Sunday, June 18, 2017

Grace in the Gunk



I'm reminded even when life doesn't look the way we want it to, grace can still be found. On a macro level, there are some aspects of my life that are not how I'd pictured them, and it's easy to sink into woe. At the same time, there can be grace in the gunk.

I'm not saying to avoid feeling woeful – everyone needs a good cry now and again – but it's interesting for me to note in the midst of not-fun things I can experience wonder and delight. Life is complicated like that.

Last weekend I traveled to Philadelphia for a wedding of a dear friend of mine. It was beautiful and touching and sweet, but I anticipated that. What I didn't anticipate were the other moments of grace that remind me there is a divine intelligence in the world, and that it cares about me.

Grace can be found everywhere.

Following the last dance at the wedding, the brides (it was a lesbian wedding) rushed out the door under a canopy of rustling wands that we, the guests, held above their heads. Therefore, I didn't get to say a proper goodbye, which saddened me. The next day, while in the lobby, the elevator door pinged open and there stood one of the brides. I was able to say a few words before the door shut again and we went our separate ways. Quite literally in this case because she descended to the ground floor while I ascended to the fifth. An hour later, I took the elevator to the ground floor and ran into the other bride, my friend, while she waited for her elevator. We had a longer conversation and a proper hug goodbye. If I had left a few moments earlier or later, I would have missed her.

The same day, I trundled around Philadelphia with my rolling luggage, soaking up the sights. Due to losing my way, I arrived at the train station at 4:25, the exact time my train was scheduled to depart. I purchased my ticket and was informed the train was running two minutes late, which meant I just barely caught my train. And I do mean just barely. The train doors had already closed by the time I arrived, but the train conductor reopened them for me.

A few more things happened, like my flight arriving half an hour early even though we left later than our departure time. They aren't huge things, and they don't fix the macro issues in my life like my health or my finances, but they're enough to remind me grace is here, too. I can have poor health and poor finances and still be taken care of. Furthermore, I didn't orchestrate any of the things I experienced. I didn't manifest it or attract it or visualize it or have any control in the matter whatsoever.

And that's the thing about grace – it's not rational, it doesn't follow a formula. It just comes. My spiritual teacher says God's grace is for all – both the virtuous and nonvirtuous. Nobody is unimportant or insignificant. Everyone is a divine child and grace is always with us, even in the gunk.

I dream of a world where we all feel graced. A world where we feel the love that surrounds us. A world where we know grace is not a reward for good behavior, it's given regardless. A world where we find grace in the gunk.

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

You're Worth More Than Your Relationship Status



I found out recently in China if a woman is unmarried by age 27, she's called “sheng nu,” or “leftover woman.” And if you're 30 and unmarried? Forget it. Life's over. That's literally what these women are told. The whole thing makes my blood boil.

I think what pisses me off most of all is the notion that if a woman has a Master's degree, or is successful in her field, or if she's helping others and just generally being a good human, she's still considered “less than” all because she doesn't have a ring on her finger. Are you kidding me? When did our worth become defined by our relationship status? When did getting married become the most important metric?

It should be noted here I'm not anti-marriage. I've been to about 20 weddings in the past 10 years and am currently at one this weekend. I love weddings. I love marriage. But I do not love the idea that somehow a person is “left over” if they're still single by a certain age. I say this to myself, too. There's a part of me that asks, “What's wrong with me that I'm still single?” I have imagined conversations with people justifying why I'm not married because even internally, I feel a twinge of shame that at my age, 32.5, I'm unmarried. However, hearing about these women in China who are harassed and shamed by their families on a regular basis for being single put me over the edge.

Some of us may never get here, or not get here by a certain age, and that's OK.

This is not a post where I say there's nothing wrong with being single, or that there's a pot for every lid, that eventually we all meet our match. No. This is a post where I fume at patriarchy, which is the precise system that dictates a woman is worthless if she isn't married. I realize some men feel this way too, but in articles about unmarried Chinese men, it's couched as a supply issue – too few women – whereas in articles about Chinese women, it's couched as some unfortunate mystery. That somehow it's the woman's fault she's still single. That my friends, is patriarchy.

My spiritual teacher says, in society the value of a woman is not an iota less than that of a man. And furthermore, every human being is a divine child of God – both the unmarried and the married. That means I could be single until my dying days and my value would not be any less. That means I could be single forever and still do great and worthwhile things. My worth does not go up and down depending on my relationship status, and neither does yours.

I realize some people will still look at me and ask, “Why is she still single? What's wrong with her?” I can't do anything about that, but I can do something about my internal dialogue. I can remind myself I'm amazing with or without a partner. And I can do my part to extricate myself from a system that works to make me feel inferior because I'm single. I'm not inferior and neither is anyone else, regardless of their romantic situation.

I dream of a world where we realize our relationship status doesn't define our value. A world where we recognize shaming people for being single is just another form of oppression, of subtly saying they're only worth something if they're attached to someone else. A world where we realize we are fantastic and amazing human beings whether we're in a relationship or not.

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

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Awakening of Women



This weekend I saw Wonder Woman and loved it. Something about watching a female superhero really got to me in a way I didn't expect. I started tearing up. As I teared up, I was reminded this has been a long time coming. Not only the movie, which it has, but more importantly, equality for women, which we're still working on.

Last year I would have told you things aren't perfect, but we as a society have progressed far in terms of equal rights for women. This year I can say that statement is both true and not true. It's true women no longer need a husband to open up a credit card account (which wasn't the case until 1974, by the way), but at the same time, we also earn less than men. And the amount is far less for women of color. Also, I can't pretend women are treated fairly in the U.S. when our current president was recorded as saying as a star, he can do anything, he can grab women by the pussy. Neither can I pretend women are treated fairly in the U.S. when the penalty for sexual assault is so lenient. It's obvious many in power think of women as inferior beings.

I look forward to the day everyone can shine like they're meant to.

At the same time, I have to admit not everyone in power thinks of women as inferior, and we have more women in positions of power not only in politics, such as Prime Minister Theresa May and Angela Merkel, but business as well, such as Sheryl Sandberg and Arianna Huffington. What I find baffling is what many don't seem to grasp, is the better life is for women, the better life is for everyone. I don't mean that in the sense, “Happy wife, happy life.” I mean, when women are educated, society flourishes.

My spiritual teacher says, “Ideally, women should also move with their own strength and with the same speed as their male counterparts. In the process of movement, if they feel pain in their legs, if they fall on their faces, they should be physically lifted up. The fact is that we must move together in unison with all.” Moving together in unison with all means we all go far. If men are allowed to dominate and demean, we as a society are like a bird flying with one wing.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying women should have equal rights only because it means we all benefit. All human beings should have equal rights. I don't understand why it's even a question. My teacher also says, “Women should have as much unbarred liberty to enjoy the light, air, earth, and water like children of nature as men have. In fact, it is not a case of granting rights to women, it is a case of recognizing their rights.”

