seller, The Attractor Factor, the #1 best-seller Life’s Missing Instruction Manual, the #1 best-selling e-book Hypnotic Writing, and the #1 best-selling Nightingale-Conant audio program, The Power of Outrageous Marketing, among numerous other works.

I had the opportunity to ask Dr. Vitale a few questions regarding his current work and how his understanding of the Law of Attraction has evolved.

CL: In your latest book, Zero Limits: The Secret Hawaiian System for Wealth, Health, Peace, and More, you talk about the how people settle into self-limiting beliefs that keep them from leading their best life. What are some of the pillars to the Hawaiian System that help people overcome this tendency, and how did you discover it?

JV: The system erases any and all limiting beliefs, without you needing to know what they are. I discovered it from Dr. Hew Lew, who teaches workshops on the subject. The whole idea is to take total responsibility for everything in your life and ask forgiveness for it from the Divine. Dr. Hew Len was able to help heal an entire ward of mentally ill ciminals using this mehtod, as I reported in our book Zero Limits.

CL: You speak a lot about intention and how important it is to establish a solid intention before one can manifest desired results in any area of one’s life. Is there an optimal way to set an intention?

JV: The best way is with what I call an Inspired Intention. There are intentions from your ego and intentions from the Divine. The stronger ones come from the latter. Align yourself with that and nothing is impossible. I talk about this in my book The Attractor Factor (second edition).

CL: Since participating in The Secret and the publication of several of your books including the second edition of The Attactor Factor, has your personal understanding of The Law of Attraction changed or evolved? If so, how?

JV: Yes. I see that the Law of Attraction is a good start but not the ending. There’s also the Law of Right Action. There’s also the reality that you aren’t in charge of the entire universe; the Divine is. I explain this in my new audio program, The Awakening Course. At some point you have to surrender to a higher power.

CL: Is it possible for someone to manifest great financial abundance while working passionately in a traditionally low-paying job? In other words, how can someone committed to a career with modest income enjoy the benefits of financial wealth and freedom?

JV: Easy. I have a new audio program explaining all this called The Secret to Attracting Money. Money can come to anyone through products they create. I wrote my first books and products while working a full-time job.

CL: In The Key: The Missing Secret for Attracting Anything You Want, you talk about counter intentions. What are those, and can you share a couple of ways to overcome them?

JV: A counter-intention is the direct belief oppposite of what you say you want. An example is you want to lose weight. That’s the intention. But the counter-intention could be, “If I lose weight, I won’t feel safe.” Counter-intentions will stop your intentions from happening. I offer ten ways to get clear in my book The Key and seven ways in my audio program The Missing Secret. The easiest way to get clear is to love yourself and your limiting beliefs.

CL: What are some simple steps that individuals can take within one week that will begin to help them on the path to personal fulfillment, prosperity and happiness?

JV: The simplest thing is to feel grateful for what you have right now. Too many people want to feel grateful after they attract something good. It doesn’t work that way. In the movie The Compass I tell the story of shifting my life by feeling grateful for a pencil. It all begins right now, with what you already have.

CL: What are just five of your all-time favorite books that you would whole-heartedly recommend and why?

JV: The Book of est changed my life by putting me into the est seminar; Why Is This Happening to Me Again?explained how we keep creating the same problems; The Magic of Believing taught me the power of belief; 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class (is) a masterpiece; The Dark Side of the Light Chasers (is) eye-opening about how we have shadows to our public selves.

May 2017
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