Usui Retreat - December 21, 2006

Bird calls

Present with bird calls
We fly together
Beyond spaciousness
and words....,


Rather than giving you three different meditations this retreat. I have decided to give you some areas to focus on and work through. I like to think of it as spiritual weeding the garden time in order to plant new flowers for next year. Perhaps your mind is saying that you do not have time to do this or that you want to wait until after the retreat that is fine. We live in exciting and fast times however, doing this is a great gift that you give yourself; and you are worth doing the work for.

Annual Life Review

At the end of every year I do a annual life review to see how much of my energy is devoted to what makes me feel alive and also on the things that drain my energy that do not support me.

For a long time I have felt that the winter months have been given to us so that we can take the time to go more inside of ourselves. Just as in the winter when the branches on the trees are bare, the life is deep inside the branch. By being inside ourselves and taking the time to review our lives we can then make internal and external changes, because we see that the old structure, beliefs or time spent that does not nourish us and is not what we want or need. We then can move forward in a new year which is filled with promises that we can keep.

In cultures through out the world people make a resolution for the New Year to bring about change. Often times this may be the resolution to lose the extra weight that we seem to put on with all the Christmas cookies and rich food we eat during the holiday time. We begin the year full of good intentions and ending up mentally beating ourselves up because we did not keep our promises. I went through that for many years until I started doing the annual life review. With this information I could see and feel the necessity for change and move into those changes out of a strong desire to live my life in a different way.

So I have decided to share the process of the annual life review with you. Perhaps you will want to take the time to answer these questions. It is worth regularly spending time on the exercise. Be careful to distinguish what YOU want from what your family, friends or partner think you should want. Bear in mind that we can keep changing our goals, but unless we have a destination in mind, we are unlikely to set off on the journey at all.

Make a list of any activities that make you feel really alive, activities that absorb you so that time seems to dissolve, or which give you a sense of inner peace and satisfaction. What do you really enjoy? What makes your heart glow and your spirit dance? IS it a walk in the forest, gardening, reading a novel, and writing poetry? Listening to music, chatting with friends, and painting, jogging, making love or traveling to new places? Perhaps it is doing charity work or playing with children? Could it be certain aspects of your job? Which PEOPLE make you feel good? Make sure the list is based upon how you feel now, not upon what you used to enjoy, or think you should enjoy, or what other people like to do.

Next make a second list of any activities (or People) which deaden or deplete you, which leave you feeling tired, board or under stress.

Now assess how much of your life is devoted to each list. Does this reflect how "alive" or "dead" you feel? How might you begin to change the balance so that you feel more and more energized?

2) Review your life, and where it is going:
* What are your secret ambitions (large and small)?
* What are your strengths, talents and abilities?
* What does, or would, give your life meaning and purpose?
* What personal qualities do you wish to develop?
* What is your ideal lifestyle?
* What do you wish to experience in life?
* What do you need- physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually?
* Is your work (whether paid or unpaid) just a way of paying the rent, or is it important to you as a person?
* Are you learning and growing in everyday life?
* Is your life challenging enough? Relaxing enough? Loving enough?
* If you knew you only had five years to live, what would you do?

Remind yourself that: this is not a dress rehearsal for life. This is IT! How do you want to create your life now?

What you can do, or dream you can, begin it: Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

The other part of the annual review that I do at the end of the year is to undertake a process that I learned in the "Life Training" program. I write down a list of all the people I have had a judgment about, or not forgiven for something. In fact anyone I have had the least amount of ill will towards. Beside each name I write the result of this action (payoff) and how I have behaved, it could be one of the following or more: victim, superior, confused and what was the cost of holding on to this anger, resentment or pain in terms of my own energy, how has this situation affected me mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I allow my self to feel the pain of separation, the cost of being so right in my judgments.

Then I write a letter to each person and tell them how I have reacted. I take full responsibility for my part in any and all of the situations and I ask for their forgiveness, while also forgiving them for what I think they have done to me. If it is possible I go and speak to them face to face and to be heart to heart. Wiping the slate clean, putting forgiveness where there was judgment, light where there was darkness.

Your mind may be saying that it is nearly impossible to do any of this, but it is not impossible. I had thoughts like that myself the first time I did this review, but soon realized how much better I felt and how much clearer my life seemed to be afterwards. It had been worth all the effort so that the past was truly past. The future is ahead and I am in this moment in the NOW.

The beauty and power and the joy in life is not in what happens, it is in the motion, in the movement, and in the constant process of change. Joy is the incredible dance of life. We always know what the next step of our lives should be; which area of our lives needs to be resolved, and where we need to find the courage and self love to start moving.

I encourage you to stop dragging your past along with you as you try to create a future. It is almost time to make those New Years Resolutions for 2007. Take the time to stop and review your life and make the changes necessary so that you can truly enjoy the dance of life and all the pleasure life brings.

Looking forward to being with you next week……I would love to hear what you discovered and how you were feeling.

Love, Mari


A December Message from Mari

Hello my Dear Friends and Family,

I want to remind you that the Usui Retreat will start on the 21st of December…just a few days away. I am doing something a bit different in the retreat space this year. I will be giving you a little spiritual gardening to do.