We already have rights that are not recognized. What will it take for those rights to be recognized? I'm not sure, but I am confident the old ways of thinking will crumble into dust. Just as the Wonder Woman movie was finally made, eventually all women will have equal rights. It will take time, but it will happen. One more quote to end on: “Let women be the vanguard of a new revolution which humanity must achieve for a glorious tomorrow.”

I dream of a world where women lead a revolution that achieves a glorious tomorrow. A world where women's inherent rights are recognized. A world where all women everywhere shake off the slumber of dogma and inferiority, breaking the shackles that chain them. A world where women wake up to the true magnificence of who they are.

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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Power of Language


Lately I've been thinking about the power of language. The way it builds bridges or constructs walls. And how it shapes our perspective, often in subtle ways. For instance, there is a huge difference in calling someone a rape victim versus a rape survivor. One is more passive, connoting power over, whereas the other connotes someone who endured hardship and continues to live.

Part of my musings were inspired by this article about George Lakoff. He suggests people vote with their values and thus words matter. For instance, there's a different connotation between “federal regulations” and “federal protections.” Regardless of where a person falls on the political spectrum, it's obvious to me words are powerful and shape the direction of a conversation and often the outcome.

I'm with you kid. Books are amazing. 

It's not only the words we use to describe something, its names too. Names mean something and the more we call a person their name, the more they embody it. For instance, in Sanskrit, if a person is named “Madhu,” which means “honey,” or “sweet,” they start to become more sweet. They develop the qualities of the name. Names are powerful, as we know, but often forget. What we call people matters. How we describe people matters. Both for the person and for us, because it determines the lens through which we view the person. For instance, I could look at a person and think “criminal” or I could think “disadvantaged.” Each will lead me down a different path. For the criminal, throw them in jail, make 'em pay. For the disadvantaged, provide help and resources.

It's important to choose with care our words. I'm reminded of a yogic concept I've written about before: satya. It implies proper action of mind and the right use of words with the spirit of welfare.

My spiritual teacher says, “Humans are rational beings: They possess in varying degrees the capability to do what is necessary or good for humanity. In the realm of spirituality, such thought, word, or action has been defined as satya.”

I guess to me that means it is our responsibility to use language in such a way that it engenders the all-around welfare for everyone. It is our responsibility to use language so that we start moving together in a direction that means everyone is living better. Because language is powerful and the more we recognize that and utilize it for the benefit of all, the better off we'll all be.

I dream of a world where we recognize the power of language and we use it to make lives better for everyone. A world where we use language to unite rather than divide. A world where we choose our words with care.

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

Sunday, May 21, 2017

We are Kaleidoscopes



I detest the saying, “There's no such thing as an original idea. Every idea worth having has been had thousands of times already.” Funnily enough, I can't find who to attribute that statement to. Does that make the notion itself unoriginal because it doesn't belong to one person? Moving on. . .

I loathe the concept there are no original ideas because I long for recognition and credit. If I have an idea, I want people to attribute it to me, and I get upset if someone else has the same idea independent of me. Childish, I know, but there we are. When I think about my spiritual philosophy though, things make more sense.

We are all kaleidoscopes making unique combinations.

One metaphor that's been used in my spiritual philosophy is God is like the moon and each of us are like mirrors, reflecting the moon. We all have the same original image, but how it shows up on our mirrors is different. Some mirrors are speckled or cracked. Some mirrors are cloudy or clear. The originality, the origin, if you will, is the moon, but the way the moon is reflected in the mirror is unique.

When looking up the attribution for the no-original-ideas concept, I stumbled across a quote from Mark Twain that fits. He wrote:
There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.
We human beings are like that – we keep making new and curious combinations. My work is to understand just because we keep using the same old pieces of colored glass, doesn't mean the new combination is any less valuable or beautiful or worthy.

Someone told me once, “There may be a thousand youtube videos out there about how to make a green smoothie, but mine may be the one a particular person sees that encourages them to actually make it.”

Bottom line for me is it's likely I'll say the same thing someone else says or vice versa, but it doesn't mean I should stop saying it because I am a unique and special, individually crafted mirror full of interesting speckles and discolorations reflecting the moon in a certain way. I am a kaleidoscope of colors. We all are.

I dream of a world where we understand we may never be the first or last person to say or do something, but that doesn't mean our contribution is any less valuable. A world where we understand we are reflecting the same thing, but the way the reflection appears is unique. A world where we embrace we are all kaleidoscopes.

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

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Embrace it All


Lately I find myself wading deeper and deeper into the realm of emotion. That may sound funny because people often describe me as “emotional,” but what I mean is instead of flirting with an emotion, I'm embracing it. The despair, the anger, the disappointment. All of it. Not only am I embracing my feelings, I'm also no longer trying to fix them.

For me, whenever I felt really down, or lonely, for instance, I turned to something to make myself feel better: I called a friend, turned on the TV, picked up a book. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with those activities, but they became compulsions, ways for me to avoid diving deep. To avoid the emotional pain of fully embodying my emotions. These days I'm learning to sit with my feelings, no matter what they are.

These days I'm embracing everything, even the prickly bits.
Matt Licata, a psychotherapist, has a blog I read every couple of weeks. In one blogpost he wrote:
[T]he question during these times is: Are you going to use these reorganizing and shattering experiences as vehicles though which to befriend yourself, to attune to the unprecedented flow of feeling with you, and to weave a sanctuary for the wisdom-pieces of the broken world to be held and illuminated? Or, will you fall back into your habitual, conditioned history, attack yourself, your tenderness, and your sacred vulnerability, spinning into the habitual fight-flight urgency of shame, blame, resentment, and self-aggression?
In another he wrote:
The invitation is into intimate communion: to move closer, and even closer still, into the feelings, the emotions, and the sensations as they surge. To surround the surging material with curiosity, warmth, and most importantly with kindness, as an inner explorer of the galaxy of your own body, of which there is no temple more sacred.
Communion. Yes, that's what I long for. And communion means befriending my pain, befriending my sorrow, befriending my disappointment. Every cell of my being longs for love, and that means the pain, the sorrow, and the disappointment too. In my journey toward wholeness, toward the divine, I must embrace everything within me.

In my spiritual practices, we view everything as an expression of an infinite loving consciousness, and that means me too. Not only the me in this physical form, but the internal me as well. The one that feels pain, the one that feels lonely, the one that feels disappointment.

These days I'm practicing loving those parts too and I have that wish for others as well.

I dream of a world where we embrace all parts of ourselves. A world where we feel every emotion as it arises. A world where we sit with our pain because we recognize it, too, is divine.

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

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Human Family Includes Everyone


The other week I posted a news story on facebook with commentary that I have compassion for robbers and the robbed, and was met with so much vitriol it astounded me. People I didn't know called me a moron (and worse), told me to get off of facebook, etc. What I heard over and over again was, “I'm poor and I've never robbed anyone.” That's great! I'm glad there are poor people that don't rob others. Keep not robbing.

