Sunday, August 13, 2017

How Progress is Made



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Forever One


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 30, 2017

What is Reality?



The adjective I'd use to describe life right now is “surreal,” both on a personal level and a societal level. I'm still grappling with the death of my colleague, it seems strange he no longer exists on this earthly plane, and in addition, I'm reintegrating into normal life after having gone on vacation. I have a giant blue poncho that says, “I heart Denmark” on the back of it, and yet, the entire experience feels like a dream. Did I really go there? Did I really see all the things I saw? I have the pictures to prove it, but somehow that doesn't seem adequate right now. As a bit of a disclaimer, I'm sick so my rational brain is offline, giving everything a dreamy quality.

Even if everything wasn't dreamy though, even if my brain was operating normally, some things I'd still classify as surreal. Our political situation, for instance. Regularly there's a news story surfacing worthy of the Onion, a satirical publication, but instead the story is legitimate. How is this real life? Furthermore, what is real life?

Eventually this, too, will stop being "real." Photo by Damian Zaleski on Unsplash.

I'm not a philosopher, but the question has me curious. Some people say the entire world is an illusion, or máyá. Are they right? In short, no. Is my cough an illusion? Is the chair I'm sitting on fake? No. The world exists, it's real, but also the world is a relative truth, according to my spiritual teacher.

“No worldly form remains unchanged for a long period of time,” he said. “The world always undergoes metamorphosis; this is how it maintains its existence – through evolution, through transformation.” That means what's true today may not be true tomorrow. For instance, I'm sick today but I won't be sick next month, I hope. My chair exists today, but 200 years from now it will not. It's kind of a scary thing for me to contemplate, that we live in a world where everything is temporary and reality is changeable, but the evidence proves this over and over again. For instance, it wasn't all that long ago that people thought germs were mythical.

Some people say reality is that which can be measured and proven scientifically, but as was once the case with germs, there are things in existence our instruments are not sensitive enough to measure yet. Does that make them any less real? As much as I'd like to define reality, I'm discovering I can't because reality is always changing. I'm going to cop out here and circle back to my perennial topic: spirituality.

According to my spiritual treatise, the world is relative, but there is something absolute. There is something unchangeable and eternal, a solid foundation, a rock to which I may cling. There is an eternal, formless, unchangeable entity that pervades all of existence. It is to that entity, which exists both inside of me and outside of me, to whom I'm moving closer. It is to that entity I pay my salutations when I meditate. It is that entity who helps me unearth an absolute reality, which is something I wish for all of us.

I dream of a world where we remember the world is not an illusion, the world is real, but it's constantly changing. A world where we let this fact fill us with hope because we realize that means things will never stay the same, and thus can always become better. A world where we live in our relative reality while also working toward that which is absolute.

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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Connected at the Core



The other week I read an interesting philosophical treatise about the structure of our universe, which is an oval. We are made up of atoms with electrons moving around a nucleus. On a larger scale, the Earth is the nucleus and the moon is moving around it. In our solar system, the sun is the nucleus and all the planets are moving around it. According to my spiritual philosophy, there is a Supreme nucleus and we are all moving around it.

Is that Supreme hub a place we can get to? Can I jump into a rocketship and go see it? Is the Supreme nucleus instead a metaphor? I do not know the answers to these questions, but a friend commented on this discourse and said we are all emanating out from the same nucleus. We all have the same center, the same core.

We are all spiraling around the same nucleus.

