Gateless

MENTORS & TORMENTORS

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As most of you already know, two of my greatest passions are yoga and writing. The more I've practiced both of these creative arts, the more I've discovered a deep spiritual connective thread that weaves the two of them together. So much so that in 2006, I offered my first Yoga & Writing workshop at my studio.

The relationship between the two has become so exciting and beautiful to me, that whenever I take a yoga training or attend an author reading, I always make sure to bring anotebook and pen because I know at some point, the teacher or writer is going to say some brilliant thing that illuminates yet another connection between the two, and it will be so fantastic that I must write it down and highlight it with neon markers and scribble in big, bold letters in the margins - YES!!! YOGA & WRITING!!! I've been doing this for years.

Last week, I was happily attending one of my favorite writer's conferences down in Florida. I adore it not only because it gets me out of cold-ass NH in January, but it also allows me to spend eight glorious days, totally geeking out with about 100 other book lovers, readers and writers.

While the whole week is a total blast, one of the things I love most is getting to spend some quality time with my writing friends and mentors. (There's a photo of some of them above.)

Each day at the conference, we get to workshop manuscripts, go to author readings, attend lectures and discussions on craft, and learn about everything from revising your first draft, to getting an agent, to how to start your own small publishing press. Book nerd heaven.

About midweek, there was a discussion called: My First Novel - Mistakes & Successes with best selling authors, Lori Roy, Laura Lippman and Andre Dubus III sitting on the panel. During the Q & A - the topic of mentors came up.

And while each of them shared their thoughts and advice on the subject, one of the things that Laura said almost sent me flying up and out of my seat like some sweaty enthusiastic, parishioner, at a big revival tent somewhere in the deep south that had just heard the preacher say something so glorious that it was almost impossible to just let it slide on by without making some sort of a “Praise the Lord” testimony.

"It's good to have mentors - but tormentors will take you a long way too." 

When I heard those words come out of her mouth - I felt like stomping my feet, raising my hands to the heavens and dancing around in the aisles shouting, "Hallelujah! Can I get a witness? Amen!" I resisted the urge, so I wouldn't scare the crap out of the people sitting close to me but I did start scribbling away in my notebook like I'd been possessed. YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! YOGA & WRITING!!! WOOHOO!!!

You see, I've been telling my students for years that as nice as it is to have supportive, loving people in your life, do not discredit the power of the assholes. The button pushers, the bullies, the bastards, as much as we hate to admit it or accept it, are some of our greatest teachers, too.

And for me, it goes even beyond that. Tormentors are not just people. They're also the things that scare you, piss you off or make you feel less then. They're the weight gain, the death, the job loss, the cancer diagnosis, the cheating spouse, the addiction, the childhood abuse, the sad victim story you keep telling yourself or the old baggage you've been dragging around behind you for so long now that you've been leaving a trail of bloody bits and pieces of your unhealed self every where you go.

That "fill in the blank" obstacle, reason, excuse - you know, the thing(s) that keeps you playing small and feeling separated from God/Source/Spirit. Whatever it is that prevents you from stepping into your power and Divinity, those walls you've built against the awareness of Love's presence and the multitude of ways you've blocked the flow of miracles that are trying to come into your life. Yeah, all that shit - those are tormentors too.

However, remember what Laura said, "... Tormentors will take you a long way." But here's the thing, you've got to be willing to change your mind about how you see them. As Lesson 28 of A Course in Miracles directly guides us, "Above all else, I want to see things differently." 

So, how do we do that? How do we flip it and shift our perception of Tormentors into Mentors? Well, first thing first, you've got to know that it's an inside job. Here's another clue from super, smarty-pants buddhist nun, Pema Chodron. She got it right when she said, "If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher."

I would dare to say that anyone or anything can be our teacher (our mentor) if we change the lens through which we're viewing it.

If we come at a person or situation and look at it through the illusion of Fear, we will see an attack or a tormentor. However, if we choose (and trust me, it's a decision only we can make), to soften our hearts, or to let go of what we think it is, if we're willing to turn our thoughts over to the Divine, to Holy Spirt, to our Spiritual Team and ask to see this person, this thing, this situation through the forgiving eyes of Love.... I'm telling you - you'll be amazed at how your perception and your life can transform.

One of my greatest mentors, Marianne Williamson taught me, "Love is what we're born with, Fear is what we've learned here." 

