Feb 222015
 

It Has Finally Happened to One of Us

It has finally happened to one of us
For a moment, forgettingpeople on path
as she forgets, that
the center point is not the I.
It is happening to her,
we are merely witnesses.

I do not remember the length of this journey
nor do I envision this journey’s end.
I do not allow myself to imagine too thickly
the upcoming changing terrain.
I have heard the stories and studied the brochures,
but never having walked this path
I work to keep my eyes from searching too far ahead
noticing only the bush to the left,
grass to the right, and
the rocky path just a few steps ahead.

It is only one foot stepping in front of the other,
breath supporting each forward motion.

My family,
walking beside me
sometimes grasps and struggles
as I sometimes gasp and stumble
we reach through arms and elbows
raise each other from skin broke open
to once again
one foot stepping in front of the other.

It has finally happened to one of us.
Eyes respond with compassion to the
frightened “I don’t know who you are,”
while the heart drops to pit
and grief becomes the anchor that roots.

In this long journey,
In this one foot in front of the other,
this stumble, rip open, raise again
the I yields to the We as
roots intertwine.
With braided arms,
we bear witness to my mother’s untethering.

© 2015, Sabrina Santa Clara

Feb 022014
 

We have been trained in the way of princess and savior. Cinderella stories of powerless victimization rescued by some prince with a little magical help from above. It is not our strength, our fortitude or our cleverness, we are told, that will create the bridge from present to future. Rather, it is man or magic that will rescue us from whatever state we have fallen to. It is the magic kiss that heralds the good life. The “they lived happily ever after” still bred in modern day romances. It is insidious. It is implied in the bombardment of magazines that tell us to be thinner, have smother skin and whiter teeth. If we are pretty enough, only then we can feel good about ourselves. Pretty has become the fairy godmother. It is the magic that will make everything better, that will give us the gown and the glass slipper Cinderella got to catch her man.

pic cinderalla prince kissWe educated ones claim our independence. We know that the story is a myth. But, the myth has crept in our cells while we were sleeping, downloading the incessant stream of media information and social interactions we receive each day. It is the shadow in the galleys that hides just at the edge of the peripheral vision.

There comes a time for each princessed woman when our knight will fall. When he will drop to his knees in the clank of hammered metal. When the character trait we thought was responsibility reveals itself to be rooted in a fear of doing it wrong. When what you thought was pure compassionate response feels like a hijaking of your own experience. When the quiet you assumed was stillness turns out to be the external freeze of the internal ruminations of trying to figure out “what the hell is going on.” There comes a time when the knight loses his armor, when the prince loses his crown and reveals himself to be nothing more than human.

It is in that moment that the galley doors are opened wide and we stare straight in the face of our peripheral. When the lumpened vericosed veins of princess ideology are impossible to ignore in their craggy bulgingness, like foreign masses that have twisted and distorted what was once a clear stream. We are called upon then to bring out bulldozer, trash bags and heavy gloves. We discover that the magic we were seeking turns out not to be the fairy wand, but the labored work of our own hands.

Love cannot exist in the land of fairy tales. That kind of love is misty and impossible to hold onto. Our lovers must leave their rescuing armor besides our princess gowns, there in the land of impossibilities. We must learn to walk side-by-side, naked in our humanity, free from unrealistic expectations and archetypal overlays. Only then can love become real.

Twitter: #Princess #Prince #Cinderella #KnightInShiningArmor #HealthyRelationships

Oct 162013
 

I’ve been on the planet for a good amount of time now, and have learned quite a bit along the way. And while there is a beauty in accumulating a wad of skills and wisdom, there is also a shadow in that I can get a subtle kind of egotism around such wisdom. For example, when I take a yoga class from a 20 year-old who’s been practicing two years compared to my 25, it’s easy to see their rough edges. This is compounded by the fact that one of my big character traits is a strong impulse to change, improve, and make things more efficient. It’s what has made me a good manager, interior designer, and therapist. The shadow side though, is that to make any improvement one has to first clearly see what’s wrong. Add in the mix that I am a natural leader and have a tendency to run the show. So, a developed awareness of what’s not right with the knowledge that I would likely be able to improve it and a leader type personality…well, it doesn’t naturally lend towards humility.

