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.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Love and Fear

Today I've got nothing but this excerpt. It says everything, I mean EVERYTHING that I could hope to uncover in myself right now.

From, "The Mastery of Love" by Don Miguel Ruiz

Love has no obligations. Fear is full of obligations. In the track of fear, whatever we do is because we have to do it, and we expect other people to do something because they have to do it. We have the obligation, and as soon as we have to, we resist it. The more resistance we have, the more we suffer. Sooner or later, we try to escape our obligations. On the other hand, love has no resistance. Whatever we do is because we want to do it. It becomes a pleasure; it's like a game, and we have fun with it.

Love has no expectations. Fear is full of expectations. With fear we do things because we expect we have to, and we expect that others are going to do the same. That is why fear hurts and love doesn't hurt. We expect something and if it doesn't happen, we feel hurt - it isn't fair. We blame others for not fulfilling our expectations. When we love, we don't have expectations; we do it because we want to, and if other people do it or not, it's because they want to or not and it's nothing personal. When we don't expect something to happen, if nothing happens, it's not important. We don't feel hurt, because whatever happens is okay. That is why hardly anything hurts us when we are in love; we aren't expecting that our lover will do something, and we have no obligations.

Love is based on respect. Fear doesn't respect anything, including itself. If I feel sorry for you, it means I don't respect you. You cannot make your own choices. When I have to make the choices for you, at that point I don't respect you. If I don't respect you, then I try to control you. Most of the time when we tell our children how to live their lives, it's because we don't respect them. We feel sorry for them, and we try to do for them what they should do for themselves. When I don't respect myself, I feel sorry for myself, I feel I'm not good enough to make it in this world. How do you know when you don't respect yourself? When you say, "Poor me, I'm not strong enough, I'm not intelligent enough, I'm not beautiful enough, I cannot make it." Self pity comes from disrespect.

Love is ruthless; it doesn't feel sorry for anyone, but it does have compassion. Fear is full of pity; it feels sorry for everyone. You feel sorry for me when you don't respect me, when you don't think I am strong enough to make it. On the other hand, love respects. I love you; I know you can make it. I know you are strong enough, intelligent enough, good enough that you can make your own choices. I don't have to make your choices for you. You can make it. If you fall, I can give you my hand, I can help you to stand up. I can say, "You can do it, go ahead." That is compassion, but it is not the same as feeling sorry. Compassion comes from respect and from love; feeling sorry comes from a lack of respect and from fear.

Love is completely responsible. Fear avoids responsibility, but this doesn't mean that it's not responsible. Trying to avoid responsibility is one of the biggest mistakes we make because every action has a consequence. Everything we think, everything we do, has a consequence. If we make a choice, we have an outcome or a reaction. If we don't make a choice, we have an outcome or a reaction. We are going to experience the consequence of our actions in one way or another. That is why every human is completely responsible for his actions, even if he doesn't want to be. Other people can try to pay for your mistakes, but you will pay for your mistakes anyway, and then you pay double. When others try to be responsible for you, it only creates a bigger drama.

Love is always kind. Fear is always unkind. With fear we are full of obligations, full of expectations, with no respect, avoiding responsibility, and feeling sorry. How can we feel good when we are suffering from so much fear? We feel victimized by everything; we feel angry or sad or jealous or betrayed.

Anger is nothing but fear with a mask. Sadness is fear with a mask. Jealousy is fear with a mask. With all those emotions that come from fear and create suffering, we can only pretend to be kind. We are not kind because we don't feel good, we are not happy. If you are in the track of love, you have no obligations, no expectations. You don't feel sorry for yourself or for your partner. Everything is going well for you, and that is why that smile is always on your face. You are feeling good about yourself, and because you are happy, you are kind. Love is always kind, and that kindness makes you generous and opens all the doors. Love is generous. Fear is selfish; it is only about me. Selfishness closes all the doors.

Love is unconditional. Fear is full of conditions. In the track of fear, I love you if you let me control you, if you are good to me, if you fit into the image I make for you. I create an image of the way you should be, and because you are not and never will be the image, I judge you because of that, and find you guilty. Many times I even feel ashamed of you because you are not what I want you to be. If you don't fit that image I create, you embarrass, me, you annoy me, I have no patience at all with you. I am just pretending kindness. In the track of love, there is no if; there are no conditions. I love you for no reason, with no justification. I love you the way you are, and you are free to be the way you are. If I don't like the way you are, then I'd better be with someone who is the way I like her to be. We don't have the right to change anyone else, and no one else has the right to change us. If we are going to change, it is because we want to change, because we don't want to suffer any longer.

(p. 59-64)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Divine

The Divine is the formless, transcendent unity in the manifest, the very essence of all that exists and all that is unmanifest in this and all worlds. The Divine is the life force within all that lives, moves, breathes, and dies. The Divine is the light in the sun, the reflection of light in the moon, and the orbit that the Earth passes through in order to create the shifting cycles of day and night. The Divine is the water that nourishes the forest, and the light that shines upon that water. The Divine is the forest that provides food and shelter to all those who seek refuge there. The Divine is the berries that feed the birds, and the birds that feed the cats, and the cats that feed the wolves. The Divine is the flexibility in the branches of the trees, as they sway in the gentle wind, and as they bow graciously in a ferocious thunderstorm. And the Divine is the power of the thunderstorm that rattles the Earth, sending beings fleeing to shelter wherever they can find it. The Divine provides the cave, the burrow, the hollow that serve as that shelter, and is the lightning that strikes the tree and the ground. The Divine is the instinct that drives each being to find shelter, to take what is needed to live, and to surrender to the arms of death when the time has come. And when that time has come, the Divine is there waiting with open arms to embrace each of us in the transcendent unity that we can only intuit while living in this realm of karma and change.

The Divine is what wakes me up in the morning, and is the one that has given me this body without asking anything in return. The Divine offers me the gifts of pleasure and pain, a mind to approach with discipline and humor, and the inner strength to face life. The Divine sends the wave of knowing that has guided me when I have been lost, and in times of darkness and despair. The Divine has given me company for this life, companions with whom to share the joys and the sorrows. The Divine has given me all that I need in order to survive in this world – food, water, shelter, and safety. The Divine has given me gifts of creativity and intelligence so that I may make sense of my life, and express myself in whatever ways move me. And the Divine has given me endless opportunities for intimate communion with it, available whenever I choose to enter into its holy realm within my own being. The Divine has given me the capacity to experience love and fear, truth and deception, joy and despair, peace and conflict. And the Divine has given me wisdom to experience Love, Truth, Joy, and Peace that transcend duality. The Divine has given me the freedom to dance through this life – and all lives, past and future – with endless opportunities to learn, grow, expand, and surrender. And the Divine has planted within me the seed of ultimate wisdom that leads me along the path to Self, one day at a time. I bow in humble gratitude.


I sat quietly, palms resting on my lap. Cool wind blowing in the window. Uncomfortable. Cold. Unevenly cold. Warm legs under a blanket, cold face and arms. Cat snoring, irritating. Trucks coming down my street, clanging and banging and engine roaring. Smell of diesel. War begins. Can't the wind just stop blowing, or just be warmer? Can't the cat shut up? Can't trucks like this be banned? My mind spins on and on. Tightness in my chest, shoulders rounding forward. The desire to stretch, to open up – I stretch, my vertebrae and sternum pop and crack. I breathe. Mind spinning, returning to a conversation from last night. What is wrong with him? Why can't he just speak to me, why does he always retreat? Fine, whatever. I don't need him anyway. I write him off, I try to block him from my mind. I remember the other one, the one who does listen, the one who doesn't retreat, even when I am intense. I focus on what it feels like to be accepted, and then, my mind returns to the other one, the one who has left me feeling irritated. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh! Enough!!! I can hardly stand myself. I would love to jump up, to move away, to leave behind this madness in my own head. The one who accepts me must be crazy. The one who retreats is the wise one. I imagine writing an apology email to him. What can I say that sufficiently explains that I am aware of the insanity within myself, that I am pulled by it to varying degrees from day to day? Then, a deeper thought arises. What if I merely sit here, without retreating from myself, just breathing into the madness? What if I do nothing, merely accepting this space to allow the madness to settle? Yes, that is much wiser...

