Getting out of my own way

I love this phrase: non-dualism. Seems the concept could be presented in a word that does not contain a negative, but I like the complexity, the way contemplating non dualism invites me to think more about what NOT to do. How often do we hear ourselves say “I have to work on…” even when we are referring to emotional or spiritual longings? No you don’t. You just have to stop doing the things that are bringing you pain and aggravation.

It’s not work, it’s removing layers. And maybe proximity to truth. The magnet always attracts, but if the iron is covered with rust, or too far from the magnet, that attraction can’t be felt. The sculptor often discusses removing what does not belong, the meditator seeing what is beneath the senseless chatter, the batter losing consciousness of everything except the ball. When I thought there wasn’t enough love in my life, it was because this story of scarcity I was carrying around was blocking my view. Put that down, and holy smokes– look at the richness! Step closer to the people who seem to understand this better than me, and wow! Letting go is by no means easy, but it isn’t work. It’s connection.

Because, for me, the invitation in spirituality is to wake up from the illusion of separateness and really grock connection. God isn’t “over there,” separate from the people. I am not some special thing separate from you, I am just like you, you the child-elder-lover-sage-evil doer. I am not even made of any different material than star dust. “Not separate” then leads to being one, with God and everything, and then right in that thought becomes pure annihilation of self, and facing THAT is the reason I avoided spiritual work, kept myself separate for so long.

Non-dualism also compels me to embrace a theology that connects me to spirit through others, rather than through piety to any specific lord, and I am finding myself feeling the edge of that. I feel a separateness from both the secular humanists who have no sense of spirit and the other folks who pray for the mercy of a God to grant them things. So there is a rub, right? This contemplation, is it itself an obstacle? A dear friend on the Sufi path has offered me beautiful, divine words in the forms of poetry and prayers, and I choke on the language… The Oh Lord I pray to Thee stuff. Does this mean I’m just not far enough on the path, or further? Or is it just that there are different paths for different people? Or is it that it loops around, and the monotheists who go deep enough find the truth that this thing they’ve been externalizing is everywhere, everyone, everything; and the more I explore Buddhist teachings, the more I will find myself using this God word metaphorically because it is easier than saying the universe?

Last night, I attended an event at a church where a beautiful woman transmitted divine light to the individuals in the room. I have no doubt she was transmitting… We all are, I have felt it, and some people are genuinely better at this. I’m sure she sent me some, and the opportunity was to be there for that. We weren’t worshipping her though, she was just one of us. We weren’t praying to any denominational god, and in fact the language was very specifically cleaned up to not be theistic. And yet I still found myself distracted by the singular focus of the room on her as tonight’s source. Her presence on stage and the movement in the room, and even the architecture clearly designed to foster the exhaultation to God, all were a distraction to my connection. I frankly came for kirtan, because it is specifically in the collective chanting that I feel most oneness. So I found this layer, this desire to be in the hive, blocked my engagement. Interesting lesson there.

Post-script. Just found this on SwamiJ.com… Apparently this dualism question is far from settled philosophy!

To debate or not debate: Some intellectuals will also debate furiously and endlessly about whether the ultimate nature of reality is dualistic or non-dualistic. Some will say that Purusha (as consciousness) and Prakriti (as matter) are eternally separate, and therefore, ultimate reality is dualistic. Others will argue that the two are ultimately seen to be one and the same, and ultimate reality is non-dualistic. However, the seeker of direct experience through the practices of Yoga need not enter these debates intensely. While there may be some value in reflecting on these principles, and maybe even forming a provisional opinion, what is far more important is to understand and actually do the practices. (See also the article, Dualism and Non-Dualism)

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Falling back into words

So, apparently it’s a cycle. This shouldn’t surprise me, what isn’t a cycle? But I guess I’d hoped it was a path, or a staircase steadily climbing down in the direction of greater depth, or a ladder to higher heights.

So I have tasted stillness and I have felt no-mind. How beautiful it was to go beyond words, to actually stop the mental clutter for a bit. How sweet to receive understanding, rather than to work to manufacture it. I especially enjoyed the way it felt that my mind was here to translate and verbalize the truth, not to analyze, predict, or control it. For a short bit, I genuinely dropped the non virtue of senseless chatter!

But this week, my cracked open heart stopped aching for the first time in months. That stretchy expansive feeling like something is pushing its way out— well, it feels a little sad to notice it is gone. Mind you, my heart hasn’t shut back down, and I don’t feel it as shrinking at all. Just taking a breather, rebooting maybe?

And so my mind comes back online. I’ve been having long conversations in my head, and even via email with the actual targets of my busy thoughts. I’ve been manufacturing scenarios, or crafting proposals, and catch myself bracing for change and loss. It’s like the scene in the cartoon when the coyote doesn’t fall until he notices he has run off the cliff- I’m poised for that moment as if it is as inevitable as gravity.

And most noteworthy, I’m staying less in the present moment- running reviews, replaying tapes and mining memories for something. It isn’t wallowing, or going back. It feels like the “previously on this show” synopsis, and I am fascinated to see which metaphorical 60 seconds of the 8 hours of past programming my mind chooses to highlight for this egoic audience I am!

Perhaps this is integration? Perhaps here I have paused in the present to shine some love and light into the past, to feed the hope that old girl had from some unknown source? She somehow knew it would turn out alright, and felt a hand pulling her to live from her imagination rather than her past. Maybe that came from this present and future me, taking this moment to recognize that we only go as fast as the slowest hiker. Maybe this is me checking in with all these selves… My little girl, my bitchy teenager, my ambitious twenty something, my slumpy new mom, my desperate housewife…
To see if we are all ready to move on?

That’s an appealing thought. Integration and progress, instead of what I fear is backsliding and losing ground. And yet, all these familiar well worn old voices pop up— “Where are we going? When will we get there? Who else is going to be there? Is this the right way? I left something really important at the last stop, can we go back?”

So how did I manage before I found my heart?
If this is a cycle, then my task for moving forward is to do what worked before. My guess is that I listen and watch quietly for my future self, somewhere off down the path doing recon, to send a signal back about where we are going.

Before, I allowed myself to want adjectives more than nouns and verbs… I longed for a new feeling, not a specific person or place to deliver a feeling. This has served me well… It has given me the ability to whole heartedly and bravely accept new experiences that offer themselves that I somehow know will take me to those longed for feelings, even when I had zero familiarity with the logistics. This faithful listening has been my felt sense.

So, today I will I indulge in some adjectives sent by my circuitous path, informed by my past, to give this present busy mind something to do while we all wait for the future to begin. I have a knowing that my future is:

– Flowy. Like water. Not drip drip drip, not tidal wave. Flowy.

– Connected. Not wired, not codependent. Interrelated, interdependent, reliably connected.

– Expansive. Not manic, not scattered to the wind. Full of possibility, rich with facets, expansive.

– There is so much love. Some people are there that I can unequivocally call ‘Mine’ and they believe my commitment to be theirs. Like grandma level commitment, and it is reciprocal.

– It’s sexy too, some of it. Maybe a different form of sexy than what has been familiar? Maybe that’s too loaded a word? It is potent and vivid and deeply felt.

– There are children and old people, because that’s what makes the difference between a social club and a village, and I live in a village. Or maybe I live in a nomadic tribe? But it’s diverse and multigenerational for sure.

– And Creativity is key. This future will not be traditional, though it relies heavily on the right well-tested ancient and found wisdom.

– Spirit encompasses everything, everyone, in a loving ever-present embrace.

– I will finally get to teach again, though I’m guessing not as before.

– And it is sustainably green.

I know these are true.
Now to allow myself to let go of the ego driven desire to hook these noble truths to some particular person place or path– That is the work for me in this moment.

So here is my internal push and pull, the wrong questions, like:
Is it India, or California, or Arlington? That isn’t the point!
Is it in a group house, a family dwelling, a brownstone? Who cares?
Who is my partner and what shape does our relationship take? Also,’not the part I get to know for sure yet.
Who is my boss is completely irrelevant!

This thought process has helped me stay grounded here, hopeful about the future, and even a little more settled about my past (so tired of that story!).
So now, present that worries me so—bring it on! My heart is open, my mind is alert, my ego is learning to take a seat, my spirit is felt.

Where is the place this all ends up?

In my heart, I believe, is where this ends up.
Or is it in God? Aren’t they the same?
This is not for my mind to ponder; it is for my soul.

Today I will live steeped in the incompleteness of us,
know that whatever happens,
we are clearly only in the middle of the beginning.

I live in the awkward, imperfect push and pull
between my faith that all will happen as it should
and my ego’s drive to make it be what I think it should be.

All I can offer you is an invitation to join me,
in surrendering attachment to where this ends up,
by embracing completely where it is today.

Walking Meditation

At first the path seems
Pretty straightforward,
Though it is curvey, it feels
Like it will get me right to the center in a fairly predictable path,
And then it jumps in a few rows effortlessly so I feel like I’m making fast progress,
But then just when it feels I’ve completed the circle, it doubles back, takes me further away from the complete circle. Then I skim right in by the core,
I can see it, touch it, but I haven’t arrived, there is still so much more path to walk. I finally arrive at the center, make my offering, say my prayer, only to realize the path out is just as far as I’ve already come.

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Part way there

There were these two days in my life with no going back.
April 13, January 14.
They put this precious baby in my hands,
said, “he is yours.”
I chose to become a parent,
Each of them, on some level, chose to become our child.
Without knowing, we each made an agreement
at that first meeting:
I will be yours. You will be mine.

That contract includes clauses for which there is no negotiation,
Just a blind acceptance of roles, of importance, of connection.
I believe the first agreement, the one that is nearly impossible to break,
Was love. I love each of them. It’s simple. And constant. Like breathing.
And I see them loving me, even when it hurts, even when I disappoint them,
Or shock them, or fail.

And I have failed.
Because I believe
the second agreement we make,
Is to show up.
Simply. Constantly. To show up.
And to keep showing up each and every moment.
When the rain is leaking into the car window,
When there isn’t enough money for groceries,
When it has been 4 days since I have had time alone,
Or 4 days since I have been touched.

And though the love never wanes,
showing up has been a struggle for me.
It’s getting to be less of a struggle, but I notice that
On some level, this change makes them uncomfortable.
Because it is a new set of instructions, half way through,
And also because this is their time to venture forth without us.
So I find myself steeped in this precious remorse.
They say it is never too late to start,
But there is no do-over.
What I gave is what they got.

On some level, they chose us,
so they must have gotten what they need.
But now that I know ME better,
I see that I was capable of more.
And so I find myself looking at young families and wondering…
How many precious moments did I miss?
How much joy in the sigh a baby makes when you watch him sleep?
How much listening to the toddler babble did I tune out with my noisy impatience?
Why did we forget to dance more?
How many times do I let the television take my seat?

And here comes another life change,
Menopause is looming, as loudly as their impending adulthood.
And I find myself longing to be with more little people.
A deep longing like the one I felt before I met Max and James.
What does this longing tell me?
Is it a request to go back and heal old wounds.
Is it a placeholder for their future children?
Or perhaps it is some other calling I am meant to hear.

Truth & Reconciliation

Notice the title of this post, and the concept it conveys? Truth & Reconciliation. It’s not justice. It’s not winning. It’s not even forgiveness.
It’s reconciliation. To reconcile. Requires the truth.

But is there ever really a single “The” truth? My truth right now is that each of us has in common a desire to be seen, to feel part of a collective that is more than self serving, and to love.

Stan Dale, founder of the Human Awareness Institute said that everything is either love, or a cry for love. Damn straight truth there. So I find myself trying to reconcile the truth of my own actions. I find myself sorting my past actions and behaviors, choices and non-choices into these two buckets:
“Good, that was love.” and “Ooops, cry for love.”
And then wanting to come clean, to move forward with a greater intention to check my future actions against this litmus: Are you loving, or are you crying out for love? Will this action/request/word cause connection or harm? It’s like a mini version of the recovery Step 4. In that step, you make amends with those you have harmed, with the important disclaimer that you do so ONLY when doing so does not cause greater harm.

And there is the rub. That judgement of knowing, before hand, whether I am acting from a place of giving or taking. There are specific people I love who I long to provide with an explanation, an apology, a promise for something better in the future, but I have not been invited to do so. Without the ask, without specifically asking or being asked, stomping in to make these declarations is a dump, a taking, an attempt to spackle over my own wounds. It would not be an act of love, even if my intention was to do good.

So perhaps a review, a breathing into the truth of my own actions with the honesty of the impact it has had on others, a quiet contemplation of what could have been an alternative choice. Perhaps this internal investigation will acclimate me to the process and next time it can run through the steps before I act, or fail to act.

Here’s the truth: I’ve loved, lied to, tried earnestly to help, over-shared with, and hurt the people in my village. I acted. Someone was hurt. From the perspective of the person who was hurt, that certainly may have felt like abuse. Does this mean I have been abusive? I guess it does. Strong word there. Maybe abusive comes from an INTENTION to cause pain, and I’m fairly certain that the vast majority of my actions have come from a misguided attempt to help or be helped. Or my utter inability to know what was the right thing to do. My abusive behavior has been a cry for love. That doesn’t justify it. But perhaps it saves me the label of “Abuser.” Perhaps, at least in my own mind, it negates the power of that word applied anywhere to anyone. Perhaps all abusive acts are committed by people who are miserably failing in their longing to be seen, to figure out how to be part of a collective that is more than self serving and to love? I know so many tales of abuse that are hard to filter through that lens, but perhaps that is the work of truth and reconciliation.

And what of NOT acting? That can cause harm as much as harmful actions can. I have avoided, walked away from, failed to share, failed to see and love people in my village. I failed to act. Someone was hurt. From the perspective of the person who was hurt, that certainly may have felt like abandonment or neglect. Does this mean I have been neglectful. Absolutely. And I have a story of having been abandoned by others. When I run that through the “Stan love filter,” I arrive again at truth and reconciliation. I can see that neglect or abandonment as a cry for love, by someone who is failing to have enough love, not someone who is intentionally withholding it for some nefarious purpose.

I’m going to hold onto my faith and belief that each of us does our best with what we have. Some of us, for some time, just don’t have what is required to show up, stay, deliver, or do anything but self serve. I’ve done this. People I love have done this. I want to stop seeing the world through the victim/abuser binary. I want to see the world through the lens of love, or not enough love. I guess the opportunity to shift this thinking is to stop using language that actions and neglect are done “TO” someone. The action happened. That is the truth. Assuming that I can understand another’s motive is a path of great suffering for me. But asking myself if this feels like love, and walking towards it, that is something I can do. Asking myself if this feels like a cry for love, and then ASKING if there is some way I can be of service, that is something I can do.

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Balance point

You know at the beach, that place out past the waves where the water is calm?
What is that place called?
Or when you pick a place to focus during a balancing yoga pose,
Somehow focussing on something out there makes it easier to settle what’s inside.
What is that state of being where you know there is chaos,
you know that there is something much more profoundly deep than the chaos,
and you hold yourself still and in balance anyway?
Is it equilibrium? Is it non violence? Is this what they call inner peace?

I have a pet peeve in the personal growth community- those people who think they are “done.” They will actually say that they did all the work they needed back in the 90s and now they are ready to be the gurus. The real gurus, like the Dalai Lama, he says “I am but a simple monk.”

So, I want to know and make real my growth, with a humility that understands how I will never be done. I am glad to have taken these past three years to find myself, and now my own story has lost its narcissistic appeal. I am ready to be of service again, to genuinely believe that I do have gifts to offer, non pridefully to other people on the path. I’ve learned about the essential nature of self care, not because I’m protecting and hoarding what is mine, but because I have this growing sense that I’m essential to some worthy souls and causes who need me to show up complete.

These are new thoughts. My process to formalize change is often this type of written and shared expression. So, here is a place today where I want to review some of the new insights and bumper stickers that are resonating, then set them down so that I can focus on something more. These, like my mind, go in no particular order.

My son’s first electronic post of the day yesterday was a assert message about how nice it is to be awoken by a sweet kitty. My 16 year old son, who usually closes his bedrooms door. Turns out, when you leave the door open, give up a little privacy, good things might wander in.

My younger son is feeling an edge of development, and articulates it in a way that is surprising. He has this meta awareness that is an honor to witness. But he is 13, and his privacy is important, so no anecdotes here.

I grew up with their father, my life partner, housemate and best friend for 20 years. As the manufactured story of why our relationship shifted, I find the truth of gratitude, love and a longing for more connection. Well, if I think about it, I’ve always felt those things. So I am wishing for a new version of that which gives more room for the love than the pain.

I’ve learned a lot about relationships, in books, in community, in experiments, in relationship. I’ll never be an expert, but I know it is a life topic that draws me more strongly than most topics. So i will be a student nearly daily. It’s where I love to spend my time and energy, in connection. That can manifest in unhealthy and healthy ways. That can manifest on so many planes… Romantic, professional, familial, friendship, sexual, companionship. What feels best to me is when there is a clarity of what everyone needs, and a dissolution of any societal norm barriers to how a relationship can express.

I love watching people fall I love. Even if it is someone I am in love with.

Healthy is not a mental construct, no matter how much I wish it were. It is body, mind, heart, spirit, awareness and alignment. Right now, that’s a very external process for me… I’ve needed witnesses, validation, guides, redirection. Feels like I’m internalizing this now, which is a huge relief because there really are much more important things to think and talk about than me !

Ego. Fear. Self protection. These deserve to be the strongest driving forces when there is a clear and present danger. Otherwise, these voices are like that drunk friend you have at the bar…. Spouting drunken bullshit that you can hear, but you would never take the dude’s advice. This is not my metaphor, but it will be one I draw on a lot.

I believe we are here to be seen, to genuinely see others, with love and compassion. I believe this leads us to a connection where what is right and wrong is so simple to know, and any work towards making the right thing happen is effort but not suffering. If there is suffering, it is because some truth is not being seen, or the wrong work is being done.

Now, I have two lovely boys, and later two lovely women, and then dozens of happy hippy people to go make myself ready for. Life is rich, and today is one of the good ones.