Gifts and Sorrows

His Holiness the Dalai Lama suggested this excellent exercise (paraphrased through my mind):

Picture yourself sitting in a line of other sitting humans that stretches out as far as you can see to your left and to your right. Now bring to your consciousness a sorrow or burden you feel.

Imagine yourself looking to your right. Imagine that all of the people in that direction have more resources and an easier time with their sorrows and burdens. Maybe they have fewer problems, more or better friends, they are more clever, and they have abundant access to whatever they need to ease their suffering. Imagine they suffer less that you.

Now imagine yourself looking to the left. All of the people in this direction have it worse than you. They are carrying burdens and disabilities that are more challenging than yours. They have fewer resources to draw upon to meet those challenges. Imagine they suffer more than you.

And now bring your consciousness back to yourself and check in again on your gifts and sorrows in this moment.

I have found that exercise to be quite useful. And now I realize that I prefer circles to lines. I love the small circles of family and tribe. I participate in many gatherings where we form circles for celebration and communication.

So now I’m picturing, curling that nearly infinite line of sitting humans to my left and to my right into a circle, and this meditation becomes quite powerful.

I am an equal part of the circle.

As I become aware of my tribe mates,

I am aware that each has gifts and sorrows greater than my own. And that I have gifts and sorrows greater than theirs.

In this moment, which is all there is.

Perhaps we can be useful to each other’s sorrows with our gifts.

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Eclipse Meditation

The sun is a really true thing. It’s there every day. It is like breath, coming into the sky, going out, coming in, going out. In modern language, you can literally set your clock to it. The sun is a really true thing. It is there every day. Even when clouds come in front of your experience of the sun, and you instead say “it is cloudy.” Yes, there are clouds, but the sun is still there, and so it is still a cloudy “day.”  Here’s the thing about the sun, it has a power you simply cannot deny. You will die with out it, and if you don’t keep your exposure wise, you can die with it. It can literally blind you. This is power that is impossible to ignore.

The moon, she is true also, but you have to pay attention on a longer time scale. Those who can truly appreciate the moon are those who have the patience to notice deeper, more esoteric patterns. The moon stays with the earth, dancing around and around, and also comes closer and moves further away. The moon, she comes and goes to help you with impermanence, and cycle. She asks you to come out to play at night when she is full; and when she is “new” — when she has moved closest to the sun — you are invited to fumble about at night on your own. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that this longer cycle is somehow less powerful, or less true than the hard and fast cadence of the sun. The moon is tides, and wind, and weather, and seasons. The moon makes the savory richness of complexity. This is power. You are wise not to ignore it.

Today, we will have an eclipse. The sun will still be true, but the moon will give us an experience of darkness during the light that is unfamiliar, entirely predictable and still titillating. Today, the moon will say “you may not ignore me.” The astronomical predictability of today’s eclipse is essentially not different than the cadence of the sun, the pattern of the moon, it just takes an even longer and far more patient scale to grasp. It takes the kind of scale which requires understanding at the pace of mathematics, learning, and teaching. It takes believing in something you can observe, but not touch nor change.

People who have not taken the time to learn this mathematics or patience have traveled long distances to be in the place where the eclipse will be “total.” Even the folks with the day passes in the location where they reside will probably take a few minutes to go outside and see what all the buzz is about. They no doubt have not done the math either, but they take on faith that those who have are speaking truth. This is power, and it is a choice.

Think about that! Someone you do not know has predicted darkness today, and you believe it is true, and you will be acting accordingly. The moon is a really true thing. The sun is a really true thing. And this eclipse is a really true thing. And you know about it because other struggling humans with math and the study of astronomy have let you know the news. And then these two things that give you an experience that you take to be immutable, will give you a really different, though entirely predictable, experience today.