I feel the urgency in my body, and I feel the superficiality of that urgency. I feel the depth below it, vast as the open sea. I feel how I spend so much time frantically treading water, trying to keep from sinking into the madness, reaching out to this or that, hoping not to drown. And I change my mind. I stop struggling. I allow myself to be pulled into the depths of this spaciousness, and I breathe. I make the commitment to myself to trust that I will not drown. The urgency settles. The madness settles. The need to do something settles. I can simply be here with all that arises around me and within me without having any reaction at all. What if I were to come here each day? Honestly, I am beginning to see how insanity comes from choosing not to meditate each day. The mind reaches and grasps, trying to make sense of life, trying to find some solid ground. It reaches out in every direction, frantic and wild. That is its nature, when allowed to run rampant. Choosing to sit in meditation is choosing to see the mind for what it is, and not giving in to its wildness. It will settle when given the chance. Why do I keep forgetting this?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Finding my Way


   /ˌɪnsɪˈkyʊər/ Show Spelled[in-si-kyoor]
1.subject to fears, doubts, etc.; not self-confident or assured: an insecure person.
2.not confident or certain; uneasy; anxious: He was insecure about the examination.
3.not secure; exposed or liable to risk, loss, or danger: an insecure stock
4.not firmly or reliably placed or fastened: an insecure ladder.

It's true. I am subject to fears and doubts. I am lacking in self confidence and self assurance sometimes. I am not always confident or certain. I am uneasy relatively regularly, and have experienced deep anxiety. I don't even need to venture beyond the 2nd definition of the word "insecure" to see that I must be. It's true. I am Angela, and I am insecure.

   /ˈvælɪˌdeɪt/ Show Spelled[val-i-deyt]
–verb (used with object),-dat·ed, -dat·ing.
1. to make valid; substantiate; confirm: Time validated our suspicions.
2. to give legal force to; legalize.
3. to give official sanction, confirmation, or approval to, as elected officials,
election procedures, documents, etc.: to validate a passport.

When I am feeling insecure, I seek validation outside of myself. I long for acceptance and approval from others. I long for confirmation that what I know is known by others, that what I feel is felt by others, that what I think is in the minds of my fellow human beings. I seek validation from those around me, those who I trust, those who I resonate with. I deeply appreciate when the people in my life can reflect to me my own light and truth in those moments when I am feeling rusty and dense.

vul·ner·a·ble (vŭl'nər-ə-bəl)
1. Susceptible to physical or emotional injury.
2. Susceptible to attack: "We are vulnerable both by water and land, without
either fleet or army" (Alexander Hamilton).
3.Open to censure or criticism; assailable.
4.Liable to succumb, as to persuasion or temptation.
5.Games In a position to receive greater penalties or bonuses in a hand of
bridge. In a rubber, used of the pair of players who score 100 points
toward game.

I am totally susceptible to physical and emotional injury, and totally susceptible to attack from other human beings, both those who intend me harm, and those who unconsciously bring it. I am definitely open to censure and criticism, and feel tremendous hurt sometimes in the face of that. I am not likely to succumb to persuasion or temptation really. I have a strong will, and the moment I decide to walk away, I will. Within the realms of black and white, I am not vulnerable at all. I can make a hard, life-altering decision with relative ease, and can say "no" to anything I feel a strong mind about. But it's the infinite gray spaces between deep, knowing intuition and deep, clear thought that leave me defenseless, vulnerable.

I am insecure. I require validation. I am vulnerable. Not always, though. I am not only insecure, I am open. I not only look for validation, I look for authentic connection. And in vulnerability there is a softness, a touchable quality that consciously surrenders defense. I am all these things.

I am unearthing things within my psyche at breakneck speed. I am uncovering dark, foul parts of myself that haven't seen the light of day since childhood, or before that. I am entangled in a web of stuff within my mind and body and heart that I have a hard time making sense of. I am in a continual process of learning and unlearning. I am in the least stable place I have ever been in my entire life. I don't have any answers anymore. What I am learning is that sometimes having a breakthrough means having a breakdown. It's not pretty, it's not contained, and it's not predictable. It's messy and chaotic and fiery. It's like a detox for the mind and emotions.

I am no longer in a period of breakdown. I have been shattered thoroughly. I have fallen to my knees, and have been humbled completely. Here I am, sifting through the rubble. Old beliefs, old patterns, old habits, old ideas, old pain, old fears, old poison. Even though the form that once held it all together inside of me has been broken apart, all this still remains.

When I was in Peru in December 2007-January 2008, I was volunteering for earthquake recovery in Pisco, south of Lima on the coast. This is coastal desert land, and as we worked to finish tearing down homes, haul away rubble, and begin the process of rebuilding, we inevitably unearthed things in the sand. One day while working on leveling land for a temporary home, I was asked to dig post holes. I used a shovel and a pick-ax, and as I began the project, I found all kinds of things in the first foot of sand. Underwear. Newspaper. A child's artwork. A gold tone watch. And photographs, like the kind from school photos. The family whose land we were working on were housed in a giant army tent adjacent to our work site, and as I found these things, I made a heap of them right beside their doorway. As I found each object, I wondered, who did this belong to? Was this person killed in the earthquake? Will this object mean something to someone in this family? And right now, as I am thinking about the rubble in my own life, I am thinking of how much care I offered each of those found items in the sand. What would happen if I offered the same kindness to myself as I uncover each new wound, each new pattern, each new belief - all old, but newly unearthed following my own internal earthquake.

Life never used to feel this way. So much uncertainty, so much impermanence. I used to have such a strong sense of self, and such strong "boundaries" - or walls, anyway, I used to be fierce and powerful. I was insecure then, too, but I had so many layers of defenses built up around that soft place within me that no one could tell. But beneath all those defenses, I was still cowering there, longing to come out into the light of day and be seen, beheld, loved for who I really am. I wasn't so vulnerable, not really. Nothing could touch me. I was the pilgrim, the wanderer, the seeker, the one with the epic book collection, the epic travels, the epic philosophies and ideas, all the answers. I was solid and clear. There was power in that. And in the intensity of facing death and loss, all of that crumbled. Every last little bit of it crumbled. All the philosophies and ideas in the world didn't matter. All the stories of travel, all the spiritual books didn't matter. All the assemblage of ideas about who I am didn't matter. Death swallows all of that. And being the one left behind here, I am finding that grief is the gaping hole left behind - leaving me insecure, vulnerable, and seeking validation. I seek validation not for my ideas and my personality so much as for my true need to understand why I walk here in this life. Death swallows it all, so why are we here walking through this life?

David Deida says it well: No matter how much money or love you have made, one day your legs will become cold and numb, your heart will stop, your breath will cease, and all will disappear. In some now-moment as real as this present one, your life will end. Are you ready for your death? Are you ready for the death of your children, your parents, and your friends? A picnic with your loved ones. Fried chicken and cold beer. A gentle breeze. Laughter. Suddenly your heart stops. A final glimpse. Fade to death. I am insecure because I know that one day I will drop dead. Guaranteed. I am vulnerable in that. Deida continues, Are you ready? Have you loved fully and given your deepest gifts? A life lived well embraces death by feeling open, from heart to all, in every moment. Wide open, you can offer without holding back, you can receive without pushing away. Wide open, heart to all, you are openness, unseparate from this entire open moment. Every part of the moment comes and goes as openness. And that's where I know I keep failing. I keep trying, hoping that my effort will gain some solid ground here, that if I try hard enough, I will be able to feel like I am not slipping into the void. And right there are the void's hungry, wide open jaws, pulling me in...

Nothing short of profound grief and loss could have brought me here. Not a 500 mile trek across a holy road in Spain. Not all the Ayahuasca ceremonies in the world. Not the most incredible holy sites. Not even the most incredible, blissful love. But the trek showed me that inside of me is this indomitable strength that can move mountains. The Ayahuasca ceremonies have showed me that living from the heart is the only way to experience true connection and joy in this world, that there is profound interdependence that transcends anything my human mind can comprehend, and that I am inseparable from that interdependent web of life. And the most blissful love can magically suspend time and mind in a place of eternity and pure connection that make life worth living. And in the face of grief and loss that has been all-consuming in my life, these things sure do add up to something.

