Monday, May 18, 2009

A Bodhisattva Meditation for Cultivating Loving Compassion for the Self

A Bodhisattva Meditation for Cultivating Loving Compassion for the Self
by LaSara Firefox, MPNLP,

Gate gate, para gate, parasam gate, bodhi svaha.

The one responsibility of the bodhisattva is to not cause suffering.

The one commitment of the bodhisattva is to love all beings pervading space and time, regardless of any beings ability to return, or even receive, that love.

We've all been in situations where we have offered love to someone unwilling to return that love - for instance, we still love our child, even when in the a rage of differentiation she yells, "I hate you, mom!". We often call this unconditional love.

Those of you who have made a practice of cultivating compassion have probably intentionally cultivated love for someone who has withdrawn their love, or someone who doesn't agree with out beliefs or lifestyle, and therefore, at least on a hypothetical level, does not want your love. These maybe political or historical figures. Or they may be estranged family.

My largest break through in the depth and breadth of this commitment was when I realized that *I* was one of those beings pervading time and space, that deserved the love of my bodhisattva self, even when I was incapable of returning, or even receiving that love.

That it was the responsibility of my awakened self to address suffering, and the root of suffering, in my own life. It was my commitment, in my awakened heart, to cultivate loving compassion for my "imperfect" self - the one that was attaching to, and therefore being the cause of, my own suffering.

Sound tricky? Well, it is, and it isn't.

This is a great practice for days when your heart feels stuck or bruised, you're feeling a lack of self-love, or are feeling unable to forgive yourself for some past or present participation in the creation of suffering; that of yourself or another.

The ironic part of holding on to the guilt of being a cause of suffering, is that we continue to cause suffering through our attachment to the guilt!

It is not the negative emotion that causes the suffering. Nor is it the act that caused the suffering itself - whatever that act may be - that causes the suffering. The attachment to the suffering, in any form, is the root of the cause of suffering.

Truly, attachment to joy or pleasure, or any emotional state, is the root of the cause of suffering, but addressing that is a practice for another essay.

The way I've come to see it, the true work of the bodhisattva is to release ourselves from suffering, and the attachment to suffering. To engender the attitudes of enlightenment, and slowly, overtime, become proficient; and to do this work for the benefit of all beings.

Here's the practice, in three easy (or sometimes, not so easy) parts.

Part I: Two Ways of Generating Pure, Compassionate Love

1. Commit to the thought of not being the cause of suffering to yourself, or others. Release attachment to any suffering that has been caused in the past, by you or any being, or may be caused in the future. Release attachment to suffering itself.

a. Commit to pure, compassionate love for all beings pervading time and space. Start generating this love by feeling it in your body, if possible, and then growing that love with each breath.

b. Some times this approach may be out of reach, so instead, imagine some being you love easily - your child, your pet, your beloved, your best friend - enveloped in a soft, glowing bubble of your compassionate love for them. Breath by breath, grow this love until it fills your whole sense of time and space.

Part II: Recognize That You Are a Being That Deserves Your Love, Whether You Can Return, Or Even Accept, That Love.

1. Once you have filled all of time and space with your love, recognize that you are a being already released from suffering. That you are enveloped in your own pure, compassionate love. And in being filled and surrounded by your compassion, you are surrounded by the impartial, unconditional, compassionate love of all time and space.

There is no separation between You - the bodhisattva, that awakened being generating this love - and you, the self sitting and being held in it, regardless of your ability to return, or receive, that pure love. That love unattached to anything you think you have been, or think you may be. Anything you think you have done, or think you will do.

2. Allow that pure compassion, unattached to any outcome or past experience, to hold you securely in the awareness that you are already fully present. Fully perfect. Fully awake. Fully free from suffering, and the attachment to suffering.

Part III: Release Attachment to the Practise Itself

1. Stay in this state for as long as you are able, without clinging to it. Attachment to joy, pleasure, or comfort are also the root of suffering. Be present, not attached.

2. If you lose your way in the practice, return to the place in the practice where you became distracted. Perhaps there is some work there to move through. Or, perhaps you just got distracted. Or, perhaps there is a part of you that is unwilling to receive that love that is being generated.