In my 20s and 30s, I was really working on stepping into my confidence so the idea of humility wasn’t one that was particularly appealing or one that I paid a whole lot of attention to when I would come across it in my spiritual explorations. But now, skirting around the edges of 50, I understand the sacredness of living with a humble perspective. The Buddhist concept of beginner’s mind (Shoshin) has a much stronger impact now that I am a seasoned woman. One cannot be a beginner without a certain amount of humility and willingness to be the student – and not a reluctant student, but a willing and eager student. It means approaching a subject with openness and without preconceived notions, even if you are already knowledgeable on the subject.  As Shunryu Suzuki said in his famous book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.”

So, my practice for the last six months or so has been to consciously attempt to hold the position that every single person is my teacher – as an educator and counselor I am not always successful in this endeavor, but I suppose that’s why it’s called a ‘practice’, not a ‘perfection’. Practicing beginner’s mind and holding the role of student to all people means that the 20 year-old yoga teacher, the person who doesn’t graciously let me merge on the highway, my 18 year-old niece, that woman from grad school who I still hold in disdain, my clients…they are all my teachers. As the famous adage goes, “there are no friends or enemies, only teachers.”

I don’t claim to have perfected my humility. I doubt that I ever will. I have, however, softened my ego just a bit…enough to have seen some benefit from the practice. Here’s what I believe to be true.

Benefits of Humility

  1. You will learn both skill and wisdom.
  2. You will become a better teacher to others.
  3. Others will learn more from you because it is much easier to receive from a humble teacher.
  4. More people will be drawn to you. Humble people are emotionally safe people. People like to feel safe.
  5. You will have more authentic connection because to be humble means to be vulnerable, and vulnerability is the cornerstone of depthful connection.
  6. Having more depthful connection, you will begin to find healing through those relationships. The illusion that you are alone, unlovable, not enough, etc. will diminish as you experience the opposite of those illusions through depthful connection.
  7. You will stop having to shore up a fragile ego that needs to perceive itself as better than others. In doing so, you will begin to make peace with your own underlying insecurities.
  8. You will more readily discover the beauty in others. You will see what’s right more frequently than what’s wrong.
  9. Seeing more beauty in others, you will find more beauty in yourself. Your self-critique will diminish.
  10. And ultimately, you will feel better than you could have imagined.

May we all balance our confidence with humility. May we find the good in others and ourselves. May we deeply connect from a place of vulnerability. May we be happy.

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Sabrina Santa Clara ~Authentic Alchemy x3
Spiritual Counseling ~ Temecula, CA

Oct 032013
 

Love, when it comes to you,

will not do your bidding.

It will not land on the convenient person

because you will it to be so.

Love will not hand to you on a platter

the one that matched your fantasies of

Mr. or Mrs. Right

 

Instead,

love will give to you someone real.

Like a velveteen rabbit,

your beloved may be well-worn,

and arrive with baggage and

complications because love

Big love, solid love, real love

is not simply an emotional state.

Love is the choice,

chosen over and over again

to stay in spite of,

to know with your very cellular structure

that your beloved is worth riding though storms

and navigating the brambles in the unknown territory

together.

 

Real Love

Solid Love

Big Love,

should you open the door,

may not give you what you want

but will read the secret desires of your heart

and give you

exactly what you need.

 

Sabrina Santa Clara, 2013

Jul 032013
 

There is a difference between having been victimized and being a victim. To have been victimized is an event (or events) that happened in a specific period in the past. To be a victim is to take on an identity that affects how we interpret our current world and the interactions within it. Victims:

  • Focus on other people or institutions and how they are being wronged by the person/institution. They do not take responsibility for how their own energy or behavior contributed to the interaction.
  • They take things very personally.
  • When a difficulty happens, they cannot take the difficulty as a stand alone event, but surrender to the belief that “everything bad happens to me.”
  • They seek the negative. They cannot find the good in situations. If they have a fender bender, they will not think, ‘oh thank god it could have been so much worse,” instead, they think things like “I can’t believe this! Why did this happen to me?”
  • They have little equanimity when dealing with life’s inevitable difficulties.
  • They believe they are powerless.
  • They are often defensive.