Today also, the 14th Dalai Lama tweeted the following words. If we can believe the cadence of the sun, the patterns of the moon, and the prediction today of the mathematicians and astronomers, and act accordingly, I wonder if we could also extend our consciousness out, even if for just a moment, to believe the truth of these words. Could we, like we do with the astronomers, take on faith that this lineage has done the math, and has an understanding of human psychology and ego that the rest of us can take as news to use. Can we truly grasp that thousands of monks and scholars, learners and teachers, over generations, have done the practice of slowing down to pay attention on an even deeper, slower, more patient and esoteric pace? Try it in this moment just to see. Here is the news that Lhamo Dondrub has let us know today:

“Anger and jealousy are related to our sense of self-centeredness and our disregard for others. Self-centeredness easily gives rise to fear, which fosters irritation, which, when it blazes into anger, can provoke violence. The time has come to accept that if we’re talking about peace in the world, we have to consider peace within ourselves.”

At other times, he’s said you can take any path you want to peace within yourself. If it is Jesus or agnostic meditation, celibacy or tantra, 1 god or many, is of no import. But find that peace, please, because we need you.

So here is a little exercise I’m going to offer myself during the eclipse.

As you watch that shadow cross the landscape from where you observe, take a moment to notice your breath. Notice the in- and out-ness of it, and how grounded and real that helps you feel. In and out. The breath is, in this moment, the truest thing. And notice it helps your heart maintain its cadence. But the heart is different. It wants what it wants, and drives you to take yourself through deeper and more esoteric patterns of fullness, newness, it dances you around and around, sometimes calling you to move closer, and sometimes further away. And then, pay some attention to your mind. Not just the thoughts your own mind conjures to entertain and distract you, but notice the news you’ve let in from the others. You are not alone in this world experiencing either the darkness or the light without the cadence of the sun, the patterns of the moon, the contributions, some true and some not, of thoughts shared with you by your fellow humans. 

And as you contemplate this, invite yourself to ask, what do you give your attention to? Do you stay focused on the simple and undeniable cadences like the sun? Do you allow your focus to extend to a longer, more patient scale like the moon? Do you believe what you observe, or what you are told, or do you need to do the math for yourself? Maybe you don’t need to do the math, because you have something else to contribute that the rest of us could use? Are you doing that?

Because a number of us are telling you that a shift is coming, and this eclipse can be a metaphor for that. What is it a metaphor for? That is yours to find inside. And it starts with knowing deeply your own patterns of anger and jealousy, of seeing that your self-centeredness is not the truest thing in the landscape today, or ever. There is a natural loving kindness and great peace that is here in this and every moment, if you choose to cultivate the practice of making yourself available to it. Please do. We need you.

 

 

Stillness

Lately, this extremely unfamiliar but very welcome deep calm has come for a visit. Paradoxically, it is a little unsettling in its newness. I laid down to meditate for 10 minutes yesterday and over an hour passed without my noticing the time. I sat at my computer to be productive and chose instead to wander aimlessly about the house adjusting little details.  I pulled into my driveway from errands, turned off the engine, and felt no desire to ambulate for many minutes.  I had an intention to create some art, but found a truth that I could summon the beneficial feelings of those practices without actually getting out of my seat.
I can see how some of the mystics get so unkempt, seriously. It’s a quiet that is more about my mouth not moving. I’m having stretches of no mind, no thought, no desire, even no desire for movement because this moment is so engaging. And then this moment and then look here is yet another that is so worthy of my full presence.
I’m sure there is a name for this. I know it is a normal part of the process, but my analytic mind insists it needs some context, lest I allow myself to fear the pull of drifting completely into stillness that won’t serve my basic needs like work and food and child care.
But when I think too hard on the nature of this stillness, my ego is all too pleased to respond with less peaceful thoughts, my learned personality offers to shatter the calm with obsession and worry over details, my mind rushes in to stir the pot.  But on a deeper level than these friends is the truth, and it gently emerges to offer them a reminder:
This is a practice. It takes time.

Love note from my future partner (NOT a short story)

She’s been “leaving” me for years (it’s not really leaving, it’s more like minding the gap that is required to keep our spark moving). In the beginning, I found it heart wrenching, but now I just know it is part of how I am here to love her. It’s not my favorite part of our relationship, but I’m just resilient and persistent enough to let her go, and each time, trust a deeper knowing, that we aren’t done.

