Thursday, February 25, 2010

Going In Deep

I am learning about different layers and depths of understanding of certain concepts. Just when you think you know what “being present” is all about, you have an experience that shows you another facet, another layer of what it might mean. Today, I’d like to re-examine the concept of being present outside of the context of time. Being present is about the now moment and letting go of the past and the future. This implies the linear concept of time. Some of us can do this especially during meditation for example. However, what if something is bugging us now? This is again demonstrated in the practice of meditation when you suddenly notice discomfort in a limb, an itch, or a bug bite, etc. and get annoyed and distracted. From what I have learned and heard from those on the path of enlightenment, the only way to handle that is to notice it and allow it. In other words, breathe in the annoyance, pain, or itch. Don’t fight it and don’t try to ignore it. This takes being present to a deeper place where it is not about time, but about acceptance of what is or allowing of whatever is happening.

The same holds true of patience. I write a lot about patience, because it is something I struggle with. I have this crazy notion that things have to happen according to my schedule and by my rules. Now, I have given up a lot of this in my outer life. It’s only in my internal dialogues that I find myself still struggling with patience. What has helped me is realizing how much I am not accepting what is when I am being impatient. That helps me shift my attention to the true beauty of this now moment that is happening. Take today for example, it is snowing (again) and schools are closed which means that my kids are home and I won’t be able to get a lot of creative work done. To make matters even worse, they are predicting snow into tomorrow which means that they will be home tomorrow too and that will take us into the weekend and I won’t be able to do the things I like to do and I need to do until Monday (if it does not snow then). The next two days are about shoveling, cleaning up after sloppy, muddy messy trails on the floors (or not), taking the dog out and begging and hoping that he does what he needs to do in the snow, etc. In other words, the next two days are about feeling into that itch or bug bite when you really want to feel the bliss of meditation. The next two days are about taking my outer understanding of patience, acceptance, and being present and putting it in high gear. The next two days are about being enlightened while living an ordinary human life, finding peace in the non-peaceful moments, quiet in the noise, etc. Can I allow my plans to wait? Can I just focus on what is happening now regardless of how disrupting it is to my peace? Can I replace judgment and frustration with true acceptance? Stay tuned to find out how I did or didn’t evolve from my deep experience!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Peacefully Imperfect

In my line of work, I hear a lot about life’s imperfections as told by those who live them and somehow have found their way to my doorstep. In fact, it is because of some of these imperfections that they seek my service. Yesterday I heard about yet another bleak diagnosis that shouldn’t have been and as used to it as I get, it still sits uncomfortably with me. Why do life’s imperfections still surprise us or worse yet, defeat us?

I have to think back to when we bought into this belief that life has to be perfect. As a little girl for me it started in the fairy tales of the princess and the prince who are reunited despite the plots and plans of evil doers and/or destiny in their stories and always live happily ever after. In my own personal story, the desire to live an empowered life and have a better quality of life than the girls I grew up with pushed me to seek the perfect life. It was partly youth, partly conviction, partly the belief in the stories, and partly a sense of responsibility that I owed it to those who couldn’t, that seduced me into believing that the perfect life was out there for me to seek and own.

Back then, I was thirsty for perfection. Today, I know better. I see people in their 30s or well into their 40s who are suffering because of this belief that they must be doing something wrong if they are not married to their soul mate, have 2.3 perfect kids, a perfect house, a perfect career, a perfectly toned body, and perfect friends who live similar lives. The economic downfall is placing all kinds of pressures and the imperfections are oozing from the cracks of their misperceptions and they are either angry or depressed. It is as if a promise has been broken. Some feel it when they are diagnosed with cancer, some when they lose their jobs, or marriages, and some when something “bad” happens to their loved ones. No matter how it shows up, it can be described as a sense of disillusionment with how they believed things would turn out.

As a life coach, I think that my profession may have contributed to this illusion. Some coaches claim to help people live a better life, but I am of the belief that the client is already living the life they have chosen. The main issue is taking responsibility and accepting their own disillusions. No matter how many goals they set, it won’t take away their fears of illness, or failure. The source of the problem is not underachieving humans who don’t know how to organize themselves. The source of the problem lies in the belief that because they have been an over achiever in all areas of their life, they should have it better than this.
Philip Simmons (1) writes in his beautiful essay, In Praise of the Imperfect Life: “It was the ant that returned me to the world, that called me to another way of worship, the way of all things ordinary and small, the way of all that is imperfect, the way of stubbornness and error, the way of all that is transitory and comes to grief.” Somehow in the process of growing up, we forgot that we are humans living mortal lives in fragile bodies. We were inspired to become super human. No one told us the cost of that.

Today, when someone tells me, “I just want peace”, I have to ask them, “what are you willing to let go of?”. I am not sure they quite understand the depth of what they might have to give up or allow. Peace does not come at our command. It is always there invisible to us because we are too busy and/or anesthetized in our pursuit of the perfect life. Once again, as Philip Simmons has said: “The imperfect is our paradise. Let us pray, then, that we do not shun the struggle. May we attend with mindfulness, generosity, and compassion to all that is broken in our lives. May we live fully in each flawed and too human moment, and thereby gain the victory.”

