Posts in Sacred Within
What a broken mala and moving taught me about inner wisdom

I stood staring down at my hand, dripping, in the rain in the service area parking lot, as cars sped by spraying water along the New York State highway.

My cold wet fingers clutched my broken mala.

It had wrapped itself around the stick shift of the car when I had reached in to unearth my daughter from her car seat and the mountain of belongings that surrounded her. As I pulled her from the bits of our life that hadn’t fit into the moving truck, the necklace slipped apart, falling from my neck. A few of the 108 beads fell unceremoniously into the cup holder to join the dog hair, stuck together coins and cellphone charger cords.

“Shit. Shoot. My necklace!” I dropped Savannah into the passenger seat and stepped out into the rain, leaning against the open car door to get a better look.

“What happened Mama? Oh no, the necklace Owl gave you broke!” My daughter’s three year old gray-green eyes blinked back concern and watery, left over tears.

“Yes, but it’s ok,” I said defeated. My husband had given me the necklace two birthdays ago. Not long after, in a deep meditation, I was visited by an Owl, who’d dropped a stone into my palm as a tiny reminder to trust my own inner wisdom. It was a smooth, weighted token meant to remind me that everything I need exists in the deep well of the feminine knowing within me. I recognized it as the same stone in my mala necklace.

And now it was in pieces, clear glass beads blending with raindrops in my hands.

The threads might have worn out from wearing the necklace almost everyday, from holding the glowing Amazonite base stone, a stone that looked like a pale blue sky tasting of snow, and fingering the Rudraksha seeds on either side of it.

Before I boxed up our life in Idaho, the brass Ganesha above our door, the stained glass framed mirror, the Moosewood cookbook that had belonged to my grandmother, my internal guidance poured out onto the pages of my journal:

“moving is so divine feminine.”

In that moment, I had lifted the mala stone to my lips and whispered gratitude for the message and the clarity it had given me. I internalized the message. After so much resistance to it, I was finally ready to listen to the guidance that would set the course of moving my family and I across the country from our comfortable and lovely life in the wild western mountains to my childhood home in Vermont.

So, perhaps I’d not only crossed through the two time zones that had brought me closer to the east coast promise of home, but also cracked some unseen threshold.

A threshold that had taken me from wanting to trust where my life was leading me to actually, truly and fully trusting it.

I said goodbye to our empty house, the one with the garage I had turned into my art studio. I waved a burning palo santo smudge stick into it’s corners and watched the smoke drift into the sunlight. I said goodbye to our neighbors and friends who passed hugs and smiles and eggs from their chickens to us.

And then I left the west, breaking into the wet soil of the unknown, one mile at a time, trusting that this new found inner wisdom would continue to lead me forward and glow inside of me, stronger than ever, like a truth stone.

“Everything you think is true. The opposite is also true.” How to shift your self defeating thoughts

One of my biggest challenges as an artist is dealing with my internal negative self talk while I’m working. I fight against this belief that I have nothing worth saying. More often than not, thoughts like “nothing I create is good enough”, “I am not interesting” or “I am a fraud” come to the surface. This overwhelming self doubt creeps in and with it, a total lack of belief in myself.

Experiencing the inner lizard

Martha Beck, in her book Steering by Starlightcalls this internal voice the “Inner Lizard,” and she describes this voice as the reptile part of our brain that works from a position of flight or fight. It's job is to instinctively protect us from harm with it's well meaning, but often unhelpful “it’s out to get you” world view.

The problem is that most of the time, this instinct creates a morbid version of truth in our heads.

Situations you experience are mirrors of your mind

It’s normal to experience self-doubt. It's normal to have your inner lizard turn the volume way up every time you make a move to be vulnerable and open yourself up to the world. It’s like a S.O.S alarm for self preservation and protection that screams at you to shut the hell up (and offers all kinds of reasons why you should) so that you don’t get hurt.

 

But what happens if the Lizard always win? When you give in and internalize, truly + deeply, those thoughts as absolute truth, they become your reality.

Your thoughts become your experience.

For example, sometimes my belief that I have nothing to say stops me from speaking, showing up and sharing my truth. When I don’t open myself up to the world, my internal lizard speak becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You will become what you fear becoming. Your experiences will mirror your thoughts.

