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.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

New Life



As of right now, at least four of my friends are pregnant. Also, within the past two months, four of my friends have given birth. Birth happens every day, but to have so many people around me ushering forth new life fills me with hope and optimism, which is sorely needed right now.

Much of the news is gloom and doom, making it easy to believe the world is terrible and people are awful, but when I think of these new beings coming onto the planet, my heart swells. By and large, each generation is more progressive, tolerant, and accepting than the last. There are exceptions of course, but the majority are heading in that direction.

The other thing that fascinates me is contemplating the effect each new child will have on the world. We never know who the next Einstein will be. Even if the kid isn't an incredible genius, each new child will likely contribute to the welfare of society, at least in my circle of friends. I base this on my observations of their parents: Awesome parents usually raise awesome children.

I have no idea who this kid is, but they're adorable. Photo by Carlo Navarro on Unsplash.

This post is not a profound one, but rather a grateful one. When I look around me and see new children, I fully believe the world will become better and is becoming better. It's much harder to dismantle prejudice, cruelty, intolerance, etc. in people who've had years of training to think in such a manner, and much easier to teach a new generation to love right off the bat.

A quote by Nelson Mandela comes to mind: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Newborn babies can be taught to love, which is their natural inclination, and that means many of the problems we're experiencing today will slowly fade into history. My spiritual teacher said:
All genuine spiritualists will have to adjust with the level of the dusty earth inspired by the spontaneous love of their hearts. They will have to share the wealth of their developed intellects with others to lighten the sorrows and sufferings of humanity. Through their guidance and leadership, human thinking will take a new turn and move along an entirely new path. The latent spiritual power in human beings will be awakened. Through their effort and inspiration, the new people of a new generation will be armed with a bold new optimism and vision of the future, and march forward triumphantly.
When I see babies, I see a bold and bright new future, a triumphant march forward, and that's something to get excited about.

I dream of a world where we recognize the forward march that's taking place. A world where we celebrate the new lives coming onto this planet who are surely ushering forth a bright future. A world where we remember intolerance and injustice will eventually die out.

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Real Meaning of Nonviolence



In the wake of the events of Charlottesville, many friends have posted about punching Nazis in the face and inevitably someone makes a comment about nonviolence and promoting peace. They talk about how punching a Nazi in the face is incendiary, particularly if the neo-Nazi merely gathered together with other neo-Nazis in protest. I won't get into the issues of hate speech and incitement here, but would rather like to talk about this nonviolence thing.

In yogic philosophy, nonviolence is called ahimsa. Most people incorrectly assume ahimsa means never using force ever. But in truth, the act of living is a violent one. Every time we breathe, we kill organisms. Every time we filter water, we kill something. Life is violence and I see in our country a tendency to disown violence and project it outward.

There's a grip and a force to life, like a lizard's foot. Photo by Katarzyna Urbanek on Unsplash.

We are a country that extols the likes of Gandhi and Martin Luther King for their peaceful protest tactics, yet we spend more on our defense budget than any other country in the world. We talk about the importance of peace in matters of civil unrest, yet we invade other countries to help them overthrow governments. We are constantly on the lookout for terrorism, quick to profile people who are not White and not Christian, yet we ignore terrorism on our own soil. Yo, something is not right here. How can we be a nation of such extremes?

I'm not an expert, I'm just another person on the internet, but I'm pretty sure we as a country are refusing to acknowledge the beast within us. We want someone else to do our fighting, yet we're attracted to violent movies, television, and books because there's something we like about violence. We want to believe peace is the path forward because it paints a nicer picture, but in truth, more revolutions are violent than they are peaceful. It's rare for pleading and supplication to change the mind of an oppressor.

I'm not saying we should all walk around throwing punches at every person who looks at us funny, but force is sometimes necessary. On a personal level, anyone who wants to take away your property, your spouse, comes with a weapon to murder you, wants to snatch away your wealth, set fire to your house, or wants to take your life by administering poison, use force on them. Your life is just as important as theirs.

My spiritual teacher says, “The use of force against an aggressor is valor and desisting from such use of force is cowardice. But the weak people must assess their strength before indulging in violent conflict with a powerful aggressor; otherwise, if a fight is started without acquiring proper strength, injustice may temporarily triumph.” He also said, “Of course, if you find that the aggressor is bent on destroying you, whether you use force or not, it would be proper to die at least giving a blow to the best of your might without waiting to assemble the adequate forces.”

I'd like to believe my spiritual teacher dispenses this advice because he wants us to know our lives are worth fighting for, literally. We are all worthy and deserving of respect and that means not taking abuse from anyone, whether individually or as a group.

I dream of a world where we recognize sometimes the use of force is necessary. A world where we understand there exists within each of us a warrior-self that's appropriate to use when the case calls for it. A world where we understand the real meaning of nonviolence.

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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

How Progress is Made



A friend of mine shared a meme on facebook the other day that said we're reliving the 60s: high-waisted pants, A-line dresses, and skinny ties are in style, along with, oh yeah, the threat of nuclear war. Many people are shocked and surprised, saying things like, “I can't believe this is happening in 2017.” Until about a year ago, I would have been one of those people, but today, current events do not surprise me.