This leaving habit of hers pre-dates me. In her early relationships, she stayed in the house, but left the premises emotionally, shutting down and cutting off the pieces of herself she couldn’t figure out to bring into the particular dimensions of the puddle of light of that relationship. I can think of no worse way to love her than to enable that.

In the beginning, it was hard. A wordsmith, she can be quite convincing when she explained that she’d reached her end with me. Even as her heart and my heart spoke differently, her exit was very convincing. Sometimes loud, worse when it was cold stone silent. For a while, it seemed erratic. Over time, I came to understand the paradox that sometimes “both” can be true – that she needed to be away, and also that she was, even in her exit, permanently and inextricably inside our togetherness.

So we have a relationship that is like swiss cheese, and whether that is judged as good or bad is my choice. It is all of one connected piece, and I can focus on that, or it is full of holes and I can focus on that. I’ve learned to now hold those holy spaces with a loving caress. When she goes away, she goes to grow, to feel her own breath, to reconnect to the quiet signal that can sometimes be hard to hear in the cacophony of our robust and gregarious life of family, tribe and community (and my noise?). What I’ve learned is, that signal inside her that is so clear and discernible to me and sometimes so elusive to her is a broad and undeniable call back to community and connection. She lives in connection, and I’m blessed to be one of her chosen connections.

I keep the light on, enjoy time with my and our other beloveds, and look forward to meeting and starting anew with her again and again, each time greeted at my open door by a partner for this next patch of life that is an upgrade from the one that just left me.

On privilege

On privilege

Today I pretend that I am a bush woman, collecting firewood for my fire, my knife sharpened to carve goddess figurines when the chores are done.

But I know this is a choice.

It is just as likely today that I might click the up button on the thermostat, and those “chores” involve little more than merely feeding our excess into machines that do the work for me.

This is the blessing of living in the first world; this daily choosing to consume or not, to participate or not, to harm a little less today, handed to me well before the age of deserving, dubbing me winner of some cosmic lottery I never even bought a ticket for.

As if the real Goddess half way across the world has had anything to do with deserving her lack of choices.
No, there is no reason in how we’ve been assigned these very different human experiences. Her yearning for opportunity and justice, the intelligence and strength it takes to care for her babies is something I can’t even imagine, never mind compare mine to.

Today, as I feast with blessed friends, I pretend that I’ve done my part,
but know deep in my bones that being kind to the other elites
and hiding my privilege under gratitude does nothing for the other 7 billion today and their countless ancestors, upon whose suffering my pleasure is precariously perched.

Yes, I feel thankful. And know that simply isn’t the point.

Here come the words

Some times, I get to some new wisdom place where I get the insight, write it down, and then promptly forget it. I think this is one of those times.

Here’s what I know today: This self love thing is disruptive.

It doesn’t feel like the glowing light of an Angel or a Goddess. When it really landed that I’m not just a nice person connected to God, but that I am made of stardust, I am a Goddess, (thanks, HAI L5), first I got really angry. I felt Very UNlovable in this new state brought on by self-love! Interesting response. As a commitment to loving myself unconditionally, I allowed these negative feelings to arise nonetheless.

I felt this blind white fury for all the ways I’d allowed myself to be misunderstood and “improperly” treated. I was angry about how I myself had desecrated my own divinity. It came out (ungracefully) as blame towards those I’d conscripted to taunt myself with – the beloveds who I had put ahead of my own needs so I could blame them for not “letting me” be me.

I believe that when negative feelings come from genuine misalignment  of environment, or mistreatment, the solution seems obvious. But when we are all just “walking each other home,” fulfilling the soul-level contracts we’ve made to poke each other in tender places to keep each other awake, well, then what is one to do about the irritation of that action?

