Recently, I was talking with a very dear and trusted friend and fellow coach about the inherent challenge in learning to hold two seemingly opposite sets of feelings about the same thing, person, situation or experience. Her response immediately provided a broader context for my growing awareness. She said, “It’s the water we swim in, right?” We are not necessarily shown that the “both and” is an ok place to be with anything. In fact, we are taught that the “either or” is the way forward.
After a brief pause, I realized just how profound her response was. Here we are, in this crazy time in our human history, seeking to find a way forward that is peaceful, loving and mutually supportive of all…and holding opposite feelings or perspectives is generally not what we are taught to realize as normal. Somehow we learn that we have to choose one feeling or the other feeling…as if the two, on balance cannot truly co-exist. Perhaps this isn’t as true for you as it has been for me…for my whole life! And perhaps it is also true that our collective reluctance to hear or see those who are different or hold different beliefs than we do may be rooted in this “either or” culture we live in and unconsciously perpetuate.
Full disclosure…my sun sign is Libra and I have a Libra stellium (Sun, Jupiter and Mars) in the 12th house. Yep…a LOT of Libra!! So, my tendency to live the extremes is well entrenched. Throwing the “baby out with the bath water” isn’t an uncommon way to describe the ways I can be extreme in my behavior and choices. Learning to moderate this part of my being – slowing down or completely standing down, when I feel that overwhelming need to move quickly in one direction – has been an interesting process over these years. Many believe that we Librans are balanced by nature. Nope! We are learning balance!
“What is behind your eyes holds more power than what is in front of them.”
– Gary Zukav
What I have found to be true with my habit of believing that I must choose one feeling or perspective over the other is that I begin to tell myself a story about my present situation or growing dilemma. It’s as if I force myself to choose one side of the apparent dilemma and create a story that is supposed to make the choice alright. Except it no longer works for me. I have begun to see and feel the discomfort and outright suffering that I have created for myself all of these years.
“Men are disturbed not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen.”
If none of this is making sense, here is an example.
About a year ago, I relocated back to a place I left in 2016. I left rather quickly after the sale of my home. I had always wished to return and it took more than two years and an evacuation for a hurricane to facilitate my return. I had a home built. It was ready in four months. When I moved in, there were multiple issues which were completely unexpected – one was potentially life threatening. I was so grateful to be back in Virginia and I did NOT like my new home. I tried. I really tried to fall in love with it. It wasn’t happening. For months, I attempted to convince myself that it was fine. After all I was back in the place I wished to live and I further told myself I just needed to get over it. That wasn’t happening either. Late in the afternoon one day last Fall, I admitted out loud – I heard myself say it – that I was so very happy to be back here and the house just wasn’t where I wished to live. In that moment, I realized how the creation of a story had trapped me – in a place within – in which I was miserable. More importantly, I became aware of the reality of choosing one side or the other side of a dilemma (“either or” thinking), over the realization that both can be true and can co-exist (“both and” perspective). Since that moment, I’ve opened my heart and mind to the possibility of moving again as soon as the right place become available or apparent.
A weight was lifted in that moment, too. A weight that I had placed on myself (and was quite good at doing for many, many years) was no longer there…and I lifted it myself!
The water we swim in can be dark and murky or it can be clearer and easier to navigate. As I have said many times, perspective is everything.
“The moment you change your perception, is the moment you rewrite the chemistry of your body.”
– Dr. Bruce H. Lipton
Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
I watched and listened to and Demi Lovato’s performance on the Grammy Awards the day following the performance. Listening to the lyrics, the simple music accompanying her voice, and feeling the depth of the emotions as she sang, transported me back to a time in my life when I felt the isolation, desperation, and separation that she so courageously expressed in her performance. Her very survival of an overdose and the subsequent bare honesty with which she expresses her feelings in that song, written prior to that event, are worth our compassion and reflection.
I was recently talking with someone about addiction. Although I believe, as Richard Rohr has asserted and discussed in a recent series in his Daily Meditations, all are addicted to something (habits of minds, ways of doing things, substances, a job, etc.*), the conversation was about nicotine. At one point in the conversation it was asserted by the person with whom I was speaking that I couldn’t possibly understand addiction and that reading a certain book might help me better understand it. As I continued to reflect on this conversation, I recalled Ms. Lovato’s poignant performance, and my experience that many people don’t understand depression, either.
