Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dancing with My Sister's Questions

Today I had a great conversation with a friend, and it seems that we have been sitting with some similar questions recently. In her own blog, she posted the following questions:

  • Does the overlap between new theories of quantum science and ancient metaphysical and shamanic principles lead you to a perspective focused on personal desires, intention and goals, and/or to a mystical experience of awe, wonder, relatedness?
  • What point on the spectrum of and/or resonates as a personal place of balance?
  • What is the impact of that point on personal consciousness and action? On others, human and nonhuman? On the planet?
  • How does this experience shape personal choices regarding responsibility and action?

I am not terribly well informed in the world of quantum science. My primary exposure to this was through the film "What the Bleep" when it came out, and I must have watched it about 20 times in all. I also once went to a lecture with quantum scientist Amit Goswami, and it was truly wonderful - though I believe that he is considered "way out there" by much of the school of quantum physics. What little I have read in his books is certainly fascinating, and resonates with a knowing that is deep within me. While my own depth of understanding in the field of quantum theory is certainly limited, I have a cursory understanding, which is probably just enough to understand the question and to begin to play with it.

I think I understand the question to be one of personal focus. As modern theoretical sciences have begun to uncover information that seems to resonate with ancient truths found in metaphysical traditions - shamanic traditions in particular - does the individual to whom these ideas are revealed experience an intensification in wanting to fulfill personal desires, intention and goals, or does the person experience an intensification of the mystical experience of awe, wonder, and relatedness, or some blending of the two? It also seems that my friend is suggesting that a blending is essential, only natural, and that makes sense to me.

Let's say that I have uncovered one of the most mysterious secrets of all: I have the power to affect my reality through my mind, my intentions, and my beliefs. This is certainly the most heavily marketed of the ideas I recall from "What the Bleep." So, if my mind affects my reality, then I damn well better get it in check so that I can magically manifest the life I've always dreamed about... This has been a popular conversation topic among the new age community for years. How can I get the angels, totem spirits, energy particles, thought waves, universal energy (insert your favorite here...) to favor me, to give me what I want, what I need, what I deserve. The cult favorite film, "The Secret," was about exactly this. And true, in my reading about Peruvian shamanism, there are certain rituals that one must do in order to affect the inflow of good fortune into one's life - whether making a despacho offering, or pouring out some of one's beer onto Pachamama in gratitude, or some more complex ritual. And indeed, we all have needs and desires, and it is only natural to want to have those needs and desires fulfilled. One thing that crosses my mind, though, is this - ancient Earth-centered spiritual traditions were making rituals to Spirit in order to pray for these needs to be met, often hoping to fortify the survival of the people in a most rudimentary way. Please bless our family, our baby, our crops, please bring good weather, please help us to buy a new bull so that we can plow the field more easily. And what crosses my mind when I think of the new age tradition of manifesting is that the whole notion of please bless has been dropped. Instead, people tend to hold so tightly to the belief that through their own mind and intentions they can manifest anything, and that there is no need to pray, to seek connection with Spirit. In fact, it often seems that prayer has been dropped altogether as people practice manifestation: I am the master of my destiny. I am abundant, I am driving a new Lexus, and my bank account has six figures in it. As we have moved further and further away from feeling the sharp edge of survival, and deeper and deeper into an existence that is easily explained and controlled by science, the need for prayer has shifted. And too, the attitude of humans has shifted a great deal. When you're praying to God that your family may survive the year, there is an essential quality of humility - you are truly in the hands of God to keep you alive and well. But when you trust science to fix things when they go wrong instead, and when your essential trust is in the human mind, you no longer need to rely upon an imaginary power to keep you safe and alive and well. Science will cure it, science will fix it, science will control it. God is no longer necessary, and prayer is absurd. Hence, as I see it, the huge upsurge in atheism in the world right now. But what is still sitting there beneath the surface is that we're still here on this planet for reasons we can't comprehend, we have no idea how we got here, no idea how long we will stay, and no essential understanding of what the whole thing is about.

Science and modernity have brought a lot of really great things into existence. I am grateful for being able to take a hot bath, for having an ipod filled with amazing music, for the flute that I play, for having been blessed with the opportunity to fly to amazing places across four continents. I am glad that if I break my leg, I can have it taken care of in a hospital and I will probably heal completely. I am grateful that I have access to an abundance of food and water, that my home is warm in the winter, and that I can sit here and write on this computer, or at the very least, on paper with a pen in a lovely color. I am glad that we have ways to manage our waste so that plague and other diseases borne of poor sanitation do not cause great harm in my life. I love that I have fingernail clippers that keep my nails nice and smooth, because it might make me crazy if I had jagged, pointy fingertips. Really, there are so many things that I appreciate in this modern world, and at the same time, I feel the deep need to acknowledge that much of what we have created is wasteful, extravagant, foolish, and extremely harmful to the ecosystem that is this planet. A planet previously revered as Mother, Pachamama.

Once, I was talking to my friend Gray in Peru. He had been living there managing a guesthouse for a couple years, and had walked by the Urubamba River every day, watching and connecting with the people there. Along the riverbank, the men were hanging out, and strewn all around was garbage. He noticed that they had thrown more down, and he approached them to talk. He asked them why they were throwing their garbage on the riverbank - garbage that was plastic. The men, illiterate farmers who probably lived in simple homes with very little in the way of modern amenities, men whose first language was Quechua, and were likely to be struggling to communicate in Spanish as much as Gray was. Their answer? The river will wash it away. Now, it's easy to get angry at such ignorance. After all, the plastic garbage will simply end up on another riverbank somewhere further along. But in a culture that is not yet accustomed to plastics and other materials that simply do not return to nature in the course of even several natural lifetimes, this is difficult to explain. When these farmers throw things onto the riverbank, they were still connected to the thought that whatever the Earth provides, she will take back. And in the world of food scraps, bones, plant matter, and the like, this is essentially true. It's difficult to explain to an old farmer that we humans have created this plastic substance, which is cheap to produce, and is considered absolutely disposable, even though it will persist in the ecosystem for more than two hundred years. Plastic, the brain child of a culture addicted to fast, cheap, and easy - a far cry from a culture that still plows its fields with the power of bulls, while barefoot men guide the wooden plow from behind. A far cry from a culture that refuses to mechanically thresh its wheat because that would cause damage to the individual grains.

I realize at this point that I have gotten a bit off course from the original question, though in a direction I find valuable and absolutely worthy of consideration. One thing I want to revisit is the flip side of the coin I began with: I have the power to affect my reality through my mind, my intentions, and my beliefs. When focused on self interest, this power can cause great harm. If I only consider my own needs, my own desires, my own wishes, and forget that my own life touches every other one in the process, then I will make foolish choices, and my power will invariably cause harm. But when I realize every choice I make to fulfill my needs, desires, and wishes affects the whole, and that with great power comes the need for great responsibility, everything shifts. Power without wisdom is the game of fools.

What would balance look like? If I were to combine the wisdom of ancient traditions - traditions that honor the mystery of life and Spirit, that humbly bow in reverence to the Earth, and live in true interdependence with all of life - with the discoveries of science - that we can create ways of living that offer greater security, heath, and ease in our daily lives? I believe that is the direction in which human civilization is headed, though it seems to be moving slowly.

The advances of post-industrial human civilization are not going anywhere, in spite of my greatest fantasies. So, it is my sincere hope that the human species learns, collectively, that we are by no means the most important species, nor the creator of this world. Indeed, in the last hundred years, we have become its destroyer. We carry the seed of God within us, and indeed, we do have the incredible power of consciousness and the ability to affect our reality through our thoughts and intentions. But we are merely carriers of that seed, and we remain here, alive in this great mystery! When the experience of power and control meets unwise, immature minds, great foolishness is the result - it's like a small child realizing that it has the power to pull the legs off a daddy-long-legs spider (which I definitely did as a child, to my great horror now). When we realize that we are blessed with the seed of Divine power within us, we must become wise carriers of that power, and make choices that are in alignment with the truth that we humans are merely one small part of the great interdependent web of life.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fallen and Lost

Yesterday, I took a sub teaching job at a high school in Columbia, a dance class. What unfolded was the day from hell. I got to the school and realized that the teacher I was working for had neglected to tell me which space was hers for parking, and spent 10 minutes driving in circles until I found another teacher who could point me in a direction to an empty space. By that time, I was late arriving in the building, and classes were going to start in 5 minutes. I checked in with the office, and was handed a piece of paper telling me where to go, and then when I asked where the classroom was located, the woman brushed me off with an irritated, "down the hallway over there" and I headed out. I walked "down the hallway over there" and found no dance studio at all, but ended up locked in a corridor and unable to get out. I banged and banged on the door, bruising and cutting my hand, finally getting someone to let me out. This teacher led me to the proper classroom, and I walked into a room full of bitchy 15 year old girls with attitude seeping out of their pores.

Plans? Nope. This teacher didn't leave a single note for what I was supposed to do. I called the office once, then again, asking for them to find some kind of plans. They didn't. Finally, when a particularly bitchy foursome put on their ipod and proceeded to blast gangsta rap, I went over and told them to kill it. They were nasty, and probably deserving of a good ass-kicking, but I just walked away. I finally was told by the office to put on a video...which one, they had no suggestion. I found something and put it on. The bitchy girls continued to be bitchy, and loud, and then proceeded to direct their bitchiness at me. I went to them and told them they were too loud and that they were being rude, and that if they felt the need to continue, I would happily have them removed. They continued, and I put another call into the office to have them removed. At that point, the office decided they needed me in another classroom. I happily took the switch.

Math class. I did have a couple free class periods, which is rare at this school. They tend to really use sub teachers for all they can, with little appreciation. Finally the fourth period class arrived, and I was only one of three teachers in the room. The other two took care of things, while I sat back and pretty much helped with discipline. This was a class full of kids who were barely passing Algebra, and some felt the need to share with the whole room that they were, in fact, failing the class. I have rarely been in a classroom like that, full of students who are so rude and disrespectful that they will outright disrespect teachers to their faces, shouting and making threats, using obscene language at top volume, and generally refusing to participate in the class. It was like being in a circus, or a zoo. And in spite of my usual intentions to find the ways that kids are not being served and respected, all I could think about was how this class of students was a joke, and how unevolved they were. They were, for the most part, just not very smart, and it is a huge dicouragement to me when I consider that these are the "average" kids in one of the best school systems in the country. If this is "average" then there are a large majority of kids in this country with this kind of point of view. They don't want to learn, they just want to play with their electronic devices and feel like they are entitled to certain things - entertainment, respect, and no responsibility for themselves. It made me angry, and hopeless. There was no spark evident in most of these kids - no spark to learn, to fulfill their potential, to contribute something of themselves to the world. Just to get what they want, and if they don't, they'll pitch a fit.