Trying to find the gratitude in the middle of all this fury and blame has been confounding, and yet it comes anyway. So now I’m coming to this deeper place of trusting that even my negative feelings – the deep fear, anger, sadness, blame — these are just lovely messengers. It is feedback that there is deeper listening or minor (to not minor) tweaks needed. I wrote THAT 2 years ago – it isn’t about the feelings. As this redawns on me, I recollect that the invitation is to stop fixing others so they can have their own relationship to these lovely little messengers from their souls (in the form of me poking them unwittingly or at least unskillfully).

And here is another knowing that hitched in on the self-love channel: in addition to all the loveliness I offer, I’ve also have been so controlling of others, and I’ve used my spiritual practice to learn to “let go” of some of the wrong stuff. Now, I’m feeling very deeply into the question of what is worth preserving. This controlling and surrender are sometimes just ways of covering, but what am I hiding from? (I don’t have an answer to that, but I’m pretty sure now that I’ve written it down, I’m going to get an answer and there’s a good chance it will also be an uncomfortable paradox!)

So, today I’m contemplating the relationship I have with my own discomfort, and that of my beloveds. On the one hand, I can commit to standing in my own light, letting others know of my audacious asks. The self love thing gets me to a place of at least imagining I deserve my asks. Yet, I’m still telling myself a story that when my choices, thoughts, feelings and actions land in someone else as a trigger to their pain, there’s some responsibility I have to help with that pain. If someone ELSE is the one doing the poking, and I see my beloved suffering, I find compassion. When it is me doing the poking, my compassion compels me to reduce “my part” in their suffering, and then the cycle of controlling and letting go of the wrong stuff begins anew.

My interpretation is: this finding the divinity in me, this finding my Goddess heart, is opening whole new layers of empathy.  My heart is breaking for other’s pain in a way I haven’t ever felt before. My compulsive need to make people not feel abandoned that defined my early adulthood had made way for an autonomy of letting people have their stuff because I NEEDED to focus on self care as I entered middle adulthood. I wanted self care, and I knew that self care without self love is just narcissism, and I don’t want any part of that. So good noticing that.

It feels like the next step goes back to loving others, but in a new way. As the self love really lands, as my heart opens and my energy field becomes so much more attuned to the collective, experiencing the pain my beloveds are experiencing is becoming not an intellectual or emotional exercise, but a heart of hearts deep soul thing. It hurts. And when I am helping in their discomfort, ah, there’s the rub. And I want to know what to DO about it.

Fortunately, sometimes I know stuff and write it down. So here’s some advice I have for me that I think wraps up this contemplation nicely:

“Love. This, so simple. Nothing to engineer, nothing to do right or wrong. Lovingly witnessing their becoming and joyously celebrating their choices and empathetically holding them in their struggles, even if their struggles include me, is all I’m required to do. Loving IS doing it right. This isn’t something to work on; it is a celebration of life.”

What to remember

What to remember

You seem to think that there is something that needs healing in you?
Without negating your very genuine suffering, I wish to invite you to consider what may be more true than your commitment to the pain of what happened.

There was a moment when you knew. That first time another human held your quivering body and looked into your terrified eyes, we all saw your perfection. And then with that first breath, the layers of forgetting began to pile on. And so it was with each of the 7 billion and their countless ancestors; can you invite yourself to comprehend? Care (and lack of care) comes only from similarly veiled others.

You have moments of reckoning where you are reminded of this. Many call it empathy, or self care. Or love. Or enlightenment. It is that moment, as fleeting as that first, when you become aware that no one has harmed you that isn’t also terrifyingly harmed themselves.

Do not despair at this news! There is nothing to fix. Simply remember. Do what helps with that, hold rocks or slip beads between your fingers, gaze in that way that sees something more beautiful than you think your burdened heart can bear, and simply call your attention back to what you’ve known longer than you’ve known any of these stories.

I beg you, please don’t fool yourself into thinking you must dig through, analyze, or somehow comprehend what has happened. You are not meant to be an archeologist of happenings, and we need you for more essential work. As you grow your tiny protected heart from within this deeper place of truth, it will expand out and all those layers will simply crack and fall away of their own accord.

And there you will be, nothing to heal, ready again as you were that first moment to offer a daily practice and commitment to listen to the call that your only work here is to help others remember as well.