Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Power of Humility



Recently I watched an interview with Megan Phelps-Roper, formerly of the Westboro Baptist Church. Westboro Baptist Church is the one that protests funerals, that proclaims Jesus hates gay people, that calls Jews, Jesus killers. Megan's grandpa founded the church so you could say she was steeped in indoctrination. Through interactions over Twitter, she completely reversed her opinions and now spends time with people she used to hate.

Watching her interview moved me, not only because her story is touching, but also because of her humility. It oozed from her. No longer self-righteous and arrogant, Megan instead recognizes she doesn't have all the answers, and furthermore that her previous behavior was wrong.

I'm striving to be as humble as a blade of grass. Photo by Chang Qing on Unsplash.

Watching Megan I was reminded of the power of humility. She is able to touch other people, to change them on a deep level, because she doesn't walk around like a proud peacock proclaiming her glory. I have to admit, humility is a tough one for me. I want to be the best! I want to be number one! I want fame and critical acclaim. If I do something well, I want heaps of praise for it. Give me my gold medal please, thanks. However, I also recognize arrogance only serves my ego, only puffs me up, and is not in service of a power greater than myself.

When we say someone is arrogant, we'll say they're full of themselves. Exactly, full of themselves. There's no room for anyone else or anything else.

My spiritual teacher says one should be as humble as the grass because it bows before everyone and doesn't pick and choose who to bend for. Why though? Why would he say that? In my opinion, I think it's because when we're proud, when we're self-aggrandizing, we only think of ourselves, and we start setting ourselves apart from everyone else. We're better than someone else. People are winners and losers instead of fellow human beings. In that sense, pride creates disconnection from others, but I also think it creates disconnection from the divine. If I want to be an instrument for my higher power, there's no way I can do that if I constantly think I know what's best. There's no way I can be an instrument if I'm puffed up on my own self-importance because again, no room exists for anything else.

I often think in order to do anything worthwhile it must be big and grand. I need to be a bestselling author, I need to be a billionaire philanthropist, I need to cure cancer. Megan's interview reminds me it's the small actions that are the most powerful sometimes. There's a joke I heard that says, “What's the most dangerous animal to humans?” You would think it's a shark or something, but no, it's a mosquito. I know a mosquito is an insect and not really an animal, but the point is still valid. A mosquito has the potential to be far deadlier than a shark because of all the diseases it carries. Similarly, perhaps my small actions have more potential than I know.

I dream of a world where we understand the power of humility. A world where we recognize we are one among many, neither better nor worse. A world where we realize humility makes us instruments, allowing for connection among our peers and our higher power. A world where we remember small can be great.

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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Walking Each Other Home



What a week. Lots of grief on a societal level, but also a personal one. I'm reminded of how human we are. Of how we're all in this together. As Ram Dass says, “We're all just walking each other home.”

His quote kept ringing through my head this week. In times of trauma and grief, I want to do something. Sometimes there are actions to take, but sometimes all we can do is hold each other while we cry.

With painful feelings, I've often wanted someone else to take them away. To siphon them off as they would drink the last of a milkshake. I wanted someone, anyone, to make me feel better. Speaking as someone with loads of experience trying to escape her feelings, I can say without a doubt the answer is “That's not possible.” No one else can cry my tears for me. No one else can take away my pain. Other people and things may distract me for a while, but just as with storm clouds, they darken the sky whether I acknowledge them or not.

Walk with me? Photo by Hannah Donze on Unsplash

Ram Dass' quote reminds me no one is supposed to take away my pain and sorrow because we are all humans. We are not machines. We can't write a code that says, “We will never feel sad ever.” Furthermore, it's no one's responsibility to make me feel better. We are fellow companions on this path. We are pilgrims going on a pilgrimage. There may be times I sprain my ankle and have to rely on others for help, but the responsibility for forward motion is still mine, and the responsibility to move through my emotions is still mine.

My spiritual teacher says, “[A] true society is like a group of pilgrims who attain a deep psychic affinity while traveling together, which helps them solve all the problems in their individual and social lives.”

That's us. A group of pilgrims traveling this rocky path together. I'm speaking in metaphors a lot in this post, but what I'm trying to get at is it's not my responsibility to solve or fix someone's emotional state, or vice versa. I don't have all the answers, or any of the answers, really. I can't tell a person how to live their life or what they should do to feel better. All I can do is say, “I hear you and I'm beside you. I'm walking this path with you as a companion.” And that's it. We'll address problems as they arise – blisters, sprained ankles, etc. – but the emotional states? I'll be with you during them, but the tears are still yours to cry and the steps are still yours to walk. And maybe that's enough.