I am feeling in this moment that what I need more than anything is people who can be stable, solid, loving presences in my life as I find my way. People who can receive me in my learning and unlearning, and who can hold space for that intense process. People who see the light in me in the midst of the darkness that is raging. People who can offer gentleness and firmness in truth and love as I make my way along this path. People who will help me to see the truth and love in me when I forget. People who will stand by me gladly as I falter, and who will extend a hand when I fall to the ground. People who will lift me up into the highest, finest version of myself, and who will allow me the gift of offering them the same in return. Day by day, I am standing here on this Earth, finding my way. The road is not clear or certain, and I feel alone a lot of the time. Sometimes I don't know if I can do it. Sometimes I don't know if it's worth doing at all, and I collapse into despair. But within me is strength, power, knowing, creativity, love, radiance, joy, truth. I pray that life continues to send those to my path who can help me remember that when I fail.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Swept Away

I feel the flux of spring pulling me this way and that way and this way again. The temperature gets really hot, then really cold, then hot, then fog, then cold nights and hot days, then moderate balance all the time. And that's what I feel inside of myself right now, too. I have always been an emotional person, a sensitive person. I am passionate, I feel things deeply. My sun sign is in Cancer - one of the most emotional signs. My moon sign is in Aries - one of the most fiery, impulsive signs. And my rising sign is in Scorpio - another tremendously emotional sign. I am a Chinese dragon, once more fiery. Water and fire, water and fire. I am the swell of the sea, calm and gentle, then raging into a tsunami. I am the glow of a warm fire, bringing people together in love and laughter, and I am the raging forest fire that destroys thousands of acres of pristine woodland. I am peace and I am violence. I am calm and I am ferocious. I am deeply wise, and I am an impulsive child.

Yesterday I was swept away in a torrent of anger that was all consuming. It's hard to know, sometimes, what will carry me into that state of feeling. I was already exhausted, and my body was aching, then my stomach began to hurt. All these things heightened my sensitivity, making me long to be gently cared for, taken into someone's arms and held gently and lovingly. But I didn't take myself into this place of gentleness, and there was no one else around to do it either. Instead, I found myself dealing with little annoying things, and my already sensitive state of being went into overwhelm pretty quickly. I just wanted ease, peace, flow! Instead, I found myself spiralling into anger. I couldn't find my cell phone. My internet wasn't working, and I was interrupted mid-conversation with someone. It was too hot to be out in the sun, and too cold in my house. My body ached, and every movement was uncomfortable. Sitting was uncomfortable. Searching for my phone was uncomfortable. My belly hurt from the body pain. I had eaten chocolate, and that made my belly hurt more, as well as the sugar and caffeine making me shaky. Sounds started to get louder than they were, intruding into my state of irritation. People talking loudly, kids bouncing a basketball and screaming, lawnmowers. Phone found, text sent, internet not working, not working, not working. For a month it hasn't been working well, and for the last two weeks of that, I have had a brand new laptop, with no possible issues. What the fuck, what the fuck?!?!

Suddenly I was at war with anyone who wanted to breathe in my direction. Nothing was good enough. Everyone was the enemy. Most of all, I was the enemy.

What the fuck was I doing up so late the night before? And what the fuck was I doing sub teaching? Is that the best I can do to get by in this world? What the fuck am I doing with my life? Wasting it, wasting it, watching it float by... And what the fuck was I doing that landed me with a muscle spasm that intense? And what the fuck could I do about it? Nothing at all. So, what the fuck was I doing, wasting my energy on the internet, like I do so many days? How much fucking time of my life do I waste on Facebook, once more wasting my life, watching it float by? And what the fuck was I doing, running around on a Friday evening, angry at the world? I wanted to hurt someone, or myself. I wanted to taste blood, or spill my own. I wanted to crash and be free. I wanted out. Fuck this. Game over. Done. Really?

There is so much energy in this powerful feeling. There is so much energy in the all-consuming sadness I felt a few days ago. There is so much energy in me! And when I focus it in this kind of way, all I am doing is undermining myself, my power. I hate the world, and I hate myself. Nothing is right, nothing can be made right. Everything is a problem, and I am alone in the world, seething and angry, ready to die. Fuck! I don't want to live like this...

If I could harness the energy of feelings as powerful as these, and channel that energy into something else, then I would be one hell of a powerful woman. I don't want to just follow the dictates of my culture, though, and push away the complex, uncomfortable emotions and just be happy in a sticky, sweet, fake kind of way. There is something authentic about these raw emotions that seems really worthy of honoring. I don't want to try to train myself into just feeling the "positive" emotions and blocking the "negative" ones. I see how a lot of the "positive intention" people want us to set a mantra and chant ourselves happy. "I am whole and happy each and every day." Fuck, dude. No, I'm not. Not even if I fake it 'til I make it, repeating that hollow bullshit every day! I think there's something deeper than that. Not moving into preference for happy feelings over angry ones. I think there's something really powerful in allowing them all to show up fully, to listen to them fully, but to simply remain present with them, not pulled this way and that, tumultuous and wild and out of control. I want to feel exactly what I am feeling in each and every moment. I want to surrender my preferences to just feel happy all the time, and to push away the darkness, lest it swallow me whole. But I also want to be still and present and calm and strong in the face of all of it. It's something I can only imagine at this point.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Seeing Clearly

The faint early morning light is glowing outside the window, and there is a chill in the air. I am not used to being up so early, and after a night that was later than I would prefer. But the cobwebs are clearing from my wakefulness, and I am feeling pretty good this morning. My eyes are tired, as is my body, but a glow fills me. My body is still, vibrating with goodness and flow. I feel energy circulating within me, and I am light and open, radiant. I am grateful for having spent my Earth Day in creative, heart-centered playfulness, in love.

And now, I am back in a school subbing for the first time in months. Today I am playing science teacher – chemistry, physics, anatomy & physiology. An easy day, I am hoping. A day of handing out random assignments and keeping a bunch of high school kids from burning the place down. And a day of reading and pondering. It's not the most meaningful work, but it's also not bad. I am serving a need within a system that is serving a need. Today I'm willing to play my part in that.

Feeling deeper now. Connecting with the part of me that comes here to the page to express, to contemplate, to celebrate and mourn. What within me yearns to speak in this moment? Oh, yes. There has been something stirring within me since Wednesday, my day of inconsolable sadness. I am wanting to touch in with resistance and abandonment, these two elements that seem inextricably entwined in my life.

When I was 18 years old, I fled my hometown. Not in any kind of teen angsty kind of way, but to go to college in Baltimore, to the Peabody Institute, the music school of my dreams. I was ready to leave behind my family, to leave behind this small town and all its conservative, small-minded values. I was ready to walk away from who I had been, and to become who I really was. That choice was perhaps the best one I ever made in my life that far. I entered into a community of creative people, and found my tribe. I entered into school, studying and practicing what I loved most, and dove into it with my entire being. I had the most incredible experiences, and met the most wonderful people, many of whom are still dear to my heart now. I entered into the life I had always wanted.

And at the end of four years, I was burned out and tired, and I walked away. I couldn't care less about playing the flute or about Peabody. I was done. Once more, I fled. Not geographically, for I have remained in the general area of Baltimore-Washington, DC ever since. But still, I fled. I didn't want to be bound by the smallness of the Institute, or by the smallness of the classical music profession. What I am seeing now is that this began a pattern in my life that has carried forth ever since. I have walked away from many things – from people, from work, from my art, from just about everything that I have been deeply connected to. It came to me in waves earlier this week just how profoundly this pattern has affected my life, too. It almost seems that everything I become close with I must eventually choose to leave. And I want to dive deeper into this pattern.

Push pull energy. I want so much to be deep into what I love. I love the intensity, the feeling of being absorbed, of merging in unity. I love the feeling of my boundary being blurred into something larger than myself. I love the feeling of being utterly absorbed in the creative process, of making music or writing or art. I love being utterly absorbed in learning, feeling my whole being become devoted to the process. I love being utterly absorbed in relationships, too, losing myself in the larger picture, feeling how my living and loving contributes to others, and how their living and loving contributes to me. And at some point in this absorption, I become overwhelmed. I begin to feel lost and scared, and something deep and primal within me yearns to reassert my identity, my separate self sense. So, I push the world away from me, and re-establish my own boundaries. I feel my me-ness re-emerge. And so I have lived, feeling the tides of connection coming closer and then retreating, ebbing and flowing like the sea.

