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Bliss and Grit

Long time friends Vanessa Scotto and Brooke Thomas are having conversations about being spiritual practitioners in the modern world. How do you find sacredness in today's materialistic society? Is there a place for psychology in the realm of spirituality? Can embodied meditation lead to greater evolution? How do we ultimately embrace more aliveness- all the beauty and crazy, the joys and messes, the bliss and the grit that is a human life? Join us as we feel our way through the path by integrating somatic practices, psychology, spirituality, and transformation through meditation.
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Bliss and Grit
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Feb 20, 2018

We are still very enamoured of our weekend with Matt Kahn and we decided to zoom in a bit on a day of the retreat where we explored forgiveness. Really this is millenia-old spiritual wisdom - to forgive. How do we forgive? How do we forgive ourselves when we can’t yet forgive? How do we at least move towards it and soften in that direction and- really- let’s look at the benefits of actual lived forgiveness instead of the typical “you should forgive” platitude. Ultimately the internal process of forgiveness can be the most powerful healing remedy both for ourselves and also for the world.

Feb 13, 2018

Today we’re having a conversation with Lissa Boles of The Soul Map about purpose. One of our real calls with this show is to marry the spiritual path with our tangible human lives. In reality, they are exactly one and the same of course but they do often get divided. That said, one of the things that we hear from you all about frequently is the issue of living one’s purpose. Lissa’s work is really the marriage of the spiritual path with how we live out our purpose particularly in the area of our career, or how you follow your being to your right work, so we thought she would be a fantastic guest to have on!

In our conversation we touch on conscious culture making, how actively intending to change culture is an extraordinary thing- and really uniquely front and center at this particular time in human history. We get at how to recognize that we are part of a creative process and how to see our lives signs and signals as cues to our own unique process and right work. We also touch on the trouble with “I don’t know” which, if you’ve heard me say it before, tends to be one of my favorite mantras, but Lissa exposes its shadow side here.

Feb 6, 2018

In our conversation with Sangoma John Lockley he was kind enough to offer a beautiful meditation and song. It was so lovely that we decided to add it as a bonus episode in order to make it easier for listeners to return to it and use it within their own practice. You can find more about John, his book Leopard Warrior, and his available sessions at his website.

Feb 6, 2018

John Lockley is one of the first white men in recent history to become a fully initiated sangoma (shaman) in the Xhosa lineage of South Africa. He trained under Zen master Su Bong from South Korea, and spent ten years in apprenticeship with Mum Ngwevu, a medicine woman from the Xhosa tribe. Recently John authored a book called Leopard Warrior, which is not only a great exploration of African Teachings on ancestry, instinct, and dreams, but a wonderful autobiographical account of his journey to becoming a Sangoma. 

In this episode we’re discussing what it means to be fully human, how aliveness can be a messenger of our purpose, cultural appropriation, how to heal your ancestral lineage, the danger of avoiding the shadow, and aligning with your own wild nature. John shared with us that his reason for doing this work is to support people in becoming intoxicated with the sweet spirit of Mother Nature, and you can feel it in his words. 

For more on John’s book Leopard Warrior, or for info on private sessions with him, visit johnlockley.com

Jan 30, 2018

We are very recently back from a weekend retreat with Matt Kahn at Multiversity 1440 in California. This talk was recorded pretty much immediately after we returned home and we were truly deep in digestion mode, as we continue to be. However, from through the fog of integration time we brought forward just a few of the threads that we resonant for us in a weekend that we both found remarkably transformative and powerful. Much of what made it that was was the time to be steeped in Matt’s presence which demonstrates what it feels like when everything is truly and wholeheartedly welcomed. Being with him and experiencing a space where nothing gets pushed away shook something loose where we were in a state of love. So what happens when you can no longer find your shame, your guilt, your pain? What does life look and feel like post-healing?

Jan 23, 2018

Last week’s episode on aliveness brought up one of our favorite questions again- 'What if nothing in life is actually a problem?' So this week we decided to take that question and go deeper. This has been an exploration for us for a while now in our own lives, and in many of our episodes. In today’s conversation we get into topics such as how concepts like blame, deserve and fairness are beliefs that can contribute to problematizing tendencies, how making ourselves into a problem is an epidemic, how to see life through a different kind of lens, and how to hold yourself from the part of you that knows there is nothing to solve. In our modern culture that hyper-focuses on problems and solutions, this talk can be a very medicinal invitation to ease.