What strikes me is how me-centered that viewpoint is. There is an inherent expectation that we all act a certain way, but guess what? We don't. And placing so much onus on the individual doesn't work. I'm reminded here of the recently passed healthcare bill in the House of Representatives. The terms of the bill are ludicrous in my opinion. “Have you ever been sick? Are you a woman? So sorry, no healthcare insurance for you or you'll have to pay staggering premiums. Good luck with that.”

We are all part of the human family.

Indian philosopher and economist P.R. Sarkar said, “Rich people do not want to consider the needs of the poor, because if they do, they will have to make some sacrifices. Where will their luxuries and comforts come from if hunger does not burn the bellies of the poor?” Our capitalistic society encourages this mindset, encourages us to look out only for ourselves, and try to scramble to the top of the heap by declaring, “I worked hard for this so I earned it!” Yes, but that means the suffering of others continues. It's easy to dismiss, to say the people in that position just didn't work hard enough, or try hard enough, or act the right way, or whatever. There are a thousand excuses we could give.

Sarkar said, “[T]o admit that these sufferings are the result of social injustices implies that everyone is responsible.” And that's the thing, we are all responsible. We are all responsible for each other. The human family includes everyone. I've quoted this African proverb before, but it's pertinent so I'm quoting it again: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

I want to go far. I long to go far. How do we do that? What can little ole me do from her apartment here in California? It sounds cheesy as all get out, but one of the answers is love. I'll close with another quote from Sarkar:
Like any other problem, great or small, there is only one way to solve economic problems, and that is through genuine love for humanity. This love will give people guidance; it will show them what to do and what not to do. It is not necessary to study great numbers of books or to rely upon those who speculate with the future of the silent masses. The only essential requirement is to look upon humanity with genuine sympathy.
I may not be a politician, I may not be an economist or a philanthropist or a CEO, but I sure as heck can love humanity. I can have compassion and sympathy and empathy for those around me. I can keep loving people even through their missteps. I can keep spreading love and embodying love and talking about love even when people call me foolish. And I will.

I dream of a world where a genuine love for humanity is awakened in all of us. A world where we all look out for each other. A world where we understand our progress is linked to those around us. A world where we understand the human family includes everyone and we act accordingly.

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Time Enough



Years ago I read an interview about James Franco's childhood. When he found out he would die one day, he cried because there were so many things he wanted to do and he didn't think he'd be able to accomplish them all in his lifetime. I relate, but not exactly in the same way. Yes, there is a lot I want to see and do, but my predominant feeling is that I'm behind. If life were a race, my perception is I'd be losing.

In 12-step communities, we'd say I'm engaging in “compare and despair.” That is, I'm comparing my life to someone else's and coming up short. It's true, I am engaging in that sort of behavior, but it's more than that. I feel pressured. I feel pressured to go out there and get what I want. To seize the day, to grab the bull by the horns, to not waste a moment of my life. Pick an aspirational cliché: It applies. And if I haven't, if I'm not growing, progressing, or achieving, then I perceive myself as wasting my day, and in turn, my life.

What I like about this picture is it shows time, but also beyond time.

Friends, I'm exhausted. It's exhausting having this kind of attitude, to try and beat the clock. How many times have we all heard, “Do it now because you never know how much time you have left”? I need to start operating my life as if I have all the time in the world. As if I were eternal. The alternative is what I'm currently experiencing: feeling rushed, anxious, and frustrated. I can't go on like this. Instead of living like I could die tomorrow, I need to live like I'll die when I'm 120. I say this because I'm the type who would be hospitalized for exhaustion, not the type who constantly says, “Some day. . .” and “some day” never comes.

My body is screaming for rest right now and I don't get any rest if I'm constantly putting pressure on myself to live as if I'll die tomorrow. I don't get any rest if I feel like everything needs to be accomplished NOW. I need to start believing all the dreams in my heart will come true, but not tomorrow, and that's OK because I have time. I also think it's a part of spiritual practice to contemplate the qualities I associate with the divine, which my spiritual teacher corroborates. He says:
“The wise do not absorb themselves in the glitter and glamour of the fleeting entities of this transitory world. They focus all the zeal of their hearts upon the Eternal Principle that is the original cause behind these moving entities. Ensconced behind every change is the One Who Witnesses every transitory entity deep within that Supreme Entity, who is the only entity. The truly wise should contemplate and worship [that entity].”
It may not work for everyone, but for me, right now I need to contemplate the One Who Witnesses every change. I need to contemplate my eternal nature, the one who views time as merely a marker, rather than a race. I need to believe there is time enough for everything.

I dream of a world where we strike a balance between activity and inactivity. A world where we slow down. A world where we get in touch with the eternal part of ourselves. A world where we believe we will accomplish all the things we wish to accomplish, but maybe not in the time frame we'd like. A world where we realize there is time enough.

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

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Meaning of Sacrifice



This weekend was Earth Day and my mom's birthday and right now I'm sick, so all I can think about is “Mom.” When I think of my mom, moms in general, and Mother Earth, I think “sacrifice.” So often “sacrifice” is a dirty word. No one wants to do it. “Sacrifice something for the greater good? Uh, no thanks, ask someone else please.”

I’ve heard before “sacrifice for the greater good,” but I didn’t really know what it meant. Sure, sounds great, but what does that mean? Back in 2011, I started watching the television show Lost and understood the concept. What follows is a post from that time period.

It occurs to me how sacrifice is one of the highest forms of love. To give of yourself in order to serve others is one of the most noble things a person can do. It's also something I associate with other people – soldiers, parents, but not me. Parents sacrifice for their kids by making them dinner even when they’re tired. By choosing to spend money on their children instead of themselves. By staying somewhere just because the schools are good. I always figured I would pay back the sacrifices others have made for me when I became a parent, but I’m seeing now that’s living in the future, something I don’t want to do.

Sacrifice can mean love.

Ultimately, sacrifice means undergoing hardship for the sake of others, which in Sanskrit is called tapah. I sacrifice when I give up my seat on the bus even though I’m dead tired, or when I donate money to charity even though I’m struggling financially. And I want to sacrifice because it’s the highest expression of love.

Sacrifice means, “I love you so much I’m willing to undergo hardship for you.” It’s a way of saying, “In this moment, I’m placing your needs before my own.” That is true love right there. And that’s why I choose to sacrifice, because I love the divine and I want to serve the divine expressed in human form.

I love the people in my life so I’m willing to suffer a little bit for their benefit. I also know it’s important for me to practice balance with sacrifice just as with other things. Too much sacrifice means I’m not honoring myself or letting other people express their love for me. And love is the most magical, beautiful, precious gift we can ever give one another.

I dream of a world where we all understand the beauty of sacrifice. A world where we’re willing to undergo hardship for the benefit of others. A world where we express our love for each other by giving of ourselves. A world where we show other people just how important they are to us.

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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Finding a Flock


I spent this weekend with dear friends of mine and all I could think was, “Thank God.” When the world feels like too much, when I recoil in horror after reading the news, good company lifts my spirits. In Sanskrit, the word for that is satsaunga. What follows is a post I wrote about the subject nearly six years ago.

