Grief and Guilt

“Every feeling fully felt leads to Love” — Grace of Mt. Shasta

I lost my Mother last week, which as everyone knows is a huge transition, and even though I know it was her time, I still feel grief arising, in waves that sometimes build and sometimes ebb quietly away.  Occasionally the grief has a quality of extreme pain, other times it is soft and warm.  I can still hear my Mom’s voice, speaking my name and wonder how long that will last.  I saved her final voice message to me on my computer, but alas that computer died and with it – the message… letting go is the message, while remembering to give thanks for her long life, and for the time we had to mend our fences and open our hearts to each other.

What is the pain of grief?  My experience is that when grief is allowed, invited, even welcomed that it is a portal to exaltation, to the rainbow realm, the living grace of this world.  I have experienced this and so speak from there.  But why then is grief sometimes so crippling and painful?  The difference, I believe, is guilt.  When guilt sneakily attaches itself to grief, huge pain erupts.  Thoughts such as   “If only I had….” or “why didn’t I…” begin to surface and with them comes enormous pain.

I once read a really interesting book – Power vs. Force and the statement made in that book is that our feelings have vibrations.  Guilt and shame, say the author, are the lowest vibration.  Lower vibrations (below love) are uncomfortable and make us sick, they bring “dis-ease”.  That means that feelings of guilt are necessarily unhealthy for us and our close ones.  How do we let them go?  Ahhhhh, this is the big work!

I love the word “awareness” and perhaps I overuse it these days – but it does seem that awareness is the first step towards change.  After all it is impossible to make a conscious change from an unconscious place.  That seems obvious but is truly worth consideration, since taking the first big step of awareness often brings pain.  In order to face our uncomfortable habits, thought patterns and neuroses takes courage.  Heaps of courage.  I for one have a hard time pricking my finger for a little blood sample, why should I want to poke at the demons of my unconscious wounding?  Well, awakening the sleeping demons means we will need to tussle with them but let’s for one moment feel confident that we have tools to overcome the challenges of our inner lives.  I know we do!  You got this!  Let’s do it!

Ok so the guilt has been brought to the surface.  What is the way to shift and change unconscious patterns?  It is remarkably similar to the way we change our bodies – it takes repetition.  But unlike building physical strength with emotional re-programming it takes repetition with emotion.  Finding the old thoughts and judgements that have created the guilt with us is a huge step, and the painful emotions that are stirred by those thoughts can shift in an instant with new more supportive thoughts.  Feeling deeply into the new thoughts creates a new way to respond and the old patterns can drop away, recycle, compost and reappear as grace.

I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it again – this is no easy task.  I have noticed that when I need to face something uncomfortable in myself that all the little things undone around the house immediately becoming compelling – the vacuum cleaner beckons, the deep cleaning of the closet must happen – on and on the procrastination continues.  It takes huge devotion to make space to sit and contemplate.  Right now, in the middle of the Shelter at Home I hope that you have found the time and space for your inner life.  The world right now is a huge metaphor for what is needed in our inner lives…just be with yourself.   Begin Within… Again…

 

Exiting the Chrysalis

th

I have spent countless hours observing caterpillars, chrysalis and butterflies.  I have witnessed the challenge, the risk and the glory of metamorphosis.  Each transition is difficult – when the caterpillar hatches it is fine food for birds, lizards and other critters.  As they grow into adulthood, the caterpillar needs to find a safe place to cocoon.  This is not an easy search for such a small being, and there are many hazards on the way.  Once again, they can be eaten by birds, or other creatures, crushed by man or animal or run out of time in their quest.

When the caterpillar finds a suitable place (or unsuitable, time will tell, a Monarch caterpillar once made its chrysalis on a hinge and almost made it until an unwitting guest closed the door… sadly…) I digress – It attaches to the wall.  It needs to hold on in order to let go. That always tickles me to say, paradoxes are my thing!  Then comes the intense part as the caterpillar’s body seems to dissolve.  Sometimes they just don’t make it through this process, it can’t be easy.  If they do make it then they become another kind of being.  A being stopped in time.  Some of them have little faces, others look like dangly jade earrings but all of them are specialized and precise.  For in some period of time, from a couple of weeks to a couple of years, the butterfly will emerge.

