Sunday, November 29, 2015

Coming Out of the Shame Closet

Recently, I had an interaction with a man online who professed his love for me before we'd even spoken on the telephone, skyped, or met in person. I recognized in him similar qualities in myself, which is to say “falling in love,” before getting to know a person, and making that person my everything. Reading some of his messages to me, my cheeks burned in shame remembering the way I behaved when in the midst of my love addiction.

I've been deeply embarrassed of my past self, wanting to sweep all my history under the rug, and furthermore, pretend I never wrote a book, which addresses love addiction among other things. For those of you haven't read it, Just a Girl from Kansas, is a memoir from when I moved to San Francisco and everything that happened in that first year. It's also a story about obsession and fantasy. Since it's been published, I've wanted to burn it, take it all back, pretend I never wrote it, and hurry past that period of my life like a person crossing a sewage drain.

There's nothing about us that makes us unlovable.
There's nothing about us that makes us unlovable.

Interacting with this man recently made me realize how important my book is because it's not only a book about addiction, obsession, and fantasy, it's also a book about coming out of those things. A book about realizing how no man is ever going to fulfill me in the way I wanted to be fulfilled because the fulfillment I seek is an inside job. That is anything but shameful. Seeking a new way to live is courageous and commendable.

Also, my spiritual teacher says, “[T]he arena of spirituality is based on divine love. You may or may not be a learned person. You may or may not have a good history. Your only qualification is that you are the affectionate progeny of the Supreme Progenitor. You are His object of affection … The Father's love is for all. [O]ne must not forget this fact – that the Supreme Entity is with you, and loves you like anything.”

It's like that post I wrote the other week, “We are the Beloved.” I am loved unconditionally, which means no matter what I do, I am loved. Now what I'm learning is to love myself in the same way. To love all the “shameful” parts of myself, all the parts that I don't want others to see, because it is only by loving them that I may absorb them and let them go. Also, as my recovery mentor reminds me, we often undergo hardship so we may help others. After all, according to Ram Dass, we're all just walking each other home.

I dream of a world where we love ourselves unconditionally. A world where we know there is nothing shameful about us. A world where we realize our deepest, darkest secrets may just help someone else. A world where we come out of the shame closet.

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

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Is Goodness Enough?

The other day, my brother told me he boils down his spiritual practice to two tenets: meditate, and be a good person. That got me thinking, what does it mean to be a good person? Some people say being a good person means following the 10 commandments: don't steal, kill anybody, or commit adultery, to name a few. The yogic version is follow the yamas and the niyamas, which also have some crossover with the 10 commandments but include things like cleanliness and contentment as well. Is that enough though?

As our national dialogue is focused on the Syrian refugee crisis, I can't help but think, no, it's not. It's not enough to be nice. How does that solve the problem of tons of people who no longer have anywhere to live?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important to be kind to others, but that kindness has to translate into action, such as offering a room to a refugee or pressuring the government to accept more of them. There are terrible things that go on in the world, but we are the ones who have to do something about it. Robert Swan says, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

Isn't this picture adorable? Goodness!
Isn't this picture adorable? Goodness!

If we, the good people, don’t band together, don’t rise up and do something, terrible things will continue to happen. My desire to serve others, my passion for the environment, everything I hold dear, stems from my spiritual practice. I want to help others because I don't see other people as “other,” I see them as my brothers and sisters. I see them as a part of my larger family so of course I want to help them. Just as I couldn't stand to see my blood sister go hungry, nor can I stand to see my spiritual sister go hungry. That is a direct result of spirituality opening my heart more.

I would say, no, it's not enough to be a good person if being a good person doesn't translate into action. My spiritual teacher says the same thing and in fact, declares following yama and niyama is the prerequisite to learning meditation. Be a good person first, and then build on that.

