Independence Day (for those in the US) strikes me as a great excuse to reflect on what we’re NOT independent from, personally and collectively.

Oil is the mind-blowing biggie as we’re more than two months into the Deepwater tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico.

But our consumption of more than just oil is over the roof; many of us have so much stuff we don’t remember what we have until we buy another one of it, and we’re making ourselves sick from work addictions only to pay for more stuff that we don’t need, and can’t be recycled.  (See the very cool The Story of Stuff if you have 20 minutes to spare.)

Independence has got to be more than the freedom to choose from 28 varieties of petroleum-based hand lotion at the corner drug store, each of which smells like a different overripe tropical fruit not allowed on planes because they cause spontaneous gagging.  (Peripatetic writers note:  please don’t put anything on your skin you wouldn’t eat.  Where do you think it goes? )

And yet we’ve all got compulsions and obsessions and addictions.   It’s just a natural part of being human, or in the words of Dr. Gabor Maté (author of “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction):  “Addiction is always a poor substitute for love.”

I’ve heard spiritual thinkers from across the spectrum suggest that since human love is an imperfect reflection of the divine version  — not to mention the affects of childhood abuse and neglect on our growing brains and complex hormone delivery systems  — we all struggle with the desire to fill up the void within.

The trick to kicking mighty bad habits according to yogic and Buddhist teachings, is to not act indiscriminately on all of these passing impulses, but to be able to recognize when they show up and pause.  (And by impulses I mean the wide spectrum:  the impulse to punch your ex in the head when he asks if you’ve gained weight,  to reach for the mojito even though you promised yourself an alcohol-free weekend, finding yourself falling in love with someone really special when you already have the ending plotted out since you’ve had 20 similar relationships, buying yourself a kitchen gadget or garden tool or yoga outfit you absolutely don’t need, telling yourself the same tired story about why you’re not doing with your life what you always dreamed about, etc. etc.)

First, counsel my wise and awesome teachers, you try to master the skill of learning that a thought or feeling is just that — not a fact or a tidal wave or a necessity.  Once you got that under control, your job is to learn how to create the space between thinking/feeling and acting, i.e, pausing.  Once you got that in your toolbox, you actually have the freedom to choose what action to take — what to say to your ex or your mother or your boss, what form and what dosage of mind alteration would feel really good and beneficial, and how to spend your money, your emotional energy, your time.

Far be it from me, Queen of Indulgences, to suggest that wanting is bad for you.  (Although I could easily argue that wanting say, a Hummer, is always a very bad thing indeed.)

Desire itself is actually a Very Good Thing, no?

It’s pushed me to pursue fascinating avenues of learning and creative expression and brilliant loves who’ve encouraged me to become even more me than I could have ever figured out on my own, and even what kind of food my body would find deeply nourishing. (Of course, because I was an addict-in-training-in-the-womb, this almost always involves olives stuffed with feta cheese, spinach sauteed with loads of garlic and lemon, salmon with some sort of Asian marinade, shiraz and dark chocolate with ginger.  However, since it’s 99 degrees this evening, predicted to be so for days, and just thinking about going outside gives me heat stroke, I’ll just find some substitute in my fridge. Who said life was always fair?)

The real “problem” is that we so often sacrifice our Really Big & Fabulous Desires for the bullshit ones instead.

I know when I haven’t been able to feel anything that came close to a Really Big & Fabulous Desire, it was during a time when I was carrying a lot of crap, internalized voices from people who didn’t really give a shit about me or weren’t even alive or had rigid ideas about what I was supposed to be doing with my life, who I was supposed to love and within what pre-approved form, what constituted real (as in “real world” and “gotta face reality”).  Ich!  Utterly unappealing!

No wonder most healing modalities begin with release.  Sometimes that release can take violent forms, like when your whole house alights in orange flame. 

It’s good to remember that fires are a natural part of the cleansing and healing cycle of forests and maybe even your own internal ecology.

A simpler form of release might be cleaning our your closet or the cobwebs of your head by freewriting or meditating every day.  But the heat wave that the East Coast is experiencing may be a form of healing too.  (Astrological junkies believe some of the heat is related to the Diamond/Grand Cross we’re currently experiencing.)

Not surprisingly, several Reiki sessions I gave this week involved visualizations of burning through layers that have wrapped around too tightly and became a sort of thought-speech-action story/habit/pattern/knot. How can we be free to choose our futures — even if our not-so-distant future involves how we choose to die — if we’re that tightly wrapped up?

In short:  I think you can use Reiki (and any other creative/energetic/healing work) to release and clean some of that schmutz off your soul.  Maybe releasing would even help you not choose that toxic thought or substance quite so often.  What needs to be lit up in your life? Burn, Baby, Burn and celebrate a Day of Independence!

And for those of you that want one very concrete (and less intense) way to liberate yourself:

My friend Eleanor took this picture last night while I was trying to work out a sore muscle behind my left shoulder blade.  We had spent a few hours earlier in the day paddling in a magical wetlands sanctuary about an hour outside of DC called Jug Bay, where we saw an amazing number of birds (which fittingly on July 4th included a Bald Eagle) — and jumping fish and amphibians and mammalian critters swimming around. (I think one was a river otter, because it was much cuter than your average bucktooth beaver.  And of course, Eleanor, Bob, BD [aka Brown Dog] and I also enjoyed the refreshing and river-grass-rich water.)

While you can’t see in this photo (unless you’ve got x-ray vision) is that I’ve strategically placed a tennis ball under my shoulder blade.  I choose how much pressure to apply by moving my weight on and off and around.  Personally, I like to give it as much as I can take — and then I pause and breathe until a sweet sense of opening and release shows up.  You can use other types of balls for this self-massage trick.  Golf balls are especially nice for the soles of the feet.  As with other parts of life, you don’t need fancy equipment to help yourself release, just a floor, a ball, and your own weight.  (Beautiful rug not included.)

Until next time, stay cool and/or enjoy the heat for the freedom it brings!



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