Crisis = Opportunity

Life as a human is confounding, demanding, intensely challenging and ultimately a complete mystery.  It doesn’t matter how many drops of wisdom have rained upon my head, there are simply always ways to get it wrong.  To be messy.  To trigger and be triggered by others actions.  To be misunderstood.  To lose track of how to do it right – if there really is any doing it right!  Or perhaps we just keep picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off and trying again.  That seems to be a more realistic way to understand life and  how it actually works.  The never ending challenges that are presented as the pilgrimage, the path, life itself – are ways we grow and learn and simply experience.

How do we reach for humility?  Or does it sometimes just come and slam us to the ground, in an unexpected moment? Is there hope of perfection?  It’s possible that humility is the complete realization that perfection is unattainable…that our foibles are part of us, that finding others whose quirks and crazinesses coincide and resonate with ours is the most effective way to enjoy ourselves. Even then, the stumbling blocks just keep coming.  They trip us, we fall, sometimes break a bone, or sprain an ankle, other times just pick ourselves up and continue on.   Perhaps we dance to reggae music all day just to scare the blues away.  The so-called higher path would have us see each stumbling block as a gift as a messenger as an opportunity.  What gold is the dragon guarding? The dragon of course symbolizing the challenge.  A tangible result of living in humility is to see everything as a gift from the divine – and to be able to genuinely ask the question “how is this situation helping me be the person I strive to be” and fully facing that recognition with confidence in its positive outcome.

I once tripped over a broken concrete slab, fell to my knees and was unable to walk for about 5 years.  Walking was then (and still is) one of my favorite activities.  It seemed possible that my injuries would require me to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life. This seemed unimaginably painful, truly agonizing and utterly terrifying.  I sobbed, I wept, I sat around a lot and gained a lot of weight.  Yikes!  Then, somehow a miracle occurred and a talented physical therapist tweaked my knee back into place so that true healing was catalyzed.  Today I can go days without any pain at all and walk miles in the sand.  I am so grateful for each step, each stroll, each meander – so much more grateful than if the possibility hadn’t gone missing.

It is also humbling to find a close friend or companion preferring the company of another.  One of the most difficult life challenges to navigate is the loss of love, or the seeming loss of love.  And then, the resistance to it actually drives it farther away.  All the teachings about acceptance and surrender are called upon to no avail.  It’s hard not to feel forsaken again, alone – not friendless but without that special friend or soul mate.  Humility and love say – celebrate your friend’s happiness with their new friend.   The demon ego says all kinds of other unhelpful things, which I’d rather not repeat.  Often anger arises – which is of course masking the deep pain of loneliness and rejection.  And yet, what if we are never actually being rejected. What if the universe is giving us exactly what we want and need, but we have a lag time in recognizing that.  In that lag time, humility comes in handy to keep us balanced and joyous.  Saying thank you to everything is truly the path of love.

And yet – as we are continually evolving, ever-changing ephemeral beings made from a lot of empty space with some molecules floating around in it (!) perhaps change really is always good.  My inner Pollyanna knows this – it is one of the superpower wisdom bits of life.  See challenges as opportunities.  The Chinese character for change also means opportunity.  Emptiness leaves room for something new to arise.  Looking back at my own life, and its stages, when one person leaves, another arrives, or another dozen arrive.  Net gain, for sure. Being able to find this truth in the harder moments is another benefit of humility, which in my opinion means living in acceptance and surrender to the conditions of this moment.  The truly deeply unbelievably profound mystery of manifestation and life seems to demand a recognition of its magnitude.  In Sanskrit it’s “Jai Ma” – or “Celebrate the Mother of Us All”… It’s not humility if it doesn’t feel fantastic!

 

 

Nurturing Grace

Grace is the flower, the fragrance the sunlight of life.  How can we tend the thoughts in our head in order to create a fertile field that nurtures grace?

I recommend a simple experiment.  Imagine a scenario – play it out in your head from start to finish.  It can be something simple, as long as there is a desired outcome.  Here’s a possibility – you’re in line at the grocery store.  You’re in a hurry and the person in front of you is taking a long time unloading their cart.  What do you do?   One option is to get mad, frustrated, tap your toes, sigh loudly expressing frustration.  Imagine that fully.  What do you suppose that is creating in the general area?  Are others supportive or possibly disgusted at your behavior?  Ponder this.  Then, imagine the opposite.  You move up and lend a hand, helping unload the cart, and in this process discover that the person you’re helping is actually handicapped, and only has use of one arm.  Oops, in the other scenario that was overlooked, as selfish priorities completely took over.  The minute that kindness and gratitude were introduced there was a complete paradigm shift and in this instant you are living in the world as you truly wish it to be.

Now, extend this outward.  During the day the “attitude of gratitude” has an effect on others around you and a deep effect on yourself. It sounds so simple but doesn’t always prove to be easy to maintain.  It’s a work in progress!

Then there’s grace.  Is grace accidental?  Is it completely random, or is there a way we can create fertile ground for grace?  If there is, then gratitude is the bedrock, the compost, the essential nutrient for grace.  Despite circumstances, despite everything, we can be grateful and in that very feeling is opening to grace that makes life worth living.  Sometimes it seems to evade us – where does it go?  In this interactive life there are definitely ways to invite back the honored guest and offer her the seat at the head of the table.  Most religious and spiritual teachings are about this – how to nurture grace.  The ten commandments of Christianity, the Eightfold path of Buddhism, the 8 arms of Yoga… all are profound wisdom, distilled to bring the most benefit to our lives.

