Love and Devastation

When a love relationship turns to hate, or dislike or disharmony – what is that about?  This is one of the most troubling, painful and challenging situations in life for me.  I imagine it is the same for others.  One of my spiritual mentors said it this way: “In order to love you must be willing to face the devastation”.  A Buddhist friend and I were pondering this turn of events and he relates it to the idea that in the light there is also the dark, in happiness there is sorrow – it is the yin/yang truth of life.  Absolute duality.  In the emotional realm it makes sense that once again the idea of attachment and aversion is where the suffering lies.  Attached to “good” feelings and afraid of “bad” feelings – there is also an unconscious awareness of the pain embedded in the pleasure.  True freedom is acceptance, but that is not a Pollyanna-ish idea.  Acceptance includes everything.  Leave anything out and it is not acceptance.

These spiritual “basics” are bandied about frequently in my world.  The basics don’t change but my relationship to them and understanding of them does continue to deepen and expand.  Contemplation and experience, rinse and repeat.  The cycle becomes a spiral…unwinding towards understanding, and then acceptance.

There was a time when I mourned my lover’s death while he was alive.  Deeply entwined in a long term relationship I feared its ending – and sometimes felt I should leave before he left me or died.  I imagine this is not an uncommon way to react to intimacy and love.  If I push it away then i can save myself from the pain of loss.  Well – that is a losing game!  It is not win-win, it is lose-lose.  Perhaps it is easier to avoid intimacy and love altogether, and so avoid the pain of loss.  Pondering that it is easy to see that life then collapses into pain, loneliness and depression.  There is no the easy way out.

So, what is the way out?  My experience is this – the way out is through.  Through the pain, through the difficult emotions, through the grief and through the loss.  Remembering all those I have loved and lost, the grief remains but the love, wow, the love was so good.  My life was so enriched by the loss, by the love and continues to be enriched with the memories.  Happy, happy memories.  Ironically it seems that happiness is easier to remember than pain.  Is that true for you, too?

Emotions are tricky turf.  Our coping mechanisms and addictions seem to be born from the desire and need to suppress what we are afraid to feel.  The British culture was molded from the idea of “stiff upper lip” which is shorthand for “show no emotion”.  What happens to feelings that want to be felt but aren’t?  Where do they go?  One theory is that they turn into themselves and cause disease (dis-ease, duh). I see the possibility here.  The psychiatric diseases are clearly seen as suppressed emotion and energy.

How, then do we feel emotions?  It takes so much courage to let the painful feelings be felt and pass through.  The more deeply and completely they are felt, the more quickly they pass through, at least that’s true for me.  I consider this process to be the sacred fire, as the allowing of intense emotion seems to burn something – and there is a purification that completes when a feeling is fully felt.

A wise person once said to me “Every feeling fully felt leads to love”.  I have experienced the truth of this – the complete and utter bliss that lies on the other side of grief.  The Tibetan Buddhists belief is that we have the possibility to attain a “rainbow body” – and the process of burning off all that is not true, all this is not love, leads to this illumined state.  Bring it on!

 

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.

 

 

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!