Sunday, December 25, 2016

Lighting the Way Together

I'm spending time with my family right now so I'm editing/recycling some old posts of mine.

Right now it's Christmas and Hanukkah, which I love. In times like these, I think we need to be reminded of what unites us instead of divides us.

Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish, but to me, Jesus seems like a mythical figure on the order of Zeus or Apollo. He lived so long ago that sometimes I take for granted he actually existed. He was born, he bled, he defecated. Jesus was a human being. Yes, an amazing human being, but he still existed, was still blood and bones the same as you and I, which astounds me. Fun fact, Sir Isaac Newton was also born on December 25. Newton wasn’t Jesus, but he was still a remarkable guy.

Let's light the way for each other, together.
Why am I mentioning Newton's birth? Primarily because when I hear about incredible human beings like Jesus, Newton, Albert Einstein, or Martin Luther King Jr., I somehow put them above me. I think to myself, “Those were amazing human beings, but I could never do anything like they did. I could never accomplish what they did."  I somehow don’t believe they felt the things I felt or struggled the way I struggled. But that's not true. They were people just like us. They had fears and failures just like us. Nothing separates us.

We’re all made of the same material. We all come from the same source. We are all light, which brings me to Hanukkah. One of the principles of the holiday I like the most is that one candle may kindle the light of many others and yet lose none of its own light. Right now I think it's important to remember great people of the past, to remember we are like them, may accomplish what they've accomplished, and also we can be candles in the dark that kindle the light of many others.

My spiritual path is about using everything as a vehicle for liberation or enlightenment. About not running from feelings and tough times, and yet always remembering there is something more to me. Something outside the drama, the ups and downs, a witnessing part of me that remains unaffected and emits a light that can never be diminished. It’s my job to keep growing that light, to keep remembering its presence, and to kindle that light in others.

We need to keep kindling that light in others so we create a world we wish to see. A world where we live amongst each other in harmony. A world where we celebrate with each other and mourn with each other. A world where we aspire to great heights, accomplishing what we burn to accomplish like people in the past. A world where we remember who we really are -- light beings.

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

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Remaining Unperturbed

The other day, a monk from my yoga and meditation group posted a Facebook live video about remaining unperturbed in the face of external stimuli. His comment struck me primarily because I'm not unperturbed. I'm disturbed by every little thing. When the news is bad, I feel bad. When the news is good, I feel good. My mood of late seems to be tied to what's going on in the world. This is not how I want to live.

Tying my mood to anything external is a dangerous business because things in the external world are so changeable. I think it's important to know what's going on in society, but to plunge from high to low at the drop of a hat is exhausting. My spiritual teacher advocates mental balance and equipoise and said, "We must maintain our mental balance and remain indifferent to both praise and slander, to both joy and sorrow."

I'd like to be as placid as this lake.
I'd like to be as placid as this lake. 

I've heard this concept before, to remain unaffected by what people say because our self-esteem and self-worth comes from within, but I haven't thought about the concept much in terms of the news. Seems wise, especially as the news these days runs from bizarre to baffling. How to accomplish this though?

The short answer is to turn inward. To keep remembering what's really important, to hold tight to our innermost presence. About this process my teacher said, "The charming allurements of the external world no longer keep their minds in thrall. The dazzling splendor of form and color, their glittering attraction, no longer evokes any response in the innermost recesses of their minds. The radiance of the colorful world and the effulgence of their inner life become one."

Yes please. I'd love for the "radiance of the colorful world and the effulgence of [my] inner life" to become one. That sounds delightful. I'd like to remain unassailed by circumstances, for my mind to remain steady regardless of what's happening externally. I'm pretty sure the only way to do this is to keep aligning my will with my higher power's. To take shelter under the benevolent and loving force that pervades the universe and to keep letting go over and over again.

I dream of a world where we maintain mental balance. A world where external circumstances don't affect us so drastically. A world where we keep turning inward over and over again. A world where we take shelter under the unaffected and unssailed power that's greater than us.

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

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Forgiveness: The Other "F" Word

During the earlier part of this week, my knee hurt. It could be because I tweaked it or slept funny, but I like to cover all my bases so I checked out what Louise Hay said in her book, You Can Heal Your Life. She said knee troubles have to do with inability to bend, fear, inflexibility, and not giving in. The antidote is forgiveness, understanding, compassion, and affirming, “I bend and flow with ease, and all is well.”