This ebbing and flowing is the ebbing and flowing of self and other, of fear and love. Of wanting to be whole on my own, and of longing to live deeper than that. Of fearing the possibility of losing myself in the midst of togetherness, and of love that couldn't care less about that, yearning to drown this little ego identity in the flow of radiant living love. What will happen if I surrender to love, to the whole, to connection, to let myself be completely engulfed within that? In essence, I see this as the yearning to return to God, to surrender to the divine, to give it all up to what is most holy in the universe. This is the deep yearning of the spiritual path I have been called to follow, the yearning that awakens my heart each day upon this Earth. But it is also terrifying sometimes. It is annihilation, it is death, it is being swallowed as an individual ego being, and being transformed into a spark of light in the whole. And that is terrifying! So, I resist, I pull away. I am not ready to die, I still have lots of living left to do here.

Resistance at this deepest level makes so much sense. Resistance at this level, at the level of this ebb and flow of human and divine, is the dance of Life. It is a dance of resistance that emerges from deep within my cells, a dance between my primal animal nature and my profound spiritual nature. But this resistance ripples out into my life in ways that are far less profound as I assert my identity and self in the world. I have been caught up in this resistance so many times. I resist that which attempts to define me, limit me, consume me. I am Angela the intellectual, the flutist, the pilgrim, the writer. And I have balked at each of these things. I am intellectual, and can speak about many diverse things, but I am also deeply intuitive and don't care to rely on knowledge alone. I am a highly trained flutist, but sometimes would rather play a drum around a fire, or improvise on a simple bamboo flute while sitting on a riverbank. I am a pilgrim, travelling the world in search of the divine, but I am bound by no culture or religion, I am making my own way. I am a writer, but don't seek money or approval through this form, my deepest commitment is to my own soul as I approach the page. It is all on my terms. I will offer only what I want, I will be only what I choose, and if you challenge me to be what you imagine is most logical, or most purposeful, or most practical, I will spin on my heels and walk away from you. Who the hell are you to limit me or define me? I pack up my ideas, my music, my language, my heart, and I stuff it all into my pilgrim's rucksack, and hit the road.

And there I am, alone with my rucksack, filled with the jewels from within my deepest heart, and feeling alone and abandoned. Where did everybody go? Hey, don't you want to come along this road with me? I see how I have walked away from everything like this so many times. I have fled conversations, I have fled gatherings, I have fled my art, I have fled work that pays the bills and work that fulfills me, I have fled relationships and friendships, I have fled what gives me grounding and history, I have fled anything that questions me in any way, I have fled whatever makes me uncomfortable, I have fled whatever feels too close or threatens to limit me. I have fled my music career. I have fled my massage training. I have fled my mind. I have fled my heart. I have fled my own skin. And each time I run away, I am fleeing myself. I am abandoning myself. Instead of sitting still with a situation for long enough to gain real insight, I have sought escape at all costs, fearing my own annihilation. And yet, on some deep level, that annihilation is the very thing I am seeking...

The very things I yearn for most deeply in my life at this point are requiring that I stop fleeing, that I stop resisting, that I face myself. I can push away any person that makes me feel uncomfortable, who questions me, who challenges me, who threatens my sense of self in some way. Or I can see past that fear and stay present and true to who I really am. I can feel the discomfort, the questioning, the challenge, and not flee. I have enough clarity and integrity to be able to discern when I am actually being challenged or threatened in a way that is harmful, and I can have enough faith in myself to know when walking away would be the most self-loving choice. But instead of that, I see how I have made it a practice to push people away as a visceral response to anyone who comes within my sphere of living who might make me the slightest bit uncomfortable, even when it might be in alignment with what I need to learn and face in order to grow. I have been impulsive and fearful a lot of the time in my relationships with my fellow human beings. I have formed deep and meaningful connections, for sure, and have felt great trust and love in these relationships. But I have sometimes also been bored by the safety of them, yearning for something else, something I couldn't quite name. I have longed for total acceptance and I have also been bored with that, and felt like walking away from that, too. What a bizarre pattern, spiraling into every facet of my relating with others.

I have also fled the very things I love to do. I love to play the flute, and at this point, I have walked away from performing, and have only the bare minimum of work needed to get by in the field of music. It is true that I no longer have much interest in classical music. I am yearning for something deeper than that, to enter into a deeper relationship with my art, with improvisation, and with creating music in a freer way with others who share the same vision. But I am in a holding pattern, not yet freely entering into this creative process. I have yet to redefine my art, and I feel it stirring within me. Will I get out of my own way and allow Spirit to create through me? I love to write, and at this point, I have never really, fully given much chance to it beyond my own needs. Do I really want to put my writing out there into the world? I think so. Writing fulfills me, and I have been told that it has touched others, too. I have plenty to say, and I love the dance of entering into life through the written (and spoken) word. Yet, I have hesitated. I have a 600+ page master's thesis on pilgrimage sitting atop a shelf in a closet, essentially three books waiting to find their way to the world. I have a poetry blog, a pilgrimage blog, an Ayahuasca blog, and this daily blog, all drifting in the ethers of cyberspace, finding people here and there. But is there some other commitment that writing could become in my life? I haven't ever made any serious attempt toward being published. What if I began to explore possibilities for that? What is there to lose? And my most recent pursuit, massage. I have been finished with massage school since mid-December. I have made no effort at this point to get licensed, and to begin a practice. Will this become the next path I walk away from? Or will I push past my own resistance and enter into a dance with my creative offerings, and allow them to become sacred offerings from my heart, sacred offerings in service in the world?

A couple of weeks ago, when I went into ceremony, I was surprised to feel my resistances fall away. I stood there, and couldn't quite remember what had been wrong in the first place, why I had resisted the community and the spiritual practice that had touched me so deeply. I had been so afraid of losing myself, of being overtaken by something that was dangerous. But the only danger was in surrendering the kicking and screaming of my own ego. The only thing to lose was my separate self sense, my aloneness, my own feeling of being abandoned. I can see that I have been afraid of the very things I have longed for in the deepest corners of my heart and soul. I long to feel deep and meaningful connection. I long for tribe, community. I long for a deep, soulful relationship. And I have resisted both of those. I long to know that my life matters, to make a meaningful contribution to the world. And I have resisted offering my gifts, the very things I have to offer from the purest place within my heart and soul. As I sit here, seeing the truth of this more clearly than ever before, I am stunned to see how I have been blocking myself constantly. I have sabotaged myself. I have denied myself the very things I have wanted most. It has never been true that what I long for is not possible. It has only been true that I couldn't stop my fearful patterns – I couldn't see my fearful patterns – for long enough to allow my heart's desire to manifest in my life. I am sitting here in a place of quiet compassion right now. I am practicing having compassion for myself, for the truth that I have not seen this pattern, and that it has ruled my life in my unawareness. And I am grateful today for seeing clearly.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Life is nothing if not an adventure in contrast. Yesterday in the afternoon I felt full of love and truly alive. This morning as I awoke, my belly was filled with a stirring sense of dread. My heart was filled with sadness and longing, a kind of low-grade despair that fills my body with inertia. Being engaged in meditation practice with Pema Chodron's words at my side will surely be a useful tool today as I sit with this feeling, choosing patience and presence instead of reactivity and escape.

I breathe into my body, feeling the contour of this discomfort, listening for the messages of this feeling. I believe that these kinds of embodied feelings - as opposed to emotional feelings - are true north, pointing me to something that needs acknowledgment. In my practice of curious exploration through Nonviolent Communication, I would begin to face this feeling by making observations like this (or if there were an external experience, I might begin there). So, Pema's wisdom is getting me to stay here and present with this feeling, not fleeing into distraction, for long enough to begin embracing NVC. I am so lucky to have these guides for my life.

The next piece is to observe thoughts - jackals. I hate waking up feeling this way. Fuck, will life never just let me be happy day after day? Do I have to spend so much time feeling like shit? I am such a melodramatic narcissist. Why must I spend my days gazing internally, playing in this crap? I don't see other people feeling this way all the time, and spending hours upon hours of their lives gazing at their navels in hope of finding some sense of happiness. People just live, they wake up and go to their jobs and live. Why the hell does it all have to be so complicated? And what the fuck am I so miserable about?

