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!

what is love?

What is love?

The English language is sometimes frustratingly, extraordinarily inadequate as a modality used to express feelings.  Other languages have many different words for love.  We English speaking natives expect those four letters to communicate so much – a feeling, an energy, an emotion, divinity, truth… is it possible that four humble letters could possibly accomplish so much?

Romantic love is the front runner – it seems that is the most common meaning in regular use.  Agape, or non-romantic love is possibly next, then the feeling of “love”.  What does it mean to say “I love you”.  The possibilities are endless – “I’m attached to you”, “I feel good in your presence” “I like who I am when I’m with you”… “I’m your parent” or “I admire you”.

In the broadest sense I experience love as the creative energy of this universe.  It is the invisible yet felt energy that moves through all beings, and connects us.  It is not something we do, or have done to us.  It simply is.  We don’t have to think about “loving” because love just simply “is”.  We don’t create love, or deny love, since it is a force whose power is beyond human comprehension.  And, when the feelings we are feeling move us to a new place of consciousness, of heart connectedness, of presence – then, it seems we are “in love”.

I’m passionate about clarity here.  I want to live “in love” with all life.  Romantic life has many charms, but universal love, divine love if you will holds the most appeal to me.  From there I choose to live, to honor creation inwardly and outwardly.  I am moved to gaze upon the world as my beloved, my sacred partner on the path of truth.  From there all kinds of relationships are possible from friendship to intimate partner – all contained within the circle of true, Divine love.  And I don’t labor under the delusion that I am creating this love.  It seems to work this way – when resistance to love is cleared (you could say “healed”) then more love can flow through me – sometimes in relation to another person and sometimes just purely flowing and experienced as joy, peace, bliss…

Whatever it takes to return to the exalted state of love is worth it!  Open the Divine Portal that is within and reap the benefit of that.  What has worked for me is this:  music, poetry, art, movement, nature, meditation, entheogenic plant medicines, and intimate partnership.  There are more ways to connect, to open our third eye, to dance with the Goddess of Love – the thousand-petalled lotus – may my life be devoted to that quest – that discovery that ecstasy…

In Sanskrit it’s Jai ma!

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!

 

 

 

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?

 

 

Learning from Nature

“Nature is my religion”

To me, this means – that the natural world, the wilderness is a divinely beautiful system, in harmony with itself – self-regulating and wondrously complex, intricate and sacred.  It is unfathomable, well-organized and astoundingly beautiful at both the micro and the macro levels.

Nature operates more on a rhythm than a calendar.  Her processes of change are interrelated and subtle.  How do two trees growing side by side interact?  They obviously intertwine their roots, and often give space to each other’s branches and accommodate one another.  Until, at some point perhaps one has an advantage and outgrows the other, one grows and one withers.  It’s a chance of fate, of birth and species.  A Douglas fir will eventually overshadow an oak, transforming the forest from hardwoods to softwoods, from deciduous to coniferous.

The Sufis says that the leaves of a tree as the pages of the Bible.  I have taken  time to meditate with trees, and with their leaves.  These otherworldly beings begin their lives as a seed, and absorb, transmute and alchemize themselves into trees, using sunlight, water, air and food.  Somehow they know to do this, it happens, and to intimately witness that miracle is a true spiritual awakening.

We share this planet with so many other kinds of beings.  The sheer variety is more than my human brain can possibly assimilate.  Like a hummingbird, I witness the activities in my garden by casting my awareness around from flower, to leaf, to shaft of sunlight to critter movement to stillness.  Tonight I shared a moment with a raccoon, yesterday a small spider and before that a family of quail who live in the blackberry thicket right off the driveway. I know that the animals and many of the beings that live on this land with me for the past 20 years watch me, know my habits and accommodate themselves to that.  At one time there were three crows who watched as I fed the outside cat (she won’t come in even though she’s welcome) and patiently waited until the cat finished eating to empty the dish.  These days a fox does that job…

After a time spent in nature as my mind returns to its smaller, more human concerns it has become much easier to cast aside those pesky self-limiting and self-judging thoughts. A new perspective has been gained that is more open – more kind, more accepting.  To find myself being a part of the natural world is thrilling, and at the same time since it is actually the natural state, it also feels, well, natural.  Simultaneously relaxed and alert.  Refreshed and reinvigorated.  Renewed and Restored.

One of the purposes of meditation for me is to slow down enough to be able to perceive the subtle activities of the natural world.  To watch the chrysalis open, to catch a closeup view of a butterfly.  Have you ever looked closely at a butterfly’s face?  They are heartbreakingly adorable.  They are little fairy creatures, some of them have polka dotted bodies, other have little multicolored striped antennae… Dragonflies have great big smiles – Bumblebees are all different, some tiny and mostly black, others plump and more yellow.  Why?  This I cannot answer!