Release the belief that your thoughts are absolute truth

So, begin to question your thoughts. Are they really true? Martha Beck asks, “Is this thought always true or are there times when it could be false?”

Like this thought that I have nothing to say, that I am uninteresting and have no story to tell. Is it really true? Absolute truth?

Of course not.

Just yesterday, I climbed a pine studded ridge and skiied down it through knee deep powder. I put the finishing touches on a painting in between playing “going to the beach” with my daughter and then I sweat down to my soul at a hot yoga class. It was a day in my life well lived and I wasn’t bored with it for even a minute.

Our negative thoughts, even though they feel so real, are not absolute truth. Thoughts that come from a place of fear are never absolute truth.

Everything you think is true, the opposite is also true.

Dig out your negative thought patterns by writing them down. What are 5-10 thoughts you have about yourself that you repeat on the regular? (You know, lizard stuff like, “I’m fat” I’m not flexible” “I’m not creative”, “People don’t like me”, “I am a failure”, “I’ll never look like so + so”,  "I suck at [fill in the blank]”)

Write down an opposing view point of that statement. Make these second, life-affirming thoughts your new affirmations:

  • "I am uninteresting and have nothing to say" becomes "I have an interesting story and a unique perspective to share".
  • "I am a fraud" becomes "I am a living, breathing (artist, writer, entrepreneur, etc.) beautiful in all my imperfections".
  • "I'll never look like that beautiful yogi I see all over instagram" becomes "I am beautiful and shining in my own way". 
  • "I’ll never be good enough" becomes "I am continually learning, expanding and becoming a better + better version of myself".

Turn your self defeating thoughts upside down

You can turn your self defeating thoughts upside down all you have to do is shift your perspective.

How to shift your perspective

Here are 4 ways that you can shift your perspective and change the filter of your normal, negative self talk:

  1. Change up your environment. Find a small and simple way to shake up your normal routine + everyday way of being: Drive a new route to work, go for a walk in a new neighborhood, visit a coffee shop you’ve never been to, change around your living room.
  2. Start a handstand practice. Commit to literally turning yourself upside down every day. Not only will it help jolt you out of your current mindset, it also will help to wake you up and flush your brain with blood and oxygen.
  3. Create a touchstone to remind you that your thoughts are not absolute truth. Pick an object that represents this new idea. It could be a stone, a photograph, a small statue of an animal. (For mine, I found a little silver fish). Close your eyes and bring the intention to release the idea that your thoughts are absolute truth and then blow that intention into your object. Keep it somewhere safe and every time you find yourself moving down a path of negative self talk, get the object and hold it in the palm of your hand for a few moments and remind yourself of the message it contains.
  4. Sit in the all encompassing energy of the heart. There is a beautiful meditation that invites you to sit, slow down and tune into the pulse of your own heartbeat. You bring your attention to this most micro detail that you can experience within your own body, and it pulls your attention away from distraction of the negative thought patterns occurring in your brain. It shifts your attention away from your head and into your heart.
How to attune to the powerful wisdom of your intuition

It’s easy to get lost when you’re not listening to your inner voice

You know that feeling when you have no idea where you are going and what you are doing? It feels a little panicky, like a sinking feeling in your tightening belly. You feel lost and unsure of how to move forward.

As 2016 came to a close, that is where I was at. I was looking back over my year and thinking about the year ahead, realizing that I had not accomplished any of the goals I’d put out there and it felt bad. Where had I gotten so off track? I had accomplished a few things, worked on some really interesting projects, and painted a bit, but I hadn’t even come close to starting in on some of my big dream goals (a writing project and painting large yoga art pieces to name a few), the exciting ones that keep me up at night.

Stop giving away your power

Instead, I’d spent a good deal of my year clinging to other people’s ideas and ways of doing things. I attempted to follow the paths of people who seemed to be getting it “right.” I signed up for classes I couldn’t really afford and scoured the internet to try and figure out how to get the ball rolling on my big goals. I looked everywhere, in an effort to find my way forward, everywhere but within. 

When you expend time and money to learn someone else’s secrets, you give away the power you have to unlock the secrets within your own soul.

With that, I discovered I was not pouring light into my own gifts. 