I have a feeling emerging - loneliness. And more jackals, more thoughts. Lonely? Of course you are. You spend all your time obsessing about yourself! This little feeling, that little feeling, this or that isn't right in the world, this or that isn't right in your life. You are nothing but a dreamer, drifting in the realm of possibility all the time, and never happy with things the way they are. And now, the need behind the feeling - I am needing deep companionship. More thoughts continue - your life is filled with people! Filled with experience! What the hell are you lonely for?

What I am feeling now is a shift within me. Moving away from the violence of the jackal's judgment and attack - which here has been internally focused, trying to convince me that my feelings are not valid because I shouldn't be needing what I need. I am feeling like I have found the jewel within this morning's wakeful sadness.

I am feeling lonely because I am needing deep companionship. I am taking a pause now to just sit with that, breathing into it, accepting where I am this morning.

David Deida says that we attract people into our lives who are where we are, who are as open as we are, who show up as much as we are willing to. I am seeing the truth of this play out in my life right now. I am seeing how my own heart's deepest yearning has been blocked by my own hesitation and fear. At this point in my life, my heart's deepest yearning is for relationship, for intimate partnership. I could certainly continue living as I have lived, and life would go on as it has. I could continue to get wrapped up in my life's mission, and reinvest myself in my spiritual practice over and over again. But what I have been feeling with increasing intensity is that I have come as far as I can come along this path while alone. I don't want to do it alone anymore. I want my life's mission to be in partnership with someone I love. I want my spiritual practice to be in partnership with someone I love. I have had a million excuses in the past why I didn't want to go there. Men were distractions, and the highest form of love had little to do with romantic intimacy. Beneath that was a whole lot of fear that I wasn't worth very much, that I was not lovable, not really. But as I have faced these things and moved into healing, and letting go of the lies I have held to be true, I now feel just how strongly I have pushed away from one of the most beautiful parts of life. I can't even comprehend where my thoughts came from before, they make no sense to me now. And what I am left with is this deep longing.

I can look into every relationship I have ever had and see how I attracted to me only what I was willing to receive. I drew to myself relationships that never really blew my heart wide open because I was afraid of that, of losing myself in something so utterly beyond my control. And while there were beautiful experiences in each of those relationships, and in the moment I felt the gifts of what they were, I can see how I got exactly what I asked for. Relationships that weren't very deep, had no grounding, and had no room to grow. I don't want to be in a relationship that feels like I will be living in one room with a man for the duration! That makes me feel stifled, and want to jump out the window! But that is exactly what I have manifested in the past. Now, I want to dance with a man in every room in this spectacular mansion of life, and then jump out the window together and enter the wild world outside.

I am grateful for books that have been sent into my life right now, books that are feeding me with contemplation about relationship. Dear Lover by David Deida. Enchanted Love by Marianne Williamson. The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz. The Spirit of Intimacy by Sobonfu Some. Deida blows me away all the time in his knowing. You don't want a rigid man, but you want a man whose heart's courage and authentic truth runs deep. You want a man who feels you, listens to you, considers everything you have said, and then claims you, taking you to where you couldn't tell him to take you, even if you tried. He takes your heart to new depths of adventure and openness, and he shows you new aspects of life. You can - and should - give your man your fullest expression of feeling, offering him your feedback, your love, and your responsive heart's spontaneous expression of pleasure and pain. A really good man will embrace all the feedback and feeling you have offered him, consider everything you have showed him... Um, yes. And, How would you live and move right now if you were open in the fullest loving you can imagine? Right now, the only way you can know that you are not being fully loved is because you can intuit how it would feel to be fully loved. The only way you know that you are not open in divine bliss is because you can intuit a way of opening that is more divine, more blissful, than you are allowing yourself to open now. You already intuit your deepest divine love and gifts, right now. If you didn't you wouldn't yearn as you do. Sigh. Marianne Williamson gives me hope: We cannot remain who we used to be, once love has made it over our walls and begun to change our hearts. And that's where I sit today.

Once more, I am returning to the wisdom of sitting present and doing nothing. I feel all of this stirring within me. I feel the truth of Deida's and Williamson's words echoing within me. I see the ways that I have created relationships that have no longevity or possibility in the past, and I surrender them all to the fire. Sometimes, my Aries moon nature kicks around inside of me with ferocity, demanding that I move on to the next thing already, to cut ties with what feels so uncomfortable and just make a new beginning. Then, my Cancer sun nature clings tenaciously to the beauty of what I have been given, not wanting to let go. Both of these parts of my nature just want to be happy. So, today I breathe. I see, too, how the fears that I have carried have manifested what has come to my life now. I don't crave complication or drama, yet that is exactly what I have been given. Sometimes it's hard to know when to let go, and when to remain present through the challenges.

I am praying for clarity. I pray that the Universe will guide me in ways that are more clear than they are right now. I feel clear about what I want in a relationship, in the idea realm, anyway. I spent a long time recently getting clear about that in my blog, "Him." But in a more situational way, I am asking for clarity. I am not merely sitting here lonely, daydreaming of love in my life someday. Life has brought me experiences right now that are really requiring me to embody this question of relationship. What I hear very deeply in this moment is that I want to be with a man who is truly available on all levels. Whose life situation isn't too complicated to really allow me inside. Whose emotional situation isn't too complicated to really allow me inside. Someone who can freely and openly love me exactly as I am, and stand beside me and help me to grow while he does the same. Someone who can talk with me about the mysteries of the world and life, and who will not be too closed to sit and cry with me. Someone who has a lot to teach me and who is open to what I have to teach him. Someone who is courageous enough to enter my life and claim me as his, or to walk away if he knows I'm not it. Someone who is ready to commit to the beauty of a life together, in spite of the challenges. Someone who can make me laugh and smile and who can also hold my sorrow and anger sacred without retreating. I am here praying for life to send me a true intimate life partner. I am praying for clarity and courage.

One more thought from Deida: If you want a man who can offer his deepest consciousness and create a sacred relationship with you ... then feel, trust, and offer your heart's deepest yearning. Then, your love's most divine longing and deepest wisdom will choose the man you truly value and inspire. Your relationship will reflect your heart's most sacred light.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I feel about as full today as I ever remember feeling. This afternoon as I drove home from yoga, I rolled down the windows and blasted Michael Franti as loud as I could stand it, singing at the top of my lungs. I flowed down the road, every thought, every breath a prayer. I felt free, really free. In those moments, I felt completely surrendered to the moment, loving as much as I knew how, accepting everyone and everything around me with as much heart as I could manage. This afternoon, there has been nothing to do, nothing to be, nothing to achieve, nothing more than feeling alive in the world. I grooved to the music, and offered my very being as prayer to the Earth I moved upon, and the beings I moved among. I was consumed in the joy of this beautiful afternoon, flowering trees dripping heavy with their finest splendor, and lush green bursting out everywhere.

This is the way of the world. Just when we think that death has claimed everything, when the cold, brutal winter will splinter everything in its icy grip, life persists. Life persists. I feel it all around me as the world flows back to its eternal living majesty. I also feel it within me, as I feel the tempestuous seas within me calming to some sense of peace.

I have knelt to greet the hyacinths and tulips, and have leaned over each day to meet the sweetness of the lilacs. I am beginning to know many of the plants around me now in all their seasons. I know where the poke berry plants will come up in the garden, and I know the mullein down the street, its soft, gray-green leaves already fully emerging. I know the trees all around me, though I don't have names for them all yet. I know their rhythm. I know the cycle of the magnolia tree, her shiny, rubbery leaves resilient through the winter, and her fragrant, leathery white blossoms giving way to brilliant red seed pods, then to hard brown cones. And I am starting to feel the rhythm of humanity within this cycle of nature here. My experience of the rhythm of seasons is surely different from those who live in close communion with the land and rely upon it for their sustenance. But I am understanding the energetic shifts that come with each time of the year.

I feel the roots of spring in me, digging down deep, looking for nourishment to blossom me wild and joyful and abundant and full of love. The summer sun will ripen my heart and mind and soul. I can't wait to see what life brings to me during this time. The winter was brutal and cold, and ravaged me. I am so ready to receive the seeds of life here, to welcome whatever life has to offer me. I have spent much of this day deeply bowing in gratitude, hardly able to contain the feeling I have - an almost overwhelming, ecstatic feeling. There will be another fall, and another winter. But now is the time to grow and fortify my heart. To embrace this ecstasy fully, to allow it to transform pain into wholeness, to transform fear into love, to transform doubt into trust and faith.