Louise Hay, I tell ya, she knows her stuff. This week what have I been dealing with? Why, lack of forgiveness of course! I'm harboring anger and resentment toward a few people. I'm so pissed at them, but at this point my anger is no longer serving me – in fact, it's harming me. Realizing my knee troubles stem from holding onto a grudge shows me I have to let this go. I have to forgive.

I like to think of forgiveness as giving over to something greater.
I like to think of forgiveness and giving over to something greater.

What is forgiveness? My spiritual teacher says, “It means to remain free from vindictive attitudes towards anyone.” I like that. His definition works for me. I don't want to spend my time wishing ill will on anyone. Or myself for that matter. It doesn't serve anyone. In fact, it results in knee pain. At least in my case.

The difficulty for me in forgiving someone is I don't want to sign off on their harmful behavior. I don't want to say, “It's OK for you to treat me this way,” when it's not. However, I think there's a difference between remaining free from vindictive attitudes and condoning someone's behavior. Quite a few steps exist in between.

Forgiveness then is primarily an act of letting go. For me that means holding someone in the light. Giving them over to the powers that be and saying, “Here. You take it.” I can't keep expending my energy stewing in anger and resentment, particularly because the other person is not going to change. And if they do, it won't be because I directed vitriol at them. How other people behave is out of my hands. Lordy how I wish that wasn't so, but it is. The way I maintain my inner peace and serenity then is to let go, to forgive. To realize all I can do is take care of myself by setting good boundaries, enforcing them, and removing myself from harmful situations.

What's funny is after typing that I wanted to swear. Forgiveness really is the other “f” word.

I dream of a world where we're able to forgive. A world where we're able to let go of our desire to punish another. A world where we recognize what we can control and what we cannot. A world where we practice forgiveness not only for others, but for ourselves.

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

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Pursue Joy

It has been an incredibly stressful and busy week for me so I don't have the energy to write a new post. However, all this week I've noticed it's easy for me to slip into the doldrums, to notice all the horrible things going on in the world and overlook the good things. This post from a couple of years ago sprang to mind as a good reminder that we have to actively pursue joy.

A few weeks ago I listened to a radio show by Radleigh Valentine and he said on average, people laugh 15 times a day. Fifteen times! And then he asked, “Do you remember if you laughed at all yesterday?” He pointed out it’s easy to remember the unpleasant things – the times we’re sad or scared or anxious – but the joyful times, the laughing times, are easier to forget. He encouraged his listeners to take note of when they laugh, to see if it adds up to 15 times. And then he said something really interesting: Plan for joy.

Radleigh recommends using this card as inspiration for pursuing joy.
Radleigh recommends using this card as inspiration for planning for joy. 

When he said, “Plan for joy,” I wanted to pause his radio show so I could take that in. It hasn’t occurred to me lately I would need to plan for joy – I assumed joy would sort of happen if I bumbled around in my life. But you know? That’s not true – I mean, sure, I stumble across joy every once and a while like an adventurer coming into a clearing – but it wasn’t necessarily something I planned for or actively pursued. I assumed I’d experience joy once my life was peachy keen – when my financial situation improved, the love of my life came along, etc. I think you know this already, but joy is the quiet moments, the small events that we may not remember long after they happen. It’s having a friend call you up spontaneously asking to hang out. It’s laughing along with a television show. It’s finding out the book you put on hold at the library has become available.

Joy can be spontaneous, but it can also be planned and pursued and that’s what struck me the most about Radleigh’s show. In an interesting juxtaposition, I had a powerful therapy session this week. I went from fearful, anxious, and insecure in one moment to laughing, goofy, and joyful in the next. My therapist had me remember a moment I felt joyful, loved, and appreciated, and embody it. She asked me to notice what colors I associated with the experience, and then asked if a movement or sound accompanied it. It did – joy for me looks like strutting with my toes flexed and my heels out singing along to “Let’s go fly a kite” or Life of Brian’s “Always look on the bright side of life.”

What amazes me is no matter how icky I feel, strutting around my cottage and singing, “Always look on the bright side of life,” automatically puts a smile on my face and lifts my mood. I can be melodramatic and get caught up in what’s wrong with my life. Lately, like I wrote on my birthday, I’m noticing what’s right. I’m seeking joy even in the midst of the things I do not like. And I’m remembering joy is not winning the lottery or buying a new car, it’s humming to myself while I walk, it’s remembering all the times I laughed yesterday, it’s making an active effort to improve my mood because I am planning for and pursuing joy.

I dream of a world where we remember we can access joy at any time. A world where we all have that one song that brings a smile to our face. A world where we remember the times we laugh. A world where we not only experience joy, but we pursue it.

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