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays also comes searching for that perfect gift. The following article is meaningful and will give you some great suggestions. Why not take some time to just chill out and read the newsletter and give yourself permission to recharge your batteries and touch back into your spiritual wellspring.

Expressions of the Heart
Creating Meaningful Homemade Gifts

The gifts we craft with our own hands are often the most significant because the love that drove us to create is infused in the products of our creation. And the recipients of these homemade offerings receive a token of our willingness to invest ourselves in their joy. Allow these ideas to inspire you:

1. When you craft a beautifully decorated prayer box (or jar) for loved ones, you give them the gift of spiritual awareness. As you share this gift, explain that it should serve as a receptacle for their hopes, dreams, and loves—as well as worries—and thus a reminder of who they were, are, and will someday be.

2. If you love journaling, share your writing joy with family and friends by giving each a unique, handmade personal journal. A simple spiral notebook dressed up with paper, fabric, photographs, or other embellishments will give your loved ones a special place to record their private thoughts.

3. Erase the distance between yourself and your far away loved ones by presenting each with a photo journal documenting how your life has changed in the past year. Or introduce them to your locale with a homemade guidebook that highlights everything you love about your town or city.

4. When you sew medicine bags for the people you care about, you can rest assured your gift will always be close to their hearts. A small pouch can be filled with many meditative or symbolic items, such as quartz crystals, sage, or magical objects.

5. A progressive photo album, wherein pictures tell the story of your relationships from the past up to the present, can be a simple yet poignant reminder of the many wonderful experiences you and your loved ones have shared over the years.

6. Give the gift of serenity with a guided meditation you create and record to CD or tape. Your loved ones will take pleasure in being led through tranquil landscapes by the soothing sound of your voice.

7. Hand-crafted ornaments that can be hung on trees, in windows, and on walls afford you an opportunity to surround the important people in your life with beauty. Whether you prefer to work with clay, crystals, fabric, baked dough, or natural objects, your gift can serve as a calming focal point in your loved ones’ homes. Whether you choose to give a gift or simply share your friendship and love, remember that it is the intention behind the thought that is most important.

Hidden Gems
Experiences We Don’t Understand

Sometimes we have an experience that we don’t understand, but if we look deeply, or wait long enough, a reason for that experience will usually reveal itself. All the events in our lives lead to other events, and all that we have manifested in this present moment is the result of past events and experiences. We cannot easily tease apart the many threads that have been woven together to create our current reality. Experiences that don’t make sense, as well as any that we regret, are just as responsible for the good things in our lives as the experiences we do understand or label as “good.”

This is especially important to remember at times when we feel directionless or unsure of what to do. It is often at times like these that we take a job or move to a place without really knowing if it’s the right thing to do. We may ultimately end up leaving the job or the place, but often during that time we will have met someone who becomes an important friend, or we may have an experience that changes us in a profound way. When all the pieces of our life don’t quite make sense, we can remember that there may be some hidden gem of a reason that we are where we are having the experiences we are having.

It’s fun to look back on past experiences with an eye to uncovering those gems—the dreadful temporary job in a bland office building that introduced you to the love of your life; the roommate you couldn’t tolerate who gave you a book that changed your life; the time spent living in a city you didn’t like that led you into a deeper relationship with yourself. Remembering these past experiences can restore our faith in the present. Life is full of buried treasures. Chances are, you’re sitting on some right now.

Let Go And Let Flow
Taking A Leap Of Faith

Many people, in heeding the guidance of their souls, find themselves contemplating goals that seem outrageous or unattainable. In the mind's eye, these individuals stand at the edge of a precipice and look out over the abyss at the fruit of their ambition. Some resist the urge to jump, paralyzed by the gap between their current circumstances and the life of their dreams. Others make a leap of faith into the unknown, unsure of what they will encounter but certain that they will gain more in their attempts than they would bowing to self-protective instincts. This leap can be exceedingly difficult for individuals with control issues because the act of embracing uncertainty requires them to trust that surrender will net them the rewards they seek. Yet when you make a leap of faith, believing without a doubt that you will land safely on the other side, you can accomplish almost anything you set out to do.

There have no doubt been times in your life when you chose to go where the universal flow took you. Yet you may encounter instances in which your objectives require you to step outside of the boundaries of your established comfort zone so that you may freely and actively jettison yourself into a new phase of your life. While you may fear what seems to be the inevitable fall, consider that in all likelihood you will find yourself flying. A successful leap of faith requires your attention, as it is the quiet and often indistinct voice of your inner self that will point you toward your ultimate destination. Understand that the leap across the chasm of ambiguity may challenge you in unforeseen ways but you will make it across if you trust yourself.

If your mind and heart resist, you can dampen this resistance by building a bridge of knowledge. The more you know about the leap you are poised to take, the smaller the gap between "here" and "there" will appear to be. Your courageous leap of faith can lead you into uncharted territory, enabling you to build a new, more adventurous life. Though you may anticipate that fear will be your guide on your journey across the abyss, you will likely discover that exhilaration is your constant companion.

