Mojo Monday ~ Breathe



Meditation Poem (On breathing) 
From The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, by Thich Nhat Hanh


The fourth element of our body is air. The best way to experience the air element is 
the practice of mindful breathing. “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. 
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.” After saying these sentences we can 
abbreviate them by saying “In” as we breathe in and “Out” as we breathe out. We 
don’t try to control our breathing. Whether our in-breath is long or short, deep or 
shallow, we just breathe naturally and shine the light of mindfulness on it. When we 
do this we notice that, in fact, our breathing does become slower and deeper 
naturally. “Breathing in, my in-breath has become deep. Breathing out, my outbreath has become slow.” Now we can practice, “Deep/slow.” We don’t have to 
make an extra effort. It just becomes deeper and slower by itself, and we recognize 
that.

Later on, you will notice that you have become calmer and more at ease. “Breathing 
in, I feel calm. Breathing out, I feel at ease. I am not struggling anymore. 
Calm/ease.” And then, “Breathing in, I smile. Breathing out, I release all my 
worries and anxieties. Smile/release.” We are able to smile to ourselves and release 
all our worries. There are more than three hundred muscles in our face, and when 
we know how to breathe in and smile, these muscles can relax. This is “mouth 
yoga.” We smile and are able to release all our feelings and emotions. The last 
practice is, “Breathing in, I dwell deeply in the present moment. Breathing out, I 
know this is a wonderful moment. Present moment/wonderful moment.” Nothing is 
more precious than being in the present moment fully alive and aware.

“In, out 
Deep, slow 
Calm, ease 
Smile, release 
Present moment, wonderful moment.

If you use this poem during sitting or walking meditation, it can be very nourishing 
and healing. Practice each line for as long as you wish.

Another practice to help us be aware of our breathing is counting. As you breathe 
in, count “one” and as you breathe out, count “one” again. Then “Two/two,” 
“Three/three,” until you arrive at ten. After that, go back in the other direction: 
“Ten/ten,” “Nine/nine,” and so on, until you arrive back at one. If you do get lost go 
back to “one” and begin again. Relax. It’s only a game. When you succeed in 
counting, you can drop the numbers if you like and just say “in” and “out.” 
Conscious breathing is a joy.” 

Mojo Monday ~ Designing A Vision of Peace


We talk about wanting peace.  What is peace? How do we achieve it?  Is it possible to obtain world peace?  Can we design a vision of peace? 

Israeli designer Ronny Edri is attempting to do just that.  It began with uploading to Facebook a simple poster of him and his daughter, with the words “Iranians we will never bomb your country.  We love you.”  Here is a video of Ronny Edri sharing about how it all began..




If you have yet to discover and “like” the Israel-Loves-Iran facebook page, please visit. I have been following along with this amazing project since it began.  This is a grassroots peace movement that shows how social media is changing how we can connect and see one another as people, not nationalities that are supposed to be at odds with one another.

This building of relationships and connections is incredibly powerful. When the faceless people of a nation suddenly have names and are sharing that neither wants war or mean each other harm, there is a shift that takes place.  A powerful shift.  Is it strong enough to hold back the tides of a war that political leaders may be manipulating into reality?

Thich Nhat Hanh shares this in his book Being Peace:

“During the war in Vietnam we young Buddhists organized ourselves to help victims of the war rebuild villages that had been destroyed by the bombs.

Many of us died during service, not only because of the bombs and the bullets, but because of the people who suspected us of being on the other side. We were able to understand the suffering of both sides, the communists and the anti-communists. We tried to be open to both, to understand this side and to understand that side, to be one with them. That is why we did not take a side, even though the whole world took sides. We tried to tell people our perception of the situation: that we wanted to stop the fighting, but the bombs were so loud. Sometimes we had to burn ourselves alive to get the message across, but even then the world could not hear us. They thought we were supporting a kind of political act. They didn’t know that it was a purely human action to be heard, to be understood. We wanted reconciliation, we did not want a victory. Working to help people in a circumstance like that is very dangerous, and many of us got killed. The communists killed us because they suspected that we were working with the Americans, and the anti-communists killed us because they thought that we were with the communists. But we did not want to give up and take one side.