I dream of a world where we recognize we are all pilgrims on a pilgrimage. A world where we sit with each other when we're in pain. A world where we realize all we can do is be there for each other. A world where we remember we're all just walking each other home.

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Forces of Impatience



This week I experienced a breakthrough around impatience. Normally when I'm impatient, I roll my eyes and say, “Oh look. This again.” Or I stew in my impatience, allowing myself to feel all the irritation and frustration. When impatience bubbled up for me recently, instead I became curious. “Why am I impatient? What's going on here? Are there other things at play?” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer is, “Yes.”

When I'm impatient, two other forces are at work. The first is scarcity – I think there's not enough of whatever it is. If I'm waiting in line and feeling impatient, it's because I feel pressed for time, for example. The second force at play is a lack of perspective. My career is a great example. I want to be a bestselling author, I want to touch a lot of people on a grand scale, to serve others in a big way using my words. Impatience comes in because I think if I'm not doing those things right now, I won't ever do them. I get caught in the present moment in a bad way. A friend told me when her daughter skins her knee she'll exclaim, “My knee hurts and it's always hurt and it will always hurt!” When I'm impatient, I act like that.

There are multiple forces associated with impatience. Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash.


This week when impatience presented itself I asked, “What if most of my dreams will come true later? Is it possible they're in my future?” and I felt better. As I've seen over and over again, for better or for worse, I have no idea what the future holds, so yeah, it's possible I can still have what I want, just not right now. Furthermore, I have a lot of life left, I hope. I likely won't drop dead in the next 30 seconds so maybe down the road the things I want will happen. What helps me here is thinking about past experiences. For many years I wanted to visit Italy. Every time someone mentioned Italy or shared pictures of their travels, envy and impatience overtook me. “I want to go to Italy too! Why hasn't it happened for me?” And then in 2012, I finally visited the country in a grace-filled way better than I could have imagined. My dream did come true, but it took a while.

My spiritual teacher says that “whatever happens in this universe of ours is nothing but an expression of Cosmic desire or Cosmic will … when a human desire and His desire coincide, then only does the human desire become fruitful, otherwise it is a sure failure.”

That means when I align my desire and higher power’s desire, dreams come true. It also means when I'm impatient, I don't recognize life is a long game, I hope. When I'm impatient, I'm thinking in terms of instant gratification as opposed to syncing my will with the divine's. It also means I'm not recognizing the natural rhythm of life. The environment has seasons and so does life. In the dead of winter it's tempting to believe spring will never arrive, but it always does, when the temperatures rise, when the snow melts, when the sun shines brighter. Dreams are like that too – they blossom when the environment is ideal. When I'm impatient it's like going outside in 3 feet of snow asking, “Why aren't the tulips in bloom?” They will bloom, but I have to wait, and that means patience.

I dream of a world where we realize everything takes time and just because something hasn't happened yet, doesn't mean it won't. A world where we remember just like Earth, our lives and our dreams also have seasons. A world where we maintain perspective about the future and practice patience.

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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Not So Alien



This weekend I watched Hamlet with a friend of mine and remarked how the play touched me in a way it didn't when I was a teenager.

I've seen Hamlet on numerous occasions, I've heard the famous soliloquy a million times, even unknowingly quoted from the play in this blog. Hamlet is a story I'm familiar with, but watching it this weekend I could relate to him, I understood him. No, my uncle did not kill my father and marry my mother, but I, too, understand about anger, grief, and despair. Maybe it's a consequence of practicing nonviolent communication and meditating regularly, but when I watched Hamlet all I could think was, “Me too.” I wouldn't have taken the actions he took, but I empathize with his feelings in a way I didn't before.

Beneath the exterior, we're all just humans. Photo by Eva Dang on Unsplash

I'm reminded of that quote by Maya Angelou who said, “We are all human; therefore, nothing human can be alien to us.” Yeah. Pretty much. I'm not a scholar, but it seems to me Shakespeare's work endures because he taps into the essence of what it means to be human, with all the pain, glory, comedy, and tragedy. One minute Hamlet is contemplating suicide and the next his friends burst through the door talking and laughing. That's certainly how my life is. I think I mentioned it here, but literally the day after I found out my co-worker died, I unintentionally participated in a wedding held in my neighbor's backyard. My windows were open so the sounds of the ceremony wafted through the air. Life is tragic and comic, something Shakespeare understood and illustrated.

This also means all the emotions Shakespeare's characters express, we express too. Even though he wrote his plays hundreds of years ago, they're still relevant. There is no emotion anyone has ever felt that I haven't felt too. Our experiences? Highly variable. Our emotions? The same.