Tune into the wisdom within

After that realization, I spent the last few months, nose deep in my journal, trying to unearth the guidance that lives in my heart. What I discovered was that all my questions get answered the moment I start to listen for and believe in my own inner wisdom. Tune into the wisdom within, it’s all you’ll ever need.

So how do you identify this inner voice, this wisdom within?

Intuition comes in differently for everyone and you have to attune to the unique way your intuition speaks to you and through you.

1. Ask

To discover what your intuition might be trying telling you right now, ask. No for real, right now, just simply ask your intuition “what are you trying to tell me right now.”

2. Get Quiet

Getting rid of all the noise that blocks your deepest knowing from arising can be the trickiest part. Try utilizing this breathing exercise to drop into stillness:

Find someplace quiet and comfortable. Close your eyes and begin to bring your awareness to your breath. Inhale deeply through your nose to the count of 8. At the top of your breath, hold the inhalation for a count of 4. Exhale for the count of 8. At the bottom of your breath, hold out the exhalation for a count of 4. Continue this rhythm for 3-5 minutes. Then release it and sit in the stillness for a few moments. Keep your judging, analytical mind soft as you take note of everything that arises. The message from your intuition could arrive as an image, a sound, a voice or a memory or something else.

 3. Trust what arises

Trust whatever comes up, even if it doesn’t make any sense to you at all right in this moment. Write it down, file it away and as you move through your day, notice if you find the message repeating itself, perhaps in different ways. Or perhaps you will find references to it. Begin to become curious about anything and everything that catches your eye.

Recently, I received the message to keep moving inward, to really deeply and truly listen to the voice of my intuition. This message, appeared to me first in a Tarot card of the High Priestess, who is all about opening up and accessing your intuitive powers. The symbol on this card that stuck out to me was a nautilus, a spiral that continued to move in and in. I drew the nautilus on my whiteboard. I found one to put on my altar, I watched Tinkerbell with my daughter and noticed it in the design of the foliage in the movie, I saw it on a neon sign at a local store. I was seeing this nautilus shape everywhere. Thank you intuition for letting me know I need to listen to you, message received. 

Is it fear or intuition?

As I began to pay closer attention to these messages, I started to wonder how to tell if it was really my intuition speaking or if it was fear/worry/doubt creeping in. That is when I noticed something about my inner voice that was different from the everyday, familiar voice that makes up most of my thoughts.

Intuition isn’t driven by emotion

The inner voice drops in without emotions attached to it. I might have an emotional reaction to the intuitive thought, but the message itself is not driven by feelings. For example, when I'm painting, my intuition might tell me to use a blob of a particular color green over in the left corner. I might react with an emotion, like "ugh, but I hate green," (I actually really love green) but the thought itself appears without any emotion  attached to it. It drops in and is there for me to listen to or not to listen to.

The seven chakras and their gift of creativity

 

What are Chakras?

The ancient yogis intuited that we all have subtle energy paths + centers all throughout our bodies. These centers are spinning wheels of energy called Chakras. Different spiritual paths describe different numbers of chakras and have assigned them different colors and attributes.

How to sense your own Chakras

The concept of the Chakras can seem really abstract and as with all subtle energy, not always readily accessible. In other words, you might not be able to feel into your own chakras and understandably, be a little bit skeptical about their existence.

And I totally get that. It’s one thing to read in a yogic text explaining that the body is made up of entities of subtle energy and when these major vortices of energy align, boom, you reach enlightenment.

It’s a whole other thing to experience the energy of these different centers for yourself. Can you really feel them in your body and have momentary (or sometimes sustained) glimpses of awakened connection with yourself and everything around you? And if you can feel them, what do they feel like?

The Tantras tell us that we all are already awake, divine, creative and connected, we are just in an on-going process of forgetting that and then remembering it again.


I like to think of the chakras as tiny gateways into the remembrance of that awakened state.

They offer us themes to work with and help us understand our experiences, traits, idiosyncrasies, and issues a little bit better. By working within the qualities and attributes of each chakra (qualities that might feel more tangible than subtle energy,) we can come to know ourselves a little bit better.  

Kundalini + your divine creative nature

It’s hard to talk about the Chakras without also talking about the energy of Kundalini.