It’s easy to look at someone like her and think that perhaps she “has it all” and wonder how could she possibly find herself in such a dark place. I’m quite certain there are many who knew me during the period in my life and might have had similar thoughts, had they known of my condition at the time. Even those closest to me didn’t understand. I was quite adept at being the person I thought I had to be to remain successful in performing my job responsibilities and parenting my children.
I write today to remind everyone that we have no idea what is going on in someone – anyone – else’s life. Even those we may live with or are closest to day-to-day may be struggling within themselves with thoughts, feelings and forces unknown to those of us who are “on the outside”. Can’t we begin to extend that kind of awareness to everyone we see, pass on the street when we are walking, or observe doing something seemingly unconscious behind the wheel of a vehicle? A practice of compassion and acceptance can go a very long way in our very divided world. In fact it can, quite literally, change it!
We tend to judge, often harshly, those who are different or behave in ways that we don’t understand or necessarily appreciate. And yet, if we were watching ourselves in those moments of judging others, I wonder how we might feel about the person we are watching. I feel it is so very important to remember that we are all walking the same ground on this planet at this time.
The complexities of living in this world – different places and societies – cannot be understated. Addiction and depression have their roots in our attempts to “fit in” to what we have been shown or taught is the “way to be” if we are to survive or get ahead. Living up to what becomes our individual expectations of ourselves can be, and often are, impossible. This, by itself, is a sad commentary on who we are collectively, isn’t it?
The courage to be the beautiful individual that each of us is, is something that some of us seem to have more of than others. And then again…do they really? Or are they trying to make it appear that they do…as I did and so many of us try to do. Often it takes a crisis for us to wake up to our true and authentic selves and begin living fully into who we are, without fear.
May we practice a deeper approach to offering kindness to every single person we encounter in our journey of each day. May we also remember that each of us has impact – with every word, and in our behavior – on the whole of our experience. Choose to be negative, judgmental – that is a contribution. Choose to be positive, kind – that is a contribution.
If you didn’t see Demi Lovato’s performance at the Grammy Awards Sunday evening or online since, see if you can sit quietly and listen deeply and then check in with yourself to see how you feel. You can also see the video embedded in a well written piece on the performance in an article published at The Atlantic.
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
– Chief Seattle
*these represent my interpretations of what Fr. Rohr intimated in his series on addictions.
See the world with the innocence of children.
Approach the world with the daring of children.
Love the world with the readiness of children.
Heal the world with the purity of children.
Change the world with the wisdom of children.
There are many terrified children all around us. You will know them by the adult suits they are wearing. Their behavior is an observable verification of their terror. Anger and condescension indicate a deep fear within. They are over-compensating as a cover for the beliefs that they are unprepared, unworthy, and simply aren’t good enough or don’t have all they believe they need, to be successful where they are.
They are defensive and reactive. Everything is a crisis which must be tended to and fixed…right now.
They come across as confident and in control when deep inside they are unsure of themselves, and everything – in their minds – is completely out of control.
What do these people need?
They need to be seen and heard for who they really are…deep down inside. They need a steady, open-hearted soul as a partner in this moment; a compassionate listener who can softly and comfortably hold the space while listening to them, allowing them to be who they truly are – wounded, scared. This melting process – the shedding of armor – takes time. This isn’t easy work…and it is necessary for living the full life that each soul has the opportunity to live.
The reward for engaging this process of self rediscovery? More joy; awakening to a sense of inner calm, and peace; acceptance of life – as it is; an open, loving heart; and the realization that love is all there is. It is in there – in our hearts – waiting for us to re-discover the innocence long lost to the many beliefs and experiences which resulted in our losing ourselves.
How is the child within you? Does he/she feel loved, valued, nurtured, cared for and accepted? Is she/he free to play or explore new horizons, or dream about the endless possibilities that life offers?
Does he/she feel unloved, undervalued, isolated and forgotten? Has she/he distracted him/herself from the simple acts of dreaming, creating and seeing myriad possibilities?
We are living in such extraordinary times. All are needed. In healing ourselves, we add to the essential healing of our planet and all of its inhabitants. This is the work of our lives.
Will we be a part of the healing solution? Or will we put our heads down and hope it all goes away? (It won’t.)
“We not only need to have a deep respect for children; but also a deep respect for the child in everyone.”
What do you need for yourself?
No one knows.
No one sees.
No one wants to know.
No one wants to see.
No one knows.
No one sees.
That’s what matters.
No one else.
Blind loyalty is just that….BLIND.
Open. Your. Eyes.
Taking NOTHING at face value.
Ask your heart.
Listen to your intuition.
Trust yourself first, then your trust of others will not be misplaced.
