Sunday, April 14, 2019

More on Patience and Timing

I'm traveling so I'm recycling this post from almost exactly 10(!!) years ago. 

What’s coming up for me this week is patience and timing. There are some things in life I really, really want. In the past I’ve taken steps to attain those goals and felt impatient/frustrated when I didn’t get what I wanted the very minute I wanted it.

When I moved to California, I wanted a job and apartment and friends immediately. That obviously didn’t happen. I spent much of those seven months feeling frustrated and wanting to beat my head against the wall. I think about how I scoured Craigslist hourly, looked at every media job bank available, joined a temp agency, used my connections, etc. I did everything I possibly could to become employed and felt SO aggravated when it didn’t happen right away. Now I look back and laugh because clearly things happen when God wanted them to, not when I did. And that’s what I’m learning, that’s where patience comes in for me: acceptance of someone else’s timeline.

Sometimes life moves at the speed of a tortoise. Photo by Luca Ambrosi on Unsplash

I see how God has a timeline and it more than likely does not match up with mine. I mean, really, I joined a temp agency and didn’t get a stitch of work. Not a single job. I have to laugh because clearly it all happened when God deemed fit.

It’s a lesson I’m applying to my current situation as well. I really want to be in a relationship. I really want a companion in my life. I get out a lot, I know tons of people, I’m on a dating website, but it’s not happening. I’m doing everything a person can possibly do but it’s not manifesting. Here’s the thing. It’s not up to me. Not really. The timing has to be right, not just for me but also for whomever I’m going to end up with. My life is clearly guided by a force greater than myself, a force that knows what’s in my best interest and that’s something I’m learning to accept.

I guess what I’m saying is I finally accept there are some things (many things) I do not control. Many things, like timing, are out of my hands. And in my mind acceptance is a synonym for patience. I accept I’ll be in a relationship when God deems it time; I accept I’ll get to the front of the line at the bank when I do; I accept the bus will come when it does. When I accept what life is I feel patient. I can either beat my head against the wall in frustration or I can enjoy what’s before me.

I choose to accept my life as it is, to feel content with what’s here. I choose to enjoy my situation, feel satisfied with the present moment, and know everything has a timeline and will eventually blossom. I choose to savor every drop of my life because this moment is all I have. I know some things take a while and I’m finally willing to wait.

I dream of a world where we recognize things happen according to God’s timeline and in the meanwhile the best we can do is enjoy what is. I dream of a world where each person is filled with ease and patience and joy. A world that caters to our best interest as opposed to instant gratification. A world where patience is valued, where we’re willing to wait for what we want.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

We are the Storm

You know how people say most of the things they're afraid of never happen? The opposite is true for me -- most of the things I've feared have happened. Not the fleeting, "I'm scared I'll miss my flight" things, but the "I'm scared I'll be broken into" things. The recurring fears, the ones that cause my stomach to roil and my chest to constrict. I want to take a moment here to recognize my fears are of a privileged white woman. I totally understand other people lead tougher lives than I do, with fears greater than mine. I understand I have a relatively easy, cushy life. I'm not here to get into a competition about that. Rather, the point of this post is to talk about fear and resilience.

For much of my life I've braced myself for terrible things. I've done my best to ward them off but they happened anyway. And because they happened, I feel less afraid now. I no longer have to fear the worst because the worst has happened and I've lived to tell the tale. It also means I know how to take care of myself in challenging times. If I have to endure a hardship again, I will because I did before.

Researcher and storyteller BrenĂ© Brown writes about this character trait, resilience, in her book Rising Strong. She said, "While vulnerability is the birthplace of many of the fulfilling experiences we long for -- love, belonging, joy, creativity, and trust, to name a few -- the process of regaining our emotional footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is tested and our values are forged. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness in our lives; it’s the process that teaches us the most about who we are."

Can I find calm amidst the storm? Or better yet, become the storm? Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Check and check. I used to think of myself as a scaredy cat. As someone sensitive and fragile. But after everything I've been through, I'm moving closer and closer to feeling fearless because what else do I have to be afraid of? I've already surmounted many obstacles in my life. At this point I'm confident I have the tools to get through anything. I have evidence to prove my feelings won't kill me, even if feeling them sometimes is excruciating. And I continue to turn to my spiritual practices.

My spiritual teacher says over and over again if a person takes shelter in the Supreme, they need not be afraid of anything in this world. That the divine is "more courageous than the most courageous and braver than the bravest. Those who take shelter in [the divine] are therefore bound to acquire these qualities: courage, bravery, chivalry, and so on. Once endowed with such qualities, what is there to fear?"

I'm a human being so I still fear many things, but I know the more I lean into the presence of my higher power, the better I feel. The more I surrender, the more I recognize everything is an expression of an infinite loving consciousness; the more relaxed I become and also the more fearless. There's a quote floating around about how the devil whispered in a warrior's ear: "You're not strong enough to withstand the storm." And then the warrior responded, "I am the storm." That's what it feels like right now. May we all feel that way.

I dream of a world where we recognize our resilience. A world where we recognize our ability to tackle all the challenges coming our way. A world where we become more and more fearless because we understand not only are we strong enough to withstand the storm, but that we are the storm.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Center of the Universe

The other day I spoke with a friend on the telephone and in the background her kid started to fuss. She commented he does that sometimes when she's not interacting with him. I retorted, "I get it. I want to be the center of someone's universe too." She laughed and said, "So do I. It will have to be higher power."

Hearing her say that jolted my system, like someone flinging open the curtains of a darkened room to let the sun shine in. She so clearly expressed a concept I struggle with, a perspective I'm trying to hold.

My spiritual teacher categorizes devotees in three ways. The third class of devotees thinks God belongs to everybody, and because the person is also included within the scope of "everybody," God belongs to them also. The second-class devotee will say, “No, no, no. That is not the correct psychic approach. You, God, belong to me, and because You belong to me, You belong to all. That is, the first thing is You belong to me. And the second thing, because You belong to me, is You belong to others also.” The first-class devotee says, “No, no, no, that’s not the correct approach. You belong to me and You belong to me only -- not to others. In this realm of relationship I do not allow any third person to come. You are one hundred percent mine.”

I'm working on believing I'm the center of God's universe. Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

He encourages everyone to be a first-class devotee, to develop a personal relationship with a higher power because love is what draws us closer to the divine, and it's hard to love something impersonal. I can honestly say I'm not a first-class devotee. I'm in between a second- and third-class devotee. I take the viewpoint that I'm sharing my higher power with others. I'm not the center of anyone's universe; I'm just a cog in a wheel.

My friend's comment reminds me I could change my perspective. I could operate as if I'm the most important, most special, most beloved being in the universe. Not in an entitled way. Not in a selfish, no-one-else-exists way. I'm not suggesting that I get huffy every time things don't go according to my plan. Instead, I'm wondering if I could take the perspective of an infant and live in such a way that I know I'm being cared for, that I have the undivided attention of a loving parent.

It's hard for me to articulate what I'm trying to convey here because it's an internal mind-shift. The reason I care so much about this topic is because I have insecure attachment. That means I'm used to the idea that sometimes an attachment figure -- a parent, a partner, a friend -- with be there for me and sometimes they won't. Historically, I don't have the feeling of security, of constancy. I'm used to sharing. My spiritual teacher is instead saying, "No. You're not sharing. This is the securest of secure. You and God are in your own little love bubble," so to speak.

If I can maintain that perspective that means I'll welcome in more ease, more peace, and more comfort in my life. It means during turbulent times I can relax because I know I won't be abandoned, and furthermore, there's a power greater than me holding me tight, soothing me, letting me know nothing is more important than making sure I'm OK.

I dream of a world where we realize we are each at the center of the universe for a power greater than ourselves. A world where we find ease and comfort knowing that no matter what happens, there is a loving parent with us all along, guiding us, soothing us, looking out for us, attending to all our needs.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

One of the maladaptive ways I keep myself safe is through black and white thinking. When I meet someone, I make a snap judgment as to whether they're nice or not and hold that image in my head like a painting. My opinion doesn't change, even when their behavior starts to show the person isn't nice.

Recently I met someone I perceived to be warm and easygoing. I put her in the "safe" category of people. I assumed she wouldn't hurt me, that she'd respect me, and that I could interact with her without conflict. It turned out that wasn't true. She flipped on me, showing a sharp side, a selfish side, an aggressive side. Her behavior shocked me for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest is I didn't pick up on this side of her personality at all when we first met. I started blaming myself for putting her in the wrong category, lamenting that I didn't see this coming. How could I have been so wrong? I've had to remind myself people are complex and have different aspects of their personality. That not everyone is who they seem.

Some people wear masks more than others. Photo by Finan Akbar on Unsplash
 I read an Instagram post about a woman with an abusive ex-husband. She said people only see his charming side so it's hard for them to believe he treated her poorly. We hear about that regularly, don't we? How abusive people can be so loving, so charming, and so sweet. It's confusing when they become violent, whether that's emotionally, verbally, or physically. Where did this come from?

I'm reminded of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story, written in 1886, which endures because it speaks to a deep truth about human beings. We are all angels and demons. At any given point we could be a Dr. Jekyll or a Mr. Hyde. No one is static. No one remains immune to evil. Similarly, redemption is also possible for even the most hardened criminal.

My spiritual teacher says those two forces are constantly at work in the universe. We are in a ceaseless tug of war with both energies. We never have it made, so to speak, meaning life is about choices and in any given moment we can choose to behave poorly or not. It's unrealistic to assume a person will stay the same because it's the everyday choices that make up who we are, that change us. People either evolve or devolve, but they don't stay still.

The world is not black and white, it's in color. It's complicated and nuanced and ever-changing. That means people are complicated, nuanced, and ever-changing as well. It's hard to hold that mindset but it's what will truly keep me safe because it keeps me grounded in reality and in the present.

I dream of a world where we recognize we each have the capacity for good and evil. A world where we remember people change all the time. A world where we realize it's important to adjust our judgments of people when we are provided with evidence of their character.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Cracking the Ego Shell

For the past few weeks I've woken up every day with high anxiety – a 10 out of 10. Each day I've wondered if a figurative bomb would drop on me. Some days the bomb dropped and some days it did not, but no day proceeded as I expected. I won't get into specifics publicly, but I've been challenged in ways I never have before.

Throughout this process I've reached out to others for support and I've also turned to my spiritual practices. In my spiritual tradition, as well as in many others, we have the concept of surrender. Surrender is a hard pill to swallow because at least in the culture I'm most familiar with, we're taught to fight, to try, to never give up. We're taught that we're masters of our fate, the captains of our soul. Weeeelllllll, not so much, according to spirituality. In spirituality, we take the opposite approach, that rather there is a force bigger than us, directing the show. That we are merely players upon the stage.

Sometimes we need to crack our shells. Image by Sara Codair on Unsplash

A monk I know says we're able to experience a divine shower of love when we surrender body, mind, and soul. When the hard shell of ego is cracked – and often it's cracked through extremely painful experiences – that's when we become like children and let the universe take care of us. When the shell of ego is cracked, that's when we may feel the most connected to the divine, if we take that stance.

Everything I'm going through has certainly cracking my ego shell. It has forced me to surrender my personal will, my notions of how things will work out, and instead let go. It's not possible for me to behave otherwise. Thinking I control what's happening is only succeeding in making me feel crazy. My mind is spinning with all the possible scenarios and outcomes and the reality is, I have no idea. I can't prepare for all eventualities because more often than not, things I didn't conceive of are what manifest.

You know that joke, “How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans”? That sums up my life right now. I never, never saw any of this coming. I never anticipated I would be in this situation, yet here I am. My ego is getting beaten to a pulp right now. And even with all the fear and anxiety, all the Sturm und Drang, I've had moments of pure grace, of magic and mystery. I've witnessed my higher power taking care of me, showing up for me, demonstrating power and presence.

Do I know how things will turn out? No. Might it be terrible? Yes. But can I still feel deeply loved and held by a power greater than myself? Absolutely. And I have that wish for others too.

I dream of a world where even amidst pain and suffering, we feel loved and supported. A world where we recognize the power and the presence of something bigger than us. A world where we understand often the universe has to crack through our hard shell of ego and self-will in order to shower us with grace.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Our Internal Warrior

Whenever life becomes challenging, my first impulse is to flee. Maybe it's because I'm a Sagittarius. I read a meme recently where Sags described having to-go bags packed at all times "just in case." They are ready to jet off somewhere at the drop of a hat. I don't have a literal to-go bag, but I do have a figurative one.

As soon as I encounter a difficult situation, I fantasize about moving to Europe, or back in with my parents, or at the very least hiding under my bedcovers. The universe though is the best and worst kind of parent because instead of allowing me to run away from experiences, it forces me to confront them.

Several years ago when I had an extreme sensitivity to noise, I moved from place to place looking for my quiet, peaceful Shangri-La. It's a little more complicated than that because some of my housing situations turned sour and necessitated I leave, but in essence I searched and searched for a great place to live. I even went so far as to move to the middle of nowhere Missouri, but even there I was plagued by noise.

 If you know yoga, you'll get the joke -- this person is performing warrior pose. Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

What finally squelched the problem is I built up my warrior self. I stopped turning into a meek mouse when I heard loud music. I stopped covering my ears wishing I could escape to somewhere else. To be fully transparent, all along I confronted people, telling them to turn down their music. I called the cops on my neighbor multiple times to complain about noise. I did all the things people told me to do, but the music kept playing.

On some level I think people didn't respect me when I knocked on their door and said, "Turn down your music," because they sensed I didn't have any bite to back up my bark. They could tell if they pushed even a little I'd cower in fear and turn into a victim. Through therapy I have learned to hold my ground, to say no and mean it not only with my words, but with my vibration, and that's when the music stopped.

Not turning into a victim is a lesson I continue to learn because it's still my first impulse. Not being a victim is something supported by my spiritual teacher who wants me to be brave and to fight. He said, "Life is fight. Life is the constant fight against belligerent forces." Later on he said, "No one can be victorious without fight: Victory without struggle is unthinkable."

That means there's no easy way out. That means I can't hide under my covers and pretend things aren't happening. It means I'll never be victorious if I keep withdrawing from the world, thinking I can escape life's problems. The hard truth is there's no escape. The sooner I remember that, the easier life will be.

I dream of a world where we recognize we can't run away from our problems. A world where we realize we have to stay and fight the hard battles. A world where we assert ourselves with strength and determination embodying our inner warriors.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Make a Fuss

For more than a week I heard the strains of music, drums, and chants drifting through the air. I live near a school and the teachers were on strike for better pay and smaller classrooms, among other things.

What's interesting to notice is I have a tendency to assume that if I ask nicely enough, I'll get what I want. If I was a teacher and said "please," surely the school district would have given me a raise? I think it's safe to assume the teachers did ask nicely and the school district said no. They couldn't accept that and took further action. Witnessing the strike I'm reminded sometimes we have to use force and pressure to meet our needs. Sometimes we have to protest and boycott and make a fuss.

Sometimes we have to make a fuss. Photo by Chris Slupski on Unsplash

I know that's obvious, but it's easy to be on the outside looking in and say, "Of course you have to behave that way," and much harder to be in the situation ourselves. How many of us would stand up to an authority when it's our own neck on the line? When we didn't know how a situation would turn out? I've heard a lot of people say, "I would have marched during the Civil Rights movement," but not as many are saying they've marched with the Black Lives Matter movement.

I'm not trying to shame anyone, I'm merely pointing out it's harder to act with force in the moment when we don't know the outcome. Some people might say acting with force isn't spiritual. That spiritual people should be pacifists. My spiritual teacher disagrees.

He said, "In all actions of life, whether small or big, the unit mind progresses by surmounting opposing forces. Life evolves through the medium of force. If this force is not properly developed, life becomes absolutely dull. No wise person would advocate such a thing because this would be contrary to the very fundamentals of human nature."

He also said, "The use of force against an aggressor is valor and desisting from such use of force is cowardice." My spiritual teacher is not a "sit on your laurels, do nothing" kind of guy. He's a "use force when necessary and stand up for yourself" kind of guy.

In case you're wondering, by striking, the school district acquiesced to the teachers' demands. They demonstrated by speaking up, by acting, by drawing a line in the sand, you can get what you want. That's not universally true of course. Sometimes it takes multiple strikes and boycotts. Sometimes it takes years before injustice crumbles but by continuing to apply pressure, change happens.

For myself, I want to live in a pressure-free environment. I want pleasantries to be enough. I want ease and harmony all the time. However, that's not realistic. It is impossible for us to remain static and inert. We either progress or we backslide. There is no staying still. Given those two choices, I'd much rather evolve than regress, and sometimes that means holding our ground until the other side relents.

I dream of a world where we recognize sometimes the use of force is necessary. A world where we realize being nice isn't enough. A world where we remember in order to surmount obstacles we have to make an effort.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.