This weekend I had the good fortune of being surrounded by folks who practice the same yoga and meditation I do. We are all close in age with only 10 years between the eldest and the youngest. It was a delicious weekend because we had excellent food, but also because it was one of the rare times I was surrounded by a large group of people who are similar to me. Sure, I’ve been to tons of yoga and meditation retreats, but it’s not as if I’m friends with everyone there like at the gathering this weekend.

Pictured is a flock of starlings.

Experiences like these give me hope for the future. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I had a rough childhood socially. I had friends, but most of them lived far away. I suffered from a lot of peer rejection and self-defined as the “weird” kid. Not because I ate paste or anything, but because I’m extremely sensitive to energy and cared about things like vegetarianism as an 8 year old. “Weird” is a title I’ve carried with me for much of my life. Inherent in “weird” is not fitting in or being an outsider. I’ve been shifting my focus away from that because I see how viewing myself as “weird” has been harmful. This weekend was a prime example because I didn’t feel out of place – I realized it just took me a while to find my flock; as in “Birds of a feather flock together.”

Speaking of birds flocking together, I'm reminded of this video by Sophie Windsor Clive who filmed a flock of starlings. It's awesome in the truest sense of the word and captures the power and the beauty of belonging.


I know there’s a lot of talk about the necessity of cross pollination, of mixing different classes, races, and mindsets, which I completely agree with, but there’s also something to be said for being with people who get you. People who already have a shared understanding of where you’re coming from so there’s no need to explain things to them. People who love and support you and just want to see you happy. It’s a beautiful and touching thing, that sort of community. That’s what inspires me most: Someone like me who constantly defined herself as “different” found herself around other “different” people. Like those starlings who created new shapes by flying together, when people join in groups, beautiful things can happen. Because ultimately even the “loners” and “freaks” will find others like them. It may just take a while. In essence, no one is as alone as they think they are. And when a bird finds its flock, there’s great power in that.

I dream of a world where everyone feels a sense of community and belonging. A world where every person has a support network. A world where no one has to fend for themselves because we are all taking care of each other. A world where we can all live happy, joyous, and free. A world where we all fly with a flock that fits us.

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

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Divine Perfection for the Flawed Human



Several years ago, I wrote a post for Quarterlette.com called “Opportunity will beat down your door.” It's a cheery and inspirational post about my move to San Francisco, explaining opportunity doesn't knock once, it will beat down your door. In other words, there are certain things the universe will keep throwing in your face over and over again.

Right now I'm experiencing the shadow side of opportunity beating down my door. For years, the message I've received over and over again is, “You need to rest.” My response was, “By rest, you mean do more, right? You mean I need to try harder?” This week it became clear to me it's time to listen to the message the universe is telling me. I can't keep operating my life at the pace I have been, and instead of doors opening for me, they're closing, forcing me to rest. Not for punishment, not to be mean, but to become more perfect.

Perfect.
That may sound strange, particularly because our conception of perfection at least in the U.S. is without flaws, but that's not what I'm referring to here. Did you know an early definition of perfect is, “Brought to consummation or completeness?” That's coming from the1913 Webster's Writers' Dictionary, by the way. I love this concept for many reasons. The first is I'm a one on the Enneagram, so I'm all about finding holy perfection, but second, the definition relates to my post from last week about moving from the crude to the subtle.

In our move from the crude to the subtle, that means we are all becoming more perfect, not because we then exist without flaws, but because eventually we join with the subtle; we experience merger with the subtle and thus completeness. You probably already know this, but that's exactly what the word “yoga” means – unification.

In Sanskrit, the word yoga has two root verbs. One root verb is “Yuj” and another root verb is “yunj.” “Yuj” means to add, as in two plus two equals four. The other root verb for yoga is “yunj,” and it means to unify. My spiritual teacher gives the example of sugar and water. Adding sugar to water, sugar won't be in a separate form from water – there will only be sugar water, and that's precisely the unification we're all moving toward: supreme sweetness.

Why do I bring this up? For me, it's easy to launch into compare and despair. It's easy for me to look at someone else and say, “Why don't I have what they have? Why doesn't my life look like theirs?” Particularly right now when many areas of my life are not what I'd like them to be, I start thinking I'm cursed. Not really, but it's easy for me to slip into a victim mentality. When I think about yoga, I'm reminded all the things that happen to me, all the things I perceive to be good, and all the things I perceive to be bad, are bringing me closer to the supreme for the purpose of unification. That means the universe will keep sending me the same damn message over and over again because ultimately it's for my benefit.

I dream of a world where we realize all the things that happen to us are in service of divine perfection. A world where we recognize we are moving from the crude to the subtle. A world where we understand we're striving for unification in body, mind, and spirit. A world where we accept what the universe tells us.

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

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Bringing Us Closer


According to the spiritual philosophy I ascribe to, we are all moving from imperfection to perfection. That means we are all growing, changing, developing. We are progressing from crude to subtle, culminating in merger with the subtlest entity of them all: The source of all creation.

There is a part of me that expects this process of moving from crude to subtle to be easy, painless, and strewn with roses. However, I'm reminded a caterpillar doesn't become a butterfly without struggle. That means in my movement toward the source of all creation, there will be some struggle, and dare I say it?, pain.

The last month especially is not what I would call a pleasure cruise: nightmares, grief, health troubles, financial insecurity. It's enough to make a gal throw her hands up in the air and ask, “Why?!?” The only conclusion I can come to, the only conclusion that makes sense to me, is this is to bring me closer to my nearest and dearest, my most precious Self. This is aiding me on my path to become even more subtle.

I'm on an aquatic kick.

If the end game is merger with the Supreme, then I have to believe everything that happens to me is in service of that goal. Everything that happens to me is precisely so I can move closer and closer, each breath to my beloved. Sometimes I think my beloved is the worst kind of lover – jealous and possessive, not above lying and scheming – all to bring me closer. All so I can turn to my higher power over and over again. Because that's precisely what's happening right now.

This month I've meditated with a fervor that hasn't been the case for a long time. Every spare minute it seems I'm thinking about the divine; aching, yearning, longing to feel better. To escape the pain I'm feeling in a constructive way. All this pain is not for punishment, it's not for a random, no-good reason. It's forcing me closer to God, and to God in the form of my community, and that's not such a bad thing.

My spiritual teacher says, “You should always remember that you are the children of the [Cosmic Consciousness] and it is your birthright to be one with Him. It is your birthright to sit upon His lap. Nobody can debar you from this birthright. That is why, knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or unconsciously, you should all move towards Him and be one with Him. This is the path of humanity.”

I dream of a world where we consciously move closer to the divine. A world where we take our pain and use it as a tool of transformation. A world where we understand even the difficult things happen ultimately for our own good.

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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

There, Too



Life feels hard right now. My peppy outlook on life is not so peppy at the moment. Things are not working out how I'd like, leaving me feeling frustrated and despondent.