I was slated to leave the school before the last class of the day, but the office called me at the last possible moment - the end of the previous class, after the bell - to tell me they needed me in another class to cover. They gave me a room number. When I asked who it was, and what class, I was told they had too much going on to answer those questions, to just go there. I was once more put off by the disrespectful, demanding attitude of the people who run this school. Part of me definitely wanted to go to the principal of the school and tell them my experiences there. But the other part of me said "fuck it." I can simply refuse to go there.

I left the school feeling edgy, aggressive, and pissed off. I had a huge headache. I was hoping that getting my hair cut would help with the day, and then had planned to go to DC to meditate. I ended up having an impromptu afternoon coffee date with a friend, which was a blessing, for sure, and then went off to have my hair cut. Which was also a major disappointment. The haircut was adequate, but not good - especially for the cost, and set off a whole new level of sadness, since my amazing stylist of many years died suddenly back in the winter. I left in tears, feeling crushed by the day. I didn't go to DC, I just didn't have the energy for anything more. I spent the evening in tears, wondering why I even bother to try to do anything at all.

I am still sitting with that. Why fucking bother is the question in my mind right now. Why bother going to get my hair cut and paying a lot of money for it when what I get is mediocrity. I could have gone to the Hair Cuttery, or just dreadlock my hair and not even think about it at all. Why should I bother to go into schools with an attitude of compassion and listening and wanting to contribute when I am faced with bitchy, entitled attitudes of children who don't have any desire to grow beyond their childish demands. Why should I bother making any contribution at all to a culture that is shallow and immature, that seeks entertainment and the most fancy, shiny new device, seeking happiness in material garbage? Let the fucking culture die a poisonous death. I don't care. I won't feed it, support it, help it along, or contribute to it in any way. Let it rot.

Which leaves me feeling lost and confused and full of sadness. I feel like a fish out of water. Sure, the water is poisoned, and I don't want to be in it. And now, I'm mostly not in it. But where am I? And what do I do now? I am not at all regretful of my path. I know who I am, I know what really matters in life, and I know that I want to cultivate my life from those points of view. But how do I do it if I feel like I am doing it alone? I don't have the energy for it. Not to swim upstream in the very poisoned water I have made such effort to pull myself out of. I don't have any answers at this point. I feel lost.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Honoring My Heart

Today I feel like my heart has been dropped on the floor and kicked around a bit, and like my guts have been scooped out. I feel betrayed by someone who is very close to my heart, someone who is beloved to me. Someone who has asked more of me than I am able and willing to give, and who at last has shown their true colors - clearly letting me know that my boundaries are something that they cannot honor, that their needs are more important than mine. While I see that this is not at all born of malicious intent, it has become a persistent issue in our friendship, and has finally cast a crushing blow. And the truth of that is staring me in the face, unwavering. It would take more to heal this situation than I believe this person is capable of at this time. And I feel a tremendous loss. Just a week ago I told this person, "I hope that you will always be in my life."

But having someone in my life when they can't respect my needs and boundaries is not okay. Having someone in my life who questions those needs and boundaries for their own selfish reasons is not okay. When someone I love very much questions my needs and boundaries for the sake of trying to get their own needs met, I am called to question the real motivation of this person's desire to be in my life. In their point of view, I hear this: "if you truly value me and love me, you will sit aside your boundary and make me happy by fulfilling my need." In NVC language, this becomes a demand when there is no room for "no, that's not possible." And to me, when someone who claims to value my friendship deeply, it would only be natural that that person wouldn't want me to betray myself and my own needs in order to fulfill theirs. For me, I would never ask someone I deeply care about to violate their own boundaries for my sake. I would do my best, in fact, to make sure I didn't violate those boundaries because they clearly serve the person I care about. To me, that is love.

And here I am, knowing that I have done the right thing in upholding my needs, restating my boundary, and honoring myself. There have been so many times in my life when I let my own boundaries and needs go in order to be the very thing that someone else wants. I have done this out of the desire to please others, and I have done this out of lack of self-love and self-respect, believing that my own needs didn't count as much as the needs of others. After all, I do want so very much to be liked and accepted. I want to be dear to people, I want to be loved.

In the past, though, "I want to be loved" meant that I would do a lot in order to receive that. I was able to dissociate from my own feelings and body in order to just go with the flow, to live easy-breezy, to not ask too much from other people, because if I did ask too much, they would leave me standing there, alone and unaccepted. I felt so much lack of acceptance as a kid and a teenager, and as I became an adult, I wanted to do the exact opposite. Whatever would make me lovable and acceptable and valued to others is what I wanted to do and be. But in the years since my spiritual practice took serious root, I have had to face this part of myself again and again. This part of me is rooted in fear - fear that I'm not worth much, that my needs don't matter, that I'm not of value on my own, that I must do and be something in order to be accepted by others. And in the last year, I have spent a hell of a lot of time disengaging from these beliefs. They are lies. Absolute lies.

Being authentic and true to myself are the very essence of my path. Living from the pure voice of my heart is the ground of my being. I still fail plenty at these things, but I am now firmly rooted in the practice of returning to them as I return to the breath in meditation. I am who I am. I am an amazing woman, a beautiful woman, a woman with many gifts and a lot of love to share. I am a nurturer and a caretaker who gives freely of her time and energy to those in her life who she cares about. I am a powerful, passionate, and creative soul, and my heart extends to a family as large as my scope of feeling and vision can extend. I see God in everything, and see beyond the illusions of personality and worldliness a great deal of the time. I see the best in people, their purest essence, and love that - even when people aren't living from that place. I love myself so much that I absolutely refuse to betray myself or lie to myself or bring harm to myself ever again, so long as I can help it. If this means that I will spend the rest of my life alone, friendless, loveless, abandoned by everyone but God, then so be it. But I don't actually believe that's going to be the case for a minute, either.

So today, I mourn. I mourn what has been a beautiful friendship in my life, one that is deeply damaged now. I feel sorrow, knowing that I have honored my own deepest needs in this situation ... it may mean that by trusting and loving myself this much I may lose this person in my life. If that is the case, I have to trust life, and know that it was meant to be this way.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cleaning out my Life

It's a beautiful afternoon, and I'm sitting on my porch. I spent a few hours today hanging out at the Catonsville Farmers' Market with my friend, and we shared some really great conversations. It's a blessing to know that I'm not alone in going through some things, thinking some things, feeling some things, and right now, this friend seems to be on the same page with me a lot of the time. She is a beloved sister to me, and I am glad to have her in my life.

Since Friday afternoon, I have been filled with anger, rage, and frustration. I feel it in my body, a fire that is ready to unleash itself on anyone who pushes things. I feel it in my mind, showing up as rigid intolerance, utterly unforgiving, wielding a sharp sword of clarity and ferocity. I feel it in my heart, in my heart's unwillingness to stay open and soft, in a mode of protection that is unwilling to risk something so precious as my sincere true lovingness in the face of so much that isn't deserving. My heart is a sacred jewel, and must be earned, and my mind and body are poised like a wild animal, or a legion of warriors, ready to attack at a moment's notice when someone unworthy dares to cross the line. I dare them to try. They will be ripped to shreds, struck by lightning, and speared by a thousand sharp swords in seconds.

I am a woman who has committed herself to nonviolence and self-awareness, to living in heart-centered ways, and to embracing tolerance, understanding, and love in all that I do. And, that said, right now I am feeling like my peaceful, loving, accepting, and open nature has offered my heart up freely to people who may not be prepared to truly love and honor it. And I'm pissed about that. Pissed at those who I have let into my life who are not evolved and aware enough to receive the precious gift of my love, who are too clumsy and self-interested to truly honor my place in their lives. And pissed at myself for being so naive and trusting, believing that I am impervious to this kind of suffering, just because I have spent so many years forging a deep, committed spiritual path, and because I've spent so much time facing and working through my own deep issues. Right now, I feel like curling up into a cocoon, holding myself tight with all the love I have, and pulling a cloak of spikes around that cocoon, to puncture anyone who dares come too close without careful invitation.

I am a tolerant woman, full of understanding. I have sought to understand where all people are coming from in their feelings and choices. I have studied Nonviolent Communication to help with that process, both with understanding others and myself. I have cultivated the practice of slowing down, trying to observe what is happening with some degree of objectivity, and then checking in with the feelings and needs for myself and whoever else might be involved in a given scenario. My heart longs for every relationship that I find myself in - whether it is with friends, family, colleagues, or a lover/partner - to be rooted in this kind of communication. And, that said, the truth is that many people just don't want to show up that much. They don't have the time or interest to go into that kind of process of self-exploration, or to share a process of exploration together. They're too busy, or too afraid to face something so real, or too wrapped up in their own situation to bother. And I find myself full of longing - longing for more intimate connection with people who just aren't capable of offering that. And I must be a fool, because my loving heart keeps making the space for them, and expecting things to shift.

Today, I feel inclined to begin a major purge of the people in my life. I don't know that I'll actually follow through with doing it quite yet, because I love who I love, and don't particularly enjoy feeling lonely. But what I am feeling is that if there are people in my life who truly make me feel loved and appreciated, who make time for me, and who are excited about being around me, and who contribute to my life and heart in sincerely meaningful ways, these are the people I want to hold close, people who will be invited inside my prickly cocoon. But those people who love basking in my radiance, who get a lot out of what I have to offer, who are wishy-washy and noncommittal, who enjoy my company when it's convenient for them, and whose sincerity is questionable from day to day, these people who are simply takers of my light and love simply have to go. It may come as a wild outburst, or a door slammed in their face, or perhaps just my disappearance altogether. No matter. I am coming back into my own heart now, and nurturing myself there. I want to live honestly and authentically, and want to be around people who are reliable and loving and real and open and sincere. I want to be around people who inspire me and who I inspire, who are thrilled to have the blessing of my company, and who show up fully on a regular basis. All else is a waste of my energy.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Loving With Abandon

I awoke to purring, my kitty had leapt up onto my pillow during the night and was snuggled down really close to my head. This morning, the sky is bright blue, but it is still quite cold. Now, as I sit wrapped in a blanket and in my meditation shawl, he sits near me, purring away, occasionally rubbing his head against the screen of my computer, beckoning me to love him instead of this plastic device. So, I reach over to him, and love him. He is my truest companion, and without him in this last year I don't know if I would have made it.