His comment struck me because regardless of whether or not a person believes in a Cosmic Consciousness, or subscribes to my spiritual philosophy, we do have the same core. It is a fact we are all made up of atoms. It is a fact we are all made up of stardust, to paraphrase Carl Sagan. To quote an article on the subject:
“The carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms in our bodies, as well as atoms of all other heavy elements, were created in previous generations of stars over 4.5 billion years ago. Because humans and every other animal as well as most of the matter on Earth contain these elements, we are literally made of star stuff.”
I've been hearing about this concept for many years so it's easy for me to gloss over it, but something about thinking how we all have the same core got to me. It allows me to connect with you even deeper because inside we are the same, and knowingly or unknowingly, we are moving together. Some people are moving closer to the Supreme hub. I would say the Dalai Lama or Pope Francis are great examples of people who are moving closer to Cosmic Consciousness because they have a universal outlook. They seem to look upon others with a sense of oneness, that we are all connected, that there is no difference between them and someone else.

My spiritual teacher says, “Each and every aspirant, each and every artist, each and every scientist, and each and every philosopher must be ensconced in this supreme veracity – that they will have to be one with the Supreme, that each will have to coincide his or her microcosmic nucleus with the macrocosmic one.”

The speed with which this happens varies, and some people move further away from the nucleus, but no one can move beyond its scope. Even the most terrible person, even the most despised people are still circling the nucleus. They may be at the periphery, but they still have the same nucleus, and that means I can recognize those people, too, are my brothers and sisters. They, too, are on the spiritual journey with me and that means I can soften my heart toward them. Because we are all connected at the core.

I dream of a world where we recognize we are all made of the same things. A world where we recognize we all emanate from the same source. A world where we remember we are all connected at the core.

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Intimacy Begins with Me



Last week, I wrote about the death of a colleague. In addition to grieving, I'm learning a lot about intimacy.

So often when I think about intimacy, it's in the context of a romantic relationship, but the truth is, intimacy is not confined to a romantic partner. Real intimacy is like unzipping yourself and displaying your insides, and that can be done with anyone, something I've witnessed in this process.

As I share the news about my co-worker's death, people react in different ways. Some people allow me to cry without offering a diversion or attempting to fix it. Other people become discomfited and say a quick, “I'm sorry,” before moving on to another topic. I'm not deriding people for their reactions – people are where they're at and will respond how they do. What I notice though is in order to share my feelings with someone else, to be intimate with them, I have to acknowledge my feelings first. If I'm uncomfortable feeling sad, there's no way I can share that with someone else because I'm shutting the feelings down internally. Someone else may be more than willing to share and connect with me, but if I'm not connected to myself, no one else can connect with me either.

As with most things, intimacy is an inside job.

We hear often, “You can't give what you don't have,” but I'm a concrete gal and I like examples. As an example, if someone asked me for oranges right now, I'd have to shake my head and say, “Sorry, I don't have any.” Similarly, I can't give intimacy if I don't have it internally.

We think of intimacy and love as “out there,” something to find or force. I can't tell you how many times I've complained about certain men in my life, lamenting that they're not opening up, as if they were clams I could pry open. I've craved intimacy, but it's only been within recent years I've created it internally by embracing all of my emotions. By giving myself space to feel.

Love and intimacy get presented as if we could walk into a store and buy them. We don't realize intimacy is something we create, something we work on internally. I could be in relationship with the most amazing person, someone who loves intimacy, but if I'm not in touch with my own feelings, if I'm not allowing myself to feel them, we won't have intimacy. It will be like talking to a brick wall. I say this because that's also been my experience in grieving. When I share my insides with people who are discomfited, it's like I threw an egg against a brick wall – my insides are smeared, on display. There's no reciprocity, only impact. When I share my insides with people who are comfortable with emotion, it's like I threw an egg at a cloud of cotton – I feel held, comforted, and supported.

Matt Licata, a psychotherapist I follow, synthesizes this concept well:
When all is said and done, perhaps there is no secret to co-creating a fulfilling, supportive, mutually beneficial intimate relationship, as it is always in the end a movement of the unknown. Healthy intimacy is not something you will figure out one day by way of some checklist or magical formula, but something you are asked to live in each moment, in all its chaotic glory. By learning to take care of yourself, you are creating a foundation upon which the mysteries of intimacy can come alive within and around you, providing a crucible like no other for the great work of aliveness that you have come here to embody.
I dream of a world where we embody our emotions. A world where we understand intimacy is not something “out there,” but rather “in here.” A world where we recognize intimacy is not something we find, but rather something we create. A world where we realize intimacy beings with us.