As I understand it, kundalini is a specific form of Shakti (divine feminine energy), it’s sometimes even referred to as kundalini-shakti.

This specific form of energy is said to be coiled at the base of the spine (the root of the word Kundal, actually means “coil”) and it arises up through each of the energy centers all the way to the Crown chakra where it unites with Shiva, consciousness.

This unification of Kundalini-Shakti (divine creative energy) with Shiva (consciousness) enables a full awakened and creative state for the individual.

This is called a Kundalini awakening.

But what does this mean for regular ole yogis like you and me?


I believe that even though most of us aren't walking around in states of enlightenment, we are all having tiny awakenings happening within us all the time; little moments of oneness, peace, stillness, and expansive creativity.

Awakened Kundalini=Inspired Creativity

I also believe that within the small awakenings we experience in our every day lives, there is something profound happening to our creativity.

When the creative energy flows through a chakra and we engage with the qualities of that center, we are awakening new pathways to experience and work with the different aspects of the creative process. 

In my experience, blocked creativity looks a lot like blocked chakras. And when the chakras are awake, alive, energized and vital, and flushed with that crazy creative, powerful Kundalini-shakti, it results in flowing, inspired creativity.

Open chakras work in tandem to help you unfold your creative potential.

The Chakras

 

Name: Mulhadhara

Meaning: “Root Support”

Location: Base of Spine, Perineum

When the root chakra is awake and flowing with creative kundalini-shakti, you feel:

  • Strong and secure in your abilities
  • Like you deserve to create
  • That you can fully believe in yourself as an artist, as a creative being
  • Brave, gutsy even
  • Like a risk taker (in a good way)
  • A stable sense of self-worth

When the root chakra is blocked, cut off from the creative flow of kundalini-shakti, you feel:

  • Like a fake or a fraud
  • Insecure
  • Self-doubt
  • Unworthy to create
  • Like all the good ideas are gone (scarcity mindset)

Creative Exercise for the Root Chakra

Create a nature mandala. 

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  1. Get out into nature with some time and the intention to connect with the earth. If it’s warm enough, go barefoot! 
  2. Find a place on even ground where you are feeling called to create your mandala.
  3.  Collecting sticks, or stones or any other element of nature that you find, begin to create a circle, a mandala that represents your sense of belonging on the earth.
  4. Spend as much time as you need, breathing deeply while you work.
  5. When you have finished your mandala, spend a few minutes in quiet meditation with your eyes closed or gazing down into your creation.

 

Name: Svadhisthana

Meaning: “Sweetness”

Location: 2 finger widths below the navel

When the Sacral Chakra is awake and flowing with creative kundalini-shakti, you feel:

  • Fluidity
  • Passion
  • Pleasure + joy
  • Expansive
  • Expressive
  • A sense of well-being

When the Sacral Chakra is blocked, cut off from the creative flow of kundalini-shakti, you feel:

  • Directionless (not sure of your passions)
  • Depleted
  • Disconnected from your feelings + emotions
  • Guilty about making art for the pure pleasure of it

Creative Exercise for the Sacral Chakra

  1. Turn up the tunes, dance in your living room. 
  2. Put on your favorite song.
  3.  Turn it up.
  4. Dance around the room, moving your entire body and especially your hips

Dancing is so good for bringing in more fluidity to the body and waking up sacral chakra!

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Name: Manipura            

Meaning: “Lustrous Jewel”

Location: between the sternum and stomach

When the Solar Plexus Chakra is awake and flowing with creative kundalini-shakti, you feel:

  • Like taking action + making stuff happen
  • Totally motivated to create
  • You can bring ideas to life
  • Empowered
  • Productive in how you spend your energy
  • You know yourself in relation to the world

When the Solar Plexus Chakra is blocked, cut off from the creative flow of kundalini-shakti, you feel:

  • Highly self critical
  • Depleted in your energy levels
  • Disempowered
  • Procrastination station
  • You can only find answers outside of yourself
  • No motivation to create

Creative Exercise for the Solar Plexus Chakra

Become an explorer in your own backyard.

  1. Grab a sketchbook or journal
  2. Head out for a walk around your neighborhood
  3. Begin looking at items you see everyday (doorways, trees, houses, buildings, gates, etc.)
  4. Look for patterns, textures, symbols, colors, anything unique and interesting that catches your eye and document them in your sketchbook.

