Personal reflections on a spiritual journey...
It was Labor Day 2007, my mother was in hospice, and my dog, Jupiter, a tiny, feisty, white Maltese was inadvertently confiscated by my father whom, after dog-sitting him for a weekend, had decided my tiny canine was his new lease on life. Despite feelings of extreme sadness over my father's new desire to keep Jupiter, I couldn't say no, given the intensity of our family circumstances as my mother lived out the final weeks of her life.
Nick, my husband, consoled me as I got back into our car, having left Jupiter at my parent's home. He said, "Let's get another dog...Right now." It seemed ridiculous and impulsive, but we did it anyway.
I searched online and quickly found an apricot colored, miniature poodle in need of adoption about a two hour drive away, in Pennsylvania. I made the trip there the next day. He was in an outdoor cage, down a dirt road, in the middle of the woods, at a humane society. I questioned how humane the society was given the conditions in which he was living. He was timid and shy, terrified and shaking. And very dirty. He was our Henry.
I drove back all those miles with him in the passenger seat of my car, as he leaned as far from me as he could get, shivering with eyes wide open. Those first few days he tried to stay awake and would fall asleep sitting up because he was too afraid to relax. But in no time, he was happy and accustomed to his new life with us. And he quickly became the best dog friend a person could have...
Just a few months ago, ten years after we met him, he left us. He had become very sick right after our fourth (and final!) baby, Andrew, was born last July. We spent months going back and forth to the vet, trying various medications, injections, and tests in an attempt to cure his ailment. But nothing seemed to work and it soon became clear that he wouldn't survive.
The last night he was with us, we gathered as a family around him and we all said aloud what we liked best about him. Afterwards, the children went to bed and I retreated downstairs, unwilling to look at Henry one last time. It was too much. But he felt differently and ran from Nick just as he was being taken out of the house. He found me. We held a long gaze. And it was as though he knew that it was our final goodbye, that he wouldn't be coming back from the vet this time.
Nick returned home a few hours later, devastated. I hadn't anticipated the heaviness of this loss. And in the weeks that followed I kept expecting him to still be with us. When the doorbell rang, I waited for his bark. When I sat to watch tv, I missed him on my lap. And I stopped taking walks through the park.
I've begun to think about the part he played in the decade he was with us. During those years, he sat with me as my mother died, as we struggled through two miscarriages, and three years of infertility that included four failed IVF procedures. He traveled with us. He attended every holiday. He was there to welcome each of our four babies home from the hospital. And he got to eat all the fallen table food as our babies became toddlers. Eventually, he was pulled on his leash by three of four children as we walked him around the block after school. He played fetch with them. He lay near them while they slept. And we all loved him dearly.
We will miss him. He was an integral part of our early marriage and growing family. And I can only pray to be as blessed to ever have a dog again as good as Henry.
When my first born was seven weeks old he was colic and, after trying for many years to conceive, I was crumbling during the first months of motherhood. Everything seemed to be falling apart. I couldn't believe that this is what I had spent countless fertility treatments trying to obtain. It was awful. And, due to a tendency toward perfectionism, I was not about to admit that I wasn't loving every second of it.
Then the morning came when I carelessly left him on the couch and walked into the other room to get something. I didn't see him fall but I heard the thud. And by the time I grabbed him off the floor just a few seconds later, his tiny head already had a golf ball sized bump.
No no no no no this can't be happening...
In hindsight, I realize I should have called an ambulance but instead, alone, I put him in the car seat, and rushed to the hospital, panicked and driving erratically. I ran with him into the emergency room. And I watched them, now in slow motion memory, check him. They put his little body, strapped down, flailing, into an MRI machine. The whole day is a blur but there are moments that stand out. Like his brain image on the screen when I found out he had fractured his skull...
He is fine now and, like the doctors predicted that day, shows no evidence of the accident. I have since forgiven myself for that but at first it was a shameful secret of my motherhood. Looking back, I made a terrible, mindless mistake. He is fine. I am blessed it wasn't worse. Beating myself up about the past doesn't help the present. And that notion is something I hope to instill in my children.
As mothers there seems to be an inherent culture of self doubt, of potential regret over the big stuff and all the little stuff too. Is the child stimulated enough? Overstimulated? Eaten too much sugar? Has enough independence? Disciplined correctly? Did he sleep well? Is he happy? Does he feel safe?