All that God/Spirit/Universe/Higher Power needs is a little bit of your willingness to surrender our version of events. You must on some level consciously want to see yourself and your tormentors differently. Now, you don't have to understand it, you don't even have to like it, but you do have to want it. The truth is, our biggest tormentors only exist in our own mind. Healing, is an inside job. Just crack open the door of your mind a tiny bit and let some of that light shine into the darkness.

When you build your spiritual muscles through daily practice and learn to shift your perception from limited human sight, to limitless Divine vision, when you start to experience the world from a place of Love instead of Fear - all of life becomes a mentor, especially our previous tormentors.

Right now, I'm working on developing an online course that I'm calling: Creating Fearless Flow - that I hope when finished, will give folks some down to earth, practical tools to help navigate this kind of spiritual process. And you can bet your bottom that it will involve both some yoga and some writing! In the meantime, just know that the Universe has got your back, Love is on your side and you're surrounded by a kick-ass team of Angels that are always there for you, ready to help.

NEW BEGINNINGS

Cory, Mom, Kasha
Cory, Mom, Kasha

"Tis time New Hopes should animate the world, New Light should dawn for New Revealings to a race weighed down so long, forgotten so long..."  ~ Paracelsus (Robert Browning)

I'm so excited about this New Year! I just know that 2015 is going to give us all plenty of opportunities to practice being more loving, compassionate, creative and kind. So many wonderful new chances to share the Love and be the Light.

A Course in Miracles says: "Teach Only Love - For That Is What You Are." In ACIM, to "teach" means to demonstrate. Which means, you don't have to take out an ad in the paper, or make some big announcement on Facebook, or get up on a box on some street corner (although that might be fun to watch!) and preach about how in 2015 you're going to be a kick-ass Pilgrim of Love.

All you have to do is get your heart and mind right each morning and then go out there and simply live your life. It will be through your daily thoughts, words and actions that your dedication and devotion to God/Goodness, to Love/Spirit will reveal itself and leave it's sweet, tender impression on your brother's and sister's hearts. Living your life in Love - this is your yoga practice.

As I've probably said a gazillion times before, if you can stick your foot behind your head, that's great. If you can sit for 2 hours of meditation, cool. If you can chant all 40 verses of the Hanuman Chalisa, awesome, but when you're done doing those things, if you go out into the world and act like a selfish asshole, then you're not doing your yoga.

Yoga asks more of us. This practice asks us to bring our awareness of our highest Self into everything that we do. That we try to see the Divine in all beings and creatures, that we do our best as Yogi Bhajan says, "To be the forklift" and raise each other up. Only building one another up in Love, never tearing down out of Fear.

So this is my New Year's request of all of you, and even thought it's a small favor, it's a long story, so thank you in advance for reading, as I ask for your help to bring hope, love and buoyancy to one of our fellow yogis - Mr. Cory Daiker.

(Just so you know upfront, he's given me 100% permission to share his story with all of you. What he doesn't know, is why I want to share it.) 

For the past year or so, I've been mentoring Cory. This isn't unusual as you guys know, I offer Spiritual and Yoga Teacher Mentoring. What makes this situation special is that Cory is 3,000 miles away from me in CA. And he's also in prison.

Long story short, he's not in there for anything violent. Let's just say that Cory had himself a little habit, and to support that habit he decided to become a "gardener" of sorts. Much to his surprise, he had a natural gift of a green thumb. The kid could grow some shit - are you with me? So he uses his talents legitimately and starts out working for a small medical co-op. But then, one thing leads to another. And even though Cory smartens up and gets out of the business, moves back in with his mom (that's her in the picture with him) and enrolls himself in community college - it's already too late, a previous situation catches up to him. But he does the right thing and turns himself into the Marshals and he ends up getting a shorter sentence due to the good changes he made before going to prison.

So, this is when it gets interesting. In October of 2012, while he's incarcerated in FCI Lompoc, he discovers yoga! One of the other inmates, whose been in there for 10 years and is self taught, invites him to his yoga class and gives him the B.K.S. Iyengar book, "Light on Yoga." Cory reads the book, starts his own daily practice and over the course of the month becomes hooked.

Lo and behold, over time, Cory slowly starts to teach other inmates too. Nothing super formal, just sharing what he's learned from the different yoga books he started reading (his mom sends them to him) and from his own practice.