The monarch butterfly emerging is a miracle of nature I’m overawed to have witnessed many times.  As the jade green chrysalis approaches hatching time, the skin begins to become transparent and the butterfly inside is seen as a kind of origami puzzle.  When it breaks out of the cocoon it is a fragile being.  It takes time to dry off its wings and is very vulnerable for even a gust of wind can knock it to the ground and its wings will deform.  They can’t take off yet so are at the mercy of any nearby bird.  And yet, many of them flutter happily (I project) into the sunlight.  Butterflies can’t fly in cold weather so they are always beacons of springtime.

Once they are aloft they have two activities to fulfill.  They sip nectar and aid in pollination as a side effect.  They make love and procreate.  I once watched a monarch butterfly couple do their coupling for almost an hour.  When it was complete, he (I imagine, perhaps wrongly) lifted her up and flew her up to a branch where they rested for a while.  It’s a short life, but valuable for sure.

Why am I rambling about this right now?  We’re quarantined to be safe from the corona virus, we’re watching our world come to a standstill.  We are cocooned.  It is a challenge perhaps the biggest challenge of our short lives.  Life, as we imagined it was, has ceased to be.  We have let go, collectively and individually.  We have let go of activity for the most part.  We’re not allowed to gather or recreate together.  It’s very strange.  It seems unnatural.  For those of us who have meditated and vision quested it is not difficult but most people have spent their lives avoiding being alone and quiet and listening to their inner voice.

What’s next?  I imagine us, like the butterfly, emerging slowly from this cocoon.  Taking it one tiny step at a time, into the sunlight.  Everything has shifted and I hope that we can collectively make more loving choices as we recreate our systems to better serve humanity and our ecosystem.  There are some important things each of us can do to contribute and “be the change”.  We can get comfortable with ourselves, honest and true and be clear on what we stand for.  I stand for love, for caring, for holding each other up with nobody left behind.  I think a basic universal income and guaranteed housing would be a fantastic place to start.  All the money spent on the war machine can be turned to providing that and health care, education and funding for the arts.  Animal agriculture should be ended and hemp and cannabis farms allowed to prosper and provide.

The sky is the limit!  What kind of world do you want to live in?  Keep marinating in your cocoon and we can discover that together….I love you!

If you want to heal it, you gotta feel it…

 

My inner voice said repeatedly: “Okay self – you got this, you’re good, you’re balanced and happy.  You keep calm under stressful circumstances.  Years of meditation, spiritual healing and “inner work” seemed to have done the trick and helped keep your emotional life stable and simple.”

Surprise!!! Life conspired to prove me wrong about this – as my comfortable, sweet and friendly world was recently turned upside down – without my permission, I might add. Not just in one way, in many ways simultaneously.  I experienced shock. My inability to stay calm, respond rather than react and generally feel good was imperiled. I raved, I cried and squealed.  I lost touch with my center and spiraled into places I haven’t visited for years. Some of them were new and exotic destinations, wholly unimagined.  It has been a deep dive into the ocean of emotion. But I’m a snorkeler, I said to myself – you can do this.  Just remember to keep breathing. Try to remember which way is up. Follow the bubbles.

I’ll confess I gained a lot of compassion and understanding for others during this unraveling.  I also gained a powerful desire to understand in more compelling ways how to change my inner landscape to be what I genuinely want it to be.  To respond in different ways means changing those pesky, troublesome unconscious thought patterns.  If I’m making that sound easy, please forgive me, I’m sure it is not, it is one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my earth walk.  How do we alter what is unconscious?  Years of societal conditioning, childhood and adult wounding and ancestral patterns have been stored inside us, and are the unseen, often troublemaking programmers of our operating systems.