The idea that this tiny being is going to become a man one day and carry the scars of my mistakes into future decision making and relationship is almost terrifying. That he might learn how to feel guilt and regret and self hatred because I have mirrored it for him, that he may be damaged because I was damaged, and the cycle of psychological patterns repeat generation upon generation, can be a debilitating thought.
But in reality, most mothers are doing the best they can given the circumstances of life up until that point. And most children survive, thrive, and succeed beyond expectations. Nothing good comes from self criticism, regret, shame. Choosing gentleness of mind, body, and spirit is the only way heal and be truly happy, in life in general, and motherhood especially.
Today would have been my mother's 68th birthday. She loved birthdays (and I do too) so I celebrate her today by remembering:
her big smile; her contagious laugh; her ease, grace, and strength; her independent spirit and fierce determination; how she danced wildly with me to the Rolling Stones when I was little; the shape of her eyebrows and big almond colored eyes; the way she kept her nails; her generosity; the completed Sunday Times crosswords; the big red pots on the stove simmering away; her hands as they pushed the rolling pin for the latticework pies; the musky smell of her perfume; her mathematical mind; her big hugs; the way she welcomed everyone; the piles of read fiction; the half-done puzzles left on the dinning room table of my childhood; her energy; the herb garden; her natural radiant beauty; and how she might celebrate a joyous occasion:
A dry martini, some cake, and lots of laughter...
Parable of Immortality
by Henry Van Dyke
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch until at last she hangs
like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says,
" There she goes! "
Gone from my sight . . . that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the place of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment
when someone at my side says,
" There she goes! "
there are other eyes watching her coming . . .
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout . . .
" Here she comes! "
"In the entire history of the universe, let alone in your own history, there has never been another [day] just like [today] and there will never be another just like it again. It is the point to which all your yesterdays have been leading ... It is the point from which all your tomorrows will proceed ... If you were aware of how precious it is, you could hardly live through it. Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all.
... If you waste it, it is your life that you're wasting. ...
Today is the only day there is."
- Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words
The above quote landed in my inbox last week. Since then I have been looking at the ways I avoid being present.
Letting go of the past, finding forgiveness, is an invitation to be aware, to notice and honor this new moment, and in doing so, embrace my highest self.
I have been practicing forgiveness by watching my thoughts, giving pause when past emotional patterns arise, and gently guiding my mind into an affirmation for peace. I follow it up with a silent prayer of gratitude because I know that if I surrender in this way it will work, so, confidently, I can say thank you in advance for release from the mental head game.
Stuff comes up, it always will. My choice is to ignore my old, repetitive, victimized storyline. I am far happier when I take a few deep breaths and let it go...
This is the day I sit heavy, hunched,
A fallen daffodil.
Tears like winter rain
Roll into puddles of worry
Like prayers for chaos
Swell on the kitchen table.
I see you, in your thirties, slumped here too.
Deep breaths do nothing to soften tornados of Truth.
Circles and spirals and cycles of it.
I am born again.
Birthed into the wretched routine I needed to know
To be the me who has become me.
I was alone and afraid.
I made friends on the paper,
Sisters who swept me into safety,
Into hours that ticked always, only
The wooden door closed.
Stuck with scratch-and-sniff stickers,
I cried and begged for that red apple.
Just one red apple.
But harvest hadn't happened
and the fruit wasn't ripe.
Inside I was the one with rot,
With bruises and bitter parts.
Enzymes of your sadness seeped in me
So your regrets became my reality.
Your organs soaked in wine
And my heart drowning in waves of numb.
I taught myself early how not to feel,
How to cope with coming out of the womb,
With the undone doing of coming home.
Chocolate was the first word I learned to spell.
I was schooled at the decorated dinner table:
Patterned china plates, cloth napkins, white lace,
Over an overflowing glass of scotch,
With seventeen seasons of quiche, chicken cacciatore, and butter.
Blurred yet bold,
It was clear that,
"We get what we get and we don't get upset."
Reincarnated into the Now,
Into the Know.
But left decayed with memories that wreck this moment.
The Present smells like sandalwood
Or cigarettes. I can't tell which.
I remember when we held hands
And you said,
"I love you.
This is the day I sit heavy, hunched.
Last week I was in a funk. Everything seemed out of my control. All my thoughts teetered on full-blown pessimism.