(written in Spring, 2016)
*If seeking for answers outside of yourself is more more of a habit than deep listening, observing, and researching, be diligent. Do your own research. Do not rely on shortcuts and the beliefs at the core of others’ projections in various media for your answers, or what you might consider to be the “right” answer. Ask yourself, are these shallow perspectives? Go deeper. Look beyond. Your answers will eventually resonate through your awareness and the alignment with who you are. Your feelings will tell you.
Don’t like the answer? Go deeper. Ask yourself, “Who am I”? And isn’t that the most important question at the core of everything you believe, see, feel and act upon?
Blind loyalty – the ultimate surrender of personal power to another human being.
To all of my dear readers:
Creating time to reflect, contemplate, meditate, pray…whatever we choose to do to be still…is an important gift to ourselves.
This morning, I received the quote below in my email box. Following the quote, the sender provided a question for reflection. I took a few moments to read it several times; each time asking myself the question which follows the quote below.
“Remember that you ought to behave in life as you would at a banquet. As something is being passed around, it comes to you. When it comes to you, stretch out your hand gently, take a portion of it politely, but pass it on. Or, it has not come to you yet. Do not project your desire to meet it. So act always in life.”
What are you hearing in this?
You are invited to read and reflect upon the question as well.
The collective denial of our underlying emotional life has contributed to an array of troubles and symptoms. What is often diagnosed as depression is actually low-grade chronic grief locked into the psyche, complete with the ancillary ingredients of shame and despair.
– Francis Weller
A week ago, I lost a small furry companion who had been a part of my life for the last 15 years. I have so many memories of his always being close, wherever I lived, always snuggling and seeming to know of the comfort I needed, even if I wasn’t fully aware of the need, myself. His comfort was in his sweet, soft presence. He was a male, polydactyl, tuxedo who suckled the inside of his right front paw (think of a baby). There was something about him that softened the moments of my most edgy internal feelings. Although he had been ill for a while, his passing was extremely difficult for me. I am still getting used to not having him around in his furry little body; and I know he will always be near.
As I have been moving through the days, I am aware of the many layers of grief that are still there…deep within. I’ve written several times in this space about grief. Grief is a very familiar place for me and I have found so many ways to process the multiple layers and experiences that still surface from time to time. Even with the passing of this sweet little companion, I have been taken back to the losses of other furry ones in my past. It is as if they all decided to return to help me remember that this isn’t a new experience and there is much for which to be grateful, even as I am deep in my grief.
In those moments of raw grief, I was reminded of the gifts of the presence of each one in my life. So losing my dear little Cooper served to remind me of the many gifts of his presence, while also helping me see – one more time – that even when we think we’re alone, we are not alone – ever.
The tendrils of grief are like some plants. Consider grapes, melons and other such plants whose tendrils are long and curly and twisting in their structure. Some tendrils are soft and pliable and others are tougher, and a bit like bark on a tree. All of this serves to remind me that some feelings are soft and easier to acknowledge; and still others are more challenging to allow to surface from their deeply buried places within us. The old adage that “feel to heal” as a way forward is easy to say and not always easy to navigate. As with most challenging experiences in life, some of our processing work is our own to do. And…not to be minimized is the importance of also having a trusted other to listen, acknowledge and support us as we work through these sometimes curious and often painful experiences.
Gratitude holds many gifts for us when we open to acknowledging and expressing it, even when our hearts are aching. The beauty of memories is the potential to see, feel and acknowledge gratitude in those moments as we reflect on them. Not all are wonderful; some are challenging; and all have something for us. Therein lies the gifts of the experiences for which we can be grateful.
We must couple grief and gratitude in a way that encourages us to stay open to life.
– Francis Weller
What a man takes in by contemplation, that he pours out in love.
– Meister Eckhart
As I watch the first snow of the season fall from the sky, I cannot help reflecting on the beauty of it and what it compels us to do, if we will allow it – to slow down, breathe, observe and reflect/contemplate.
The snow is quiet. It falls ever so softly from the clouds above. And yet, the planet it falls upon is anything but soft and quiet. This juxtaposition gives me pause…as I seek to stay out of despair. Compassion for the worst behaviors among our fellow humans is, at times, extremely tough to dig for and offer. Yet, these are the moments and places that call to me from the wounds within – the places which are still hurting; the places where perhaps traces of grief, unprocessed, still exist.
As I continue to cultivate my inner observer, I’ve begun to notice a few things that I wish to offer here…with an invitation for you to consider their meaning, from your perspective or experience. Comments are always welcome, and I believe that the more we explore together – which this medium allows us to do without being in the same room – the more we learn with the possibility of evolving our perspectives on long held thoughts or beliefs.