Don't attach! Move fluidly to the points of the exercise that are within reach, and continue working towards compassionate love for all beings.

3. If tears come, let them come. And let them go. If laughter comes, let it come, and let it go. If euphoria comes, let is also go. If pain comes, let it arise, and release. Let yourself be exactly as you are, exactly where you are.

Cultivate compassion for every emotion that arises, and then release it.

4. Don't forget to breathe.

May this act, and all acts, be dedicated to the liberation and awakening of all beings. Bodhi svaha.

I consecrate these works, and all works, to the unfolding of self-awareness. May this act serve me as it serves all beings, through the revelation of awareness. May my increasing awakening to presence serve to bring awareness of presence to all beings throughout space and time. So it is.

About the Author:
LaSara Firefox, MPNLP, is a coach, author, educator, and game-designer. Her latest project, Gratitude Games, has been featured in international media. LaSara helps her clients find balance in their lives, and alignment with their personal and family-held values. She teaches and coaches internationally.

LaSara’s primary certification is in Neuro-Linguistic Programming/Patterning (NLP); a discipline that uses language and neurology - and the relationship between the two - to create resilience, healing, and positive, lasting change.

LaSara is mom to two amazing daughters, and wife to an outstanding man. She and her family live in California. To learn more, visit

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Steps to Overcoming Fear of Swine Flu (H1N1), and Pandemic, with Your Children

Steps to Overcoming Fear of Swine Flu (H1N1), and Pandemic, with Your Children
by LaSara Firefox, MPNLP,,

  1. Research the topic. Read sites like the World Health Organization, and your current local coverage. Have there been any confirmed cases in your region? Probably not!
  2. Address any fear present in yourself before you have a conversation.
  3. Address the issue with your child, or children. Ignoring it will not help your child to work through the fear.
  4. Cite the facts of the current situation, in a calm and restrained way.
  5. Tell your child that there have been many other pandemic and other scares that didn't pan out as expected. (In other words, all of them, since 1918, right? (SARS, Avian Flu, killer bees, ebola...remember?)
  6. Let your child know that all measures are being taken that are necessary at this time; if further measures are required, we will all know.
  7. Explain that those who are most at risk are NOT your child, or you (unless this is not true); most at risk are infants and young children, very old people, and people with compromised immune systems.
  8. Explain that the more people who get the flu and recover, the better off we all are. That we create immunities, and the immunity itself helps to stop the spread of the illness.
Any other ideas? Add them here!

peace, and gratitude,
(aka @yoga_mama on Twitter.)

(Republish, repost, reprint, copy this article at will. Please leave author info and link intact.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How to Celebrate Earth Day Everyday, Part I; Reframing Recession Fears to Conscious Consumerism

How to Celebrate Earth Day Everyday, Part I; Reframing Recession Fears to Conscious Consumerism

Every challenge is an opportunity. The recession is a perfect chance to create a shift in your family's values; a chance to move from want-based, status-based, and impulse spending, to sustainable consumer choices.

Of course, the first step is to make that reframe in your own thought process. In this article, you'll see that in many cases the eco-conscious, green, sustainable choice, and the financially sound choice, are one and the same.

It's not always an easy leap to get from habitual, reflex, pattern spending, to more conscious choices. Here are some simple steps to get you, and your family, thinking from a more resilient and ecologically sound perspective.

Reframe Lessons Taught by the Recession to Lessons that Will Last a Lifetime - Or Even Generations.
To begin with, instead of jumping to the blanket statement, "we can't afford a new (insert-item-of-the-moment-here)!" address the question - first in yourself and then with your child - do we need a new (insert-item-of-the-moment-here)?

Need is a complex idea. It might take a while to rebuild your, and your family's, thoughts, feelings, and ultimately values, regarding the question of what constitutes need. It's not as simple as just need vs. want. There's a spectrum.