A victim identity comes from victimization experiences that have not been healed. So, the cure to victim identity is to heal the wound. If some of the characteristics above apply to you, here are some suggestions on how to shift your experience of the world.

  1. Find a therapist, counselor or healer to work through past traumas that are keeping you stuck.
  2. In every difficult interaction, ask yourself, “what was my contribution to this dynamic?”
  3. If you can find none, as often occurs with institution type conflicts, remind yourself that this is not about you personally. It’s just a messed up system.
  4. In fact, balance taking responsibility for your contribution with an awareness that the difficult interaction may not be about you at all. Someone might just be having a bad day.
  5. Make a practice of looking for the good. Search for ways that the world – universe – god – spirit is supporting you. Make a practice of gratitude.
  6. Orient to difficulties as a learning experience.
  7. Start by taking one place where you often feel the victim and make a conscious effort to shift your thinking.
  8. Involve yourself in healing and mindfulness practices such as yoga, meditation and self-growth programs.
  9. Read more books related to self-help and mindfulness. Try Byron Katie, Pema Chodron, Tara Brach, Eckhart Tolle and Thich Nhat Hahn.
  10. Get involved in groups that support healing such as CODA. Find meetup groups that are aimed towards healing.

Getting out of a victim identity is all about getting into your own personal power.

May you be healed from your history of victimization. May you fully claim your power and capacity to have a positive effect on your life. May your own healing inspire the healing in others. May you be at peace.

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Sabrina Santa Clara ~ Authentic Alchemy x3
Spiritual Counseling ~ Temecula, CA

 

Jun 302013
 

Skepticism gets a bad wrap, especially for those of us who follow The Path of Lovingness. To be skeptical is not to be beady-eyed and always looking for the wrong. As the root of  scientific inquiry, skepticism is more about being neutral and staying in the “what else is also true?” frame of mind. When someone presents as beauty, we also inquire as to their shadow. When someone presents as shadow, we also inquire as to their beauty. So, we must learn to listen beyond what may be spoken on the surface level. We listen by entering into a kind of silence so that we can hear more clearly the quiet voice in our bodies and hearts. We listen with our eyes by observing behavior, looking for congruence and incongruence between words and actions. It does not mean we cannot also be loving, accepting and open – it simply means we seek a fuller truth than the one which might be being presented.

The path of the Spiritual Warrior is to be as fully human as possible – to live all of our truths, to honor each emotion and state of being as valid…including doubt. We hold the multiple and paradoxical sates of lovingness, openness, and trustingness – while also gently holding enough sacred doubt to open a window for wider truth to exist.  The Toltec wisdom to ‘be skeptical, but listen’ implies that we go deeper than our stories about who we are, as well as others’ stories about who they are. We look beneath the presentation self in order to see a more Authentic Self.

Questions for practical application

  • What am I not seeing?
  • What am I hiding?
  • What is the beauty here?
  • What is the shadow here?
  • What else is also true?

May you sit into silence so that you may hear the quiet voice of truth. May your trust be tempered with sufficient doubt for wisdom to live fully. May you be fully human and accepting of the full humanity of others. May you know peace.

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Sabrina Santa Clara ~ Authentic Alchemy x3
Spiritual Counseling ~ Temecula, CA

Jun 262013
 

Always doing our best doesn’t mean we need to get trapped in the rigidness of perfectionism, because the reality is that our best will change from day-to-day. If I am grieving or depressed, my best might be just getting up and taking a shower. Doing our best allows us to feel both satisfaction and self-respect. When we don’t do our best we often suffer from regret and self-judgment. Understanding that our best changes from day-to-day allows us to not waste our time or energy in self-judgement.

