jen engevik

Freeing Ourselves from Our Personal Prisons & Flying Free

This is the year, the month, the day, the hour, the moment that we can set ourselves free. Free from the constraints of worry and holding on to the past.

It's all too easy to cling to yesterday with white knuckles, even when the present and the pending future is full of unlimited possibility.

"Anything is possible," declared my yoga instructor this evening.

I remember thinking the same thing when I was a youngster. Magic was in the air in those days. But as we grow into our adult costumes, it's easy to get lost and forget that the magic and the miracles are still around.

And so, moving forward into a space of freedom -- I'm thinking it means living for now. Letting go of my conception of what should be. Loving without condition. Loving with a rawness that can only be found in the authentic now.

Freedom comes in the moment -- when you are in a flow. Yes, a majestic beautiful flow. It comes when we lift our heads and our chests to the sky. When we dare to look into a stranger's eyes and smile.

Freedom comes when we love freely, without rules or chains. The mind must find a sense of peace, if true freedom is going to reign.

It's easy to cling to the past. To talk about what is dead and what has died. Whether it was a person, a relationship, or a dream. But there comes a time -- to let it all go and claim that gift called freedom.

Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. When pain arrives, it's important to feel it -- to own it -- to accept it -- and then let it go. Otherwise suffering becomes all we know. We become caged and freedom turns elusive.

But now it's time to breathe. It's time to claim the miracles and the magic that float through the universe. That live in our veins.

The winds of freedom have arrived, and it's time to fly.

- Jen Engevik
Project Be Bold

The Art of Discovering Inner Strength

"Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle." -  John Watson

I begin my post with these word for one simple reason -- I read them in a book by William Hart entitled The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation as Taught by S.N. Goenka. The book has been sitting on my shelf for a handful of years entirely unread. I had tried to read the first page a number of times, but for some reason couldn't continue. And then...just at the right time, I have found myself devouring it.

Why am I devouring it now? There are numerous reasons why, but here are a few very candid ones:

inner peace1. I need to deepen my friendship with myself.

2. I want to become more compassionate.

3. I need to let go of some things in order for the next chapter of my life to evolve.

4. I want to deal better with suffering and loss.

5. I need to reconnect with my true purpose and inner truths.

The list could go on and on, but these are my main goals.

So, Sir Goenka created a meditation philosophy and technique that at one point requires you engage in a 10-day silent retreat. In the  process you burn through your mental garbage -- limited perceptions and the dramatic stories we tell.

One of my best friends has done it twice. The first time PJ dared to experience the process, he said the first day of complete silence freaked him out.

"You can't imagine the mental noise that I experienced. I began by thinking of the things I should be doing, then I moved on to the things I have done, then I thought about crazy dramas from my past, and sometimes I even found myself humming in my mind. I couldn't help myself!"

As the ten-day period progressed, he dove deeper into the pains that he had suffered in his life. His failed marriage, his relationship with his parents, failed business pursuits, and the list goes on.  In his silence, he would all of a sudden find himself sobbing as he relived moments. He forgave himself and others for mistakes made along the way.

And then one day...

He sat on his mat and he experienced complete mental silence.

"Jen, you wouldn't believe it. I didn't have anything else to think about, and I was perfectly fine."

And so yesterday it was September 25, 2013 -- strangely, it is almost four years to the day that my friend told me about his experience. And I'm finally ready to experience the process myself.

What I've learned so far is that I am the possessor of a mind (and you too) that has so much potential. But, before we experience our full-potential, we have to become friends with ourselves. "Become an island unto yourself. Strive hard and become wise," Hart quoted Buddha within his book.

This doesn't mean that we abandon those we love. It means that we seek to become healthy and whole, which will enhance our relationships with others. True satisfaction in life can't be attained through obtaining massive riches, experiencing "the right" relationship, reaching the greatest of goals, etc.

This comes when we are OK with silence...a personal friendship with ourselves...and the truth that lives within.

- Jen Engevik

Project BE Bold

"Darling I'm Here for You"

thay prayer handsThroughout my days, I can recall distinct moments in which I wish I would have been bold enough to say exactly what was on my mind or dared to use a better set of words toward those I love.

As the sun rises in the East, I often find myself reflecting on those moments and silently vowing I will never make the same mistakes. Thankfully, with a new day comes the power to wake anew and set specific intentions to act with authenticity and love.