Here are a few things that can help in the process of creating a new valuation of the concept of need within your family structure.
  • Casual conversation with your family about what need really means. Using examples of less consumer-driven cultures can be illustrative.
  • Age-appropriate documentaries of truly impoverished cultures can help a child ready for a more global picture to understand the scale between need and want.
  • With younger kids, pictures books, folk tales, and songs can help in redefining.
  • Philanthropic acts, couple with conversation. (See my article 5 Ways to Engage Your Kids in Grateful Giving)
  • Volunteering at a local soup kitchen can bring it home that there's trouble, right here in River City. (Again, see my article 5 Ways to Engage Your Kids in Grateful Giving)
As you educate your kids, it's important to couple information about poverty and need with stories of positive change. Even more important, is introducing positive change you and your family can contribute to.

Little steps your child can take to help make the world a better place, even as simple as boxing up a few items and offering them to a local charity, can go a long way in allowing your kid awareness, without overwhelm.

Also important is consistency in word and deed.

During the past holiday season I asked my 12 year old to seriously consider her use of the word need. She did, and we talked about it. We then boxed up lots of unused household items, toys, and gifts, and contributed them to a local "free store", and to a local family in need as part of a holiday project a women's group I'm part of with had taken on.

A few days later, I casually used the word need in a conversation with my husband. My daughter overheard it, raised an eyebrow, and said, "Need, mom?" I quickly retracted. She was right. I truly only wanted what ever the now-forgotten item was.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle -it's actually a pyramid!
The slogan "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" is in that order for a reason; it makes more sense to envision it as a pyramid than the circular form it's usually imaged as.

Reduce is the base of that pyramid; the foundation. Reevaluating and reducing our consumer habits is the best thing we can do to decrease our planetary impact.

It's also a softer on the checkbook.

Reducing can be an easy step, or even many easy steps, that add up to a big change. Some of those steps will happen naturally, as a response to the tightening of belts that occurs in times of financial uncertainty.

When gas prices shot sky-high in the summer of '08, my family reduced our number of shopping trips per week. We live rurally, so we planned better, and made each 30+ mile drive to and from the nearest place of commerce really count.

Yeah, it's tiring as hell to go to five stores in one day. But we saved a lot of money (and time), and reduced our use of gasoline by about 3/4.

Even though gas prices have dropped for the time-being, we've more-or-less stuck with the newly-learned habit of 1 - 2 shopping trips a week. And it feels great to know that we're simultaneously saving money AND decreasing our use of petroleum products.

Buying in bulk reduces post-consumer waste, and often helps you save some pennies in the process. In some areas, there are buyers cooperatives that you can join, and go in on true bulk ordering. This saves, again, both money and packaging waste.

Perhaps the most comprehensive way you and your family can foster the "reduce" piece of the puzzle is to reconsider the desire to keep up with the Joneses. Don't get the next gadget that comes along, even though your kid might beg, kick, and scream for the newest of the new of the e-game-component du-jour.

Ideally, as you begin changing your habits, and educating your kids about the reasons why, they will be less inclined to see disposable culture as they once did. Based on your modeling, and the new information they'll receive through family conversation, they're likely to be less prone to emotional response to acquisitive desires.

But in the case that attachment does arise, here are some things to remember, and to remind about; not only does the new thing create future trash, but the old one instantly becomes waste in the process.

And, your wallet gets that-much lighter every time you give in to the consuming-for-consuming's-sake urge. It's up to you how much of that part you want to share with your child. There's a fine line between honesty and over-sharing. You can figure out where yours is.

Finally, remember this; just the process of asking the question, "Do we NEED this?" will in many cases lead to a substantial decrease in purchases.

Reusing is the second-best option; once you've purchased an item and put it into circulation, the more times that item is used, in a sense, the less the overall impact. This is just as true for a plastic bag, a yogurt container, a t-shirt, or a computer.

Of the four items mentioned, only the shirt is biodegradable. And, at that, only truly biodegradable if made of organic material such as cotton or silk. So reuse it! (Or, Repurpose it - the fourth R. Stay tuned for my next How To Celebrate Earth Day Every Day article for more on repurposing.)

The plastic bag can be reused - as a sandwich bag for your kid's lunch, a container for left-overs like pasta, or even a hair cap for dying your hair. But once it's done with, it's landfill - no ifs, ands, and buts.