When I was in grad school for counseling we learned that the best parent is the good-enough parent. Good enough parents are not perfect. They get frustrated, resentful, and overwhelmed; They are fully human. When parents are perfect parents, their kids never learn to self-regulate; They never learn how to handle disappointment or that relationships can have ruptures and that those ruptures can be repaired. As a previous perfectionist, I took the idea and ran with it. I learned how to be the ‘good-enough’ student, the ‘good-enough’ yogini, and the ‘good-enough’ partner. When we accept that on a difficult day, our best may be limited, we surrender to the idea that we can be good-enough. We can accept our limitations and do our best within those limitation. As that even with those limitations we are good. We are good-enough to receive self-love. We are good-enough to not self-critique. And if we’re good-enough, then we are worthy.

May you do your best each day.  May you have compassion on yourself when your best is less than you would like. May you have compassion upon others when their best is limited. May you know peace.

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Sabrina Santa Clara ~ Authentic Alchemy x3
Spiritual Counseling ~ Temecula, CA

Jun 252013
 

We make assumptions every day, all day long, and we’re usually not even aware that we’re doing it. Saying don’t make assumptions is a little silly in some ways, because it’s what we naturally do to try and make sense of the world we live in.

Where assumptions really tend to cause our own suffering is when we assume the worst. We have one sliver of information, then we make up a whole story about the sliver of information and believe the story as if it’s true. Then we react to the false story and spend loads of emotional energy responding to a reality that isn’t even real!

The first trick to not making assumptions is recognizing when we’ve made up a story. But, the real work is in communication. Relinquishing assumptions requires a willingness to vulnerably inquire. Getting curious is the cure to assumptions. If someone says something underhanded, or a bit bitchy, You can say, “Hey, that felt a little abrasive to me. Was that your intention?”

Most of our assumptions are rooted in our own perception of the world and our own unhealed wounding. We project our history onto other people’s behavior and motivations. Perhaps you had a very controlling mother. Now your wife is directing you in some project and you start making up a story about how controlling she is and you start resenting it and getting really irritated. You can pause, breathe, soften, and check in with her. You inquire as to her intentions. And maybe you discover she’s not intending to be controlling. Maybe she just thinks this is the most efficient way to get the project done, and her intention is to finish it as quickly as possible so that you two have more time to play or make-love later.

Not making assumptions requires courageous communication. It requires dropping the arrogance and reactivity of the story, and yielding into the vulnerability of not knowing. It requires not only stating feelings and gathering information,  it also requires naming needs.

May you recognize the stories you create. May you fearlessly enter into the vulnerability of inquiry. May your relationships be satisfying and authentic.

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Sabrina Santa Clara ~ Authentic Alchemy x3
Spiritual Counseling ~ Temecula, CA

Jun 242013
 

Humans are narcissistic by nature. We live our lives as if everything is all about us, unaware that most of the rest of the planet’s population thinks the world revolves around them too. When we are stuck in the ego state of believing that others’ actions are caused by us, we cause our own suffering by taking responsibility for others’ actions. When we take things personally, we are ingesting a negative Outer World experience and incorporating it into our Inner World experience. We do not have to let hurtful actions or opinions of others be the poison that harms our Spirit. Sometimes, I think we take things personally and take responsibility for being the cause of others’ actions because, on some level, it gives us a false sense of control. If it’s my fault, then I am no longer the victim – If it’s my fault, then I have some kind of choice. This is a well-know symptom of traumas such as child-abuse and rape, but I think it happens on a more subtle level with the micro-traumas of unkindness.

Often interactions with others are rooted in projection. A projection is a defense mechanism in which a person rejects their own unacceptable attributes and ascribes them to others – a classic example is a person who is homophobic because they have not acknowledged their own homosexuality. But, it works at other levels too. So if I had a father who cheated on my mother and that was a traumatic experience for me, I might always assume my husband is cheating. Now if I’m the husband, and I take that personally, I might get annoyed and offended that my wife doesn’t trust me. I might react, get defensive, or get sucked into an argument. On the other hand, if I don’t take it personally, I don’t have to defend against an accusation and I can understand that the projection is really just my wife’s wound that hasn’t quite healed.