As I sit here writing, my heart steps back in time one year ago today. Right about now, I was sprawled out on the bathroom floor, trying to comfort my dying kitty as he struggled and howled. I wept, I tried to love him with my hands, and I talked to him about how much he had blessed my life for thirteen years. He would lay still, and I would look really closely to see if he was still breathing, then he would squirm and moan again. It was the most heart-wrenching thing I've ever witnessed, and the taste of my sorrow is still palpable if I allow my attention to settle there for long. He died one year ago today at a little after 11am.

One thing I've learned in the last year is that the more I grasp to hold on to those beings who have touched my heart, the greater my suffering is when they leave. Another thing I've learned is that while choosing to numb out and love less is appealing in the face of imminent sorrow and loss, the one thing that brings true meaning to life is loving with utter abandon, without holding back. And I've spent much of the last year vacillating between feeling truly loved and held by those who care about me, and feeling utterly alone in a world that doesn't have time to even acknowledge my existence. This inner struggle persists even today, on occasion, when I fall out of the present moment awareness I have worked very hard to cultivate, when I am sucked in by the mind's questioning undertow.

In the last year of my life, I have felt greater loss than I have ever before known. I have felt my own body betray me, I have felt the world crumble around me. I have wondered if I would live through these challenges, and both collapsed into the despair and hopelessness of living a life that is full of loss, and have scrambled with sheer terror to escape from the hungry maw of my own mind's fear. Death became my greatest fear, having witnessed it for the first time one year ago today. Death stalked me some days, chased me some days, and sat breathing heavily down my neck for more nights last winter than I care to speak about now. And the harder I tried to swim away from death, the more tightly I became enmeshed in his nets. I was caught. I would writhe a while, trying to get away, and then, exhausted, would collapse into despair once more. All the time, my mind spinning in its questions, wondering "what is the point of it all" and seeking with ferocity to find some kind of answer, any answer at all, something to hold on to to prove to myself that I could stay afloat. I became a refugee within my own life - running from death and despair, always running, trying to escape the inevitable.

There were a few things in this past year that were utter saviors, and without them I don't know if I could have had the wherewithal in myself to make it through the year. Weekly acupuncture was a miracle, and my acupuncturist showed up for me with strength and compassion and really helped to give me my ground again. I began seeing a counselor, and the months I spent going to her weekly or biweekly really helped me to face my inner demons and to understand myself in a whole new way. In January, too, someone really amazing showed up in my life, and his love and kindness brought healing to my heart in ways that I could have never imagined. And finally, I returned to work with the Medicine, which has helped me to heal my anxiety and sorrow and despair more deeply than anything else can. My community, too, has been an incredible support system ... from taking my panicky phone calls, to listening to me, to opening the door to me after yet one more insomniac night of anxiety and fear. The kindness and generosity that I was offered in this last year have touched me so deeply. Whereas once I believed I could - and should - be able to handle anything and everything on my own, in the last year of my life I learned that I truly cannot, nor do I have to. I can allow other people to hold me, I can trust them and allow them to love me as much as I have tended to love them. And now, my heart is open wider than ever before. The slashes of loss have healed a great deal, but they have allowed me a far greater capacity for love than I had before. And maybe that's one of the key lessons of this Earth plane of existence ... to allow loss to open us beyond our ordinary capacity to love, and to move it into a realm of infinite loving that is our true nature.

And now, I have survived a year of loss and mourning, and have come through the other side of that year with a heart opened wide to the sky. I have spent so much time sorting through the content of my life, facing the dark parts of my psyche and personality, observing my patterns and habits, noticing my resistances and fears, and dismantling the questioning mind - at least a little - that causes all of my suffering. I have found that much of what used to matter to me just doesn't matter anymore. The simplest things bring me the greatest happiness: sitting on a rock in the river, reclining in the sun, listening to the wind in the trees, making a pot of soup, sharing the company of my loved ones, listening with my full presence to those who have something needing to be heard. And love. LOVE. Love matters the most of all. At this point in my life, it is my most sincere wish, from the depths of my heart, that I finally meet the love of my life. I have so much love to give, so much kindness and compassion to offer. Spiritually, I feel like this is a frontier that will offer me so much opportunity to grow and deepen my capacity to love and serve. And I am finally able to receive love, too, to allow love's intensity to penetrate my walls and pierce me, to transform me. In this year, I have met several men who truly touched my heart, and yet it seems that none of them are truly prepared for relationship. I pray with all my heart that in the next year of my life that I will find my love. If one thing has been true throughout this year, and is still true today, it's that I don't want to do this life alone. Not anymore. That is my most sincere prayer.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

One Year

One year ago today, I learned that my beloved feline friend Familiar was dying. I spent three intense days attending to him, sitting present with him, and saying goodbye as he slowly left his body and this Earth. It was the first time that death touched me with such profundity, and I was left in a state of emotional pain that ripped through my life with a dark ferocity I had never before known. My life, in this past year, was filled with inconsolable sorrow, and my mind was sent into a tailspin that continued to rip through my life with desperation. I became enshrouded in a darkness and fear that seemed to want to consume me, to swallow me whole, and to dissolve my body and mind into its own acrid wastage. My heartache was unbearable, my fear was overwhelming, and my life fell apart. I didn't know if I would survive it all.

And here I am. Alive, breathing, more awake than ever before. The suffering of this year of my life brought me to my knees, and taught me so many things. I have learned that in spite of the sharp loneliness I often feel, there are so many beings who love me, and who will hold me and support me if I allow them into my life. I have learned that people are not always who they seem to be, and sometimes the ones who seem to be loving and kind are sometimes only acting out of self-interest. I have learned that there are no rules, not really, and that in the face of great sorrow, love and comfort can reach from beyond my own small view of what is really okay. I have learned that my own mind creates all of my suffering, and that only by training the mind through meditation and contemplation will I be able to let go of the misery I create for myself. I have learned that boundaries are often really important, and that my ideal wish for there to be no boundaries causes harm in my life sometimes. I have learned that the things I fear the most are not really real. I have learned that only by letting go will I fall into a state of deep peace, and only by practicing letting go again and again will my life become rooted in that peace. But more than anything, I have learned that love is the only thing that matters. Loving those beings who I love with total openness and abandon is surrendering to the truth. And when my time to die comes, I will regret nothing if I have given all I can give of my love.

My dear sister came from Peru in August and we shared in some beautiful healing ceremonies. These ceremonies were powerfully transformative in my own life, and helped to shift me beyond the dregs of this year of falling apart. I am grateful for this healing and teaching, grateful in my bones, in my cells, in my heart. But, to loosely quote David Deida, knowing the truth is easy, feeling the truth is profound, and living it makes all the difference. Now, I am in a time of integration in my life. How do I carry the profound teachings I received in those ceremonies into my life and allow them to live through me? By staying truly present. By listening to life as it shows up around me and within me. I must remember what I have been shown, and I must remember it with vigilance every single day. Also, the great gift of those ceremonies was this beautiful opening of my heart. The more I am able to stay present with that open heart love space, the more I will not be pulled back into the whirlwind of my mind. So, I sit to meditate.

It seems to me that by fully feeling the sorrow and loss of the death of my little kitty last year, I was able to surrender to a ferocious process of breaking down that is now allowing me to live from a place of deep openness and trust. In that, I am so grateful to you, my little buddy, for showing me the way to love ever more deeply.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Heart's Longing

I just finished my morning meditation practice, and before the final bell rang, I received a beautiful insight. I had been sitting with this longing in my heart, feeling it burning within me. Right now, the longing is tied to a particular person I'm hoping that will open up to me, and I have been feeling filled with uncertainty around that, wanting some clarity. In my meditation practice, I sat present with the feeling of longing, disengaging from the story, and simply feeling into the heart. The story that wanted to emerge was suggesting that if this person can't give me clarity, that if this person can't trust me and open up to me, then I will close the door to my heart and walk away. Each time my mind wanted to re-emerge, finding some solution that would make this feeling shift, I sat there, disengaging from the story, feeling what I was feeling, the burning of this longing in my heart. And there, the jewel at the end of my sitting, this insight emerged: what if I breathe into that longing and allow it to open me further and further? What if, instead of closing and withdrawing from the situation that is feeding this feeling, I simply let go of needing any particular answer, and just allow it to burn on and on? What if I allow it to push open the door to my heart even further, and allow myself to feel love's longing within me? What if I allow my heart to stay open even in the midst of uncertainty or pain? Yes, there is something profound to be discovered in that practice.

Last night, my evening was filled with insights. I felt like I was receiving nonstop transmissions from Spirit for hours, and while it seemed like I was sleeping, the quality of awareness wasn't exactly sleep. It was more like a trance, in which I was able to surrender to the current of knowing that was offering me its gifts. My heart was full of longing then, too, and I was told that there is nothing that cannot be solved, healed, or brought into the light when a heart-to-heart connection is made. I saw the image of beings coming together, and touching at the chest, truly heart-to-heart, and was filled with a feeling of light and peace. The deep feeling of comfort that filled me was sublime, and I was grateful that my little kitty was there, right beside me, to share this feeling with me. We snuggled up really close, and I felt what a blessing it is to be so close to another being, totally free of expectations, totally free of fear, totally in trust and presence and love. As the insights continued, I felt my awareness leaning into the music that was playing, Jai Uttal, Ben Leinbach, Jarah Tree, Diego Palma, and others. I felt this profound sense of the present moment, and I felt my whole being riding the very edge of the music - and I understood in such a clear way what it means to be truly surrendered to the present moment. The present moment is like the edge of a knife, like the passing of music, like the edge of body and breath as the air comes into the lungs - what is that edge? The edge where my body meets the air, where sound meets my awareness, where my heart meets the heart of another, where the inbreath meets the outbreath, where living and dying are suspended in a perpetual moment of now. In that moment, any awareness I have about who I am falls away into simple am-ness, simple beingness, and nothing is more sublime. Even the edges melt, and I feel myself expand beyond the boundaries of what I perceive to be "me" and I feel no limit at all. Just riding the waves - the waves of sound, of breath, of living, of loving. Surrender.