I bring this up because I wonder how things would be different it we all held this viewpoint. Instead of calling Mexicans rapists like a certain high-ranking official, instead of calling people aliens, what if we recognized that we are all human and thus nothing human can be alien to us?

My spiritual teacher said:
Human society comprises various races. There is no reason whatever to recognize one race as superior to another race. The external differences in constitutions among these human groups cannot alter their basic human traits – love and affection, pleasure and pain, hunger and thirst. These basic biological instincts and mental propensities equally predominate in human beings of all complexions in all countries and in all ages. A mere rustic, illiterate, half-naked tribal mother of an unknown hamlet ... in India bears deep maternal affections for her young children; in the same way, a well-educated mother of a locality of New York pours out of her heart a great love for her own children. 
The subterranean flow of love and affection exists in all hearts alike. Every person cries out in pain, everyone feels pleasure when there are occasions of joy and happiness. [F]undamentally, their mental existences flow along the same channels of ideas and consciousness. Containing the same cosmic momentum and under the same cosmic inspiration, they all have set out for a tryst with the same destiny.

I dream of a world where we recognize we all have the same human emotions. A world where we remember there is nothing anyone can feel that we also haven't felt, and vice versa. A world where we recognize we aren't so alien from each other, in fact, we're not alien at all.

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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Envy, Success, and Creativity



I envy other people's success. Not in a mean or spiteful way – I don't begrudge people their accolades, I think they deserve them – rather a part of me burns with yearning to have what they have. I've tried all the things I can think of to deal with envy – feeling it fully, using it as fuel for my own work, seeing it as an example of what's possible, etc., but nothing has made a lasting difference.

This week the green-eyed monster struck again and I sincerely asked the universe for help. I don't like feeling envious, it's not something I enjoy, or how I'd like to respond to the success of others. The universe stepped in, as it always does, and I contemplated a prayer I say every morning. Specifically, that I act as an instrument for my higher power, that I may be of service to others, and that I'd like to be used as my higher power sees fit. This week it occurred to me my creative endeavors also apply.

We are all creative. Photo by david clode on Unsplash.

On some level I already know this and it's the main reason I have this blog, to use my words in service of others. I already believe my role as an artist is to establish a link between the finite and infinite, the mundane and the transcendental. In terms of creativity, it means I'm working with something more than me. Talk to any artist and they'll tell you at some time or another it felt like they were channeling something, that something moved through them. Indeed, Elizabeth Gilbert has a mega-popular video on creativity saying exactly that. If that's true, and I believe it is, it means I'm an instrument for my higher power. I'm the violin, not the violinist.

When I look at envy from this perspective, it means I'm not to blame for any success or failure. I'm the violin, I'm not in control of the music the violinist plays, nor am I in control of how well the music is received. I don't know why certain things are popular and others languish in obscurity, but also I don't know the mind of God. However, I've experienced enough synchronicity in my life to know I am a piece on God's chessboard, that there is a greater intelligence at work. That means art too. It means perhaps certain things I write are supposed to reach a small number of people, and that's it. I want to write a wildly popular book that lands me on the New York Times bestseller list, a segment with Oprah, and a prestigious award, but maybe every book has its own purpose and trajectory, and sometimes that means only six people will read it.

Envy pops up when my ego has gotten the best of me and I start thinking about my plans instead of the universe's plans. Envy pops up when I think of myself as the violinist, not the violin. I have to take certain actions, I have to keep my instrument clean and my strings taut, so to speak, but the rest? It's not up to me. Almost every successful person talks about a “lucky break,” being in the right place at the right time. I don't think it's luck, I think it's grace, and that's something I can't manufacture no matter how hard I try. Nor am I supposed to. I'm the violin, allowing myself to be played, not the violinist.

I dream of a world where we realize we are not solely responsible for our creative successes or failures. A world where we recognize we are instruments for something greater than ourselves. A world where we take our egos out of the equation and merely allow ourselves to be played.

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Biggest Thrill



When my co-worker died unexpectedly about two months ago, it rocked me. It shook my sense of stability and security, and I've been working hard to get back to feeling safe and secure ever since. Unfortunately, all of my usual methods haven't worked. I still feel insecure and life still doesn't feel stable.

