Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Sacred Act of Becoming

The Sacred Act of Becoming

What hurts the Soul?
To live without tasting the Water
of its own Essence.

When viewed from a holistic perspective, we always exist in a state of wholeness. Like the magical transmutation of the caterpillar to the butterfly, we mature through developmental phases that compel us toward a fuller expression of our authentic nature.  Albert Maslow, the founder of humanistic psychology, referred to this innate drive as “self-realization”, where one is motivated “to become everything that one is capable of becoming”.  Yet, each stepping stone is valued and necessary in this process. By realizing our fundamental nature, innate gifts, and relationship to the whole, we are
motivated to strive for our full potential.  

Core to our spiritual nature, we are endowed with vital, intangible life forces that move within and around us, assisting our journey to authenticity.  These forces are not unique to humans but are woven within the fabric of the universe. I simply know these energetic entities as Body, Heart, Spirit, and Mind. None is more divine, relevant, or powerful than another but rather, each is a fundamental part of the collective oneness. When we harmonize our thoughts, feelings, and actions to their rhythms, our consciousness expands and we transcend into a more integrated way of perceiving ourselves and the world around us.

Body is the essence of Mother Earth whose life-giving energy feeds and nourishes us.  We share her creative powers and through our bodies, we have the potential to birth beauty, harmony, and love into the world. Heart carries the essence of the moon, the living waters, and the Divine Feminine. Heart flows naturally with compassion and gratitude and pulls us deeper into life’s great mysteries. Spirit is the essence of the heavenly realm where a vision of unity and fulfillment is actualized, waiting for us to step further into this truth. Mind carries the essence of fire and the Divine Masculine, as embodied in our sun. Mind illuminates darkness, within and without, and provides wisdom to navigate the obstacles and challenges present in our lives.

The Center, our Soul, is our sacred place in the universe. It is where we infuse Body with Spirit and balance Heart and Mind. The Center is where we remember our inherited divinity and the interconnected nature of all life. The Center is where we release the identities and preconceived notions that no longer serve us and compassionately heal  the old wounds that weigh heavy within us. The Center is where we become empowered to be a student of life rather than a victim of our circumstances. The Center is where we give freely of ourselves and express gratitude for all we receive. The Center is where we live without fear, allowing love to define our reality.

There is no greater gift we can give ourselves than to awaken the beauty, love, and fullness that resides within each of us. For when we do, we begin to see our world with new eyes and welcome into our being a newfound sense of freedom, joy, relatedness, and inner peace. In the words of Carl Jung, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”

The Sacred Act of Becoming was first published in the August 2013 issue of WNCWoman.

Bob Hanna, PhD is a psychologist in private practice in Asheville, North Carolina.  He provides holistic integrative psychotherapy to adults, couples, and parents who desire to live more fully in their lives and to move beyond anxiety, stress, depression, low self-esteem, anger, trauma, addiction, conflict or unhealthy behaviors.  Dr. Hanna is mesa carrier of the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition, a Peruvian shamanic practice with cross-cultural applications, rooted in the Peruvian spiritual methods of sacred relationship with the Earth. Visit to learn more about Dr. Hanna or to schedule a session.  

Friday, June 28, 2013

Running to Wellness

A holistic approach to wellness means attending to the "whole" of who we are. Within this paradigm, we actively care for our bodies, keeping them strong and healthy so as to support our ability to live from our center. An active lifestyle builds core strength, fortifies the heart, and fosters healthy posture, balance, and flexibility. We come to feel more focused and energetic, which allows us to step more fully into our authenticity and feel more connected with the world around us.

Along with yoga and eating well, my regular practice of self-care for my body is running. I have ran, off-and-on, for most of my life, appreciating its affordability, convenience, and simplicity.  Like many though, I've typically lost motivation after a brief time. I become too busy with the many demands of life or get bored with running's tedious nature.  It is only in the past year or so, that I discovered a way to love running, feeling a newfound sense of joy and freedom, that keeps me coming back for more.  

My commitment to running began with my decision to train for a marathon, feeling that 26.2 miles was the right distance to meet my physical goals. By registering and paying the race fee, I made a contract with myself to do the training necessary so come race day, I was ready to go. I easily found a training program with the necessary structure, resources, motivation, and self-care that gave me the best chance of crossing the finish line feeling strong and successful. Although completing a race is extremely satisfying, I experienced the greatest rewards from the countless hours  of training each week where I  ran with more ease, lost weight, ate healthier, and felt generally happier and more energetic in my life.

Core to my running is the practice of Chi-Running ( which took my running to a whole new level. Prior to Chi-Running, I never thought much about  how I ran or that there might be a better way to run that would make it more enjoyabe, not to mention reducing my chances of injury. Chi-Running provided me a focus on how to efficiently use my energy, or “chi”, with proper alignment and fluid motion while also showing me how to use gravity as the main energy source to propel me down the road. Much more than a running technique, Chi-Running is an integral part of my spiritual practice as I am called to show-up, to be mindful, and to discover what is available to me in the moment so I can run with greater relaxation, clarity and joy.  

I believe there are many who seek greater physical health in their lives but have yet to figure out a way to make it happen. The combination of a signing up for a race, following a training program, and Chi-Running, I am elated to say that I finally discovered how to take my physical health to the next level. In addition to feeling stronger and losing weight, I enjoy greater mental clarity, self-confidence, emotional stability, and renewed energy in my life. In choosing to make this investment in ME, I am thankful and amazed by the many gifts I am receiving and the ways I now give in my life. I offer this story to inspire others to believe that they too can achieve greater physical health that opens many doors to living a more full and joyful life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Ocean Within

The ocean swell rocks me gently back and forth 
and drags me, unwillingly, into a surging wave.  
I tumble over and over in her churning froth, 
Releasing, letting go. 
Over time eternal, my jagged edges smooth and soften. 
Her sway pulses through me, 
a reminder of dark forces stirring deep within. 
The haunting song of a distant whale asks 
who am I?, how am I connected to you? and to life?  
With boundless appreciation, 
I am open to discovering you, 
embracing you, 
loving you. 

I am blessed to have spent my childhood days living near the ocean.  I feel a sacred bond with her.  I am entranced by her spacious nature. Her buoyancy and fluidity elevates and enlivens my spirit and her cool water is rejuvenating, offering temporary refuge from heavy burdens. Her briny aroma lures me deeper and deeper into her mystical essence.  I delight in her great mysteries that every so often ascend from her murky depths: a pod of dolphins frolicking in the surf; a humpback whale breeching high upon the horizon; or an exhausted sea turtle struggling to return to the sea beneath a full moon.

The ocean reverberates deep within the core of all beings. The ocean calls us to remember that we are but one sacred part of a greater whole. The ocean is the genesis for all life and our ancestors spent eons of time evolving within her womb. The ocean’s presence is strong within us and within right relationship, a great source of compassion and wisdom from which we can invite into our lives. The ocean is not simply a body of water that exists separate from us.  She is alive in each of us,  centered in our hearts and experienced through our feelings.  We only need the honest desire to know her in our hearts.

The ocean, as with all nature, asks only one thing in return for her gifts, we love her unconditionally.  We speak of her with reverence and gratitude; we honor her within our sacred rituals and ceremony; and we treat her and the infinite number of beings who live in her sanctuary with great respect and care.  Each of us must learn to live in sacred reciprocity with the ocean and protect her from the deadly consequences of humanity’s collective actions- global warming, pollution, overfishing, and the loss of biodiversity.  By doing so, the ocean will care and provide for us and for countless generations of living beings yet to inhabit our Earth.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Winter Walk in Nature

Our family took a winter walk along the Big Laurel Creek near Hot Springs, North Carolina.  We encountered a frozen waterfall suspended in mid-air with elegantly curved icicles.  Nature never ceases to amaze me.  It is here where I most often experienced  a profound sense of wonder, beauty, and peace.  We musn't forget how deeply rooted we are with the wild world.  We share much of the same ancestry- literally the evolutionary unfolding of the universe.  Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Mohammad, and countless other spiritual masters found their truths only after abandoning their cultures, seeking refuge in Nature, and then returning enlightened.  I wonder for a moment how Nature influences my own process of awakening.  

I notice the moving flow of the river, the yellow moss upon a decaying trunk, and the antics of a frenzied squirrel,  The river was particularly swift today as warmer temperatures melt away the snow of a recent storm. The river's unusually high volume energizes us and we delight in its countless waves, holes, swirls, and edies created by the forceful currents.  I do my best to be present and not to get lost, at least for too long, in my thoughts.  I want to commune with Nature.  I want to see, touch, smell, hear, and feel Nature. The small world of bugs, acorns, and pebbles capture my attention.  My children are quite adept at seeing the small world and often excitedly call to me to show me their discoveries.  I remember for a moment that I too am Nature and my Mind doesn't know what to do with this truth. The clouds part mid-way on our hike and we are treated to a shower of sunshine and a blue sky.  We welcome the warmth upon our chilly faces as we begin our journey, upstream, back to our car and off to Hot Springs to soak in a hot tub along the French Broad River. I am thankful to be alive.


Thursday, December 9, 2010


Can you feel the Oneness of life in your heart and mind?  Take a deep breath and be thankful for the trees, plants, algae, and bacteria that create oxygen. Place your hand on your chest and feel the rhythm of your heart and the blood cycling throughout your body and be thankful for water that also cycles from mountains to sea.  Feel the warmth of the sun on your face and know that you are literally made of star dust. The next time you sit down for a meal, take some time to reflect on how many beings, human and non-human, needed to cooperate in order for your food to show up at your table. The process also doesn't end at our stomach but continues its cycle and, as they say, the party never ends.

A belief poisoned the Western "civilized" mind which falsely believes that humans are somehow superior to non-human beings (sounding a bit like Avatar?) and that we are free to exploit the "not human" world as we fashion.  This great lie has brought much suffering to our world.  You might say that many have lost their souls in the modern world and no longer experience sacred connection to which I refer as "Oneness", the unknowable with many names.  I challenge you to share one thing you did without the assistance of another living being.   This is impossible because ALL is ONE.  I once made my daughter a bed for her room.  The lumber I used was once part of vibrant tree living in a forest.  Humans took the tree and shaped it with machines and then used fossil fuels to transport it across roads of rock and dirt to a store near me.  Can you see the full participation of all beings?  Even the knowledge we carry in our mind is just a byproduct of generations of collectively shared beliefs handed down from countless generations.  Can you feel the truth in your heart and mind.

So how might each of us live differently if we were more present to the Oneness that life is?  The ability to look deeply into this mysterious and complex web might change how you see yourself.  When you allow yourself to absorb this truth you may discover how precious life is and feel moved to love, celebrate, and protect it.  You may look into your heart and sense that the Oneness is always there for communion.  Or perhaps, you simply sit in silence with the Oneness.  The more we embrace this truth about who we are, the more clearly we  know how to live our lives.  If we could only hear the Oneness then, just possibly, we would know how to live our lives with balance, humility, gratitude, and love. The great news is that we have a birthright to Oneness and are intimately connected to every over living being- past, present, and future.  We can experience profound joy when connected to the Oneness where giving feels more like receiving because of the amazing gifts and blessings that life bestows upon us.

I have a prayer that all of humankind can someday go forth with peace in their hearts and care deeply for Pachumama. Namaste.   

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Greatest Story Ever Told

Each of us owe our existence to 14 billion years of an unfolding universe.  Humans are just a blip on the Universal time-line. Our solar system wasn't even around for the first 10 billion years of the Universe. During this time, galaxies formed and many stars were born and died.  Our sun eventually came to be in the  Milky Way spiral galaxy that contains over 200 billion stars that rotate about a galactic center. The Milky Way is part of the Local Group which consists of 30 galaxies spanning a diameter of 10 million light years. Modern technology has allowed us to observe over 50 billion galaxies in the Universe with each galaxy containing an estimated 100 billion stars.  It is impossible for our brains to grasp such enormity but simply take a moment to breath this  into your being and realize just how minuscule Earth is when compared to the utter vastness of the Universe.

Our solar system was born from a rotating cloud of interstellar dust and gas, the remnants of a dying star that exploded its matter about the Universe.  The Earth remained a stewing, gaseous globe for 1.3 billion years before the Earth's crust hardened. The dance of evolution would need another 1.6 billions to manifest cells with nuclei, the building blocks for complex life. The emergence of plants about 425 million years ago drastically changed the atmosphere as they feasted on CO2 which eventually paved the way for dinasours who roamed the Earth for 185 million years before suddenly disappearing along with 70% of all life forms 65 million years ago.  It would be another 61.5 million years before our early ancestors first appeared in Africa. Homo Sapiens, a bipedal primate closely related to chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and gibbons, arrived on the scene a mere 200,000 years ago and we would need another 189,000 years before they began to develop agriculture and domesticate animals.

We share this history with all life on Earth which includes an estimated 62,000 species of vertebrates; 1.3 million species of  invertebrates; 320,000 species of plants; and 51,000 other species that include mushroom and lichens.  The history of the Universe is by far the greatest story ever told. Earth and all its life forms were literally created from stardust. We are born out of this mysterious and complex interdependent web of life that began so long ago. If we could trace our family tree back some 200,000 years, we would discover that all 7 billion people presently on Earth would converge to a common ancestor after 8,000 generations.  As we move much farther back in time, we would discover that we are all literally part of a great Tree of Life where we are kin to all life on Earth.

The greatest story ever told reminds us that we must remember where we came from as we move forward. This history lives within each of us and is our true place in the cosmos. We are not separate from the trees, the rivers, the insects, the mushrooms, or the mountains.  We are literally one in this amazing dance of life. Each specie fulfills an unique ecological niche.  Humans were graced with self-awareness that allows us to celebrate and honor life. Indigenous cultures knew this but the modern human has been blinded by self-absorption, arrogance, and greed.

The time has come to embrace the Great Story and share it with our children and grandchildren. Although we know much about our past, the future will always remain unknown and dependent on how we choose to live today. When we recognize the interdependent and oneness that life is, we naturally embody love, humility, and gratitude. It is when we remember our unique place in the Universe that we can awaken to what it truly means to be human. May we all find the courage, determination, and wisdom to do so.