Learn to Discern, Choose Love

“Love calls – everywhere and always.
We’re sky bound.
Are you coming?”

–Rumi

Learning to choose Love, is to me the most important aspect of life.  It’s an ongoing process – a spiral dance, a vision quest a grand education. And in the choosing lies the question – what exactly is this thing called love?  The English language is to me, woefully inadequate to describe Love.  Other languages have many words because there are many meanings and faces of love in its expression.  For now I’m speaking of the universal love that is the compelling energy of this world.  Romance can be delightful, but couple-love is by nature limited (only two allowed) and love with a capital “L” is unlimited, limitless and universal.

It’s not actually a choice, to love.  It is innate in us and to love we must retrain our minds to follow that track,  using our heart’s truest wisdom to guide the way.  We all have a built in tool for finding our way – it’s called our intuition.  Some call it “gut feeling”.  Our minds and deep conditioning can get in the way of this deep inner knowing and there are some big obstacles to deeper listening, but this capability exists in everyone, I’m sure of that.

During these days of the corona virus as the world has quieted, our activities are limited and we are essentially confined it is more important than ever to focus on deep inner listening. What is the feeling when we know ourselves to be acting in opposition to our own innate wisdom?  Where is it felt in the body? Noticing some physical discomfort is often a great starting point for finding the way.

Choosing love doesn’t mean allowing others to mistreat or take advantage of us.  In the face of anger or abuse there is an important need for self care.  Most times the best solution is to remove ourselves from harm’s way, verbal or physical.  The most successful strategy I have found is to use a kind of energetic aikido and relax into the truth that nothing other people say or do is really about us.  It is a reflection of their own inner state, their judgements which they believe to be true, and their conditioning and trauma.  Choosing love in intense situations can mean quietly exiting the arena of conflict, at best leaving a feeling of compassion behind.

Since we’re talking about compassion, it’s another term that calls for clarification.  Pema Chodron, a Buddhist wise woman calls certain behaviors “idiot compassion”.  She explains it this way:  “It refers to something we all do a lot of and call it compassion. In some ways, it’s what’s called enabling. It’s the general tendency to give people what they want because you can’t bear to see them suffering.”  This one is seen a lot with small children, whose parents give in to their tears and tantrums.  This doesn’t work out so well in the long run, as many adults attempt this same kind of emotional manipulation in adulthood- and it doesn’t usually work out very well on either side.

True compassion is felt in the heart.  It is warm and fuzzy and can also hold tinges of sadness for another’s suffering.  We can’t truly assuage the suffering of others, but by holding them in compassion and love we can lend emotional support which is in many ways one of the most valuable offerings we can make to each other.  These days we may be limited to reaching out by phone, and as hugging has become dangerous most of our connections are virtual, and yet that is opening a door to creativity.  How do I express my love in new ways…please let me know what you have discovered!

Circling back to the best way to be a helper in this time of confinement due to Covid-19, having compassion for ourselves and others, putting the others who are sharing our homes is at the top of the list.  Learning to deepen the ways we express our love to each other is essential and important.  Taking responsibility for our own hurtful behaviors can work wonders on our relationships and is truly the higher path.   Every time we notice ourselves veer off the path of love and compassion, healing happens and we can stand up, brush off and re-enter the realms of love and joy.  Welcome home!

 

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Kindness and Judgement

I know this: I can gently pet a kitten, smell a rose and embrace a favorite person with warmth in my heart.  It feels so good, a gentle purr, a sweet fragrance and that special something that communicates love between friends who hug – and yet – on a daily basis is there more to understanding what passes as kindness?

Ordinary kindnesses – epitomized by the young person helping an elder cross the street, or carrying a heavy bag for a tottering shopper, are encouraged in a universal attitude of understanding.  And yet, how can our kindnesses extend into every nook and cranny, every moment, every breath?  What is holding us back from letting the sweetness inside be expressed?

Sometimes a kindness requires a deeper vulnerability- a reaching in to a dusty heartspace, a symbolic inner cave of old toys, cherished but unused.  Imagine pulling them out, dusting them off and putting them to work to create a better day, a better connection and higher love.  What happens when I am a deliberate creator of kindness? A new brightness comes, a sweeter joy erupts together with more laughter.

I am surrounded by animal companions – they delight at a glance and explode into playfulness with the least provocation.  How can I emulate this – embody this – exult into this primal joy more and more often?  Is it adulthood that holds me back or a concept of maturity?  Is laughter often inappropriate?  I aim to always remember to see life as a playground, rather than an industrial assembly line of productivity and accomplishment.