The other day I had a vision of myself sinking to the bottom of the ocean floor and saw my spiritual teacher there with me, which inspired a poem.

I am there too

In the darkness and the mourning,
I am there too
In the somber and the despairing,
I am there too
In the heavy and the hopeless,
I am there too
I am there, with you

In the deepest depths and the lowest lows,
I am there, with you
Not one minute alone
Not one minute by yourself
I'm with you always
I am your truest Self

Even in the dark, light may be found.

I'm not sure I can express the significance of this for me. I've tried so hard not to feel sad or depressed or hopeless. In my mind, a divine presence is associated with happiness, inspiration, and hope. That means to feel a divine presence, I thought I had to be in those states. The vision I had reminds me that's false.

My spiritual tradition doesn't believe in hell and it is said, “[S]piritual aspirants should never be unnecessarily worried about heaven and hell. If one does noble deeds or sings spiritual songs in hell, it is the bounden duty of the Lord of hell to be there, too, and thus it automatically ceases to be a hell. You can transform a hell into a heaven.”

That means God is there too. Love is there too. It's not sequestered to the happy places, the joyful places. The presence of a power greater than myself is found in the dark places too, the despairing places. There is no place I can go, either literally or figuratively, where the divine is not. It's a great comfort to me knowing I don't have to pretend things are alright or put on a happy face in order to feel connection, because no matter where I go, I am not alone.

I dream of a world where we feel the presence of a power greater than ourselves at all times. A world where we allow ourselves to feel all of our feelings, no matter how scary. A world where we realize wherever we go, God is there too.

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

P.S. Did you know “Another World is Probable” is also a podcast? Click here to subscribe.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Miracle We Give Ourselves



I notice there's a tendency in me and in society to avoid the deep and dark places. We are uncomfortable with displays of depression and despair.

The other day, a friend posted on facebook that she felt depressed and the majority of her friends said, “Are you getting help? Are you taking medication?” I'm not saying people shouldn't take meds and shouldn't seek help, but it's interesting to notice their reactions. How quickly people turned to solutions instead of saying, “I hear you,” or “Me too.”

I understand the rush toward solutions. I know in myself, the minute I feel depressed or hopeless, I want to leave those states as quickly as possible. I don't want to sit with the feelings, I don't want to acknowledge them, I don't want to give them air time. If I could bypass all the uncomfortable feelings, that would be great, thanks.

Even small acts of love can have great effects.

As my therapist reminds me, it doesn't work that way. I can't pretend certain feelings don't exist just because I'd rather they didn't. The only way to move through the feelings is to first have awareness of them, and second to feel them. In thinking of my spiritual practices, I'd like to add a third step.

I am reminded of the work crafted by a monk I knew. He used to say every cell of our body is longing for liberation, is longing for oneness with something greater than ourselves. Not only the parts we acknowledge, but the parts we push away as well. He went to graduate school for psychology and developed a mantra therapy technique combining what he learned there with the principles of our yoga and meditation group. In these heart circles, as he called them, people would sit in a circle. One person would sit in the center of the circle and think about an emotion or belief they wanted release from. Then everyone on the perimeter sang to the person in the center. They verbally bathed the person with a Sanskrit mantra, sending them love. They imagined love coming through them and directed it to the person in the center of the circle.

I've been in many a circle, and people often weep or their expression softens or they start beaming. Something happens. Something happens because all parts of us want love. All parts want acknowledgment. All parts want us to say, “I see you, I hear you, and I love you.”

This week as I've sat with my own hard feelings, I've directed love their way. Not to drown them out, but in an act of tenderness and care. As Doreen Virtue says, “Love is the miracle that heals all things,” and that includes me. Instead of hating certain emotions, instead of pushing them away, instead of pretending they don't exist, instead of skipping over them, I'm sending them love. I'm going to the deepest, darkest places within me and saying, “I'm here and I love you,” because that's ultimately what I want. And what we all want.

I dream of a world where we give all parts of ourselves air time. A world where we embrace all parts of ourselves and say, “I'm here and I love you.” A world where we recognize love is the miracle that heals all things and it's a miracle we can give to ourselves.

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

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Deep Question


It's been a rough week. I found out a friend of mine committed suicide and it sent me reeling. Not only am I grieving the loss of my friend, but I'm also questioning the meaning of life, what my priorities are, how I'm spending my days, etc. The inconsequential questions, in other words.

Primarily what her death brought up in me is nihilism. What's the point of it all? What am I doing here? In our capitalistic culture I see an emphasis on pleasure. On squeezing every last drop of joy out of life that we possibly can. Of doing cool and unusual things – swimming with dolphins in Maui, hiking up Mt. Everest, and then snapping an instagram photo so everyone knows about it. I'm not saying these are inherently bad things, but should they be the point of life? Our entire focus? What about acquiring wealth and power? Is that the point of life? Should we all be aiming to buy a Tesla and run a Fortune 500 company?

Let's dive deep like this sea turtle. 

My friend's death reminds me we can't take any of these things with us when we go. When we leave the material world, we leave everything behind. Considering all this put me in a funk. In times like these, I turn to the things I know work: sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Just kidding. I turned to my spiritual practices and reached out to friends.

Looking at my spiritual practices, the point of life is not to suck every ounce of pleasure that we can from it. The point of life is to realize the beloved. To move closer to our nearest and dearest, our most precious entity. A friend reminded me this happens not through withdrawing from life to sit on a mountaintop in meditation. It happens by being here, being present, engaging. I know some spiritual paths expound complete renunciation, but mine is not one of them.

My spiritual path advocates subjective approach and objective adjustment, which as I've mentioned before, makes zero sense to me. Until now. Now I understand. It means, “Keep your eyes trained on the divine and adjust how you do that based on circumstances.” For instance, if I broke my leg and couldn't sit in a proper meditation position, that's OK, I can meditate lying down. The point is, don't stop. Keep going. I don't have to do things perfectly or follow every rule set forth by a spiritual adviser. The important thing is to keep moving.

I'm tearing up writing this because I'm thinking of my friend who felt so hopeless, so despairing, she took her life. I'm tearing up writing this because I, too, know what it's like to want to stop. To feel hopeless and despairing. To believe nothing will change and to ask, “What's the point?” I sympathize with my friend because sometimes to continue moving feels like the hardest possible thing. But I also know for me there is no other choice. Death is like changing a t-shirt, according to my spiritual teacher, so that means I'll reincarnate in another body and trade one set of circumstances for another.

If the point of life is sacred union with something greater than myself, I have to live in such a way that I experience the sacred and holy beyond when I'm meditating. I am not the Buddha. I don't have the patience to sit in endless meditation day after day, night after night. I have to engage in the world, and to engage in the world in a way that doesn't feel pointless, means I must feel the touch of the eternal even in the ephemeral.

I dream of a world where we see the divine in all things. A world where we keep going even when times are tough. A world where we feel our feelings and keep in mind feelings are not facts.