Looking at ordinary things in a new way can help break your inertia and rev up the solar plexus chakra.  

  

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Name: Anahata    

Meaning: “Unstruck Resonance”

Location: Center of the chest

When the Heart Chakra is awake and flowing with creative kundalini-shakti, you feel:

  • Free to create
  • Lightheartedness around what you create
  • Spirited + energized
  • Self-acceptance
  • Grace + ease
  • United with the world around you

When the Heart Chakra is blocked, cut off from the creative flow of kundalini-shakti, you feel:

  • Egotistical
  • Locked in your own self-defined boundaries
  • Fear of rejection
  • Separate from the world around you

Creative Exercise for the Heart Chakra

Paint with the Breath.

  1. Get out some watercolor paper and paint.
  2. Wet down the watercolor paper.
  3. Put some paint on your brush and take a deep inhale. Exhale and let the paint move through the water and over the surface of the page. Continue this process until you have filled the page.

The Heart Chakra is connected with the breath and the energy that is carried into the breath, so tuning into your breath helps to open the heart chakra.

Related: Painting with the Breath: An exploration of Shakti

 

Name: Vishuddha    

Meaning: “Purification”

Location: the throat

When the Throat Chakra is awake and flowing with creative kundalini-shakti, you feel:

  • Comfortable expressing your truth
  • Authentic
  • You are finding your voice and style as a creator
  • Connected to your creative energy
  • A zest for your creative life

When the Throat Chakra is blocked, cut off from the creative flow of kundalini-shakti, you feel:

  • You have to hide or suppress your truth
  • Disconnected to a higher truth
  • Like you don’t have a voice
  • Uncreative
  • Worn out
  • You have a hard time saying no to projects/plans/people that don’t fire you up

Creative Exercise for the Throat Chakra

Sing in the Shower.

  1. If you are self conscious about your voice, find a time when no one is around.
  2. Belt out your favorite song or make up one of your own, maybe about how you are feeling in that moment.
  3. Sing at the top of your lungs and in a soft whisper and even if you feel silly.
  4. Notice if you feel any differently after.

Singing wakes up the vocal chords, eases tension in the jaw and mouth, opens up the lungs and makes the Throat Chakra ring!

 

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Name: Ajna

Meaning: “Perception”

Location: Just above the brow at the center of the forehead

When the Brow Chakra is awake and flowing with creative kundalini-shakti, you feel:

  • Intuitive (that feeling when “you just know”)
  • A sense of leadership
  • Imaginative
  • Like you are learning deep lessons from your life experiences
  • Confident in your knowledge

When the Brow Chakra is blocked, cut off from the creative flow of kundalini-shakti, you feel:

  • Dull thinking
  • Judgemental
  • Creativity is for other people, but not you
  • Foggy brained

Creative Exercise for the Brow Chakra

Draw a Yantra.

  1. A yantra is a geometrical diagram that represents a particular energy or entity
  2. The making of the yantra is a meditation in itself and then can be used as tool to meditate upon.
  3. You will need paper, a ruler, a compass, a pencil and some instructions. I recommend this fantastic book to learn how to create a yantra: Nine Designs for Inner Peace by Sarah Tomlinson

 

Name: Sahasrara

Meaning: “Infinite”

Location: At the top of the head

When the Crown Chakra is awake and flowing with creative kundalini-shakti, you feel:

  • Connected to your deeper source
  • You have a positive outlook on life
  • Grateful
  • Accepting
  • Embraced
  • Whole

When the Crown Chakra is blocked, cut off from the creative flow of kundalini-shakti, you feel:

  • Disconnected from your source
  • Limited
  • Like you are striving
  • Like something is missing in your life

Creative Exercise for the Crown Chakra

Collage Vision board for what you want to manifest in your life.

  1. Gather magazines, scissors, glue and some poster board
  2. Set a timer for 10 minutes and flip through the magazines and quickly rip out any pages that speak to you about what you want your life to look like
  3. Cut out bits and pieces from these pages and glue them to your board. These don’t have to be pictures of things, they can be textures, colors, patterns that represent what you desire and how you want to feel in your life.