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

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Out, Out, Brief Candle



I found out on Thursday a work colleague of mine died unexpectedly. No warning, no known life-threatening health issues, just gone. Out like a candle. It reminds me of that passage from Macbeth:
Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.
I'm still in shock to be honest. Here one minute, gone the next. It doesn't seem real. I know some people experience a shift in perspective at times like these. It reminds them life is short and not to waste a minute of it. This it not that sort of blogpost. I will not suddenly seize the day or live like I'll die tomorrow, because for me, that sort of pace will kill me. I know this because living with that mindset has wrecked my body. Instead, this post is a meditation on transience.

We are all candles, here for a brief period.

My colleague's death reminds me that everything – my thoughts, my feelings, even my life – has an end. I trick myself otherwise, convinced every feeling and situation is interminable, but in truth, it's not. We often say, “This, too, shall pass,” forgetting “this” also includes life itself.

I'm still coming out of shock and into grief, yet I feel at peace, not about my colleague's death, but about the nature of life itself. I'm in deep acceptance that I don't have as much agency as I think I do. That I can eat well, exercise, wear sunscreen, but when I die is not up to me. I will be here as long as I am here.

In my spiritual tradition, we say a person will merge in Cosmic Consciousness only after completing the duty assigned to him or her by Cosmic Consciousness. The trouble is, there's no sand timer in the sky letting us know when the sand has run out. And what's interesting is the older I get, the more I understand what people mean when they say life goes by quickly. With that in mind, I have no trouble believing I could live until I was 120 and it would still feel too short. It would still feel like a flash in the pan. In truth, no matter how long we live, it will always be a brief moment in time, a period when for a short while we walked the Earth.

My spiritual teacher says, “This expressed universe is nothing but a collection of temporary entities which are undergoing constant metamorphosis according to the sweet will of nature.” We are all temporary entities and we are all constantly undergoing change. Nothing stays the same. Nothing. I can't help but wonder if I kept this thought at the forefront of my mind how my life would be different. If I would experience more ease and peace as well as joy knowing my life is like a candle that can be blown out at any moment.

This post is a somber one, I know, but I hope it will also be a reassuring one. For those of you undergoing hardship, remember it will end. And for those of you undergoing ecstasy, enjoy it while you can, because it, too, will end.

I dream of a world where we remember all things are temporary. A world where we realize we're not in control of everything. A world where we practice acceptance of what is because we recognize like everything else, this, too, shall pass.

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

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Accepting Uncertainty



Historically, one of the ways I've dealt with uncertainty and ambiguity is to become controlling. If I didn't know what was going on, I'd make a plan or force a decision so that I did, because then at least I'd know, and knowing was more comfortable than not knowing.

It should come as no surprise I was a stage manager in high school, and for a couple of years in college. For those unaware, the stage manager is the person behind the scenes of a show who is calling all the lighting and sound cues, the person who makes sure the sets are moving when they should, the person who determines when the show starts, even. This is not done without input or help, but the ultimate responsibility is the stage manager's. I loved stage managing. At last my character traits of controlling and perfectionism were put to good use. Instead of being disparaged for them, I was lauded.

Will this person hitch a ride or not? 

Unfortunately, while all the world's a stage, I'm not the stage manager. Nor did I get the script in advance. For someone prone to anxiety, and who likes to know what's happening beforehand, this is not a good combination. To manage this, I could have become the type of person who does the same thing every day, who sticks to a schedule rigidly, who never tries anything new, who lives in a safe container of the known and the familiar, but I get bored and restless. Well shucks. What's a gal to do then?

