Sunday, July 14, 2019

Womb Time

A note about the audio this week: I ran out of space on Soundcloud and haven't transferred over to a new location yet. The audio has been recorded but not posted on the new platform. Stay tuned.

This week as I thought about my job search, the image and metaphor that came to mind is being in the womb. A fetus needs time to develop, to grow, to gather strength for the outside world. And if the fetus enters the outside world before that process has completed, well, we all know what happens.

What's funny about me is I came into the world impatient. I was born three weeks premature -- so early I didn't have fingerprints. Normally that's a little anecdote I drop when I'm talking to pregnant people, conversing about their baby's due date. This week though, it sunk in how much my entire life I tend to replicate my birth story. I want to rush the process, I want to do things NOW. Don't make me wait in the dark, the unknown. Let's get this show on the road!

Sometimes we need to be "in the womb." Photo by Alicia Petresc on Unsplash

As I've continued to feel gratitude for unemployment, noticing what I'm capable of engaging with due to not working a regular job, I've felt safer, calmer. I've felt myself floating in the universal womb. I've said to friends and family, "Maybe it's not a matter of the right job so much as the right time." What I mean is the job is less important than the timing of it all. Maybe the universe wants me to sleep in a little longer, or focus on my health more, or finish up my book before I start working again.

Instead of feeling panicked, which yes, still happens sometimes, I'm imagining myself in the womb, understanding during this period I'm developing, growing, gathering strength for my next adventure.

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.”

When I started asking myself, "What does my higher power want of me right now? Why is it that I'm still unemployed from a Cosmic perspective?" I felt better. I left the shame-based, "There's something wrong with me or my résumé" place. I stopped beating myself up and instead realized maybe my higher power doesn't want me to be employed yet. And this week especially, maybe my higher power doesn't want me to be employed yet because I'm like a fetus in the womb, not ready to be in the world. But that doesn't mean it's not coming, because it will. Eventually all babies leave the womb, and that means me too.

I dream of a world where we understand if something isn't happening, perhaps it's not time for it to happen. A world where we realize even though we're out in the world doesn't mean we don't continue to have periods of going back to a metaphorical womb. A world where we understand the grace and importance of womb time.

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

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Space for Something New

Every holiday I think about the one from the year prior. What was I doing? Who was I with? This July 4th was no different. In addition to reminiscing about last year, I also took stock of my life. I was reminded how much I've changed, how much my life has changed, and how some of my relationships have changed. There are certain people who are no longer in my life; not because they died (although there are a few of those), but rather because we grew apart. We have become alien to each other and don't own starships to bring us together.

I cried over the loss of those relationships and all the while a little voice in my head whispered about making space for something new. I have a tendency to cling on to things far past the point of being healthy. Alexander Graham Bell has me pegged with his quote, "When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us."

It's important to leave space for something new. Photo by Dylan de Jonge on Unsplash

This week I'm looking at the open door. In terms of relationships, that means I'm noticing the new ones in my life from the past year. Or the old ones that are new again; in other words, relationships where I reconnected with someone from my past. By clearing out the old relationships, by letting them go, I'm making space for the new ones. I have the capacity to nourish what's here because I'm not caught up in knocking on a closed door.

We have that saying nature abhors a vacuum. I abhor vacuums too, but not the ones that clean the carpet. Those I love. I abhor the life vacuums but there's wisdom in acknowledging their importance. Of seeing the beauty in empty space because empty space doesn't last. Soon it will be filled with something. Maybe saying goodbye to old relationships opens me up to better ones. It doesn't mean the love died because for me anyway it hasn't. It just means I'm no longer investing time and energy in cultivating the relationships that no longer serve me.

I'd love to throw in a spiritual quote here or make this post more profound but it's not. The practice is a simple one that we all must learn. In order to make space for something new, we have to get rid of the old, whether that's an object or a belief.