My son wouldn't enter school in the morning without a total meltdown (his tiny face covered in tears, begging me not to let go of his hand as the school staff took him into the building), every meal with my children involved someone whining/crying/throwing tantrum (Paul only likes rice and beans, Rita won't eat beans, that kind of thing), my baby wouldn't nap (teething), both daughters were diagnosed as lactose intolerant (after months of one child with severe constipation and one having the opposite problem, trying every method to return their digestive tracks back to perfect health, and so. many. dirty. diapers.), homework time for my son was insanely tedious (just straight-up refusal to do it), my husband and I were bickering about the mundane details of our life together (you know, like who is right and who is wrong), lots of traffic, lots of tension, lots of stress...and, among other things, my IPod officially broke (after weeks of faulty function following a cracked screen incident).
In the scheme of life, none of this detailed list is all that serious, I know. In fact, it isn't what was happening, it was how I responded to what was happening.
My negative reaction to it all only perpetuated the cycle. I felt disconnected, unsupported, helpless, and alone, despite the fact that I am very connected, extremely supported, "powerful beyond measure," and never alone.
Finally, I remembered that I have a choice. I can choose to see it all as really unfortunate and annoying and difficult OR I can choose to see it differently. I can take a few deep breaths and change the thought pattern. So I decided to return to the only method I know for solving this kind of thing, self-work, and more specifically, meditation.
Ten short minutes, timed with a timer, mid-day in silence, eyes closed. Long deep breath. My mind wanders of course, but I gently guide it back to my inhale or a mantra. This is easily available to us all. After just a week straight, I am always amazed at how different I feel. I am more patient, more compassionate, and more positive when I incorporate meditation into my day. Everything seems so much better even if nothing has changed at all.
1. Sit in a comfortable upright position, with a long straight spine.
2. Breathe in and out through your nostrils. Allow your belly to expand on the inhale and draw back toward your spine on your exhale.
3. If you are using a mantra, repeat it silently.
I am love.
I am enough.
Peace begins with me.
I am a miracle.
I am surrounded by love and light.
I am supported.
4. As your mind wanders, gently guide it without judgment back to your breath or the mantra.
5. Be kind to yourself. There is nothing to achieve in this practice but a little peace of mind.
I am a tree.
I am crimson leaves.
(Parts of me fall with the wind of your intention.)
My wish disintegrates into earth, wish washed away,
Into the know,
Into soil I carry in my pockets to remind me of home.
I am a tree.
I am the roots reaching,
Burgeoning prayers that claw through rich ground and fervently bow down
With each new breath.
I am thankful,
I am a whole.
1. Stand tall as you ground through the sole of your left foot. Engage the entire left leg.
2. Reach down for your right ankle and place the right sole of your foot onto your inner left thigh. (Modify this by placing your foot lower on your left leg, shin or ankle, but not against your knee.)
3. Draw your tailbone down, lengthen through your spine, and press the right sole into your thigh as you simultaneously activate the muscles in your left leg.
4. With a soft but focused gaze, draw your hands to prayer at your heart center (Anjali Mudra). Inhale and exhale with mindfulness.
5. Hold for 30 seconds to a few minutes, release out, and try the same on the other side.
Unfaltering strength and stillness. This is what comes to mind when I think of Mountain Pose (Tadasana in Sanskrit). It is also what I wish to embody throughout my day as I often struggle to maintain serenity and poise among mundane chaos in the home of three very small children. If I find myself losing my temper I try to pause in the moment with three long deep breaths. Similarly, in my asana practice I come into Mountain Pose to embrace the stillness that is ever present as long as I remember to tap into it.
This yoga pose lets me reconnect, check-in, and center. And beside these emotional benefits, it can help to improve posture, strengthen thighs, knees, and ankles, and relieve sciatica.
Here's how to do it:
1. Stand with your feet parallel and hip width apart. Lift your toes, spread them, and then ground through the entire sole of each foot. Notice the ball and heel of each foot pressing equally into the earth. Feel stability and strength in your feet.
2. Engage and firm your leg muscles. Lift through your inner ankles to strengthen your inner arches. Allow your knee caps to rise and activate your thighs.
3. Lengthen your tailbone downward as you grow tall in your spine, creating one long line of energy throughout your whole body from your toes to the crown of your head.
4. Widen your back body by pressing your shoulder blades down, away from your ears. Lift through your sternum without pressing the front ribs out. Let the crown of your head stack over the center of your body, chin parallel to the ground. Hang your arms along the torso, palms face out.
