Wanting life to be different

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Spiritual Fitness
If you can start the day without caffeine or pep pills,
If you can be cheerful, ignoring aches & pains,
If you can resist complaining & boring people with your troubles,
If you can understand when loved ones are too busy to give you time,
If you can overlook when people take things out on you when, through no fault of yours, something goes wrong,
If you can take criticism & blame without resentment,
If you can face the world without lies & deceit,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs…

Then you are probably a dog.

~Unknown

Top Ten Rules for Being Human

ThinkLessDoMoreI found this year ago and return often to it when I feel off-kilter. Enjoy!

Top Ten Rules for Being Human

Rule One: You will receive a body.

Whether you love it or hate it, it’s yours for life, so accept it. What counts is what’s inside.

Rule Two: You will be presented with lessons.

Life is a constant learning experience, which every day provides opportunities for you to learn more. These lessons are specific to you, and learning them is the key to discovering and fulfilling the meaning and relevance of your own life.

Rule Three: There are no mistakes, only lessons.

Your development towards wisdom is a process of experimentation, trial and error, so it’s inevitable things will not always go to plan or turn out how you’d want. Compassion is the remedy for harsh judgment ― of ourselves and others. Forgiveness is not only divine – it’s also ‘the act of erasing an emotional debt’. Behaving ethically, with integrity and with humor ― especially the ability to laugh at yourself and your own mishaps ― are central to the perspective that “mistakes” are simply lessons we must learn.

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Dancing in the Dark

the danceOh, has it been over a year since I posted on this blog? Well, crap. That’s a long time!

So where have I been? Well, sometime last year, I wrote about my decision to put down my spiritual and self-help books and start LIVING the truths I’d found in their pages. Doing that looks different than I expected—much messier.

I am not a graceful ballerina, moving gently through life lessons with a pirouette and plié. More like a spastic buffalo ramming into everything around me at full force, knocking stuff over and having to decide what’s worth cleaning up, and what should just stay broken.

I’ve spent a lot of time this last year journaling, meditating and sleeping, as well as focusing on creativity and a select few friendships that are deeply loving. Day to day, I’ve turned my attention toward experiencing emotions, people and life just as they are. Just being with them, without judgment or analysis or attempts to change.

Life has given me much material for practice. A few highlights: changing jobs and finding myself in my dream position; going through a deep, four-month depression; meeting and falling head-over-heels for someone, then having the relationship fall apart for no discernible reason; bulging discs in my neck and a botched medical procedure that left me with migraine-level headaches for a month; and a fallout with a family member that left us not speaking from Thanksgiving until last week.

So. That’s a lot.

My decision to stay present with myself through all of this, no matter what, was probably more about throwing up my hands in surrender than any sort of high spiritual commitment, to be honest. In the past, I’ve attempted almost every method of “escape” under the sun and nothing has ever brought true, lasting peace. Why not something new?

Turns out this “something new” is absolute magic. There are days, particularly over the past two or three months, when I actually shock myself. For example, my lifelong, compulsive need to make resolutions to “get good” has disappeared. I have spent immeasurable psychic energy trying to force myself to be better / different / kinder / calmer / braver / worthier…with few results from the effort. I just ended up exhausted and frustrated.

I’ve come to learn that for me, change begins with accepting things exactly as they are right now and looking my fears straight in the eye. I quit trying to change, move closer to myself and poof! I CHANGE (though often in ways I didn’t even expect). Who knew?

Another fruit of this “something new” is that there’s more “padding” between me and everything sharp in the world. I am more open to whatever happens: Happy, sad, good, bad. I can relax because I am less afraid of somehow being undone or collapsing into an experience. There is confidence in my fundamental “OK-ness.”

Finally, the “something new” has revealed to me even more the utter ENORMITY of Spirit / the Universe / God / Higher Power / Whatever You Want to Call It. There’s nothing intellectual about this—it’s completely of my heart and shows itself in these astounding moments of compassion and love toward myself and others. It’s a hugeness inside of me that is not of me, connecting me to all beings in a gorgeous way.

I don’t really know what’s next in the grand scheme; I can only take a stab at doing the next right thing for me. Tonight, that’s spending time with friends, picking up my paintbrush for some creative work and going to bed with my sweet pup. And that is just perfect.

Anger As a Teacher

Anger is probably my least favorite emotion and I’m right in the middle of it today. I actually hesitated to blog anything because I’m feeling so very stabby, but I figure that’s actually one of the most authentic places from which to write—smack in the center of it.

I struggle with what to do with anger, with that part of me that wants to take some sort of action to change how I feel. Historically, I would just get madder and madder until I burst into tears and wallowed in feelings of victimhood, a whole afternoon or day ruined until I came up with a storyline to explain the situation. I then would settle into the story (in which I was always in the right), ruminating on it every so often, so as to confirm my rightness and the other person’s wrongness. I learned a few years ago to pray for the person toward whom I have anger, so I would throw that into the mix a few days later, arriving sometime in the next week at forgiveness. But always with that story in place to confirm, I AM RIGHT, YOU ARE WRONG.

But today, I’m not doing any of that. I’m sitting here just being angry and uncomfortable, trying to let the anger be my teacher. Every time my brain tries to make up a story about the anger, about how I was wronged, I steer it back to the present moment and remind myself that I don’t know the truth of this situation. I do not need to be a victim or even be right in this situation. And I do not need a story.

The person toward whom I feel this anger is not really even the issue today—it’s about retraining my brain to accept the emotions I feel and treat them with loving-kindness, to think about the object of my anger with that same love and pray for him, even if that sounds like, “Bless that son of a bitch.”

My other focus for dealing with anger today is doing the next right thing and trying to take good care of myself. I spent the workday tearing it up at my office (seriously, this was one of my most productive days in memory. I should get pissed off more often!). I’m spending this evening in self-care: exercising, seeing a good friend to talk, meditating, and going to bed early.

Treating my anger as a teacher is a very new practice for me, only a few months old, and I’m feeling how rough the ride is as I sit here. But I trust that the process is a solid one and that I will come through this with new lessons for living and more awareness about anger, which, though still my least favorite emotion, may become my most instructive.