Once again, as in all true teachings there is no reason to just believe them, they are all possible to confirm through personal exploration and experience.  Give gratitude a try, make a charitable donation or help a person or animal in need.  The reward for selfless service (called Seva in sanskrit) is immeasurable grace.  Perhaps sainthood is elusive in this life, but living in the light of love, well that is a worthy goal.  Each step taken has the option of moving towards love or away from it.  Choosing mindfully, with conscious awareness means paying close attention, bringing awareness back over and over to the simple truths that belie their power.

It is a hard won realization for me that when I’m struggling and heading towards suffering, the best thing to do is find somebody who needs help more than I do.  That’s not hard to do in this world, there are so many down and out, or handicapped in ways I’m not or injured, or…..well the possibilities are endless.  During one of the hardest time of my life I was living in Hawaii (hmmmm) and would just get in the car and ask the universe to guide me to someone I could help.  Then it turned out that they were everywhere – the sufferers.  I know I can’t help everyone, but supporting just one person or animal is important to that one.  Making a positive difference in life – that to me is truly meaningful.  Go for it!

Resistance is futile

Understanding how to navigate life is part of the path of awakening, of conscious living, of happiness.  There is not any need to follow the advice of others if we can’t confirm for ourselves that the information we have received is true – by simple trial and error.  Of course, I for one wish to skip the “error” part of “trial and error” and pass “go” to collect my reward!  Isn’t that the purpose of the game?  Or is it that the trials and errors are teaching tools, and life is a game, with happiness  and well being as the reward?  I like to take that approach, it works pretty well for me even when times are challenging and I don’t know exactly which way to turn.

“What you resist will persist”  – is the reason that resistance is futile.  If resistance, or the opposite of acceptance brings us the undesirable outcome, then a new strategy is needed, and so the pondering begins.  There are endless challenges and situations that call for more profound awarenesses and true wake-ups.  When I cling to a strategy that doesn’t work, what then?  I will usually continue trying that strategy until I am depressed, de-energized and unmotivated, until I reach the stage of surrender to the futility and try something different.  It really is that simple.  And yes, sometimes just one more try can bring us to success, but what if it doesn’t?  Starting with a small example – getting a lid off a jar.  I twist and twist to no avail.  Do I give up?  I really need what’s in that jar! Next I try using the gripper pad for a stronger grip, or maybe run the jar under hot water to loosen it up… then, all those options aside, I might look for someone with bigger hands to help me…. one of those paths will surely lead to success!  And that is a small, everyday example but the same wisdom can apply to bigger challenges, too.  How to become healthier or wealthier – those are big challenges.  In order for something to change, we need to change our attitude towards it.  The Law of Attraction says that we can’t manifest anything without coming into vibrational alignment with it… to me that does mean letting go of all resistance… first step, accept where I am, second step, imagine where I want to be and third (or fourth, and fifth and on) step is believing and knowing it is possible.  This step can be the most challenging, especially if the first step has already been taken…

So, releasing resistance is a change of attitude.  Moving from pessimism and depression to gratitude is the leap that seems certain to create the change we want.  Sometimes its difficult to go straight to gratitude from depression and negativity.  Taking small steps towards the desired destination may be all that is possible… and the meter for progress is to check in with emotions and our emotional state.  Do I feel a little better?  What is one step I can take towards feeling better… no need to believe anybody else’s advice, just let the results be the gauge of effectiveness.  And, the mind becomes habituated to thoughts as the body becomes habituated to activities… I try to end each day with affirmations about health and well being and begin each day in the same way… Give it a try!

 

 

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!

Paradox as Portal

Kwan Yin, one of my favorite mythical figures, is the Chinese Goddess of compassion.  In some imagery she rides a dragon to her desired destination.  Yes!  What an image, what an idea – is it possible that the terrible dragon of evil is docile and supportive when it is perceived through the heart of kindness?  I’m banking on it – striving for it – and just getting with that idea on many levels.  How can I ride my own personal dragon to my happy place?

“The Divine speaks in paradox”… if this is true then seeking the troubling paradox is a worthwhile pursuit.  What does that actually mean?  How do I use a paradoxical situation as a way out of suffering?  Here’s one of the most confusing paradoxes – if you want to get what you want, let it go.  I can only recommend trying this, as it does seem paradoxical that when we grasp desperately for something (or someone) that it (or they) remains safely out of reach until the burning desire transforms itself into something else.  Is that always true?  Perhaps, I’m not privy to that knowledge but it has shown itself to be true in my life.

Another paradox is the mind-bending idea that everything we need is within us already.  If so, then why does it seem that we need the external reality so much?

How does this jive with the well known law of attraction?  If we need to match the energy of what we seek to be able to attract it, then what happens when we have a frenzied, desperate feeling  what shows up? Usually not what we want, usually the opposite of what we want.

How has this shown itself to be true in your life… ?

Perhaps one reasons a paradox is a link to higher awareness  has to do with its ability to derail our mind.  Like a Zen koan, there doesn’t seem to be a true answer to any paradox.  There is an ugly dog contest in a  nearby town, that has grown to national proportions.  If the phrase “so ugly, it’s beautiful” comes to mind here, sink into that paradox for a bit… here’s another one:  “poor little rich child”…or this one  “I’m so tired I can’t sleep”… our lives are filled with opposites, all creating an opportunity to see beyond the conditioned expectations of our culture.  Recognizing the space between two poles creates an opening for truth, for wisdom, for expansion and joy.  Step on through!

 

 

 

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…