Jan 16, 2018

The holiday season is still a recent memory, and we all got a good dip into family personalities and patterns. Usually when we are on a spiritual path and we dip into the old family programming- or I should say anytime we bump up against the more gristly bits of life- it often brings up the questions what is the point of these practices I’m doing if I can’t meet this with some of the more stereotypical images of “the spiritual person”. You know- the unruffled person, the perfectly equanimous one, the endlessly compassionate one. Is it possible that the more challenging aspects of life are supposed to affect us a lot? To touch our hearts deeply? To hurt even? Why do we make suffering- our own and others- a problem rather than just a part of our alive nature? What we may not realize when we begin these practices that the root question of the spiritual path is actually are you going to live or not? Are you willing to really be alive? And instead of some magical finish line that you cross and become the good spiritual person, perhaps aliveness is its own ongoing reward, even in the challenging times.

Jan 9, 2018

John J. Prendergast, PhD, is a psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and founder and editor-in-chief of Undivided: The Online Journal of Nonduality and Psychology. John met his first teacher, Advaita master Jean Klein, in 1983 and began studying with one of our favorite teachers, Adyashanti, in 2001.

For 23 years John was also a professor of psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco where Vanessa Scotto went to grad school. He is the author of an amazing book called In Touch; How to Tune In to the Inner Guidance of Your Body and Trust Yourself.

We first came across John on the Buddha at the Gas Pump podcast where we were immediately drawn to his simple, yet profound, integration of Psychology and Spirituality. After Brooke Thomas sat with him on a weekend retreat a few months back we knew we needed to bring him on for a conversation we could share with all of you.

In this conversation we cover so many topics including how to trust yourself and tune into your intuition, how to access genuine safety, and why the Ego is doomed to fail. This conversation is a delight and a revelation that can affect you for years to come.

Dec 19, 2017

Today we’re talking about how extraordinary it is to come home to our ordinariness. One of our favorite Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche quotes is “we have to be willing to be completely ordinary.” In a culture where the goal is always to become extra special, more unique, more successful, or just to strive towards being a SOMEBODY it’s worth pondering what the true gifts are of allowing yourself to rest in your ordinariness. How does our resistance to our ordinariness tie into our stories of lack- how we’re not good enough, not worthy enough, how we only exist if we are approved of... what if that fell away? You’d probably land somewhere quite ordinary and also, ironically, somewhere totally nourishing and miraculous. As we head towards New Years and the resolution making season- maybe this year we can make a resolution to embrace our divine human ordinariness...

Dec 12, 2017

This week’s episode is about positivity; and wow do we have a lot to say. After reading a question from a listener who was exploring the merits of being a “positive person” versus embodying a state of authenticity, we got deeply curious. Given that spiritual teachers and traditions, even neuroscience, point us towards the wellness benefits of positive states should we focus on bringing our attention towards what uplifts us? This conversation feels especially timely to us as we enter the Holiday Season, which can be full of high expectations about how happy and grateful we should be. We went to town exploring this topic covering heavy hitting questions like; what happens when the idea that we should be positive actually evokes states of shame that inhibit presence and healing? What is the soil for genuine positivity? Can our attachment to being happy decrease our ability to be genuinely positive? If we shift from always trying to be the positive people how do we show up authentically in relationship to others without adding our distress to the mix? We even tie the episode off with a holiday bow by throwing in some of our tools in on how to relate authentically even when you’re in the trauma vortex. Happy listening!

Dec 5, 2017

We’re talking about the age old question, “Am I responsible for others?” It’s a trickier question than at first glance- it can be utilized and lived out in a myriad of ways: We can wear it as a weighty mantle where we are carrying others on our backs. We can take an “I know better than other’s and can control or fix or sort out things better than they can” and we can swing the pendulum to the opposite extreme and say that if everyone is living their life just as they should, if there are no errors and I am not in control of everything- well then I can “let go and let God” and hide out as the transendent one. If we can’t fix, control or save people, and if doing the spiritual person disappearing act isn’t helpful, what does genuine responsibility to one another look like?

Nov 21, 2017

This week’s episode is about exploring the ways in which we can come to identify with ourselves as “someone with problems.” Acknowledging aspects of ourselves that are unhealed or messy can be painful, yet we can still have this funny way of seeing and representing ourselves as the broken one. In a recent retreat with teacher John Prendergast Brooke had a revelation that some of her patterning linked back to getting rewarded earlier in life when she wasn’t well. This understanding kicked off a beautiful conversation for us where we explore safety, holding complexity and the real habitual tendency we can have to downplay ourselves and stay small.

Nov 14, 2017

We are all about the embodied spiritual path over here and we have endless respect and gratitude for these miraculous bodies that we get to live in. But can we over-identify with our bodies? What are the repercussions of that? It seems in spiritual worlds we swing the pendulum between ignoring the body completely to making it the total focus of attention. What do those extremes look like and what might a useful middle way be?