I love superhero movies (they’re my favorite genre actually), but as much as I kind of wish Thor would descend to Earth and save us from ourselves, I don’t see any evidence of that happening soon. Batman is more of a possibility because he’s human, but why should all the work fall on his shoulders? My spiritual teacher also says, and this is paraphrasing, that the strength of five good people is more than the united strength of a hundred immoral people. I take that to mean if we all unite together we can overpower the dark forces in the world. We can stop the terrors and tortures, but it requires more than being honest.

I dream of a world where we recognize being a good person isn't good enough. A world where our goodness translates into action. A world where the good people unite to keep the immoral people in check. A world where we help each other out and refuse to sit idly by as we watch atrocities continue to happen because the love in our hearts is too great to allow it.

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

Sunday, November 15, 2015

We are the Beloved

The other day I had a conversation with my friend and neighbor about how I'm constantly seeking love from the “other.” And what I'm still learning is how to give love to myself and be OK with my own company. She reminded me while it's true it's important to love ourselves, it's also important to remember we are the beloved. That we are the divine in physical form and we are already loved and cherished more than we can imagine.

My spiritual teacher says pretty much the same thing, but he adds in a twist and mentions the notion of subject and object. He says when we are meditating, we are thinking of God, we think of ourselves as the subject because we are the ones doing, we are the ones meditating. In actuality, God is meditating on us and we are the object. I think I've heard that a bajillion times and I just. don't. get. it. Maybe it's because I never learned grammar in elementary and middle school, but I don't connect with the subject and object analogy.

We are the beloved. The beloved is us.
We are the beloved. The beloved is us.

I started thinking about this more, puzzling over how to feel into the notion I am the beloved, the beloved is me. I started thinking about the people I love unconditionally, the people I would do anything for, and don't require anything in return because loving them is enough. One such person is my niece (not by blood), nicknamed Buddha. This is a girl I fell in love with at first sight. I've sung her to sleep, I've wiped her butt happily while she was potty training, I've kissed her, held her, and loved her even while she threw her worst temper tantrums.

It occurred to me God loves me, and us, the way I love my niece. All the love I feel for Buddha, that's exactly how God feels about me, plus more. I am loved, cherished, and adored beyond measure. Just now I looked up from my computer to the sky outside and saw a heart in the clouds as if to remind me, “Yes, Rebekah, love is everywhere and you are loved that much.”

Take a moment with me and feel into that. Think of some entity, whether it's a person or a pet, who you love unconditionally and now imagine all the love you feel for them directed at yourself. Feel the depth and breadth of love for you, for us.

I dream of a world where we feel how loved we are. A world where even at our most alone, we don't feel lonely because we sense the love of something greater than ourselves. A world where we recognize we are the beloved.

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

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Place for Anger in Spirituality

The Thursday before Halloween I pinched a nerve. A friend massaged my neck and shoulders on Saturday and Sunday, which helped, but what really gave me full range of motion was rage. On Monday, I started thinking about that quote I posted last week, about how nothing in this universe happens unless God desires it, and it pissed me off. More than pissed me off, it infuriated me. I started blaming God for every crappy thing in my life.

I screamed at the top of my lungs, “I hate you!” shook my fists, and destroyed a book. It was the most angry I've ever been and certainly the most angry I've ever been at the universe. As soon as I calmed down, the pain in my back and neck almost completely diminished.

I bring this up because so often I hear people say, “Don't get angry,” or proclaim that anger is not very spiritual. There's an expectation that we meet every situation with peace and contentment, that nothing ruffle our feathers. I'm sorry, but I'm not evolved enough for that. The best I can do is suppress or repress my feelings and that's not a solution because suppressed and repressed feelings have a tendency to act as ticking time bombs or come out in other, non-healthy ways. In my case, repressed anger manifested in my physical body as a pinched nerve.

There's a place for everything in this world -- even angry lightning storms.
There's a place for everything in this world -- even angry lightning storms.