These words – without definitions – have been floating around in my mind as I consider the state of the country I live in at this moment.
I could write so much more about each of these, to offer my perspectives on and my observations and feelings about them. However, I wish to leave the door between us for conversation to be open without my perspectives to filter them.
I do wish to offer that fear keeps us from engaging with others in a variety of ways. So I hope you will trust yourself and me enough to offer your thoughtful perspectives on any or all of these. I feel that if we hold hands as we cross the deep chasm that seems to divide us from ourselves and us from each other, we will make it to the other side – more fully ourselves – open hearts, open arms and open minds.
Thank you for being here.
Sending my love to each of you, wherever you may be, in this new year.
Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.
– Paramahansa Yogananda
Last year, I posted “upon reflection” on December 28. As we are nearing the end of this year, this decade, reflecting and contemplating, is our most important contribution to the healing and evolution of our species, and our planet. To keep moving, trying to stay ahead of the challenges and difficulties of being who we are, only slows our progression. Continuing to distract ourselves keeps us from facing ourselves. So I am offering this post again, with a slightly new title for 2019. May the new year – with all of the challenges we are facing – bring us into greater alignment with ourselves and our Creator. It is from this place that we will come to accept all that we find unacceptable; love what we have come to feel is unlovable and heal what we may believe cannot be healed.
~ ~ ~
A look in the mirror reveals so very much. We choose to look or not. If our choice is to not look, we miss the opportunity to gaze into our own eyes; to see the light that lies deep within. To look may also reveal our perspective on a deeper darkness that we prefer not to see. Often, we have a look and begin to judge what we see – eyes, wrinkles, imperfect skin, graying hair; all of the things society tells us that isn’t right about us. There is great power in looking – deeply looking – at who we are, beyond the surface which reflects back our self-judgments (grounded in our beliefs). Rather, gazing with gratitude for the beauty of the soul within can bring an appreciation for Life and the miracle of our presence here, now.
As we are nearing the end of another calendar year, many turn to this time as a period of reflection to begin to discern the blessings and lessons of the previous year.
There are many “out there” who are reporting on all of the “good and bad” of the year’s events. And yes, many of those world and national events are definitely worth considering in our reflective moments. Our challenge, and the greatest gift to be realized, is contained in reflecting upon our individual experiences – which may include our perceptions of those events.
Truth is relative, as we each perceive our own truth through the filters of both our beliefs and our many life experiences. Realizing that such filters exist is the beginning step in realizing that others may see the same event very differently. Perhaps more importantly, no one is seeing it rightly or wrongly.
The beautiful images continued in this post show us very different reflections of what is above the water. Some are clear, others somewhat distorted. All have natural light – some brighter, some darker. Isn’t this also true about the many ways in which we and others perceive our life experiences, the many events – beautiful and tragic – that occur in our world every day?
Upon reflection, we see. Upon reflection, we hear. Upon reflection, we discern the lessons and blessings of a day, a week, a month, a year…or a lifetime. Upon reflection, we come to know that truth as discerned by humans is relative. We know from nature that what is real is visible there.
You know all of this. It is intrinsic. You need only find your way back to the truth of who you are as a spiritual being…in this human experience.
How will you choose to create time and space for reflection? Today, tomorrow, every day?
As we get “caught up” in the busyness of preparing for the holidays, and the country prepares for the ongoing and increasingly tense machinations of our Congress in the upcoming election year, Nature is readying herself for rest. The Autumn has wrought cooler temperatures, longer days, blowing leaves and other such autumnal things. Our Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere is days away. For those of you awaiting the Summer Solstice in the southern hemisphere, I wish you gentle breezes, enjoyable warmth and light.
The heavens have much to tell us about the energies above which seem to inform the energies we see and feel here on the planet (as above, so below). These last weeks have brought many challenges and there will likely be more to come.
This morning, I came across a poem by David Whyte that seems to capture where I feel I am…and I suspect many others are there as well.
I offer it here for you to read…slowly. May you feel what is there for you. May you feel acknowledged for what you may have been feeling and what may yet lie ahead as the Winter brings it seasonal rest…an opportunity for us to align with Nature’s rhythms and rest with her.
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
– David Whyte, from The House of Belonging
May this season of holidays (holy days), bring blessings of love, peace, calm and quiet to you and all of those whom you love. I appreciate you for joining me here and wish you more joy, peace and abundance in the new year.