This is where I come in. His mom Kathy reached out to me in 2013 on Cory's behalf (she found me online) and asked if I would be willing to work with Cory and mentor him? She said he was thinking that when he got out of prison, he might like to one day become a yoga teacher!! I thought that was pretty cool and I was like, "OK, I've got to talk this guy."

And that's just what we've done. Via long emails and in short 15 minute phone conversations (you're not allowed to talk more than that) - we've talked - a lot about yoga and all kinds of things and I've gotten to know him.

Over the past 15 months, Cory has completed an incredible recovery program. He was such a positive presence in his group that the leaders chose to make him a mentor to others. He's continued with his exploration of yoga and like any student knows, some days go better than others. It's truly difficult to maintain a consistent practice in prison because, as you can imagine, you can't really let your guard fully down. The fact that Cory continues on is remarkable to me.

He also become vegetarian and has been able to put some of his innate gardening talents to use. He's been working to replace the existing hydroponic system to a fully organic system that doesn't use heavy salts as fertilizer. He said to me one day, "It's kind of funny to do new things, taking and using old knowledge I gained for illegal purposes and re-tasking it for something positive. This is the first time I can grow things and not worry about failure and I'm having a big breakthrough that I think could be quite beneficial to the farm industry and urban farming and it feels awesome!"

He's also working hard to cut out sugar (not easy with prison food), caffeine (he had headaches for days) and because of his work in the garden, he's able to eat some organic greens and even juice them a little. He can't wait to get out and once again be able to control his own diet. :)

His hope is to someday maybe teach yoga to people who are in recovery. We laugh a little sometimes because he's never even had the chance to take a yoga class at an actual studio yet! But my hope is that when he gets out, he'll land in the perfect yoga community somewhere in CA and they'll be as welcoming, friendly and supportive as I know you guys would be.

The other day, Cory wrote to me and one of the things he shared landed so deeply in my heart - he was talking about humility and gratitude and said,

"Just today, I had this crazy moment when I was standing in the garden watching the birds play and the hummingbirds and dragonflies flying around and the sky was so blue and it hit me. Oh my, I'm in jail. And I get to watch all this beauty. How crazy. So right there and then, I sat down in lotus and gave thanks for this day and how grateful I was for things to land the way they did and allow me all this. I thought this experience of jail was going to ruin my life but it has made it so much fuller and probably stopped me from slowly destroying my body over time. So, I can't believe I'm saying this being a prisoner but, I am thankful for jail and what it did to save my life."

If you guys could have seen me smiling and crying and pounding my desk repeatedly in glorious joy!! YES, YES, YES - HE GETS IT!!!

I was thrilled for him that he'd had that personal revelation and it made me so happy, that I wanted to celebrate it and do something nice for Cory. So, this is where you guys come in. Don't worry, I'm not asking for any money. Just a few minutes of your time. So this is my idea...

Cory will hopefully be getting released in November 2015. Fingers crossed it all goes great but in the meantime, I'd like to send him some words of encouragement. I'd like for him to know that even though we're far away, he already has a yoga community rooting for him and cheering him on - as he finishes up his prison time.

All I ask, is that if you could shoot me a quick email with a few encouraging words for Cory - whatever your heart inspires you to write - and I will collect them all and put them together in one big New Years email to surprise him. It will not include your email address or any kind of identifying info, just your "forklift" of a note and your first name.

Thank you in advance for those of you that choose to participate. It means a lot to me and I know it will mean the world to Cory (and his mom)! This is just one fun way that we can start our New Year with more love, compassion, kindness and creativity!

Wishing every single one of you a beautiful and blessed New Year. May you continue to shine and keep lifting each other up!

DAILY BLESSINGS

Every morning, before my feet even hit the floor, I routinely start my day with prayer. No matter what's going on in my life and no matter how busy my day is, I do not get out of bed until my prayers have been said and conscious contact has been made between me and the Divine.

I usually start of with a couple of familiar ones from my Catholic childhood, the good ole' Lord's Prayer and a little Hail Mary (although I admit to changing the line "pray for us sinners" to "pray for us children" because it just sounds, I don't know, so much nicer - than being called a big, fat sinner first thing in the morning.