The situation of the world is still like this. People completely identify with one side, one ideology. To understand the suffering and the fear of…[another citizen] we have to become one with him or her. To do so is dangerous-we will be suspected by both sides. But if we don’t do it, if we align ourselves with one side or the other, we will lose our chance to work for peace. Reconciliation is to understand both sides, to go to one side and describe the suffering being endured by the other side, and then to go to the other side and describe the suffering being endured by the first side. Doing only that will be a great help for peace.”

So how do we create understanding between people?  How do find common ground?  I think it is helpful as Thich Nhat Hahn recommends, is identifying with not just one side, but with both sides.  I think there can be much enlightenment when we look back and explore the history of a situation, the back story, so to speak.  What is the history between Iran and the United States of America?  Does the past between our two nations have any affect on the current situation?  If you want to learn more keep reading below.

The Iran Agenda:

I still cringe to this day when I recall George W. Bush’s State of the Union Address from January 29, 2002.  This is the speech in which Bush referred to  Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the “Axis of Evil.”  I still want to slap my forehead, shake my head and ask aloud to anyone listening, “How in the world did the President of the United States think it was okay to label three nations as evil, and even worse, do it in public at an event where the world was listening?”  

My own take on those events is that the administration was beating the drums of war and building their case to convince the American people that more wars would likely be necessary to protect their homeland.  The war in Afghanistan had begun on October 7, 2001, less than a month after the events of September 11th.   Then on March 19th, 2003, after many accusations that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction, the United States, accompanied by the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland attacked Iraq.

Even after Bush’s axis of evil pronouncement  in 2002 a number of nations were alarmed at this statement. Mohammed Khatami, who was President of Iran at the time, had made a concerted effort to tone down hostile rhetoric toward the U.S. as part of a more pragmatic foreign policy, but he condemned Bush’s demonizing of Iran as “meddling, warmongering, insulting and a repetition of old propaganda.”

Many Iranians expressed sorrow and support for the United States after 9/11. There were even candlelight vigils held by Iranians.  What was also very fascinating to read in a book by Reese Erlich called The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis is how “the Iranian government cooperated with the United States in its efforts to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan.  This may come as a surprise to those who want to neatly place all Islamic fundamentalists into one group, but Iran solidly opposed Taliban rule.  The Taliban murdered nine Iranian diplomats in 1998, almost leading the two countries to war.  Iran had supported the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban.”  Iran was going to assist in the alliance to invade Afghanistan. The US initially praised Iran’s “constructive role” in the meetings.  “In January 2002, Iran pledged $560 million for Afghan reconstruction aid, the largest amount offered from a third world country.”  According to the author Erlich, Iranian officials told him “that they expected the United States to extend the contacts over Afghanistan into a wider dialogue about U.S.-Iranian relations.”  Instead President Bush proceeded to denounce Iran later that same month as part of the “axis of evil” and this effectively shut down relations.


An organization called Just Foreign Policy includes on their web site the following statement: “The Bush Administration has deployed a rhetoric of confrontation against Iran, including the threat of military force without United Nations or even Congressional authorization. Many of the Bush Administration’s claims that Iran is a threat echo claims used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq and rest on similarly dubious evidence. Policies have been approved, such as authorizing the killing of Iranian officials in Iraq, that could easily escalate into a broader military confrontation.”  In addition they state “Americans are being told that Iran is on the brink of developing nuclear weapons, supports terrorism, is helping to kill American soldiers in Iraq, and is determined to destroy Israel. Therefore, the reasoning goes, we must prepare to attack Iran.”


Stephen Kinzer, the award winning author and former foreign correspondent for the New York Times rejects this argument. He, along with a diverse group of other experts on Iran, Congressional leaders and military experts have been traveling across the country to present other perspectives and options for a more rational foreign policy towards Iran. You can read more about their ideas at the web site The Folly of Attacking Iran, which is also part of the Just Foreign Policy organization.

My understanding of the history of Iran was greatly illuminated by reading Stephen Kinzer’s gripping book called All The Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. In great detail the book shows how the United States has played an active role in Iran for decades, often in ways resented by Iranians. The USA organized a coup in 1953 against the popular and democratically elected Prime-Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. Mossadegh had been considered a problem by the British for many years. The British over the years had gained control of various assets of Iran, including their oil. While the British in Iran lived in beautiful homes with manicured lawns and enjoyed swimming pools and such, the Iranians who worked for the oil company lived in squalor. Repeated requests to the British to share the profits more equitably with Iran and to improve conditions and wages for the workers were always met with disdain and no change.