I spoke with a friend about this and she reminded me life isn't certain. We pretend it is, but it's not. We think we know what will happen next, but we don't. Usually that notion fills me with anxiety because when the outcome is uncertain, I err on the side of negativity. I know, that's funny considering this blog is called “Another World is Probable” and I spend so much time talking about a bright future, but it's true. For myself, I assume the worst – rejection, scarcity, death. On a visceral level, gazing into my future I foresee death, destruction, and despair. It makes sense then why I want to keep uncertainty at bay. The way I've done so is to plan. I plan for joy, for connection, for the future. That way I know I'll engage in something pleasant. Or at least, that's what I told myself. And it mostly worked, except also not really because I'm sure you've heard that saying, “When we make plans, God laughs.” Most often my plans went awry, but I made them anyway and I quelled my anxiety for the most part. I could be certain of most things and that was fine by me.

We're on the biggest thrill ride of them all. Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash

When my co-worker died, my notion of certainty shattered. I couldn't keep pretending life could be certain, no matter how much I planned. His death was not something I anticipated. Nobody gave me advanced warning. He was here one day and gone the next, and that hurts.

In this moment I'm grieving him, and I'm grieving the loss of certainty. What my friend reminded me though is that doesn't have to be a bad thing. Good things are uncertain too. A new relationship, a new job, a new life are also things we cannot predict. We pretend we can by applying for new jobs, scouring dating websites, and having unprotected sex, but we don't control what the company is, who we'll fall in love with, or when we'll get pregnant. We make an effort, we do the footwork, but when any of those things manifest is ultimately a surprise.

In December, friend and Soul Couch Jayantii Lawless told me she wished I felt thrilled. Not about anything in particular, not like she wished I felt thrilled about dinner that night, rather that I had the experience of “thrill” in general. I laughed and said, “Yeah, me too.” I envisioned “thrill” in the form of falling in love, but instead, the universe is illustrating life itself is thrilling. We are on a roller coaster replete with peaks and valleys. The roller coaster will go up and it will come down. The future is just as likely to be awesome as it is awful. It's important for me to remember that because anticipating the future will be terrible isn't working for me. I'd rather anticipate the future will be terrific because that's just as likely.

I dream of a world where we recognize uncertainty can be exciting. A world where we remember it's just as likely pleasant things will happen to us as unpleasant ones. A world where we realize life is the biggest thrill ride of them all.

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

Sunday, September 3, 2017

More than We Know



You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you know.” – A.A. Milne

It seems to me right now we're all being called to become our best selves. We're being asked to stretch and grow in ways that are uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Milne's quote reminds me so often I sell myself short and there is more courage, strength, intelligence, and love within me than I acknowledge.

There is some not-fun stuff going on in the world, as per usual, and the challenge for us is to rise to the occasion. For me personally, that means getting in touch with my inner power. Often I want other people to do the heavy lifting in my life. I want them to “fix me,” to “make me better,” to “have all of the answers,” or in some way allow me to play the damsel in distress. The place this shows up the most is with my health.

There's more beneath the surface. Photo by Muhammad Shahzad on Unsplash

I'm writing a long facebook note about everything my chronic illness has taught me, but for the purposes of this post I want to focus on empowerment. The dynamic that has shown up with my health is I approach doctors and healers not as partners in my path to wellness, not as people who help me to heal myself, but rather as wizards who will magically cure me without any effort on my part. I realize awe-inspiring stories of magical healing happen every day, and I so wish I could be one of those people, but thus far the universe has said to me, “Nah gurl, you gotta be your own hero and rescue yourself.”

I came to this conclusion after literally trying all the things Western and Eastern to heal my physical body and not seeing much in the way of results. A friend of mine posted about a book called Energy Medicine on Instagram and even seeing the title sparked curiosity within me to explore deeper. After the eclipse, an intense and passionate desire bubbled up within me to start reading the book. It's a synthesis of all the modalities I have familiarity with – acupressure, energy meridians, chakras – and describes them in a practical way. The book explains why certain spots on my body are tender, or why I instinctively cradle my stomach. More importantly though, it's empowering me to heal myself.

It's early days, but even if I don't see the results I'd like, it seems like a valuable lesson to remember I have power and magic within me. That I am capable of more than I think I am. That I don't have to outsource everything to other people. This post is all about me, but the principle applies to the broader society as well. How many of us think what's happening is “someone else's” problem? Or that “someone else” will take charge? And how much of that is based on insecurity or inferiority?

My spiritual teacher says over and over again, “You should behave with every created being, every human being, in such a way that neither a superiority complex nor an inferiority complex develops in you, or in those with whom you interact. ... A person must not suffer from an inferiority complex, because that person and his or her friends and siblings are all the progeny of the same Progenitor. They come from the same origin.”

That means I'm just as capable as anyone else. That means the same power within others is also within me. And vice versa.

I dream of a world where we recognize we all have inner power and strength. A world where we remember no one is superior or inferior to us. A world where we realize we are braver than we believe, stronger than we seem, and smarter than we think.

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