I always recite the prayer of St. Francis (a beautiful invocation from one of my favorite saints that I also use for daily Passage Meditation) and throw in another another sweet one that I learned years ago from Marianne Williamson that helps me turn myself over to the Beloved and turn down the volume of my critical ego-mind. Then, I chant a little Ganesha Mantra (Ganesh is my main man and the remover of obstacles and God knows I need as much help as possible getting out of my own way!)

I also call upon my Spiritual Team and I've got to say, it's a pretty bad-ass team comprised of humans, animals, Gods/Goddesses, saints/sages and angels from a bunch of different faith traditions. First thing I do is offer up some gratitude for their presence in my life and give thanks for all the gifts I've been given. I learned a long time ago that things that don't seem like a gift in the present moment, often turn out to be - so I make sure to also say thank you, for any current challenges I'm experiencing and any button pushers that happen to be showing up.

Then, I ask my Team to bless and keep all of my brothers and sisters everywhere - which also includes all the animals - and pray that we find our way from the darkness to the Light, from ignorance to Truth, from the unreal to the Real and that our hearts and minds be returned to Love. I ask that we all may learn to live and create in what I call, FEARLESS FLOW.

I also take a few minutes to reflect on my daily lesson from A Course In Miracles and then wrap it up with two more ACIM prayers that basically ask God/Love to be in charge of my thoughts, words and actions - so that I can do my best to be truly helpful in world, rather than walking around doing a bunch of stupid stuff or saying a bunch of sarcastic things. (Now grant it, this isn't always easy because sarcasm is a skill set that kids from Lawrence master into an art form at a pretty young age - plus, old habits die hard - but with God on my side, all things are possible.)

I do all this kind of stuff everyday because I know for a fact that:

A) Just like I need do some physical movement each day to keep my body strong and flexible, stable and mobile, steady and at ease - I also need to do the same for my mental, emotional and spiritual body.

B) Life is going to throw me some curveballs once in a while and if I align myself with Spirit first thing in the morning, I'm setting myself up for a day that is grounded in Faith, Devotion and Love.

C) When I consistently do this work, it significantly lessens the likelihood of me acting like a total colossal asshole.

D) In the unlikely event I do start to act like a TCA, I am now conditioned to come correct and get myself back on the Love Train pretty quickly.

I've seen proof positive how maintaining an unwavering, daily prayer practice has helped me to build my spiritual muscles, so instead of reacting to people and things like a crazy person, I can choose how I respond to the world around me.

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Case in point, when we lost our power on Thanksgiving Eve and the top of a massive pine tree snapped off and to took a header onto and INTO our house and it not only made two holes in our roof but also crushed our chimney cap so we couldn't use our propane fireplace for heat and our generator wouldn't start for two days and I couldn't send out my Thanksgiving Newsletter to all of you and the lovely folks at PSNH kept giving me false hope and wrong restoration times and we ultimately lost our ability to shower and flush toilets for 5 days and to add insult to injury on the 4th day the whole street except us and another neighbor, got their electricity back - and despite all this, I was still positive and hopeful and polite (except for that one tiny instance when I sarcastically told the guy at PSNH, "Dude, you guys are killing me right now with this shit.") But other than that, I was cool. I was even genuinely happy for our neighbors when they got their power back a whole 24 hours before us and thought "good for them" - rather than wanting to walk up the street and huck rocks through their happy, lit up windows. :)

I'm telling you, if you show up, if you do this work with sustained willingness and enthusiasm, you will experience more joy, more freedom from suffering and more liberation from the tyranny of your own fearful mind! Prayer helps you to take all that spiritual knowledge that floats around in your smarty-pants head and draws it down into your sweet, loving heart where it can be transformed through Divine Alchemy and be used by you to serve the world in brilliant, creative ways. 

So, as we move into the New Year, maybe you'll consider taking up your own daily devotional practices. Perhaps it will involve yoga, pranayama exercises, prayer, chanting mantras, meditation, reading sacred texts, writing in your journal, doing the rosary or other beautiful ways of connecting more deeply to your Divine Source and Spiritual Team.

I can't tell you which practices you should do (I mean I could but you don't really need me - just simply get quiet, go within and ask Spirit for guidance) - but I can tell you that with a sustained practice of discipline, dedication, determination and devotion - you'll gather some powerful tools that will help you to navigate your life with more love, grace, compassion, forgiveness and a sense of humor. Try it for yourself and let me know how it all unfolds!!