5. Keep your eyes soft or gently closed and breath in and out through your nostrils. Hold this pose from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Feel the strength and stillness.
Aparigraha: A Poem on my Son's 4th Birthday
"Mama, at night when I sleep I dream about you." Paul Krishna, 8/20/14
And now I am lost in that deep summer dream of my baby boy being a newborn.
He cries. And his little face is red and wet.
We sigh. I am in love.
In this burnt September dream he begins to change. He moves.
The wind shifts.
The day dances into night.
He crawls out into the world.
And he is no longer entirely mine.
And suddenly I realize.
He was never even a little bit mine.
A delightful delusion of motherhood.
The falsehood that because we once shared cells it makes us one.
(Not even when our blood was the same, pumped line to line, from this heart.)
It didn't make him mine.
It doesn't make him mine.
He is not mine.
Not then. Not now.
The sun sleeps. The pregnant moon rises.
He crawls. He crawls out into the world.
I am terrified of highway traffic- the stop and go. I do not present as my highest self when I am a passenger in a car driving 60 plus miles per hour. I am short of breath, jumpy, overcome with fear. I am reminded in this situation of my lack of control. I am reminded of car accidents of the past. I am faced with the reality that, especially as a passenger in a moving vehicle, I am not in charge.
Part of me thinks that this is a physiological response to the fear-based memories of being in an accident. But also, I think it is a microcosm of a theme I have carried for a long time, maybe my whole life.
Growing up, I often felt that life was unpredictable and that felt scary. One of the personality traits that burgeoned within me was a need to control. Whether that was a learned practice is irrelevant. It seemed like the best way to "survive." If I could control the mundane then perhaps I could manipulate the ethereal as well. I could "save" myself. I could change it all.
Unfortunately, it took a long time to realize that this is a futile practice. It will never bring about the result I really want. That type of safety, that peace, is only found within. I am clearly still at work on this as I twitch in my car seat each time I see the brake lights ahead. But at least now I am aware that the fear is potentially debilitating and absolutely unnecessary.
I can choose to see it differently. I can attempt to let it go. I can use all the skills, the breath work, the prayer and meditation practices, the yoga, to guide me past it. I can actively stop trying to change the world around me and only try to change the world within me.
"You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them." -Maya Angelou
So it seems that my oldest child will have his first full day of public school on his fourth birthday this coming September (8 weeks from now?!) and that thought, or the reality of it, just completely rocks me to my core. It is so cliche to say that time flies so I'll just imply it. I am torn between knowing that this is a great opportunity for him and falling into fear-based thoughts that he won't be ready for this gigantic shift, tremendous change.
In truth, it is me who is not prepared. I am grasping at the present moment, secretly hoping it won't turn into tomorrow, wishing my baby will still be my baby when instead he needs to be a boy.
He can handle change. All he knows is change. Everything is new, fresh, exciting, different and he flows through it with grace (despite the occasional tantrum).
I'm the one who needs to learn how to adapt, to remember that all of this is temporary.
And the only way I can even think to do that is to surrender. To let go. To ask for help in prayer.
"Please dissolve this fear for me. Let me be free. Thank you."
Child's Pose (Balasana or Garbhasana in Sanskrit)
I used to hate this pose. I simply thought it was a waste of valuable time in my yoga practice. I wanted to move, sweat, do more.
This pose is the antithesis of all that. In fact, it embraces stillness.
So no wonder I love it now. My life is busy. When I get on the yoga mat I want to step away from the excited energy of daily living. I want to reconnect with myself. I want to restore my inner sense of peace.
This asana offers the great therapeutic benefit of stress relief. It calms and quiets the mind. It is relaxing. It can help with awareness and expansion of breath. And on top of all that, it is a great stretch for the hips, thighs, and ankles.
Welcome Child's Pose!
Here's how to do it if you are new to the practice:
1. Start in a kneeling position with your feet together and sit on your heels. Separate your knees at least hip width apart.
2. Exhale and, with a long straight spine, drape your torso over your thighs until your forehead rests on the floor. Let the hips sink down toward your heels.