I dream of a world where we understand it's important to grieve the loss of closed doors but also turn our attention to doors that are open. A world where we clear away what no longer serves us. A world where we realize nature abhors a vacuum and thus ultimately we are making space for something new.

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

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Key to Sanity

I spoke with a friend this week and she said she's confused by events that start off miraculously and then wind up being a dumpster fire. Is the event still a miracle in that case?

Good question. It brings to mind a story I heard about a Chinese farmer who used a stallion to till his fields. One day the stallion escaped into the hills. The farmer’s neighbors lamented his bad luck but he replied, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

A week later, the stallion returned with a herd of horses from the hills. The neighbors rejoiced, congratulating the farmer on his good luck. He replied, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?” The farmer’s son attempted to ride one of the wild horses but he fell off and broke his leg. Everyone exclaimed, "Oh no! What bad luck!" The farmer said, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows! Photo by Yan Ming on Unsplash

Some weeks later, an army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied young man they found. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg, they exempted him. Was it good luck or bad luck? Who knows!

I have to be honest -- my first reaction to the end of that story is to say it was good luck, but honestly, who knows? As the story demonstrates, life is a ceaseless up and down. There's a reason we talk about the wheel of fortune, and I don't mean the game show.

Time often grants me perspective, shows me the bigger picture. I see how the bad things led to better things and vice versa. Right now I have what could be characterized as bad luck: no job, despite my efforts. However, I have a glimpse of how the bad luck could be good luck. As I mentioned in my last post, I've slept in nearly every day for 3.5 months. I'm seeing the wisdom in the farmer's attitude, that good luck can become bad luck and bad luck can become good luck. In yoga, we call this equanimity of mind.

To paraphrase my spiritual teacher, a person who views everything with equanimity, be it their home or the burial ground, gold or grass, their own children or their enemies, fire or water, lives in the world thoroughly cleansed mentally and spiritually, seeing beyond duality.

Here's a joke for you: As I wrote the previous sentence, I heard someone vacuuming their car. I obviously have some internal cleaning to do and the universe wanted to underscore that point! It's not a state I'm in frequently, but when I have more mental equipoise I feel better, unfazed by weal and woe. In a life filled with weal and woe, mental balance seems to be the key to sanity, helping us all cope.

I dream of a world where we understand the wheel of fortune keeps turning and good becomes bad, bad becomes good. A world where we maintain our equanimity of mind during booms and busts. A world where we find serenity and we know peace.

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

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Motivated by Something Else

"Life should not be motivated by fear." I've heard that sentence hundreds of times but usually it goes in one ear and out the other. The message doesn't land because my mind can't compute the meaning. In some ways my life has absolutely been motivated by fear.

I'm applying to any and every job -- some that I want and some that I don't -- because I'm scared. I'm casting as wide a range as possible because a part of me feels desperate. I'm like that person on Tinder who swipes right for every profile because I want someone, anyone, to say, "Yes, I'll go out with you." I get it. We say with jobs and with dating that it's a numbers game so on some level it makes sense to apply for everything, to say yes to everyone. But on another level it does not.

Reach for the clouds! Or something. . . Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

I'm saying yes to everything because I'm scared that I won't be hired anywhere. I'm not accounting for my own needs and wants. Instead I'm saying I'll settle for anything. Sometimes that's necessary. In my situation it's not. I'm already living off of unemployment and food stamps. This is as low as it gets for me because I won't be homeless -- I have too many friends and family to allow that to happen. So this? This is the worst it will get for me given the circumstances.

What would my life look like if I wasn't motivated by fear? What if my job search wasn't motivated by fear but instead joy, service, or faith? What would be different? For starters, my mindset would change. I wouldn't say "if I get hired" but instead "when I get hired." I'd believe the right job is coming along at some point. I'd apply places that make use of my skills and talents instead of any job, every job.

Writing this my chest is tight and my breathing is shallow because a part of me is very attached to the fear perspective. I'm afraid to stop being afraid. But I want to and am willing to try something new.