I have been waiting for there to come a time when life would once more feel like everything is really, really okay. Today is that day.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Don't Take Anything Personally

It has been years since I first read "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz, and since that first reading I have read it several times. I am feeling today that perhaps my time is coming to read it once again. Its wisdom is simple and eternal, looking into four simple practices that can change your life. I have just pulled it out, and am reminding myself of these four agreements:

*Be impeccable with your word - Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

*Don't take anything personally - Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.

*Don't make assumptions - Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

*Always do your best - Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

I have come back to these ideas over and over again, and can usually figure out where I am needing to work by which agreement I am forgetting in the moment. But right now, I can see that I am doing pretty well with three of these. There is one that is a tender spot, a trigger, that is needing to be taken deeper into my awareness, the second agreement:
Don't take things personally

In this moment, I can hardly comprehend how it is possible to not take things personally in close relationships that are so deeply personal! I am so grateful for the people in my life who are serving as valuable mirrors in this process. I am also grateful for those who can love and accept me through my process of growing and learning, who can reflect to me what I need to see without trying to change me. In this moment, I am still fresh with morning wakefulness, and feel these little epiphanies that have been left as gifts of the dreamworld, though I don't recall my dreams from last night. Epiphanies about what it means to be strong and full of love and resilience. Epiphanies about what it means to be vulnerable instead of being fragile and sensitive. Epiphanies about deep acceptance of myself and others. Mostly right now, I feel this energy moving in my body, as things are being rearranged. I am grateful for this time to sit with this shift, and to explore these epiphanies more fully.

I am remembering a passage from Pema Chodron's book "Practicing Peace in Times of War" - one of my new favorite books:
If you dissolved your aggression, it would mean that other people wouldn't have to walk on eggshells around you, worried that something they might say would offend you. You'd be an accessible, genuine person. The awakened people that I've known are all very playful, curious, and unthreatened by things. They go into situations with their eyes and their hearts wide open. They have a real appetite for life instead of an appetite for aggression. They are, it seems, not afraid to be insecure.
I am thinking not so much of my own aggression - which there surely is plenty of - but my own sensitivity to life. The ways that I do take things personally. Sometimes, my sensitivity feels deep and psychic, utterly beyond thought and reaction. I feel energetically overwhelmed by a person or a situation. Sometimes it is purely energetic - there is no exchange that serves as a catalyst, but merely contact with a person. Sometimes it feels energetic as well as situational - I feel like I have entered a toxic dumping ground of energy, whether with one person or many, or even within a particular environment. In this case, I am now starting to see how the initial felt reaction is then made worse by my own thinking, largely unconscious, sometimes becoming vaguely conscious. Many times, though, my sensitivity occurs in direct response to other people and interactions with them - sometimes directly personal, sometimes not overtly personal at all. And there I go, taking things personally. I follow the downward spin, caught up in my emotional response, followed by thoughts, followed by more emotion, followed by more thoughts. Pema Chodron talks about this a lot in "Practicing Peace:"
In Tibetan there is a word that points to the root cause of aggression, the root cause also of craving. It points to a familiar experience that is at the root of all conflict, all cruelty, oppression, and greed. This word is shenpa. The usual translation is "attachment," but this doesn't adequately express the full meaning. I think of shenpa as "getting hooked." ...Once you begin to notice it, you feel like this experience has been happening forever. That sticky feeling is shenpa. And it comes along with a very seductive urge to do something. Somebody says a harsh word and immediately you can feel a shift. There's a tightening that rapidly spirals into mentally blaming this person, or wanting revenge, or blaming yourself. Then you speak or act. The charge behind the tightening, behind the urge, behind the story line or action is shenpa.

Shenpa is the response of taking things personally. Pema Chodron continues:
Now, if you catch shenpa early enough, it's very workable. You can acknowledge that it's happening and abide with the experience of being triggered, the experience of urge, the experience of wanting to move. It's like experiencing the yearning to scratch an itch, and generally we find it irresistible. Nevertheless, we can practice patience with that fidgety feeling and hold our seat.

I read these words, and I feel a few things within me. One is the voice of the warrior in my spirit. She says, yeah! Let's go! I will sit here in my discomfort and do nothing until it is utterly burned away. I can take it. Another is the voice of the indignant one within me. She says, I will not sit around for this! I will not take in other people's judgment and criticism, I will not stay here for this bullshit. I deserve better. Then there's another, saying The world is too much, I can't take it anymore, there is nothing but harshness and insanity all around me, and the pain is unbearable, I crumble. The first voice is the voice of my spiritual warrior, the one who wants more than anything to face life, to face the world, to face myself, and to jump into the fire of love, letting all else be burned away. The other two are reactive voices, voices caught up in shenpa. One aggressive, wanting to fight a righteous battle, the other weak, wanting to collapse into despair.

Right now, I can see how much of my life in the last six months has been spent with that third voice. I have felt overwhelmed by life, by the series of major life events that have triggered great despair and fear and broken me down. I have felt swallowed in darkness within myself, and within the world around me. I have crumbled, hopeless. I have feared everything I can imagine fearing. I have felt the depths of sorrow and suffering. I have been lost in an existential crisis so deep and gnarly that I couldn't even remember where I had come from. I did not expect to survive it. And here I am anyway. In emerging from this crisis, the second voice kicked in pretty strongly, trying to take back my power. Instead, I now see how I have sometimes been like a wounded animal, hiding in her cave to lick her wounds and slowly return to strength and health. I have taken steps into the world, trying to return to life as usual. I have met with resistance in myself and others, and I have taken things very personally on occasion. I have been up to my eyes in emotional reactivity, completely triggered, caught up in my own limited story. I have felt inclined to want to crumble back into my cave, not moving for days, just barely breathing enough to stay alive. Some days, it seems like anything and everything can cause me pain. The wind blows in a certain way, and I am in tears. Old anger or pain is triggered by a passing thought, and I am lost in it, seeing the whole world reflect the story that this thought creates. I have floated back and forth between weakness and collapse, and righteous indignation, alternatively attacking others and withdrawing into myself. And I see now, in this moment, how I bite the hook, how I take things personally, how I let this escalate to war within myself.

In the last week or so, the first voice has been emerging with greater and greater strength. The voice of my own strong, abiding Spiritual Warrior Self is returning. And she wants to look deeply into this process of taking things personally. She wants to explore it with openness and curiosity. And so, I return to Don Miguel Ruiz:
Whatever you think, whatever you feel, I know is your problem and not my problem. It is the way you see the world. It is nothing personal, because you are dealing with yourself, not with me. Others are going to have their own opinion according to their belief system, so nothing they think about me is really about me, but it is about them. He continues, As you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won't need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible can travel around the world with your heart completely open and no one can hurt you. You can say "I love you" without fear of being ridiculed or rejected. You can ask for what you need. You can say yes, or you can say no - whatever you choose - without guilt or self-judgment. You can choose to follow your heart always. Then you can be in the middle of hell and still experience inner peace and happiness. You can stay in your state of bliss, and hell will not affect you at all.
I long to live this way. I don't completely understand it yet. But I feel it stirring deep within me. I love the idea that I can be so centered in my heart and my truth that I am always in the flow, never retreating in pain. I love the idea that one day I will be able to laugh at those who judge me and criticize me, not taking it personally or believing that their opinions could be true. I love the idea that someday I might be able to stand in the face of utter madness and un-love, and hold love and peace and truth and justice and light and joy in my heart, and in the world. I want to be that healed!! I want to allow myself to carry that healing for the whole world, with no exceptions. So, today I begin.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I have never, ever been in a place in my life where life was insisting so much that I really consider what I want in a romantic relationship and life partner. I have spent much more of my life single than in relationships, and have found most of the relationships I have been in to be full of dissatisfaction and distraction. I have often preferred to spend my time alone than to delve into the world of dating, and have sometimes spent months and months without even considering getting involved with men in an intimate way. In the relationships I have had, I have always longed for deeper connection, more understanding, and true common ground ... and I have never found anything close. Usually, following a break up, I have felt so disillusioned that I cant' see the point in re-entering this game of pseudo-relating. The love was never profound enough. The physical intimacy was never deep enough. The conversation became tired and required so much effort. But now, life is asking me to step beyond these old experiences, beyond these old beliefs, and to really explore what I want in a love relationship. I am listening.

