The Fires of Awakening

Today the sun is an orange glow through the smoke filled sky here in Ashland, Oregon. The earth is raging with her fires in the forests and cities of California and Oregon for over three weeks now.

There is a feeling of fear that crests daily as the fires leap from one mountain to the next. I can’t help but recognize this call to awaken to what is priority.

It’s nothing new that the earth purges, destroys and regenerates.  But it is fairly new that we’ve woken up from our long collective deep sleep to the revelation that the outer world is simply a reflection of our inner one.  We have become so separated, isolated and controlled in our  environments over time that we have forgotten our role as children of this earth and that she’s a reflection of deep healing work.

If I zone out while playing with my 2.5 year old son, he will turn to me and say loudly, “WAKE UP!”. In that moment, I laugh and snap back into presence.  It feels as if our Mother Earth is asking the same of us.  To get present, pay attention and go within.

We are a microcosm of the macrocosm. The whole Universe rests within us.

Can we look at the smoke as a reflection of the cloudiness that rests within us at this time in our collective?

Can we see the fires representing the powerful agni energy within and the tapas, or the heat, that is needed to purify ourselves? 

Can we see the fires as energy that transforms and dismantles the old structures and ways of our past? 

Can we see the force of Shiva, the destroyer, as the energy of momentum offering rebirth and new beginnings? 

Does it feel like things in your life are in chaos and you can’t see a way out?

Let go. As things disintegrate, its a ripe time for creation, prioritizing what’s important and growth.

As a survivor of a fire that burned down my apartment in 2006 and left me with pretty much the shirt on my back, I certainly didn’t understand the beauty in it for a good solid month.  At the time when it happened, I was not present in my life.  Then, the smoke cleared when I went to the place that is famous for burning down things just built – Burning Man.  It was there and then that I was able to see the absolute gift and magic of my fire, and the ways that my life would shift as a result of that experience.

I was humbled to my knees in a new found understanding of presence and priorities.  Only months later I knew that I had received enormous gifts.

Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, I received a brand new life and opportunities that my Higher Self was begging for, yet my lower self was stuck in conditioned behavior.  What I received was a greater sense of health, community, love, support, and a deeper connection to my yoga practice. It also created space for one of my most significant relationships to come into my life.

In the end, it was a true blessing and a total wake up call that needed to happen for me.

And this is not to discount those that have  been affected and devastated by the fires. I send you and offer you love and support through an extremely challenging time often fraught with pain and suffering. Yet to help direct you to the larger plan that’s at work, what are you creating space for?

Today I invoke the fires (anger, rage, fear) within to be transmuted and released so that I can create.  Today I dream awake the destruction of the limits that I place around my heart so I can love more fully. Today I establish a deeper connection with you, my Earth Mother, by asking for forgiveness for the ways that I’ve taken advantage of you or have been mistreating you. Today I clear the smoke in my own being, as I trust myself and my purpose even more. Today, I ask for great purging and healing for the planet and the collective, so that we may live in more peace and harmony. Today, I imagine dropping deeper into the Great Mystery.

How are you being called by the fires of awakening?

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.


When I (blank) then…

How is it that we can make up so many excuses for when we will actually live our lives? I’ll travel when I’m wealthy. I’ll write that book when I have time. I’ll have a baby when I find the perfect relationship. I will be happy when I get this promotion.

“When I (blank) then” is a great excuse for not doing something we may really want to do. Or maybe in fact we are choosing not to do those things because they aren’t our priority or in our alignment, so let them go.

My friend Deirdra Martinez of the Uplift Movement always inspires me.  I joined her “Conscious Collective” group recently to be associated with a group of like-minded souls who are truly up to greatness and upliftment in this world. We are all life coaching each other into living our dreams and potentials.

In this group, my goal is to write a book. As a new mom, I find myself strapped for time and having to adjust to managing my full time work schedule with being present with my newborn baby.

My excuse time and time again each week at check in is that I have absolutely no time to do this.  In essence, it is very true that I have less time than before, but if I had the time would I be writing my book or creating other excuses?

What I find most interesting for me in being part of this group are the games that I play with my mind. It has been a very interesting inquiry.

Do I want to write this book?

The answer is yes, however, I keep saying, “I will write this book when I have time.” Does the time ever come?

If I’m being authentic, the book is not my biggest priority now,

like it was when I started the group.  My son is my number one interest.  And knowing how fleeting this time with him (as a baby) is, instead of admitting that the book isn’t my biggest priority currently, I keep using the excuse “I just don’t have enough time”. I don’t want to let people down either.

What I also realized in this inquiry is that I could be more creative with my time.