The yogurt container is a sturdy alternative to Tupperware™ (and basically free, if you bought it for the yogurt, right?). Or, if you're starting your own "Victory garden" this year, you can use it for starts for your veggies.

Once the container begins to fall apart, it goes into the recycling - that is, if your town has a recycling program that accepts that kind of plastic.

Of all the items mentioned, the computer has the most problems with waste - much of it toxic, from batteries in laptops, to the metals used in the construction of the insides of the machine.

There's a new term that's been created in recent years; e-waste, or electronic-waste. Your phones, TVs, and computers all fall into this category.

E-waste is becoming a larger and larger issue. It's a problem that's grown to the extent that companies which once shipped used computers to countries like Africa have stopped, due to the accumulation of e-waste.

Instead of being a benefit, the well-intentioned act of offering our older technology to countries where there was less available has become a liability, and in a sense, an inadvertent sort of "off-shore dumping" program.

This article goes so far as to say that once you buy electronics, you should consider them yours for life.

The longer we can keep any of these items in use, and better yet, in use in our own household, the better for the environment - and our pocket.

So use your electronics until they're totally unusable - and then make sure they're either disposed of properly, or refurbished for further use.

There's a line-up in my house for my coveted machine when I eventually upgrade, but if your kids are too high-falutin to take your old laptop, there's always someone who would be glad to get a few months use out of that outdated computer, or even your "beater" of a car.

(See my next How To Celebrate Earth Day Every Day article to read about freeecycle, for a nearly effortless way to spread the "reuse" love.)

Recycling is probably the most mentioned, but least effective of the three Rs. Of the four items mentioned above, only the yogurt container can be recycled. And at, that, only at some recycling centers. The shirt and plastic bag are landfill. Over time, the shirt will rot away. The plastic bag will not.

Of all the items I mentioned, the computer is most problematic. There's a new term that's been created in recent years; e-waste, or electronic-waste. Your phones, TVs, and computers all fall into this category. Ne recycling here!

But even with items that are recyclable, the value of the recyclable item as a measure for decreasing waste is variable. It's complex, and I don't even begin understand the level of math that goes into figuring it out, but it takes energy to recycle. In some cases more (soda can back into soda cans), in some cases less (post-consumer waste like office paper into toilet paper).

But, more or less, recycling uses resources. Don't get me wrong - I'm not telling you to give-up on recycling. I'm just saying that the other two options, reducing and reusing, are the ones that are going to be softer on your pocket, and gentler on the earth at the same time.

And that's something you, and your family, can feel good about. Twice!

My next article on How to Celebrate Earth Day Every Day: The Fourth "R" - Repurposing! Freecycle, Exchanges, and More - The Art and Science of the Give and Take

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happy Happy Birthday Barbie! (Or, In Defence of the Doll.)

In case you hadn't heard, this is the month of the 50th birthday of the longest-standing winner of the crown of Most Ambiguous Idol of Women's Power - BARBIE! And, it's also Women's History Month (Irony? Or Not? You decide.)

Quoted below is a (very) little piece on the Plastic Priestess I write for my book Sexy Witch (Llewellyn, self-help/nonfiction, 2005), for chapter two - that chapter in which I addresses self-esteem.

In honor of the gran dame's 50th, I thought I'd post it, slightly updated.

Then, of course, I got carried away, and had to add a bunch of commentary, as a recognition and celebration of our (read my) changing feminist values and views.

In Defense of the Doll: The Barbie Revolution

Barbie has gone from being a vapid example of how women are "supposed to be," to being the most successful female in America. Barbie has had 95+ careers, has been created in 45 different nationalities. And, has busted through the glass ceiling on many frontiers. Launched in 2004: White House Barbie!

With any luck, we mortals will soon catch up with this versatile plasticine character.
Sexy Witch
Flashback to the late '80s, and My Long, Long Journey Towards Respecting Barbie:

With a spotty family history (I'll spare you the drama), and the fervor of Take Back the Night, I stepped into adulthood at the tail-end of the 2nd Wave, and a chip on my shoulder the size of...well, the size of womanhood itself, and the ills heaped upon it (or, us), I guess.

At 18 I started body building, and learned self-defense techniques that made it possible for me to kill a man with my bare hands.