I recently listened to a conversation that Oprah had with Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh (also known as Thay or teacher by his students). Their discussion equipped me with a set of Mantras that I want to apply to my daily interactions with others.

I hope they will be valuable to you as well:

1. "Darling, I'm here for you."

Use these words to reveal that your loved one has your full support. He or she will be filled with a new sense of strength and belonging.

2. "Darling, I know you are there, and I'm so happy because you are truly there."

The simple acknowledgement that a loved one exists and provides meaning to your life is utterly priceless. Don't get caught in the fable that you have forever, be here and now -- acknowledging the beauty of your person's presence.

3. Darling, I know you suffer, that is why I'm here for you."

When a loved one suffers, there is no need to come up with a solution or blast them with your opinions. Simply listen and offer your heart.

4. "Darling, I suffer and I'm trying my best to practice. Please help me."

Rather than hiding your pain and fears away, ask for support.  If your loved one has disappointed you and your natural reaction is to lash out or crawl into your shell, be humble enough to ask for help.

"You must go to him or her and practice this," says Thay. "You will suffer less right away."

- Jen Engevik

Project BE Bold

Getting to Know Ourselves Deeply

know_yourself"How are we going to choose to live? Who are we? What are we living for?"

These were three questions poised by Anand Mehrotra at the end of the documentary "The Highest Pass."

I was blessed with the opportunity to finish the film this evening and found my eyes welling up with tears a few times. There is something to be said for being willing to risk life and limb to accomplish a goal.

In this case, it was a group of motorcyclists -- with very little experience riding -- daring to trek over the "highest pass" in the Himalayas.  One rider in particular said something so very profound. To paraphrase him, he said at the beginning of the film that when things got rough on the trail he wanted to run home to his family.

After much thought, he chose to stay and continue the journey. In the end, his being was filled with a new sense of love. "Now instead of returning to my family out of fear, I want to return to them out of pure love."

As we go through our days, it is common to seek comfort -- the easy way out. Yet at the same time our hearts are crying out for some sort of adventure -- authenticity.

Soren Kierkegaard once wrote, "Boredom is the root of all evil - the despairing refusal to be oneself."

highest pass
From "The HIghest Pass' Documentary

We walk around with our hearts aching -- our minds wishing we could accomplish something beautiful and lasting, experience love in its fullest sense, get over the hang-ups and patterns we cling to.

Mehrotra, Kerkegaard, and Socrates alike teach the importance of knowing ourselves deeper. Discovering our most precious and sacred hopes and dreams that were planted in our hearts for a reason.

Those who say things like, "he/she is a dreamer...her head is in the clouds" are those who tend to lack vision. What if Steve Job's parents told him he was a dreamer and he was silly  enough to listen? Kiss your iPhone and iPad goodbye baby! :-D

When we know ourselves, we can be reintroduced to our child within -- that being that understands the power of imagination, dreams, and life in the present moment.

"To inherit the kingdom of heaven, you must be like a child."

To me, these words spoken by Jesus mean much more than taking a trip to a place beyond the clouds of this world. It's that for the most part children aren't as jaded as we adults. They have so much to accomplish, so much to see, and do. They laugh when their tummies tickle and they weep when their hearts are pained.

child with imaginationA child is self-aware and present in such a profound manner.

Why do so many of us adults rob ourselves of the same enjoyment? Why not dream and stick our necks  out to undertake something bold and amazing?

How about we  take time to connect with our purest selves? Discover our fearless and powerful beings. The only way to surmount our challenges and create life anew is to dig in and feel the emotions, pains, disappointments, frustrations, and fears we have experienced throughout our lives. No more burying our histories with silly, meaningless diversions.

Authenticity is where its at -- and once we dig deep inside there is no turning back. Our true purposes will be uncovered.

"Beautiful things will be revealed. It's just that you have never given yourself the opportunity to reveal what you are capable of. Do not let fear keep us from our own capacity." - Anand Mehrotra

Be good to yourself!

-Jen Engevik

Opening to New Realities

whittles ear

This is a photo of Harold Whittles -- hearing for the very first time after a doctor placed an earpiece in his left ear.

What an experience this must have been for the beautiful boy. In one way another mesmerizing. The comfort of his soundless world forever lost, yet a whole new world presented.

The process of self-discovery is just that -- both thrilling and terrifying. New experiences, feelings, and truths push us to our limits. No longer can we look at the world or ourselves the same way.

When this occurs, we must dig deep and find the courage to progress -- dare ourselves not to hold on to our pasts or former mindsets. New information and experiences offer the opportunity of a lifetime -- a true, heartfelt  journey.