Lately, instead of defaulting to controlling, I'm allowing all of my feelings. I'm letting it be OK that I'm scared. I'm letting it be OK that I think things should be this way or that. I'm also letting it be OK that there's a part of me itching to decide one way or another. These days I'm letting all my parts co-exist and that means accepting uncertainty. The truth is, for all my planning, nothing ever happened the way I thought it would anyway. That doesn't mean I'll stop planning altogether – I will never be a person who's comfortable flying into a foreign city without knowing where she's sleeping that night – but it also means I'm allowing for flexibility.

According to my spiritual teacher, and many teachers, adjustment and flexibility are essentials for human progress. My teacher says, “Intelligent people will not cling to old, outdated ideas. Rather they will wholeheartedly embrace that theory which adjusts with time, space, and person, and will continue to exist forever.”

He's speaking about societal theories here, but I think the same principle applies on an individual level. I must discard old and outdated ways of being in the world. Handling uncertainty by clinging to a fixed plan no longer serves me. Dealing with ambiguity by forcing a decision before the answer is clear no longer works for me. The only person I have any agency over is me, and treating myself with gentleness, humor, love, and respect sounds like the best plan to deal with uncertainty that I could ever concoct.

I dream of a world where we accept uncertainty. A world where we realize nothing will ever go exactly the way we planned. A world where we embrace flexibility and adjustment while we move ahead on the path of our lives. A world where we allow all parts of ourselves to exist in peaceful harmony.

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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Held in Suspension



I am obsessed with progress and growth. I want to do and to achieve all the time. One of my worst fears is getting stuck, of being trapped. It should come as no surprise then I'm claustrophobic and freak out in large crowds when I can't move as freely as I'd like. It's not only an external fear, but an internal one.

The thing about my health is I feel stuck. There are many things I cannot do right now. As I've written about previously, my dreams are on hold and that suuuuuucks.

I called a friend this week to share my fears with him, and instead of dissuading me from my current perspective, he told me he's been meditating on the tarot card the hanged man. Some would view the image of a hanged man as violent, something to fear and avoid. My friend however said he views the hanged man as being suspended instead of hanged. Of being still, in a pause, held. And perhaps the same applies to my life right now. That I don't have to do anything, and instead of fighting the stuckness, I can enjoy the sense of ease that can arise because it's a moment in time when the divine is holding the rope and keeping me in place. Instead of stuck, I'm held in suspension.

Been meditating on the hanged man. Perhaps he's only suspended.

I like thinking of it in that way and also I'm reminded there's more here. It's important for me to relax while I'm suspended, to embrace the inactive part of me.

In my spiritual philosophy, there are three binding forces in the world called gunas. The forces are sattvic, or sentient, rajasic, or mutative, and tamasic, or static. All beings have a mixture of these forces within them to varying degrees. I can say without a doubt I've been denying the static force within me. I've been pretending that part of me doesn't exist, and furthermore, not giving it expression in any way. Even when I'm at home, relaxing, there is an internal struggle within me that says I should be doing something else. Something productive. And even though I haven't paid attention to that voice, even though I stay where I am and keep reading my book, the voice still lives within me.

This week something shifted and I'm yielding to inertia, to laziness. You would think it's easy because, “Woohoo! Green light to sit around and watch Netflix all day!” but actually, it's been excruciating. This week I've been crawling out of my skin with how uncomfortable I am. And in fact, instead of embracing laziness, on Friday night I cleaned my bathroom. So. You know. Still learning over here.

Again, as I think of my spiritual philosophy though, it's one of wholeness and integration. One where we view everything as an expression of an infinite loving consciousness, and that means the static side too. That means the lazy, do-nothing part of me is also divine and I'm not doing myself any favors by pretending it's not. There is a time and a place for everything, and right now, it's time for me to be lazy without guilt.

I dream of a world where we embrace all the forces within us. A world where we view all periods of our life as sacred. A world where even if we feel stuck, instead we start thinking of it as being held while in suspension.

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

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.