3. Rest your arms alongside your torso, palms face-up, and release your shoulders down toward the floor.
4. Allow your inhale to expand your back body, rib-cage, and spine. Use your exhale to settle and soften into this fold.
a. If your forehead doesn't easily reach the floor, place a yoga block or small pillow under your head.
b. If it is difficult to sit on your heels in this position, a folded blanket can be placed between the back thighs and calves.
c. You can choose to stretch the arms out in front instead of leaving them alongside your body. Press into the hands to lengthen through your back body.
Stay in this pose from 30 seconds up to a few minutes. When you are ready to release out, lengthen your spine, and inhale back up to a seated position.
1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you...
I am a Capricorn in the fullest sense, a Type-A personality, a mover, a doer, and an avid controller. Yet, I'm starting to learn that the less I try to manipulate, the less I attempt to control, the more I am aligned with my Highest Self.
Let go and let God.
To practice that means to surrender, to understand that as much as I think I am in charge, I am not. There is a much more powerful force guiding me through even the most mundane circumstances. My dharma unfolds moment to moment in every corner of my life with no work on my part.
Letting go means I remember that I am supported, protected, and safe even when my five senses say otherwise. My true essence is one with God and all the controlling, the manipulating, is my ego forgetting how it all, this vast universe, works.
I take three long deep breaths into my belly, inhaling and exhaling through my nostrils, every time I am slapped in the face with a reminder that I am not in this alone. It is usually when everything around me seems to be falling apart and all my best laid plans are coming undone. That's when it tends to hit me. That's when I remember. That's when belief becomes faith.
Simultaneously unloading the dishwasher, stirring the food in the pot cooking on the stove, interacting with my son about his Lego creation, helping my daughter undress her doll, replacing the pacifier in the baby's mouth, while talking on the phone with a friend and checking my calendar as we make plans to take a meditation class (the irony of which is not lost on me). This type of "being" has become quite normal for me. What about you?
I have never been a procrastinator. In fact, just the opposite. Honestly, sometimes it feels like I am in a self-created competition to see how much I can accomplish in one solid hour. I am always busy. I am always working. I am always doing. I am always multi-tasking.
Yet this comes into complete opposition with my desire to reach higher consciousness, since that is the practice of undoing, of simply being. It is the practice of stillness, of mindfulness. It is the antithesis of multi-tasking. And, in addition, all that doing layered about doing, thoughts upon thoughts, can really cause quite a bit of stress. It makes me feel entirely disconnected with my highest self, with the divine within. So here I am constantly in a place of self-imposed mandatory time out sessions. For me, unless I commit to daily slowing down, daily relaxation time, daily meditation, I will not stop moving/working/creating/completing/doing from the minute I wake up until the minute my eyes close at the end of the day.
If this sounds familiar then maybe you should commit too. Commit to a practice that embraces stillness, something that speaks to your soul, your inner being. Commit even for five minutes a day. Just commit.
Don't worry. The dishes and the laundry, the plans, the work, the dinner, the phone call, can wait. It really can. But inner peace cannot.
It is so important for physical, emotional, and spiritual health to put the phone down, turn the tv off, stop checking Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/messageboard/blog, stop working/cleaning/organizing/planning/creating/thinking even just for a few short minutes so as to sit in silence, in stillness, to sit with yourself, to just be. This is how we reach higher consciousness, how we connect with our intuition. This is how we know God/Spirit/Self.
This simple practice can truly change everything. Try it now.
"Prayer is when you talk to God; meditation is when you listen to God." -Diana Robinson
After dropping my son off at school this morning, I was pushing the girls in the double stroller with my dog, Henry, in tow through the park, admiring the spring blossoms but also watching my mind run wild, recollecting the events of yesterday, when I said to myself, "Oh please let me just enjoy this beautiful morning and stay here in the present moment..."
No sooner did I wish that then a woman with a large Rottweiler pass by. Before I could even anticipate it, her very large and very strong dog lunged for my miniature poodle mix breed and it was a loud, scary few minutes. I was yelling, the woman was yelling, both of us tugging on her linked chain leash trying to get her dog off my dog, Henry barking as he flailed about under the grip of her canine's mouth.
Everyone in panic.
Three people ran to our aid.
When her dog was removed from our immediate space, Henry, thankfully physically unharmed, was scooped up in the arms of a large man, whom I later learned is named Vince. He and his partner, Susan, comforted me (brought to tears), my daughters, and our terrified, furry family member, Henry. The third person, a female jogger, who had approached the scene, began yelling at the woman with the Rottweiler about how irresponsible it is to have an untrained dog of that size in the park. (A fact of which I clearly agree but had no intention of expressing at that juncture). They got into a huge shouting match, calling out all sorts of names and threatening each other with physical violence. The two women continued their argument later near the street after exiting the park and it was vicious. Meanwhile, Vince turned to me and said that he and Susan were, "Dog lovers and people lovers too..." They walked ahead of me all of the way out of the park, escorting us, looking back to check on our well-being every time another dog walker passed.