There have been no stellar relationships. Not yet. But plenty of learning experiences.

There was the creative guy. With him, I always felt like an experiment, like I was under a microscope. There was plenty of intellectual connection, but so little emotional intimacy or affection. He had a very high opinion of himself, and could barely see beyond his self-interest to connect with me. On again, off again, it eventually fizzled.

There was the sociologist. I could never tell what he was feeling. He was intense, but the intensity had little depth. He loved to hear himself talk, and loved having an audience. He was deathly afraid of emotion, spirituality, and psychology. Our connection was intellectual, and we could dream up any adventure or fantasy. There was very little emotional intimacy, and the physical intimacy was never worth much.

There was the alcoholic. He was a hopeless romantic, for sure, and I felt totally adored. He was patient and adoring, and was devoted to me, and we fell in love very quickly. Our connection was pure chemistry. We had little common interests, and I often felt trapped by his impression of me, the hippie chick. His alcoholism eventually destroyed any possibility of relationship. Communication became sparse or hostile, and I completely lost trust in him.

There was the one who I fell hopelessly in love with for years and years, without ever telling him. He eventually came out of the closet to me, and destroyed my whole world for a little while. Fortunately we're still close.

There was the one who lived far away, and we shared love letters for two years, all by mail. We were young, and our letters were clumsy and hand written, but full of sincerity and affection.

There was the one who I knew only through two months of Tuesday lunch dates, who seemed to be so uncomfortable in his own skin, and wore the same clothes every Tuesday. We played chess, and talked about strange things. Eventually, he left in the middle of a lunch date, informing me that I had given him a lot to think about. I never heard from him again.

There was the one who was so vastly different on the phone than in person. Intimate sharing - sometimes bordering on too intimate - by phone contrasted with anxiety and extreme discomfort in person. Always late, always dealing with something else, and often putting me on a pedestal. He wondered if I was a lesbian because I was a strong woman.

These are the ones I am remembering best from over the years in this moment...

And now, the universe has danced others into my life, others with greater potential than any of the ones above, with greater depth of love and connection in some ways, but greater impossibility in others. Sometimes I just don't know what to do with it all. Sometimes I want to just walk away, to retreat into the life I lived before. Alone, but simple. I don't need sex. I can go a long, long time without missing that kind of connection. Years even. But what I am realizing is that I want to share my heart with a man who can hold it sacred, who can worship its radiant light and love, and honor that with his own radiant light and love. I want to share my life with a man who can walk this path alongside me. There is great strength in unity, and great power in love. I want to share my life with a true intimate partner. I want to feel the power of WE that can transcend anything I can do, be, or learn by myself. I see it happen all around me all the time. I know that it is possible. I have avoided it, I have feared it. But now I am ready to welcome that into my life.

What I know for sure is that the greater clarity I find within myself, the greater my chances are of manifesting and meeting a man who will be able to meet me where I am. So, that is what I am sitting with tonight. What do I really want in an intimate partnership?

I want to be with someone who will understand me and accept me as I am. Who will be able to stay present with me in all the variations in my feeling and being, without turning away or shutting down. Who will not try to convince me that I should feel a particular way, or constantly try to interpret, fix, or define my feelings. I want to share my life with someone who will really listen to me and take in my words, even if he doesn't always agree with me. I want to be with someone who openly and freely appreciates me in all that I am, and who expresses that without any hesitation. I want to be with someone who is affectionate in his presence, in his touch, in his words. I want to share my life with someone who understands what it is to be on an intense, committed spiritual path, and who has already chosen that for himself as well - not that his path must be the same as mine, but just compatible. I want to share my spiritual growth and evolution through relationship, as well as personal healing - love is the fire that heals all. I want to be with someone who is really open minded, and who is willing to see beyond his own views to the bigger picture. I want to be with someone who is interested in personal healing, and who is facing the demons and darkness within himself boldly, with candor and humility, and who can share openly about that process. I want to be with a man who holds peace dear to his heart, who can enter a practice of Nonviolent Communication with me, and to embody that practice together in a relationship. I want to be with a man who is not afraid of being open and vulnerable, and who can speak from the softness of his heart. I want to be with a man who can imagine physical intimacy as a practice in surrender to the Divine, and who is interested in cultivating a practice of sacred intimacy. I want to be with a man who cares about the state of the world, about the environment, about sustainable, green living. Who cares about education and children, and can share an ongoing conversation with me about what is truly valuable in learning and cultivating the mind. Who can understand what I mean by indigenous lifeways, and who will want to follow me - or lead me - to remote, beautiful parts of the world where people still live in communion with the Earth. Oh, and I would love to share my life with a man who can truly join me in living in sacred communion with the Earth, who cares about the land and the trees and the water as All My Relations. I want to be with someone who is a grounded dreamer, a visionary, a soulful being with a wide open heart, and whose ideas are not merely theoretical, but deeply embodied in practice. I would hope that he is not terribly materialistic or concerned about amassing wealth or property. I would also hope that he is responsible with worldly matters, and can take care of the basic requirements of living from day to day with enough competence that all of the rest can fully blossom. If he also happens to love to do the dishes, and isn't a slob, all the better.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

War and Peace

The sky is gray this morning, but the birds keep on singing. They spin their symphony alive each morning, and even on days when I haven't had enough sleep, I am grateful to be pulled back into wakefulness by their song. Here I am, alive for another day on this Earth. Near me, a sweet little kitty, purring his song gently as he sleeps on my pillow. Mornings like this are such exquisite gifts. I appreciate days when I don't have to rush off to be somewhere in particular too early, and can just sit and be present with the morning.

I awoke following dreams that have left my heart heavy, and my belly churning. Dreams of Laura, who died of cancer last August. Dreams of hollow, empty places and echoes of the past, of things that are never the same after they are touched by loss. And I feel that in my heart, even now. When I got out of bed this morning, I was heavy with the sadness of these dreams.

I've been reading a lot of amazing books lately. Dear Lover by David Deida. A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. The Bhagavad Gita. But the one that has touched me the most deeply has been Practicing Peace in Times of War by Pema Chodron. It's a book I kept meaning to read each time I heard someone read from it, but kept forgetting to get it. It came into my life last week at the perfect time, and touched me deeply with her messages of deep, inner peace. Removing the seeds of war within myself...that's the process.

It's not a lack of love that keeps me from living in deep peace. On Sunday, as I listened to the guidance of the universe in Ceremony, I could see that there was no more love to be found within me. Only the ways that that love is blocked. The feeling that came to me was pain in the heart. Before, I had always understood that heartache comes from the heart caving in on itself, deflated, empty of love, and needing to be filled. Now I clearly see that heartache comes from a heart being so filled with love, filled to bursting, but not able to freely share it, to let it pour forth. Holding back love is the source of this pain. And I can see that the holding back of love is only the beginning of suffering - when the mind tries to process what is happening, to find some solid ground, a whole reality is created. Separation is created. I am this and you are that is created. Conflict happens.

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday that really brought me into contemplation. His point of view was one of embracing radical authenticity and honesty, which are practices that I deeply value. But the question that came into my mind that has lingered was of the real nature of that authenticity. Am I most authentic when I embrace my personality and ego as they arise in each moment? Am I being authentic when I honor the voices inside of me, even when they may not be the voices of my highest self? Am I being honest when I let those voices direct my life? Am I being authentic when I choose restraint, and see the motives behind each thought and action? Am I being authentic when I choose to speak and act only from my highest, finest self? Am I being authentic when I listen to my own dark voices, but do not let them move me? I have been exploring the fine line of difference between repression and restraint in my life for weeks now. These questions have been alive in the unspeakable reaches of my mind, but through reading Pema Chodron, I have found some understanding that has really touched home.