To correct the glitches in our subconscious minds, it calls to me to seek advice from on high. The Vedas – ancient Hindu wisdom scriptures say it this way – there are two paths, the wisdom path, and the devotion path.  When they are brought together, our inner life is enriched, we are connected to all-that-is, and find our life on earth to be vastly improved and more meaningful.  That is my interpretation, anyway.  Bringing their esoteric teachings into modern life is our challenge.  The “path of truth” has been paved over for centuries.  Discernment, contemplation, courage – finding these inside myself is a step by step process. A wild ride!

Wisdom is always present.  Some claim to hear a ‘small still inner voice’ that urges an even deeper listening.  Sitting still, letting it be heard is so important and also presents a monumental challenge.  Ironic, paradoxical and really hard – the wisdom side of things is always available to us.  At this time in history, we have so many teachings that can appear at the flick of a finger.  There’s no need to buy anything if you have internet access – the sages are all present there!  Free Webinars abound if you will simply sacrifice your email address.  And yet, it seems obvious that most of us would rather play a game or enjoy a meal than sincerely seek the wisdom of the universe.

Alongside wisdom appears devotion aka dedication.  The subconscious mind blossoms and changes encouraged by repetition.  Here’s where the two paths meet – the wisdom path is about re-training the conscious mind and the devotional path is about re-training the subconscious mind.  There is another profound tidbit that has just appeared to me – it isn’t just about repetition.  To truly reach the subconscious mind and guide it to behave differently it needs feelings – strong emotion.  So it’s repetition with emotion is reputed to be the magic key.  Absentmindedly repeating a prayer or affirmation doesn’t make much difference to our inner world, but add some powerful emotion there and Shazam – the inner self wakes up and pays attention!

Recognizing these simple truths is part of what can be called “awakening”.  Living consciously means finding the nooks and crannies of our subconscious that are little rebels without a cause – and teaching them to behave in alignment with our higher self.  It’s mind yoga – and as much as the physical side of yoga has swept the world and become mainstream – the yoga of the mind is likely more important especially to our emotional and spiritual well being who are walking hand in hand, or mind in body…

How does this all come together?  Most of us know that to create a new habit takes some weeks of repetition.  On my quest to understand healing and change I recently saw the results of a study that showed that when play is included, the mind learns more quickly.  I would make a leap of faith and say that the unconscious mind may also learn more quickly from a playful attitude as indeed the happy people of this planet show us.  Success seems to love joyful beings!  Unhappiness, in general, is not the direction any of us truly want to go and finding our way through the darker times in life could be called “the quest”… or “enlightenment” since light is a lot more fun than dark, for most of us.

One of the most miraculous and lovely ways to “practice” is to “play” music!  It’s not an accident that making music is called play.  When ambition is airlifted from the area – and music making is merry making, surely that is one of the higher emotional states available to us.  Why do birds sing at sunrise?  I surmise that they are delighted to welcome a new day – and also find their family and friends in the nearby shrubs and trees.  Music also brings us together, unites us in a common energy field, which usually also feels really good.  Just right, comfortable, and fully present.

To recap I am working to feel my emotions more deeply, to understand when I’m acting from unconscious wounds, to reprogram my subconscious with affirmation, repetition infused with emotion all the while in a state of joy and love.  Let’s get started!

 

Heart medicine – a poem

 

letting the raw parts be heard

finding expression for the inexpressible

tears for words

words for tears, cried through my mind

 

The discomfort of some feelings

certain sizzlers like charcoals

yearning to burn

cannot be contained in this body

nor understood in this mind

or felt in this heart

where do they go

how can they be handled

how do I surrender to the flame

 

jumping jacks

Buddhist chants

Primal scream

or Lou Reed

temporary respite

cushion the blows

that rain upon my shattered soul

 

How did this happen to me?

What detours did I have to take

to reach my destination?