Thank you for another wonderful year. It's a true honor and delight to share this journey with all of you. xoxo

CREATING COMMUNITY

I'm so delighted to say that our 1st Annual - NH Yoga Retreat at the Mountain View Grand Resort was a total blast! I was blessed to co-create and share the experience with three of my amazing friends and fellow yoga teachers, Elizabeth, Roseann and Nicole!

At the end of my Saturday afternoon class, as the four of us were looking around the room at all of the beautiful yogis relaxing in savasana, we all started to tear up. We couldn't help ourselves. It was truly magical! Over 70 yogis, from 4 different studios and 3 different states (NH, MA & RI) all gathered together for a weekend immersion of laughter, love, friendship and heart-centered community!

I think it struck us all so deeply because as studio owners and teachers one of the biggest parts of your dream and vision is to create a safe haven, a scared space where people can come together, feel at home, be at ease and see their own beauty and brilliance reflected back to them through others in their spiritual community.

As I often say in class - "Nobody else can do this work for us but we don't have to do it alone."

One of my beloved teachers Eknath Easwaran always talks about the importance of  Spiritual Fellowship. Here's part of what he has to say:

"Spiritual friends are what Buddha would have called "right companionship." Everything we do, he reminds us, either adds or subtracts from our own image as human beings. What we give our time and attention to, what we talk about, what we read about, the people we are close to - all these contribute to either a higher image of the human being or to a lower one.

Cultivate time with people whose companionship elevates you. We can seek out goodness in people. We can seek out what is noble in human character. We can look for goodness and nobility in choosing our friends, in choosing to whom to give our attention and our love. It is especially helpful to spend time regularly with others who are basing their lives on the same spiritual values. When you are trying to change your life, you need the support of others with the same goal...

It should be no surprise then that an essential part of the spiritual life is joining together with those who are spiritually minded, those who want to promote our growth and who want us to promote theirs. This should not be considered a luxury or an indulgence. The Buddha would say that most people throw themselves into the river of life and float downstream, moved here and there by the current. But the spiritual aspirant must swim upstream, against the current of habit, familiarity, and ease. 

It is an apt image. We know how the salmon fights its way along, returning at last to its original home. Those who set out to change themselves are salmon swimming against the relentless flow of the selfish life. Truly, we need every bit of support we can get; we need friends, loyal companions on the journey. We have to do the swimming, of course; nobody else can do it for us. But there will be an easier and swifter passage if we can swim with those who encourage us, who set a strong pace and will not stop until they reach their destination. The burdens are shared, easing them; the joys are shared too, multiplying them.

In Sanskrit, this sharing is called satsang. The word derives from two smaller words: sat, meaning "the good" or "truth" or "reality," and sanga, meaning "group" or "association." Thus it signifies the seekers of the highest, banded together."

And this is exactly what we did at our retreat! We all banded together - we supported and celebrated one another, practiced and laughed together and I believe felt a genuine connection from heart to heart ~ Spirit to Spirit.

This month as we celebrate Thanksgiving,  I want you all to know just how much I appreciate and adore all of YOU! Thank you for being a part of my community for all these years. And if you're new to our community - welcome, welcome!! It's because of you beautiful beings that I get to share what I love and live my dreams. I'm deeply grateful, honored and blessed to experience this journey with all of you!

BE YOUR AWESOME SELF

Something happened to me this week, that's actually happened to me many, many times before. I normally keep my big mouth shut about these kind of things, not wanting to name names, call people out or embarrass anyone. But the outcome of this latest situation was so good, so positive that I've decided to share the story with you!

So here's the thing, when you do anything in the public eye, especially if you do it at a level that some folks might consider "successful" or original - your work, your website, your writing, your creative "stuff" is probably going to get noticed. Now, it's super cool when people see your stuff and it moves them, lights them up, and inspires them in turn to create their OWN original stuff!

But, you know what's not so soothing? When those same people like your work, your website, your offering, your idea - SO MUCH, that they go ahead and decide to steal it. Now, I know we're all linked as one conscious mind and we exist in some sort of primordial creative soup, so nothing is truly original, blah, blah, blah - I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about when someone checks out your website and verbatim steals your shit right off of it! They blatantly "borrow" snippets of your layout, your text, your language, your workshop. Sometimes they can be so bold as to copy the whole kit and kaboodle! (Which is what happened in this latest instance.)