What I fear is so small beside this state of surrender. What I long for is so small beside this state of love. What I am is so small in this world when it sits beside who I am in my true nature, who we all are in our truest nature. I want to live from that place, and I want to let go of all that keeps me from living there. And truly, I see that all that keeps me from living there is within my own mind.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Beyond Preferences

This morning as I was sitting in meditation, a beautiful insight came to me. In meditation, I welcome the inbreath and outbreath, the cycle of flowing that simply is what it is, day after day. In meditation, I welcome sounds to come and go, choosing to have no preference or reaction to them, neither to name them, but to merely witness them coming and going, like the breath. Too, thoughts come and go, and some pull me into their trance, and others don't, and I recognize them all as thoughts, coming and going, having no substance, only persistent stories. But what would my life be like if I truly carried this very same perspective into the happenings of my daily living? What would life be like if I was able to surrender my personal preferences and ideas and desires in the same way that I surrender to my breath, to the sounds around me, to the coming and going of my thoughts?

I am human. I have preferences and desires and ideas about how I'd like my life to be. I prefer silence to noise, I prefer a clean kitchen to a dirty one, I prefer slow days with little on the agenda to fast paced days with a hundred things to try to accomplish. I prefer clear communication to vague, I prefer flow over stagnation, I prefer love over fear, and I prefer peace over conflict. In the world I dream about, I would live in a state of perpetual love and peace with all the beings I love, and we would all communicate fearlessly and with clarity, and we would all understand each other from the heart. We wouldn't be raping the Earth, we would be honoring it, and doing all we could to live in harmony and equilibrium with the rest of the living world. We would all have free access to clean water, organic food, good education, alternative and allopathic medical care, and community support. We would all have nothing but love and peace in our lives, our communities, our towns and countries, and all unnecessary borders and barriers and boundaries would be naturally released because we would have evolved beyond the need for those things. We would spend our days with those we love, and spend our time doing what makes our hearts sing, and we wouldn't have to be involved in working for money just to survive in a world that doesn't make any sense at all. There would be no need for government because we would all hold enough personal responsibility to make choices that were for the good of all, and there would be no need for laws, because we would be in tune with the most basic natural laws of the universe. Conflict and war would vanish spontaneously because love would be our very basic nature, and no one would want to enforce his or her personal preferences on anyone else. The ego would dissolve, and we would all surrender into a life of utopian goodness. We would live our days and nights in a state of bliss, and would die happy without any hesitation, since we lived our lives with such joy and fearlessness. Yet here, too, in this utopian vision of life on Earth, I share my own personal preferences, which are clearly in direct conflict with the way the world is in this time. And because utopia is not reality, I suffer. I see the way the world is, and I am full of mourning, full of loss, and some days, full of anger. My own personal preferences add to the mix of multifarious conflicts that already fill this place, and instead of feeling more at peace from my rumination about the ideal world, I become filled with sadness.

What if I could cultivate a practice of sitting here, breathing into the moment, accepting whatever is happening, no matter what? What if I could hold the mantra "it's okay" in my heart, no matter what comes? This is the path of meditation, after all. And if I could truly take this practice into my life, I would be embodying my meditation in a much higher way. I'd be walking the walk, not just sitting on the cushion.

Truly, I see that my preferences send me into a state of tantrum sometimes. I want what I want, I want it for a good reason, and I want it now, damn it! I clearly know that I am right in wanting it, and I want it in spite of what may be coming my way instead. Anyone who gets in the way of what I want is public enemy number one, and I will do my best to get them out of my way. What is born in this kind of thinking? War, conflict, separation, hatred, judgment. Nothing that I want to feed in myself or breed in the world, and yet there it is. Now, most of the time, I feel like I rise above this kind of thinking in my actions. But this is the point of view of the ego, and whether I'm having a tantrum like a three year old child, or a highbrow battle of intellect in a real-life chess match, when the ego drives my living, I am in conflict with what truly *is* in my life. Sometimes it isn't about what I want, but instead about what I believe, what I know, or what I feel, but the result is much of the same thing: being in conflict with life. And I'm starting to see how I can let go of that a little more than I have been.

Easy? Hardly. As I sit present with a particular thing right now that is pushing me, triggering a lot of preferences within me, I feel like I am squirming in my own skin. But I want *this* and I know I deserve it! I am worthy of it! I will turn away from whatever is not it! I will feel angry with whoever doesn't fulfill my desires and expectations of life being like *this* and will slam the door on it all. I will sit in my own little world and wait for life to show up the way I want it to be, or I will wait forever. On and on it goes, this idea that I have created about how I want life to be, my personal preference in the matter creating a more and more elaborate vision and story. But the truth is that life is the way it is.

Yesterday, as I was walking from a school to my car, this idea came to me: "This is your life. Right now. Whether or not it's what you want it to be. This is your life right now." Indeed. My culture has taught me - and probably everyone else - that what we do here is create ideas about how we want life to be, and then we work forever to build that. Even though I feel like I have surrendered the materialistic view of how life should be, I am still caught in the trap. My own vision involves things that my ego considers far more evolved than materialistic gains - spiritual growth, personal evolution, cultivating creativity, creating community and deep relationships, natural/organic/ecocentric living, and allowing my life to serve as a contribution to things that matter to me. I care very much about these things, and I choose to invest my energy into cultivating a life of these things. But in truth, I have very little control over what happens in my daily living. And when I am in a state of surrender to whatever emerges, and when I can show up with my heart open no matter what, then I am truly living this life. Otherwise, I am refusing to live when life isn't what I want it to be, and the only one who suffers in that case is me.

Gratitude to my practice, and my guides, for offering me these bits of wisdom and guidance.
Om shanti, shanti, shanti.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Falling into Authenticity

Last night was so amazing! Three hundred people gathered in Washington at the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian for a concert with MC Yogi. In this beautiful, small auditorium, we rocked out to his amazing, positive yoga-inspired hip hop. I imagine that this space usually holds a lot of classical concerts, and probably some really interesting lectures, and to have him in there, leading us in the chant "Ganesh is fresh!" was probably one of the funkiest gatherings ever. It gave me great joy to dance and sing and play along with everyone in a space where I might normally feel inclined to keep my voice down!

One year ago, MC Yogi came to DC, and I was there. One year ago, I had yet to start allowing myself the expression of dance. I remember enjoying jumping around last year, but still feeling pretty uncomfortable in my own skin. And last night, when he led a "Jai Ma" chant, and called for some women to come dance with him on stage in honor of the Divine Feminine, I was there! I knew I had to go! Just a year ago, thoughts would have swirled through my mind: someone might see me, I can't dance, etc. And now, I just don't care. I love to move my body, I love to feel the energy flow through me, my whole body a prayer to Life.

Some people have a checklist of all the things they'd like to do in their lives, a bucket list. Go to Paris, jump out of a plane, get rich, have a family, buy a big screen tv, etc. While I've never had much interest in creating that kind of list, I have done enough amazing things to fill one up. But the truth I'm seeing now in my life is that my own checklist, if I have one at all, is about letting go of fear:

* dance on stage with one of my favorite artists - check

I am feeling drawn into reflection quite a bit right now. I think that's in the energy of the fall, really. And since the last year of my life has been so much about standing in the fire and having a lot of my reality burned away, it's feeling like a natural time to investigate these changes more fully. Last fall, right after the MC Yogi concert, my whole life changed. My kitty died. And my whole life was thrown upside down.

I have learned a lot in the last year about what really matters. I have no energy to devote to trying to be anything other than my most authentic self. Life is so fleeting, and I have discovered that the essence of the deepest fears I carry within me are not truly fear of dying, but fear of not fully living while alive. And now, as I move forward into each day with my heart open, I am choosing to really live from that authenticity, no matter what. And what a relief that is!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Renewal - The Second Year

It has been right around a year now since I started this blog, entering the journey of falling into the heart with every moment, every breath, every thought, every action. Last fall, I sat on my porch, allowing myself to give my attention to the world around me, to the trees moving in the wind, and the light in the sky, and to my own internal wind and light and motion. Little did I know that my whole life was getting ready to shift in ways that I couldn't have imagined. My heart was getting ready to break, and my understanding of life would be called to the table again and again, and I would be stripped bare of everything that had previously brought me to experience comfort, stability, and assurance.

Sitting here on my porch, a year later, many things seem the same. The same view, these beautiful trees and this blue sky. I am still myself, and my life still resembles the life I had one year ago. But there is a depth of knowing and understanding that has come to me that speaks beneath this moment of sameness. In this year, I have indeed fallen into the heart. And in the process of falling out of the mind, there were bitter, harsh, brutal periods, internal turmoil, anxiety, darkness, despair and hopelessness, and fierce resistance to what felt like my own annihilation. I spent months wondering if I would survive it all. In truth, part of me did not survive. The part of me that was keeping me bound up in a life that was small and controlled, a love that was conditional, and expectations that anything at all must happen in the way I want. In falling into the heart, I have fallen into the truth that there are no guarantees of anything at all. Waking up in the morning and breathing and going about my day are not a promise, but a sweet blessing that I now receive with a level of gratitude that I couldn't have imagined one year ago.

I have spent much of the last year in touch with my story. The story that has defined my life, my persona in the world, the way I respond or react to circumstances, and how I integrate those experiences into my life are all things that have come up for consideration. And I now see how much of the way that I have chosen to interpret those stories has brought me suffering. I see how my own emotional reactivity has created more pain than I needed to carry. Thich Naht Hanh once said that when we allow ourselves to "therapeutically" express anger by shouting or beating the sofa with a bat, for example, we are practicing being angry, as opposed to letting the anger out. And I see how I've been doing this in my life. I've been expressing anger, fear, insecurity, pain, loss, suffering, sorrow, hopelessness, and despair for so much of the last year. And now, I see that through the vehicle of my own words, I have been practicing the very things I have longed to move beyond. There is something in this process of writing about my life that has taken me away from the direct experience of what I feel. And in the several month hiatus I've taken from blogging, I have found a deeper, renewed sense of connection with my own inner being through sitting silently present, witnessing what simply is within me, free from any need to interpret, describe, or define. And I am feeling that this is much more what I need at this time.

Which makes me consider where this blog will meander in its second year ...

I am still deeply committed to speaking my truth from a place of vulnerability and honesty. I am still very much interested in exploring life through the written word. But I am seeing how vulnerability and honesty are possible without allowing my life to bleed forth with such abandon onto the page. There is a fine balance between surrender and abandon. There is a fine balance between vulnerability and exposure. And there is a fine balance between honesty and personal integrity. The balance is what I hope to navigate as I move forward. I have fallen through the rusted funnel of my mind's darkest labyrinths, and I have found my way through the maze to the sweet space of the heart. From here I begin, renewed.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Hot and sweaty and tired. Today was a day filled with working. Which is good. Working means that I will be able to afford my expenses in these next few months. And I am grateful to have the option of a flexible part time job that doesn't require me to do anything too out-of-bounds. I'll take it. If I am able to work almost ever day until the end of school, then I will be just fine all summer. No expensive travel plans, though, which is a bummer. But I feel like I'm supposed to be here right now. I have a garden to tend, and a lot of projects to explore fully. I am exactly where I need to be.