My spiritual teacher says we should not be misguided, swayed away, or unduly influenced by anger. That we should not allow the instinct of anger to take control of us. That anger should be regulated. He very much advocates non-anger, but I don't know how to cultivate non-anger, so the best I can do right now is work on regulating it. And how am I supposed to regulate anger if I constantly keep it locked away in a drawer? In order for me to control something, I have to understand it's full range so I know what's appropriate in any given situation. That means allowing myself to get angry, and yes, even get angry at God.

What I find interesting is even anger brings me to my goal of union with the Supreme. My teacher says, “Even when you think of God as an enemy, you are involved in Him. Really, our mind is more activated [to think about somebody] by anger and hatred [than by positive propensities]. When we have a quarrel with somebody, we keep on thinking that the next time we meet that person, we will say this or that. Therefore, God will be attained whether you love Him or hate Him.”

That to me means it's OK for me to hate God right now. It's OK for me to be angry at God right now. All of my feelings are allowed and acceptable. I don't have to hold anything back for fear of being punished or unloved. Do I enjoy feeling so angry? No, of course not, but until I get to such a state where anger no longer exists for me, I'm learning to control it and that means feeling angry in whatever capacity I do. Who knows? I might improve my posture in the process.

I dream of a world where we allow ourselves to feel all our feelings. A world where we understand to control an instinct, first we must express it. A world where we know it's OK to be angry at God and even to express hatred because it all leads to the same place.

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

Sunday, November 1, 2015

How and Why Dreams Come True

Earlier this week I cried after watching this clip of Marianne Williamson. I want to do what she's doing, which is traveling around the world and inspiring people, but it's clear to me that now is not the time. My health will not allow me to travel all over creation and speak to large crowds. Because I'm not inspirational speaking now, and I can't foresee when I will, in my mind it means it won't happen.

I've realized I plan my life two months in advance. I buy plane tickets approximately two months before the trip, I make holiday plans two months before – two months is about as far into the future as I can see. If something is set to take place more than two months in advance, like a wedding, my attendance is a possibility, not a reality.

Last night I rewatched one of my favorite movies, Amelie, and was struck by a memory. I saw Amelie in the theater when it came out in 2001. I remember at the time yearning to visit Paris, where the movie takes place. I wanted to travel abroad so badly but didn't know if I would ever get the chance. In 2005, I studied abroad in London and visited one of my dearest friends in, you guessed it, Paris.

The Two Windmills, otherwise known as the cafe where Amelie worked.
The Two Windmills, otherwise known as the cafe where Amelie worked.

Rewatching Amelie, I felt a surge of awe and wonder because some of the places in the movie, I, too, stepped foot on. I reminded myself, “I've been there.” It's amazing to reflect back and realize a dream I had came true. The frustration comes in when I think a dream is impossible or it's not happening fast enough.

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.”

Sometimes when I see that quote I want to scream because I want what I want now, like a petulant 2 year old. But when I really think about it, I know when I align my desire and God's desire, that's when things work out the best. In the case of visiting Paris, it happened when I was already abroad and could take the Eurostar over. It happened when I could stay with my friend, who is nearly fluent in French. It happened when someone else could play tour guide. It happened when my friend “coincidentally” needed extra emotional support. As my recovery mentor says, “Nothing happens in God's world by mistake.”

All of this is to say one day I could do a version of what Marianne Williamson does. My higher power knows better than me when things should happen. My higher power has a broader, longer perspective – beyond two months. Realizing a dream is not so much about visualizing, praying, practicing affirmations, etc. to make it come true faster, but rather preparing the soil and understanding a flower blooms when it's ready. Realizing a dream is about understanding it happens when my desire and God's desire sync up and there's nothing I can do to rush that process.

I dream of a world where we realize dreams do come true, just not in the way or the time we think they will. A world where we understand our desires bear fruit only when they coincide with the divine's. A world where we realize some things are out of our hands, but that doesn't mean they'll never happen.

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