As Iran began to question the British involvement in their county things grew more heated. The British were unwilling to be diplomatic or negotiate. They even tried to convince President Truman to help them overthrow Mossadegh so they could replace him with someone they could control. President Truman wanted no part in their imperialistic desires. The British were almost ready to just attack and take over Iran but world opinion kept them at bay a bit longer. When Truman didn’t run for office again and President Eisenhower was elected the British suspected the USA might be more amenable to involve themselves in Iran. They were correct. Certain members of Eisenhower’s administration were very open to the idea of choreographing regime change. The overthrow of Iran in 1953 is considered to be the very first coup that the American CIA organized.

After the coup, the monarchy of the Shah was reinstated and supported by the United States. There are many who believe that Iran could well have continued on the path of democracy if it wasn’t for the meddling of the USA and Great Britain. The irony is that America is supposed to be the great supporter of democracy and yet it overthrew a democratic prime minister in order to give a monarch full control of the nation.

Years later the people of Iran rose up to remove the Shah, who some say ruled with an iron fist. Under his rule he created a domestic security and intelligence organization called Savak. According to articles in Federation of American Scientists and TIME magazine, SAVAK “tortured and murdered thousands of the Shah’s opponents. It has been described as Iran’s “most hated and feared institution” prior to revolution of 1979, for its association with the foreign CIA intelligence organization, and its torture and execution of regime opponents. It’s “torture methods included electric shock, whipping, beating, inserting broken glass and pouring boiling water into the rectum, tying weights to the testicles, and the extraction of teeth and nails.” After the 1979 revolution, a CIA film was found which had been made for Savak security forces on how to torture women.

In the Bush years there were alarming headlines in the news in which the Bush administration accused Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons.   A decade later this topic continues to make headlines and is sometimes a topic of debate, as we saw in the sparring between Vice President Biden and Paul Ryan.  Iran has however consistently maintained that they are only seeking nuclear power to improve conditions in their country and they are adamant in insisting that other countries have no right to dictate that they cannot do so. 

Here is a brief introduction to the history of the nuclear program of Iran as taken from Wikipedia.  Iran’s nuclear program was “launched in the 1950’s with the help of the United States as part of the Atoms for Peace program. The participation of the United States and Western European governments in Iran’s nuclear program continued until the 1979 Iranian Revolution that toppled the Shah of Iran. After the 1979 revolution, the clandestine research program was disbanded by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who had serious religious reservations about nuclear weapons, which he considered evil in terms of Muslim jurisprudence. Small scale research restarted during the Iran-Iraq war, and underwent significant expansion after the Ayatollah’s death in 1989. Iran’s nuclear program has included several research sites, two uranium mines, a research reactor, and uranium processing facilities that include three known uranium enrichment plants.

In a January 2012 article in Salon Magazine, Glenn Greenwald,  noted the “killing of at least five Iranian nuclear scientists during 2010 and 2011, by unknown attackers, with no apparent outcry in the Western media.”  When researching about Mossad, the Israeli Intelligence agency, more details were forthcoming about how “Mossad has been accused of assassinating Masoud Alimohammadi, Ardeshir Hosseinpour, Majid Shahriari, Darioush Rezaeinejad and Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan; scientists involved in the Iranian nuclear program.”  Per Wikipedia, Mossad “is also suspected of being behind the attempted assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Fereydoon Abbasi.  Meir Daganwho served as Director of the Mossad from 2002 until 2009 – while not taking credit for the assassinations, praised them in an interview with a journalist, saying ‘the removal of important brains’ from the Iranian nuclear project had achieved so-called ‘white defections,’ frightening other Iranian nuclear scientists into requesting that they be transferred to civilian projects.”

“In early February 2012, Mossad director Tamir Pardo met with U.S. national security officials in Washington, D.C. to sound them out on possible American reactions in the event Israel attacked Iran over the objections of the United States.”