The mind is a hamster wheel. It is a biocomputer that processes whatever it is given. It spins and churns sensory input, and intellectual input, and whatever other kinds of input that appear. It is a tool. It is not the truth of who I am. I am not what I think, I am far deeper than that. However I choose to discipline my mind - or not - will affect my entire life. Feeling is a barometer and emotions are the weather. Feeling, deeper and embodied, is my true north, and will guide me into the truth of my life. Its sense impressions cannot be easily named, but located within the body. Emotion is different from feeling in ways that I find it difficult to articulate. It is reactive, it is nameable, and can often be traced to a particular thought or experience. But all of this - mind, feeling, and emotion - is a swirling soup of life experience. I see how very deeply I get caught up in it all. Personally, I trust feeling the most, and mind the least. I know there are others that revere the mind for its potential for logic and evaluation, and find it much more consistent and trustable. But when I touch in more deeply, I find that beyond the closing and opening of the mind, beyond the changing faces of feeling and emotion, is choice. If I choose to be disciplined, and commit my life to something greater than my own moment-to-moment changing experiences, the whole picture shifts. And this comes back to war and peace. If I choose to step beyond my small perspectives of mind, and beyond my ocean of feeling and emotion, I find that the battlefield is always internal. Whatever battles I am choosing to enact in the world - righteous or justified or not - are battles that are occurring within me first. And I also see that whenever I am choosing to enact those inner battles in the world, I am feeding war.

I don't want to feed war. There is nothing within my little frame of reference that is worthy of war. None of it. All the yearning for personal authenticity and radical honesty is not worth it. All the longing to truly know myself and be myself is not worth war. And this is where Pema Chodron has blessed my life so much. She says, a good definition of peace: "Softening what is rigid in our hearts..." war is never going to end as long as our hearts are hardened against each other. She continues, whenever we harden our hearts, what is going on with us? There's an uneasiness and then a tightening, a shutting down, and then the next thing we know, the chain reaction begins and we become very righteous about our right to kill the mosquito or yell at the person in the car or whatever it might be. We ourselves become fundamentalists, which is to say we become very self-righteous about our personal point of view. Yeah. Is finding the authenticity within my own personality worth that? No. Not hardly. Rumi inspires me here, Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field; I'll meet you there.

It's all about what I choose to practice. Pema Chodron continues, We label our story lines "thinking" and let them dissolve, and we come back to "right now" even when "right now" doesn't feel so great. This is how we learn patience, and how we learn to interrupt the chain reaction of habitual responses that otherwise will rule our lives...From your side, you can keep going in the conversation, but now with a kind of innate intelligence and wisdom called prajna. I am such a beginner with this. I have been reading about this practice for so long. Since I was 22 perhaps. But I am only now just beginning to understand what she's talking about, to feel it in my life. I have wanted peace, but I have fed conflict. I have hated war, and I have lived war. I am not willing to do that any more. I lay down my resistance like a pale corpse and surrender to the truth of Love. And now, the practice begins.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Gazing Beyond

We stood in two lines, facing each other, men and women. We stood silently, like a grove of tall trees, immersed in stillness. The connection was palpable, deep. There was music playing in the background, something timeless and meditative. For a minute, perhaps, we gazed into each other's eyes - focusing on the left eye since it's hard to focus on both - and offered presence and connection to each other.

What a curious, beautiful thing! To gaze deeply into the eyes of another being, one whom I have never before met, and to meet his or her essence. I found myself able to stay in Witness perspective quite easily, in spite of the variety of perceptions coming to me. First, there was my own mind, curious about what this other person might be noticing or thinking about me. Second, my own sense of response to what I felt in the other person - an embodied perception, different from thought. Third, and most magnificent, my perception of the other person, their presence, and their fluctuations within the moment of our gaze. What an incredibly intimate, touching experience to share.

The deepest truth that came to me was that of Beauty. Each of these beings were amazing! Totally beautiful. For me, it was impossible to enter the realm of judgment and evaluation when gazing into the depths of another person. Beyond his or her fluctuating presence, there was a mystery inside of each one, a mystery that offered its living presence without any hesitation. Just like the trees and flowers bursting into the most radiant, ecstatic expressions of their natures, each of these human beings - in spite of the details of their lives - were doing the very same thing! Living themselves alive in the moment. No matter what we are each doing with our lives, or healing through, or caught within, we are still living ourselves alive in the moment.

Beyond that radiant living light essence of each person, I did connect with a felt sense of the person's energy. Some impressions came with images. One woman felt like an Egyptian queen, but her abundant beauty felt dry like the desert, eroded somehow. Another woman felt like the ocean - her emotional depth was tremendous, and she felt nurturing and full of love, yet beneath that, sorrow. One woman's eyes seemed to struggle to stay with mine, and her blinking was rapid and fluttery. As I felt into that, I could feel fear and resistance, as if staying present with me was almost more than she could bear. One man's gaze was so bright and joyful, still and deep, I wanted to laugh and fall into his energy. Another man was full of strength and power, yet I felt like it was impossible to connect beyond that - his essence was that of a warrior. The last man was purely happy, he felt like everything I would want my grandfather to be - slow and patient, accepting and trusting, full of love. It was a gift and a blessing to connect with so many people in such a brief time in this way. And it makes me realize that truly intimate moments like this happen so rarely in my life. Even with those who I know best, and who know me best. Even with those with whom I have shared physical and emotional intimacy. We spend so much time speaking and living within our stories and images and perceptions of each other based on language. This exploration was free of that, pure and immediate and powerful. Now, I imagine what it would be like to share this level of connection with all those beings I know and with whom I walk in this world.

I was grateful that my own self-consciousness faded away rather quickly. I have spent so much energy in my life worrying about how I am seen and perceived, always assuming that if I merely reveal myself as I am in the moment, it will be unacceptable somehow. Not only is that filled with deep self-judgment and so little acceptance, it is filled with self-absorption. All of it wastes so much energy. I see how much energy in my life has gone into this kind of unconscious thinking, and I mourn all those years when authenticity was too scary to even come near. Also, I celebrate that I am no longer willing to stay there. But it is deep; this way of thinking has roots that are pervasive, like weeds. Weeding is a neverending process, it seems...

I can see that the very intimacy I have craved in all my relationships has been blocked by my own self-consciousness. My own fear of not being worthy of the relationships that I have been given. I have spent a long time trying to be good enough in every possible way. I have been so concerned about the opinions others have held. I have felt isolated and alone, and have tried to convince myself that that is better, stronger, easier, more evolved. And I have been a fool. I have created an image and surrounded my real self with it - and I have felt imprisoned by it. This image has kept me feeling alone and isolated, and has never, ever served me in any deep, meaningful, loving way. How many times have I actually been told that I am not good enough? How many times have I been rejected? So few, so very few. My fear has kept me imprisoned in this madness. It has all broken down, and broken apart, and here I am, sifting through the rubble day by day. I see that the light that I see in others has been right there within me all this time. All that I see and experience is a reflection of the Divine heart within me, and within all beings. How have I been keeping myself out of that equation for all these years? And what a blessing it is now to really go through all the pieces of my life and pull up these weeds, these lies that have grown deep in my psyche, deep in my body.

I am not alone. I have never been alone. I have never been abandoned. I have never been worthless. I have never been ugly - inside or out - and I have never been damaged. I have never needed to validate my worth through actions or knowledge. I have never needed to prove anything to anyone. I have never needed to earn my existence here on this spinning, living world - not any more than the trees or flowers or rivers or bumblebees or clouds or deer or squirrels. How have I held myself to another standard than the rest of the living world? In truth, I - and all beings - are so interconnected that there is no possibility of isolation outside of our imaginations. I am held lovingly in the arms of this sweet existence, and every need that I have ever had has been freely provided for. I have air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, a place to sleep, and an endless landscape in which to explore. I have a mind that can contemplate the mysteries of the universe, as well as ponder my place in the whole. I have a heart that can radiate open as Love, wide as the universe, deep as the ocean. I have this body that allows me to feel and move and come into direct, intimate contact with the rest of this world. I have a creative spirit that allows me the freedom to express myself in language and song and dance and art. I don't know where the thoughts come from that fill my mind, and I don't know who the One is that notices those thoughts, and knows that It is beyond them. I don't know where the Love comes from, either, but I do know that it fills me, it flows me, it radiates me alive, and guides every single facet of my life. Who am I to think that I don't deserve to be here? Who am I to think that I am not worthy of this life? I am here. End of story. I can spend my days digging around in the silt at the bottom of my consciousness and be stuck there forever. Or I can walk strongly and lovingly upon this Earth, and live LOVE in everything I do, everything I think, everything I am. That sounds like a lot more fun.


Inside a hostel in Cusco, Peru