(1) Learning To Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life. Philip Simmons. Bantam Books, 2002.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Decisions In Duality

Peter didn’t like making decisions. He didn’t make big decisions and he didn’t make small decisions either. Not making decisions was making a decision, and he didn’t know that. He waited for someone else, a situation outside of his control to make the decisions for him. He reacted to them and not usually in a positive way. If it was someone else who made the decision, he waited for signs of failure and then blamed the person who had ended up making the decision for them or for him. He blamed his wife for making the vacation plans if it ended up raining on the island they went to. And sometimes if nothing bad happened, he would wait for something bad to happen, so he was miserable the whole time as he waited. Peter was addicted to being unhappy and this fed into his inability or refusal to make active decisions. I don’t want to get into analyzing why and how Peter got to be this way. I do want to use Peter as an example of why and how any one of us can learn to be afraid of making active decisions.

Perhaps one day you made a decision that you considered later on to be a wrong decision. Perhaps, that choice ended up hurting you or the ones close to you. Now you could either learn something from having made that choice or you could blame yourself and punish yourself by refusing to engage in life, i.e., making new choices and moving beyond it. Now place all of this in the consciousness of duality and you have fireworks. Duality feeds into the concepts of right and wrong. Peter in duality is a lost cause because now he keeps on feeding into the wrong decision he once made. To make matters worse, and in keeping up with the nature of duality, he now blames others for the decision and collisions are bound to happen. Peter being incredibly stubborn and fixed in the way he looks at the world, keeps on keeping that fire alive by feeding it fear, judgment, and punishment.

Peter has a difficult time accepting and adapting to new consciousness. Peter has chained and imprisoned himself in the bowels of duality where there is a tit for every tat and he uses logic and brain power to maneuver himself in the maze he can’t get out of. The only way to begin to help Peter find his way out, is by finding a moment where his heart is open and he is not intoxicated with his thoughts. From that place and in the safety of that moment, Peter may be able to take a walk out of his prison and feel the possibility of a world without opposites. If you are somehow imprisoned by your thoughts, fears, expectations, judgments, etc. regarding a decision you’d like to make, step out of that prison for a bit. Take a deep breath and gently step out to a new vista, look at the big picture from the point of view of a spectator, and from that place make the decision. Don’t look back. Allow the possibility that it doesn’t have to make sense to you or to anybody else to be an acceptable reality. Allow room for uncertainty and with practice it might even become something to look forward to. New consciousness does not have an opposite. New consciousness does not punish, judge, push or effort. New consciousness is about inclusion and allowing. How often do we include and allow? To that extent we are open to new consciousness. It is easier to include and allow if we drop our concepts of right vs. wrong. So, don’t worry about making a mistake, open your heart, take a deep breath and go for it! You just might be able to step out of duality.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

What's Weighing You Down?

Where I live, winter is not ready to be done. Another big snow storm is on its way to top off what is already coating the ground and people are getting grumpy about the cold. I don’t mind the snow and the cold, I just get tired of all the layers we have to put on to leave the house and then take off when we come in. It’s the boots and the socks and the gloves and the scarves that weigh me down and wear me out. The hint of spring is an exciting time, you can leave the house with a light jacket and perhaps even wear sandals on your feet. You feel lighter and more like yourself with nothing to hide or cover up.

The beauty of living where there are 4 seasons, is that as soon as you get tired of one, the other one will be here. There is a time for shedding and a time for layering. And so it is in life. We all carry too much weight from time to time and need to let go of those heavy weights. Some are easier to let go of and some stay with you despite your longing for them to be gone. Being busy and going about the business of the day over time prevents you from noticing what’s weighing you down. Soon, you don’t even recognize what they are or that you have a choice to let them go. We all can create spring in the middle of winter easily, but we do not recognize that ability in us.

What are the things that weigh you down? I’ve come up with 4 categories that those pesky weights fit into: pain, blame, shame, and guilt. All categories involve at least one other person. They all have to do with something big that happened some time ago. The fresh wounds are easy to recall. It’s always the old ones that are somehow more powerful and knock you down when you least expect them to. And it is usually when you are embarking in a new relationship or endeavor that you find yourself weighed down and unable to move in a new desired direction. The old issues sneak up and weigh you down so even the new feels like old and soon you give up because everything looks just like another shade of gray.

Sometimes you feel nothing and might think that there is nothing you can think of that is weighing you down. However, when you are asked, do you feel light? Do you feel like yourself? The answer is no. Feeling numb is a consequence of shoving down your pain, blame, shame, or guilt. Over time, it feels like nothing. It’s almost like body weight. If you’ve gained weight over time, you don’t notice it in your body but after you lose all of it, you feel lighter, healthier, more energized, etc. So, don’t be fooled by the numbness, it is not a good thing!

Once you have identified the pain, blame, shame, or guilt, just let it go. Sometimes, the simple process of recognition, does the releasing and sometimes, you have to give it a gentle shove. Sometimes you have to revisit the issue, because the release was not complete. If you are ready to bring spring in, simply stay aware of what’s going on. Feel the pain, blame, shame, or guilt if it comes up and then simply say good bye and consciously let it go. Don’t worry, it won’t pollute the earth or take over someone else. Like a freshly blown up balloon that is deflated, it just goes back to its original shape and is soon forgotten. Keep at it, and your extra weight will go down so you can feel your healthy and natural self. You will start feeling you, and not all the stuff around you. Here’s to bringing in spring in the middle of winter!