A recent visitor showed extreme disapproval at my lifestyle.  Too many dogs, they said, too many books, bad feng shui.  My joy was temporarily dampened.  Am I getting it wrong about how to live and be myself?  Humpf!  I retrieved my eco-spray bottle of “Grouch-Be-Gone” and applied it liberally to all the surfaces in my sanctuary.  As the mood lightened I remembered that I love to play – to dance and to sing.  In tune or out, music is my delight, my happiness a true love.  Cultivating inner joy and playfulness will definitely bubble over and expand out into the world as kindness, contagious positivity and happiness…oh yes and I really love my dogs, my books and my eccentric furniture.  Having the confidence to make the choices my true heart is calling for, each day in each moment, large or small, has had the extraordinary effect of transforming my life into a living altar to joy and love.

It may not be completely authentic to live life as a musical production – but some of it can be – in fact the more of life that is filled with song (and dance and play) the happier we can be.  Remembering to skip and hop instead of plod is the work of my inner child.  The distilled essence of playfulness is my aim – in each moment as much as possible.

Joy is contagious – !

 

 

 

Honesty and forgiveness

I’ve been pondering the effect of dishonesty lately as a potential cause of unkind and even violent behavior.  Is it possible that when we do not speak truthfully that the ramifications are broader than we thought possible?  Besides the immediate results or by-products of telling a lie, or speaking untruthfully (same, same) what kind of ripple effect does that have on our unconscious mind?  What kinds of behaviors are triggered by this cognitive dissonance?  And how, after engaging in dishonest behavior can we set things right in our inner being?

It seems to be that awareness is the first and biggest step towards healing any of our painful personal issues.  It takes willingness and courage to face ourselves.  And yet, once acknowledged the benefits of self-reflection are great, and the saying “no pain, no gain” is true for inner work as much as for physical workouts.  When we first see the ways we don’t live up to our own highest wishes for ourselves it can be painful and cause us to feel ashamed .  And yet, the choice to hide from our own wounded and misaligned parts (also called the shadow) will inevitably cause more pain, and is not a long term solution, no matter how much our mind can trick us into thinking it is a good choice.  Addictions stem partly from the inability to face our shadow, and I would include the collective shadow as well.  Many of our so-called “coping mechanisms” arise from the fear of looking in the virtual mirror of our actions and thoughts.

Courage, dear friends, since the only way out is through. As with most fears, this fear of being inadequate, once faced, loses all its strength.  Instead of sapping our life force, truth increases it and we can align with our personal power.  To me, the meaning of personal power is this:  the ability to live from the authentic calling of our own being.  Being swayed to change so that we can fit in or keep another person happy are ways that we lose power, we disconnect from our being’s most genuine knowing.  Some would say (and I agree) that we disconnect from our soul.  This is not a place of power, but is a place of weakness.

Take heart, for courage is always available to us when we live in awareness.  The more carefully we listen to our “soul” the more we can step directly into a life of courage and integrity.  There are many ways to learn this – don’t take my word for it, this is verifiable by each one of us.  How does it feel to tell the truth?  How does it feel to tell a lie?  From that information, choose your path….Choose Love!

What are the best practices to engage deeply with our own psyche?  I have used what is called “insight meditation” as a tool for inner exploration.  It is simple in concept but takes commitment to reap the full rewards of this practice.  First, sit in a comfortable upright position – spine aligned, shoulders back and down, and close your eyes and begin to breathe deeply.  Once you’ve settled into this breath and feel comfortable and centered, then bring up the question that is calling for an answer.  Hold this question in your mind, if it slips away, gently bring it back to the forefront.  Using this technique I have experienced an effect like descending a rope into the inner chambers of my mind.  Down down down, into the places of unconsciousness lies the answer to the question, waiting silently to be discovered.  When it is reached, an epiphany can occur.

Be sure to come up out of this state with gentleness and self-kindness.  This is an important discovery that has just been made.  It calls for more reflection and contemplation in order to derive the most benefit.  It will be life-changing, of that I am certain.  It is well worth any time spent to unlock the secrets of your own soul.

Bless the journey!

Simplicity

Rosa 'Double Delight' surely every garden needs this rose, it is beautiful and especially fragrant...
Rosa ‘Double Delight’  – surely every garden needs this rose, it is beautiful and especially fragrant…

on my knees

hands in the earth

happiness sprouts

the cat rolls belly up

purring

playing with a blade of grass

the plants themselves

watch silently

thinking their plant thoughts

simple life

simple pleasures

on a sunny day…..