Author Stephen Kinzer also addresses the nuclear issue in the preface to his book All the Shah’s Men: “The only way Iran can reasonably be expected to curb its nuclear ambitions would be through some kind of ‘grand bargain’ in which its own security concerns would be addressed.  That would probably require a solution that goes beyond Iran’s borders and creates a new security architecture for the Middle East.  It is not reasonable to expect Iran to abandon its nuclear program as long as its main regional enemy, Israel, and its main world enemy, the United States, are nuclear-armed and issuing a stream of barely veiled threats to Iran.”

I think that the Just Foreign Policy organization summed it up well when they stated the following “The recent history of relations between the United States and Iran has been marked by misunderstanding and mistrust shaped by the unjust use of violence and threats of violence. Violent conflict has not served the interests of either country. Military threats deepen hostilities and resentment and future conflict becomes more likely. Serious diplomacy between our two countries is needed.”

I would add to the need for greater diplomacy the following: 

  • The healing of old wounds. 
  • The releasing of the past.  
  • Forgiveness.  
  • Living in the present.  
  • Connecting. 
  • Finding common ground.
  • Choosing Love.
  • Choosing Peace.

I have written before about Iyanla Vanzant’s prescription for working through an issue, which is to Feel,  Deal, and then Heal.  Feel.  Deal. Heal.  Do you think we could get her to do an intervention for some heads of state?  Have her give them some straight talk and get them to play nice with one another and work together to make a peaceful world our reality?  

In the meantime let us join the thousands of people sending in their photos and sentiments of wanting there to be peace, compassion, friendship, love and understanding between us all.  While some may be lost in a world of revenge, greed, fear, anger, hatred and ignorance, those of us who see there is another way will continue to design a vision of peace.

Please visit the Israel-Loves-Iran Facebook page and add your part to this campaign.  There are other pages now too, such as America-Loves-Iran that you can also visit, “like” and share with your family and friends.  It is through such positive sharing and enlightening that we tear down walls and bridge gaps of misunderstanding and fear. We can all be a spokesperson for peace.  There can never be too many.  





If you can take the time, below is an incredibly eye-opening and informative video with Rick Steves who makes traveling documentaries.  In this video he visits Iran and allows us a glimpse into the lives of current day Iranians, while also sharing some of the rich history of this fascinating country.














Mojo Monday ~ Healing Wounded Hearts

Necklace made by Michelle Fairchild while healing her wounded heart.



Many people are familiar with the term “aha moment.”  We Cosmic Cowgirls refer to them as “awe ha!” moments.  I had my own shift recently after attending the latest Cosmic Cowgirl Hodown member conference.  My realization was that I don’t feel wounded by the old stories of my life anymore.  This was a truly beautiful realization for me, as in fairly recent years I went through some significant life changes and also experienced some difficult life challenges.  


In fact, I am not being overly dramatic when I describe the period as the dark night of my soul.  My personal struggles led me to retreat from some long held relationships. Thankfully, instead of going down a completely self-destructive path, I chose to dig in deep and accomplish some incredibly cathartic soul work.  I underwent a period of the unburying of the old hurts with the guidance of two therapists, and my husband and I also went through counseling together.  During this time frame I had questioned my lovability and likability. Anger and rage that I had stuffed also needed to be addressed and processed in healthy ways.  There was a point where my natural sunshiny ways of spreading love were dampened and I questioned deeply what love meant to me. This proved to be a profound experience.  I now see that making it through the dark times has led me to a lighter place, one where the love is deeper, the grace so much more profound and the forgiveness so much more freely given. I have also seen my spiritual wings grow stronger and more sure of themselves as I look at the world with awe and wonder.


I agree whole-heartedly with the brilliant author and motivational speaker leader, Iyanla Vanzant, that in order to heal our pain three things to need to happen, we have to feel our pain, we have to deal with it (really deal with it) and then we can heal it.  Feel, Heal, Deal.


I also must add that one of the gifts of belonging to the tribe of Cosmic Cowgirls is the way we are encouraged and even challenged to open our minds and think about things in new ways.  In courses I have taken with Cosmic Cowgirl University I have continually been reminded of our ability to write our own Legendary story however we choose.   I have been going through the process of doing this work with Cosmic Cowgirls for the past four years and there were initially times where my story made me sad.  There were parts that brought up pain and old losses and I would get stuck and just stop.  There was a time frame when I realized that the rose-colored glasses I had been wearing for years had developed some serious cracks in them and I couldn’t go on.  