For example, in the car I have much wasted time here in LA. I’m in the car several hours a day commuting. During my drives, I’d listen to the radio or CD or make phone calls.  These are all well and good activities, but if I plan to write a book, I could be creative and voice record my book on an app and then transcribe it later – thank you Deirdra for this idea! I have been doing this several times now and have received about 20 pages of transcriptions back.  In actuality my book is being written, verbally!

The deeper layer of the procrastination on my book too is the fear around whether or not the subject will be of interest or if anyone will care. Or if I can organize my thoughts. Will spending all this time be a waste in the end?

This group coaching experience has given me cause to look all around my life for other excuses.  If I really want to do something, can I make it work? Or maybe that thing just isn’t my priority anymore and I need to be more upfront, authentic and honest with others and myself.  I need to release the “should do this” script which is about disappointing people and meeting expectations.

What have I learned?

If you want to do something that’s in alignment, look for all they ways that it can happen. Be creative.  And if it’s not in alignment, then let it go. Be honest. Let go of the scripts that cause you to look outside yourself for answers.  Go within.


Our “Being-ness” is Emptiness and Everything

I am on a quest to understand what it means to be a human being.  What are we humans “being”?

At this juncture in my conscious evolution, it is my understanding that the ultimate truth is that “being” is an experience of an emptiness that is actually everything and nothing simultaneously or pure potential.

We will obtain enlightenment when we can transcended suffering by fully practicing and understanding this truth.

As I have ascended the spiral of expanded awareness, I’ve encountered initiations in my awakening that have caused me to review my relatedness to various states of nature and to more fully understand the value of suffering as a means to transcend it.

In the Yoga Sutras, Pantanjali describes the dancing states as the building blocks of nature or the gunas – sattva (creation), rajas (preservation) and tamas(destruction/transformation). These are part of all of nature, or prakrati.

With each major conscious restructuring, I’ve traversed these states and they have caused and various emotional states as well such as exquisite joy and concurrently traumatic pain. As I like to say… “And, so the pendulum swings”.

These states of nature and my resulting emotions have tested my reactivity and sharpened my ability to practice discernment, non-attachment, and presence.

Sometimes it feels like navigating all of this is enough to drive me crazy. I catch myself joking that it would be a heck of a lot easier to have stayed “asleep”.

What I have learned through this pendulating is that my mind and ego get caught up in labeling particular states as being good or bad.

Even as I type the gunas on this page, I find myself labeling them from my own experience of life.   When in fact, none of them are anything, but what they are.

Everything in Nature dances with various states in motion throughout each minute, day, week, year and lifetime. And, the judging mind wants to label everything from its experiences.

Pema Chodron asks us to be “free from the labels of right and wrong, and good and bad. It has to be that you just keep letting those labels go, and just come back to the immediacy of being there.”

The “immediacy of being there” is presence.

In a recent workshop with Richard Miller, he guided us into a meditation that brought me to a “no-state” – a place beyond the “I-ness” of it all.  In this place of no mind or ego, thoughts were irrelevant and there was no particular color, location, or visual, but a neutrality that was quite profound.

This experience was that of a “state-less” “no-thing” void or emptiness and it was absolutely peaceful.

This awareness of “being-ness” is what Richard Miller was teaching us about – complete presence in the emptiness beyond the gunas.

What I’ve been realizing after this experience is so much about what I read in the sacred texts of Buddhism and the Yoga Sutras, about the ultimate reality being the oneness that is emptiness and everything. It’s a concept that is beyond mental understanding or projection.

In the Sutras, Pantanjali talks about the vrittis, the types of thoughts or fluctuations that color our outer consciousness.  One of the first Sutras, Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodah translates to “Yoga is the restriction of the fluctuations of the consciousness”.  In the practice of Yoga, we are always trying to still the mind and see beyond its misperceptions, so that ultimately we experience self-realization and abide in our own true nature, the soul or purusha, beyond the gunas.

We are all seeking peace. Peace does not resemble joy and it does not resemble pain – both are changeable and can lead to suffering. We can attach ourselves to joy and chase it just as much as we can avert pain at all costs. We create more suffering for ourselves when we attach ourselves to anything that is moveable, changeable and variable.

While we are dancing with the gunas, we are really educating ourselves in how to practice non-attachment, non-reactivity and ultimately trying to still the mind to experience present awareness or a state of simply being. (The doer in me just despises this!)

As I’m trying to grasp all of this I’m asking myself why I don’t just move in with Richard Miller and meditate all day?

Recently the term “self-grasping” has come into my framework several times – in Buddhism and in the Yoga Sutras as a framework for ignorance. In Sanskrit, avidya or ignorance is the root cause of all suffering.