The whole experience really got me thinking.
When we are faced with imminent danger we are forced to be in the present moment. But when the danger subsides, do we stay present? How we react exemplifies our connection with the here and now, with our highest Self. One woman allowed a situation, of which she was not even part, to get her so worked up that she was seething and shouting for many, many minutes after the whole thing had ended. And I also assume her morning was then jaded in some way by that altercation. Whereas, Vince and Susan chose a compassionate route, were instead concerned about the welfare of those involved, helped calmly, and seemed to leave the park in the same pleasant mood with which they began.
When I am centered, connected with my inner-self, I am always far more equipped at being unaffected by my outer world. I am more like the Vince and Susan of this story. However, when I am stressed, and not taking time for myself, time for inner stillness, I easily revert to the behavior of the angry female jogger. My intention is to cultivate more moments of the former, kissing an overdue good-bye to the latter way of living. The only way to do that is to create more peace in my inner life so when faced with outer turmoil I can choose to react differently.
I want to be a dog lover and a people lover too...
Be present, stay in the here and now.
“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” -Mark TwainWhen my first-born child, Paul Krishna, was 6 weeks old he fell, under my care, and fractured his skull.
Yes. That happened.
He is perfectly fine now and we are truly blessed. No one would ever guess that his newborn body was strapped down so he could get an MRI, that he had a golf-ball sized bump on his tiny head, that he spent hours under observation, that his parents hardly told a soul in fear of judgment, that his mother was riddled with guilt...
It was a rough entry into motherhood yet, three years later, I look back on that experience with a different perspective. But have I truly let it go?
Earlier today, my 19-month old daughter saw Paul and I practicing handstand and, while trying to imitate us, fell and injured her finger. It immediately swelled and turned purple and all the feelings from that day three years ago came rushing back.
And here I am with a microcosm of a much larger issue.
It isn't about these incidents. It is about a lifetime of self-criticism.
And it is time for a change.
I need to forgive myself.
I have treated myself far worse than anyone else has ever treated me.
I have criticized myself endless times looking in the mirror.
I have found flaws in the way I look, act, speak, mother, and ultimately am.
It has taken a long time to overcome this detrimental internal battle but I aim now to no longer seek unrealistic perfectionism and berate myself for anything. In fact, nowadays, things are often quite the opposite. I try to give myself compliments each time I see my reflection. I regularly remind myself that I am doing the best that I can and that is just fine. I am learning how to deeply love myself.
But can I forgive myself? Can I forgive myself for all the years of self-inflicted hurt?
Part of healing is letting go. Releasing of all the judgment. Forgiveness is an organic relinquishing of all that no longer serves our highest purpose. When I spoke to myself with ugly words, I was only doing the best that I could given the circumstances of my life up until that point. It is time to forgive, to let go, to move on.
Forgiveness is freeing. Whether you are holding on to something someone else said/did to you or something you have said/done to yourself, the act of it is in the past. So why waste the present moment sifting through something that is no longer tangible? Let it go and feel free. Forgiveness allows us to be in the moment, to be here and now, to face today with a new perspective.
Who can you forgive right now?
As someone who has struggled with social anxiety for many years, it is now evident that my interactions or relationships with others is actually my connection with Spirit/God/divine light/energy/whatever you want to call It. In other words, "every encounter is a holy encounter." Each personal relationship can truly be looked at as a chance to grow. And every conflict gives me an opportunity to know my Highest Self even better.
Carl Jung said, "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves."
Yup. That sounds about right.
So often it is my ego that dictates my response to a certain word or action. I am quick to get defensive, quick to feel attacked, quick to attack back in a misguided attempt to preserve my identity. Yet that never seems to give me the outcome I desire. Whether I realize it in the moment or not, when I feel hurt, angry, or annoyed I am really calling out for love. Just as when someone hurts me, that person is also calling out for love. And so what it really comes down to is this question, as posed in A Course in Miracles, "Do you prefer that you be right or happy?"