Nov 7, 2017

In this episode we’re talking about what happens when you lose the sense that you “have it all together.” As humans we’re always trying to pin things down. We want to categorize, create step-by-step action plans, essentially identify and solidify life, including ourselves, in As we evolve on our own paths, we’re noticing that our ability to conceive of ourselves as people who have it all together is slipping through our fingers, and we’ve got a lot to say about why that’s challenging. In the process though, we’re also offering a potential new way to orient towards life as the ability to pin things down falls away.

Oct 31, 2017

Today we are thrilled to be joined by teacher Jeannie Zandi. Jeannie is a spiritual teacher who experienced a years long profound dark night of the soul, and here is what she says in her own words about her teaching, “I will use anything I find at my fingertips or that upwells within me to teach and hold space for those who are hungry to turn themselves inside out and live their essence. I will take you to the edge of the abyss and lovingly hold you there. I will tenderly call your name, sing to you, expose your funny spots, hold a radically protected space for your tenderest gooey center, and welcome you into the arms of the nourishing moment to shine as the living presence that you are. I’m fearless, fully engaged, and utterly reliant on the holy." And boy howdy, did we find that to be true. In this conversation we get into our own tender spots, as we always do, but this time with Jeannie holding space for them. We talk about inadequecy and unworthiness, fear, outright terror, and the desire to finally get it together and have it all tidied up. Trauma, the inner tendency to push and to eradicate all the “badness” in us, and our dominant culture of unhealthy yang which can barely even fathom healthy yin. We talk dark night, the creature of the body, and mercy, mercy, mercy for this whole human journey.

Oct 24, 2017

Today we’re talking about what can be called the “unseen worlds.” The unseen worlds can include everything that is outside of our everyday, rational-mind consciousness. Think- intuition, energy, auras, chakras, guardian angels… and other aspects of formless support. In reality, we’re all connected to vast amounts of wisdom and resources, yet so often we’re not consciously aware of it. Our discussion this week moves through two levels of this exploration; first, how it’s possible for us to miss the wisdom and support coming our way because we expect it to arrive differently than it does, and second how to adjust our frequency so we can better hear the languages reality speaks to us in. Naturally, much of this talk circles back to major themes such as learning to listen and trusting your life.

Oct 17, 2017

We all want more peacefulness but we can’t tranquilize ourselves into peacefulness. When we use our paths as an energetic lid on things we don’t want to face it’s not just a desire for peace- it is a fear mechanism. We talk about how the labor of facing the things that aren’t in alignment for us can indeed be painful, but as with any birth there is something else on the other side of all that labor. What if we said it is possible for all categories of your life to be in total fulfillment. Is that one of the most challenging and blasphemous things we can say? When we leave behind simplistic, and I would say harmful, bright-siding ideas that if we can just think happy thoughts we get a happy life, what is this process we are actually talking about? How do clarity and unconditional love for the self lead to an aligned life? What is an aligned life?

Oct 3, 2017

This week we’re talking about Awakening, or as Brooke lovingly refers to it, the A-word. A few episodes back we spoke on The Nervous System and Awakening. Afterwards we received several follow up questions such as What is awakening anyway? Should I be doing it? Am I missing out on something? Hence the playful episode title Awakening FOMO. Really though, in this episode we get into what our thoughts and personal experiences are on what awakening actually means, why we find it vulnerable to talk about, and of course how we support ourselves in what we believe is the path towards living our fullest human potential.

Sep 26, 2017

Today’s episode is a Dear Bliss and Grit- which means one of our lovely listeners wrote us in a question and we had a bunch to say about it! Thank you Jeannie for emailing this one over. Jeannie asks, "As I listened to you talk today, a question arose, which arose again when listening to Matt Kahn on your recommendation. Matt talks a lot about you be the one that you turn to. You tell yourself the things you’ve always needed to hear. I don’t mean to set up a polarization in the question itself, but I’d love to listen to you talk about times when we need to be our own primary caretaker, and times when we can allow ourselves to be cared for by another. As mammals, we are born with bodies and brains that anticipate being “embedded in a nest of warm relationships.” When we (often) find that we aren’t being seen or embraced, it is a violation of that most basic expectation and need. As someone who can swing to all corners of the attachment spectrum, I’m interested in deepening my understanding of when spiritual practice becomes avoidant of intimate relationship, when it’s necessary to be seen, heard, and held by another, and further refinement in discerning the relationship between attachment and spirituality."

Jeannie’s question gets to the heart of attachment issues and spirituality. We unpack what the different attachment styles are, and how we can often choose spiritual practices and paths that can deepen our own attachment issues. And ultimately how can we work with self-compassion and loving whatever arises to make ourselves more available for secure and satisfying bonding with others.