My spiritual teacher says over and over again that the universe knows what we need and want before we do. That there's a loving entity looking out for us, guiding us, giving us what we need. We don't always realize it at the time; often it only becomes clear in retrospect. I'm finding that to be true for me. I won't list all the reasons why right now but will say briefly that being unemployed has meant sleeping in every day for more than three months. As someone who didn't sleep well for seven years, this is a tremendous gift and means I'm healing in ways I never thought possible. So perhaps my higher power knows what's best for me after all.

I dream of a world where we are motivated by joy, love, service, and faith. A world where we hold out for what we want when we're fortunate to be in a position to do so. A world where we realize our higher power is acting in our best interest and we surrender to that, trusting all is well.

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

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Tripping over the Future

This post is from June 2010 but it's still relevant for me.

Future tripping: obsessing and worrying about the future. Playing the "what if" game. You would think this is my favorite game given how frequently I play it. I construct an entire sequence of events before they even occur. I’ve been doing that this week because I’m planning a 200-person retreat taking place at the end of this month. I’m thinking about, “Who will be the lunch in charge? Who will take care of the kids? What happens if so and so turns up? What happens if so and so doesn’t turn up?” There are sooo many things I’m contemplating and so many outcomes it’s making my head spin.

I also think about how futile the whole thing is. Months ago my friend L’s sister was in town and they invited me to go out to dinner with them. Because of the timing and the location of the restaurant it didn’t make sense for me to go home first. So I started planning and planning and planning. Ruminating on where I would go after work. What I would do with myself. If I would try to read a book or whether I would practice qigong. If I would wander around Chinatown. Where would I meditate. What would happen if I meditated at a temple and then walked around afterward. So many things! So many possibilities! And you know what happened? The night we planned to go out to eat L’s sister got sick and they canceled. They canceled! I spent all that time thinking about what I would do and then none of it took place! All of my worrying was completely fruitless.

I'd much rather go on this sort of trip. Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash
 It was a nice reminder for me to live in the moment and stay present. It was a nice reminder I’d rather deal with things as they come instead of counting my chickens before they hatch. Because the truth of the matter is I have no idea what’s up ahead. I have no idea what tomorrow brings or even what the next 10 minutes brings. And since I’ve redefined my concept of a higher power, I know that no matter what’s ahead it’s for my good. So why worry? Why plan my whole life in advance?

Some things, like this retreat, require planning. Otherwise we might be sitting around twiddling our thumbs, but honestly, I don’t have to plan everything. I don’t have to think about, “Well what if this happens? Or that happens?” If it happens it does and I’ll deal with it then. Be prepared, yes, but not obsessive. I think that’s the difference.

In the case of going out to dinner with L and her sister, bring a book but also see how I feel at the time. Prepare but allow for all possibilities. I want to allow myself to still deal with situations as they come up and not hold onto what I think will happen like a dog chewing a bone. There’s no need to constantly replay situations in my head like a CD stuck on repeat.

I dream of a world where we allow ourselves to stay present. A world where we take things as they come one day at a time. A world where we release our fear of the future and instead live in the moment. A world where we know what’s ahead is for our own self-realization and growth and so we sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

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

Sunday, June 9, 2019

First It's Hard, Then It's Easy

I experienced something this week that seems like a good metaphor for my life right now. On Thursday, I started to wash my clothes but noticed I didn't have enough quarters to dry them as well. I decided to wash them anyway and hang everything up to dry. However, when I descended to the laundry room to acquire my clothes, I found them sitting in a pool of water -- the washing machine hadn't drained the water. Luckily, my landlord was onsite so I alerted him to the problem. He unplugged the machine, started it again, added more quarters to see if that made a difference -- nada.