Simply put, am I going to stay stuck in my ego playing the "pity-me game," the "I am right and you are wrong game," the "way you do that is so irritating/selfish/rude/obnoxious game," OR am I going to access my Highest Self, the God within, deny my ego, and surrender?
If I am ultimately committed to selfless love, if I am committed to this spiritual journey of self-awareness, being right is not in any way a part of my agenda. It is not the goal. Instead, my agenda is love, and (trust me) that is the way to happiness.
Sri Mata Amritamayi Devi (Amma) instructs us to say, "Yes." Just yes. What does that mean? In this respect, it is the same idea. Give in, surrender, let go. When I take a moment to stop, check in, breathe, my answer to whether I would rather be right or happy is always happy. I am always more peaceful if I choose to act in this way. Then I can look back over what transpired and sometimes I can learn just a little bit more about myself. This isn't to say that I never get caught up in the back and forth arguments that can easily permeate close relationships, but it is a reminder to myself that I can choose to act differently, if not this time, then next.
I will always have a choice to be right or happy. And so do you.
"In my defenselessness my safety lies." -ACIM
March 26th is my mother's birthday. She has been deceased for six years. I miss her. Sometimes, I sulk. I wish she could have met her grandchildren. I want to hear her laugh again. I want to do another Sunday crossword with her...
And with all this I feel an overwhelming sense of unfairness. And sometimes I feel pretty down.
Yesterday, while at the cemetery, I wondered what I might say to my three-year-old when he asks about her one day, when I need to explain death, when I need to explain the tears...
I think I will say she is no longer living in her body. Her presence, her energy, her spirit, is felt but she is no longer living in her body. She is no longer with us in that way.
While pondering this, I was suddenly overcome with a wave of gratitude, a sense of true clarity. Here I am, in this body, with this breath, alive, and well. Despite whatever hardship I may face, I am still here. I still get to wake up each day, take deep breaths, listen to music, dance, do yoga, kiss my children, hold my husband's hand, laugh, cry, hurt, read, dream, be.
And so I conclude that sometimes the only way out of a funk (any kind of funk) is to embrace this practice of gratitude. Especially when I am stuck in my head, having one of those days, unable to snap out of those negative, self-pitying thoughts, my only defense is to begin listing all of the reasons for which I am truly blessed. Actually naming each and every thing, from the most mundane to the incredibly ethereal, is the fastest way to shift my perspective.
Thank you for the clouds; the fresh air from a walk in nature; my feet; the sound of children's laughter; hot tea with milk; the way the full moon looks from my bedroom window; dancing; a warm bed with flannel sheets; the way my dog follows me all around the house; the feeling of true love; my big milk chocolate eyes; toes in the sand on a beach in August; abundance; my new orange yoga mat; rice cakes dripping with gobs of peanut butter; awareness; rainy days; hugs; the way we all say goodnight...
The list could go on and on or change completely. The most important way of practicing this method is to keep looking for more ways to say thanks. Who you are actually thanking is irrelevant. It is the act of gratitude that shifts one's negative thought patterns into something lighter. And if you feel stuck thinking of what it is that makes you grateful, simply say thank you. Even if you don't necessarily feel it, fake it, and say it. It will work, regardless.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." -Ian Maclaren
No amount of meditation will ever fully stop the incessant flow of thoughts that permeate my consciousness, so the only hope for peace of mind is to change those thoughts to something positive. After a lifetime of negative self-talk, switching gears can require quite a bit of attention.
It works when I repeatedly pause to notice the language that I use. It works when I commit to awareness of the present moment and how I want to represent my authentic self. It works when I respond with, "Thank you," as oppose to attempting to discredit one's compliment. And it works when I look in the mirror, into my own eyes, and speak with love.
When I see my reflection it is imperative that the words I use are kind. No more finding fault. No more criticism. I use affirmations and I use them regardless of whether I believe that they are true. These are the statements that matter to me:
I am beautiful. (Even if I wake up feeling less than.)
I am strong. (Even when I feel exhausted.)
I am healthy. (Even if my five senses exhibit evidence to say otherwise.)
I am loved. (Even if I am hurt.)
I am supported. (Even if I feel overwhelmed.)
I am safe. (Even when I am vulnerable.)
This is how I embrace myself. This is how I check in. This is how I do yoga.
So how do you talk to yourself?
Next time you look in the mirror take a moment to pause, to be present, to be kind.