Thursday, September 30, 2010

Heart's Longing

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Beyond Preferences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Falling into Authenticity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Renewal - The Second Year

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

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

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

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

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


Inside a hostel in Cusco, Peru