Defeated, I pulled my sopping wet clothes from the machine, leaving the lid up to broadcast to anyone else the washing machine's malfunction. However, a short while later, my landlord knocked on my door and said he heard the washing machine start up again. He gave me three dollars in quarters to try my load once more. Not only did the machine work, but also I had an extra $1.50 in quarters to be able to dry my clothes. Huzzah! Things were difficult, but hardship paved the way for ease.

Swinging is hard, then it's easy. Photo by Yoori Koo on Unsplash

I'm hopeful the same will be true with other aspects of my life, particularly my career. I'm applying for jobs left and right, going on interviews, but still no offers on the table. It's tough. It's demoralizing. It's not what I would call easy. But maybe the universe is constructing things so they will become easy. Perhaps the obstacles right now are also for my benefit.

My spiritual teacher says, "The path of spiritual excellence is strewn with numerous obstacles." And also, "When one sets out to complete a great task, innumerable difficulties must be confronted. The greater the task, the mightier the obstacles." I didn't think the task of being employed would be so great, but it is because I'm not suited for every job and not every job is suited for me. That means a lot of hurdles to clear. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow requires some legwork to find.

I can't do more about my situation than I already am other than change my perspective. I can't control what happens to me, but I can control what I think about it. Right now I'm choosing to believe this is all happening for a reason, and while it's really not fun, eventually it will pan out and things will be easy. Until they're hard again and then easy again and then hard again ad infinitum.

I dream of a world where things are hard at first and then they're easy. A world where we see how even the difficult things lead to something easier down the road. A world where we understand everything slots together like a puzzle but we can't see the whole picture yet until it's finished.

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

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Bigger than Us

The other day I fretted about my job situation, worried I won't find another one, or I won't find another one that I like, that suits me, etc. I applied some spiritual principles -- mainly recognizing I'm not in control of this, but I have a higher power -- and came to the conclusion my higher power is bigger than all of this.

When I think about myself and my situation it's from a small and limited perspective. You could call it ego or fear, but regardless, it keeps me locked into limitation. It keeps me from believing in miracles and possibilities. That self is like Chicken Little, declaring the sky is falling because an acorn fell on her head. Did you know there are multiple versions of the Chicken Little story? In one version, Chicken Little and all her friends are lured to a fox's den and never seen again. In another, they tell a king and the king reassures them the sky is not falling, plucking an acorn from Chicken Little's head.

I'd like to frequent the metaphorical palace. Photo by Victoriano Izquierdo on Unsplash

This story appeals to me right now because I see my situation as a fork in the road with different outcomes. I could be like Chicken Little and let my fear lead me to a metaphorical fox's den where I'll be devoured, or I could be like Chicken Little and let my fear lead me to a metaphorical palace where I'll be reassured. My higher power is the royalty in this situation -- bigger, more powerful, and thoroughly capable.

The other day I watched a movie about Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. It reminded me back in the day royalty could accomplish the seemingly impossible. He wanted to marry Anne Boleyn so badly he created his own freaking church so he could divorce Catherine of Aragon. That may not seem like a big deal in this modern age where we can create a church in 10 minutes by purchasing a domain name on the internet, but back then? Unthinkable. Practically impossible. And he did it anyway. My higher power is not Henry VIII, but nonetheless, has royal qualities, which means my higher power can totally handle this job situation.

My higher power is bigger than me and thus capable of miracles. I've already been the recipient of miracles over and over again. In fact, I'm writing this blogpost from a miracle: my apartment. By all accounts this situation shouldn't exist: I live alone in a quiet place that I can afford with laundry onsite and in a good location close to public transportation. In the Bay Area that's like the Holy Grail. Can it be possible then my job will be similar? Sometimes I believe that and sometimes I don't, but the more I remember my higher power is bigger than me, the more reassured I feel.

I dream of a world where we remember the divine is greater, more powerful, and more capable than we are. A world where we realize those qualities mean miracles can manifest in a multitude of ways. A world where we're reassured by something bigger than us.

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