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

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Great Equalizer


Maybe I'm off base, but it seems to me in the West there's a notion spirituality is for the privileged. For people who don't have to worry so much about the mundane necessities of life. For people who have time and space to contemplate why they're here and what their purpose is. But that's not true; spirituality is for all. It's everyone's birthright.

I understand why someone would tell me otherwise, because when you don't have a place to live, it's hard to ruminate on the sacred. I'm nothing if not practical. Our basic needs must be met, yet at the same time we keep chasing after the next thing and then the next. If not something we desire, then something we have to get done. However, there's always something on the to-do list. When does it end?

Mmmm, equality, symmetry.

Paraphrasing my spiritual teacher, there is in the living being a thirst for limitlessness. Knowingly or unknowingly, human beings are running after limitlessness. However, it is not possible for limited objects to quench one's thirst. That means it doesn't matter how much money I have or how good I look in a bathing suit or who is by my side. There will always be a longing and a yearning for something more, something greater.

That longing, that yearning, is not confined to a privileged few. Nor is it a luxury. From my perspective, it's not a luxury because without it, we have people and leaders who are interested only in satisfying their own desires. Without it, we have people who feel separate from each other and treat each other as such. Without it, the environment becomes a resource we pillage instead of a sacred entity.

Look, I realize all the world's problems can't be solved by meditating. We are human beings living in a world of matter. That means action is necessary. Meditating on ending world hunger doesn't end world hunger. But how do you convince people ending world hunger is a good idea? In my mind, that comes from spirituality. From opening up their hearts. The meditation I practice connects me to all living beings and doing so means I'm not OK with them coming to harm. I recognize myself in others as opposed to seeing them as strangers, and that comes directly from my spiritual practice.

Spirituality is the great equalizer because it's a reminder we all want the same things and we all belong to each other. It's a reminder we're all in this together. Not only that, spirituality is the only thing that will satisfy our ultimate longing because material goods never will. That's true not only for some, but for all.

I dream of a world where we realize what we hunger for exists on the spiritual plane. A world where we realize we all want the same things. A world where we view spirituality as a necessity rather than a luxury because we are all striving for eternal bliss.

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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Circle of Life



Doesn't the title of this post make you want to break into song? If I felt more confident in my singing voice I'd serenade you. Ahem, anyway, all this week I've contemplated the circle of life. Within the span of 24 hours I found out two people I know are pregnant and another lost her mother. The juxtaposition of the two was enough to give me emotional whiplash.

In Sanskrit, the term for this is saḿsára, which means the entity that constantly keeps moving. As we all know, that's what life does. It keeps moving even when we want it to stop, even when it seems like the world should stand still, it keeps spinning. It's both a blessing and a curse. I don't have any particular great insights. The whole thing sounds exhausting, and feels that way too. I'd like a break, but maybe that's also particularly true for me because for a full week I've had a nightmare every night.

Isn't this a great photo?

The “break” though doesn't come from shuffling off this mortal coil, at least according to the spiritual philosophy I ascribe to. Because I believe in reincarnation, once I die, I'll be reborn. The circle of life continues not only in general, but for me as well. Death and birth, death and birth. When does it end?

My spiritual teacher says, “Whichever way we look, we see only the external dynamism of everything, and as we witness this external dynamism, we feel pleasure when we get something, we feel pain when we lose something. If we try to discover the ultimate reality hidden within the apparent reality, we shall feel neither the momentary pleasure of gain in the mundane world, nor the sorrow of loss in the mundane world. The Supreme Entity which is neither to be obtained nor to be lost will remain always with us, and we shall remain absorbed in the eternal bliss of the companionship of that Supreme Entity.”

That sounds nice right now. To remain absorbed in eternal bliss. To escape the cycle of pain and pleasure, death and birth.

I write about these things because I need the reminder, and I suspect others do too. I need the reminder of what's permanent, of what I can attach to, of what's constant. Otherwise it's easy for my mood to swing from high to low in an instant and the whole thing is exhausting. All I can do, all that I try to do, is keep my mind trained on my higher power, on the divine and loving presence that's with me always so that eventually two become one.

I dream of a world where we all feel eternal bliss. A world where we train our sights on a constant, permanent entity. A world where we escape the circle of life.

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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Love Means Saying No



When I think “love,” I think soft, gentle, and kind. I also think “permissive.” If I love someone, I want them to have everything they desire. But that's not real love. Real love also means saying “no.”

I think we all know this. We talk about it often in the context of parents and children. Children frequently want things that aren't good for them, like to eat toxic paint, and the parent has to put his or her foot down. In that case, it's easy to understand saying “no” is ultimately for the child's best interest. But what about when it comes to ourselves? Can we tell ourselves “no” when a part of us wants to say “yes?”

Love requires boundaries.

Over the years, I've come to see I have many internal parts or selves. I have multiple inner children, an inner teenager, a loving parent, a witnessing entity. There are so many internal “me's” I could easily fill up a minivan. That means sometimes I'll feel conflicted because one part of me wants something and another part does not. What to do in that situation? Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I have to be a parent to myself as well. I have to say no to myself just as I would to an external child.

It's so hard though. I love myself and want myself to have everything I desire. I want to say “yes” unequivocally. It feels good to say yes. Especially saying yes to my inner child. Somehow it's easier for me to say “no” to my adult than it is to say “no” to my inner child. But that's not love. Yes, love is soft, gentle, and kind, but it's also tough, firm, and at times harsh. My spiritual teacher talks about this. He says, “Sometimes I appear harsh to some. But that is for love. If I were indifferent, there would be no need for scolding or punishment.” He also says, “Punishment alone, without love, is not good. Love and punishment should go together, and the degree of punishment should never exceed the degree of love.”

Inherent in his statement is the notion love and punishment go hand in hand. To only shower a being with love and affection, to only say yes, to give in to everything the person wants, is not love. In fact, it's damaging, as anyone who's read or seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory knows. One of the characters, Veruca Salt, gets everything she ever wants, has never heard the word “no” in her life. In the movie, Veruca wants her father to buy her one of Wonka's golden egg-laying geese. After Wonka refuses, Veruca goes on a tirade by trashing the room and disturbing the Oompa Loompas' work in the process. She climbs onto an Eggdicator and is dropped down into the furnace holding room after being rejected as a "bad egg" by the machine. A reminder for us all that nothing good comes from being spoiled. Nothing good comes from always saying “yes.”

I dream of a world where we realize the most loving thing we can do for ourselves sometimes is to say “no,” even if a part of us wants to say “yes.” A world where we recognize love is better with boundaries. A world where we remember love is soft and gentle, but it's also tough and strong.

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

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Beloved is Me (and You)



Maybe it's because Valentine's Day is right around the corner, but I keep thinking about a post I wrote more than a year ago on being the beloved. Recognizing the beloved is me (and you). I'm sharing it again with you now.

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.

The beloved is me, and you, and these penguins. 

