21 April 2017

0018 | What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?

What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other? -George Eliot (pen name of Mary Ann Evans), novelist (22 Nov 1819-22 Dec 1880)

If what we live for is indeed to make life less difficult to each other, to increase one another’s joy, to decrease one another’s suffering, to be of service, to contribute, to love one another, to be kind, to give of ourselves, to help each other, and so on and so forth, then what is the most helpful, most kind, most loving, most joyful, most important contribution we can make to begin to eliminate the suffering of our fellow humans?

The single greatest contribution we can make toward eliminating the suffering of others in the world is to open our sweet, timid hearts and take absolute responsibility for recognizing the enormous, infinite love that is available to us in every single moment of our existence, because we are love

Acknowledging that we are infinitely loved and we are made of love is incompatible with blame, need, expectation, neglect, violence, resentment, self-righteousness, fear of rejection, and any number of unattractive emotional addictions. When we love ourselves just exactly as we are, we stop demanding that other people give us the love we imagine we need from them and we stop waiting for a new set of external circumstances to make us happy and bring us peace. 

The practice of self-compassion—to take responsibility for loving and accepting ourselves completely and unconditionally, all our warts and all our brilliance, to take responsibility for our own feelings and our own interpretations about what it means to be who we are in the world—is a radical act of kindness toward every other being on the planet. 

If we want to belong, to love, to serve, to contribute, it is imperative that we stop blaming others for the state of our feelings, the state of our relationships, the state of our lives, the state of our world. This is not to say that we must or we must not change the world into a better, more loving, kinder place to live in; it is only to say that we could stop demanding and expecting anyone else to make the world a better, more loving, and kinder place for us before we allow ourselves to get on with the business of being at peace with ourselves, others, and God. 

We could offer to ourselves the love, the acceptance, the forgiveness, the tolerance that we so desperately seek from others, and we might even find that we have more than enough to share.

27 February 2017

0017 | To change the world, start with a single breath.

We are not persuaded to abandon the comfort of our fears, our hatred, and our ignorance through aggression and scolding. Shame does not elevate us, blame does not bring out our best, and contempt does not change our minds. We are hardened, not opened, by hostility. One person’s spiritual evolution cannot be determined by another person’s agenda, no matter how well-intentioned. The worst in us is softened and altered — in our own sweet time — by being heard, being seen, being met where we are.

We are changed by love.

How is love possible in times when we are confronted with hatred, fear, and ignorance? What does love look like when we are anxious, disheartened, overwhelmed, outraged? We are blessed with fear and anger to inform us when our values and boundaries are threatened or violated — this is vital information, but information is not wisdom. How, then, do we move from information to wise action? 
Love’s victory over fear begins with a single, mindful breath. A single, mindful breath is a moment of clarity, it is self-care, a leaning in, an affirmation of life and consciousness, a break in the cycle of reacting to fear and aggression with more fear and aggression. A single breath is sometimes all the space we need to collect ourselves, to gather our wits (to be fair, sometimes this requires more than one breath). 

A single, conscious breath is a radical act of love. (Remember, we are changed by love.)

In the space of a single, mindful breath, we short-circuit our real, physiological fight-or-flight response and create the space to choose whether we will come to the table with aggression or with compassion, in a state of panic or in a state of clarity, with a limited focus on what is wrong or with a vision of all that is possible when we slow down and listen for the best in ourselves.

03 February 2017

0016 | Welcome to the Resistance (no, not that one... the icky one)

I am taking a personal development course right now called Radical Reinvention. What? That is like me taking a class on eating sushi. I have been doing it all my life, fearlessly, unapologetically, greedily, gleefully. I already love (really, really love) eating sushi, but if someone were to tell me there was a way to do it better and get even more enjoyment out of it, I'd be all over it. Seriously... if you know of this class, please sign me up.  

This week we are learning about resistance and excuses. My lesson could have been refined a bit and called "How we make other people wrong and blame them for the state of our lives and our relationships," but I suppose they are painting with broader strokes to be more inclusive. Since I learn concepts by writing and teaching, here is my summary of this week's lesson. Stay tuned for next week's edition of "Things that should be obvious to grown-ups, but mostly aren't."

. . . . . . . . . . 

Resistance is our natural, human defense against a perceived threat. That threat can be to our routine, our beliefs, our values, our boundaries, our ego, our identity… a threat to essentially anything that comprises our truth, regardless of whether or not that truth is in our our best or highest interest. We resist when we feel or believe that something is wrong, scary, bad, or threatening as a way of maintaining a feeling of control, groundedness, or certainty. 

Excuses are the reasons, justifications, rationalizations, and explanations we employ to defend choosing the certainty of what is familiar to us instead of the uncertainty that comes with change. It is human that we love what we know and we fear what we do not know, even when what we know is not in our highest and best interest. We fear changing ourselves, our beliefs, our patterns of behavior, our circumstances, and — most of all — the precious stories and habits that define us. Changing ourselves requires work, discomfort, uncertainty… it is inherently an insecure place, and we are masters of reciting all the reasons change cannot or should not happen as we attempt to cover up the real reason: our fear. 