In an article by the Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, “Ultimate Truth is Emptiness”, he describes the idea of self-grasping ignorance:

[blockquote indent=”yes” ]“There are two types of self-grasping: self-grasping of persons and self-grasping of phenomena. The first grasps our own or others’ self, or I, as truly existent, and the second grasps any phenomenon other than our own or others’ self as truly existent. Minds that grasp our body, our mind, our possessions, and our world as truly existent are all examples of self-grasping of phenomena.”[/blockquote]

The main point of meditating on emptiness is to reduce and finally to eliminate both types of self-grasping.

[blockquote indent=”yes” ]”Self-grasping is the source of all our problems; the extent to which we suffer is directly proportional to the intensity of our self-grasping. “[/blockquote]

In tying this back to Richard Miller’s teachings to drop below the surface of the “I” and to tie this similarly to the Yoga Sutras, we will always suffer as long as we are attaching ourselves to the changeable nature of prakrati, nature, of which the ego and the mind exist within.  Believing that this world around us is real is the illusion, or Maya.

Believing that we need anything outside of ourselves is the self-grasping ignorance.

According to the Sutras, the soul, is that which never-changes and never-dies. According to Buddhism, the ultimate truth is emptiness.  So I might conclude that the truth is that our soul is emptiness. Self-realization of this is enlightenment.

As described by the Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso,

[blockquote indent=”yes” ]“Emptiness is not nothingness, but is the real nature of phenomena. Ultimate truth, emptiness, and ultimate nature of phenomena are the same.”[/blockquote]

We should know that all our problems arise because we do not realize ultimate truth. The reason we remain in samsara’s prison is that due to our delusions we continue to engage in contaminated actions.

All our delusions stem from self-grasping ignorance. Self-grasping ignorance is the source of all our negativity and problems, and the only way to eradicate it is to realize emptiness.

[blockquote indent=”yes” ]Emptiness is not easy to understand, but it is extremely important that we make the effort. Ultimately our efforts will be rewarded by the permanent cessation of all suffering and the everlasting bliss of full enlightenment.[/blockquote]

I’ll invite you to join me in a practice of meditating on the concept of emptiness to release the misconceptions of our minds and create a canvas for pure potential. Let’s practice what it means to simply “be” and to understand the emptiness that is actually nothing and everything.

life force energy

Life Force

Written by Nicole Doherty, Published by American Athlete Magazine (launched in their Winter 2014 iTunes edition)

Powerful. Mysterious. What is this enigmatic life force that yogis talk about?

If you look up the term “life force energy”, a variety of definitions appear from the more esoteric spiritual concepts to the more scientific descriptions of physical energy. In many healing modalities, it’s referenced by different names such as “prana” (Indian Yoga), “qi” (Chinese acupuncture), and “ki” (Japanese Reiki).

“Sometimes it is equated with the movement of breath in the body, sometimes described as visible “auras”, “rays”, or “fields” or as audible or tactile “vibrations”. (Wikipedia)

We know that every living being has a vital life force or a composition of energy.   Our current scientific knowledge can explain much of it and then there are the subtler parts that have no scientific basis.  Life force energy is coursing through our bodies and we are emitting an energetic field around us as well.


In Yoga, “prana” or “life force” is often paired with talk of the “subtle body”.

 “The subtle body is one of a series of psycho-spiritual constituents of living beings, according to various esoteric, occult and mystical teachings. Each subtle body corresponds to a subtle plane of existence in a hierarchy or great chain of being that culminates in the physical form.” (Wikipedia)

Our life force travels on the breath in this subtle body structure within a system of channels throughout our bodies like electric wiring. The physical form is a manifestation of characteristics of this invisible energy.  If we can understand our subtler energies, we can start to understand more deeply our physical manifestations.

 “The Yogic, Tantric and other systems of India, the Buddhist psychology of Tibet, as well as Chinese and Japanese esoterism are examples of doctrines that describe a subtle physiology having a number of focal points (chakras, acupuncture points) connected by a series of channels (nadis, acupuncture meridians) that convey life-force (prana, vayu, ch’i, ki, lung).” (Wikipedia)

In many healing modalities it is proven that when we unblock the channels that carry the prana, we maintain a very healthy long, vital life.  We can unblock energy in many ways for example through touch (massage), needles (acupuncture), manipulation of breath (yoga), meditation and sound.


In many cultures you may hear that we are “being breathed” by a universal presence of which we are all a part, which is our life force. This force is what unifies all living beings.  This prana is consciousness.  This unified field of energy and love is in all things and symbols of this love are all around us.



How can we describe consciousness?

Deepak Chopra explains consciousness as not material at all, but “a quantum reality… What we think of as tiny particles are actually not material at all, but waves of potential.  The waves represent different potential outcomes of reality. Only when observed does the wave collapse into one perceived outcome and is seen again s a particle. The physical world as we see it is not reality, but pure potential.”

If you can wrap your head around this concept for a moment you will witness the exquisite nature of the Self and become the Seer that is a creator of physical reality.

Our life force is pure potential. It has no beginning or end and exists apart from space and time. It is infinite.



Nicole Doherty is a 500-RYT YogaWorks Certified teacher, shamanic reiki energy and sound healer, wellness coach, singer and writer. Through the study of various healing arts and a disciplined yoga practice, Nicole spent most of her adult life on an extensive spiritual inquiry that empowered her to overcome multiple traumas in her life ultimately finding love, light and sustained joy. Her work included wide-spread travel to third world countries and studies with world renowned thought leaders in the areas of yoga, meditation, subtle body, Reiki, shamanism, women’s empowerment and life coaching.  What she discovered on this path to wholeness fuels her passion to inspire others to heal and find their highest potential. Committed to embodying her truth in service, Nicole encourages others to do the same with her contagious laughter, endearing smile and lightness of being.



Overcoming Obstacles: Finding Gratitude in Deep Stillness

Written by Nicole Doherty – published for Yoganonymous

Whenever we are faced with obstacles on our journey, they are actually amazing opportunities in disguise to create stillness, to go within and to find gratitude for all things.

With every obstacle that arises we have a chance to see the shadowy parts of ourselves that lay hidden beneath the surface. The fluctuations of the mind, the ego, and external forces create a landmine of distractions that can keep us from going deep within to listen to our soul. We all know how easy it is, when faced with obstacles to judge and to move outside of our alignment toward self-destructive, punishing behaviors and thoughts of our wrongdoing. Or we can distract ourselves outwardly by socializing, searching for people to rally around our ‘being right’, or help those who are troubled so that we can forget about our own issues.

As described by the ancient philosophies, the truth is that the way to harness our power is to create stillness. In stillness we magnify our power by listening to silence. Silence gives us a glimpse of the free, unconditionally loving spirit within. It strengthens our intuition, which is our ability to see the inner world, in contrast to using our eyes to interpret the ever-changing outer world. Creating stillness is what most of us need and what most of us despise. Stillness can be perceived as uncomfortable, frightful, lazy and lonely.

Let’s not forget that we are spiritual beings living in a human body and not the other way around. The love for others and ourselves originates from our connection to Source energy.

“You are not a troubled guest on this Earth, you are not an accident amidst other accidents, you were invited from another and greater night than the one from which you have just emerged.” ~David Whyte

In the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali, (1.14) it is written, “control over the mind’s fluctuations comes from persevering practice and non-attachment”. These two guiding concepts of Abhyasa (consistent practice) and Vairagya (non-attachment) help us to find meditation. Although they seem like opposites, effort and surrender, they work as compliments to find this peace within. Peace does not come without practice.

For me, the most effective way to design a practice is to create a sacred space right next to my bed. This way before I start my day, or before I go to bed, I have no excuse, but to stop at my altar. I have adorned my altar with many representations of beauty, people, deities, rocks, stones, crystals, scents and elements of nature. I now have a meditation cushion to curb my excuses that it’s just not comfortable.

I also have slowed down significantly to find prayers of gratitude before my daily rituals like eating, yoga, or healing sessions to tap into my Source energy for guidance and love. If the mind is heavily distracted I learned through the Law of Attraction to acknowledge all of the things that I am grateful for through stream of consciousness. This will turn my attention away from negative thought patterns and will line me up with Source energy. From Source, I can more easily drop into meditation.

For my meditations, especially if I am restless, I turn to wise meditation teachers to steer my silence through their guided meditations. Some of my favorite teachers are Deepak Chopra, Rod Stryker, Richard Freeman and Jeddah Mali.

On a final note about those feelings of discomfort, I want to share an analogy that I love from a Shaman I trained with in Peru.

Imagine for the first time you have just stepped onto an airplane.  Bad weather appears outside. The plane gets bumpy and is jolted. Major fear arises. You think are going to die. You reach for the barf bag in the seat in front of you and get sick. The second time you get on the plane, you feel the jolt and you know what is causing it and the feeling of sickness may have dissipated. After several plane rides you know the territory and you feel more safe. Now, you can fall asleep on the plane with no effort. You completely trust and surrender that you are in good hands. 

The next time you sit down, remember that everything that’s new has its obstacles and that’s what provides the biggest growth. Sit with your fear and send it love.

This year has been one of the most challenging years of my life, with the biggest obstacles and it has also the most expansive on all levels of my being.  Finding my meditation practice has transformed my life.

In pure love, light and joy, may you find peace this holiday season and find meditation in all your days to come.

Photo Cred:

Origionally Published at Yoganonymous