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, February 5, 2017

Mighty is Your Strength



I've been thinking a lot about strength and power and what it means to have those. I spend most of my time feeling powerless, as in my ability to act feels diminished. Particularly when I contemplate the broader society. This is where I could write about how there's strength in numbers and all of us working together have greater power than when we're alone, but you've already heard all that. Instead, what interests me more is thinking about the types of strength and power we possess.

As someone who feels like a frail wildwood flower, physical strength appeals to me. However, physical strength is not the greatest strength there is. On some level we all know this, but in times like these I think it's important to get that reminder. Psychic strength is greater than physical strength, and spiritual strength is greater than psychic strength.

It takes strength to do this.

If we look at human history, we see this progression. People could not fight a lion or tiger with their physical bodies – they had to invent weapons. Even if we pit an elephant against a human being we see an elephant driver can use their intellectual powers to direct the elephant. Physical strength can be defeated by psychic strength. In fact, my spiritual teacher says human strength is much more powerful than the strength of atom bombs. Why? Because human beings created atom bombs and that means human beings can also discover a weapon to counteract the strength of atom bombs.

What about spiritual power? For me, I believe in a higher power so it makes sense there is a power greater than myself infusing me with strength. An entity that may accomplish what I cannot. It's harder for me to think about spiritual strength triumphing over psychic strength, but when I contemplate it, it makes sense. In a competition between me and an enlightened being like the Buddha, who would win? Certainly not me. An enlightened being knows all and sees all, so of course an enlightened being is more powerful than I am.

I also think about this in my personal life. How my intuition picks up on things that my rational brain does not. That, too, is a power. If I intuit during a game of rock, paper, scissors that you're going to choose rock, who has the power in that situation? Who is at an advantage?

Ultimately what I'm driving at here is we are never as powerless or as helpless as we think we are. We all have strength and we have strength we didn't know we had when we draw on the well from the source of all creation. When I tap into an infinite loving consciousness, my strength, my power never runs dry. I've heard many amazing stories like that. For instance, Sri Chinmoy is someone who lifted airplanes and automobiles. He said:
“As an individual I am nothing and I can do nothing. For everything that I have achieved, I give 100 percent credit to God’s Grace…when I pray and meditate I feel that somebody else is helping me, whereas an ordinary man feels that he can only rely on himself. When he is under the weight, he thinks that he is lifting it all by himself. He has practiced for so many years and developed his strength and he feels that everything depends on his physical strength. But in my case, I feel I am only an instrument. There is some other power that is coming to help me. That power I call God’s Grace.”

I dream of a world where we remember we are mighty. A world where we remember we are more powerful than we think we are. A world where we tap into the reserves of a power greater than ourselves, recognizing that's where our real power lies.

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

Sunday, January 29, 2017

From Fearful Love to Fearless Love



Fear seems to be running rampant in the U.S. these days. Fear of the future, fear of other people. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, the Land of the Brave has become the Land of the Very Anxious. I get it.

We all want to survive. In days past, people settled near water to have materials for that purpose. These days, people move to where there are jobs for the same reason. We all want to survive and we will fight for our survival. When there is a perception security is threatened, people retaliate. By instating a ban on all Muslims for instance. The thing is though, just as my life is important to me, others' lives are equally important to them.

I'm not sure what to say about this picture other than it seems to fit. 

“[I]f we do not give proper value to the lives of all creatures, then the development of the entire humanity becomes impossible,” says philosopher and social revolutionary P.R. Sarkar. “If people think more about themselves as individuals or about their small families, castes, clans, or tribes, and do not think at all about the collectivity, this is decidedly detrimental …. It will help people understand that human beings, as the most thoughtful and intelligent beings in this created universe, will have to accept the great responsibility of taking care of the entire universe – will have to accept that the responsibility for the entire universe rests on them.”

We're caretakers for the entire universe. No big deal or anything. I'm pretty sure some people have forgotten that concept though. They've forgotten we all belong to each other, that my self-preservation is tied to your self-preservation.

All week, the phrase running through my mind has been intuitional practice is the process of transformation of fearful love into fearless love. I can't help but think that's what we're undergoing collectively. We are in a state of fearful love – scared of making one wrong move because then we'll lose something. Scared if we don't do something, we won't keep what we have. In the U.S., it seems to me some people are operating under the assumption that in order for our country to be great, we have to keep out all things we fear, all thing we perceive threaten our self-preservation, our security.

An extremely hard lesson I've learned over the years – which you all have been privy to – is security comes from within. There was one point I lived literally in the middle of nowhere – I'm talking a cabin in the woods 20 miles from the nearest town – and I still had an intense fear my place would be broken into. Security is an outside job but it's also an inside job. There is no place we can go that will keep us 100 percent safe and secure. There is no ban on a group of people that will prevent us from being threatened. Building a wall to keep people out can just as easily turn into a prison keeping us trapped.

Living in fearful love is not the answer. The answer instead lies in cultivating fearless love, in reaching out to our brothers and sisters in need. In creating a society where everyone is taken care of. Where no person is left behind because we recognize the responsibility for the entire universe rests on our shoulders. Ultimately, we are all in this together.

I dream of a world where we all take care of each other. A world where we recognize every person's life is just as important to them as ours is to us. A world where we cultivate inner security. A world where we move from fearful love to fearless love.

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

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Reassurance for Challenging Times



This whole week I've been spinning out, contemplating the future. “If this happens, then I'll do this. If that happens, then I'll do that.” I've been on a veritable hamster wheel of potential future outcomes. When I asked myself, “Que pasa?” the answer was, I want to know the future so I can feel safe. I want to know what's coming so I can plan for it and feel at ease.

One of my favorite authors, Dr. Gabor Maté, wrote in his book When the Body Says No, if someone is “controlling,” they are in fact deeply anxious. He said, “When such a person fears that he is unable to control events, he experiences great stress. Unconsciously, he believes that only by controlling every aspect of his life and environment will he be able to ensure the satisfaction of his needs.”

I think this is lavender. If not, let's pretend it is -- lavender is very soothing. 

Yep. Certainly true for me. Unfortunately, I can't control every aspect of my life and environment, something I'm very clear on. To circumvent that, I try to predict the future, which also, unfortunately, I'm terrible at doing. The future pretty much never goes the way I anticipate it will. Maybe not never. I think one time out of a million I'm right, but those are terrible odds. No one would hire me to tell their fortune, that's for sure. What to do then?

What I've been ruminating on is the notion I can take care of myself no matter what circumstances I'm in. Instead of running through a million possibilities in my head, I'm saying to the scared parts of me, “I'm here. I'm not going anywhere. I'm not ever going anywhere. I'll protect you. Let me take care of that.” I'm saying it every day, every hour, every 10 minutes. Every time I'm scared and start future tripping.

I'm also reminded of one of my favorite quotes by my spiritual teacher, which I'm sure I've shared before: “Difficulties can never be greater than your capacity to solve them.” That means I can have faith in myself and in humanity that no matter what comes, we can handle it. We can solve any problem, we can overcome any difficulty. We are creative and resourceful, and furthermore, we're not alone. We have each other, but we also have a force greater than ourselves.