Now I see so much more clearly how everything that has occurred in my life has contributed to who I am, and I really truly love who I am.  My Legendary story is a big adventure with plot twists, exciting heart-stopping drama, exotic adventures and whole-hearted love because of the joys, the losses, the love, the lows and the highs.   

In the eight years I have worked for a private non-profit fost-adoption agency I have learned a great deal about special needs children, wounded hearts and souls, and the therapeutic process.  My knowledge and understanding of how wounds affect behavior and our choices expanded ten-fold during those years.  


Then with my most recent “awe ha” moment it became even that much more transparent how many people are living lives as the walking wounded.  While I will not allow others to intentionally hurt me and I have learned a great deal more about healthy boundaries in relationships, I also have compassion for others, knowing that how some people respond or act is due to their unhealed wounds, which in most cases I have nothing to do with at all.  For example in best case scenarios those who are wounded, but haven’t dealt with it, do things like living life reactively, being blind to why things push their buttons, acting defensively, when they would really prefer to act lovingly.  


In the worst case scenarios the walking wounded can cause others grievous harm and pain. These are the situations that lead to violence, cruelty, and committing crimes.  One way of viewing those who are wounded and then act out by hurting others can be through the lens of a quote by buddhist Thich Naht Hahn, “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over.  He does not need punishment, he needs help.”  Iyanla Vanzant goes more in depth about all the things stuffing and masking our pain can lead to, such as addictions (ie drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling), criminal behavior, as well as such things as low self-esteem, depression and lack of direction in life.  Iyanla also shared during her live show with Oprah about how people can also become addicted to their story of pain.  She tells one man who had been addicted to drugs and alcohol for twenty years, and after ten years of being sober and is still unhappy and has been thinking about using again, that he has become addicted to his story.  She challenges him on what he would be doing if he was to really choose to be happy and move forward with his life, instead of living in the past.


One of the events that helped push me over the hump and firmly into a new  awareness took place at the most recent Cosmic Cowgirl gathering.  During the closing ceremony, beautifully directed by a member, each woman went around the circle and one-by-one, linked arms with each woman and while looking into one another’s eyes said these words, “I see you.  You are my sister.”  It was a very moving, and at times emotional exchange, for those participating.  Days following that event, when I was asked by someone, who I had described the experience to, if saying those words was difficult, and my response was “Not at all.”  I shared that when those exchanged took place it was about really seeing a person and their inner soul.  In my spiritual practice it was also about seeing that God essence that exists in all of us and is that which connects us all.

Do you feel wounded?


Are there things in your past that still feel left unresolved?


What are your thoughts about healing?  


What are the stories you tell yourself about events that were hurtful?


How do things from the past affect you now in the present?  


What if you decided to start telling a different story?


What would happen if you were to heal and move on?  What would you be doing?  Who would you be?  




More to explore about healing the wounded heart:

There is a documentary called The Dhamma Brothers.  It is about an Alabama prison, known as “the house of pain,” that allowed a Buddhist meditation practice to be brought within its walls and taught to some of the prisoners, most of whom will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.  It is eye-opening and moving to hear some of the prisoners share their experiences with the meditation course and the changes it brought to their lives.  One of the prisoners in the documentary shared how he was more a prisoner when he was out on the streets, acting out all his pain in hurtful ways.  He will be in prison for the rest of his life, but the meditation practice led him to finally feel his pain and then deal with it, which finally allowed him to heal.  He actually stated that he feels more free now then he did prior to being in prison.  The reality is that he was in a prison of his own making, as are others out living lives in which they are hurting, unhappy, addicted to alcohol or drugs, which they use to dull the pain.  


Here is a brief video with the director presenting at a TED talk about the making of The Dhamma Brothers.


One other great show to watch is the first episode of Oprah’s Lifeclass the Tour.  In the first episode Oprah meets with Iyanla Vanzant who talks about “Stopping the Pain.”  You can watch the full episode by going clicking on this link: