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Confessions of an “Aha Moment” Junkie

Perhaps the most priceless moments of our lives are when we get the big “aha!”—when we hear for the first time a radical truth that allows us to experience and be in the world in a completely new and freer way. For me, it’s the ultimate high.

Halfway through my second decade at Sounds True, I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of teachings, and with each season’s offerings I am always excited about the next “aha” that might be around the corner. Here are a few of my favorites from over the years:

1. The universe is big, and I am old.

Scientists estimate that our universe includes a trillion galaxies. (That’s 1,000,000,000,000 if you’re into zeroes.) Depending on which way you look at the night sky, the light reaching your eyes may have been traveling for millions of years … completing a journey that began long before any of our opposable-thumb-blessed ancestors decided to trade the treetops for caves. Even more astounding is the fact that the cosmic dust in the form of the “you” perceiving that light is even older—as ancient as the universe itself, or an estimated 20 billion years old. Remember that the next time you get one of those “over the hill” birthday cards. (I encountered these “aha” moments while listening to Brian Swimme’s classic audio program Canticle to the Cosmos.)

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2. I can change my mind…and my brain.

Many Sounds True programs talk about our beautiful and mysterious brains, from how much we’ve learned in the past twenty-plus years to how little we may really understand about this amazing organ. I’ve lost track of the “aha” moments I’ve enjoyed listening to teachers like Dr. Rick Hanson, whose practice of “taking in the good” can literally rewire our neural pathways to help us experience more joy and less stress — or to Dr. Kelly McGonigal, with her empowering wisdom on making changes in alignment with our values — or Jon Kabat-Zinn, whose mindfulness meditations for pain relief have helped me manage migraine headaches.

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3. The heart knows best and we’re all in this together. For me, the teachings of Jack Kornfield are like rich nutrients and cool, clean water for the soil of the garden of the heart. Although we might think of “aha” moments as a mental phenomenon, the heart can certainly have its share of “aha” moments that leave one utterly speechless. Jack’s program The Jewel of Liberation has many such moments, reminding us of our fundamental interconnection and our boundless capacity for love, wisdom, and compassion.

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Maybe the essence of spiritual awakening is the “aha” moment—or whatever it is that we experience that finally and utterly shifts our perspective beyond any individual limits once and for all. Do you have any memorable “aha” moments you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about them!

Washed out by grace…

We can be so hard on ourselves in so many ways: why did I choose the same kind of partner yet again, why am I not able to find more meaningful work, why am I acting just like my mother/ father, why have I not become awakened yet, why am I not truly loveable by another. Recent research and clinical reports in the fields of attachment and interpersonal neurobiology have shown us that the way we’ve come to see ourselves, others, and relationships was formed in the extended nervous system prior to the acquisition of language. As little ones, we lived in a non-verbal world, shaping our models of self and other according to our deeply wired need to survive, to receive love, and to be mirrored empathically.

Fortunately, the realities of neuroplasticity have shown that it is possible to reorganize the way we see ourselves, conceive of this sacred reality, and interact in close relationships. By some unknown grace, it seems that we are wired for love; somehow we are supported by the unseen world to allow love to restructure our lives. While this journey is simple, we know it is not easy. We sense that it demands everything – and this can be scary. But through compassionate self-inquiry, authentic contemplative practice, somatically-alive psychotherapy, and especially through that ever-fiery crucible that is attuned, intimate relationship, the opportunity is there to give ourselves fully to this life and to receive the fruits of a wide open heart, a body and senses that are an offering of love, and an the clear wisdom of an intuitively-guided mind.

It does seem that one thing is required though, and that is tremendous kindness to ourselves – an unconditional friendliness to who and what we are, and a deep respect for the journey from fear to love, for it requires everything we have – and more. Let us nurture and hold ourselves in kindness today, and to appreciate the difficulties and challenges in living a life beyond belief. Let us set aside the spiritual superego, our desperate need to be something other than what we are, and to allow the grace that is always and already here to wash down throughout this sacred body, pouring through these precious senses. And let us behold the miracle of this life as it is, seeing how lucky most of us truly are, and how we could only ever be in the exact right place, to take the perfectly-designed next step into love.

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Corinne McLaughlin: The Politics of Dynamic Change

Tami Simon interviews long-time social change agent and the co-author of Spiritual Politics, Corinne McLaughlin. Corinne explains the coming changes of 2012 in terms of their economic, political, and spiritual significance. She describes the unfolding of a higher evolutionary plan, and the growth in socially responsible businesses and non-adversarial, transpartisan politics. (49 minutes)

Discovering the Musical Body

Tami Simon speaks with David Ison who has been a musician, composer, recording artist, and teacher for 30 years. Healthcare professionals throughout the world have used David’s work to bring the therapeutic qualities of sound and music to their patients. Through The Relaxation Company and Sounds True, David has created many albums including The Musical Body series and the Ison Sleep System, as well as several albums designed to address pain management. David discusses his own journey of discovery, how sound and music can be healing, breath entrainment, and about how sound can actually unbind what energetically blocks us. (74 minutes)

Shaking it Up

Tami Simon speaks with Bradford Keeney, an internationally renowned scholar, therapist, speaker, and teacher. In addition to being the author of several classics in the field of psychotherapy, including Aesthetics of Change and Shaking Medicine, Brad has a deep connection to elders of numerous indigenous cultures and is a recognized spokesperson for the old ways of ecstatic shaking. He is the author of the Sounds True audio learning course Shaking, and the book Shamans of the World. In this episode, Tami has an intriguing and surprising conversation with Brad about being “struck by lightning” on the path to awakening, the value of both arousal and relaxation in our practice, and the vital role of absurdity in our spiritual journey. (55 minutes)

Rubin Naiman: Falling in Love With Sleep

Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Rubin Naiman, an internationally recognized leader in integrative sleep and dream medicine. Dr. Naiman serves as the sleep specialist at the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine, directed by Dr. Andrew Weil. With Sounds True, he has produced the audio programs Healthy Sleep (coauthored with Dr. Weil) and The Yoga of Sleep, as well as the online course Ask the Sleep Doctor: Relieve Insomnia, Sleep and Dream Deeply, Wake Up Refreshed. In this episode, Tami speaks with Dr. Naiman about how hyperarousal interferes with healthy sleep, the power of weaning ourselves off the alarm clock, and how we can embrace the deeper dimensions of sleep and dreams. (57 minutes)

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