But in the bigger picture, I spent the first few waking hours of my day in anxiety and despair. While I have gratitude for what life has given me that sustains me creatively and physically and emotionally and spiritually, I see so much in my life right now that feels limited and not in alignment with the highest vision that I hold in my heart for my life. I will take this work as a substitute teacher to fill in the gaps of my employment, but it doesn't give me any great joy, it doesn't make use of most of my gifts, and it doesn't contribute to the world in the way that I know I want to contribute. I'll be able to pay my bills for the next three months, and for that I am grateful. But I am not content with just working to pay the bills! I have known that for my whole adult life! I am an artist, a visionary, a dreamer, a creative, passionate soul. I need to know that my energy is going into something amazing that will touch lives beyond the mundane grayscale of daily life. My work as a flute teacher, as a teaching artist, and as a musician - these things have moved into that truly meaningful realm. But these things are also coming up for consideration now. I will teach flute lessons happily until the end of time, and I hope that the universe delivers me more students in the years to come. I also deeply love my work as a teaching artist, but at this point, funding has all but evaporated, and if I am to continue doing this work, I will need to dive deep into networking and getting clear on what it is that I want to offer. My work as a flutist has waned in the last few years, as I have let go of my connection to the familiar realm of classical music. I have little interest in investing my energy there, but can do it if I need to. But now, I feel a new wave of creativity coming, a new investment in the sacred improv work I have loved with all my heart. I am excited and nervous to see where this will go.

What I do know is that I don't want to be doing anything just because it helps me to get by, or because I am capable of doing it if I need to do it. That, to me, is the heart of apathy, the most boring, grayscale, flatland version of living that I can imagine. That was the source of my despair and anxiety this morning...seeing the ways that my life has slipped, even slightly, into the realm of half life.

Work is only half the story, too. The other half is this isolation that I feel in my days, this loneliness that haunts me in the shadows of my awareness. I have spent so much of my life as an independent woman, happy to roam hither and thither without a care in the world, needing no one to keep me company as I soar into the inner reaches of my being, and into the outer reaches of the world. I have learned so much in this approach - I have learned that within me is a resourceful, brave, fearless, adventurous spirit that knows that anything is possible. To quote Tracy Chapman, "I've been places where I question all I think I know." For sure. I have found that much of my life has felt held back and weighed down as a result of trying to share it with others. I have been frustrated by people who are wishy-washy and never on time. I have been irritated by people who are noncommittal and scattered. I have wanted to feel free and unencumbered, able to follow my heart and be spontaneous. And I have found that that has very, very rarely happened when I am with other people. So, for much of my life, I have chosen the solitary high road, and not regretted it for a moment.

But now, I am feeling something else settle into me. I am feeling the gifts and blessings that are possible in sharing my path with someone. I am also seeing that perhaps part of the frustrations and irritations that I have felt with others were half based on my expectations and half on my not being able to express my needs in a clearer way. I also feel that part of my frustrations and irritations with others were pointing me to the truth that I was walking in the world with people who may not have been serving the unfolding of my highest truth...and I was probably not serving theirs either. And that's okay, it is what it is. But I want to be more mindful from now on. I want to trust the feeling in my belly completely, and to listen to my heart completely. I will know the truth if I do.

I don't want to do this life alone. That is the bottom line. I have sought community and companionship, and have become a networker and gatherer of good people. I have brought people together and into my life and into my home, and I have felt the definition of family expand on and on. I have loved that my life is filled with so many beautiful beings, and that I have been given the opportunity to share life with amazing people. But deep in my heart, I yearn to meet the man I will spend my life with. I long to meet the one who will pierce my heart with his presence and love, who will accept me for all that I am, and who will enter into sacred relationship with me. I feel that there is a deep part of life that I have not yet known, not really - living in communion, in service to the Beloved through the beloved, in true love practice. I have had enough relationships to know that I have not yet been there, not at all. And I have spent so much time feeling content in my independence that I haven't sought this. But now, it haunts me every day. I long to meet my love.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Making Mistakes

I've had a nice little break from blogging these last couple of weeks. If by "nice" I mean that I have been in the process of experiencing the fallout from my last blog writing, and from trying to figure out what it means to "follow my heart." I have been venturing into a minefield of my own creation, and have been learning how to really screw things up in my life with exquisite lack of grace. Now, I am left feeling lost and sad. I may or may not be able to repair the damages done here, and some things will surely be washed away. I am left here with a lot of confusion and sorrow, some anger, and some frustration - both with others and with myself. What matters most, though, is that I thoughtfully consider these situations, and allow them to teach me.

What I am sitting with now is patience and understanding and as much self love as I can manage. It would be very, very easy for someone with a tremendous capacity to be hard on herself to be caught up in judgment and criticism and self-loathing right now. It would also be easy for me to choose to take in the judgment and criticism and anger of others right now, and there are certainly some people who hold that in regard to me right now. But I have learned beyond any question that punishment never works - whether from self or others - it only drives in more anger and frustration and guilt and shame and self-loathing. And I have danced with those things for a long time in my life. I don't want to keep revisiting those old habits. They haven't worked before, and they surely won't help anything now.

I think I'm entering into a new chapter of my life. The late fall and winter were such a heavy time of feeling swallowed in anxiety and darkness. Now, with the coming of spring, I have entered into a time of creating drama and learning how to make mistakes. Back in the winter, I wasn't sure that I would survive the darkness, and felt like I was falling into the abyss most of the time. Now, I know that I will survive, but I feel like I can't help but fuck things up. Neither one is the life I want to live, and at one point today, I felt like I couldn't take any more! The anxiety crawled up my leg and wrapped its fear around my throat, and I felt like an animal caught in a cage, wild and out of control, ready to fight its way out. I wonder how much of my fucking things up lately has come from that wild, scared animal part of me?

There are no clear answers. There are no guarantees. I am as bound by karma - the laws of cause and effect in my life - as anyone else. I have spent a lot of my life as a perfectionist, the good girl, the one who seems to do no wrong. Maybe this time is necessary so that I learn how to be as imperfect as possible in order to find middle ground somewhere. All I know is that I want to live with authenticity and honesty, I want to embrace Love, Truth, Peace and Joy in my life in every thing I think and do, and want to follow my heart. I don't even know what that means right now. And that's okay. I am going to sit with this for a long time, I think...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Beyond Mind

Last Friday I made a breakthrough. I allowed myself to sink down past the surface level of my emotional reactivity that was triggered by random things that have little to do with my life. And I came into contact with a pit of fiery anger that boils within me unconsciously, deep down, holding me back from living the fullness of the Love that is my true nature. I held nothing back, and allowed the anger to speak what it has stuffed down inside of me and hidden for years and years. For once, I suspended the tight grip that I hold on what I allow to fly out of my mouth - or my hand - and let it rip. I set aside the part of myself that is "evolved" and "wouldn't dare speak such a thing" and I let go of words and thoughts that have been fermenting in the depth of my psyche. I let it all fly, and what came out was, initially, the height of "jackal" speaking, within the realm of NVC. My jackals howled and wailed and hissed and spat. I hurled it all forth. And it began to mutate, from deep anger and bitterness to some sense of perspective, then to seeing how it all connects to the deepest Truth and Love that reside within my being. These dark places, when held back, will always keep me from living the deepest Truth and Love possible.

This is the part - the free and uninhibited release of the Jackals to speak their piece - that has held me back for so long. The part of me that has held it all back has said, "oh, it's fine really, there's nothing wrong, I don't have any of that kind of stuff in me." And that hasn't been working - it has been a cover up of the pain and deep wounds within me that long to be healed, but cannot be healed until I am willing to see them and allow them to come out into the light of day. The poison must be drained from the wounds in order for the wounds to heal.

Here's the thing - I KNOW beyond any doubt that I AM NOT my MIND. I KNOW that this poison that flew out of my mind and through my hands is not the truth of who I am. I know that it is garbage that must purged. I know that there is a much deeper place of truth within me, that is the very core of my being, and the very core of all beings. But as long as I hold it in, pretend it's not there, and live in deep denial, pasting on a false identity with all those I know, and creating a life built around that, I will be living with little authenticity. The love I offer and feel will be small and conditional, based in illusion - essentially living a lie. And I also see that when people - myself certainly included - live in this degree of unawareness of their own pain, with no sense of self-reflection, and with no longing to heal and release these wounds with their poison and pain, they just continue to create a world based in the very same lies and wounds and pain. I am deep, deep, deep in the process of unlearning this way of being. I am not willing to live this way any longer. I want only to live authentically. I want only to live in Love, Truth, Peace, and Joy. I will not settle for less.

But I am now caught by the reactions others have had to my words. I should probably have had better discretion and considered the potential reaction of other people before posting my writing online. There are those who have no idea what I am talking about here - those who still identify with their minds, and believe all the thoughts in there, and must adamantly repress anything that doesn't fit with their version of reality. Those who can't comprehend that the mind, when not thoroughly disciplined to be in service of the heart, is the epitome of madness, running and spinning on its eternal hamster wheel. Monkey mind, as the Buddhists call it. I am grateful to know that I am not my mind. I am grateful to be able to listen to these kinds of thoughts - bitter, angry, harsh ones - and listen more deeply to them and what they have to tell me. I am grateful that my spiritual path has helped me to cultivate a sense of observation much of the time, and that this observer is able to allow thoughts to pass in all their wildness, and to maintain a sense of objectivity much of the time. Certainly not always. There sure are times when I am caught up in emotional response - as when my anger or sadness are triggered full force. But a good deal of the time, I am able to move into self-reflection and work to understand what is going on within myself. Not always right away, in the midst of the reaction - but always in reflection, at the very least. This is my practice.

What I am feeling more clearly than ever before is what it means to to not take things personally. My sister was screaming at me, and trying to engage me in a fight that was not based in anything pertinent to the issue at hand, and she entered into petty, vindictive attempts to inflict guilt and punishment, and to try to control me. I defaulted to a clear understanding that her response is not about me, fundamentally. And I am not taking it personally. My mother's friend entered into the same conversation, to a lesser degree, with attempts to make me feel guilty - and I was clear that I didn't need to take it personally. Finally, my mother sent a message, filled with rage and upset, and I was able to stay with not taking it personally. I have never before seen more clearly that I don't have to get caught up in the drama, that I don't need to make some desperate attempt to smooth it all over. I am only responsible for my own mind and my own reactions. And I am choosing not to take this personally.