I don't know why people do this. Maybe they're afraid they don't have any good ideas of their own. Maybe they're lazy and figure, well she's already being successful at it, why reinvent the wheel? Maybe they secretly hope nobody will notice. Maybe they think that I won't find out.

But, I know a lot of people so this stuff has a funny way of making it's way back to me. You'd be amazed at how many times over the years, I've been told or discovered that someone had lifted my stuff. Now, as a writer (and especially one who's also married to a professional musician/singer/songwriter) we take intellectual property, copyright and Trademark stuff very seriously. So when faced with this kind of blatant stealing, I am not at all impressed.

However, I do my best to respond to the situation from a place of love instead of fear.

THIS IS NOT ALWAYS EASY. 

When this kind of thing happens, the Lawrence kid in me has no interest in being nice. So at first, I get pissed and think ALL kinds of unloving thoughts. Things that if I said them out loud they might actually revoke my "yogi" card. So I let that Lawrence kid part of me say what she needs to say, in private, for a few minutes and then I get down to the business of forgiveness. Once I let the wave of anger move through me -  I try to get back to the greater question of how can I approach this situation with kindness, compassion and the greatest outcome for all in mind?

THE ANSWER VARIES.

Sometimes, I just let the trespass go. If they're a chronic offender, it's just not worth the time and energy to say something to someone when I know they're going to flat out deny it, because they aren't able or willing to see or admit that they do this kind of thing habitually. Also, if they need to be a follower all the time - if they don't trust their own Divine Inspiration then on some level, they're already suffering.

Sometimes, I reach out and try to be subtle and very gentle and approach it with kid gloves, because I don't think that their intention was to be malicious. They were perhaps just clumsy or ignorant of their own fear and made a bad subconscious choice.

Sometimes, like this latest incident, I take a more direct approach. I pick up the phone and very nicely but firmly say something like, "Hey, I know we've never met and I'm sorry our relationship is starting out this way but seriously, what the f*ck? I mean you totally stole all of this content off of my website!" Now granted - it's not the funnest phone call to make - but in this case, it REALLY needed to be done.

A lot of times, especially in the spiritual community, we get super sensitive about calling people out on their shit. I mean, someone will act like a total colossal asshole and then we'll all tip toe around it because we don't want to come across as being all "judgy" or "lacking compassion" or God forbid, not being "yogic".

This lack of not wanting to call a spade a spade, this fear of being confrontational and choosing to turn a blind eye instead is kind of like a version of Spiritual Bypassing.

The truth is, you can point out a pattern or habit and bring it to someone's attention in a firm but kind way. You can say, "I see you doing this and it's not OK, it's hurtful to yourself and others." You can say, "I'm not going to let you get away with this because I know you're capable of so much more."

SOMETIME'S THE MOST LOVING THING YOU CAN SAY TO SOMEONE IS, "NO"!

So that's what I did. I picked up the phone and laid it out for the person. And you know what? We ended up having a great conversation! They totally admitted what they'd done, sincerely apologized and promised to remove the page from their website immediately.

As we talked, as the person explained why they did it and what was going on with them, I said, "Look, all this stuff you're telling me about yourself - all this stuff that makes you YOU - this right here, is YOUR website copy!" We had a good laugh and I said, "God/Spirit did not make you so that you could be more like me - you're here to share your own unique gifts and talents. You're not supposed to be like me. You're not supposed to sound like me. You're supposed to be like you and shine your light in your own way. The world doesn't need another Karen Kenney.  What they need is the best you!"

YOUR JOB IS JUST TO BE YOUR OWN AWESOME SELF!

be yourself (2)
be yourself (2)

As I said those words out loud, it took me back to a time about 20 years ago, when I was talking with an older, wiser woman. She asked me, "So, what to do you want to do with your life?" And I said, "I want to be the next Marianne Williamson!" and she paused, looked me in the eye, smiled and said, "Why don't you just be the first Karen Kenney."

I'VE NEVER FORGOTTEN THAT MOMENT.

You know, there's an old Jewish story about a great Hasidic master named Zusha who lay crying on his deathbed. His students asked him, "Why are you so sad? You have a been a great man and have done so many wonderful deeds. Your place in heaven is assured!"