Working From Center
In The Thick Of It

When we are "in the thick of it," overwhelmed by too many things that need our attention, it's important to remember that we are never given more than we can handle. When life's challenges make us question this, our best coping mechanism is to follow the reliable and well-known course to our calm center and anchor ourselves there. It is for these times that we have been practicing regularly, so that our mind, body, and spirit will know how to find the peace within. Even in the midst of seeming chaos, a deep breath can help us turn within to find the space to work from, the calm at the center of the storm.

Tapping into our inner resources we begin again, bringing our focus to the needs of the present moment. Asking "why?" shifts our energy away from the task at hand. We can seek answers to those questions once we get to the other side of the present challenge. For now, we accept what is. Once we have collected scattered energy and created space, inspiration will strike, help will arrive, and what seemed impossible will either become possible or we will find it has become unnecessary. The flow of the universe and its perfect order has room to move in our lives when we get ourselves and our extraneous thoughts out of the way.

After the thick has become thin again, we have the opportunity to learn from the situation with a better idea of our true capabilities. We can now ask ourselves the "why" questions with the goal of fine-tuning our lives. Perhaps we have taken on more than is ours to do or made commitments out of obligation rather than insight. It could just be the ebb and flow and life, or we may be receiving life lessons on a fast track in preparation for something wonderful to come. But when we have a chance to make new choices, we know the best ones are made when we work from center.

Your Perfect Teacher

Many of us long to find a spiritual teacher or guru. We may feel unsure of how to practice our spirituality without one, or we may long for someone who has attained a higher level of insight to lead the way for us. Some of us have been looking for years to no avail and feel frustrated and even lost. The good news is that the greatest teacher you could ever want is always with you-that is your life.

The people and situations we encounter every day have much to teach us when we are open to receiving their wisdom. Often we don't recognize our teachers because they may not look or act like our idea of a guru, yet they may embody great wisdom. In addition, some people teach us by showing us what we don't want to do. All the situations in our lives, from the insignificant to the major, conspire to teach us exactly what we need to be learning at any given time. Patience, compassion, perseverance, honesty, letting go-all these are covered in the classroom of the teacher that is your life.

We can help ourselves to remember this perfect teacher each day with a few simple words. Each morning we might find a moment to say, "I acknowledge and honor the teacher that is my life. May I be wise enough to recognize the teachers and lessons that I encounter today, and may I be open to receiving their wisdom." We might also take some time each day to consider what our lives are trying to teach us at this time. A difficult phase in your relationship with your child may be teaching you to let go. The homeless person you see every day may be showing you the boundaries of your compassion and generosity. A spate of lost items may be asking you to be more present to physical reality. Trust your intuition on the nature of the lesson at hand, work at your own pace, and ask as many questions as you want. Your life has all the answers.

A beautiful site that explains a spiritual experience, take the time to be inspired.


Serving The Higher Self
The Ego

In most spiritual circles, the ego gets a pretty bad rap. The reason for this is that the ego, to some extent, is the principle in our psyches that separates us from one another, while spirit is the principle that shows us that no such separation exists. Sometimes the ego is depicted as an almost demonic figure that keeps us from realizing our true nature. But at its most basic, the ego is simply a tool that helps us organize the various aspects of our personality so that we can function in the world. In this sense, the ego is simply a way for us to understand and attend to ourselves at the same time as we understand and attend to the world around us. The ego is a tool that we use to navigate the world.

Perhaps the problem is that the ego sometimes gets out of control. This happens when the higher-self loses control of the psyche. The psyche then falls under the leadership of the ego, an entity that was never meant to lead. The ego is meant to be definitively in the service of the higher self. When this relationship is functioning, the ego is a useful intermediary representing the whole self but not thinking that it is the whole self. Then, it is almost as if the ego is the self playfully pretending to be the separate entity called “I.” Like an actor, the ego plays the roles that the world asks us to play in order to be part of the program. In this way, the ego can be a tool enabling us to be in the world but not of it.

As long as we are in touch with our higher selves, our egos are not a threat. They are simply useful tools in the service of spirit. We keep our egos in check when we continually nurture our awareness of who we really are. Then our egos are free to serve without trying ineffectually to rule. It is healthy to have ego, but like all things in life, ego functions best when it is in balance and harmony with your whole self. "Go back to those times in your life when you came to a crossroad. Your life changed abruptly. You lost someone you loved. You found and committed to a new partner. You had a new baby. You moved geographically. You ran into someone that completely changed your belief system with the fullness and richness and total unconditional-ness of their love for you.

Revisit each of those times in your past to uncover 'godwinks' that were sent to you even if you weren't paying attention; make a list of these 'coincidences' and answered (even if to unexpressed) prayers. This is what you'll discover: when there were multiple paths that your life could've followed, there were always signposts of reassurance - godwinks of personal communication - to you and to no one else on Earth.Here's more good news! The map of winks from God will continue to unfold long into your future if you just look for them. They are experienced to the extent you're open to and seeking them. And acknowledge, finally, that He is communicating directly with you."

-- Squire Rushnell, in When God Winks at You

Have a beautiful and meaningful Holiday Season,

Love, Mari