When we come from a place of love and responsibility for ourselves, we stop making excuses and embrace that we are the powerful co-creators of our own reality. We can choose to be gentle with ourselves and others. We can choose to learn from our mistakes. We can choose to commit to only that which serves our highest vision for ourselves and the kind of world we want to live in. We can choose to be prepared to meet our commitments with the attention they (and we) deserve. We can choose to be honest about what we can and cannot take on in any given span of time. We can choose to communicate clearly and ask for what we need. In short, we can choose to take full responsibility for the quality of our lives and the state of our relationships in every moment, knowing that how we show up anywhere is how we show up everywhere.

18 November 2016

0015 | Trash day

Today is garbage day, symbolic in a way, and the last one before Thanksgiving. My list today was gratitude for discarded things: old beliefs, old relationships, old clothes, my mother’s left-behind possessions—I am grateful for the celebrations that could not have taken place without them, and grateful to release these burdens. 

I am grateful for the loves I have known and those I will not know, for books I have read and books I will not read, grateful for the place each released person or object or belief has held, so that now, as I rejoice in the release of it, I recognize and appreciate the space that has opened in my life. I am grateful to sugar, for all the comfort it has brought me, and grateful to let it go. I am grateful to my family, for my having belonged to neither my mother’s nor my father’s side of the tree so that as I explore this other than conventional life, my otherness is not uncomfortable, unfamiliar. I am grateful to be untied from family rituals that feel like obligations to me. All of these releases that once felt like disconnection have come to feel more like freedom as I have stopped resisting, stopped struggling against letting go. 

In the wake of this untying, I am free to live a life that I have envisioned: to think, to feel, to speak my truth to myself and others, to build, to make, to teach, to evolve, to preach love to the outcasts and freaks, to anyone who has ever felt like she may not fit in, who has whittled away at herself in order to please someone whose love she felt unworthy of receiving. It is true: we are unworthy of love… that kind of emotionally expensive, insidiously self-destructive love that would exact the price of dimming ourselves rather than celebrating our wildest nature and being true to our own souls. We are utterly unworthy of that kind of love that demands that we forego kindness to ourselves and others, that we stifle our own voices, suppress our own stories, and adjust to “normal” to fit into a box labeled “lovable.” I am unworthy of that brand of love. 

The love of which I am worthy is divine, celebratory, non-judgmental, accepting, unprejudiced, and patient. I will give that kind of love, and I will accept no other kind in return.I have struggled for so long with a fear that I was unworthy of love, and I was right, but it was such a small, man-made love; there was never enough to go around. 

Only a massive, bright, universal, elemental love can encircle me, for I am enormous. My magnitude is inconceivable to the human mind—only the heart with its divine wisdom can fathom how vast an expanse I fill, so how could any mortal man love me with any simple human love? How could some earthly being wrap some small kind of love around my great, spiritual mass and aspire to keep me warm? 

I am the universe; it is in me, in each of us. Without a big enough love, a love that extends to all of humanity, how can we fully love the person standing right in front of us? Our love must be like water; it must cover most of the planet and sink into the earth, it must be pure, we must offer it freely to everyone, including ourselves, and it must be what we are made of.

14 June 2016

0014 | Two Months and a Prayer

It's June. June already. So much happens between back then and right now, and I am challenged to write any of it down outside the pages of my longhand, pen and ink, stream of consciousness blatherings in a stack of hardcover, extra large moleskine notebooks. Since taking up Julia Cameron's morning pages, I'm a beast on paper. Not so on the computer machine.

Months ago, Marie Tjernlund introduced me to Comfortable with Uncertainty and I have not been so grateful for a book recommendation since my dad's girlfriend, Gloria Jean, gave me Eloise as a child. I still love that tattered book and Eloise is still a hero of mine.

I have been thanking the universe for my discomfort, for putting people and experiences in my path that stir me, either positively or negatively. I've been examining my relationship with the reality I have created for myself. Today Ben and I read two short meditations on equanimity and then while we sat, my heart spoke a prayer. I have only recently taken up prayer again, and it looks and sounds and feels so different from my childhood. The God of my youth was spiteful, bloodthirsty, and played favorites with his children. Then the Jesus came and offered mercy and forgiveness and love, but formal religion has largely ignored that bit, and besides, salvation comes with a lot of groveling and browbeating and more playing of favorites. The deferred heaven and hell plan also makes very little sense to me. We create so much of each right here.

My soul has not yet come to terms with the idea that there is any higher power than love itself. I have no proof yet--let's call it faith. I am sure the science on this one will bear out eventually. In the meantime, I choose to believe in love. I choose to believe that the greatest power in the universe, Love, asks one thing of us: MORE LOVE. I cannot believe that the highest power in the world would ever dictate division over unity, separation from each other over connectedness. We are neurologically wired for connection and meaning--in these things we find purpose, and in purpose, we find joy. I'm off on a rant, and I was going to share a prayer. Every day is proof that I am a work in progress.

May I enter this day wholeheartedly, ready to give and receive limitless love, compassion, joy, and wisdom. 
May the earth beneath my feet connect me to all other beings who also share share this earth.  
May my heart be open to you, my fellow human, and to the delight of your very existence. 
May I practice compassion, and in that compassion find how we are connected.  
May a daily practice of compassion teach me a relationship with you in which I am at peace in traveling my own path, and in allowing you to peacefully travel yours.  
May I seek gratitude for my discomforts as well as my comforts, and open my mind and heart to the gifts of their lessons. 
May I be willing to let go of expectation, of blame, of aggression.  
May I be willing to give up being right, so that I may instead become what I am meant to be.