Part of the reason current events do not surprise me is due to astrology. At the moment, we are undergoing similar transits to the ones of the 60s, meaning we're seeing similar issues resurface: feminism, civil rights, the threat of nuclear war, and also the fashion. As if to confirm this, on Saturday, a man boarded my bus sporting a beard, longer hair, and a tie-dye t-shirt. The whole day I kept seeing references to the 60s – an ad celebrating the 50th anniversary of the summer of love, another using the word “groovy” with the image of a person wearing round, red-colored glasses. History repeats itself.

Progress is like a mountain range with peaks and valleys. Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash.

I've heard the expression “history repeats itself” approximately a billion times, yet whenever history repeats itself, I used to meet the circumstance with disbelief. “What? No! How could this be?” These days I recognize not only does history repeat itself, but this is how progress is made – it's not a straight line, it's not an elegant steady slope, it's more like a mountain range with peaks and valleys. We ascend the mountaintop and then we descend into the valley, and just because we're back in the valley doesn't mean we aren't marching forward.

I have to keep this in mind not only on a societal level but a personal one. A common complaint of mine recently is some areas of my life are not better than a year ago, in fact, they're worse. I'm not scaling the mountain, I'm sliding into the valley. My brain interprets this to mean I'm not progressing, I'm not advancing, and instead I can expect parts of my life to stay crappy forever and always, which is of course not true – something my spiritual teacher substantiates.

He said motion is never linear, rather it is always systoltic, or pulsative. “All kinds of movement in this expressed universe are linked with the state of pause … Pause is only a temporary state of inertness,” he said. “Full expression of action occurs only after attaining momentum for movement from the state of inertness. No action is possible without momentum attained from the state of inertness, and thus every action (also called movement) must be systoltic, or pulsative, by nature.”

Perhaps then my slide into the valley is my pause to gather strength, to regain my energy before climbing the next mountain. Also, perhaps this period we're undergoing as a society is a pause of sorts that allows us to ferret out injustice, examine the unexamined, and clear out the cobwebs in order for us to keep moving forward. Instead of viewing our societal events as regression, maybe they're important, albeit terrifying and horrific, milestones on our path to progress.

I dream of a world where we recognize progress on a personal and societal level takes the shape of a mountain range with peaks and valleys. A world where we understand descent is an important part of moving forward. A world where we remember motion is pulsative – it starts and stops with a pause in between. A world where we keep in mind how progress is made.

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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Forever One


The unexpected death of my colleague nearly a month ago unsettled me. I have a need for security and stability (we all do), and his death reminded me the world is not stable; it's always changing. I want to know the people in my life will always be around, and if they're dying, I want advanced notice so I can say a proper goodbye. But life doesn't work like that, and Eric's death reminds me a person can die at any time.

Goodness, even writing that I feel my anxiety levels rising. Let's talk about solutions. Some of the messages I say to myself are, “I'm here. I'm not going anywhere. I'm not ever going anywhere.” On Saturday, I reminded myself those messages are true. I'm not going anywhere because when I die, all parts of me die. We'll die together – my inner child, my inner parent, my higher self. I'm not ever going anywhere because every part of me is inextricably linked.

I like to think of our eternal companion as an audience member. Photo by Jake Hills on Unsplash. 

I talk about “parts” a lot, but this is not New Age mumbo jumbo. In yoga philosophy, there are three parts of the mind. One of the parts, the mahatattva, is the observer. This is the part that's like an audience member of a play – they see everything transpiring on the stage, but they're not actively doing anything. That audience member, that eternal observer, if you will, is the one who has the best perspective because they literally see more than the actor on the stage.

When I self-soothe, when I remind myself I'm here and I'm not going anywhere, I connect with my observer self, which is where security and stability lies. That which is eternal is beyond spatial, temporal, and personal factors; it never changes and is always there.

My spiritual teacher says, “The unchangeable witnessing consciousness that lies behind the manifested, externalized states of consciousness, or behind these apparently conscious entities is Puruśa.” Puruśa is how I define God. Puruśa is the forever entity, the forever one who is inside of me, watching my every act. The point of my meditation practice is to realize Puruśa and I are the same. That I am it and it is me.

To quote an Indian sage, “Those of calm intellect who see Him within themselves alone attain eternal bliss. To them alone belongs abiding peace.” Over and over again I learn true security, stability, bliss, and peace cannot be found in the external world. It can only be found internally. My anxious self will never be satisfied with the constant presence of a person because people die or leave unexpectedly. They cannot be my eternal companions, but that doesn't mean I don't have one. Because I do. We all do. Our eternal companion, our forever one, is the witnessing entity within us and around us. The more I remember that, the better off I'll be.

I dream of a world where we realize true security, stability, bliss, and peace comes from within. A world where we recognize we each have an internal observer, watching the drama of life unfold objectively. An observer who is with us always. A witness who is our forever companion.

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