At 19, I shaved my head, wore boy-clothes, and started walking, talking, and f*cking like a man. Anything HE could do, I could do better - f8ck the "high heels and backwards" part! I wore combat boots. (Didn't we all?)

At 21, I worked as the only female employee in a moving company of 130+, and became one of the guys. Worked twice as hard for half the respect, yada yada yada.

Yeah. A lot of men were ass3s. And yes, gender was bu77sh1t. And yes, shaving my head, the confidence of knowing how to kill "a perp," and the strength to lift a washing machine single-handed made it possible for me to pass as a guy with confidence, and do all sorts of stuff that girl's (yep, even most "riot grrrls") couldn't, or wouldn't do.

And as a red head, shaving your hair off is a sure-fire way to find out who's been objectifying you! At least, that's how I felt when men talked to me eye to eye instead of eye to breast. Then there were the friends who bailed - I figured to he77 with 'em, if they can't take the "real" me.

Result: I hated men more, loved myself less...and slowly, overtime, found a long and winding path towards my own healing, from the inside out.

First, I made gender my own.

Then I started the process of making peace with my body and its female vulnerabilities.

Then, I began the (still-challenging) work of making peace with men, and the fact that they truly COULDN'T (and can't) understand what it was like to be a woman.

Not their fault. Not always a comfortable truth, but a truth all the same

Just like the fact that I can't understand what it's like to be a woman from Chiapas. I can empathize. I can listen to her life stories. I can do what I can to put myself in her shoes. But I cannot know what it is like to BE her.

I learned, and as I learned I taught. I taught workshops. I taught classes. I had debates - formal and informal. I wrote articles. As a matter of fact, all of this lead to writing Sexy Witch.

In the midst of it all, I became a mom.

As a strong, some might even say extremist, feminist, what changed my mind about Barbie?

My daughter was a Daughter. A Daughter, with a capital "D". Delicate, pale shell of an inviolable (please god, please - prayer whispered again and again) holy of holies. Alabaster skin, tiny ankle, long, fine fingers.

It was as if she were born with a very "traditionally feminine" tenderness. Holding her felt like holding a fragile china doll, with a pulse - one I was entirely responsible to protect from a hard world.

My little one's fragility announced itself like a metaphorical pink bow tied around her mostly-hairless head - it was like she had an extra x chromosome, just for good measure.

And who knows? Maybe she does? Human genetic sex is a spectrum that contains 47 possible combinations of Xs and Ys.

Even before my eldest daughter's birth, I had Rules (with a capital "R") about how she'd be raised. No gender-based gifts, no pink clothes, no dresses. The hubby and I hand-dyed "baby pink" and "baby blue" cotton infant shirts black. Back in '97 there were no hip, punk-rock baby shops.) We gave her dolls, but made sure she had tractors, too.

But then the damndest thing happened; my daughter started speaking for herself. Very early. And very - you guessed it - outspokenly. At about seven months.

One of her first favorite words was "pretty." And, it referred to anything pink.

I loosened up. She LIKED dresses. She loved pink ones the most. Especially ones with tutus, frills, and bright colours. So, bit by bit, along came the wings, and the wands, and the tulle, and the ballet shoes. The girly summer sandals.

I still held on to the "no Barbies" rule. For a very long time. It was a point of reference for me. Something to hold on to.

Against all the ribbing, joking, cajoling, I held on. The Beauty Myth. Anorexia. Bulemia. High heels. Tiny waists. Huge breasts. Make up. Etc. I was afraid of the impact the plasticine queen would have on my - already SO female - daughter.

When she was two-and-a-half, my precocious one asked; "Mom, why can't I have a Barbie?" She was (is) quite a sharp cookie, and a little pitcher with some big ears! I took a breath, and said "I'm afraid she'll make you feel badly about yourself." Her response?

"Mommy, she's just a doll!" I swear to this day that her voice had a slight edge of disbelief that I could ever be quite so silly.

She won that argument, hands down.

My daughter taught me something in that moment. Sometimes a doll IS just a doll.