Most of the time though, we don’t know others’ history and psychology well-enough to understand what the projection is. But, we still don’t have to take other people’s actions and opinions personally. We can develop a clear boundary that states “this is your stuff.” If the clerk at the checkout counter is rude, do I need to get all huffy (how dare you treat me this way)? He might be miserable with his life and you just happen to be there for him to share his misery with. He might have a headache. You might remind him of his mother with whom he has a conflictual relationship. None of that has anything to do with you.

Now, I’m not saying that we take no responsibility for our actions. If I am bitchy towards people, I am going to cultivate bitchiness, aggression and defensiveness in others. I’m responsible for that. The person I’m being bitchy to though, has a choice in how they respond to my bitchiness. She could get mean back, she could simply not engage and walk away, or she could lovingly confront me on my behavior. Her action is hers to take responsibility for.

A simple way to not take things so personally is simply by repeatedly checking in with yourself and asking yourself “am I taking this personally?” If you are then you check inside yourself and see:

  • What role did I play in this interaction? (What chain of events did I help to set off?)
  • Do I need to modify my behavior in the future (You may not. If me stating a boundary sets someone else off, I’m certainly not going to stop setting boundaries to avoid conflict).
  • If so, then you can think to yourself what you need to take responsibility for and what is the other person’s responsibility. When we detach from taking things personally, we don’t have to suffer the emotional turmoil that other people’s behavior causes.

If you just can’t let go of it, there is another practice you can use that comes from Shamanistic traditions. Find a quiet space, imagine that you and the conflictual person are meeting in neutral territory with your best selves – the place in you that is beyond personality and wounding. Visualize the hooks they have into you, unhook them, and say something like “I give these back to you. They are not mine. May you transform them into goodness.”  Then visualize the hooks that you have into them and say “I take these back. They are not yours. May I transform them into goodness.”

May you learn to not take things personally. May you surrender to grace with yourself and with others. May you know peace.

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Sabrina Santa Clara ~ Authentic Alchemy x3
Spiritual Counseling ~ Temecula CA

Jun 222013
 

The Four Agreements are Toltec wisdom guides as popularized by shamanic teacher and healer Don Miguel Ruiz. The first “Be Impeccable with Your Word,” speaks to our capacity to have integrity with our words. To be impeccable with our word is no small thing. It requires a level of mindfulness in our day-to-day interactions and the capacity to withhold speech, even when we are charged, triggered, angry, misunderstood, etc. It is usually our emotional states that prevent us from being irreproachable with our words.

Old patterns dictating how we perceive others and ourselves also limit our ability to use our words with integrity. When we speak poorly of others, when we are ungracious towards ourselves, when we erroneously see ourselves as victims, we lose the integrity of our speech. When we are impeccable with our word, when we speak with integrity, we speak only for compassionate truth and love. When we do not speak with loving-kindness we hurt ourselves as well as others. It never feels good to our spirits when we are critiquing. This doesn’t mean that we can’t express anger or set firm boundaries, but to do so with integrity and loving-kindness means that we don’t verbally take others or parts of ourselves hostage.

Almost all spiritual traditions proscribe integrity in speech. The bible (Ecclesiastes 5:2) says, “let not your words be hasty,” and right Speech is part of Buddhism’s 8-fold enlightenment path. So, the first agreement (and the following agreements) are not new, but rather a new package on an old truth for as, Ecclesiastes 1:19 states, “there is nothing new under the sun,” which is to say that there is no magic path, no guru, no ultimate truth, that hasn’t already presented it to the world a thousand times over. Still, the fact that speaking with integrity is addressed in so many world religions tells us that this is an important teaching.

The Quakers have a simple teaching on the wisdom of silence called the three-fold sieve that can help us to put into practice impeccability with our word. We ask ourselves  1) Is it kind?  2) Is it true  3) Is it necessary?

May you pause before speaking so that your words become more precious. May your words be used wisely. May they spread truth with loving-kindness. May your words cause healing rather than harm.

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Sabrina Santa Clara ~ Authentic Alchemy x3
Spiritual Counseling ~ Temecula, CA