I have spent too much of my life taking things very, very personally. I have felt like I must satisfy other people's needs, to give them what they want from me, to keep the peace. But I see that I've been doing that at my own expense. I have not felt like I could express my truth in the moment. I didn't feel like I could say "no." I didn't feel like I could say when someone was making me angry or uncomfortable or when someone was being inappropriate. I learned to stuff it, to swallow it, to just smile and bear it, to deal with it in my own private hell later. That is really, really harmful. I have been living this way for years and years, since I was a kid. It sure is convenient for everyone else, that's for sure. But it's not REAL. It's me pretending to be fine with whatever even when it's not the truth. It's me pretending to be something I'm not. I yearn for acceptance and authenticity, and I am deeply longing to live from my heart, my truth. I am seeing more and more clearly how I have been blocking these very things from being possible, too. I was socialized to be that way - I was taught to live that way by others who were taught the same thing, and who don't even know what I'm talking about. And that has made me really angry. People who don't know who they are have been teaching others to not know who they are, and on and on and on it goes. Until it doesn't anymore. I am not going to play that game anymore. I want to really know who I am, how I feel, what I want, and want to stay connected to that truth in every moment of my life. This is revolution. This is unlearning. This is the way home.

Friday, May 7, 2010

May 7, 2010

I have deleted this blog due to too much drama.

I should have had better discretion before posting something so personal.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Moving into Clarity

Sometimes clarity comes like a bolt of lightning, showing the way to the deepest truth. In those moments, there is no fear, no hesitation, no doubt, no questioning. When this clarity comes, its revelation is powerful and alters everything in the way of its full realization. This past weekend was full of these kind of epiphanies. I was given the gift of profound insight and clarity, and my heart was opened all the way to the sky, knowing that love and courage are powerful, and that they will always lead me home, to my heart.

In the depths of night, these flashes of truth are the very ground of being. But with morning light, I found myself re-emerging in the world, and in the reality I have created for myself. My choices – whether conscious or unconscious – have created the circumstances of my life. And this is the truth of real-life karma – the laws of cause and effect. I am bound by my choices, my thoughts, my actions. But I am also grateful for these experiences of profound insight to offer me an opportunity to make different choices. I have the opportunity to recreate my life in every moment. That is what I am sitting with now: staying connected to my truth and listen to my heart, even when my past choices come flooding the moment with their fallout. I also see right now that everything in this life is like a sandcastle – the waters will come and wash everything away.

There was a moment in Saturday night's ceremony when I experienced a strange moment of deja vu. I was sure that we had just finished singing the 53rd hymn, but suddenly we were on the 51st. I looked down at my book, not finding the words that were being sung, and looked ahead of me, seeking the number of the one we were on. I was stunned by my discovery, that somehow I was ahead...yet I had been singing along and had found no discrepancy before... I was puzzled, but given the insight that sometimes life gives us these kinds of blessed opportunities – to move back in time with ease and without hesitation. Life always offers the chance to make new choices, to step into deeper truth, more profound love, to embrace authenticity. These are things I have longed for in my life, and things that I have pursued with passion for years. But this weekend, life ushered me into this in a whole new way.

What does it really mean to follow my heart? And how do I let go of things, while connected both to the clarity I feel and the love and kindness in my heart? Not only that, but what do I do with the noise that surrounds me – actual noise, psychic noise, and mental noise – as I try to listen to my heart? Most of us haven't been taught how to live from the heart, to live from truth and love – I know that I haven't been, anyway. Doubt and hesitation are nipping at my ankles at this point. It's a real challenge to walk in this world and to make choices from the perspective of my highest truth – there is support for that, for sure, but there is much more unconsciousness that surrounds me. People are often just trying to get by in the world, doing the best they can in the moment. But that's not my way, it never has been. I am a Warrior, fighting to live in my highest truth, connected to the deepest desires of my heart.

I have basic needs that must be met in life in order to take care of my body and worldly existence. We all have that. But I also have deeper needs, needs that fulfill my heart's desire, my spiritual evolution. These are food for the Soul, and we all have that too, but it tends to be neglected more easily. And to the degree that the heart and spirit are neglected, we are filled with anger and sorrow, and our lives become full of despair and meaninglessness. We then make choices that contribute to our superficial, fleeting happiness. We entertain ourselves and drink and smoke and have relationships and buy things and have life that fulfills the bare minimum needs that must be met so that we don't just kill ourselves overtly. But in those choices, we are killing ourselves slowly, and the misery and flatness that fills our lives erodes our connection to our deepest truth, and to our heart. What we are left with is hostility, bitterness, hollowness, shallowness. And to me, this life isn't worth living.

It's easy to generalize and observe this around me. To speak in words of “we” and “they” without taking it into myself, my own life. But that is where I must take this – into my own life, my own heart and soul. How have I been compromising the depth of my heart? How have I settled for shallowness and escapism and fleeting happiness? In what ways do I need to reinvest myself in my own heart's deepest joy? My work. My creativity. My love life. My contribution to the world. Even some of my most basic needs.

I have been lonely and full of longing. I have been lost in the ways that I fit into the world, in the ways that I contribute. I have been hesitant to offer myself with boldness in my creative pursuits. And I have wanted to stick my head in the sand and not deal with some of the most basic things. I have made as few choices as necessary to get by in the world. I have been trying to survive, to just get by. And all the time, I never quite saw that in myself. I have always wanted to embrace my truth, to be loyal to my highest dreams, and to honor my life's visions. But I now see that I haven't been doing that. I have not been bold. I have not been committed. I have not been willing to take risks. I have not wanted to trust that the Universe is conspiring to give me exactly what I want. I have not believed that it was possible to really have the life I want. I have not believed that I deserve to have everything that I long for in this life. I have not always been this way – but in the last year, I see how I have moved in that direction. And now, I have seen the light...

It takes boldness and courage to stand up in the light of day and ask life for exactly what I want. I have been taught that I should take what I get and be happy with that, and that I shouldn't ask for too much because that's selfish. I have been taught that life will be full of pain and suffering, and that my dreams are never going to actually come to fruition, because that never happens. I have always laughed in the face of these kinds of beliefs, balking at such small-minded misery. And in spite of that, I see how I have believed the very things I balked at. Not consciously, and certainly not admittedly. But I have.

I want to live my life with passion and boldness, truth and love. It will take courage to step beyond doubt and fear. It will also take clarity and commitment to continue moving toward my heart's true desire. And I am moving in that direction, one day at a time. I have been passionately inspired to put together a benefit concert to raise funds for the flooding in Peru – and the creative component of that is in complete alignment with what I truly yearn to do, musically. I have longed to find ways to contribute my time and energy to something meaningful and fulfilling, for my life to be of service in a greater way. I have known what I was willing to walk away from, but hadn't had a clear picture of what I wanted to move toward. Now, I am moving in that direction. This project will be amazing, and I am stepping beyond the inertia that settled into my musical life years ago.

I have been stirring in the realm of love relationship, as well. For so much of my life, I haven't put too much value in relationships – feeling that they were a distraction more than anything. I have really come to hear the longing in my heart, though. I am longing for a relationship that will truly transform me, to surrender to the practice of love that will utterly pierce my heart. I have been in relationships that were just fine, that served some small need in my life at the time, but none have had the potential to really, truly bless my life in a profound way and leave me changed. I don't care so much about the comforts of sharing life, of having an other half, of having a routine and rhythm that includes another in my day-to-day existence – although those things are fine and wonderful, and I would welcome them. I do care about entering into a relationship based in the deepest possible love, Love that transcends two individuals with bodies and needs. A relationship that is rooted in personal growth and evolution, in spiritual practice – and a relationship that IS spiritual practice. A relationship that is kind and gentle and bold and clear and real and passionate and spacious and deep. One that is grounded in reality and full of acceptance and honesty and good communication. I have always had so much love to offer, and have offered it freely. But now, I am also ready to open my heart, to be vulnerable, and to allow love to enter me, to pierce me, to transform me into a servant of Love in ways that I have never felt, but have intuited. I will accept none less, and I know that I deserve none less.

Whole-hearted living. That is my mantra now. Letting go of fear and complacency. That is my mantra now. I don't need to wait for life to give me these things, to show me the way to these things, to encourage me to choose these things, for others to live it by example. Nope, I need to embrace them within myself because I know they are the key to living my truth, living authentically, living my heart's desire. The only person who will suffer if I choose anything less is me. But the best part of it is that if I choose to live this way, in spite of all doubt, fear, and adversity, I will inspire others to do the same, and will be working to create the world I want to live in, one day at a time. Now, that's worth it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Heart's Authenticity

When I don't follow my heart, I suffer. I may not even realize that I am not following my heart, but I will still suffer. My heart's desire may seem impossible, foolish, unlikely, ridiculous, impulsive, impractical, or childish. And my mind will instantly begin dismissing this desire for all those reasons - having already made up its mind that there is no way we're gonna indulge or even consider it any further. Then, there is emotional response and bodily feeling - the reactions that result from ignoring the heart's desire, and then choosing to dismiss that truth for things far more reasonable, practical, possible. Choosing what makes sense over what makes my heart sing.

And now, I sit here in the cool morning air, hearing bees buzzing by my window, and birds calling to each other in the trees, and I know that the whole world out there only knows living from truth, from the heart. Birds sing because that's all they know, and bees fly by because it's what they do. Trees stand up tall to the sun, leafing out in lush green, because it's why they are born to this world. The whole wide natural living world lives from the heart - living Love, Truth, Peace, and Joy as a natural state. There is only that way. Even in the natural world when there is killing and dying, there is only following nature's directives for survival and need.

Sometimes I think the words "I think, therefore I am" are some of the most destructive words ever spoken, and yet, they are revered as one of the most fundamental basics of being human, and embracing philosophy and higher mind. I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that read "You don't have to believe everything you think." I loved that one, and when I bought it, I wasn't completely clear on what it meant. Over the years, though, I saw it daily, and began to get it. By the time I crashed my car last November, I got it. I really got it. And yet, I must have got it only conceptually, because now I see just how many ways that my mind has been controlling me, owning me, below the radar of my own carefully cultivated watching.