And over the years of welcoming Barbie into my family in her many guises, the lovely lady has taught me a few things, too. My girls and I especially loved the Witch Barbies a couple of Halloweens ago. But the greatest sight by far has been the Barbie knock-offs you find in the Middle East. These lovelies sing Middle Eastern Disco, and wear hijab - a hair covering traditional for women in Muslim culture.

The latest of Barbie's 95+ careers? CEO. To shed some light on that, The Onion has a wise (ass), and very relevant article on the topic.

Yes, the pink-collar ghetto is still a real thing. Women still make less than men, on average, across the board. The statistical nexus where gender, sex, race, education, motherhood and the market place converge are so convoluted that only economists can do them justice.

And, even at that, there's HUGE debate about the gender-wage-gap, it's origins, and possible solutions.

So here I'll site only a couple of stats I can recall off the top of my head: a white woman, on average, makes about .75 for each $1 a white man makes. That is a quarter less per dollar. $25 less for every $100. $250 less for every $1000. 75 cents on the dollar is a big deal.

The largest wage gap is between white men, and Mexican and Hispanic women. If I remember correctly, the gender-wage-gap is lowest between Mexican and Hispanic men, and Mexican and Hispanic women. (Probably because Mexican and Hispanic men make damn near nothing!)

In all this truth, thank God for Barbie. God bless her, from her misshapen little feet, to her plastic space helmet, to her smart, strong, suits, to her new measurements. Sure, she's still got an "unrealistic" bod. So does Angelina Jolie, and I love her none-the-less!

To grossly reduce the parody The Onion offers, Barbie's careers are seemingly "unrealistic", too. Fer chrissake, in 1979, there was a black Barbie for President doll!

Some kinds on "unrealistic" are good. Women getting the vote was, at one time, unrealistic. The civil rights movement? World peace...

Unrealistic doesn't mean impossible. Sometimes unrealistic is just a challenge that spurs us on.

In Barbie's world, your worth isn't based on whether you're married by the time you're thirty - as a matter of fact, Barbie's never been married. In her world, a woman can have any career she wants - or even a whole bunch of them! And she's no less beautiful, womanly or feminine as a surgeon than as a nurse. And no less strong as a nurse than as a surgeon.

With luck, some perseverance, and some "unrealistic" dreaming, perhaps someday it'll be so in our world, too.

I trust our girls to know which elements to strive to change, and where to put their focus.

It's our responsibility not to irresponsibly bare our wounds, hand our daughters the glass ceilings that held us down, or limit their reaching for the sky, the scalpel, or even the Malibu spa.

And, it's our responsibility to have the conversation about body image, health, self-acceptance, self-love, and self-esteem over and over again. Even more, it's our responsibility to model that health for them.

And surely, that conversation does not begin, nor end, with Barbie. After all, she's just a doll.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Very Good News Over Here!

Today is a GOOD day for me. I'm so grateful for all the amazing news I got today that even though I'm taking a day off, I wanted to shout it out to you all.

First, my case study is a WINNER at the Hot Mommas Project! The name of my case study is Finding Balance in the Extreme: Working with Bipolar Disorder. It's an honest and open piece of writing about why I chose, and continue to choose, to be an entrepreneur. And the things that were said about my study by the judges were to rewarding and touching, they literally brought tears to my eyes. (Follow the link above, and take a look.)

Winning the case study competition means a lot of things, but most notably, it means that Finding Balance in the Extreme: Working with Bipolar Disorder will be included in a Prentice Hall textbook. And, the case study is already being used in mentoring programs for women everywhere.

Second, my Twitter friend Sarah Bray (@SarahBray) interviewed me for her blog series, MaTweeps. The interview is all about #GRATITUDE, the Twitter meme I started back in August, and why it's become such a Twitter phenomenon. Take a read, and if you're moved, leave a comment. (While you're at it, follow me on Twitter. I'm @Yoga_Mama there.)

Third, a blog entry of mine was included in today's Mom's Carnival of Bloggers. Read, and enjoy!

Aside from all that, as I said up at the top of this post, I'm taking the day off - an accomplishment, and reward, in itself. So, signing off for now. Just had to share my good news with my peeps.

All love. And as always, peace, and gratitude.