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!

 

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!

Living in the Light of Love

These are beautiful words – but what exactly do they mean?  What is “the light” and how do we live “in the light”?  Good question!  Oftentimes we can understand a concept by first looking at its opposite.  In this case, it’s darkness.  Darkness is associated with evil, with underground, with hate…it is the yang to the yin of light.  What happens when we shed light in the darkness?  It is easier to see the road, the path, the way.  It is easier to understand the effects of our actions.  It is less scary and more friendly.

Light, then is the opposite of dark.  It is love, kindness, warmth, daytime and clear seeing.  Love is spiritual light.  It illuminates the darkness by showing us the path to walk.  How do we love?  Most of the ancient religions have codified a system that gives us this answer.  Yes, it seems obvious to many that most religions today have lost their way (in the dark?) but their teachings are truthful.  Buddhism has a clear system of guidelines – the 8 fold path which includes right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right samadhi.  That pretty much covers it all.  The 8 limbs of Yoga include the same concepts – non-harming, and more.  These guidelines do leave many actions open to interpretation, but from a clear perspective give us all the information we need to live in the light of love.

How can we use our positive intentions to be more loving beings? How can love guide our words and actions – all day every day.  What is the touchstone for love?  Our heart, which carries the wisdom of the ages can guide the way once we learn how to listen.  This is one of the important results of meditation.  By sitting quietly and centering our mind we can more easily hear our heart’s wisdom.  Through mindful breath (called pranayama in yoga) we learn to silence the mind’s chatter, or to at least turn down the volume on its opinions and reactions.  In this way we can sort through our thoughts to find the ones that will guide us to our desired outcomes.

One teacher reminds us to ask this question:  is it kind? if not, perhaps it is not the correct path…facing our own inner demons and releasing part of our personality that have been instrumental in creating problems for us is a big step, but one well worth taking.  Slowing down our response time is helpful, taking deep breaths at a time of stress, calming our “fight or flight” pattern will guarantee a better outcome in most situations.  Reacting from a place of fear generates adrenaline.  Adrenaline is useful in times of true attack, we can find almost superhuman power in our bodies at such times but at other times, this response can cause more harm than good.  Mindfulness is the key word here, learning to distinguish real from imagined threats to our safety and well being is a big step into the “light”.

A considered response is creative, is purposeful and can lead us to a desired outcome.  A reactive response is the opposite.  How do we become responsible people?  The answers are always available to us and the key is in quieting our mind enough to be able to hear its wisdom.  From here we can truly live “in the light of love”.  The reference to “inner light” is all about tapping into the truth within.  A chaotic mind will cause a chaotic life, if it is allowed to run our lives.  We can live like three year olds (tantrum, anyone?) and yes there are some wonderful aspects of childhood that we want to preserve, but true adulthood has more capacity for responsibility and presence.  Who’s running the show, our inner three year old or our seasoned adult.  Making conscious choices feels good, to ourselves and others.