Where is the map?

wisdom knows

still,  letting her lead is an

unaccustomed kind of sensation

like breaking in a pair of shoes

or traveling to a foreign land

at first, everything is different,

unfamiliar, uncomfortable

then, gradually a learning

a relaxation and trust emerges

the way is shown

 

 

 

Enter the Enchantment…

It’s possible to live life as an invitation into the magical realms of beauty and love… the portals are everywhere – finding them is the game, the joy the purpose of life… returning again and again to the place that feels right, that feels good that gives the best feelings and experiences

This portal of magic

this waking dream of love and beauty

the beckoning the reckoning

the sacred spiral dance

whirling wildly from darkness to light

and back again…

twinkling sparkling shimmering

third eye wide

lotus unfurled

the magic wand twirled

 

Learning Compassion

“If I could be you and you could be me for just one hour
If we could find a way to get inside each others mind
If you could see you through my eyes instead of your ego
I believe you’d be surprised to see that you’d been blind
Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes
Well, your whole world around you is just a reflection
And the law of common says you’re gonna reap just what you sow”
Walk A Mile In My Shoes by Joe South
Sometimes I imagine that life on Earth is a board game (yes yes I’m of that generation).  If it is then the destination is Compassion.  It is the true blossoming of the heart, that manifests outwardly in a deep caring for others, and blooms fully into unconditional love and acceptance.
How is compassion different than pity?  Compassion includes the realization that we are all connected, essentially the same. Alternately – pity is a kind of downward gaze onto a lesser being – that’s my definition.  It is open to discussion – especially to bring us all to a deeper understanding of this difference.  Compassion should feel good – it is warm, friendly and love filled.  Pity is a close relative of disdain, so it doesn’t feel good.  Check your heart for it’s wisdom and you’ll know the difference.
There may be some unusual beings who come to earth fully formed with hearts of compassion, but for the rest of us, learning this can be a hard path.  Breaking down the internal resistance that is born of survival fear can take all our attention and courage. Sometimes loss will help us understand the pain of other, sometimes illness or bad fortune will do that.  In my case it was Lyme disease, my worst fear come true and a long road through pain and fear. I’m enormously grateful for what that illness brought me – as I had been graced with a good life, an abundant life, a healthy life and lots of adventure and financial success.  It seemed that I could have whatever I wanted (I was not a member of the 1% but had everything I wanted and needed).  I felt that I  was living a kind of exalted life.
It wasn’t until it all disappeared that I began to know what others might be going though.  As we live in a world filled to the brim with paradoxes, the paradox of letting go to receive what we want is one of the hardest to consciously accept, in my experience.  And yet, even in mainstream movies and media there are many many examples of the way this works.  Just when we’re on the verge of giving up, our heart’s desire appears.  How has this shown up in your life?  Another word for letting go is surrender.  Surrender into the Divine Flow and accept what happens…  I love you!

Alchemy of the Heart

Our pain reveals itself to be the sacred fire of transformation – it forces change and burns through resistance.  When emotional pain becomes unbearable, there is only one effective option – healing.  When the traumas of the past are destroying our chance for happiness and peace in each moment, what is the process for transmuting that pain into love?

Taking the first step means making a commitment to the inner work that will lead us out of pain.  Humility and sincerity are potent companions for true change, and it seems that for many of us pain is one of the secret keys to those states.  “It brought me to my knees” is a description of being humbled, changed into a person who willingly steps forth into the healing process.  The depth of that humility is the power of it.  “Give everything to get everything” is a message I received at an important time of my life, and event led to an unfoldment more wonderful than my mind could have imagined (think; Hawaii).

Once we’re on our knees what next?  I recommend asking for what you want, spending time in contemplation (also known as meditation).  I began by using each bump in the road as a messenger and seeing each person I encountered during the day as a carrier of whatever message I needed to hear the most in any given time.  I gave myself permission to feel, to deeply feel all the confusing, painful, avoid-at-any-cost feelings that had been denied for so long.  “Every feeling fully felt leads to love” is a message I received early on and that teaching carried me through many hardships and still does, to this day. Like most wisdom gems, it comes to mind when it is most needed.