I wonder how many people who are afraid of mind control - conspiracy theory people who fear the government and the hidden agendas and the aliens, etc - are actually just not aware that the deeper aspect of their fear might just be that they are controlled by their OWN minds - and feel the fear that comes in the belly as a result of living in fear. I mean, I am sure that there are plenty of things that go on beneath the surface of appearances in this world - and that the media are biased in what they choose to tell us, but I have too many things to keep me busy than to spend my days in fear of the government, the aliens, the corporations, the secret societies, whatever. I know that I have a lot of choice in my life, and at this point don't feel any fear about those kinds of things. But I digress - I wonder just how much of the fear that people experience and label "mind control" is actually literally MIND control, being controlled by a mind that is not disciplined, and not rooted in following the heart at all costs.

There is no fear in the heart. There is only fear in the mind. The heart knows. But there is so much chatter in an undisciplined mind - so many voices, so much chaos, so many beliefs that come from the self, the childhood, the family, the culture, the education, the media, whatever - that it is often hard to hear the voice of the heart, the voice of that inner truth. It's in there trying all the time, communicating and not feeling heard. This, I now see, has been the very story of my own suffering for so long now. I have struggled so hard with not feeling heard - it has been one of my primary issues in all that I do, and in every relationship. And in this moment, I am seeing for the first time that I have been longing to be heard by others in such an intense and demanding way, but what I have actually been longing for is to really hear the longing of my own heart, to listen within and truly hear what is being asked there. My heart has been ignored for a long time.

The small pleasures of my heart have gotten through on occasion. In creativity - cooking, painting, arranging my home and my altar, in being in nature, in the books I read, in the things I choose to wear, and in surrounding myself with color, in the music I listen to, even in the spiritual mantras that I post around my space. There have been many ways that I have created a soulful life. But in this moment, I am seeing how these little things are simply small heart pleasures. The little stuff that makes me smile, that creates the world I want to live in in the most cursory way, that makes my life a living work of art. But these things are so small - really superficial, honestly. When compared with the yearning of my deepest heart, which I am finally in touch with in a profound way, these things are merely candy. They may be sweet and fun, but they do not sustain me. If I am going to live from the heart and follow my truth in a profoundly authentic way, I have to go way, way deeper than that.

I have been making choices from somewhere else most of the time - from my mind for sure, with perhaps glimmers of my heart's song trickling in, little by little. But I now see why my life has been feeling meaningless for these last six months, why I have been so desperately afraid of my own death coming before I have truly lived. In order to truly live, I need to honor the truth in my heart, I need to embrace my own authenticity with utter solidarity. It's funny - these are things I have already been aiming to do, and thinking I WAS doing, but I now see how it was only conceptual before. There was a smallness to the truth and authenticity I was following, and it was appearing in my life as "just okay" and "quite fine" and "good enough" and I was complacent and stagnant, in a holding pattern. I have been in a holding pattern for a long time now. In my work, in my social life, in my love life, in my art. I mourn all that time now - all that time when I didn't quite know what was wrong, when the low-grade fear filled my belly, and my heart felt collapsed, and life felt two-dimensional, and I wondered what the point of living was.

I was sitting with the question, "what is the point?" for the entire winter. It was almost a mantra. I get it. My heart WAS collapsed. There was no point, and is no point to living a life that is rooted in following my days with halfheartedness, half-life, half-devotion, half-inspiration, half-clarity, half-passion, distrust, indecisiveness, flatness, gray-space, and complacency. There is no point in living that life. And the fear in my belly was my heart's message that things couldn't go on like that. My winter of anxiety was my heart's desperate plea to find a new way. Now, it is early May, and the way is being revealed.

I don't honestly know how my heart feels about a lot of things. I thought I knew, but I didn't. I know how my mind feels, for sure. But my heart is full of wonder and discovery, and in this moment, I feel totally new. My heart is finally going to be given space to express its voice in my life. There is still a sinking feeling in my belly - fear that the change that is coming in my life will bring more pain. But if I trust the truth of my own heart, the letting go will hurt less and less. It will be soothed by a balm of honesty and authenticity that is full of freedom and peace. If I follow my heart every day, then I will be able to fall asleep at night without any fear, and I will be able to die to my life when the time comes without any regrets.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Heart and Mind

I feel utterly rearranged. The profound insights that were given to me this weekend are still sinking in, and my body and mind are reeling. In this moment, I feel something inside of me trying to resist allowing this change to settle in, as if it's all too much, and will require too much. I have seen the depth of the madness of mind gone out of control, and I have seen the profound height of love when fully surrendered to the heart. And now, as I sit here in my ordinary life, I know that change must come - conscious change, rooted in courage and truth.

Partly, it feels like a dream - like the weekend was an intense, wild, powerful dream that penetrated the depths of my being, and offered me insight and wisdom into the very ways that I function in this world. Mind, and its tendencies, and how they affect the way I see the world, the emotions that move through me, and how my reality is created within that. Heart, and the ways that mind tries to convince the heart that its way is filled with madness and unreality - and how the heart's truth is the only thing that makes life worth living. I experienced intense struggle and misery, judgment, fear, collapse, resistance, then sorrow, then tenderness, understanding, and the most intensely piercing love I have ever known. And I see now that I have resisted love with great intensity. I have feared it. I have pushed it away. I have lived an existence that was content to feel small love, to accept that as enough, because it is safe. But it will not transform me. And that is the most profound beauty of love - that when I truly surrender to it, it will utterly transform me.

What a blessing that this insight does not merely come in a theoretical, metaphoric, intellectual way. It offers me understanding on this level, for sure, but then dives deep into the ways that I live. I have seen the chaos of my mind, undisciplined and out of control. I have seen the way that my emotional state becomes chaotic as a result, following here and there, reactive and unstable. And I see how this whole process creates misery. The mind is a tool, I am not my mind. But until I rein it in, breaking it like a horse, I will be bound by its wildness, and I will suffer. But beyond mind is the heart. The heart lives beyond logic and practical, rational choices. It lives beyond justification and the stories I tell myself to validate what I think and feel and choose. The heart is pure, it is true. It knows, and it tells me what it knows. And I see how I have disregarded that as impulsive and impossible for my whole life. No wonder I have been through this intense time of breakdown, and have felt that my life was meaningless. As long as I am not following my heart, I am not living my truth. I am living halfheartedly, falsely, and life shows up in that same way. I accept things that are "just fine" and "quite good" - and when things that are "amazing" and "incredible" and "too good to be true" come my way, I disregard them as exactly that - "too good to be true." I push them away, unconsciously, because I have not believed they were actually possible.

There have been a few times in my life when I have been touched by profound intuition, and have made crazy decisions that seemed impossible. I have followed my heart in these choices, and my life has been profoundly blessed. Walking the Camino de Santiago is one such thing. Going to Peru to do Medicine work is another. But much of the time, I have simply decided to leave things alone, to make choices that are convenient and comfortable. And now I see that I can't keep doing that. If I do, I will die while I am still alive. I will move toward living an existence that is gray, that is half-alive, that is not entirely true, that is filled with soul-level boredom, and I will continue to feel like my life is meaningless, slipping by into the void.

Life is really fucking short! I have known the truth of how I want to live. I have spoken it. I have been moving toward it. But in some way, I see that it hadn't penetrated me yet. Fear has held me back. Fear of making a wrong decision. Fear of failure. Fear of causing trouble for others. Fear of looking like a fool. Fear of causing harm. Fear of all of these imagined things. Truly, fear of being who I am. Fear of authenticity. Fear of living my truth and following my heart, no matter what. But now I see that anything other than that - living my truth and following my heart - is an absolute waste of this precious life.

I have some major things to bring into alignment here. I have some letting go to do in my life. It is scary - now I am back in the light of day, sitting in the life that I've created by the decisions I've made. I have to walk with courage and let go of any reliance on outcome - I have to choose what truth comes from my heart, and then trust that life will carry it into the winds of manifestation to become what it will. I have to let go of things and people who don't uplift me into the highest, finest version of myself. I have to let go of relationships not based in authenticity and courage and truth. And I have to make things right with someone I have hurt in my unconsciousness - if it's not too late, that it...

I now understand the emotional chaos I have been experiencing - it is the result of my choosing to live in compromise with my truth and integrity. Of not listening to my heart, disregarding its knowing as impossible and irrational. Of not living fully in accordance with the highest truth I seek. And of not being willing to trust love, to allow it to truly touch me and pierce my heart, opening it to the light that is within it. My heart has been telling me its truth anyway, but I have not been listening, and there has been deep conflict within me as a result. I know now that if I follow my heart in everything that I do in this life, I will be able to sleep at night without any fear, and I will be able to die to this life without any regrets. I pray from the depths of my soul that I move toward living that authentically from this day forth.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Beyond the Judge and the Victim

“Your heart is a magical kitchen. Open your heart. Open your magical kitchen and refuse to walk around the world begging for love. In your heart is all the love you need. Your heart can create any amount of love, not just for yourself, but for the whole world. You can give your love with no conditions; you can be generous with your love because you have a magical kitchen in your heart. Then all those starving people who believe the heart is closed will always want to be near you for your love. What makes you happy is love coming out of you. And if you are generous with your love, everyone is going to love you. You are never going to be alone if you are generous. If you are selfish, you are always going to be alone, and there is no one to blame but you. Your generosity will open all the doors, not your selfishness.” ~ Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Mastery of Love”

Some days, I am swallowed up in the battle inside of myself between the Judge and the Victim. I spend all my time navel-gazing, sorting through all the beliefs I have about how I'm not good enough in this way or that, and then feeling like shit when that message penetrates me to the core. No matter what I do, nothing is ever good enough for the voice of the Judge. And no matter what evidence there might be to the contrary, the Victim in me believes the Judge, and collapses into despair. The Judge hates everything. There is not a single thing I can do to argue my case against this vicious voice. It is loud, it is aggressive, it is angry and frustrated, it is very convincing, and seems very logical and rational in its approach. What can I do in the face of this? Well, I suppose there are many reactions I might have as the Victim. I might get angry and rebellious and tell it – and everyone – to fuck off. I might get scared, and cower in fear, hoping to hide and not be seen. I might just numb out, and just start walking away, filled with apathy. Or I might collapse in sorrow, overcome with despair. One thing is certain – there is no joy and gladness possible in this dynamic.