May we look within and without our beings to notice our many blessings -- the people from which we draw strength and those we give it to -- beautiful skies and natural wonders -- animals that lick our noses -- the food we have to eat -- and the journeys yet to be taken.

With eyes wide open, we can be thankful and live with purpose...


And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to Blossom.

Anaïs Nin

- By Jen Engevik

3 Steps to Breathing Easier

deep-breathDaily life brings its challenges for all of us. No matter if we are single, coupled, with kids, without kids, tall, short, in amazing shape, in horrible shape, employed, unemployed, rich, or poor.

A few days ago I had a conversation with a woman with a four-year-old child and a baby on the way. "I miss the days that my life was my own," she shared. The wild thing is that just a few minutes earlier I had been thinking about the fact that I don't have any children, and I'm single to boot. To be honest, earlier in the day I had felt a deep sense of envy for those with a family.

And there I stood looking into the eyes of a woman who was overwhelmed and wishing she could experience once again the freedom I own. Having said this, I can't help but think we all need to learn to breathe easier - no matter our station of life:

1. Be thankful for NOW. We human beings are pros at being half-present in our daily lives. We fret about the past, freak out about the future, and get lost in a web of confusion.

One day in the future I may find myself bogged down with familial responsibilities and wish that I had experienced my singleness and freedom with joy. Or, the woman with child will wish she could have poured her being into motherhood the day she sees her daughter go off to college.

Author Leo Babauta suggests thinking of three good things a day to avoid becoming bitter or frustrated. Or, I've been trying to make a concerted effort lately to do something to disrupt negative thought patterns -- such as a long walk or workout.

2. Get in a flow. Breathing into the moment and pouring focus/energy into being and doing results in "flow." The concept coined by Mihaly Cskiszentmihalyi (a positive psychology expert) sees a person fully immersed into what they are undertaking. He or she operates with "energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process" of an activity.

If you need a bit of reference for this type of being, think back to when you were a child swimming in a pool or climbing trees. You were in the "here and now" so very deeply. Activities were pursued with passion, laughter, and sometimes tears.

Let's get back into that groove as adults, pouring ourselves into our lives with all we possess. I'm thinking we'll sleep much better and smile more.

3. Meditate and or pray. Take time to find silence. Discover a meditation or prayer practice that works for you and dedicate at least five minutes to it per day.

Bonus Tip: Love freely. "Those who can't say I love you, can rarely say I forgive you." I recently heard these words. I find them so simple, yet so very profound.

Our breath is also directly connected to our ability to love and forgive. If we can't love ourselves and others -- if we can't forgive ourselves and others -- how can we breathe with ease? Our insides instead become gobbled up with resentments, frustrations, and fear.

Life is so very short!!

Let's dare to enjoy the moment, get in a flow, and find a bit of quiet time reserved for breathing free.

- Jen Engevik

Discovering Wings on a Sunday Eve

Yesterday I went for a walk around Soka University with one of my best buds. It was dusk, and I was so very excited to share my love for the picturesque campus with her.

soka gandhiWhat was expected to be a short walk turned into a few hours. I led her first to the edge of a bluff that overlooked the running track. On the way we picked fresh lavender, rubbed it between our palms, and breathed in its luxurious fragrance. Next, we trekked to a small garden with lemon trees and a large, friendly statue of Gandhi. We surveyed the sage and reminded ourselves of his willingness to sacrifice his life for a better, more peaceful world.

My silly-goose side inspired me to place a lemon in his left hand. We both giggled like two kids as we exited the garden.

I then led her up to my favorite courtyard on the campus, featuring a handful of lily ponds. There we sat and discussed our triumphs and challenges -- the sound of flowing water soothing our souls. She spoke of her quest to find an amazing man and then graciously listened to me pour out the many things that have pulled at my heartstrings over the past few months.

As I write some beautiful words come to mind:

Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are -- chaff and grain together -- certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away. - Dinah Mulock

sokaOn the way back to the car, my buddy and I laughed out-loud at the fact that we had just spent a few hours running around like youngsters. Eyes wide open...curious...playful...ALIVE.

I want to do these things more often -- keep my laptop powered off -- my cell phone hidden far, far away -- and my TV powerless too. Under the blue skies of life, there is so much to see and explore.

Get outside!!! Free yourself from the boring prisons we adults all too easily create.

- Jen Engevik