Sep 19, 2017

In this episode we’re chatting about the glorious nervous system. Recently we heard a spiritual teacher named Matt Kahn say that “the Ego is the imagination of an overactive nervous system.” As longtime mind-body practitioners we found this super interesting, especially because it coincided with our own exploration of the ways our limbic system was affecting our health. This got us thinking about the role the nervous system might play in our awakening to truth. We talk a lot about concepts like fear v love, or fear v clarity, but is there benefit to exploring fear through the lens of our nervous system and limbic brain? Does that exploration create more softness in us or does it trigger a shame spiral that births more fear? All this and more as we explore the beauty that is our body.

Sep 12, 2017

In today’s episode we're talking about what actually loving what arises looks like in practice. We’ve all heard the trite spiritual phrases like “meet whatever arises with acceptance” and “Love everything in your experience” “do not judge yourself or others” and trite as they are, and as frequently repeated as they are, genuinely landing in the deep granular practice that these phrases point to is, well, not the most straightforward thing in the world. Certainly it is super duper foreign to everyone livin gin this time and place. Vanessa and I have a highly unprocessed talk about how that’s showing up for each of us as a lived experience. How we are now seeing the million tiny no’s that we say to ourselves all the time, and that we notice everyone saying to themselves and to the world. But what does saying yes to what we find really look like? What’s the difference between tolerance, warmth, and really loving things?

Sep 5, 2017

In this episode we’re talking about the need to be liked. Over the years of self exploration it’s become clear how very much our own desires for approval can drive our choices and cloud out our clarity. Of course, it’s pretty human to want to be accepted by others, but what happens when you do it at you’re own expense? When the desire to be likable takes on a full fledge good girl/boy identity? Or when it keeps your past trauma re-circulating in a never ending loop of self-sacrifice or self-flagellation? These questions are just the surface of this conversation. As approval junkies in rehab we’ve got lots to share on the ever fascinating topic of needing to be liked.

Aug 29, 2017

The last couple of weeks we talked a lot about living from truth, and about how the body is the most useful way to navigate truth. We got into that in our conversation with Kiran Trace last week, and in our talk about what we were learning as we spent some time with Adyashanti. We, kind of, could talk about the body and about navigating what is true for you from the body, forever... so we had a lot more to say on that! What came up for us is the way we separate ourselves into “me” and “my body”- and how that separation- that perception that we are NOT our bodies- is where we objectify ourselves and lose access to the wisdom of the body. We get into how we can have unconditional love for ourselves, how to make room for the body to just always be in a process instead of “getting it right, finally”, and how to acknowledge the ways we see and treat the body as “other”.

Aug 22, 2017

If you’ve listened to the show before you probably know that we’ve been studying with our teacher Kiran Trace for a while now. Topics like “Pain Bodies” and the “Delicious Yes” were first heard in sitting with Kiran. Since many questions we get from listeners revolve in some way around ‘how can we know truth in the body,’ and since Kiran has been so fundamental in our own journeys, we thought it would be powerful to bring our mentor on the show to gain some clarity right from the source. Kiran is masterful at guiding people towards a more loving and direct relationship with their bodies and their lives. One of her upcoming classes, called The Delicious Body, is her approach to the foundational exploration of learning to discern truth in your own body. So we asked Kiran to share a bit about this class, which you’ll hear us reference a few times throughout, because Kiran's work has been incredibly helpful in helping us discern our true north. This conversation is like an insiders “how-to” on tuning into your own inner compass for revelation and healing. From themes of self-love, to trusting yourself, to objectification and body dysmorphia, we’re having a mind-expanding conversation on self-recovery with our beloved teacher Kiran Trace. If you are interested in taking Kiran's Delicious Body course, we are providing an affiliate link which just means that you get $200 off the cost of the course plus other discounted goodies, and a percentage of your tuition goes back into supporting Bliss + Grit. So if it does resonate for you, please use the link www.kirantrace.com/blissbody when you register and we greatly appreciate you helping to support the show!

Aug 15, 2017

In today’s episode we're talking about a recent weekend we spent together in Ithaca going to an event Adyashanti was having there. We do a general download on what it was like to be with him, but more specifically we point to his lens on what it means to trust your life- a truism that all of our teachers point us to. This is really the heart of this path. In so many ways you could say it IS the journey. Adyashanti also talked about how in many ways awakening is you becoming the most you. So on the path we wind up recognizing how often we are in conflict with both who we are and with what’s showing up in life. What are some of the complexities of how we turn away from the truth? And, another one of my favorite topics of conversation, how is the body our most accurate truth sensing device?

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