Thursday, February 19, 2015

Myrna Smith - Being in the Presence of Love



Being in the Presence of Love: Zdenko Arsenijvevic 

When Zdenko Arsenijevic spoke to me across his desk that first time in 2006, I felt bathed in love. How he conveyed such love I am not sure. Maybe it was those sparkling eyes, that golden voice, that lovely smile, or an unnamable essence that came from his heart. I had recently returned from a long stay in India and was looking to continue my spiritual pursuits. More urgently, I wanted help with some health issues people often experience after traveling in India that, in my case, traditional medicine seemed unable to resolve. I began going to alternative healers and ended up at the Arsenijevic Healing Center then in Philadelphia and now in Doylestown, Pa. As we talked, I realized not all great spiritual teachers live in India. 

During the year I attended Zdenko’s classes, I saw him in a variety of settings: as a teacher, a healer and a father. He wasn’t always gentle; he seemed to sense when people needed reminders of their issues. I am very puritanical, especially around time. (He had a very different view of time from me.) When I would leave at the time an event was scheduled to be over, he would gently needle me with a comment like, “Myrna has more important things to do.” One of his assistants would try to anticipate his needs and do something like turn up or down the lights, and he would say, “There she goes, trying to control everything.” 

He healed some people, and he did temporarily relieve me of my symptoms. For me he seemed to be more successful over the phone than in person. But I loved the in-person healing sessions because of the heightened energy I felt. 

Zdenko’s son—the boy’s mother still lived in Serbia—came into the office frequently. Zdenko just glowed over him. When the son wanted to go to a movie Zdenko feared might not be appropriate for his age, he would go to a late showing just to check it out and then take his son later if he approved. 

I also saw that he had extraordinary perception. In one class, we worked on perceiving the different energies of color. To practice we placed regular playing cards upside down on a table and had to determine whether each was a red or a black card. Zdenko and his student Donna LeRoy, who teaches healing with color, could determine every card. 

I attended classes for a year before the long commute to Philadelphia became too much. During that time, I watched him work with people, demonstrating that perfect love and acceptance I had seen with Tapoguna Maharaj and Swami Muktananda in India. Recently, when my book came out, I reconnected with Zdenko and have joined his Monday night webinar meditations. 

He starts by settling us in - by inviting us to watch our breaths. On one particular night, he told us to see our thoughts as clouds, to note that they are there and then let them pass through our minds without judgment. His message concurred with that of the great spiritual traditions: pay attention to the mind, but don’t get trapped by it. The words, of course, were important, but hearing his velvet voice reminded me of the love he conveys to his students and clients. 

About the Author: 

Myrna J. Smith held a faculty position in the English Department at Raritan Valley Community College, Somerville, N.J., from 1970-2004, where she took leave for two and a half years to serve as Associate Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning housed at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. She received a Ed.D. from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey in New Brunswick, N.J. Smith also had two Mid-Career Fellowships to attend Princeton University, one in English and one in religion. Smith, who was 74 years old when she published her memoir, now resides in Frenchtown, N.J, a small town on the Delaware River. 

She recently returned from a five-week trip to Asia: two weeks with a small group to Myanmar and a few days in Hong Kong, where she has friends, and Vietnam for 10 days. The year before Smith traveled to Thailand and Cambodia and the year before that to Indonesia, both with small groups. She also travels in Canada and the northeast U.S. with her sister, brother, and their spouses most years. 

About God and Other Men: Religion, Romance, and the Search for Self-Love: 

Myrna Smith opens her story one Sunday night when she returns home from a ski weekend with her three children. While she was on the slopes, her husband had moved out. That had been the plan. 

Yet her story, though it encompasses her divorce, is much larger. Ultimately, Smith sets out to love herself, to find an inner place where she can rest and grow. 

In this search-for-the-holy-grail memoir, Smith traces her travels toward enlightenment as a middle-aged American woman with a wry humor and heartfelt longing. On the journey, she discovers spiritual fulfillment doesn’t come easily, or all at once. For her, it is quite elusive. 

The quest really started, she realizes, in her childhood on an Oregon farm where she and her older sister were once “converted” in their father’s pea patch by two young Bible summer school teachers barely out of their teens. The school was part of the tiny church their mother attended while their father stayed home, read Edgar Cayce books, and mused on reincarnation. 

Later, drawn by the mysticism of the Hindus, Smith’s journey leads to Bangalore where she touches the robes of Sai Baba, the Indian saint. Back home in New Jersey, she finds herself in a country farm- house getting prescriptions channeled through a medium for every- thing from her back woes and diarrhea to an obsession with money. 

She also writes of the demons that surface during a years-long love affair with her beloved Charlie and what A Course in Miracles stirred within her. 

Smith’s story is one of adventure and effort that, in the end, reveals three simple yet essential truths that are both the journey and the destination.  

God and Other Men is available in paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace, and Indie Bound.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Enlightenment! Transformative Travel Coaching


Photo Credit: All rights reserved (c) 2015 Linda M. Rhinehart Neas


When Deidra Razzaque told me about her idea for coaching people who traveled, I was greatly intrigued.  I had just return from my dream trip to Ireland and had some idea of how magical the trip was.  I knew I wanted to take my experiences and create book.  However, I was stuck as to how to begin.

Sitting down with Deidra was like sitting down to tea with a dear friend.  Before we even began to speak, she set the tone with a lovely reflection. Next, she simply asked me to tell her about my trip.

We spoke for about an hour.  Every so often, Deidra would ask a question that sparked a memory or ignited a new way to think of what I had experienced.  

At the end of our chat, she pointed out that I had mentioned the number four several times.  She suggested that I might meditate on this number, perhaps there was more to it than simply repetition.

After Deidra left, I felt so excited.  I actually could see my book sitting on the table. No longer something that might happen, but rather, something that will happen.

Several days after her visit, I woke in the early morning to the image of the four cornered Celtic knot and the word Queen running through my head.  As I do when I awake with this kind of "message" playing itself over in my head, I began to research.  

For Celts, the number four represents many things - four seasons, four elements, four fire rituals and then, I found Brigid, Queen of the four wisdoms - hand, hearth, head and heart.  I knew from my studies that Brigid is the "maiden" in the Maiden, Mother, Crone triad.  So where does Queen fit?  

More digging and I learned that for each of the seasons, there is a fire ritual; for each of the rituals, there is a goddess.  Brigid is the Maiden, goddess of the spring celebration of Imbolc. Danu or Aine is the Mother goddess, whose feast is midsummer.  Cailleach is the Crone goddess. She is remembered at the winter solstice as well as Yule.  This leaves autumn, right?

Because of the triad - Maiden, Mother, Crone - I thought that perhaps there wasn't an autumn goddess.  However, my search revealed that not only was there a goddess associate with autumn and the harvest, she was called The Great Queen! You might recognize her name, Morrigan or Morgan Le Fey. She was most probably associated with Samhain.

From what I read, Morrigan became associated with the dark arts through Arthurian legend.  However, she is most definitely part of the tetrad of Celtic goddesses - Maiden, Mother, Queen, Crone!
  
So why is this so important to me?  Some scholars have written that by removing the Queen, middle-aged women have lost something of their heritage.  Middle-aged women who no longer have children, yet, still lack the experience to have the wisdom of the Crone are left in the dark. Is it any wonder that so many of us in our menopausal years feel lost and alone?

Another fascinating fact is that some believe that the triad (or tetrad) of Celtic goddesses was 3/4 aspects of one goddess, most often referred to as Brigid but there are also references to Morrigan and others as a "triple goddess."  How interesting to find that before patriarchy, the matriarchal cultures actually had the same archetypes!  Different sides of the same coin, it would seem.

*****

Perhaps I would have discovered all this at some other point in time, or perhaps not.  I am grateful to Deidra Razzaque and her Transformative Travel Coaching session for bringing all this into the Light for me.  

I highly recommend contacting Deidra if you are planning to travel, have traveled or are thinking of traveling.  She is of great value to all travelers on this journey we call Life!

You may contact Deidra through her 
Website and blog: http://www.athomeintheworld.us 
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/deidrarazzaque/ 
Twitter: At Home in the World@DeidraRazzaque 
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/athomeintheworldcoaching 
Or, via email at: deidrarazzaque@gmail.com


For more information:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigid
http://www.mythicalireland.com/mythology/tuathade/brighid.html
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/151235/Danu
http://www.mythicalireland.com/mythology/tuathade/danubile.html
http://www.mythicalireland.com/mythology/tuathade/morrigan.html
http://www.pantheon.org/articles/m/morrigan.html
http://www.danuforest.co.uk/the_cailleach_9.html 
 http://feminismandreligion.com/2013/02/24/the-full-spirited-four-fold-goddess-the-maiden-the-mother-the-queen-and-the-crone-by-mama-donna-henes/

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Transformative Travel Coaching

Today, we have a guest blogger, Deidra Razzaque, with whom I had an amazing coaching session during which we discussed my recent trip to Ireland.  I will save my insights for another day so that you can learn what Transformative Travel Coaching is and why I recommend it for anyone who travels!

Deidra writes:

We are all travelers. Whether or not we ever leave the place where we were born, each of us is constantly journeying toward living as our highest self, and expressing all the ways we are uniquely meant to shine. But when we travel physically, we shake things up in our lives, and we access our own wisdom in new ways. At its best, physical travel is like shaking a snow globe filled with glitter. It shifts everything in our world for a time, and when the glitter settles we are left feeling a greater sense of wonder, no matter what scene we are a part of. 

Many of you know that Linda recently traveled to Ireland. When she learned about my work as a coach, she suggested I write about my work for you, her readers. I thought it would be useful for Linda to gain a first-hand sense of what I do as a coach, so I offered a session to help her further process what this journey to Ireland means in her life. Our session was joyful, silly, and profound. Exploring her experience with me seemed to enhance Linda’s sense of wonder at how the trip had unfolded, deepen her connection with her past and with her sense of having a mission and a lineage as a writer, and help her access even more creative ways she would like to share the meaning of Ireland with the world. 

Why Work With Me? 

Think about how you felt after your last vacation. Sometimes when people travel, they come home on fire about sharing their experiences, and maintaining a connection with the place they visited, but they’re not quite sure how to do that. Other times, people feel disillusioned—home seems dull by comparison, or friends and family aren’t really interested in hearing about their trip. Some people travel hoping to feel rejuvenated, but actually arrive home feeling even more tired than when they left because they recognize that they are out of sync with the life they are living. 

I can help you make any travel experience—and what happens beyond it--richer and more meaningful. Before you travel, I can help you think about why you are traveling and what you hope to gain from the experience. During your travels, I can offer support that enables you to respond mindfully and offer the best of yourself to experiences that are different than what you might have been expecting. After you return home, I can help you integrate what you have learned about yourself and the world. 

I can also help you use travel well in very distinct ways. Here are some examples: 
 
Several years ago you adopted your daughter from Vietnam. Now your whole family would like to travel to Vietnam to explore the place where your daughter was born. I can help you think about how to help your family explore what their expectations for this trip are, how they will manage any emotions that come up, and how they will use what they learn on this trip in the future. Also, my experience with child welfare and the impact of trauma means that I can guide you through thinking about issues specific to adoption, including loss, attachment, and identity. 
 
You have recently lost your life partner, whether through divorce or death, and you feel like you need both time to mourn and a way forward. You are thinking that some time away might benefit you. I can help you plan a journey that offers you time and space to grieve. Because travel can offer experiences that both unsettle us and heal us, I can help you look at how your particular journey can be your personal metaphor for accepting a change that you did not plan for, and may not want. 

For many years, you have felt like you would love to volunteer abroad for a cause that changes lives for the better. But there are many causes that are dear to your heart, and there are so many places and people who are suffering or in need. You have not traveled much, and feel unsure about how to decide where to go and what to do. I can help you look at what you offer and what you hope to gain. I can also research which places and programs mesh well with your vision, and help you explore how to approach this trip so that it becomes work you can be proud of and build on.

You have already traveled to many places, but you are beginning to feel as though the travels you’ve had have been somewhat empty—perhaps beautiful places and luxurious experiences, but they didn’t necessarily create positive changes in you or in others. Even though it feels a little scary, you would like to travel in a way that feels more profound. I can help you craft an experience that encourages you to take some risks; perhaps a trip that connects you with local people or that encourages you to share something of yourself in a creative way. 

You are about to begin retirement and feel like a trip is in order. I can help you plan a journey that is a celebration of all that you have accomplished, an opportunity to explore aspects of yourself that you haven’t had time to examine in a while, and a doorway into this vibrant new phase in your life. 

How Do I Work As a Coach? 

Coaching with me is most often a conversation, although it sometimes includes writing, art, and movement. We can explore anything that comes up for you--whether or not it seems obviously connected to your travel experience. I believe that each of our experiences offers us gifts. My role is to guide you through thinking about your recent or upcoming travels and unwrapping their meaning in your life. We may decide together that you need some homework: questions to write about, an activity to try, an affirmation to repeat, or research to look into. The way I work with you will be designed to meet your specific needs and goals. 

My work has a practical aspect, as well as a spiritual aspect. Practically, I can help you think through the details of a trip, including budgeting, transportation, location and activities, accommodations, and packing. And I can help you think more deeply about your distinct needs. For example, if you are hoping that your journey will help you feel more relaxed, I can guide you to think about what sorts of accommodations and activities will truly encourage that for you. 

Spiritually, I help you to gain greater access to you own wisdom, and feel a greater sense of ease with your own process. When a certain destination or travel experience calls to you, it is because there is a message for you within that experience. I can help you recognize and appreciate that message. Sometimes, I do this very deliberately because I can see a connection that you are not making for yourself. And sometimes, it might occur to me to say something that seems channeled, because it just pops into my head and it seems unrelated to what we are discussing. When I speak my thoughts, my client often says, “Wow, that is exactly what I needed to hear.” 

Why Do I Coach? 

Since I was about four years old, I have wanted to see every country, interact with people from backgrounds different other than my own, and somehow make the world better. The traveling I have done, and the intercultural experiences I have had, truly shape the way I live my life. Even my marriage is a direct result of my travels—I met my Costa Rican husband while I was a Peace Corps volunteer. I have worked as an educator and trainer in formal and non-formal settings, including child welfare, the arts, and international exchange. Transformative travel coaching is a combination of all these elements of my experience and my passion. 

When I coach, I help clients to grow, and I myself am healed. The day I coached Linda, my family had been experiencing some challenges. As I drove to meet Linda, I thought about how exhausted I was feeling, and I envisioned that, after our coaching session, all I would want to do was eat Chinese takeout and watch a movie--alone. But after Linda’s coaching session, I felt vibrant and alive, like the best possible version of myself. And curiously, while Chinese takeout, a movie, and alone time are absolutely right sometimes, I no longer wanted to spend my evening that way. Instead I wanted to connect with my family because after helping Linda to explore the meaning in her travels, I felt totally renewed, grateful, and excited about the flow of life. 

For me, travel is one of the best ways to recognize the beauty within us, offer that beauty to the world, and dance with the amazing result. To learn more about how I can help you use travel as a catalyst for more vibrant living, visit: 

My website and blog: http://www.athomeintheworld.us 
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/deidrarazzaque/ 
Twitter: At Home in the World@DeidraRazzaque 
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/athomeintheworldcoaching 

This year I’m also writing a monthly column on travel for Small Planet Studio. See my blogpost the third Wednesday of each month: http://www.smallplanetstudio.com/meet-our-featured-bloggers/ 

And write to me at: mailto:deidrarazzaque@gmail.com