To Lyme Disease and back again –

It started at ground level (an apt metaphor, to start with a bang!).  I’d planted a daffodil bulb, my first ever.  When its blindingly bright bonnet of a blossom unfolded like an origami miracle, my life began. There was no turning back, the spell was cast!  I became  enchanted by plants.  I dreamed plants, breathed plants and spent every moment I had in the garden, in the nursery or reading whatever gardening book I could find.  I continued to toil in a career for which I was increasingly unsuited until I simply couldn’t do it anymore. I left a lucrative high-tech career for the simplicity of a rare plant nursery and minimum wage work.  Happiness!  Heaven! Each day the plants and I communed, learning each other’s language.  I spent my meager pay on plants and committed myself full time to a life of nurturing of living beings.

Fast forward – 15 years or so – when I purchased a rundown old farmhouse on 10 acres.  This place was my dream palette, and I began planting all my dreams in that Gold Ridge sandy loam soil.  I opened my own country nursery- Wayward Gardens – specializing in plants for hummingbirds and butterflies.  My days were spent in the sunshine, propagating, pricking out and potting up.  I was satisfied, fulfilled and on fire with passion.

And yet, some parts of me were held back.  I loved my work but other parts of my life weren’t so fulfilling- my marriage was on the rocks, my nephew/ward was troublesome and delinquent and my inner being was inconstant turmoil.  I knew there was something missing, a state of being that felt more contented and happy.  I didn’t know how to find it, or what to even begin looking for…

As usually happens in these kind of times, I overworked and became ill.  It was Lyme disease.  I suffered for two years – bedridden.  My doctors were the best, and the treatment was the worst.  I survived, somehow and began rebuilding my strength.

After about 6 months in bed, filled with self-pity and suffering I had a spontaneous vision.  It was a vision of all the suffering people on planet Earth.  I felt connected to them, I saw them – they were in hospital beds, or poor homes, and they had no hope.  I was in a nice home, with full support and yet still I saw I had joined the ranks of the truly suffering.  I was one of them.  This was my turning point.  I had a spiritual re-awakening and realized that healing is a gift, healing is grace, which is bestowed or not.  I also knew that there were ways I could participate in this healing – that I could make better choices in my life to facilitate easier healing.  I needed to pray, and to choose love.  Love for myself, love for others – and to choose gratitude and positive thoughts.  I also made a prayer – “If I receive healing, please show me how to serve”…I saw that offering my life into the service of humanity was the way to receive healing.  I said “Please make it really clear”, a prayer I often make, which does seem to help a lot in manifesting what is wanted or needed.

I spent more time in my healing process, but had more courage since my re-awakening.  I felt humble and thought I might end up in a wheelchair for life, or be seriously handicapped.  I felt OK with that, as long as I could find my service.

After about 6 more months of treatment, I decided I couldn’t endure the antibiotics any longer and the doctor and I decided it was time for me to quit them and see how I felt.  It turns out that the side effects of the antibiotics and the Lyme symptoms are somewhat similar – fatigue and digestive distress being at the top of the list.

Lo and behold I did not experience the Lyme symptoms anymore once I quit the antibiotics.  Hallelujah!  I could live life again, I would be gifted that!  I could still walk a bit (about 5 minutes) but devoted myself right away to walking down my beautiful country road every day until I could easily walk for an hour.  That took about a month, my body was eager to live again.

At this point my marriage had severely deteriorated.  My years of illness had taken quite a toll on our intimacy.  My husband was angry that I had been in bed for so long.  He didn’t like the direction my life took when I was healthy again.  I started helping a meditation teacher.  His work had helped me to a wonderful new place in my life, he said to me “there is so much love for you in this world, Leana”… and I knew I had to find out what that meant.  I knew I hadn’t truly felt love or loved.  I wanted this more than anything.  I trusted him and began helping him almost full time.  He invited me to move to Hawaii and start a community there with him.

I moved to Hawaii and began an intensive self-reflection and healing process.  I was experiencing love in ways I didn’t know existed.  My own emotional body was opening, facilitated by many things:  dolphin swims, Hawaii sunsets, fresh tropical fruit and intensive meditation.  I also used herbal medicines and teas.

One day I sat in front of my computer to write in my journal.  Intense personal transformation seems to call for journalling – since it is a good way to be able to reflect back on one’s progress, and as an aid to compassion for others.  This way we can remind ourselves of the places we have come from.  The stages of heart opening are similar for many of us, it seems.

The stages are something like this, from my experience:

1.  The Realization that something isn’t right

2.   The search for the truth

3.  First encounter with higher truth

4.  The “washing machine” of transformation, which may takes days, months or years during which time life as we know it vanishes and staying present and grounded is a big challenge.  This is a very difficult time, we need a lot of support during this time.

5. The comfort zone – which continues to expand and contract with presence and lack of presence.

6.  Samadhi – the promised land!  (I’m not here yet but do feel it from time to time)

 

bless you all – stay on the path, every moment you give to the Great Work of awakening is worthwhile.  Just remember “Choose Love” and all will be ok.