My teacher also said, “[A]s long as there is a speck of dust under your feet, as long as a single star twinkles over your head, you should remember that you are not helpless, that you are not alone. You need not have any fear or apprehension about this under any circumstances.”

The way for me to keep fear and apprehension at bay is to keep reminding myself of this. That I'm not alone. That I'm here. That my higher power is here. That we can solve anything together.

I dream of a world where we keep reassuring ourselves. A world where we soothe ourselves about our capacity to handle life. A world where we remember we're not alone. A world where we know we can solve any difficulty that comes our way.

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

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Life as a Drama



I asked a friend the other day how he maintains hope and faith when the whole world seems to have gone mad, and he told me he views life as a drama – there will be happy parts and sad parts and scary parts. He doesn't expect life to be a smooth ride where nothing happens.

He also told me a particular scene we find distasteful could be pivotal to the story – in hindsight we may find certain actions were crucial.

I like his perspective – it helps me to detach a little and not become quite so dismayed at the events in the world. I'm not saying I no longer care, nor that we should sit back and do nothing. Rather, his perspective reminds me this is reality. I want everyone to be happy all the time. I want life to proceed in a straight line improving day by day. I want rainbows and sunshine and kittens prancing through fields all day long. But that's not what we're living in, and that's never what we've lived in. Life is a series of ups and downs, twists and turns. And furthermore, there are good people and bad people, just like in any riveting tale. There are heroes and villains, and I hate to admit it, but the villains usually prompt the heroes to leave the house. If the villains weren't engaging in some nefarious scheme, the heroes would twiddle their thumbs and maybe knit a scarf. Personally, I'd find that kind of story dull and would ask for my money back.

So melodramatic.

Similarly, real life is the same way. There are heroes and villains, there are wise advisers and fools. We all have our parts to play, but unfortunately, no one handed us a script or fed us our lines.

My spiritual teacher says, “When human beings bring something within the scope of their intellect, and by perceiving and observing it closely, can understand the cause behind it, this is called kriidá; and when the cause is beyond the scope of their thinking it is called liilá [or play]. Whatever the Macrocosm does is beyond the periphery of the human intellect, and that is why whatever He does is His liilá.”

My interpretation of this quote is a lot of stuff happens in this world. Some of it I will understand and some of it I won't, and maybe never will. The stuff I don't understand is liilá or play. My point of view is instead of agonizing over why this happened or why this didn't happen, it's better for me to take the mindset that life is a play, life is a drama, something I get to witness unfolding.

What I also believe to be true is ultimately the arc of civilization bends toward the beneficent. Ultimately things improve for all of us. However, getting there sometimes requires clash and conflict. Sometimes things get crazy and bizarre, like any good drama, before they are sorted out. It seems to me right now our society is in the middle of an important and intense scene, one that I'd like to believe is leading us somewhere better, but it won't make sense until later on when the story plays out.

I dream of a world where we view life as a drama. A world where we realize the ups and downs are a part of life. A world where we understand we all have our part to play and we play it with gusto. A world where we keep doing our part trusting eventually the story will resolve.

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

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Always with Us


I have a lot of fears. Most of them centering around physical safety. For much of life, I've tried to inoculate myself from danger by either not engaging, or by believing terrible things wouldn't happen to me because I'm protected by my higher power. A few years ago, I was hit by a car as a pedestrian and that viewpoint shattered. It was a horrible time that shook me to my core. I realized being a woman of faith doesn't mean I'll escape all harm. Rather, it means regardless of what happens there is always a loving force with me.

I'm also reminded of a scene from the movie Rogue One. If you haven't seen it and are planning to, stop reading or listening right now. The scene I'm thinking of is where blind warrior Chirrut chants, “I am one with the Force; the Force is with me,” as he strides into battle. He accomplishes what he sets out to, but he dies anyway. Being “one with the force” doesn't make us immortal or keep us from getting hurt, instead it offers us the reassurance, the comfort, knowing we are not alone in any thing at any point.
We have one true friend.
In my yoga and meditation group, my spiritual teacher says our relationship with source or the divine is like the relationship of a fish with water – ever present, inseparable. Higher power, or whatever name you want to use, is our one true friend, the being who loved us in the past, who will love us in the future, and will be with us always.

This feeling was cemented for me over New Year's. After the midnight meditation during my yoga and meditation retreat, I was struck with a strong feeling that we are deeply loved; through thick and thin there is a divine presence with us. That we will never be abandoned.

In these troubling times, when the future is uncertain and I don't know what will happen next, it's a balm to my soul realizing I'm not alone. That even if something terrible happens, I'm not handling it by myself – not only because I have friends, community, and me, but also because there is a loving presence with me always. It's a comfort to me knowing I have a true friend.

I personally wanted faith to act as a force field shielding me from harm, but that's not realistic. To be alive means to experience joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. The more I accept that, the better off I'll be. But the lovely thing is I'm not alone with any of it, none of us are.

I dream of a world where we feel into the presence of a loving, nurturing higher power with us at all times. A world where we recognize in good times and bad there is something else with us. A world where we know no matter what, we're not alone.

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

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Purple Dawn



For the past five days I've lived in a bubble. Members of my yoga and meditation group gathered in Malibu where we sang, danced, meditated, and learned from each other. Gazing at the ocean surrounded by so much beauty and love, it was easy to forget the real world. And then I flew home.

Re-entry startled and unnerved me, raw and sensitive as I am running on a few hours of sleep. On the drive home, I saw police officers tackling a man on the shoulder of the highway. It wasn't me being chased, but my heart started pounding nonetheless. On the same ride, I saw hearts painted on the roof of a building. All of these things coexist.

The new dawn is on its way.
I don't know what this year holds. I'm guessing it will be a mix of things, just like my ride home. There will be happy things and scary things and sad things and awesome things. For some of us there will be an unequal mix. But feeling my heart pound watching someone else's life, reminds me we are all in this together. We all belong to each other and we are all responsible for each other. We are not as separate as we'd like to believe. On the same car ride home, the word “one” also caught my attention from a passing sign. It seemed to me a reminder of that fundamental truth.

As we start this new year, I want to quote my spiritual teacher because the message seems relevant. He said:
Just as the advent of the purple dawn is inevitable at the end of the cimmerian darkness of the interlunar night, exactly in the same way I know that a gloriously brilliant chapter will also come after the endless reproach and humiliation of the neglected humanity of today.

Those who love humanity and those who desire the welfare of living beings should be vigorously active from this very moment, after shaking off all lethargy and sloth, so that the most auspicious hour arrives at the earliest.
Let us all greet the new dawn. Let us all experience a gloriously brilliant chapter. And let us all work to bring that “auspicious hour” sooner rather than later.

I dream of a world where we remember we're all connected. A world where we remember we all belong to each other. A world where we work together to create a glorious and brilliant life that we all wish to lead.

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