Zusha replied, "I'm afraid. Because when I get to heaven, I know God's not going to ask me why weren't you more like Moses? Or, Why weren't you more like King David? God will ask, 'Zusha, why weren't you more like Zusha?' And then what will I say?!"

So I extend this now to you. How do you want to serve the world? What has God/Spirit/Loving Life Force/The Muse put in your heart and mind to create? We each have our assignments. We each were given our own special abilities and strengths. We are all meant to be receptive vessels for Divine Inspiration to flow through.

You don't have to copy another person. You don't have to be afraid that you aren't enough or there isn't enough. This is an abundant Universe! You don't have to compete and compare and try to fit in! The world doesn't need half-hearted attempts at you being like the other guy. What the world needs is beautiful YOU!

YOUR BALCONY PEOPLE

Two weeks ago, I had the true pleasure of spending 5 days of intensive writing and training with these amazing women: Sylvie, Kathleen, Regina, Jodi, (Kasha - Suzanne's mom and our yummy snack provider), Katie, Dulcie, Suzanne and Minton! (Plus Jeff, our amazing photographer and memory maker!) These beautiful women are not only fierce and fearless writers, they're also a powerhouse group of performers, speakers, artists, coaches, editors and workshop leaders.

It was an honor to learn, explore and dive deep with each of them under the compassionate and mindful tutelage of Author, Book Shaman and Literary Visionary, Suzanne Kingsbury, who's the founder of the Gateless Gate Methodology that we were studying. I'm proud to say that not only have I made some new lifelong friends and gathered new tools for my craft, but I'm now also a certified Gateless Gate Writing Teacher! (Weekly Writing Salons coming soon! Yay!)

Salon
Salon

The reason why I'm telling you all this, is because two months ago I wrote a piece called "Finding Your Spiritual Team" and somewhere in there, I talked about the people you choose to surround yourself with. You might refer to them as your friends, your group, your pack, your crew, your people or your tribe. These are the folks that totally get you, love you and support your dreams and they're a super important part of your journey.

Now, if you're lucky - nestled amongst all this sweet goodness of your beloved tribe (kind of like the prize at the bottom of a Cracker Jack's box) - you'll also have a few of what I call, your "Balcony People".

Balcony People are the friends, family members and sweeties that are totally crazy about you! The enthusiastic cheerleaders that would stand up in the balcony at your gig, show, book reading, music recital, sports game, Ironman race, wedding, play or performance (you get the picture) - and swing their jackets over their head and make a total ruckus on your behalf. They're the friends that would hoot and holler and stomp their feet and call out to you how awesome you are. Not afraid to tell anyone that'll listen, all the things they LOVE about you!

They're the ones that adore you, edify you, celebrate you and cheer you on! And these aren't the one handed, polite, air clappers trying to look oh' so cool either - these are the "Where the Wild Things Are" aren't afraid to make a total feckin' rumpus kind of people! And once you have these folks in your corner, once you know that they've got your back - your life will never be the same.

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Because they are the ones that aren't competing or comparing, they aren't jealous or insecure, they're not trying to steal your ideas or tear you down, they're not afraid of how bright you shine - they're the ones that have done their own deep work, the ones that have faced their own shadows side and remembered to turn on the light! They're the ones that know how to Forgive Their Humanity & Stand in Their Divinity.

And this allows them to recognize the spiritual power within you too and hold the vision of you at your highest - so when you do go out into the world and create something that is good, beautiful, authentic and sacred - they can't help but recognize it for what it is and cheer -Woohoooo! They get the gift of edifying others and the joy of making a rumpus and putting some loving energy behind someone else's vision, accomplishments and dreams. They understand the theory of sympathetic joy and practice it whenever they can. Knowing that since we're all One - whenever another person rises up, they automatically take the rest of us with them! So their buoyancy lifts you up too and in this way we're all reflecting the light and helping each other find our way home. And if enough of us actually do this - miracles can happen!

This kind of holy magic is what I got to experience during my Gateless Teacher Training and these kick-ass women now have their very own special section up in my balcony! (and they sure as shit can count on me being up in theirs!) Knowing that they're there, that they see me, honor me and love me - makes all the difference in the world.

My motto for the Gateless Experience is this: "If you're lucky, you get it before you die."