What else is to be learned from this holy book?  Patience, allowing, trusting – as the natural world’s processes are so well organized and effective, then is it possible that we, too are so well organized?  That we have an innate program that will choose our place, will allow us to be created into what we really are?  The best healers I know guide the body to listen to its own innate wisdom, for the blueprint for health is already contained within each of us.  That includes the blueprint for physical, emotional and spiritual health.  It all comes back to learning how to listen, deeply, honestly, truly listen.

 

 

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…

The Heart of Healing

It seemed to be a good time in my life  – so many dreams were coming true – one after the other.  Among other things, I had created a country nursery, selling plants for Hummingbirds and Butterflies.  It was a success!  There were customers every day, I had committed helpers and the way was clear, I just needed to keep going and it would keep growing…

Then, one day I started to feel funny.  I thought maybe I was entering menopause because the feelings were unknown and kinda strange.  I was losing energy, was fluish so I decided to take a two week rest and go from there.  At the end of two weeks I wasn’t any better, if anything I was worse.  Overwhelming fatigue, nausea, all kinds of crazy symptoms were just simply worsening.  I went to Kaiser and was told to go home and rest.  I went back to Kaiser and they said I definitely didn’t have Lyme disease, and gave me all kinds of misinformation.  I tried to keep going but finally found a Lyme doctor who interviewed me and gave me the news – it was Lyme, no doubt about it.  He sent samples to Igenex, the only lab that seemed to know how to diagnose Lyme.  The results came back – Lyme positive.

Don’t worry, said my wise and kind MD/Acupuncturist.  We’ll have you up and running again in about 6 months.  SIX MONTHS??????  Oh I was confident it wouldn’t be that long, I’d never really been sick before.  I took home two giant jars of antibiotics with directions to take a heroic dose that evening and go from there.

After a double dose of Amoxicillin and Doxycycline I became violently ill.  I just remember screaming in pain with a bad headache and vomiting that didn’t seem to stop.  I couldn’t take a pain killer so somehow made it through the night.  My husband was beside himself, he didn’t know how to help me but he tried.  The next day my doctor said to cut back the dose but that I had had the “Herxheimer” response to antibiotics and the Lyme bacteria that were being killed had poisoned my liver.  Only Lyme and Syphilis,  both of which are spirochetes (spiral shaped bacteria) create this response to antibiotics.  Who knew?  This was getting worse by the minute…

I then continued with what was to become a 14 month stint of heroic doses of antibiotics, changing them every two weeks, to try and fool the bacteria.  I also took probiotics, and a lot of other supplements, had acupuncture twice a month and later on got healing massage sessions from a loving woman.  This was the medical protocol and I followed it diligently, each day was a new hell realm of fatigue, foggy brain and strange emotions.  I remember that I had over 30 of the lyme symptoms as detailed by Dr. Burrascano.  His posting on the internet most likely saved my life as I was able to pursue the diagnosis even in the face of being denied treatment by Kaiser.

Back to my healing – I was mostly in bed, with regular trips to the bathroom.  Occasionally I made it into the living room where I could watch tv or watch my garden from the newly built window seat in my living room.  There weren’t other options, I couldn’t walk far, I was too dizzy and in too much pain.  Life as I knew it was over.  None of the pleasures of life were available to me – my brain was foggy so I couldn’t read, tv was painful, even food tasted horrible.  Sleep was intermittent.  So I cried.  I cried in self pity, I cried in grief for all I had lost I cried and cried and cried.

Then, one day I had what can only be called a spontaneous vision.  As I wallowed in the depths of despair I saw all the others on this earth who suffer – in hospital beds, maybe without beds and many of them worse off than me, as hard as that is to fathom.  I had joined the legions of sufferers, from my exalted life of adventure and success I was at the bottom of the lake, drowning in misery.

This was my biggest single turning point in my healing.  I realized that healing doesn’t come from doctors (they mostly can’t agree on a diagnosis), or even from pills, but is a form of grace.  Yes we can make the setting more fertile for grace, but nonetheless healing is not guaranteed – ever.  So, what do I offer this universe?  All that I have – that’s what.  I made a prayer that day- and this is the most important thing I have to share with those of you who seek healing – this was my prayer:

“Great Spirit, Please show me how to serve humanity – if I receive the grace of healing show me what you want me to do with my life – I offer everything, and please make it really clear”

to be continued…