Emptying our mind so that truth can flow and peace can land is challenging.  It means sitting with discomfort, with the ongoing mindstream that is creating our reality.  Learning to get a distance from our thoughts is powerfully healing.  Realizing that we can come to a place of choice where emotions are concerned is one of the milestones I’ve come to appreciate.  Following any system that resonates as truth will bring us to the place of peace and happiness.  There’s no timeline, it takes what it takes, but trusting that we can make it through our challenges gives a stability to the process.  This is one of the deeper meanings of trust in Great Spirit, God, Creator, the Divine, the Tao, whatever name you prefer.  I choose to trust in the benevolence of this mystery, and use the appearance of what isn’t benevolent as another messenger.  How can I have compassion for even the darkest day?

 

 

Begin Within

A dear friend just passed along a beautiful piece of writing from Matt Licata – and part of the wisdom he included was profoundly illuminating about the ways we bully and judge ourselves.  Many people I know well confess to having a disarmingly well fed inner critic.   That voice is at the ready and willing to join sides with anyone who is bullying us – that is what “self-abandonment” means to me.  Yes, there is something “wrong” with me, yes  I accept your criticism and recognize my flaws…yes, I hate the same things about myself that you do…

Wait a minute!  What about love?  As soon as I kowtow to the negative, judgmental voice in my head I’ve stepped off the path of love.  It’s that simple. I feel it in my heart. And yet those voices carry on, but the way I’ve approached it is by imagining a volume knob, and imagining that I’m turning down the volume on that inner bully.  It is a lot like physical training, the mental training required to tame the wily beast we call our mind.  The workout includes gratitude, meditation and affirmations.  Preceded by realization and awareness of course…this information is as old as humanity – born and reborn into poetically nuanced truth. The Vedas, the Tao, The Dhammapada, the Bible, The Koran, The Talmud – each one has already codified a system to aid us in our quest for inner and outer peace.

Knowing that this wisdom has been available to our species for eons – might be a small clue that it is not the easy path.  There’s no quick fix.  Most if not all (I haven’t read them all) ancient texts teach that determination is a key element of success.  It can be called by other names as well – devotion, contemplation, commitment.  Making a decision and holding it forefront in our consciousness is far from being easy or simple.  Becoming a yogi or any other kind of devotee means adhering to the path of discipline and commitment.  It isn’t easy but the rewards are great.  But there is no need to believe me or any other religion or doctrine.  These suggestions are best tried for yourself.  If it’s true then it will be true for you, too…

“Begin within” is a bumpersticker I love seeing as I drive through town.   I’d like to live in a world that reflects my loving heart – and also to be part of creating a world that is free from bullying and hate crimes.  The wisdom of that nugget compels me to face the ways I bully and abandon myself – to remember the importance of training my mind to stay connected to the love in my heart.  This sounds so simple, perhaps reminiscent of a Hallmark card – and we all know that it is a heroic task.  It takes all the courage we have to turn directly towards our inner demons and face them down, deflate and disempower them.  It is an ongoing work, for all of us. I have witnessed a widespread propensity to project this accomplishment on another – a Guru or spiritual teacher. I’ve noticed that there is no way to verify that another has accomplished this wondrousness, no matter how glowing their resume and credentials.  It is the smaller challenge, in my opinion, to stay open for the duration of a workshop or satsang, and to embody open hearted lovingkindness for an hour or two.  And that is a worthy way to spend time, for sure.  One story I’ve heard (unverified, just so you know) is that it was in times past, important that one’s guru lived a two days walk from home.  In this way it was possible to keep a distance from their everyday lives, which are inevitably easy to judge.  Learning to withdraw our projections from others is also an important task on the path to open hearted living.  It means an end to comparing, to finding others superior to us (ah there is that self abandonment again) and what a relief it is, to level the field and embrace our own divine perfection.