Where did this voice – the Judge - come from? It seems like my very own much of the time, even though I know in my depths that it is not the truth. It is the voice that has kept me from taking chances in my life – telling me that I will fail and look like a fool. It is the voice that has made me afraid of failure and looking like a fool, as if these are things that exist independent of my belief in them. Is it possible to look like a fool if I don't care what other people think? Is it possible to feel like a failure if I don't have any external standard – set by someone else – by which I must measure myself? Why do I care so much about what other people think about me? This voice tells me that I will never be beautiful enough – there are so many women that are more perfect than me, more beautiful faces, more sensuous voices, more gentle presences, more attractive bodies, more brilliant minds – and it goes on and on. This voice convinces me that I will never stand a chance in meeting a man who will love me for all that I am, and I may as well give up now. That even if I do manage to connect with a man who seems to be interested in connecting with me, that I shouldn't trust him. He probably just wants to use me, to take what he wants from me and then walk away – that no man in his right mind would actually choose to love me for real.

This voice – the Judge - tells me that nothing that I am, and nothing that I do, will ever be good enough for me to live here in this world and be happy. This voice tells me that what I want is not possible, that I don't deserve it, that I am not worth it. I am not worthy of love and companionship – and if I do happen to find something that seems like those very things, it is an illusion, and I might as well see it for the lie it is. I am not worthy of a place in this world – I do not belong, I am worthless, I am not worth the very skin and bones that I inhabit – and if I don't work really, really hard and do as much stuff as possible to validate myself, then I will be destroyed. Slowly or quickly, it doesn't matter – I will be destroyed. I will never experience happiness, or feel a sense of belonging in this world.

As I am sitting here, listening to this internal argument, I am struck by how close I feel to the other voice – the voice of the Victim. I feel less close to the voice of the Judge, and feel inclined to call it by “he” as if it weren't coming from within me. That's very interesting to me. I wonder if that's because the voice of the Judge was instilled within me from outside – from “the Dream” as Don Miguel Ruiz calls it – and that the voice of the Victim is cultivated from within, in response to the abuse of the Judge. That makes sense, really. I mean, I don't need to cultivate a defense until there has been some experience of attack. “We learn to deny ourselves and reject ourselves. We are never good enough, or right enough, or clean enough, or healthy enough, according to all those beliefs we have. There is always something the Judge can never accept or forgive. That is why we reject our own humanity; that is why we never deserve to be happy; that is why we are searching for someone who abuses us, someone who will punish us. We have a very high level of self-abuse because of that image of perfection. When we reject ourselves, and judge ourselves, and find ourselves guilty and punish ourselves so much, it looks like there is no love. It looks like there is only punishment, only suffering, only judgment in this world.” (Ruiz)

The voice of the Judge is learned, and the voice of the Victim is a response to the Judge. No wonder the Victim feels closer to me – it is weak, collapsed, sad, hurt, and powerless, but it is also born of the belief that all the beliefs of the Judge aren't fair, that something better is possible, even if unlikely. The Judge is powerful, demanding, harsh, cruel, and hell-bent on misery. The voice of the Victim believes that something is really wrong here, that things feel really bad, that I deserve something better, but can't find a way around the vicious attack from the Judge. The Judge's lies keep the Victim powerless. Until...until what?

What is important here? What seems essential is cultivating a sense of observation that can identify who is speaking within me, who is taking over from moment to moment. When I am angry and vicious, when there is no possibility of anything going right in the world, I am being controlled by the Judge. When I collapse into despair, feeling like life is misery and that my life will always feel like a waste, I am being controlled by the Victim. In order to heal from the control of these voices, I have to be aware of when I am being ruled by each of them. In order to heal, is it necessary that I listen to all of the beliefs that each one holds to be essentially true? Hmmmm...I'm not sure. Maybe it is important to listen to each one – if I can maintain my objectivity, I can hear what each one believes, what each one does in response to those beliefs, how each one tries to control me. But it requires tremendous fortitude to be able to listen to the fullness of each of these voices without being pulled in by their madness, without being hooked.

When these voices hook me, I reinforce their beliefs. When I am able to see the light beyond these beliefs, I shatter their hold on me. Byron Katie's work brings me forever back to the questions that shatter these beliefs. “Is it true?” She says that when we are in conflict with reality, then we suffer. What we must do in order to be happy is to accept what is, and to love what is. NVC has taught me to listen beyond the Jackals – the thoughts spouted by the Judge and the Victim – to the true feelings and needs there. Some of those feelings and needs are basic to being human. I wonder, though, how many of those are rooted in core beliefs that are in conflict with reality...

Sometimes it's hard to know where to begin when I am hooked by these beliefs. Which practice will I default to? I have so many! I have NVC: observation, feelings, needs, requests – listening to the Jackals, feeling what is in my heart, and listening to what needs are at the heart of the matter. I have yoga and meditation – staying present with the breath as I experience what arises. I have so many books written by people who guide me to the light, who reflect the truth, who remind me what is real. I have my rudimentary knowledge of Byron Katie's work. I have Ecstatic Dance, returning me to the body to move through whatever gets stuck within me. I have Medicine work, which connects me with the utterly transcendent Divine so that I may learn directly from Source. I have counseling – which provides me a safe, sacred space in which to sift through the murk of my psyche. I have acupuncture, which can bring me back into balance when I am pulled off course – mind, body, and spirit. David Deida looks at things in three levels: function, flow, and glow – therapy, yoga, and spirituality. Some of the things that I engage in here are at the function level – therapeutic. Counseling, acupuncture, NVC, Byron Katie. These things allow me to see my mind and emotions and responses, and to work within them toward healing and wholeness. Others are flow level – yoga, embodied practices. Yoga, Ecstatic Dance. And still others are glow level – spirituality and contemplative work. Meditation, reading spiritual books, and Medicine ceremony work. I am so blessed to have so many resources that are available to me at any time, anchoring me to the Truth if I can choose them in the moment.

But the truth is that I don't always choose them in the moment. The Judge says, “wow, you must be fucking dense or something...” The Victim would reply by feeling deflated, saying, “life is really hard.” But if I choose a practice in that moment, I allow myself the opportunity to rise above the murk and lies. Sometimes I feel blindsided by the Judge. Sometimes I don't even notice that the Judge has spoken, and the Victim takes me over without me even understanding what has occurred. The other night was a brilliant dramatization of all of this. I was working in the ceramics studio, alone. I was trying to complete a small porcelain bowl, and it had gotten too dry and began to crack. In spite of my best attempts, it was not salvageable, so I had to give it up. I raised it up and shattered it on the table, pissed off. I began to work on a new porcelain bowl, and continued working on a ceramic colander that I had begun two weeks prior. It was also beginning to crack, but I decided that there was no way I was going to let it go. It wasn't too far gone, and I was going to try to patch it and finish it. I became more and more frustrated, and while I made progress, the littlest setbacks in my work sent me to the edge. I threw a water bottle across the room. I shouted, I cursed. I felt so angry I could have heaved the table across the room. I felt powerful and furious – surely trying to find some strength and control in a situation that was surely beyond my control. Clay will do what clay will do, and there is little that I can do to change that. Eventually, after I finished my colander and my porcelain bowl, I had hopes of doing some more work with glazing. Suddenly, the music stopped. My ipod had frozen, and I couldn't get it to come back to life. At that point, I was at the absolute breaking point. I was overcome in fury and wanted to hurt someone – or myself. Screaming “fuck, fuck, fuck” at the top of my lungs, I abandoned my working, and left. By the time I made it to the car, I was ready to die. I felt that my anger had collapsed on itself, having no hope of creating any effect beyond my own inner emotional state. I felt utter despair, and wept for my whole drive home. “What's the use of anything, I just want to die.”

I was so swept away in this emotional avalanche that I couldn't see what was actually happening. My frustration at first had been justified. I had spent valuable time making a porcelain bowl, and was unhappy that it was falling apart. But I didn't remain with that singular event. My mind went nuts, and I began to be angry because “everything I do is a waste. I can't do anything right. I am an utter failure.” Whoa...all because a porcelain bowl got too dry and fell apart? Really??? And then, just when my Judge had overreacted completely, the Victim kicked in. “I want to die. I can't do anything right. Life is not worth it. I give up. I am a failure. I am worthless and a loser.” So, all because a porcelain bowl didn't work out, I was ready to totally hate myself, abandon myself, kill myself. It's scary how fast this kind of response can come along. It moves at a speed that slips beneath the level of conscious awareness. After having just spent a few weeks studying the Bhagavad Gita in my Philosophy and Practice of Yoga class, I am inspired to embrace the warrior that is within, stronger than these beliefs and lies. I am inspired to stop in the moment, to resist the overwhelm of these emotional responses, and to listen more deeply to what is true.

It is not true that I am worthless. It is not true that I am a failure. It is not true that life isn't worth it. It is not true that I am willing to give up so easily. It is not true that I am powerless. It is not true that I am not worthy of love and joy and happiness. It is not true that I am not good enough, strong enough, beautiful enough. It is not true that I don't deserve the life I am living. It is not true that I must work endlessly to earn my right to be here. It is not true that while other people may judge me, criticize me, reject me, and try to cause me harm, I deserve these things, that those people are right. I am only able to take in the judgment, criticism, rejection and abuse of others if I am already judging, criticizing, rejecting, and abusing myself.

I want to be happy. I want to live a life in the Light. I want to live Love in everything that I do. I see now that much of the happiness, light, and love that I have embraced has merely been an attempt to escape from the misery I experience in myself, in my life. But this happiness that is an escape is always going to be ephemeral, temporary. I have sought to escape the Judge by fleeing to ethereal realms of lightness and joy. I have sought to escape the Victim by fleeing to acceptance and peace. But what I have found is that this is small joy, small lightness, small acceptance, and small peace. The Love I yearn for is a love that is powerful and undying. The Joy I yearn for cannot collapse under any weight. The Peace I yearn for is so eternal that it swallows the possibility of war once and for all. And all of these must come through knowing Truth that cannot be proven or disproven, but felt and known as the Source of All.

When I seek Love outside of myself, I will only find small love. Love that can change depending on circumstance or the weather. When I seek Peace outside of myself, I will only find small peace. Peace that is biding its time, holding its tongue, not wanting to rock the boat. When I seek Joy outside of myself, I will only find small joy. Joy that treads water, hoping to stay above sorrow, yet remembering suffering all too well. When I seek Truth outside of myself, I find only truth that can change depending on paradigm or epistemology or science or religion. Small truth, peace, joy, and love will just keep spinning the cycle of suffering into lies, war, sorrow, and fear. I choose to anchor myself to the practices that return me to Truth, Peace, Joy, and Love at all costs, in the face of all experiences and appearances, no matter what. I am a Spiritual Warrior. I have chosen this path, and I will not give up now or ever. I pray that Spirit will continue to bless my life by sending me exactly what I need today and always.


Inside a hostel in Cusco, Peru