Self-embracing is the healing for self-abandonment.  Love yourself.  No need to change anything.  Just. Love. Yourself.  End the quest for another who can do that for you.  Begin within…

a morning meditation

To receive the most from this meditation, I recommend counting to four while breathing in, holding for four counts and breathing out for 8 counts;

Breathing in, I fill my body with light
Breathing out, I give thanks for this divine moment

Breathing in I forgive myself
Breathing out I forgive everyone else

Breathing in I love myself
Breathing out I love everyone else

Breathing in I rest in awareness
Breathing out I rest my mind

Breathing in I feel light and free
Breathing out I release all that is holding me back

Breathing in I fill my lungs with light
Breathing out I forgive everyone who has harmed me

Breathing in I open to the divine light of love
Breathing out I forgive everyone I have harmed

Breathing in I recognize the Divine in all beings
Breathing out I send healing love to all

Mitakuye Oyasin
All My Relations

 

The Synergy of Community

I spend a lot of time alone – gardening, meditating and contemplating, reading and working.  I seem to alternate between great bursts of creativity and action and extended times of solitude and quiet.  Learning to enjoy solitude has been one of the greatest challenges of my life, and so I am really happy that I am able to savor each moment of alone time with my own being.

Then, sometimes I host larger gatherings – 40 or 50 folks with lots of overnight guests.  This weekend was quite special,  and the delight of joining together to sing and chant engenders an instant ecstasy.  The general vibrations of happiness that seem to move like waves through the room continued to amplify throughout the evening – as singers sang and dancers danced.  We each took our part in the cosmic “leela” as its called in Sanskrit.  The Divine Play, if you will, also known as our lives.  Each event is its own community, a microcosm of the greater group, which is spread across the planet, vibrating in harmonic resonance.

It’s mysterious, this ecstasy that arrives into a crowd of like minded open hearted people.  Palpable love flowing – energetic exchanges of the highest order, happening simultaneously around the room – like an electric charge – we dance together, we sing together we pray together.  We hold each other up.  This is what I live for – to ride the currents of love waves from shore to shore.  And to feel deeply the emotion as it resides in my emotional field – to master the art of recall.  To know that I am not a prisoner of emotion, but an experiencer of it – that makes it all easier.

I am ever grateful for the grace-filled life I am leading.  There is so much to give thanks for – to appreciate.  Today I watched an orange dragonfly flit around the little “pond” that was just revived.  Yesterday there were crows cawing continuously… today the hawks cry…and yet, I ask myself this question – most days – how can I better serve?  What gifts can I share out into this realm, knowing that there are sufferers and wanting to give a hand to them if possible.  My own suffering has diminished so much I am ready to give more to others.  What is the best way to help out, given my own constellation of gifts, skills and talents?

It no longer seems possible to spend time on things that are not calling strongly to me.  I have been reflecting on the ways that I have followed my inner call and have noticed that it is always easy to follow.  So, if there is no loud calling then it must be time to wait, to prepare and to be simple.  Are big changes coming, or I am in the middle of a process and cannot see it yet?  The kaleidoscope of possibilities keeps spinning, and just staying open to the beauty of it is the extent of what I can do right now.

I am interested in the big questions of life – navigating the challenges, understanding how to live in an open-minded, open hearted way, how to choose love.  There are so many tools (priests as one teacher put it) that can assist the powerful journey into the self. Acquainting myself with these tools, much like having a fully equipped woodshop, or mechanics garage – feels like the right path to be taking right now.

I’m open for conversation about the path of the heart – please send me an email if you’re interested in a discussion about where you are and where you’d like to go… if I can lend support, I would be most honored to do so.  My heart is full of love – love for you, love for the earth, love for the Divine One.  Let’s walk the sacred path together.  Community synergy will take us where we want to go…